Opinion: Why Riverdale is the Best Satire of Our Time

If I were to posit that “Riverdale” is the smartest teen show of our time, I would get more than a few laughs. After all, this is the show with levitating cult babies, mass seizures, a giant monster named the Gargoyle King, and a juvie fight club, all within the span of a few episodes. 

The writers are certainly not Hemingway. 

But they just might be Shakespeare. 

Yes, it’s wild. It’s ridiculous. Most of the storylines are not even related, to the point where characters who are supposed to be best friends barely interact for episodes on end. 

In fact, all of the main characters seem like they’re in different TV shows. Jughead is in some kind of private detective noir. Betty is in an actually pretty good CW version of Nancy Drew where she’s also got to deal with family drama and romance. Veronica is in a teen “Dynasty”, or a later season of “Gossip Girl”. Archie is in a different Netflix rom-com every week, playing whatever the hunk is that film – the football star, the singer, the juvie bad boy, the rugged nature scout. Cheryl is in a dark teen musical satire like Heathers or Carrie (very accurate choices for the show’s musicals) – over the top, dramatic to the point of being cartoonish, yet still dark. 

And all of them are playing it completely straight. 

The show does not require good acting (sorry, Lili Reinhart, your talents are wasted) – it’s driven instead by wild storylines and a strange nostalgic style that seems to drive shows into Halloween costume-level success. It doesn’t even need good friendships – Betty and Veronica and Jughead and Archie rarely have scenes together, unlike the Serena and Blairs and Liars of the previous teen dramas. Relationships are the same – Archie and Veronica’s relationship is entirely based off sex and 1-2 teary phone calls, while Jughead and Betty act more like adult-in-teenage-bodies cop partners than boyfriend and gilfriend. Cheryl and Toni probably have the most substance, actually discussing real issues in their relationship- yet still, they often act more like posing Victoria’s Secret models than an actual couple. 

Yet people still care – people ship the hell out of these characters. Why? Because they rely purely on the precedent of teen dramas before them. Good girl meets boy from the wrong side of the track; rich city girl falls for townboy; high school princess falls for the last person you’d expect; we’ve seen it all before. We don’t even need scenes of actual substance between any of them – we’ve got that association to love these couples just because we always do. 

Which allows the show to satirize these kinds of relationships – by showing that people will still ship them even with zero substance and increasingly ridiculous situations. Veronica’s father tries to have Archie killed, and then puts him in jail. Jughead brings out a literal dark side in Betty, who dons a dark wig, becomes a cam girl for an episode, and does a striptease to become the “queen” of Jughead’s gang. Cheryl and Toni rob houses for fun, then create their own all-girl, school-sanctioned gang, then both get involved in a cult. Somehow, we still find a way to see these relationships as real. 

It’s not just relationships, either. There a million tropes that are satirized – to get information, Betty and Jughead continuously meet the creepiest coroner I’ve ever seen, who is such an over-the-top character that if he had been on similarly soapy mystery Pretty Little Liars, people would’ve thought it was too much. Veronica is clearly the “boss bitch” character – the show pushes this even further by making her the literal owner of multiple businesses as a high schooler. Cheryl is the mean girl with a heart of gold, and she has some of the most over the top lines I have ever heard in my life.

Yet it’s like we hardly notice – because we’ve come to expect nothing less. 

Don’t even get me started on the adults – besides for Fred Andrews, a bona fide good father (who we will miss dearly), they are the most ridiculous characters I have ever seen. The show takes the “parents are the enemy trope” and puts it over the top. Hal is a serial killer. Alice is a cult leader’s wife who gives away Betty’s college money (although it later turns out she’s actually pretending and is an FBI informant). FP runs a gang of literal teenagers with names like “Sweet Pea” and “Fangs,” along with his own son Jughead. Penelope is yet another serial killer, and also happens to run a brothel. Hiram Lodge is a drug kingpin and murderer. Again, we accept it all without question. 

This brings us to the true genius of the show – it may be a satire, but it’s still attracting the very same fans of the exact shows it satirizes. It does their tropes so well that it can’t help but not – riding on the success of these earlier teen dramas, it doesn’t even need to be earnest or trying to say something or even emotionally resonant. It just needs to be interesting. And it’s made itself immune to the critique many of its precedents faced – by training the audience to expect the ridiculously implausible, nothing it does is seen as too far-fetched. It’s impossible to jump the shark, because the very universe they’ve created jumps the shark, and has from the start. Next season, Archie could be manning a spaceship next while Dilton Doyle’s ghost diffuses a bomb hidden in Hal’s casket, and nobody would bat an eye. 

Shakespearean dramas were also seen as soapy and low-class in their time. Shakespeare made up ridiculous insults and words that would not sound out of place coming from Cheryl’s mouth. Half the adults were murderous. Young lovers did completely unrealistic and foolish things in the name of “true love” that actually had very little substance. And look how his stories appreciated today. 

Okay, maybe it’s a stretch. But one thing’s for sure – “Riverdale” is much smarter than anyone gives it credit for. The writers are very well-versed in their subject matter and their audience, and they’re mocking us and what we’re willing to accept. But they’re doing so without any sort of judgement or real goal – we’re all just having fun together. And there is something so refreshing about something that has no agenda but fun in today’s world.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Hannah’s Guide to Sugaring

Summer is right around the corner!

AKA, bathing suit season is right around the corner. And hey, you should wear whatever you feel confident in and groom yourself however you want. BUT, if you do normally shave or wax your bikini area, I have a suggestion for you….

….SUGARING!

You might’ve heard of it or seen a weirdly specific facebook ad (how does facebook know this stuff??), but I’m here to give you the full DL.

I’ve shaved most of my life, but it was growing tiring and itchy, plus it wasn’t lasting long enough. I wanted to wax, but I had heard how painful it was. When I heard about sugaring, and that it was less painful than waxing, I decided to give it a try.

I went to Sugared + Bronzed, a fancy tanning and sugaring chain here in Los Angeles. It was pretty easy to book online, and then I just showed up and signed in. The women at the front desk were all beautiful and friendly, and there was flavored water in the very clean waiting area. I probably waited about 10 minutes before I went in!

Once I went in, the woman told me to undress and use a sanitary wipe that she provided, then put a towel (which was really more of a paper towel) over my legs and lie down with my knees bent, like I was about to do crunches (which, thank god, I wasn’t). I was super nervous – I’m not a big fan of someone being up close and personal to my private parts, especially if they’re about to inflict pain. And I’m not going to lie, it was awkward – she chatted with my the whole way through, like we were acquaintances left alone by a mutual friend at a party, but I still felt weird. I guess that’s the price you pay for someone else ripping the hairs off your vagina.

