Last Thursday evening in Petra Park, a flock of thrill-seeking Fairfielders braved the wind and the chilly night air to listen to some spooky stories read live by the authors—Tim Pelton, Dave Patterson, Chloe Hennessy, and Meredith Siemsen—as part of the ongoing Thirsty Word reading series. Re-dubbed the (Blood)Thirsty Word for October, this collection of strange little stories, repugnant poems, and paranormal radio plays made for an eerily entertaining evening. But in case the cold kept you away, we thought you might enjoy a second chance and a Halloweeny read, while tucked safely under your cozy covers. Never fear … these tales won’t keep you up tonight. Or will they?
By David Patterson
Are you tired, half-dead, sick of being at home?
Are you missing that spark of life? Weary in your bones?
Has your family become zombies, for that is how it seems?
Well, our house is your house, please ignore the screams.
Ah, my fiends—an introduction if you please
Welcome to Café GooLé, I am Chef Reegor Morteese
We invite you to join us for a nibble or a bite
We are here seven days a week. We open at midnight.
Here at Café GooLé we encourage you to gorge
Our location, you ask? Right next to the county morgue.
So gather up your loved ones. Drive down in the family hearse
We’ll greet you and eat..er… seat you and bring a drink to quench your thirst.
We do not serve wine or vodka, Michelob or Bud
Just our bubbly concoction of seltzer and fresh-drawn blood.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any menus for you to browse
But you’ll be glad to know we don’t harm any chickens, pigs or cows.
We’ll begin with our bone broth soup. Served scalding hot.
Full of bunions, corns and warts with a dollop of creamy snot
Enjoy the ambience, cool like a darkened cave
Black candles on the table and flowers from the grave
Smell the succulent aromas seeping from our vats
Hear the cackle from the kitchen, the scurrying of rats
Or perhaps a fresh-tossed salad is more your fare
Sun-dried toes and pickled ears on a bed of human hair
And a treat for the kiddies. They’ll think is quite “the Boss”
French-fried fingers with sweet saliva dripping sauce.
Our appetizer list is quite extensive. Oh, where to begin…?
Crispy kidney crepes wrapped tight in wrinkled skin.
We welcome foodies but we do not welcome snobs
You haven’t lived until you’ve had pineapple and eyeball kakbobs.
My personal favorite. Made with a certain kind of flare
A five-ounce filet of tongue served warm, wet and rare.
Or a cold dish, something safe but not too dull
I suggest the lumpy brain paté served in an ice-chilled skull.
And what of our entrees? Do you prefer hardy or something light?
We guarantee our meats are sawed off fresh every night.
For instance, our breaded cutlet is cooked to suit your taste
Prime choice tenderloin cut just below the waste
Something exotic? Please don’t be afraid.
Of our blackened lungs served with a mucus marmalade.
Or a spicy dish is more your kind of style
Try our liver and kidney meatballs glazed with chili oil bile.
We have our signature pasta dish—Linguini à la Remains
The sauce is thick with cremation ash the noodles made with veins.
And my specialty… the dish I love to make
Sink your teeth into my peppercorn, flaming, juicy butt steak!
Once you’ve had your fill, the dessert cart will arrive
I’m proud to say some things are rotten, some are still alive
Oh, where to start? A lavender cadaver tart?
I see by that look in your eye, you want a slice of Adam’s Apple Pie.
Our take on the cannoli, with a hint of vanilla bean
The cream is made from belly flat filled inside a crunchy spleen
A Red heart souffle for the lady of your life
Hold it with your bloodied hands and feed it to your wife.
When it’s time for the check no need to scream or beg
Our prices are reasonable. It will only cost you an arm or a leg
So come on down to Café GooLé whether casually or formally dressed
You’ll come back again and again … as if you were possessed.
