PseudoPod 845: 15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook
15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook
By Carlie St. George
I didn’t know him well. Nobody did, really: he was the new kid. But he was funny, and he was cute, and I probably would’ve said yes when he asked me out, except that’s when the gullet-eaters attacked, and he didn’t know not to scream. Stuff like gullet-eaters and werewolves and carnivorous pixies didn’t happen at his old school, I guess. Anyway, they ripped his throat out in seconds. Pulled out his esophagus. Chewed. His body twitched for a long time, arterial spray everywhere. It was a Tuesday, probably.
I think about Liam often, or at least whenever I study physics. The library couldn’t replace my blood-spattered textbook. Budget cuts, you know.
Listen. Some teachers inspire you, lift you up. Other hold you back, think you’re worthless. And then you’ve got teachers like Mr. Morales, who never gave a shit what you did, so long as you were quiet about it, and put on movies like It’s a Wonderful Life when he didn’t feel like teaching anymore. I liked him, or I understood him. I mean, we’re all just trying to get through the day, right?
But eventually, Morales didn’t get through the day. They found his body in a supply closet, completely drained of blood, and Economics suddenly became Civics & Economics, leaving poor Mrs. Bradley with 63 students to teach while the vice principal probably sacrificed a small goat just to summon a substitute who’d actually stick out a full day.
Morales stuck it out whole decades, though. I guess that counts for something.
Look, I’m just going to say it. Olive was a dick. She thought she was the smartest kid in class, and who knows, maybe she was right, but also? An absolute DICK. Never met another girl with such fucking mansplainer energy. Hand up in every class. Condescending smile. Well, ACTUALLY. Shut the fuck up, you bleach-blonde pitted fruit, you’re not gonna make it to Stanford, no one makes it out of this town, no one makes it out alive. I mean, fuck. I’m sorry, I’m sorry for her mom and her sisters and all, but I don’t care that she’s dead. I’ll cry for the people who are fucking worth it.
Fuck. Not Isobel.
You never wanna think about your friends dying, but also, THAT’S ALL I DO ANYMORE. You have to, right, in this town, in this school. Especially if you’re on the hero squad, and that’s me and Dylan, Isobel and Isaac. Used to be Logan, too, but he died freshman year. Fucking zombies, man. That was a rough time.
It’s stupid, I guess, but I always thought Isobel and Isaac would die on the same day. You know, they’re not just Isobel and Isaac; they’re Isobel-N-Isaac, a two-piece set, parts not sold separately. Some people even think they’re twins, and they might as well be. Born two minutes apart in next-door delivery rooms, like, some real movie destiny shit. Isaac is the half-vampire, Isobel the wereboar. (Weregilt, I guess—cis girl, no teen pregnancy piglets, etc.—but she likes the sound of wereboar better, so.) Isobel and Isaac have a billion inside jokes, finish each other’s sentences and everything. It’s annoying as shit. They should have died together.
Instead, Isobel died alone on April Fool’s, taking the stake meant for Isaac’s heart, and it’s like. How do you even move on from that, right? Isaac’s all fucked up now, obviously, and Dylan’s trying to help—Dylan’s the actual Hero of the hero squad, her whole job is checking in and giving pep talks and killing shit—but I’m just, IDK. I haven’t cried in a long time.
I love Isobel. Not romantically—we dated for half a second back in seventh grade—but like. We sing We sang Blackpink together. We killed monsters together. She helped me research some old-as-shit magic shield spells, and I helped her study for physics tests. We played what shape does this bloodstain look like together. I should have cried for Isobel, right?
(Dylan’s worried about me, too. She doesn’t know about this notebook.)
I’ve known Min-Seo since we were six, but also, we didn’t know each other at all. Different churches, different neighborhoods—well, much as a town this small can have neighborhoods—different friends. I’m the loveable witchy weirdo on the hero squad. She’s the lonely chess prodigy with bifocals and burn scars. We’ve never had much in common.
Still. For someone I talked to maybe twice a year, I liked Min-Seo well enough. She was pretty funny, actually, in this super dry, weirdly formal way, and absolutely did not give two shits about your wrong opinion—at least, not until The Day We Barely Averted the White Witch Apocalypse. (By we, I mean the hero squad. Min-Seo didn’t avert shit. All she did was survive, which is more than I can say for the rest of the chess club, who mostly just exploded.) Min-Seo was . . . shakier . . . after that. And now she’s dead because of a car accident, a fucking car accident, which is bullshit, it’s not FAIR. Min-Seo should’ve at least lived long enough to see whatever the next Almost-End-of-Days would be. There’s always some big doom bullshit around the last week of school. Last year it was the whole witch thing, the year before, the Near-Zombie Apocalypse. Saved the world, lost a Logan. Summer vacation always begins with blood.
