Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
So, I normally would wait a few days before posting the next chapter, but I'll be away from my computer for the next several days. As per suggestion, I'll only be posting singular chapters at a time. I'm going to keep the genre tags as "Action/Horror" because those generally apply to the story even if they don't apply to every chapter. You can find prior chapters in my portfolio on my user page. Enjoy!
"So, you still haven't answered my question. Ya hungry kid?" Melony sat down at the booth seat opposite of Holden, eyes drawn downward to the menu. She was having quite a difficult time deciding between the steak and cheese sandwich, and a nice crispy bucket of fish-n-chips.
"I don't have money on me..." Replied Holden, leaning back and melting into the cushion behind him. He would occasionally glance back and forth between Melony and the rustic restaurant environment. Old wooden barrels hosting pots of lush, multi-colored flowers embellished the interior, creating a cozy aesthetic that was well supplemented by the various paintings of farmland and sunsets imprinted upon the walls. Holden rubbed his fingers together, fidgeting his digits constantly. Noticing his discomfort, Melony grinned warmly in response.
"I didn't ask if you had money, kiddo... I asked if you were hungry. Really, my treat." She nodded her head as if to corroborate her statement while gently adjusting the collar of her fresh shirt. It was true that previous events had dirtied both Holden and Melony's outfits, to say the least. She always carried spare clothes with her, just in case. That much was obvious now that she donned a black tank top and brown khakis. Though she didn't have an extra pair of clothes for Holden, a quick stop at the store had remedied that issue already. Now, he sported an orange Hawaiian button-up shirt patterned with white coconut trees. His jeans, in contrast, were a rather dull and basic blue design. Needless to say, these new clothes in conjunction with a rather intense scrubbing session within the showers of a local truck stop were quite refreshing. It was the perfect place for two people with blood-stained apparel to go and wash up. The truck drivers didn't pay them much mind, considering they had almost certainly seen far stranger things.
"So, ya gonna take me up on my offer," She reaffirmed. Her finger traced along the menu from item to item, her attention now branching out to other potential meals.
"Thanks... but you don't have to do thi-," Holden began before being abruptly stopped as Melony interjected.
"Eh-eh, nope! Don't tell me what I must or mustn't do, mister brooder man!" Melony remarked, her tone light and unserious. She stuck out her palm towards Holden, and a miniature mouth grew on the surface. "Talk to the hand!" A soft giggle escaped her lips, she seemed to be enjoying herself. Holden flinched slightly before looking away and releasing an intentionally long sigh.
"Are you always like this? Seriously?" It was a question he had been itching to ask, but he wasn't sure why. He knew the obvious answer before Melony had even delivered it.
"Course, I'm always myself. No exceptions." She put her head on a swivel, making sure nobody in the building was paying attention. As she verified the other patrons were preoccupied, she smirked and allowed for the mouth on her hand to stick out its tongue at Holden, blowing raspberries his way before retracting and disappearing.
"Gotta say, kiddo, you're takin this all real well. I expected you to freak or somethin, and I was afraid I'd have to knock you out and tie ya up and deal with your crying and screaming and... bleh, all that jazz. But no! You're chill. I like that about you, y'know? All relaxed and edgy and quiet. You hardly spoke the entire time I carried you through the woods, and even when I threw you into my car. What's your deal, dude?"
Of course he took it all in stride. What choice did he have? Above all else, Holden despised the thought of rejecting blatant reality, no matter how absurd it may seem. He had already dismissed the possibility that he was dreaming or under the influence, and it wasn't like these events were wholly unprecedented . When his father left him years ago, the Earth itself had been flipped on its head from his perspective. This, while far more surreal, was not the first time the sensation of existential discombobulation had hit him. He felt it, yes, but didn't outwardly showcase it much. Although his mind may have been whirling, he could still recognize that sticking his head in the sand like an ignorant ostrich would not change a thing.
"What's my deal?" Holden blinked and leaned in, voice dropping to a whisper. "I ran into a weird demon creature, and you came along and beat the shit out of it with your... powers. And then you literally ate it. Ate it with your stomach, yet you somehow still have an appetite. Now you have the audacity to ask me what my deal is?" His eyebrows furrowed, like he couldn't begin to imagine the thought process behind Melony's actions.
"That's a whole lotta complaining for a guy that was hanging out in a creepy house. You had spooky things happen in a sketchy place that you chose to go to, and you're surprised? Sounds like horror movie character logic to me, kid. You sure you're ok? Did ya hit your head? How many fingers am I holding up," She inquired, raising one hand. She held up three fingers, then seven, and then she had no fingers at all. Holden begrudgingly answered correctly each time, unsure why he was even indulging her.