~ ~ ~
THE WINDS OF OCTOBER
by Chloe Hennessy
It is windy tonight in your old house on the hill. The gusts are much stronger than you read they would be when you’d checked the forecast earlier in anticipation of rain. Like a hard drenching downpour, the wind swells endlessly, rushing and rushing and you can’t remember when it even started.
Your weather app is useless at predicting just when it will end. All you can do is check the hourly forecast—46% chance of rain now until 10 pm with winds up to 16 mph; 51% chance until 11 pm, winds up to 27 mph; 49% chance until midnight, winds up to 36 mph …
If there comes a warning for a tornado tonight and you’re sleeping, will you even know before it’s too late? Where will you go if there is such a beast? Your basement harbors the possibility of fugitive snakes, perhaps hidden amongst loose rope you won’t put away, quite possibly under soggy moldy boxes you won’t touch, slithering from cracks in the sill plate atop the weeping cinder block foundation. You would rather die in a whoosh and a wham of an angry whirlwind before descending those stairs, a truth you keep tucked away in the back of your mind, that peeks out now as you contemplate your demise.
There is no word from your weather app when the power goes out. Your phone isn’t that smart. It still only says rain might be coming and that the wind could be strong.
You were in the dark before the power went out, but now it feels more sinister, because it’s no longer in your control. You have no choice of seeing anything clearly. And while there is the light on your phone, you look down to realize it only charged to 6% before the power went out.
It’s like being at sea, you tell yourself. You are adrift and at the mercy of the squalls now yowling outside your glass portal windows.
This is the will of the unknown world. It strains to get at you and most of the time you are unaware. Most days you are oblivious of your absolute powerlessness, but you can be made to feel it here and now, in your own home, nuzzled within your favorite fuzzy blanket, surrounded by pictures of your family and your clean but unfolded laundry in the baskets around your bed.
The ashes of your dearly departed dog Paul on the shelf near your bed felt comforting before, but now it just feels weird that he is among the various inanimate objects that might be the last things you consider before you are swept off into a doomed death by night tornado.
“Did you hear about how she died?” they’ll say. “Her body was found in the next town over. Yeah. She was clutching some kind of pet urn and covered in flecks of dead dog dust.”
Outside the wind has become furious, the howling as unnerving as the thoughts of your room’s contents whipping around you as you’re carried off by a twister.
Perhaps you should tape the lid shut, just in case.
But you can’t be looking for tape right now, so you decide to just move it to another room.
Does considering where you’re going mean you’re lost? Is it possible to lose your way in your own bedroom? Because now that you’re standing—you feel unsure of the exact placement of the urn in relation to where you were. Was it on the nightstand? Or on the shelf just beyond?
You feel for the wall, expecting it to be close but it’s not there. And a small space begins to form in your mind—a dark expanding room of impossible notions. What if the wall has moved? What if this isn’t your room? What if it no longer belongs to you because you cannot see it? Did it ever really belong to you? Does anything? What if you can’t find your way? What if the wind wants you to fail?
You are ridiculous, you think to yourself, shaking your head. This wind hasn’t won yet. So shifting your weight, you try again, reaching forth for a flat surface, and that’s when you knock something off into the somewhere you cannot see. Perhaps it was an empty mug? Maybe a book?
Is now the time to use up some of the 6% of your phone life? How long does the power usually go out for? And as you try and recall the last time it happened, you remember you have a battery-operated charger in your backpack and the wind that batters the sanctity of your home and mind feels as if it ebbs a little.
Yes! Finally, a little solace in the eye of this storm that is but a simple struggle to not become a terrible story. You feel empowered by the notion your backpack contains a cure to your helplessness.
But—where is your backpack? Is it even in this room or is it downstairs somewhere? Is it in a closet? Surely this is the time to use your phone’s flashlight? This is a legit search. You can risk using up a little of its juice. But now, where is your phone exactly? It is not in your hand and you feel no weight in your pajama pockets. It was right with you seconds ago. You just had it. You just had it.
