Chapter 3 – The Brycis
Buck and me sat silently opposite each other in a corner booth at a bar called The Hunters Edge tavern. Technically I wasn’t supposed to be there, I had been put on the banned list, I’d been 86ed. This had all been nearly a year ago but I have a theory that you’re never kicked out of a bar permanently, only for as long as it takes for the person who kicked you out to get over whatever it was that you did. It’s completely situational. So how long can you actually be upset with someone for punching a guy who makes a living by sculpting penis hats out of fucking balloons? Hopefully not that long, because this was the closest bar to our house and we really needed somewhere that wasn’t covered in Bryce’s blood to get our collective shit together.
To be certain we wouldn’t be denied entry Buck insisted that I wear some sort of disguise and all we had was this piece of shit mask I wore a few Halloween’s back.
So there we sat, Buck whose face was still covered with ceiling and his anonymous friend known only as Lucha-Wolverine. Both of us were covered in blood. If it weren’t Halloween weekend people would have lost their minds.
“druph fuph ar re gunuph duh” I said to Buck who rolled his eyes.
“I can’t understand a word your saying through that fucking mask man” Buck replied.
I pulled it up over my mouth “Hey! The mask was your idea!” I whisper-shouted through my teeth.
“If you could stop having imaginary vendetta’s against complete strangers you wouldn’t have to wear the mask, Dave.” Buck said matter-of-factly
“I saw him make a balloon donkey show Buck. A balloon man, fucking a balloon donkey, as a hat! This is a wholesome family oriented establishment. We don’t need that kinda trash in here!” I replied angrily. I really fucking hated balloon guy “Now what the fuck are we gonna do about our Brycis”
Bucks nostrils flared. His eyes sunk low. This was what I called his Shame-Face. I’d just pissed him off.
“Don’t start Dave, not tonight. Please” if Buck could have rolled his eyes with his entire body, he would of. He continued his protest through a comically poignant mocking imitation of a high pitched English accent “he’s Bryce, it’s a crisis…” he gave up on the accent “I get it, it’s funny, mostly for you, this is how you deal with things but seriously, not toni…” he was cut off
“Dave! Take that stupid fucking mask off! I know that’s you” it was Artie the grave yard bartender. I’d been rumbled. “Not gonna give me any fuckin’ trouble are you?”
“No Artie! I promise” I help up three fingers like some kind of boy-scout salute as I pulled the mask off of my face giving Buck a self-satisfied look that said “see, my theory about getting banned from places holds up!”. He could tell and flipped me the bird.
“Good. Don’t make me regret letting you back in here” Artie pointed a stern finger at me “pitcher of Coors and 4 shots of well tequila?”
“Each” We said simultaneously. Ordinarily we’d split a pitcher and have a couple shots each. That first round would either put us where we needed to be or it repeated until Irish whiskey seemed like a good idea and then I usually wound up puking out the window of Buck’s truck on the way home. Tonight we had to up the ante. Needed to.
Before we knew it there was beautiful problem solving alcohol in front of us and I lowered my voice and attempted once more to approach the subject of the corpse that was still in our kitchen aka The Brycis.
“I’m not crazy for thinking this am I? We can’t feasibly call the police about this right? I mean what the fuck would we say?” it might have been some kind of guilt complex I had buried away in me, or possibly the countless hours of procedural homicide shows I’ve watched, but in my mind it looked like we did it, or had something to do with it.
“We could say a wild animal broke in and…” Buck stopped and shook his head “what the fuck kinda animal can do anything like that?” My mind flashed back to the kitchen for a split second. The image of Bryce’s body, ripped open and lifeless was already beginning to haunt the thoughts that I didn’t actively keep occupied with more pleasant thoughts.
We said Cheers and took the first shot.
I suppose I hadn’t noticed how irregular i had been feeling until the first sip of liquor crossed my lips and into my body. The warmth of the shot emanated from the center of me and spread all the way to my fingertips. I was immediately beginning to feel like myself again.
