Everything After the Monsters
by Peter Medeiros
After we killed the monstruo, the others thought it was all over. Amy said so herself. She stood over the beast, one end of her wrecking bar firmly in hand and the other end buried in the beast’s second head. She said, “It’s over. Oh my God, it’s over.”
Tina just nodded, blood-splattered and sobbing and certain the horror was finished. She slid down the side of the barn and let her legs splay out, as if she was going to take a nap right there.
I knew the night, however long and horrible it had been, wasn’t over yet. Amy might have saved us all, sure. But look: the doors to Amy’s barn were torn off, and we had a pair of massive corpses on our hands.
One was the two-headed creature she had just killed, which looked like nothing so much as a spindly gray triceratops with useless batwings and an underside that appeared, depending when you looked, either like bad sunburn or the static of a television set tearing into the air. The other one, which we’d summoned intentionally, looked like a tractor-sized purple mantis with the head of an ugly six-eyed horse.
I waited a minute before pointing out what should have been obvious: “We need to clean this up. Amy, your parents are going to be home tonight. They’ll go crazy.”
“Tomorrow night,” she said.
“It’s already Sunday,” I pointed out.
“Gloria,” Tina snapped, “let’s sleep on it. I need a shower. I need food. Can this wait?” She blinked. “What are we going to tell Luke and Nate’s parents?”
I sighed. “That’s what I’m talking about. We need to get rid of these things, and we need a story. And what about Luke’s uncle, the one who gave him the book? We think he knew something like this would happen.”
Amy dug the wrecking bar out of the dead creature’s head. Sizzling ichor dripped down the metal, over her hands. She didn’t flinch. “We could call and ask him. Wait, no. Luke’s cell phone was in his pants when he got eaten. So...”
Tina got back on her feet, supported herself with one hand on the barn’s wall. “I can’t believe we’re talking about this! Amy, Luke loved you.”
“Yeah.” Amy shrugged. “But now he’s dead. Anyway, Gloria’s right. We can’t explain these things. Luke wouldn’t want his parents to know he got eaten by one of these monsters. he never told them anything. And he’d want to get even with his uncle. What his uncle’s name again? Barney? Bill?”
“First step is getting rid of the monstruos,” I reminded them. “I saw a well behind the house. Amy, do you think they’d fit?”
“There’s still the power saw in the garage,” she said. “Let’s see if it works.”
A pair of coyotes were sniffing around the barn as we walked towards the house, but they ran into the woods when they saw us.
* * *
It had been a bad night. Amy’s parents were out of town, so we were going to have her boyfriend Luke and his friend Nate over Amy’s house. It was ideal party space, way out in Lancaster, a converted ranch. Plan was to get Nate and Tina together; it would be good for her. As for me, the girls knew I wasn’t looking; Harvard was my reach school; I didn’t have time for a boy.
We tried to go through some SAT prep books Saturday morning, fooled around with our field hockey stuff in the yard, searched the basement for a bottle of wine — or two or three — that Amy’s parents wouldn’t miss. We got two pizzas delivered after the boys came over. The driver looked pissed about coming way out into the boonies, dirt roads and gravel.
Luke had a joke gift for Amy; his uncle was into occult stuff, came back last week with a big haul from an occult bookstore’s going-out-of-business sale in Vermont. “Seems every week you’re reading a different book,” Luke said, “but I think this might keep you occupied. Biggest book I’ve ever seen.”
Look: I didn’t like Luke. He made fun of Amy for reading. and made fun of all of us for playing field hockey, which he sometimes called “fake hockey.” He made fun of me for wanting to go to Harvard. Said I’d get in to fulfill some minority quota. Mom had come from Argentina when she was sixteen. I didn’t like Luke, but I never wanted him to get torn in half by some monstruo. Which is what happened.
The big book was called The Gray Tome of the Worm Between Worlds. Amy said she didn’t like fantasy books. Luke read from it, but it was mostly nonsense, and not in any language we knew. Later, he laid a slice of pizza down on its open pages.
We figured it was the pizza that opened the portal, somehow. Because the next thing that happened was the book and the walls were glowing purple, and two triceratops heads attached to one torso came out of a violet star-shape in the floor and one of them bit Luke in half. Then the rest of the monstruo emerged and ate both those halves. Then it ate the pizza. I picked up the book and closed it, but by then the first beast was here to stay.
We ran to the garage. Nate got a power saw going and managed to kill one of the two heads when the creature came around the ranch and plowed through the garage door, but the other head gouged a ragged wound in his side with one a horn and sucked him up with that slurpy noise you make when you’re eating oysters. But Nate gave us time to escape and barricade ourselves in the barn. Good on Nate.
I still had the book. If we tried to fight the creature, I said, we’d probably get eaten. But maybe we could get something else on our side. We tried putting dry hay on the book, same as Luke had done with the pizza. Nothing happened. Then we chewed it to pulp it up, to make it more like real food, and spat it back on the book. Bingo. Purple haze all over again.
We had some good luck, because this van-sized, horse-headed mantis crawled out of the purple fog into the barn the same time as the dinosaur-thing broke down the doors. They sized each other up, three very edible human girls forgotten. For a minute I didn’t know if they were going to fight or screw.
