A/N: This is quite possibly the best thing that I personally feel I've ever written, and I honestly can't wait to write more. This stemmed from a short story assignment in Grade 10, which I expanded into this just last year, and I'm in love and so very ecstatic to see how this turns out. Happy reading!
I'm going to end up being a human sacrifice, aren't I? I think, hoping that my hiding spot behind the tree would keep me out of the druid's sight as I formulate a plan.
"Now would be a really good time to help me out with some of that wonderful advice you're usually dishing out, Morgana!" I hiss into the communication device lodged into my ear.
"The only advice I can give you at this point, Meadow, is to give up -" Morgana begins, but I cut her off.
"Not a chance!" I exclaim.
"- and run away -"
"Have you even met me?"
"- but because I know you and I knew exactly what you were going to say, I refrained from saying anything at all," Morgana finally gets to finish her sentence.
"Well, even if I could run away, which I never would, I'm a little tied up at the moment," I groan, both my hands and feet bound by the thick vines growing from the ground… courtesy of my good friend, Minerva the druid, who was currently debating on whether she should use her beloved staff or one of her many wooden stakes to brutally murder me. Either way, it's going to hurt like a bitch!
I consider my options. I could try to rip the vines out to cause pain to the druid - nope! That's a nymph thing. Honest mistake, really. I could let it kill me… yeah, no way in heaven, hell or purgatory is that happening! I could… that's it! I can practically feel my eyes lighting up when an idea hits me like a ton of bricks.
I close my eyes, tilting my head to the side, relaxing my body. I can hear the druid rush over to me in delight, the thudding of her feet causing the ground underneath to vibrate. Perfect. She slowly unwraps the vines from my hands and feet, the sound of her breathing heavily making me have just the smallest amount of sympathy for her. Just the smallest.
I lift my head up, looking the druid right in the eye. She never saw it coming. Before she could even have any time to react, I reach up to the top of her head, breaking off her antlers, causing her to fall to the ground with a thud. 'Knocking Out Monsters that Heal Fast 101': always aim for the antlers… or whatever type of ear they may have.
Just as I was about to rejoice in my victory, I'm met with another problem: more druids. The fact that monsters are friends with other monsters makes me feel both warm and fuzzy, and afraid for my life. My heart sinks as I see them coming closer, and closer, and closer… when a familiar, loud chopping sound causes both me and the druids to looks up at the sky. It was a helicopter sent by headquarters! I can tell because there's a Black Annis logo on it. I move out of the way as nets are released from the helicopter, capturing all the druids, including the one that I'd knocked out cold earlier. A ladder extends from the helicopter, I grab on, letting it pull me up. The rain forest was nice, and fighting with the druid was great! But home is where the heart is… Havendale, Toronto.
"Another successful mission by yours truly," I announce, bouncing into Black Annis headquarters.
"As expected," my boss and mentor Morgana says with a smile, as I saunter into her office.
"Okay, you should have been there to see the look on that druid's face!" I exclaim, barely able to contain my excitement. "She was actually so surprised when I gained the upper hand. When in doubt, play dead. If only my drama teacher could see me now."
"Well, I may not have seen the look on her face, but I did see the one on yours when she had all her druid friends gang up on you," Morgana says pointedly.
"Yeah, that was a bit of a shocker, and definitely not one of my finest moments either," I admit guiltily. So I almost died… I won in the end didn't I?
"Meadow, lately, you haven't just been going up against one or two monsters. They've all been targeting you ever since you killed Darius about a year ago."
Darius. I flinch when I hear that name, my eyes twitching, my hands balling into fists, anger seeping through my body. I hate the effect that he had on me. Dead or alive, Darius can still cause me to go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds, in the blink of an eye. I think back to that fateful night, the night when my life took a complete 180 degree turn… and for the better.
"Why are you here Darius?" I demanded.
He smirked and said, "You really thought your pathetic monster hunting buddies can keep me locked up for that long?"
"Well, I was kind of hoping that I'd never see you again," I said.
"Well too bad!" shouted Darius, kicking me in the side, slightly cracking my ribs, "I am Darius, one of the greatest skinwalkers to ever set foot on this planet!"
