Elle was really pissed.
“They filmed me,” she kept saying. “They fucking filmed me.”
Back at Roxx’s, Elle’d watched the new holehere vid on her phone, then had spent the next fifteen minutes storming around in the, well, in the storm, looking into bushes and trying to find any trace of… whomever she thought had uploaded the video.
Taylor. She was convinced it was Taylor.
“I just fucking spoke to him,” she’d said, ripping a great big leafy chunk out of someone else’s pittosporum. “That little piece of shit!”
Elle was really, really pissed.
Bich felt bad about it, just a little. Because Elle was on film, now. She’d been in Roxx’s house, seen the… what she’d seen. And so she was in the show, up on YouTube, transcribed in the Wiki as soon as someone got around to adding it.
(it’s what she wanted)
The little voice hadn’t helped. Bich had stamped it down, instead said, “It might not’ve been Taylor. Just before he… left, he gave the login to holehere to Roxx.”
Elle had turned at that, eyes blazing like Bich’s namesake. “It wasn’t— I would’ve—“ She kept starting sentences, then cutting herself off, making a kind of hissing noise of frustration. Eventually, she’d looked away. “Yeah,” she’d said. “Maybe.”
The rain was pissing down and Elle was just pissed, and maybe Bich felt a little guilty about it all. Just a little. Which is how they’d both ended back up at Bich’s place, Elle sitting on a chair in the kitchen, towel around her shoulders and hands curled up around a too-sweet, chemical-tasting tube of what had, optimistically, been marketed as chai latte.
They’d been sitting there for ten minutes or so, Elle scowling at her chai, the silence between them as cold and heavy as the rain outside. Then Elle said:
“When did it stop being fake?”
Bich’s heart skipped, just the once, a cold, prickling sweeping down into her hands that had nothing to do with the weather. For a moment, just one moment, she considered lying. Looking at Elle straight-up and blinking and giving a nervous smile and saying wh-what do you mean?
Elle wouldn’t buy it. Because Bich had set this up, hadn’t she? With her smartass comment earlier on, thrown from the tram like an old ticket stub. It’d seemed cute at the time. Meta. An in-joke, dramatic irony and all the rest. That’d been before Elle had gone to Roxx’s house. Had seen… whatever she’d seen there, hidden beneath rolls and rolls of synthetic white.
(this is it, this is what you wanted)
Bich exhaled. Elle was watching her from across the tastefully inane Ikea table. The one with the slight wobble from where Bich had never been able to get the Allen key to screw down just right.
“Episode fifteen,” she said. Then, “I mean, we suspected beforehand. Something. But… episode fifteen. That was when we knew.”
Elle nodded. She must’ve seen it. “The abandoned school.”
Bich nodded, looked down at the table and tried not to remember the feel of hotwet breath on her neck, lying on filthy tiles covered in rat shit, watching the black gaping mouth of an old drain open and open and—
“It’s not actually a school,” Bich heard herself say, if only because talking wasn’t thinking about… that. “Roxx found it. She was always scouting locations, y’know? It’s like some, I dunno. Group home for troubled youths or whatever. Or… was that, anyway.”
The place had closed down in the 90s. Allegations, of the kind that always seemed to follow in the wake of supposed refuges for vulnerable kids. They’d kicked out the people but the Church still owned the land, wasn’t giving it up without a fight. The local populace disagreed. Hence the state of the place by the time Roxx had found it, half-burnt and covered with graffiti. PEDOS FUCK OFF and BURN IN HELL, that sort of thing.
Roxx thought it would be perfect. Creepy, and with a bad history to boot. Plus it was rural, about and hour out of Melbourne, the local town some bumfuck nowhere made from antique shops and unpaved roads watched over by cruel-eyed sheep.
Elle nodded. “I know it,” she said. “How did Roxx?” There was an edge in the question, some sharp-green glimmer Bich couldn’t place.
So she shrugged, instead. “How did Roxx find any of the places she found? Google, I guess.”
“Mm.” Suspiciously non-committal, Elle’s dark red nails drumming on pine laminate. “What happened there?” she asked after a moment. “The video was… vague.”
Bich nodded, could see every shake and jump-cut in her mind. They’d been too scared to film things properly, back in the days when every hole was a tooth-filled tunnel with wet, glistening walls.
She sighed. “We had a script. It was gonna be… Like, Taylor had only just signed on. Roxx was in costume, the idea was she’d pretend to be him, jump me in the dark. We’d scream and yell and run around, the usual stuff.”
“That’s not what happened.”
“No. No, that’s… that’s not what happened.”
What happened, had been Bich lying on the floor in a ruined bathroom, camera rolling, like she’d just been knocked out and dropped it. Roxx was supposed to come in, do some stuff, get just enough of her on camera to establish Taylor as a character, then get out and come back later, in a change of clothes, as “herself.”
Lying on the reeking tiles, that was when the hole had opened, and Bich had seen the Tooth Girl.
So had the camera.
There’d been a drain, about two feet away from Bich’s face. Old, the metal grille long since gone. In the evening shadows, it’d just been a big, black pit dropping away into nothing. A sinkhole in the world. Bich had been staring at it, facing away from the camera, ears straining to hear Roxx, struggling to keep her breath slow and even.
One black, empty hole. And for one instant—one mad, life-changing instant—Bich had been overcome with the urge to shove her hand down inside it. Into the cobwebs and redbacks and knotted old balls of hair and whatever else. Because that’s what holes were for, wasn’t it? Shoving things into. A finger, a fist, a stick. A bottle.
