Mothman: Harbinger of Doom
A Love Story
The headlights cut a swath through the fog as the Camaro rounded the corner.
All I wanted was a little peace and quiet. Is that too much to ask? Can’t a winged-guy get a little R&R? The car slowed to a stop in the middle of the road. The driver, a smug twenty-something with more looks than brains, walked around and coaxed his girl out of the car. She shivered in the cooling night, her arms drawing tight around her, the blond ponytail attached to her head swaying. Smugly handed her his letter jacket and took her hand.
“I swear to God this is where they saw it. Right here. It flew down, plucked them up, dropped them down, then flew away.”
Ponytail looked around with a not-impressed-in-any-way-face. “I don’t see anything.”
“Well, that must mean nothing bad is going to happen. He only comes out before that, like a…”
I could almost see his mind go blank.
“Omen?” Ponytail offered.
“Yeah. An omen. The Mothman. Harbinger of doom!” Smugly said it like you would announce a villain on a weekly superhero serial.
This guy, for crying out loud.
Somehow, this act of idiocy had charmed Ponytail. I decided to make a break for it while they made out. I really did have to cross the road. Chickens, Mothmen, we all have our reasons. I was already late for dinner and Ma would never let me hear the end of it. I’m sure my brother and sister were on time and that would make it worse.
I crept along, trying not to disturb the leaves and twigs in the thick woods. Thick woods. I chuckled to myself and kept on my way to the road. Five steps in I snapped the first branch beneath my foot. Ah hell.
Ponytail pushed Smugly away. “Did you hear that?”
“I didn’t hear anything.” He moved in for another kiss just as I took another step and broke a second twig.
It was like amateur hour. But in my defense, I am a mothman. We’re not really known for grace and agility.
“That! Did you hear that?”
He’d heard it all right. His head swiveled in my direction, fear glazing his eyes. “Yeah. C’mon. Let’s go.”
She stepped away. “Let’s go? Really? I thought that’s why we came out here. To see the Mothman. “
“It was. I mean, but I didn’t think we’d see it.” He scurried around to his side of the car. “C’mon, Betty. Get in.”
She crossed her arms and stomped her foot. “No. I came out here to investigate and I’m going to investigate.”
Luck finally landed on my side when a semi rounded the corner and honked their horn. Betty jumped in the car and Smugly sped off to avoid getting hit. I waited for them both to pass and went on to Ma’s place.
After dinner, drinks were poured and conversation began. My brother bragged about his latest scare and how he’d crashed two cars and even been sighted. “You shoulda seen the write up in the paper over that one, I tell ya. It was so sweet. Almost half a page.”
“I don’t understand you at all, Robbie,” my sister, Lucie chimed in, “why do you let people see you? All it does is scare them and make it harder for the rest of us.”
“Luce, I told you. It’s our legacy. We are the terrifying Mothmen. This is our immortality.”
She rolled her eyes and slammed down her vodka. “Easy for you to say. You’re not a girl who has man in her name.”
I chuckled as Ma yelled at them to knock it off.
Robbie turned his venom on me. “Oh, what are you laughing at, Larry?”
“Nothing. But are you two ever going to stop acting like teenagers? Jesus. You gotta stop showing off. Getting back here once a year for this weekend is hard enough. It’s damned near impossible when people are looking for us all the time. And plus, you’ve given us a horrible reputation.”
Robbie stood, shoulders squared and ready to fight. What a hothead. “Like I knew that bridge would collapse or that what’s-his-name had a heart condition and would die so soon?”
“That’s just it, you don’t think. Bad stuff happens every day, but when you let us be seen, we get the blame.”
He grinned and sat down. “I know. Immortality, bro.”
Huffing, I got up and refilled my glass.
Ma spoke up. “I don’t understand why we can just go back to the city? I mean why West Virginia? If we moved back to Jersey at least there’d be others to blame.”