"Either you're getting weak, or I'm just too strong for you" I mocked, holding the side that had just been kicked by his disgusting feet. Darius growled as he lunged for me. He scratched my face with his enormous claws, then grabbed me by the neck and threw me across the alley. I struggled to get up, while holding the back of my neck, as I said, "Aw, is the little kitty mad?" The fact that I continued to provoke him after all of that amazes me to this day.
He ran towards me, and slammed me against the brick wall. Then he grabbed my face with his sharp claws, which were digging into my flesh like injections when they enter your bloodstream, and slammed my head against the wall. Again, and again, and again... until I was on the cold ground, screaming in pain. Even my inhumanly fast healing abilities weren't enough to keep the pain away.
Darius laughed. Whether it was at my screams or at the blood trailing down my face, I really couldn't tell. "Not so tough now are you, hunter?" he mocked, "You thought you were all that just because you captured me? Well, your father thought the same thing a few years ago. He captured me, but I came after him. He was in that same pathetic position you're in right now. I'm going to enjoy destroying you!"
My pain had soon turned into anger, after hearing him mock my dad. Because of him, my dad died. Because of him, I never got to see my dad again. Because of him, my mom could barely function without bursting into tears and drinking her sorrows away. Because of him, I blamed my dad, the person who protected me, and took me out for ice cream, and suggested we buy a dog so I would have an excuse for not doing my homework, for every single thing that went wrong in my life. Because of him, I'd gone on hating my dad for years.
As Darius ran at me in order to stab me in the stomach with his claws, I brought my leg up, pointing my toe, and kicked him square in the jaw. My ballet teacher would've been so proud.
I got up and into a fighting stance: body tilted sideways, legs ready to jump and kick as high and hard as I possibly could, fists curled in front of my face, ready for whatever Darius threw at me. "You're not going to win, hunter!" Darius exclaimed as he tried to kick me in the side again… except this time, I grabbed his leg, and swung him across the alley, ramming him against the wall.
"My name's Meadow! And you'd be surprised at how anger can bring out the best in a person," I practically growled at him, kicking him right on his back, you know, that place where his spine is.
Darius turned over to face me and chuckled, "You can't kill me, hunter. You and your hunting buddies don't believe in that. You just capture us, and take us back to where we came from."
"I know. But sometimes we make exceptions," I said, taking out my dagger, my go-to weapon, and slicing his neck. "And you're one of them."
Darius turned into dust and the wind blew him away. Just like that, it was over. He was gone.
I know that this might sound kind of morbid, but seeing him disappear into thin air like that gave me a strange sense of satisfaction. I finally felt at peace. And things got much better after that. I went up in my monster hunter rankings, straight from Level One to Level Three... I'm currently Level Four! My mom stopped moping around and finally decided to step up to take care of me, something I'd been doing all by myself for the past couple years. Should I feel awful for having blood on my hands? Probably. But the thing is… I don't.
"Well, looks like I'm famous then," I tell Morgana jokingly, when I notice the strange look I'm getting from her, probably for spacing out. She's been giving me that look a lot lately… a lot of people have.
Have I been spacing out?
"Meadow, this is serious," Morgana warns, her stern voice pulling me out of my thoughts. "You could've been hurt, killed!"
"And that's what my super healing and your special energy drinks are for."
"Do I need to remind you of last week? You were barely alive, nothing was working!"
"Yet, I'm still alive!"
"Meadow, I do not want anymore arguments about this. That is an order," Morgana's voice booms throughout her office.
"Fine," I grumble, narrowing my eyes at her as I cross my arms over my chest.
Morgana lets out a frustrated sigh. "Have you heard of my new team of Monster Hunters?"
"You mean the Quartet of Doom?" I say, just to make sure we're on the same page.
"Yes - wait, excuse me?"
"Oh, yeah, funny story... everyone at the organization refers to your new girls as the 'Quartet of Doom,' with the occasional 'Team Disaster' thrown into the mix. Personally, I prefer the first one."
"They're not that bad!" Morgana exclaims defensively.
"Morgana, I have never seen anyone screw up missions as much as they do."
"They get the job done, don't they?" she practically hisses at me.
"Yeah, after they blow stuff up, destroy every single weapon given to them, and knock at least one civilian out cold. They almost sent the entire state of Nevada spiraling through a black hole, while they were in Machu Picchu… which is on a mountain. In Peru!"