“What about…It?” buck said
“What about it?” I snapped “’s’not in our house anymore, ‘s’not our problem!”
Apparently the more scared I get the bigger prick I become, and that fucking thing scared me shitless.
We clinked our glasses together and took another shot.
I could shoot a million monsters in a million videogames. I could subject myself the darkest most fucked up creatures the cinematic world could offer me for months at a time, but it would’ve never prepared me for seeing something like that in the flesh, right in front of my eyes. It had been the undeniable proof that there were monsters. They might not be from our world, but they were very very real and we’d just brought one here. Everything has changed.
“Jesus Dave, this isn’t like we let an ill-tempered fucking dog loose. You saw what it did to Bry…”
“SHHHdon’t say his fucking name!” my face looked like I was yelling, but my voice was definitely a whisper.
Buck shook his head in dismissal then leaned in across the table and in a low and collected tone said “People are going to come looking for him Dave. Do you know if he told anyone he was coming over? This isn’t just gonna go away.”
He was right. I fucking hate it when Buck is right.
“So what do you suggest Buck? We strap on hockey pads and patrol the neighborhood with your shotgun?” I proposed sarcastically “…hope to fuck we see that thing before it see’s us?”
“What I suggest, asshole…” Buck lowered his voice even further “…is that we get what’s left of Bryce the fuck out of our kitchen before we’re in handcuffs trying to explain how we accidentally teleported a monster from a parallel earth here and inadvertently got someone killed”
There was a seriousness in Buck’s voice that I don’t so often hear. It was cold and lacked emotion. Up until a few hours ago Bryce had been a friend of ours, now he was just something that couldn’t be in our kitchen anymore. Upon processing this notion I realised that Bryce was now just a reason for me to burn my shirt, Burn my jeans, and my boots. I liked those boots. I’d given them names. Persephone and Damascus. They’d been all over the country with me. Up and down mountains. I’d smuggled all manner of things across international boarders in them. We had a very special bond.
I’d like to correct myself. I loved those fucking boots.
Jesus, where’d I put my humanity?
“Don’t look at me like that man, I don’t have time to think about the morality in all of this. This is something we need to fix, and quickly before we’re blamed for it.” Clearly buck hadn’t correctly extrapolated the cause behind my inflection, but I couldn’t help but agree with him.
The power of alcohol was really starting to course through me now and after the last shot I could feel the gears of my mind easing up and beginning to turn. The terror had started to vanish into the fog of booze and too many prescription meds. my inner piece-of-shit was pushing back the lid on its coffin in preparation of joining us on this adventure. After that last drink none of it seemed all that bad and both of us kinda started to see the funny side.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking “what funny side Dave? Your friend’s dead and there’s a murderous shape shifting inter dimensional blob monster on the loose” and yes that all sounds pretty awful, but what were we supposed to do, stay scared and sober? Fuck that, my inner shit-bag is a man of action, and lucky for me he’s usually a solid aid when it comes to rousing the same sort of enthusiasm in Buck who was at that point, starting to look a little mopey.
“Listen…” I said “…I’m gonna go piss, you’re gonna brain storm, then we’re taking these shots and start figuring this out. Nothing is fucked here.” shot three had apparently put me in a much more positive place giving buck 2 thumbs up before excusing myself to the toilets.
The Hunters Edge toilets were everything you could probably expect from a dive bar in downtown Las Vegas. They were dirty, smelled atrocious and were the last place you’d ever sit down to shit, I looked like part of the furniture.
I pulled my red hair into a fashionably taboo bun and glared at myself past the smears on the mirror, which wasn’t even a mirror, it was just polished metal and was only barely passable as something one might call a reflective surface.
I looked like shit. Like shit that had been eaten by shit, then shit out again, it was bad. My eyes still looked like they had recently been glowing. There was blood on…everything.
