The Dandy Monsters: Night of the Eripmav (Chapter Six)
I awoke in a strange, unfamiliar room. At first, I was confused, wondering where I was. But as the last fog of sleep cleared from my brain, I remembered everything, and then wished I didn't. A lot of feelings that were pushed down in all of the previous day's chaos erupted, making last night's eruption nothing more than a bubble pop. I won't go into the details because I'm sure that's not what you're here for (and it's embarrassing just remembering it), but I will say that I was able to muffle enough that I'm sure I didn't disturb anyone outside.
After locating the bathroom, getting cleaned up and dressed, I headed downstairs where I was met with the smell of coffee. My stomach growled and rumbled from the smell. Greg was behind the counter dressed as he was last night, in a dress shirt and waistcoat. He was leaning against the counter, flipping through the pages of a magazine that had a picture of a teacup being filled by amber-colored drink.
"Morning," he said, glancing up from his magazine.
I just gave a small salute in response, before taking a seat.
"Want cereal, or a sandwich?" Greg asked, putting the magazine aside.
"Cereal. You know how to cook?"
"I'm no pro, but I think I can handle simple stuff," was his reply. As he spoke, he wagged his finger, and green light flew from it, reaching for the cupboard to his right. "My main area of expertise is coffee and tea, after all."
"What? Are you planning to become a full-time barista when you grow up?"
The green light pulled out a yellow cardboard box while a branch of light split from the main light and pulled out a bowl from another cupboard. A third branch of light got out the spoon.
"That's the plan, so far," said Greg. When the bowl was full of cereal and the spoon was placed on the table, he shook the light form his finger, and the light faded into nothing. After that, he reached down beneath the counter and brought out a carton of milk. "Maybe even open my own shop if I'm lucky. Well, it's either that, or wander the world like most vampires do, living life to the fullest, sometimes creating mischief, or help people along the way if I feel like it."
"Is that why you were reading a magazine about tea?" I asked.
"I like tea," he said. "And coffee. They're interesting to me. If they weren't, I probably would have stopped working here a long time ago."
"So what?" I said. "Is this some vampire way thing? If something interests you, you do it, but if it doesn't, you stop?"
"Something like that," said Greg. "Come on and eat up. It's almost opening time."
"This is a coffeehouse, you know," Greg said. "And since this entire neighborhood is part of the Magic World full of monsters, I don't think you want to be here when the customers come in."
Not too keen on meeting more monsters, I thought, then, that I should just spend the whole day in my room.
Behind me, I could hear someone yawn. An ebony-skinned woman with what would be long straight hair if she had bothered to comb it, walked in, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans.
"Good morning," she said. "Got my coffee ready?"
"Right here," Greg replied, pointing toward the steaming cup sitting on a plate. I did not remember seeing it there a few seconds ago.
The woman sat down next to me and took a sip, before turning to me, flashing a toothy grin.
"Hey, Jay," she said. "Did you sleep well last night?"
"Uh . . . " I went. How did she know my name?
Noticing how confused I must have looked, she smacked her palm against her head.
"Of course," she said. "That's right. I wasn't in my human form last night."
And right before my eyes, she transformed, becoming the werewolf that had greeted me and April the night before. She took another sip of coffee, before transforming back.
"So, where's that little brother of mine?" Delilah asked.
"He already left for the magicians' library," Greg replied. "Something about a book he put on reservation."
"I hope it's not another one of those spell books on gravity," Delilah grumbled. "It took hours before everything was put back in order."
"We would've finished faster if you actually pitched in to help out," I couldn't help but overhear Greg grumble beneath his breath.
"So, Simon's out for the day," Delilah mumbled. "I guess that just leaves you by yourself until the part-timers come in."
"That sounds like you're not going to be working in the shop today," Greg said. "Do you have some detective business to take care of?"
"Yeah, pretty much," said the werewolf.
"Something to do with the Eripmav?"
That got my attention. I froze just as I was about to shove some cereal into my mouth.
"Never you mind that, Mister Former Villain Who's Also A Kid," Delilah said. "You just worry about earning some extra green for your video games."
"Got it," said Greg.
"Well, I'm off," Delilah said after downing the rest of her coffee. "This is where, as a responsible adult, I tell you guys don't forget to do your homework and study. Even monsters need to study and get good grades so they could get good jobs."
"Yeah, yeah," said Greg. "You should hurry up and get going. You're going to be late for your appointment with detective stuff."
Delilah made a face. While muttering something like "Cheeky brat", she walked out the door and walked left.
After a few seconds, staying frozen in my seat, I got up and walked toward the door.
"Change of plans," I said to Greg as I walked out of the store. "Going to explore the neighborhood."
Now, I'm sure you're wondering what I was thinking then. Well, to answer that, no, I wasn't thinking anything, other than that I needed to find my parents who are in the clutches of evil vampires. I probably should have, but I was a teenager. Teenagers don't think.
I got out just in time to see Delilah turning a corner, and quickly followed after her. Since it was early morning, there weren't many people out an about. There were a few strange characters, like a dwarf in a really expensive-looking suit, and a guy with the head of an iguana strumming a guitar while an Asian lady with horns jutting out of her temples (later Greg would tell me that she was an oni, a kind of Japanese monster) tossed a coin into the guitarist's hat. I'll admit that seeing all these different kinds of monsters was a bit distracting, but I was able to push through, keeping my focus on Delilah, which actually wasn't that hard since she was the only one that was human (apart from me) in this street of monsters.