So you reach down to pat your bed blindly, your fingertips dredging through some sort of grainy grit …
And you freeze in this moment, back slightly bent, hands hovering just above the rumpled surface of your bed, taking in the fullness of this suddenly hushed moment.
Your hands are now covered in dusty dog cremains. Remnants of your once good-boy Paul. He is now as he was in life, all over your bed, his essence on your pillows, covering your phone with his body.
It is so quiet now, the wind having swept any trace of itself off into the distant shadows of muted tree tops and bent prairie grass. And while you are currently living inside a small version of what you were trying to avoid, the fear of being powdered in Paul, the stark stillness of your reality feels bitter and personal.
You have lived in this house for 10 years at least. You have stumbled these floors in worse stupors than this. And yet, the power goes out and all your good cow sense with it. These winds and the impotent terror of the night tornadoes of October have won after all.
The power is still off, even though the potential threat has passed, but you have been bested by yourself and your own nightmare fantasies. So you release yourself from your stiff pose over your bed and sink to the floor, your hands dusted in the death particles of your old best friend and you resign yourself to a night of sleeping on the dark cold floor.
~ ~ ~
by Tim Pelton
“This is Joe the Night Stalker on WXRB and we’ve been talking to George65. Thanks for giving us a call and sharing your theory that birds are not living creatures, but they are actually drones controlled by the government and sent to spy on us.”
“I didn’t say all of ‘em, just the bigger…”
“Well. It looks like we’re out of time for this segment; stay tuned because we’re going to get into the whole Sasquatch controversy.”
George held the receiver out in front of his face and yelled at it. “And I didn’t say it was the government! It might be the damned CIA or even the Russkies, how the hell would I know?”
He slammed the receiver down into the phone cradle and growled at it. He went to the window, picked up the binoculars that hung around his neck, and put them up to his eyes. Although the sun had gone down, he could see the silhouette of a hawk circling slowly in the evening breeze.
“I see you, you son of a bitch,” George muttered. “Why are you casing the hospital? Is something going on over there I don’t know about?”
He studied the Tucker County Hospital just across the boulevard. Five years before, there had been a tobacco field over there, now it was all concrete and glass, high buildings, and paved parking lots. Unlike some of his neighbors, George hadn’t minded when construction on the hospital began. There were a few things that the government put its money into that didn’t get George hot under the collar, and hospitals were one of them.
Before he turned on his computer, he pulled down the shade on the window.
“No use in givin’ them damned drones a free look into my bidness, is there Rusty?” George said to his old Retriever.
He reached down and scratched the dog’s head and the back of his neck. Rusty didn’t get up; instead, he thumped his tail against the floor to show his pleasure. George slid into the chair in front of his laptop and within a few minutes was in a chat room on a shirttail website called Spybirds.com comparing notes with his friends Redram42 and Theydontfoolme.
Two hours later, Rusty heaved himself up onto his feet, hobbled over to his food dish, and then looked up at George expectantly. The old man typed “gotta go,” signed out, and shut off his computer. After he had finished spooning out dog food into Rusty’s dish and had straightened up, he felt a slight sting on the back of his neck. He slapped himself in the back of the head and looked at his hand, but did not see the expected dead insect. Then he felt something whir past his ear.
Spinning around, George saw what appeared to be a giant mosquito up in the air near the ceiling. Rusty noticed it and began to bark. The old man picked up a newspaper from the coffee table and, without taking his eyes off the insect, rolled the paper into a tube.
“All right, you little bastard,” George said. “Get ready to die.”
For the next five minutes, there was a chase around the room – George swinging his newspaper club and the bug just staying out of reach. Finally, the insect flew behind the curtain over the kitchen window. George, his newspaper ready for the death blow, jerked back the curtain, but nothing was there.
“Damn it, Rusty, he got away.”
He was reaching for the dog’s leash when his neck began to itch. He scratched at it idly.
“Hey, Rusty, want to go for a walk?”
