Walking in a Weevil Wonderland
I love my job. There's something incredibly satisfying about hunting down werecreatures and blasting them into oblivion. Of course, since I'm on call as soon as the moon rises, it plays havoc with my social life, and a lot of guys get turned off when you say that you're basically an exterminator. But that's the price you pay for keeping the world safe, or so I tell myself whenever I'm feeling lonely.
Like every December, we were battling wereweevils. True wereweevils take advantage of the full moon to open a transdimensional gate from the Wereworld and cross over to ours, to destroy Christmas and the entire Christmas spirit. They chew anything that looks or smells or sounds like Christmas, and bite anyone who tries to stop them. You can guess by the word "were-" what happens to those who are bitten. Within two heartbeats, humans turn into six-legged creatures with long snouts and teeth capable of biting through almost anything. And if they can't chew it – Christmas lights, for example – they drool on it, so that the acid in their saliva burns through and destroys it just the same.
Transformed wereweevils chew until the sun came up and they turn back into humans, at least until the next holiday season. True wereweevils, on the other hand, chew until they've absorbed enough Christmas spirit that they can sprout wings. Not only can they then fly to any other source of Christmas spirit that they fancy, they're also capable of breeding, they can move independently of the moon phases, and worst of all, they're almost impossible to catch. We make sure they don't get to that point.
To-night's wereweevil had been detected less than an hour ago, but Pest-Ex had worked fast. The barricades were already in place to keep the citizens of Thornton from leaving their village, and now the soldiers were rounding up everybody who'd been bitten and forcing them into decontamination. Human wereweevils are notoriously easy to catch. All you have to do is put a Christmas tree or a brightly lit Nativity set in a cage and they'll run straight into the trap, so intent on destroying everything Christmas that they never notice the door lock shut behind them. True wereweevils are a bit more difficult.
The Pest-Ex helicopter set me down outside the village, where I had a good view of the decontamination center, where the wereweevils are sprayed with GFaM. This mixture of gold, frankincense and myrrh kills true wereweevils and forces the others to return permanently to their human form. I carried a cannister of it in my pack.
"Merry Christmas, Haley," the ground commander boomed, opening the door of the helicopter for me. "Bruce isn't here yet."
"Merry Christmas," I replied, settling my helmet and pulling my pack on as we walked to the command post. "I'm getting a new partner to-day, from Armitage. Bruce retired and went to Australia."
"Yeah, he said he wanted to get used to hot places because he didn't know how much time he had left on Earth."
The commander stared at me, obviously not amused, until the moment was interrupted by the sound of a second helicopter landing. A young man wearing the same issue of helmet got out, then heaved a familiar-looking pack onto his back and strolled towards us.
"Walker," he said. "Luke Walker. And no Star Wars jokes, I've heard them all."
"Moss," I said. "Haley Moss. And no hailing frequency or rolling stone jokes, I've heard them all, too."
Luke nodded. "Right. No rest for the weevil. Let's go!"
Once we were inside the barricades, I led Luke west, to Zeppelin Square. This was where the temple zeppelin docked every eight weeks on its eternal round through the different stakes in our district. In between the huge hangar and the smaller stake center, there was a miniature version of Temple Square, right down to the lights, chock full of Christmas spirit. Scanning the area with my binoculars, I marked the lines of dead lights and the pile of chewed rubble that had once been a full size Nativity set. Finally, however, I spotted the small, dark wereweevil working his way up one corner of the hangar.
"If that weevil gets to the temple inside, he'll have enough Christmas spirit to clone himself twice, wings and all," Luke breathed. We both dropped our binoculars simultaneously and sprinted towards the gate.
I wanted to explain that we wouldn't need to climb over the tall fence that separated the hangar from the gardens because I had a card that would let us in. Before I could, however, Luke pulled something from his own pocket and swiped it. The gate clicked open.
"You're a member!" I exclaimed.
Luke looked down at the identical card in my hand and laughed. Then he said, "Guess what? I'm single, too!"
"What a coincidence." I showed him my unadorned fingers.
Grinning, we shut the gate behind us and approached the hangar. The wereweevil had reached the roof now, which was used as a parking lot for temple patrons, and as I looked up, a section of the lights that ran around the top edge went dark.
"I'll take the outside stairs, you take the ramp, and we'll meet on top," Luke decided. "You distract, I'll attack."
He started up the stairs before I could protest that I wanted to do the attacking. Oh, well, I could straighten him out later. I jogged up the ramp, slowing down as I got closer to the top, and peered around the corner. The wereweevil was walking along the waist-high wall that ran around the roof of the hangar, drooling over the next string of lights. Luke was closer to him than I was, but he had hidden himself from the wereweevil's sight behind the little building that housed the inside stairs.
I reached behind me and fumbled for the smaller cannister in my pack, pulled it free, flipped the face-plate of my helmet down, and began to advance. When I was about halfway across the roof, I pointed the nozzle of the cannister at my own chest and sprayed, trying not to gag on the scent of wereweevil musk, then clicked it back into place. The wind wasn't blowing the right way, so I pulled a tiny fan from my belt and held it to my chest as well, pointing it towards the wereweevil and switching it on. It took ages for the scent to waft over and alert the wereweevil to a rival, but then he jumped, intent on eliminating any threat to his authority. When it comes to hunting grounds, there can be only one true wereweevil.
I dropped to my knee to brace for the attack and grabbed the hose of my GFaM tank. The wereweevil hit my shoulders with its front legs, its snout open to bite my head off, but finding only my titanium helmet instead. The force of its jump knocked me backwards, but my nozzle was already in place and I sprayed automatically as I fell. At the same time, Luke leaped out from behind the building, pointing his own nozzle with deadly aim. The wereweevil's jaws sagged and fell away from my helmet, and its body relaxed into dead weight on top of me.
Alive with adrenaline and satisfaction, I sat up, pushing the wereweevil to one side. Luke reached down, grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet, then inhaled deeply. "I love the smell of dead weevil in the morning."
I stared proudly down at the dark body, now sporting golden streaks from the particles in the spray, and exhaled a heartfelt, "Yeah!"
Luke heaved the corpse over his shoulders and we walked back to the command post to hand it over before being flown to our next assignment. Halfway there, Luke asked, "So, what are you doing on Christmas Eve? It's new moon, and nothing will be stirring, not even a weremouse."
"Watching action films, or maybe science fiction," I replied. "Want to come?"
"Action and science fiction?" Luke asked. "I'll be there."
We walked in companionable silence for a moment, and then Luke said, "Tell me, Haley, when you see humans transforming into wereweevils, do you ever think of missionaries?"
"No," I said. "Why?"
"Because humans only have two legs, and wereweevils have six?" he prompted.
I waited patiently for the explanation, and Luke started to sing. "I hope they call me on a mission, when I have grown a foot or two ..."
Suddenly, I knew there was no point in making a list and checking it twice. Christmas had come early, and I'd gotten exactly what I'd wanted. He was a member, and single, he'd have no problems with my career or with the fact that I might come home reeking of wereweevil musk, and he had the same sense of humour that I did! I began to hum to myself. Walking in a weevil wonderland …