I looked like I’d just gotten off the set of some prime time zombie show where I’d been the feature zombie kill of the week.
I leaned in and eyed the lump forming on my cheek. I couldn’t really remember at what exact point I’d been hit in the face. I tried to replay the nights events but there was no distinct moment I could recall getting hit hard enough to give me that kind of shiner.
I poked at it, it hurt, all the way up into my eye it hurt. The hurt made me laugh. A lot.
Yes, I know that nothing was funny. Not funny Ha-Ha anyway, but I couldn’t help but laugh. This whole thing was absolutely ridiculous. like, suddenly we have to start dealing with the realization that there were alternate, and possibly infinite dimensions that play as homes to sincerely terrifying monsters and here I am, half cocked at The Hunters Edge just 30 minutes after I watched my friend get murdered trying to figure out at what point I got punched in the face. C’mon.
Maybe my brain forced my coping mechanisms into a hard time-out or something but this was the only thing I wanted to think About.
I turned on the sink and threw water in my face. The blood that had dried on my face started to regain a more viscous consistency and Just smeared across my face making me look even more ridiculous.
I didn’t want to think about my life being in danger, or Bryce, or the feeling that Nina was probably going to rush in at any point In time to arrest me. What I wanted to do was not deal with any of this, I wanted to walk back out into the bar, order another round and drink with Buck until the sun came up.
I took a deep breath and before I could exhale the bathroom door flew open and Artie stormed in screaming
“God damn it Dave! You’ve been in here for 10 minutes! Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing in…” Artie paused and looked around. I glanced over my shoulder with a puzzled look.
“Uhh, hey Art’, uhhh, what’s up?”
“Why aren’t you in the stall?” He quickly asked
“Because I’m standing here…wiping this blood off of my face.”
“Well why the hell there blood on your face?”
Artie seemed a little flustered, I assume he’d just heard me giggling like a moron by myself in there and had grown suspicious.
“There’s blood on my face because I just watched a monster brutally rip my friend to pieces Artie.” I was playing a pretty reckless game of chicken with the truth.
Artie paused, looked around like he was trying to find evidence that I’d been doing something he could kick me out for.
“Man, There’s blood on my face because it’s Halloween and bloods part of the costume.” The Lie was infinitely more plausible that the truth.
“You’re not doing drugs in here?”
“No man, i did them at home”
Long, awkward pause…I looked at Artie, he looked at me waiting for a crack in my defenses to make itself known.
“AH HAHAHAHAHA!” Artie burst out laughing, playfully punching my arm a little too hard while I awkwardly laughed along with him.
“Get back out there!” He grabbed me and turned me toward the door “your buddy’s gonna start drinking without you!” I left the bathroom.
I don’t want to say ran, but I might’ve power walked to get back to buck who was reaching for his glass.
I put my hand over it stopping him. I’d had a slight moment of something that might resemble clarity, like the last death rattle of my conscious speaking up before I, once again, got involved in some stupid fucking bullshit with Buck.
“Wait,” I looked at him soberly “What if we just turn the machine over to the cops and plead ignorance? Maybe they’d go easy on us?”
Buck lowered both his eyebrows and gave me the kind of look I assume someone would give if I’d just politely asked if they’d be totally fine with me fucking their younger sister.
“What? Why the fuck would we do that?” Buck said.
I paused briefly and considered the various scenarios.
“No, Yeah. Yeah. No, You’re right.” I said flippantly and reached for my shot glass.
We said cheers for a fourth time and knocked back our last shot chasing it down with the remainder of our beers.
“Anyway while you playing grab-ass with Artie in the men’s room, I was coming up with a plan, we need to get back to the house ” Buck had a smile on his face, a real one. Not a I’m-4-shots-and-a-pitcher-deep smile. He was genuinely pleased with himself.
