Grave Voices Part 1: Monsters

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Grave Voices

By Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin

New Pittsburgh, 1898

Part One: Monsters

"The streets of New Pittsburgh aren't safe for decent people anymore!" The speaker shouted as he strode back and forth the steps to the courthouse. He had built up a sweat that made his shirt cling to his muscled body. A crowd gathered, muttering their agreement as he spoke. The hand-lettered sign leaning against the bottom step proclaimed 'Edmund Luss, Monster Hunter'. Nearby, a reporter was busy scribbling notes on a tablet as a photographer's flash powder made the crowd blink when he took a photo.

"It's not bad enough that the pickpockets and petty thieves lurk down the alleys, preying on hard-working men and women!" the man added, and the crowd nodded. "Not bad enough that feral dogs snatch meat from butchers' carts and fresh fish from the fishmonger. But now, there's a new horror—the police are too afraid to admit it's lurking out there—and ladies and gentlemen, you know I'm telling the truth because you've heard it from your friends and neighbors. There are monsters, monsters I say, roaming the dark alleys of New Pittsburgh and I am here to drive them back to the fires of Hell where they belong!"

A cry went up from the crowd, cheering and whistling. The speaker stood triumphantly with his hands on his hips, letting the crowd go wild.

"Can you do it? Can you send the monsters away for good?" a man in the front of the crowd shouted.

"How do we know you've actually fought real monsters?" a skeptic asked.

The speaker nodded as if he had anticipated the questions. "To the first question—yes! I can do it. I can rid New Pittsburgh of the monster scourge. And to the second question—very wise, very prudent of you, sir, to be so careful—again I say yes! I have fought real, actual monsters. Fought them with my bare hands and with weapons too terrible to mention, in fights I cannot describe with ladies present! But I can show you—the monsters gave me these!" And with that, he stepped closer to the crowd and held out both arms to show long, jagged scars that might have been made by the claws of a beast.

"That's how close I got to the monsters! That's how I know that I can defeat those terrifying beasts! And ladies and gentlemen, I came away with the best of the deal by far! Because while I will bear the scars of those monsters until my dying day, I dealt out unwavering justice to those infernal, abominable creatures. Behold!" And with a flourish, he held up a black, shaggy pelt matted in places by what might have been blood.

The crowd gasped. Two women in the back swooned, and might have fallen had their companions not eased them to a seat on the stone courthouse steps, where they fanned themselves until someone went to fetch them water.

"Don't let the evidence alarm you!" the speaker cried, working the crowd to a frenzied pitch. "I am willing to take the on risks of hunting these beasts, these monsters, in order to guarantee the safety of the good people of New Pittsburgh!"

The crowd went wild once again, cheering, screaming, and stomping their approval. "When can you start?" a man yelled.

The monster hunter shrugged. "That all depends on the vote by your City Council," he said. "I have given them my modest proposal, modest indeed considering the great risk of bodily harm involved. They are considering that proposal as we speak, weighing the safety of the people of New Pittsburgh against the paltry sum I request to exterminate, once and for all, the monstrous vermin that prowl the streets of this fine town. They may be waiting to hear from the people of the city. So if you want me to drive out the monsters, if you want to sleep secure in your beds at night and rest assured that your children and your wives can go about their business without harm, if you want peace and safety for the city of New Pittsburgh, then I ask you, I beg of you, let your voices be heard!"

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