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(check below the story for audio recordings by As the Raven Dreams and Lady Spookaria)

I’m not going to tell you what to believe about Mackenzie Weaver. At this point, I’m not even sure what I believe. I’ll just tell you what I’ve heard, and what I’ve seen, then you can draw your own conclusions. Maybe you even know something I don’t, and you can help me figure it all out.
    I first heard about Mackenzie from a guy I knew back in college. I won’t use his name here for, let’s say, certain reasons. I didn’t really talk to him a lot – he wasn’t the kind of guy it’s easy to have a conversation with. But he was definitely the kind of guy who would know about conspiracy theories or urban legends, if you wanted to know about that kind of thing. I never did, really, but he liked to tell me anyways.
    I think we were sitting in the cafeteria, or it might’ve been in class one day before the teacher showed up. Either way, he leaned over to me and asked if I had ever heard about Mackenzie Weaver. I said no, but I was already groaning on the inside. It was always something with this kid – usually some tall tales about Stonehenge or Elvis or that airplane disaster, nothing that quite fit with reality.
    I didn’t listen very hard that day, but I got the gist of the story: Mackenzie Weaver was some girl who murdered a lot of people at her high school in Wyoming. The cops killed her when they showed up, but – and here’s the kicker – people said they saw her up and about after the fact.
    I know I know. My first thought was that he was trying to pull a real-life chain email on me. Forward this message to twenty friends or Mackenzie Weaver will kill you in your sleep! I think I might’ve said that to him, but maybe I didn’t. This was a while ago, and I drank a lot in college. Either way, I ended up brushing him off, cause the probably-made-up story of some girl going crazy and killing her classmates didn’t seem that interesting to me.
    A couple days later, we were at a party off-campus when he mentioned it again. I was just trying to have a good time, smoke a little weed, let off some steam about finals, but he started yanking my ear for this urban legend I didn’t care about. He went off about how Mackenzie Weaver had come back from the dead to finish the job, and how she was killing people from her old school. Eventually I got pretty annoyed and told him that even the non-supernatural parts of his story didn’t make sense. Like, if a girl had shot up a school, even in some podunk town no one had ever heard of, it would have been on the news, and I didn’t remember ever hearing about a female school shooter.
    You can call me a pussy for this, but honestly, what he said next sent a chill down my spine. It’s not anything supernatural, so I guess I didn’t have a reason not to believe him. He told me that Mackenzie’s murder spree hadn’t been a big deal in the media because it couldn’t be twisted into a debate about gun control – she had killed her classmates with a sword.
    After he said that, I suddenly didn’t feel like partying anymore. I don’t know why, maybe I felt sick picturing kids my age, in the twenty-first century, getting sliced to pieces with a sword. I went outside to have a cigarette, and the guy followed me. I didn’t admit it to myself, but I was kinda glad he did – I guess I wanted to hear more about Mackenzie Weaver, even if I didn’t believe everything he was saying. He said that Mackenzie was just some random girl from a small town, totally normal, never hinted that she was going to kill anyone. I had originally guessed that Mackenzie was bullied or brutalized or molested or anything else that can make people snap; but according to my friend, she was just this kid. She had a few friends, even a boyfriend. Her parents were still married. (I asked my friend how he knew all these details, and he said he had gotten them from someone who had gotten them from one of Mackenzie’s old classmates. I didn’t know if that meant the story had been changed or diluted through the grapevine, but my friend promised his version was accurate.) Apparently a few factors went into Mackenzie being virtually unknown – part of it was that she was from a small town, part of it was that her parents tried to hush it up. But I think the most realistic explanation was that she was seventeen when it happened: she wasn’t a legal adult, so they didn’t release her identity to the press, even after she was killed.
    According to my friend, conspiracy theorists – basically, people like him – started talking about Mackenzie the year after she died, when a few people turned up murdered around a college in Maine. It was hundreds of miles from where she had lived, but one of the people who died turned out to be her old boyfriend. And he was killed with a sharp weapon. I told my friend that couldn’t really have happened, and he promised he’d get me a digital copy of the newspaper article. (He later told me that the article wasn’t online anymore because the college had demanded it get taken down. That seemed awfully convenient at the time.)
