Welcome to the final episode of Tik Tik Gone! Thank you everyone for following along. Stay tuned at the end of the episode for a special announcement. If you need to get caught up, click the links below.
And now, for the final episode.
Welcome back to Tik Tik Gone. In the last episode, Pastor Warren gave us a photo from a school play featuring both of the Holland sisters. It was then that we realized that Tara, from the Cherry Pit, was in fact a missing girl known as Stephanie Jones, the former high school sweetheart of Marty Tanner. After drugging us in her trailer, she revealed that Marty had an affair with Evelyn Holland.
I woke up around noon to someone poking me with a stick. I was laying in the dirt on the side of a creek bed. My head was throbbing. My arm was out of its sling. When I looked up, a bearded man was standing over me. I recognized the playful eyes right away--Roger Sanderson. He said he had been doing a little fishing when he came upon my body in the dirt., Roger patched me up and brought me into town in his pick-up.
As he drove, he told me what the podcast had done for the business. Since it first aired, he had conducted over five hundred tours and sold out of every single item in the gift shop. Moreover, one of the tech-savvy kids helped him install a live webcam to document ghost sightings as they happened.
Roger’s old pick-up truck stopped on the edge of Main Street. I thanked him for the ride and then set off to find Joss. I prayed she had survived the drug trip.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long. Through the window of The Lazy Bear, I spied Joss with two hands around a coffee mug, deep in thought. I had never been so happy to see my partner. When she spotted me through the window, she shook her head in disbelief. After I got my coffee and sat down with her, she recapped everything that had transpired the night before.
After leaving Stephanie’s trailer, she found herself at the Bearcreek campground and partied hard with a bunch of out-of-towners. Thankfully, an influencer recognized her from Twitter and offered her a bed in their Air Stream. Clearly, it was a much better night’s sleep than what I got. She had also had time that morning to go to the police station. According to Captain Brown, Marty Tanner had gone AWOL. We were now certain he was our man: he and Evelyn had murdered Emma Holland, and now he was making Evelyn atone.
Today was the day that Evie Holiday was supposed to die. Time was running out.
Suddenly, a customer in the booth across from us opened his newspaper. The front page of The Union read: Out of Towners Attacked by Local Gang. The headline was accompanied by a mugshot of Eli Holland. According to the report, Eli and his gang had been on a rampage, jumping any person who looked at them the wrong way.
I took a deep breath, knowing what we had to do next. It was time to take Eli and his goons head-on. He would know where Marty Tanner was hiding. But this time, we would need reinforcements.
At 1:30 pm, I tweeted to my followers: To anyone that is currently in Bearcreek. Please come to Carl’s Billiards at 4:00 pm. It’s time we bring the fight to them.
Fifty out-of-towners showed up outside the pool hall that afternoon. Many of them were the victims of the local hostility by Eli and his gang. For a moment, I felt like an army general, standing before the gates of a city in siege. I yelled, “Eli Holland, come out and face us.”
I knew he couldn’t resist.
He came out wearing a Coors Light hoodie and a trucker hat, a toothpick dangling from his mouth, five of his hillbilly goons by his side. All the out-of-towners had their phones out, recording the altercation.
ELI: What are you and your little gang of Hollywood sissies going to do?
We want answers, Eli. Where’s Evelyn Holland? We know that Marty Tanner took them.
ELI: Even if I did know, why would I tell you.
CAL: Even now, it’s surreal for me to watch the video. I’m not a violent man by any means, but maybe I had been pushed to the limit. Drugged, beaten, sleep-deprived—all of my emotions poured out of me. I grabbed a baseball bat, and with my one good arm, I smashed a headlight on Eli’s precious Buick. The look on his face was priceless.
You went to school with Emma and Evelyn. You know what happened.
CAL: Eli took a hostile step toward me, and when he did, all the out of towners held their ground. Eli stopped in his tracks. I struck the car again. And again. Over and over, until Eli finally screamed.
ELI: I don’t know shit, ok?! Marty didn’t tell me anything. He has the girl. He has her somewhere. But I don’t know anything. They won’t even show me where the fucking lab is, ok? They don’t trust me with anything.
ELI: Whoever he’s working for.
