Everything After the Monsters
by Peter Medeiros
Once the house and garage looked like a normal disaster rather than a paranormal one, we headed back to the barn to deal with the problem of the two giant corpses. There were more animals outside now, not just coyotes and turkeys. Several deer walked side by side with a mountain lion. A fat beaver waddled next to a family of wolves, neither of them very interested in the other. Four squirrels chattered atop of a lumbering moose. All of them headed for the barn.
“We should go back inside,” Tina whispered. “This isn’t right. Wolves.”
I said, “I think if they were going to attack us, they would have already.”
Amy sighed. “Let’s go see what’s happening to our monsters.”
The animals were having a feast. A pair of wolves fought over one of the two triceratops heads. A raccoon had its face crammed between two armored mantis plates. Even the deer had turned carnivorous, pulping the alien flesh with their flat herbivore teeth. The sound of a finger crushed in a door, over and over.
Amy, unsurprised: “Mierda.”
I said, “I told you girls to cut that out.”
Worse, the purple fog was back, roiling in a low wave like tinted emissions of dry ice. This wasn’t coming from the walls of the floor but from the animals. This rusty-blue snake was doing circles in the deer’s big round eyes, oceanic maroon pulsing in the beavers’ beady little ones. Tina was right about one thing: definitely not right.
Amy picked up the wrecking bar, still slick with blood. “Should’ve burned them.”
Tina was crying like a busted faucet.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, “before they finish the main course and start thinking about dessert.” For once I was on Tina’s side. I didn’t want to go down swinging; I had plans. I did want to boss people around. I wanted to graduate Harvard top of my class, and when everybody else was taking pictures and those few people who knew me by name asked where my parents were, I could smile condescendingly and tell them how I hadn’t invited my mother, who’d told me I’d always be no better than her, a failure, her hija through and through.
“Screw that.” Amy tossed the wrecking bar from one hand to the other, the way you play with a diablo, minus the sticks. “I can do this. This I can do.”
Before Tina or I could stop her, Amy leapt forward and brained a little red fox with purple lightning crackling around its eyes. Little rosy tentacles sprang out of its shattered skull, lashed the air for a second and went still with a sound like air coming out of a tire. All the other animals stopped feasting and looked at her.
There’s something real freaky about a moose turning its full attention on you. You would think it would be the cougar or the wolves that would stay with me, but when I dream, it’s the moose I dream about. They’re too quiet for something so big.
I’d thought we had seen the most horrific things we were going to see that night. I was wrong. The animals started talking, all at once.
Amy, Tina, and I had gone on a trip to Purgatory Chasm over the summer. We brought picnic lunch and white wine in opaque water bottles. We yelled to each other from inside the stone. The voice that came out of the animals was like that: one voice, but rippling like water smoothing itself above a sinking car. No mistake it was speaking to Amy.
“You are the destroyer of the Two-As-One, the Dobleknaught. We carry his hunger in us. We will go now where you cannot find us. We will live in the shadows, strike from the shadows, and ravage this young land. You will search, but will not find us.”
“There’s, like, forty of you,” Amy said. “And you’re scared of me?” She didn’t sound so much incredulous as flattered, all wrong, Oh, I’m ejected from the game? Bad sportsmanship?
The animals hissed back at Amy. Jaws snapped shut in unison. They split into two groups, breaking like a river as they tried to get around her and out the barn door.
I could have told her then, if we had more time. I could have told Amy that I did not want her to go, that there were other reasons why I’d never been on a date with a boy that had nothing to do with my schedule, and I could forget college and all the time and money I sank into escaping my mother if Amy asked me to, and that I had this selfish fantasy where the blood-specked mouth guard smile she wore when she hip-checked another girl off her feet was all for me, for me.
Tina put her hands to her ears and screeched. She might as well have said it plainly: Amy can survive this by herself, but I will die here, Gloria, if you do not save me.
I grabbed her around the middle and shoved her forward, driving us both down in the hay. I felt Tina’s hair against my face and wished that it were Amy’s; and I wished that I was Amy, that I was also a killer. Then I looked over my shoulder and this is what I saw:
Amy shuffling side-to-side like a goalie with the wrecking bar in front of her.