And June, it’s coming. It’s only a few weeks away.
But Min-Seo, like. I always think of this group poetry project we had in 10th grade. It was me, Min-Seo, Olive (fucking Olive), and Dylan, and we each had to pick a poem and analyze, like, symbolism and shit. Olive picked “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams because she’s the actual worst person alive. Dylan wanted to pick “Brutal” by Olivia Rodrigo, but Mrs. Q has a bug up her ass about song lyrics being different than poetry; instead, Dylan Thom picked Dylan Thomas because she thought that was hysterical. Which nope, absolutely wasn’t, but that’s okay; it’s MY job to be the comic relief. And yeah, the jokes have been morbid lately. Still, better me than Isaac, who usually gets distracted before he even makes it to the punchline, and better than Isobel, too, whose sense of humor boils down to puns and schadenfreude.
Anyway, I thought Dylan should pick “First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay because she’s a 17-year-old basketball god AND unofficial Class Savior AND working unpaid shifts at her parents’ burger joint, which means she knows all about burning the candle at both ends. (“Actually, Sparrow,” Olive had said, “‘First Fig’ is about youth culture and partying too much. I thought everyone knew that.” Shut the fuck up, Olive.)
I picked “Dirge Without Music,” a different poem by St. Vincent Millay. Which, look, I know it’s super weird to say you dream about a poem, but yeah, sometimes I do. It’s like, I’m burying everyone, right, all the dead kids, all the dead teachers, all the dead moms and dead dads and dead cats and dead dogs, and there’s this whisper—down, down, down—as roses grow from their graves. It’s not my favorite dream, TBH, but it IS my favorite poem cause, like. It doesn’t try to sugarcoat shit. It’s not saying death is natural, appreciate the cycle, embrace the beauty of corpse-to-rose recycling. It’s saying death sucks. It’s saying I don’t have to be at peace with shit.
Fuck. Talking about me again. Sorry, I’m sorry.
Anyway, Olive’s going off on her “First Fig” and “anyone who’s anyone” bullshit, and Min-Seo—so quietly confident before all her chess friends blew up—told Olive, “No one knows that because it’s not true. ‘First Fig’ is almost excessively open to interpretation, which you’d know if you’d stop confusing your own anemic opinions for objective truth.” Olive legit sputtered—it was beautiful—but Min-Seo ignored her, saying some critics thought “First Fig” might be about bisexuality, since ESVM was also bi (REPRESENT!) and then told us she’d picked a contemporary poem: “Vespers” by Louise Glück.
Olive hated it, obviously, because she only likes poets who are long dead, but I liked it. I mean. I didn’t totally get it right away. You know, there were tomato plants? But I liked listening to Min-Seo recite it with this . . . slow, rising anger, this steely resolve. I liked how she spoke with her hands, even back then. How she said, “It’s explaining fear and responsibility to God.”
I wish we’d talked more last year. Maybe we had more in common than we thought.
Oh. Oh, I was right: they died on the same day, after all.
I don’t. I can’t. Fuck. Okay, obviously, I lied earlier. Practicing my creative writing skills: the Agatha Christie, the unreliable narrator. I just don’t know how to think about people anymore without eulogizing them, like, everyone’s gonna die eventually, might as well get your mourning speech ready. It’s not a new habit, really, imagining everyone I know dead, only ever since Liam got his throat ripped out, I’ve been writing my pretend-eulogies here—sometimes for the people who actually died (RIP, Mr. Moreno), and sometimes for people who just haven’t died yet. Maybe I’m like, processing? Trying to prepare myself? But I think I’d wanted this journal to be a prayer, too, some kind of weird protection spell. Spells and prayers aren’t so different really; magic just requires more ingredients, and you get more immediate results. Still, they’re not always the results you want. And that’s God, too: sometimes, the answer is no.
God said no a lot last week. Not to everything. We saved the world again. Two worlds, even. June 10th, The Day We Averted the Parallel Earth Apocalypse. And my bubble shield didn’t fail, even though it was the biggest one I’d ever made, even though I almost died, holding it up so long. Knocked me out for two days, couldn’t walk for the next four, but I saved the school and all the scared people hiding safely inside.
But that’s the thing about being on the hero squad: you don’t get to hide inside.
Isaac was born first and died first. We were idiots, we thought it was over, and Isaac was giving one of his super bouncy, high-on-adrenaline monologues, some prehistoric Star Trek mirror shit, IDK, he was THAT kind of nerd—and then The Breach opened up anyway, right where he was standing. He . . . halved, straight down the center. His mouth opened, and he fell apart. Dylan screamed. I screamed. Isobel just stood there, blank face, no one home.
