MEET THE MISTERS is an ongoing collection of short stories and illustrations exposing some American boogeymen that you might not have heard about....yet. Written and illustrated by Alex Pardee.
"They called him Mr. Birthday," Jenny said, before Vic interrupted her, sarcastically.
"No no, HE called HIMSELF Mr. Birthday."
"You can't call yourSELF something," Mandy retorted as the whole group of them huddled around the perfect stereotypical place to tell a story like this: the fire pit in Jenny's backyard. "That's lame. That's like worse than a guy who shows up to a party wearing a 'The Man, The Legend' shirt with an arrow pointing to his dick." Mandy was looking directly at Miles and smirked when she said this.
Miles responded immediately with, "Whatever. Your MOM got me this shirt,"
"Really?" said Mandy, 'Your Mom' jokes, Mr. 1996?"
Miles threw Mandy his doucheiest smirk and wink before saying, "It wasn't a joke," which was followed quickly by Mandy flicking the broken tab off of her beer can towards his eyes, to which he easily dodged as the tab landed past Miles and into Lucien's lap.
"Thanks," Lucien said, picking up the tab and smelling it, "I was going to ask you for that later anyway." He then deposited the tab into a jar with about 30 of them in it already.
"The dude WAS lame," Vic continued, guiding the conversation back the subject at hand, "He wore a diaper and supposedly sang 'Happy Birthday' to people as he was killing them. What the fuck kind of Peter Pan shit is that?"
"No, it wasn't a diaper. He just wore a bib. He was naked aside from that," Jenny said.
A collective groan of disgust was heard amongst the group of mostly old friends, the exception being Hope, who was socializing with the others for her first time outside of high school. The mass-groan segued into Jenny belching embarrassingly, transforming the cringes into laughter.
"I don't know man," Miles chimed in, killing the laughter, "I mean, if someone were about to kill me, like was legitimately waving around some butcher knife and I was defenseless and screaming like all of those kids were, they be could belting out Candle In The Wind to me and I'm still gonna be scared."
"Dude, you LOVE the 90s," Mandy said, chuckling and rolling her eyes.
"Fuck off, Mandy, you know what I mean. Some weird, singing creep waving his knife AND…," Miles looked at Mandy and pointed toward his own crotch before finishing his sentence, "his 'LEGEND' around in front of kids."
Another collective "EWWW" was heard before Larissa finally put her phone down and joined the conversation, "I still have no idea who you guys are talking about."
"We're talking about that guy that killed a bunch of kids at that birthday party a few years ago," said Vic, leaning forward, "and the SAME guy that killed all those other kids too."
Lucien interrupted, "The ones down at that halfway house."
"And don't forget Ms. Kinsley," added Jenny, "rumor has it that after he diced her up he was gonna make a cake out of her."
"Yah, we’re talking about that guy. The same guy that…" Vic paused.
Miles took over the story for him, "that pissed himself when he got caught by my dad!"
"Spoiler alert. Shit, man, I was just starting the story, and you jump to the end?" Vic said, annoyed.
"She doesn't care, man, she's on her fucking phone again," said Miles, irritated by his on-again-off-again-girlfriend.
"We're not telling it to HER, man," Vic said, "we're telling it to Hope.” He pointed at the auburn-haired girl clutching a beer with a hand that was wrapped almost entirely by the sleeve of her sweatshirt, “She's the new girl, she needs to get scared a couple a' times if she's gonna keep hanging out. Plus, she needs to know where she lives."
Hope spoke up, a baffled but intrigued look formed around her eye sockets, "Wait, why do I 'need' to get scared? I mean, I'm listening, and I'm interested. I'm not scared, though. I'm a LITTLE weirded out by Lucien's beer tab jar and why Mandy isn't equally as bothered by Vic's t-shirt (which says "Boner Simpson" and depicts a crude drawing of Homer Simpson with a penis for a head), but I'm definitely interested in the story. I love it. Keep going."