"We don't destroy every single weapon given to us," I hear a voice say from behind me. I turn around and see the Quartet of Doom walk into Morgana's office.
"Just most of them," the same girl says, walking up beside me.
"Dylan, you are not helping our case!" one of her teammates groans.
"I'm sorry your Highness, my apologies," Dylan drawls.
"My name is Evelyn, and I know your real name, so I would tread carefully if I were you," she says, her voice dangerously low, causing Dylan to simply roll her eyes. The other two girls on the other hand, slap their foreheads in frustration, wishing that they were anywhere else but here.
"See, this is exactly what I was talking about!" I tell Morgana, "They bicker like little five year-olds, they have absolutely no sense of discipline, and none of them take the monster hunting business seriously. With all due respect, Morgana, your girls are a disaster."
"Well, then maybe they need some proper guidance in the form of an experienced hunter, possibly Level Four, who would be more than happy to be their leader," Morgana extolled.
"Who in their right mind - oh no, you mean me!" I realize, seeing the look on Morgana's face. "No!" I'm quick to protest, turning around.
"No, no, no and a hell no!" I begin to march away furiously. Just as I'm about to reach the door, Morgana appears in front of me. Damn super speed! Another perk of being a monster hunter. Why didn't I think of that?
"Meadow, just hear me out," Morgana says, looking me dead in the eye. "I don't ask, never have, I tell. I tell people to do things for me, I never ask. But I am asking you to just listen to what I have to say -"
"No! I refuse to be some baby-sitter for a bunch of spoiled little brats!"
"Hey!" I hear all four girls say, outraged, but I simply ignore them.
"I have a good thing going here, a nice clean record, and I don't plan on ruining that by being your own personal nanny. You've got yourself a princess, a popstar, a reckless crazy person, and a meek little mouse who can't even fight. I'm sorry, but it's your own fault for thinking that this trainwreck of a team you threw together could actually work. They're your problem, please don't try to make them mine." I walk out of Morgana's office, slamming the door behind me.
I march out of headquarters, stomping my feet on the ground, suddenly feeling silly for behaving like such a child. "What the hell is wrong with me?" I mutter, making my way over to the nearest bus stop, waiting for the bus to come. I check my phone; ten more minutes until the bus gets here. Great. I plug my earbuds in, about to put them in, when I hear a voice exclaim, "Hey!"
I tilt my head to the side, and see my best-friend Lucas walking up to me. "Hey! What's up?" I ask, his smiling face already making my day.
"Nothing much, just needed some fresh air. What's up with you? You have your 'I have to make a decision but I can't' face on."
Lucas Martin is that annoying best-friend who knows just about everything about you. And I say annoying, because he will literally force you to open up and talk about your feelings and inner turmoil. Pass.
"Tell me what's wrong, Dow, or I will be forced to use certain methods you don't like."
"Have I ever told you how much I hate you?" I say to him with a bright smile on my face.
"Constantly. Now spill."
I sigh, not wanting to deal with this, but at the same time knowing that Lucas will make me do it anyway. "So I have this friend -"
"You have two friends, and one of them is me. Next excuse, please."
"Okay, there's an acquaintance of mine -"
"Stop it!" He throws his arms up in the air in surrender, finally letting me finish. "Thank you," I say, narrowing my eyes at him. "So this acquaintance has an impossible decision to make. She needs to choose between continuing to work solo, or teaming up with a bunch of babies who she thinks calling babies is an insult to babies everywhere."
"Well, first of all, this acquaintance of yours needs to stop carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders," Lucas says softly, grasping my shaking hands in order to get them to simmer down. "She needs to know that talking helps."
"But talking is so extra!" I whine, cringing the minute I realize I sound like every other girl at school, every other girl that I secretly make fun of.
"Well would you look at that!" I exclaim dramatically as my bus stops right in front of me, sending a cheeky grin Lucas's way. "Looks like my bus is here!"
"Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm on a bus you can't be on because… guess who doesn't have bus fare?"
"This is isn't over!"
Once I get home, I hear my mother call out, "Meadow, honey, is that you?"
"Yeah!" I tell her, taking my shoes off and heading into the kitchen.
I enter the kitchen, the smell of chocolate chips cookies making my mouth water. I reach out to grab one, but my mom lightly smacks me on the wrist and says, "Those aren't for you."
