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Big Break Osipov
Come one, come all, and meet the great Big Break Osipov
Given Name: Kirk Osipov Age: 32 Home Region: Outside the Centuryverse Favorite Food: Syrniki
Kirk Osipov is a third-generation bounty hunter from St. Petersburg—the version of it that exists in our reality. Rather than hunting criminals, Kirk's focus has solely been on proving the existence of mythological creatures and objects of power (OOPs). In fact, it was one of these OOPs that transported him to the Centuryverse: a television that allows viewers to pass through its screen into parallel realities.
Luckily, the Centuryverse is bountiful with mythical beasts, OOPs, and other curiosities, all of which Osipov has capitalized on to build a successful career. He recently struck a multi-million Tocium deal to co-produce a film series based on his paranormal adventures.
My father was a bounty hunter and so was his father before him. You could technically call me a bounty hunter, too, but I like to think my career is a little more…refined.
I’m a collector. I travel the world in search of oddities and curiosities. Things that are dangerous and things that are fantastic. Objects of power and other-worldly creatures.
Oh, yes, they exist.
Most people quit believing in the paranormal around the same time they quit believing in Santa Claus, but they’ll pay a pretty penny to board my train and gawk at my collection. That’s how I make a living. I travel, I collect, I entertain.
“Come one, come all,” I say into a megaphone, standing in the middle of the train stations I visit. “Peer beyond the veil and witness the miracles that exist just outside the natural world, only on Big Break Osipov’s Train of Curious Cargos.”
The people eat it up. In one train car, they stare at the coffee cup that changes patterns when you blink. In the next, they take turns playing with the floor lamp that makes the entire car pitch-black when you turn it on. In the mirror car, they stare into silver glass panes that show what they’d look like with a different hair style, or a different nose, or if they were a different ethnicity. Some guests scoff and say the mirrors aren’t mirrors, but digital screens.
They are mirrors. They just reflect an alternate reality.
The fish in the aquarium car aren’t fish; they’re mermaids. They don’t look like what people expect mermaids to look like, so to commoners they look like fish.
The boulders in the garden car aren’t just boulders—they’re a huldufólk village—and the man in the straightjacket behind the plexiglass wall in the swamp car is not a man.
He’s a monster.
I discovered Louis Garou the same way I found the other items in my collection: with help from an informant. I’d been paying the same man for information for years. I didn’t know where he got his intel from, and I didn’t care to ask. I’d never even asked him for his name, but somehow over the years I learned it was Moreau.
“Merci, monsieur,” Moreau said, pocketing his payment. “You’ll find Garou in his home on the banks of the Righteous River. It should be easiest to reach him via the Pawpaw Plains.” I nodded and left without a word.
The next day I set a course from Centuryville to the southern reaches of the Pawpaw Plains. On the day I arrived, I spent the afternoon gathering hunting supplies. Moreau hadn’t told me exactly what Louis Garou was capable of. Only that he was to be handled with extreme caution.
I managed to find rope, a flash light, a baseball bat, a smoke grenade, caltrops, two flares, and a human-sized burlap sack. Don’t ask me where I got it all.
On a whim, I also decided to purchase a wooden crucifix and silver bullets. You can never be too prepared when entering a confrontation with an unknown, reportedly supernatural entity.
I should have bought galoshes.
The Righteous River had recently flooded, and the floodwaters had turned the nearby woodlands into a swamp. I always did my collecting at night, and the full moon reflected off the murky waters where the tree canopy was sparse. I trudged slowly toward the location Moreau told me I’d find Garou’s home, flashlight in hand, occasionally stopping to wrench a foot loose from the muck.
When I spotted the shack in the distance, I turned off my flashlight. My heart rate rose, as it always did before collecting a treasure. I loaded the silver bullets into my revolver and tucked the crucifix into my waistline, just in case.
I approached the shack as quietly as I could, barely even breathing until I stood at the man’s door.
The name LOU GAROU was carved into a nameplate to the side of the door. I could hear a fire crackling inside.
I kicked down the door.
A dog yelped and scrambled across the square room, knocking over a chair and an unlabeled jar of what I assumed to be liquor. The fire I’d heard from outside flickered in a fireplace centered on the far wall of the room. To the left of it was a ramshackle kitchen and to the right of it was a toilet. In the corner opposite the kitchen was a bed, unmade, and in the remaining corner was a table. The center of the room was occupied by the toppled chair and now-empty jar.
There was no sign of Lou Garou.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” I said gently to the animal cowering in the corner near the toilet. I took a cautious step towards it. “I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m here for your master.” As I got closer to the creature, I realized it wasn’t a dog after all. It was covered in fur and had the head of a dog, but with features that more closely resembled a wolf. The thing sat up, revealing humanoid limbs and the torso of a man. It had a severely curved spine, and its ribs were clearly visible beneath its skin.
“What the hell are you?” I asked the creature.
“That, mon ami, is Louis Garou.”
I spun around, drew my gun, and pointed it in the direction of the voice. In the doorway stood Moreau. I hadn’t heard him approaching. It was like he’d materialized out of the moonlight.
“Lower your gun, Osipov,” he said.
