Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

In a small and all but forgotten town, a long way from here, there was a little girl who lived with an aunt she barely knew. Her own parents had passed away a long time before and her older brother had gone into foster care because the aunt couldn’t care for them both.

In an old house, a house with leaking pipes and creaking boards the girl grew into a young woman; no matter how old though, she was still afraid as soon as the light died down outside.

She imagined monsters of all shapes and sizes, creatures that defied description prowling around in the night’s blackness, within the house and without.

One night, her aunt failed to return home from the diner where she’d worked as a waitress and the girl worried and worried as the hours ticked by.

She sat backward on the sofa in the living room, peeking through the curtains where she pulled them apart just enough to peer outside into the gloom, scared and alone as she prayed for her aunt to return home.

A pair of headlights finally startled her from the slumber she hadn’t known she was slipping into, a car door opened and slammed shut, and feet drummed against the gravel drive and onto the porch before the door came swinging open and crashing shut behind a strange young man she faintly recognized.

His brow glistening with sweat her brother smiled at her briefly before his face returned to grim seriousness and words began spilling from his lips. He told her that he had wanted to surprise her with a visit. He’d just turned 18 the week before and had called their aunt to arrange for this.

The little girl leapt up from where she’d perched stiffly against the back of the sofa and ran to her brother, squeezing her arms around him so tightly that she might have cracked a rib and interrupting his speech.

She asked where their aunt was and he didn’t have time or presence of mind to mask the truth. Something terrible had happened to her while he’d waited in the parking lot for her to finish up her shift.

Some strange men, dressed as hunters, had come in late, near the end of her shift, and she had refused to kick them out no matter how late it was.

Those men did monsterous, horrible things, and the little girl’s brother had tried to stop them.

The men came after him and he jumped into his car and sped away for the run down old house where he knew his sister was alone.

A pair of headlights tracked him the whole way, edging closer and falling back as he raced along the back roads trying to get to the house.

As he breathlessly neared the end of the story, the sound of two doors shutting outside reverberated through the sinking hearts of the brother and sister.

There were, that night, two monsters prowling around in the darkness, and they had already hurt the girl’s family.

But they weren’t the only ones.

From the rear of the house the girl heard the scratching and shuffling that had filled her with terrified visions so many nights, accompanied by the sound of labored breathing and the almost silent thrumming of subdued growls.

And from the gloom and shadows a giant, misshapen figure began to emerge, covered in hair, mouth bristling with teeth.

Her nightmares had never painted an image so horrible as what she was actually seeing.

And behind that first abomination appeared another, followed by two more.

The monsters she had feared were in fact quite real.

Her brother turned toward those lurking creatures and smiled with recognition…and for all that it could, the monster in front smiled back.

The brother looked down to his sister, grabbed her tear-soaked cheeks in his palms , gently turned her face to his, and whispered, “Stay here. Stay inside with the monsters. They’ll keep you safe. I’ll be right back.”

Before she could utter a word of argument he was walking through the front door as the creatures from the darkness moved closer to her and circled protectively around her.

There were sounds of violence outside followed by drunken laughter as someone fell to the ground.

Loud footsteps approached the front door from the porch outside, and she knew it wasn’t her brother coming back to her.

The door burst open with a crash and through it strode the two hunters her brother had spoken of.

Alcohol on their breath and blood on their hands and sleeves, they strode confidently into the foyer before they saw the little girl and the beasts that surrounded her.

There was no chance for them to scream.

The hulking shapes lunged forward as one and the two bad men disappeared into a tangled flurry of fur and claws and gnashing teeth.

It was no more than a few minutes and the two men were gone, no trace of them remaining in the dimly lit foyer.

The monsters slipped through the door and returned with the beaten and bruised, unconscious body of the brother.

They gently laid him down on the sofa and turned to the little girl, lowering their heads to her and snuffling like she’d seen from so many dogs in the past.

She reached out nervously at first and gently patted her tiny palm on the matted fur of one after the other and they slowly slipped back into the darkness at the rear of the house.

Her brother woke up a short while later, groggy and hurting, and walked her to her bedroom where he tucked her into bed.

She fell asleep just before the police arrived to inform them that their aunt was in the hospital but that it looked like she would come through it all ok. The police had no information as to who had done the horrible things to the kind older woman, but assured the brother that they were investigating it.

The little girl fell asleep that night with no more fear, and she slept through the visit from the police.

The monsters she had feared were no longer monsters.

And there was nothing prowling in the dark that would hurt her but the monsters that pretended to be men.

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Lost Little Puppy

Near the center of a big city there was a puppy.

He was a strange little puppy with mismatched eyes and shaggy fur. His breed couldn’t be determined, there were probably half a dozen mixed in there.

He lived in a gap between a dumpster and the red brick wall of an apartment building. It was the only home he’d ever known.

He’d been separated from his litter shortly after he was born. His mother and the other pups were spirited away by men from Animal Control, but he had been overlooked and left all alone.

