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The Port

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Do you like stories about monsters?

Most kids do. Some adults do, too. And that’s exactly why I’m writing about them…but I’m not necessarily taking on the same perspective that you’d expect. Usually, stories about anything supernatural are about That One Guy Who’s Super Buff destroying anything that isn’t human to Protect His Race (and he’ll probably fuck That One Boobular Chick Who Dresses His Wounds, of course).

This is definitely not that story. The fucking hot chicks part, definitely. Or chick. One hot chick in particular. But in this story, the heroine (that’s me) tries to protect all races simultaneously and probably eats a few too many sweets to be super buff.

But those aren’t the important bits. What’s important is equality in stories. I’m not human, so nobody expects me to be the hero. If anything, I’m probably the one destroying the fabric of society, right? That’s what the news in my world says, anyway. I don’t know if people in other worlds and realities will read my story, but in case they do, I’ll try to explain how things work here the best I can. And you should also try to get that universe to have monster heroes, too, instead of just Buff Human Guys. We can trade notes, if you like.

But anyway. I’m getting off-topic here. If you like controversial stories about supernatural beings fighting off powerful cosmic beings while fighting for equal rights, sit back, grab a beer or load a bowl, and enjoy. And if not…well, I would say I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my kind don’t lie, so go enjoy whatever human-centric shit you like, and we’ll stay in our respective lanes.

-

My name is Keisa Rainier, and I am an oni. In case the world you’re reading this in isn’t familiar with my kind, we’re a sort of mountain nature spirit with horns, fangs, and stereotypically brash personalities (and possibly drinking problems). Other languages have words for what we are (for example, in English, people often call oni “ogres”), but my kind refers to ourselves as oni, so for the sake of consistency, that is the term I will use. Once upon a time, human cultures viewed my kind as demons, as cannibals, as evil chaos spirits, and now…well, it’s not much different, but at least I’m legally considered half a person now, right?

Despite some human-on-oni (well, human-on-anything-not-human) racism, oni have a pretty vibrant culture that humans love. We love good food, bright colors, sports, drinks, smokes, festivals, music, tattoos, piercings, and, most importantly, oneness with nature. Humans are always making fun of oni, thinking we’re dumber than humans, that we’re all brawn and no brain, that we’re addicts waiting to happen, but I love to prove them wrong.

I live in Seattle, where the oni population is pretty high due to the nearby mountain ranges, and it’s hard to even go a block without seeing an oni restaurant or sake den. They’re almost as numerous as Starbucks nowadays, but maybe that’s because I live in the International District. Maybe other areas of Seattle don’t have as many. I haven’t explored the area too much to find out.

Seattle, and America’s Pacific Northwest in general, is a pretty active area for cryptids—the umbrella term English-speaking humans now use to describe anything not-human (though we oni prefer the term youkai)—due to the nature preservation of the area. The towering evergreens attract the tengu, or bird-spirits, the rivers a great place for the water sprites, and so on and so forth. Washington is also pretty progressive, compared to the rest of the country; a lot of other states are hesitant to even give any sort of rights to youkai, so I’m glad I’m at least allowed to live among humans, have a job, and vote in most elections. I can’t own property in the city, but I can rent, and I can’t hold office yet, but lots of tengu are working toward changing that. And none of my rights protect me from most forms of violence. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Like I said, I’m legally half a person. That’s what the law said. Youkai are half-people, because we’re half-human. That’s not true at all, and there’s riots all over the world standing up for all of our kinds, but things are pretty much at a standstill, honestly.

Most youkai are born within youkai families; tengu grow up in their extravagant treehouses with their colonies, kappa—little turtle-like gremlins—live by the water, et cetera. But oni are weird in that we’re mostly born from humans. Science is trying to prove why we happen, but hasn’t gotten too far yet. People usually just believe the superstition that oni are born out of chaotic households; we’re the children of junkies, adulterers, and abusers, more often than not.