And that’s when the evil monologue began. Earth 2 Mr. Morales. I can pretty much guess what he would’ve said: you fell for my evil plot, these monsters were just a decoy, and now I will destroy both our worlds, no one should live if my wife/child/dog is dead. It’s always some bullshit like that. But I guess we’ll never know for sure cause that’s when Isobel shifted, when she charged and broke all his bones with her big, boar-teeth. He got a few shots off first. Got her in the chest twice, which killed her, but E2 Mr. Morales died first, screaming. Then Isobel died, crawling back, reaching for what was left of Isaac.
But not much was left because that Breach just kept getting bigger, bigger, bigger.
(You know what else I was right about? I didn’t cry for Isobel, not really. I was still crying for Isaac, see. Everything happened so fast. My brain couldn’t catch up. I was still crying for Isaac when Dylan died.)
I can’t. I won’t, I don’t want to talk about that, I don’t want to talk about the end. We all know what happened. We know what heroes always do when there are no other choices left.
You, whoever you are, whoever found this stupid Hello Kitty notebook, whoever’s reading this stupid fucking diary and thinking, whoa, this chick was fucked up, you don’t need to know the specifics, you don’t need me to set the scene. Maybe you knew Dylan, maybe you were even there, hiding behind my old-as-shit magic shield and watching her stop the end of the world again. Maybe you saw the other Dylan, too, because she was there, of course she was. Every version of her is a hero, and every version of her is gone, and you might think you knew her, but you couldn’t have, not like I did. Dylan wasn’t your best friend. She didn’t teach YOU how to defend yourself with a knife. She didn’t paint YOUR toenails in bi pride or smuggle in food from her parents’ restaurant when you didn’t have anything to eat. Everyone knows Dylan’s the only reason any of us made it to the junior year, but no one knows that her favorite M&Ms are yellow (they taste better, she says she said), and that worms totally freak her out (so that big demon-worm last Christmas was a real fucking problem), and that we met at church when we were eight (she stopped going after her dad died, and I let her rip up and draw all over my Bible, even though I still loved God back then). No one knows that she was scared a lot and angry a lot but always tried to hide it. No one knows how she got that “Vespers” poem right away, how she was just as haunted by responsibility, by tomato vines, as I am by roses. No one knows I was gonna bake a We Survived cake for graduation, and Isobel-N-Isaac were going to decorate it, and Dylan—okay, Dylan was just gonna eat, because she could hold her breath for 6 minutes and kill a demon in 4, but absolutely could not be trusted with frosting. No one knows any of that because everyone who did is dead, everyone but me.
Whoever reads this, whoever you are, you have to know how wonderful Dylan was. You have to know we didn’t deserve her. You have to know how much we’ve lost.
This fucking guy.
So, top secret: I used to have these weird daydreams about him. Nothing gross, you perv. He’s like 40. It’s just funny cause I’m not Catholic. Even my parents, who agree on nothing, agree that Catholicism is a drag. But Methodists don’t have that whole ‘sit in a weird box and spill your guts to some barely visible guy, who then says, “It’s cool, my dude, God loves you, anyway.”’ I don’t know, that used to seem really appealing to me. All cathartic and shit.
So yeah, I used to imagine these conversations. I’d end up at St. Eugene’s somehow (my car stopped working, there was a storm, one of my friends was dead and I needed to scream about it—HA, only ONE of my friends was dead, what a fucking optimist I was back then), and I’d sit in that weird box and spill my guts, and Father Ryan would say something all enigmatic and profound, something that’d make me go, Huh.
I thought a lot about Father Ryan when I woke up from the coma, too, when I was too weak to stand and trying not to remember Isaac’s body, Isobel’s hands, Dylan’s face. I wouldn’t be confessing shit this time, though. This time, we’d talk poetry. I’d say, “Father, I get it now. Louise Glück was right. God is heartless.” I’d say, “God never gives us more than we can handle, God gives us monsters so we can defeat them—but what if we CAN’T handle it, what if we CAN’T defeat them? Why do we have to follow God’s plan when it’s this fucking STUPID? Yeah, He has a plan, so what? Making a plan’s not the same as living it. It’s not God who does the work, who kneels in the dirt desperately trying to save His shitty tomatoes. It’s not God who loses people, who’s afraid every fucking second of his fucking life. God made the Garden, but we’re the gardeners, and it’s up to us. He’s irresponsible as shit.”
I imagined screaming all that, imagined Father Ryan’s enigmatic compassion. Imagined feeling a tiny bit better instead of empty and furious and empty again. That’s all I wanted from my weird little daydreams: some tiny spark of hope.
But then Father Ryan denied Isaac a Catholic funeral because vampires, even half-vampires, aren’t welcome in the Kingdom of God. So, fuck that guy forever. I’m glad the carnivorous pixies got him. I hope their teeth were extra sharp. I hope they feasted slow.