    So that was the story. Some girl kills her friends with a sword, gets killed by the police. A year later, her boyfriend and a few other people get killed by an unknown murderer. With a sword. Sure it’s suspicious, but is it enough to make me believe that Mackenzie Weaver came back to life? Not really. Doesn’t matter how much I drink, I’m not going to start believing in killer zombies because of a coincidence.
    I was already back home in Rhode Island when my friend got in touch. It was just through Facebook, nothing dramatic like him showing up on my doorstep. I hadn’t really talked to him since school got out for the summer, but I also hadn’t forgotten how creeped out I felt thinking about Mackenzie. Even if she didn’t come back to life, killing her friends with a sword was pretty disturbing. One day I even searched for her online, but I didn’t really find anything besides a thread on some supernatural support website where they claimed Mackenzie had been seen somewhere in Ohio, right before some young guy was killed. This freaked me out for a second, then I remembered there was absolutely no proof that whoever wrote this thread hadn’t just made it up.
    Anyways, when my friend messaged me, it was about a new development in the story: according to a rumor passed around Mackenzie’s hometown, she had actually been pregnant when she snapped. One of her old neighbors had heard something from her parents, who had heard something from her doctor – I guess her boyfriend (who only had a year to live at that point) had forgotten to wear protection and they’d made a baby. I mean who knows how the boyfriend felt about it, if he even knew; but I know how I felt. It was just a rumor that was part of a story I only half-believed, but I felt like I was going to throw up when I read my friend’s message. She was a mom. Maybe not legally, and maybe the baby was just a single cell at that point – but the idea of a pregnant girl killing people and getting killed herself was too much for me to handle right then.
    I didn’t want to keep thinking about Mackenzie, but something kept me glued to my computer screen when he told me about another rumor that had come out of the Maine killings. A couple people claimed they had seen a girl with long blond hair – which is what Mackenzie had, he assured me – wandering around town wearing a mask. The mask part was almost enough to make me go back to not believing, but I heard him out. It was something call a tank splatter mask – French tank operators wore them during World War I. Unlike Mackenzie Weaver, tank splatter masks did get me some results online: they were made out of leather and had these slatted eyes, while everything under the nose was covered in chainmail. I guess they were used to deflect shrapnel while operating tanks: no apparent connection to Mackenzie, but I have to admit that if I was a serial killer I’d wear one too, just for the aesthetic.
    Maybe I sounded like a little kid, and I guess it was weird I got this emotional online, but I wanted to know. I asked my friend if he was serious about Mackenzie Weaver. If he, specifically, believed she had come back from the dead. He told me he didn’t know, which was probably the most down-to-earth thing he ever said. But he ruined it by admitting that the thought terrified him.
    I tried to ignore the weird, scared feeling I got whenever we talked about Mackenzie, and tried to go on with my summer vacation. At one point I went out with some friends while they were trying and failing to pick up women; they wanted me to join, and I wanted to join too – I’ve always been pretty good with women – but for some reason, every time I looked at a girl, I pictured her wearing one of those terrifying masks, wielding a bloody sword, with an undead fetus kicking in her stomach.
    More than a couple nights I ended up laying awake, telling myself how fucking stupid it was to be scared of something that couldn’t be more than an urban myth, like the adult version of a campfire story; but the more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make. People came back to life all the time, didn’t they? Some medical procedures even involved stopping patients’ hearts and restarting them a while later. That was technically death and rebirth. So maybe the details of Mackenzie’s demise were just exaggerated. Maybe she had died, maybe she hadn’t. Maybe she was still out there. Maybe she wasn’t.
    For some reason, the most common occurring thought I had was about Mackenzie and myself: I kept picturing what I would do if I ever met Mackenzie, or if she might have any reason to kill me. All the theories regarding her boyfriend made it seem like she was only out to get those classmates she didn’t kill while she was alive. But what if that wasn’t the rule? What if she showed up at my house one day and stabbed me through the heart? What if she was out on a random killing spree to make others suffer for both her own death and the death of her unborn child?
    I hate to admit it, but that was around the time I started sleeping with the lights on. My friend and I talked about Mackenzie a lot. It was like a drug: I knew it was bad for me to keep thinking about her, but somehow I couldn’t stop. I wanted to know more. There weren’t many details to know, but what there was, I wanted.
    Then, one day, he appeared at my house.