Before she began, she explained the process and showed me what the “wax” looked like – it was a light amber glob and actually really pretty. She explained it was just lemon, honey, and sugar, and that it was much more natural than waxing. She began to lay down the paste, starting below my belly button and and getting the top and the sides first. This part wasn’t actually too bad. I could tell she was going fast to try to get it over with, attempting to distract me with her questions, but I was actually doing alright.

Then came the bad part.

If you’re just getting a bikini wax, I’m sure you’ll be fine. But if you’re getting the full brazilian…..

Just be warned. It will not be fun.

ESPECIALLY if you always shave. As you will have explained to you, once you start sugaring or waxing, the hairs grow back finer and pull out easier. But after shaving the hair is course and thick, and pulling them out will be extremely painful, especially on more sensitive areas. The good news is that if you go regularly, this first time will definitely be the worst.

The bad news if you do find yourself in a bind and shave later on, you’re starting from scratch again.

At the end the woman had me lift my legs in the air so she could get my, err, backside. This part was probably the least painful. At the very end she pulled out tweezers and grabbed a last few hairs – on times where I went back, this was not necessary, but if it’s your first time it might be. Then she put a hot towel on and put on oils to soothe the skin, and handed me a mirror so I could see if I liked it.

That’s probably the weirdest moment – staring at your bald vagina in a mirror with a stranger and crooning about how much you love it, like you’ve just gotten highlights or something.

And then it’s all over! The woman left me to get dressed again, and I paid at the exit. The whole thing took about fifteen minutes, minus the waiting time. They had a deal for your second session free, so I also went back a month later and have been a few times since then.

I also went to another place that a woman ran in her backhouse – sounds sketchy but I promise it was legit. This was a bit more thorough, but took a lot longer – honestly, I felt like the creams and such she applied with care was a bit excessive to the point of making me feel uncomfortable. I’d much rather an in-and-out kind of approach, as I hate people touching me at all – but I could see how that wouldn’t be for everyone.

Overall, sugaring was a great experience and I will definitely go back. I never got an ingrown hair from it, and though the process was painful (I’m not sure if it was more painful than waxing, as I’ve never been waxed) and awkward the results lasted at least a month, 2 if I did a little upkeep. The woman at Sugared + Bronzed also informed me that their trainees do sugaring there for very low prices if you’re on a budget.

But if you’re looking for something that’s virtually painless, this is DEFINITELY not for you. You’ll want to stick with shaving until they come up with something better!

Happy sugaring!

Opinion Pieces

All my life, I’ve been the “quiet girl”.

This has allowed people to constantly mischaracterize me, and even like me because of something they’ve projected onto me that isn’t even really me. I’m polite, I’m quiet, I’m shy, and I always do what I’m told.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions.

I understand that many times in life, an opinion isn’t necessary or helpful. When a friend’s talking about their love life, they want you to listen, not offer opinions. When someone asks you your thoughts on a political situation you don’t know a lot about, it’s better to ask questions and learn rather than start spewing out misinformed opinions. When someone clearly is ranting and has a very strong opinion about something, saying your opinion is definitely not going to change their mind.

I’m not saying to shut up and keep your opinion to yourself. I’m saying that I say that to myself far too often.

I’m afraid of rocking the boat. I’m afraid of alienating people. But if somebody is going to dislike me because of my opinions, then I wouldn’t want to be their friend anyways. I know the price to pay for being outspoken is that not everyone will like you – and everyone liking me is one of my more unrealistic goals that I live by.

I’m also scared of being wrong. I’m scared of not realizing something, and speaking out before I have all the facts, even when I think I do. I’m scared I’ll later change my mind, and that stating my opinion now binds me to it.

I’m scared of seeming annoying. I hate when you’re just trying to enjoy something, and everyone has to have an opinion about it. I hate when someone who hates teen dramas spends an hour talking about how stupid they are when they know you like them, and I don’t want to be that person.

But I’m tired of staying quiet. And I think this blog is going to be a good place to actually start voicing my opinions in a neutral context where nobody has to listen if they don’t want to. I need to learn how to actually speak my mind – so that I can move towards being the person I am in my mind in actual real life. I’m far too afraid of seeming mean or unlikeable, or having people laugh at me. But you know what, who cares? It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

So get ready for some more opinion posts by yours truly. Probably nothing groundbreaking, but you never know!

Hannah’s Guide to Billie Eilish

She’s blowing up right now. I’m sure you’ve heard the intro track off her new album, “Bad Guy”, on the radio. She looks like early Halsey, sounds like early Lana del Rey, and dresses like early Snoop Dogg. But who is she? Where did she come from? And how in the hell did she get so popular, so fast?

It all started with Ocean Eyes, a song made with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, and shared to soundcloud. Billie was only 14. It became an overnight sensation, earning Billie a record deal. She dropped her critically acclaimed EP, “Don’t Smile at Me” in 2017, and her much-anticipated first official album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” in 2019. She also performed at Coachella that year and virally met Justin Bieber.

She’s now 17 and got not only a #1 hit, but two popular and critically acclaimed albums. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a young star rise so quickly – her childhood crush Justin Bieber did the same after being discovered on Youtube. But Billie’s music fits into the pop music scene much differently than Justin’s did at the time. Because here’s what’s probably struck you the most about Billie’s music: it’s creepy.

It’s not just the singing, which has an eerie sound by itself; it’s the lyrics. Lana del Rey croons in a sad, eerie voice about failed love, but that’s a far cry from Billie’s songs about the monster under the bed and murdering her friends. Her videos feature spiders crawling into her mouth and needles in her back. She’s not the only star to embrace weirdness, but she’s the only one I can remember to gain such mainstream popularity so fast. In a music scene that is feeling increasingly formulaic, how did Billie’s music get so popular? Is it just that – that it’s different? Is it just because it’s so good? Or is it that she’s done so well at creating a cohesive, specific brand of creepiness? Or do we just love Cinderella stories of success?

I think it’s probably a mixture of all of the above, coupled with something new: Billie is the first Gen Z popstar we have. Gen Z-ers are in high school now, and their interests are not the same as millennials’. Their humor and way of speaking, largely cultivated off the internet and access to other parts of the world’s media, is much “weirder“. And even millennials are primed for this kind of media. “Alternative” music and culture has been sanitized and pushed into mainstream “cool” for years – just look at Coachella. Billie is not as sanitized or mainstream as some of those artists – like Halsey, Bastille, or Lana herself – but she’s a logical next step. And while Billie’s lyrics are more creepy than relatable, their tone reflects the disillusionment millennials and Gen Zers are feeling with the world they’ve inherited. She’s managed to embody a sort of normalized sadness that’s already evident in internet and meme culture (most of which are actually rather negative, in a sort of “sad but true” way), but not just about love like Lana does. This makes sense – dating and love are being redefined by Gen Z-ers, who may not relate to the kind Lana is crooning about in her songs.

