The 13th Floor

A Survival Guide for the Police Officer Guarding the Final Girl’s House is thrilled to bring you another piece of fun creative writing from author Stephen Jones. Last week, we posted his letter from SCREAM’s Maureen Prescott to her daughter Sidney. (Read it here.) Today Stephen has penned a step-by-step survival guide for any police officer tasked with guarding the “final girl”.

  • Your main concern is your neck, so be especially wary of any blade, no matter how innocuous. Sometimes it’ll be a full-on hunting knife flashing in through the open window of your car, and sometimes it’ll be a lethal little scalpel snugged up against the index finger of someone just asking directions. One advantage you have, of course, is that your throat is actually the target, as the slasher both has to kill you—that is, keep you from guarding the house—and keep your from screaming, and thereby alerting the neighborhood that it’s no longer guarded. Slicing into the back of your neck wouldn’t accomplish that, and there’s too much bone there anyway. So, your best chance is to order in one of those knife-proof gloves that inattentive backyard chefs use, to keep from slicing their fingers off every Saturday night. They don’t come in pairs, so you’ll have to order a left and a right. But your life is worth the expense, as is the double shipping you’ll probably get hit with. Now, with those gloves on both hands, always keep one of those hands on your throat, as shield. Will there be irritation? It’s possible. However, a rash is far less irritating than a partial decapitation.


  • Also, yes, it will be hot and muggy in your patrol car. And, no, you won’t be able to idle your engine there at the curb all night, to keep fresh air cycling in. Rolling down your window, it just makes sense, doesn’t it? In this case, no. That’s just what the slasher’s waiting for. Rather, wear one your sweat-wicking undershirts, if you must. Or just strip down to your undershirt. Granted, the uniform is the source of your authority with strangers, but if you’re hot enough in the driver’s seat that it’s either roll the window down or have an awkward moment stopping someone on the sidewalk, then the decision there is easy. Don’t be lured into comfort at the cost of your life. And, think about it. How many strangers—that is, people who don’t know you’re police—are going to be coming up the sidewalk at two in the morning anyway, right? If you’ve been ordered by the sheriff or chief to stand guard over this house all night, then that means that this is a small town. The houses are all single-family, for one. For two, this string of murders is aberrant enough to occupy the whole force’s attention. Meaning nothing else is going on, here.And, in small towns, you know everyone, don’t you? Especially in a law-enforcement capacity. What this translates out to you at two in the morning is that any stranger you see, you can assume it’s a good idea to thumb the catch off your holstered pistol. And that’s all the authority you need, really.

  • Should someone you know approach your window, perhaps to ask why you’re throttling yourself with that sparkly glove, Michael Jackson—the knife-proof filaments are always shiny—then your first response should be to burble your light bar, splashing red and blue all over the windows of the house you’re guarding, and perhaps waking them with your muted, already cutting-off siren. Yes, your assignment is to guard them, but understand that they can guard you as well, due to the fact that slashers shy away from all attention. They’re compulsively private, never public. They don’t want witnesses, as they’re trying to cultivate an aura of mystery and invisibility. The longer they can stay a legend, not a black and white mugshot from twenty years ago, the higher bodycount they can accrue. Should you actually recognize this person so concerned with your self-asphyxiation, use your traffic-stop voice to insist that they cease their approach. Ask yourself if, on patrol, you’ve ever seen them out at this hour before. Ask yourself if there’s any rational reason for them to be out at this hour. Ask yourself if they have any ties, no matter how tangential or already-dispensed with decades ago, with the inhabitants of the house you’re guarding. If they have a dog on a leash, ask yourself if that’s actually their dog, then ask yourself if that’s really even a leash. Could it be a stick, with the cardboard cut-out of a dog at the end of it? Assure them you’re fine, and ask them to move along, move along. Nothing to see here. Understand here that the hand not at your throat, it’s been to the handle of your service revolver the whole time.