Bich hadn’t moved—she’d watched the footage afterwards, so she knew she hadn’t—but she’d been lying there on the floor, imagining pounding her fist into the stupid drain and—
And suddenly she’d felt it. All up her arm. Warm and wet and fleshy. Contracting around her skin like a mouth and throat, or—
Or other things.
She’d felt the teeth, too. Little hard lumps, brushing against her skin within the damp. Not biting, never biting. But so, so wanting to.
She’d blinked, breath hitching—that jolt had been on the film—shocked with the sensation.
Then, in the space between one heartbeat and the next, the drain had opened.
“It doesn’t make sense to tell it,” she said, not looking at Elle as she did. “I mean, not… now. Not after. You’ve seen the video. I was lying on the floor, facing away from the camera. What you can’t see… there was this… this drain hole just in front of me. I was watching it, and”—she scowled—“and it was the Tooth Girl.”
“She came out of the drain?”
“No. No, not out of the drain. She was the drain.”
Bich doubted it. Funny thing was, she could see what’d happened, in her mind. Like one of those optical illusions of rabbits and ducks, two different things made out of one. What had been a dirty old tiled floor and a stupid three-inch hole one moment had suddenly… opened. Blossomed somehow, dimensions and space peeling back and out and in and sideways, until the hole hadn’t been a drain but a face. A red wet tunnel hung beneath scraggly hair, thin limbs spread out like a spider as the… thing they were attached to lay on its belly on the tiles. And what Bich had realized, in that moment, was that the thing—the thing they called the Tooth Girl, that cutesy name they tried to use to hide the horror—the thing had been there all along. Waiting. Watching.
Bich just hadn’t been able to see it.
“I screamed,” she said. “That’d been off-script, so Roxx came running. We got out of there pretty quick, after that.” Roxx’d only barely remembered to grab the camera.
“Did Lee see it? The… thing. Tooth Girl?” Elle’s eyes felt like they were boring a hole inside Bich’s skull.
Bich shook her head. “Not that time. She thought we’d been busted by the cops or whatever. It wasn’t until later, when we reviewed the tape…”
They’d used enough of the footage to keep the episode creepy, without blowing what Roxx’d started calling their “effects budget.” Back then, they hadn’t been sure if their little monster would come back.
So much for that vague hope.
Elle was silent for a while, thoughtful. Then, in one quick motion, she downed the remainder of her chai, wincing at the taste. “I want to see it,” she said. “The school. Or whatever.”
No, thought Bich’s mind, even as her mouth said, “Yeah. Yeah, okay. I can take you. I doubt there’s much to find out there, but we can go.” Not like Bich had anything else to do with her life right now. Sooner or later someone might realize she hadn’t shown up to classes for half the term. Emphasis on the “might.”
Elle grinned a grin sharp enough to cut a diamond down the centre.
“Awesome,” she said. “Tomorrow, then. I’ll come pick you up.”
Bich tried a smile.
She didn’t sleep. That was normal. After Elle had left–piled into a taxi in the rain–the flat had gone back to the depthless, empty silence that left the hairs on the back of Bich’s neck standing on end and the corners of her vision wavering with half-seen movement.
She’d turned the TV up loud, stared blankly at the pages of a textbook for a while, then turned on every light in the house. She showered with her back pressed against the cold tile wall, as always, brushing her teeth while spinning in a circle in the bathroom, trying to both see everything around her even as she couldn’t quite make her eyes meet their reflections in the mirror.
Mirrors showed things. Bich had found that one out early.
Sometime after midnight, she’d laid on her back in her bed, lights still blaring, and tried to sleep.
Then the sun had come up. So much for that idea.
She packed a bag. Laptop, phone. An umbrella and a GoPro. Plus her regular handheld. Hell if she wasn’t going to go all the way out to the Bad Place without getting some new footage.
(“The Bad Place” had been Roxx’s name for the burnt-out old school. Bich had just gone with it. It was catchy.)
Then, at ten to nine, she’d gone to wait out on the curb.
Elle rolled up exactly eleven minutes later, and Bich’s first thought was:
(holy shit, jackpot)
Actually, Bich’s first thought had been where’s Elle she’s late, because the car that’d come purring down the street—sleek and red and flashing maker’s badges Bich didn’t recognize—looked far too luxurious to belong to some kind of… student or academic or whatever it was Elle was supposed to be.
When the car pulled up, and Elle leaned out of rolled-down window, it occurred to Bich maybe—just maybe—Elle had lied about who she was.
(tv producer. car like that… she’s gotta be)
Bich’s heart skipped, her palm going clammy where it was clutching the camera she was suddenly so, so glad she’d bought. Because this was it, she could feel it. Taylor had dropped out and Roxx had run, but Bich had stayed behind and persevered—pushed through the terror—and now it was payoff time. Attention from the Big Girls. Serial drama or reality TV, and Bich didn’t care either way, because this was it. And oh, oh she was going to take this Elle, whomever she was, on one hell of a ride.
“You filming this?”
Bich blinked, camera jerking.
“Uh,” she said. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.” She bit back an urge to apologize, to ask for permission. This was her show, dammit. If Elle wanted it, she’d better produce some kind of paperwork. In the meantime, Bich would keep filming.
(the show must go on)
Elle just shrugged, pulling herself back inside the car. “Cool,” she said. “Hop in.”
