Listen, it’s super hard to care about this case. For me, but for the Hawthornes, too.

The kid taking the videos — I say kid, but he’s like my age — is named Corey Lopez and he’s totally normal. Except for the whole survives falling off a 30 story building thing, etc.

He lives in a frat house with a bunch of other dudes, and when we got there on Monday evening they were all already throwing a party.

Neal sighed, looking up at the lawn, already strewn with red solo cups. “Well,” he said. “At least it’ll be easy to get in and talk to him.”

It strikes me writing now that under normal circumstances, I would have been terrified of walking into a frat party. And I don’t mean normal circumstances as in, in-my-life-before-becoming-a-cryptid-hunter, because to be honest I place frat party somewhere between sludge and lemniscate in the scale of things I don’t want to deal with hahaha. Yes I know I’m unlikely to be murdered at a frat party, but I have ✨anxiety✨

I must be exhausted and over stimulated or something, because I didn’t even blink. I guess after you deal with the literal mafia, frat boys just don’t hold the same intimidation factor. I’m like what up overdressed freshman girls, and drunk ass idiots, and fun himbos doing keg stands. Where’s the death-proof one?

On the bright side, at least wearing sunglasses inside at night wasn’t like… that weird lmfao. Because I’ll tell ya, having one demon eye is like a pretty obvious identifier when you’re on the news for being a cannibal.

I mean, it’s been like a month since then, and the news cycles moved on. Plus who really looks that closely at those stories anyways, you know? But still. Better safe than sorry when it comes to cannibalism lmfao.

Corey was easy to find. He was in the back yard surrounded by people.

“— how does it work?” a pretty girl was asking loudly while everyone listened. Corey, for his part, looked desperately uncomfortable with all the attention.

“Uh, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t really have any control over it.”

“You just… can’t die?” one of the dudes asked.

“I mean I’m sure I can,” Corey replied, looking over everyone’s head as if for an escape. “I just um… haven’t yet. Same as any of you.”

“Yeah but none of us have fallen 30 feet!”

And then, literally before my eyes, one of the guys pulled a box cutter out of his pocket and went to STAB HIM in the shoulder. Corey cursed loudly and more than one of the girls screamed, but the guy’s arm jerked sideways at the last second as if knocked aside. For a moment there was a shocked silence, and then the whole circle exploded with excitement.

“Did you fucking see that?” shouted the guy with the box cutter and poor Corey forced a smile as they crowded around him.

“I did fucking see that,” Neal said and sighed. “What do you think?”

“I think I’m tired,” Julian said.

“Yeah,” Neal agreed.

It took almost an hour for us to get Corey alone because he was literally swarmed by people everywhere he went. We had to follow him to the side yard where he was trying to pee to get him alone.

Neal leaned against the house. “Hi,” he said.

“Bro, what the fuck?” Corey replied, literally still peeing.

“Do not bro me,” Neal said. “I’m just here to ask you about your little fall.”

Corey rolled his eyes. “Oh. That.”

“Yep,” Julian agreed. “That.”

Casey zipped up his fly. “Look, if you’re want to try killing me or something —”

“Why would you say that?” Neal asked, smirking slightly, at which point Corey glanced up at Julian and realized he was blocked in.

“Neal,” Julian admonished. “We’re not here to try and kill you. We just want to ask you some questions.”

“Who are you people?” Corey asked.

“We know a thing or two about cheating death,” I said and Corey hesitated.

“Look,” he said. “Can you just tell me what you want? Things are getting weird enough without… whatever you people are. Have you looked out front?”

We must be so off our game. None of us had any idea what he was talking about, but when we looked towards the front yard, it became immediately clear.

There were like 30 people standing across the street with signs. And they weren’t college kids, either, they were like… middle-aged people. Some of them were kids. A few were old. I literally thought they were there to protest the party because I so thoroughly could not understand why else they’d be there.

“If you’re part of the fan club, I promise, I’m not your messiah or whatever,” Corey said, and that’s when I figured it out.

“They’re here for you?”

“I mean, I guess,” Corey said. He sounded so tired.

Neal and Julian exchanged one of their silent communication looks.

Julian said, “We’re not with them. We’re just here to talk.”

Corey glanced between them. “Are you… reporters or something? Do you even go here?” He made a face. “I don’t want to be on your podcast.”

“Look,” I said, and took off my sunglasses, which was a relief because it was dark and ya girl could barely see anything. “You’re not the only one who’s dodged death, alright?”