  • Concerning food, understand that a sandwich you bring in a cooler, that’s something you’re going to have to duck down below dashboard-level to retrieve. And, that moment? That’s the moment slashers love to stand up in, be waiting for you when you rise, a sandwich in one hand, your throat naked, your eyes wide and pleading. Eat before this shift if you can. If you must eat while on-guard, then, first, keep it simple, and second, make it non-perishable. If you can line up your snacks on the dashboard above the steering wheel, and they require no packaging to navigate, then . . . maybe. If absolutely necessary. Perhaps you have blood-sugar issues, and not eating would be more dangerous. Or perhaps chewing calms your nerves. Or perhaps you’re not used to this shift, so need calories to stay awake. All of this is understandable. Just, be acutely aware that these simple acts of what you see as survival, the slasher sees them as weaknesses to exploit. The less ammunition you give the slasher to use against you, the less you’ll regret not having got your own literal ammunition into play.


  • Coffee would seem to be the obvious solution here, wouldn’t it? It keeps you awake, on-edge. And, yes, were your duty here only two or three hours, then coffee would give you the advantage, definitely. However, you’re here for the night. Granted, the slasher’s attack usually comes at the two- or three-hour mark—long enough for those in the house to have fallen asleep watching a movie—but, should this assignment take you to four or five hours, then you have to be prepared for that. And a full bladder when dealing with a slasher, that almost guarantees an open throat. Male or female doesn’t matter here. If you step off into the bushes to relieve yourself, then you’re removing yourself from any potential witnesses, you’re stepping into the darkness the slasher moves so well in, and you’re occupying hands that need to be protecting your throat, and on your service revolver, and already pressing your radio’s mic button. Never mind that the intense pleasure you get from finally getting to pee, that clouds your mind, dulls your senses. Moments of euphoria are what the slasher always keys on. And, keep in mind that that dependence on coffee, that’s a dependence on warm coffee. If your thermos is good enough for the whole shift, then, again, pouring from that not only takes both of your hands, but all of your attention. Should you elect to have the coffee delivered to you, then that makes you vulnerable to a slasher-in-disguise, that leaves you open to sleeping agents introduced into your coffee, and it also provides another victim for the slasher’s blade. None of which you want, of course, as all of them lead to your death.
  • As the slasher is wily—otherwise how to kill so many in such a short time?—you need to take into account that, while the target in the house may warrant a blade, you might actually get dispatched with a different weapon altogether. Sure, if this slasher’s trademark weapon is a pickaxe or a pitchfork or a whip, then you should be prepared for each of those. If you see a miner or a farmer or a mule-driver sidling up the sidewalk, then by all means get your sirens going, and limber your service revolver up. However, keep in mind that subterfuge is the more common approach for the slasher in these situations. Otherwise they would simply steal a car, crash it into you, right? That’s not how they work, though. The less mechanical objects they can use, the purer their delight. And, finally, what’s more simple than a rope, string, or wire, right? Which is to say: keep a close eye on your rearview mirror. While of course you’ve checked and double-checked your backseat, understand that the slasher will still and always be there when least expected—when most sure to surprise you. And, while the leading tip of a machete or bayonet or arrow is dramatic, splashing up from between your clavicles, still, the range of motion in the backseat needed to facilitate that kind of thrust is tight indeed. A rope, though, or a piano wire, that’s just about right. It both silences you and dispatches you. The solution to this, it’s, first, to of course remove any headrest your patrol car is fitted with. Slashers love to garrote you against the headrest. It makes their work so much easier. Second, remember that this gloved hand you’re already holding to your throat, while not a deterrent, quite, it does complicate access to your throat, for strangulation purposes. So, while there finally isn’t any proof against garroting that also allows for a full range of vision and/or motion, what you can do is deny this slasher basic access to the backseat. Yes, you’ll have the doors locked, but locks are child’s play to a slasher. Physical space, though, that’s a law even the most devious slasher has to adhere to. All you have to do is, on the way to this guard-duty, stop by a thrift store, and fill the backseat with lamps and lampshades, crutches and bulletin boards and last decade’s nightstands. Not enough to block your rearview mirror, and of course nothing that looks remotely like the silhouette of a person—slashers are compelled by their very nature to occupy those spaces—but, just enough junk to fill the seat up to about window-level. Sure, if you have to transport anyone, this will be an issue. But not as big an issue as dying.


