The Contingent

Guns don't kill people, bullets kill people
"The Rockin' Shockin' New Wave Of Horror!"

Right. So. That happened.

Twelve hours of sitting in a police station, shaking, wondering if she’d just manslaughtered somebody, interspersed with insisting that it was self defense and she’d done almost nothing wrong (So the gun wasn’t licensed. And had a silencer.). Only to be shoved out the door with a “hunt your witch, but don’t get caught again.” Um, yeah. And then Morgan tried to drown herself. And stopped herself from drowning herself by impaling herself.

But somehow all of this ended with no dead team members. So, that’s good?

Gabrielle had agreed to help with Operation Sorry I Almost Killed You, putting together a gift basket like Kenny’s in exchange for help in setting a Google Alert. Fina did not point out that there might be better ways to monitor that. She just set up an alert for herself as well.

Then she hauled all her Hawaiian shirts out to Goodwill. Getting a bunch of Eileen’s blood on one had well and truly put that obsession to an end. On the bus ride back she looked for another guilt-gifts. Something she picked out herself. Booze-infused jerky crate? Score! And it came in a cube. Eileen liked cubes.

She should deliver it herself. In the hospital. She should go there. To the hospital. She was totally going to do that. Definitely. As soon as the crate arrived.

Now she just had to figure out how keep herself alive without a gun.

Getting Out of Your Own Head

Sun is shining through the windows and casts beams of light across the room adorned in dark wooden furnishings with deep red adornments. Darren slowly walks over to a soft, cushioned chair with high arms and back. He settles in and picks at the pills of fabric along the edge of one arm for a few moments before taking a deep breath and looking up. Across from Darren sits Dr. Luong, a middle-aged man with greying hair.

“So Darren, it has been a while since you have come to see me. Are things alright” the doctor asked.
“Not alright, but nowadays, it never really is, I guess.” Darren answered.
“Never?” Luong said with a twist of his head.
“Look Dave, you know what is out there. You remember the announcement a year ago now, and your availability since has dropped like a rock, so I can assume you have a lot more people with a lot more things to talk about that concern the things in that announcement. We don’t know what we are truly up against, but I am pretty sure we are fighting uphill and always will be.” Darren stated.
“Sure, sure, but I am talking about you, not all of those things out there. I am asking how things are with you.” he responded.

“Me? Where to start? Most recently was a number of my colleagues deciding to not only use drugs that they acquired from a ghost, but they thought it a good idea to use more of it when the effects started to fade as well as trying to get me to use it as well. And I really wanted to while at the same time being sure that it was a terrible decision to. I haven’t stopped thinking about the stuff for the past month or more. I’ve never done NORMAL cocaine, but what if there is some understanding of them that could be gain by taking in a part of one? I mean, what if it increases your sensitivity to them? What if it might afford me the ability to communicate with them more easily? What if I might be able to call to … “ Darren trailed off.
“This is about that again. Back in South Carolina, when you thought you were spe—” Dr. Luong began before being cut off.
“WAS speaking to my parents’ ghosts. You know they are real and yet you still act like I was hallucinating then.” Darren interjected.
“Okay, back in South Carolina when you spoke to your parents ghosts. Have they spoken to you again?” He asked.
“No. Not really, anyway. The last time I saw anything, it was clearly a hallucination. But in between, a lot happened. I am not even sure what to think, but I know that there are still pieces missing and I am either not looking in the right place or am just blind.” Darren was becoming visibly frustrated with what he was saying. “I just have to keep trying, keep fighting, and keep searching, I guess.”
“Or perhaps you would benefit by accepting that they are gone and that whatever happened to them is not your fault and can’t be undone.” The doctor posited.
“That’s the problem, doc. What I’ve learned is that most things can be undone with the right connections and a little help from the other side.” Darren said as he stood up. “I’ll be back tomorrow. I’ve got you booked every day this week. I have to get my head straight before next weekend.”