Yeah, I’m a bad daughter, I get it, but honestly, this is Mom’s own fault. Who lets her kid keep going back to school after THREE different near-apocalypses? Who doesn’t move away after the very first zombie attack? But it’s always we can’t afford to pick up and move and this is just life and there are zombies everywhere, Sparrow. Which is true, it’s all true, but also, Liam had to come from somewhere, right, somewhere without gullet-eaters? Some normal, faraway town with only 1/4 the monster population and a near-apocalypse every 5-10 years? I could be so happy in a town like that, maybe. Mom might still be alive there.
But fuck, don’t listen to me. I’m an unreliable shit, remember? Even if there was some magical safe town, I never would’ve left the hero squad behind, not when they were alive. And now that they’re dead, well. The fuck does it matter, right? My friends are gone, they’re rotting; I’m not gonna be happy. I can’t even act happy anymore. Who’s got that kind of energy? Smiling, pretending to give a shit, eating every goddamn day. It’s impossible. It’s exhausting. Mostly, I just curl up in bed, staring at the walls and trying not to think too much. That’s what I was doing when I found out about Mom. Lying on my bed, staring at nothing, maybe trying to BE nothing, and Dad knocks and knocks, but not like a monster’s chasing him, so I take my time, cause fuck it. And Dad’s crying even though he and Mom HATE each other, like hate-hate, like Shakespearian, and he says, “Sparrow, honey,” and I’m all, “Oh, Mom’s dead.” Cause who else, right? Who else is left?
Fuck, I did it again. All me, me, me. I, I, I. I’m supposed to tell you about Mom, the good times, the bad, what her favorite flavor of M&M was, but I’m too tired to remember anything, and anyway, I really don’t think she had one.
But what if it’s Dad, right? What if he goes first? Yeah, that’d probably be easier, TBH. Wouldn’t have to move. Wouldn’t have to remind him I’m 17-years-old and I’ve helped stopped three different apocalypses, never mind all the monster of the week shit, so no, Dad, I actually don’t want any Judy Moody books for my birthday, or unicorn stationary, or Hello Kitty anything because I am not a fucking CHILD. At least Mom talks to me like I’m an adult. At least she doesn’t try to be my friend. Dad, you really wanna be friend, DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO MY FUCKING FRIENDS?
Yeah. Yeah, Dad died, he got eaten by a giant werebunny, sucks to be him. And you know what? My life barely even changed cause sure, I love the guy, I remember when he actually WAS there every day, when he made me animal-shaped pancakes and told me Bible stories in funny voices because he said God likes it when children laugh—but now I barely see him (work, always work, can you imagine what kind of apocalypse we’d face if a risk management analyst ever stopped analyzing risks), and he doesn’t know me; he doesn’t know me at all. I’ll miss him, I’ll dream about him lonely and dead in the ground, but my life won’t be much different, and anyway, I know how to lose people and keep going. I’m fine.
I found her. I guess she didn’t want to do it at home. Makes sense. Her mom, all those sisters. Lucy, Emma, Addy, Jo. Olive wrote all their names down. She wrote I’m sorry, I love you, I love you, I’m so sorry.
It’s good that I found her. Better, at least. They would’ve been so traumatized. They would’ve cried so much.
But she was supposed to go to Stanford. She was supposed to prove me wrong.
Well, obviously, I’m not dead yet. But I should probably write my own eulogy. Who knows? Maybe somebody will even still be alive to deliver it.
Here lies Sparrow Sykes, age 17. If only she’d made it two more weeks. 9 days shy of her 18th birthday, 13 days shy of senior year. We’ll always remember how she dyed her hair bright colors and wore oversized flannel and dark leggings every day. She was a good student, well. A B’s and C’s student, anyway, but a good kid. Well. An okay kid. She did swear all the fucking time, and didn’t love God like she used to, like she was supposed to, and also her handwriting was terrible, and she didn’t have a thigh gap, and there was that one time with the premarital sex, the GAY premarital sex, even, and she was one fruit loop short of a dozen, and she sucked at both metaphors and math. But she was a good friend (except she outlived her friends) and a good witch (except for prediction spells, time travel spells, resurrection spells, fucking useful spells), and, well. She’d been young, anyway. What a pity. What a loss.
Maybe not so much of a loss.
My parents would be sad, at least. Dad would call me his little girl. Mom—I really don’t know what Mom would say. She’s not big on words, on letting people see stuff. Maybe my death would finally break her. Maybe she’d cry so hard she couldn’t speak, or maybe she’d get up to the front of the church and say, there are dead kids everywhere. That’s just life.
Olive knew that too, I think. Olive knew it was only a matter of time. “Because I could not stop for Death,” and all that. Funny, none of us picking Emily Dickinson. Or Auden and that one sad poem from that old romcom about all the weddings. Dad loves that movie. I can’t relate. I mean, it’s just funeral after funeral after funeral here. That’s what every tomorrow is, you know, someone else’s funeral, if not your own. Mom’s right: there’s no escape from that. Zombies are everywhere. There’s nowhere to run.
