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Monsters (Part 2)
“We should have a party,” Zach said after the funeral. The popular kids were lounging about on the front lawn, all dressed in black and waterproof makeup. Maggie was standing off to the side; the only reason she was there was that her dad was the funeral director. (Fun, right?)
“Where?” asked Stan. “I mean, my parents told me they’ve had it up to here with me hosting ‘em.”
“How ‘bout Maggie’s?” Zach suggested, throwing a winning smile in her direction.
Maggie scowled even more than usual. “The last time you shanghaied me into hosting one of your stupid parties, Josh went in the woods on a dare and got attacked by something.” She eyed Brytnee, who shrank back, whimpering.
“Well, maybe we could avenge Josh.”
There was silence as the group took this in, absorbing the words from the air.
“So…” one of the boys began quietly. “We go into the woods…find whatever got Josh…”
“And kill it,” Zach finished. “Yeah.”
“Wow,” one of the girls said softly. “Wow.”
Maggie’s pink face pinched up under her glasses. “How the heck are we going to kill a monster?”
Zach grinned. “The old-fashioned way, babe.”
“When you said ‘the old-fashioned way,’” Maggie grunted as the group stomped through the woods later that evening, “I had no idea you meant ‘by going out at midnight with no lead whatsoever and praying that the monster doesn’t devour us.’ Silly me.”
“Oh, come on, Magster! Don’t be so uptight!” The werewolf smiled, displaying his 65-watt teeth, and smacked her good-naturedly on the arm. “I remembered the flashlights, didn’t I?”
“No, I remembered the flashlights, and I think you’re awfully arrogant for someone who ignores me whenever I’m not hosting your stupid little parties.”
Zach ignored her, crunching through brush and beckoning the others into a clearing.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” he said. “We’ll split up into groups. Maggie, you and the chicks go that way.”
“I don’t like the dark!” Brytnee whined. “I wanna be with you, Zach!”
“No, I’m gonna go straight on by myself. Stan, lead the guys into that part of the woods. Now, if any of you hear something, what’s the plan?”
“We’re gonna hide behind a tree,” one of the cheerleaders said, “and call you.”
“And tell us, Zach, why don’t we have any weapons with which to kill this ‘monster?’” Maggie asked testily.
“Well, I dunno. It was your job to pack everything. And don’t forget, I’ve got my own weapon.” He straightened up a little. “The blood of the werewolf.”
“Ooh, yeah, terrifying.” Maggie rolled her eyes. “C’mon, let’s go.”
The girls crunched off to the left, the boys leaving soon after in the other direction. Zach turned and faced the darkness before him alone.
“Bring it on, Monster,” he muttered. “Zach DeAngelo’s gonna take you down.”
“I’m worried about Zach,” Brytnee said tremulously as the group of girls crashed through the brush. “He’s all alone out there!”
“For God’s sake, Brytnee, he’s a freaking werewolf. I think he can handle it. And if he can’t, well, too bad.” Maggie answered, sounding callous.
“He’s kind of short.”
“And he weighs, like, 200 pounds, and it’s all muscle,” Maggie finished. “Don’t pretend you don’t stare when he takes his shirt off.”
“Well, of course I do!” Brytnee sounded deeply offended. “He’s hot.”
Maggie groaned and continued on through the thickening pines.
“This is stupid, man,” one of the jocks complained, as the boys traipsed through the opposite side of the woods.
“We’ll find it eventually,” Stan said. “’Cuz I mean, like, it has to be pretty big if it, you know…if it took Josh down.” His voice was awed, almost reverent.
“We better find it soon,” someone muttered.
“We will,” Stan said again. “We have to.”
Zach paused, shivering. He was deeper than he had ever been in these woods. He had no clue as to where the beast was, and no weapon to kill the beast once he saw it. The batteries in the crappy 99-cent flashlight had just burnt out, and of course Maggie hadn’t packed any more.
And there was no moon, so it was pitch-black out.
Zach heard a snapping sound to his left, and the sound of some huge foot sinking into six inches of dead foliage. He dropped the flashlight, and stood with his hand gripping nothing, staring off to his left.
A snarl issued from the trees, making him jump. He swallowed, then shouted at the forest:
“Okay, you stupid monster or whatever you are! This is Zach DeAngelo, and I’m gonna kill you for killing my friend Josh! So get ready, because –”
A tall, muscular man with long, greasy hair and clothing stained with dirt, sweat, mold, and blood stood before him. Just relax, Zach thought. Probably just a hobo. “What do you want?” he said loudly.
The man grinned, displaying a mouthful of unusually large, pointy teeth. Zach backed away. This was one scary hobo.
“That’s fate for you,” the man sighed dramatically. “You get rid of the so-called ‘vampire’ and they send the so-called ‘werewolf’ on a revenge mission. Tut, tut,” he said again, licking his teeth.
“Don’t come any closer,” Zach ordered, picking up a small stick and wielding it like a sword. “I’ll have no choice but to transform!”
The man sighed. “Fine, then let’s see you transform. Oh, and put that stupid little twig down. Wizards irritate me so.”
Zach scowled. “Believe me, pal, you really don’t want me to do this.”
“Yes, you’re probably right,” came the sarcastic reply. “Go on already.”
The boy screwed up his face and clenched every muscle in his body, thinking wolfy thoughts. He waited a few seconds, then opened one eye. The man was still there, crossing his arms and looking very impatient.
The man tapped his foot. Zach sighed.
There was a sound as of ripping cloth, and for an instant Josh was covered in black fur that bristled all over him. An instant later, and a wolf stood in his footsteps, displaying teeth like ivory blades.
On the downside, it was about the size of a Jack Russell Terrier.
“Aww, a puppy.” The man displayed his gruesome teeth as he laughed at the sky. “Good. That makes you much easier to kill.” He licked his lips.
“What’s goin’ on here, Throckmorton? Me an’ the lads, we’re gettin’ hungry over there.” A huge, brutal, obscenely hairy man stepped out of the shadows. “Come on and – say, what’s this?”
Throckmorton laughed. “Calls himself a werewolf, he does.”
The other one chuckled deeply, and in a moment there was another wolf, enormous and slouching and grinning with yellowed fangs.
No fair, Zach thought. His clothes didn’t even rip.
“I’m tired of these sissy monsters,” Throckmorton said, picking Zach up, and though the werewolf tried to fight something would not let him move. “Tired of it, d’you hear? You think you’re a monster? We’re the real monsters.”
Zach wanted to scream, to cry out for Stan or Brytnee or even Maggie to come help him, but all that escaped was a curious sort of high-pitched whine. In the background, the other werewolf snarled.
“Bored with being immortal?” Throckmorton seized Zach’s neck and brought his obscene teeth closer, closer. “Don’t worry. We can fix that.”
Zach squeezed his eyes shut, waiting to die.
And suddenly there was a crashing of brush, and beams of light swept over the scene. He could hear Maggie’s gasping, Brytnee’s shriek of terror. Stan was swearing loudly.
He heard the wolf crash towards them, but Throckmorton stopped him. “We won’t harm the ones who don’t claim to be monsters,” he said silkily.
“We’ll just make them watch.”
It happened so quickly that Zach barely felt it. He only knew thick, yellowed fingernails pressing into his throat, a sharpness, a rocketing pain, screaming and shouting from where his friends stood, and a feeling that all he ever knew was being sucked out of him slowly.
Zachary DeAngelo, unscary monster, howled once as the world melted into unforgiving night.