I got back in my semi-truck at around five and proceeded east, chasing the sunrise. I left South Dakota, for Minnesota. But instead of continuing on to Wisconsin, I took detour north. As the sun filled the sky, I pulled over at the Canadian border. Something felt so calm, so peaceful. I still intended on making it to Wisconsin for work, but at that moment, I needed a breather and maybe a nap. I made sure to have my license and paperwork ready in case a border cop wanted to know why I was choosing to park here like a lost tourist.
“Hey, Leo,” a voice echoed on the wind. This was strange since I was sitting on my truck with the windows up. I sat up looking around. Something was coming. As a demon hunter/exorcist (whatever you want to call it) I had plenty of friends and enemies on the other side.
“Leonardo Riveria,” a chorus of voices shouted in a cheerful union, “bring your demon hunting ass down to the Festival of Freaks!”
I couldn’t help but smile. “3, 2, 1…” a caravan of colorful sports cars raced past. It was like that scene in the first Cars movie, with all the street racers decked out in neon lights. Even in the daylight, they seemed to glow with an otherworldly power. I knew I had to follow.
I got back in my truck. With the sudden distraction, the border agents seemed to be frozen in place, allowing my massive, commercial vehicle to pass without question. The sports cars were long gone, leaving behind a massive trail of what looked like glitter. This was going to be fun.
The trail stopped at the edge of a forest. The tall evergreens formed a massive wall that seemed to reach the clouds. Needless to say, this was an odd sight for southern Canada. It looked like I wouldn’t be able to drive my rig into the forest without smashing into the gigantic trees, so I parked as close to the entrance as I could. The sight of a deer wearing a purple top hat assured me I had made the correct decision.
“Hey Leo,” she said in a flirty, Midwestern accent.
I knew exactly who it was. “Hey Alicia, long time no see.”
With a swish of her hips, she transformed back into her human form; a stunning red-head with a sizeable stomach. I had heard from friends that she was with child.
“You look good for a pregnant wendigo,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. I had pulled my long waves into a ponytail for the drive but for this occasion, I wanted to let my hair down.
“You look good too, for a demon hunting immortal,” she said, stroking my cheek. The beautiful girl took a lock of my hair and twirled it around her finger. “Must be nice looking like a twenty-five-year-old model for all eternity.”
“I guess,” I said with a laugh. I knew I didn’t age, but I wasn’t exactly spending my days walking the runways of Paris.
“But, Leo, baby,” she added with a pouty lip, “you know I prefer the other ‘W’ word.”
“Witch? Yeah, I can see that.” I knew Alicia for years, ever since she aged out of the foster care system. Witches were in vogue. Hot goth chicks with parlor tricks: the perfect fit for her fashion sense.
“So, what are you doing in my neck of the woods?”
“Looking for an escape.” I didn’t feel like telling the full story of how I came to finally vanquish a ‘woman in white’ who murdered my ex.
“What a coincidence, so am I.” Alicia patted her pregnant stomach.
“I guess we all could use a little rest.”
“Well then, let us party,” she said with a playful bow. Alicia led me into the ‘forest’, which was, of course, a tent; a cover made of magic to hide the festivities from the uninvited. The tent was the size of a small convention center with lights, music, rivers of refreshments, but no food. I knew why- we all ate different food so it was easier to allow people to bring in their own. I walked with Alicia on my arm, her body moving to the music. A tentacle emerged from her back, to grab two cups of a sparkly pink beverage. “Let’s find a place to sit down.”
We headed to the gallery of sports cars, where people were dancing, eating, fucking and whatever else demons did for fun. Sitting in the backseat of an unoccupied BMW, I let my tired body sink into the plush leather interior. “So what’s in the cup?”
“Cranberry something,” she said as she took a sip. “Coconut, maybe?” Alicia shouted out the open window, “Hey Momo!”
A woman with the body of a bird approached the car. “Es Pina!” She said in a raspy voice. Her famous eyes now stared into the car.
“Hey, Momo.” The famous Harpy (also known as a siren or even a sphinx) had risen to fame when someone started to post her private phone number on various internet sites. This resulted in her replying with random threats. But I don’t blame her: getting phone calls and texts at all hours would get real annoying real quick. All I know is that the children and teens posted their experiences to youtube and other “creepypasta” sites. (What the hell does Creepy Pasta even mean?)
I stretched my back as Momo explained about the drink. From her time in South America, she had brought over a supply of enchanted fruit that seemed to be laced with ecstasy.