Vic talked over her attack on his attire while looking down at the cartoonish yellow "boner" on his t-shirt, "I thought this was a PARTY? For YOU! I wore this for YOUUUUUU."
Ignoring Vic and now invested in the story, Hope asked, "And, wait, what do you mean 'where I live'?"
Lucien jabbed a piece of wood in the fire pit, igniting it a little more and speckling the night air with orange embers in front of Jenny's face as she recited this story to Hope and the others:
"His name was Ginger Dobson. He lived in your house before you did. Alone…"
Vic interrupted again. "Not alone, remember, he DID have a cat named Rudy."
Jenny looked annoyed at the word 'cat', and while actually almost shuddering, she continued, "like I said, he lived alone; with an isolated job. He was a pretty lonely guy, I guess. He was a dog food tester at the Purina factory downtown."
"Hold on," Hope paused the conversation, "he was a WHAT? A dog food taster."
"No. A tester. He was a dog food TESTER. Like, he tested the food to make sure it wasn't going to poison the dogs or something," Vic said to a puzzled Hope, who was staring at him as if he knew all the ins and outs of bizarre jobs, "like, with chemicals or something. I don't know, I don’t think he ATE it. How would he have become the authority on what tastes good to dogs? Hell, he only had a cat."
Jenny shuddered at the word 'cat' again.
"My cousin Lance fucking LOVES eating dog food. He could have that job," said Larissa, without glancing away from her phone.
"Jesus, Larissa, pay attention," said Miles, "OK, no more interruptions, let Jenny tell the story."
"Thank you, Miles," said Jenny.
"No problemo,' Miles said, in a 1990's Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator voice.
Everyone in the group rolled their eyes this time. Then, Jenny restarted her story.
"His name was Ginger Dobson. Late thirty-something. He lived alone, worked in an isolated office, and had a cat. That's all anyone knew about him. He was nice, apparently. I mean, if you categorize people by how much they water their lawn and by how little they scream at their neighbors or appear to beat their spouses. In that sense, yah, he was nice.
"Then one morning Ms. Kinsley, who lived next door to you, to your left, called the police after she watched him walk out of his house completely naked, except for a clownish-bib and what she said looked like frosting smeared on his face and shoulders…"
Vic cut in, "And he was holding two knives. One in each hand."
Jenny continued. “She saw him get into his car and drive off.”
"Ew," gasped Larissa, "What kind of car do you have that makes you ok with driving in it naked and covered in frosting?"
"Probably a Civic," said Lucien.
Hope was already asking her own questions while ignoring Larissa's, "So what did the police say when they questioned him?"
"They didn't," said Jenny. "I mean, yah, Ms. Kinsley called them, but I guess he got into a car that wasn't his. She just reported it as 'his car' so they just assumed it was his. They looked for the wrong car. The cops couldn't find him. Later that afternoon there was another call. There were…a LOT of calls, actually. All coming from one place. A kid's birthday party. This kid named Max. Ginger showed up in the back yard of Max's house. Killed Max with both of his knives, then slaughtered 8 of Max’s friends and 3 out of the 10 adults that were there in the span of 2 minutes. Then Ginger just wandered off into the woods behind their house, naked and covered in frosting and the blood of those children. The calls that came in all said that he was singing "Happy Birthday" the entire time."
"Then what?" asked Hope, leaning forward and captivated.
Vic took over from Jenny, "That night he showed up at this half-way home for kids. The one down behind the Applebee's. It's not there anymore, though, because of Ginger. He did the same thing there. Close to midnight, he walked right into one of the darkened cabins, naked except this time he was glowing. He had impaled birthday candles all over his body and each one flickered a small glow in the darkness, dripping wax all over his skin, and illuminating the two huge bloody knives he was holding. He started singing 'Happy Birthday' and then….just killed them all. 6 of them in one cabin. Luckily most of them were still sleeping. It happened so quickly, no one even knew it happened until the next morning when the only kid who survived calmed down enough to leave the bathroom he was hiding in, watching it happen."
