Josh of the Damned: Pretty Monsters (an excerpt)


Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot. Still, he likes to think he can roll with things. Sure, the zombies make a mess sometimes, but at least they never reach for anything more threatening than frozen burritos.

Besides, it’s not all lizard-monsters and the walking dead. There’s also the mysterious hottie with the sly red lips and a taste for sweets.

Josh has had the hots for Hot Guy since the moment he laid eyes on him, and it seems Hot Guy might be sweet on Josh too. Now if only Josh could figure out whether that’s a good thing, a bad thing, or something in between. After all, with a hell vortex just a stone’s throw away, Josh has learned to take nothing at face value—even if it’s a very, very pretty face.

*

The first time the hell vortex opened in the Quick-Mart parking lot, Josh very seriously considered quitting his job. But all that came out of it was a lizard guy, and all it did was amble inside, buy a bag of chips, and leave. All the monsters, while ugly, seemed nicer than his late-night human customers, and Mr. Kwon offered him hazard pay, so he stayed on.

Besides, it wasn’t all bad on the night shift. For instance, right now he was looking forward to the return of Hot Guy.
Of course it was a super hot night, still eighty degrees around midnight, and the air conditioner had to pick now to die. Josh peeled off his polyester work smock and put his nametag on his t-shirt, hoping Mr. Kwon wouldn’t suddenly show up and demand he put it back on. It breathed like a trash bag.

His latest customer was an obviously stoned guy buying a wheelbarrow full of snacks. Not only were his eyes glassy and red, but he reeked of pot smoke, making Josh wonder if he’d spilled the bong water. Pot Guy left and someone else came in. Josh leaned over the checkout counter, hopeful, but it wasn’t Hot Guy, just a lizard guy.

“Guy” in a generic, gender free sense of the word, of course, because Josh had no idea how to tell if they were male or female. Maybe they didn’t even have genders. He didn’t know how to ask without being a rude bastard, and there was a chance he wouldn’t understand the answer anyway.

The lizard guys were all tall, and this one was no exception, at least six foot five and so broad across the shoulders it could barely fit in the aisle. They had all your basic equipment—two arms, two legs, a recognizable face—but their mouths were huge, they had no nose, and their scaled skin ranged in color from moss green to primer gray. This one was a kind of greenish-gray, like his roommate that time he got food poisoning.

Like all lizard guys, this one had a weird gait because its feet were huge, with six long toes that almost looked like fingers . . . which was extra weird because their hands were always small and had just four stubby fingers. They looked like they’d been put together by a five year old with a bad sense of proportion.

They also made such a racket you could hear them all the way from the back room. It reminded him of his first Craigslist roommate, Barry, who couldn’t do anything, even open the damn curtains, without making several decibels of needless noise. For the brief time they’d shared a place, Josh had been convinced Barry was hiding a megaphone to fart into just for effect.

Thwak-thwak-thwak echoed in the shop as Lizard Guy waddle-stomped down the aisle, making a beeline for the Fritos display. It grabbed two bags and turned back, waddle-stomping to the register.

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