The night was alive around them. Three blocks south, cars flew down Franklin Street. Two blocks north a small crowd chatted on the stoop of the corner store. But all Jose could hear was the powerful breathing of the beast hiding in the abandon rowhome in front of him. The rhythm rumbled in his head: a snort-like inhale, a grunting exhale, and snot-like inhale, a grunting exhale. The monster wasn’t snoring. It was seething.
“Rule two,” Chris, Jose’s partner said. Chris had chosen his light blue polo today. He kept ten short-sleeve polos in the large, black duffle bag that lived in the trunk of his car. They were identical excluding color. Jose thought they might be magic, sense they never seemed to come untucked.
“Rule two,” Chris repeated, not taking his eyes off the rowhome in front of them.
“We don’t fear them. They fear us,” Jose recited. The teen’s jaw hurt. He didn’t realize he’d been clenching his teeth.
“We don’t fear them,” Chris repeated coldly.
Jose listened to the rage filled breathing. The house seemed to inflate and deflate with each cycle. “What’s it doing in there?” he asked.
Chris put his arm around his partner’s short, thin, fourteen-year-old frame and squeezed his shoulder. “He’s trying to figure out where the fuck he is. Not everything that crosses the Veil, crosses with malicious intent.”
Chris squeezed his partner’s shoulder again. “We don’t fear them,” he said, reassuringly. “On three.”
The front door shattered into shards of wood beneath Chris’ fist. Jose leapt through the door to the left. Chris stepped into the darkness and took the right. They stood in their preferred ready positions: Chris, erect, on the balls of his feet, fists held loosely at the ready. Jose crouched, rocking left and right like a snake poised to strike.
The house was empty except for the monster at the far end. At first, all Jose could see was the beast’s mass. Jose suspected, if it were able to stand to it’s full height, the thing would near ten feet tall. Shaped like a gorilla, with horns like a bull, the beast’s massive fists were like pillars on the ground in front of it. It’s shoulders, almost touched both walls of the small rowhome. Strapped to it’s back was a giant shovel. What held Jose’s attention was the monster’s face; but not the large, lower canines that protruded over the beast’s upper lip creating a massive under bite; and not the beasts two perfectly round, moist, forward facing nostrils. What held Jose’s attention were the monster’s small, kind, blue eyes that were filled with fear.
The beast grunted. The force of the sound shook the house.
“Easy there, big boy,” Chris said softly. “We’re here to help.”
The beast screamed and pounded its fists on the floor. Jose flinched at the monster’s hot, wet breath. His ears burned from the power the beast’s roar. Jose wanted to turn and run. Tears fought the dam of will power holding them in his eyes. It was only his partner’s calm that held him in position.
Chris stood, unyielding. “That’s right,” he said softly. “You don’t want to be here as much as we don’t want you here.” His right hand slowly moving toward his jean pocket.
The beast let lose a hopeless, sorrow filled whine. Jose’s heart hurt.
Chris retrieved from his pocket a small pink coin. He held it up for the beast to see. “Time to go home, big boy,” he said. With a smooth motion, Chris threw the coin toward the monster’s head. The pink light shown held in the air, intensified, and then grew to a glowing hole in air.
The monster smiled. It had to duck to get beneath the hole it climb in it. As it moved, Jose thought he heard the beast humming. It reached its massive hands into the hole and pulled itself up, laughing with glee as it disappeared.
The hole closed and Jose’s limbs went numb as the tension of fear left his body. He fell back on his butt.
Chris laughed to himself.
“Wow. So. That was a Egrat,” Jose said, still looking at where the monster had been.
Chris stretched. “Yep. That was an Egrat.”
“Are they always so, um, pleasant?”
Chris stretched. “Not always. Definitely not on the battle field. I once watched a skirmish between platoons from Malacandra and Cocytus. Both of them had three or four of those things. Not real bright, but their raw power is incredible.”
“Come on,” Chris said, motioning with his head toward the door. The two warriors moved into the night together.
“Was that a shovel?” Jose asked.
“Yeah. They’re farmers by nature. I’ve been told they have giant rows of fields with thousands of those monsters happily growing crops and humming. I’ve been told they hum a lot.”
“You’ll get use to it kid.”
For more stories about Jose and Chris, check out TheDefenseOfReality.com