CAL: Immediately, I turned to Joss to see if she believed him. But she wasn’t looking at me. She was pointing to something inside the trunk. Inside was a backpack, open and overflowing with small plastic baggies of powdered narcotics. And —stamped on each of the baggies was the trinity symbol. Suddenly, images flashed across my mind. The tattoo on Evie’s arm. The symbol graffitied on the trailer, the man carving it into the wall of the cell. I knew who the Kingpin of Bearcreek was…
And I knew where they were holding Evie Holiday.
The sun was setting by the time we made it to the bend where Marty Tanner’s police car had once disappeared. I slowed the car, looking for a path. Sure enough, there was a small break in the guardrail with visible tire marks going down the mountain. Our rental rolled over the pine-needle laced ground, weaving in and out of the trees until we came skidding to a halt. In front of us, a boulder, covering the entrance to a small mining cave in the side of the mountain.
We took a deep breath. There was no time to call for reinforcements. Evie Holiday didn’t have long. With cell phone lights illuminated, and bats in our hands, we stepped into the belly of the beast. We moved as quickly as we could, through the winding tunnel, until finally, we reached a cavernous opening. Joss was the one who found the switch. When she flipped it on, floating barn lights illuminated a working drug lair. There were beakers and lab equipment, gas stoves, and generators. This was where they made the Fairy Dust.
“Here it is,” Joss pointed to the wall. It was the backdrop from Evie’s videos. Coiled rope, a used gag, and the sparkly dress from the video lay in a heap on the ground. But Evie Holiday was gone.
I was taking pictures with my phone when I heard a familiar voice behind us.
“You guys are a little late to the party.”
When I turned around, Marty Tanner stood holding a rifle. He slammed the butt of the gun into my skull.
CAL: When I woke up, I was sitting in a chair, back-to-back with Joss. Our wrists were bound with zip ties. My head felt like it was stuck in a vice. I took in my surroundings. We were in the newly renovated Tully House, in Madame Tully’s room. Marty Tanner was sitting on a metal chair, his rifle laid across his lap. “Where is Evie?” I asked.
He smiled. “She’s about to die.”
From the darkness, a second figure emerged. It was a woman, the spitting image of Evie Holiday—except for one major difference. A thick scar ran from the left side of her face all the way up to the middle of her scalp, leaving a giant bald spot on her head.
“Emma,” I said.
When I said her name, she smiled.
AUDIO FROM TULLY HOUSE: Oh. You’ve got it all wrong, Cal. The imposter they call Evie Holiday… That’s Emma. I’m Evelyn Holiday.
[She sat down in a chair and continued.]
I appreciate all the work you’ve done for me, so it’s only right I reward you with some answers.
As you already know, my father was a drunk piece of shit. What my mother saw him, I’ll never know. She was the one who kept our family safe, performing her sacred rituals in the basement for years. Until my father came home early one night, drunk, and discovered what my mother was doing in the basement. His small Holland mind couldn’t handle it. In a drunken rage, he struck my mother and forced her to leave. She tried to take us with her, but my father said that no devil worshipping woman would touch his children ever again. Before she left, my mother bent down, so she was eye level, putting the trinity knot medallion around my neck. She told me the necklace belonged to Madame Tully’s daughter. She told me to protect my sister, and that she’d be back soon.
Well, once my father realized what a huge mistake he’d made, he decided to chase down my mother in the storm. Wanting to protect her, I snuck in the back of his truck, clutching the medallion. I watched as my father pulled alongside my mother’s car on the bridge. I heard him pleading with her to return home. He knew he was nothing without her. And then I watched him jerk the steering wheel and collide with my mother’s car, knocking her off the bridge. The police captain said it was an accident. Always protecting the high school football stars in this good-for-nothing town.
Without my mother’s protection, I knew the curse would take us all.
Soon, our father had an accident, lost the house, lost all our money, and moved us to the darkest corners of this world. My sister was all I had, and I protected her from the lowlifes in that park. I made sure no one harmed a hair on her head. I never told her about what our father did. I didn’t want her to feel that pain. And it didn’t matter. I was going to break the curse. I would save enough money and we would go to Hollywood and become famous.