So, I can’t stop thinking, did Olive have the right idea? Can’t get out alive, so at least get out quick? It makes sense; it makes so much sense. It’s the waiting that breaks you, isn’t it? Not just the grief, but the inevitability. Not just the fear, but the despair. How long had Olive been planning it? Since the last near apocalypse? Before? She was at school that day. I know because I’m the one who pushed her inside. She was with all the other kids, watching through the windows, seeing Isobel-N-Isaac die, seeing Dylan die. Not that any of them were friends, but like. School’s about to start, and our Class Savior is dead. And Olive, she was so smart. She was so obnoxiously smart, and she watched the hero squad bleed out, and I think she must’ve done the math. If there are 250 helpless high school students and an endless supply of monsters, what is the probability that 25 will die the first day back? If there are 30 coffins and six pallbearers, how many people will be successfully buried before the pallbearers all get eaten by werewolves? Maybe Olive just couldn’t face the statistics anymore, not one more goddamn black dress. The unshakable, inescapable knowledge that we go the way of all flesh. Down, always down.
I hated Olive, I still hate her, but this—not for this. Every day, God goes about his business, He ignores us, He feeds us to the roses, and I just can’t blame anyone for making an alternative timetable to His big, stupid plan. Or is that just my brain lying to me, saying Olive had the right idea, that I don’t deserve to be here anyway if I can’t do anything useful. Oh, you saved everyone inside the school? Good job! But now they’re hanging themselves one by one, so what did you even accomplish? Really, what good are you? And yeah, I’m not that good. A good person wouldn’t forget how to cry. A good daughter wouldn’t imagine her own parents dead. A good sidekick wouldn’t survive her hero, would never dare outlive her only friends.
When does a eulogy become a suicide note? How do you know when it’s time to STOP?
Before, I used to imagine Dylan finding this journal. She’d have worried even more if she’d read all this shit. I’ve imagined other people finding it, too: Father Ryan, a few teachers, a cute new student who knew when it was safe to scream. But I don’t think that’s going to happen now. If someone stumbles across this journal, I think I’ll be long dead. Maybe suicide, maybe a gullet-eater, maybe an apocalypse no one’s around to avert.
It feels so fucking lonely. It must be so lonely to die.
Whoever you are, reading this. . . could you write one last entry, a better eulogy just for me? Say something kind about me. Lie, if you have to. I think that’s probably the best ending any of us can hope to have. That there’s someone still alive who loves you.
That you’ll matter when you’re gone.
Forgive me if this goes poorly. I’ve never written a eulogy before.
Perhaps that’s unusual. Sparrow apparently wrote them for half the school, but by her own admission, she’s patently unreliable. I’ve always preferred to be honest, which is why I’ll tell you that Father Ryan—not eaten by carnivorous pixies, unfortunately, although we can always pray—doesn’t allow eulogies at St. Eugene’s, as they’re generally discouraged by the Catholic Church. Matt was an atheist, though, and Rosa a Wiccan. I might’ve spoken at their funerals last summer, except I was still in the burn unit and, by then, had stopped speaking at all. That wasn’t an intentional choice, exactly. My parents insist I’m being difficult. My cousins keep calling me stubborn, but it’s more like . . . I was too heartsick to give anyone my words, and now they’re all trapped in this ugly snarl inside my chest. I don’t know how to untangle it. I don’t remember how to let the words out.
I can write them down just fine, though. So, I should say, in case anyone else ever reads this, that—as of today—Sparrow Sykes is still alive.
She probably wouldn’t want me to disclose that yet. It breaks the dramatic tension, she’d complain, as if that’s something secret diaries are even supposed to have. But fake-out deaths are an asinine trope, and if you wanted this done differently, Sparrow, you should have given your Sanrio cry for help to someone else.
Presumably, it’s obvious that I’m not dead, either, although reading about my own hypothetical death via traffic collision was certainly one way to start the morning. I’m not angry, though. Mostly. Everyone has their own coping strategies. Therapy is probably healthier than . . . whatever this is, but therapy runs its own risks, too. It’s very difficult to spend months finding the right therapist, someone you trust, who you can actually communicate with, who doesn’t deliver three folksy aphorisms per session or insist she “gets” Korean culture because she tried making dalgona once after watching Squid Game—only to lose that therapist three weeks later in a particularly vicious werewolf attack outside the only banh mi shop in a fifty-mile radius. Not to use an extremely specific example or anything.
