The Fourth Wall: Death By Dying


Acting is a deadly serious business

“Vomit’s Better with ketchup.”

Keelie threw a rubber knife at Will’s head. “You’re disgusting.”

“I’m serious. Watch.” Will squirted ketchup into a jar of ‘pureed squash’ baby food. “Okay, Keelie, don’t swish it around, just hold it in your mouth. No swallowing.”

“As if I would.” Keelie adjusted the rolled-up socks in her bra and smacked her barely pubescent hot pink lips. “For the love of the craft. Bottom’s up.” She carefully poured the mix in her mouth, trying not to wince at the slimy texture, and nodded.

Glancing around the basement, Will held up his phone, ready to take a video. “Okay, Jack, you’re up.” He hit ‘record.’ “Death by Dying: Take two. Rolling.”

Jack, a head taller than Will and built like a linebacker, with black eyeliner and a trench coat, screamed an over-the-top, “I skinned your cat—and I’ll kill you too!” He held up a wadded-up black boa dripping with strawberry jam—not a bad illusion of cat fur and chunks of flesh, at least when he kept it in motion, shaking it in Keelie’s face.

Keelie spat out the fake vomit just as he stabbed her in the gut with the rubber knife.

Jack cursed as the reddish formula splattered all over his face. Keelie’s realistic scream pierced their ears, and she collapsed with an odd rattle in her throat, her legs folded under her as she toppled to the floor, dead.


Jack grabbed a rag and swiped his eyes. “Gross. Next time, don’t aim at me, Keelie.”

Will stared at his video. “The lighting was better this time. And Keelie, that was brilliant. You barfed bloody puke all over Jack. It looks really real.” He looked up with a freckle-faced grin. “Okay. Next shot is the funeral. Change into that black dress, Keelie.” He set down his phone.

Jack fussed with a makeshift coffin that he and his woodshop class had pieced together. “It needs some lining inside. We could use a tablecloth.”

Will shook his ginger head. “Coffins are lined with satin. My mom has some yellow satin sheets. I’ll be right back. Keelie, come on. Get off the floor. Get dressed.” He wiggled a toe into her side, but she didn’t budge. She was always stretching the story past the film, breaking the fourth wall, trying to freak them out.

He turned and walked up the carpeted steps. Halfway up, he noticed he was treading ketchup footprints. He groaned. “Crap. My mom is going to kill me. Hey Keelie, you’re a girl. How do you get ketchup out of the carpet?” That’d get her. He knew more about cleaning than she did. Keelie was a slob. And hated sexist remarks. That’s what she got for holding up the film. He carefully removed his shoes and grabbed a scrub brush and cleanser from the hall closet. “Just a second, guys—” He knelt down to scrub a red splotch but frowned. It didn’t smell tangy like ketchup. It smelled more metallic, like raw steak. Like… blood. His brow furrowed. He pressed his fingers into it and held it to his nose. “What the hell?” There was no doubt what it was. “This is blood.” He turned his head slowly. “Keelie?”

She looked pale. And she was completely still. Her chest wasn’t rising and falling. She wasn’t breathing. The nape of his neck prickled, his flesh growing cold. “Hey… Keelie. Get up. Seriously…” He noticed a red puddle forming, expanding, under her. “Keelie!” His mouth went dry. He could only watch, for a moment. For a moment, his feet wouldn’t work. He still had the scrub brush in his hand. It slipped through his fingers with a thud and tumbled down the stairs, bumping against Keelie’s high-heeled feet. She didn’t flinch. The puddle grew. “Oh… shit.” His breath staggered and he bolted down the stairs. “Keelie!” He turned to Jack with horror. “You hit her too hard! She’s really hurt!”

Jack stared back with no emotion. “You told me to kill her, so I did. For the love of the craft, Will.” His left eye twitched.

“Jack, she’s bleeding, hard! I’m not kidding!” Will knelt down to Keelie and shook her. “Keelie?” His eyes watered, realizing this was no game. “Keelie!” he screamed. He touched her bloody waist and saw that the wide cloth belt of her dress had been sliced. Or stabbed. He pressed down with his fingertips in a state of disbelief and very distinctly felt punctured skin where the knife had penetrated. The skin gave way, and his thumb slid slightly into the wound as a gurgle of blood bubbled out.

In a panic, staring with horror at her, Will backed away like a crab on all fours. “Jack! For god’s sake! What did you do? Did you use a real knife?”

The silence was eerie.

