Monsters I can handle.
Spiders, not so much.
Monsters I can handle.
Spiders, not so much.
Let’s take a minute to talk about weapons. The right weapon can mean the difference between life or death in the monster hunting biz. When I’m caught unprepared (which I have to admit is more often than I’d like), anything will do in a pinch. A baseball bat. A crowbar. Shoot, even a pair of chopsticks comes in handy on occasion.
I love weapons, edged weapons in particular. Sure, projectiles are easier. Less messy. Longer range. They give you a definite edge when you’re up against something faster, stronger, and meaner.
Problem is, a lot of the things that go bump in the night aren’t even phased by bullets but I’ve yet to meet anything that can survive a good old fashioned decapitation. Plus, guns are loud and tend to attract the wrong kind of attention.
The drawback is that edged weapons are so darn hard to hide. You can conceal a handgun a whole lot easier than a broadsword or axe.
This takes us to St. Patrick’s day, hand’s down my least favorite holiday of the year. First off, as half-Irish myself, I find it offensive that people celebrate my cultural heritage by wearing green plastic beads and getting drunk off their butts. Second, I have a not-so-secret, hatred and debilitating fear of leprechauns, but that’s a story for a different time.
In any event, I don’t trust St. Paddy’s day revelers, or those tiny, sneaky leprechauns. Living in NYC, St. Pat’s day is big. Huge. Enormous. Overblown. I want to stay inside, lock my doors, and ignore the whole obscene bacchanalia, but when it’s my job to protect my fellow New Yorkers, hiding my head in the sand isn’t an option.
Fortunately, paper mache is. An option, that is.
I read a couple tutorials on the internet about how to build the perfect paper mache. They failed to mention how messy the process was, or how tedious. But at the end of three days, one cramped back, ten shriveled fingers, a bag of flour, and a can of spray paint, I had a ridiculous-looking shillelagh where my favorite katana had been. Sure it wasn’t as intimidating as a heftier sword, but I couldn’t figure out how to disguise the hilt of my claymore in the shape of the shillelagh.
I looked ridiculous, dressed in a fake red beard and an oversized green felt hat carrying an obviously fake paper mache shillelagh as I joined the festivities, but it could have been worse. I lost track of how many grown men I saw in green tutus or women wearing gaudy green fur. In any event, it was impossible to have fun when my jaw ached from grinding together so hard, but I tried to keep a smile on my face.
Sometime around 2 AM, when the bars were starting to shoo patrons out the door, it happened. I caught a gleam out of the corner of my eye and by faith and begorrah, there he was. A real, live leprechaun. He was pawing through purses and lifting wallets off unsuspecting drunk frat boys. Yes, leprechauns are master thiefs but I knew this one, like the rest of his ilk, wasn’t after cash or credit cards. They wanted the I.D.s. He’d spread the word, and by the time the revelers stumbled home, they would have a nasty surprise waiting for them in the form of a tiny roommate they didn’t want and couldn’t ever get rid of, no matter how hard they tried.
Man, his laughter when he realized I was threatening him with a faux shillelagh was just plain insulting. I smacked him upside the head. “Wee lass, ‘sat all ya got fer me?” He asked, dancing a jig with his hands up in fake surrender.
“Nae,” I replied, holding up the shillelagh to show where the paper mache had split to reveal the concealed sword. “I dinnae come unprepared,” I added in my thickest fake brogue. Then I ran him through.
Maybe I should be worried about witnesses and the like, but the crowd was blind drunk. Even the few people who noticed thought it was all a lark. Besides, who would believe that a six foot tall, bearded, female leprechaun had just murdered a tiny man in the middle of a crowded bar? Especially when instead of bleeding out on a dirty barroom floor, the leprechaun disappeared in a puff of rainbow colored smoke.
I can’t understand how people continue to ignore the truth when it’s right in front of their face.
I’m not talking about subjective reality like which politician is more corrupt or which sports team deserves to win the Super Bowl. I’m talking about solid facts.
Take for example the dragon that buzzed New York City earlier this morning. Millions of people have seen it. Even if they weren’t outside looking up when it flew over, they have by now seen footage from hundreds of cell phone cameras uploaded to You Tube within minutes. Or, for the old-fashioned types, they’ve seen clips on the news.
Myself, I was walking through Washington Square Park when his enormous winged shadow appeared, racing across the ground at a frightening speed. I say “he” although to tell the truth, I have no idea how to tell the difference between a male and a female dragon. It was, however a European dragon with a thick body and long bat-like wings, not an Asian dragon with its serpentine body and long whiskers.
But of course, it couldn’t have been a real dragon.