I was no exception to this. I’ve never met my father, so as far as I know, he doesn’t exist, and my druggie mom abandoned me at birth once she found out she gave birth to an oni. (I’ve always thought giving birth to oni children must be painful, since we’ve got horns and all that, but that doesn’t give you the right to abandon your kids.) I grew up in foster care, my ass shuffling from abusive home to abusive home all over Washington until I ran away when I was sixteen.

I backpacked around the Cascades, living among mostly tengu, when I decided upon a name for myself. “Keisa” is the oni word for “adventurer,” and Rainier came from Mt. Rainier, where I feel that I found myself among a very kind oni tribe that took me in for a while. In the olden days, when oni were less numerous and lived in clans exclusively, oni tended to take the names of large nature sites they were born near, usually mountains, but things have changed, and usually, oni choose their own names once they’re of age because their human names never suit them anyway.

When I was eighteen, I got a job at an oni bar (oni don’t have to adhere to human drinking laws, thankfully) and an apartment in Seattle with some other youkai friends I met during my journey (another oni, a tengu, and a faerie), and this is where the story really begins.

Stereotypically, oni have giant presences and tend to be rather loud, and I am no exception, which made laying low in human society rather difficult. I decided to use my energy to start a youkai rights circle on social media. It started out small, with just a blog and a Twitter, but then it grew, and I started bringing in some cash with it. I hosted youkai-safe events in the area, promoted housing shelters for youkai youth, and messaged people and gave them advice. At this point in time, I had one blog in English where I educated humans using their terms (like “cryptid” and “ogre”), and another one in oni (which isn’t only a race, but a language used by many youkai) to communicate with fellow nonhuman individuals.

I was on my laptop, clicking through news articles on Twitter. I had a rather short attention span, so reading long articles was extremely difficult for me, but reading the highlights and brief forms of information kept me (mostly) in the know about what was going on in the world. At first, there was nothing unusual; Beyonce gave birth to twins and shared pictures of them, North Korea and Japan were having tensions, our president was a fucknut, but then I found something alarming.

I almost fell off the couch. “Tess? Elita?”

“Tess is in the shower,” Elita, my tengu roommate, responded. She was watching the Food Network, which was doing a vegan special, and taking notes on her iPad as her giant black wings stretched behind her. “What’s going on?”

Historically, oni and tengu didn’t get along; oni used to be the slaves of tengu way back in the day, and the two had very clashing cultures. But Elita didn’t act at all the way stereotypical tengu were expected to act. Where tengu were stereotypically liars and tricksters, she had a very kind soul and was a big believer in personal discipline and respect for others and nature. She was definitely the quietest of all of us, but somehow, she had a voice that stood out the most when she did choose to speak.

Knowing good and well Elita wasn’t planning on getting up (she had the tendency to get really into her cooking shows), I unplugged my laptop and crouched beside her. “Look at this!”

“Hmm?” Her almost-black almond shaped eyes scanned the text illuminated on the screen. “‘Four young cryptid women go missing,’” she read aloud. “‘Their roommate, a human of the name Marc Johnson, reported that they had left for school at Washington State University and never returned. He was the last known person who saw them.’” She clicked to further tweets. “These are all conspiracy theories, Keisa. You can’t get your news from Twitter. I mean, ‘There was a Marc Johnson involved in Warehouse 67?’ There was never a confirmation from the law that Warehouse 67 even existed. It’s just one of those Deep Web rumors, like Red Rooms. You know that Tor is far too slow to load a livestream of live-action torture and murder, but you ate that stuff up anyway.” She thought for a moment. “Wait, didn’t you think that Warehouse 67 had a Red Room? If that were the case, the police would be on that by now.”

“Hey, I don’t know if Tor is used for Red Rooms—there’s probably more Deep Web browsers—or that Warehouse 67 broadcasted their information. Besides, there’s lots of proof of Warehouse 67 existing aside from that. Remember Angela’s Testimony?” I sighed. “For a youkai, you put far too much faith in the law.”