The street, itself, was made up of cobblestones and buildings and stores that looked more like houses. It was like one of those old-fashioned districts you see on TV. Lining the streets were lampposts that looked like from the Eighteen-Hundreds. The only testament that we were still in the Twenty-First Century were the t-shirts and jeans some monsters wore, and that just about most of them had their smartphones out, just like how almost everyone back home have their phones out while walking outside.
Concentrate, Jay! Concentrate! Don't get distracted by the green lady with snake for hair looking for Pokemon.
I followed Delilah down through a marketplace with monsters and fairy tale creatures setting up shop for the day. Some stalls were already ready, such as the one full of farm produce where a hairy sasquatch in a checkered shirt and denim overalls shouted at the top of his lungs: "Vegetables! Get your vegetables here! Cheap and fresh!" We crossed over a wide stone bridge that hovered over a canal to a park with monsters on morning jogs while elderly challenged each other through chess.
Just how far is she planning to go? I wondered as I watched her from behind a tree. She had stopped by an ice cream stand with her wallet out and ended up with a quadruple scoop vanilla cone.
Eventually, she made her way through a narrow street that seemed to spiral downward. I followed after her, careful not to lose her. Because there weren't much hiding spaces, I had to keep enough of a distance from her that I wouldn't get caught. Unfortunately, that often meant that I couldn't see her.
For some reason, there were a lot of cats at this part of the town. Black cats, spotted cats, striped cats, and even hairless cats roamed the cobblestone path. Many were lying around the steps of buildings, while others walked to and fro. As I passed them by, they all raised their heads and looked at me. The way they stared sent shivers down my spine.
Seeing all these cats reminded me of a cartoon I used to watch which had a scene where the main hero ended up being surrounded by cats just like I was. But in that show, the cats were magical, and they could talk.
"Now this is a rare sight. A human in a town of cats!"
Yeah. Just like that.
"A bwah?" I went, jaw dropped.
Yeah, I know. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by that, after walking through a town full of monsters and magical beings, and being the step-brother of a vampire who worked as a barista at a shop owned by werewolves. But cut me some slack. It was only my second day dealing with stuff like that.
"What's this?" went the grey, spotted feline with the red collar. "Cat got your tongue, human? Get it? Cat got your-?"
"Oh, quit it, already!" snapped the striped tabby with golden fur. "Nobody likes those jokes of yours, Twinkle. Just because of we're cats, doesn't mean we have to make a cat joke every Bastet-forsaken second!"
"Hmph!" Twinkle sniffed. "You're just jealous because I've got a girlfriend and you don't."
"What was that, Stink Fur?"
"Oh, you want a fight, No-Claws?"
"Uh . . ." I went as the two cats argued. "I'm going to just go now."
I turned to walk away and stopped, finding Delilah leaning against a wall with her arms crossed. It was as if she had been waiting for me this whole time.
"You need a lot of practice before you can even think about trying to follow me," she said, glancing sideways towards me. "I am a professional detective, after all."
"How long did you know?" I asked.
"How long did I know you were following me? I'd say right from the start."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"Hmm," went Delilah. "Good question. I suppose I was just curious to see how you'd react walking around a town full of monsters. You handled it a lot better than I would have expected."
"Being focused on a goal helps," I replied.
The corner of Delilah's mouth twitched.
"Come on," she said, nodding toward the entrance to a building that also served as the dead end to the street. "Someone wants to meet you."
"Meet me? Who?"
Delilah just answered with a cryptic "You'll see."
I was a little annoyed with her being all mysterious like that, and really wanted her to just spell it out to me. Would that really be so hard to do? It made me wonder if that was a thing monsters and magical people had going on.
Beneath the huge cat-shaped sign mounted on the building was a pair of elegant double doors guarded by lion humanoids in black suits and sunglasses. "Cait Sith" flashed on the sign in flickering neon lights.
"Halt!" said one of the lion men as we approached. His partner, the one standing at the left of the entrance pulled out a stick, a crooked thing that could have been just any random old stick picked up from the ground, and waved it around me. It could have been my imagination, but I thought I heard the stick hum like it was electric. Then he waved the stick around Delilah.
"Clear," he said to first lion man.
Lion Man #1 gave a curt nod before opening the door.
"Follow the red line on the floor to the next check point," he told us.
To me, it kind of felt like we were in an airport getting ready to board a flight. At the next checkpoint, the guard there, this time a tiger lady, had us empty our pockets and put everything we had onto a conveyor belt that rolled our things into an x-ray machine. As our stuff went through the x-ray, I followed Delilah through the metal detector. Obviously, nothing happened since anything we had that was metal was going through the x-ray machine.
Once we were through, a cat with a bow tie and a monocle greeted us and led us up to a grand audience chamber like the kind kings and queens had in their castles. The audience chamber was clearly too big to actually fit into the building. But then again, nothing about the past day had made much sense to me, and I just chalked it up to some kind magic spell. Stained glass windows depicted many different kinds of cats, all posing regally before the chamber's occupants. We walked on a red carpet with golden borders that lead up to a single throne that was twice my height, sitting atop a short set of stairs. Just from one look, I was certain that the thing must have been made out of gold. And lying on that really expensive chair with velvet red cushions was a mangy, blue cat, snoring and mumbling something about fish.
- The Dandy Monsters: Night of the Eripmav (Chapter Five)
Greg brings bad tidings, and now a decision has to be made on what to do next.
- The Dandy Monsters: Night of the Eripmav (Chapter Seven)
Jay has a meeting with a cat.