The dog arfed happily as he came up and bumped the old man’s leg. When George reached out to pick up the leash from its hook, he saw that his fingertips were covered with blood.
“What the devil…” he muttered to himself as he ducked into the bathroom for a look in the mirror. The back of his neck was smeared with blood. As he watched, little blisters formed on the side of his neck, grew in size, and then split open causing trickles of blood to run down and stain the collar of his T-shirt.
“Poison,” George gasped. “I’ve been poisoned! That wasn’t no bug, it was a damned drone and it jabbed me with somethin’. What the hell can I do? Who can I call? I’ll be dead before they get here!”
He pulled up the window shade and looked across the street. The main entrance to the hospital was directly across the street, but to the South was another entrance that had big, bright red capital letters over the door – EMERGENCY.
“I’ll just run across the street. I can be there in five minutes. They’ll know what to do.”
George was halfway out the front door when he stepped back into the house and jerked open the drawer in the end table. He pulled out a Smith and Wesson 442 revolver and gripped it tight. He felt better with the cold weight of it in his hand. Safer somehow.
Jerking open the door, he stepped out into the darkness. Before the screen door could slam, Rusty was out and running down the drive. The old man tried to run too, but arthritis in his knees and hips kept him to a hobbling walk.
The itching that had started on the back of his neck had spread down to his shoulder and up the side of his head and was beginning to burn.
When George got to the end of the drive, he had to wait for a few agonizing minutes for a break in the traffic. A searing stab of pain lanced down his back and forced him into motion. With the dog beside him, he scurried across the street ignoring the sounds of honking horns, squealing brakes, and angry curses. George reached the far curb and fell to his hands and knees on the grassy verge. Rusty kept running.
The old man looked up and saw the brightly lit Emergency Room door up ahead and staggered to his feet. There was a drainage ditch that he’d have to cross before he got to the hospital lawn itself. Further down the street was the driveway, which would be an easier walk, but would take more time. Then he heard Rusty bark down in the gully, then howl with pain.
“Rusty!” the old man yelled as he hobbled down the hill.
In the darkness, he could see something moving. When he got closer, what he saw made him want to retch. His dog was sprawled on the grass, dead, with his head split open. A large, black bird with glowing red eyes was perched on Rusty’s neck, plucking gobbets of meat out of the wound and eating them.
“You sonofabitch!” George screamed as he leveled the gun at the bird and pulled the trigger. He missed and with a rattle of feathers, the creature flapped its way up into the dark. George jerked the trigger twice more, but the burning pain in his arm made his hand shake and the shots went wide.
The old man ran to the body of his dog and reached down to stroke his fur one last time. Suddenly the dog’s eyelids popped open. Glowing, red pupils focused on George. In an instant the hound had the old man’s hand clamped in its jaws. The teeth broke quickly through the skin and the dog started ripping the flesh off the bones.
George screamed and tried to pull his hand away, but the pain only increased. In desperation, he pressed the pistol against the dog’s chest and pulled the trigger. His hand came free.
Weeping now, he cradled his mangled hand in the crook of his elbow and staggered up the hill. At the top, he paused long enough to see the emergency room entrance, and then shambled toward it as quickly as he could.
By now he was only twenty feet away. There was an ambulance in front of the doors. A wailing siren came up the drive and a patrol car, blue and red lights flashing, skidded to a halt. Two cops jumped out.
“Help!” George shouted. “Help me! They’re trying to kill me!”
Instead of running to his assistance, the cops scrambled behind their car and shined a spotlight into his eyes.
“Drop your weapon!” said an amplified voice.
“All right, but if I do they’ll attack me!” George yelled, “You have to shoot them before they get me!”
“Just drop the gun! Then we’ll take care of you!”