The inside of Elle’s ridiculous car was, if possible, even more ostentatious than the outside. All leather everythings and an entire roof made from glass. Bich sat in the passenger seat, filming upwards at where the first drops of today’s rain had started to bead above her, feeling Elle pull away from the curb.
Ten minutes later, Bich had learnt exactly two things. The first was that Elle drove like a fucking maniac, weaving in and out of traffic with such a latent boil of road rage she got physically restless whenever they had to stop at traffic lights.
The second thing was that Bich’s butt was warm.
“Heated seats,” Elle said, grin white and sharp underneath her too-big sunglasses. Her hair was a movie-star sweep of copper, pinned against one temple with a green-jeweled clip that matched earrings just peeking out from beneath the bobbing cascade of ringlets. The first time Bich had seen her, back in the cafe, Elle had looked… dowdy. Tomboyish, maybe. Today she looked ready to step out in front of a hoard of paparazzi, eyes and teeth bright beneath the flashbulbs.
“This car is pretty fancy,” Bich said, because she was stuck in traffic with a supermodel, about to go hunting monsters.
“Eh.” Elle was noncommittal. “It’s okay. I like my old one better.”
“I’ll swap you,” Bich offered. “If, y’know. You don’t want this one any more.”
Elle laughed, the sound giving Bich the sudden image of a crackling bonfire.
The car’s satnav ran PyreOS, which Bich hadn’t even known came in a car version. Her own phone was a Samsung she’d bought because the camera was supposed to’ve been better than the Flame’s. Also, like three hundred dollars cheaper. Pyre stuff wasexpensive. Elle-level expensive, Bich thought, even as the woman in question thumbed something on the steering wheel and the car said, “Awaiting request.”
Elle gave it the address of the Bad Place, the car speaking acknowledgment with almost human-sounding pronunciation. That threw Bich a little. She was used to talking maps but hers sounded a lot more… artificial. Twangy and American. With the wrong inflection on every word. Elle’s car, meanwhile, sounded like it’d taken elocution lessons from NIDA.
Bich stopped filming when they hit the suburbs. There was enough B-roll for a few episodes, even if she would have to edit out the directions from the car. Roxx’d always been cagey about letting onto where they filmed. It was a habit Bich had picked up and never quite managed to put down.
Elle didn’t seem to be in the mood for talking. Probably for the best. Bich wasn’t sure what they’d talk about, anyway. Redwet holes and the way people who walked into the Bad Place tended to come back different. Even Taylor. They’d taken him out there not long before he’d quit, sneaking him out of the city when his parents thought he was busy at a friend’s sleep-over or… whatever it was private school girls got up to on the weekend. That’d been Episode 23. The next week, Taylor had stopped returning their calls.
That’d been when things had really started to fall apart.
Bich watched buildings scoot past out the window of the car. Somewhere, in between the quiet purr of the car and the thunk-thunk of the windscreen wipers, she must’ve dozed, because the next thing she knew her view had shifted to sheep paddocks, and the car around her was trilling.
Then Elle, quite inexplicably, saying, “Luke’s House of Locks, for all your low-key ‘smithing needs.”
Bich blinked, turned, and saw Elle driving one-handed, mobile phone held up against her ear. Beneath the noise of the road, she distinctly heard a tinny voice on the other end say, “Har har.”
She turned back to the window. Elle’s conversation started with, “Yeah, we’re in the car” and from there moved mostly to “uh-huh” and “yeah” and one, slightly terse, “ofcourse I’m being careful.” So… the boyfriend, then? Elle had mentioned one the other day, hadn’t she? And Bich’s hypothesis seemed confirmed a moment later with a, “Look, I’ll call you later, okay?” Then a, “Love you too.”
Bich sighed, listening to the dull click as Elle hung up the phone, then a thump as she tossed it into the cup holder in the car’s central console.
“Boyfriend?” Bich turned, and tried a smile. Easy smalltalk, she could do this.
Elle own expression was soft and fond. “Yeah,” she said. “He worries.”
Bich thought about a burnt-out house in the middle of nowhere, and drains that yawned with endless rows of neat white teeth. She forced the thoughts down with a scoff. “Boys,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Elle’s grin just widened until sharp white canines pressed against her lip.
The Bad Place was an old farmhouse, located down the end of a long dirt road branching at right angles from a long dirt highway. The only thing announcing the entrance from said highway was a battered mailbox with the word RAPISTS badly painted-over on one side, and a metal swing gate secured by a heavy chain and heavier padlock.
“We usually leave the car on the road,” Bich said, but Elle just snorted.
“This car?” she said. “On this road? I don’t think so. Wait here a sec.” And she stepped out into the mud.
It’d stopped raining at some point but the sky overhead was still a heavy, gunmetal sort of grey, stern and disapproving. Cold, too, outside the warm bubble of the car, and Bich huddled down deeper into her coat—and the warmed leather of the seats—as the wind gusted in through the open driver’s side door.
Elle had walked over to the gate, and was doing something with the padlock, Bich couldn’t see what. She had just enough time to wonder whether Elle could pick locks as well as accessorize, when she heard a, “Hah!” from outside and Elle spun back around, arm raised in triumph.
The gate chain, and opened padlock, dangled from her fist.
(shit, this is probably illegal)
A minute later, Elle had pushed the gate open and they were heading up the Bad Place’s overgrown drive, tires slipping in the mud.