Gen-Zers are just starting to enter the real world – as is Billie. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they make up even more of media consumers. But if this is a preview for what’s to come in music and media, then I for one am excited.

Hannah’s Guide to Avengers: Endgame

So you don’t consider yourself a Marvel fan, but you still want to see Endgame? Not to worry – I’ve got you covered!

If you’re feeling REALLY ambitious, then you can watch every single Marvel movie. The chronological order is as follows (after-credits scenes will not be in order):

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger: recap (good character intro to Steve and Peggy but not very important for events of series)
  2. Captain Marvel (not necessary but fun)
  3. Iron Man: recap
  4. Iron Man 2: recap (really just a setup for Avengers and an introduction to Black Widow and War Machine, very skippable)
  5. The Incredible Hulk (hardly in the universe, easy to skip)
  6. Thor: recap (good intro to Asgard, Thor, and Loki, but not 100% necessary)
  7. The Avengers: recap
  8. Iron Man 3 (not important for plot)
  9. Thor: The Dark World (really not important except that Loki “dies”)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: recap
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy: recap
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (not necessary for plot)
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron: recap
  14. Ant-Man (not necessary for plot)
  15. Captain America: Civil War: recap
  16. Spiderman: Homecoming (not necessary for plot)
  17. Doctor Strange (not necessary for plot)
  18. Black Panther (not necessary for plot)
  19. Thor: Ragnarok: recap
  20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (not necessary for plot)
  21. Avengers: Infinity War: recap

Yes, it’s ambitious; but it’s fun! If you’re looking for recaps of the most important ones, I’ve linked those above. If you want a full recap of the universe, there’s a good one here.

If you’re trying to watch the least movies possible to at least know what’s going on, here’s what I suggest:

  1. The Avengers
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Avengers: Infinity War

At least that way, you’ll know all the characters and their relationships. If I had to add in one more it’d be “Thor: Ragnarok” since a) it’s amazing and b) it gives more context to Thor and Hulk’s relationship, Thor and Loki’s relationship, and the character of Valkyrie.

If you’re only going to watch one movie, it’s got to be “Avengers: Infinity War”. “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” are essentially 2 parts of the same movie, and it’s going to be confusing if you don’t see the first. If you’ll watch two, “Captain America: Civil War” is actually very important despite not being an Avengers movie because it introduces Black Panther and Spiderman, features Ant-Man and the Winter Soldier, and sets up one of the central conflicts of Endgame.

Important plot/character points to know before the movie (pretending you have seen Infinity War – really, you have to if you want to understand what infinity stones are):

  1. In Age of Ultron, after the events of Avengers, Tony and Bruce fear future alien threats and attempt to create a “shield around the world” by creating AI tech to protect the earth. Steve finds out and is not happy. Tony’s plan fails disastrously, leading to the Sokovia Accords.
  2. Steve (Captain America) and Tony (Iron Man) have not talked since Civil War, in which they fought over the UN’s Sokovia Accords – a document the limited the Avengers’ power and put them under government supervision. Tony signed; Steve refused to. They also fought over Steve’s best-friend turned mind-controlled supervillain Bucky, who killed Tony’s parents while under mind control. The Avengers divided into two sides: Iron Man, Rhodey/War Machine, Spiderman, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Vision vs. Captain America, Sam/Falcon, Bucky/The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Wanda/Red Witch. In the battle, Natasha switches to Cap’s side. Everyone on Cap’s side is afterwards arrested (Hawkeye and Ant-Man take plea deals and go on house arrest) or escapes to go on the run or the next 2 years (Sam, Natasha, Steve, Bucky, and Wanda).
  3. Tony is basically a father figure to awkward teenager/avenger-in-training Peter Parker (Spider-Man).
  4. Bruce (Hulk) took off in a ship after Avengers: Ultron, where he was mind-controlled to cause a lot of damage. He ended up on the planet Sakaar, where he was forced to battle as the Hulk in a number of Gladiator tournaments. Thor and Loki find him there and help him turn back into Bruce, then escape to try to save Asgard from ruin. They can’t, and the Asgardians (and Bruce) end up on a ship in space. BTW, Thor has lost an eye and his long hair. Bruce and Thor have not seen the other Avengers in years, and are not aware of the events of Civil War.
  5. SHIELD (a government organization that the Avengers previously operated under in the first film) was actually run by HYDRA, a nazi science faction. Natasha and Steve expose this in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and bring it down.
  6. Captain Marvel is the most powerful Avenger, but none of the Avengers know her. She is, however, good friends with Nick Fury, from back in the 90s.

And that’s pretty much it! I suggest watching as many films as possible – there are a ton of nods to the past films in Endgame, and it makes it all that much more enjoyable. But it’s not necessary – the film is fun regardless!

Enjoy!

Hannah’s Guide to “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

It’s an amazing first (second, if you count her EP) album. But which ones are the best and which ones are not as great? My take below!

13. ilomilo

First of all, it’s really hard to separate the songs on this album. They all flow so well into each other, and ilomilo flows perfectly after bury a friend. But overall, this song by itself is a little forgettable.

12. my strange addiction

Look, I normally love sampling random stuff into songs. And sure, I like The Office. But The Office is not exactly a strange addiction – it’s probably the most common addiction for people Billie’s age. Thus, this song doesn’t quite fit Billie’s very strange appeal.

11. 8

I kind of hated the creepy little girl esque beginning, but now I love it. However, it’s overall a bit forgettable compared to the others.

10. when the party’s over

This kind of feels like an add-on, as it was also on “Don’t Smile at Me”. It’s a great Billie song, but it doesn’t quite feel as if it fits on this album.

9. wish u were gay

This was one of the first tracks she released, and from the “baby I don’t feel so good” intro, I knew I was going to love it. It’s sort of strange and relatable at the same time, discussing a guy blowing you off because he’s just not that into you, and how you’d feel so much better about yourself if it was just because he’s gay. It fits sort of perfectly into Gen Z culture, actually. But it’s not quite as creepy as the others (the crowd booing and cheering is a nice touch, though!).

8. i love you

This one’s beautiful. I love the odd sampling of the flight attendant speech. It’s probably her most Lana-esque song, a soft ballad about a relationship falling apart.

