van Helsing

Cohost writing prompt: @Making-up-Monsters — Monster who prefers tights of white satin

"Gunhildr Louise Alexandria van Helsing, you open this door right now!"

There's a longish pause, nearly enough for the sag-faced, scowling man in the battered leather jacket to go back to banging on the door. A few curtains twitch, down the street, but nobody gets further involved. Just as he's about to make a fresh racket, one of the ancient sash windows on the upper floor squeals and judders up, and a young woman leans her elbows on the sill to conspicuously ignore him through the entire process of rolling a cigarette, lighting it, and blowing a first lungful of smoke away into the sticky city breeze.

"What's the matter, old man?" she calls down eventually to his red face, cool and dismissive. "Run out of children to disinherit? Going for New Game Plus?"

"We are not shouting family business in the street like fishmongers!"

She blows another contemptuous stream of smoke, and makes as if to pull the window back down; with a snarl, he rummages in the inside pocket of his jacket, and thrusts a clenched fist into the air, dangling a ragged strip of discoloured cloth.

She stops. Takes another drag, looking down, expressionless; another. Stubs the cigarette out on the windowsill and flicks the butt down in the general direction of his head.

"Oh, family business," she says, dry and flat. "I'll buzz you in."

Her father stands in Gun's kitchen, awkward and blustery, aggrieved by his own lack of moral certitude. "Are you going to offer an old man a cup of tea?"

"No," Gun says coolly. "What have you got there?"

He hesitates, then under her withering eye he carefully spreads out a strip of ancient linen on the counter, flecked with the long-illegible remnants of painted invocations. She sniffs.

"One of the Immortal Pharoahs, then," she says. "What, did the Ageless Ar-Kada knock over a pawnshop on Fifth?" and then rolls her eyes. "Don't. Don't lecture me, Dad. Neither truly pharaonic nor Egyptian in nature, blah blah, likely encouraged the moniker during the British Egyptological craze to hide origins and obfuscate true weaknesses, blah blah, this is serious, Gunhildr, grrrr. Don't. No van Helsing has tackled one of them in a century, because they have money and know how to make society work for them. Monster hunters are supernatural mall cops, Dad, always chasing broke hick shoplifters with the bad luck to get bit by something and nothing more serious than that."

He opens his mouth.

"Do not with the Sacred Ancestral Duty," she warns. "You disinherited me."

He subsides with a crumpled expression for long moments, then rallies a little. "Ar-Kada is on Wall Street," he mutters. "No, I can't get to him. But the one here—"

"Ah, so it's like that," Gun says. "You were here anyway doing your thing, so you figured you'd just drop in and drag me away from work and order me around, like old times with the child labour and the child endangerment, then toss me back in the doghouse when you're done with me—"

"You don't work," her father says. "You don't go places—"

"...Aaaaand you've been stalking the place. Of course. My job's online, if you're ready to learn about the existence of the in-ter-net—"

"And what is it?"

Gunhildr's fingers twitch, as if missing the cigarette. "I don't think you're adult enough to hear the words dragon dildo anal cam show," she drawls, "and that's how you hear those words, so—"

She breaks off at his vehemently shaking head. "Your mother, if she was still with us—" he says hoarsely.

"She's backpacking in Paraguay right now," Gunhildr says mercilessly. "Where you had your honeymoon. Says it's better with less getting kicked out of places for paranoid ranting about vampires and more sex."

He makes an anguished noise, then after a while, clears his throat.

"I think about it," he says thickly. "I think a lot about it, what you said, that we don't make a difference, that we hunt the easy targets that don't change anything. I tried — I'm trying. But you're right that the monsters who make society work for them are hard to get to, along the way we stopped trying. There's an Immortal Pharaoh here, in this city. I thought — I thought you might be able to find things out. On the internet. Research...weaknesses."

She stares at him, and then silently fills the kettle.

"Dad," she says, watching it while it heats, "I don't think you need to kill this one. Ar-Kada, maybe, but — the thing about being immortal and making society work for them is that the Pharaohs are in a position to care about, you know, keeping the world habitable. More than the fucking Amazon man, right? It's basic ecology; knock out the big predators, everything else shifts into a new state. Take out Unbreathing Neb-Tiwa and what? Elon Musk fills that power vacuum, and drives the planet off a cliff?"

"The Pharaohs are monsters," Gun's father says, with a sort of bewildered horror that says he finally glimpses what she's actually been working on, all this time.

"Yeah," she says steadily. "But they've got weaknesses that are more useful than for just stabbing them to death. I started nudging Nebty into decarbonisation three years ago."


"Turns out a prehistoric automummified wizard finds no-questions-asked private camgirl sessions about 'modern infrastructure' and '20C international relations' pretty useful," Gun says. "Though you probably don't want to hear that her biggest apparent weakness is white satin lingerie—"