Dad woke up with a snort from his recliner. “Martin? The Devil? No. I don’t want to be associated with that little bastard. He leaves his little footprints in the snow and all hell breaks loose. Chump.” He promptly fell back to sleep.
It’s like a loony bin here.
I walked to the door.
“Where you going?” Lucie was all big eyes with the hope I’d ask her to come with me. She wanted adventure. This life was hard on her. No one knew we even really existed, just speculation, but even in that, no one thought any of us could be girls. I smiled.
“A bit of fresh air. I’ll be back soon, little sis. Ask Robbie about the real reason he shows himself.”
My brother frowned, his eyes turning red. “Shut up, Larry.”
Lucie looked from one of us to the other. “What’s the reason?”
I poured a tall glass of vodka for the road. “He wants them to write an episode of Supernatural about us.”
“Shut up! Weren’t you going for a walk?”
My sister and Ma let loose shrieks of laughter.
I heard him as I left the house. “I don’t understand it. The fandom has made the leap, why can’t the writers?”
I chuckled as I walked through the woods. I didn’t have to come back every year, I supposed. I could go on my way and never look at this place again. We were the only Mothman family that had stayed together. Of course, it meant we were also the lone survivors. We lived exceptionally long lives but when we were gone, it would be over. Robbie was right about that. It was only our legend that would carry on.
I sat down on a bent-over branch and sipped my drink. So lost in my thoughts, I didn’t register the flashlight cutting through the trees until it was too late. The beam of light froze on my face. It quivered, fell away from my eyes, and I heard fast footfalls running away.
I tossed back my drink and set down my glass. Ma would be pissed if I broke one of her favorites. I covered the distance between me and the explorer in no time. A blond ponytail swished back and forth in front of me.
She froze. “How do you know my name?” Her chest rose and fell, but I had to give her credit. I smelled very little fear from her, much more excitement.
I rolled my eyes and got my best Dracula voice on. “I’m Mothman. Harbinger of doom!”
Two beats of silence passed before she turned, laughing.
“That’s what Brad called you. So you do exist. You were watching us earlier?”
“Of course his name is Brad,” I muttered. “Why are you laughing? I’m terrifying.”
She looked me over with her flashlight. “You were sitting on a log, drinking. And I thought…”
“I’d be bigger? I know. That’s my brother.”
She walked right up to me and held out her hand. “Betty.”
“Larry.” I met her with a firm shake. “Why aren’t you scared?”
“What an unfortunate name for a terrifying beast.”
“I know.” I slumped back against a tree. “That and the fact that I’m five-five doesn’t help. But that doesn’t explain your non-fear.”
She sat next to me, notes of her perfume and light sweat filled my nose. “I don’t know. If you were watching us earlier, that’s pervy by the way, and now here you are not hurting me. I guess I figure you had chances and didn’t take ‘em.”
“Huh.” I weighed her words. That was it, wasn’t it? What scared people. My brother swooped at their cars and something his size, the threat is what meant something. With me, there was nothing really. I couldn’t fly because of my short wing span and honestly, who has the energy for scaring?
“Quite the conversationalist, Larry.”
“I’m not around people much. Just my family. And lord, it’s like an insane asylum.”
“I know what you mean. My house is the same way.”
I smiled at her. “I doubt that. But be honest, aren’t you freaked out to be here with me?”
She looked me over again. “Nope. I hate to tell you, but you’re not very scary, Larry.” She giggled. “I mean, even your name…the moth? The least scary of winged-bugs.”
“We could’ve been the butterfly men. That would’ve been worse. Like being Mr. Pink on the heist crew.”
“Reservoir Dogs? Forget about it.”
And then we sat there, Betty and I, just looking at the clouds roll past the moon. When the sky started to lighten, she stood to leave. “Can I come back tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.”
“I won’t tell a soul, and if I do, I’ll make it gruesome. Wouldn’t want to damage your reputation.”
I smiled and shook her hand. She made her way off through the woods and I back to Ma’s house.
I pushed my sister out of the way of the mirror.