"Piss and shit all over that poor kid,” Lucien added.
Hope's skepticism had turned to concern by the time she spoke, "So, they DIDN'T catch him? But Miles, I thought your dad - "
"Not until the next day," Jenny said.
"Yah," added Miles, "when Ms. Kinsley found him standing in the corner of her own living room..."
Jenny took the imaginary-story-baton from Miles and continued, "…naked, covered in blood and melted wax. By this point he had even melted his eyes shut…and he was…grinning. And singing 'Happy Birthday' repeatedly in a quiet but high-pitched voice that sounded like his throat was filled with pudding or something. And he was still holding his knives."
"My dad was at Ginger's house looking around because of what happened at Max’s birthday. Ms. Kinsley screamed loud enough from her living room for him to hear her next door," Miles said.
"Your dad, the cop?" Hope asked.
"Yah, well, A COP," Miles answered, "Practically his whole precinct was there at Ginger's house. My dad heard the screams and ran over there in time to wrestle him to the ground, but not in time to save Ms. Kinsley. My dad said her body looked like a puzzle that was just freshly dumped out of the box. It took my dad’s whole team to restrain Ginger, though. The wax made his skin too oily to get a grip on, and his knives had also melted into his fists, fusing to his skin. He just swung his hands around and gashed up half of the officers before they got him under control. My dad's partner Bill got completely…what's the word when you lose your guts and shit?"
Hope said, "Disemboweled?"
"Yah," Miles said, "disemboweled."
"Fuck," said Hope, sounding genuinely concerned for the first time that night.
"Ginger was still singing, too, subtly. The whole time." Miles said, finishing this part of the story.
Jenny attempted to wrap up her additions to it, too. "The only words Ginger ever spoke after that were 'Hi, I'm Mr. Birthday, today's your special day!' and the "Happy Birthday" song over and over and over. Even to the cops. He's still down at the asylum, now, waiting to go on trial, singing Happy Birthday probably."
"And pissing himself," Lucien chimed in.
"And this guy lived in MY house?" Hope asked.
"Yah, for years," Vic said. “Hell,” he added, “Rudy the cat might still be there.”
“Ughh, gross,” thought Jenny out loud.
"I wonder if my parents know about this," Hope pondered.
"They might know about that part of the story. That part is over with, though," Miles said, practically serving up an epilogue on a platter, "Your house isn't haunted or anything. But there IS another part of the story that you should know about." Miles paused for a moment to collect himself. By this time everyone, even Larissa, was paying close attention. The only other sound in the backyard was the crackling of the kindling in the makeshift fire pit that the group was huddled around. Miles opened his mouth to continue talking but was cut short immediately by the tinder shifting in the fire and causing a large "CRACK" sound that startled the group. Lucien took control of it and Miles spoke again after they all collected themselves, "My dad told me about all the weird shit in his house…"
"Like what?" said Hope.
"You mean aside from specially tailored birthday hats for his cat?" Miles said.
"That's not too weird," Hope said, "My grandmas BOTH have those."
"What about two litter boxes, one for the cat, and one that's…that's way too BIG for a cat…and filled? Multiple calendars that have "happy birthday" hand written on every day? Do your grandmas have those?"
"Ok, no. He wins." Hope said.
"They found an entire bedroom, probably YOUR room now, filled with thousands and thousands of birthday cards plastered to the wall, making the room look like a giant demented advent calendar. All of the cards seemed to have been filled out to himself, each one written in various colors and…substances," Miles paused, "but the weirdest thing that they found, were his journals. Because in those journals, he talked about another person. He described someone ELSE that was also called MR. BIRTHDAY. And Ginger was OBSESSED with this other Mr. Birthday."
"So he was mimicking someone else? Like a copycat killer?" Hope asked.