George opened his hand and the pistol fell to the ground. There was a screech and he looked up to see the big black bird diving straight at his chest. The impact knocked him backward and he fell. Just as he hit the ground, he felt the dog’s jaws clamp down on his throat. He struggled but it was only a few moments before sight and sound melted away like film in a broken projector, leaving only black silence.
Mick and Larry, the two EMTs that were staffing the ambulance that night, had been hiding behind their vehicle. As soon as the old man dropped the gun, they picked up their equipment cases and ran toward him. By the time the cops caught up with them, Mick was on his knees pumping the old man’s chest in a CPR cadence while Larry pressed an oxygen mask over the mouth. After a few minutes of this, they looked at each other and shook their heads.
“I gotta tell ya,” Mick said as he re-packed his case, “I’ve never seen such a look of sheer terror on a man’s face before, living or dead.”
“We heard all that screaming about ‘They’re trying to kill me,’ ” said Larry, “but look, there’s not a mark on him.”
Suddenly there was a loud rattle and flap of feathers as a large bird took off from the roof over the portico and flew up into the night sky.
~ ~ ~
WELL-LIT IS HER GRAVESTONE
By David Patterson
Well-lit is her gravestone by a blood Hunter’s Moon
Our love buried beneath where her body’s been laid
The night grows colder, I’ll be holding her soon.
What’s severed shall be whole, free her soul with my spade
Our love buried beneath where her body’s been laid
Digging down digging oh how her coffin is deep
What’s severed shall be whole, free her soul with my spade
To kiss her cold lips will she will awaken from sleep?
Digging down digging oh how her coffin is deep
Pry open the lid my bleeding heart is aflame
To Kiss her cold lips will she awaken from sleep?
Breathtakingly brittle her beautiful remains
Pry open the lid my bleeding heart is aflame
Dancing slowly entwined lonely wind moans a tune
Breathtakingly brittle her beauty remains
Well-lit is her gravestone by a blood Hunter’s Moon.
~ ~ ~
A short radio play by Meredith Siemsen
(SOUND: cellular phone rings four times)
Wenonah: Hi. I didn’t think you’d pick up.
J: Well, I did.
W: I have a favor to ask. (Awkward pause) I just. I need you to keep me company for 20 minutes. 15 if I get lucky.
J: Wenonah, I thought we weren’t … doing that anymore.
W: That came out wrong. No. I mean … Look, I didn’t know who else to call. I’m at my scary storage unit looking for my Halloween stuff, and I do not like to be here by myself.
J: Ahhhh Norm’s Storage.
W: Yeah Norm’s climate-controlled former-roller-rink-turned-community-trash closet. Where nobody comes back for their stuff cause it’s so creepy in here.
J: Creepy … but full of memories. I always secretly loved the moonlight skate. And when they made us skate backwards.
W: Yeah the backwards skate suited your personality.
J: You were asking…?
W: Right. Yes. Short of making you come down here, I … Can you just hang out on the phone with me for a couple minutes while I find my all my wigs and my Grandma’s old bowling outfit?
W: Jake, there are thirty other people with units in this old building, so there’s like a 98% chance at least one of them is a stalker type.
J: Where did you come up with those odds? Did you take a survey?
W: Crack as many dumb-ass jokes as you want, but can you just stay on the phone with me while you do it? Until I’m back in my car? If something terrible happens, you know who to call.
W: 9-1-1. Then, only as a last resort, my parents.
J: (Sighs.) You know nothing is going to happen, right?
J: Sure, I could do the emergency standby thing, I’ll just cancel my date.
W: What ?… Really? You have a date?
J: Don’t sound so surprised! … No. I do not. But for the record I COULD. Just trying to make you jealous.
(Silence. Possible eye rolling)
J: Did it work?
W: I’m punching in my code to get in the building. This keypad thing is always so fiddly. Do I push “pound” after? Oh wait, there we go. I’m in.
(SOUND: Creaky door opening)
J: I guess I’m doing this. You’re welcome.
W: I swear it still smells like the ‘80s in here. Aqua net. Smelly socks.