To practice our acting, we used to put on theatrical performances at the Tully House, pretending to be the ghosts of dead prostitutes. We had stage names and everything. It was good fun, watching the tweakers come looking for their fairies. Every night, the audience came, and every night, we put on a show, twirling and laughing through the trees. And then one day, he came. Our father. And in my heart, I knew this was my chance. This was the only way to truly protect my sister. Against my sister’s wishes, I used my father’s own hunting knife to kill him, stabbing him over and over. I freed us, and then I took my sister to get a tattoo of the protective symbol. I made her vow to keep our secret. But she never forgave me for what I did.
With my father dead, they took us away from hell, and brought us to school. It was strange mixing with the privileged kids in town. They had no idea how good they had it. I saw it as an opportunity. I would make enough money for us to leave. So, I enlisted my cousin Eli and we started selling drugs. But Emma took a different path. She got herself a lover, the high school quarterback, Marty Tanner. Something had changed in Emma. She was getting more confident. So, when I got the lead in The Witches of Bearcreek, she wasn’t happy for me at all. She was jealous.
On the night of the school play, she asked me to meet her at the Tully House. Said she had something to tell me. Seeing her that night, dressed in my stage outfit, I knew it was a trap. I saw it in her eyes. She had crossed over to the dark side. I smelled the kerosine outside. She was going to burn me alive like Robert Holland did to Madame Tully. Emma revealed a single match, telling me that I wasn’t going to make it back to the school play. That she had memorized my lines, and that she was going to perform the lead.
You see, word had gotten out that a talent scout was in town looking for girls, and that she was going to be attending the play; and according to Emma, this was her destiny. I laughed, of course. I said, “You are nothing without me.”
And she smiled and ripped the necklace off my neck. She said, “The necklace can only save one Holland, and it’s going to be me.”
I lunged at her, and that was when my younger sister stabbed me right in the stomach. It was the same knife I had used to kill our father.
Then her boyfriend came in and tied me up.
And just before she left, she looked down at me, and said, “Goodbye sister,” and she threw that fucking match to the ground…
Half my face was on fire by the time I wiggled out of the ropes. And as I sat there, in the freezing cold, with blood dripping out my body, with burns all over arms and face, I knew she was right… I would be stuck in this town forever.
In the meantime, my sister gave the performance of a lifetime, and when it was over, the talent scout came up to her holding the school program, and she said to my conniving sister, you must be Evelyn, and from what Stephanie told me, that bitch used the stage name I created. She told them. My name is Evie Holiday.
Well, I survived. And I watched from afar as Emma became an internet star. In the meantime, I became the Fairy King of this shit town, so that one day, I would have the means to destroy her. It was easy to get help. Emma had made quite the collection of admirers and enemies. I enlisted Noah Grisbane, Evie’s stalker, the perfect red herring. Someone just crazy enough to do anything I told him. I enlisted Marty. He was never the same after my sister left him behind. He was quite eager to assist. Then I found Stephanie, another casualty of my sister’s treachery. I told her to provide you with enough information to keep you going. I knew you’d spread the word and gather Hollywood to the town of Bearcreek. You gave me the spectacle I needed.
What are you talking about?
CAL: And that was when Evelyn grabbed a phone from her pocket and showed us what she had done. Evie Holiday (or Emma Holland) was tied up and chained to the founder’s statue. Surrounding the bronze statue was a perimeter of barbed wire and explosives so no one could rescue her. Evie was in a black jumpsuit, her face matted in dirt, her eyes were foggy and deserted. All the out-of-towners and influences were surrounding her, screaming for the police. Screaming for someone to help her. But there was nothing they could do.
EVELYN: You see, over the past few weeks, we have slowly broken my sister like a wild stallion. She was tough at first. She kept trying to buck and fight back. But finally, she surrendered. She is nothing but a shell of her former self. And now the world will know the truth. I have just gone live from her account. You see, I couldn’t just kill my sister. That would’ve been too easy. I wanted to expose her. Tonight, Evie Holiday dies, and Emma Holland returns to the town of Bearcreek.
I watched as, live, on video, Emma began to speak.
AUDIO [EVIE HOLIDAY] My name is not Evie Holiday.
[WHISPERS IN THE CROWD]
My name is Emma Holland.
