[WP] You’re a cryptid hunter in a magical world and you’re sure this one is real. You spend countless hours researching and poking around the area it was spotted in, only to find out it was actually a drunk shapeshifter. Again.

[WP] You’re a cryptid hunter in a magical world and you’re sure this one is real. You spend countless hours researching and poking around the area it was spotted in, only to find out it was actually a drunk shapeshifter. Again.


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I ran pell-mell through the dense jungle of the Congo basin. The shores of Lake Tele were only a few hundred feet away to my right, and ahead of me, crashing through the jungle, was the creature I had chased for nearly a year. Mokele-Mbembe gave a loud, trumpeting roar as it bowled over trees centuries old. Its head was level with the jungle canopy and it swung about wildly on an incredibly long neck. Its tail was stumpier than I had imagined, and along its back was a thin ridge of spines. None of the stories had included those. “Stop goddamn you!” I shouted ineffectually at the creature’s retreating back. Aside from some brave souls among the local pygmy tribes no human had ever been so close to one of these creatures and lived. It felt like I’d stepped millions of years into the past, into a land where the love child of a brontosaurus and a hippo could rule an entire ecosystem. And it was getting away. “I swear to God I’ll shoot!” I shouted. Please don’t make me shoot. No answer. Mokele-Mbembe bellowed again and veered sharply to the right, towards the lake. If it went underwater I’d lose it, that was one of the unassailable tenets of cryptid hunting, at least with a budget like mine. I couldn’t afford any boat more advanced than a canoe and those didn’t come with sonar packages. More trees were battered down ahead of the great creature with every step. At this rate it was a wonder there was a single tree left in all of the Congo, the path of our chase looked like a horror movie sponsored by chlorophyll. Richer hunters than I would be sighting our deforestation as evidence of Mokele-Mbembe’s existence for the next decade at least. “Please stop! I really, really don’t want to shoot!” I shouted pitifully, loading the gun anyway. The gun looked like it had already been old when the country was young. In Brazzaville they’d told me it could kill an elephant. Somehow that didn’t seem like enough. The creature was at the shore now, its mad dash was slowing. It stuck one foot tentatively into the water as if testing the temperature. I leveled my rifle, pointing it at where I assumed the creature’s heart to be. It took one step in. Then two. By the third step it was already wading into knee high water. I cursed loudly, my finger still on the trigger. This might be the only chance I ever got to make my mark. I’d never killed anything in my life. Mokele-Mbembe twisted its long, sinuous neck back towards me, looking over its shoulder and straight into my eyes. I cursed again, even more loudly, and hurled the gun into the bushes in fury. I’d have known those eyes in any shape and any form, anywhere in the whole world. Mokele-Mbembe’s body began to shift in front of me, its rough gray skin shuddering and then beginning to peel back on itself, exposing the muscle and sinew beneath. The skin rolled up towards the spine like a long rolled scrolled springing back into its memorized shape, and then the flesh began to peel away too. All along the length of the creature’s back, from the tip of its tale to the base of its neck, it shivered violently, groaning in a high, ululating note that I knew to be intense pleasure. When the skin and flesh receded back to the tail it all began to roll up the neck in one line and finally the pleasure turned to pain and even the groan was silenced as any connection of lungs and vocal chords was torn away. All that was left was the still fleshed out head and the vast, cavernous skeleton of what I thought had been my greatest achievement. Then that skeleton shattered, dissolving in the air, and a woman fell from the creature’s head, tumbling gracelessly through the air until she crashed into the water, reemerging with a giggle only a moment later. “Goddamnit Magda, no!” I said, running towards the water and the frolicking girl there. “Not again, not now! I was this close, how could you? After all your noise the real Mokele-Mbembe will be miles away or in hiding, I’ll never find it now!” “Hi Charlie!!!” she shouted loudly, slurring my name. “And you’re drunk again!” I threw my hands up, contemplating going back for the gun. Magda Reynolds, age 23, give or take a few hundred years, was a terror. She was brilliant and brave, impulsive in the extreme. A beautiful, alcoholic train wreck of a girl, or perhaps a carriage accident since she predated the engine. She was also my best friend. It was complicated. “Charlie, come on in, the water’s great!” she said, gesticulating wildly at me. I sat down on the shoreline and buried my head in my hands. Perhaps if I stayed long enough it was one of the local crocodiles would find me. It would be easier than going home empty handed again, I’d sold my car to pay for this trip. “Magda, can we please just be serious for five minutes? Why did you do this to me again? I can’t handle this.” Her splashing went silent for a long moment. I was not going to look up at her no matter what the hell she said. Soon enough I heard her swimming up to me, then felt the ripples of her approach. “I missed you,” she said. I could picture her face perfectly, those puppy dog eyes and soft features. I was not going to look up at her. This time she’d gone too far. “You left me behind in Greensboro,” she