J: (sings) Billy Jean’s not my lover, she’s just a girl, claims that I am the one
W: I’m turning on the … what the hell?
J: … the kiiiiiiiiid is not my son ….
W: Hang on.
W: Gotta turn on the flashlight on my phone. Well, CRAP. The light switch panel thingy has been like, torn right off the wall. It’s just wires hangin’ down.
J: Umm, fire hazard anyone? Don’t touch anything.
W: The dial thingy on a timer is just. Gone.
J: Seriously, if those wires are exposed and those things are live, you should …
W: I’ll call Norm when I’m outta here. I just gotta find my Halloween stuff first. I think I know which box it’s in.
(SOUND: Her echoing footsteps on a wooden floor)
J: Yeah, I’ve seeeeen your storage unit, it’s like the U.S. Government Top Secret warehouse in Raiders—where they crated up the Ark of the Covenant, never to be found again.
W: It’s not that bad.
J: Slightly worse actually.
W: I love these old wooden floors. But I hate this creepy hallway of roll-top … chambers.
J: Chambers of Doom.
W: I wonder how many bats live in the rafters. (SOUND: footsteps stop) Oh. GOD. (beat) That’s weird.
W: They … they put the disco ball back up.
W: I’m serious! It’s up there! Was it there the whole time and I just never noticed?
J: No idea. Is it spinning?
W: Har har. I just … I can’t believe I never noticed that. Wouldn’t I have noticed that?
J: Maybe you never looked up before. (beat) Why do you need your Grandma’s bowling outfit again?
W: Costume. Here we go, unit 151.
(SOUND: Opens metal roll-top)
J: You going to Emily’s party this year?
W: Nah, different party. Way more exclusive. Celebrities. Psychedelics. You wouldn’t like it.
J: How do you know?
W: Come on. You never go anywhere.
J: Well, maybe if I was invited…
W: I’m kidding. It’s trick or treat night with the nephews.
W: That’s me. Ok, where are you Halloween box, Halloween box. I should have labeled it with orange stickers or something.
(SOUND: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” can be heard very faintly)
W: Oh very funny. You and Siri got that cued up pretty quick.
J: Cued what up.
W: (she sings and starts to dance along to the tune playing)
It’s close to midnight, Something evil’s lurking from the dark, Under the moonlight, You see a sight that almost stops your heart
J: That’s not me.
W: Right. (Continues singing) You try to scream, But terror takes the sound before you make it …
J: (laughing) Seriously, that’s not me. Or Siri, for that matter.
W: Well, I’m not making it up. You don’t hear that?
J: (listens) Can’t say that I do.
W: I think it’s … It’s in here. With me. (she begins to sound hypnotized)
J: Come on, quit messing around.
W: I’m not messing around. (she is shockingly calm)
J: Is it coming from the neighbor? Someone’s car?
W: Shhhh … it’s coming from the … back of the building. Further down the hall. I’m going to find it. (dreamily)
(SOUND: Her slow footsteps. The music gets a little louder)
J: Ok, you sound weird. I don’t like this. Are you okay? I think you should get outta there.
W: (eerily calm) No, I’m fine … it’s coming out of storage unit 159.
J: Will you get out of there please? This doesn’t seem right.
W: Is there a radio in here?
J: Could be. But why would it just turn on like that? And how is it plugged in? You should leave. I don’t like the idea of someone in there with you.
W: Battery powered radio maybe. Electronics do weird things sometimes.
J: Ok, if you’re not leaving, I’m getting in my car and coming over there.
W: (shivers) Ooooooh, it’s really cold right here. I should have brought a sweater. Goosebumps. Oh look, the roll-top isn’t locked.
J: ARE YOU MESSING WITH ME? If you are, it’s SO not cool.
(SOUND: Roll-top door opens)
W: Oh hey, Michael. (She is not afraid. She is entranced. Elated.)