“Nice day for it,” Elle commented. Bich just made a noncommittal sound, pulling out her camera again and getting a good, long shot of their approach.
Ahead, at the end of the drive, the Bad Place squatted like a poisonous toad amidst the bush, low and dark.
Once upon a time, it’d been a sprawling Federation-style homestead, all wide verandas and wrought iron railings. The inside was a warren, the product of a hundred years of extensions and renovations, rooms upon rooms added until whatever had been left of the original plan was swallowed by the sprawl.
It’d been converted to a group home in the 70s, that Bich did know. Walls knocked out and bedrooms turned into dormitories, filled with austere iron bunk-beds with thin mattresses and itchy woolen blankets. Nowadays, the bed frames were twisted in rusted heaps, the mattresses and rotting bedding piled up amongst empty beer cans in cockroach-and-spider infested mounds, singed with char from the fires and covered in a decade’s worth of piss and vomit and worse things.
Elle pulled up in what probably had been, once upon a time, a stately circle driveway and was now mostly a wasteland filled with thorny tangles of briar rose and blackberry. An old statue of the Virgin Mary stood in the centre, missing half her plaster head, black crosses spray painted over her eyes and mouth, a wreath of old condoms circled around her neck.
As they got out of the car, Elle crossed herself in the direction of the statue, finishing off with a sardonic little bow.
“Our Lady, Mother of Sin,” she said, to no-one in particular. Bich just focused on not sinking too deeply into the mud. At least she’d worn practical shoes. The second time she’d come out here, with Roxx, Bich had worn opened-toed sandals. It was a mistake she’d only made once.
Genuflections to the Defiled Mary completed, Elle proceeded to set off at a long-legged lope. Not towards the Bad Place’s door, but rather around to the side, following the driveway. Bich scurried to catch up to her, camera footage bouncing and rolling as she did.
They never bothered with trying to stabilize the footage. Roxx had always thought the nausea-inducing shaking added to the authenticity.
(as if the real live monstergirls aren’t authentic enough)
“Where are you going?”
Elle was looking for something, peering around the side of the building, scowling, peering some more. Then she turned back to Bich, gesturing with one long, red-nailed finger. “Bring that over here.”
Bich obliged. Elle was pointing, so Bich focused her camera on the indicated spot.
“What do you see?” Elle asked.
“Mud.” Everything around here was mud. Mud and weeds and rusted old shapes that might once have been playground equipment.
“Yeah,” said Elle. “Fresh mud.” Bich glanced away from the camera’s viewfinder just long enough to shoot a glance Elle’s way. When she did, she found too-bright green eyes slicing like lightsabers.
Elle didn’t blink, at least not as much as she should’ve. The realization hit Bich suddenly, but once she’d thought it, she was sure it was true. That was why Elle’s stare was so disconcerting, so intense; she grabbed eye contact and she held it. It was a body language trick, Bich had learnt about it in some Business 101 elective she’d taken in first year. The Pyre Computers guy was famous for doing it. Hale. Travis Hale.
Travis Hale and, apparently, Elle.
Elle, who was still pointing at a five-by-two patch of mud, puddles collecting in two long grooves running the length of it.
“Someone’s had a car here,” Elle explained. “Recently. The ground’s soft from all the rain, and the tracks go all the way up the drive.”
“Oh.” Bich hadn’t noticed. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. And the chain and padlock I pulled off the front gate? Both new.”
“The gate was always chained,” Bich said. “When we came up here before.” Back then, they’d just jumped the fence and walked up the drive. She tried to picture the old gate lock in her mind. It’d been rusty… right? She hadn’t really paid much attention.
“The old padlock was in the mud by the fence,” Elle continued. “Bolt cutters, by the look of it.”
“So… probably not the property owners, then?”
“That’s what I’m guessing.”
Roxx. Bich didn’t say it, but who else could it’ve been?
(it could’ve been anyone and you know it. you weren’t the first to discover this place and you won’t be the last)
“Whoever it was… they’re not here now?” Bich aimed at authoritative, missed completely, and decided to roll with “hopeful” instead.
Elle just shrugged. “Guess not.” Then she leant forward, peering straight down the camera’s lens. “Let’s go find out, eh?” She even wiggled her eyebrows.
Bich tried not to shiver as they rounded back to the front of the sprawling house, the sound made by their footsteps changing from the faintly sickening squelch of mud into the hollow thump-thump heartbeat of rotting boards. The front verandah was about a foot off the ground. Wood, with a wrought iron railing and a peeling coat of paint in eucalypt green and desert dust red. Obscene graffiti had been sprayed over every surface that wasn’t burnt, ranging from political slogans, to sexual solicitations, to denouncements of the Bad Place’s history, and even just straight-up the word CUNTS written over and over again in dripping pink uppercase. A dangling mobile made from old condoms and empty goon bags hung from one sagging gutter.
Bich made sure to get the mobile in shot, but avoided the worst of the profanity. YouTube censorship could be rough.
The Bad Place still had a front door. Just. It’d been wrenched off its hinges and re-hug more than once, judging by the scarring on the jamb. Efforts with locks and doorhandles has been similarly sabotaged over the years, kicked down and drilled out until the current incarnation just swung free, a chunk missing from the left-hand side like a big, splintered bite.
There’d been windows, once. Stained glass or something, two long strips to either side of the door. Nowadays, they were just boarded-up holes.
(holes holes holes always holes)
When Elle’s boot connected with the wood of the front door, the noise startled Bich bad enough to shake the camera.