“YES!” I Stood up and gave a little fist pump into the air. I don’t know what I was so excited about; at this point I knew absolutely nothing about Buck’s plan. For all I knew he was going to use me as bait then execute the Thing Mob style while it was busy sucking out my insides. I was just excited someone had a plan, any plan was better than no plan, and if I’m being completely honest with you, things tend to work out more favourably for us when I take a back seat to the planning things part of bullshit such as this.
We paid Artie and headed out to Buck’s 1998 Ford Ranger. Bathed in the white neon light of the strip mall The Hunters Edge was located in you could see all of its flaws, and fuck, it had a gang of them. I assumed palpable Hope held most of the car together somehow but Buck swore that while it didn’t look pretty, its only flaws were cosmetic. Buck had every intention of driving the beast until it took its final breath.
The old engine rumbled to life and Police Truck by Dead Kennedy’s came blaring out of the junk stock speakers. The whole car shook, constantly. You couldn’t tell if it was your phone or just the car vibrating. It was so bad that you could feel it in your whole body for 10 minutes after you’d gotten out. Buck had only ever driven that truck the entire time I’d known him, it was part of family! That’s not to say I didn’t ridicule the ever living fuck out of him for still driving it around though.
We sped through the back streets. Buck always took the most ass-backwards ways to get too and from the bars we frequented. They weren’t necessarily short cuts, but they weren’t exclusively longer either. Buck claimed that it was to avoid the police, but we always saw them, and my previously mention guilt complex always had me convinced that we looked more suspicious being the only car rolling through mostly deserted areas of town in the middle of the night.
I looked out the window as the chorus to Police Truck hummed like music in another room. I was far away from it, thinking about how many people were probably dead already because of us. I have a habit of assuming the worst. My mind was like a pendulum swinging between being excited about everything and then feeling completely mortified. We shit the bed pretty bad this time.
I’d walked into that bathroom mere moments away from leveling up and being ready to fight the world but something between then And now really knocked me off my game. It’s so hard to maintain that perfect drunk.
Someone ran across the road in front of us forcing us to slow down. There was something familiar about the them but I couldn’t quite place what it was I recognized until the person glanced at over at us and…
“Is that fucking Bryce?” Buck took the words right out of my brain and said them for me but before I could process and respond.
Buck slammed the breaks and brought us to a sudden halt, the person stood still in the road vacantly looking in the trucks direction.
As far as I could see it was Bryce, right there in front of us all muddy and bloody lit up by the Rangers headlights.
There was a long, Erie silence as both of our jaws hung slack, unable to speak.
We looked at Bryce and Bryce looked back at us, I leaned forward squinting through Buck’s dirty windshield hoping that it was just my perspective or my overworked brain playing a cruel trick on itself.
“Uhhhhh, Buck…what the fuck is…”
The back window of the truck shattered behind my head before I could finish.
I saw the Bryce thing dart off before I got as low as I could in the cramped truck cab. My heart pounded as tiny glass shards succumbed to gravity and toppled down onto our heads.
Huge spiderweb cracks crawled across the windshield originating from a central hole that was about the size of a quarter.
“Is someone fucking shooting at us?” Buck grunted. The cold air swam in through the broken window and turned his breath to steam.
“I don’t think they’re shooting at…” I was cut off.
“RUN!” Buck hollered.
We both scrambled out of the car and scattered in opposite directions. Both of us taking cover between the vacant houses that surrounded us.
The neighborhood was mainly just foreclosed properties used as squat houses for the plethora of homeless that populated downtown Las Vegas. It was generally a very quiet place. Everyone who lived in the area kept to a don’t-shit-where-you-eat code of ethics because we were mostly all doing something illegal. We didn’t call the cop’s when Lenny from 3 houses down’s amateur meth lab blew up and left the neighborhood stinking like straight cat piss for 3 days because, at the same time, we had a kitchen full of grow lights and shoulder high pot plants. The point is that Nobody needed the extra attention; so you can understand what I mean when I say shooting at passing cars was generally frowned upon.
