Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.
Now, I didn't just wake up that morning and decide that I was going to kill my boss with my bare hands. It really was much more complicated than that. In my life up to that point I would never have even considered something that sounded so crazy. I was just a normal guy, a working stiff. Heck, I was an accountant. It doesn't get much more mundane than that.
That one screwed-up event changed my life. Little did I realize that turning my boss into sidewalk pizza would have so many bizarre consequences. Well, technically, he did not actually hit the sidewalk. He landed on the roof of a double-parked Lincoln Navigator, but I digress.
My name is Owen Zastava Pitt and this is my story.
The finance department of Hansen Industries, Inc. was on the fourteenth floor of a generic-looking office building in downtown Dallas. There were ten of us accountants, placed in ten cubicles in a narrow patch of office sandwiched between marketing and the women's restroom. It was your standard professional office, complete with blue industrial carpet, motivational posters, Dilbert cartoons, and some dead potted plants. I was the new guy.
It was a pretty good job. The pay was respectable. The work was semi-interesting. Most of my co-workers were easy to get along with. It was my first actual serious career-type job after college, or at least my first job that didn't require heavy lifting or bouncing drunks.
Now I had a 401k and dental benefits. My plan was to work hard, find myself a wife, have some kids, and settle down in the suburbs. I was a young professional, and my future looked bright.
There was only one major drawback to my job with such a fine, established company. My boss was an angry idiot. Mr. Huffman was the worst kind of boss, incompetent and always able to find an underling to blame for his own screw-ups. Plus he was mad at the world, not really for any specifics, mind you, but more mad at the world in a general way for being mean to him. Despite his laziness and stupidity, his little pig brain just could not comprehend why he was never promoted beyond the same position that he had held for the last decade. It was obvious to him that the world was out to wrong him. After getting to know the man, I could not blame the world one bit.
As the newest hire in the Hansen Industries Internal Auditing Department, I was the designated whipping boy for Mr. Huffman's fury. The previous newest hire had committed suicide, thereby creating the opening that I now filled. At the time I had not really made the connection between job satisfaction and the likelihood of taking a bottle of sleeping pills and washing it down with a fifth of scotch.
It had been another twelve-hour day, as had become my custom, always hopelessly behind, trying to learn as I went, and realizing that college really did not have much of anything to do with the real world. Since my supervisor, the vile Mr. Huffman, was supposed to train me, I was pretty much screwed from the get-go. Since I currently had no life outside of work (except for every Saturday when I worked on my hobby), I did not really mind staying late. Hopefully it would impress somebody important at the company, who might offer me a transfer to their department and out of Huffman's.
At least the month had been pleasant. Mr. Huffman had been on vacation camping at some national park or another. He had come back for a week, wherein he had stayed locked in his office, never speaking to anyone or returning any calls, and then went out on sick leave for a few more weeks. His annual vacation was usually my department's most productive time of the year. Go figure.
I glanced absently at my watch. 8:05 p.m. The surrounding gray-carpeted cubes were quiet. My stomach growled, signaling that the bag of Cheetos and the banana I had eaten for lunch had long since worn off. It was time to go. I logged out of my computer, locked up my files, and put on my coat as I headed for the door. Believing I was the only one there, I killed the lights on the way out. Then the intercom buzzed. It made me jump.
"Who's there?" The ponderous voice belonged to Mr. Huffman. That was a surprise. I had not known that he was back yet. Damn. I kept walking, deciding to pretend that I had not heard the intercom. If Huffman were here this late, then I did not want to get assigned whatever crap job he was working on, which, knowing what a lazy slug he was, was sure to happen. He would probably call it delegating, and pat himself on the back for being such a proactive member of the management team.
"Owen? Is that you? Come to my office immediately!"Busted."Now, Owen. This is important!" He sounded as officious and pompous as usual.
As I sulked toward his office I had to wonder how he had known it was me. Probably a lucky guess. He must have seen the lights go out from his office. I started thinking of excuses to give him about why I needed to leave, but knew from long experience that he would just shoot them all down. Martial arts class? Nope, he already thinks I'm too militant, and he doesn't even know about my gun collection. Church? Fat chance of that. Date? I wish. Sick mother? Worth a shot, I thought. So I approached his office preparing the story about how I needed to tend to my ill mother. She lived three states away, but what Huffman didn't know couldn't hurt him.
