Not the giant monster.
Beneath the giant monster. The kid on his back, with the splintered bat. The handsome kid, about to get eaten.
Forty-two days ago, I was regular Jack Sullivan: thirteen years old, living an uneventful life in the uninteresting town of Wakefield. I was totally not a hero, totally not a tough guy, totally not fighting giant monsters.
But look at me now. Battling a gargantuan beast on the roof of the local CVS.
Life is crazy like that.
Right now, the whole world is crazy like that. Check the shattered windows. Check the wild vines crawling up the side of the building.
All of these things are not normal.
And me? I haven’t been normal, well, ever. I’ve always been different. See, I’m an orphan— I bounced all over the country, different homes, different families, before landing in this little town of Wakefield in December.
But all that moving, it makes you tough: it makes you cool, it makes you confident, it makes you good with the girls—it makes you JACK SULLIVAN.
Almost got a monster fist to the skull there.
I’m at CVS because I need an eyeglass repair kit—those little tool sets that dads buy for when their glasses break. I know, that’s a lame thing to need. But I have a walkie and that walkie is busted and to fix that walkie, I need a really really really tiny screwdriver and the only place to get a really really really tiny screwdriver is in an eyeglass repair kit.
This was supposed to be a quick, easy trip to CVS. But one thing I’ve learned about life after the Monster Apocalypse: nothing’s quick and nothing’s easy.
This monster here is the foulest, most ferocious, and just plain horrible thing I’ve encountered yet. He’s straight-up—
Yikes! The monster’s massive fist pounds the roof until it cracks like thin ice. I trip, tumble back, and land hard on my bony butt.
It’s time to stop being this monster’s punching bag. See, I’ve kind of been the world’s punching bag for a while and y’know—it just ain’t a whole lotta fun.
So I’m fighting back.
I get to my feet.
I dust myself off.
I grip the bat in my hand. Not too tight, not too loose—just like they coach you in Little League.
Only I’m not trying to hit some kid’s lousy curveball. . . . I’m trying to slay a monster.
Well, basically, he triumphs.
The monster’s massive hand snatches me out of midair. I’m a thimble in his gargantuan grasp.
I try to grab hold of my baseball bat blade (aka the Louisville Slicer), but the monster’s crushing grip pins my arms to my sides.
He pulls me in close to his face. Thick saliva, like slime, oozes down his lips. His eyes scan me over and his gaping nostrils flair as he inhales my scent. I feel like that blonde babe in King Kong. Only I don’t think this beast wants to hug me and love me. . . .
He sniffs some more, blowing my hair back as he exhales. I turn my face. His breath, it’s just—wow—my man here needs to floss.
I’ve encountered other freaky beasts over the last forty-two days, but none like this. None that examined me: looking me over, smelling me, studying me.
None that felt this terrifyingly smart. I have a sick feeling in my gut—a sense—something that tells me that this beast here is 100% pure, beyond beyond EVIL.
A smile seems to creep across the monster’s face. A sinister smirk that says, “I’m not simply some primal thug. I’m a monstrous villain, a great evil, and I will enjoy inflicting pain upon your tiny human body.”
With a spine-tingling moan, the beast’s mouth opens wide, revealing an army of dirty fangs, with chunks of flesh between each tooth. I kick. I squirm. And, facing imminent death-by-devouring, I at last BITE. My teeth sink into monster flesh and his paw loosens slightly—just enough for me to wrap my fingers around my blade’s handle, rip it free, and—
I slam the bat into the creature’s thick cranium until he roars—a sound like BLARG!!!—and his palm opens and—
Uh-oh. . . .
I’m plummeting through the air, down through the hole in the roof, into the CVS. . . .
I land in the junk-food aisle. I snatch an Oreo from its package and jam it into my mouth. Mmm. . . . The Oreo is a whole lot stale, but whatever—an Oreo is an Oreo, and good snacks are hard to find these days. Plus, since the world ended, it’s pretty much everything for the taking. And I’m not turning that down. No way.
Rising, I examine my predicament.
One of the monster’s giant feet fills, like, the entire store. One toe in the school supplies aisle, another on top of the hair spray and deodorant aisle. Dashing up and over the monster’s foot, toward the front of the store, I spot what I came for. . . .
I shove the kit into my pocket. But then—
The monster’s clawed fingers tear through the roof like it’s nothing. The ceiling collapses around me as I dart for the door. I’d love to stay for a while—flip through the magazines, check the sunglasses spinny thing for cool aviators, eat some Funyuns. But no time for that—y’know, giant monster and all.
I burst through the front door—
I dash past a crumpled car and through an overgrown yard, and slide beneath the caved-in porch of an abandoned house.
I pull out my camera. I always carry my camera. Always. I raise the viewfinder to my eyes, twist the lens, zoom in, and—
I photograph every monster I come across, so later on I can study their attacks and defenses and strengths and weaknesses and junk. Also, it’s just rad to say, “I’m a monster photographer.”
I give each monster a name, too. But what to call this guy? What to call a monster so terrifying that just looking at him scrambles my insides with french-fried fear?
The big beast roars again, a sound like “BLARG!”
Hmm. “Blarg.” That’s got a ring to it. . . .
Suddenly, there’s a racket like a wrecking ball crashing into ten million Legos. The CVS is crumbling, collapsing, as Blarg stomps through its walls into the parking lot. When the smoke clears, I see the monster, fully, for the first time—upright, standing tall on legs as thick as tree trunks, a monumental terror. He is . . .
Blarg lowers his nose to the ground and sniffs. He lifts up a car and peeks underneath. Holy crud, he’s on the hunt! He’s searching! For me!
He scans the destroyed, decaying surroundings. He watches the porch. The porch I’m under . . .
I gulp. Can he see me?
I slowly inch backward, farther into the shadows.
He stares at the porch a moment longer, then raises his head to the sky. A deafening howl of frustration erupts from his lungs.
Guess he doesn’t see me.
Blarg turns and stomps his way down Spring Street, away from the ruins of the CVS, sniffing along the ground as he goes. He’s like a bloodhound, and now he has my scent. . . .
As I sneak out from beneath the porch, I think, “That was close.”
Super way dangerous close.
But I’m getting used to things being super way dangerous close. What can I say? Life after the Monster Apocalypse? It’s scary. And also a lot weird. But that’s OK. I’m a lot weird, too.
Now, time to get back to the tree house. . . .