7. listen before i go

This one is another one that’s hard not to think of without the songs around it – it almost feels like part 1 to “i love you”. This song’s pretty blatantly about suicide, but it doesn’t feel inauthentic or romanticized. It’s just sort of simply there, existing, and I think that a lot of teens probably relate to the hopelessness in this song.

6. bad guy

This is the most radio-friendly song, as evidenced by it’s No. 1 status. The lyrics are fun and cheeky while the tone is still dark and creepy. It’s very indicative of what to expect on the album as a whole, so it’s a great opening track!

5. you should see me in a crown

This is another song that was already released separate from the album, but it’s just so good. I love when Billie goes more intense, rather than just a rather muted eerieness. This one’s imagery and lyrics fit with the more badass sort of tone many female rap and pop stars have adopted today, but of course – in classic Billie fashion – creepier.

4. bury a friend

This is another song that’s really indicative of the album as a whole. It’s got the album’s title in the lyrics, so how could it not? It’s wonderfully creepy, just like one of my other favorite songs of hers, bellyache. It embraces Billie’s creepy imagery.

3. all the good girls go to hell

I love this song because it totally embraces the creepiness and dark imagery that Billie surrounds herself with, coupled with the fact that she’s a wide-eyed, pretty 17 year old who also sings anti-drug songs.

2. xanny

And now for the anti-drug song! It would be so easy for Billie’s image to sing about drugs and the weird states they put us in – her imagery is constantly trippy. But instead, she sings about not needing drugs, and the sort of aloneness one feels when surrounded by friends on drugs/drinking, and just the pointlessness of it all. It’s sort of existential, while containing the base heavy tones that sort of make you feel like you’re on drugs after all. This is probably my favorite to listen to on its own.

1.goodbye

This one doesn’t really work on its own – it’s a culmination of the whole album. But that’s what makes it so genius. Billie made an experience, not just an album, and this is the siren call. It goes backwards, using notable lines from each of the songs in an extremely eerie, drawn out tone. It’s a work of creative genius, and makes it feel like there’s a hidden message when you combine all the songs together. It’s the perfect way to end the album!

What did you think of Billie Eilish’s new album?

Hannah’s Guide to Not Being Where You Wanted to Be at This Age

I found an old bucket list the other day, as well as a sort of “life plan” that included plans for specific ages.

I laughed so hard I cried. I really thought I’d be in a serious relationship or engaged, be acting on a TV show, or at the very least have my own room in an apartment.

I thought I’d be able to afford berries at Ralph’s.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality I’m living in. (Though I still hope some parallel universe Hannah is living this life.) The reality I’m living in is a 2 bedroom with 4 people, a minimum wage job, 2 failed careers, and no romantic prospects in sight. I am barely able to survive in LA, and I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen next.

If I could time travel back and talk to the Hannah that made these lists, she would be vastly disappointed in me.

But let’s face it: high school Hannah was a spoiled, entitled, depressive, angsty, anxiety-ridden, unrealistic, judgmental, delusional child.

And I’m probably only about half of those things now!

This is not at all how I thought my life would go. I feel like I took a wrong turn after college and somehow ended up in the middle of a story I didn’t write, don’t recognize, and barely understand. Like I thought I was in a Meg Cabot series but I’m actually in a Dostoevsky novel.

As a good friend nearing her thirties recently told me, this is Being an Adult. And most of the time, it absolutely sucks.

Unfortunately, your twenties are not exactly Friends, either. You’re not dating a new person each week. You don’t live next door to 2-3 of your opposite-gendered friends. You probably don’t have the perfect seats at your coffee shop every time you go. And you definitely don’t have a nice apartment.

Here’s how I like to think of it: this is the time between families. You’ve got a family and close friends and this very stable life until you leave college. And one day when you start your own family (if you choose to), you’ll have those things again, albeit with a lot more responsibility. This is the unstable part between being a kid and having a career. And you can choose to see that as a good or as a bad thing.

You’re probably not going to be Jennifer Lawrence, or Beyonce, or Mark Zuckerberg in your twenties. Even if it seems like the people around you are 10 times more successful than you. And that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. Plenty of people don’t find success until t heir 30s or 40s. And we live in an age where success and stability doesn’t come as early as it used to even ten years ago.

You’ve still got time. And the advantage of that is that you can figure out what you actually like. You can try new things and figure out who you are before committing to any one path. You can fail a hundred times, you can move back home and then back out again, you can lose your job and stay on friend’s couches and my guess is you’re probably still going to be just fine.

At least, that’s my hope.

I’m not where I wanted to be. But I think we need to let go of these expectations we set for ourselves – especially if, like me, you were a high achiever in school. It doesn’t transfer to the real world like we hope it will. Even when our parents and peers expect it to, and seem to judge us when they don’t.

It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. It just all takes time.

My advice? Rip up those bucket lists, and figure out what you’re doing that week, or that month, or that year to make you happy.

Hey, one day this is all gonna make for a great story, right?

Hannah’s Guide to Teen Dramas

I consider myself to be a HUGE Teen Drama expert.

I’ve seen pretty much all of them – but which ones are worth it?

I list the top 10 below!

10. The OC

Alright, this one’s a classic. It was a toss-up between this and Dawson’s Creek, but honestly The O.C. is more iconic to me.

I mean, come on. We’ve got classic tropes of bad boy and rich girl, nerd and popular girl, the wonder that is Seth Cohen’s dialogue, an iconic theme song, and one of the biggest memes of our generation. What more could you want?

9. Glee

Don’t hate me on this. I know it’s horrible. But there are 2 kinds of people in the world: people who still have 50 Glee versions of songs on their itunes and liars.

Honestly, the singing’s good. The editing is fun. The first few seasons are cute. It’s the only musical teen show. Let’s just leave it at that, right?

8. Skins UK

Okay, so this is kind of the opposite of the O.C. It’s much more real and gritty, but that’s what I love about it. It confronted so many serious issues in a way that felt authentic. Plus it gave Angsty Teens Effy Stonem gifs to use for generations.

7. Teen Wolf

I love campy shows, and especially shows that know they’re campy. This one’s a totally unrealistic werewolf show with the surprisingly good acting skills of Dylan O’Brien. The special effects are horrible and most of the acting is way over the top, but that just adds to the fun. They actually do a pretty good job exploring littler known mythology, too.

6. Pretty Little Liars

I love teen shows that crossover into other genres, and this is a great example. Discounting the last few seasons, PLL was a great mystery show with a really interesting premise. It also made really good use of the social media and constant texting phase our generation was going through at the time, much like Gossip Girl did. Bonus points for featuring the first lesbian main character on a teen drama (correct me if I’m wrong on this – I don’t think Santana on Glee came out until after Emily).