When I entered Huffman's office, all thoughts of my mom's imaginary sickness disappeared. The lights were off, which was very weird. I could not see my boss, as the back of his leather swivel chair was toward me. The city lights provided a small amount of illumination through the windows. I never could figure out how a toad like him had scored a corner office with a view. Perhaps he had some incriminating photos of the CFO with a hooker or something. His huge oak desk was a mess, and there was a stained paper sack sitting in the middle that must have been his dinner. Whatever was in the bag was slowly leaking a sloppy puddle onto the papers on the desk.
"Have a seat, Owen," Huffman rasped. His voice sounded strange. He did not turn around to look at me. From the top of his head it appeared that he was looking at the evening sky.
"Uh, no thanks, sir… I've really got to be going. My mom is sick and…"
"I… said… SIT!" he shouted as he spun around in his chair. I gasped, partly because Mr. Huffman had a look in his eyes like he was insane, but mostly because he was totally naked. Not something that I ever thought I would have to see. The lower half of his jowly face was stained with something dark and greasy, as if he had gone hog-wild at a barbeque.
Okay, that's certainly different. I raised my hands in front of me. "Look, sir, I've got to say that I don't swing that way. You do your thing. I don't care. Some guys would be flattered, but I'm out of here," I stated as I slowly backed toward the door.
"SILENCE!" he shouted, slamming his chubby fingers onto the desk hard enough to rattle it and knock over his dinner bag, spilling its contents. I froze, surprised at the fierce intensity of the command, which was unexpected coming from a man like Huffman, who had what could best be described as "jiggly man bosoms." "Do you know what tonight is, Owen? Do you? Tonight is a very special night!"
"Is it all-you-can-eat shrimp night at Sizzlers?" I replied calmly as I reached back and put my hand on the doorknob. It was official. Mr. Huffman had gone nuts. It looked like he was foaming at the mouth.
"Tonight I punish the wicked. A month ago I was given a gift. Now I'm king. I've seen how you and the others talk about me behind my back. How you don't respect my leadership." My boss's voice had lowered into a growl. His eyes darted about as if he were seeing exciting things in the dark corners of the office. "You're the worst, Owen. You're not a team player. You don't respect my authority. You want to steal my job. You want to stab me in the back!"
I didn't want to stab him in the back, but I was about ready to punch him in the face. My earlier assessment was right. He really was foaming at the mouth. Being attacked by fat, naked Mr. Huffman was not that much of a worry, as I was what could best be called a big fellow, and surprising for an accountant, knew how to kick some butt if necessary. The situation felt surreal and slightly amusing, but I knew that crazy people could be unpredictably dangerous. It was time to slip out and call for some professional help. I turned the door handle, idly wondering if our health plan covered psychiatric care.
"Just take it easy, Mr. Huffman. I'm not out to get you. I'm just going to step out for a second." Then I noticed what had spilled out of the dinner bag.
"Is that a hand?" I blurted.
Huffman ignored me and continued yelling and pounding the desk. Each strike made his layers of blubber ripple dangerously. It sure enough looked like a woman's hand, complete with painted nails, a wedding ring, and a jagged stump where the wrist bones were sticking out. Holy crap! My boss wasn't just a run-of-the-mill crazy. I was working for a serial killer.
The naked, crazy, fat man pointed out the window. "The time has come! Tonight I am a god!" he squealed.
His sausage-like finger was pointing at the full moon.
As I watched in the pale lunar glow and the yellowish backdrop of the city lights, that finger seemed to stretch. The hands began to elongate, and the fingernails thickened and spread. He looked at me, and I saw that his grin now stretched from ear to ear, literally, and his gums and teeth began to protrude menacingly past his lips. Thick dark hair was sprouting from his pores. Huffman screamed in pain and exhilaration as the popping and cracking of bones filled the room.
"Owen. You're mine now. I'm gonna eat your heart." His words were barely understandable through his dripping jaw and swelling tongue. His teeth were growing in length and sharpness.
For a second I froze, paralyzed by conflicting emotions as reason came to a screeching halt. The room was dark enough that the civilized part of my brain was trying to convince the primitive caveman section of my brain that this was just some sort of visual trick, a sick practical joke, or something else logical. Luckily for me, the caveman won.
