Read my new short story “Among Wolves” right here!

So here it finally is, a short horror story I’ve been working on and off to finish for a little while. I’m really quite proud of it. Check it out!

“Among Wolves” by Costa Koutsoutis

His breaths were even, steady, hands gripping the steering wheel with a smooth not-too-firm grip that would give him sweaty palms. Every single movement was calm, measured, cool, even the semi-regular sweep of the eyes across the dark back road. The lights of the car are the only thing going on here, and he was secretly grateful that deer weren’t more prevalent in this part of the state as they should be. Outside it was snowing slowly but steadily, and the winter air outside occasionally whistled, reminding him of the season, the weather, the time of night.

It didn’t matter too much, Ferry thought to himself, in the end. The outside was always the same on late night drives like these, an emptiness all around him that helped him focus. It was something that he’d figured out as a teenager with difficulty focusing. It had all changed when he’d turned sixteen though, an awkward kid who had saved all summer to get the ultimate in teenage freedom. He got his first car.

That taste of freedom, all those years ago, had finally given him the tool he’d needed to help him focus, to overcome the lack of focus, the hand-twitching tick, the anxiety. Nowadays they’d call it ADD or ADHD or whatever, Ferry mused, but once he had that car it didn’t matter. The blacks and dark blues of a night drive, the stillness and crispness and utter darkness punctuated only by the lights of the car. Ever since then he’d relied on night driving, regularly, to help him focus his mind, clear his head, get himself on track in school, college, at work, and in life.

John Ferry was forty-one, in great shape, and always cool. He was single, never married, had had a few steady girlfriends, but nothing ever really lasted. He travelled for work mostly, troubleshooting insurance issues on construction equipment used at airports, in mining operations, or at quarry sites. He liked the travel, liked new places, seeing what there was to see in America and beyond. Last year he spent three months in Canada, and next year with his company’s expansion into Europe, he knew he’d be seeing Germany and Italy as well.

John Ferry was a serial killer.

In the trunk of the car was a burlap sack, periodically twisting and turning, thrashing violently before giving up. Inside it was the young woman he’d grabbed from the parking lot of the Walmart a few hours ago. Alone and cold and not thinking too much as she’d had to grab mouthwash or thread or whatever it was that late at night, she’d been easy to grab. The heavy thick leather and metal gag was from a sex shop, made for wearing over long periods of time, a broad strip of leather over the mouth with a tube running into the mouth to hold the tongue down. The tube was hollow to allow air in, but no sound beyond a few muffled moans out.

Ferry had learned the hard way not to rely on gags covering the full mouth, not to rely on nostrils alone to keep a panicked person breathing in a burlap sack locked with a padlock closed in the back of a car. That mistake had rotted in the woods outside Albany, New York, the winter before he’d found the sex shop and the leather bondage gags, never to be seen again. No one had cared enough to even bother looking.

One or two a year, maybe three if the stress of work was too much, or the nights where maybe he drank one or two too many and all the bad memories came back, the switch and then, later on, the folded-over rubber tubing. One or two a year, maybe three, in the sack on a cold deserted late night in a parking lot somewhere, into the sack, into the trunk, off into the night.

The old canvas satchel on the passenger seat next to him shifted slightly as the road veered slightly, the turn barely noticeable, around the bend in the near-pitch black. The worn and soft fabric shifted on the bundles inside the pack, soft cotton undershirts from the local Super Shop wrapped around fistfuls of tent stakes, sharpened and honed, points and edges ugly but bright and thin. At the bottom of the bag was the big locking-blade folding knife with the serrated edge, a gutting knife, the hunting store clerk called it.

She’d cry and plead when he would finally get to the old field he knew wasn’t too far off, isolated, over a hill from the old farm that he knew was empty in the wintertime. They always beg for him to let them go, to not do this, to not threaten to bash their heads in with a tire iron. Young and soft and temptresses, every single fucking one, Ferry’s brain would tell him. Fucking sluts, fucking slut whores like all those girls his Daddy would bring home every other night or so.

They never, ever noticed the stakes, a little over half a foot of metal with the newly-sharp ends, until he drove the first through that one open palm, pinning her to the dirty soft cold ground. Then, then the fucking sluts knew, Ferry’s brain said. They knew that John Ferry was staking them out naked in the winter cold, staking them to the ground before using the long knife blade to work through the soft skin, the stringy muscle, the hard clacking bone of their necks. The wetness would be everywhere, she’d scream as loud as she could while going into shock, the spamming and mess of flesh and fluid and skin and metal just creating a horrific leftover mark of John Ferry’s work on the earth.