Selected Excerpts of Zak Zimmerman Media Coverage
Zak’s 15 Minutes

Selected Excerpts of Zak’s Recent Media Coverage:

“Loser Actor Abandons Son at Hospital” – Headline from BuzzFeed

“Who Is Zak Zimmerman and Why Did He Abandon His Son?” – Segment Header from E!

“Zak Zimmerman: Viral Stunt or Criminal Negligence?” – Headline from CineFever

“Zak Zimmerman’s A New Media Marketing Genius” – Headline from Forbes Online

“Hungry For More Zak Zimmerman and The Deadly Dead” – Headline from Rolling Stone

“Are Zak Zimmerman’s Movies Real? What We Found Will Surprise You!!!” – YouTube video from Eyes On The Inside

“Blurring The Lines: Zak Zimmerman and The Contingent” – Segment Header from DemoncracyNow!

“298: Zak Zimmerman’s Onion Milking Bus Trip” – Episode Title from Podcast Regular Features

“Zak Zimmerman: Real Life Dracula Slayer” – Headline from Nerdist

“AMAZING Pigeon Fail!! Zak Zimmerman, Contingent, New York, Stunts” – Suggested YouTube video from Hands of Blue

“11 Times Zak Zimmerman Saved The World From Venutians” – YouTube video from CultofZ

“Episode 372: The Tragic History of a Cult Favorite” – Episode Title from Podcast Radio Silence

“Welcome to Season 3. This season we investigate Zak Zimmerman, his past, his movies, and The Contingent. We look into his parents Samuel and Dominique Polterghast and the strange arrangement they made with Fred Fulson when Zak was 14. We speak with friends of Nidhi Zimmerman about her relationship and marriage to Zak and her tragic death. Finally, we look at his time with The Contingent and the questions surrounding their claims of the supernatural.” – Podcast description for Distortion: Movies Meet Reality

“Deadly Dead: Hungry 4 More Rumours: Creative Differences, Title Changes, Surprise Buyout” – Headline from CinePlexed UK

“Dinubis The Game: The Best Game Ever” – YouTube video from Cool Ghosts

The Hawiian Shirt Friday Luau
In which Gabrielle attempts to rally the troops

For its budget and being rather last minute, Gabrielle had been rather impressed by what her and her team had been able to accomplish. It wasn’t extravagant, but for most office parties this was a lot better. No plastic palm trees, but instead carefully arranged flora that focused on bright hibiscus scattered around the Commissary. The smell of the centerpieces wafted together with the smell of catered Hawaiian BBQ, and sunscreen. Obviously the food was a hit, being authentic and a bit of a novelty.

The other hit was the tropical mocktail stand run by her favorite mixologist, Kelly. She knew about a 3rd of the party had made their drinks authentic cocktails, but those people and her already had a wordless, mutual understanding. Keep yourself in line, and there wouldn’t be a problem. The only problem had been Derrek who had been led about three times away from the shaved ice stand, and strategically placed in front of the chattier members of Contingent. It was going well, and despite darting around all day in wedges, this had been impressive. Still there was … a funk over the entire room.

This would not do at all, and she realized quickly that no one else would address the issue. She took a moment to stand at the head of the room, and cleared her throat before calling “Excuse me everyone, if I could have your attention”.

Her voice clear, and firm and actually waited for a majority of eyes on her. As Gabrielle promised Fina, she wore a black Hawaiian shirt that let the various shades of vivid pink and red Hibiscus pattern stand out, but fashionably tucked into high waisted black jeans. The bagginess of her shirt hid her Kevlar, which she never entered Contingent without.

“Thank you, is everyone having a great time?”

The energy was barely above bemusement.

“Wonderful, I’m glad you’ve all come, and happier to see those participate. I’d like a big round of applause for Fina, who’s really the one behind all this” She said gesturing to the woman in the brightest shirt of them all. There at least was a polite applause. Fina deserved so much more, and a luau was the least she could do.

