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.

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.

November 2012: The Beginning of Something Special

The morning begins with a mist draping the world outside just like it has for the last 70 days. It’s one of those heavy, pervasive sort of fogs that occludes everything further than half a block away. His mind automatically drifts towards numerous horror films he’s seen as he crosses the threshold from his warm living room into the chill, almost suffocating air beyond. The atmosphere is conducive to that particular variety of musing, and he finds himself catering to it quite frequently.
It is with these disjointed thoughts fluttering through his mind that he begins walking across the dead lawn towards his car parked along the curb. He is halfway across the distance when he catches a subtle movement with his peripheral vision.
He glances towards the skeletal hedge of branches that marks the property line and sees a piece of that must have blown into it with the breeze during the night.
He turns with a momentary surge of irritation from the worn footpath to the curb with the intention of pulling the garbage from the branches, there aren’t many things that annoy him more than having stray refuse blowing around and winding up in his yard. It looks so tacky.
The bag rustles a little bit more audibly as he approaches and he notices somewhere in the corner of his rational mind that there is no breeze that should be producing the apparent motion. There’s probably an animal of some kind in there, a rodent or something, he tells himself.
He decides to exhibit a bit of caution when extracting the trash.
As he reaches for it, a pair of large arthropod limbs extend from beneath the side of the bag, causing him to jump back, startled. He watches it with unwavering attention as the limbs probe around a little bit and the whole thing shifts just slightly as additional armored appendages stretch out before the trash creature scurries away across the neighbors lawn.
It is going to be one of those days, he thinks to himself as he returns to the path towards his car, his eyes scanning the visible distance in search of any other surprises that might be awaiting him.

Work In Progress #2 [Another Bit of Action]

The shotgun deafeningly tears through the woman’s legs, shredding everything near the knees and bringing her body to the ground.
The body doesn’t lay still for long. Only seconds after hitting the ground it is already struggling to drag its broken form back onto devastated legs. The words horrifying and pitiful mesh together in his head as he is forced to consider what he’s seeing while he watches the mindless creature desperately trying to accomplish the impossible just to get at him and presumably rip him to pieces with teeth and fingers that are already torn so badly that bone is protruding dangerously from some fingertips.
Mercy and anger urge the same reaction as he levels the barrel at the snarling face of the thing clumsily pulling itself towards him and he presses his index finger against the trigger. A mist of bone and blood, brain and flesh spreads out and paints the asphalt behind it as rhe woman flops dead to the pavement.
He stands there, staring down at the mess laying at his feet for a moment longer before tucking the gun against his chest and darting across the street hoping that he can distance himself from the scene before any of the other residents are drawn there by the shots he fired.

Work In Progress #2 [Attempting To Hide, Draft 1] (Yes, I know that I shift the tense throughout, I haven’t figured out which I want to use for the novel or even written this whole chapter)

Moving silently was made substantially easier for Miles with the downpour and frequent thunder masking any noises that he made; but he was painfully aware that the same muffling was working against him being aware of any potential threats that he would want to hear coming.

He needed to just find somewhere to duck away from the storm and his pursuers long enough to get his bearings and establish some sort of plan of action. He hoped that everyone else was having better luck than he currently was, finding some sort of safe haven. Hopefully they were all still together. Maybe Gale had gotten them all back to his house and they were securely holed up and waiting for him right now. He damn well needed to do the same thing for himself or he was going to wind up just as dead as Kateb.

The rain was colder than he would have liked and his clothing was sticking uncomfortably to his skin. He wanted nothing more at the moment than to get out of this fucking torrent; he wanted the fuck out of this god-awful town and to be as far away as possible from the crazy assholes that lived here, but first he wanted out of the rain.

He had seen a lot of terrible shit when he was overseas, a lot of things that made very little sense, but none of what he had seen even in Afghanistan or Northern Africa compared to the sheer, unreal insanity of what he had been seeing in this small Idaho town.

Hidden behind a sturdy privacy fence, he saw what might actually be the first lucky break of the night. The lights were out in the house and there was no apparent movement anywhere around him, but he was damned if the door to the backyard wasn’t wide open and swaying slightly with the breeze.

He made his way to the gate facing the alley and tested the latch, relieved to find that it opened without any difficulty. The door to the house is indeed open, he was hoping that it hadn’t been an illusion played by shadows as he made his way down the dark alley.

It takes every trace of willpower that Miles has to keep from going right for the door, but he can’t just ignore the situation that he was in. He makes his way from window to window, peering in through the lower corners, long enough to see that nothing is moving inside and that there is an unoccupied laundry room on the other side of the open door. There appeared to be another door at the far end of the room, which was a good thing, it gave him a buffer between himself and whoever might be lurking in the darkness of the structure.

He stood in the almost absolute darkness, listening for any sound, no matter how slight, that might not be caused by the storm going on outside. His ear pressed against the door leading to the interior of the house, he could hear nothing that indicated that anyone was home, so he built up the nerve to test the handle, as slowly as he could turn it.

An empty kitchen waits for him on the other side, only marginal light coming in through the blinds from the distant light down the alley. There appears to be a living room through the arch ahead of him and to the left. He doesn’t want to go any further into the house. He wants nothing more than to just stand there dripping onto the linoleum floor until there isn’t a trace of moisture left on his clothing, but he needs to check things out and make sure that he’s as safe here as he wants to believe he is.

