The rickety, wooden door opened with a low creak. Shiro stepped inside, sweeping the light of his flashlight over the inside of the worn down shack he had found in the middle of the woods. Everything had led to this. Every clue. Every bit of information. Every sighting. It all triangulated to this spot deep in a thick forest near a small town with a population of just about two thousand. The cryptid he’d been hunting for weeks was supposed to have been here, yet the place seemed long abandoned at first glance. Well, Shiro was never known to be a quitter.
Dropping his bag to the dirty floor, Shiro tucked his flashlight under his chin to fish his camera out of his backpack. Once he had the camcorder in hand and turned on, he shut off the flashlight and dropped it into his back. Then, he cut on the camera’s night vision and pressed record. His eyes stayed on the pop out screen of the device as he explored the dark shack. He paused to study the far wall, its surface littered with deep, jagged claw marks. Only two stripes for each mark. Not enough to be a bear’s. It seemed, so far, he just might be on the right track after all.
He moved farther into the shack, finding a small, almost closet-sized bedroom. A mattress was wedged on the floor and covered with a bunch of cotton and wool clothing. Most likely stolen. Shiro took a step back as a small pile of bones at the foot of the torn up mattress caught his attention. His back thudded up against a soft surface as he did so. He stiffened before slowly turning around. A towering, moth-like creature stood before him. Its, surprisingly, purplish eyes glowed. A horrific screech trilled from its maw. A scream rose up out of Shiro in response. He dodged a brutal swipe and made for the front door.
The cryptid caught him by the back of his shirt before he could step outside, yanking him back easily. The camera in Shiro’s hands dropped to the floor, the crack of it loud to his ears. Shiro struggled as thin arms hooked around him and pulled him back into a soft, fluffy chest. Shiro was just about to swing his head back when the creature chirped and picked him up right up off the floor. An “oof” huffed out of Shiro as he was dumped onto the clothes covered mattress in the tiny bedroom. Wide, grey eyes snapped up to the cryptid that was blocking the doorway, confusion clouding them.
The mothman crouched down and leaned towards him, twittering at him as its feathered antennae swished at him. Shiro’s nose scrunched up as the feelers brushed over his face. He batted them away with a frown, “Quit that.”
Strangely, the mothman listened, leaning away from the human. Shiro blinked, “You…can understand me?”
A nod answered him.
“That’s… fascinating…” Shiro murmured, brows rising. He shook his head a moment later, blinking himself out of his mild shock, “You’re not going to hurt me, are you?”
The creature shook its head, the heavy wings attached to its back adjusting themselves. Then, the cryptid reached over Shiro and dug its clawed hand under a sweater. It pulled out something wrapped in cloth and pressed it into Shiro’s hands. Shiro’s brows knitted together as he slowly unwrapped what was given to him. A knife with a strange, glowing mark gleamed up at him as the cloth was pulled away. Grey eyes widened, “What…?”
His fingers moved to touch it, but the mothman grabbed his wrist to stop him. Shiro stilled and asked quietly, “I can’t touch it?”
A nod of the other’s head confirmed that, no, Shiro was not allowed to touch the blade with his bare hands.
The cryptid pointed to itself and, then, to the knife before turning his claw back to itself.
Shiro’s brows rose, “You…are trying to tell me that I will turn into you if I touch this…?”
“Were… you not originally like this?”
“Were you… human?”
A nod once more.
Shiro stared incredulously for a moment before clearing his throat, “Prove it.”
The mothman twittered and grasped the handle of the knife. Slowly, its body morphed, shrinking as well. The antennae disappeared and the wings shrunk down into its body along with the feathery fur. In its place knelt a human male. Shiro stared, lips parted in wonder. Black-violet eyes blinked a few times training their gaze on the paranormal hunter. His voice came out with a slight rasp to it, “Proof enough for you?”
“Holy shit,” Shiro murmured.
