Hey again! Still me. Still undead. Still hunting demons.
I woke up in a jolt of shock taking a deep gasp of air as I returned back to life. I grabbed for my neck, and sure enough, my head was reattached to my body. Quick note, I would not recommend decapitation.
Yesterday was the first night of October, the Hallowed Month, where chosen few who died have to fight demons of the night to stop. Of course, the first pumpkin golem just had to have a giant two-headed ax. One second I was doing something, the next my head was rolling on the pavement, giving me vertigo until I lost consciousness.
Wait what was I doing before I died last night? The worst part of dying was the amnesia. It was my third time dying since I became a hunter, and every time I had a sense of fogginess in my memory. There was my best friend Caleb, Junebug was there, and... I know it was something important, I was with someone, maybe two people?
The digital alarm clock on my bedside began to hum violently, making me lose my train of thought. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter, it was time for school. I got changed, then headed out to grab some breakfast. Outside I found my mom in the lounge watching tv and cradling her favorite mug. I walked over to the kitchen and took the fresh pot of coffee to pour a drink for myself, “Morning mom.”
She smiled at me and walked over to the counter, “Morning kiddo!” She pecked a motherly kiss on my cheek. She was wearing her blue scrubs, just getting off of work. “How was your night? I saw you finished that whole leftover pizza, hungry much?”
I laughed, “Yeah, Caleb came over last night.”
She shook her head, “I swear that boy, don’t his parents feed him?” We both laughed, even though I knew the answer was no. Speaking of the food thief, there were two sharp knocks on the door. I answered it to the jaded face of my best friend.
“Mornin’” We did our handshake, something we came up over the summer, and he let himself in. “Hi, Mrs. Miller!” He waved at my mom, already sprawling on the couch to take a nap.
With a great yawn she replied, “Caleb, you ate my pizza! I was so excited for a slice after work just to find an empty fridge.”
“But it was just so good Mrs. Miller, such a shame that you didn’t get any!”
“Get me a whole pizza or you can’t come to Chinese takeout on Saturday!”
“Not my golden egg fried rice!” They both laughed in amusement. Caleb and my mom had an interesting friendship like they’ve known each other for years. Maybe it was because they were ‘technically’ the same age. I just rolled my eyes and laughed along.
“Okay, mom we’re leaving now.” I gave a kiss on the cheek.
“Bye honey, have a good day at school. Caleb make sure he isn’t getting in any trouble!”
“You can count on me!” He waved her off as I shut the door. As we began our walk to school, his demeanor changed to worrisome. “Hey, Reyes are you ok after last night?”
Thinking about it made me grab my neck. It was like some phantom pain even though my head was securely on my head. Funny thing, I’ve been slashed, crushed by a giant vine-tentacle, almost blown up, but by far decapitation is my least favorite.
Seeing my disdain, Caleb chuckled softly, “Yeah, I’ve been there before, don’t worry your fine. Well… better than those other two.”
“Those other two?” I stopped in my tracks. A fuzzy remembrance came back to me. There were two civilians last night. They were out after curfew, saw the demon and got into the crossfire last night. There were a girl and a guy that I didn’t recognize. The pumpkin saw them and charged, then I tried to stop him and Fwoosh I was dead. I jumped back, “Caleb! What happened to them?”
He stayed silent, biting his lip in frustration. He didn’t want to tell me, he couldn’t, but I knew what it meant, “Oh god...” I could feel my face drop.
His eyes twinged in pain, maybe trying to think of what he had to see. To watch you fail to save someone, it must’ve been traumatic. Our job as huntsmen is to save everyone in the town from the horrors of Hallowed Month, and in a way, we failed.
Just then a hopeful thought came to mind, “Wait, they died on October 1st? Does that mean?”
He looked off vaguely, then shrugged. “I’m not sure what happened. After we were done slaying the baddie, we had to take care of you. By the time we came back to the spot, there wasn’t a trace of either of them…” I shut my mouth. It was my fault if I didn’t get killed I could’ve saved them. I could feel my chest constricting painfully, my breath getting heavier. I’m guessing Caleb read my face because he cautiously placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it two pats. “Reyes don’t lose your head.”