There’d been two, maybe three a year since he was nineteen. It helped keep his focus.

John Ferry was a monster. And he liked it.

It was the way he was wired, he’d told himself back when he first figured it out. He wasn’t human, but rather, was some kind of ancient monster, too good and too vicious for the rest of the simpering fucks around him. That’s what he’d written down in the journal he kept as a teenager, “simpering fucks,” a term he’d heard someone, maybe an uncle, call someone. The Simpering Fucks were all the prey, all pretty for a predator like him, it was only natural.

It was the order of things. The order of nature for a superior beast like him.

Ba-thump.

Ferry frowned. There were no “ba-thump”s on this stretch of road. Last year he’d been here, the young Asian girl sobbing non-stop the whole way loudly through her gag and the bag and the walls of the trunk, he’d taken this exact route. He knew it down pat, having done the route twice before, then the night of, and finally on the way back as well.

The car was starting to slow down, perceptibly but barely. Still, Ferry could tell. He’d always had a way with cars, always had a way with being able to sense them being not quite right. All monsters like him, he thought, we all have special powers or abilities like this. It’s only natural for superior hunters.

He was creeping along now, somewhere in there, while Ferry was in his own mind, the engine had died, the car coasting to a crawl now. “Fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck,” he whispered to himself. They were still a half-mile from the field, a half-mile of cold and wind and dark before he could teach this slut a lesson.

You can do it, his brain told him. You can do this. In the trunk, the nice young lady from the parking lot screamed through the fat heavy leather of the gag and the coarse fabric of the sack and thrashed even harder, noticing that the car was no longer moving, hoping somehow that this was something she could take advantage of.

Ferry worked the gas pedal, gripping the wheel tighter, trying to get anything out of the car, anything, another quarter-mile, something. It was no use, the cruising rental hunk, metal and plastic and rubber sliding to a halt in the middle of the road, the headlights dying slowly into shrinking spots on the road, the bits of light illuminating the falling snow before fading into nothing.

“Fuck!” Ferry said, smacking the dashboard. The squealing and thumping in the trunk was suddenly intensely loud in the quiet sealed car, and for some reason it was grating on his nerves like nothing he’d ever felt before. He could probably fix the car, he knew he could fix the car, but in this cold and the snow, with no light, and only a few tools? It’d take forever. Common sense would tell a man to stay in the car as long as you could or try to head back towards a gas station, start a fire, attract attention, hitchhike, set up flares, anything.

Then again, common sense usually didn’t have a satchel full of metal stakes and a tied-up kidnapping victim to dismember alive in the trunk, Ferry noted to himself as he rubbed his hands together and rummaged around in the car.

He found his flashlight and the map he’d gotten the first time he came through here, the gas station attendant getting it from the oh-so-helpful state trooper when he’d asked. Just in case, they’d all laughed together at the counter. He clicked the light on and looked at the highlighted path he’d traced through the county backroads. Not far, he saw and smiled a bit. Perfect. Things weren’t that bad after all, he saw the turn he was fairly sure they’d just made and how they couldn’t be that far from the farthest end of what was marked a national park or something like that.

“Perfect,” he repeated out loud, a new plan forming. Already the tick was back, that twitch he could feel in his fingers when things weren’t going his way, a twitch that made him ball up a fist and want to squeeze his own hand until it burst, but still, it was a new plan, and while the patter wouldn’t be him, wouldn’t be what a predator, a monster like him should do to mark its own territory, a monster also had to feed, had to take what it could get to survive.

Ferry was a survivor, after all. He had to be to get to where he was at this point, flexing a superior monster brain when he needed it to survive and thrive, to be the predator he knew he was.

He clicked the flashlight off, pulling his gloves on and buttoning up his coat as he opened up the car, shoulder to the frame as cold air rushed at his face and into the empty driver’s seat. He reached in, shifting to neutral as he coasted as best he could the last few feet to the side of the road. No one really drove this way, he’d realized relatively early, making this the perfect road to use to do what he did. Unless, he realized sadly, standing there in the dark and smacking his gloved hands together for warmth, his car died and he was alternating between just doing it right now, hoping against hope no one stopped and heard the muffled banging and yelling, or wondering if someone would stop and be kind enough to lend him their car once he flicked open the fat heavy lock blade knife in his coat pocket and ran it, fast and deep in, across their necks.