"Not exactly," Jenny said. "Because according to this journal, the real Mr. Birthday wasn't human."
"So what was he?" Larissa asked, now completely enthralled, but still holding her phone like she wasn't.
"A monster," Jenny said.
"Umm, Ok," Hope mumbled, finally taking the first sip of her beer in ten minutes.
Jenny, unfazed, continued, "Mr. Birthday was kind of an evil…genie, I guess. A creature that could be summoned only by a birthday wish. Supposedly, if a child, or anyone for that matter, blows out their candles and uses their one birthday wish to hurt someone who wronged them, no matter how innocent their threatening thoughts may seem, Mr. Birthday will come for them."
Vic butted in again, "…and he won't stop until they are…."
"dead," Jenny finished.
Hope was silenced, pondering what she had just heard, almost as if she were waiting for one of the other guys in the group to lunge at her with a loud "BOO!" trying to scare her, followed by a collective laugh and a "just kidding, let's keep drinking!"
But that didn't happen. No loud scare. Not even a chuckle.
Instead, Lucien looked at Hope and said quietly, "So Hope, this is YOUR birthday party. It's YOUR birthday today. Anyone in your life….hurt you?"
"What do you mean?" Hope said.
"We got you a cake," said Jenny.
This prompted Larissa to revert back to cluelessness by saying, "Oh THAT's why you had me pick up a cake? Damn, I should have had them write something different on it. Oh well."
At that moment Miles reached over Jenny and placed the cake in front of Hope, with some candles already stuck in it and the words '#BulemiaParty' written in pink sugar frosting. Hope looked up at Larissa.
"Sorry, I thought it was just for fun again. We like to binge sometimes." Larissa said, not nearly as embarrassingly as she should have.
"So who's it gonna be, Hope? Your stepdad?" Vic asked.
Hope's new friends' tones seemed to have shifted from silly and welcoming to intimidating.
"No, I don't have a stepdad, I have a…a regular dad, whatever you call that kind," Hope said, defensively.
Larissa interrupted under her breath, "I wouldn't know."
Hope continued, "And he doesn't even ground me. He likes Pokemon." Hope said.
"Your algebra teacher? You have Mr. Kaiser, right? He eyeball-molests every new girl that gets thrown in his class. You've surely noticed it. Has he tried anything else? We could all benefit from him being gone." Mandy said.
Hope noticed a sinister change in Mandy's voice.
"I don't...think Mr. Kaiser gives a shit about a girl who wears turtlenecks and jeans. He doesn't have x-ray vision," Hope responded.
"So who then, Hope?" Miles said, forcefully.
"Who WHAT? What do you mean?" She was smiling out of confusion at this point. Hope barely new this group of friends. This was her first official time hanging out with all of them at once. She started to feel alienated, and picked on. "You want me to wish death upon someone so a magic genie will show up and kill them for me? When did we go from Miles' mom jokes to me killing someone with a Disney character?"
"YOU aren't killing them, Hope." Jenny said.
"Oh that's right," Hope said, "Mr. BIRTHDAY is. What the fuck?"
"We've all done it," said Mandy, quite matter-of-factly, before lighting up a cigarette.
Miles took the lighter from Mandy and used it to light the candles on the bulemia-cake as the group huddled closer and focused their stares on Hope.
"I didn't believe it at first either, Hope," said Lucien, putting his arm gently on her shoulder. "Until my parole officer died."
"Dude, get your creepy raccoon hands off of me," Hope said, now annoyed.
"You gotta pick someone,” said Vic, “we want to show you how this works. So you understand the…"
Jenny finished Vic’s sentence again, "…the power of Mr. Birthday."
"Holy shit, you sound ridiculous right now," Hope said, almost spitting up her latest sip of beer, "this is insane. The POWER of Mr. Birthday? Ok, for a minute I believed the Ginger story. Shit, I might still try to Google it later. Then for a second, and ONLY a second, I got my toe caught in your 'genie monster' trap, but now I realize how badly you're fucking with me." Then Hope rolled her eyes, took another sip and muttered the word "stupid" under her breath.
