Well day one of NanoWriMo has passed and I ended at around 3,000 words. Our crowdfunding campaign for Whiteout also raised over $1,300 putting us well on our way to our $10,000 goal. A huge thank you to all of our donors, and for those who haven’t yet, check out GoFundMe.com/WhiteoutNovel and donate/share the link around. Every dollar and every share helps get our name out there, and we really appreciate it.
Alright, down to some new writing. I’ve gotten going on Maelstrom, but it’s a little rough as I’m switching back to writing in first person to match Whiteout’s new format. Below is the first chapter, following yesterday’s prologue. Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Nick’s New Employer
I suppose I should start with the part that’s going to be hardest to believe. I’m a monster hunter by trade. I go looking for the creatures that aren’t supposed to exist yet somehow still lurk in back alleys or get sold as pets in unsuspecting little shops. I’ve been doing it for decades, and I’m damned good at it.
“I’m sorry, I’ve had enough of this guy’s bullshit,” raged bad cop from the corner. “If you’re just going to sit there and flap your gums…”
Nick’s head pounded with the fury of his hangover and the frustration of having to explain the unexplainable to what was clearly a stubborn rube. “Alright, fine, I said you wouldn’t believe me. We can just sit here and wait for due process. I’ve been to prisons before and I doubt what you’ve got is worse than the cells beneath a vampire’s castle.”
If good cop believed Nick, his face showed no sign of it. “Dr. Ventner, we don’t have time to waste on this.”
“Well, if you want to interrogate me, the story starts in Nevada and revolves heavily around the fact that I hunt monsters for a living,” stated Nick matter-of-factly. Give me a priest, I can convert him, give me a scientist and I’ll provide evidence, but Jesus, why did it have to be cops?
Nick had tangled with law enforcement on several occasions and each time had found his story just too difficult for them to grasp. Ordinarily he would have given up, but there was something about good cop, something that made him want to tell the truth.
“I’m not going to listen to this,” seethed bad cop. “Put him in the tank with the drunks to think for a while.”
“I’m sure they’re fabulous company.” Nick half meant it.
“Murphy,” said good cop, turning to his partner. “Go take a walk.”
“But,” Murphy stammered.
“Take a walk Murphy, I’ll handle this.”
Murphy huffed, and seemed on the verge of protesting, but like most meat heads, took his orders and left the room, slamming the door as he went.
“Someone’s not going to be very happy,” commented Nick.
“He never is.”
With that, the two men lapsed into an awkward silence, the only sound coming from the buzzing of the fluorescent lights above them. Good cop made firm eye contact with Nick which made him shift uncomfortably in his seat. Any sort of emotional connection, punitive or otherwise was too much for him to handle, especially when the pain splitting through his head felt like it might kill him.
“Alright Dr. Ventner. I’m going to give you a chance. The wife’s out of town tonight with the kids. I don’t have anyone I need to be home to, so I can afford to spend a little time listening to your story.” He folded his hands in a placative gesture.
Nick tried not to show it, but the gesture shocked him. “You believe me?” he asked, trying not to stutter. It wasn’t unusual, many people had before, but usually he had to drop a gruesome head on their desk before they’d so much as give him the time of day.
“Not in the slightest.”
“But, I do think that you have a story to tell. But, let me make myself perfectly clear.” He enunciated each word as if he were trying to beat it into Nick with a hammer. “If this story doesn’t have a good ending, you’re going to be in a room just like this, only smaller, for a long, long time.” He let the words hang in the buzzing air for a minute. “Are we clear?”
Here’s hoping I can remember by the time we get there. If not, Nick was sure he could lie himself into a good story. He had done it before. “Absolutely. I don’t have the intention of wasting your time, it’s just, if I remember correctly, there’s a lot to this.”
Good cop took off his glasses, removed a small cloth from his pocket and polished them. “Good. Now, I’ll send Murphy for coffees when he comes back. Think you can manage until then?”
Nick’s throat was dry and coffee sounded divine, but he decided against chancing his luck. “Not a problem.”
“Excellent. So, you were in Nevada?”
“Yes, that’s right. I’m a damned good monster hunter, but I’m only alright by myself. My apprentice James,” Nick motioned to the man puking off the boat in the picture on the table, “is always with me to help…”
Over the past few years James and I had been doing well for ourselves. Business had been booming ever since the business with the yeti, and the casual mentions of a recently resurrected sidekick were doing us a few favors as well. Most of it was pretty routine, traveling around the United States disposing of run-of-the-mill water goblins, the occasional amateur necromancer trying to rob a bank, very mundane really, but for us, it didn’t matter. We’d spent the previous two years in one hell or another, for one of us literally, and the routine seemed appealing.
So, when we were called to investigate a case of a chupacabra herd taking tourist children in the Nevada desert, we took the job with no questions asked. If I had known the rabbit hole it was going to send us down, I would have stayed at home, curled up with a good drink, and passed out. Really, we could have afforded it too, but it felt good to work.
Our day had begun poking around the small town of Rachel, Nevada, population of 98, interest level of 0. Tourists flock there year-round to hear bullshit stories about aliens and the spaceships locked up at the nearby Area 51. It’s all a crock of horse shit, but I digress.
All the locals were telling us the same story. Tourists would take their families out into the desert at night, lay out under the stars and search for alien life. They call the road that runs through that area the extra-terrestrial highway due to all the sightings, so it draws a crowd. Anyway, these families would be sitting under the stars, arm around young Jimmy, or young Sally and then boom, next minute they were gone. Some people said they saw a scaly beast with long spines loping off into the distance, others, just pairs of bright red eyes staring at them from the darkness. Either way, they’d always find the kids a few days later, a few pints low on blood, memory gone, but otherwise OK.