"This is stupid... my head is fine. Your head, though, I'm not so sure. Look, just tell me what the hell is going on. What the fuck was that back there, and what even are you?" Once more, he leaned back and folded his arms together, clutching his elbows to stop his hands from twitching in agitation, his grip so firm that it rendered his knuckles white.
"Thought you'd never ask. Believe it or not, I've technically had training to explain these things to the uninitiated. But I kinda-sorta-maybe slept through all those boring lectures, to be honest." She shrugged her shoulders and rubbed her forehead, reprimanding herself for having not paid attention. "Whatever, who needs all that? I can tell you're a dude who likes straightforward chats, so I'll just be blunt. That thing we ran into was a monster, or more specifically, a cryptid. I'm sure the idea needs no introduction. You know, beings of urban legend and folklore. Yadda yadda, blah blah blah. As for myself, well, I'm a cryptid too in a sense. Half monster, half human. I'm what's known as a hybrid; a hybrid cryptid hunter, and I'm the best in the business if I do say so myself. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. And you, kiddo, are a hybrid as well... I'm pretty sure. Like ninety-nine percent confidence on that. What do ya think? Mind blown yet?!"
Melony widened her mouth into the shape of an "O", posing with a look of shock in anticipation of Holden's reaction. She expected him to launch upright from his seat and shout "What?!" with saucer-like eyes, so as she observed his unmoving, blank expression, she deflated like a balloon and threw her head back in disappointment.
"Seriously?! Nothin? Not even a little bit of surprise," she groaned.
"I am surprised. This is my surprised face," replied Holden, his monotone voice unchanging. There wasn't a singular shift of his nose, mouth, or eyes. Even his forehead remained uncreased!
"Uh-huh, sure! That's why you got that boring expression on you. You're making me look like a clown here," Melony declared, crossing her arms in annoyance and releasing a high-pitched, forced wheeze of exasperation.
"Not sure I'm the one who made you look that way..."
Melony's head dropped onto the table with a thump, her nostrils flaring as she exhaled and inhaled repeatedly, each breath deeper than the last. Finally, she sat up once more, adjusting her glasses and brushing the hair out of her face.
"Look, I know you believe me. After everything you've seen, there's no way you don't. You're too smart to be that deep in denial. Besides, don't think I haven't noticed that the wound on your chest from earlier has already scabbed over and stopped bleeding. Cus uh... I have. I do pay attention to some things, sometimes."
She was right, and it was a phenomenon Holden had realized as well. He simply refrained from commenting on it, not figuring it to be useful information to divulge to this woman. He couldn't deny her words, though. He knew his eyes hadn't deceived him, and he recognized that his own body had been acting in unnatural ways earlier that day. So, he chose to take her seriously. After all, she was the only one between the two of them who seemed capable of offering an explanation.
At this point, Holden was looking for anything to cling to in order to make sense of his recent experiences. He focused on her words intently as she continued.
"Regenerative properties are common among cryptids, but rare among hybrids. When running into a cryptid with those qualities, it's common practice to destroy its brain completely, leaving no room for its recovery. Though, I like to go the extra step and completely annihilate its body. So uh... yeah, sorry about that. I know that was kinda gross."
"Right, that's why you decided to pull a video game fatality back there. So... you're saying we're both hybrids? As in, one of our parents is a... cryptid," Holden asked. His eyes took on a purposeful, contemplative appearance as the implications became clear to him.
"Mhm, pretty much. At least one of your folks is a cryptid. Two hybrids can make a kid together too, though. Honestly, you're pretty lucky. Most times when a hybrid is born, it dies shortly after birth. Human biology is often rendered unstable by cryptid genetics, leading to premature death in the vast majority of cases. You, though, you lived, and probably inherited some ability based on the type of cryptid you were born from."
"Then... my mom. I'm certain my father was a human, I knew him for years, and I would have known if he was something different. I never knew my mother, though. Do you uh... think she was a cryptid too? She was one of them?"
"Well, if you're certain that your father was human, then yeah. Process of elimination, my dude."
To Holden, this revelation was groundbreaking. Could this be related to the fact that he never knew his mother? Perhaps this was tied to his missing father as well. For years, Holden had believed that the realm of speculation was as close as he'd ever get to answering these questions. That he'd never have the opportunity to truly understand why his parents brought him into this universe only to exit his life well before they were due to. If what Melony was saying were true, and his dormant abilities were indicative of the type of cryptid his mother was, then understanding his powers could help him further comprehend the nature of himself as well as her.