5. Riverdale

This is another fun mystery show that somehow manages to be both darker and more ridiculous than Pretty Little Liars. Pretty Little Liars was bad but sometimes trying to be good – Riverdale knows exactly what it is. It’s a new show, but it’s honestly already iconic.

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4. 13 Reasons Why

This is another newer show, but like Skins it feels a lot more gritty and real. It explores issues like suicide and rape really authentically. Plus it’s also a mystery, and the music’s amazing. There’s also some stellar acting.

3. Gossip Girl

All the teen drama tropes you love, but make it rich people.

These are the characters you love to hate. The Netflix description literally reads “Rich, unreasonably attractive private school students do horrible, scandalous things to each other. Repeatedly.” and that about sums it up. It’s got awesome fashion and characters whose lives are nothing like yours. But somehow you can’t stop watching. Also makes good use of modern technology!

2. The Vampire Diaries

Another crossover – this one supernatural. It’s not quite as campy as Teen Wolf, and it’s certainly more gory. It also introduced us to one of the more iconic love triangles of all time, where Elena has to choose between vampire brothers Stefan and Damon.

It got a little old after ALL the characters kept dying and coming back to life, but it actually had one of my favorite series finales of all time. It had some epic villains and led to 2 spinoffs, so somebody must’ve liked it. The plotlines are fun, and the acting and special effects are mostly decent enough, but the real reason to watch is the relationships. There’s nothing CW does like creating and sinking ships.

1.One Tree Hill

Sorry, Friday Night Lights fans – this is the only sports teen drama I recognize.

This one holds a special place in my heart because it’s literally where I got my music from. Plus, what other teen show can you remember that lasted NINE seasons?? It gave us Brooke Davis and Sophia Bush, which is reason alone to love it, but it also has literally every teen drama trope ever. Plus the whole setup of Nathan and Lucas actually is really interesting and carries us six of those seasons. And the Peyton Brooke Lucas love triangle is as iconic as Stelena/Delena.

It tried REALLY hard to be deep, but teenage me literally papered my wall with those quotes, so who am I to judge.

Some of its plotlines also rival Riverdale in their ridiculousness.

But mostly, I watched for the characters and relationships.

Hannah Writes: Underland

I’ve started another book!! See the beginning below:

GOOD SINNERS (Underland Book 1)

911 Transcript

Dispatcher: 911, what’s your emergency?

Caller: (static)….hello? Is anyone there?

Dispatcher: Can you hear me?

Caller: It’s (static) blood everywhere –

Dispatcher: Sir, I can’t hear you – where are you?

Caller: (static) woods –

Dispatcher: Where?

Caller: Kellerman Forest (static) by the (static) old stone hut (static) Hurry. (static) she’s dying – oh god – Cora (call disconnected)

Dispatcher: Sir?

Text from Margeurite Reedman to Willa Bryson

Did u hear about Cora?

Text from Willa Bryson to Margeurite Reedman

Yes

Text from Margeurite Reedman to Willa Bryson

Karma’s a bitch

Patient Name: Cora Van Helton

Injury: Neck Laceration

Time of Death: 3:15AM

ZERO

The nightmare began when she was still awake.

It was like falling into a dream with one foot still in waking. She was frozen, unable to escape the torrent of horrifying images before her eyes: images her waking half felt sure couldn’t be real. One dream turned to another, and she futilely grasped towards the fragments of each as they turned to dust before her.

The only concrete constant seemed to be fear. Fear, and pain.

As she fell deeper and deeper into the nightmare, she tried desperately to hang onto what was real. But she could no longer tell the difference.

The burning in her throat as she tried to suck in more air felt real. The horrible dizzy feeling in her head felt real. The flight of her heart into her stomach felt real.

But so did the sharp, icy claws that dragged her across a rough floor, scraping her fingertips as she struggled to grab onto something – anything – to steady herself. She thrashed and tried to draw breath, but breathing in felt like gulping cold water. She choked the air back up, coughing and sputtering. Unable to do anything else, she tried to scream; but all that came out was a hoarse, cackling whisper.

This is what dying feels like, she realized. There was some deep human part of her that knew, knew beyond doubt that her life was ending.

But was it only in the dream? You couldn’t die in a dream, could you? Or had that simply been a myth, a remnant of a dark children’s story or horror movie in which death in sleeping led to death in waking?

“I haven’t inflicted any abuse. But I could. Remember that, Cora.”

Cora jerked, looking for the voice. But her eyes would no longer open, or if they had, then they weren’t functioning properly. It was almost as if she’d entered a different dimension, where voice and color and memory and feeling blended together into a vortex that could not be perceived with any one of the senses.

“You’re just a delusional, stupid little girl that’s so bored she ruins everyone around her for sport, turning them into characters she can kill off when convenient.”

This voice was different. Around her floated emotions of love, lust, trust, and anger…but not the bitter hate that had accompanied the last voice.

I’m not, Cora tried to cry, but she couldn’t find her voice in the mess around her.

“She was right about you. You never cared at all. It’s over, Cora.”

“I’m not someone you want to cross.”

“You’re a horrible person. You’re the worst person I’ve ever met.”

“Please. Please help me. Maybe I can help you.  If not….I’m going to lose my mind.”

“Rot in hell, Cora,”

She turned, or she thought she did, as the colors around her swirled and changed, finally forming blurry images in her mind. A classroom. A hallway. A dark office, a crystal glass of dark liquid in her hand. Brown hair over a freckled face and searching eyes. A letter in a locker.

“Stay with us, Cora,” a voice suddenly cut through the others, distracting her. This one felt tangible, like it flowed through ears as a sound, not a color or a feeling or anything else. Real – not memory. In real time. The first real thing to latch onto.

“You’re doing so good.”

Well, Cora wanted to correct. I’m doing so well. What am I doing well, anyways, she wanted to ask. Staying alive? It hardly seemed she was succeeding at that.

Cora didn’t normally like following directions, but this one felt important. She desperately tried to stay awake, only she wasn’t sure what that meant. She didn’t feel in control; it did not feel like there was an on and off switch she could just flip to alive or dead. Perhaps she could dismiss the colors, the images, the memories, rip herself into reality, while she was momentarily aware of which was which. But something drew her towards them. Something told her they were more important.

“I love you more than all the stars in the sky,” she heard, and this time the voice was her own, though she hadn’t felt herself say anything. A face materialized in front of her: a young boy’s face, sensitive and sweet, a tear rolling down his cheek that Cora wiped away. Ben.

But as she reached out to him, feeling her heart fill with love and fear, the two inseparable as they always were, he disappeared into wisps in the distance, and suddenly she was alone, and all the colors and voices were gone. It was just her, and the sounds of nature, and faraway cars, and were there….footsteps?

