Content warning: Drug use, blood, surgery
I sit in the back of my old Hyundai Accent so I have more space to work. You never want to perform surgery on yourself in the driver’s seat if you can avoid it—you’ll bump your elbows on the steering wheel or your knee on the gear shifter. You’ll fuck everything up, and that can mean life or death.
Come to think of it, you should probably avoid having to perform surgery on yourself altogether. But sometimes it’s unavoidable in this line of work.
Why haven’t I named my car? Isn’t that a thing you’re supposed to do?
I haven’t named my car because the only time I think about naming my car is when I’m in hot pursuit or I’m bleeding out all over the back seat. Besides, I probably won’t have this car for long anyway; hunters burn through cars almost as far as they burn through medical supplies.
I pop open my medical kit. Everything burns. Everything stings.
The coke’s wearing off. That’s not good.
I put the kit aside and fish through my purse for another half gram of coke, then start the process of cutting it up. I spill a little bit since my hands are shaking from the pain. But a few seconds, and I’m inhaling white powder. In a few more seconds, the pain stops being a concern. I can still feel the wounds, but they don’t hurt.
Did I make the right choice when I dropped out of college? Why am I even here?
I rip open the pouch containing the needle and thread. These, the real things, are cheap. You can get a five pack of surgical nylon suture thread and a curved needle for $8 online. When you go to the hospital, they charge upwards of $1,500 for the same thing. Sure, labor costs. But most of the time, it’s a three minute job. These kits are nice, since they’re pre-threaded. I’m sure it’s to make the doctor’s job easier, but it’s super convenient if you have to stitch yourself up when you’re shaking with shock.
I would have needed an advanced degree to do what I wanted anyway. There’s no way I could afford grad school. I’d have to take a third job as a stripper. Do people like strippers that are covered in scars? I think scars are pretty hot. But then again, I don’t visit strip clubs.
I take a pair of hemostats, and clamp them shut along the wound on my stomach.
It’s funny—I considered medical school. But I told myself I couldn’t handle the sight of blood.
I have to keep wiping everything with little alcohol prep pads, because the blood flow keeps me from getting a good look at the skin.
I take a deep breath, and push the needle through.
I couldn’t afford med school anyway. Not even with a third job. But why monster hunting? Of all the jobs in the world, why do I put my life on the line for shit pay? Why do I choose to go out and kill people every night?
I breathe. I push the needle through again. I breathe. I push it through again. I keep my breathing long, deep, and slow. Eight seconds in. Eight seconds out.
I do it because I get to be a hero. I get to save people. I stop murderers. I stop rapists. I stop monsters. Real, literal monsters. People are alive today because I choose to kill monsters yesterday.
Twelve stitches on my stomach. The worst part’s done. The other wound looks bigger, but it’s not so deep. I take some cotton and antiseptic, and clean off the site.
But I’m a mercenary. Can a mercenary really be a hero? I’m not objective—I won’t work without pay. I’ve been poor all my life. Does that make me a hypocrite? People like my family could never afford a monster hunter, and people like my family are the ones who need one the most.
I take some cotton pads and gauze to seal off the wound and protect the stitches. It’s tender, even with the cocaine.
I’ve even killed plenty of monsters who might not have deserved it. How many times have I listened to vampires tell me they’re different; that they’re not killers? Were they lying? On a long enough timeline, would they end up killers even if they weren’t then? Every time, I finish the job. Every time, I use humor and a fucked-up sense of professionalism to deflect from what I’m actually doing.
Would I take a contract on a human if the price was right?
I clean the wound on my breast. It stings, but it’s not unbearable. It’s one huge abrasion, the width of my wrist. But inside, there’s a bunch of tiny tears, some definitely needing stitches. The abrasion keeps me from using hemostats—the skin’s just too weak, and it’d rip open if I tried. So, extra carefully, I start sewing the first tear shut. It hurts. The needle has to go through already raw, ragged, sensitive flesh.
If I just worked a normal job, would Carmen be alive? Maybe we’d be married right now if I took a job at Movieland instead of taking that lizard monster contract.
Then again, how many people would have died if I hadn’t killed that Lamia? Did those people deserve to die? If they didn’t, did Carmen?
With four stitches, the first tear’s closed, and I’m on to the second. It hurts, but I’m ready for it. It’s just pain. Like Swayze said, pain don’t hurt. Pain’s better than death.
Maybe I just don’t deserve happiness. If I was serious about my work, I’d commit to it full-time. I wouldn’t get distracted with love.
I don’t even wear armor on my jobs! What kind of strong woman hero doesn’t wear reasonable armor over her boobs?
Then again, maybe I am serious. Maybe I don’t wear armor because I don’t think there’s a uniform for what I do. You can take off a uniform and clock out. I never clock out. I can’t clock out. Is that the real lesson here? I don’t clock out, and that’s why I put Carmen in the line of fire?
The second and third tear are closed. On to the fourth. It’s a little bigger than it looked at first—the actual tear is pretty small, but the skin around the edges is stressed and needs reinforcement or that little tear’s gonna become something awful.
Maybe there aren’t lessons in real life. Maybe it’s all what you make of it. The lies you tell yourself to justify your actions.
Maybe I just do it for the high. Every job has highs and lows. The lows bore the shit out of me. Boring jobs drive me up a wall. I can’t stand boring. I can’t stand certainty. Am I just allergic to stability? But most jobs never get this high. Cops say their jobs get this high, that they’re in this much danger. But that’s bullshit. Cops go in every day with power and authority. I don’t get that: I’m always struggling. I never get to start out in control of the situation. I love making it out alive because I’m clever and creative. A therapist couldn’t survive what I survive. A doctor wouldn’t live through what I do. A cop would be eaten alive. That’s a fucking rush.
I clean the wounds again. I double-check for any lingering cuts. The skin’s not great—there’s about a hand-sized area still welling up with tiny beads of blood. But it’ll have to do. I patch it up and fall back into the seat. My head’s spinning.
It’s just like the cocaine. Everyone says it’s dangerous. That it’ll kill me. But just like the cocaine, it saves me. I can’t operate without that rush sometimes. I can’t imagine making another choice, living another life. Maybe it’ll be a short life. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s just the best life for me.
I text Geena.
She gets back quickly.
Can we meet? I have some questions.
That’s now how it’s usually done, but I’m not gonna argue.
I can’t tonight. I have to get patched up and crashed. Tomorrow?
She sends me a thumbs-up emoji.
Tune in… probably tomorrow? Maybe the day after? For the exciting conclusion of Cocaine. I think that’s the tentative title. I’m also mulling over “Lana + Cocaine vs Frankenstein.”