Warehouse 67 was a rather popular urban legend when I was a kid that spread around many schools, internet forums, and conspiracy theory blogs. It was said to take place somewhere in Greater Seattle and be a testing site for youkai like me. Humans who ran the facility kept the youkai in captivity and subjected them to torture, rape, exposure to infectious pathogens, and so forth until they died. Rumor had it that they blogged their information and “test results” on the Deep Web, and darker rumors had it that they even featured live-action torture in Red Rooms there, but neither had ever been proven.

When I was eleven, a fox spirit my kind called kitsune named Angela claimed she escaped Warehouse 67. She released a testimony of how the humans had killed her entire family there, forced her to eat the diarrhea of her cholera-infected sister, and then made her complete basic training until she became so sick with cholera she could hardly move. She reported that she was feigning how ill she was to have the guards let their guard down, and when they were asleep, she slit their throats and traveled through a trapdoor where she walked the sewers until she made it to Seattle. There, she sought hospital help to cure her cholera, and her current whereabouts were unknown.

Some people—mostly humans—thought she made the whole thing up (although she did have a confirmed case of cholera), but I believed her. Unfortunately, no government officials ever found anything resembling Warehouse 67, and the news just claimed she was so sick from cholera that she hallucinated the entire thing. Pretty much everyone forgot about the story afterward, but I clung onto it and remained paranoid. After all, in this world, you couldn’t trust anyone.

“Keep clicking through the tweets. There’s some scary screenshots in there.”

Elita scanned through them. “This one claims to have a screenshot from the Deep Web?”

“Open it.”

Sure enough, she found a screenshot from what appeared to be Tor. “Are they claiming this is a Warehouse 67 site?”

“That’s what the tweet said. There’s loads of people on 4chan investigating it—obviously, loads of them support it, but others wanted to see it destroyed. This screenshot matches a lot of others I’ve seen on 4chan over the years.”

“This said it was updated just a week ago,” Elita noted, zooming into the screenshot. “This guy, Marc, is looking for new test subjects?”

“I don’t know if Marc is his real name, but there’s been a lot of consistency with this Marc Johnson guy running the thing.”

Elita nodded. “I’m sure this is all fake, but I’m interested in researching it.” She paused her cooking show. “Let’s get some dirt.”

I climbed back on the couch to give Elita some space to study on her iPad. We were engrossed in our research when someone knocked at our door. I looked around the room. The four of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment above a ramen shop, so the only time people came to our door were when people got lost on their way to the bathroom, and I didn’t want to peel my laptop off of my thighs at the moment to tell them where the bathroom was.

Elita sighed as she stretched to her full six feet of height, folded her wings, and murmured, “I’ll get it.” Since the ceilings were so low and her unruly black curls were so large, her head flirted with the ceiling as she walked toward the door.

My oni roommate (and girlfriend), Tess Shuksan, stepped out of the bathroom, wrapping a towel around her (deliciously muscular) body and exchanged looks with me. Tess and I met in the mountains on the almost exact same personal journey, except she wasn’t put through the ringer in foster care. We spent years backpacking together and had been inseparable ever since. “Is Tasha home already?”

Tasha Kinniman was our other roommate, a rather anal faerie who kept us on track. She worked at a preschool (since most children love faeries) in North Seattle, so her commute was the longest and often made her come home late.

“I haven’t heard any bitching yet, so I’d say no,” I replied.

Tess rolled her eyes—her brilliant, ungodly blue eyes—and laughed. “Come on now. Maybe she had a good day.”

I lowered my laptop to get a better look at Tess. Water droplets dripped off of her generous muscles, and I felt my cheeks flush. But being the gentlewoman I was, I stayed on topic. “Tasha? A good day? The bitch wouldn’t know a good day if it pinched her on the ass and tap-danced naked in front of her.”