And now they were her own, and she wasn’t simply watching herself in a dream but now she was herself, running at top speed, her throat burning and her breaths coming fast, fear filling her like liquid poison, this time devoid of love.

She tripped and fell, stumbling back up again, running forward even as her palms burned and she felt blood on her leg.

She was being chased, she realized. But why? And what had scared her so much? Why was she in the dark, alone, at night, so far from her home in the city?

“I haven’t inflicted any abuse…”

The voices swirled again in her head, faces popping up and then blending into each other.

Her stepfather. Her friends, classmates. Her various exes.

She flashed back into the forest, and she’d fallen again, and she was screaming.

“Hold her down.” The voice ripped her back into reality, and for a split second she saw bright lights, unfamiliar faces, metal instruments, blue scrubs against red blood….

It was not just a dream. It was a memory.

Someone had hurt her. One of the faces…..

“Stay still,” a deeper voice said and suddenly she felt a weight on her chest that only made it harder to breathe. She writhed and squirmed under it, slowly becoming aware of something warm and wet on her neck but feeling little else other than the suffocating force on her lungs. The lights started to sparkle and the world around her went black, black…..

You’re dying, Cora, she told herself. One of the faces….

They hadn’t just hurt her. They had killed her.

It was funny, really, that she didn’t worry about death, about what would happen after.

Perhaps she didn’t think anything would happen. Perhaps she thought it wasn’t important.

How very wrong she was.

Instead she focused in on the one thing that felt within her control, the last thing she could do before she died: figuring out who had killed her.

Minutes, minutes to solve her own murder. To remember. To say something, to find her voice and speak, to tell her family, the police, the doctors, anyone. A name, a face, something.

Focus, Cora. Ben’s face floated again into her mind, and she latched onto it. Focus. For him.

The harsh voices were back.

“Do you really think it’s wise to threaten an alleged child abuser?”

Her stepfather.

“You don’t even care, do you? You’ll do anything as long as you benefit. Hurt anyone.”

Willa’s father, Willa herself, angry at the blackmail she’d inflicted on their family.

“Cora Fallman is fucking a teacher!”

Eric, Francis – exes who she’d left ruined….

“You walk around trying on men, on personalities, on drugs like new dresses at Bloomingdale’s, and then cast them away.”

Colton Harris. Mr. Harris. Her teacher.

“I know you took the key, Cora. You could’ve done it, you knew where it was. I’ve been protecting you, but my mom helped me see, it had to be you-“

Eric’s mother, who had always hated Cora, convinced she’d be the ruin of her son.

“You’re a slut, Cora. You’ll ruin him like you ruin everyone around you.”

Marguerite, who’d felt betrayed by her relationship with Eric, her childhood crush.

“Please, Cora. Please drop out. I’m begging you.”

“I know you’re not a bad person, Cora.”

 Anya. Julie. Girls who had asked for her help only to be ignored, cast aside.

A sudden jolt and she could breathe again. Sucking in air, gasping, gulping, then finally, when she caught her breath enough, screaming at the new pain, at the confusion. Voices were all around her, instruments were being passed, and still that red was all around her, blending with the blue into swirling, sickening purple like a magic potion to put her to sleep…

Panicked, she tried to make out a face, or an object, or anything. Someone was sobbing loudly and she slowly became aware that it wasn’t her. Mother? She wondered. As her vision focused and her mind started to clear, another wave of pain knocked her focus back and she struggled to find herself again, to find her memories, the faces. She was running out of time.

Seconds. Seconds left to solve her own murder.

Her stepfather, Willa, Willa’s father, Margeurite, Mr. Harris, Eric, Eric’s mother, Francis, Anya, Julie…..

None of them had seemed capable of murder. But she was dead, and unless it was a random act, it had to have been one of them.

Something was around her mouth now, making both worlds – the purple and the hazy memories – go fuzzy.

Anesthesia.

She was going to lose consciousness. She was going to lose the ability to focus, to plot, to figure it all out as she always did. Her one power in a world of deceit and unfairness.

No, she tried to say. Not yet. She would take the pain, the confusion, over anesthesia. She didn’t know if she’d ever wake up once she gave in fully to sleep. Just a few more seconds, she begged.

But she no longer had any power here. She no longer even had a voice. And images of bloody footprints and frantic screams turned into nothingness.

Red pain and blue-clad doctors disappeared.

Even her brother’s face, begging her not to go, faded away.

And finally she was in darkness. And nothing was red anymore. Nothing was any color at all.

Cora Fallman died at 3:15AM on a Sunday morning under mysterious circumstances. Her mother cried. Nobody knew who’d inflicted the fatal blow, or even if it had been just one person. Plenty of people had their own suspicions, but remained silent, knowing their evidence could be self-incriminating.

Some people were just glad she was gone. Her reign of terror was finally over.

Others saw her as a victim. A bright girl gone too soon. They assumed it was some crazy murderer in the woods. A man – older, probably. Maybe a stalker. After all, she’d been very pretty. Almost doll-like. Fair skinned with cherry red lips and dark hair. Like Snow White, only with more expensive clothing.

The world moved on.

Cora Fallman died at 3:15AM on a Sunday morning under mysterious circumstances.

And then she woke up.

ONE

ONE CAN’T BELIEVE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Perhaps “waking up” was not the right term for it.

Waking up denoted leaving the state of sleeping into a state of waking in which reality was intact. And that did not at all describe the situation Cora found herself in upon gaining consciousness.

She felt as if someone had cut her into a million little pieces, and then put her back together in a hurry. She was dizzy, disoriented, and though her eyes were open she could not focus on anything in front of her. Instead, disparate images, sounds, and feelings ran through her ears like a ribbon, as if there was nothing tangible in her head to block them. Her mother’s face, cold and stony. Blood against her neck. The feeling of soft lips on hers, the smell of alcohol on breath, the sound of pure hatred contained in a voice.

She tried to connect them, to place each to a specific memory, but there were simply too many of them. It felt like she was trying to match a box of a thousand unique buttons. Her life did not seem to exist on a timeline, but rather in a collage of all the horrible things that had ever happened to her.

Or was it the opposite – was it the most horrible things she had ever done?

Intermingled with the strange sounds, sights, and feelings were ones that didn’t feel as familiar. A hard surface below her head. Brown stairs on a white ceiling. Sound – a slight ringing in her ears. These did not feel quite like reality. But they felt like something stable to hold onto, unlike the visions that flashed through her mind. She focused on them, and ever so slowly, her senses seemed to fall somewhat back in line, into present time.