"But if I help you make more, they can be?" I suggest, causing my mom to roll her eyes, stepping aside to let me through.
"If you wash your hands first," my mom reprimands me, as if I was five years old. I roll my eyes, but head over to the sink to wash my hands before helping her. Once I'm done, I pour out a couple chocolate chips, mixing them in with the batter.
As I begin to stir, my mom asks me, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing" I say quickly… and almost defensively.
"Meadow, I'm your mother, I think I know you a little better than that."
No you don't! I want to shout. But instead I say, "There's nothing wrong with me, mom."
My mom stops doing what she's doing, and practically snatches the cookie batter out of my hands.
"Mom!" I am baffled by her behaviour. I've never seen my mom so rattled before.
"Meadow, I know that I'm not exactly 'Mom of the Year,' but I am still your mother and I know when there's something wrong with my daughter!"
"Mom, you're making a big deal out of nothing," I assure her, trying to reach out for the cookie batter I'd been mixing, desperately needing something in my hands, something to keep them from - No. No! Why do they keep doing that? Why are they always shaking? It freaks me out! Stop! I want to shout at them, even they can't hear me. I don't how or when or even why this has been happening to me, but I hate it! It's like my own hands are against me, I don't even control them anymore. I don't them shaking. My hands shaking makes people think that there's something wrong with me. They'd think I was crazy, or afraid, or on the verge of nervous breakdown - none of which I want!
"Meadow!" My mother's loud, booming voice snaps me out of my thoughts. I look down at my hands, only to see that they've stopped shaking because my mom grabbed ahold of them. "Honey, this is exactly what I'm talking about. I have seen you sneaking in late, and I know you work a late shift, but you are covered in bruises and scratches. You're always tired, and not in a physical sense, but in an emotional one. It's like you're here, but you're not. Your hands are always shaking, just like they were right now. For the past year, every time you've gotten too emotional or overwhelmed, your hands have started shaking uncontrollably… and all you've done is just stare at them, like you're a stranger to your own hands. There have been times, Meadow, where you just space out, like you're in a trance! You're so out of it, for minutes, sometimes even for hours! You just stare out into space, your eyes - your eyes seem hollow, they depict no emotion at all. I can't tell if you're going to laugh or cry because all I see is emptiness. I just want to know what's wrong with you honey."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with me," I say slowly, dragging out the syllables of every letter of every word coming out of my mouth. I will not cry, I will not cry! I keep telling myself. I haven't cried in years, no use in starting now. My eyes zoom around like The Flash, from the my mother's face to the cookie batter to the broken cupboard my dad never got the chance to fix. Somewhere in between, my eyes find a clock which reads 10:30 PM.
"I need to get to work," I inform my mother, happy to finally be able to escape from here for a while. I grab cookie from the tray in front of my mom, my mouth watering at the sight of it alone. As the warm mixture of gooey chocolate and sweetened crumbs enter my mouth, I let out a sigh, as if I'd died and gone to heaven.
I really like my mom's cookies.
Finishing up another, maybe two, or three, or ten cookies, I go put my shoes on, getting ready to head out the door.
"You work at McDonalds, so why in the world would you take a shift that starts at eleven?" my mother asks, with every intention to continue talking to me. I walk as fast as I can, without looking my mother in the eye. Right, 'McDonalds.'
"I love you," I can her calling out, her voice faint. I should say it back… but I don't. I don't want to.
I was fifteen when I first started working at Rolling Stones, a nightclub with a bumbling buffoon for an owner, and terrible security detailing. Who lets a fifteen year-old bartend? I'm seventeen now, so I can totally get away with it, but I was fifteen and slightly unaware of the harsh reality that is America. I see middle school kids sneaking in here, and no one even bothers to question it.
I shake my head in disbelief, turning around to get something from the shelf behind me, when I hear someone say, "You work here?"
I turn around, snapping my head in the direction of that sharp, antagonizing voice I'd heard back in Morgana's office.
"Ugh, you again!" I groan when I see Dylan sitting on a barstool with that aggravating, Cheshire cat smirk on her face. "Of all the people that they could've sent, they picked you?"