“Now, I would like to take a moment to address the elephant in the room.

We have suffered and lost.

There are those of us who have had to make sacrifices no person should have to make. It’s been hard, and I have no doubt it will get harder before it gets any easier.

But we didn’t join this organization because it was easy.

We didn’t join because we would receive fame, glory or even thanks. We joined to protect those who could not protect themselves; our friends, our family and the innocent.

And we stand together.

We stand in front of them, as shields and ambassadors.

The people before me, you; may be smart, strong or courageous, but together as we stand, we are so much more.

When those that go bump in the night come, we will be there to bump back.

As it gets harder, I want each of you to look at your team and know this: We stand together.

If we can do that, if we can stay smart, safe, and together, then we can take back the night.

Because we are Contingent and we stand together.

Thank you”
What's in the Box-Recovery

I know I’m dreaming, because it’s the same dream that I’ve been having for the past month or so, ever since I had the vision. I see the cube, and inside is my father’s head, telling me that it needs more blood. The blood is coming, it’s pooling around my feet, but something is different this time. By the time it reaches my ankles, I realize that the blood is coming from me. I can feel the blood trickling down my legs, and my back is wet. Why is it different this time? It makes no sense…

I wake up screaming, strapped face down to a table. I can’t move and my back feels like it’s on fire.

“Miss Fisher, please calm down.” The voice is coming from somewhere on my right, and it sounds cool and professional.

“Where am I?” I stutter, watching the floor go by underneath me, as I’m being wheeled somewhere. I’m trying hard not to vomit.

“You’re at the hospital, you sustained severe trauma from an animal attack. If you don’t stay still you could make your injuries worse.”

I wanted to tell her it wasn’t an animal, that it was something much much worse, but my vision was going dark, as something was injected into the tube attached to my arm.

I’m standing in a forest, alone, much closer to the ground that I was expecting. I look around, terror flooding through me, as I scan the empty trees. Occasionally I see something poke it’s head out, and as soon as I look in it’s direction, it goes back behind the tree. deciding if I should make a run for it. Except wait, I’m not alone, my dad is there, he promised to teach me how to build a motor with my new toolset. I run over to him, expecting to see his smile, but he’s facing away from me.

His voice is heavy, and I can hear him say “Do you promise it’ll work? Do you promise I can save all of them?”

I want to call out to him, but I’m being shoved to the ground by something much larger than me, and the breath gets knocked out of my lungs. As I struggle to get away,I reach for my screwdriver, but it gets knocked out of my hand, out of reach. I can see Morgan, but she’s too far away to help me, as the creature rips at my flesh.

I wake up, gasping for breath. I slowly start syncing my breathing to the beep of the monitor. “Okay, okay, it was only the bear creature. I can live with that.” But it wasn’t okay. Every time I went to sleep, I expected to see the slenderman, his mark was still on my forehead after all. Or even if it wasn’t him, I expected my imagination to conjure him into my dreams. Because my subconscious is a piece of shit like that.

“Will you please shut up? I’m trying to sleep, and you are always talking” The county hospital was small enough that I was not able to have a private room. Sarah had broken her leg hiking, and I wasn’t sure if she was always this grouchy, or if it was just because she had a cast up to her thigh, and her leg was elevated in a sling.

I glared at her as best I could while laying on my stomach, wincing as I felt the stitches tug as I turned over. “No, I won’t. I’m bored. I need to be working, or something.” Something, anything, to keep my mind off of the cube, or the slenderman. If this continued they would probably need to lock me up along with Michael, which was not a comforting thought.

“What would it take to make you stop complaining?” she asked.

I paused, and seriously considered her question. “I need something to do with my hands. My friends took all my equipment with them. I could be fixing the scanner, but noooo…it could cause equipment malfunction, which is technically true, but that’s not the point…” I got cut off by something round, soft, and slightly squishy hitting me in the face.

