Martin Weir stared at the letter he had written his son weeks earlier, but didn’t have the courage to send. He’d been sitting behind the wheel of his rusty silver sedan long enough for the air around him to be almost as cool as it was outside. As the warmth left his skin, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Martin could hear the rain bouncing off the roof directly over his head, but it sounded as if it was a million miles away. As he continued to stare at the slightly crumpled sheets of paper in his calloused hands, his eyes relaxed to the point that all the words blurred together. He had been focusing on the line “No matter what happens, and no matter what has happened, I want you to know I love you.”
No matter what happens, indeed, Martin thought. He knew exactly what was going to happen that night. He was going to die.
Martin had wanted to kill himself for a while now, but he could never bring himself to do it. He’d thought about hanging himself, slitting his wrists, or poisoning himself. He even considered putting a bullet into his brain, but he didn’t think he had it in him to follow through on any of them. In Martin’s estimation, it would take effort and conviction to take his own life, and he was just too damned tired to have either. He also didn’t want his family to hate him any more than they already did. Martin believed that having a loser for a husband or a father was one thing, but having a loser for a husband or a father who offed himself was a stink you couldn’t just wash away. He decided he wouldn’t put his wife and kids through that. But it didn’t change the fact that he still wanted to be dead.
The air around Martin became so cold that it snapped him out of the fog in his mind and caused him to remember where he was and why he was there. Just before getting the call that led to Martin being parked in a piece of shit metal box in one of the worst neighbourhoods in the city, he was sitting at the foot of his bed in his bachelor apartment. With the sink full of dishes, walls full of roaches and empty bottles scattered around the room, the best term Martin could find to describe the place was sad. Most people would be sleeping at 3 o’clock in the morning, but, in Martin’s eyes, he was not most people. Most people didn’t stay up all night drinking by themselves, thinking about their job and what new hell it would bring the next day. And even if they did, they certainly weren’t thinking of a job like Martin’s. But it was that job that made him think that maybe there was another way out his life. A way that would make his family proud.
Martin tossed the letter onto the dashboard and reached into his jacket pocket to pull out his black leather wallet. He flipped it open to look at the shiny metal police badge that was hidden inside. Sergeant Martin Weir was the head of the Humanoid Sub-Creature Pacification Unit of the Palisades Police Department. The other officers on the force called it the Monster Squad. Martin wasn’t given the job because of his 20 years of exemplary service, or his ability to effectively manage people. In fact, there was only one other person in the HSCPU that he had to manage, and that person hadn’t been in the unit nearly as long as Martin. No, Martin was made head of the HSCPU because most people don’t want to spend any more time in the Monster Squad than they have to, and the few individuals who do want to be there usually die before the chance of a promotion comes up. Martin was lucky to have survived as long as he had. No one would blame him if that luck were to eventually run out.
Martin was off duty when the call came in, but Jeff Redding, the other member of the HSCPU, was already out on another call. Martin didn’t mind. It was better working than trying to live with himself. And there was always a chance that he could run into something that was worthy of giving him a good death.
Martin let out a loud sigh, and, without looking, reached up with one hand and pulled down a faded photograph from his brown-stained sun blocker. It was a rare picture of Martin’s family where everyone was smiling.
Beth looks about six, Martin thought, so that would make Marcus… three? Or four maybe? Martin couldn’t quite remember. He looked at his daughter and his son for a few seconds, but his gaze lingered on his ex-wife, Helena. He looked at her and took in every detail. He studied the long blond hair caressing Helena’s shoulders, the black turtleneck snuggling her neck, and the perfect white teeth peaking out of her perfect mouth. Martin thought about the time when the photograph he was holding was taken. He didn’t think that two people could be happier.
“That was a long time ago,” Martin whispered to himself.
A few years after the picture was taken, his wife gave him an ultimatum: Her or the job. At the time, Martin thought he had made the right choice. He thought that what he did was important. He thought that lives depended on him. Helena didn’t see it that way, and in the time since she served him with divorce papers, Martin began to see that she was right. He couldn’t make a difference. He couldn’t save the world from monsters.
Martin felt a shiver run through his chest. He raised his head from the photo in his hand and tried to look out the front windshield. The inside of the glass had fogged over, so he used the sleeve of his jacket to wipe away the condensation. He could see something standing about 15 feet in front of his car, but the rain was coming down so hard he couldn’t make out what it was. He strained his eyes, but it didn’t help. Martin tossed the photo next to the letter on the dashboard and listened to the THUNK sound his door made as he unlocked it. He intended to get out of his car, but as he reached for the handle the rain seemed to subside, and the thing that had been a fair distance away started to float towards him.
The little girl, who could be no more than eight years old by Martin’s estimation, was wearing a yellow pajama top and pink bottoms. She slowly made her way towards Martin’s car, her arms never leaving her sides and her legs remaining perfectly still. As she got closer, Martin could see the little girl’s mouth moving, but he couldn’t hear anything coming out. The rain had stopped and Martin found himself surrounded in silence. The child came closer and closer, her pink bottoms dragging along the wet concrete.
Martin had seen a lot of strange things in his life, but nothing like this. He couldn’t make sense of it. His gut told him to run, but he was too terrified to move. He watched in silent horror as the little girl made her way towards his car, her mouth still moving, her mouth still silent.
When the girl stopped at the front of the silver sedan, the air around Martin turned thick. A sick feeling crept inside his belly. He wanted to reach for the door handle, but didn’t for fear the slightest movement might make him wretch. Martin looked at the girl and wanted to ask her how she was doing this, but he didn’t dare open his mouth. He just stared at the little girl in her pajamas while his stomach churned and knotted.
After a long moment of Martin and the young girl looking into each others’ eyes, the child’s mouth stopped moving. It was shut, but Martin could hear her scream, “HELP ME!”
Martin’s eyes grew wide and his heart started pounding in his chest. He found the courage to move again, so he reached to open the car door, but was stopped by a flash of white light that blinded him, and an explosion of shattered glass that cut into his face.
End of Chapter One