My name is Amy and I work with a man known as The Stranger. Our job is fairy tales - more precisely the hunting down and killing of the denizens that inhabit them. It has now been five years since I met him at that roadside diner, and in all that time I haven’t put down any words on paper about our work; but now that has all changed as we finally approach the Dreamer - the source that all fairy tales sprang from. It has been a long sojourn and before it ends I would like to leave a record of our story - who for? I’ve no idea; I just feel a need to tell it - a story that belongs in the annals of horror. I’ve changed the names of the towns and cities that we visited to protect those we’ve came in contact with from the Dreamer and its minions. You may call me insane, a nutter, and a liar; but as the saying goes: “Fact is stranger than fiction.
I was twenty-two years old when I first met him; I and my boyfriend, Ryan, were cruising up Route 98 on our way to San Juan for some sun, surf, and big fruity cocktails. We had been an item for more than a year now, Ryan came from old money and me, well I came from the burbs, and to say that his family didn’t exactly approve of me is an understatement. But we loved each other and chances were that fateful weekend we would have eloped. But the one thing I’ve come to learn the hard way is that nothing turns out the way you ever want it to.
We pulled into “The Last Stop” road diner shortly before sundown. Ryan’s stomach was on rinse cycle due to a bad burrito he had wolfed down for lunch. As for me, I was lucky enough to dodge that salmonella ridden bullet. There were four people inside the eatery not including the short order cook and the cashier who also doubled as the waitress. As soon as we entered Ryan made a beeline for the amenities, while I sat at the counter and ordered up a cup of fresh coffee. There was nothing special about the joint, just your average diner catering to passerbies. There was a juke box playing some country and western song about love lost - the name of which I can’t recollect. And there was nothing out of the ordinary about those inside - except for him.
He was sitting two stools down from me sipping a cherry coke; his attire was like a gumshoe detective out of an old film noir movie, with his long dark brown leather coat, his worn torn brown fedora hat, and his dark round shaped granny sunglasses. He had slim but wiry features and his face was very weather worn having seen many miles on the trail; in fact I remember thinking to myself at the time that this guy was in desperate need of a moisturizer. But above all there was toughness to him; he was like a coiled snake waiting to pounce. At that time he was in his early 40’s.
As I blew on my hot cup of coffee I said “Hello stranger,” to him - just making polite conversation. The look he shot back at me was not a pleasant one.
“Do I know you?”
“No,” I replied.
“Then why are we talking?”
“I’ve no idea,” I told him defensively.
“Then why don’t you keep your mouth shut - and we’ll all be better off.”
“For crying out loud, what’s your problem,” I said back at him more abrupt than what I was planning to - but he just pissed me off.
“Do you really want to know what my problem is? It’s that I have to deal with idiot’s like you which is just one of the many drawbacks of my job.”
“And what job would that be - full time asshole?”
“You’ve got a mouth on you - I like that in a woman,” he said with a wicked looking grin.
Something inside of me told me to walk away, that this guy was trouble - bad news - and yet I was never one to listen to my own advice, although I expected other people to. So I pursued a line of questioning about what he did for a living, truth be told I was just damn curious. And then he told me, why he would just spill the beans like that out of the blue I don’t know, but looking back I wish the hell that I had never asked.
“They call me the Stranger,” he began in earnest, “I’m a bounty hunter. I get paid to track, hunt down and kill fairy tales.”
I laughed. It wasn’t because of the silliness of his statement, it was more to do with the way he said it - he was so damn serious.
“May well you laugh, make light of what I just said. But fairy tales are real, as are the creatures that inhabit them. But they’re nothing like what is in the bedtime stories we read to our children. Take the tooth fairy for instance; do you think that if you leave your tooth under the pillow that there’ll be a nice shiny silver coin there in the morning - don’t kid yourself. Tooth fairies are nasty little things that like to pull out children’s teeth during the night, with pliers, while they slumber. And do you also think that Santa Claus is a jolly old fat man with a long white beard handing out presents to those that have been good and nice. Well, let me clue you in sweet cheeks, you’ve heard the story about how you’re suppose to leave some milk and cookies out for old Saint Nic during the night. Well, that milk and cookies is an ancient pagan ritual dating back centuries to a time where you left an offering to the winter god - a deity - to grant you blessings for the winter; only then it wasn’t milk and cookies, it was a goat, a lamb, a pig, sometimes a child - or virgin.”
