“Ok gang, rise and shine. We’re getting food.”
We had driven pretty much straight on from the gas station towards the “church”, through the night. Sarah had offered to take over at one point driving so her father could get some rest in the passenger's seat and drive through the night. (Actually I offered too, but no one trusted I could handle the road in my condition.) He was back in the driver’s seat now, parked at a goddamned George Webbs.
Joey wakes me up with his screaming. “Why are we at a fucking diner, old man?”
“Son, nothing else is open at three forty in the morning.”
He just balks at that. “I mean, why are we stopped at all! Monster! Chasing after us! I don’t think we exactly have the time to stop for a quick snack!”
I feel that thing’s voice slip from between my lips. “And I thought this one was the scared little ewe. You’ll be fine Joseph. Yes, my body is coming for you. On foot. Tell me again how long we’ve been driving on the freeway? I do believe that's seventy miles per hour versus four? We’ve built up a buffer darling. As vast as my talents are, defying the laws of physics is not one of them. Besides, if it comes within a fifty mile radius I'll know.”
Mr. Caputo gives a throaty chuckle at that. “You never lose that conceit, Lucile. Nothing but a voice and you still think you’re god’s gift to earth.” Technically the exact opposite, but I’m not going to side with my stowaway on phrasing. “You are right though. And I’m not going to starve us out of paranoia. We’ll sit down and talk about everything over a cup of joe.”
Joey just grumbled under his breath. “Could just talk in the car.” It’s too late though, we’re pretty much all out the door. What can I do? The logic’s sound and I’m hungry.
We slide into a booth in the center of the small building. These places only ever have, like, six tables anyways and it’s the dead of night, so we’re pretty much instantly catered to, the waitress running right up. Mr. Caputo gets that black coffee that matches his absolute stereotype of a dad vibe, Jo with a white coke. “And what about you ladies?”
For a second I feel like I’m having yet another panic attack. But no, just a ton of tiny pangs rushing from my heart to the tips of my digits. They actually feel pretty good. Mr. Caputo just has this smug smile on his face while Joey had one eyebrow raised, both staring directly at me. I realize that I am blushing like mad and turn away, muttering for some water.
‘Oh? I thought you had that wonderful debut Saturday? Why act so demure now ewe?’ Ugh, no, shut up. I, I didn’t do anything but wear a costume. There is nothing wrong with wearing a costume. ‘Did I say it was wrong, Scarlett?’ “Shut up!” Everyone whips their head to look at me for that outburst, waitress included. Luckily I was already blushing. “Sorry. Ignore me.”
We all get some eggs and start tucking into them quickly. With his mouth full of toast and jelly, Joey turns to Mr. Caputo. “So you say you’re saving the demons. From what though? Each other? What happen, there a big fight between the succubi and the gargoyles or something?”
He gruffs, butter and yolk matted into his mustache. “Nah, what do you think happened son? People come across ‘monsters’, get scared of them and started hunting them down in droves. Almost got ‘em whittled to nothing a few centuries ago, to the point where they basically become myth. If it weren’t for the church smuggling them around all ways back then, who knows. Took that hiding ethos to heart.”
My eyes get all wide at that. “Is that why no one knows about this? And we don’t see people throwing spells at each other in the street? There’s some kind of law against it getting out?”
“Kiddo, the reason you don’t see people doing magic in the street is because we’re not wizards. There’s no such thing as magic for us, outside of a few small ways we can channel with the lillum. And those take a long time to tune right, so even if we could throw fireballs at each other, it’d still be a half hour between each shot. Just buy a shotgun. They’re in hiding because there’s still hunting leagues just as there’s still our church. And it serves all three of us to be secretive.” He shakes his head a bit. “You kids read entirely too many fantasy books.”
Jo chuckles and throws out a “Or maybe not enough. Try reading a second one my dude.” My eternal blush came back at that one. So sue me for liking the dumb wizard movies. Or getting excited at the possibilities when finding out demons exist. Who doesn’t want to get that letter to hogwarts? There’s a lot you could do with magic. ‘Oh, I bet I could name a few uses you’d be excited for my little ewe.’ I slam my fork down on the table and get up on that one.
