Larissa Prado

Brazilian horror author Larissa Prado presents an English translation of the eponymous short story from her collection, 'The Wolf's Howl'. Continue scrolling once you've experienced this tale of terror and trauma to read my review of the collection.

The Wolf’s Howl

1

‘It’s disgusting,’ Camille said whilst drying her hands on her pants. ‘You have to see, Roy, the walls are stained, and I’m not talking about mould.’ She got her face close to his, whispering, ‘It’s shit!’
     Roy had to hold back a giggle to keep from spitting out his lunch.
     ‘Roadside restrooms, honey. It happens.’ He took the last bite from his enormous burger and, while Camille took her seat, she stirred the remains of her lunch, with a nauseated expression.
     ‘How long until we get there?’
     Roy shook his head negatively, but he really didn’t have a clue how long they still had until they arrived at his parent’s house in the country. They’d crossed more than three cities already, and still didn’t seem to be close. His father’s death forced the couple to leave their suburban life behind, but he didn’t complain, as he liked the road and besides, he had a large inheritance from the old farmer to receive.
     Finishing his lunch, Roy told Camille to wait on the parking lot, while he relieved his bladder. After paying the bills, she left the restaurant and waited for him beside the motorcycle. Trying to make the wait somewhat more tolerable, she lit a cigarette.
     The men’s room didn’t look much different from the women’s. Graffiti covered a good portion of the walls. Most urinals were broken, only two filthy ones remained. When Roy finished pissing, he noticed a stain covering most of the urinal’s interior, but it didn’t look like shit or some kind of fluid. He got down and stared at the stain, which seemed to shift and move like a Rorschach test.
     ‘Man, that’s blood!’ he spoke out loud, his dizziness increasing, and he had to lean on the wall. Roy, in his despair, asked himself if it was his blood. The idea almost took shape in a hot throb he felt on his back, around his kidneys.
     Camille had already finished her cigarette. She looked at the dryness of the field in front of her. The weather was dry, which made her breathing “work badly”, as her deceased grandmother used to say. Camille didn’t accept that the long years living with tobacco were the main culprit. ‘No, it’s just the changing weather, that makes my “-it is” (rhinitis, sinusitis and so on) flare up,’ she told Roy, who as an ex-smoker, proud of his willpower, got the habit to try to take everybody to the “clean lungs” paradise.
     The still air made her dizzy. It was hot and Camille didn’t know how many minutes – or hours – she was standing there, waiting for Roy to exit the restaurant. She looked around; the parking lot seemed emptier. Roy’s sports motorcycle rested between a jeep and a car with an “I love my wife” sticker on the rear window. Despite the queasiness and the anguish from the wait, she managed to laugh from what she read.
     She decided to go after her husband. The cashier didn’t see him pass by, and the clerks also hadn’t noticed him. She went to the restroom area and called him twice, then tried calling him on the phone. It rang inside, a low sound, a whistling and lonely ringtone echoing in the empty men’s room. Camille hang up, deciding to enter and make sure he was alright. ‘It’s just a stomach ache,’ she thought, remembering the shit in the women’s room and smiled nervously, like the ones preceding a nervous wrecking.

