In the dead of night, Davis lead Louise through the woods to his home. It was a compact, single story home, the outside decently kept though surrounded by fallen leaves.
The back of it faced the very edge of the woods, lit up by a small porchlight. He unlocked the back door, opening it for Louise.
Louise walked in, kicking off her shoes as Davis closed the door behind her, turning on the light. She stood in a very compact kitchen, a countertop dividing it with a lightly furnished and clean living room.
There was a big, puffy looking couch and a TV screen, surrounded by snack wrappers, and beyond that was a hallway connecting to a few more rooms.
“If you’re hungry or something, I have a lot of food stocked in the freezer. Just, don’t go to the room down the hall please. That’s my room.”
Louise nodded and hurried to the fridge, opening it. Inside was a few gallons of chocolate milk, one gallon of normal milk, two cakes, a bin of a few apples and bananas, cookie dough, several energy drinks, and a gallon of water. Louise looked up, back at Davis.
“Hey, not to be picky or anything, but I’m not really in a sweets mood.” She said with an awkward smile on her face. “Do you have anything simple?”
Davis looked back with a nervous expression. “Ooh uhh… I said the freezer not the fridge? I’m sorry if you don’t like frozen stuff, but that’s what I like usually.”
Switching over to the freezer, inside was a plethora of microwaveable food: Burritos, pizzas, mini-pizzas, vegetables, and so on. She took a mini pizza.
“This’ll do, thanks a bunch!” She said as she tore it out of the package, popping it into the microwave.
“Oh, I forgot to mention, don’t worry about my parents, they’re out of state with work stuff, so they won’t be home for a while.” He walked over to the fridge, pulling out and cracking open an energy drink.
“and don’t worry about any monsters coming around here too. I guess it’s obvious, but they don’t really come near anywhere too populated. I should, probably tell you more-”
“Hold on, lemme finish this food first!” Louise hurried over, leaping onto the couch. “All right, NOW you can continue!”
He stared for a few moments. “You’re taking this well, aren’t you?”
“Well, other than the monster, did you see me at all? Got those awesome gauntlets that let me actually stand up and like, not die to that thing! I even got shot a few times, but bullets were no issue!”
Davis paused, continuing to stare.
“I… Well, back to what I was going to say. Since I was younger, can’t really remember when, I’ve had this weird power. As you saw, I can turn incorporeal, kinda like-”
He poofed into a plume of thin, black dust, rematerializing moments later. He was gasping for breath.
“That… Though, if I’m like that in the light, it’s like I’m suffocating. It’s also tough to see when I’m incorporeal, so that’s why I have these.” He tapped his night vision goggles.
Louise looked up and down in amazement. “That’s really cool! Do you do like, hero work or something like that with your powers?”
Davis cracked a small smile.
“I… Hope to kinda do that. What I mostly do is wait around the woods, because there’s quite a few monsters in there. They stay away from groups of people, and only seem to come out at night. Though when I’m incorporeal, it’s really easy to watch them. I’ve seen like, giant bird around the size of a fighter jet, spiders that camouflage themselves on the trees, the wendigo is a frequent hunter. Oh yeah, Bigfoot is one hundred percent real as well, I’ve seen him. Did you know even sometimes the trees themselves stand up and walk around?”
With every monster listed, Louise’s eyes grew wider in wider.
“Holy crap, I knew I was right…” She muttered under her breath. “Wait, why didn’t you take pictures or tell anyone?”
A frown replaced Davis’s smile.
“Isn’t it kinda obvious? I don’t want to be seen as some crazy weirdo by others. Only reason I’m telling you is at least you like, SAW one, you know?”
Louise gave an irked look. “I’m not some kinda crazy weirdo, first off!”
“I didn’t mean- Just ignore that then. I can’t really fight off any of these monsters, so usually when I lurk around the woods, I at least try to find anyone who comes in after dark, and try to warn them about how dangerous the place is. A lot don’t really listen, and…”
He looked down at the floor. “I’m just glad some people do heed my warning. It’s the most I CAN do.”
Before he could continue, his TV lit up, static burning on the screen. The duo jumped, staring at the screen as the hiss of the white snow slowly fizzed into silence.
An electronic voice pierced through through the snow.
“Louise Palrick, Davis Foster…”,
The voice spoke over the static, sounding like a phone with bad reception. Louise leaned in closer as Davis sunk back, gripping the couch anxiously.
