Yesterday I started a free piece of fiction called Cocaine. Today, I’m posting chapter two.
CHAPTER TWO: #NOKIA
When you get these feelings, you have to ride them out. You have to work through them. I take a deep breath, then another, then another. I walk carefully toward the model home. It’s big by my standards. Then again, a one-bedroom apartment’s big by my standards. I grew up in a mobile home, and one of the bedrooms was closed off because it was so full of junk.
I think back to Carmen. I have to shake this off before I confront the monster.
No distractions, Lana.
I was taking classes at Schuster Park Community College. I majored in Psychology—I wanted to be a therapist. I figured I’d break my family’s record and be the first to graduate from college. Because my mom was paranoid about the Feds and my dad was nowhere to be found, I couldn’t get financial aid. I was already hunting at that point, and it was enough to keep me fed and pay tuition.
This was way before the iHunt app. Hell, this was before smartphones. I had a little Nokia 3310. I couldn’t take contracts to murder monsters on my phone. I couldn’t find the nearest Tacos Tomas on my phone. But I could play Snake. Better times. I wonder if I can play Snake on my iPhone?
Carmen was in my theater class. I took it because it was the only elective I could get scheduled. She wanted to be an actress. Then again, so does every pretty girl in San Jenaro. She got a couple of small parts on TV. The white girl’s Chicana friend. The white girl’s Chola enemy. The tough but wise Chola the white girl meets in rehab. The Chicana prostitute whose friend was murdered by a serial rapist the Special Crimes Division is investigating. She was really good—I helped her film her demo reel.
I fell hard for her. I loved her. It was different with her. Nobody had to be in charge of the situation. It was always tender and mushy, the way I pretend I hate until someone actually gets that way with me then I go all teenage crush.
I never told her about the monsters, or what I did. I probably should have. When you hunt, there’s basically three ways you can handle relationships.
A lot of hunters just write off relationships entirely. This first type might have one-night stands, or flings in different cities if they travel, but they never get serious. I used to hate those types. It felt like macho “love ’em and leave ’em” bullshit. Around the time I lost my third boyfriend or girlfriend to monsters, I stopped judging them.
The second type of hunter only hooks up with people who are already in the know. This is probably the easiest path to take from a relationship standpoint, but very few people actually know, so your dating pool falls just south of “I only date people with birthmarks in the shape of major nations of the world” level. Usually this means dating other hunters. Dating other hunters sucks. It’s like dating coworkers; there’s a bunch of shitty power dynamics involved. Not just any coworkers, either, but coworkers in a job where you earn commission. You can either fight over contract scraps, or you can work together. Working together is begging for heartbreak—monster hunting isn’t exactly a low-mortality gig.
The third type of hunter lets their partners in on the secrets. “Hi honey, vampires are real.” This is probably the smartest way to approach romantic life as a monster hunter, but it’s also the most gut-wrenching and awful. The idea is, people deserve to know the things that’ll put them in danger, and they deserve to consent to the reality of the relationship. Would you tell your partner that you’re an undercover cop before getting in too deep? Don’t they deserve to know that you’re in a high-risk field? Well, with monster hunting, it’s maybe a little more like coming out of the closet. It’s almost never clean. Sometimes they call you crazy. Sometimes they try to make it about them, like they did something wrong and you’re acting out to hurt them. Sometimes they just reject you outright, even if they believe you, they think you’re some awful piece of shit not worth their time. Sometimes, they act like they’re all cool about it, but then they spend from here to eternity trying to “save you,” to rescue you from your awful life choices. They also do this thing where once they’re aware, they suspect everyone. “Oh my god Lana. Is that guy a vampire? He’s totally a vampire.” Just like when I came out as bi. “Oh my god Lana. Is that girl a lesbian? She’s totally a lesbian.” Sometimes, just sometimes, I’m told that people will just be chill with it and move on. I’ve never seen it.
So far, I’ve been the fourth type. I’ve been an asshole, trying to hide the truth from the people I care about. It’s never gone well. Case in point, Carmen.
I creep across the lawn, up to the house. The monster, Eve, is sitting on a faux leather sofa, watching The Big Bang Theory. Any chance for mercy just went out the window. Also, she’s covered in blood. Not like “she cut her hand and it bled all over,” but like, “she thinks that she won’t get older if she bathes in the blood of the innocent.” She’s wearing clothes, but they’re so bloodsoaked I couldn’t guess what color they were supposed to be.
When I was with Carmen, I got this gig in Los Hoyos. Los Hoyos is a tar pit right dead fucking center of San Jenaro. They’ve got it fenced off, and there’s museums and shit, full of dinosaur bones. There’s a cute little gift shop full of gyroscopes and astronaut candy for… some reason. A few people went missing. One of the museum curators said there’s been sightings of a lizard person stalking the area where some of the visitors went missing.
Everything about that said it was an easy job. Lizard people aren’t uncommon at all. They’re even more common than Alex Jones says, except they’re not politicians or Zionists or actors—they’re just bipedal lizard things that eat humans. They’re animalistic, and they go down quick and easy if you know what you’re doing.
I had plans with Carmen. We were going to hit the liquor store, grab something pink and fizzy, and watch Raul Julia’s entire career starting with Overdrawn at the Memory Bank because his earlier stuff’s hard to find. We didn’t expect to get half-way through that one anyway, since we were in that really hands-on, fiery stage of the relationship. While we were driving, I got a call from the curator. He told me the monster was spotted, and the park was closed. So I took Carmen there, we drove in as far as we could, and I told her to wait in the car. She asked what I was doing. I told her “a work thing.” She pushed for more information. I told her I’d explain later—I planned to, and drunk with Raul Julia was as good a time as any.