Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters
Yaga turned on the tv and flopped backwards onto the reclining chair with a groan. She’d been staring at bank and budget spreadsheets for hours, and desperately needed to turn her brain off for a bit.
She’d bought the old farmhouse at auction for practically pennies. It had been empty for a couple of years after the previous owner passed away, and had needed a fair amount of repairs to make it livable again. It had taken months to fix all of the things that had fallen to entropy and reclaim it from the spiders, even with Glatis and a couple of other Lurks helping, but eventually it had been turned into a habitable place again. Unfortunately she’d spent the majority of her savings doing so, and recouping from it was taking longer than she’d hoped, no matter how frugal she was. Due to her rather unique circumstances it was almost impossible to hold down a “normal” job (monsters were not very good at understanding that they couldn’t just show up whenever they wanted), and after the Broom Closet Incident, it had become clear that she had to figure out a non-traditional path of acquiring a paycheck. Sadly, freelance gigs for a folklorist who specialized in childhood monster lore and whose availability was erratic at best were hard to come by and didn’t pay as well as one might wish, which brought her to her nearly empty bank account. She had to find a way to bring in more money on a reliable basis, or else she and the crew would be living in a camper. Again.
A commercial, overflowing with images of tragic puppies and kittens came onto the tv screen, accompanied by a woman singing mournfully about salvation and angels, begging for people to rescue these poor, pitiful animals.
“Hah! Easy for you. Your strays are cute and cuddly and unlikely to give someone screaming nightmares or attempt to eat your houseguests!” she grumbled at the television.
“To be fair, that only happened the one time, and it was an honest mistake,” said a soft, hollow-sounding voice from the dark hallway.
“It was twice, and last I heard, great-aunt Cecilia is still in therapy for it,” she replied.
Glatis chuckled, a low, guttural sound that would have been deeply unnerving if it wasn’t so familiar, as he came into the room. His shadow-black form made no sound as he crossed the ancient floorboards, despite being more than 6 feet tall, with claws that would intimidate a bear. Glatis was a Lurk and had been her dearest friend since elementary school, following a rather unorthodox deal she had offered him regarding her status as a menu option. He was also the reason she lived amicably with a houseful of Humanity’s childhood nightmares.
“Why are you snarking at the television?” he asked as he settled himself on the couch nearby.
Yaga groaned and dropped her head against the back of the chair.
“I need to figure out how to reliably come up with several hundred more dollars a month, and fast,” she replied. “It’s a lot more expensive to run a house and several acres of land then the camper was. At this rate, I’m going to have to hold a bake sale to keep the electricity on.”
“What is a bake sale, and would it help?” came a soft whisper from the shadows behind her. One of the other Lurks, who called herself Marsalette, was tucked in the corner. She’d joined them only a few months before, and was still learning about the human world.
“It’s where humans bake cookies and things and sell them for far less than the amount of work they put in, to fund charity things. Sadly, it wouldn’t really, amusing as it would be to watch you lot try to be tragically adorable at the humans to convince them to buy lemon squares”, Yaga replied. “You can come out and sit with us, you know. It’s okay.”
“I know. I’m comfortable here, though. This house has nice shadows.”
Yaga shrugged amiably. The three sat in comfortable silence for a while, watching the tv. The pet adoption commercial played again in the rotation. Glatis tapped a claw slowly on the wooden end table his arm rested on, thinking.
“There might be something to that idea,” he said, after a moment.
Yaga burst out laughing. “You can’t be serious! Leaving aside the fact that you lot aren’t exactly cute and fluffy by human standards, a number of you are legitimately some of our main predators! There’s no way that I could talk people into giving me money to let you around their children.”
Glatis grinned broadly, the blue light from tv glittering on wickedly sharp teeth. “I didn’t eat you when you were small.”
“Only because you couldn’t catch me,” she replied, sticking her tongue at him. “So, what is this idea of yours?”
“While actual adoption wouldn’t work, aren’t there human organizations that offer symbolic adoptions and sponsorship programs in exchange for things like certificates, tote bags, and that sort of thing for wild animals?”
Yaga chewed on her thumbnail, thinking. There were some major differences and practical concerns she could think of right off the bat.
“There are, but doing something like that would require exposing the fact that you lot are, in fact, real and not just figments of overactive juvenile imaginations. I don’t know that any of us are really up for that, do you?”
“Humans have a remarkable ability to ignore anything that doesn’t fit with their assumptions of how the world really is. Most would assume you were simply creating some kind of interactive artwork and look no further. “
She looked back at the tv, but wasn’t really paying attention to it anymore, still considering the idea. Oddly enough, it did have merit, and Glatis was right that humans don’t like to acknowledge that the world is vastly weirder than they insist it should be. A number of crowdsourcing and support options had sprung up online in recent years, and if she started small she could probably manage to come up with a cute design to put on tote bags and maybe stickers. Maybe a monthly newsletter with stories about the general goings-on around the farmhouse? She wondered if she could convince them to make little ornaments or something that could be periodically auctioned off? She should get a notebook and start making a list of ideas….
She paused in her musing and looked over to see Glatis watching her curiously.
“It might not be a bake sale, but if we can pull this off, we may be able to save the house and not have to crowd back into the camper again, after all. What do you all think about the name ‘Auntie Yaga’s Home for Wayward Monsters’…?”