“I am contacting you with important information regarding the events of tonight. It will be in both of our interests to listen.”
Louise’s eyes lit up. “So you’re the one who sent me that note earlier? The gauntlets too?”
“My TV doesn’t have a microphone you know.” Davis butted in.
“The TV may not, but your phones do.”
Davis flinched. “I didn’t give you permission to use my phone! Stay out of there, will you?”
“I am merely using their microphones, don’t worry. I will respect your privacy.”
“You still hijacked my phone, who are you?”
“My name is not important, but I offer myself as a benefactor to the two of you. You are not the only ones aware of this towns’ paranormal ongoings.”
On the static, redacted documents appeared, along with a few photos. One of them was a distant, night vision shot of the wendigo, and another was a distant shot of Davis. He gripped the couch tighter, clenching his teeth.
“These photos and documents are from P.A.I.N, the Paranormal Acquisition and Investigation Network. The name should be explanatory enough. I am an administrator working for them.”
Louise closed her eyes with a big smile, pumping her fist to herself. “I always KNEW there was some sort of cover up going on!” Her eyes flashed open.
“Wait a second, what do you mean ‘were’?”
“The man who attempted to murder you earlier tonight was an agent of P.A.I.N. They had a close eye on you and your computer history, and deemed you as too much of a liability and in need of termination.”
“Yeah, but what does he have do do with it all?” Davis glanced nervously towards her, thinking how she could be so uncaring that some government organization wanted her dead.
“Was he carrying all of the info around here?” She put her hands to her mouth. “They’re not going to send more assassins, are they?”
“To answer all in order: First, I managed to destroy the physical and digital files on your town when he was sent to kill you. With their field agent dead, they would need to build up a new report from the ground up with a fresh agent. Second, they most likely will not, and will focus on re-building their lost information.”
Louise sighed. “That’s a relief. Now, spill the beans on all the going-ons thats been happening around here-”
Davis placed his hand in front of Louise. “Sorry, but why did you destroy those files? What’s this all got to do with her? How do you know these agents won’t try to kill her again?”
“To both her and you, it’s obvious that Tomahawk Hills is a hotbed of paranormal activity. What I showed was only the tip of the iceberg of all documented information, and it nearly reached a critical point. P.A.I.N was beginning moves to quarantine the entire town, making it a research blacksite. This would effectively doom everyone.”
The two stared at the screen in disbelief.
“As mentioned, I am very well aware of Louise’s history. She is one of few select candidates who I determined would be the most accepting of my mission: Find and contain any paranormal threat before P.A.I.N is able to re-log them. A perceived significant decrease in paranormal activity would effectively end their plans to turn Tomahawk Hills into a blacksite.”
Louise nodded in response. “I’m glad you did your research well. Though I could have sworn I kept my online browsing well hidden from the government…”
“There is a lot P.A.I.N can learn from everyone from browsing history alone.”
Davis butted in. “Hey, I thought you said you were gonna respect my privacy?”
“Well Louise, Davis, do you accept?”
“Of course! You already gave me the gauntlets too, so I wanna do what I can with them!”
Davis nervously tapped his foot. He looked down to the floor, scratching his chin. “I don’t think it’d be fair to just let P.A.I.N do what they want with our town. I’ll join.”
“Excellent. Outside of your home, you will find a USB drive, loaded with a program to contact me through an encrypted channel. Any paranormal object, device, or location you come across, you are to log and report to me. Even if you cannot contain or suppress them, I can use your information to keep the new field agent away from any confirmed paranormal locations. Be wary, as this method of contact is not foolproof. Do not contact me more than once a week, or P.A.I.N would have a chance of tracing the messages back to me. Good luck.”
The TV flickered to black, and Louise turned to Davis with the biggest grin on her face.
“Holy… Davis, do you know what this MEANS?”
“Our town needs saving? And that last part, did you write it down or anything? That was kinda a lot.”
“That and it’s like, I WAS RIGHT, and we got something AWESOME to do! Not gonna lie, my time at home was getting really boring and was trying to figure out somethin to do but MAN I just-”
“Hey, slow down! We still got school tomorrow too. We can meet up after it’s done, right?”
“Yeah but, can’t we just call that government guy to cancel it? Maybe skip school?”
Davis shook his head. “I at least wanna get my high school diploma, I’m sure we can find time to juggle saving the town and that.”
