Let the records show that on November 4th 2k18 the Hawthorne brothers pulled up in front of my apartment in their dumb rumbley car. Julian knocked on my door. My mom answered.
Witness that scene:
Julian Hawthorne, looking about 15 feet tall on our doorstep: Hello Ms. Tamblyn. Is Shiloh here?
My Mother, exhausted, in scrubs, on her way out the door: Who are you exactly?
Me, frozen in the hallway like a rabbit: ……..
Julian, scuffing his humongous boot on our doormat: I’m a… friend from school
My mother: you go to Black Lake High School?
Julian, towering above us and telling comically obvious lies: yep
Julian, looking like a grown ass man: I’m a high schooler
Julian, smiling painfully: We just moved here?
Honestly I thought she was going to call the cops but instead she invited him in. And then all fifteen feet of Julian Hawthorne was standing in our apartment.
It would have been strange to have any dude in our apartment. My mom hasn’t brought anyone to our house like… ever. She’s dated here and there, but I’ve never met anyone. And I have had exactly one boyfriend, and that was mostly an accident and we were together in a strictly away from my house and bedroom and mother sense.
And then there’s Julian Hawthorne, standing on our carpet, next to a lampshade I covered in glitter when I was like 4. So surreal.
He introduced himself to my mom super casually, and then said, “I was hoping I could take you to lunch, Shiloh.”
He was asking me on a date. Like, not really, obviously. But he was telling my mother he wanted to take me on a date. And I, to my horror, b l u s h e d. It was so humiliating.
“That’s very kind of you,” my mother said before I could answer. “Can I have a quick word with you in my room Shiloh?”
I nodded mutely and followed her back to her bedroom, where she asked me if everything was okay, whether I wanted to go out with him, and when I said, emphatically, YES she smiled. She cupped my cheeks in her hands. She said, “I’m glad to see you making new friends. Maybe brush your teeth.”
So I went out for my fake date with Julian Hawthorne, monster hunter.
Neal was waiting in the car. He had rings of bruising around each eye and he must have popped blood vessels in his eyeballs as well because the whites were bright bloody red.
“What the fuck happened to you?” I asked.
He gave me a dry look. “Pair of local girls,” he said and for a moment I thought he meant it was a weird sex thing but then he continued, “tried a damn summoning and just about got the whole town killed.”
“Well, how were we supposed to know it would work?” I grumbled clambering into the backseat of their dumb car.
“That’s why we’re here, actually,” Julian said, closing the door behind me and sliding into the passenger. “We decided it was too dangerous not tell you what we can.”
He shut his the passenger door and Neal gunned the engine and we lurched forward into the street.
He drove like a maniac and there were no seat belts in the back seat. When I asked, Neal just smirked in the rear view and said, “you won’t need one.”
Maybe he was right on account of the car being full of douche bags. Instead of air bags? Get it?
“Usually when we do this,” Julian said, utterly at ease with Neal’s driving, “we start with the whole monsters are real, magic exists, we’re here to protect people from paranormal activity and supernatural creatures. But by now you pretty much understand that, so we thought we’d let you just ask the questions you’d like answers to.”
I should have had a thousand questions, but there was only one: “Where is Madelyn?”
The Hawthornes exchanged a glance. “We don’t know,” Julian finally said.
“You don’t know,” I repeated. The rage was coming there was no stopping it. “Do you have any… educated guesses?”
“A few,” Julian said.
Neal drove fast and smooth.
“We don’t need to tell you that Black Lake Washington is a strange town,” Julian said.
I tried to catch Neal’s eye in the rearview but he was intent on the road. “No,” I agreed.
“No,” Julian said. “There’s something in your woods. You know that.”
I do know that. I’ve known that since the morning I woke up out there under the arch thicket.
“We aren’t sure what it is. It’s never hurt anyone — besides frightening a few young women every fall. Madelyn is the first unsolved disappearance in town. So whatever is out there might have something to do with her disappearance — but we sort of doubt it.”
“Okay,” I said. “You got a better guess?”
Julian scrubbed his forehead with his hand. “You know there used to be a coven here, I’m assuming. There must be stories.”
I stared at him. “You mean the Black Lake Witches?”