“Jesus!” she said. “What are you—?”
“I’m not touching anything in this shithole,” Elle said, lip curling into moue of distaste just before she slipped out of shot and into the house.
Bich followed, step by careful step, shoes nudging aside broken glass and mouldering piles of possum shit. Beyond the front door was an entry foyer, a big rotting old staircase winding up to a second floor landing.
Elle whistled. “This must’ve been some place,” she said. “Once upon a time.”
“What’s that?” Bich pointed the camera down, to the boards beneath Elle’s feet. Someone had scrawled something there. A symbol, sprayed on in red paint.
“Same thing as at Roxx’s place.” Elle took two steps backward, revealing more of the symbol in the weak slash of light oozing in from the front door. “Was it here before?”
“Not that I’ve seen.” Not writ large on the floor like that, at any rate.
Elle made a thoughtful noise, then pulled out her phone and took a photo. The camera flash was a bright strike of lightning in the gloom, and Elle cursed, tapped at the phone’s screen, then took a second shot without it. As she did, Bich would’ve sworn she muttered something that sounded like, “Get those dumbfucks to fix that next release.”
They spent the next ten minutes or so exploring the house. Bich recalled the general layout of the place from the last few times, but she let Elle lead. Elle, who seemed to have an idea about where she was going, picking her way across discarded condoms and empty beer bottles, twisted old furniture and rotting floorboards. Every now and again she’d stop, close her eyes, take a deep breath in and just hold it for a while. Then she’d let it all out in a rush, and continue walking.
Whatever she was doing, it made great TV. Lots of long pans of dark corridors, the occasional streak of light from outside sending the camera contrast hurtling from white to black in the space between two heartbeats. Bich was already splicing footage in her head, planning out the clip she’d upload when they got back into the city. The text she’d flash up between the shots. In the city, driving, arriving. Maybe not finding the tracks outside. That was probably something to keep to herself, at least for now. Particularly if Roxx—
Bich blinked. Elle’s wandering had taken them into what looked like it might’ve once been a kitchen. All long benches against the walls and a rusted old sink beneath a broken window. There was a back door, long-since demolished then boarded up, and one of the walls separating the kitchen from the room beyond had been burnt out by fire, leaving a faint scent of charcoal beneath the vomit and possum shit.
Elle was standing in the middle of the floor, on a piece of plywood laid out over the cracked old tiles. Nails still protruded from the corners like angry tetanus teeth, and Bich thought the piece must’ve been torn from the broken window. Once again, someone had painted the glyph onto the wood’s surface in angry red.
Elle tapped her foot against the board, looked straight at the camera, and said, “You hear that?”
God, she was good. Most people would’ve looked at Bich. Not Elle. Elle had her fourth wall mastered.
Elle also expected an answer, which Bich didn’t have. “Uh… hear what?”
Another foot-tap. “That?”
Bich felt lost, and must’ve looked it, because Elle swung her leg around and repeated the tapping about a foot to the side of where she’d been doing it before. “See?” she said.
It took Bich a moment to get it.
“It’s a different sound.”
“It sounds… hollow.”
(holes always holes)
“You remember there being something here before?” Elle asked.
Bich shrugged, making sure the camera caught the jolt. “No,” she said. “But… maybe? We didn’t comb every inch of this place.”
Elle stepped off the plywood, peering into the camera and wiggling her bushy copper eyebrows. “Wanna take a look-see what’s underneath?” she asked.
It wasn’t really a question; of course they were going to take a look. Bich put the camera down on a filthy counter-top, making sure to keep Elle and the plywood cover as in-shot as she could manage. Then she went over to help Elle shift it.
“I wish I’d bought some fucking gloves,” Elle said, sneering in disgust as she wedged delicate, blood-red nails between filthy board and filthy floor.
Bich said nothing, just grunted a little as she helped Elle lift the wood. It was surprisingly heavy, despite being only a centimeter or so thick, but between them they got it levered up first on one edge, then flipped over. The plywood hit the tiles with a crash that was startling in the silence of the ruined house. It landed glyph-side down. Bich felt oddly relieved by the observation.
She was less enthused when she saw what the board had been hiding.
It was, indeed, a hole. Someone had pulled up about two square feet worth of tiles, then broken through the boards underneath.
Beyond that was nothing but a gaping black maw.
“Shit,” Elle said. She was standing with an elbow in one hand, running a fingernail across her lower lip. Bich tried not to think of where Elle’s hands had just been.
(hope she’s vaccinated)
“I don’t think I’d fit down there,” Elle continued. “Too big.”
Bich nearly choked. “Are you insane?” she spluttered. “You want to— to go down there?”
Elle turned and gave her a very good look, eyebrow raised. “Sure,” she said. “Why not? What do you think’s gonna happen?”
Bich opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again.
(what do you think would happen?)
“But…” she tried, “but what if… you know. It’s down there?” All tooth and maw, waiting in the darkness.
But Elle just shrugged. “If it is,” she said. “So what? Has it ever actually hurt any of you?”
“I—“ Bich’s shoulders sagged, crushed by the weight of a thousand sleepless nights, of the feel of hot-wet breath on her neck, of the prickle of an eyeless gaze, crawling across her skin.
Taylor was gone. Roxx was missing. Which left Bich, the last woman standing. Except Taylor’d been pulled out by her ‘rents, and Roxx was… still around, near as Bich could tell. Still around, just… unavailable.