The sounds from the trunk were getting quieter now, loud and persistent but for some reason not quite as powerful or as constant. She was getting tired, Ferry realized, and the thought of it shook him awake. He didn’t want her in shock, didn’t want the tiredness to be too much to keep her from screaming or fighting back against the stakes. The fucking bitches need to be awake to feel it, he felt his brain tell him. “Fucking bitches,” he muttered out loud into stiff cold air, surprised for a second at just how loud his own voice was in the darkness.

He ran his hands over his face, pacing back and forth on the road, away from the car, back to it, away again, back to it, his feet crunching in the snow. The map had said he wasn’t too far from that park, and more than likely he’d be able to get there easily enough. “Fuck it,” he said out loud again, but softer, more aware now of the way the silence listened to him in the cold still air, even though no one was around. Satchel cross-body over one shoulder, the flashlight from the trunk of the car in one hand, the other holding the key to the trunk, flicking on the light as he left the car to go around back to the trunk. The map and the compass on his cell phone gave him a rough direction to go in. He could do this, he told himself. You can do it, his brain told him.

The trunk clicked open and in a quick second, Ferry punched the writhing bag to silence it. “Shut the fuck up!” he barked. “Just shut up, and maybe I’ll let you go, huh?” he lied. At this point, he knew she’d be willing to believe anything he said, and he was right, the bag stilling even as he hauled it out, dragging it and letting it thump with a mild squeak of protest from inside against the ground. Ferry left the trunk open, at this point just wanting to get going, impatiently looking around with the flashlight. The stillness was starting to unnerve him, and he was longing for something, anything besides the blowing of the wind and the creak of trees, the occasional crack and snap of bare branches and cold.

He grabbed the bag from the knot, the band of canvas and elastic used normally to bind down cargo to trucks, here being used to keep the bag locked up tight. Ferry was strong, worked hard to keep in shape, ate well, and lifted with his knees. The twitching sack lifted up and he threw it over his shoulders. He looked around with the flashlight once or twice, figuring out his bearing.

The map said to go west, so he pointed the flashlight west through the darkness and the trees on the other side of the road, stepped off the asphalt, and started walking.

The ground was cold and leafy where it was bare of the wet snow, the fallen vegetation mixing with the cold powder, making the walk a series of swish-swish-swish, fsss-fsss-fsss, the sack moaning and twitching over his shoulder periodically. She was starting to thrash now a few times, and Ferry would stop, lean the sack against a tree, and threaten to just bash her against the trunk until she stopped making noise. Then he’d put the woman-in-the-sack back over his shoulder, re-align himself, and keep walking. It’d been like that for an hour now, and something was wrong. They weren’t there yet, in the dark and the cold and the snapping wind. John Ferry, serial killer, monster, superior predator, was, for the first time in his life, starting to wonder a little bit. Ferry was worried.

Ferry tripped, his boot stuck in a tree root somewhere in the leafy dense ground of the woods, and he almost dropped the woman in the sack over his shoulder. He swayed for a moment while instinctively, she cried out through the fat heavy leather gag and the sack, crying and shaking back and forth. The motion made Ferry drop the flashlight, and for a second, he was blind, the dark around him all-consuming before his night vision managed to pick something up, and he turned around to find the comforting light of the flashlight at his feet. He knelt down, letting the sack slide off his shoulder for a moment to catch his breath, re-orient himself. The feel of the solid but freezing ground made the sack roll around and yell some more, and for a moment, Ferry lashed out, unable to control himself as he felt his shoulder muscles spasm, the cold and the strain too much for them.

“Shit shit SHIT SHIT!” he stomped his feet, kicking at clods of dirt and snow and frozen leaves. The burlap sack yelled and moaned again, a higher pitch now. She was scared, she could hear him starting to lose control.

He was lost. Somewhere in the blackness, he’d veered slightly one way, then another, thinking all the while he was going in a straight line, his plan of using the compass lost as he’d needed one hand for the flashlight, the other to keep the burlap sack over his shoulder.

“Goddamnit,” he said, voice crisp and smooth and loud in the frozen night air. He fumbled for the phone in his pocket, putting the flashlight down on the ground for a moment, wedged up to shine at him as he worked his gloves off to use the touchscreen. Ferry scrolled through the phone, swiping, stepping away for a second, swiping again, tapping, stepping again. His fingers ached in the cold, and he couldn’t tell just how much pressure to exert on the touchscreen, forcing him to go back, repeat himself, his hand starting to tremble from the thin cold biting air, making him fuck up, unable to use the phone’s compass. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!”