    It was late at night, and I was laying awake with a single lamp on, giving just enough light so I wasn’t mortified that someone would appear in my room. I heard a small plinking sound and felt my heart jump out of my chest. I told myself it was just an animal or something in the house, and I had almost convinced myself, when the sound came again. Then a third time. Then a fourth.
    On the last time, I saw something moving outside, and realized what it was: a classic romcom scenario, someone throwing pebbles at my window. Of course, the first thought that went through my head was that it was Mackenzie Weaver, here to kill me for some goddamn reason or another. I ran through every possible outcome in a split second, before finally telling myself it was probably a regular person down there.
    I was pretty surprised to see my friend out the window. I couldn’t remember where he was from – if I ever even knew – but I was pretty sure it was far away. I also couldn’t see how he'd known which room was mine, but I’m guessing it’s because I had the only light on in the house.
    I whisper-yelled down to him, asking what the hell he wanted at two in the morning. He whisper-yelled back that I had to come down, and that it was urgent. I shut the window and went down the stairs, trying to keep quiet. Every split second I had a new Mackenzie-related theory about why he was here.
    When I got outside, I asked him what was going on. He told me I had to come with him and not ask questions. We walked a few hundred yards down the road to where he had stashed his car and got in. My parents were always pretty relaxed people, they wouldn’t explode if they knew I was gone. Anyways, my curiosity was the most important thing right now.
    We were cruising through the neighborhood, just about at the speed limit. I remember it being really quiet out – it felt almost supernaturally quiet. I asked my friend what was going on, and he asked me if I believed in Mackenzie Weaver.
    I swear I felt my heart skip a beat. I already knew this was about Mackenzie, I could feel it in my gut. But when he said her name…well, it was the first time in months I had heard it out loud. If anyone asked, I was still “officially” on the fence – but I was terrified of her, real or fiction.
    For the sake of argument I wanted to say yes, yes I believe in Mackenzie Weaver, yes I believe that she came back to life and killed her boyfriend a year later, yes I believe she’s still out there, waiting to finish what she started. But what actually came out of my mouth was more of an “I…don’t know.”
    My friend nodded. He looked disappointed, or sad, or something I couldn’t read. This made me feel regretful for some reason, as if I had said something insulting to him. I suddenly wanted to lie and make him feel better. I had to remind myself that, half a year earlier, I would have barely considered this man a friend.
    As he drove, my friend kept glancing into his rearview mirror. I couldn’t tell why – there was no one else on the streets – but something whispered in the back of my head that I already knew what he was looking for.
    Who he was looking for.
    “Can I trust you?” he asked.
    “Yes,” I replied. I didn’t know why he asked this, or if I was telling the truth; but for some reason, I wanted to please him. I felt sorry for him. I saw a brief flash of memory behind my eyes: being ten years old, watching my grandmother whither away from cancer, having my mom tell me I need to be nice to Grandma because she was going to die soon.
    My friend slammed on the brakes, and I almost hit my head on the dashboard. “She’s here,” he said.
    “How?” I replied. I heard the word come out of my mouth. My brain wasn’t working.
    He shook his head slowly. “Don’t ask how,” he said.
    Something like a memory fluttered into my head and I heard myself say, “It’s supposed to be her classmates.”
    My friend almost responded, but then he looked down at the floor. “Just remember,” he said. Then he opened the door and stepped out. There was a wet sound, a sound I didn’t recognize, a sound I wondered about until the moment I saw the blade sticking through his chest.
    For a second, I couldn’t move. Then, with blood rushing in my ears, I yanked on my door handle, tore off my seatbelt, and fell out of the car. My knees scraped on the asphalt as I scrambled onto the sidewalk, then onto the grass, then stood up and tore down a side road. My legs pumped against the ground and my heart hammered in my chest, but it wasn’t until my lungs threatened to burst that I stopped for breath. I don’t know why I did it, but somewhere in the back of my mind, in the part of every human brain that begs to confront its fears, I told myself to turn around.