(what has it ever actually done… and what did you do to yourselves?)
She swallowed, hard, and turned her eyes to the hole. It was person-sized, if said person was both very small and very skinny. Bich was the former but not the latter, Elle the latter but not the former. Taylor would’ve made it. Taylor or Roxx, and Bich tried not to think about that too hard.
Instead, she said, “Give me your scarf.”
Elle’s scarf was, like its owner, a too-long too-thin hipster sort of thing, wound around and around and around Elle’s neck like a hungry snake. It also tied into knots without too much hassle, and within five minutes Bich had secured it around the camera.
“Here,” she said as she was tying the whole thing off. “Now neither of us has to go down into the spooky hell-hole.”
Elle gave an approving thumbs-up, and together they stood at opposite sides of the gaping black maw in the floorboards.
“How deep do you suppose it goes?” Bich asked. Any further than a meter and they’d need to find a longer scarf.
Elle crouched down, shining the light from her cellphone into the darkness. Bich could see a deranged CWA meeting’s worth of cobweb lace, spun out over wooden beams and poles. House foundation sort of stuff she was sure had names she didn’t know.
“Hard to say,” Elle said after a while. “Too many cobwebs, so the light doesn’t reach the bottom, but these things are made for taking photos in pubs with shit lighting, not supernatural spelunking expeditions.”
Bich tried not to shiver at the word “supernatural”, or at the way the light from her camera–rotating slowly at the end of the scarf–sent Elle’s shadow spiraling around the ruined kitchen. When Bich caught it out of the corner of her eye, that shadow seemed… not right. Too big, maybe. Hulking. Horned.
(now you’re just scaring yourself)
“Maybe we should write a letter to Pyre,” Bich said. “Suggest Spelunking Mode as a feature on the next Flame?” It was a dumb joke, but it got a huff of laughter out of Elle.
“You know, you’re not the first person to ask for that.” Then, before Bich could answer, she looked up and said, “Lower away, Director. Let’s see what’s down in the dark.” Her eyes practically glowed.
Bich crouched at the edge of the hole. Then she began to lower the camera, unspooling the scarf loop after painstaking loop, the only sound the soft tearing as the device’s weight broke through the spider silk.
“God. If a redback comes running up my arm…” She’d drop the camera, then they’d really be in the shit.
In Bich’s hands, the scarf went slack. Somewhere down below, she heard the softpffthap of plastic hitting ground.
“I found the bottom.”
Elle’s head appeared over the hole, peering intently into the depths, wan light from her phone joining the web-cut glow from the camera.
“I can’t see a fucking thing,” Elle admitted after a moment. “Too many fucking webs.”
Of course there were. Bich began looking around the room, eyes scanning for some piece of old detritus.
“There!” She pointed off into a shadowed corner. “Clear them with that.”
Elle jogged off into the gloom, returning a moment later with what looked like it had, at one point, been the leg of a particularly ugly old wooden chair. The sort with too many bumps and grooves, that reminded Bich of the stuff they’d made back in high school woodwork class after they’d been allowed to use the lathe. Her parents still kept toilet rolls on the thing she’s made back then. Now, Elle was preparing to make spiderweb cotton candy with her creation’s even uglier twin.
It was about then, Bich kneeling in the filth by the edge of the hole, Elle standing over it holding her chair leg, that the scarf went taught.
Bich had just enough time to say, “Wha—?” in response, before something at the bottom of the hole moved, pulling the scarf, and Bich along with it.
One moment she was upright, the next she was falling. Falling forward, dragged along by the wool she was too shocked to release, world tilting until all she could see in front of her was the black mouth of the hole beneath the tiles. Beneath the floorboards. Dark and endless, moist and damp, long cobwebs strung between the slick-dark of old redwood timber like glistening ropes of saliva, shuddering in and out with breath that sucked and slurped and drew Bich down into its churning—
The sound of wood, clattering. And two hot, dull bolts of pain, slamming into Bich’s shoulders.
Beneath her, a wooden chair leg fell into the void. As it went, cobwebs clearing in its wake, Bich saw something move.
“Lean back, man. Just lean back.”
Elle had caught her, half-over the gaping hole, one fist against each of Bich shoulder’s, Bich’s knees still on the floor on the far side. She was leaning forward at an angle, still dangerously precarious, the scarf gone slack.
Beneath her, by the light of the camera, Bich saw.
(so fragile so frail delicate little girls with limbs like spun glass and skin like cream silk, so beautiful and pure and pretty when it bruises, bud-purple flowers blossoming in that pale garden, watered by the tears and thick white)
For a moment, Elle’s voice didn’t sound like Elle at all. Then she shoved, and Bich was falling again, this time backwards, away from the hole. The hole that was filling, black and red and glistening, spiders scurrying and cobwebs torn apart as easily as the pale skin of little girls as something dark and hungry and screaming and—
“Oh hells no!”
Swung upright by the momentum from Elle’s push, Bich saw…
(my what big horns you have)
Then the world exploded. A roar of black, spewing from the hole, thick and slick and oozing. Thin white hands reaching, grasping at Bich’s jacket, at her hair. She screamed, and the Tooth Girl screamed back. An endless howl, pain and molars, from a mouth that obscured everything else, cute button nose and rosy cheeks and delicate brows and big round eyes as black as night that wept and wept and wept.
So many tears.
“Hættu! Ekki snerta hana!”