J: I SWEAR TO GOD, IF YOU ARE PRANKING ME—
W: (she is not speaking to J) It’s been a while, huh? Ages. So good to see you. I love your skates. (to J, laughing) Look, he’s dancing. Bust a move, Michael, bust a move.
J: Oh very funny. Michael Jackson is dancing in unit 159. Wenonah. Stop. I’m—
W: No, not Michael Jackson silly, it’s Michael … Morrison.
W: You know, Abbie Morrison’s twin.
J: From 2nd grade? That Michael and Abbie?
W: Yeah. Michael Morrison. My very first crush. We were mad for each other.
J: Michael is the one who … drowned, right?
(SOUND: Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” can be heard on top of “Thriller” creating an eerie discord)
W: Oh. (She is enthralled, delighted.) It’s his turn now.
J: His turn what.
W: His turn to go under the limbo bar.
J: Pleeeeease stop. You are scaring the shit out of me. I’m halfway there. I’m turning onto Burlington. Wenonah?
(SOUND: a crackling fire)
W: They turned on the disco ball. (mesmerized glee) It’s so beautiful. The sparkles. Glowing red and orange. It’s warming up in here now. Can you feel it?
J: Wenonah. I need you to listen to me.
W: Ohhhhh they turned on the fog machine. So magical. I don’t remember the fog machine smelling like this. This is going to be amazing.
W: Yes Jake?
J: (With kid gloves) Can you do me a favor and meet me outside?
W: No Jake. I’m not going to do that.
W: No Jake. I want to skate.
J: You need to meet me at the door, okay?
W: No Jake. I’m putting the phone down now.
J: No Wenonah, I need you to—
W: It’s okay, I’ll be okay. I don’t need you anymore.
J: No! DON’T DO THAT.
W: It’s my turn now Jake.
J: STOP IT—
W: It’s my turn now. (beat) Goodbye.
J: Wenonah? … WENONAH??? …
(SOUND: Fire sound roars with a sudden pronounced ignition. The “Thriller” music swells.)
~ ~ ~
By David Patterson
Kingston sat up in bed. A noise had disturbed his sleep. Was it a scream? He was now wide awake. The room was unusually dark. Must be a night without a moon, he thought. He got out of bed and found his robe bunched up on the floor.
He went to the window and pulled back the black bed sheet he used as a curtain. He could see nothing outside in the darkness, not even the picnic table where he smoked his cigarettes. The night was still, lifeless.
He heard the noise again. It was a familiar sound, but from where it came he didn’t know. The security light turned on and Kingston stepped back from the window. A large black dog staggered into the yard as if it were wounded. Kingston reached for the curtain but something prevented him from doing so. The dog raised its head. A mangy beast with red eyes. Kingston wanted his rifle, but it was locked in the gun safe and he was too full of fear to move. The dog bared its teeth but did not growl. The dog seemed to know him.
It was then that Kingston knew. It had all been written before, on walls and in stone—an ancient, sacred longing as strong as the earth. Kingston walked out into the night. The grass was cold and wet on his bare feet.
He went to the dog and stood before him. The dog nudged him with his wet nose, and Kingston obeyed and followed him into the dark woods. The dog smelled of rot and decay. Kingston was blind in the darkness but could hear the dog sniffing the ground and panting. The dog stopped and raised its head and howled; alarming in the quiet night. Other dogs returned the call, sounding like mad laughter, Kingston thought.
Though Kingston knew he should run but like a victim in a nightmare, his legs became heavy and unwilling. The dog led him into a clearing. Suddenly, the clouds thinned and the dim light of a waning moon lit the area before him, casting shadows from a patch of birch trees that looked like slanted ghosts. They came as one creature. A pack of gaunt, malnourished dogs approached slowly, surrounding him with raw urgency. Their hot breath rose like steam in the dampness of the night. Kingston tightened his robe around him. The dogs howled one last time.