“I’ll leave you two to talk,” Momo said, in English, before flying off.
“She’s adorable,” I laughed. “So, Alicia, what did you want to talk about?”
“I was thinking about becoming what you are.”
“A hunter?” I asked, taking a long swig.
“A vessel,” she answered calmly.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “No, no, you don’t.”
“Why not? You seem like you have fun.”
“Fun?” I took a long sip of my drink if only to hide how offended I was.
“You get to party with demons while doing the Lord’s work.”
“And that sounds like fun to you?” I couldn’t help but scowl. The ‘Lord’s work’ took me all over the continent where I faced down angry, pissed off spirits who just wanted to find peace.
“Sorry.”Alicia looked genuinely disappointed. “That was really wrong of me. Must be the hormones.” She sat up straighter, her hand on the door. The window was still down and it would have been so easy for her to walk away, and find someone else to talk to.
I should have let her leave, but at that moment I needed someone to talk to; someone in more pain than myself. “Look, I’m sorry. What’s this really about?”
“The baby,” she replied softly, her voice breaking with emotion.
“Is the father a human?”
Momo’s voice crackled, as she descended from above. “Her baby’s daddy is a real hottie!” The harpy offered up what appeared to be grilled kabobs carried on a large plate. “Muy Caliente.”
I accepted her gift. “I’m sure you know a thing or two about hot guys.”
Momo’s eyes bore deep as she smiled. “I know about nightmares.”
Alicia nodded. “Tony is pretty broken.”
The father’s name is Tony? I chuckled to myself, he was probably one of Alicia’s many, many Sugar Daddies.
“Tony’s nightmares taste so delicious, as do all drug addicts,” Momo replied happily. “Their minds are so full of darkness and pain- a level of imagination that is simply delicious.”
That changed things. “I know a little about broken people,” I said with a full mouth. The meat tasted of spice, bitterness, with a hint of sour. In truth, I kind of wanted to wrap it in a napkin and sweep it under the seat. “Momo, can you give us a minute?”
Momo nodded her giant head and disappeared into the party.
I took the opportunity to finally close the doors and windows. “Alicia, tell me what happened.”
“I fucked up real bad.” Alicia wiped tears from her eyes. “Tony, he’s poor, a student, a few years younger than me. He’s an artist with a beautiful soul. But his daddy…”
“His dad’s rich?”
“A rich bastard who’s the source of Tony’s nightmares. He beat his wife and son, left them broken and homeless, but he’s the one who gave me a ring.”
“You did what you had to do, I mean if I was as hot as you and a rich sugar daddy wanted to take care of me…”
Alicia started to cry even harder.
“I’m sorry. I was joking. Seriously, people marry for money all the time.”
“People- not what I am. I’m just an evil Wendigo, witch- whatever. I belong in hell.”
“You really believe taking the vow of a holy vessel can help?”
Alicia nodded. “Leo, I’ve seen what you can do. Your body has the ability to act as a conduit for both light and darkness. It’s why you can see the good in people like Momo, while also hunting restless spirits who can’t cross over because their hearts are too full of anger and pain.”
“I’ve been doing this for decades. I don’t even remember what it was like to receive the blessing. I don’t even remember what it felt like to be human. The power literally ate my soul. I have no idea what it would do to someone like you.”
“I was human once.” She wiped her eyes and took a long sip of her drink. “Well, it can’t be any worse than how I feel right now.”
“How do you feel?”
“I want the world to burn, and it scares me.”
This was a different side of Alicia. Maybe it was the hormones or the concept of becoming a mother. But this was not the party-girl I had befriended so many years ago. “I don’t know if I can help you.”
“Would you at last try? This is the festival of freaks, magic is at its peak.”
“Sure, I guess.” I have no idea why I agreed. Magic was at its peak as we partied under the ley lines, full moon, and whatever else was going on. But this wasn’t my magic. My power came from a place of light and judgment. But even so, I took off my shirt, revealing my tattoos.
Alicia placed her hand in mine. “Thank you.”
“Put one hand on the cross and one on the flame.”
She did as I asked, her fingers gently caressing down my abs. “Should I hold on tight?”
“If the spirit moves you.” to anyone outside the car it would appear like we were about to make love. “Say your full name.”
“I don’t have one, in honor of my parents.”
“How does not using a last name honor your parents?”