Cora blinked at the ceiling. It was not white after all. It was the kind of yellow cheap white paint gets when it’s been on too long. Cora automatically wrinkled her nose, surprising herself when she felt the movement of her face. Shakily, she tested her limits: she reached her fingers out, splaying them over the ground, feeling the crumbling rock beneath.

Cora slowly sat up, examining her body, pale in the dim light. Besides for indents on her arms from the rough floor, it was immaculate. She traced her knee with her finger, but she couldn’t even find the scar she’d had since being a child, forever marking what otherwise would’ve been a forgettable bike ride. It was almost as if she had been regenerated, good as new.

A hospital gown adorned her body – light blue, like her nails.

She was surrounding by four walls – one of which had mostly fallen away, revealing a starless sky. There was nothing in the room but a rocking chair, an old rug that reminded Cora of a nursing home, and a broken bookshelf. The floor beneath her was hard concrete, but there were holes in it, too, and dust and rubble lay all around, like there had been an explosion.

“Where the hell am I?” Cora breathed raspily, surprising herself with the sound of her own voice. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Hello?”

There was nothing but silence around her – the kind of silence that felt like sound itself, drowning out all the rest.

Cora rose gingerly, searching her mind for the last thing that had happened, but her memories still felt out of order. What day was it? Where had she been last? Who had she spoken to? Panic began to fill her, chills running up and down her back. What had happened? How had she ended up in a place that looked like freaking Syria?

“Ow,” Cora said softly as she took a step forward and felt a sharp pain in her foot. All at once the chills were gone, physical pain providing a ledge as she began to topple off the precipice of everything she thought she had known. Cora winced, lifting her foot to see the damage almost automatically, as if she was just that same little kid who had fallen off her bike. A broken shard of glass had punctured her skin, red spilling out against it.

She took a deep breath – like taking off a bandaid, she told herself- and pulled it out, pressing her hand against the wound to stem the flow of blood.

Her hand against her neck, blood gushing out. Life gushing out.

No, Cora gasped, suddenly finding herself on the floor, heavy breaths racking her body.

“What’s happening to me?” she gasped softly, suddenly noticing the pain in her foot was gone, and the blood flow had stopped. Had it coagulated already? She lifted her foot to examine the wound, forcing cracks of dried blood underneath her blue nails to discover nothing but smooth skin underneath.

Cora’s breath caught in her throat. Her hands scratched to a fist against the dark red on her foot, then wrapped around it, trying to remain grounded. But there was no ledge this time to hold onto. There was only glass.

She looked around, locating the bloody shard. She gripped it in her hands tightly, until it sliced into her flesh, then let it clatter to the ground. She waited for the pain to recede, then forced herself to look.

Behind the blood, there was no cut.

She stood and rushed to the opening in the wall, not even bothering to watch her step. She would heal – as insane as that thought even was.

She needed to see where she was. No more careful, slow observation.

Rip off the bandaid, right?

She caught herself on the edge of the crumbling wall, gazing out, eyes flitting left and right as her new world hit her like the chill of walking outside on a cold winter day.

Rubble lay out on the streets, broken street lamps lining a broken and cracked road, buildings crumbling out onto it like a child had utterly failed at coloring inside the lines. Ten, twelve, fifteen story buildings, teetering on their foundations, holes ripped throughout as if they were as fragile as the pairs of black nylons she wore to school. It almost looked like a giant had come through and turned the world to ruin, like a toddler stepping on a sandcastle.

Everything looked empty. Abandoned.

The sky, as she had seen from her position on the floor, was blank. Only it was not quite black – it was more of a dark gray. The color seemed to be all around her, too, as if the air itself was gray. Everything was dull and drab, like she was wearing the opposite of rose-colored glasses. It was dark, but she could still see, and not just because of the streetlights. It did not look like anything Cora had ever seen in real life. It looked like a Godzilla movie set come to life.

Suddenly she heard footsteps coming from below her, and whipped around to face the door. Someone was running. The footsteps grew louder – they were getting closer.

Towards the door. Towards her.

Cora took a tentative step back, almost falling out the side of the building. Should she run? She turned back and stared down. She was only three stories up.

You cannot scale this thing, Cora. You’ll die.

And then she heard it – an ear-shattering, inhuman roar that shook the whole building.

Before she could even react, the door burst open and a dirt-encrusted, wild-eyed girl who looked more like a feral cat flew in, slamming the door shut behind her as she flung her lanky body against it.

“Don’t just stare!” the girl screamed, jolting a frozen Cora. “Help me!”

Cora stared blankly at her. She had never in her life been spoken to this way. Especially not by a teenager who, by the looks of it, was homeless. “What?”

“DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? Help-” she slammed on the door with her hands and then pointed to herself “-me!! Or -” She sliced her finger across her neck. “we die!”

Feeling like everything was happening in slow motion, Cora walked forward hesitantly, placing her hands lightly on the door. The girl gave her a look like she was the most idiotic person on the planet – a look Cora recognized well, though usually its place was on her own face.

“Okay, you clearly have a death wish, but I don’t, so for the love of all that is holy,” the girl said, shifting her eyes up in a way suggesting she didn’t find anything at all holy, “PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT, or I swear to god I’ll kill you before he does!” 

“He?” Cora asked weakly, still feeling as if she had missed something.

Screeeeechhhhh.

The growl was back, only now it was more like nails on a chalkboard, penetrating deep into her ears, followed by a force against the door that almost pushed it open. Cora quickly threw her whole weight against the door, holding it closed, feeling like she was in some kind of horror movie.

“Go away!” the girl screamed. “I don’t want to hurt you!”

There was no response, predictably. Cora didn’t think whatever was behind that door was human. The girl reached back and grabbed a pistol hidden in the back of her jeans, stood away from the door, and shot through it three times without hesitation. Cora screamed and jumped away from the door, staring at the bullet holes inches from where her head had just been in shock.

The girl shot her a haughty look, an eyebrow raised, as if to say “really?” She then strode forward, opening the door.

To Cora’s horror, the newly dead body of a boy about her age slid into the room.

Cora stared at it. That wasn’t right. It hadn’t been a person. It had been an animal. Or, or….a…

Cora shook her head of such fantasies. There was no such thing as monsters.

There was no such thing as injuries that instantly healed, either.

There was no such thing as having your throat slit and then waking up.

Cora watched as the girl knelt down next to the boy.

“Okay, I lied,” she said, cupping his bloody cheek with her hand. “I totally wanted to hurt you.” She stood, wiping her bloody hand off on her filthy jeans and then extending it towards Cora. “Hi. I’m Lee.”

A handshake. The first familiar thing in this terrifying world.

