Aaaaahhhh I’m literally the worst I’m so sorry! I’ve had writer’s block, I’ve been at a friends, I’ve been playing games, I’m a lazy ass! Finally, I’ve done some more, and hopefully there will be more to come soon! Forgive me 😥
“What’s the worst case you’ve ever had?” Craig asked, breaking the silence in the truck as it cruised along the streets.
“That’s easy,” Alexis replied, leaning back heavily in the seat, “wrath demon. By far and away. I’ve fought one. That’s enough for me.”
“You said before wrath demons are one of the only things you’re… you’re afraid of.”
“Yep. Most things you cultivate a healthy respect for, but that’s not really fear, y’know? Wrath demons though… they’re just…” Her voice trailed off, blue eyes going glassy. Craig started to speak when she started up again. “Sorry. It happened, jeez, four years ago now? There were fifty three of us. I was one of twelve to walk away.”
“Christ Alex, I’m sorry… I…”
“Don’t be. It happened. That’s what you sign up for when you do this. Weird shit. And sometimes weird shit can bite back.”
“If you don’t mind… why are they so dangerous? You don’t seem the type to be afraid often.”
“Most demons they just take over the mind. They’re more durable than a human cause they just don’t really care about things as much, they can take pain more. Sure, it confuses them, but they can keep trucking and just go nuts. Wrath demons actually mess with your body chemistry. Muscle and bone density go up to crazy levels. You can shoot one point blank with a shotgun and it’ll go a few inches deep, tops.”
“Then how do you kill one?”
“We smoked our bastard by getting him with a high powered sniper rifle. The bullet didn’t come out the other end, but it rattled around in his brain enough to drop him.”
“Wow. I hope I never find one.”
“You’d better. They’re near indestructible tanks that live to cause pain. Luckily they’re not very common…” Her voice was interrupted by a buzzing on the dashboard radio. Static crackled through for a few seconds before a voice became distinct.
“…any hunters in the vicinity of Parramatta please come in… assistance is requested…” Alexis fiddled with the frequency, then thumbed down the talk button.
“Yo, Alexis King here. I’m just cruising down Victoria Road now, what’s up?”
“Ah, good. I’m Francis Goodall. With the police. We’ve just got a bit of a… situation. Some guy’s keeping something that most people wouldn’t keep as a pet… I don’t know what the hell it is, to be honest.”
“Where are you?” Alexis was pressing on the brakes, throwing a glance over her shoulder. “I was just heading back, I can show up and see what’s going on.”
“We’re on Weston Street. The owner’s going nuts, he’s insisting that he’s well in his rights to keep this thing. This isn’t exactly our area of expertise though.”
“No worries,” Alexis said, casually doing an illegal u-turn, “I’m only a couple of minutes away. Can you tell me what the thing looks like?”
“It’s got two heads, and a snake coming out the other end. And it’s pissed.”
“Ah. Chimera. Good, good. Well, Francis, I’ll be with you in a flash. Hang tight.” She turned off the radio, and shot a glance to Craig.
“That’s what got your fingers, right? They’re not fun, I imagine.” Craig said, giving her hand another overly long stare. She smirked and wiggled the stumps.
“Eh, they’re not too bad. Well, it depends on how big they are. The one I was up against was only a couple of years old, so he was only about twice as big as me. They can get massive, though.”
“I’d call twice as big as you massive, to be honest.”
“By massive, I mean several stories tall.”
“Oh.. oh christ.”
“They never really live that long. We take care of them first. Chimeras aren’t known for their subtlety.” Alexis took a corner quickly, tires squeaking in protest. Her right arm was draped by her side, fingering the knife on her belt. Her mangled hand lay on top of the wheel, turning occasionally to correct the truck’s course.
“Do people often take monsters as pets?” Craig asked after a few minutes of silence.
“Doesn’t happen all that often. Most people aren’t idiotic enough. I had a mate who had a pet manticore a while back, though. He actually trained it well.”
“They can be tamed?”
“Yeah. That thing was as sweet as a lamb, unless you ticked it off. Chimeras are nasty business though, and I wouldn’t trust some dude living in the middle of goddamn Parramatta to know how to raise one.” The truck cruised through the suburb streets, rattling on its wheels. Alexis rounded the corner onto Weston Street, and the pair were greeted with a host of police cars lining the street. There were at least fifteen, some still with their sirens on.
“I think we’re in the right place.” Craig said flatly.
“Nice observation.” Alexis pulled over onto one of the available curbs and unclipped her seatbelt. She left the shotgun on its holster on the dashboard, and stepped out of the truck. Craig jumped out and followed her. One of the houses had about ten officers milling around outside, and that was the one Alexis and Craig approached. The house otherwise didn’t look much different to the others, a modest, well kept bungalow. As they came closer, muffled snarling from the backyard started up.
“Sounds like a chimera, alright.” Alexis muttered half to herself. One of the officers glanced at them, then hurried over.
“You’re the hunter?” She asked, brushing sweat off her brow. She was short and stocky, red hair peeking out from under her hat.
“Yep. Name’s Alex.”
“Great, I’m Veronica.” They shook hands, Veronica giving Craig a sideways glance. “And you are?”