“Yeah…” the boy smirked mildly.
“Uh…” Shiro cleared his throat again, eyes darting all over the other before meeting his eyes once more. He held out a hand, “I’m sorry to have intruded in your home… My name’s Shiro.”
Keith blinked at the offered hand before slowly reaching forward to take it in his, “Keith.”
“How did this…happen?” Shiro gestured to the knife.
“I stole it,” Keith shrugged, fiddling with the object in hand, “Well, stole it back. It was taken from my father years ago. I didn’t realize it was cursed until I touched it. I don’t know if it affects everyone or just my family.”
“So… you have to touch it in order to remain looking human now?”
Keith nodded, eyes downcast, “I normally have it strapped to me.”
“Why didn’t you have it on you?”
“I like to fly. It’s…nice sometimes.”
“Oh,” Shiro averted his gaze before moving to stand, “Well, I got what I came here for. I’ll just be on my wa-”
Keith grabbed his wrist and pulled him back down, “No!”
“No? What do you mean no?”
“You know my secret. I can’t just let you leave.”
“What?” Shiro gaped at him.
“You’ll go off and show people your video and pictures or whatever to prove that these kinds of things exist. That’s what you hunters do, right? I can’t let you do that,” Keith’s gaze was intense.
“You can’t just keep me here, Keith,” Shiro stood and yanked his arm away.
“I don’t want to have to do this… I don’t even know if it’ll work, but I’ll do it.”
“Do wha-?” a gasp was ripped from the larger man as the knife was slid over the skin of his thigh. He slapped his hands over it before turning his shocked expression towards Keith. Keith’s sad eyes met his as Shiro began to transform. His screams echoed through the night air.
“Some say, that late at night in a dense forest near a small town, you can hike through the woods at midnight. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll even see two creatures cursed to wander the world forever. Not quite moth. Not quite man. Yet, it’s said their bond is inseparable,” the narrator smiled down at the small children sitting before him. The library stayed silent for just a moment before one kid raised his hand.
“Yes?” Shiro nodded to him.
“Is this a true story?” the small voice questioned.
“Hm… You guys might have to find out when you’re older,” the man shrugged with a smile.
Another kid immediately raised her hand, “Are the two creep-its together?”
“Cryptids,” the mister corrected.
The man turned to the voice, his smile broadening, “That’s my cue to go.”
“Awww!!!” the children pouted, some even flopping over dramatically.
Shiro chuckled as he rose from the stool he had been seated on, “Don’t worry. I’ll have another story to tell you next week.”
“Yay!” the kids scrambled up to go to their parents as Shiro made his way to where Keith stood with his arms crossed.
“You told them the mothman story, didn’t you?” Keith rose a brow up at him.
Shiro grinned, “What? I can’t tell people how we met?”
Keith rolled his eyes and leaned up to press a light kiss to his cheek, “We need to keep a low profile. We just moved here.”
Shiro slipped his hand into the other’s, thumb rubbing soothing circles, “We will. No one here knows about us.”
Keith’s free hand slid up to pull the chain of the necklace that encircled Shiro’s neck, “We were lucky to last person to find out was someone who could help us.”
Shiro’s dark eyes dropped to the lightly glowing pendant on the end of the chain before his gaze trailed to the hint of a chain that was visible around Keith’s own neck, “We were…”
“I doubt Pidge will be kind enough to help us again. New names. New place. We’re starting over…”
“Speaking of starting over,” Shiro smiled, “We’re going out, right?”
Keith sighed, a smile involuntarily touching his lips, “Yes.”
“How about we go to get something to eat?”
“I’d like that…”
Shiro led him out of the library. It’d been a long time since that night. There had been a lot of thinly concealed rage and contempt at first, but they had moved past that slowly but surely. They were now moths drawn to each other’s flame. The paranormal hunter wouldn’t give up what they had now for anything in the world. Even if he could go back and change anything about that chilly, October night.