Amy frothing at the mouth, something other than words pouring out of her. Lips peeled back, face strange and terrifying as a baboon’s.
Amy pivoting, spinning on the ball of one foot, bringing the bar around over her shoulder — definitely a violation — to bite into the neck of a cougar sprinting by her. Again and again. More purplish tentacles, the spirit of the Dobleknaught, unfurled from the dead animal and lashed the air like a sea anemone trying to dance. Wheezing and dying.
Tina still had her hands over her ears when she started to shout at Amy, like she couldn’t stand to hear herself: “It’s over, Amy! It’s over!”
Amy, a whisper: “I’m just started. Tell Coach I can’t make it next practice. Might be out for the season.”
I said, “She’ll be pissed.” But Amy was already gone, chasing the cursed animals into the woods, into the rest of her life. Tina groped at my back as if she could find the right button on my spine, the right rib to pull out like a lever, it would set us all back to normal.
* * *
What’s funny, things are back to normal.
No, that’s not right. Let me try again...
Here’s what I said the first time someone had the gall to imply that I made it in to Harvard because of affirmative action, that I didn’t really make the grade: “Sooner or later, everybody winds up where they belong. Everybody gets what they really want.” I don’t actually believe that, but I made it sound like a threat and he left me alone. I’ve discovered I like being alone.
Harvard doesn’t disappoint: classes are hard, faculty mean it when they say to visit them during office hours, and I’m never bored. The students, on the other hand, are consistently boring. Cambridge is nice, even if is even whiter than Worcester, though not as white as Lancaster, Gracias a Dios. I work the at the Co-op, and at nights I camp out studying in Café Pamplona, annoying the baristas by ordering a quad espresso and making it last two hours.
I know I haven’t made it yet, and I should be bolstering my resume by running for office in some club on campus. But I find people exhausting these days. Sometimes I miss field hockey, but in truth— and I don’t tell this to anyone— I’m a little afraid of what would happen if I made first string, if I was part of a team again, if I liked one of my teammates in a way that got inconvenient. I don’t need that again.
My roommate says I talk about moose in my sleep. I’m applying for a single dorm next semester. I don’t need any special accommodations, but I can make something up.
Tina’s back west, living with her folks and reapplying to colleges. She had to spend some time at this fancy psych retreat place in Brunswick after Bentley showed the police her college application. I guess it was a real mess, and the Bentley Admissions Office took it as a death threat. Magazines all cut up and mashed together with hair and blood. Whose hair? Whose blood? Tina doesn’t remember.
Tina emails me all these links to local newspapers, stories in Holden and West Boylston and far north as Sterling, where New England Puritan blood likes to keep some patches of forest in their suburban sprawl, places where the trees drag fingers across condo windows, lay their hands flat on folks’ closed-in back porches. The stories are mostly vague, all of them weird. Jogger Slain by Wild Dogs. Moose Stops Big Rig, Four Dead in Pile-Up. Cattle Mutilations Go Unexplained. Beavers Build Dam Through Town Library.
Sometimes witnesses report a young woman fleeing such scenes, and sometimes she’s carrying a weapon. A bo staff. A length of pipe. Sometimes it’s a wrecking bar.
Tina calls me. “I wish she would stop. I wish she’d let it be over.”
She sent me this one newspaper clipping about a murder in Providence. The proprietor of a store called Uncle Bob’s Magic Emporium was found dismembered in his home. Each part of his body had been soaked in some kind of brine and pinned to the floor with a nail of ash wood.
I’m thinking of blocking Tina’s number. Because she doesn’t understand, it is over, or as over as it’s going to get. I don’t know where it comes from, this idea of hers that you simply move on.
Other problems, you get over. Bad break-up, father dead of cancer, mom says she’ll disown you if you leave your family to go to college when they need your “support” — whatever the hell that means — back home.
But what makes a monstruo, if not its permanence? What Amy knew was this: the things we killed did not derive their terrible power from the way they moved through the walls between the world, but from how they moved through us, and everything after.
Copyright © 2017 by Peter Medeiros