I picked up the yarn and knitting needles hesitantly. Hey, what did I have to lose?

“Okay, so it’s knit one, purl two. Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this!” I held up what was supposed to be part of a scarf. “Why is it crooked though?”

“Your first project is always lopsided.” Sarah said, flipping through the channels on the TV. “I thought you said this would get you to shut up.”

“Nope, just stop complaining.” I replied and sighed as she settled on HGTV. “Ugh, not this show again. Those brothers are way too into each other.”

A few minutes went by, and she said, “Oh no, I think you’re right.” She started laughing, which made me dissolve into giggles.

There was a knock at the door, and the doctor came in, opening a chart. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything. Good news, Ms. Fisher, you’re going home tomorrow.”

“Fucking finally!”

“It doesn’t look infected, but some of these are really deep. You’re lucky that you didn’t damage any of the skin grafts.” the doctor said, applying a bandage to my freshly sutured wound. “Honestly, you may want to consider taking a long weekend.” He stripped off his gloves and tossed them in the biohazard bin.

“Yeah, maybe that would be good.” I mumbled, trying not to sound petulant.

I had been at my workstation, finishing up the repairs on my scanner when I suddenly got really lightheaded. I looked at my tool and it was sticky with blood, and I realized I must have scratched my back unconsciously and re-opened one of the cuts. I had barely realized what I had done before I was whisked away to one of the biology labs, and some guy whose name I couldn’t remember was grabbing a suture kit and telling me to take off my shirt. One of the perks of working at the Contingent is that there is always someone around who knows first aid and doesn’t ask questions.

As I’m leaving, I spotted Kenny, sitting by himself in the comisary, looking a little worse for wear. Ever since Eagle Bay, Kenny and I had developed a friendship of sorts. I had heard bits and pieces about what had happened, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet. I headed over and plopped down in the seat across from him.


“Thanks! I just finished it. I’m a Huffleclaw!” I indicated the yellow and black stripes on one side, and the blue and bronze on the other.

“What the hell is a Huffleclaw?” He started to pull his monster list out of his front pocket, and I couldn’t help but giggle.

“It’s, nevermind. How are you doing?”

“Trying to adjust.” He rapped his knuckles against his bicep, and it made a dull thud.

“Yeah, I feel you.” I shifted my bag, so the strap wasn’t lying directly on top of the bandage. “Apparently you don’t recover from having your back ripped open overnight.” There was an extremely awkward pause. I fidgeted with the vape pen in my pocket, and then had an idea.

“Listen, do you want to get out of here?”

Kenny raised an eyebrow.

“Not like that! I mean, do you want to get baked and watch a movie or something. I was headed home anyway, and honestly, could use some company.”

“Um, sure.” He leaned in close. “As long as you’ve got something stronger than what they prescribed me. I think that I may even have some jerky left from the gift basket that Gabrielle got me.”

“Sweet! Snacks are always important. Ooooh, we should totally watch Harry Potter!” As we walked out I realized that I was feeling better than I had since before the mission. Huh, I guess friendship is magic, or some shit. “Hey, do you have Unicorns on your list?”

Bringing floral back
"Who's Hunting the Hunters?"

“If you survive maybe we could bring you back.” No, oh, hell no. She’s worked so hard to get away the first time. She wanted to shoot something. Or run away, farther and faster, because she clearly didn’t do a good enough job the first time.

Kenny came back. Kenny was the reason all of them were alive. Still free, just a little – less traumatized? “Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Fina. He’s fine, he’s great, he totally didn’t just sacrifice his selfhood to save your sorry ass.” She wondered if she should send jerky and booze too. Sorry you lost your arm. And, you know, that other thing.

Fina had a brief mental image of a different set of teammates spewing chunks of muffin and partially-digested human flesh. Maybe not jerky and booze. Sports shit? He seemed like the kind of guy who would be into sports shit. Game play, arm, maybe not. Other guy stuff? Maybe a card. With puppies and rainbows. If you’re going to be a social screw-up, there might as well be puppies and rainbows involved. Kittens? Everybody likes kittens. Unic – no, not unicorns.