“Jack?” Will stood slowly to see Jack’s eyes glazed over, staring at him. Jack was holding a knife. A real one. And the tip was a wet crimson.

Jack almost indecipherably waved the knife. “Is one good?”

A tear slid down to Will’s chin. “What?”

“Is one enough? Or should I kill again?”

Will’s eyes froze on his best friend, who seemed to have snapped. “Jack, call 911.”

Jack frowned gently. “Why? We’re still filming.”

Will squeezed his eyes closed, gathering his wits. “Jack. Keelie is hurt. We need to call 911.”

Jack lifted the knife. “If I did that, I’d have to stop filming.” He nodded to Will’s phone, which he’d propped up on the counter, recording the scene.

“What the hell? Jack! Snap out of it!” He ran to get the phone, but Jack stood in his way.

“I’m sorry, Will. I told you; we’re still filming.”

Keelie groaned softly. Will rushed to her side. “Keelie!” He gathered her in his arms and pressed down on her wound. “Hang on, we’re getting help.”

Jack stepped close. “Put her down, Will, I’m not done yet.”

“You psycho sonofabich! You stabbed Keelie!”

Jack crouched down. “Yes, but she didn’t die. I need to finish. I need to finish her.” He pointed the knife to her.

Will lunged at him, grabbing his wrist and struggling for the knife. But Jack easily twisted Will’s thin arm and held the knife to his throat. “Let me finish, Will. Get in the closet and let me finish, or I’ll do you right now.”

Will felt the metal press against his jugular, felt the point of it. It didn’t hurt—not yet, but one false move, and he’d be spurting blood.

“Closet, or death?”

“Please… stop…” Will whimpered. “Keelie needs our help.”

“Keelie needs to die. Now, I’m going to ease up, and you are going to get in the closet. Understood? You know I’ll just overpower you again. And this time I’ll stab your eyes.”

“Please…” Will couldn’t think. “Please, don’t hurt Keelie.”

“But Will, I did hurt her. You told me to.”

“It’s a film! It’s fantasy! Wake up, Jack!”

“I’m more alive than I’ve ever been, Will.”

Keelie whispered, “Help me, Will!”

“He can’t. He’s too scared. Aren’t you, Will?”

Will could see Jack was lost in the film inside his head. So, he decided to use that to his advantage. “I know—let’s put Keelie in the coffin! Alive! And we can nail it shut!”

“What? Keelie moaned. “Will—what are you doing?”

Jack sneered. “On it.” He tucked the knife in his back pocket and scooped Keelie up as she screamed in pain and fear. He carried her to the coffin.

Will knew Keelie’s phone was upstairs in her purse. He just needed an excuse. “Wait! The satin sheets!”

Jack dropped her roughly into the coffin and closed it. “She doesn’t need it. This is better. Creepier. A rustic coffin. Get some nails.” He turned to see Will creeping up the stairs. Jack ran and grabbed Will by the ankles, dragging him back downstairs.

“Get me out of here!” Keelie screamed, pushing on the lid, too weak to open it all the way.

Jack’s dark eyes drilled into Will. “Nails. Now. And a hammer.”

Shaking, Will rummaged through a toolbox and grabbed a box of nails and a heavy-duty hammer.

“Hurry up.” Jack held the coffin closed to the sound of Keelie’s weak pounding.

Will handed him the box of nails, which Jack took with one hand, holding the coffin lid down with the other.

Will took the opportunity and swung the hammer as hard as he could at the back of Jack’s skull. Jack sank to the ground, dazed.

Will shrieked, filled with hysteria, and swung down again and again, as chunks of flesh and brain matter spewed. Jack lay motionless, and still Will swung, screaming from his gut, until his energy was utterly spent.

Will’s chest heaved, and he hung his head down, panting and sobbing. The hammer dropped from his hands.

The air was deathly still.

Finally, he heard the creak of the coffin lid.

“I think you got him.”

Will looked up to see the coffin was open. Keelie was resting her head on her folded arms, examining the mayhem. A bit of bloody brain clung to the side of the coffin, and she scooped it with her finger. “Mm. Brie and cranberries.” She popped it in her mouth. “Help me out, would you, Jack?” She sat up and pulled her blood-filled hollow belt from her dress.

Jack peeled off his brain-bashing wig and more brie fell in glops onto the basement floor.

Will yelled, “Cut!” and grabbed his phone. “And… that’s a wrap.”

Acting is a deadly serious business