Ferree

Ferry turned around, breathing in quick, gasping, looking around everywhere. The girl in the sack was still moaning, probably feeling the wet biting bone-deep cold of the snow through the sack, feeling it sap her heat, but no, this was different. The sound was…soft. No, that wasn’t right, it wasn’t soft, it was different, he’d heard it differently, echoing in his head like it’d always been there, but at the same time, it had the crispness of traveling through that cold winter air, the kind of sound that could have come from either a hundred yards away or right by his ear.

Ferreeeeee…

Ferry took a step, another, listening, straining to hear even though he knew, somewhere in his brain, that really, not really, it wasn’t a sound. It was more like a poke that spoke his name. It’d only take a second, just a second to figure out his bearings agai….

The snow gave way under his foot, and in a flash, his heel hit the frozen mud underneath, one foot slipping forward and suddenly he was falling.

Falling fast, and hard. The whump-whump of hidden roots and rocks and branches under the snow as he’d hit them, sliding down the hillside edge that he’d failed to noticed, hidden by the packed loose snow, the shhhhhhh of sliding through the frozen water molecules that made up all that cold, wet, snow, all of it played through Ferry’s ears, along with the unconscious wail of his own voice, panicking at being completely and utterly out of control of himself for the first time in a long time.

And then it was over. He landed, hard, after what must have only been a few seconds, not even that long a fall, but his primal instincts, the fear-driven parts of his brain, made those few seconds falling into what felt like a canyon, but what just a dried-up river bed, the side of a hill out there in the middle of nowhere. Ferry stood up, unsteadily on the icy, snowy ground, looking up at where he’d fallen from. The last bits of loose snow still fell, crumbly, but alarmingly, he couldn’t really see a way up.

“FUCK!” Ferry kicked at the snow at his feet, swearing as pain shot through one toe, the connection with a hidden rock square-on. “Fuck fuck fuck!” The flashlight was up there, his cell phone was up there, the girl in the bag with the gag in her mouth was up there, everything was up there. He had to find a way back up, his brain was telling him, getting a little desperate now in the cold, his gloves lost somewhere in the fall, fingers getting wet and bitingly-painful.

Ferreeee…

There it was again, the voice. Clearer this time though, the definite sound-in-the-air feeling, but again, he felt it in his bones, too. Ferry’s mind, the predator persona, was reeling now, retreating as he spun around in circles. “Who the fuck’s there! Who said that!”

They were everywhere.

Ferry stood at the bottom of the slope, looking up at the rows upon rows of eyes, black and shining like spilled ink so huge, reflecting the light back of his flashlight, some standing up, some low, crouched. Some up in the trees like apes, most on the ground, silent. Some wore something, like a robe, or a wrap, dirty fabric that hung loosely, a slightly different shade in the moonlight that made Ferry realize it was clothing. The big wet eyes didn’t blink, not one moved as the wind was howling now, sweeping through the trees into his side, chilling Ferry to the bone. Their limbs were long, limbs and hands almost comically thin and elongated…no, not that long, he could see the enamel gleam at the tips, almost a third of their fingers were nail.

Claws. No, not nails, they were claws.

Loose and singular, almost stray, hairs wisped with the wind all over their bodies, like hair you find on old people, the truly old. The naked ones, their bodies were impossibly awful to look at, emaciated but somehow so muscular still, as if every bit of flesh and sinew was perpetually taunt, a spring waiting to burst. Ears swept back, long and thin like a  branch or nail, almost bat-like, but thin, more like a fleshy antenna than the warm and small ears of a man.

The ones in front, taller, slightly, bent over, almost a flower-bulb shape of bulky body and thing legs, arms drawn in, peered at him. Ferry could see the arms and clavicle bones closer now straining to get through the skin, which was almost patchwork grey and brown and pale mottled white and flesh tone, the hands, all of it thing, sinewy, the skin drawn over the forms tight, long scraggly white thin hairs flowing like a misty sheer coating here and there, creating a halo aura affect around it. It was a corpse, but also an animal, the wide mouth a thin lipless slit in the long narrow face, almost lightbulb-shaped head turning like an owl to look at him.

Ferrrreeee…

Ferry shook his head. It wasn’t a voice at all, and it wasn’t a thought, more of an impulse, a poke in the brain speaking his name, whispering it, like it was right by but not quite in his ear. They were…they were talking to him in his mind.

Ferrreee…hello.