So, there he was in the home he made for himself in that alley behind an apartment, across the way from a Greek restaurant. The only little piece of the world he knew.

It wasn’t much of a home, barely fit for even a mutt like him, but he’d never had anything to compare it to, so he was happy there.

He played with the pigeons when they settled on the alley floor to scavenge their meals, but the pigeons weren’t fond of playing with him, so they darted away as he ran after them with his tail wagging frantically.

He ate well, the leavings from the restaurant being dropped carelessly on the ground often enough that he was healthy.

One afternoon the dishwasher was dragging the garbage out to the alley and he saw this strange little puppy peeking out from behind the dumpster. He knelt down to see if the puppy would come to him.

With a little trepidation the puppy came out from the shelter of his dumpster home and bounded across the distance of a few feet to the young man.

Petted and patted, on instinct he rolled over onto his back on the dirty alley floor and exposed his belly for the dishwasher to rub it.

And rub it he did, with a huge smile on his face.

The young man reached into the garbage bag he was carrying and retrieved some of the more substantial scraps for the puppy and fed him from his hand.

The puppy whimpered as the dishwasher began to head back inside to where his work awaited, and the young man felt sad as the door closed behind him, separating him from the puppy in the alley

That was the first affection and human interaction the puppy had ever received, and he sadly returned to the space between the dumpster and the wall.

Hours later, while the puppy chased pigeons, the young man came walking into the alley from the sidewalk and the puppy immediately stopped what he was doing and ran to him.

The dishwasher scooped up the puppy and was greeted with an excited tongue lapping at his face.

The young man laughed and smiled and he carried the puppy home with him.

The puppy grew up there in the dishwasher’s tiny basement apartment, going for walks, getting baths, and eating like he never had before.

At night he would leap onto the young man’s bed and circle around until he could nestle up right next to him, and he would sleep so well that he never missed the pigeons.

He began to forget about the alley, the dumpster, and the scraps that used to be his meals.

For years he lived a life like any puppy would dream of having. He was loved and he was cared for.

He was happy.

One afternoon the dishwasher didn’t return home from work when he normally would. The puppy, now a dog whined at the door and padded away, returned again and did the same.

After a while he couldn’t help himself and he went to the bathroom on the tile kitchen floor, and for an hour or so after that he hid in shame waiting for the young man to punish him when he returned home.

For a couple of days that was how it worked for the dog. He would wait at the door until he couldn’t hold it any longer, he would go to the bathroom on the floor, and he would hide in shame for a little while before returning to the door again.

He was sleeping when the key turned in the lock and he was immediately alert and running to the door from the bedroom.

The smell was wrong. It was a stranger who walked through the door, but she smelled kind of like the young man. There were tears in the older lady’s eyes as she turned on the light, and the dog knew that she was sad.

The dog barked at her, not a threatening bark, but a question. He asked her where the dishwasher was.

Startled by the unexpected bark, the lady jumped.

She saw the mess the dog had left on the floor and she shouted at him, opening the door and ushering the dog outside.

He waited outside for a while and when the lady came back out she shut the door behind her before he could get back inside to his home.

She walked right past him without acknowledging that he was there, too distracted with the handful of items she carried.

The dog whined and followed her for a little bit before turning back to wait at the door for the young man to return.

Night came and he curled up and slept on the concrete stoop in front of the door. It wasn’t comfortable like the bed, but it was somewhere to wait for the dishwasher to return.

A few days later he had to leave the yard. He was hungry and he needed to eat.

He wandered around the neighborhood for a while, finding nothing.

He had walked for a good long while before a familiar scent drew his attention. He followed the scent until he found himself in a place that he’d all but forgotten.

He was in his old alley home and the pigeons flew away as he walked into the old, now remembered environment.

There was food there, like there always had been, but there was no dishwasher. He ate his fill and he made his way back home.

That became the dog’s routine for the next few days, returning to his old alley for food when he was hungry and waiting on the stoop for the young man the rest of the day and night. It was only a few days before a group of people showed up at home, one of them being the older lady from before.

They let themselves into the apartment and began moving things out; in the process they chased the dog away.

He had nowhere else to go, so he returned to the alley to eat and wait them out.

They were gone when the dog returned home a few hours later and he settled back in to his place on the stoop.

During the night it began to rain and he couldn’t get inside so he made his way back to the only other place he could find shelter.

The rain grew heavier as he ran toward the alley. It was a tighter fit than when he was a puppy, but the dog could still fit snugly behind the dumpster. He nestled into that space and fell asleep.

When the rain and thunder went away he returned home and continued with the same routine he had before, still waiting for the dishwasher to come home.

New people arrived only a week or so later, they shouted at him and shooed him away. He came back later, thinking it would be safe but those same people chased him away again.

He had no choice but to go back to the alley, and that alley was where he lived out the rest of his days.

He never saw the young man again, though he continued to hope that he would walk down the alley and take him back home; but he never forgot the young man and the home that he’d had.