said. “For a whole year too! You know how much I hate being alone.” “So go somewhere, make friends, live your life! Maybe even get a job!” She snorted, “A job? You’re one to talk.” “This would’ve been a job if you hadn’t shown up and blown it. I was so close Magda, you don’t even know. I cast a footprint that was three feet wide last month. Mokele-Mbembe is here, I can feel it!” “Last month?” I nodded. “Huh, I only got here a couple days ago.” Magda sat down next to me, her outstretched leg touching mine. Her bare skin was like a fire after she had transformed. If I looked at her I knew there would be steam rising from her body. “See?” I said. “There’s something here. There has been every time, I always get so, so close.” “And then I mess it up.” Her voice was small and sad, her words were still slurring. I would not look up. “Hey, Charlie,” she said. “Please look at me, I haven’t seen you in a year.” I would not look up. I heard her turn, felt the forge like heat of her body only inches away. “Hey,” she said again, “I really missed you.” I looked up, straight into her eyes. Magda’s eyes were green, but in a way that could only be seen, not described; they made emeralds look like their poorer cousin. They were the same in every form she had, whether she was a raven haired human, a towering semi-dinosaur, a hundred foot anaconda, or the hairiest bigfoot to walk the Earth. They were always her tell and the jig was up as soon as she let me see them. “Hi,” I said. “Honestly, I missed you too.” “You didn’t act like it.” “You deserved it. I’m still pissed.” She pressed her forehead to mine, her skin was starting to cool. “I’m sorry about that, sometimes I can’t help myself.” “I know,” I said, sighing. “I’m not leaving this Lake until I find it though. I don’t have anything to go back to, I pawned it all to get here.” “Me too!” Magda said giggling. I laughed against my better judgment and let the tension drain out of me, laying back in the grass. Magda followed me a moment later. “You really think it’s out there?” she asked. “I do. This stuff can’t all be a myth, after all, you exist.” “Yeah, I do. And you found me so you’re basically an expert on Cryptids.” “I didn’t find you, you fell on me,” I said testily. “Please, you enjoyed it. Besides, I couldn’t keep up the Thunder Bird routine any longer. It was so boring flying around like that.” Somewhere in the distance a creature roared. “What the hell was that?” Magda shouted. I sprang into action, running back into the bushes to find my gun. “That’s it!” I said excitedly, “Mokele-Mbembe, and it sounds way more legit than your roar every did.” “Oh please, I had you eating out of my hands.” I didn’t respond. I’d already found the gun and slung it over my shoulder, beginning the long, hard run in the direction of the roar. “Hey, I’m coming too!” Magda called from behind me. As I ran I heard her groan from behind me, she was transforming again. A few seconds later a pure white horse appeared beside me, its mane flowing majestically as it ran. Magda the horse looked over and winked one impossibly green eye at me. I grabbed onto her mane and swung myself onto her back without breaking stride. \--------- If you enjoyed that I've got tons more at r/TurningtoWords. Come check it out, I'd love to have you!


My breath was toxic, smelling of cheap takeout and large amounts of caffeine, unable to avoid smelling it as I let out a sigh, pushing aside the messy pile of books on my desk. “Another mystery.” I said, throwing my hands up with false excitement, long past the point of feigning pleasure over this job. Every time I got excited, it was that blasted shifter. I would find him passed out on the side of the road imitating some cryptid beast. It was horrible for my ego and even worse for my office, the peeling walls and cracked furniture a constant reminder of my failure. Although this one just felt different. I read over the letter I had received, investigating its details. ‘This creature is like a horse but has several strange abnormalities. For one, the hooves are a strange circular shape, not having any indents or other features that would define a horse’s print. It also groans, appearing in the forest at random intervals in the night, groaning as it trots along the outskirts of our farm. While this other information may not be accurate, my son says he spotted the beast, and my son is never usually one to lie. Based on his description, the horse had sharp teeth and golden eyelashes. It also appeared to have a black and blue pattern along its body, one not fitting anything I have ever heard of. Will you please investigate? Our family is ever so frightened.’ Signed, Dominus Reedy. I tried to downplay my excitement, but I could already feel my leg bouncing beneath the table, anxiously waiting to investigate. A job at night? When the drunkard shapeshifter should be drinking? There’s no way it’s him. I flipped over the letter, reading the address on the back before getting up to leave for the job, only to stop when I smelt my breath. “Oof, might need to brush my teeth.” Reaching for one of my drawers, I retrieved a bottle of rum, taking a shot of the mixture, swirling it in my mouth before gulping it down, not about to spit out an expensive rum. Snatching a jacket from a hook by the door before leaving. The trip to Reedy’s farm wasn’t a long one. The weather the only thing that made the venture unpleasant. Cool air smacking against the thick layers of my jacket, earning the odd shiver from my body. How I detested the winter months, I wouldn’t even be out here if I didn’t need the money. As I wandered the streets, I kept an eye out for the shifter, poking my head in passing taverns, praying