A few of the local folk tried to tell me that it was aliens, abducting the children and using them for sick experiments, but I know a chupacabra attack when I see one. It helped that the old geezer who had hired us kept the pelt of one in his shop. It had mostly rotted away, but one look at it told you it was the real deal.
After listening to all the stories and thinking it through, there was only one way we were going to catch these things, and that was using bait. Ordinarily, James and I had an arrangement where we would take turns playing the part. It was a practice we had held for a long time, and usually left the one playing the bait feeling pretty bitter, but tourist season was in full swing, and it wasn’t necessary.
That afternoon we set out with a pair of high powered rifles, loaded with explosive shot for good measure. “Chupacabras aren’t really that hard to kill,” I said to James.
“I know, you’ve told me.” He looked sullen in the midday heat. While his return from the Land of the Dead was complete, a few characteristics had hung around. Mainly his skin didn’t tan like it used to, and he remained a sallow pale color. Not as bad as a vampire or a corpse mind you, but just not great for the midday heat.
“Then it’s worth saying again,” I admonished. James had been with me on quite a few jobs at that point, but we had never gone after Chupacabra. “One at a time, the little buggers are easy.” I aimed the rifle at the empty desert, for no reason other than to look impressive. “It’s when they get in a group that they’re really dangerous.”
James finished cleaning the barrel of his rifle and cocked it loudly. “How many do we think are out there?”
“I’d say one or two.” Chupacabras can run in packs, but it’s uncommon. Like most creatures that aren’t supposed to exist, they do better at surviving when they’re spread out. “If there were more of them they wouldn’t just be taking the children.”
“So what’s the plan then?”
“First we look for tracks.” The sun beat down mercilessly, drying every last ounce of moisture from my skin. I took a drink from the flask I always kept with me and savored the fresh burn of tequila as it raced down my throat. Ordinarily it would have been something a little darker, but the arroyos had me feeling festive.
James cocked an eye at me. “So you mean I’m looking for tracks, and you’re going to sit on a rock getting piss drunk again.”
“What do you mean again?” I scoffed, offended.
James shook his head and shouldered his rifle. “God I hate the fucking desert,” he moaned. Taking a scarf out of his pack, he wrapped it around his head like something out of an old adventure movie.
“It’s a good look on you.” I could not help but laugh a little.
James muttered something derogatory and started walking off in the direction of a popular bluff just south of the highway. It was favored because of its proximity in the highway, most of the tourists weren’t of the walking variety, and because it had one of the highest reported rates of UFOs in the country.
Again, most of them were likely test flights from the nearby Area 51, but locals will tell you anything to sell a few mugs. With another drink from my flask I set out after James, donning a pair of tinted sunglasses that died the desert blue. “What do you mean again?” I called after him.
He was already bent low on the trail, looking for anything unnatural. “God, the weight of these people,” said James, marveling at a particularly deep footprint. “It’s a wonder the ground doesn’t just crumble beneath them.”
“Hey!” Anger was rising slowly within me and so was the alcohol. “What do you mean again?”
James looked up briefly from the dirt and stared at Nick through the small slit he had left in his turban. “It was last week Nick… We were trying to capture the vampire in Brooklyn.”
Realization dawned on me. “Ah, that.”
“Do you recall leaving me tied to a stake with his burning corpse because you had a pressing engagement at a pub?” He was aggravated, but also enjoying himself.
“It was two for one pints,” I protested, but the insistence died in my throat. “Alright fair point.”
James said a string of curses so foul that they could have only come from the Land of the Dead and then continued on.
Once more, I drank from the flask, and realized with dismay that it was already past half empty. With the sun beginning to set, casting its red rays over the desert, there was no time for refills. We would have to get in position before the first of the families began to arrive, or they’d suspect something. The last thing we needed was for the local authorities to get notified.
We stopped walking at a sign hastily planted in the dirt about a half mile from the road. It read: Welcome to Adam’s Bluff, home to more UFO sightings than anywhere else in the United States.
“Who’s Adam?” wondered James aloud.
“Someone who wanted to sell t-shirts.”
James looked around the “bluff”. It wasn’t much other than a slightly raised area of sandy rock about ten feet above the rest of the desert. On one side, was a series of small hills that would eventually give way to Coal Valley, famous for poisoning bodies of water with lead, and the other, a wide swath of desert that eventually led all the way to Death Valley.
“Why would anyone come here by choice?” Asked James, adjusting his headwrap.
“It beats the jungle.” I’m still certain that the jungle might be one of the foulest biomes on earth. The desert may have been hot, but at least it was dry, and the things coming to kill you can be seen for miles.
“Can’t argue there.” James continued to poke around the area, but seemed dispirited. “Are we sure this wasn’t aliens Nick? I’m not seeing any sign of a chupacabra.”
We would have been looking for thick swaths of the desert, patted flat by the creature’s sweeping tail. It tended to swish behind them as they ran, and despite their size, they were quite heavy.
“How many times have I told you, James? Aliens are a figment of the world’s collective imagination, cooked up by government spooks who want to cover up their latest projects.”
“I would have said the same about monsters and ghosts a few years back.” James countered.
It wasn’t a bad point, but I still found the idea of aliens ridiculous. In all my years studying the unknown, every encounter with a UFO, or abduction could easily be traced back to some terrestrial creature. The other explanations made too much sense to ignore. “If you want to entertain your wild theories, go ahead, but be prepared… I’m going to ridicule you mercilessly for them.”
In the distance, I heard the laughing, happy approach that could only be from a family that had no idea they were about to be monster bait. “Come on James, let’s get set up and out of site. People seem to be arriving early.”
“Splendid, that ridge looks fine. Let’s see if the mighty chupacabra likes tourists for dinner.”