A TRANSCENDENT Excerpt: “A Family Film” by Rachel DiMaggio

The more you try to remember, the murkier things get. There was popcorn, of course, and tucked around your feet, a crocheted blanket with granny squares of hunter green and brown. Your brother hugged a couch pillow, peeking over it. At first, you’re thrilled by the figure, standing outside the townhouse window, a monolith on the grass. Mom and Dad really should have turned it off as soon as those black-tipped fingers reached out to turn the doorknob. And why, why hadn’t they stopped the tape once the knife began its work? Every new apartment you enter, the first thing you check is the walls for overlooked specks of tell-tale blood.

Even twenty years later, you believe that’s the tipping point where everything went bad.

“Don’t bring that up again, Alice,” Mitch says, almost first thing when you arrive for Thanksgiving.

You shrug and give him a confused frown. Of course, you weren’t going to mention the movie.

“Dad was looking to move out before the summer started,” Mitch goes on. He needs to make the point, really prove to you that it’s nonsense. “How could a movie make him jump into bed with Faye Prine? Even if I granted there was a movie. Tell me again how many Blockbuster employees you’ve pestered about that thing?”

Not just Blockbuster. Try Library of Congress.

Your internet search history is littered with the name; every few months you try again, log into the film geek message boards and send your little ship in a bottle across the virtual sea.

“Looking for a movie from 1995 called Blood is Thicker. Vampire-themed slasher. Dark red slipcase, ransom-note title cards.”

Finally, you ventured to the dark web chatrooms, where it seemed half of the avatars were stills from exploitation and snuff movies. You’ve seen that impaled woman from the cannibal movie so often it no longer shocks. Even there, no luck.

If it was truly an underground movie, how had Dad even gotten his hands on it? He’d never been a cinephile, more of a sports nut. He watched kung-fu movies during the football off-season. Mitch might be right. Dad must have been in a strange state of mind to pop a horror film into the VCR, much less let it keep playing once they started crying.

“Just let it rest.”

“Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of it since last year,” you say. “I’ve had more important things on my mind since I started at the hospital.”

“How’s that going?”

“Getting to be routine. I drive one of those golf carts around all night. I got an emergency call once, but it was just a raccoon hiding underneath a car. I put some peanuts on the ground, and he came out.”

“What are you going to do during the winter? You’ll freeze.”

“It’s enclosed—kind of a plastic wrap thing. I get to read a lot.”

Most people didn’t think of women when they pictured a security guard, but you know this is a good fit, and you’ll probably be working there until you retire. You’re not at ease with chit-chat. Even this conversation with your brother feels like a chore. Driving in a huge circuit around the hospital building gives you plenty of time to think, to try to remember.

1995. The year Dad split on the family with no warning. The year Mom started having night terrors. If you’d ever needed Rhiannon around, that was the year. Of course, you’d outgrown imaginary friends by then. You tried writing to her in the journal, but it wasn’t the same as sitting together in that knotted oak tree, sharing secrets. Down on the ground, too frightened to climb the branches, Mitch had gone red with frustration. Climb up and we’ll tell you, Rhiannon said. Don’t be a baby. Even now, you can’t hear a Fleetwood Mac song without a pang for that lost little girl who had looked so much like you—a better version of you, a reflection that always had fun ideas, and liked the same foods you liked, and hated homework just as much as you did.

Then again, Rhiannon would have spoiled your time at school—a nine-year-old with an imaginary friend, one she actually spoke to? A freak, for sure.

Mitch’s girlfriend has broken up with him, you realize. He’s avoided talking about her, and his hair is much longer than she liked it.

“I’m sorry about Chelsea,” you offer.

He nods and takes one of the spinach puffs from the platter, eats it in a single bite like a hungry kid. “Well, we wanted different things.”

Just like that you are back in a strange conversation that feels blanched of all meaning. Half of you keeps on talking, making your face concerned and humorous as needed, while the other part is crafting an email to the rare films collector you met online last week. Rarity, not gore or bare flesh or snuff, was what turned him on.

“This is the rarest of the rare,” he’d said in his reply to your initial email. “If the Library of Congress can’t confirm its existence, it must not have been sold commercially. Are you sure your father didn’t get somebody’s weird home movie?”

“No. Quality was too high. It’s like Nosferatu but frightening.”

“I’ll see what I can dig up. But you’ve already done a lot of your own research if you’ve stumbled onto my blog.”

Years ago, you also thought Nosferatu might have been the forgotten film. The vampire’s long-fingers and the deep shadows were familiar. But five minutes into the movie, you’d known it wasn’t right. Your movie had been in vivid color; the red became your personal standard by which all reds were measured. Nosferatu was filmed in masterful black and white.

You have enough knowledge of underground film to write a book, but you never will. It’s not that fascinating for its own sake. You’d trade a thousand remastered copies of Burnt Lotus—which you’ve seen only once at a basement screening, a nauseating experience—to find your cheesy vampire film on a library shelf. Among your own kind you are an imposter. You pretend appreciation for images, but they only dissipate when compared to the first movie, the only movie, that ever got inside you.




Transcendent - Amazon Kindle

Rachel DiMaggio is a writer of dark fiction who lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her husband and two rescue cats. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English and Literature from Southern New Hampshire University. Her fiction has been published by the Tales to Terrify podcast and by Rose Red Review. When she isn’t writing, Rachel loves to cook; as a ginger, she can sometimes be spotted nibbling on the souls of the unlucky.


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One Comment Add yours

  1. Chais says:

    I read this story, It’s a thrilling piece of horror!


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