Chapter 2

I felt like I was buried under a pile of warm blankets. My mind seemed as if it was smothered in cobwebs. Gradually, I became aware of a bitter taste in my mouth and a disgusting, sticky substance clinging to my lips. It took quite a few hard moments of disinterested concentration for me to figure out what was going on. I’d been in a fight with… a vampire? Yeah, I’d fought a vampire. Must’ve won too, because I didn’t feel like a vampire. That’s what happens when you get bit by a vampire: you turn into one. Right? Or else you die. But then again, I didn’t know what being a vampire felt like. Or being dead. So how was I to know if I was still alive, dead, or a vampire?

I gave up trying to figure that one out after a few minutes, moving instead to a more important question: where was I? I slowly, ever so slowly, forced my eyes open. The world around me was a fuzzy, blurry mess. It took another few minutes (hours?) of lazy concentration to finally get things into focus.

I was in a room, lying in some sort of bed. There was a device next to my right shoulder displaying some sort of readout that looked like a bunch of squiggly lines. There were wires coming out of the machine which seemed to lead under the blankets. Yeah, that made sense; I could feel a bunch of sticky things on my chest and something else clamped to my right pinky.

So, again, where was I, and why did this all seem so familiar? Was I… was I in a hospital? At that moment, a nurse entered the room.

“Ah, good, you’re awake,” she said upon seeing me. Without further ado, she wheeled a cart bearing some sort of medical device into the room, pulled two long pointy rods from the device and shoved them into my mouth. She glanced at the readout for a minute until the device beeped, removed the probes from under my tongue, and wheeled the device out of the room.

Yeah, I was in a hospital. Again.

Shit.

That must be why I felt so out of it. Anesthesia always does a number on me. Well, at least I hadn’t thrown up. Yet, anyway. A wave of massive fatigue suddenly hit me, and I fell back into a deep (and still drug-induced) sleep.

When I awoke, which must have been a few hours later, the first thing I noticed that my head felt much clearer. The second thing I noticed was that my left arm was wrapped in a cast from my wrist all the way up to my shoulder. The third thing I noticed was that there was a pair of men standing next to my bed. The nearest one looked like a carbon copy of Hugo Weaving from The Matrix, while his partner could’ve passed for a younger, shorter Clint Eastwood, only with black hair. They were both wearing off-the-rack suits, and the Eastwood look-alike had a rather large pistol printing from under his jacket. Each had “Federal Agent” written all over him.

“Good, you’re finally awake,” the Weaving clone said.

“Who are you?” I asked. Or at least, tried to ask. My mouth was bone-dry and my tongue was plastered to my teeth, so the sound that emerged from between my cracked lips was closer to “Swhuryewsh?”

“Water, Mister Andrews?” The second agent asked. I nodded. He moved past his partner, picked a clear plastic cup from the nightstand next to my head, and held it up to my lips. It was only tap water, but right then it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. Too soon, he pulled the cup away.

“Thanks,” I said, “So, who are you guys?”

“Do you know what happened to you?” the first agent asked me, ignoring my question.

“I… ah…” I got the feeling that if I told these guys I’d been in a fight with a vampire (I was now firmly convinced that’s what it had been) they’d have packed me up and shipped me off to a funny farm. “I got into a fight with a crackhead.” I said.

“Try again, Mister Andrews,” the first agent said. “Two days ago, you were involved in an altercation with an undead entity, in this case a vampire, at the Tredyffrin Public Library.”

“Uh, you said that, not me,” I said quickly, “Don’t be putting words in my mouth.”

“By some miracle,” the agent continued, again ignoring me, “you were able to dispatch the creature, first by stabbing it with a wooden stake and then by decapitating it with a shotgun.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” I said cautiously, “So…are you saying that it really was a vampire, then?”

“Yes, Mister Andrews, it was a vampire.”

“Bullshit. Everyone knows vampires aren’t real.”

“I assure you, Mister Andrews, vampires are indeed real,” the second agent chimed it “As are lycanthropes, zombies, orcs, elves, ghouls, wights, chupacabra, sasquatch, yeti‑”

“That’s enough,” the first agent barked at his partner, silencing him with a glare.

“Woah, woah, woah, stop for a second,” I said, waving my hands (or at least the one that wasn’t in a cast) to shush him. “You guys are serious?” The agent nodded. “Monsters are real? As in, really real?”

“They are,” the first agent said with a nod. I just stared at them, jaw agape, for a minute.

“Who the hell are you guys?” I finally asked.

“I’m Agent Willard,” the first agent said, “This is my partner, Agent Simpkin.”

“Who are you guys?” I asked again, “FBI? CIA? NSA?”

“MCB,” Willard replied.

“MCB?” I repeated, “What’s that stand for, ‘Monster Control Bureau’ or something?”

“Or something,” Willard said in a rather poor imitation of me.

“So… what do you guys want with me?” I asked. Neither Willard nor Simpkin answered. Instead, Willard reached inside his jacket. I sat straight up in bed, panicked, sure he was going for his pistol.

“Wait, no‑” I started. Willard’s hand emerged back into view. It was holding a newspaper. Willard tossed it into my lap, and I picked it up with my good hand.

“Local Man Slays Serial Killer,” I read the headline aloud before shooting a questioning glance at the two Feds.

“As far as the public knows, you killed, in self-defense, a serial killer who was high on PCP,” Willard explained, “That’s how it’s going to stay.”

“You mean, I can’t tell anyone that it really was a vampire?” I asked, “Why?”

“You will be in violation of the Unearthly Forces Disclosure Act, and prosecuted accordingly.”

“Prosecuted how?” I asked, “Like, will I wind up in Gitmo or something if I talk?”

“No,” Willard said.

“Then… what?”

Willard reached back inside his jacket again, and I swear he grinned a little bit as he did so. When he withdrew his hand this time, it was holding a Glock. He snapped the gun up and leveled it at my forehead, his finger touching the trigger.

“So,” I said, trying (and failing) to keep my voice from cracking, “I talk, I die from acute lead poisoning.” Simpkin snorted when I said that. Willard glared at him.

“Exactly,” Willard said.

“So… ah… why tell me?”

“Standard operating procedure,” Willard said simply. I raised my eyebrows at the two of them.

“Hey, I don’t get it either,” Simpkin said, earning him another glare from his partner.

“Okay…” I said slowly, “So, ah, since I really don’t want to die, I’ll stick to the serial killer story.”

“Good,” Willard said. He sounded almost disappointed as he slowly holstered his pistol.

“So… you guys need me for anything else?” Simpkin shook his head, Willard just stood there. “Well, uh, if that’s all, and if you guys don’t mind, I think I’m gonna go back to sleep.”

“Fine,” Willard said. He turned to leave, and Simpkin moved to follow him.

“Get better,” Simpkin said as he headed out the door. Somehow, I knew that Willard started glaring at him again.

Once they were gone, I lay back against my pillow. Even with the drugs still lingering in my system, sleep eluded me. I was still having a hard time processing it: monsters, all the creatures from ancient myth and children’s nightmares, were real. They were real, and I couldn’t tell anyone, because if I did, Agent Willard of the Monster Control Bureau would come back and shoot me in the face. Somehow, I knew he would probably enjoy that.

Chapter 3

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