I saw motion out of the corner of my eye, and noticed Elita waving for us to shut up. “There’s a man in a suit here,” she observed through the peephole. “We aren’t late on rent, are we?”

“I paid it on the first. Tasha’d have my head if I didn’t,” Tess said. “Open the door. Who is it?”

“But you’re in a towel.”

“I wouldn’t’ve told you to open the door if I gave a shit!” Tess hissed, exasperatedly waving her arms.

“I can hear you guys in there,” the man on the other side said.

Elita sighed and opened the door. “Sorry, I’m Buddhist. I’m not interested in whatever religion you are selling.”

The man laughed. “You must be Elita. Tasha told me she had a goblin roommate.”

Elita quietly clenched her fists but said nothing. I knew she hated being called that English word—goblin didn’t translate to tengu very well, and she thought it took away from the beauty and grace of her race—but she wasn’t the type of girl to start fighting strangers. In fact, she wasn’t the type to fight much at all; she taught yoga downtown and spent her off-time on her vegan recipe blog, Elita’s Eats.

I wasn’t so graceful. “Who the fuck are you?” I asked.

He nudged Elita out of the way and invited himself in. He was tall, but shorter than Elita, and had a head full of curly brown hair. He was also one hundred percent human, and as far as I knew, the first human to walk into our living space. “Hmm…you must be either Keisa or Tess. Tasha mentioned two ogres. I couldn’t imagine living with one, but…” His eyes scanned the organized mess of the tiny apartment. “She must not mind the chaos.”

Fitting four grown youkai women in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment was a pretty difficult feat. We all shared the bedroom; we got bunk beds, where Tasha slept on the top, Tess and I shared the queen-sized mattress underneath, and Elita, preferring her race’s tradition, rolled out a Japanese-style futon on the floor. But he couldn’t see the disastrous mess of laundry and old takeout boxes our bedroom was, and in my opinion, the main living area was quite clean. We had two couches—one right next to the front door, and the other across from the hall, where I was sitting currently—a kotatsu, or heated table, in the middle of the room, which we all shared during the colder months, and a flatscreen TV Elita got us for Christmas our first Christmas together, three years ago. The apartment was too small for a formal dining room, so we all just ate in the living room, either on the couches or at the kotatsu, so leftover plates, takeout boxes, TV dinners, and soda bottles were strewn about the kotatsu and by the TV.

“It’s not that bad,” I argued, frowning as I noticed I left my bong out in the living room. I hoped he wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it. Weed was legal in Washington, after all. “But who the fuck are you? You dare to come into our house and judge it, and we don’t even know who you are?”

“My apologies. My name is Marc. I’m Tasha’s boyfriend.”

Elita dropped her iPad, then hastily picked it up and apologized.

My heart dropped into my stomach, and I swallowed. It was such a strange coincidence that his name was Marc, and I instantly got a bad feeling. But instead of asking him about it, what came out of my mouth was, “Tasha has a boyfriend?” I expected Tess to make a similar joke, and when there was silence, I noticed that Tess decided to dip back into the bathroom. I didn’t really blame her. I didn’t want to meet Tasha’s boyfriend any more than she did.

“Since last month,” he said proudly, as though it were a big accomplishment. “She wanted to introduce me to her, uh, family today, but she texted me saying there was an accident on I-5, so she wasn’t going to be home til late. So she told me to just invite myself in and get to know everyone!” He plopped down on the couch next to me, and I scrunched my feet away from him and slammed my laptop shut. “What’re you doing on that? I didn’t know ogres were literate.”

Elita cleared her throat. “Keisa happens to be one of the smartest women I know.”

I gave her a thanks-for-helping look and attempted to make small talk. “Uhh…just reading the news. I can read, thank you very much.” To Elita, I joked, “If he’s been shagging Tasha, you’d think he’d be a bit more woke.”

She laughed and dipped into the kitchen, which was pretty much in the same room as the living room, just divided off by a messy counter. She got out some tea bowls and began to make some traditional matcha.

