I have a job as a "Monster Hunter." It's not at all as cool as it sounds.
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
So what comes to mind when you hear the words "monster hunter?" Maybe the gaming series of the same name, or maybe you're picturing some Van Helsing looking character tracking down werewolves and vampires. My boss sure likes to think of it that way, and whoever he works for certainly thinks what we do is a big enough deal that they somehow manage to keep it largely unknown to most people, "Men In Black" style. I have no idea how.
But few careers are ever as glamorous as their public image, are they? We're no different. We don't fight zombies or demons or chupacabras or anything that thrilling. We aren't hiding little green men or sorcery or spirits from the rest of society. We don't even know if what we fight can rightfully be called "monsters" at all, besides the fact that the things we deal with seem more or less alive, in some sense, and that they're not easily explained.
This probably still sounds romantic to you. Unexplainable creatures! Wow! I get it, but you want to know what my last job was like? The last "monster" we cleaned up? I really do mean "cleaned up," since we slew the beast with nothing but hydrogen peroxide and a mop, and while the office called it a "Class 4 Contaminating Plasmodiform," we all agreed the moment we saw it (and smelled it) that its name should be The Asscheese.
Yeah, it did actually kill someone...but near as we could tell, that's only because it left enough stinking grease around their house that the poor bastard slipped headlong into a marble countertop, and what likely began as a Class 1 had spent about a week, by our estimate, slowly growing over the body, engulfing his left arm and almost everything from his chest on down in a white, chunky mush you'd never guess was alive if not for the subtle way it rippled, like a sheet of maggots in slow motion.
Maybe you're wondering why anyone would bother to cover up a case like that. Something that looks more or less like dog vomit, moves like a snail and has all the killing power of a dropped banana peel isn't the kind of discovery that upends society's understanding of the universe, no...but then we started scrubbing the gunk off the guy's body, and the flesh underneath wasn't simply eaten away. Wherever Asscheese had been feeding, or whatever the hell it does, the guy's skin was entirely covered in pale, pink bumps, maybe the size of my thumbnail, and every single one of those bumps had the same subtle, pointed ridge in the center, right between the same two shallow, round depressions and just above the same tiny, horizontal crevice. The Asscheese had turned that dead man's skin into a mosaic of miniature, half-formed faces, and I can't possibly guess how, or why, or what would have happened if we hadn't interrupted the process.
We're basically kept as ignorant as we can possibly be without it hampering our work. We operate out of a cheap office space under a manager who's changed so many times, I've given up getting to know any of them by name, and we have no idea who really employs us beyond that. Whoever they are, they advertise us as simple ghost hunters, psychic investigators or even "unconventional pest specialists," and the majority of calls we get are obviously just about a really big cockroach or a suspiciously creaky staircase, so those get patched through to mundane bug guys or spirit mediums we have some sort of local arrangement with.
What we look for are phrases like "I don't know who else to call" or "this is going to sound crazy." When someone thinks they already know what they've got, babbling about little green ghouls or whatever, it's the most common sign of a false flag or a delusion. But when someone calls what they think is a ghost hunter and they're still afraid the situation is too weird for us to swallow, we're pretty much already gearing up and out the door.
But god, there are days I'd kill for it to just be a really big cockroach. If you thought The Asscheese sounded bad, allow me to go over a few of my other..."favorites."
THE CLASS 6 UMBRAL METABOLIZER
This was a call about a "weird tree" at a golf course, but when we got there, we couldn't find whoever had called. We certainly found the "weird tree" easy enough: a reddish object about six meters in height, shaped a little like a palm frond or a giant feather, but up close you could tell it had kind of a rubbery, meaty texture. A bunch of little tiny ones were sprouting up around its lumpy, warty base, and they swayed just a tiny little bit on an otherwise windless day. Most people would mistake it for either an art installation or just some strange, unfamiliar exotic plant.
We knew something was up by the pile of clothing on the ground nearby, however, so we kept our distance, studying the thing. We didn't want to just torch it, in case it was explosive or it gave off toxic fumes or something, but none of us wanted to be the one to poke it with a stick or throw anything at it either, not knowing what if anything it might do.
We decided to go back for some extra equipment, it's not important what, but we hadn't been back even five minutes before the newbie (there's ALWAYS a newbie) let out a scream and crumpled to the grass. He kept screaming about his foot until we held him down and one of us got his boot off, only to lose their lunch almost immediately. There was nothing left of the kid's foot but bone and some dangling, half-melted looking flesh. We all looked at each other in a panic, having no idea what the hell just happened but fairly certain it could now happen to any one of us as long as we're anywhere near the tree-thing.
This is when the same tech who just hurled, I never caught the name, tries backing up slowly only to start screaming too, at least until he falls backward and his scream gurgles to a stop. What hits the ground is already mostly bone and slush, and everything organic continues to sizzle and dissolve away into thin air.
