April 20, 1948

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Champ and I waited out the storm.

Since neither of us enjoyed being wet, and since the pheasant was good, we spent the rest of the day and all the night in the comfortable warmth of the cave.

I wasn’t surprised to learn he knew most of my story – it is remarkably similar across the various worlds and times – but he was most interesting to me.

All the dogs in this place could speak. It was a trait they were born with.

A fair portion of his race was free, a smattering had voluntarily aligned themselves with various groups of people, and there were even one or two packs that helped the trees hunt for fresh meat. There were others, though, who had been taken as pups and enslaved to the headhunters. Champ had come from this last group.

As dawn broke and the sun shined upon the sodden landscape, Champ and I emerged from the cave.

“You never said how you gained your freedom,” I stated, adjusting the sling of the rifle.

“Hm? Oh, well,” Champ chuckled, biting at a flee on his hindquarters. “My master had an accident.”

“Did he?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Seems he fell into a trap laid by another hunter.”

“And you didn’t?”

The dog grinned at me. “I’m smart enough not to step in traps. And not to warn any rotten son of a bitch who might.”

The wind shifted, and Champ raised his head. His grin widened, and he glanced at me. “Looking to add more scalps to your bag?”

“Of course.”

The dog led the way, and soon we reached the edge of a lake, and not far from us, I spotted a canoe. One man reclined at the stern while the other crouched in the bow, a rifle in his hand.

I slipped a Colt out of its holster and didn’t bother to muffle the sound of the hammer being drawn back. As both men turned to look at me, I shot each in the chest. They both died with looks of surprise on their face. The man in the bow tumbled into the lake as the sound of the shots rolled out over the water.

As I holstered the weapon, I let out a curse and shook my head.

“What?” Champ asked.

“I’ve got to get wet,” I explained, gesturing toward the canoe. “I want my scalps.”

With the dog’s laughter in my ears, I slogged out to the bodies and took my due.

#nature #horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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