Then smoke. A halo of orange-gold exploding behind the Tooth Girl’s lank black hair, as flames raced along the far wall.
Bich was still in motion, still swinging her endless pendulum swing, away from the hole and tipped over now, arcing backwards and down, Tooth Girl and flames rotating out of view, replaced by a rotted old ceiling, ornate cornices bathed in flickering light and the shadow of what had to’ve been Elle’s head, crowned with a pair of darkly curving horns.
Then Bich’s own head made contact with the filthy floor.
Fade to black, the end of the scarf still clutched in one hand.
# EPISODE 26
Episode 26 was posted 17 June with the description:
› the bad place
And is tagged as: #vicwalks
The clip is 17:18 minutes long.
Encounter with the Tooth Girl.
## Detailed transcript[0:00] Black screen. Ambient car sounds, occasionally interspersed with the noise of an indicator. [0:02] White text appears in the centre of the screen:
› So yesterday Elle wanted to investigate the Bad Place.
› I think she wanted to see the Tooth Girl[0:08] Text fades out, replaced by:
› Well. She saw her all right.[0:12] Shot of a suburban street, overcast weather. Cars occasionally pass. [0:34] A luxurious red car (see [[Talk:Episode 26#Model S]] pulls up in front of the camera. The window rolls down and [[Elle]] leans out.
Elle: “You filming this?”[0:58] Camera jolts and moves slightly.
Brianna: “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I am.”
Elle: “Cool. Hop in.”[1:06] Camera jolts as Brianna steps forward, then cuts to black. [1:08] Long shot from what appears to be the passenger side of the car, driving through parts of Melbourne (see [[Talk:Episode 26#wheres the bad place?]]). [1:48] Fade out. Fade into different footage from the same position, this time more rural. [2:29] Fade to black. [2:30] White text appears:
› The Bad Place was Roxx’s name for it.
› It’s a long drive out of town.[2:49] Shot from the car of the dirt approach to [[The Bad Place]]. [3:12] Leaving the car, stepping out into the driveway. Elle pauses in front of an old broken statue, crossing herself.
Elle: “Our Lady, Mother of Sin.”[3:20] Elle moves towards the side of the Bad Place, camera bouncing as Brianna follows.
Brianna: “Where are you going?”[3:22] Cut to camera following Elle into the Bad Place, ambient sound of footsteps, etc. [3:25] Camera focuses briefly on a mobile made from what appears to be used condoms and the silver bags inside wine boxes. [3:34] Loud cracking sound. Camera swings sharply to show Elle standing at the Bad Place’s front door, having just kicked it open.
Brianna: “Jesus! What are you—?”
Elle: “I’m not touching anything in this shithole.”[4:18] Elle and Brianna enter the Bad Place. Elle whistles.
Elle: “This must’ve been some place. Once upon a time.”
Brianna: “What’s that?”[4:24] Camera pans down, zooming on a [[symbol]] painted in red on the floor. Elle steps back, away from the symbol.
Elle: “Same thing as at Roxx’s place. Was it here before?”
Brianna: “Not that I’ve seen.”[4:34] Elle uses her phone to take a photo of the symbol, muttering something inaudible. [4:38] Elle and Brianna begin to explore the house. Footage is badly lit, showing the interior of a long-abandoned building. Elle leads, Brianna follows with the camera. Every minute or so, Elle stops and appears to briefly “meditate,” eyes closed, before continuing. Some tearing in the footage appears during each of these incidents (see [[Talk:Episode 26#Psychic Powers]]). [13:48] Elle and Brianna arrive in what appears to be a kitchen. Elle comes to a stop in front of an old piece of plywood laid out in the centre of the floor. The [[symbol]] has been painted onto the surface. Some footage tearing during this whole section.
Elle: “Oh. Hello!”[13:50] Hollow sounds as Elle taps her foot against the plywood.
Elle: “You hear that?”
Brianna: “Uh. Hear what?”
Elle: “That?”[13:59] Elle taps her foot again, then repeats the motion closer to the edge of the plywood. The sound there is less pronounced/hollow.
Brianna: “It’s a different sound.”
Elle: “Yup. You remember there being something here before?”
Brianna: “[distortion, inaudible] —didn’t comb every inch of this place.”
Elle: “Wanna take a look, see what’s underneath?”[14:23] Camera is placed down on a surface at around waist-height (kitchen counter?). Brianna moves into shot. She and Elle attempt to move the plywood board.
Elle: “I wish I’d bought some fucking gloves.”[14:40] Crash as the pair manage to lift the board enough to flip it over, accompanied by a lot of footage distortion. The board appears to have been covering a hole in the floor, roughly a meter in diameter. Tearing is very intense during this next section, with dialogue routinely interrupted.
Elle: “Shit. I don’t think [inaudible] down there. Too big.”
Brianna: “Are you insane? You want to— to go down there?”
Elle: “Sure. Why not? What do you— [inaudible]”
Brianna: “But… but what if… you— [inaudible]”
Elle: “If it is, so what? [inaudible] —actually hurt any of you?”
Brianna: “[inaudible] —me your scarf.”[14:47] Elle unwinds the long scarf from around her neck, giving it to Brianna. Brianna approaches and retrieves the camera. Footage becomes very shaky, as Brianna appears to tie one end of the scarf around the camera. [15:24] Footage “stabilizes”, slowly rotating at around waist-level.
Brianna: “Here. Now neither of us has to go down into the— [inaudible]”[15:32] Both approach the hole.