She reached in her closet and pulled out one of her brightest Hawaiian shirts. She’d been trying not to wear them because the half-closet full suggested to her that this, like cannibalism, was something she might need to work on overcoming. I can refrain from eating human flesh. I can refrain from non-ironic kitsch. I can’t refrain from eating vampire blood apples. Damn it!

Fuck it. Maybe she should lean in on the whole Hawaiian shirt thing. Maybe a whole fucking Hawaiian luau. That would be a distraction. Her own personal Take Back the Skyscraper. Take that, kitschy murder game! And who better to help than her favorite wedding planner. Things just went better when she was around.

Fina called Gabrielle. "Hey, Gabrielle, I hear you work with HR now. I was wondering…do you think we could have a Hawaiian shirt day? It’s a thing I’ve been really into lately. Like, really into. It’s just a thing I need to explore. And it could be good for morale. I mean it would be a good memory to overwrite the memory of the building trying to kill us. We could have Hawaiian shirts, cheesy Leis, plastic palm trees. It would be fun team bonding. "

“Those are certainly some ideas,” Gabrielle said. Her ideas involved a “slightly more authentic luau.” With much less kitsch.

“Wow, that sounds awesome,” Fina said. “But, with the brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, right? Because I feel like that really needs to be a thing.”

Fina-hawaiian-shirt.jpg“Of course, it wouldn’t be Hawaiian shirt Friday without them,” she said, in a carefully reassuring tone. Okay, so the shirt thing was becoming an issue. But this would be a way to make it a good thing. It would be great.

But if anyone brought any board games she was going full flambé on them. And this time it would work. She changed into a brighter shirt, with bigger flowers. It was festive. Friendly. Comforting.

John's Final Words
"... It's exactly what you think it is!"

Samantha held the bronze tube gingerly, eyeing the confounding device with dread. She didn’t ask for it, yet here it was, willed to her by John‘s dying breath. A slow sigh escaped her lips, composing herself. She still hadn’t finished the letter she received from Willard Buss, and wasn’t quiet ready to finish reading it yet. She tucked it away into her jacket, not willing to leave it laying about with Rhys still present in the apartment. She tilted her head, listening for any disturbances from the living room where he lie.

She still wasn’t sure what happened last week, but John had mentioned something about the kaleidoscope, and that Rhys was going to need some help recovering from what he saw. Her brother had been screaming for what seemed like hours at the time. John was pretty sure he had passed out from the lack of oxygen, and said it was probably for the best. Rhys came to his sense later and was noticeably more silent, but he was far from okay. She already had an idea of who she was going to contact to help Rhys. A man by the name of Skinner had treated John before, and she still had the card John arrived with: The one with the the name of their ‘supposed’ brother that he was so convinced they had. Provided she could get the man to leave his professionalism on the shelf for a moment, she might get some answers regarding John, and maybe get some help for Rhys. However, she needed to plan before she started that.

Samantha sat in silence for several minutes, contemplating the letter on the table. She read the opening statement, penned by an unfamiliar hand.

The following is a transcription to the best of my abilities of the last will and testament of Jonathan Miller, on the 25th of May, 2018. A man of imposing stature and a more imposing character whose courage showed us that our past is not to be wholly feared as events made of stone that we must carry around for the rest of our waking moments, but a kaleidoscope of experiences that add color to our lives.

She closed her eyes and took a breath, composing herself before she began to read once more.

