Dogs XXIX

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I returned to Elbridge Island.

I found a rowboat tied to the dock, and I made my canoe fast beside it. With my Colts drawn and my Spencer slung over my shoulder, I followed the same path as the day before to Elbridge’s house.

On the other side of it, I found four hunters, a hound, and the brace of game birds they had shot just a short time before.

Only the dog seemed happy to see me.

Before his masters could stop him, the hound bounded to me. “Do you smell it?”

“I saw it yesterday,” I told the dog. “It’s why I’ve come back.”

I looked to the men who gazed at me with obvious disdain.

“This is the wrong island to be on,” I told them. “Wrong lake, as a matter of fact.”

The man holding the birds stood. “This is a good hunting ground. We’d like to stay a bit.”

Before I could reply, the monstrosity lumbered out of the woods. As the men tried to comprehend what they saw, I holstered the Colts, freed the Spencer and fired. The rifle’s slug tore a chunk away from the creature’s mouth, leaving it oozing a foul ichor the color and consistency of molasses. The sight of it sent the men into motion.

They loaded their bird guns and charged at the beast.

I don’t know if it was bravery or panic, but it spelled their doom.

I fired until I ran out of ammunition and the Spencer’s barrel had a dull glow to it.

The men raced to the monstrosity and fired into its maw with their birdshot. The beast took hold of them, howled in fury and tore them apart. When it finished, I watched the thing add their limbs to its body.

I looked down at the dog, and the dog looked up at me.

“Fire?” he asked.

“Fire,” I agreed and shrugged off my coat. I wrapped it around a length of stick, set fire to one of the finest coat’s I’ve owned, and crossed the field toward the beast. When I was a short distance from it, I drew a Colt and put a single round into the creature’s mouth.

It threw a head and lumbered toward me, and when it was close enough, I fed it the coat.

The monster coughed, howled, tried to choke up the coat and exhaled fire instead.

The dog and I watched it burn and made sure to stand upwind.

The damned thing stank like hell.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXVI

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Illiterate sonsofbitches.

I’ve more than a few signs up around my property with words like ‘Danger’ and ‘No Trespassing.’

Oh, occasionally, there’s a good reason for it, so I explain gently that they need to leave.

Others, though, I’m not so gentle with.

This morning is a fine example.

The turkeys are in rare form. The Toms are all out, challenging one another and trying to keep their harems together. Lots of fights between the birds while the hens try to mind their own business and ignore the idiocies of their mates. With the Toms all full of themselves, it makes them easier to spot and easier to shoot.

And that’s just what these two bastards did.

The roar of a shotgun is a difficult thing to miss on an early morning, and I sure as hell didn’t. With my Colts loaded and loose in their holsters, I went searching for trespassers, and I found them.

They were away south on my property, one with a bird over his shoulder and the other looking for their next target. A bird dog stood beside the shooter, and when the dog heard me, his tail drooped. The dog shook his head, trotted a few steps toward me and muttered, “I told them not to.”

I shrugged, and the dog went past me, out of the line of fire.

The men turned at the sound of the dog’s voice and peered at me with bored and unconcerned eyes.

“Gentlemen,” I said, letting my hands rest on the butts of the Colts. “Put the bird down and leave.”

The man with the turkey looked at me and chuckled. “This is our bird, and we’re not leaving it or here.”

I saw his companion drawing a small pistol from his waistband, and I pulled the Colts.

The revolvers cleared leather as the shooter brought the shotgun to his shoulder and his partner aimed the pistol. All four weapons went off, but it was the Colts who spoke first.

The first shot took the shooter in the throat, causing the shotgun round to go wild as the Colt’s slug continued on and smashed into the standing man’s stomach. The shot from the other Colt hit the standing man in the lower jaw, sending a spray of blood, bones and teeth from the fresh ruin of the man’s face.

“Good masters,” the dog stated in the silence. “But stupid men.”

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXV

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Sometimes, they need to run.

I’d been ambushed about three-quarters of a mile into Toten Island. I don’t know who the men were or why they’d thought it was a good idea to bushwhack me, but they did.

The first shot took me clean through the right thigh, the bullet missing bone but taking a fair amount of meat in its passing. The second shot caught me in the belly and that hurt like hell.

They fired from cover, which was smart.