To this day I don't know why at that moment I felt the need to make a confession to my rapidly mutating boss. Even though I was in accordance with Texas state law, I was in direct violation of the company's workplace safety rule.
"You know that 'no weapons at work' policy?" I asked the twitching and growing hairy monstrosity standing less than ten feet from me. His yellow eyes bored into me with raw animal hatred. There was nothing recognizably human in that look.
"I never did like that rule," I said as I bent down and drew my gun from my ankle holster, put the front sight on the target and rapidly fired all five shots from my snub-nosed.357 Smith & Wesson into Mr. Huffman's body. God bless Texas.
The creature that had been Huffman staggered back against the window, leaving a smear of blood and tissue as it slid down the glass onto the carpet. Some of the bullets had either missed or over-penetrated and cracked the thick window. Not staying to examine, I turned and ran, almost breaking my nose as I crashed into the door while trying to open it. I took the time to slam it behind me before sprinting down the narrow hallway, empty gun in one hand, fingers of my other hand groping through my coat pocket for my speed loader of extra ammo.
Huffman's office door flew open with a bang. The thing standing in the doorway was clearly more animal than man, but obviously not any normal animal. My supervisor's fatty bulk had been somehow twisted into a sleek and muscled form. Long claws tore divots into the blue industrial carpet. Coarse black hair covered his body, and the wolf face was a nightmare come to life. Lips pulled back into a drooling snarl, revealing a row of razor-like teeth. Now on all fours, he raised his muzzle and smelled the air, howling when he spotted me.
The blood in my veins turned to ice.
Running in the direction of the elevator, I snapped the cylinder of my revolver closed with five more Federal 125-grain hollow points inside. The creature was fast, much faster than an Olympic sprinter, and I was no Olympic sprinter. My lead down the hallway dwindled in seconds. I spun and fired as it leapt at me, striking the beast in the face. His snout turned on impact and momentum carried him into the wall, crushing the sheetrock. Immediately he started to rise, jagged fur bristling down his back.
I'm a very good shot. The tiny revolver was not my best weapon for accuracy, but I did my part. Focusing on the front sight, aiming for the creature's skull, I pulled the trigger. With each concussion I brought the little gun back down and repeated the process. I was rewarded with a flash of red and white as a.357 hollow point blossomed through Huffman's brain, but I kept pulling the trigger until the hammer clicked empty. I was out of ammo.
My vision had tunneled in on the threat. My pulse was pounding like a drum. The adrenaline running through my system had tuned out the horrendous muzzle blasts. I brought the gun down to my side. Huffman was dead.
I tried to control my breathing as I began to hyperventilate. Perhaps I was losing my mind, for lying not twenty feet from my cubicle was a dead werewolf. A monster from fairy tales, but somehow it was here, sprawled on the carpet, brains blown out. There had not been time to feel fear or any other emotion as the creature had been chasing me, but that all came out now as if a dam had burst. The uncontrollable shaking in my limbs was slow at first, but quickly gained in intensity as I got a better look at the beast on the floor. It was like being in a car wreck. The almost disbelief as the events unfolded. The lack of emotion during the impact. And finally the brutal realization of what had happened. I just killed a werewolf.
Then Mr. Huffman rose up and snarled at me.
The exposed brain matter pulsed back into his head, and with a crunching noise the plates of his skull rejoined. The creature stood on his hind legs somehow, even with knees twisted like a canine's. With one taloned finger he speared a chunk of tissue from his fur and tossed it into his maw, chewing his own discarded flesh. Returning gracefully to all fours he shook himself like a giant dog, splattering the blood from his wounds on the white walls and motivational posters in the hall.
The monster howled again, long and high-pitched, and the sound ignited some primal survival instinct buried deep within me. I turned and ran faster than I ever had before. Somehow I kept my wits, and rather than trying to outrun the creature to the elevator, I twisted hard to the right and through a doorway, slammed the door, locked it, and shoved a heavy desk in front of it. A computer monitor fell to the ground and sparked. I was in the marketing room. A poster with a kitten forlornly holding onto a clothesline had the caption: hang in there. Thanks for the advice, buddy.