I was born in this town, and I stole my sister’s identity. I tried to outrun my family curse by killing my sister. I stabbed her and attempted to burn her alive. I repent for my sins. This is my atonement.”
CAL: Then Evelyn took the phone away, cackling with satisfaction.
So, what now?
EVELYN: Oh, there’s much more work to be done. I find that I have a knack for this line of work. Exposing false Gods.
Hope you get to do it from a jail cell.
[EVELYN GAZES AT ME WITH COLD EYES, BEGGING ME TO EXPLAIN]
Well, the Sanderson brothers had big plans for this place, including installing cameras to capture those spirits always running around.
CAL: I motioned to the small camera in the corner of the room. Almost on cue, the wail of police sirens sounded outside. Evelyn was caught off guard, but she quickly composed herself. She grabbed the gun from Marty’s hand.
Officer Brown’s voice blasted through a megaphone.
“Put down your weapons. We have you surrounded.”
But Evelyn didn’t react. She just smiled and pulled the trigger.
Marty fell backward, holding his stomach, then crumbled to the ground.
EVELYN: Oh, you didn’t think you would get off that easy, did you, Marty? You pathetic excuse for a man.
CAL: Then Evelyn smiled and slowly turned the gun on us. I reached for Joss’s hand.
EVELYN: I would shoot you right here, but he wants you alive. Of course, he didn’t say anything about her.
[EVELYN TURNS THE GUN ON JOSS]
CAL: I screamed for Evelyn to be reasonable. I told her I would do anything she wanted. Her eyes narrowed on Joss. But the gunshot never came. Out of nowhere, Evelyn crumbled to the ground. And when she did, Nick Sanderson was standing proudly behind her with a shovel in his hand.
NICK SANDERSON: Well I guess that settles it then.
[PUTS SHOVEL DOWN]
There really are ghosts in Bearcreek.
CAL: By Monday evening, the Bearcreek Police department had both Holland girls in custody. By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of news vans flooded the town. The FBI followed suit. Nick Sanderson was a hero, and our podcast became the most downloaded on every chart.
Joss and I slept for sixteen hours straight in our motel room. There was nothing left to do. The story wasn’t ours anymore. It belonged to the police, the judges, and—most of all—the internet. After our extended slumber, Joss and I walked into The Lazy Bear with sleepy eyes. The place was jampacked, crawling with reporters. The waitress, who was running wildly from table to table, made sure to give us a scolding look as we took our seats. Once again, we got our coffee and eggs to go.
We arrived at the police station by noon, shoving our way through the crowd gathered outside. We waited in his office for twenty minutes before Officer Brown sauntered in, shaking his head.
CAPTAIN BROWN: I got to hand it to you. You two make a fine team. The mayor wants me to say that we owe you a debt of gratitude, but I’ll cut the bullshit. I don’t give a shit about the Holland sisters, or some idiot high school quarterback gone rouge. This town has been the same for one hundred years and nothing’s going to change that.
CAL: I smiled at Captain Brown’s words. He was right. Towns like Bearcreek were resilient like old steel. Rusted and stained, but unbendable. Soon enough, the news vans would disappear. The café would clear out. The town would go back to talking about the next star quarterback.
As promised, Captain Brown led us down the hallway to where the famous prisoners were being held. Then he made us repeat the promise that we made. After this favor, we would leave this town for good. We had no problem with that.
The Holland sisters were being held in separate cells. Emma Holland (AKA Evie Holiday) was sitting in the corner, her knees pulled into her chest, her eyes closed.
Emma, my name is Cal Everett.
We produced the podcast, Tik Tik Gone.
EMMA: I know who you are.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans before we end the podcast?
[SILENCE. EMMA’S EYES REMAINED CLOSED]
Do you even care about your fans?
CAL: Finally, she opened her eyes, gazing at me with hatred. I understood what everybody meant when they talked about her sinister eyes. There was something wicked in her soul.
EMMA: None of you will ever know what’s it’s like to claw your way out of true darkness. Despite what she tells you, my sister was never going to get us out of this town. The curse ran through her veins. She poisoned everything she touched.
My father loved me more than Evelyn, because deep down, he knew that my sister was rotten to the core.