Miles crosses the dark kitchen, his movements slow and deliberate. The house appeared empty as he crossed the backyard and peered through the first floor windows that faced the ally, but that was no guarantee that the occupants weren’t present. The door into the kitchen from the laundry room had been unlocked at least and kept him from having to force his way through, and he had let himself in with all of the stealth that he could manage.

He stood silently in the entryway between the kitchen and living space for close to five minutes, listening to the silence of the place, attuned to the slightest whisper of his breathing until the sound of his own pulse in his ears echoed like a drum. He didn’t make the slightest motion until he assured himself that nothing moved in the almost pitch black interior of the residence.

His foot descends softly and the faintest creak of the floorboard beneath causes him to immediately shift his full weight back to the other. His breath halts mid-exhale and his eyes widen as he scans his surroundings with sweeping movements of his eyes; his head stationary, like the rest of his body, as still as a living statue, each muscle tensed to react at the slightest impetus.

Even within the structure he is aware that the noise couldn’t have been a fraction of the volume that it was to him, but he was unwilling to risk the possibility of being discovered by anyone that might be there. There was no chance of the sound carrying beyond the walls, but still Miles worries that his misstep could draw the attention of either of the threats currently roaming the town.

In the den he discovers something that makes him want to cry tears of gratitude, above the mantle is an older pump action shotgun. He moved as quickly as stealth would allow and slid the gun from the hooks that held it in place like he was receiving communion.

 

(Gap in narrative, still unwritten)

 

In the darkness something latches onto him with hands like a hungry animal, clawing at him and struggling to pull him towards it, or it towards him. Either way it amounts to the same thing.

The shotgun in Miles’ hands erupts with an almost deafening explosion and the hands are no longer there holding onto him. Something wet and visceral hits the ground a few feet from where he stands. Almost immediately he begins walking backward slowly towards the open doorway that he knows is there, and he can hear the hungry thing in the darkness shifting itself around, breath gurgling in its throat.

It drags itself across the floor, the gender that it might have been before disguised by the severity of its wounds. Still it moves inexorably forward, desperate to reach its prey even as the final traces of life begin to dissipate within it. There is no question though, that it should be dead already, that its momentum should have ceased some time before; but somehow it just keeps dragging itself along, leaving a trail of blood punctuated by viscera at irregular intervals.

Miles had seen some terrible things in combat, been party himself to some of the most monstrous actions that one human being can perform against another, but in the minute or so that he had spent watching this creature crawl its way towards him in the half light, he felt bile surging against his esophagus.

Worse than the appearance; the hoarse, guttural groan that issues from its ravaged throat forces Miles’ teeth to clench.

Finally he raises the table leg that he wields like a sledgehammer and he brings it crashing down onto its skull, again and again until he can no longer distinguish between the sounds of splintering wood and bone. So much more silent than the shotgun that had initially shredded its body had been. He finally takes a moment to mutter a prayer to any gods that might be listening that the sound of gunfire hadn’t seemed to attract the attention of others like the thing he has just dispatched, perhaps within the same house.

“This simply cannot be happening,” Miles whispers to himself as he begins to analyze what he can remember of the town’s layout, working out the best route available to him back to Gale’s home and the SUV that he left parked there.

Everyone would be making their way there as well, if they weren’t already there, anyone still alive at least. But the rest of them didn’t know about the firearms and ammunition that Miles carried in a false compartment in the back, so he muses hopefully that Gale is armed, or he makes it back there quickly enough to make a difference. It seems that his obsessive preparations for terrible scenarios finally proves itself to be worthwhile.

Work In Progress #1 (first draft snippet)

There was no choice anymore, not as far as he was concerned. He had to go back again, to return to a home that felt utterly alien and forbidding, a place he thought he had left behind a long time ago with the intent to never return.
That unspeakable damned thing was still there, churning beneath the surface of everything that had once seemed so familiar and innocent to him; everything that he had grown up with, everything that he had known and loved as a child, until the brittle facade of safety and normalcy was torn away and he had been forced to stare, slack jawed and terrified into the unknown and unholy reality that riddled the substrate.
Nestled there in the foothills, it seemed like such a typical (almost wholesome) small town environment; a bit of early settlement history mingled with that of the indigenous people of the region, some mom & pop businesses, and an old discontinued gypsum mine that hadn’t been active since before he was born.
His childhood had been filled with an abundance of nature and plenty of outdoor activities; strange that it was the hideous, formless aspect of some of that very nature that most concerned him and plagued him, even decades later, with nightmares.
It had killed again, after being dormant and apparently harmless for all those intervening years. It had been disturbed, foolishly, by one of his childhood friends, another victim of the unwelcome knowledge that this thing existed beneath the feet of the couple hundred residents of their hometown.
What had gotten into that fucking idiot’s head? He asked himself that question over and over again as he prepared to return home for the funeral. The strange circumstances surrounding the death were clear enough that he had some idea what had happened, it was the ‘why’ of it all that troubled him. He damn well intended to find out the answer.
He hated being back in South Dakota; that was why he had moved to the West coast in the first place, just to distance himself from the Midwest in general. Plus, distance from the region provided him with distance from that fucking thing that he knew was still down there, lurking in the earth.
For all he knew, those things were everywhere, some nameless organism that had eluded discovery, but he didn’t care. He knew of this one with certainty, and he gladly subscribed to the perspective that what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. He was blissfully and willfully ignorant of any such things that might be residing beneath the surface of the Oregon home that he loved so dearly.
Here he was though, back in the white trash fantasy camp wasteland that he grew up with, and he just wanted to go back home.