"We're not fucking with you," said Mandy, staring at Hope intensely.
"Blow out your candles, Hope," Vic said.
"Yah, Hope" Larissa said.
"Make a wish," Miles said.
"Kill someone," Jenny finished abruptly.
They were all staring at Hope, and Hope was staring back at the 6 of them. Seconds seemed like hours to her, as Hope KNEW she was being messed with but it nonetheless made this new "friendship" currently awkward. She wasn't sure what to say, or how to react, until Larissa ruined everything….by breaking into laughter.
Miles, Mandy, Jenny, Lucien and Vic all threw their hands up and joined the laughter, while Miles sharply said "Shit, Larissa, we HAD her! Ahhhh. We HAD HER! She was like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas and we were ALL Joe Pescii! Fuck!."
"Dude, stop it with your 90s fetish!" billowed Mandy as she was breathing hard from laughing.
"NOW what are we gonna do for fun tonight?" Vic said, sharply.
Larissa's response was equally as sharp, "Binge on that cake and puke in Jenny’s mom’s toilet?"
Hope's blank look finally fell into a relaxed bitch-face as she said, "Ha…..fuck you guys." Followed by another swig of her beer.
"Yah, sorry," Jenny said, motioning to the group and muttered a half-assed, "they kinda made me fuck with you."
"We were HALF-fucking with you." Miles said.
"Oh yah?" questioned Hope. "Which half? The naked baby clown killer who used the same shower as me or Aladdin's WishMaster monster?"
"Oh you'll figure it out once you, oh how do you say…Google it?," Jenny said, laughing now, killing any kind of tense vibe around the almost dead fire-pit.
"Whatever….thanks for welcoming me into your coveted fucked up fraternity." Hope said.
"No problem, goblin," said Lucien, once again trying to put his hands on any part of exposed skin that Hope was showing, which wasn't much. Hope blindly batted his hand away like a mosquito.
"Well, can we at least eat that cake? Those candles are dripping all over it and it’s getting more disgusting." Larissa asked, practically drooling.
"Sure, but since it IS my birthday and since you guys formed a mutiny against me, let me make A WISH first," Hope said, positioning the cake in front of her.
"Hurry up," Larissa said, "the cake's dyyyyyinnnngggg."
"Ok, here goes," said Hope, flipping her hair over her shoulders and out of the way of the flame, "I wish….that someone would kill ME for believing in that stupid fucking story."
And just like that, the candles were blown out. Hope balled her fists and threw her arms up in a traditional victory pose and began to laugh. “Happy birthday to ME,” she said.
But all of a sudden, none of her new friends were laughing anymore. As Hope surveyed the group, all of their eyes had widened and their mouths had fallen agape, as they all stared at the smoking candles protruding from the slouching birthday cake.
"What are you looking at? Why are you looking like that?" Hope said, uneasily.
"You weren't supposed to do that, Hope,” said Jenny, without making eye contact.
"Do what, Jenny??" Hope said, now confused and frightened.
"You weren’t supposed to say YOURSELF!" said Vic, "Fuck, Hope!"
Miles then frantically said, "It's TRUE, Hope! He's REAL!"
"What!?" Hope screamed.
"The half we made up was the part about Ginger! Mr. Birthday is real!" shouted Vic, followed by another "FUCK!"
Hope's eyes instantly filled up with confused tears.
The dense branches lining the yard behind the fire-pit started moving, and breaking from beyond the darkness.
The group fell silent. Lucien grabbed Hope's shoulders and moved closer to her, this time with no resistance from her. He whipped his head behind him, looking toward the noises in the trees. The crunching was louder, and then a subtle, high-pitched melody invaded the air surrounding them.
Lucien whipped his head back toward Hope and simply said, "Run."