“Sorry- poor choice of words… Just, if anything we’ll find out tonight. Don’t worry about it.”
Hundreds of questions raced in my head. Where did they go after they died? How will they come back to life? Was it possible for them to both come back? I didn’t know what happened to them, but I know Caleb’s right. I steadied my breath and put the dark thoughts out of my head. “Your right, we’ll find out tonight. Let’s go before we’re late to first period.”
The day flew by faster than I expected. School was a lull. Junior year, stress and AP classes, woo! I luckily had Caleb in a few of my classes, as well as our other friend and fellow hunter, Hunter (Keep making the jokes he loves them). After graduating last year, he agreed to retake junior year to see us more. In reality, I feel the real reason was to get closer to Caleb. A person who he has a very obvious crush on.
Throughout the day, Caleb warned us of the hunt later tonight. Spawning in the local park’s playground at early dusk. It would be the three of us, then he said his premonition kept a secret from him. Wait can your own premonition keep secrets from you? I hopefully took it as new huntsmen.
Maybe the people did make it out, but I couldn’t tell if that was a grace or a door to more problems. I had only been undead for a year now, and most of the effects persisted through the month, but literally, all hell broke loose last Hallowed Month. We were barely able to cur the wrath of the witch’s curse. I don’t like to mention it but my friends still feel all the demon anomalies had to correlate with me somehow. I just worry what a new hunter might do to the dynamic of the hunt?
I hung out with Caleb and Hunter for the rest of the day, until the light began to fade. Together, our bodies took the ghoulish forms that were normal for us this time of day. My skin turned a pale translucent white, while my hair flowed red like blood. I looked at the analog clock under my TV, 7:06. Caleb took the liberty of pausing our game once I threw out a blue shell, and made a loud stretch, “Alright guys it’s time.”
We took out our respective masks. Mine was the mask of Scarecrow, a burlap with a stitched smile and two black eye holes. I took an inhale as I slid the mask over my head. In an instant, my body was enveloped with pure white light. Then when I faded, I was changed into my hunter attire, a short-sleeved hood with stretchy black joggers. My friends did suit, transforming into their ghostly hunter forms. Caleb, now Batter, wore his cowled white outfit with a skull mask. Hunter, or Sanguine, thanks to his wolf mask with cascading red fabric changed into an all-white button-up and black pants. With all of us ready, was hasted towards the spawning ground.
Thanks to the power of our masks, the travel to our destination was nothing. In no time at all, I was waiting at the swing set. Sang and Batter stood in caution. “Watch out guys” Batter summoned his weapon, resting hit over his shoulder. “It should be here anytime soon.”
I looked around for any sense of movement. Sure enough, from the corner of my eye, I saw a faint, white figure. I tried to focus on it, but by the time I noticed the person again, the tremor began.
The ground under us began to shake heavily, cracking under the carousel. Massive green stems erupted from the fissure, littering the ground with green. The first lesson I learned, stay far away from the vines.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to find the ghostly person. I had to summon my weapon for the fight. I concentrated my power, grasping the air until shimmering steel blades appeared in my hands. They radiated pure energy, perfect for smashing an evil pumpkin. Sanguine also pulled out his weapon, a long pole shaft with a large orange scoop for the end. The three of us readied as a particular large stem began to push out a massive pumpkin. It spit out three in total before receding to the ground. It wasn’t long before they all began to shape and morph. Overtaken by black ooze, two of them sprouted bat wings and fangs, while the third gained six elongated legs. It let out a deep roar, it’s ooze splashing and corroding the earth, before lumbering towards us.
Not good, we jumped out of the way, but right as I soared into the air, one of the bats rammed me, knocking me down. “Scarecrow!” Batter bellowed out, gashing a sizable hole into one of the pumpkins.
