the smuggler’s bible

Hiro

In some ways, ghoulies are a lot like normal people. When compared using other, arguably more important and generally applicable metrics, one begins to notice considerable differences. Still, nobody likes a rigged game.

Hiro leans against the tombstone, counting the shapes swirling in the darkness outside his chalk circle.

“I know it sucks. You played it straight, but now you’re in a position where all you can do is hope I fuck up somehow.”

The ghoulies howl and moan, spitting bile.

“Hey, I didn’t make the rules,” Hiro says. “But whoever did really, really had it out for you guys.”

Hiro

Hiro wedges the prybar in tight, then leans on the other end until the floorboard pops free. He has time—just barely—to see a pale hand shuddering in the sudden light before the fingers curl like a spider’s legs and the creature scurries away.

“Goddamn, it’s fast.”

“And we only saw the one.” Hiro pulls a claw hammer out of his bag. The head is plated in tarnished silver. “This is going to get tricky,” he says. “It’s like dealing with a stage magician. Things seem obvious, but the hand you aren’t watching is probably fucking with the cards.”

Hiro

The red bulbs are shattered, and green light flickers across the rooftop every few seconds. Hiro steps carefully, sword ready.

The tree is at the center, surrounded by teetering, haphazard mounds of presents, decorations, food—and bodies.

“Fuck,” Hiro says. “I thought you were just spoilsports.”

A voice hisses from the shadows. “Without belief, an idea is feeble. To kill the season, kill the people.”

“And what’s with the light show? Something to rhyme about?”

“No. That’s so you wouldn’t see me.” The voice is close. Hiro spins, slashing at the twisted smile curling atop eight feet of green fur.

Hiro

“If I was pressed, I’d wager this is a case of semiotic ideation. The subconscious justification of a fear through the corporeal manifestation of the imagined source of that fear.”

The client begins to speak but stops suddenly. Above them, soft scraping noises and a low warbling.

Hiro lunges into a sprint, whipping his katana clear of its sheath. He crashes through a door to find snow gusting through a shattered window frame. A dark shape circles in the clouds.

“Jesus, can turkeys fly like that?”

“I don’t know,” the client says, “but I’ve always sort of worried about it.”