  • Backseats aren’t the only place a loop can fall over your head, of course. Should you ever let anyone, friend, foe, or stranger, get within arm’s reach of the car, then, well, it’s a simple matter for a hangman’s noose of parachute cord to be tucked up into a sleeve, isn’t it? And, when someone’s leaning down to ask a question through your window, it’s only natural that they brace themselves on the roof of your car, isn’t it? This is a small town. You’re all friends here. Just another chance, casual meeting, right? Except, while you’re watching their eyes, their lips—you’re looking for guilt in the eyes, you’re trying to hear the strangely-quiet words from their lips—that noose unloops from a cuff, falls over your head, and that’s it for you, and for the family you’re supposed to be guarding. All that’s left to decide now is whether you’ll be strung up as the final nail in the coffin of this night, or whether you’ll get propped up behind the wheel again, as if attentive. None of which really matters to you by now, of course.
  • Was that a shape you saw ducking around the house next door the house you’re guarding? Yes, it definitely was. It always is. Also, all the sounds you’ll invariably be tempted away from the car with, they’re real as well. Of course they are. The slasher is out there right now, skulking around, gauging you. Should you ever actually stand from the car, however, and go traipsing after this sound, that suspicion . . . well, that’s not a walk you generally return from. While not totally safe in your patrol car, out in the uncharted darkness at the side of the house, where your eyes aren’t adjusted, where you don’t know the terrain—you might as well already be dead, really. You were the first moment you stepped away from the streetlight you were parked under. No officer has ever, even once, returned from going to check out a suspicious sound. Yes, it feels like duty to do that. Yes, it does fall under the umbrella of ‘guarding the premises.’ Yes, there are many more points of ingress than the front door, and you should probably police them as well, if you’re really doing your job. Yes yes yes. But, more importantly: no. Do not leave your patrol car. Your patrol car, it’s your one tether to the world of the living, the land of the uncut throat, the domain of the not-yet-disemboweled. Did you hear glass breaking? Was that a scream? Did a shape just pass in front of the bug light? Of course. Yes, yes, and, yes. But understand that it’s also a pebble thrown to the other side of the dark room, to get you to go over there, please. Console yourself with the fact that, though the slasher can get into this house in a variety of ways, they don’t necessarily operate pragmatically. Rather, ritual drives them. And the first part of their ritual, it’s to roll out the red carpet to this house. That red carpet? It’s the blood from your throat. Simply put, they won’t walk into the house while you’re still breathing. So, keep breathing. That’s the best way to keep this family safe.

  • It goes without saying that you should never park your patrol car over a manhole, doesn’t it? Similarly, be wary of mature trees, especially those with limbs an enterprising slasher could climb out on, to drop onto your roof. However, keep in mind that climbing a tree is perhaps a little undignified for the slasher, to say nothing of the cloak or robe or overalls they’re wearing, and what you would think would be a limited field of view in that mask. However, any tree mature enough to have limbs that could hold an adult, it will also have a thick enough trunk to hide a body. And slashers forever love standing behind things, then stepping out the moment you look away. Also, trees are always dropping leaf litter, twigs, and acorns or fruit that, since this is well past midnight, will of course be dark fruit. The impacts of these will initially unnerve you, at least until you train yourself to ignore them as you must, since a continual series of adrenalin injections will tire even the most able-bodied police officer. However, ignoring the sounds of leaves crunching, of twigs snapping, of acorns rolling into the gutter, therein lies your own death. While the easy solution when confronted with a house burdened with both a manhole and a mature tree would be to park on the other side of the street, understand that that nullifies you in the eyes of the slasher. You’re no longer part of the ritual. Granted, you might still be dispatched just because you happen to be in the general area, but your open throat is no longer a prerequisite for entering that house. You’ll have become an option, not a requirement, which means you’ll be offering the people in that house to the slasher’s blade instead of doing your duty. Best bet? Park with a tire of your cruiser actually on the manhole cover, and then remove the whole visor assembly from the vestigial passenger side of your patrol car, and position it at an angle on your dash where you can see above you in a glance. It’s not foolproof, of course—when dealing with a slasher, nothing is—but it’s perhaps your best option in a situation like this.

