The typical version of the Bloody Mary ritual goes like this: at exactly midnight, a child who has worked up just enough courage to perform it sneaks into the bathroom. They then whirl about in front of the mirror at least three times while chanting the spirit’s name, all the while hoping that she won’t appear. In this sense, they are betting against the human imagination; though these children already know that Bloody Mary does not actually exist, they must subject themselves to the possibility of being wrong to prove their convictions.

Bloody Mary also knows that she does not exist. The truth of this does not bother her.

Her immortality is not built upon the belief in her being, but rather, upon the doubt of it. Those brave enough to attempt her conjuration do so not out of a desire to actually summon her into their world, but rather to oppose the taunt of those more certain of her nonexistence than themselves (“if she’s not real, then why are you afraid to do it?”). To prove the strength of their own disbelief, they must make that disbelief physical through action, thereby exceeding the conviction of all those who challenged them.

No matter how many times this cycle takes place, the result of each iteration is usually the same. Those who survive the Bloody Mary ritual are left to question whether or not their form of it was correct; that is, whether they spun with enough precision, or whether the moon was in the right phase, or even whether the mirror was polished to enough clarity that her ghostly form could pass through it. Such musings often result in new variations on the original process. Further, there are always the liars who claim that she actually appeared to them: their stories always contradict, yet they above all others contribute to the tradition’s continuity.

Bloody Mary really did appear to them in their lies, after all.

The deeper the doubt in her being, the more her power grows, as it furthers her influence in the world. She savors every drop of faithlessness, and treasures each time her name is uttered more loudly than the last. As her legend passes from tongue to tongue, she feels the pale insects that form her sinews bulge beneath her skin, and the bile that churns through her veins grows slightly more viscous.

Though the summoning itself is never a success, the attempt is not without its dangers. Every now and then, some foolhardy child tries a bit too hard, and actually manages to perform the ritual correctly. At that moment, they cease to exist altogether, and the world forgets their name. Those are the nights that Bloody Mary fills her stomach.

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