“So are you really an ogre?” Marc asked me as I watched Elita boil some water.

I pointed to my head. My red hair—which was naturally red, but I dyed it brighter because I could—had shaved sides into a mohawk, because it was more comfortable for my horns in the summer, but my mohawk was down and curling strangely in the heat. Hoping he ignored the mess on my head, I tapped a horn to make sure he paid attention to those instead. “They’re real.”

“Are you showing off your horns again?”

I lifted my gaze to see a fully-dressed Tess leaning on the arm of the couch. Her strawberry blonde hair was kept in a clean, short pixie, her fringe making a small crest at the front of her freckled face.

“Always, my love,” I giggled. “They’re quite a sight to see, ain’t they?”

Tess snorted in mock-protest. “I’ve seen bigger.”

I grabbed my bottle of root beer and chucked it at her, hitting her square in the head. “Bitch, you wish!”

“Oh, was that a challenge? Do you wish to fight me, Oh Small One?” Tess had switched to our familiar tongue, Oni, and I grinned at the thought of confusing the poor human so.

“You’re so fucking on,” I said, setting my laptop down and standing. I clenched my fists and got ready into a sparring position.

Elita scrambled over pots and pans. In Oni, she shouted (as much as Elita was able to shout), “What have I told you about sparring in the house?”

I sighed. “To not do it?”

“Yes, because there’s a ramen shop beneath us, and they don’t want to hear your antics! If you need to get out your energy, do it outside.”

Tess rolled her eyes, but directed her attention to the kitchen. “Are you making matcha?”

“It’s perfect for our guest, don’t you think?”

She lifted her arms in a cheer. “I wanna help!”

I sat back down on the couch, feeling a bit defeated and missing my root beer. I adored Elita, I really did, but I wished she was a bit more open to the whole sparring thing. It was a part of oni culture, and since Tess and I were a couple, we had a lot of energy to fight out. In a friendly way, of course.

“Um,” Marc began, “aren’t you a bit short to be an ogre?”

I snorted. “Ain’t you a bit skinny to be a human?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“All the humans I see are a bit pudgy, y’know? You’re all up on all that fast food and watching TV.” I was being completely sarcastic, and honestly, his comment stung, but I knew better than to let it get to me. I had honestly never met a human who was so unaware of how hurtful they were. Maybe I needed to get out more.

“That’s a…gross generalization.”

“So’s assuming all oni are tall. We come in all shapes and sizes. Tess over there’s got a pretty stereotypical build, being tall and muscular and such, and I happen to be petite.” I leaned forward. “Is that a problem?”

“A problem? No, uh, of course not. And what do you mean, oni?”

I bared my teeth, allowing my fangs to elongate a little. All oni have a more humanoid form, and a more, well, extra form that we can take for combat or intimidation. It protects us a bit more than our regular skin, and it also looks a lot scarier. I don’t ever fully switch to my other form unless I’m really pissed, so I just decided to toy with him a little and see how he reacted. I was pretty sick of his bullshit, and I felt that he deserved to pee himself a little.

“’Cause if there is a problem,” I continued, letting my skin begin to morph to its red state, “I can show you just how much power I really have. And if you’re going to come in here and insult me behind your little girlfriend’s back, I’ll just politely remind you that I have the ability to break your spine. In half. With my bare hands. So watch yourself.”

Marc turned pale and nodded profusely.

“Good. Glad we understand each other.” And I let myself switch back.

In that moment, I heard keys in the door, and Tasha stepped in, looking worse for the wear. Her grey skin looked less sparkly than usual and more ashen, her short blue pixie askew. But her eyes lit up as she saw Marc. “Oh, you made it! Have they been treating you nicely?”

Marc side-eyed me. “Well…”

I crossed my arms. “I’ll play nice if he learns not to be a racist fuck.”

Tasha rolled her eyes and set her backpack on the ground. “I can’t turn my back on you for one minute, can I, Keisa.”

