MOONSHINE: Book 2, Chapter 1
I was born a monster.
No big deal, right? Monsters were everywhere in this world. I’m not talking your sweaty pedophile with twitching fingers or your serial killer with a cold and silent harem buried in his crawlspace. No, I’m talking about the real deal. Creatures that had scuttled across the surface of this world when the air was sulfuric acid and the nighttime moon all but blocked out the sky. Scales and fangs, blood that doubled as venom, minds and bodies twisted in concert, dark legends come to life. These legends had always been a reality, but refused to register on modern human eyes. Monsters, they existed all right, and they were legion, so what was one more?
Although truthfully, I was only half-monster. My mother was human, my father something…else. When we were younger my brother and I had called them Grendels; the rest of the supernatural world called them Auphe. You say tomato, I say murderous death incarnate. It’s all good fun. Auphe were the seed of the elf fantasy, believe it or not, but this seed was poisonous, and it would kill anything it touched. There was no blond hair or limpid blue eyes, no silken voices like a temple bell. There was only skin as palely transparent as that of a salamander, eyes the red of lava that had claimed a thousand virgin sacrifices, and a mind blackened and putrid as a rotting swamp. Okay, they did have the pointed ears; I’ll give you that. Sometimes legends do get the facts right, but that’s not much comfort when a thousand metal teeth are buried in your throat.
Half monster or whole, in the end it didn’t matter. I had my weaknesses, same as anyone else. And I was facing one of them now.
Yeah, that’s what I said. Clowns. I hate clowns. Always have. Point one out to me at the age of three and I would run wailing in the other direction as if the Hounds of Hell had been set on my diapered ass. I’d even once punched one with a tiny fist on its big round nose when it bent down to leer at me. The thought still gave me a chill, and wasn’t that pretty damn ludicrous? I’d fought creatures more monstrous than the mind could grasp. And I was related to things even worse than that. That didn’t stop me from holding onto my gun with the tightest of white knuckled grips. Bottom line, none of it mattered. I just hated clowns. And, honestly, what self-respecting person didn’t? Name one, just one that didn’t have a deep down slippery crawl at the sight of them. Those puffy, bloated hands. The tiny gleaming eyes buried in pits of black paint. That maniacal grin awash in lurid scarlet, red as blood. Whose blood, you’d wonder uneasily to yourself. Could be yours if you didn’t waddle away fast enough on chunky toddler legs. Then there were the people dressed like cartoon animals, lolling plush tongues, glassy saucer eyes, and thick, unhinged laughs. They were nasty in their own right, but they still had nothing on clowns. Jesus Christ. Don’t kids have enough to warp them in this world?
“They’re only bodachs, Cal,” Niko’s voice came with a cool amusement that had me throwing him a black scowl. “You could handle a bodach long before you were potty trained. Granted that was less than a month ago….”
My brother, his bedside manner was less handholding and more a nice brisk thwap to the back of the head. “They’re not just bodachs,” I gritted. “They’re bodachs in clown makeup. And that, Cyrano, makes all the difference in the goddamn world.”
The Romanesque nose made even more generous by Niko’s newly shorn hair snorted. “Still with the clowns?” Several months ago Niko’s dark blond hair, most often in a pony-tail or braid, had trailed nearly to the base of his spine. Now it barely touched his ears or would have if he hadn’t ruthlessly skimmed it back. He had given up his hair in mourning, a custom from our Greek heritage. It was one of the few tales our mother had bothered to share with us. The Gypsy clan she’d grown up in had roamed all of Europe hundreds of years ago. They weren’t called Travelers for nothing. Before eventually making their way to the good old USA, they’d settled for a time in Greece, intermarrying with the natives on occasion although it was frowned upon. The result was an odd mixture of Rom and Greek traditions. And that had lost Niko his hair. I gave him hell about it, but not as much as I could have. After all, he’d done it to grieve my death, to mourn me. Smart-ass comments tended to shrivel in my mouth in the face of that.
And I had died, although it had been a temporary thing. First Niko had stabbed me and then a healer friend had stopped my heart. My death had only lasted seconds, but dead I had been. Not that I held a grudge. It was all done in an effort to stop the creature that had taken control of me—a creature bent on remaking the world. On remaking me. Even a permanent death would’ve been better than what it had planned.
Yeah, for sheer awe-inspiring terror, that thing had given clowns a run for their money.
“Yes,” I snarled. “Still with the clowns.”