That’s what everyone is saying. It was a hoax. It was a drone. It was a kite. It was a trick of the light. It was one of those crowd-sourced advertising campaigns that are all the rage right now.
Anything but a real dragon.
People see the weird and unexplainable every day. They hear footsteps in empty hallways. They see things that aren’t there when they blink. They’re staring at a stranger on the Subway because their eyelids just closed sideways, and when it doesn’t happen again, they convince themselves that it was a trick of their imagination.
I don’t know how people can just ignore the truth all around them, but I think I’m starting to figure out why. If a real, live dragon just flew over NYC in the middle of the day, then what else is possibly out there? Are there really vampires? Zombies? Werewolves? All sorts of nasties and hairy scaries waiting to pop out of the shadows and consume us?
Of course they are.
And that, dear friends, is why no one can believe their own eyes when a dragon lands on the Washington Square Park arch and flaps its enormous wings hard enough to strip the leaves off the trees. Because if dragons exist, then they weren’t just imagining that their favorite barista has a forked tongue and that thing that knocked over their trashcans last night was most certainly not a raccoon.
Maybe people are better off ignoring the truth. I know it was easier to sleep at night before I knew what was really out there in the dark. But if I had to choose between ignorant bliss and the knowledge to defend myself and my loved ones…
Well, I guess you already know my decision.
My boyfriend thinks I need a new “hobby.” He thinks hunting monsters is too dangerous for a little delicate flower like me. My insurance company and growing collection of xrays agree. He suggested I take up knitting.
I told him that was an interesting idea. He got really excited. I think he was nervous how I’d react, like I’d blew up at him or something.
Knitting doesn’t sound so bad. Afterall, I bet those needles would make excellent weapons against a Flaargaak demon.
I want to have a normal life. Sometimes I think I’ve convinced myself that I am normal. And then sometimes there are moments that I realize my life will never be normal – like this recent conversation with my boyfriend:
There was a short pause, as if there were a lot of girls that called him in the middle of the night. Maybe he was just asleep. Considering the hour, it was probably the later. “How ya doing, Professor?”
“Eh, you know. Same old.”
“Haven’t heard from you in a few days, got worried that maybe you were tied up in a basement somewhere.” It was my turn to pause. “You weren’t, were you?”
“Not exactly. It was a warehouse, not a basement. And I wasn’t the one tied up. It was a friend. He’s okay now, in case you’re wondering.”
“Uh huh. But you’re okay?”
“Yup.” Or at least I would be. Broken noses heal. Bruises fade. No permanant damage.
“Uh huh,” he repeated. He wasn’t buying it. “Good night.”
Maybe next time I feel the need to check in with him at three a.m. after dropping off the map for a few days, I should just send a text. Or an email.
Dating a cop is difficult. They keep long, odd hours and even when you think they have a night off, their phone goes off and you’re left alone on date night, sitting at a table in a romantic restaurant in front of a half-eaten plate of chicken fettuccine and a cold pilsner of beer. And frankly, that’s the best case scenario. Because every time his phone rings, every time he slips his service pistol into his holster, there’s always a chance he won’t come back.
Dating a cop has its perks, too. For example, a casual “My boyfriend’s on the Job” is usually good for getting out of tickets. But when I got pulled over today, as the cop took my information and carefully examined my registration and proof of insurance, I was sweating bullets. It was all current and correct, I’m good about that, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. There just isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for someone with blood-soaked sleeves, a two unregistered handguns in the trunk (one loaded with silver bullets), and a dead Orange Wulderbeast poorly concealed under a ratty blanket on the backseat.
As the officer asked his routine questions, I could hear the drip-splash-drip of blood oozing from the Wulderbeast’s wounds and landing on my floor mats. That would be the second set of floor mats I would need to replace this year. The cop was prattling on, and I did my best to answer him, but the drip-splash-drip was so loud I could hardly think. It was louder than the ticking of my engine as it cooled, louder than my pounding heart, louder than the static on the radio mounted to the cop’s shoulder.
How could he not hear the drone of dripping, splashing blood? It grew even louder and sped up to match my frantic heartbeat. The sun was setting and I was running out of time. Suddenly I realized that the cop was staring at me intently. He’d asked me something, I was certain of it, but I hadn’t heard him over the roar of blood in the backseat. “Um, could you repeat the question?” I asked, with my most innocent smile, the one that said I didn’t have a brain cell in my head.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
I shook my head, mutely and he muttered, “Stay right here,” before returning to his car to run my information. I suppose I was speeding. I usually do, and this time I had an excuse. But what was I supposed to say? “Sorry, Officer but I have to bury the dead Wulderbeast in hallowed ground before the moon rises or it will come back to life and try to kill me?” I didn’t think that would fly.
