Travel Log: Puerto Rico

Dealing with monsters and creatures of all kinds, I put up with a lot of crap from my clients, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s lying. Ironically, humans are the biggest liars of all. Unfortunately, by the time I find out they’re not being honest with me it’s too late and I’ve already been sucked into whatever nonsense they’ve got going on.

A trip I’ve taken to Puerto Rico immediately comes to mind. I received a call one summer from a man named Carlos Vargas looking to fly me out there for a vampire funeral. I should’ve known something was off from the start. I’d never heard of a Puerto Rican vampire before, but there was always a first time for everything. So I packed my bags and made the trip.

The address he gave me was for a farm in the hilly Puerto Rican countryside. The phrase “middle of nowhere” came to mind. A man who spoke zero English brought me to the house by motorcycle on a lone dirt road, and I immediately knew something was off when Mr. Vargas came out to greet me himself…in broad daylight. It didn’t take a monster expert to realize he hadn’t exactly been forthright about his vampire claim.

“Something tells me you brought me here under false pretenses, Mr. Vargas,” I said as I approached him.

He didn’t look like a man who had just gotten away with a deception, though. A thin layer of sweat coated his anxious face. If I didn’t know any better, I would say he was a nervous wreck rather than a con artist. “Por favor. Please…don’t leave.”

“I already spent a day and a half travelling to get here,” I replied with a shrug. “Might as well see what it’s all about.”

He breathed a sigh of relief, but his body remained tense. “We weren’t lying. We need you to preform a vampire funeral.”

I rolled my eyes. “I doubt that.”

“Well…it’s kinda like a vampire.”

Now he had my curiosity. “What’s kinda like a vampire?”

“It’ll be easier if I show you. Vienes conmigo.”

He opened up his body, waving me to follow him further onto the property. It wasn’t a big place. The house that sat on the middle of the farm was by no means a homestead. But the Vargas family seemed to have a fair amount of livestock. I saw pens for chickens, pigs, and goats. 

Carlos brought me to a barn on the outskirts of the farm. Inside stood a wrinkled older woman. My guess was Carlos’s mother. Seated beside her on a bale of hay was a young girl about twelve years old. She didn’t look up as I entered. Instead, the girl’s sorrowful face was focused on the dead dog in her lap. It wasn’t until I got closer that I saw the dog’s full features. Its skinny, hairless body. Its razor sharp claws and snake-like fangs. The spines running down its back and the snout for a nose. That was when I realized it wasn’t a dog at all.

“That’s a frigging chupacabra!” I exclaimed.

The girl looked up at me with an offended sneer. “His name is Chewie!”

An interesting choice. I was actually kind of impressed. “From Star Wars? Not bad, kid.”

“What’s a Star Wars?” she asked confused.

I turned to Carlos with a glare. “Seriously? What are you teaching her out here?”

He ignored me to address the matter at hand. “Chewie is our family pet.”

I raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You have a chupacabra for a pet?”

“He was the sweetest,” the girl replied fondly while stroking the creature’s spiky, protruding spine.

“You do know they drink blood, right?” I asked.

Carlos nodded. “That’s what I meant by kinda like a vampire.”

“So you’ve been feeding him…blood?”

He nodded again. “Si. That’s how we met him. He was feeding on one of our goats.”

“And you didn’t think that kind of made him dangerous?”

“At first…yes. But he came back and was sweet and calm. Christina took him in, and before we know it, he made himself at home.”

Now my skepticism was turning to suspicion. I didn’t know much about these creatures. Some wild rumors said they weren’t even native to Earth, either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But regardless, I’d never heard of one being domesticated before. “And the blood you were feeding him…that came from the goats, too?”

Carlos nodded a third time. “Si.”

Something seemed off. I looked around the barn for a clue and a shelf in the corner filled with boxes caught my eye. “What’s that over there?”

“Medicine,” Carlos replied. “For the goats. We give it to them every day. Why?”

My curiosity had raised Carlos’s suspicions, but I didn’t have an answer for him yet. I ventured over to the shelf and scanned the boxes. There were containers there, too. Syringes and vials along with a contaminated waste bin. I wasn’t a doctor, but I recognized enough to realize what was going on.

“Chewie’s not your pet,” I told them. “He’s your junkie.”

Confused, Carlos furrowed his brow. “What?”

“Chupacabras are savage, blood-thirsty fiends. Not adorable little lap dogs.”

The girl, who Carlos called Christina, started to protest. “But Chewie—”

“Has been high,” I interrupted. “The medication you give your goats is in their blood. That’s why he’s been so docile and cuddly. You keep him stoned all the time.”

Her jaw fell in shock as she turned to her father. “Es verdad?”

He looked just as surprised, and I could tell he didn’t realize what was happening. But now that I’d explained it, things were starting to make sense to him. Carlos’s face grew long as he nodded, confirming his daughter’s fears.

“I don’t care!” she shouted. “He loved me!”

When I arrived in Puerto Rico, this was not how I envisioned my trip going. The last thing I wanted was to ruin a girl’s relationship with her dead pet, chupacabra or not. Yet lying wasn’t my style either.

“I’m sure he did love you,” I told her as sympathetic as could be, “but I’m sorry. There’s nothing really for me to do here.”

Carlos still looked confused, though. “I thought you were a monster mortician, no? He’s a monster.”