“He asked me if I was too short to be an oni—sorry, he said ogre—and said that he didn’t know ogres were literate!” I exclaimed. “I feel like that warrants a reaction!”

“Wait, he said that?” Tess shouted from the kitchen.

“Yeah, what an ass, right?” I called back.

She stormed in front of him, allowing her form to switch to her own beast stage. “If you say one more thing about our kind—“

“Tess! Keisa! Please!” Tasha waved her hands in desperation, her translucent wings fluttering angrily. “He hasn’t met any cryptids before! Give him some time to learn our ways—your ways—and it’ll be okay!”

Tess sighed and reverted to her usual freckled pallor. “Alright. But I still think he’s an asshole.”

Elita came into the room then. “Let’s all just relax and bond over some tea.” She motioned for us to kneel at the kotatsu. “Will you help me serve the sweets?” She asked Tess.

“Absolutely.” She scrambled to the kitchen, seeming eager to be away from Marc.

Elita and Tess gave us a small tea ceremony—the two had been studying the art of tea intensely—but abridged it as Marc tapped his fingers impatiently. I loved tea ceremony, not as much as they did, but enough to learn a thing or two about it myself, and I thought that it was a nice break from life.

Or it was, until Marc, who didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, asked rather rude questions (my favorite was, “Why can’t we drink out of cups like normal people?”). Elita seemed rather annoyed, but desperate to keep anything resembling peace, she just sipped her tea and didn’t say a word.

“So, uh,” I began, being the one of us who was the best at small talk, “what do you do for a living?”

Marc suddenly looked rather uncomfortable. “I, uh, work in an office.”

“Doing what?” I pressed.

Tasha gave me a warning look and nudged my knee under the table. I ignored her.

“I just, uh, well, I’m a scientist.”

“What kind of science?”

“Biology.”

I sipped my tea. “Biology, huh? Like animals?”

He swallowed. “Something like that.”

I felt that all of this was rather fishy, but I decided to discuss it with my friends after he left. “For a biologist, you seem to know very little about cryptids.” I decided to try to use his tongue to minimize confusion. “I guess scientists aren’t exempt from being racist.”

Tess choked on her tea. Elita excused herself to the bathroom.

“So how did you meet Tasha?” I pressed further.

“At Starbucks.” This, he answered more confidently. “I accidentally took her coffee.”

“What did she order?” I asked.

“A soy skinny mocha with no whip,” Tasha answered for him. When I looked at her, her eyes were a bit glazed over. “He was annoyed that his drink had soy, and I was annoyed that mine had dairy, and then we discovered we had taken each other’s drinks. We started chatting, exchanged numbers, and we’ve been dating ever since.”

“Uh-huh,” I said. I rubbed the side of my nose with my thumb while making eye contact with Tess.

Tess got the cue. “Excuse me for a moment.”

I followed her into the bedroom, and to neither of our surprises, we found Elita sitting on our bed, typing like mad on her laptop.

“You felt it, too?” I asked her.

“It’s not safe to talk in here.” Elita slapped her Macbook closed and motioned toward glass door, which led to a porch overlooking the International District.

We all stepped out, and once the door was shut, I blurted, in Oni, “I think he’s one of those fucks who does science experiments on youkai. Like, Warehouse 67?”

Tess’ eyes widened. “That’s just an urban legend. Yeah sure, we gotta worry about street violence and discrimination, but science experiments? I thought that was debunked years ago.”

“It’s not a conspiracy theory!” I reached into the pocket of my shorts and pulled out my phone, scrolling rapidly through stories until I found the right ones on Twitter. “Look!” I showed Tess the article I had been reading earlier in the day, complete with screenshots.

Tess read them, her lips pressed in a thin line. “Maybe he’s just acting nervous ‘cause we almost biffed it in front of him. And we threatened him. You gotta realize how scary we are to humans.”

