Author Features

What to Do When a Monster Is Stalking You

Got a monster hunting you down? Never fear! Lupa Dávila from Ann Davila Cardinal’s thrilling debut novel, Five Midnights, has some pro-tips to help you survive!


Introduction to Monster Avoidance

Professor Lupe Dávila

Look, you’re smart. You know to avoid the basic monster encounter clichés. You hear a noise in the basement? DON’T go in the basement (who does that? I mean, really.). If you’re running away from a monster, watch out for roots and stones. No ridiculous tripping, looking back, then putting your hands to your face in overacted terror. It’s a bad look and you’re bound to get eaten. But in this season of embracing the horror, I thought you could use some real tips for monster avoidance, from an expert. (Extra points if you can identify the sources of the monster behaviors listed below.)

1. Don’t open anything.

If someone gives you a dust-covered, leather-bound, brass-hinged box/book/board game, distrust them immediately (yes, even librarians). You’re gonna want to open it, it’s only human nature, and the monsters want you to open it. But don’t. And if a heartbeat, or the sound of drums, or a funky smell is coming from it? You don’t even have to be polite. Just drop it and run away. Fast. Trust me, it’s not going to end well in any scenario. Once you’ve run away you can then reward yourself with a pumpkin spice latte and a donut, secure in the knowledge that you avoided pain/torture/certain death.

2. Don’t speak its name.

Look, it’s pretty widely accepted that names have power. Don’t say the monster’s name, no matter how much your “buddy” Jake or “friend” Tiffany tries to goad you into it. They’re hitting their peak in high school anyway, it’s downhill from here on in for them. But you? You’re too smart for that. And for the love of God and all things holy and unholy, DON’T say its name three times. What is with the itch to tempt that fate? And half the time it’s into a mirror. Why not fix your hair, take a mirror selfie, and call it a day? ‘Cause, newsflash! You don’t really want to release the monster from the other world. Let Jake do it if he wants to so badly, then head out to see the latest Marvel movie instead. You’ll thank me.

3. Don’t assume you can outsmart it.

I don’t care if you got an A in calculus or won your school’s science fair three years in a row; living for centuries makes monsters way smarter than you. Think about it, all they’ve done is crouch underground/in an alternate reality/under the bed/behind the mirror plotting revenge, death, and, if they’re particularly ambitious, world domination. Whatever you’ve thought of, they probably have too. Though they don’t have a smartphone and access to Google (as least I don’t think they do…), odds are good they’ve seen it all and eaten teenagers with much higher IQs than yours.

4. Trust your instincts.

Not all monsters are large, shadowy, tentacled creatures. Sometimes they come in the form of a microscopic virus, or a zombie plague germ. So, if Sharon from psych class starts acting funny—moaning, shambling, or trying to eat the fifth-grade class hamster—don’t try to reason with her or, God forbid, hold her back. She’s gone, and if she bites you with her purple-braces-covered teeth, you’re screwed. You’ll spend the rest of your days wandering around in a perpetual state of hunger, looking for brains to eat (kind of like episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians). No, keep away from her and head for Vermont. Sanctuaries in zombie movies are always in Vermont. (I think ‘cause even zombies can’t live in that much cold.)

5. Hedge your bets: behave yourself.

Yeah, I know, sucks to have another person lecturing you on this, but trust me, I know what I’m talking about. In the case of El Cuco, the monster I’ve been trying to avoid, you only call forth the monster if you’re bad. I’m not talking about teasing-your-little-sister or blowing-off-curfew bad. Cuco is only looking for truly bad crap (and BTW, that 1980s punishment for sex thing in horror? It was a lie, don’t listen to those Boomers). No, we’re talking drug dealing, robbery, and murder. Seriously, he’s not going to bother with your petty crimes. But if you’re spreading bad energy? Hold tight, snowflake, cause he’s gonna come for you. And there’s no getting out of it.

Okay. That’s it. My five tips for monster avoidance. And you can take this to the bank, ‘cause I’ve been through some sh—stuff. So, in this season where the supernatural veil is thin, just follow these tips and you can avoid calling up any variety of monsters. As for your bro Jake? Well, no promises. Dude never did make good choices.

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