At any rate, Sparrow and I once had precious little in common. I was the second gen Asian kid with a bowl cut and homemade lunches. She was the short, dimpled white kid with sloppy pigtails and thrift store clothes. I was the traumatized chess prodigy, both literally and figuratively scarred. She was the plucky sidekick, armed with Crayola hair and an iPhone grimoire. Sparrow had decent tastes in poetry, and I vaguely admired that she was brave, but I wasn’t looking for her on that rooftop. I only wanted to catch my breath.
But Sparrow, I found you anyway, and you shoved this diary in my face.
A eulogy isn’t quite a suicide note, and a suicide note isn’t quite a poem, but perhaps they’re all open to analysis, to varied interpretations. My interpretation is this: the speaker is grappling with grief, with loss of faith and existential despair. The speaker dreams of confession, of being found out, of being seen. Can near-strangers ever truly see one another? In this quasi-eulogy, I will posit that they can. We’re both sole survivors, both high school seniors. We’re lonely, haunted girls in a town forever on the verge of apocalypse. Maybe we’re not friends. Maybe we stood on that school rooftop for different reasons—but still, we both stood there, looking down, down, down.
My interpretation is this: you don’t want to end up like Olive. This is you trying to save yourself, to not go gentle. You know the rest.
It’s last period now. You’ve been waiting all day to read this, still searching for that tiny spark of hope, the will to persevere. You want me to say something kind, correct? To say you’ll matter when you’re gone?
You will. But isn’t it more important to know how you can matter while you’re here?
Sparrow and I met when we were children, but we didn’t know each other until we were 18. Back then, we had to rely on one another a lot. We weren’t very good at it, not right away. It’s hard to learn how to hope again. It’s hard to fight against your own brain. But Sparrow desperately need a reason to keep going, and I—I needed a friend, someone who understood what it meant to bear the weight of survival, someone who didn’t mind communicating by text and DM and back-and-forth eulogy. And that was something we could do for each other; that was a way we could survive. Not forever, I know. We’re all rose-food in the end, but we’re also so much more before that. We’re girls and women and poetry students and witches and chess prodigies and mourners and K-pop fans. We’re more than tributes waiting to be written. We never surrendered. We never resigned.
Again, please forgive any inadequacies in this entry. Obviously, you’re the eulogy expert here, but such expertise will take several attempts and hypothetical deaths to master. So, come back to school tomorrow, Sparrow. Read what I’ve written.
Give us more time.
Also, Min-Seo obviously did not die in a car accident, as previously claimed. She died heroically, saving small children from a burning church fire, which inspired her new friend to stay in school and raise her English grades with a heartbreaking autobiographical essay about personal growth. Honestly, Sparrow. A car accident? Really?
I didn’t know him well. Seemed nice enough, but come ON. He was a substitute teacher. A very brave, very stupid substitute teacher who was immediately murdered by the ghost of a small, sacrificed goat. I feel bad for him, kind of, but also, I’ve got other shit going on.
First, Mom got a new boyfriend, and he non-ironically says things like “golly” AND drinks orange juice with pulp, so. He’s either a Mormon or a secret demon that could potentially impregnate Mom with a stepbrother-Antichrist, gross. Then Dad caught me scribbling in this journal, which means he thinks I actually LIKE his awful presents, which means now I’m the lovable witchy weirdo with this horrifying Hello Kitty backpack. Also, Min-Seo has suddenly decided we should risk going to Homecoming, which is literally the worst idea anyone’s ever had. A) Nobody asked me, and B) I thought I was trying to stay alive, remember? How many people died at the last dance, Min-Seo? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
But—okay, if this is about wearing a hot ass dress and showing off your survivor scars, then fuck it, fine. But if we’re doing this, we’re bringing SO many weapons and incantations, and also, you’re never allowed to reference The Outsiders again. I’m giving you time to master your eulogy skills, I’m trying to have hope again, whatever. S.E. Hinton sucks, you don’t get to die heroically or at all, and if you ever tell me to stay gold, I really will jump off this building and haunt your ass. And my English grades are fine, you bitch. It’s MATH that’s killing me.
And yeah, I know. Poor Mr. Harrison, did I forget about him? Well, kind of. Look, he’s dead, so many people are dead, and I didn’t magically learn to cry again, okay? If anyone ever reads this, thinking, wow, Min-Seo can teach Sparrow how to weep, and Sparrow can teach Min-Seo how to talk, like, stop being an asshole. Nothing comes that easy.
Min-Seo IS teaching me stuff, mostly chess strategies and how to French braid. In turn, I’m teaching her witchcraft. Not just her, either, but any student who wants to learn. Which not everyone does or, frankly, can. Also, this could backfire very badly. I am definitely keeping an eye out for any more prescriptive, white witch, mean girl bullshit. But we don’t have Dylan or Isobel or Isaac anymore, so we’ve got to do something, right? Maybe we can all teach each other different ways to rescue ourselves, to keep from taking that last step off the ledge. Maybe instead of a hero squad we can have an army, a self-defense class, a coven of survivors.