"So... what kind of ability do I have? Can you tell what my mother was, exactly? Just curious is all. It's interesting to me, I never got the chance to see for myself..."
Melony shook her head, confirming Holden's suspicions. Of course, she didn't know. She hadn't even witnessed the strange moment the lights flickered and Holden inflicted great violence upon the creature that haunted that old, rotten house. Holden himself could hardly recall it for that matter, and the details he could gather didn't seem to point to an obvious conclusion. Even after describing those events to Melony, she couldn't give a solid response as to what those moments might entail. Although he tried to hide it, the disappointment in his voice and face was palpable.
"You're positive you can't say…? How I felt like I was totally out of it, how my body acted on its own, how the lights turned on and off constantly. You don't have any solid ideas on what my mom could be?"
"Look, that's all real, real interesting kiddo. And I wish I could tell you, but I can't. I don't have enough info, not enough to even hazard a guess." She smiled reassuringly, reaching over and patting Holden's shoulder. "From the sounds of it, you regret that you never really knew her, don't you? And you wanna know... wanna understand what she is, and what you are. I get it, I do. I'm here to help you, okay? You don't gotta worry about working through all this on your own. You already know I'll give you a hand."
"Don't make it sound so pathetic. Even if that were true, you barely even know me, you shouldn't be making promises like this. You sound gullible and fooli-," Holden began before being interrupted once more.
"Hey, we went over this. Talk. To. The. Hand! I'm doin' it cus I wanna. Because that's what makes me, me. It costs me nothin to give you a little boost, even if you're gonna pretend you don't want it. I know what it's like... to wonder who I really am. How I found my answer is a story for another day. And y'know what? Finding out the answer is so worth it. It's a treasure unlike anything else in this world. And when you find a treasure that sweet, it's only natural to wanna share it."
Holden wanted to argue but decided to keep his mouth shut. Clearly, this woman was stubborn, but for a half-monster who viciously murdered a ghoulish abomination just an hour or two prior, she was surprisingly considerate. As the waitress brought them their drinks, Holden lifted up his cup of coffee and peered into the liquid. Soon, he would need to return to his apartment. He'd fix his dinner, arrange the rooms as he intended, and make his bed. In the morning, he would work for twelve hours a day, mowing lawns and cleaning yards until the sweat off his brow could fill a bucket.
With his own two hands, he'd slave away for enough money to pay for his rent and cover the other costs of living. For years, he'd been able to do it on his own, not needing to rely on someone apart from himself. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew that this brand-new world he was entering was entirely foreign to him. That he'd need a guide to help him. Though he desired to push such facts to the back of his mind, he knew, at least subconsciously, that they were undeniable truths.
"Gross, you drink your coffee black?! No cream or sugar at all? Do you just like torturing yourself," Melony asked, snickering under her breath as she mocked Holden. "What's next, you're gonna ask the waiter to bring you the strongest liquor they've got? Are you the type that gets excited to drink sour-ass medicine?"
"You wouldn't get it, it helps my nerves," he replied, scoffing at her attitude. Against his better judgment, he was beginning to find her pushing his buttons to be a tad bit endearing, albeit still aggravating.
"If you insist." Melony lifted her drink, holding it out towards him. "Welcome to your new world, kiddo. You can call me Mel-Mel from here on out if you want. Or Melly. Whatever makes you comfy, really. On second thought, stick to Melony. I doubt someone as bland as you would bother with nicknames."
Pausing momentarily, Holden extended his drink towards hers, allowing their cups to clink. Finally, Holden allowed the top corner of his lips to curl into a subtle, but present smile. Although it was nigh imperceptible, Melony took notice and burst into an obnoxious laughter before cooling down and sipping her beverage.
"God, took ya long enough, I thought you were gonna sit there and look all mopey and dopey forever. Well, you're not bad at all, man. But you still gotta work on that attitude of yours. You'll get plenty of practice, maybe I'll rub off on ya. Let's eat, and then I'll take you home. I'm sure you need plenty of rest. When you're ready, give me a call. I'll leave you my number, so feel free to reach out at any time, kay? Cool."
Holden obliged. He could tell there were things she was holding back, and there were definitely still many things he wanted, no, needed to know. However, there was a time and place for that. For now, Holden was famished, and if she was going to insist on getting him a bite to eat, he may as well accept it just this once.