“The story has of course be perverted and sweetened over time, but that doesn’t make it any less real. In fact every Christmas eve the denizen in the red suit calls upon some unsuspecting families house and if it doesn’t find a plate of cookies and a glass of milk laid out for it, as a peace offering. Well, it takes an axe and chops that family up into little bitty pieces. And you see this,” he told me as he pulled down his shirt collar to reveal an old pinkish colored scar running down the right side of his neck, “Santa gave that too me seven Christmas’ ago - and the son-of-a-bitch is still out there...but don’t you worry we’ll meet again. And this time it’ll be me that’ll do the dicing and slicing.”
He paused a moment, took a sip of his cherry coke, and then continued.
“Then there’s the bloody Easter Bunny and his egg hunt, yeah right, replace eggs for heads and you’ll about get the picture.”
As bizarre and crazy as his story was there was something in his voice that sounded real and genuine. They say insane people can be very convincing in what they tell you and in what they believe...if only the Stranger had been crazy - but he wasn’t.
“Okay then, who are you hunting now - Little Red Riding Hood?” I asked him in a sardonic tone of voice.
But before he could answer two things happened that would forever change my existence on this earth. First, Ryan, looking somewhat better, exited the men’s room, telling me that he was just going out to the car to grab his mobile and that I should order him some apple pie with a heaping of whipped cream on the side. Secondly, as my boyfriend and potential husband and future father of my unborn children, opened the door to go outside he instantly had his head bitten off by the Easter Bunny. But this was no little white bundle of fur with a fluffy tail; far from it, what towered in the doorway wasn’t of this world. It was a monstrous eight foot tall bunny rabbit standing upright on two legs holding a basket full of human heads in its clawed hands - not paws. And its face was hideous with its long thin nose, red blood-shot eyes and huge twelve inch blood soaked fangs instead of buck teeth. But strangest of all was the fact that it was wearing a top hat and tails, looking just like a chocolate Easter bunny you buy off the shelf.
Suffice to say - all hell then broke loose in “The Last Stop” diner.
The Easter Bunny started attacking the patrons, clawing open flesh and biting off two more heads within moments. The speed at which it moved was phenomenal. And its roar was a blood curdling cry of ultimate terror striking such fear into you that it froze you to the spot. All this was like a blur to me - like some nightmare come to life - and as Ryan’s head rolled to my feet I remember looking at the Stranger in disbelief and saying: “This shit is real? But it’s not even Easter.”
“Huh!” He shouted as he leapt up from the stool, threw back his coat and drew his twin pearl handle six-shooters and began blazing away at the demon from a child’s fairy tale.
I ducked as the bullets zoomed by overhead and slammed into the Easter Bunny. The creature cried out in pain and turned its attention to the Stranger. And even though the bullets had tore into the monster’s flesh, and blood was matting the fur, it still appeared relatively unharmed.
The Stranger and the Easter Bunny stared down one another like some climax to a Sergio Leone movie. The Easter Bunny’s eyes narrowed, it sniffed the air, smelling its opponent - and then it charged - bounding across the room in three giant hops.
But the Stranger had been lying in wait and was ready. “Come get some Bugsy,” the Stranger shouted out - while at the same time pulling out a sawed-off shot-gun from beneath his coat that was hanging over his shoulder by a leather strap. BOOM - BOOM - he emptied both barrels into the face of the Easter Bunny blowing its head clean off. The abomination collapsed to the floor in a shower of blood, guts and flying fur.
I looked up in shock from the bloody mess on the floor into the face of the Stranger.
“Now for Santa,” he simply said as he exited the diner.
Why I followed him out I do not know? Why I went with him I do not know? Why he let me I do not know? And why I stayed with him I do not know? Now, of course, several years later - I do know the answer...and the bitter truth. But back then all I knew was that my boyfriend had been killed by a fairy tale and that the world I thought I knew suddenly didn’t exist.
That first night as we sped down the highway in his 67’ red mustang, everything that had happened to me appeared surreal - like a dream; it should have felt like a nightmare - but it didn’t. I had no idea where the road would take me, only that something deep down inside of my gut said I was doing the right thing and that the Stranger held answers for me...then again it could have just been a bad burrito.
Peter Jessop © April 2013