Before I can storm off, Sarah grabs my hand. “Hey, let’s sneak off for a second, yeah?” She turns to the boys and says we’re going to ‘freshen up’ before dragging me off into the bathroom.
“What’s on your mind Scarlett? It’s Lucy, right?” I just sigh and nod in agreement. She starts idly rubbing my face with some wet paper towel in places. “I know she’s a lot. God do I ever know she’s a lot. I never wanted to stick you with her like this. But she’s not a bad person.” She pulls out some eyeliner from her purse. I guess she wants to touch me up from all those crying jags. I just let her do so. “You know, she actually can be comforting when she wants to. Usually she just wants to be horny and sarcastic though~” A pallet of two in one now, and lipstain. Does she just carry her entire set with her? ‘Yeah, pretty much. She’s always prepared.’ I guess it makes sense.
She turns me towards the mirror and I look pretty much just the same as Saturday night. I almost feel the exact same looking into it as I did then too. Except those horrible burning eyes. Reminding me what I am. “Why did your eyes never do this, Sarah? The glow. When she was in you.”
“It’s different for everyone. I never wore my hair up because I had pointed ears and got tired of the questions. Hey, at least it’s not horns. There’s no hiding horns.” I shudder at the thought.
“How do you get the comments to stop?”
She laughs at that. “Oh trust me, I tried everything to get the teasing to stop. I think it’s hardwired into her being. She was never mean though. She was always very protective of me, when I was hurting. Didn’t want anything to hurt me. Makes it frustrating she was the one who did.” Oh yeah. Sarah’s story came flooding back into my memory. And just when I was starting to forget I was sharing a head with a monster.
“Sarah? You go back to the table and finish eating. I need to go outside and get some fresh air.” She looks sadly at me before nodding and going out. I know it’s probably heartless to bounce on everyone like that, but I really do need to clear my head. Actually, I guess that’s the entire goal here. ‘Sorry to fog you up so much Scarlett. Don’t worry, I want to be gone too. You cramp my style~' At least we’re in agreement.
I quickly head outside and just lean against the back wall of the restaurant, breathing in the cool October air. A few flies buzz near me, but I just shoo them off.
“Why did you do that to her?” ... No answer, huh. Guess I didn’t need to say it out loud either. For some reason I suddenly feel like I should have a cigarette, despite never having smoked in my life. Don’t know if that’s something about Lucy, or if it’s just the cliche of the moment.
I sit there watching the cars go by, in and out of the parking lot across the street. Green car. Red car. Red truck. Same shitty SUV we’re driving but in orange. White van with a handprint smudge on the rear door. Wash your fucking car my dude. Green beetle. More flies come bother me. Pink muscle car. Little blue jelly bean. I’m going to keep listing this boring shit until you answer me Lucy.
And then, just a searing pain in my shoulder from out of nowhere.
Actually no, clearly from out of the five claws buried along my collarbone. I follow the digits up to the taut musculature wrapped along the bony arm, up to the rotting face still dislocated on the side where my mallet had smashed into its jaw hinge. It’s disgusting bloating body was clung to the wall just above me, flies buzzing about, maggots eating away at its exposed meat. I scream as it pulls me up by the wound, dragging me against the wall towards it. Until it jumps down to the street, slamming me down to the pavement.
I… I can’t believe it. It’s already here! How is it here! I feel every single strand of my being frozen stiff. ‘No ewe, you’re not freezing again. Hello? Hello! Damn it, do you hear me Scarlett!’ But I can’t do anything. I lock up, I crawl against a wall, I scrunch into nothing, as the decomposing death machine saunters up to me. I swear I see it lick its lips as it kneels over me and digs its claws into the fresh wound in my shoulder. I scream a flail as it starts pinning me down tight to the floor.
I’m going to die. I’m going to fucking die. This is it, this actually is it. I think back on all the time I wasted… I’m only fucking twenty, how did I even have time to waist? I… I don’t know why I ever put up with that hell I had before this, the Harpy and the Ogre. I’m going to die without ever being happy. Hellspawn taking care of its own. ‘Are we really getting introspective now? Just going to wallow in pity and roll over?’ Oh go fuck yourself Lucy. I lost, can’t I even die without being screamed at for doing it wrong!