“That’s right,” Julian said. “They were one of the oldest European covens in the Americas. They came here with Vikings, and stayed. They cultivated magic on this land for hundreds of years before they died out in the 40s.”
My brain was grinding ineffectively trying to parse out this information. Like gears made out of meat. Meat gears. My brain was made of meat gears.
“Witches cultivate magic the way farmers cultivate land. So when the Black Lake Coven died out, they left the magic here to go fallow and turn wild. Wild magic like that can act out while it settles sometimes. It also attracts paranormal entities and creatures.” Julian sighed. “So Madelyn may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and been victim to some random magical accident.”
“No,” I said. “No, that’s not it.”
“Why do you say that?” Neal asked.
“Because,” I said, slightly desperate. “There was something wrong. She thought she was psychic. She was… I don’t know, she was into something.”
“Yeah,” Julian said heavily. “It’s certainly beginning to look that way. But we’ve searched for an active coven of witches and there’s no sign of one. Not a successful one, anyways.
The meat gears ground to a halt. “Wait,” I said. “An active coven?”
“Yeah,” Julian said. “A coven of practicing witches.”
This news pissed me off more than I ever would have expected it to. “You’re telling me that there are witches hiding out using magic. On this planet. Like fucking Harry Potter.”
Julian smiled. “Sort of,” he admitted.
I was so pissed hahaha. I hope at least someone reading this gets it — like aren’t you sort of pissed that magic exists and you don’t have any? I can’t be alone in this.
“And you think they… what, whisked Madelyn away?” I asked.
“It was a possibility,” Julian said. “Sometimes, if a genuine psychic emerges a local coven might offer that psychic a place in their circle. But there’s no active coven in Black Lake. So we don’t think that’s a possibility anymore.”
We were winding through neighborhoods up towards the logging roads.
“The third possibility,” Julian continued heavily, “is that Madelyn fell through a rift site.”
“A what?” I said.
“A rift site,” Julian repeated. “A tear between our universe and other universes.”
Neal caught my eye in the rearview again. He smirked at me.
“You’re batshit insane,” I said.
Julian said, “Yeah, we get that a lot. But I promise you there are universes parallel to ours, and sometimes the veil between those universes tears and when that happens sometimes things fall through.”
“Batshit,” I said. “Guano. Not possible.”
“We’re cryptid hunters,” Neal said. “You believe that, right?”
To my great annoyance, I do.
“Where do you think the cryptids come from?” Neal said. “Don’t you think we’d have noticed by now if they were evolving here?”
I had no logical response. I just stared at them.
“So you think Madelyn is in another world?”
“No,” Julian said. “We haven’t found a rift site. There are some symptoms — increased paranormal activity, elevated numbers of cryptids. But that might be explained by the magic here going wild. There’s no conclusive evidence to say she rifted.”
“…so,” I said. “What other options are there?”
Julian said the rest in a careful tone that suggested he knew exactly how much he was about to piss me off: “she might have run away.”
I exploded a little. I probably said something offensive. I probably said a bunch of offensive things to be honest. But Julian just waited patiently.
“She might have just gotten involved in something dangerous and when things got dicey, she ran away,” he said, and when that didn’t comfort me, he added, “our next step is to discover the creature that is living in these woods. If we can find it than what happened might become obvious.”
I hesitated, breathing hard, still pissed off.
“Okay,” I said. “What can I do?”
Neal scoffed and made another told you so gesture at Julian, who scowled at him.
“Nothing,” Julian said. “The only reason we’re telling you anything at all is because you and your friend have proved that leaving you to your own devices is dangerous. Neal thinks we shouldn’t have told you anything, but I thought you should know what we know. We’re trusting you. We’ll keep you updated on what we’re finding, if you and the sheriff’s girl promise to keep your heads down and keep safe. Can you promise that?”
I met Neal’s eyes in the rear view.
“I promise,” I lied.
Neal exhaled a scoff and shook his head, holding my eyes in the mirror and I had the distinct impression that we understood each other perfectly.
When they dropped me back off at home I called Tilly and she drove right to my house. I told her everything they told me as best I could.
“Okay,” she said. “What do we do now?”
But I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what to do in the face of fucking magic and monsters and other worlds. What in the fuck was Madelyn into?????