“They get to rest in peace while I screwed my way through the foster care system.”
“I get that.” I kissed her forehead, down her nose to her lips. But as I did, I felt a distinct shiver down my spine. Something was very wrong. “So, what name will the baby have?”
“Keller, I guess. Eve Elena Keller if it’s a girl.” The words made her smile. “I hope it’s a girl.”
Her happiness inspired me. “I-I call upon the one true God. Our heavenly father, who loves us all.” Please guide me, please help me. “And I call upon your damaged son, the lord of darkness, hate, and pain.” The Devil; I was calling upon the fairness of the devil. “I ask that you please look upon my friend, Alicia, to see if she might serve as a vessel to balance the delicate power of the universe.” I closed my eyes and focused on Alicia’s touch.
I wanted so badly to stay grounded at the moment. Alicia needed me. Suddenly I felt unbearably cold, and all I could hear was Momo’s raspy whisper. “You fucked up.”
I forced my eyes open. I was standing shirtless in a snowy forest watching a scene play out in front of me. A little red-haired girl, no older than five was being carried by a man. They wore winter clothes, he appeared to be her father. The child’s mother was chasing them; screaming, crying, flailing her arms.
The man holds the little girl close, but his face is void of emotion.
The little girl says one word, “Papa?” she genuinely thinks this man is her father.
He growls and seemingly bites the child in the neck, holding her like a wolf would hold it’s young.
The child was now screaming as she was thrown into a snow pile. There was a noticeable amount of blood.
The mother somehow grabbed a piece of wood and stabbed the man over and over until the man’s body bent backward. His arms and legs were bent at an unnatural angle as he proceeded to crawl away like a deformed spider.
The woman then rushes to the child’s side, cradling the little girl in her arms. “Alicia?”
With one quick motion, the child latched onto the woman’s neck, tearing out her throat. I watched in horror as the woman fell to the ground, coughing. I could only hope that she died quickly.
The little girl was now acting rabid. She proceeded to disembowel her mother, tearing out organs as if she was opening a birthday present. She ate certain organs but mainly she was playing in her mother’s blood.
I forced my mouth open and took a breath. “Alicia Keller?”
With a mouthful of blood, the little girl locked eyes with me.
She stood up, and as she did, I felt unbearable pain in my side. The side of my tattoo with the flames of hell was creeping up my side, to my chest, closer and closer to my heart.
I punched myself in the chest, trying desperately to wake up.
I heard a crunch from outside the scene.
“Open your eyes,” said Momo.
I took a long blink. When I awoke, I was back in the car, at the festival. The roof had been torn off and a crowd had gathered. Alicia took off her purple top hat, placing it on my head.
“I have to go back to Wisconsin,” her eyes were blank. “to my fiancée.”
“What about Tony?”
“Tony, yeah I remember Tony. He’s my fiancée’s son. I-I should get going. ”Alicia started to walk away. A few of her friends started to follow, trying to talk to her but I stayed put.
I felt Momo’s bird claw on my shoulder. “She has been judged.”
“You asked the spirits for guidance, to give balance to her soul. Did you honestly think she would be used as an impartial vessel?”
“That had not been my intention,” I muttered, dusting myself off. “I just wanted to give her a sense of calm.” But I knew what Momo meant. Alicia was a Wendigo; she had spent the majority of her life causing pain. This would make her a prime target for the Devil’s influence. Except, now Alicia had a second soul in her body, one that was pure, untainted. When the spirits passed their judgment, it must have been like forcing a speedometer from 1000 to 0 mph. “What will happen to her baby?”
Momo shrugged her awkward shoulders. “Once her baby is born, Alicia will have to find a way to reset her soul back to normal. But that is not of your concern.”
“What if I want to make it my concern?” I asked, still watching Alicia as she left. “What if I take down the one who changed her?”
“You wish to take down a wendigo?” Momo laughed. “That’s a little out of your league.”
“I’m willing to try,” I said with a sigh. Leaning forward, only then did I notice I was still wearing the purple hat.
“Take a little time to yourself first,” Momo suggested. “I know what you’ve been through.”
“You see their nightmares?”
“I see the nightmares of the ones you loved and lost, the ones you couldn’t save. But also the ones you are yet to save. You have all of eternity to work as a martyr. Have another drink.”
I stayed at the party for a few more minutes catching up with friends, all as I made mental plans to drive south, back into the United States. Specifically, into Wisconsin.
I had no idea where to start.