Meat Up (Short Story) / by tonymcmillen

Creepy-Vintage-Halloween-Costumes-—-24 (This was a little writing warm up, a sketch but I liked it enough to give it a little home here. Enjoy, thanks)

They had me crammed between some sort of werewolf looking guy and a sullen prick in an umpire mask with a hatchet. They made us sit on those cheap plastic chairs, like the kind they put kids in when they’re at school, the wolf man to my right had his tail hanging out through the hole in the back. It wagged whenever he agreed with something someone said. Good for him, if I had a tail it wouldn’t be wagging.

“How are we supposed to kill anybody when they all have cell phones now?”

“Why doesn’t anybody have any special weaknesses anymore?”

“Wait, so now it’s sexist if I only stalk and kill young women? Isn’t it sexist if I let them live and only kill the dudes? Besides, I stab babysitters with kitchen knives; babysitters are usually young girls; that’s the world being sexist not me.”

“It’s like Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”

“Are you really quoting Mahatma Gandhi at a monster meeting?”

“Yo, look it up, that dude was a monster.”

“So now every time I decapitate someone I have to worry that they called the cops already and a friggin’ S.W.A.T. team is waiting for me when I get out of the cabin.”

“It used to be that every good fiend had at least one interesting weakness, now it’s just use a flamethrower if you want to dispatch them. Or worse: bullet in the head. Where’s the pageantry? The sense of symbolism?”

“Why don’t you just stalk your vics where there’s no reception?”

“Because my killing ground is one exclusive location; I only slay vics that trample through the Summer Fun Land abandoned camp grounds. And you know that! And the reception there is really good. Like 4 bars even when you’re at the bottom of the well where I stash skeleton heaps.”

“Are we really still calling them vics?”

“What’s wrong with calling the vics vics?”

“Yeah, what do you call them?”

“Human beings. The people I stalk and dismember are human beings; I think a lot of you have lost sight of that.”

“One time I made a horse my vic.”

The umpire guy sitting next to me never said anything, yeah, he was that type, but when someone said something he didn’t quite understand he’d cock his head kind of like a golden retriever with an algebra problem. It was actually pretty cute. The Ump’s deal was pretty cool too. He had this whole three strikes thing going. Basically if you broke his rules three times then, bam, you were out. I’m not sure what exactly his rules were, like I said he never spoke, but I’m sure it had something to do with sex and maybe not getting to third base or sliding into home plate. I don’t know why he didn’t use a baseball bat though? Instead of that hatchet. It just made more sense thematically.

I’d been coming to these meet ups, or “Meat Ups” as some pun dropping fiend in a sweater used to call them (we booted his creepy ass out after we found out that he may have done more than just murder those children; we’re monsters but we’re not, you know, monsters) since the early 80s. I was part of that big boom, when the big fiends were still theatrical and not home video and later streaming only or whatever the shit they’re using now. I guess I shouldn’t care how my story endures, just that it endures but I’m a stickler for presentation. Not a purist by any means but I just think the medium matters when the message gets devalued. The old fiends, I mean the really old fiends, they try and tell me not to worry about how people on the outside pass on my deeds. Some of them can remember when the blood they shed was only recalled through word of mouth. Passed down in campfire stories, myths that became religions. They tell me not to worry about how it’s packaged, it’s all the same. People will hear about you, they will fear you. As long as what you do and more importantly what you are is worth fearing. Worth remembering to fear for decades and then centuries to come.

“Let’s talk about meaning here, folks.” This was the guy who was heading up this meeting. He was one of those old abstract terrors from back when before people invented plumbing and were still really, really afraid of foreigners and birth defects. Naturally he looked like a cross between a racist caricature of indeterminable intent and someone with a simple cleft palate. I wasn’t scared of him. “Let’s talk about what we actually represent.”

Jesus, not this again. I was so sick of this navel-gazing shit. So I said so. “Really? Are we going to go over the metaphors again? Haven’t we been over this a million times already?”

“Do you fear that there is nothing to learn from exploring the whys of our existence and not just the hows?”

I looked to the Ump for some comradery but all he gave me was that tilted head murder puppy look of his. The other dumb dog next to me’s tail had stopped wagging too. So I was on my own here, nothing new there. “It’s not so much that I fear it, it’s that it doesn’t really help me or anyone else out with our problems.”

“And what problems would that be?”

“...have you not been listening to cell phone guy? Or even spooky grandpa over there talking about the sorely missed pomp and circumstance of fiends only being able to be taken out with wooden stakes or a clove of garlic or sunlight.”

“Those examples all come from vampires.”

“Your mother comes from vampires, shut up, you know what I’m saying.” I wasn’t having this anymore. I had been coming to these meetings, drinking the lousy coffee and the stale blood while watching the spiders crawl on the wall for far too long. “The point is the world is changing, it’s moving forward and we’re being left in the dust.”

“And you don’t see how knowing what we represent can help you with this perceived problem?” I hated the scholarly, condensing tone of the old ones. Look, just because you’ve crawled across the earth for a millennia doesn’t necessarily mean you have any great insight. Half the fang and fur crew here have been around for almost as long and they’re not any smarter than the pack of masked slashers I rode in with. And besides, I don’t care how long you’ve been stalking vics; no one talks to me like that. My story may have started to be told in the 80s but I’m a lot older than that. I was around back when men still used horses for travel.