Everything except his lower legs...the only parts of him that aren't within the "tree's" abnormally dark shadow; something that hadn't been an issue when we'd originally arrived, at just about high noon.
We took our chances with fire, and there wasn't any explosion or poison gas or anything else to worry about, but as it curled up and blackened, the thing we dubbed the "acidcaster" inexplicably emitted the sound of an ambulance siren.
THE CLASS 3 AMBULATORY EVACUATION
This call was about a "worm." A really big worm, they said, and there was "something wrong with it" they didn't want to say over the phone. When we asked why, they said they weren't sure we'd believe them until we saw it ourselves. The perfect call.
The man was standing out in his yard when we arrived, not looking frightened, but definitely looking nauseated and confused. Another "good" sign, at least for our paychecks. All he was willing to say was "it's out back" and "you'll have to just...see it I guess." Oh yeah. This was the real deal. What we found in the backyard was not a worm. It was a pale pink and blue, slimy looking tube writhing all over the yard, loops of it strung up in the trees and caught in the guy's fence, which you could certainly mistake at a glance for a very, very long worm-like animal, but I already knew what I was really looking at.
And then I heard the voice.
"Where am I? What's happening? Why can't I see!? Hello? Hello?!" and so on. It sounded like an old man, pleading, almost sobbing. I called back to it, but it just kept repeating itself from the bushes. Careful not to step on the loops of slowly twisting flesh, we followed the sound to a stickerbush where we found one end of the thing, shivering, repeating the phrases non-stop from its open end.
We knew we would probably want to find the opposite end, so we left someone to monitor the "head" while a newbie and I followed the rest of it into a neighboring yard, where we found it winding into the back door of a dark and quiet house.
We found the poor guy lying by his toilet, and our "worm" was still winding out of him. He was very, very dead, reeking of decay and eyes glazed over white, but damn if his mouth wasn't still moving. No sound was coming out, but you could tell by looking what those lips were synching to: "Where am I? What's happening? Why can't I see!? Hello? Hello?!"
Over and over the face of the corpse kept mouthing words I knew were still coming out of that human intestine tangled up in his neighbor's bushes. Maybe the first words the guy had spoken when his consciousness, for whatever reason, shifted from his brain to his bowels, and maybe the last words he had ever spoken before he forgot how to say or think anything else.
We named this one "The Creeping Colon." We never found a single clue as to what might have triggered its "birth." We never do for any of them.
THE CLASS 2 PHALANGIFORM MALODORIZER
This was a call from a couple of park rangers, who said they had to tape off a growing section of the woods because of some "fast growing" thing that "stinks." We got there and we noticed two things: the stink, for one, which was more of a chemical sort of stink than a biological one, think burning plastic, but it was absolutely horrible. Second thing we noticed was the weird, goofy noise echoing through the woods, like someone going nuts on a slide whistle. It doesn't take us long to find the source; a huge mass of what almost looks at first like pale, segmented cable, bending in on itself at sharp right angles like a huge, blocky mass of plumbing, but the pipes are made of bone.
We followed the slide whistle noise to the end of the thing, and we could see it was kind of like a skeletal finger, but it kept extending and growing several inches by the second. It couldn't seem to grow in a straight line for more than a meter before it seemingly had to bend, and every so often another "finger" branched off. We discovered it was actually pretty fragile, and that it stopped growing wherever it was broken off, but once we started snapping it apart we noticed that its many "tips" were starting to grow towards us, and we had to work together to make sure it didn't try to impale anyone or whatever it intended to do.
All seemed to be going fairly well until I heard one of my seniors, Jim, drop an uncharacteristic F bomb. He says it didn't hurt him, just surprised him, but that once a "fingertip" got close enough it actually squirted him with some black stuff, like squid ink, and it's like a concentrated blast of that awful, awful plastic stink. That's when the forest went weirdly silent. The whistly sound stopped, the snapping and cracking of its growth stopped, and it was replaced by what I swear to god is a chorus of high-pitched giggling as the entire structure started to crumble, blacken and seemingly melt away.
We figured it was all over, a minor job, just one of many monsters we've seen self-destruct like that. Only problem is how bad Jim smelled. We were all gagging the whole way back, and he took off for home as soon as he could.
That was the last I saw him. He called in sick the next day, saying the smell wouldn't go away. Two days later, he called in letting us know he'd tried everything he could and it had only gotten worse. In another three days, he was dead. It makes me too sick to try and describe how, but it's obvious to everyone that he took horrifically extreme measures to get himself "clean." It seems like a sick joke that a monster would kill one of us with nothing but a bad smell, but I can't begin to imagine how revolting it must have gotten that he felt driven to do what he did to himself. We were calling the thing "stinkfinger" at first, but a funny nickname felt disrespectful after that point, and now we just know it as "the one that got Jim."
I still hear that goddamn giggling in my nightmares.
