The stretch of Route 3 that weaves through the mountains of New York is a quiet place, sparsely populated by people brave enough to live where the trees outnumber them. At least that’s what I thought the first time I passed through. But this time, as I drive by the decrepit mobile homes with chipboard additions and bus-seat benches on the front porches, I realize these people aren’t brave. They simply don’t have a choice.
And I’m grateful for that, because if they did have a choice, they wouldn’t be here, and I’d probably get sloppy.
Frank’s my third kill this year. I wouldn’t call him a trophy. I can’t always take the ones I want because I’m limited, by the distance I can drive in one weekend before returning to work on Mondays, by the size of my trunk, by my small stature. He serves his purpose, however. The cocktail of anxiety and adrenaline surging through me now ought to keep me going for at least a few more months, until I get my next three-day weekend.
Around 6PM I pull my car gently into a wide ditch at the side of the road and drag Frank’s body from the trunk of my car. I carry him over the guard rails to the bottom of a valley on the opposite side of the road, disembowel him, and empty the contents of his body into the murky waters of the river to lighten the load. Then I begin the long trek up the mountainside.
A mile and a half into the woods I rest, eventually deciding that I’ll hide the body where I sit. Before I bury him I savor the kill again, poring over the lacerations on his face and the deep, jagged scars in his chest. The memories come rushing back, and I vomit, laughing as my breakfast sandwich coats the ferns beside me. I don’t bother to clean it up. I don’t care anymore if they catch me. I only bury the body because it makes me feel complete. It’s the closure I need after a kill to seal my instinctual drive to murder.
A few hours later I walk into the valley again. The depressions in the vegetation made by Frank’s body have been obscured by time and the resilience of foliage.
I hobble over fallen trees and the soaked earth back to where I opened Frank to the evening air, just to be sure that my eyes haven’t deceived me and nature has taken care of the remnants of our time there. Small animals have already drank from the water’s edge after their noses led them to the scent of blood. Something bigger, not considerably bigger, has visited the site as well.
It waits for me in the shadows. I feel it.
That’s when the cowls and yelps of coyotes carry through the air. I’m a quarter mile from my car, and close enough to see the heat of their breath dissipate in the sky. The mist grows thicker as they come into view, trailing slowly, blanketing my view of the stars on the horizon like a thick, wholesome milk. There are dozens of them.
They begin to encompass me, nipping at my heels as I swat them away with my jacket. Finally one latches on and grounds me. By the time I reach for my feet, it has found my throat. I scratch at its eyes, but it holds me tight, never flinching. The others move in, tearing at my flesh with their dulled, bone-scathed teeth. They work like a single entity, several pinning my arms with their jaws, and the leader staring me down out of the corner of its eye as it holds tight to my jugular. My blood screams to be released, to pour from the new relief holes in my tissue. Then I try to scream for the same, to let the blood pump from my body before I have to feel anymore, before I have to hear the pups cry in their unearthly language again. But it doesn’t stop.
Before I die, between the new thresholds of pain that halt my thought process, I think of Frank and the others, how I had always savored the kill. But the act was always void of the urgency of hunting to sustain myself and my family. I realize it was never instinct that drove me to kill. It was something embedded in my conscious mind, something paltry, something pathetic and meager in relation to what was happening to me now. And as I look at the forest canopy that opens into a wide skyline of tiny lights flashing back at me, I feel smaller than I ever have before.
©2012 Kirk Jones
Kirk Jones is an instructor of humanities for the State University of New York. His work has appeared, or will be appearing in Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, New Tales of the Old Ones, Bust Down the Door & Eat All the Chickens, Unicorn Knife Fight, Flashes in the Dark, Death Head Grin, Points in Case, and on Bizarro Central. His first book, Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals, was published by Eraserhead Press imprint NBAS in 2010. His blog, www.bizarrojones.com, features writings about obscure relics of the past, psychology, and writing instruction. Stop by and chat. The company’s most appreciated.