to any gods that would listen that he would be there. As usual, the gods didn’t appear to be listening, until I pushed open the door of the Crusty Boot, seeing the shifter singing merrily at the bar earning me a sigh of relief. It actually wasn’t him; I would finally find a cryptid. My slow pace had changed to a sprint, rushing towards the farm. By the time I arrived I was hunched over, gagging as I felt the previous rum shot creeping up my throat, having to smack my chest until it settled again. “Made it.” I said between breaths, waiting to get the air back. When I recovered, I was straight onto the scene, crouching beside a set of hooves that matched the description given by the farmer. “Odd. The walking pattern of the creature is bizarre, the tracks come and go at random intervals as if the creature kept adjusting its pattern. Either the creature is bigger than I thought or something else is going on here.” I placed my foot on the first set of hooves, measuring the distance between them with my feet. “There is a possibility that some tracks have deteriorated with time. Despite the letter being recent, I can’t say for certain that this creature hasn’t been walking these tracks long before someone noticed.” I reached into the pocket of my jacket, pulling out a notepad and pencil, documenting that sight before me. “Now how do I go about finding this creature? If the tracks are inconsistent, then there is little point following them. Perhaps I should just wander the perimeter of the farm? See if the creature appears tonight?” An old-fashioned stake out. How long had it been since I could do such a thing? Striding over to the dense forest surrounding the farm, I crouched in a set of bushes, awaiting the beast. At first nothing happened and soon I could feel my eyelids dropping, falling into small micro-sleeps, struggling to stay awake. “Gwaaaa Gwaaah Grawl.” A groaning sound shook me out of my trance, getting myself into position. I watched as heavy hooves disturbed the grass, disrupting the soil as it wandered through the property. It was real. This was incredible. I could pay for three new offices with a discovery like this. “Halt creature. I wish to bring you in for evidence.” I shouted, causing the beast to look my way. It was majestic. The gold dripping from its lashes, the unique color of its body and the dangerous-looking teeth. It was my ticket out of the slums. That’s why it hurt so much when the horse shrank, returning to a more humanoid shape befitting of the shifter. His cheeks a bright pink and his eyes glazed over. “Tommy boy, you found me! You are such a good little detective.” The shifter chuckled. I felt my gut twist, a mix of embarrassment and anger swirling inside. “You again? Why the hell do you keep doing this, can’t you leave me to work? I’m a cryptid hunter, not a detective, you know that.” I gave the shifter a jab across his jaw, watching the drunkard fall onto his rear, grimacing at the contact. “Right, the hunter of things that don’t exist. Who else did you expect? A cryptid wouldn’t make themselves so obvious. Look, I’m sorry, but the bartender said if I was sick in his tavern again, he would ban me. I needed somewhere private where he wouldn’t see me.” The shifter stated, pulling themselves off the ground. “Then why the hell would you disguise yourself as a cryptid? Was that just to mock me?” “No, of course not. Come on, man, even I’m not that cruel. I had to make sure no one would see me. I didn’t expect anyone to find me out here. It’s not my fault that brat was sneaking off into town at night, I just assumed anyone that saw me from a distance would think I was a horse, but of course he got too close.” “Why not just be a horse, then? That would have saved us both some time?” Trying to reason with the shifter was painful. His thought process rather varied compared to mine. “Horses are weird. I just don’t like them. I didn’t feel comfortable walking around as one. Hooves are really painful to walk on as well. Why do you think I changed mine? Look, I’m sorry, hey are you ok?” I rubbed my eyes, trying to hide the tears. The frustration getting far too much for me. “I’m a failure just like my grandfather. Dad was right, I was a fool for believing those old tales of cryptids.” “Hey, no, come on. Aren’t I special enough? Shit, now I feel like a jerk.” The shifter awkwardly stared at me before shifting his face, returning it to that of the horse. He struggled to maintain his balance with the enormous head now replacing his own, having to move his feet to keep upright. As he moved, a hand reach to his eyelashes, plucking them free before returning to his previous state. “Here, eyelashes from whatever you want to call me.” I looked at the eyelashes in disgust; the shifter grabbing my hand, turning it upright and dropping the lashes into my palm. “Why, would I want these?” “So, you aren’t a failure. You found a cryptid, that’s your evidence. Consider that my apology for interrupting your work.” “I can’t accept this. I would be lying to everyone. If they found out, they would chase me out of town or worse.” I said, still clutching the eyelashes regardless, unable to release them from my grip. “They won’t find out. It’s just to give you some money until you can find a real one. You know I could probably help you find one.” The shifter said before patting his stomach. “Anyway, I can probably drink again so I should get going, if you want my help, you know where to find me.” I stared at the eyelashes before watching the shifter leave. He could help me? Perhaps I would take him up on that.       (If you enjoyed this feel free to check out my subreddit /r/Sadnesslaughs where I'll be posting more of my writing.)