They let me get to cover, which sure as hell wasn’t.

I had my Sharps rifle with me.

Ignoring the burning pain of my wounds as they stitched themselves back together, I brought the Sharps up and looked for a target.

Some fine fellow had decided to wear a hat with a bright red feather in it.

I thanked him accordingly by putting a round through his temple.

The crack of the Sharps in the woods brought a momentary lull to the firing as the bushwhackers took cover.

They made too much noise as they moved, and their voices were raised in a furious argument. I couldn’t understand the language, but I sure as hell understood the tone.

This was more than they bargained for.

I saw movement behind a thin fir tree, and I shot through it, killing the gunman trying to hide there. As his body struck the ground, the others opened fire. I saw some of them move, and as I drew a line on a man, the island shook.

The baying of hounds shattered the air and drowned the gunfire.

In a heartbeat, a pack of hounds burst into view, and the men screamed. A few turned their weapons on the dogs, but they were no match for the canines’ speed and ferocity.

In a moment, the living men were gone, running from the hounds.

I stood up, rifle at the ready, and found myself being watched by a figure twice my height and shrouded by ancient gray winding sheets. I could make out neither their face nor their sex. A long hand, almost skeletal though still wrapped in skin, reached out and stroked a hidden chin.

“You know, Blood,” the being said, its voice the rumbling of rock against rock. “It is best at times to let the hounds run.”

Without another word, it turned and followed after its dogs.

I went the other way.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XII

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I hate the Hollow.

Not a little, mind you, but with all my heart and soul.

Today was a perfect example as to why I hate it and hate it so vehemently.

Hund, one of the bird dogs I’d rescued several years ago, told me a group of men had made camp in the Hollow. He thought I might be interested in a look at them.

He thought right.

I took my Spencer with me on the off chance that it might be better to shoot from the road rather than the Hollow itself and set out at a leisurely pace. By the time I reached the stonewall on North Road, the sun had climbed well above the horizon and was shining down on what seemed to be a bright and peaceful day.

I paused by an old ash tree and hid in the shade, taking a good look at the small camp and hating it more with every breath I took.

From what I could see, the men wore the uniforms the Federals favored during the War of the Rebellion. Among the men, I spotted a single dog who lay down beside his master.

And it was the sight of the master who angered me most.

George Armstrong Custer.

In my time, he’d had the decency of dying out at the Little Bighorn. I regret his men died with him, but that son of a bitch had to go.

And there he was, big as life and lounging with his friends.

George and I had known each other during the war, but there’d been no love lost between us. I thought he was a braggart who needed his teeth stove in, and he thought I was a boy who didn’t know a thing about war.

I could have told him not to attack an encampment of Natives, no matter how weak he thought they were.

You could only push a man so far, and George and his kind had pushed too hard and too much.

I smiled at the dog, though. I’d stolen his dog during the war, and the dog had been a good companion.

I suspected he would be again.

I could see no reason to leave George Armstrong Custer or any of his friends alive. I knew what Custer would do, and some of his friends too.

I wasn’t worried about how the men had gotten into the Hollow or what world they’d come from. None of that mattered.

Humming, I set the Spencer up, chambered a round, and set my sights on George’s upper lips.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XI

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They tried to kill the dogs.

I heard the gunshots as young Agatha and Princess were headed off to school. Both the child and the dog were well familiar with the sound, and each paused and turned to me. I waved them on, loosened the Colts in their holsters and went in search of the sound.

I’d no sooner gone half along the path toward the younger orchard when a pair of bird dogs came barreling toward me. One was wounded in the right shoulder, the other in the left flank. They skidded to a stop when they saw me; ears flattened against their skulls and tails tucked low.

“You’ve no need to fear me,” I told them, moving my hands away from the butts of the pistols. “Who’s harmed you?”

“Our masters,” the dog with the flank wound answered. “We’re too old. They wanted the two other members of our pack to hunt us, but our brothers refused.”

“Where are they?” I asked.

“You’ll not harm our brothers?” the dog asked, blood dripping to the ground.

I smiled and shook my head. “No, just the fools who would treat dogs this way.”

The dogs nodded, and the shoulder-wounded one said, “Not half a mile back. An open field after an orchard.”