I bounced off the ground, sliding into the rough dirt. Scathes and bruises made me wince, but I was still good to fight. I picked myself up from the ground to see someone hiding beside me. I looked over her. I was confident it was the girl I encountered last night, but now she had taken up a ghoulish form. Her skin was ghastly white, and her hair was a fro of curled golden curls. She hid behind a jungle gym, panicking like how I did my first night. Now, in the midst of battle, I decided to make contact. To show no hostility, I dissipated my blades and held out my hand to her. “Hello… don’t worry I’m a friend.”
She inched her way more into view, still looking cautious. Her voice was shaky, “You’re the person who lost his head yesterday? Trying to save me? What’s going on!”
“Listen, it’s not the best time to talk-”
I was interrupted by the screaming voice of my friend hurtling towards me. I was able to cushion his fall with my body, and we both tumbled onto the turf. Batter instantly stood up and charged into battle, while I tried to hurry this terrible greeting. “No time to explain! Quick do you have a mask? Maybe got it magically from some deathly voice”
She hesitated, “Y-yeah?”
“Great put it on!”
From her back pocket, she produced a black lined eye mask with orange ribbons gliding from either side. The mysterious girl stared down at the disguise, “Am I really… really dead?”
I scratched my masked forehead, “I mean… It’s hard to explain, just put on the mask for safety, and when we’re done I can tell you everything.” This time she complied. Placing the mask over her eyes and tying the ribbon around her head, she began to envelop in white light. In a moment, she found herself completely transformed. Now she was wearing a white cloak that narrowly brushed the ground. Her hair was now set in a tight bun, hidden by a hood. After she realized what just happened, she inspected herself from head to toe. I gave her a thumbs up, “Perfect, now just be careful and take cover for now!”
“Could use some help over here!” Sanguine called as he had trouble taking down the insect-pumpkin.
“I’ll be right back, promise!” I dashed over to my friend in need. I had the power to summon only one of my blades at the moment, but with one stroke of intense fire, I slashed down three of the six black limbs. The pumpkin made a rattle noise as it crashed onto the pavement.
“Perfect thanks!” Sanguine leaped onto the beast and used his scooper to gouge the monster. It rattled in pain before turning into black sludge, returning into the earth.
One down, two to go. Up in the air, Batter was holding onto the back of one of the bats for dear life. “Someone get me down!” I tried to think of an action plan. There was no way to throw my weapon at the demon without also skewering Caleb in the process, and they were too high to jump. I stared at Sang, like we both had the same idea, something we thought of last year. He lowered the end of his scoop so I could take a step in it, and with a hearty lob, propelling me into the air. I zoomed past the bat, taking one of its limbs. It let out an anguish Screeee as it dive-bombed into the ground, smashing itself into nothing.
Batter laughed, “Thanks, guys! Now, where’s the last-
Before we knew it, the last demonic pumpkin was hurtling towards me at breathtaking, bone-crushing speed. I braced for impact, knowing there was little to nothing to stop it. I flinched, but after a moment I realized I was not charged into.
Instead, the mysterious girl was standing in front of me. In her hands she held a long orange polearm, parrying the force of the monster. Just as it was about to overpower her, a silver crescent shaped blade sprouted from the shaft, slicing up the monster in two. It couldn’t even make a last noise as its two halves broke up and bubbled out of existence.
After the battle, we all stood in awe. Then the silence was broken by Batter, “That. Was. Amazing!!” In the blink of an eye, the unnamed girl unsummoned her weapon. “Did you see that S.C.? She summoned her weapon and took out a monster her first night!”
I tried not to sound jealous, “Yeah! That was definitely something!”
From under her cloak, I could sense her tingling with fear and power. She pulled back the hood and softly smiled. “Glad I could help. Now… could someone explain to me what the sam heck is going on here?”
The three of us looked at each other, then to her again, “Of course, but first, could I ask your name?”
She pursed her lips, debating whether she should relay that information, then replied.
“My name is Grace.”