    I couldn’t see my friend, but I could see his blood. It ran down her curved blade, pouring off and puddling on the street. She wore a leather jacket, also stained in red; on her face was a leather and chainmail mask, the slatted eyes staring directly at me. A sheaf of blond hair fell over her shoulders, almost letting me pretend she was human. But then I saw it, almost glowing in the moonlight, mottled the hideous shade of dead flesh: the bullet wound across her scalp, a souvenir of the day she was killed.
    I don’t remember a lot about that night, at least what happened after I got home. I remember the papers though, from my town and then from his – they said he was murdered, and that there weren’t any suspects. And why would there be? Nobody knew why he was in Rhode Island. Nobody knew anyone who would want to hurt him.
    But I did. I do. I know a young woman who was perfectly willing to stick a cutlass through his chest. Was it really Mackenzie Weaver, back from the dead? Possibly. Was it someone posing as her, trying to finish what Mackenzie started? Maybe. Is there a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this? Somehow, I doubt it.
    For the most part, I’ve recovered from what happened. Of course I couldn’t see a therapist about it, not without being committed, so I’ve learned to cope on my own. Somehow, I’ve found that the best way to get over it is to fully accept what happened. Or, what I believe happened.
    This past summer, a year after my friend’s death, I took a road trip out to Mackenzie’s home town. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, just that I thought it would help with my healing process. Either that, or it would make me want to do something that wouldn’t be great for my mental health but could help a lot of people. Hunting down Mackenzie, for instance.
    After all, a hundred and forty-seven of her classmates are still alive. I checked.
    As I expected, the Wyoming town was small, quaint, with nothing too interesting going on. This could have easily been my imagination, but I almost felt like there was something just beneath the surface of everything I saw, some kind of elephant in the room that they had all agreed not to discuss with outsiders. Had they all made a vow to pretend Mackenzie never existed? Did any of them even know the rumors that she had come back to life?
    I spent my first day there just wandering around, taking in the small town vibe. I had rented a hotel the night before, but hadn’t gotten much sleep; every time I drifted off I saw my friend with a cutlass through his heart or those slatted leather eyes, somehow more expressive and more evil than any real ones had ever been.
    Around noon, I stepped into a small coffee house and ordered something to drink. I entertained myself with my usual time-killer: searching for Mackenzie sightings online. They were slightly more frequent than they had been the summer before, but I knew she hadn’t reached national attention. Yet.
    When I finally worked up the nerve, I asked the barista – obviously a local – about Mackenzie. I swore to him I wasn’t a journalist, or with the police; still, he didn’t look happy at hearing the name. Of course not. In a town like this, anyone who was known for disturbing their idyllic peace would be demonized, even if they didn’t return from the dead.
    Without a word, the barista tore off a scrap of register paper and wrote something down. He handed the note to me, and I read a name in tight cursive: Elm Grove Cemetery. I thanked him. He didn’t reply.
    When I finally got to the cemetery, I spent the better part of an hour looking for her. But when I finally found her grave, I was surprised I hadn’t seen it earlier.
    The grass before her headstone was newer than the rest. And there were marks in the ground, like someone had been digging and someone else was too afraid to fix it.
    I swallowed my fear and stepped forward. The grave did belong to a Mackenzie Weaver, March fifth 1995 to February fourteenth 2013. There was nothing special about the stone, nothing that indicated magical powers to raise the dead; what made me crouch over either a dead body or an empty casket were the words, written in rough, spraypainted letters, across her headstone. I won’t need to paraphrase here, because the following lines have become more engrained in my memory than my own name:

Though the grave couldn’t keep her,
And her soul wouldn’t leave her,
We still hear the cries
Of Mackenzie Weaver.

Though some would forget her,
While others still grieve her,
There’s proof in the blade
Of Mackenzie Weaver.

My warning to you,
Don’t forget, but believe her –
You’ll all be the prey
‚ÄčOf Mackenzie Weaver.

Lady Spookaria's narration

© copyright 2020 Nathaniel J. Nelson