“What are you doing here, Moreau?” I asked. I didn’t want to lower my aim, but something in the man’s voice compelled me to obey his command.
“There’s been a change of plans,” Moreau said. “May I come in?”
“What?” I asked. “Come in, come in,” I said impatiently. I felt my face begin to flush. Moreau entered the shack and shut the door behind him. “What do you mean ‘there’s been a change of plans?’”
Moreau looked at his feet, scoffed, and shook his head slowly. “Oh, my friend…” He looked up, and I met his gaze. In the flickering firelight, his eyes appeared to glow red.
Or… No, they were actually glowing red.
In an instant, Moreau had covered the ground between us. He stood inches away from me.
“I’m afraid I will be the one claiming this bounty tonight,” he said.
And then Moreau opened his jaw wider than humanly possible, revealing a glistening set of fangs.
Modern depictions of vampires span the range from fearsome to fanciful. From silly to savage.
In one corner of the spectrum, you’ll find the classic vampire that sleeps in a coffin, lives in a castle, and can transform into a bat. “I vant to suck your blood,” he says before doing just that. In another corner are sparkly-skinned, angel-faced teens, frozen in time, hiding among the students at the local high school. In a third exists a strapping blond man who gaslights the women of a wealthy, southern community, steals their husbands’ money, and feasts on the children of the impoverished neighborhood next door.
And in a fourth corner is an arrogant Frenchman.
Moreau stood before me with fangs bared, ready to prey on the exposed flesh of my neck. He held my shoulders in a vise-like grip and tilted his head back and to the right, preparing to sample my blood. His showmanship gave me a few precious seconds in which to act.
I twisted free from his grip and burrowed my right shoulder into his chest, knocking Moreau off balance.
“Merde,” he shouted, stumbling backward. Lou Garou—who I now knew must be a kind of werewolf—howled at the noise. Before I could even think about collecting the man-dog, Moreau had regained his footing.
“You’re not the only bounty hunter in this swamp tonight, Osipov.” he said before lunging at me. I attempted to dive out of his path, but it didn’t matter: he was there. His hand wrapped around my neck and he lifted me off the ground with ease. The strength in his fingers made it impossible to breath. I kicked my feet pointlessly as the borders of my vision went dark.
“Jus…ta…Garo…” I gasped.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Moreau tutted. “Je suis désolé, mon ami. My prize is not the werewolf, non non.” In an instant, he crossed the room and slammed me against the wall next to the roaring fire, pinning me there. “My prize is you.”
Moreau released me and I collapsed into a heap, sending the werewolf skittering towards the center of the room.
“Mr. Garou here was lent to me to use as bait,” said Moreau walking towards him. “And now that his work is done, I suppose I’ll save him for later. In case I get hungry.” Moreau stood in the center of the shack with Garou cowering at his feet. The two stood in the puddle of whatever alcohol had been spilled when I entered the building and startled Garou. In the liquid lay my gun, which was painted in shifting hues of red and orange as the fire reflected off the puddle.
I mustered my strength and crawled toward it. I knew Moreau wouldn’t let me reach it, but that didn’t matter. I just needed him to believe I was stupid enough to try.
“Pitiful man,” he said as I reached for the weapon. “Do you still think your gun can save you?” He kicked it into the fire, just as I hoped he would. I lurched forward. With one hand I grabbed his outstretched leg, and with the other I reached for the crucifix tucked into my waistline. I pulled him to the floor (which sent Garou scurrying away), heaved myself on top of the vampire, and held the wooden cross to his neck like a switchblade.
Moreau laughed under his breath.
“Who sent you?” I demanded. But he only laughed louder. “WHO SENT YOU?” The sound of his laughter hung heavily in the air, mingling with the scent of the fire and the spilt liquor.
“Is that a crucifix, Monsieur Osipov?” he asked. “Nobody has tried to kill me with a crucifix in over one hundred years!”
Garou started barking wildly in the corner of the room.
“For a man who prides himself on his ‘creature collection,’ you really know nothing about vampires,” said Moreau.
I flipped the crucifix around, revealing the sharpened end, and drove it into the vampire’s neck. His blood sprayed across my face as wood sank through flesh.
“NO!” he screamed. I removed the cross and stabbed him a second time.
“NO, NO, NO!” Blood filled his mouth, transforming his shrieks into gurgles. I stabbed him again and he spat his blood in my face.
“Dear God, you’ve finally done it!” Moreau’s clawed at the crucifix sticking out of his neck. “You’ve finally slain the Horror of Harperdeen Heights!” The vampire’s eyes rolled back as his body went limp. I wiped the blood from my face and let out a deep sigh of relief.
“And now to deal with you, Lou Garou,” I said to the still barking werewolf. The animal’s eyes were trained on something on the far side of the room. “What are you so mad about?” I followed its gaze to the fireplace. The flames had found their way to the trail of liquor Moreau had made when he kicked the gun.
“Oh look.” My eyes darted back to Moreau. “You’ve set the damned building on fire.”
“But I…” I stammered.
“Killed me? Non, non, mon ami,” he said. « There was never any chance of that happening. I will commend you, however: I didn’t expect you would fight back.”