“Good. Follow this to the house and barn. Eat and drink in the barn. Wait for me; I’ll be back soon enough to tend to your wounds.”

The dogs seemed doubtful of my assurance, but they went away willingly enough.

I picked up my pace and soon was traveling down the center aisle of the orchard. The apple trees were, for the most part, frustrated with having been awakened. I brushed off their angry comments and disgruntled remarks.

As I neared the end of the orchard, I saw the men and dogs. The men were berating and beating them.

The Colts cleared their holsters, and the hammers fell.

I cut both men down from behind, the slugs tearing through their stomachs.

Shotguns fell from shocked hands, and screams erupted from terrified mouths.

The dogs backed away, surprised and confused.

Fury boiled within me as I holstered the Colts. A glance around the field revealed a large, fist-sized rock. Bending down, I picked it up.

With the dogs watching, I beat their masters to death.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs VIII

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I went back to the ship.

The dog I’d saved was named Indomitable, and he hadn’t been alone aboard the USS Serpentine. There were, according to him, two other canines, and they were all in danger.

I’d received word of crew members sweeping Cross, searching for me. No one spoke of Blood Farm, but soon enough, the sailors would find me.

My concerns about the sailors and the violence they would bring weren’t for myself. Rather, they were about the dogs and the horses, the trees and the fey living among them. I’d not have any of them injured or killed in the crossfire of a gunfight, and that’s what the sailors were looking for.

Vengeance.

They were fools.

I cleaned and reloaded the Colts, took an old scalping knife, and left my home well before dawn.

By the time the first patrols were leaving the Serpentine, I was in place and watching. Once the last of them had set off to search me out, I made my way down to the ship.

I slipped on board with little difficulty and evaded the few sailors wandering the decks. Close to midship, I found a young sailor and a large black dog around whose neck a length of rope was affixed.

“What makes you think he’ll come back?” the dog growled between clenched teeth.

The seaman slapped him across the muzzle. “Because he took Indomitable. He’ll be back for you.”

“And Sophia,” the dog snapped.

“She died last night.”

I crept up behind the sailor, sliding silently under the stairs.

“Which of you was man enough to cut her?” the dog demanded.

“I did,” the sailor replied. “She’d nipped at me enough times. I used a galley knife to gut her, let her bleed out near the bow. You would have seen it if you weren’t being beaten by the cook for stealing that bit of steak.”

I drew my knife, and the dog sat down, tongue lolling out as it chuckled.

“My name is Caesar,” he stated.

“I know your damned name,” the sailor grumbled.

“Aye,” Caesar nodded. “But he doesn’t.”

As the sailor turned, I grabbed him by the chin, pulled his head back and cut his throat. His arms and legs flailed for a moment, and when he went slack, I dropped him to the deck.

I freed the dog from his leash, and we left the ship.

There were sailors to hunt.

#dogs #horrorstories

December 31, 1870

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The academy stood upon a hill.

The school occupied the highest point of ground, and someone had once cleared the land around it, denying cover to any who attacked.

But that had been long ago.

Scrub-brush and trees had sprouted up. The building’s walls were crenelated but abandoned.

No one kept watch.

I scouted around the academy for two hours, and not once did I see a sentry or a patrol. All four watchtowers were empty, and the only sound I heard was the rising wind as it whistled and howled through the school’s useless defenses.

For they were unmanned.

If there are no sentries, no guards, no one to watch for the likes of myself, then the walls of such a place were little more than hindrances. Minor irritations.

I shook my head at the neglected beauty of the place.

I did not bother with secrecy.

Instead, I strode up the long, narrow path to the gates, and an old woman greeted me. Her steel gray hair was swept back, and a long, clay warden’s pipe was clenched in her toothless mouth. The woman’s hands, gnarled with arthritis, were still deft enough to relight the pipe in the brutal wind.

“Mr. Blood,” she said, offering a curtsey. “You’ve come for the young fools and their master?”

“Aye.”

“They’re all at lunch,” she stated. “He’s at the far end. Sitting and lording it above the cadets. He’ll be backlit by the window.”

“Thank you.”

She nodded. “Be quick and be clean, I’ll not thank you for too much of a mess.”

I chuckled, drew the Colts, and entered the academy.

I followed the sounds of eating and the laughter of young men full of themselves and fearless. