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Psycho Thrill - The Beast Within

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. What is PSYCHO THRILL?
  3. The Author
  4. Psycho Thrill — The Beast Within
  5. Copyright
  6. 1
  7. 2
  8. 3
  9. 4
  10. 5

What is PSYCHO THRILL?

PSYCHO THRILL is a series of horror novellas — from the classic ghost story to the modern psychological thriller and dark fantasy. Each of the novellas has been first published in German and has been translated into English for the first time. Among the writers are popular German authors, as well as newcomers to the scene. Each story is self-contained. PSYCHO THRILL is produced by Uwe Voehl.

The Author

Christian Endres is a freelance writer living in Würzburg. He regularly writes for Zitty Berlin, den Tagesspiegel, phantastisch!, deadline, Geek!, Das Science Fiction Jahr, and many other publications. As a comic editor, he has worked on the German editions of Spider-Man, Batman, Avengers, Hellboy, and Conan. He has been awarded the Deutschen Phantastik Preis on multiple occasions.

1

The first thing I feel is the cold.

In the metal.

In the air.

In my bones.

It literally emanates from all of the steel surrounding me.

The bars.

The ceiling.

The metal base under my bare skin.

I feel wretched.

The fact that there’s a certain irony about this situation eludes me at this stage.

Shivering, I join my mind as it emerges from the darkness.

Lurking at the edge of the blackness, there is just more cold.

More cold and, of course, more pain.

But that also means that I am consciously aware of my body again.

Although right now, I’d prefer not to be.

I hear a whimper nearby and finally force myself to open my eyes.

Through the slightly blurred bars dancing in front of me, I see a medium-sized mutt with floppy ears, half setter, half mongrel.

Hesitantly wagging its tail, but not coming any closer.

I increase my efforts to free myself from the fetal position and the pain immediately bites again with ice-cold ruthlessness.

But it also helps me to remember.

Things have always come at such a price.

Knowledge.

Memory.

Identity.

By accepting the pain as a form of currency, I obtain a fraction of all these things.

Of my humanity.

Of my life.

The dog, for example: I clench my chattering teeth together, endure the pain, and stare at him until I can think of his name.

Marlowe. That’s the dog’s name.

And he is my best friend, as I can now recall again.

I want to say his name, but when I try, all that comes out is a rough croak that frightens us both to death.

No wonder the dog is backing away toward the closed door and watching me distrustfully.

It’s obvious that he’s torn.

That I am just as big of a dilemma for him as I am for myself.

Marlowe …

I cling to the name and the sight of my confused four-legged friend. It helps me finally pull my mind out of the frozen blackness.

The darkness goes.

Cold and pain remain.

And the memories get stronger with each heartbeat.

More concrete.

I concentrate entirely on the question of why I’m lying naked in a steel cage in a windowless room.

Why the dog is here. Marlowe!

It takes a while, and not without the cold stinging in my limbs, but then it occurs to me.

On the worst nights of my life, Marlowe stands guard over my prison until I wake up in pain the next morning and put the puzzle back together again.

But all along, I thought that the pain, which is part of the puzzle, couldn’t get any worse.

Should have really known better.

Suddenly it feels as if someone were grabbing me by the ribcage and ripping out all of my bones and guts.

I double over in the small, cold cage.

Let out an inhuman cry of pain.

Marlowe barks, frightened.

“Hey, come on, kid,” Dead Crow’s husky voice also resonates from somewhere.

Not that it’s of any use to me now, of all times, to indulge in hallucinations of my friend and mentor.

Then it’s over just as quickly as it began.

The pain is gone, as is the confusion.

Only exhaustion and coldness remain.

And knowledge.

Every haunting memory.

Every painful particular.

Every ugly detail.

My name is Jackson Ellis, this is the cellar of an apartment building in Seattle, and last night was a full moon.

Why am I sitting in this cage?

Let’s put it this way:

During the full moon, I have a hairy problem.

*

It started on my twelfth birthday.

Great party, at least for a gang of excited twelve year olds who had still never played spin the bottle and still never had a smoke. Much less known what to do with tits or pussies.

Thanks for the party, Mom.

It’s just too bad that you shot yourself before I could tell you how cool it was or that I love you.

Suppose the sleeping bags in the living room, where the full moon could shine in, were a stupid idea.

The moonlight didn’t exactly bring out the best in me, if you know what I mean.

I still remember how I woke up the next morning and tasted that particular mix of cold and pain for the first time.

The taste of blood in my mouth.

I puked blood and hair and bits of skin on the tattered, blood-soaked sleeping bag of my best friend Jamie just as my mom opened the door. She must have been holed up behind it when the noise started.

She looked at me.

Not reproachfully.

Not horrified.

Not disgusted.

Not afraid.

Not sad.

So, according to her suicide note, as I understood it, I owe the slightly protruding lower jaw to her family’s gene pool, while the severe form of lunacy goes back to my father, whom I never got to know.

