Microbrews

By Nick Hoobin

Short Story

Microbrews photo by Nick Hoobin

A monster hunter and her intrepid sidekick approach a bar, both ready to relax after an especially dangerous case. This particular bar is her local, trusted place for cooling off and recounting her tales to the fine folk she saves every day. The place is always filled with friends, friendly conversations, and taps to make friends even friendlier. It’s probably the friendliest pubby place she knows.

As she walks in she’s greeted by the same group who all loves to hear stories of the latest thing that goes bump in the night. The gang gives a holler, beckons the hunter to their table, and demands to hear her latest tale. She recounts her adventure and they interrupt with jokes only friends would let fly. Beverages of the alcoholic variety are passed around the place while the new bartender watches over the group with a suspicious eye.

All self-identifying women have the power to sense supernatural occurrences. A few men, such as the hunter’s sidekick, are also gifted with this talent. Those with a particularly acute supernatural sense are blessed with hunter-friendly abilities. They are saviors and friends to all people.

Normally a boon, tonight the hunter’s senses are causing nothing but pain. While at this bar, surrounded by her friends, her supernatural-detector-sense-thingy is flying off the charts. The hunter knows that everyone in the establishment is in danger, and it is her decision to help these people. She tightens the grip on her monster hunting weapons and beckons to her sidekick. He too has started sensing the oncoming events. She dissolves the friendly atmosphere with a verbal warning to the occupants. Something bad is going to happen, and soon.

A long, dramatic pause gives way to commotion. As if on queue, one of the patrons starts to yell and writhe with intense pain. The victim knows his fate. He has heard countless stories from the hunter and manages to crack a few jokes as she rushes over. “Well, at least I’m going out with friends,” he puns as tentacles burst out from under his skin. He transforms from human to a hulking, nasty, unfriendly kind of monster. The hunter is already in action and cuts off tentacles before running her arcane katana through the beast’s hide. The wounds spew alcohol infused stand-in for blood.

The rest of the patrons mourn the loss of their friend but understand the hunter’s decision to defend the innocent. They know that the best way for them to help out is to stay out of the way and to not interfere. The hunter however, is alert; her supernatural sense is still ringing in her ears. She looks behind as her sidekick is suddenly impaled by the tentacle of another beast. After dispatching the threat she runs over to comfort him as he takes his dying breaths. They exchange snarky words as he passes in her arms. She takes a few seconds to ponder the end of their story together as more patrons transform into tentacled monstrosities.

After a long series of fights, exhausted, the hunter is now facing off with the new bartender. He turned into something more monster-y than the other goons. The bartending beast explains that drinking the new beer XY has certain side effects and consumers should drink responsibly. The bartender knocks the hunter’s katana out of her hands but she is already preparing a ritual to incapacitate pesky, larger prey. The leader spouts vague phrases of doom and gloom and accepts his defeat as the hunter finishes him off with her off-hand katana—she has two weapons of course. She surveys the damage to the establishment while she starts to clean up the remaining husks of the downed beasts. Cleaning up is normally the sidekick’s job. Tonight, however, the ontological inertia is driving the drama home.

One man remains alive in the bar. The hunter knows the man well: she has had a more-than-crush on him since the first day they met. She tries to keep her relief and excitement in check. She slowly walks over and embraces the man as he tends to a minor wound. She professes her true love for him. The man has a major emotional moment as he balances this information with his inevitable fate. “But,” he says, pausing, “I drank XY too.” The words end weakly, knowing that he will never have a life with the woman he loves. The hunter sheds a tear while she kills her love as tentacles start to sprout forth.

This once joyous night, now turned vile, is not over yet. Her supernatural sense is only getting worse. The hunter exits the once friendly bar to start on her new journey. She has a reaffirmed duty to protect the helpless. XY is sold worldwide. Bars everywhere have started to serve it to unsuspecting patrons. The brewer of the malevolent concoction is owned by the largest global producer of consumer goods with known ties to an ancient, evil secret society. The hunter must rally the rest of the empowered women and fend off the oncoming, world shattering monsterrific war.

“This is why I prefer local microbrews.”

$20

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