“YO! WHAT THE FUCK? WE COME IN PEACE!” I yelled but just heard another gunshot followed immediately by the sound of glass shattering. The Ranger took another shot. I wondered how much life that thing had left in it, every shot chipping away at its hypothetical power bar.
I reached down to grab my phone to try to contact Buck but I was only able to wrap my fingers around the feeling of disappointment upon realizing that I’d left it sitting in the passenger seat of the truck. Fuck!
“Buuuuuuck” I whispered through the cold hoping he was within ear shot, turning around and cutting behind one of the houses making sure not to disturb the mine field of sleeping drunks ready to wake up screaming their own private language of intoxicated mania. This was where they slept. They didn’t come to our house to sleep, so they didn’t take kindly to me wandering through theirs.
“Buuuuuuck” I tried again as I peeked my head out around the plastic siding. The shattering of glass had definitely been the driver side window. I imagined buck becoming quite furious.
I gingerly took a step out from between two buildings, cautiously checking my peripheries for rogue gunmen.
There hadn’t been another gun shot for some time now. I wondered if I’d have enough time to dash to the truck and retrieve my phone. Checking my lefts and rights again and seeing nothing I decided to take a chance and run for it.
Yes, I was about to risk my life for my phone. A small piece of plastic that connected easily to the internet and provided me with music and porn and free movies that were still in theaters. I can’t currently bring to mind a single human in my life that I’d risk getting shot for. Maybe Buck? But like, in the arm? Or leg? I don’t know, definitely not in the face or chest.
I planted my feet and readied myself to bolt for the car and retrieve what us apparently my most important belonging. Taking in a big breath of chill air, I tilted my head back and said a quick prayer to absolutely no one with the ability to hear my silent thoughts, then I launched out from behind the house with the force of an Olympic sprinter who managed to scam is drug tests.
I was One, two, three solid strides into my run when the whole plan, as most of my plans do, turned completely to total bullshit.
“OH FUCK THAT!” I yelled loudly as I was all of a sudden face to face with Bryce, but not Bryce. Bryce was dead and The remains of his body were splattered across the floor of my kitchen getting harder and harder to remove and clean with every moment that passed.
What stood in front of me was the thing that killed him, now wearing Bryce’s face, and apparently also wearing one of Bryce’s Bob Marley/Pittsburgh Steelers hybrid jerseys. I guess there’s no accounting for taste even when you’re dealing with monsters from other dimensions.
While the thing could look like Bryce at a glance, now getting a look at it just 6 feet away from me, I could see the cracks in its camouflage. I could pick out the more blob-creature aspects of it. the way the limbs stretched a little too far and how it couldn’t really ever stop moving, just drifting from side to side correcting the gelatinous weight shifting about. It had a total vacancy to all of its facial expressions. the mouth, eye brows, the way the jaw just kind of hung there, but it’s eyes, Bryce’s eyes, they looked hungry.
I have a thing about dying, ever since I was a little kid I have wanted fuck all to do with it, I just outright refuse. I’ve gotten good at it. Refusing death(which is very different than simply avoiding it) has become such a big part of my life that the second I read the look in the Bryce-things eyes I was gone, I didn’t need a fucking Teleporter for that. Not. Fucking. Today.
My reflexes activated in such a way that my legs were a full 2 strides into running away before my body caught up. I must’ve looked like I was trying to imitate an old Saturday morning Scooby-Doo cartoon.
I vaulted over the wall of a front yard and jettisoned myself to the side of the house, cutting through to get one street over and put more obstacles between me and that thing.
I only glanced back once, briefly, to see if it had given chase, but I didn’t get chance to turn my head all the way back to look. Before I could, there was the sound of tires screeching and a sharp pain in my hip. my head hit something cold and metallic. There was the sensation of falling, then my head hit the asphalt and I looked up at the stars, they were spinning like a babies crib Mobile, or maybe my brain was what was spinning.
I heard a voice, a woman’s.
To be continued…