My mother always called him a mistake.

Understatement of the millennium, if you ask me.

Sometimes I wonder how it must have been for her every year after my birth.

The uncertainty.

The waiting for hour X.

The hope and fear.

The praying.

Though, I’ve never seen her pray.

Not that you should get the wrong impression of her.

She was a great mom.

Made every effort and never let me realize how much effort it really was.

And it wasn’t easy for her as a single mother in the northern province, you can believe that.

I could now, of course, say: damn, sometimes she’d give me a strange sideways glance if she thought I wouldn’t notice.

But she didn’t even do that.

Great woman, as I said.

A shame, that in my darkest hour, when I was scared and naked and covered in blood between the chewed up bodies of my friends, she left me alone and took the small-caliber way out.

She could have at least taken me with her.

*

I only vaguely remember the weeks and months after my first full moon as a wolf.

If someone comes up with the idea of making a movie out of my life, this phase would probably be referred to as my hobo years.

As I remember it, it’s an endless collection of weeks during which a pale, emaciated teenager wandered, lost, over the widespread tracks across the upper half of the country, devoured by the memory of what he did to his mother and friends.

Probably just as well that I don’t remember much about those years.

I remember one thing very well, though.

Every full moon was hell.

Which doesn’t mean that the days and nights in between were better.

As a child, I transformed even more spontaneously — as soon as I was afraid or felt threatened.

Which had often been the case among the hobos.

A little boy is fair game for assholes who spend their ruined lives against the walls of freight cars and in the dark crossings of the old railway yards.

Fair game for all the depraved bastards who earn a bad reputation, preying on the nice guys with bad luck.

At the time, I transformed one or two times a week, no matter what the moon said.

Because someone held a switchblade to my throat.

Because some wiry heroin-fueled nutjob wanted to shout and slash me open with a broken bottle in order to save the Virgin Mary from the flies.

Because two guys held me down and stifled my cries with calloused hands and tattered woolen gloves, while the third guy dropped his pants.

Back then, it too often meant:

Moving on.

Fast.

Inconspicuously.

Like a ghost.

I probably would’ve been caught immediately if I hadn’t been hunting among the hobos.

One less Chip or Jack or Joe from the old railway stations and tracks — who really cares?

Even the hobos took it pretty calmly in the beginning.

“A fucking bear.”

“Those damned coyotes are getting bolder.”

“That was definitely Marvin’s fucking pit bull, the sneaky bastard. Someone should shoot that monster.”

Someone really should have shot the monster.

And I don’t mean the pit bull.

The monster in boy’s clothing, who lugged a worn backpack around, along with a guilt that was so much bigger and weighed so much more than the boy himself.

Who tore through the ranks of hobos and threw up their blood in the woods on so many mornings.

I was more than a stray.

I was a serial killer.

At some point, I became such a bloody legend among the hobos that they were eventually just as afraid of the full moon and strangers as I was.

But the blazing bonfires and suspicion couldn’t save them when the wolf burst out of me and pounced at them from the darkness.

Why didn’t I pack it in then and make a clean break?

Because human beings cling to life.

No matter how much animal gets out from time to time.

We cling to life, as fucked up as it may be.

Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

I’ve stood on drafty railroad bridges and wide, dark highways several times.

I’ve never jumped.

But fell deeper and deeper.

Transformation after transformation.

When I was seventeen, I got to Seattle.

The cargo train stopped, as it always eventually did, and before I really even knew what was happening, why or how, this time I was one of the dark figures who jumped out and scurried away, stiff-limbed.

Just got tired of moving around, I guess.

Didn’t want to spend another winter among the hobos.

Why Seattle?

No idea.

It was just as good as any other city to look for an inconspicuous place in the urban darkness.

Somewhere among the other sinners.

*

The memories of my first few months in Seattle are considerably more present than my days as a hobo-killer.

Took me a bit to find my bearings.

Got into some trouble.

Fell in with the wrong crowd at first.

Eventually, I started working as a bouncer.

It helped that I was already a tough kid at eighteen — usually my scowl was enough to keep any real trouble away from the door of a second-rate club.

Some people said that I looked wolfish.

Fuckers.

The ladies liked the quiet boy with the stubble and dark eyes.

The darkness within them.

If there was a problem when I didn’t show up on the full moon (as already agreed upon), then I wouldn’t hesitate to head to the next joint.

Even back then, there were enough shitty acts in old factories or warehouses that would pay a few bucks to have the idiots bounced.

Much better than a life on the tracks.

On top of that, I quickly found myself enjoying the businesslike camaraderie that existed among the bouncers.

I still like it today.

At the time, I was more desperate and somehow convinced myself to be a more normal part of the whole.

Part of the herd.

Even though I was still a wolf, as every full moon proved again.

It was back before Marlowe and the cage, when the nights went a little differently than they do now…

*

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