“Fine. But there’s still a lot we need to discuss!”
Davis pointed at a kitchen clock. It was 1AM.
“It’s too late to stay up talking more, and also too late for you to go home safely, I think? But I don’t have an extra bed, uh, is the couch fine with you?”
She shrugged. “It’s just one night for now. I don’t have any pajamas though, I don’t really want to sleep in these and make them too stinked up for tomorrow.”
“Oh… I should have thought of that first. You know, forget it, you can just sleep in my bed I guess? I stay up pretty late anyways. Plus, I have some sweatpants and a white shirt you can borrow, I just hope it’ll fit you all right.”
He ran into his room, emerging with the very wrinkled clothes moments later.
“Just, please don’t touch anything else in my bedroom, all right?”
She nodded, smiling and taking the clothes from him. “Thanks, I’ll go get changed!”
She pushed the door into his room, pausing as she stepped on a snack wrapper.
The room itself was smaller than hers, almost like a dorm room. All he had was an in-wall closet, a very small desk, and a bed crammed together.
At the foot of the bed was a big pile of clean yet wrinkly laundry sitting in a basket. The bed at the very least was still well made.
Next to his desk was a small wastebin, overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper and various snack wrappers.
Changing into the loaned pajamas and folding her uniform neatly on his desk, she dove into his surprisingly plush bed, letting sleep wash over her.
Davis, meanwhile, began heating up a burrito in the microwave, staring nervously at the TV.
“Didn’t think things were going to get this drastic,” He muttered. He took out his phone, turning on airplane mode, and opened the door to the garage.
An intense, high pitched grinding noise was in the air, rousing Louise from her sleep. She groggily stared at her phone, reading the time to be 6:00am. Rubbing her eyes and letting out a yawn, she quickly changed into uniform before following the noise out of the bedroom and into the garage.
In front of a long table, covered with tin cans, chemistry equipment, mangles of scrap metal, a stack of energy drink cans, and several bins full of presumably more assorted building materials, stood Davis, marking down cans with a large yellow marker.
To the side of him were several freshly-sharpened caltrops and other cans marked with colored markers. He wore goggles, a pair of headphones connected to his phone, and red-blue striped pajamas. Louise stumbled over, watching her feet for the little flakes of wood and scrap, and tapped him on the shoulder. He lurched back, before whipping off his headphones, hard rock silently blaring from them.
“Oh, hey, I’m a bit busy working right now. You need anything?”
She let out a huff. “Your work is kind of noisy.” She peeked over his shoulders at all the caltrops and cans he made. “What you workin on though?”
“Oh, well making stuff like smoke bombs and traps and stuff like that. I normally make them as a hobby, but since we’re going against some monsters in the woods, I thought having some more wouldn’t hurt.”
She carefully looked among all of his gadgets, several sharpened tripods of metal, and even a belt lined with firecrackers. Davis put on a big smile as she continued to observe his handiwork.
“My power works best in the dark, and I found out that it is a bit easier to turn intangible in a cloud of black smoke, so I usually carry smoke bombs on me in the middle of the day. It’s still rough, but it’s better than doing it in broad daylight and re-materializing completely sore and winded. Plus even without my powers, a smoke bomb combined with scattering some caltrops is like, THE perfect getaway plan.”
He grabbed a few cans that were striped neon orange.
“These are a new one, though kinda expensive. Basically just took a tin can, put a firecracker into it, filled it with pepper spray, and bam, pepper spray bomb! I’ve never tested it before, so I hope monsters are hurt by the stuff.”
He pointed to the belt of firecrackers next.
“I assumed that monsters don’t like the big pops like gunshots, so I thought that if I’m in trouble, I can just light and chuck these at them and maybe that’ll spook them away.”
Louise continued to stare at it all with wide eyes.
“This is all so awesome! I’m surprised you never told anyone else about this, like it’s so cool!”
Davis scratched the back of his head. “Well, I think I might get in trouble for making homemade bombs, even if I do intend to use them on monsters. So uh, please don’t mention it at all, okay?”
She nodded energetically. Looking around the garage, she found a few very rough sketches of other gadgets pinned to the wall, and ran over to get a closer look.
Davis glanced over. “Those uh, I don’t think I’m competent enough to build those yet? I’ve always wanted a grappling hook to climb tall buildings and stuff. I can actually jump a little bit higher if I turn incorporeal, jump, then rematerialize, but not enough to scale buildings.”