Corey stared at me. Listen, that demon eye… it’s really comes in handy every once in a while.

“Is that like… a contact or something,” he said.

“No, Corey,” I said. “It’s not.”

The four of us stood silent for a long time, and then Corey finally said, “is this like… some kind of secret society or something? Is this X-Men cuz I’m flattered and everything, but I’m just a normal —”

“Just come and have a chat with us,” Julian interrupted. “I promise we’re not going to recruit you into any kind of secret anything. We just want to understand what’s going on.”

Corey looked uncertain at first, but then one of his fan club across the street spotted him, and suddenly everyone was pointing and shouting.

“Fuck,” he said. “Do you have a car?” And when we answered in the affirmative, he said, “get me out of here.”

Corey didn’t have a fake, so we couldn’t get into any bars. Instead, we went to a McDonalds, and sat in one of the sticky plastic benches.

Corey put his hands over his face. “Okay,” he said, muffled. “You got me here. What do you want?”

Neal shrugged. “We’re not entirely sure,” he said. “We just need to know what you’re dealing with so we know whether you’re in danger or not.”

Corey scowled at him. “Isn’t the problem that I’m literally not in danger anymore?”

“Not necessarily,” Julian said. “We don’t know there’s a problem at all. Though I do think it’s safe to say there’s a paranormal aspect to this issue.”

Corey scowled at him. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Do we look like we have time for that?” Neal said, smirking and Corey shrugged.

“Yeah well I don’t know what people have time for anymore. I never thought people would have time to stand outside my window all night asking me to bless them or some shit, but here we are.”

“Has it been really disruptive?” Julian asked, sympathetic.

“I had a whole group corner me on campus last week,” he said. “I think some of them were sick or something.” He made a face. “I feel horrible. I don’t have what these people want.”

Neal reached for one of my fries and chewed it out the side of his mouth. “There’s not much we can do to get them off your back,” he said. “There’s no putting those worms back in the can unfortunately. But we can do our best to figure out what’s hanging around you.”

“What do you think it is?”

“There’s no way to know for certain,” Julian said. “We’ve known a number of things to get attached to people and act as protectors. Usually they’re completely harmless, but we just want to make sure it’s not something… unpleasant.”

“Like what?” Corey asked.

“Well,” Neal said, cheerfully reaching for more of my fries. “I’ve known Ukas to protect their prey from outside danger so that they can eat them when they’re ripe.”

Corey choked on his milkshake. “Ripe?”

“Yeah I’m not sure what constitutes a ripe human, you’d have to ask an Uka,” Neal replied.

“We doubt very much that’s what you’re dealing with,” Julian said, with a pointed frown at Neal who was eating more of my damn French fries. Like if you wanted French fries you should have gotten your own.

The boys asked Corey a whole bunch of questions, and to be honest, I didn’t really follow them, because for the most part, he didn’t have any helpful answers.

In the end we gave up, and Julian told him to stay safe and we’d do some more poking around.

“That’s it?” Corey asked. “You’re not gonna… explain who you are or why you’re helping me?”

“To be honest, we’ve got a lot on our plate right now,” Neal replied. “So yeah, no, not really.”

“Didn’t you escape death or something?” Corey asked, somewhat desperate. I felt for him a little. I know how hard it is to feel like your whole life is falling to pieces, and you’re grasping for answers but the only people who seem to have any idea what is happing to you are being weirdly and intentionally vague.

“We’ve escaped death loads of times,” Neal said. “But not like you. Come on, we’ll get you home.”

Corey scowled. “No it’s cool I’ll stay here,” he said. “I’m not quite ready to see my fucking fan club.”

I looked up at Neal. Gave him my biggest sad eyes.

Neal groaned. “Why don’t you come with us,” he said. “We’ll get you a room at the hotel we’re staying at. You can take a break there.”

“No,” Corey sighed. “I don’t have the money for that.”

“It’s on us,” Julian said, and I added, “our money is all fraud, so literally, it’s no trouble at all!”

He hesitated. “You sure?”

Neal clapped him on the shoulder. “Come on, kid. Come watch some pay per view.”

I’m writing this right now to give poor Corey a sec to settle in and then I’m going to go knock on his door. Julian asked me to, but I’d do it anyways tbh. Poor guy seems like he’s been through it. I’ll probably tell him The Story and put on a movie or something.

I can’t believe I’m here, not with Cara. On the other hand, every time I think about all of that I start to get nauseous, so maybe Corey the frat boy is a good alternative to all the feeling bad I’d have scheduled otherwise.

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