“Larry, quit it!”
“Lucie, you’ve been in here for an hour. We all have to go to this damn thing and I don’t want to look worse than I do.”
She huffed and left the room. This was the one event of this yearly weekend gathering I hated most of all, The Monster’s Ball. All the night time creeps and crawlies venture to a spot and meet up. Like a deranged class reunion, except no one was ever friends to begin with. There’d be food and stilted conversation and then I’d head back to Ma’s for a drink. Same every year. But it made my dad happy and so, here I was.
I adjusted my tie and stepped into the hall. “Ready to go.”
Ma, Pa, Lucie, Robbie, and I headed off to the Local 549. Robbie wanted to pass close to the road, in case there was a chance to freak someone out. Lucie stayed tucked behind me and Ma and Pa held hands to lead the way. I took sips from my flask, hoping the night would pass quickly.
By the time we saw the lights from the Local, I was tipsy and Lucie wasn’t far behind. Loud music poured from the door.
“Ah, damnit. The little bastard is here. Happy now, Larry?” Pa asked me as he spotted The Jersey Devil at the door.
“How is that my fault?”
We made our way inside to the land of freaks and found a table near the wall. After food and chat and more beverages, I took a good look around. “This will probably be the last year I come back.” My family just laughed. They’d heard this speech before but this time I meant it. My brother’s eyes grew big as I felt someone at my back.
I turned to find a blonde ponytail bouncing, conveniently attached to Betty’s head.
“What are you doing here? I mean, hi. I mean, this is my family. Family, Betty.”
Robbie stood and tried to be suave. Lucie glared. Pa drank and Ma gave her a once over.
“Nice to meet you. Care to dance?”
I stood and followed Betty to the floor. “What the hell are you doing here? This is a Monster’s Ball.”
“And you’re the Harbinger of Doom, yeah, yeah, I know.”
I grinned like an idiot. “I am terrifying.”
She laughed. “Clearly. I’m all aquiver.”
We swayed to the music, moving closer and closer together. “Seriously, Betty, why are you here?”
“I don’t want to tell you. People don’t like me—“
“When you’re angry?”
“The Hulk isn’t real.”
I chuckled. “Fair enough. What could be so bad?”
She took a breath. “Can we go outside?”
I nodded because all I could think about was kissing this girl. But no cheerleader is ever going to let a Mothman kiss her. I was pretty sure that was Robbie’s problem. He’d never get to get the girl. Betty took my hand and we stepped outside the door.
She whirled on me and planted a big, fat kiss right on my lips. I wrapped my pitiful wings around her, holding her close. It felt like hours, but in reality, only a couple of minutes passed before I broke away. “Tell me anything. I’ve never felt a kiss like that.”
“Me either. Wow, Larry. You should change your name to Mothman….yeah, I can’t think of anything clever. Your kiss scrambled my brain.”
I laughed and kissed her again. She pushed me back after several more minutes.
“I don’t know how to go about this. I guess insta-love is real for our kind.”
“They say it is but I’ve never felt it until now. Which makes since if it’s instant. And holy crap, I should stop talking.”
“Wait,” I cut her off, “Our kind?”
She looked down at her beat-up Doc Martins. “Yeah. I’m not from here. I’m from the South.”
I stepped back. “How far south?”
She raised an eyebrow. “The Swamps? I’m a rougarou.”
“What? Insta-love and it’s with a rougarou. Great. My mom is going to kill me.”
“Very romantic, Larry.” Tears pooled in her eyes.
I pulled her inside my wings. “You’re the cutest rougarou I’ve ever seen. And I can understand you, so that’s a plus.”
“I know, most of them are so Coon-ass you can’t even hold a conversation. Why do you think I came here this year? And then I met you last night and I knew.”
“Shall we go tell the parents?”
She kissed me again. “Sure. I mean, if you think they’ll accept me.”
I laughed as we walked inside. “They won’t. But at least you’re not a Jersey Devil.”