“I think I could help, I’m sure I could track down some sort of working blueprint online? There’s a lot of cool forums and videos that build all this stuff!”
“I’ve looked hard, trust me. I REALLY wanted one since I started doing all this.”
“Actually, I got one more question.” She turned to face him. “You got anything else with a bit more like, oomph? Firecrackers are pretty strong but, do you have some actual weapons?”
He sighed, and opened a drawer, revealing a small contraption with a knife blade inside of it. “It’s just a hidden blade I can keep in my sleeve. I kinda wanna keep my stuff non-lethal altogether. I know sometimes humans can be monsters, but I still don’t really want to hurt them…”
Louise cocked her head. “But I thought this was for monster hunting?”
He shook his head. “Nevermind.”
“Now, a big change in topic, but you got anything for breakfast?”
“Yeah, I mean, I usually eat whatever I feel for breakfast.”
Louise stared for a moment.
“I mean like, breakfast food?”
“It’s whatever is in the fridge. Please, I do wanna work a bit more, I’m sure I have something you’d like.”
Louise huffed as she left the garage. “I’ll be getting ready in the meantime, so don’t walk in on me changing!”
A shower and a meal of microwaved frozen waffles later, Louise was all ready to go. She sat patiently on the couch, waiting and glancing at her phone every few moments. By 7, Davis had finally emerged from his workshop, still in pajamas.
“You sure you’ll be able to get ready in time? It’s almost a 30 minute walk to school from here, right?”
He shrugged. “I’ll be ready in 5.” He closed his room’s door behind him.
Five minutes later, he emerged, in what seemed like the exact same outfit he was wearing from the previous night: Big black school jacket, baggy pants, very wrinkled shirt, and boots. He walked over to the fridge, pulling out an energy bar and an energy drink, cracking it open and taking a swig.
“I’m all set to go.” He followed up chomping into the energy bar.
“Not even going to brush your hair?” Louise chided.
He threw his hood over it. “It’s no problem at all.”
Louise sighed. “I’m gonna be a bit honest, you do kinda look awful right now. Not even going to iron your clothes or anything?”
He zipped up his jacket, giving her a death glare. “This is my style, you know? Sorry if you don’t have enough taste to understand how good it looks.”
Louise snickered. “Ah, not like we have enough time to debate this. Come on, let’s get going.”
The day was cloudy with a chilly wind blowing through, but despite the sombre feel, the two made it to school with no issue. They split off to their respective classes, going through the motions until lunchtime hit.
Arriving at the cafeteria, Louise noticed Davis was waiting by the entrance, nervously looking around. She bounced over to him, yelling “HEY DAVIS OVER HERE!”
His head whipped over to her. “OH uh… Hey! So uh, I already brought something to eat so-”
“GREAT!” She yelled over the chatter of the cafeteria. “Find a place to sit, I gotta buy something for myself.”
She hurried on towards the lunch line as Davis stood stunned. He scanned the entire cafeteria, finding just about every table already filled with hungry students. They weren’t totally full, small gaps able to hold a few students here and there, but he wanted more space to himself. He slowly walked through the collection of lunch tables, hands in his pockets and looking at the floor, passing and bumping against other students. He looked up every other moment, still scanning around the cafeteria until noticed a somewhat dusty table in the corner, unoccupied by any students. He hurried over to secure the seat. Minutes later, when Louise left the lunch line with a sandwich, chips, and drink, Davis waved her down, her jogging over to the table.
“All righty!” she said, popping open the bag of chips and taking a quick bite. “Now’s a good time for us to plan for tonight.”
“Tonight? What’s happening?”
“Didn’t you forget? We’re going to have to hunt that wendigo before PAIN finds it!”
“Oh, I didn’t realize we were going to start like, so soon? Think we can at least wait till tomorrow?”
“NOPE! We have the advantage against PAIN, so we gotta take full advantage of it. By the way, where’s your lunch?”
He silently pulled out another energy drink, and a few bars of candy. “This is all I need to get through the day, don’t worry.”
“Yeah, get through a school day, but can it get you through a night of monster hunting?”
He groaned, taking a bite out of the candy bar. “I usually nap and snack after school, I’ll be fine.” He glanced out a nearby window.
