The Final Girl

By Shira Lipkin

The point of the final girl is that she survives.


Afterward, the final girl bites her cuticle at group, tearing it even worse, wincing. When called upon, she says, They left us alive to tell the world. Maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we're giving them what they want. Which always devolves into a storm of our responsibility and public safety.

The final girl knows that she will not be called upon again tonight.


Every so often, a reporter comes to group, or some other writer. There are no books yet on the particular trauma of Final Girls. The writer, always female, sits through the dullness of group and then requests individual interviews.

It's the interviews that chase the writer away. It's the Final Girl litany of blood and dirt and rusty iron, gun barrels that seem transatlantic in length, fearstink and machine oil. The final girl has chased away many a writer with a calm description of unravelled intestines, of how they leave a trail behind the body, of how they burst when you step on them and then you are leaving footprints the killer can follow, and what do you do then?

What then?

There is still no book on the particular trauma of Final Girls.


Once, the final girl said the falling girl by accident. She's thought that ever since. In the shadow of the final girl, the falling girl.


Every so often, the final girl brings home another Final Girl. It doesn't always work out. It's important to choose a Final Girl with a breakage pattern dissimilar to her own. The welded seams of self need to not grind against each other or they will weaken. If they are too much alike, they will refracture, shatter in delicate places.

The only one who understands a Final Girl is a Final Girl, though.


There are no Final Boys.


The final girl considers promiscuity. She knows that the slutty girl always gets killed first. If it happens again, therefore, she will go quickly.

Final Girl Secret:

We are always certain it will happen again.

We have a knife.

We have a plan.

The final girl is a poor actuary due to skewed data, always predicting the possibility of mass murder at 100%.


Final Girls call him my killer, our killer. To distinguish him from the killers other Final Girls have faced, ostensibly. But there's a peculiar sort of ownership there—my killer.

The killer who sought to kill me and failed.

The killer who killed me, and no one seems to realize I'm dead.

My killer.


Time seems to move differently for Final Girls. It stretches—a day can feel two or three days long. A day can be forever. A Final Girl can look back on a morning like a distant, faded memory, a yellowed photograph. A day can stretch like taffy in the heat. A day can melt and stick. Or time stutters: days jamming together, abrupt and insistent, blink-and-gone.


The final girl traces patterns in her spaghetti sauce with her fork, and only later realizes that she was sketching the saw blade.

Trauma deforms the brain in ways that are not fully understood. The saw blade exists in her mind as a subconscious meme, as a go-to. She will sketch it around the borders of the notepad when she's on the phone. She will trace it on her bare thigh. It has an existence now beyond its original purpose. It is a shape that contains. It delineates the outline of the final girl. She grows into it; it molds her.


The final girl is the cartographer of all the places the killer has not been. She is also the map.


There is a sharp divide between Final Girls who kill their attackers and those whose attacker escapes. It comes out in group, in conversations, in subtle positioning. This is the hierarchy of Final Girls: if you have killed the monster, you are more-than. If your monster is still out there, you are less-than, flinches-at-shadows, cowering thing, girl-who-did-not-fight-hard-enough. Your lack of control of this is immaterial. The victims who themselves became killers, who took up the ax or the gun or the knife . . . they cast their shadows.


The falling girl never stops dying.


The final girl is disinterested in katabasis. She knows how important it is to everyone that those who go into the underworld emerge into the light. No one, however, tells the stories of those who stay down there, lost in tapering fractal tunnels, stumbling through the darkness. Push them down, leave them there, draw in the dark around them. The world does not want lost girls who cannot be found, so the Final Girls must pretend at all times that they have risen to the surface, even if they have not, especially if they have not.

The final girl knows that some have made the dark their home, though. She knows that the dark can hold you safe. She knows that sometimes you need to not be seen or heard.


The final girl attended a lecture on Final Girls once. The lecturer had a neat and tidy thesis that explained final girls to people who had never feared for their lives. He reduced them to a tidy concept, a catchphrase, a metaphor. In a way, he said, we are all Final Girls.

Papers have been written on that. On the idea that we are all Final Girls, if we define a Final Girl like so. Papers have been written on the theory that the existence of Final Girls is irrelevant, statistically and otherwise. Papers have been written on the theory that somehow Final Girls are complicit in the event. The Event.

They all balance to nothing. They appropriate. They distance.

They are not written by anyone who knows what it is to keep your hand over your mouth so he can't track you by your ragged breathing.


The final girl wakes at 3:00 every morning. She walks to her door, presses her hand against it, knows that there is something on the other side.

The final girl knows that there is always a chasm beneath. She is just waiting, every night waiting in cold blue 3 a.m. light, for the surface tension to break.

She has been waiting for 14 years.


The point of the falling girl is that she never stops falling.


Shira Lipkin's short fiction and poetry have appeared in such marvelous places as Clockwork Phoenix 4, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, Interfictions 2, and more (full bibliography at shiralipkin.com). She won the Rhysling Award for best short poem in 2012. She lives in Boston with her husband, tiny dog, and enormous cat.

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