Sam, Rhys, I’m sorry to leave like this. I know I’ve been a little erratic since you found me about five months ago, but I appreciate that you took care of me in my time of need. I still don’t recall much after what happened in California, except a few glimpses here and there. All I know is that it has something to do with that damned kaleidoscope. I’m tempted to leave it here in this silver mine, but I told one Sir. Nigel Mulberry that I’d have a chat with him about it since he inquired. Perhaps he can help you destroy it, after his curiosity is satisfied. And, speaking of which, Rhys, I’m sorry you had to see it. I think you’re a bit of an ass for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, but i’m partially responsible for that. Sam, take care of him.

Since I’m giving up the ghost here, I have a few things I kindly request be addressed.

First and foremost, There is this kid you gotta write too. Any of you reading this, really. Jeremy Pendergrass. I’m not going to get into the details, since Dr. Buss here can peek at the reports possibly, but he is gonna need it. I promised him I would keep in touch, but unless someone pulls the same shit with me that Dr. Pendergrass did with his son, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I have some things I was gonna send his way, which is why I had all those toys, Sam.

Second, another apology to Vicki from R&D. I’ll leave that to you Dr. Buss. There isn’t much to add other than I kinda fucked that up.

Finally, Ask Dr. Skinner about Richard. I’m not sure why you don’t remember him, but I loathe to think that I’ve imagined a sibling as old as I feel for twenty three years. Well, more than that, because I’m definitely not twenty three anymore. Just see what he has to say about it. If it just turns up that I’m nuts, then drop forget it, I guess?

That’s really all I have to say, I guess. Just know it’s relatively painless. I’ve been given a bit of morphine, since the werewolf won’t be needing it. I love you guys.

The unflappable demeanor presented in the letter angered Samantha a bit, almost believing it all to be some obnoxiously cruel joke, but she had seen and heard the video as well. John’s phone recorded several minutes of him talking candidly (albeit pained and labored) to Dr. Buss about his final words. Apparently John didn’t think the letter would be convincing enough by itself. The imagery was bloody and surreal, and glimpses of some others could be seen in the background as they tended their wounds. She listened to the closing remarks from Dr. Buss, stating John’s time of death, shortly before two in the morning.

As Samantha closed the phone, a voice whispered from the livingroom. Rhys was hovering near the doorway, wide-eyed, yet tired.

“Sam… You’ve got that look. What are you getting ready to do?”

She offered her brother a tight-lipped smile. “Travel. Looks like I’m taking time of for grieving in New York.”

Blood Screening Procedure #21
Willard Buss, Recorded Notes

My hands haven’t stopped shaking.

That whole mess was so god damn meaningless. Six people are dead, that I know of, seven counting that nut job that was herding us through the woods like game on one of his hunts. All because of some vendetta against the Contingent over getting displaced from his old hidey-hole near DC. Hardly a reason for all this but it would seem that an unstable mind ain’t the place for findin’ reason. The callousness that he slaughtered those hunters…just to torment us. I have never been so afraid in my life. My continued livin’ is a bit of a surprise when I think about it and I have tried my very best not to.

I should be happy to be alive but sitting there holdin’ John’s last testaments, I cannot help but think that I’m alive because of the big man and he ain’t–no thanks to me. The fact that I was buttin’ heads with him just that morning makes it all the more remorseful now. To be a doctor yet rendered so impotent that all I could do for him was to pen a dying man’s last words…It’s bothersome.

Ah..steady hands, clear mind. Without access to lab stores, there are one hundred and forty-one doses left. More than enough for what I need to do. Then I can start the detox process.

Several days have passed, My mind is as unsettled now as it was in the woods. I can’t say if it is the result of withdrawal, exhaustion, or the lingering helpless feeling over John Miller’s death. Regardless, I am close to a breakthrough and can’t afford to lose it now.

Alright, back on topic.

My research has come along with the inclusion of the newly collected research materials. The new blood samples have been immediately useful. The werewolf corpse will need to be set aside for later research. I kept the broadhead arrow that John wounded the werewolf with because it is the second most likely anchor should John Miller manifest as a spirit. (An assumption based on my previous findings of course.) The bronze tube is the more likely anchor, but, unfortunately, that item was packed up and shipped per John’s instruction. The loss of the corpse of Mr. Miller may turn out to be another delay to my research.