"The princess and the popstar both refused because of paparazzi reasons," Dylan explains, "and the 'meek little mouse,' who's name is Alya, by the way, was definitely out of the question because… well, she's a meek little mouse."
"She's lying," a familiar looking black-haired girl walks over to us. She looks me right in the eye and says with a bright smile on her face, "Hi! I'm Alya, your friendly neighborhood 'meek little mouse,' nice to meet you!" I cringe when I hear this, kind of feeling like a jerk right now. "Except there's nothing meek or little or mouse-like about me," she continues on to say, "Quite the opposite actually."
"Yeah, I'm beginning to see that," I say awkwardly.
"Good," says Alya, smashing her fist down on my hand.
I want to scream, but don't when Alya warns, "Scream, and your other hand gets it."
Who is this girl?!
"Alya!" Dylan growls at her teammate, causing us to turn to her in shock.
"Reckless behaviour of this sort is my thing!" she continues, causing both Alya and I to roll our eyes.
Alya, completely ignoring Dylan, speaks to me. "You need to get over yourself."
"And you need to stop giving me orders!" I fire back, moving my hands far out of her reach.
"Deal." Is she smirking at me? The nerve of this girl!
"What do you want from me?"
"I want from you what everyone else does: to join the team, to be our leader, because let's face it, you were right. We are in way over our heads, and we need someone to step up, to tell us what to do, to guide us… to lead us."
"I work better alone. Just let me work alone!"
Alya's about to say something else, but she stops and touches her ear. She's probably talking to the others through her earpiece. She glances at me and says, "Leader or not, think you can help us with a little monster problem?"
Should I? Someone could be seriously hurt, or get killed… but Alya could be lying. I don't know these girls, at all! For all I know, they could kill me and I'll never get to taste another one of my mom's chocolate chip cookies ever again.
"Meadow!" Alya's voice snaps me back to reality. "You coming?" I nod, following Alya and Dylan outside.
I walk out to the back alley with them and see, floating in front of me, three ghost-like figures with gigantic wings. Furys.
"What's with all these monsters and the stupid alley of this stupid nightclub?" I demand.
"Maybe it's an unspoken rule amongst them," drawls Dylan, causing both Alya and I to smack her on the arms.
"Less talking, more helping please!" I hear a shrill voice call out, coming from, Evelyn was it?
"Aim for the heart," I tell them, "If you rip out the heart of one Fury, the others will become weaker."
"Gross!" the fourth and final member of 'The Quartet of Doom' cries out.
"Shut it Kiara, complaining is my thing!" Evelyn yells at her teammate, barely managing to dodge the attacks being thrown her way.
"Fine, I'll rip out the damn heart!" I groan out in frustration. "Alya, get on the roof, you're not a field operative. And tell Kiara and Evelyn to keep two of the three Furys busy. Dylan, cover me."
Giving me a nod, Alya climbs up the ladder as Dylan charges at one of the Furys, throwing a knife at its head, causing it to fall to the ground. I run over to it at the speed of light, before ripping its heart out in a matter of seconds. I stare at it, basking in the glory of the squishy organ, squeezing it, causing the blood to run down my hands.
"Meadow!" Dylan's shaking me, snapping me out of my trance, causing me to drop the heart. My hands start to shake again, right when the heart isn't in my hands anymore, right after that feeling of killing someone, something that should make you feel bad, made me feel good.
What the hell is wrong with me?
"Are you okay?" asks Alya, climbing down from the ladder, sharing Dylan's worried tone.
"I'm fine," I say quickly. I and turn around to leave, not wanting them to see me in this state. But before I walk away, I tell the four not-so idiotic idiots, "Meet me at headquarters tomorrow, at dawn. We've got a lot of work to do, team." I run away before they can question me any further. I can only deal with so much self-reflection in one day.
When I get home, my mom opens the door for me. She's shocked seeing my state right now. Eyes red from crying, hands red from the blood of the Fury whose life I took. My mom is at a loss for words, unsure as to what she should say as I walk in. She closes the door, still unable to form proper sentences.
"You were right. There is something seriously wrong with me. I mean, look at me right now, I'm crying! When was the last time I cried?"
My mom says nothing. She only pulls me in for a hug, in all my bloody glory.
"I love you mom," I say, for the time in years.
"We have a lot to talk about."
This is going to be a long night…