Look. I don’t know what I’m doing. We’re all going to die someday, and I’m still dreaming the same rose dreams, but I don’t have to be at peace with that shit, right? I don’t have to be grateful. My friends mattered. Min-Seo matters. I matter because I’m alive, because I want my survivor cake, because I’m funny, because I’m bi, because my favorite M&M’s are blue.
God can have His roses. The tomato gardeners remain defiant.
PseudoPod, Episode 845 for December 30th, 2022.
15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook by Carlie St. George
I’m Alex, co-editor of PseudoPod, your host for this week, while audio production is provided by Chelsea Davis.
15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook originally appeared in Carlie St. George’s debut collection, You Fed Us to the Roses, published by Robot Dinosaur Press in October 2022.
Carlie St. George is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist from Northern California whose work has been published in Nightmare, The Dark, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and multiple other anthologies and magazines. Find her talking about television, tropes, fanfic, writing, and other nerdy things on Twitter @MyGeekBlasphemy, on Mastodon @CarlieStGeorge@wandering.shop or at her blog mygeekblasphemy.com
Your narrator this week is… well. We’ll tell you at the end. For reasons.
Right. We have a story for you, and we promise you, it’s true.
Well done, you’ve survived another story.
We didn’t want to tell you about the narrators at the start, because of the delightfully unreliable nature of the narration in this story, we didn’t want you to realise there were two. Sparrow probably wouldn’t want us to disclose that up front. It breaks the dramatic tension, she’d complain, as if that’s something secret diaries are even supposed to have. It’s one of the things we loved about this story. But now of course we have to put that right, so…
Sparrow Sykes was narrated by Rose Hofelich. Rose is a gamer and caretaker of maybe too many cats. Rose’s work brings disparate parts into a cohesive whole while her love of esculent art is peppered throughout. Through collaboration with a diverse range of clients & varied industries, she explores function, encourages interaction, and successfully differentiates narratives through the visualization of her design work. She acts at the junction of simplicity and elegance to craft experiences that go beyond design. She is fueled by X-files, lonely people glitter, and beige carbs.
Min-Seo was narrated by Battie. Battie is the chronically sleepy bat ghoul of the Pacific Northwest. She is a mixed Korean-American genderqueer woman with invisible disabilities including narcolepsy and multiple chronic illnesses. They are a neurodivergent artist and musician who has also roleplayed for tabletop RPG actual play podcasts/streams and enjoys reading stories to children. Reach out to them about narration opportunities on Twitter or Instagram @batzpajamas and see their streams at twitch.tv/batzpajamas.
And before anyone tweets critiques of Rose’s pronunciation, we made a deliberate choice to leave enigmatic and Min-Seo in there for verisimilitude reasons. We don’t think Min-Seo would be particularly assertive about correcting pronunciation, and no one should ever be shamed for mispronuncing a word they’ve only ever read, not heard.
Assistant Editor Kat Day and I talked a lot about this story, and these following words are a collaborative effort, but largely hers. It’s something we’ve said before, but horror is surely one of the oldest forms of storytelling: keep close to the fire, stay away from the shadows, mind the creature with the extremely sharp teeth. And if you should find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, let me tell you about the time that happened to someone else and they survived. Or… not…
And that’s the thing. That’s where the story usually ends. Someone makes it through, and they look to the future. Or everyone is dead and there is no future. Well, we are talking horror, after all. But assuming someone does make it through, what we see far less often is what happens to that person afterwards. It’s got to mess with your head, right? Seeing your friends wiped out by zombies, or turned into vampires, possessed by demons, or just… sliced into small, bloody pieces by someone wielding heavy machinery without personal protective equipment and the appropriate level of respect for health and safety.
How do you live with that? The survivor guilt. The inevitable flashbacks. Constantly looking over your shoulder and wondering if the person behind you is about to lurch forward and try to eat your brain. And what if you don’t get to stop? What if you live in a world with a constant parade of monsters, and all you can do is try to survive from one week to the next.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired from 1997–2003 and did explore some of this. It had to. Seven seasons with a young cast who were gradually growing up – they couldn’t bounce from horrific adventure to even more horrific adventure and stay entirely unscathed. We saw Buffy, Willow – even the non-humans such as Spike and Anya – slowly changed, their relationships destroyed, their coping mechanisms tested to their limits. And this is explored by 15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook by Carlie St. George . Sparrow has watched her friends and teachers die. Or maybe she hasn’t. But she’s certainly seen enough to mess with her head, and she’s coping with it by writing eulogies in her notebook. As the story says: “Therapy is probably healthier than . . . whatever this is, but therapy runs its own risks, too.”