“Oh… I’m not a hunter. Just a trainee.”
“So, you’ve got some sort of monster here?” Alexis asked.
“Yeah, yeah, of course. Follow me.” Veronica turned and half jogged towards the back fence. She pushed open the wooden gate and gestured Alexis and Craig inside. Alexis stepped into the backyard, and her face dropped straight into a scowl. Most of the officers were clustered here, standing in a half circle around an iron bar cage. Inside the cage snarled the chimera. It stood about two meters tall at the shoulder, but its wildly flapping wings made it seem bigger. The sandy yellow lion head snarled and spat, its pupilless eyes wide. The goat head didn’t make a sound, instead butting at the bars that held it.
“Fuck me, this is bad.” Alexis said, still staring at the slavering beast. Craig had stepped up to her shoulder and also watched the chimera.
“Jesus…” he said, “that cage isn’t much bigger than it. Its fur… it’s so dull too…” Craig’s voice trailed off as Alexis approached the cage. The officers were staring at her now.
“See! She’ll prove me right!” A shrill voice rang above the furious snarls of the chimera, from amidst the circle of officers. Alexis crouched down a few steps from the cage.
“You’re the owner?” She asked, watching the chimera intently. It had turned its gaze to her, and bellowed at her relentlessly. It swiped at her with hooked paws, its razor claws missing her by only inches.
“Yes, yes I am! Hey, let me go talk to her! Let me go!”
“You can stay right there.” She looked at the circle of officers. Two of them held a short, scrawny man by the wrists. His eyes were bloodshot, shirt stained with wine and beer.
“Please, they want to kill Dennis! They’re talking about killing Dennis!” Alexis ignored him and turned back to the chimera.
“Craig, I want you to have a look at this.” Dennis still struggled and bellowed in the cage. Now the snake had noticed Alexis, and hissed and spat while flailing wildly. Craig crouched down next to her.
“It’s scrawnier than I imagined.” He said.
“You can see his ribs.” Alexis said. Her voice was flat and stony. Craig noticed her right hand flexing open and closed. “Oi, you, owner! What’ve you been feeding Dennis?”
“A few kilos of steak. Please, just let me go! Jesus Christ, I need to fucking talk to her!”
“A day?” Alexis had gotten to her feet, and walked slowly around the cage. Dennis spun with her, swinging wildly.
“You shitting me?” Alexis shot her gaze up and stared right at the owner. He wilted under her gaze.
“Well… yeah… I mean, no, I give him about six kilos a week.”
“No wonder he’s starved.” She murmured, then spoke up again. “How often does he get out of this cage?”
“It’s his cage, but normally he’s in a bigger one… I’m cleaning the bigger one, I swear!”
“How often is he out of a fucking cage, then?” She snapped. Dennis punctuated her anger with another furious roar.
“I keep him in there, but I go and talk to him and pat him and he loves me…”
“I’ve heard enough.” Alexis held her hand up and sighed. “You guys, I think you have too. Put him in cuffs. I’ll be back in a minute.” She stalked back towards the truck, Craig hurried after her.
“What are you going to do?” He asked.
“The bastard’s totally feral. He’s half starved, probably sick, and scared. Poor thing. I’m putting him down.” She flipped opened the boot of the truck and dug around through the mess of weaponry and bags. Eventually she pulled out a long, sleek, jet black rifle. She broke open the chamber and slid a fuzzy dart inside.
“I haven’t seen that before.” Craig said.
“You won’t see it often.” Alexis snapped the gun closed and shut the boot. “It’s a tranq.”
“You said you were putting him down?”
“I am.” Alexis started back towards the yard, clutching the rifle in both hands. “There’s enough tranq in that dart to take out an elephant. It’s neater and more humane than putting a bullet in the chimera. That’s why we don’t use it often. We rarely get the chance.”
“Right. Non lethal takedowns don’t work. Unless you’re in a movie.”
“You know your shit. That’s good.” Alexis sat down a few meters away from the cage. The owner was being pushed past the cage. His head jerked around when he saw them.
“Wh…what are they doing? Hey, stop, what are you doing?”
“Craig, when you’re using this thing, you’ll want to aim carefully.” Alexis held the rifle steadily in both hands, one eye closed. “Generally, you’ll want to aim for a nice, soft bit of skin. Preferably with lots of blood flowing around. That way the dart’ll get in nice and easily, and the tranq will too.”
“So the neck’s a good spot?” Craig stood off to the side, watching her and Dennis by turns.
“What are you doing to Dennis? What are you going to do to him? Let me go, you pig fuckers! Let me get Dennis!”
“Shut up, move along!” The owner, still shrieking, was shoved out of the yard. Dennis still bellowed, spittle flying from his numerous jaws.
“Sorry, Dennis.” Alexis said, then fired. The dart slid out noiselessly and buried into the underside of Dennis’s lion throat. The tranquilizer only took a few seconds to sink in. Dennis’s roaring slowed to a growl, which died to a soft whimper. His legs wobbled, then buckled. His breathing became quiet and shallow. Alexis stepped up and stuck her hand through the bars, brushing Dennis’s mane. It was dry and rough.
“What do we do now?” Craig asked.
“Well, for a start, we get a body bag.”