  • Should you have a partner, then—apologies—there’s really not much that can save either of you. While it makes complete sense that two guns and four eyes are better than just one lonely, drowsy police officer, the peculiar calculus of the slasher is that the more apparently unlikely an eventuality is, the more likely it actually is to happen. Were there four officers in the car instead of two, then none of you would make it through even ten minutes, much less the whole night. One officer has a chance, albeit slim. Two, very little chance. This is just because you always split up, no matter that you know better. No matter that splitting up is strictly against orders. When there’s two of you instead of one, then you end up feeling overconfident, and perhaps develop a bit of swagger concerning all this ridiculousness. You’ve got the gun, right? And the training? And this handy CB on your shoulder, this Kevlar around your vital organs? Add a flashlight to that and you start to feel like you’re untouchable, invulnerable—charmed. This is precisely where the slasher wants you. Yes, he or she only has a kitchen knife. No, that should never be able to overcome guns and training and flashlights. But it does every time. So, should your sheriff or chief tell you and Officer X to get over to House Y to guard Girl Z, then the best way to guard that Girl Z, it’s to keep the ritual of entry from gearing up at all. If you have the ability to make yourself gag solely from mental stimuli, then start vomiting immediately. Consider shooting yourself in the foot while idly going over your weapon. Should either of those fail, then—either from behind the wheel or riding shotgun—wreck into a utility pole on the way over. Just, not one that will kill the power of the house you’re supposed to be driving to. One of those other poles. Better yet, just wreck into a parked car. Just, not one this Girl Z might need in a desperate moment, later on in this bloody night.

  • A cell phone is nearly as dangerous as a partner, for this guard duty. There are two ways the night can develop, with a cell phone in the mix. The first way is that your radio is failing—it probably has been for days—such that your cell phone is your only line of communication. Except, it’s now dying. And you can’t plug it in, as your car isn’t idling. So then you’re effectively alone, and ‘alone’ is the first part of ‘dead,’ the way the slasher spells it. Second, you don’t only talk to approved people on your cell phone. Like, other officers, or your commanding officer. Instead, you talk to your mother, your spouse, your ex, or, worse, you cruise social media, you see funny videos, you play those videos, and those videos get you off-guard just long enough for your throat to open up. Never mind that, if you’re wearing cut-proof gloves on both hands, you shouldn’t be able to navigate a cell phone’s screen and/or buttons. Never mind that the glow of a cell phone screen, it highlights your face, both making a target of your face and blinding you to the darkness you need to be looking quickly up to. The human pupil isn’t designed to dilate that fast. No worries, though; in death, your pupils will be fixed and dilated, for that big cell phone in the sky. Also, keep in mind that, more and more, the slasher is cell-phoned up as well. Are you sure that’s your mom, texting you? Does the sheriff really know text-lingo well enough to have dropped that emoticon? More important, perhaps, that link he sent, to this guide you’re reading now—it’s not official, is it? It can’t be. This whole annotated list, it’s not written in the kind of faux-military diction police manuals usually are. Gloves? Lampshades in the backseat? Cardboard dogs? Come on. Though parking on the manhole cover, that makes some sense. The rest, though . . . it’s almost as if the slasher him- or herself forwarded it to you, to get you looking somewhere else, while she or he sidled up on the other side of the street, far enough to take a running start, stab through your door with a signature spear.
  • Hello.


Stephen Graham Jones is the author of twenty-three or so books, so far. Most recent is the werewolf novel Mongrels. Most slashery is The Last Final Girl. For more info, follow him on Twitter at here



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