THE CLASS 6 SIMULTANEOUS EXPRESSOR
This one never presented a known danger, but god did it make me uneasy. The client lived alone, and kept waking up covered in some kind of yellow mucus. We mean drenched, head to toe, every nook and cranny. No effect on their physical health we could find, but it was clearly freaking them out, especially because it even happened away from home, and they suspected it wasn't coming from them because it inexplicably only happened when they slept all alone.
They were evidently too afraid to set up camera footage and find out for themselves, but wanted someone else to watch for an entire night and only tell them what they "really needed" to know.
So, three of us had a little movie-style security feed stakeout, right outside the client's house. Sure enough, as soon as they fell asleep, something else came into view; a dripping mass that oozed from the ceiling like it had always been camouflaged there, and then, for god knows whatever reason, extended what looked like an enormous tongue, or maybe a tentacle. The client somehow didn't wake up, didn't even twitch as the thing peeled their covers off and just slithered its one gross, wormy appendage all over them, drenching them in that thick, gooey phlegm for no apparent reason. Wanting to gather all the data we could, we'd made an agreement with the client to not intervene this first night, but the process pretty much just went on and on like that. Just sliming and sliming, for hours and hours.
Things only took a weirder turn at literally the last minute. We hadn't been able to see where the tenta-tongue was coming from until the entity actually turned, directly toward the camera, and all three of us jumped out of our chairs. All I really had was an F bomb, but the newbie let out a "Why ME!?" with practically a sob, met with a "...HUH?" from me and "you mean ME" from Marcy, an older lady I was seldom paired with. It didn't take us long to figure out that to each one of us, the thing looked like it had our own face sticking out of its slimy, warty flesh, but what we took for a "tongue" came out of a big hole where the nose should have been. As it sucked the thing back up into its head, we all saw it crack the same creepy smile and even wink at us before it disappeared back into the ceiling.
What bothers us all about this one is that it never showed up again after that. Not on or off camera. After a couple weeks of no-shows, with or without anyone watching, the client was just happy that it might all be over...but as far as any of us know, the entity we just call "****face" is still at large.
THE CLASS 9 UNSTABLE REPLICATOR
This is the one I absolutely hate most. I think we all do, because we know it's back again when we get a frantic call from parents who want to know what's "biting" their child. It's always a kid under six or seven old, sometimes just a baby, suddenly showing up with these telltale X-shaped, quarter sized wounds that swell up like a bee sting. It's horrible, it obviously hurts like hell, and of course they suffer symptoms of anemia. Luckily for them, the entity moves on to the next stage before it gets life threatening, but we've still never actually caught the culprit itself. We have no idea what actually does the "biting." All we know is that by the time it's stopped stealing baby blood, the victim has already been "cloned" into a huge mass of misshapen human anatomy somewhere nearby, and we can often find it by the sound of crying.
Yeah, crying. Imagine a giant bread mold made of body parts, malformed heads and twitching little limbs in weird sizes and shapes, pockmarked with hundreds more of those nasty bite marks, like the thing is farming its own "food" so to speak, and every face with a mouth is crying constantly. We aren't equipped to determine if they're really sentient or not; they don't speak or otherwise respond to anything, so I stay sane by telling myself they're PROBABLY not self-aware, that the crying is probably some mindless reflex action, that it's not multiple instances of the same kid driven to some inconsolable madness or anything.
Our job rather mercifully ends with locating the mass, and the higher ups have somebody else who comes out to take care of it somehow. I don't know what they do, and I don't particularly want to know. All I want to know is what's harvesting blood to grow these little "gardens" or whatever they are, and if it has anything analagous enough to a neck that I can just throttle the creep.
I even hate the name some rookie coined, and the fact that everyone else went along with it. "Kid Cuisine" is not funny.
Anyway...I could go on, I could tell you about the Dancing Teeth incident, or how I needed an asthma inhaler for almost a year after encountering the Blacklungs, or even why the being we know as "Mr. Squelch" put me off spaghetti and meatballs to this day.
But, I think I've covered many of the absolute worst here, the ones that are going to haunt me until the day I die whatever weird, disgusting death this job has in store for me, and maybe you get by now why none of us usually see much point to letting the general public in on these things. What good does it even do? They're as rare as getting hit by lightning, and they're just as unstoppable anyway. There are no special precautions you can take that we know of, and no signs you can watch for before a manifestation. They don't even make for stories that are terribly pleasant to share, they aren't anything the average person would want to see at a zoo or an aquarium and they thus far offer absolutely zero insights into the workings of our universe.
I could still elaborate on my other experiences if people are interested, maybe even talk some older staff into sharing some insights or stories I wasn't around for, but for the most part, they're as unpleasant as they are senseless. Back during the ****face incident, I asked Marcy what she thought our "monsters" were, if there's even indeed any one idea you could slot them all into, and I think about her answer every day of my life: "symptoms of a sick world." It's the best description I've really heard, but I wonder just how literal it might be.