This is a story about Lana, the protagonist of #iHunt. You don’t need to have read #iHunt to get this though. Before I get into this short, have you picked up a copy of #iHunt? If you have, have you reviewed it?
Content warning: Drug use
Without further ado…
CHAPTER ONE: #BLINDEDWITHSCIENCE
Cocaine is a hell of a drug. If you ask a medical professional about its effects, they’ll tell you all sorts of terrible things. Loss of appetite. Convulsions. Lack of sleep. Paranoia. Rage. Depression. Anxiety. If that’s what it was really like, nobody would do it. They do it because it’s amazing. People do it because it’s an immediate, foot-on-the-fucking-pedal trip out of crippling self-doubt and despair. They do it because cocaine tells you that you’re awesome, when the whole rest of the goddamned world is busy telling you that you’re shit. Sure, you feel achy and out of it for a while after the high subsides. But you can say the same thing about a good workout, and I don’t hear people complaining about that.
It’s not always great, but nothing ever is. Sometimes you do stupid shit when you’re on cocaine. But I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say that the target market for cocaine is people that are probably used to doing stupid shit anyway. I know I am. Besides, a lot of the bigger risks with cocaine come from its illegality. If you get a gram one day, and a gram the next, even from the same dealer, they might have completely different composition. One might be too much for you. One might not be enough. If we’d just legalize it, we could work toward safer standards and that’d save lives.
In my line of work, cocaine’s weird. It’s a bit different for a few big reasons. Usually, you take it for the high. You take it because it feels good. For me, it has a more utilitarian role. It’s not just bonus level #selfcare. Right now, I’m taking it because I need the confidence, and I need the strength. I’m about to get into a fight to the death, and I can’t afford to flinch if the monster I’m fighting hits me. I can’t afford to let my body tell me to hold back, because every punch and every kick have to land like a fucking freight train or I’m dead. And if I’m gonna be honest with myself, there’s a good chance this fight will kill me. If I’m gonna die, I don’t want to die crying on the ground in pain. I want to die euphoric. I want to die ripping off some asshole’s face. I want to die historic. I want to die legendary. Cocaine’s good for dying legendary.
The other, subtler difference is that monster hunters live different lives than your average cocaine user. There’s a thing cocaine users do while high. Maybe not all of them, but most of them. They like to pretend they know dead people. Not like in the Haley Joel Osment “I see dead people” sort of way. But more in the, “if you see a news report about a girl who died in a car crash, you tell your friends about how you went to school with her and how you were totally BFFs.” You make up stories to fill the gaps. At least in the immediate, you believe the stories. You do it because you want to connect with people. Your entire system’s cranked up to eleven. You want to feel, because every feeling’s just so fucking big. You want an excuse to cry, because on cocaine, crying’s kind of great. So, hang around cocaine users long enough, and they will tell you about dead people.
Monster hunters know dead people. We all do. Even rookies. Veterans know more dead people than some folks know living people. Our whole thing is saving the world from monsters. But monsters are scary. Monsters are badass. And, most of the time, monsters are people—people you have to kill. You know you’ve got to kill them, but they’ve got faces with smiles and they’ve got families and they’ve got names. They’re just as dead once you’ve killed them. Hell, some are worse, because of just how much harm you have to cause to actually end them. A human gets shot in the head, it’s over. A vampire, you can feed kicking and screaming through a woodchipper and they don’t stop moving until the last possible second. Also, our job isn’t safe. We kill monsters, but just as often, monsters kill us. It’s not like we get a lot of chances to fail and learn from our mistakes. So every hunter knows dead monsters, dead victims, dead collateral damage, and dead hunters. This gives us a whole different relationship with the dead, and with cocaine.
I cut up a gram. When I was younger, 600 milligrams would do me fine. Over time, your body just doesn’t respond to those kinds of doses. I snort it from my kitchenette bar. It goes down easy. With some drugs, snorting hurts like a sonofabitch. Cocaine maybe stings a little, but everything goes numb pretty much instantly, so it doesn’t matter. It’s also quick. With some drugs, you never really know how it’s going to work, or even if it’s going to work. Sometimes you have to wait an hour or so to know what your night’s gonna look like. Cocaine’s consistent. I like consistent. I like knowing the terms when I’m going out to pick a fight.
I get in the car. Everything’s a little bigger, a little bolder. The lights are brighter. The darks are darker. Everything stands in stark contrast, which makes nighttime driving just a little easier.
Tonight’s fight to the death is with a Frankenstein. Before you pedants get in my shit, yes, it’s more a Frankenstein’s monster. The Shelley monster wasn’t named Frankenstein—that was the doctor. But this one was made by a woman named Rebecca Evans. If I told you I was going to fight an Evans, or an Evans’s monster, you’d have had no idea what I was talking about. If I say Frankenstein, you get it.
I drive. I’m headed for the Cedar Hills overlooking San Jenaro. Mad scientists are totally a thing, and Rebecca Evans is one of them. They’re actually way more common than anyone would like to admit. Only some of them make artificial life, though. Rebecca Evans worked at a tech firm. She was frustrated her company wasn’t becoming the next Google. She thought she’d break the glass ceiling and make Osculate the biggest company in the world. She thought she’d do that by creating fake people with artificial intelligence which could serve as a slave class. Her wife, Geena Evans, told her this was totally fucked up and she should stop. Instead of listening, she left her wife.
The whole thing went terribly awry. The prototype, Eve, broke free of the lab and killed Rebecca. It killed a few of Rebecca’s assistants as well, and went hiding in the hills. Geena, bless her heart, was keeping an eye on the whole thing, and contacted me to stop the monster.
Cedar Hills is dark at night. Everyone’s either in the city working, or going to bed early because they don’t have to work two jobs. Good for them. Geena told me she spotted the monster in a model home. She told me she’d keep an eye out in case the monster left. As I get a few blocks away, I drop her a text.
Nearby. Everything OK?
She responds immediately.
Yes. The AI is still inside. I can see it moving. It's watching TV.
I park a block away and get out of the car. As I lock up the car, an old car passes by, playing The Eagles’s Hotel California. Immediately, I picture Carmen, a girl I used to date. She shouldn’t have died. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.
I feel tears coming to my eyes.
That’s chapter one. Here’s chapter two.