By the end, of course, we don’t quite know what’s true and what isn’t. Maybe it’s all fiction. There can’t actually have been three different apocalypses, carnivorous pixies and a half-vampire that’s friends with a wereboar, can there? They’re a product of Sparrow’s fevered imagination. A damaged youngster trying to process the world in the only way she knows. It’s all fiction. But then…
…We can’t actually have places where children have become used to active shooter drills and where they know their friends might be killed in a school shooting on any given day. Where parents send their children to school not knowing if they’ll make it through the day. And yet when the Buffy episode “Earshot” was to air the week after Columbine, the broadcasters delayed this episode and the season finale due to “school violence concerns.” How did we get to this spot some twenty-odd years later when nothing is delayed because each story is replaced by the next day’s tragedy.
What if you live in a world with a constant parade of monsters, and all you can do is try to survive from one week to the next? Let’s build our coven of survivors and defiant tomato gardeners.
It’s been a long year, hasn’t it? But it hasn’t all been Sanrio cries for help and monsters. Well, it sort of has, here, but you know what I mean. There’s been happy stuff, too! It was Alasdair Stuart’s 15th anniversary as host, and we released both a special anniversary episode and, later, a director’s cut with extra bits and pieces. Our Community Manager, Brian Lieberman also clocked in 15 years of hard sweat and toil in the Tower. Scott Campbell joined Kat Day as an Assistant Editor. Associate Editors Shawna Borman and Cecelia Dockins have spent 5 years with the dark delights of our slush pile. Our supremely talented audio producer, Marty Perrett, has done 5 years hard duty and has now stepped down – we’ll miss you, Marty.
PseudoPod was also nominated for both Best Audio in the British Fantasy Awards and Best Fiction Podcast for an Ignyte Award. More recently, we found our stories on the Brave New Weird list from Tenebrous Press for The Bear Across the Way, Got Your Nose and The Bleak Communion of Abandoned Things. The Bear Across the Way made it into The Best New Weird Volume 1, which will be out on February 6th, 2023. Congratulations to Emily Rigole and Atlanta HWA represent!
And one last piece of excellent news! In 2023 Escape Artists will finally become… a non-profit! This will allow EA to reduce its operating expenses and seek grant funding, while maintaining its SFWA qualifying pay rates to authors, and, as we have for some time now – paying all our staff, including our narrators and all our associate editors. There will be more about the Escape Artists Foundation to follow in the coming year.
On which note… Pseudopod is funded by you, our listeners. We can only continue if you keep donating, so, please, if you love our work and want to keep hearing our stories week after week, go to pseudopod.org and click on “feed the pod”. You can donate to our Patreon, which gets you access to lots of cool stuff, including access to our exclusive Discord channel and extra CatsCast episodes. You can also make one-off or regular payments via Ko-fi or PayPal. It’s very easy. Do it, go on, you know you want to…
But if you can’t afford to do that – and we get it, in this increasingly chaotic world, just keeping the lights on is difficult enough – please consider leaving reviews of our episodes, tweeting about them, retweeting our tweets about them, and generally making a noise on your social media of choice. It all helps.
And… while you’re online, why not take a look at our Voidmerch store? We have a huge range of hoodies, t-shirts and other goodies. You can find the link at escapeartists.net, or check out our currently pinned tweet at PseudoPod_org.
Pseudopod is part of Escape Artists Incorporated, soon to become the Escape Artists Foundation, and is distributed under a creative commons attribution non-commercial no derivatives 4.0 international licence. Download and listen to the episode on any device you like, but don’t change it or sell it. Theme music is by permission of Anders Manga.
PseudoPod knows that an optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
Happy New Year, everyone!
About the Author
Carlie St. George
Carlie St. George is a writer from Northern California whose work has been published in Nightmare, The Dark, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and multiple other anthologies and magazines.You Fed Us to the Roses is her first short story collection. Find her talking about television, tropes, fanfic, writing, and other nerdy things on Twitter @MyGeekBlasphemy or at her blog mygeekblasphemy.com
About the Narrators
Battie is the chronically sleepy bat ghoul of the Pacific Northwest. She is a mixed Korean-American genderqueer woman with invisible disabilities including narcolepsy and multiple chronic illnesses. They are a neurodivergent artist and musician who has also roleplayed for tabletop RPG actual play podcasts/streams and enjoys reading stories to children. Reach out to them about narration opportunities on Twitter or Instagram at batzpajamas and see their streams at twitch.tv/batzpajamas.
Rose Hofelich is a gamer and caretaker of maybe too many cats. Rose’s work brings disparate parts into a cohesive whole while her love of esculent art is peppered throughout. Through collaboration with a diverse range of clients & varied industries, she explores function, encourages interaction, and successfully differentiates narratives through the visualization of her design work. She acts at the junction of simplicity and elegance to craft experiences that go beyond design. She is fueled by X-files, lonely people glitter, and beige carbs.