Drawing: A long, wavy, blue and red creature in a river, seen through fog. Caption reads: "There's too much fog to see anything."

Creature short story by Iris Carden

Five storeys below Brisbane’s Roma Street Police Station, is the headquarters for the Human Defence Unit. Its members are drawn from among the highest performing members of military, intelligence, and police forces throughout Australia, along with select highly specialised members of the civilian population. The Human Defence Unit and its elite staff are neither police, military nor intelligence. They do not exist.

It was Trainee Agent Harry Smythe’s first day back at work after extended sick leave.* He felt weird putting a bag of blood in the lunch room fridge, but was determined to work as normal.

The first person he saw was Andrew Harrison, assistant to the pathologist.  Andrew, unable to speak since his time as a zombie, carried a notebook with him for conversations.**  

Andrew wrote: “Sorry I had to restrain you.  I know how hard it is when your whole life is turned around like this.  If you need to talk, I’m here.”

Harry thanked him, and agreed that for the first time he felt he understood some of what Andrew had been through.

Senior Agent Jo Burns saw them and approached.  She welcomed Harry back and told him to let her know if at any time he felt strange or thought work was too stressful.  

Harry told her he was fine, and that he thought he’d found another case while on break.  He showed Jo a photo, which was mostly of fog.  

“There’s too much fog to see anything much.  I can make out trees, and a river, and something…”

“The person who took the photo swears it’s a monster like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.”

“The man who took the photos of the Loch Ness monster confessed to faking the photos.”

“Well this woman says she didn’t fake it.  She shared it on social media. I can show you her story.  She was out walking and saw this thing moving through the fog.  I got in contact with her, and got the exact location.”

“Is there any allegation this thing is dangerous in any way?  We are the Human Defence Unit after all, not the Cryptozoology Unit.”

“I thought, maybe we should check it out, and find out what we can about it, in case it turns out to be dangerous.”

“OK, go ahead.  Take Marissa with you.  Check out the site of the photo.  Look closely, and make sure the location they gave you is the same as in the photo. If you find any sign of something living there, contact the Turrbal community.  You’ll find them on the internet.  See if someone can give you information about any creatures they have traditional stories about.  Tell them you’re a grad student, and your institution will pay for their time. Get information on how they want to be paid.”

Andrew wrote a note: “If Helen says it’s OK, can I go too?  I haven’t been outside for a while.”

“Sure, as long as it’s OK with Helen.”

An hour later, Harry, Andrew and Marissa were walking along a stretch of the Brisbane River. 

They found a lot of footprints, all human, clearly in Doc Martens boots.

“Either it’s a hoax, or a lot of people wearing the same pair of boots have been out here looking for the creature,” Marissa said.  “Don’t be too disappointed, we have wild goose chases every now and then.”

Andrew had wandered off a bit further among the trees, following the direction of one trail of the boot prints, and was now furiously waving at them.

When Marissa looked over in that direction, she ran to him. 

Harry stayed back, sitting on a large rock near the river bank. 

Andrew pointed to a jumble of bits of painted tyre, boards, and other things.”

“Congratulations, Andrew, you’ve found the mysterious Brisbane River monster,” Marissa said.  

They walked back and found Harry sitting with his head in his hands. 

“Go away,” Harry said.

“That’s no way to talk to your superior,” Marissa said.

“Go away! We’ve been here for hours. I haven’t had lunch, and I’m hungry.”

Andrew wrote a note: “I’ll stay with him.  Go and get the blood.”

Marissa ran to the car and drove away.

“You should have gone too,” Harry said.  “I don’t know if I can control it.”

Andrew wrote: “I’ll take a chance.  I trust you.”  A moment later, he added.  “I’m already dead, anyway, at least officially. What more could you do to me?”

Harry looked at the page and laughed.  Then he broke down, crying, and told Andrew how scared he was of hurting the people he cared about, how the hunger seemed to overtake him and he couldn’t control it, how strange the vampire community he was living in was.

Andrew rested a hand on Harry’s shoulder, and listened, nodding occasionally. He knew what it was to have life as he knew it suddenly end, and have to work out what a new life looked like afterwords.

It took Marissa an hour to get back with Harry’s bag of blood. She turned away to avoid watching him drink, but Andrew stayed with him, hand on his shoulder, until he’d fed and felt better.

On the drive back to headquarters, Marissa said, “In future, Harry, you’re taking an esky in the car when you go out in the field, and Andrew, if you’re coming out in the field again, we’re getting you a whistle so you can call out.”

*Harry had recently been turned into a vampire, and was now living in a vampire community.

**Andrew was no longer an unaware slave, but he was still had superhuman strength and was unable to speak. He had opted to live and work at the HDU, rather than traumatise his family by returning to them after they had buried him, believing him dead.

Human Defence Unit Stories

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


      1. I’ve been reading too many fantasy books lately and they call zombies, vampires, shifters and the like “supes” (short for supernatural). Didn’t mean to be confusing! I look forward to seeing more of them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Once you mentioned it, it brought me to think of the Discworld books, where the watch started out as three jaded humans, and then expanded to have all the different species represented.

        Liked by 1 person

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