2

The noise continued, as if a rock were stuck in the tire’s rubber. Oscar Salvago stopped on the roadside three times in a row, getting down to check the tires, but there nothing on the wheels, rubber, or whatever it was. So how could that noise be so persistent?
     ‘It’s not in the engine, honey?’ Gertrude seemed tired. The trip had became way longer, due to the pace they were going with that noise.
     ‘No, darling, there’s nothing wrong. Maybe it’ll stop now…’
     On the backseat, Matheo was drowsy, and was thrown from side to side by his older sister, Nadia, who was 15 and each day seemed surer of herself.
     ‘The car will explode!’ Matheo yelled, rapturous, throwing his arms up as if that was reason to celebrate.
     ‘Don’t be stupid, stupid!’ Nadia rolled her eyes and touched her forehead to the window, when she saw the smoke and told her father. ‘Dad! Dad! There’s smoke back here!
     Her eyes wide, a panicked Nadia grabbed her father’s seat, as if the smoke could kill her.
     Oscar didn’t have time to slow down before they lost the rear tires. One of them went spinning and bouncing, the car swinging on the road. Nadia screamed so loudly that she drowned out every noise from the other passengers.
     When he managed to stabilize the car, Oscar noticed the dense dust cloud in the air, barring all sight. It was like being trapped in a cloud. Gertrude made a sudden movement to open the door, but her husband stopped her.
     ‘Stay still, let’s wait for the dust to settle…’ Oscar knew they were out of the road, and that calmed him about possible crashes.
     ‘Dad,’ Matheo’s voice was barely a whisper, ‘what are we going to do?’
     ‘Wait. Let’s wait for the dust to settle and see what happened to the tires. I’ll fix what has to be fixed. It’s going to be alright, champ…’
     Nadia gave her father a doubtful glance.
     ‘What’s that?’ She pointed to her window, the dust dissipating, and they could see shapes in the distance. Over the prairie hills, lots of shadows gathered together.
     ‘WILD DOGS!’ Matheo yelled. ‘Those are desert dogs, Dad! They only attack in packs,’ the boy remembered from his beloved science books, ‘and eat small animals. I’m small, Dad, they’ll eat me first!’ He became hysterical.
     Oscar tried to notice the shadows, not caring for his son’s fear. Gertrude turned on her seat and took Matheo on her lap. He was 6, but cried like a baby, which bothered Oscar very much, because he knew his wife had a share of guilt in the boy’s behavior.
     ‘Nadia, you have your phone? Call the police and give them our location.’
     ‘Look, there are more wolves coming!’ Gertrude looked and hid Matheo’s face on her shoulder, to spare him the view.
     ‘Those aren’t dogs, must be wolves, scared with the noise the car made.’ Oscar opened the door, despite his wife’s and daughter’s protests for him not to go out. Nadia tried to make her phone work, but had no signal. She could get out with her father, and walk to the roadside, where she was certain to receive some signal. She looked at the shadows. There were more than 20 of them, wolves or dogs, she didn’t know, but panic grew inside her.
     Oscar was lowering the left tire, his pockets full of fireworks Matheo got as a gift from his grandfather. It was from his town they were returning, and the 3-hour drive had become infinite. Oscar felt drained from his son’s whining, plus the low country music on the radio left him on the edge. It was better to be outside with the wolves than go inside and face his helpless family. Wolves? He asked himself for a moment, how he knew those weren’t jackals? He didn’t, but had a certainty, clear as the noonday sun.
     They got close enough for him to see their shapes, curious eyes and sniffing snouts, at a distance. Gertrude felt cold sweat drop from her forehead. While she rocked Matheo, he buried his face between her breasts, muffling his despair. Nadia watched her father, fearing that at any moment the animals would jump on him. Oscar got up and looked around, the animals being the last thing on his mind. The tires simply had jumped from the wheels, as if they’ve been ripped off. There was nothing to do, besides waiting for help.
     ‘Did you get it? Have you called the police?’ He put his head inside and stared at his daughter.
     ‘Dad, your eyes…’ she cowered on the seat. ‘What happened?’
     Gertrude saw the redness in Oscar’s eyes, which looked like a pair of fireballs.
     ‘WHAT THE HELL! Give me that,’ he took the phone from his daughter’s hands with such violence that a loud, bone crunching crack was heard inside the car. Nadia’s wrist twisted all the way. Matheo lifted his face and faced his father’s fury through the window, his screams echoing through the prairie again. Gertrude was stunned and couldn’t move, at first. Nadia was too shocked to react, just staring at her twisted arm, not noticing her father’s last movements.
     They advanced calmly, going down the hills, many paws synchronized. Oscar looked around, his mind being taken over by some sort of monstrous strength. The howls came, one at first, then another, until there were many euphoric howls, echoing through the prairie.

3

When Camille left the men’s room, there was no one else in the restaurant. Her memory returned to Roy’s body, imploded in the cabin, flesh and offal everywhere, just like a cartoon character that swallowed a time bomb. She tried to calm her nerves. With the motorcycle key in one hand, she walked to the parking lot and drove into the highway. She didn’t look back, she didn’t call anybody, as there was no signal. She just left.
     Camille went as fast as the motorcycle could, welcoming the wind on her face. She would find some place with phone reception, some help. The restaurant was empty, no one to ask for help. Where was everybody? Questions formed inside her head, like waves endlessly crashing over each other. At some moment, she realized tears wouldn’t let her see the road. She pulled the motorcycle over to take a breath, then heard howling nearby.
     They were sparse, frightening, terrifying howls. Camille took the helmet off and looked ahead, a veil of smoke swirled up into the sky from where a car seemed abandoned. She turned the motorcycle on and dared to approach a few meters. The howls ceased, but she barely noticed. She walked out of the road, taking notice of a distant crying. A child’s cry, she thought. The first thing that crossed her mind, the most rational thing, was an accident. Camille tried her phone again, but it didn’t even turn on.
     ‘Hello?’ she called loudly, while she got closer to the car. The wind was the only noise, not even the crying sounded anymore. ‘I must be mad, that’s it. I went mad in that restaurant, it’s not possible…’
     A sharp pain came from behind, as if a truck severed her legs. Camille fell on her knees when Oscar hit her in the legs with a tire iron. Then the howls began again and, still numb from the pain, she could see the shapes getting closer from the distance.
     ‘I TOLD YOU and you don’t listen,’ Oscar said aloud, whilst charging against Camille’s legs, who tried to crawl away on the floor. His eyes were two diabolical flames, like night jackal’s eyes.
     ‘There’s a sun that never sets,’ he pulled her hair, her face turned to an unbearable light in the sky, ‘there’s a sky that never goes dark, I can’t stand whining.’
     Camille felt tears running down her face. Her hands in an involuntary act tried to rebuke his violent pulls. Oscar dragged her through the prairie. Her knees throbbed. She was sure her legs were backwards, smashed. She could only think of the pain – and Roy in the men’s room. Something had gone out of her husband, simply ripped out from inside of him. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ she tried to think, while being dragged through the hot, rough prairie ground, ‘it’s not a horror movie, things don’t come out of people, you’re dreaming…’ She screamed as loudly as she could, and they began to howl again.