I saw it sitting in a ditch by the village outskirts. Any boring person would look at the object lying in that gutter and think, “Wow, a barrel!” Then go about their merry way. So, as I was passing the ditch, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, a barrel!” Like a boring person. Well, I may be a person, but I am not boring. My mother always told me that—that is, the part about me being a person—whereas I’m the one that tells myself I am not boring. I am 100% correct about that, sometimes. At this moment I assuredly am not-boring, because I am a monster hunter. And I can say with certainty that lying in the ditch is the infamous Bane of Barrels. The Bane of Barrels is infamous for stealing barrels around the village, then sleeping in them. Legend has it that once it gets bored with a barrel, it leaves it and steals a different one. I’d probably do the same if I got bored with a barrel, but I’d at least have the decency to return the poor barrel to its owner. That monster is leaving barrels orphaned. “Knock knock,” I said, tapping the barrel with my staff. A deep growling came from the barrel. Birds and other small creatures fled the area. A cyclone started to form around the barrel. Dark clouds gathered overhead, spitting out lightning. Even the ground began to shake, and I lost my balance. Or was that just the wine I drank earlier? I have no clue. Either way, nature itself was terrified, as if I just opened up Pandora’s Box. Or in this case, Pandora’s Barrel. “*whooooooooo is thereeeeeee*?” Hissed the barrel. “Oh, umm...” I replied, seizing the perfect opportunity for a knock-knock joke. “You know what, never mind. The name is Phoenix—conjurer of flames, envoy of wrath, master of pyro, and the one who is going to exterminate you. Though, I also go by Jim.” “*Very well, Phoenix—conjurer of flames, envoy of wrath, master of pyro, and the one who is going to exterminate you though I also go by Jim,”* the barrel replied, “*You dare intrude on my* —wait, Jim? Hey, it’s me!” A small boy’s head popped out of the barrel. Upon seeing this, I cancelled the fireball spell I was charging up, sighing in relief. After a well-deserved sigh in relief, I started to charge another fireball spell. This time, it would be twice as powerful. Any onlooker would see the metaphorical fire gathering in my eyes. They would also see the literal fire gathering in my staff. “You know Torin,” I said, “You really need to stop scaring the villagers. Not that I’m complaining since they pay me, but sometimes, I’d like to hunt a real monster for once.” “Heh, well,” Torin replied from the barrel, “You know, my shapeshifting goes wild when I drink—” “That’s the problem, Torin,” I interrupted. “I’ve been trying to stop!” “Trying and stopping are different. Besides, aren’t you underage?” “I’m three hundred in shapeshifter years.” “Which is roughly thirteen in human years,” I said. “Hmph,” Torin replied. Pointing to my staff, he continued talking: “Oh, by the way, since I’m not a ravenous monster, aren’t you going to cancel your fireball? It’s getting pretty big, and I’d hate to be the poor target of that thing. It might hurt.” “That’s the point, Torin,” I said. “It’s supposed to hurt.” My staff was glowing red, and orbiting its tip was essentially a miniature version of the sun. This mini sun would burn the living daylights out of anyone. In this case, “anyone” specifically meant poor Torin, who now skittered back into his barrel. How deplorable, using an innocent barrel as a meat-shield. After launching the fireball at Torin, I looked around, and was vaguely reminded of the village barbeque party last week. “I must’ve overdone it,” I muttered. “I wonder how the barrel is—oh, Torin! Glad to see you there. Care to help me find the remains of that barrel you stole?” “Argh…ahhh…oof,” Torin croaked. “Hmm, I take that as a no?” I asked. “Tsk, I guess I sent that barrel over to Barrel Heaven. Wonder what we’ll have to tell its family.” “Hrrrr…oww,” Torin grunted. “Well Torin, maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so badly if alcohol wasn’t so flammable, of which, your body was full of. Don’t worry, I adjusted my fireball to only somewhat kill you instead of fully kill you. Fully killed people don’t absorb lessons very well.” “Uugh…aaah,” Torin wheezed. “Well then!” I shouted gleefully. “I bet the village chief will be delighted to know that the Bane of Barrels has been taken care of. I’ll head over to his place now and collect my commission. What about you, Torin? If you stir up more trouble, I’ll adjust my fireball settings from ‘somewhat-kill-you’ to ‘mostly-kill-you’. So, don’t stir anything up!” “Aaawwwwooouuuugh,” Torin groaned. While I was happily skipping back to the village, Torin become unconscious, and a nearby raven began to peck at his limp body.