A new fantasy book collection, The Devil’s Been Busy: Monster Hunter Mom Season One is available on Amazon.
Jess Friedman is a Jewish mom of three who hunts monsters for the Vatican. She doesn’t use guns, just her wits and what she can find at home or in the back of her mini-van. She battles were-gorillas, imps, dark elves, and meddling cupids, and still gets kindergarten snack to school on time.
I exited my car, grabbing a baseball bat from the back seat. I also slapped a batting helmet on my head. Better safe than sorry. I’m a switch hitter and equally comfortable with the bat in my left or right hand. Now, I carried it in my left.
I listened, concentrating on blocking everything out that was natural, normal, harmless. I stepped forward and something snapped under my feet. I squatted so I could pick it up and hold it in my hands. Was it a feather? It had the right shape but it was stiff and unusually long. I ran my hands up the sides and winced when I touched the apex, so sharp it nicked my thumb. I could feel the cut swell as my blood dripped on the grass, a dangerous circumstance as most monsters loved the taste of blood, or worse, could find a witch who could use it against me. Whatever this was, I had to find it.
It could have been a bird’s feather. Maybe a large owl, or even one of those turkey vultures on the side of the highway picking at the latest road kill, but to be honest, I’d never felt a feather like this one, and I couldn’t imagine a bird large enough to have such a feather. It most certainly could not fly.
A scratch, scratch caught my attention, coming from about twenty feet in front of me. I thought I could hear it breathing, a soft whistle in the stillness. Even the night critters crawled or slithered inside their homes, sensing that something was off. My mouth was dry again, but as my belly tightened, I thought of my children, and the other children who played here, and held strong. I jumped when a light flared in the distance, as bright and sudden as a struck match. The flame lifted high in the air, its smoke trailing in the breeze.
Not Good. Glad I had put my tennis shoes back on, I moved toward the not goodness, pulling my light black sweater tighter so I’d be as invisible as possible. I rounded the swirly slide, my back to the ladder, and bent into the shadows, gaping at what I saw.
A six-foot tall bird stood before me, flapping his gold and azure wings, which were soaking wet. The body was covered in bronze and silver scalloped, overlapping feathers, like armor out of ancient Rome. It was shaped like an emu, with a long neck, an ovular body and long, skinny legs with three-toed feet, slightly webbed.
I considered my next move, my gut telling me to kill the thing, and kill it fast, my head saying, hey, maybe you can talk to it.