Except it wasn’t quite right. The girl had to be no more than fifteen. She was still holding a gun with her other hand. A dead boy lay beside them, the girl’s victim, and the hand she held out was still smeared in his blood.

None of this was right at all. None of it was familiar. Even Cora herself felt unfamiliar. This was not her – an inactive participant, looking for an escape, allowing herself to be belittled at the whim of others. She was Cora Van Helton. And wherever she was, however real it all was, that still mattered.

And so, she drew herself up to her full height, ignored the hand in front of her, and glowered down at the filthy girl in front of her with her best stern look.

“What. The Hell. Is Going On.”

The girl – Lee – refused to be intimidated. She looked rather like she was watching a child play make believe. “Funny you should mention hell, as that pretty much sums it up.” Cora stared at her. “Either the fashions have seriously changed since I was alive, or you just got here,” she nodded to Cora’s garb. Cora self-consciously tried to pull the back of her gown together.

“Alive?” she echoed, searching for some confirmation of what was going on.

“Sorry, the welcome committee must’ve been busy,” Lee rolled her eyes. “You died!” she sang in a mockingly grand voice, wiggling jazz fingers. “Welcome to the land of the sinners!”

“That’s-I’m-Hell doesn’t exist,” Cora said, almost laughing, feeling like she was the victim of a cruel practical joke. She was not dead.

Yet a voice in the back of her mind protested, reminding her of the vision of blood gushing out her neck.

Not a vision. A memory.

Lee shrugged. “Yeah, denial’s fun while it lasts. My suggestion? Just accept it or you’ll end up dead-”

“But-if we’re already dead-”

“Death is relative,” she said significantly. “The version we are is the least bad. Trust me – you don’t want to die here. Too bad for our friend over here. ” Cora followed her eyes towards the boy. Lee bent down and grabbed his hand, forcing it to wave. “Bye bye, free will!” she said.

“What….what is he?” Cora asked in horror. Was it even worth talking to this homeless girl? She was clearly psychotic.

The girl – Lee – shrugged, dropping the hand as if it was a piece of trash. “The worst kind of monster. A boy.”

“I wouldn’t….I would never be in hell, even if it was real.” Cora rolled her eyes, trying to seem confident. “I….I’ve never done anything bad,” She insisted, ignoring the voice in her head that told her you couldn’t reason with crazy.

Crazy’s all I’ve got, she countered.

Lee raised her eyebrows, the universal expression for you’re full of shit.

Was she?

I know you’re not a bad person, Cora.

The voice echoed in her head, twisting and turning into a memory. And not just a fragment this time.

The note in her locker. Anya.

I know you’re not a bad person, Cora, Anya had written. I know that you’re unhappy. Like me. I see it on your face. I think maybe we could understand each other.

Please. Please help me. Maybe I can help you.

If not….I’m going to lose my mind.

Not your fault, Cora thought, chasing the memory away with her usual narrative. After all, she had never bullied Anya. It wasn’t Cora’s fault, so therefore it was not her responsibility.

Lee was still eyeing her doubtfully. “Yeah, I don’t really have time to play judge and jury for your life, or sit down and figure out how you ended up here. Actually,” she said, looking at an imaginary watch. “I’m already late.”

“Late for what?”

“Everything!” Lee said, walking past Cora towards the door. “There’s so much to do, you know, people to torture, a girlfriend to find so I can get the hell out of….well, hell – hah! Didn’t even do that on purpose.” She laughed. Cora did not. Lee shot her a look, disappointed. “Alice would’ve thought it was funny.” She shrugged, turning to leave.

“Wait,” Cora said, grabbing her arm. Lee looked down at it, then up at Cora, seeming impressed Cora even had the gall to do so. Cora tightened her grip, wanting to show this girl she was not afraid of her.

“I demand to know exactly what is going on,” she said, raising her head high.

“Dude,” Lee said, ripping her arm from Cora’s grip and shooting her an annoyed look.

Dude?

“Look, you’re new here. Which means you don’t have any use to me. So – goodbye. Have a nice afterlife.” And with that, she walked past Cora to the door, disappearing from sight.

Cora stood, a strange feeling filling her. That had never happened before.

She had always had leverage, something to offer. She’d always been able to make a deal. She’d always been able to bend people to her will.

But it was like this girl didn’t even care that she was Cora Van Helton….

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Right. She had no reputation, wherever she was. No one cared how rich her stepfather was. And as she knew nothing of what was going on, she couldn’t even offer information.

She was, for lack of a better word, a loser in Hell.

You’re not in Hell. You can’t be, she fought against herself.

She was just in a land that looked a lot like Hell. With boys that fought like monsters and girls that tortured people.

If it looks like a duck, and talks like a duck…

Cora had heavy disdain for the art of self-deception. Why willfully ignore that which you knew was true? How could you possibly fight back if you didn’t know the facts?

How can you fight back if your throat’s been slit?

But still, all she had to go off of was what Lee had said and a handful of shaky memories. She needed more evidence than that. She needed to gather intel. The first step in any new situation. Cora closed her eyes, realizing what she had to do.

She had never seen a dead body before. Not even her father’s – her mother had not allowed them to see him after they’d pulled the plug.

Cora felt stupid for her trepidation. She took a deep breath, trying to comfort herself.

It’s just a thing. An empty husk. Being afraid of it would be as juvenile as fearing a doll, or a place, or a film.

The only things in the world to really fear are people. Dead people don’t count.

Once people were dead, they could’nt hurt you anymore. There were no ghosts; no spirits; no demons. As a little girl, she’d often been kept up by nightmares of such things, comforted only by her father’s assurances that they were not real. But she was not a child anymore. And her father was dead, just like the boy in front of her.

Death was a fact, not an illusion or a semicolon or anything else. Nothing, not false hope or intense grief or consuming self-delusion could change it. She knew that from experience.

Death was just death. It was just over.

At least in the world Cora knew.

Suddenly she realized, staring at the boy with bullet wounds in his torso, his eyes still open, his chest still and unmoving, that none of these solaces applied anymore.

Because Cora could remember dying. And yet here she was.

What was it the girl had said?

Death is relative. The version we are is the least bad.

Before she could even think to run, to leave, to go far away, the boy’s hand whipped up and grabbed Cora’s neck with superhuman strength. His eyes turned black like squid ink spreading throughout a blue and white sea; his hands turned rough and scaly; his nails extended into claws that dug into the back of Cora’s neck; his lips stretched into a too-wide smile of jagged shards of glass, releasing a scream more terrible than anything Cora had heard before.

Death was not finite. It was relative.

And some form of it was coming for her.

Again.