‘You’re not going to die.’ What can I possibly do! I’m pinned down, this is the end! I can feel its hot sulphur breath fill my nostrils, its horrible chitinous tongue slide over my chin and lips up to my glasses, one or two maggots falling out of her writhing flesh onto mine. Fuck you buddy, it’s fucking over! ‘Its stomach, Scarlett! Rip out the stomach!’ I… what… oh! OH! The gash on its belly! My wild flailing gave to concentrating on kneeing, kicking, anything I could to attack it where I could get anything in. Eventually I hear a wet schelping noise and the body shriek in pain - the kitten heels I was wearing had caught into the hole and pulled her guts out on the return.
That lost it enough grip that I could wriggle my way out, and I fucking bolted. Through the dark back streets I ran as fast as I could, stumbling and sprinting. I can’t hear it snarling behind me, but I still just keep running. My fight or flight is pretty significantly attuned to flight. Maybe if I take some twists and turns I could lose it?
‘Scarlett, you’re forgetting the connection~ As long as we can tell where the other is, you will never lose it. You need to get back to the group so we can get out of here now.’ Oh fuck that! If this church can’t help me am I just going to be on the run forever? And If you two can sense each other so god damned easily how in the hell did it sneak up on you! ‘I… don’t you mind that my little ewe. Instead, pay attention to where you’re going~’
I slam directly into a brick wall building and have the wind pushed out of me, knocking me to the ground. Zoning out and arguing with the cunt in my head while running for my life might not have been the most galaxy brain move I could have done. I scramble back to my feet, only see the body perched on top the dumpster next to me, her sinew trailing behind it. Before I could even scream it had pounced, pinning me back against the street.
Forcing her claws into my mouth, it started pulling them apart as hard as it could while I struggled to keep it closed. All that fight for nothing! I can feel the joints and bones grinding in my jaw, threatening to dislocate. The slime dripping from its fingers mingled with blood on my tongue, tasting of liquorice and pig shit. I desperately pulled down on her horns, her shoulders, hoping somehow that could get her to stop. Her disembowelment continued to spill against my chest. I screamed as hard as I could, please don’t let it end like this! I can feel the corners of my lips start to painfully tear, I could feel that I was losing. The pressure from its claw tore a tooth half off my lower jaw, and I screamed from the searing pain. The pressure from its claw violently ripping itself out of my mouth…
“Kiddo! Run!” I opened my eyes to see Mr. Caputo holding the snarling bloated thing up with its arms at its back, keeping its snapping teeth pointed away from him. “Get back to the car! Sarah knows where you’re going, I’ll hold it back and then meet up with you there!”
“Mr. Caputo! I can’t let you get hurt for me! We gotta do something else!”
“Nonsense kiddo, I wrestled this thing to the ground just last night, I can handle myself here. I have nothing to hold it down with but me though, you need to go.” I desperately want to figure out something that I could do to restrain her instead, something to hit her with, something to pin her down. ‘Listen to him my little ewe. Carl is a big boy, he can handle himself.’
Scrambling to my feet, I bolt as fast as I could back up the road, not stopping to breath, not stopping to think. I eventually reach Sarah and Joey in that awful forest green SUV. “Drive!” I shout as we peel off down that back street one last time.
Jo grabbed me from the seat behind me to look me over, handing me a first aid kit so I can get some gauze around my wound. Apparently when you rescue monsters for a living, you learn to keep these things handy. “We heard you screaming and assumed the worst. You were gone when we got there but there was this trail leading off, Sarah’s dad followed it.” I just nod and explain what the plan is. “Fuck! How the fuck did it catch up so fast, I thought he said we had hours! Did I not say we would get got! And you Lucy! What the fuck happened to that radar sense? Shortest fifty fucking miles I ever saw.”
“Shut up! This isn’t helping anything!” Sarah turns to look back at Jo for a second, and then looks over towards me. “We go to headquarters. We get everything fixed. Dad will be there. He’ll probably get there first. We… I…” I put my hand on her shoulder
We only slow down to look at the spot where I had left the two of them. Empty. We don’t stop for anything afterwards.