Okay so I was wrong. All that we go to funerals stuff? Dumb. When things are hard just skip them.
I’m writing this on Thursday evening, which is the night of the pyre part of White Pyre, so by the time you read this whole nightmare will be over.
I don’t know how many hunters I thought there were, but I didn’t know there would be so many.
We’re at the top of this mountain in Idaho, at a big ass lookout, which is to say, a big ass parking lot which happens to overlook the valleys and up towards the real peaks.
I’m so exhausted.
We pulled up into the parking lot early this evening. It was crowded with cars, and everyone was outside, sitting in camping chairs around fire barrels. Next to us a group of guys were barbecuing sausages on a camp stove in the bed of their pickup. They all raised beers when they saw us.
“This is a tailgate,” I realized.
“A funerary tailgate,” Neal corrected. “And it’s entirely your fault we’re here.” Then he offered me his flask. “Drink up kiddo, it’s gonna be a whole ordeal out there.”
He wasn’t wrong.
SO many people. And like I’ve always had a nice helping of anxiety disorder, but lately it has been absolutely OUT of control. So put me in a parking lot full of intimidating strangers and then give all of them guns and an uncomfortable level of curiosity about me and I’m ready to climb out of my skin and clatter into the mountains on just my bones.
Plus, and listen I’m not proud of this, but I don’t have anything to fucking wear!!!!! I’ve literally been wearing old t-shirts of the boys and alternating leggings for like weeks, but that’s not what I want to be wearing when I meet all these bad ass monster hunters. Like how did my wardrobe become five year old walmart mega packs of black t-shirts and the stretchiest pants I can find? I have one sports bra. It smells. I look like a 13 year old with badly grown out roots and a fucked up eye.
Meanwhile, I’m being introduced to these people… okay, here’s an example:
We get out of the car and immediately are greeted by a big, burly, blond man with biceps the size of hams, who gives the Hawthorne’s hugs like he’s the damn godfather, like cupping their cheeks and smoothing back their hair and beaming like he’s greeting his first born son. And Julian says to me,
“Shiloh, this is Lodge Kelliher. I’d have been eaten on my very first hunt if it weren’t for Lodge.”
And then Lodge laughs, and replies, “I forgot that happened!” And everyone laughs.
It’s just an emotionally taxing situation to find yourself in, okay? Overwhelming on all sides. And then it becomes a full on memorial for like a bunch of people. So I’m hiding in the car.
The pyre was in the middle of the parking lot, and they built it so that you could walk into the middle before it was lit.
The ceremony itself started as soon as it got properly dark. It was a clear evening, and chilly at that altitude, so I was super ready for the fire, but then it got suddenly all somber. Everyone gathered around the pyre.
“Alright who’s starting?” Silas Walther called. Silas is the older of the Walther brothers. Remember the Walthers? Those guys who killed all the blight rats at the Crossroads before we could get there?
Well I was expecting mustache twirling villains the way the boys talk about them but they were literally just like… thirty somethings in flannel. They were super friendly to me, which is more than I could say for some of these monster hunting weirdos. Idk why they’re in charge, but everyone seemed pretty much on board with it. Personally, it’s hard to forget the carnage they left at that rift house.
Whatever the reason, Silas Walther was at least unofficially in charge, so when he asked who was going to start, that meant the ceremony was starting.
There was a moment of quiet before Lodge Kelliher, and his sister, Jessamine, ducked into the center of the pyre and put a cedar box on the logs there.
When I asked what was in the box, Julian whispered, “ashes.”
The sister, Jessamine, raised her beer. “Love you dad,” she said.
Everyone raised their beers and there was a roar of support from the assembled hunters.
“Do you want to do it or should I?” Julian asked Neal in an undertone as another hunter ducked into the pyre.
“I got it,” Neal replied, casual, but he was drinking straight from a fifth of whiskey, so.
There were a lot of boxes of ashes to put in the pyre. Turns out they weren’t lying to me when they said monster hunting drastically lowers your life expectancy.
When it was Neal’s turn it might have been in my head but it seemed like there was an extra loud cheer for Nolan Hawthorne.
Then they lit the pyre. I’ve never seen a fire so big before. I’ve also never seen that many grown ass adults that shit-faced before. They’re like falling over, howling at the moon drunk out there.
Anyways, it’s like 10:30 right now and I’m hiding in the car because Neal is with Jasper and Julian is with Beverly and they’re all drunk and like… together. Not like as couples, just like… as family. And then there’s me.
Side note: Julian and Beverly’s babies would have the most beautiful hair in the world.
Oh shit Julian’s coming over. UGH leave me alone!!!! If someone SEES me in here it’s WORSE!
A full 24 hours later, in fact.
I had another change of heart, coming to White Pyre was an excellent idea.
