Saturday, September 6, 2014

House of Peeps

Margaret was finally going to enter a diorama in the Washington Post’s annual Peeps Diorama contest. She thought about entering every year but for some reason she could never come up with an idea that she felt committed to. She felt that she really needed to feel good about the idea or it would never work. This year, she had come up with a concept that she loved but she wasn’t sure that the voting committee would love it. She decided that she didn’t care if she won; she just wanted to create.

She starting collecting Peeps right after the last contest ended. She picked up seasonal Peeps at Halloween and Christmas and bought out the Easter stock at Target. She worked evenings sketching out her idea and figuring out what other materials she would need to make it work. She did her research online, finding images to help with the designs. She watched countless hours of movies to make she was getting it right. She was finally ready to start assembling her entry. She wondered if the Washington Post was ready for it.

The idea had come to Margaret as she was cooking dinner one night. She didn’t realize there was a hole in one of her potholders and she ended up with a nasty burn on her hand. As she was taking care of her wound, it hit her. Her Peeps diorama would feature iconic horror movie villains but in Peep form. Maybe not the most family friendly concept but it appealed to Margaret’s love of horror movies and the macabre. And of course, her love of Peeps. She loved Peeps and she loved the diorama contest.

Her design was pretty complex. She wanted the diorama to read like a wax museum exhibit or something out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not; each villain would be in his own section and the “exhibits” would rotate. If she could figure out how to wire it, she was also planning on having each section play music from the films. One of her friends, Sam, had promised to help her with that part. He loved the idea and was working on the motor and sound effects.

Margaret had settled on four villains: Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. She decided to depict each one in a scene that encapsulated the film and the villain. For Freddy, she would depict him the boiler room; Leatherface would be shown as he was at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Jason would be silhouetted in the moonlight on Crystal Lake; and Michael Myers would be shown looking at his reflection in his knife while Laurie Strode hid from him. It was epic and gross and hilarious all at the same time.

She had been working on the diorama for weeks. Each of the villain figures was complete. Masks for Michael, Jason, and Leatherface had been made out of various fabrics and posterboard. She had “burned” the Freddy Peep with a match and used paint to make the “wounds” look more like he looked in the pictures. She was working on on the backgrounds and scenes for each of the exhibit spaces. Sam was on his way over to help with the rotating part and to help with some of the painting.

The news was on in the background and she caught the end of a story that made her stop her work entirely. The reporter was at the scene of a murder not too far from where Margaret lived. What had caught her attention was the fact that mangled marshmallow Peeps had been found at the scene, smashed around the victim and around the house. The reporter also mentioned that a note had been found at the scene referencing the two of the four horror movie villains in her diorama. Margaret thought that it was strange.

Just as she was considering the oddness of the report, the doorbell rang. Margaret jumped a bit and then realized it was just Sam. Sam came in with all sorts of equipment; Margaret had no idea what any of it was but she knew Sam was going to make her diorama really work.

“You don’t look so good. Is everything okay?” Sam put down his bag and started pulling out tools and a small motor for the diorama.

“Did you hear about the murder involving Peeps? I just caught the end of a story about it on the news.” Margaret went into the kitchen and grabbed two beers for them. She handed one to Sam and started back to work on the Crystal Lake scene she had been working on before the news interrupted her.

“No clue. What’s going on?” Sam started painting the background for the boiler room scene.

“Apparently someone is killing people and then smashing Peeps around the body and leaving cryptic notes about horror movie villains. In fact, two of the villains are two of the ones I’m including in my diorama. Don’t you think that’s strange?”

Sam paused and considered his friend. “I guess it’s a little strange. Why would a killer smash marshmallow Peeps everywhere?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t enter my diorama in the contest. People might think I’m the killer or that I’m making fun of the murder.” Margaret had stopped painting and was shredding a piece of paper

“You should finish it. It’s a cool idea and you’ve been working on it for over a month. They like topical stuff.” Sam tried to be sympathetic.

Margaret didn’t say anything and switched topics. They continued working on the diorama for a few hours and neither mentioned the murder again. Sam rigged the motor and her diorama was spinning. He would tackle the music next. Margaret had trouble sleeping that night; her dreams involved the characters in her diorama coming to life and going on a murderous rampage. It was a long night.

The next day, Margaret awoke to sirens outside of her building. She lived near a fire station so she was used to it but this seemed more intense than normal. She threw on her workout clothes and left her building to see what was going on. She followed the sirens down the street a few blocks. Police tape was already up and onlookers gathered on the sidewalk.
“What happened?” Margaret asked a man standing next to her.

“Someone was murdered. They’re not saying much but it’s definitely related to that other murder. I saw marshmallow Peeps on the EMT’s boot when he brought the body out.”

Margaret didn’t know what to say. She hoped that the man was joking There’s no way he could have seen marshmallow Peeps on someone’s shoe. He’s speculating. It’s all just too coincidental. Margaret thanked the man and walked back home. She didn’t feel up to her normal walk around the park today. When she got back home, she turned on the news and caught it just in time for the report on the most recent murder.

The reporter didn’t have too much to report yet as the police had not made a statement but she did confirm that marshmallow Peeps had been found at the scene. An anonymous source close to the investigation had also revealed that a phrase from Nightmare on Elm Street had been found on the wall. This was too much for Margaret. It was too odd of a coincidence that Peeps were being found at the scene of murders in her neighborhood and that the same exact movies she was depicting were being referenced at the scenes.

Her diorama was set up on the kitchen table. It was the only place in her apartment that was big enough for it. She knew every inch of the diorama and noticed that something was not right with it. The characters seemed sort of off; something was definitely askew. She looked closely at the panel depicting Leatherface. He was not as she had left him the night before. Nor was Jason. And the paint on Freddy looked fresh and sticky as if it had just been painted. She reached out her hand and touched the red paint. It was not red paint.

Margaret screamed, a true horror movie queen scream. Her Peep horror villains were alive and were killing people. Those sweet Peep faces that she had mangled into horror movie villains were responsible for the murders. Margaret was certain. She had to destroy the diorama. She grabbed a shopping bag and began stuffing as much of the diorama into as would fit. She filled two more bags and then took it all down to the shared patio. She put it all in the grill and set it on fire.

Margaret watched the Peep villains burn. She thought she heard someone singing, “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.” She ignored it and added more lighter fluid. She watched her creations burn into a sticky, charred mess. She put the lid back on the grill and went back to her apartment.

There were no more killings after Margaret burned her diorama. She vowed never to purchase a bunny Peep ever again. 

(Based on the prompt "Make me afraid of the Easter bunny.")

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