I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing left to do.
“Are you going to kill me now?” I asked. Garou continued barking and howling as the flames crept up the side of the shack and the temperature climbed higher and higher.
Moreau pushed me off his chest and pulled the wooden dagger from his neck. He held it in front of him and watched as his own blood dripped onto him.
“No,” he said flatly. “But the fire will if we don’t leave now. Come. We’ll talk outside.”
Moreau used the rope I’d brought to fashion a leash for Garou, and the three of us evacuated the house. I had to support Moreau’s weight as we walked through the marsh outside. I hadn’t killed him, but I’d apparently weakened him fairly well. I was beginning to realize he was right: I didn’t know very much about vampires. For instance, he’d asked for permission to enter the house, which I granted—but it wasn’t my permission to grant. It was Garou’s house. I asked him about it when we found a fallen log to lean against.
“All of that invitation stuff is fake,” he said.
“Really?” I said.
“Really. Un vampire tres pompeaux started doing that centuries ago so people would think he was elegant, and others started doing the same so they would be associated with him.”
“You don’t say…”
“Over the years, people convinced themselves it was a supernatural rule all vampires had to follow, or else we’d die.”
“And I suppose it’s the same with garlic, crucifixes, and sunlight?”
Moreau snorted. “Garlic and crucifixes, yes. Sunlight isn’t lethal, but the majority of vampires will need to take a very long rest after being exposed for too long.”
“So there’s really no way to kill a vampire?”
Moreau took a deep breath and shook his head. He watched Garou sniffing at the marsh grass for a moment before responding.
“I’ve been looking for a way to die for hundreds of years.”
We sat there not speaking for what felt like a long time. Lou Garou’s tiny shack became a massive bonfire, casting a flickering orange light in a wide radius. Everything outside that radius was bathed in cool blue moonlight. When the roof fell in, a plume of sparks erupted into the night sky, billowing toward the stars before fanning out and lazily making their way back to the earth in crazy, spiraling arcs.
“So who sent you after me?” I finally asked.
“The Johnson Group,” he said.
“The medicine people?”
Moreau nodded. “Believe me when I say they are not medicine people. I’ve been around long enough to know when someone is hiding something. And the Johnson Group is hiding something.”
“Why did they want you to bring me in?”
“Did?” My eyes met Moreau’s. They no longer glowed red. What I saw there instead was firm determination. That, and a deep sadness. “They still do. And I’m planning on doing it. Just not tonight.”
I nodded my understanding and Moreau continued.
“The Johnson Group has been one of my intel sources for years. They have a keen sense for when and where one will encounter extra-dimensional activity, and they pay me for helping them collect their artifacts and creatures, whether I did the work myself or not. They knew I was a vampire, and they didn’t seem bothered by that. They offered to pay me extra if I would agree to let them perform tests on me, but I declined.
Recently I slipped up and made a comment that I wished to find a way to end my life. And then my contact told me about a particular object of power that might be able to grant that wish. She promised to give it to me when I bring you in.”
An OOP that could kill the un-killable?
“As a collector of such objects,” I said, “I’m interested in hearing more about this clock.” In truth, I owned several clocks that created all kinds of strange anomalies. And there was one in particular…
“She said it’s an ordinary alarm clock—the kind with the bells and hammer on the top—and that winding its gear lets the owner travel through time.”
“Travel through time in what sense?” It sounded like Moreau’s Jonson Group contact had promised him…
“Apparently, when you travel, you’ll inhabit your own body as it existed in your destination moment of time. And since I’ve lived for a very long time, I could potentially use that ability to—”
“You’re talking about the Clock of Misery,” I said, cutting him off.
Moreau looked skeptical. “I’m disinclined to believe you know about this clock, considering your lack of basic vampire knowledge,” he said.
“No, really,” I said, sitting up straight, “I know exactly what I’m saying. It’s painted blue and the glass on the front is chipped.”
Moreau’s eyes widened. “So, you really do know of it?”
I nodded. “Your friend at the Johnson Group lied to you, Moreau.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“That clock is locked away in the restricted car on my train.”
Moreau blinked in disbelief, then sprang to his feet, seemingly having regained his strength. “You will take me to it at once.”
I stood. “I’d be happy to be rid of the thing,” I said, “on one condition.”
“Well, I should hardly need to turn you in to the Johnson Group if you can just give me what I’m after, instead,” the vampire said impatiently. He stuck out his hand for me to shake. I could have accepted the deal then and there, but there was more I needed to tell him.
Even though he’d nearly just captured me, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. Moreau had been used and lied to. He was arrogant and snide, but he’d also been in pain for who-knows-how-long. I had to tell him the truth before I let him take the clock.
“The thing is, Moreau… They didn’t tell you everything about how the clock works.”
“Oh?” he said, not retracting his hand.
I scratched the back of my neck and let out a sigh. “The Clock of Misery can only take you to the worst moment of your life. No matter what you do, over and over, it’ll take you to that worst experience you wish you could forget and make you live through it again and again.”
Moreau nodded. “That’s convenient,” he said. “That was my exact plan.”