The changes made in the blood screening procedure (BSP20) was unable to identify ghoul blood. The latest screening process BSP21 has proven effective in identifying plasma exposed to the immaterial substance. After the cocaine passes through the system, an observable marker remains and is identifiable via BSP21. BSP21 resulted in identifying sample JM01 and WB06 as viable candidates. I will need to complete a full blood panel for the two plasma samples before next steps are determined steps. The preliminary results of cross-match testing came back negative despite incompatible tissue types.

This research, at the very least, could provide transplant patients with more options. Considering some of the research currently going on in R&D, it could present new alternatives for augmentation,

If I’m lucky, it will be valuable enough to get them off my back without needing to provide any of Dr. Hamner’s research.

Improving Employee Morale
Ms. Herbig stops by the commissary for a chat

As the morning shift of dead-eyed operatives files in to fill their coffee mugs or grab snacks and day-old sandwiches from the commissary, Debbie Herbig stalks into the room, her face an impenetrable mask of resolute cheer; her pencil already hovers over her clipboard in rapt anticipation of checking off each item on her list of morning announcements. She clears her throat and begins to speak.

Good morning, operatives! Before I talk about our team-building opportunities for next week, I want to remind everyone that we do still have a few employees recovering from work-related injuries who I’m sure would love to see their teammates’ happy shining faces! We’ve posted visiting hours for all of them in case you want to drop by while you’re off-duty, as well as a list of allergies if you want to take some goodies or flowers.

Also, a gentle reminder: We’ve noticed that the supplies of ephemeral cocaine provided to the R&D laboratories by the team that investigated that theater in Brooklyn are slowly dwindling, without any log entries indicating that quantities were removed. Now, R&D is looking into this to determine if the ephemera is self-evaporating and devise a solution to preserve it if so…but if any unauthorized experiments on the substance—or, ah, experimentation, for that matter—are going on, then it needs to stop. We’ve placed additional surveillance on that lockup, and we will be reviewing it on a nightly basis. This isn’t a flophouse, people—you can relive the 1980s on your own time and dime! Ms. Herbig stops and sniffs dramatically, a wistful gleam twinkling in her eye as she seems momentarily lost in a reverie of reminiscence.

Speaking of the ‘80s, I know everyone is so excited to attend the Luau being organized by Ms. Ahern and Ms. Aquinas on Friday afternoon, but the Board also took the liberty of picking up some weekend VIP passes for the… Ms. Herbig looks down at the flyer in her hand before she resumes speaking …Glam-O-Rama Hair-A-Thon concert on Governor’s Island, if anyone wants to go. So feel free to get tickets, but come enjoy the barbecue and the Limbo contest before you leave for the concert—and remember, the winner gets a $100 gift certificate for “Yogurt Yoghurt Yogurté” froyo! Oh, and be advised that the Limbo contest is strictly a test of mundane flexibility—there will be absolutely no unauthorized summonings to gain the edge on your opponents! We don’t want another…incident…like what happened at the Veterans’ Day picnic last year, people, so leave your talismans in your lockers!

Finally, remember that next Monday is ‘Bring Your Pet To Work Day’. I am so excited, because I found the cutest little outfit for Murray—he’s gonna be a widdle pirate kitty! I do want to emphasize that no extranormal pets are allowed on ‘Bring Your Pet To Work Day’, however, and that includes ghosts of your deceased pets—which, incidentally, is a very unhealthy means of dealing with your attachment, and you should probably see Dr. Mayo to schedule a counseling session if you are keeping one around.

Thank you for your attention, operatives! Have a lovely day!

Ms. Herbig sets the stack of flyers for the GORHAT concert on an empty table, then turns and walks back toward the Accounting office, oblivious to the fact that half the people in the commissary lounge haven’t even looked up from their tablets or taken out their earbuds while she was speaking.


