Running With the Pack

An anthology of stories edited by Ekaterina Sedia

To all sheep in wolf’s clothing . . .


There’s a view of werewolves (espoused even on the back cover of this volume) as an expression of the animal and the dark in the usually suppressed and mild-mannered civilized person; we like to think of ourselves as beasts, our wild instincts kept in check only by a thin veneer of social necessity. This fantasy is a persistent and appealing one: a jacketed executive by day, but the moment the full moon breaks through the clouds, watch out! There will be claws and fur and blood and howling.

But is this view accurate? I’d like to propose that it is not. In our natural state, humans are large, hairless apes who run well and live in groups. We are not predators—we are prey, something many romantically-minded individuals discover (one assumes, to their chagrin) while trying to survive in the wilderness, communing with nature, and engaging in other solitary pursuits in areas inhabited by large meat-eaters. Wolves and large cats are predators; we are their food.

And this, I think, is really the crux of the matter: werewolves are not the expression of our own wildness, but the longing to be like those who hunt us, the desire to become the predator. In that sense, the entirety of human civilization, our conquest and subjugation of the world, can be seen through such a lens. Being prey is embarrassing and undignified, it exposes our soft chewy insides, and who likes that? So we dominate and posture, and pretend that we are wolves inside of ape suits, rather than just . . . well, apes.

Then again, all of this is conjecture. If you look at the diversity of the stories presented here, the familiar tropes twisted in interesting ways, you’ll see that lycanthropy is much more than a simple urge to be an animal—it can be a metaphor or a joke, a tale of extinction or a new beginning, a disease or a blessing. So why don’t you sit back, crack the book open, and indulge in the fantasies of being a predator?

Ekaterina Sedia

January 2010

New Jersey



Just once, he wouldn’t use a condom. What could happen? But it hadn’t been just once. It could have been any one of the half-dozen men he’d drifted between over the last two years. His wild years, he thought of them now. He’d been so stupid. They all had said, just once, trust me. T.J., young and eager, had wanted so very much to please them.

“I’m sorry,” the guy at the clinic said, handing T.J. some photocopied pages. “You have options. It’s not a death sentence like in the old days. But you’ll have to watch yourself. Your health is more important than ever now. And you have to be careful—”

“Yeah, thanks,” T.J. said, standing before the counselor had finished his spiel.

“Remember, there’s always help—”

T.J. walked out, crumpling the pages in his hand.

Engines purred, sputtered, grumbled, clacked like insects, and growled like bears. Motorbikes raced up the course, catching air over hills, leaning into curves, biting into the earth with treaded tires, kicking up clods, giving the air a smell like chalk and gasoline. Hundreds more idled, revved, tested, waited. Thousands of people milled, riders in fitted jackets of every color, mechanics in coveralls, women bursting out of too-small tank tops, and most people in T-shirts and jeans. T.J. loved it here. Bikes made sense. Machines could be fixed, their problems could be solved, and they didn’t judge.

He supposed he ought to get in touch with his partners. Figure out which one had passed the disease onto him, and who he might have passed it on to. Easier said than done. They’d been flings; he didn’t have phone numbers.

“Look it, here he comes.” Mitch, Gary Maddox’s stout good-natured assistant, shook T.J.’s arm in excitement.

Gary’s heat was starting. T.J. looked for Gary’s colors, the red-and-blue jacket and dark blue helmet. He liked to think he could pick out his bike’s growl over all the others. T.J. had spent the morning fine-tuning the engine, which had never sounded better.

They’d come up to one of the hills overlooking the track to watch the race. T.J. wanted to lose himself in this world, just for another day. He wanted to put off thinking about anything else for as long as possible.

The starting gate slammed down, and the dozen bikes rocketed from the starting line, engines running high and smooth. Gary pulled out in front early, like he usually did. Get in front, stay in front, don’t let anyone else mess up his ride. Some guys liked messing with the rest of the field, playing mind games and causing trouble. Gary just wanted to win, and T.J. admired that.

Mitch jumped and whooped with the rest of the crowd, cheering the riders on. T.J. just watched. Another rider’s bike, toward the back, was spitting puffs of black smoke. Something wrong there. Everyone else seemed to be going steady. Gary might as well have been floating an inch above the dirt. That was exactly how it was supposed to be—making it look easy.

“Ho-leee!” Mitch let out a cry and the crowd let out a gasp as they all saw one of the riders go down.

T.J. could tell it was going to happen right before it did, the way the rider—in the middle of the pack to the outside—took the turn a little too sharply to make up time, gunned his motor a little too early, and stuck his leg out to brace—a dangerous move. His front tire caught, the bike flipped, and it might have ended there. A dozen guys dropped their bikes one way or another every day out here. But everything was set up just wrong for this guy. Momentum carried the bike into the straw bale barrier lining the track—then over, and down the steep slope on the other side. Bike and rider finally parted ways, the bike spinning in one direction, trailing parts. The rider flopped and tumbled in another direction, limp and lifeless, before coming to rest face up on a bank of dirt. The few observers who’d hiked up the steep vantage scattered in its path.

For a moment, everyone stood numb and breathless. Then the ambulance siren started up.

Yellow flags stopped the race. Mitch and T.J. stumbled down their side of the hill trying to get to the rider.

“You know who he is?”

“Alex Price,” Mitch said, huffing.

“New on the circuit?”

“No, local boy. Big fish little pond kind of guy.”

The rider hadn’t moved since he stopped tumbling. Legs shouldn’t bend the way his were bent. Blood and rips marred his clothing. T.J. and Mitch reached him first, but both held back, unwilling to touch him. T.J. studied the rider’s chest, searching for the rise and fall of breath, and saw nothing. The guy had to have been pulverized.

Then his hand twitched.

“Hey, buddy, don’t move!” Mitch said, stumbling forward to his knees to hold the rider back.

T.J. thought he heard bones creaking, rubbing against each other as the rider shuddered, pawing the ground to find bearings. Next to Mitch, he tried to keep the rider still with a hand on his shoulder. Price flinched, as if shrugging him away, and T.J. almost let go—the guy was strong, even now. Maybe it was adrenaline.

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