Brianna: “How deep do you suppose— [inaudible]?”[15:34] Footage, still slowly rotating, shows Elle crouching down by the side of the hole. Tearing and static intensify.
Elle: “[inaudible] —many cobwebs, so the light doesn’t— [inaudible] —are made for taking photos in— [inaudible] —not supernatural— [inaudible]”[15:41] Shadow behind Elle appears to show a horned figure? See [[media/demon.jpg]] and discussion at [[Talk:Episode 26#Guys its just a shadow calm down]].
Bich: “[inaudible] —pyre. Suggest— [inaudible] —next flame?”
Elle: “You know you’re— [inaudible] —lower— [inaudible] —down the dark.”[15:44] Camera begins to lower into the hole. [15:46] Fade to black. White text appears:
› The static is particularly bad here.
› There were also a lot of cobwebs, which stuck on the camera lens, obscuring the footage.[15:53] Text fades out. Replaced by:
› The hole was maybe four feet deep.
› This is at the bottom.[15:57] Cut to a shot at the bottom of the hole. Mostly dark, with a rough patch of dirt visible at the bottom of the screen, illuminated by the camera’s light. Blurry white lines, most likely cobwebs, obscure most of the footage. Also heavy static/tearing. Voices are dimly audible, dialogue transcript has been recreated with the help of [[User:lasthero]] after digital enhancement. The distortion makes attributing dialogue to either Elle or Brianna almost impossible (see [[Talk:Episode 26#V1 has to be Bri]]).
V1: “[inaudible] the bottom.”
V1: “I can’t [inaudible]. Too many [inaudible].”[16:03] Something moves in front of the camera. Impossible to make out what in the darkness.
V2(?): “[inaudible] with that.”[16:04] Static intensifies, accompanied by the sound of something moving close to the camera. [16:05] Shot lurches suddenly to the side. Something, possibly the fingers of a hand, partially cover the lens. [16:06] Montage of confused shots. Appears that someone ([[TG|Tooth Girl]]?) has the camera and is pulling on the scarf. [16:07] Shot facing upwards, showing light shining down through the hole, partially obscured by the silhouette of Brianna’s head and shoulders.
V?: “Gotcha!”[16:08] Still facing upwards, Elle appears to lunge forward, catching Brianna by the shoulders before she can fall into the hole. A shadow plummets towards the camera. [16:09] The falling shadow hits whatever is holding the camera, then the ground.
V?: “[inaudible] man. Just lean [inaudible].”
V?: “Move goddamnit.”[16:10] Elle appears to shove Brianna backwards. Shot begins to move upwards quickly, towards the exit of the hole.
V?: “Oh hells [inaudible].”[16:11] Out of the hole, footage very confused/distorted. Camera appears to drop to the ground, rolling some distance across the kitchen. A brief glimpse of the Tooth Girl can be seen.
V?: “[audible but unknown, see notes below]”[16:15] Orange light is visible, potentially from a fire. [16:16] An unconscious Brianna falls partially (hair, one hand) into frame. [16:17] Strange noises, sounds of a struggle, extreme distortion. [16:18] A woman screaming? Roaring? [16:19] Sounds of retreating footsteps. Brianna still unconscious. Distortion clears at this point. [16:44] Footsteps returning, accompanied by a dragging sound. [16:47] Footsteps stop, very close to the camera but out of sight.
Male voice: “Fuck me.”[16:50] Brianna, still unconscious, appears to be moved by someone standing out of shot. A large, dark-skinned hand is just visible against her shoulder.
Male voice: “Fuck. Fucking camera. Fuck.”[16:55] A second hand reaches towards the camera, engulfing it in blackness. [16:57] Fade to black. [16:59] White text appears:
› Elle was there when I woke up. She said she blacked out as well.[17:02] Text fades out, replaced by:
› The camera was on the floor, half-melted and covered in something black and sticky.
› The SD card was okay though.[17:05] Text fades out, replaced by:
› We watched it when we got back to my place. Elle seemed really freaked out about it.
› She says she doesn’t remember anything after we lowered the camera into the hole.[17:08] Text fades out, replaced by:
› I don’t know what to think anymore. Except I do know one thing.[17:11] Text fades out, replaced by:
› Whatever was trapped in that hole?
› We let it out.[17:14] Cut to black. [17:18] Video ends.
* Though posted after [[Episode 26B]], this was filmed beforehand.
* The same rune that appears in [[Episode 6]] is seen throughout the Bad Place:
* Some users report a third voice as audible during the hole sequence. The voice is female, and appears to be whispering “oh, rain stalker” over and over (see [[Talk:Episode 26#oh rain stool-car???]]).
* After frame-by-frame review of the hole sequence, [[User:Hysteria]] believes the “shadow” dropped by Elle to be a chair leg or similar:
* The voice at 16:09 (starting with “Move goddamnit”) may be male. The voice at 16:47 is definitely male.
* This video has the clearest image yet of the [[Tooth Girl]] at 16:12 (captured by [[User:Hysteria]]):
* There’s debate over the words at 16:11. The voice appears male (see above), and does not appear to be speaking English. Nearest transcription is “high to, icky snerter hana” (see [[Talk:Episode 26#Forget rain stalkers… what about the icky snerters?]]).
* The “hand” that reaches towards the camera at 16:55 is quite clearly clawed (see [[Talk:Episode 26#New monster?!?]]):