But they fought. As Mom would say, Gracias a Dios.
The mantis got one claw pinned in the first monstruo’s back, but the head that was still alive bit it off at the first joint and the mantis bled out. The dead mantis claw had our dino-monstrosity stuck to the barn floor, though. That’s when Amy killed it.
She really went to town too. Maybe because Luke was a kind of boyfriend, even if he was a pendejo. But maybe it was something else. She got a red card in our last game against Dorchester High. A girl smacked Amy in the belly with her stick, but it was an accident, she’d been winding up to slam the ball. Amy threw her own stick down and punched the girl in the boob so hard she fell over, wind knocked out of her. When Amy got the foul, I thought she was going to sock the ref too; when she found the wrecking bar and put it into the monstruo’s eye, she had the same look on her face. The same look she had when we did SAT prep, or earlier when she’d said, “Screw it,” and took the oldest and most conspicuous bottle of her parents’ champagne and tore the cork off with her teeth.
* * *
Tina looked miserable as we walked back from the barn, hugging herself and shivering even though it was pretty warm for an early March morning. “Amy, is there normally so much nature?”
Amy, monotone: “We’re in the woods.”
“I meant, like, wildlife.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a bunch of turkeys stalking us,” said Tina. “It’s freaking me out.”
“What do you call a group of turkeys?” Amy wondered out loud. “It’s not a flock. Maybe it’s a gobble?”
“Tina’s right,” I said, scanning the tree line. We were, in fact, being followed by ten, fifteen, maybe twenty turkeys. “Followed” might not be the right word. Tina had it right: they were stalking us. A raccoon shadowed us too, rushing forward in little bursts and poking its head out of the tall grass. “Maybe we smell weird. You know, covered in mierda.”
Tina got a case of the dry heaves. I rubbed her back until she could walk again while Amy looked pissed. “I’m okay,” Tina said. “I’m okay. Gracias, Gloria.”
“You really need to stop trying to speak to me with your sixth-grade Spanish,” I said, “or I’ll cut you.”
Tina frowned. “How can you joke at a time like this?”
The garage was a total mess. Nothing solid was left of Luke or Nate in the house, but there were wide slicks of their blood where they’d been attacked. Thankfully, the power saw still worked, but we decided to mop up the mess in the garage before disposing of any bodies.
Amy and I tossed around explanations for the garage door while filling a bucket with warm water and tearing up her big sponge so we’d all have something we could use to scrub the floor.
We went out for dinner and the garage door was like that when we got back. The barn door got struck by lightning. We backed the SUV into the both doors. We were practicing slap shots and got carried away.
“If it wasn’t for you,” I said to Amy, “the SUV story would be the most plausible. But chica, you got a nasty shot. Could bring a house down. So I like number three.”
Amy was silent a minute, two-thirds of the sponge in her hands. Then her face crumpled, she snorted, she doubled over laughing.
“Stop it!” said Tina. “Both of you, stop! There’s nothing funny about any of this! We can’t just...”
“We can’t just what?” I asked.
“We can’t just go on like normal. I don’t know what to do with all the things we’ve seen tonight!”
“You know what to do?” I said. “Grab a sponge.” But Tina stood there, fingers tucked in her armpits, scratching her right calf with the toe of her left sneaker.
Something screamed outside; the high, ghastly wail of a fox or a cougar, answered a second later by another.
We scrubbed the floor on hands and knees. The soap got into a hundred tiny cuts we must have missed before. How did those happen? Worse, the sponges weren’t working. I got steel wool from Amy’ kitchen, traded all natural nontoxic bathroom cleaner for heavy-duty degreaser from beneath the sink.
When I rejoined the girls cleaning up the blood slick that used to be Nate, Amy was speaking quickly in a hushed voice, “Tina, I can tell you’re thinking about snitching us out. Even if we kept the bodies, nobody would ever believe us about this. And if they did, it would be even worse. We’d get carted away by people in yellow plastic suits. They’d subject us to and all kinds of interviews. I know I said it’s over, but it’s not. We just have to clean up this mess, get rid of Luke’s car and tell their folks we haven’t seen them, and carry on. You asked what you’re going to do?”
“They’re dead,” Tina said, as if Amy might have forgotten. “They’re dead and we—”
“No, don’t answer. I know what you’re going to do, you and Gloria. You’re going to ace your SATs, you’re going to get into the colleges you want to go to, waste four years getting a diploma. Gloria’s going to get a great job bossing other people around for a change, and you’re going to meet some nice young man in a frat who’s going to whisk you away to ‘summer’ with his family in Plymouth so he can pop the question on the beach, and you’re going to cry and cry and say yes.”
“Hey,” I said, “why does Tina get the hedge fund husband?”
Amy ignored me. “We survived. You’ll keep surviving.”
Tina wasn’t crying anymore. She grabbed a sponge out of Amy’s hands and went at the floor with the zeal of an eighteenth-century Beacon Hill servant afraid of the switch. “Why are you being so mean?” she asked.
When Amy didn’t respond, I answered for her: “Amy’s always been this mean. It’s why we’re friends.”
* * *
Copyright © 2017 by Peter Medeiros