He flinched as Louise’s packaged sandwich struck him in the face, plopping down on the table. His hood nearly fell off, and he scrambled to yank it back on.
“Have mine, I have enough money to buy a second one. I don’t want you crashing on me tonight!”
He stared at her for a few moments. “What the heck was that for?”
“Come on, you can’t just only eat snack bars and candies and stuff, you gotta have proper energy! I should NOT be more fit than you are!”
“I have plenty of energy! I just don’t really like using any of it…”
“Pft, I see you drinking lots of energy drinks for a dude who has plenty of energy!”
“What if I like the taste?”
“Then you should probably find some replacement drink, because those will turn your bones into dust or somethin!”
Davis huffed. “Fine, I’ll eat your sandwich…” He unwrapped it, taking a chomp out of it. Louise took another bite from her chips. “Anyways, I was thinking a lot during classes, and I think I got a good plan of attack for the wendigo.”
“We already know it comes out only at like, dead of night in the woods. It only showed up after that assassin tried to shoot me, so it must be attracted to loud noises. It also ran off when you showed up.”
“Well yeah, that’s typical for a lot of these monsters in the woods. They typically go after lone targets, and run off if somebody else approaches. Though I’ve seen a few stalk small groups of up to four.”
“I also found out that he’s really tough, like I couldn’t even stab through his hide with a sword. He reacted when I started whacking at his head with my sword, and he didn’t like that at all.”
“So, you wanna bring something with a bit more oomph? I don’t think I can really make anything for that.”
Louise smiled, placing her hands on the table. “Don’t worry! I’m gonna bring a sledgehammer from home. That oughta do some damage.”
“Yeah, but you’ll be fighting alone, remember? If I show up he’ll just run away. Are you sure you’re up to that?”
“Well, listen to my plan! First, we both split up, with pots and pans or anything that can make loud noises. We’ll make a bunch of noise, and when the wendigo shows up, we’ll mark it with something that can help us track it. Then, we group up together, the wendigo runs away, we chase it down, back it into a corner, and BAM.” She clapped her hands together. “We got ourselves a dead monster!”
Davis tapped his chin. “I never really see a monster again when it flees. Maybe it does hide away to a lair or something? I don’t know, are you sure you thought this all through?”
“Well, where’s your master plan? Plus, the wendigo has to hide its victims’ corpses somewhere, right?”
He shrugged. “I guess so. As for a way to track it, I think I got a good idea for that. Will need just a small amount of time to prep it, and I can have it set tonight.”
Louise’s eyes beamed. “Sweet, ah I just can’t wait for tonight!”
Davis took a deep breath. “I just hope we aren’t getting in over our heads. So, after you get what you need, meet me at my home, and we can prepare. I’ll leave a key under the doormat for you, in case i’m asleep when you come on by.”
“Sure, I can show up early and rest up with you for the night!”
Davis coughed up a bite of his sandwich. “I am NOT going to share my bed! Just, nap at home or something!”
“I never wanted to sleep in the same bed, the couch would have been fine…”
Davis leaned back a bit. “Oh, then uh, that’s fine?”
A look of inspiration struck Louise’s face. “Actually, how about later on, we can make your house into our kinda hideout? Like a base of operations for our cryptid hunting! I could bring a sleeping bag too since I’m gonna be around pretty late, and maybe some extra clothes, and-”
“Hold on, what’s wrong with your house? Why do we gotta move everything into mine?”
“Well, for one you live right next to the woods.”
Davis paused, thinking to himself. “I guess that’s not a bad idea then, but like, let’s at least wait a little bit before we start remodeling my home, okay?”
Louise jumped out of her seat, yelling “YES!” A few other students in the cafeteria glanced over, and an embarrassed look grew on Davis’s face.
She sat back down. “Sorry, just, so much is happening and I really can’t wait to get ultra serious about all of this. That and…”
Davis raised an eyebrow. “And?”
“You’re kinda cooler than expected, you know?”
He flinched. “Expected? What do you-”
“Well just talking with you a bit, even if this is our job kinda? It’s still really fun. Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten lunch with somebody else. Makes eating a lot more fun when you’re talking about wendigo hunting as an extra bonus.”
“I’ve been trying to keep up, but yeah. Lunch with you is better than what I used to do.”
“It’s settled then, let’s have lunch together every day, all right?”
Davis nodded, trying to hide a look of excitement on his face. “Sure!”
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