And by excellent idea, yes I do mean I met a dude. You can always count on me to be the horniest bitch.
So last night Julian came to tempt me out of the car with beer, which worked, but only because I didn’t want everyone to think I was pouting, and when I got back to the little campfire where Neal was, there were strangers there. Not all strangers, obviously, I know Jasper, Louis, Valerie and Beverly, but then there was also these two grizzled old hunter dudes and ROOK.
R O O K.
Listen, I know I’m pretty much attracted to everyone on earth okay, I’m in love with everyone all the time. But have you ever seen someone so attractive you wanted to throw up on their shoes? Like in terms of sheer prettiness Neal unfortunately still wins he’s an insufferable pretty boy.
Rook has a whole other thing going on. I want to break his nose. I want to leap off the mountain.
If you’re asking, Now Shiloh, are you using the first cute guy your age to take the edge off being a lonely, mentally ill, untethered cretin with no discernible future? First of all how dare you. Second of all, yeah, obviously.
He was sitting between the old dudes, the grizzled guys, who’s names turned out to be Knock and Daryl. According to Julian they’re some of the best hunters in the business. Rook’s sort of their apprentice, apparently.
When they introduced Rook he did not smile or acknowledge me in any way, and that’s when I realized I would die for him. Literally, ruin my life.
We didn’t talk at all that night, I just sat across the fire from him trying not to get caught staring.
Now, to paint you a better word picture of the kind of night we’re talking about, I should tell you that on the way to rejoin the party, Julian warned me to be careful. “I trust maybe 30% of these people,” he said. “They’re a rough bunch. Don’t go anywhere on your own, alright?”
So I was pretty much doomed to sitting at the fire, watching Neal and Jasper flirt and feeling sorry for myself all night.
And all of a sudden there was Rook.
“So,” he said. “How’d you end up here?”
He wasn’t looking at me, he was sitting in the camp chair beside me, staring at the fire as if he’d been there the whole time. He had the darkest circles under his eyes, he looked like he was on death’s door. Really, the sickliest looking boy I’ve ever seen. I’m obsessed with him.
“The Hawthornes kidnapped me,” I said.
He didn’t laugh.
“How’d you get here?” I asked.
“Rot snakes ate my family,” he said.
No idea what a rot snake is, and I didn’t know what to say. I had the distinct impression that I was in over my head.
“Rumor has it you died,” he said.
“Just once,” I replied.
That time he did laugh. We clinked beers.
Someone hooked a sound system to one of the cars and they were fucking BLASTING the worst get-the-white-people-lit, dad jams you can imagine. It was so lame. Rook and I watched in absolute horror as these fucking hicks got wild to Sweet Caroline. But then someone put on Come On Eileen and by that point I’d absconded with the rest of Neal’s whiskey.
The fire was twice my height. We danced all night. Tbh, I was pretty shit faced and my memories get pretty foggy. I remember at one point we got in trouble because I pushed Rook while we were dancing and he fell onto someone’s camp table and fucked up a game of poker, and I suspect that if Louie hadn’t happened to see us and intervened, we might have had our asses kicked hahahaha.
As it was, I woke up the next morning with Rook, out in the grass, fully dressed, with a leather hat that I have no memory of obtaining, and the worst breath of my life.
“I’m still drunk,” Rook said instead of good morning.
“Me too,” I replied.
We shared a cigarette, which isn’t usually my thing, but my breath wasn’t getting any worse and also — and I can’t stress this enough — I’m obsessed with him.
Julian and Beverly were asleep on the hood of the car, cuddled up under blankets. Jasper and Neal were passed out in the back seat.
We were out of there within the hour. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to Rook, but we had a long drive back to the Paretti house.
Neal was still hung over when we reached the house a full twelve hours later.
“Are you gonna be able to do this?” Julian asked, watching doubtfully as Neal poured the contents of his water bottle onto his face.
“What?” he said, shaking the water out of his hair. “Of course.”
Then he stalked up the stairs.
The front door opened on it’s own, but Neal didn’t hesitate to go in.
“Shit,” Julian said. “Shiloh, stay here.”
Yeah right. But I did let Julian do all the bell ringing, I was pretty hung over.
Instead, I watched Neal go stand in the middle of the front room. “Alright you fucks,” he said and cracked his neck. “Let’s dance.”
And then… nothing happened. Julian rang bells. Neal stood there, breathing deeply with his eyes closed until Julian had gone through every room of the house.
“We good?” Julian asked. Neal nodded.
We walked out the front door and the house didn’t protest. Once we were in the lawn Neal let out a long, slow breath and I swear I saw fog leak out between his teeth , despite the warm night.
When he looked up he was smiling.
“Shall we?” he said. “I want Thai food.”
And that was that. We called Maria from the car, told her she could go home whenever she wanted.