“What do any of us represent?” I asked. “Fear. Death. Whether it’s fear of sex, or political and societal upheaval, consumerism, the plague, war, the human capacity for cruelty or moral indifference-I don’t give a fuck. You understand? It’s all the same to me.”  I looked out at the packed room: Clowns with blood stains framing their rictus grins, living dolls clutching hatchets with plastic grips, horned and hoofed demons of every stripe, dozens of masked menaces armed with their ordinary, everyday implements of destruction, the ghosts of drowned children, bloated and somehow still dripping after all these years, the fang set, countless variations on vampires, werewolves and the worst of the bunch; the ubiquitous zombie, they were the ones currently still enjoying an extended resurrection in popular imagination, but past them I spotted the least fashionable crowd, biomechanical devils from beyond the veil of space and time, automatons and mechanical skeletons made of gleaming blood and fire tempered chrome, in the back of the room, crawling in and out of my peripheral were the oldest of us, the abstracts, the nameless, sometimes voiceless fears of mankind’s first nightmares; I looked out and I didn’t see one thing that would frighten me. Not anymore. How could it? “What’s there left to be afraid when mankind has mapped out every square inch of the earth, cured every disease, solved every problem that they’ve ever faced?”

“They have not done any of those things yet?” Some witch with yellow eyes told me.

“But they will. Every day mankind’s knowledge doubles. Doubles. Pretty soon there won’t be much left that they don’t already know.”

“So what?” some Texan with an exposed metal plate in his head shouted.

“’So what?’ What we represent, what all of us represent is the unknown. The dark. Because in the dark you can’t see what’s out there. You can’t see where you are, where you’re going or where you came from.” I leaned back in my chair. “If it’s dark enough you can’t even see yourself anymore. Mankind’s knowledge is a light, before man only had what amounted to a lantern or a flashlight to guide him through our dark. But now, now the sun’s coming up. And all us shadows, we’re going to have nowhere to run from it.”

The room became still. The wolf next to me had his tail tucked over and around the hole in his chair. I thought I saw a vampire woman brushing away tears of blood. Across from me there was a bondage demon priest, his face lined with an intricate pattern of screws, he had his head down and his shoulder sunk. His powder white chin resting on his knuckles like Dobie Gillis.  We called him Screwloose, I’d never seen the guy like this, he was usually always sort of turned on and menacing. Seeing him like this I actually kind of missed his pervy domination shtick. But what could I say? Even if they didn’t want to believe it, that didn’t make it not true.

“There is truth in what you say, the world is changing. In ways it has never changed before,” the old abstract terror said. “But...” He took a step out into the center of the room. “While the current change may  be something new the act of the world changing is not. It has happened before. Many times.” I opened my mouth ready to fire but he pressed on calmly. His self-assurance enough to quiet me before I could get a word out. “Right now it is the beginning of an age. Humans are experiencing things they never thought possible. Yes, knowledge is vast. It may even appear infinitesimal. But even if this is so do you think knowledge truly brings comfort to those who possess it? Is ignorance not bliss? And even if one were to think they could know all the potential dangers and horrors of life and further have the means to prevent them one would still be wrong.” He turned around and around, taking us all in, connecting with every glinting eye before speaking again. “With every drop of knowledge they squeeze out to slake mankind’s thirst there will come a flood of even more questions. Illumination breeds only more mystery. You view knowledge as a light in the dark, yes? Fine, yes. But you imagine this latest abundance of it a great fiery sun that hangs overhead, punishing and dispersing frail wretched shadows such as we? Does the sun not set? Does it not reign only for a time before it is swallowed up once again by the surrounding dark of the universe? Mother Dark. Stars hang within this dark ocean, we are not shadows, we are not trespassers, we are not vile islands jutting out struggling to survive from the sea? We are the black waters of the universe itself. The light and the life that the light allows to exist, they are the true shadows. The true intrusions. They the byproduct, they the exhaled breath from our dark lung.” He looked at me directly. No malice, only a good humored sense of bemusement at me like I was a silly dog that couldn’t understand how it got its own leash wrapped around the post. “What we are witness to now is not some dawn of eternal enlightenment for all mankind. No fiends, what we are witness to is merely the dawn of a typical day. It may take a long time for this sun to set but set it shall. Trust me; I’ve seen the cycle come again and again. Light is followed by dark over and over. You just have to wait around long enough to appreciate the view.

“...but they know so much,” I stammered out. “They’ve changed how they think and how they view everything... the fucking internet and...and they’re more machine now than... people aren’t like how they used to be. People are different.”

“If that is true then you and I have absolutely nothing to fear, don’t you see?” I shook my head. The Ump next to me cocked his head likewise. “You said that what we represent is the dark, the unknown. Change is where the unknown blossoms. The more they change, the less sure of who and what they are they’ll become. How did you put it, ‘if it’s dark enough you can’t even see yourself anymore.’ What could be more terrifying? To be lost in the dark and not sure there was any distinction between yourself and it?” He smiled at me and I nodded my head.

We all sat there, letting his words trickle down into then split open our heads. Someone close by cleared their throat and when they started speaking I found to my complete shock that it was the Umpire at my side. And to my warm fresh horror that his voice was that of a child’s. “But isn’t that how we are, how we exist? Lost in the dark and unsure?”

Collectively we all craned our necks, we went from staring at our formally silent companion to looking up to the old abstract terror in anticipation of his response. “No, my fiends,” he said with maybe a bit of regret. “And this is why we meet like this, this is why we talk of meaning and what we stand for and represent... Because even if we are lost we are not like them.”

“Why not?” I asked, lost as ever.

“We know who we are.”