I didn’t used to speed. Once upon a time, I was a very conscientious driver. I obeyed every sign, even the No U-Turn ones. I remember one time, driving with my father. I couldn’t have been more than sixteen and the ink wasn’t even dry on my license yet. I was doing 55 miles per hour in the fast lane. My father told me to move over to one of the slow lanes, but I refused. “55’s the limit here,” I told him. “I’m doing everyone a favor by making sure that they follow the speed limit.” It wasn’t working, of course. They were just passing me on the right, blowing their horns and giving me the finger as they sped around me.
“Mark my words, kitten, you’re not helping anyone. No one likes someone forcing them to follow the rules.”
“But…” I began, even as I flipped on my blinker and eased into the slow lane. Before I could finish my argument, he stopped me cold. “I’m your father. It’s my job to make sure you follow the rules.”
I suppose I remember the moment so clearly because I’d been showing off, trying to impress him. Trying to prove that I could be responsible. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to lecture me in human behavior. But what I really got out it was that only suckers followed the rules. From that day on, I vowed to only follow the rules that suited me. Unfortunately, today was the day I got caught breaking them, and I really couldn’t afford to wait around any longer. Either the cop would finally notice the blood, or the Wulderbeast would awaken in a murderous rage.
The cop had my license and I was driving the world’s least inconspicuous car, my 1965 Mustang. If I took off, I wouldn’t go half a mile before half of the New Jersey State Troopers surrounded me. If I stayed, I’d be mauled by something that looked like it belonged on Sesame Street. While Wulderbeasts aren’t especially dangerous, they have an annoying tenancy to get awful cranky when you kill them.
Right as I made up my mind to make a run for it, the officer returned. He gave me a warning and told me to slow down. Still breathing heavily, I thanked him and as soon as he was gone, took off for the cemetery. By the time I got there, the gates were closed and the sun was nearly gone. Ignoring the No Trespassing signs, I grabbed my shovel and the Orange Wulderbeast and climbed over the fence. I had him in a shallow grave and was tossing in the first shovel-full of dirt as the moon crested the horizon, and he didn’t wake up – to my immense relief.
I guess a better person would have learned a lesson from all this – to follow the rules. But the only thing I took away from the day was don’t get caught. Well, that, and if you’re going to be replacing your floor mats every six months you might as well buy the cheap kind.
Remind me never to do that again.
I mean, I know that despite their name, there is nothing cute or cuddly about an Orange Wulderbeast. It’s like when people look at Pandas and think they’re so sweet and forget they’re Panda Bears, or Killer Whales, or Wulderbeasts. Imagine a cross between a ghoul, a zombie, and a Los Angeles housewife with PMS. But meaner.
I underestimated him. Or possibly her. It was hard to tell.
It was easy to track. Anything weighing three hundred pounds that walks on six legs and smells like rotting sulfur isn’t hard to find if you are looking for it. If it’s killed and eaten all the wildlife that couldn’t fly away within twenty or so miles, following its distinctive three-toed tracks is a cakewalk.
But you think I’d be smart enough to be afraid of something that has eaten or scared away all of the black bears, wolves, coyotes, and even foxes, in the corner of West Virginia it calls its territory. I mean, I am smart. Top of my class smart. Nearly done with my doctorate smart. For a smart person, I can be a real idiot sometimes.
Wulderbeasts aren’t easy to kill. That’s because they’re already dead, or at least not exactly alive. In Norway, you can buy diamond-tipped knives at just about any corner store, which is why Wulderbeasts aren’t much of a problem there, anymore. I don’t know how one ended up in the States, much less in WV. Maybe it’s like those idiots that import tiger cubs as a pet not realizing that one day, tiger cubs grow up to be, well, you know, tigers. According to a friend who has a contact in Sweden, there used to be a guy that made his living capturing and exporting Wulderbeasts. He’s dead now. Hazards of the trade, I guess. Some jerk buys a Wulderbeast. It gets too expensive, too dangerous, or just too smelly and he lets it go. The next thing you know, hikers and campers are dying by the handful.
That’s why I went looking for it. Three confirmed deaths, and if it was left alone, that would just be the tip of the iceberg. Smart or not, someone had to stop it. I volunteered.
I didn’t have a diamond-tipped knife. I couldn’t afford such a thing even if I knew where to buy one. My pocket knife wasn’t sharp enough to pierce its armor. Bullets seemed to bounce right off it. Getting into a punching match with something with the strength of a grizzly and the speed of a cheetah – that’s a no-win situation.
Oh, and there’s a teensy little catch. If you manage to cut out its heart and sever its head, it will still come back unless you bury it in consecrated ground.