Alone with only your thoughts
Attempting to Decompress

“Gabrielle, Dr. Skinner will see you now”

She sunk her body into the near boiling water, letting the heat and rose scented foam envelope her. This had been her fifth bath after her last mission in the past week, higher water bill be damned. She still was fighting off the chill in her bones from spending a freezing and soaking 36 hours in god knows where Montanan woods.

But she was home now, in her bright, warm apartment, taking a hot bath with a glass of Pinot Noir she had been saving after her last vacation in Napa. This was technically a celebration, a victory. The team had been victorious, the hunters had renewed their namesake, and all was right with the fucking world.

“Ah, Miss Ahern, welcome, please take a seat”

Gabrielle remembered how she stood standing, but placed her tote down. The doctor once again gestured to a pair of chairs as he rose from his desk. She didn’t sit until he had taken a seat, adjusting herself to face him directly.

“Thank you for seeing me today, doctor…”

“Not at all, I’m always happy to help a hunter, I’m glad you came when you did, very rarely do Hunters visit me this early in their career”

“Ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure, right?”

“Indeed, although I was looking over your last mission briefing, and it seems that things were ‘intense’ in your last encounter”

“Intense is the word isn’t it. First mission was spent in some hell dimension, and now I’m back from running through the woods in a Most Dangerous Game nightmare, where every sect of bump in the night came after us”

“How did that make you feel?”

She had shifted in her seat, but kept eye contact, before taking a long breath.

“You know, Angry, Terrified, Useless…the usual”


“Yes, while I wasn’t a hindrance to the team, I wasn’t helpful either. Well…that’s a lie. Hindered Kenny slightly but I’m making amends”. A day after they had debriefed, Kenny had been sent a beautifully arranged gift basket with some good whiskey, artisan jerky, some amazingly cheesy action movies, a eucalyptus candle, a gift card for at least a week of good Thai take out, and a get well soon card that ended with the note that read: Sorry, and Thank you. I owe you a favor. – Gabrielle

“Your team made it out alive though, I’m sure you were integral to the team”

“I appreciate the reassurance…but still, it’s difficult. I’m terrible at the hunting part of being a Hunter. Put me in a room full of people and I can get them all on the same goal. But fighting these things? I mostly hid in the bushes”

“Well, Contingent doesn’t need all fighters, there are two other divisions”

“Right, I recently joined Human Resources as one of their Emissaries. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m planning a company Luau. That’s more in my wheelhouse, plus party planning is a great distraction from almost dying in the woods. I hate the woods”

“Not much for the outdoors?

“No, no…not that, I just got lost in the woods one time. I was really young when it happened”

“Oh, that must have been terrifying, what exactly happened?”

“Nothing, nothing…back when we lived in Gilbert, there were these woods surrounding my house. I wandered out and must have gotten turned around. My Dad couldn’t find me before it got dark. It’s actually a funny story… he says I kept saying I had only been gone five minutes. Ever since though, I haven’t ever gone back until last mission”

The rest of the session was fairly normal chatter, they went over some breathing techniques and he suggested meditation going forward to better prepare her. It hadn’t been terrible, but Gabrielle hadn’t liked the fact she needed to go in the first place. She hadn’t had another distraction until Fina had come to her asking to plan a Luau. Calls had been made to a shaved ice stand and Hawaiian BBQ food truck, and she reached out to a Florist and Mixologist who owed her favors. Dr. Mayo had at least been open to the plan. It was easy, and hopefully would be a much needed morale boost.

Her mind was still racing, but not about being trapped in the Montanan woods but now being lost just past her own backyard. It had been decades since she really thought about it. It was nothing, a girl wandering too far from home, it was absolutely nothing. She just remembered the walking in the woods…and a hand?


She shot straight up, a bit of the water lapping over the rim of the tub as she looked around. It was nothing. No one was there.

It was just her alone with her thoughts.


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