He could see why they would, with mouths full of needle teeth, big and stretched tight, barely able to open and close, it seemed, a semi-open state with fluid dripping, drool, despite the biting cold. Their breaths were a haze of hot awful stench, a smell he was realizing more and more, a primal hot smell radiating off their emaciated bodies. They’re like furnaces, Ferry thought to himself in the last rational recesses of his superior predator brain, a recess shrinking more and more in his head.

“W-Wh, what the fu…”

Weeee arrre Childreeeennn, Ferreee…, the impulse in his head said, louder now, like multiple TVs all playing the same theme song, multiple impulses…multiple voices. Weeee arrre Childreeen, Ferreeee…waaaytinggg for you….

Ferry shook, a deep-down, to-the-core impulse shake, his body trembling uncontrollably. It was the sort of thing the body had forgotten to do, a genetic memory barely-remembered, hidden away after prey evolve and turn into what, Ferry was realizing slowly, the gross approximation of predator. Every horror story he’d ever heard, every lost hiker and kidnapped child and slaughtered mother or maimed beyond belief young brother, every one of them suddenly came to mind. Always thinking of them as the lambs taken by men like him, by wolves like him.

What a fucking joke, Ferry was telling himself now, scrambling backwards, against the slope he’d fallen down and turning, seeing the shining big black eyes and smooth gross skin all around him. He was a dog, a mangy dog masquerading as the wolf he wanted to be, that he wished he was.

Sssssomeee taaaakeee, the impulse pounded in his head as Ferry forced one leg to move, then another, fighting against an ancient instinct that was rearing up through his body, aaaaand sssssomeeee taaaaykennnn…

“N-n-n-no, puh, please,” Ferry heard a voice say, his own voice, his own voice begging for mercy. Begging just like all those poor girls in sacks, like the one up the ridge he’d fallen down, begging for a mercy he knew deep down would not come.

And nooow, the big Child, the tallest, said, stretching up, the big center impulse-voice in his head said, long limbs and legs rearing up to show off a true size that slit mouth opening like tearing piece of fabric to let a jumble of long needle-like teeth appear, a colossal height among the trees and cold snapping air, noooow we restoor ooooordeeer…weeee taaayke….

Ferry ran.

He ran as fast as he could, dodging the trees and leaping over the uneven ground and stumps and piles of leaves he pictured bursting to life to grab at his ankles. Behind him he thought he heard the Children breathing hard, a fainter and fainter sound as he rocketed through the woods, their heat and odor fading, through the trees back towards what he thought was his car, the road, the gun under the seat he’d left there, goddamn it, another fingerprint-covered clue.

No time for that now, his brain was telling him, run run RUN. Ferry was an animal, a superior monster and he would survive. In some back part of his brain he realized, he was in awe of himself, of his superior survival instincts. The girl in the sack was a lost cause, left behind for the animals, those…Children, but at the same time, he knew that there’d always be more. He was the creature that needed saving, and here he was, once again proving everyone wrong by fleeing and dodging pursuit, effortlessly gliding away from evil. He stopped for a second, pausing to breathe and calm the heavy thumping in his chest, the FF-FF-FF of blood in his ears, his own breath pounding in his own body as his lungs and heart caught up. “Almost there,” he whispered. He looked to his left, and there it was, the road, a road. The single flat black line of what was clearly a break in the trees, a line of a highway.

Suddenly from behind him, the barest scratch of a sound, and Ferry turned around, his heart almost leaping out his mouth as the bile and terror built up. They were there, softly padding through the woods, barely a dozen yards away, the whole mass, a single Child at the front of the group. No, not a group, Ferry realized as his brain told him was this was.

A pack.

The one in the front was small, smaller than the others, younger maybe, hunched forward moreso that the rest. The long arms and legs, all sinew and the straggly trailing hair, not as grey or as stringy as the other ones. It let the big long wet grey tongue loll out the side of its mouth, tasting the air.

Ssssorry, Ferry, that impulse-voice said again, the pressure like sound in his head. Buttt you knoooow how it issss, it’sss jussssst the….nachural order…  

John Ferry was only human. He ran for his goddamn life, breathing hard every step, the soft FTT-FTT-FTT of padded bare ancient feet behind him, one for every three of his THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP work boots on that ice-cold tarmac.

Then suddenly, the FTT-FTT-FTT stopped, the air still, and Ferry felt the heavy weight and breath on his back, the long hairy thin sinewy fingers on his shoulders, heard the breathing in his ear as pain blossomed in a flower from his neck down his spine.

It was so warm, he thought, falling forward.

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