“I wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. Tasha hasn’t mentioned this fuck once, and he just shows up? He won’t give us a straight answer about his job, he’s weirdly racist, and Tasha acts like she’s in a trance? It’s just super weird to me.”

Elita cleared her throat. “I felt the same way, so when he wasn’t looking, I pickpocketed him.”

Tess and I stared at her, wide-eyed. “Doesn’t this qualify as an act of violence for you?”

“Not when I think I’m protecting my loved ones.” She pulled a wallet, a small vial, and two phones out of her back pocket. “I checked his belongings, and I found these.”

“What’s in them?” Tess and I asked in unison.

“The first phone is just a regular iPhone 6. It wasn’t that hard to break into—his passcode was his birthday, which I found on his ID. His name isn’t Marc, by the way. Or he’s carrying someone else’s ID. His real name is Morgan Caine,” she added. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary on the iPhone…some nudes of Tasha—”

“Gross!” Tess pretended to gag.

Elita ignored her. “—A Facebook and LinkedIn, which both claim he’s a biologist and works with plants, not animals. The second phone is a burner phone, which isn’t linked to any social media and doesn’t have any photos on it, but has some weird texts on it.” She opened them. “All other messages on this phone are deleted, except for this thread, who is saved in the contacts as a random string of letters, like he slammed his hand on the screen instead of typed.”

“So he’s a drug dealer. We know Tasha’s had her issues in the past. Maybe she just wants to party a bit.” Tess shrugged.

“That’s what I thought at first, too. I’m not as ready as Keisa to believe in conspiracy theories.”

“Hey!” I protested.

“But then I read the texts.” She cleared her throat. “‘Have you made contact?’ the person asks. ‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘T gave me permission to go to her apartment. She has other cryptids living with her. It will be interesting for research.’ ‘Get them to trust you, take her to a bar, and slip GHB in her drink. Send me a photo of her body, and we will collect her. Experimentation will start once she has been collected. Failure will cost you your life.’”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Tess shrieked. She held her head in her hands. “There’s no way this shit is real! This is just, like, shit out of the horror games Keisa likes to play!”

“You introduced me to those games,” I argued, “and maybe they’ll come in handy!”

“Ladies, please.” Elita raised her hand. “I backwards searched the number, and it’s a burner number. It doesn’t have any names attached to it. Either this is the most elaborate prank, or Warehouse 67 is just as real as Keisa believes.”

“I warned all of you, did I not!” I held my arms out like an MMA fighter who won a battle.

“There’s more texts,” Elita continued. “‘What about the others?’ Morgan asks. “‘Leave them. Send me any information you can on them when you get a second alone. Study them. If you succeed in bringing T to us, then I will send other representatives to butter up the other cryptids. They will all be reunited within HQ.’ And there’s no more messages. There’s nothing else on the phone at all. As far as this vial goes…it’s unlabeled and I’m no scientist, but I’m assuming it’s GHB. You guys know what that is, I’m sure.”

“It’s a date rape drug,” Tess shuddered.

“I knew we shouldn’t have trusted him! I told all of you!” I continued to ramble.

“The only other belongings he had were these car keys tucked within his wallet, three hundred dollars cash, and a black Amex card. I never thought that biologists made that much money, so that only further proves that Warehouse 67 is real.”

“Well shit.” I snatched the wallet and pocketed the money.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Elita hissed.

“He’s scum anyway, and I need three hundred dollars.”

Tess gave me a fistbump.

“We can go buy the Nintendo Switch now!” I exclaimed.

“Or we can save for a car,” Tess said in a warning tone.

I rolled my eyes.

“Neither of you are doing anything until we save Tasha.” Elita shook her head. “I swear, living with you two is like babysitting.”

“Shit!” I exclaimed. “She’s out there with him all by herself!”

“Let’s go!” Tess exclaimed.

The three of us nodded, then headed in the living room, fists clenched.

But by the time we got there, there was nobody there.