4

It was night when Camille opened her eyes. Her entire body hurt, she couldn’t place the most painful place. Her arms were tied behind her back, her mouth stuffed with a filthy balled sock. He hummed, seated behind a campfire, the flames so high they reached the skies. Oscar faced her with the same insane, entirely black eyes. By his side, Gertrude’s corpse was feasted upon by some jackals, who fought over the burst entrails. Little Matheo was in shock on the other side of the campfire. Camille thought the boy might be dead, if not for the slight breathing movement of his chest.
     ‘I didn’t want to do that, you know.’ Oscar got up. The jackals growled, delighting themselves on his wife’s flesh. ‘All this mess. Everything is a mess all the time,’ he gesticulated while standing up on long, strong legs.
     Camille saw his face while he said that. It was something Roy always said: “Everything is a mess all the time.” How could this lunatic know that? She gave up trying to make sense of this and tried to move her wrists to get rid of the bonds, but the duct tape was too strong. All she earned was some ripped skin.
     ‘You come and go through the road and never know where you want to go. Just passing by, right?’ He was close to her, she could smell his sweat and blood. ‘Everyone that passes must pay a toll, understand?’ He touched her chin. Camille trembled in fear. Her body seemed to shake from the inside, and the cold froze even her thoughts.
     ‘What happened to Roy,’ he whispered to her. ‘I’m here, love. Everything is a mess all the time.’ He smiled. Camille watched him take from his pocket a gnawed finger, still showing marks from a ring. She tried to scream, but the sock stuffing her throat prevented any sound escaping. It was Nadia’s finger. He slurped it as an animal tasting its prey. The howling began again, but Oscar kept staring at Camille, an absent look, as if he had become a statue at midnight.
     While the howls proceeded, the man stayed still. Camille fought her bonds in utter despair, trying to escape them. She tried to call Matheo, the boy unmoving. Oscar kept still, empty eyed, while she freed herself from the tape around her wrists. She crawled to Matheo, as she couldn’t stand up with her shattered knees.
     ‘I need you to get a grip on yourself, boy!’ she whispered to Matheo, who stared at her, pale and silent. ‘Please, we need to get out of here. Help me walk. My motorcycle, it…’ The boy stared at her, the same emptiness in Oscar’s eyes were there, in his face. Camille heard a thump behind her as Oscar’s body was torn apart to nothing more than a pile of offal and faeces. Matheo touched her shoulder. The howling echoed once again through the prairie.
     ‘Everything will be ok, lady.’ He smiled a strange smile. Just like a wolf’s.

Larissa had told me of the marginalisation of horror in her country, particularly of indie horror authors. This came as a surprise to me, given the genre’s unstoppable popularity elsewhere, but my surprise turned to total incredulity once I actually read her own writings and discovered what she has to offer the horror world.

She’d also told me of her passion for the cosmic horror of Lovecraft, and this passion made itself known seamlessly through the threads of the narratives within The Wolf’s Howl. Larissa created cracks in the ordinary world, tore fissures in everyday scenarios through which these unholy cosmic horror-infused entities reared their eternal heads. The town of Tumbled Stone became her Innsmouth, its archaeological digs her very own In the Mountains of Madness uncoverings; her use of dreams as both motifs and thematic symbols became her Lovecraftian Dream Cycle (episodes of Lovecraft horror I never actually liked, but in Larissa’s hands proved far more seductive); the creatures and entities emerging unannounced from seemingly normal individuals rendered the world she created uncertain and disturbing.

I did not feel safe in her hands. I did not trust this world into which I was flung. I believed in her horror entirely.

After being humbled – and quite frankly put in my place – from reading Larissa’s collection, I have a new sense of gratitude for horror being so readily encouraged where I live. I have no doubt that if she continues crafting such masterful horror, the marginalisation of the genre in her country will dissolve, and the appreciation she and the rest of us enjoy will prove contagious to the rest of Brazil.

So here’s to those horror creators that are pursuing their passions against all odds, and pushing their craft despite whatever setbacks they’re facing. I’m sure I speak for us all when I tell Larissa that the Brazilian horror community has our support, and that she shouldn’t think twice about reaching out to us if we can assist with bringing Brazilian horror the recognition it deserves.

Continue criando um terror incrível, Larissa!

Visit Larissa’s website, or connect with her on Instagram and Twitter to be kept in the loop about the imminent release of the full English translation of The Wolf’s Howl, in which I’ll be providing a foreword.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the Gavin Gardiner Horror newsletter!

Share via:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on tumblr
Share on email