Everything bad that happened to our family was because of her. Not my father. You want to know how my father found out about my mom’s basement? Because Evelyn was down there trying to do my mother’s spells. Worst of all, my father told me that Evelyn was the one who jerked the wheel that night, sending my mom over the bridge. And you want to know how my father hurt his back? My persuasive sister convinced someone at the lumber mill to engineer an accident.
So, when she put a knife through my father’s stomach, that was the last straw. I knew what I had to do. The only way to get out of her shadow was to kill her. To destroy the curse once and for all. I was meant to wear that necklace and leave this town. That night at the play, I felt it for the first time. Freedom. I knew then, I would do anything to keep that feeling. Anything.
But here you are.
Here I am.
[CLOSES HER EYES]
In the end, my sister’s curse took us all.
CAL: With that, we left Emma alone. Our next stop was Evelyn. Unlike her sister, Evelyn was anxiously pacing her cell, as if eager to get back to work.
EVELYN: Did you see my sister? How is she? She lost everything.
What did you mean when you said, “He wants you alive?” Who is he? Are you working for someone?
CAL: Evelyn approached the bars, her eyes frozen in a state of madness.
EVELYN: There’s a reckoning coming.
CAL: Then she started laughing hysterically. Cleary, Evelyn’s plot for revenge had taken its toll on her mind. There was no truth to this mysterious figure or a larger conspiracy at work. As we were making our way down the hall, she called out.
EVELYN: He’s coming for you, Cal Everett. He’s coming for you.
CAL: On the airplane home, I leaned back in my seat, feeling myself relax for the first time in weeks. Joss, on the other hand, was scribbling away in her Moleskine.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
JOSS: There’s something that’s bothering me. Evelyn had years to exact her revenge, why now?
Maybe it took a while for her to put the plan together. It was intricate. She had to find Noah, she had to get Marty and Stephanie.
JOSS: Maybe. Or maybe it’s like she said. There was someone else helping her, pushing her.
I highly doubt it.
JOSS: I don’t know. The haunting way she said, He’s coming for you. Maybe she’s not as crazy as we think. Maybe there is some other force at play. And what about Miss Roach’s prophecy?
Do you hear yourself? You’ve been in that town too long.
CAL: I chuckled, closing my eyes again. As I did, a notification pinged on my phone. Another news alert about Evie Holiday. I quickly swiped away the notification. Then, for symbolic closure, I held my screen down until the apps on my display jiggled back and forth on the display. Then I pushed x on the corner of the Tik Tok square, deleting the app from my phone. Then I drifted to sleep.
That’s it for Tik Tik Gone, but this is only the beginning of Cal’s journey. Next week I’ll be dropping a BONUS chapter that connects this story to the next chapter of the Died Famous Universe!
Also - The winner of the mystery challenge is…. AMANDA M. I’ll be reaching out to you shortly. Thanks everyone for sending in your guesses :) It was a lot of fun reading them.
Before we wrap up, I’d also love to tell you a little more about myself and why I decided to publish this project via newsletter.
My name is Kyle, and I’m an author and digital marketer in Southern California.
In 2019, I published a book called She Died Famous. On paper, the book was a success — Good sales, a movie option, tons of great reviews, and incredible support from the bookstagram community (thank you, guys!) It was everything I had always dreamed of as an author. But as the months went by, the royalties dwindled, the movie option fell through, and in the end, I wasn’t earning enough to sustain my career as an author.
This took me down the rabbit hole of author economics. Were other writers feeling the same frustration as me? In my research, I came across a fascinating article and this shocking statistic from the NY TIMES - “98 percent of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.”
That blew my mind, especially because there are over a million books published every year. As authors, we have been conditioned to believe that a traditional book deal is the holy grail, the key to unlocking an illustrious author career.
But the truth is, it’s hard to earn a living from book royalties.
So if a traditional book deal wasn’t the answer, there must be another way for authors to earn a living doing what they love. This led me to a community of other writers here on Substack who are all working to solve this problem. It also led me to this book experiment.
So today is the last episode of Tik Tik Gone, but as I said, this is only the beginning of the Died Famous Universe. There is much more I plan on releasing. I’m not sure how yet, whether it’s another serial novel or traditional release or another experiment altogether. I’m open to anything and everything. So if you have any feedback, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.
Either way, I appreciate you reading along and following me on this journey.