I nodded with a regretful frown. “Yes, but I perform funerals for sentient creatures with cultures and rituals. A chupacabra is basically an animal. What you need is a pet cemetery.”

I was beginning to think Grandma Vargas was mute, until she suddenly yelled at her son. “Te dije. Necesitamos un brujo!”

Now that didn’t sound good. “It’s been a long time since I was in Spanish class, but I’m pretty sure she just said you guys need a witch.”

The confusion on Carlos’s face only deepened. “We thought you would do some kind of magic to make them stop coming.”

“To make who stop coming?” I asked, dreadfully.

Carlos opened his mouth to answer, but a loud, ominous snarl of a roar echoed across the farm before he could speak. The noise felt distant yet somehow just outside the cabin door. I’d heard a lot of strange sounds in my life, but that one was certainly a first.

“What was that?” I asked, once again dreadful of the response.

“The chupacabras,” Carlos stated as a simple matter of fact. “Ever since Chewie died a pack of them keeps attacking the house every night.”

“We figured once you do your burial ceremony or whatever,” Christina added, “they would stop coming.”

I nearly choked at how ridiculous this all sounded. “And you didn’t think to mention that over the phone?!”

Carlos appeared undeterred by my panic, heading deeper into the barn like a man on a mission. “I thought we had a couple hours before they arrive. Looks like they’re coming early tonight.”

He returned with two shotguns in hand. The kind you might see in an old western movie.

“Here,” he said handing one to me. Or at least trying to hand one to me. I firmly backed away.

“Oh, no. I deal with dead things, but I’m not the one who makes them that way.”

Carlos pressed the shotgun further in my direction. “You either fight or they eat you.”

It couldn’t have been that simple. Chupacabras were nasty, but they weren’t suicidal. Humans were a natural predator for them. That was why they preyed on goats and other smaller, defenseless creatures. They must’ve been attacking the house for a reason, which meant there was another way to solve this.

“There’s a third option,” I said. “We give them what they want.”

“Blood?” Carlos asked.

“No. If that were the case they would just attack your goats and be gone. I think what they really want is Chewie.”

Carlos turned to her daughter, who clutched the dead creature against her chest. “Christina considers Chewie part of our family. We can’t just give him up.”

“You will if you want the chupacabras to stop coming.”

“No!” Christina exclaimed as tears began swelling in her eyes.

More snarls echoed from outside the door. Many of them now, hissing and growling like a pack on the hunt. We were running out of time.

“Christina, please,” Carlos begged. “We can’t keep going through this every night.”

But Christina just hugged her dead pet even tighter, turning her shoulder to shield him from us. “Chewie isn’t some animal we can just toss away when things get hard. He deserves better than that.”

I had to admit I felt bad for the girl. Drug-addicted bloodthirsty beast or not, she loved that thing to her core. Tears of grief. Weeping for the dead. It was a scene I’d witnessed too many times before, which made those of my profession uniquely qualified to handle this situation.

“Christina,” I said softly as I approached and knelt down in front of her, “I’ve preformed hundreds of ceremonies and burial rituals for all sorts of monsters, creatures, and species you wouldn’t even believe exist. And you know what I’ve learned from all of them?”

She looked up, her crying eyes eager to hear the answer.

“Funerals are meaningless,” I told her.

The girl stopped sniveling long enough for her back to straighten, surprised by my answer.

“Sure,” I went on. “They help us say goodbye, but people don’t want to forget their loves ones. They want to remember them. And they do. Because the truth is nobody ever really leaves. They’ll always be with us. Right here.” 

I reached out gently and touched the center of her chest. “And no fancy funeral with flowers and candles will make that happen. Only you can.”

She forced a smile and nodded before standing. The tears remained on her cheeks, but only because her arms were too occupied holding Chewie to wipe them away. The girl walked forward towards the barn door and the rest of us, Carlos, Grandma Vargas, and myself, followed several steps behind.

Christina led the way out into the sunset light, where a pack of chupacabras crouched, surrounding the barn and waiting to pounce. I sensed Carlos at the ready, gripping the shotgun tight in his hands, but he otherwise remained on the defensive. The creatures weren’t attacking, and Carlos rightly didn’t want to fire before they did.

It was a tense situation even by my standards, but Christina fearflessly approached the chupacabra closest to the door. She knelt down upon reaching it and placed Chewie’s corpse at the creature’s feet before backing away.

The chupacabra didn’t growl, didn’t snarl, just sniffed Chewie’s body before using its mouth to lift him carefully by the neck and retreated. The rest of the chupacabras, over a dozen of them, followed into the forest. And just like that, they were gone, and the danger had passed.

That didn’t matter to Christina, though. She broke down crying into her hands. Her father and grandmother rushed over to comfort her in a big hug, and I’d been in this scenario enough times to stand out of the way and let the family grieve. 

I didn’t know the girl well. Who was I kidding? She was a stranger to me. Yet I felt oddly proud of what she just accomplished. Most adults weren’t able to face their grief like that in a time of crisis, yet the she handled it with grace and poise.

Carlos knew it, too, for he turned to me with a grateful smile. “How can we ever repay you?”

Seeing Christina with her family really touched my heart. I was almost tempted to tell him it was on the house. Then I remembered the asshole lied to get me here. 

“I’ll send you a bill,” I told him. “Travel included.”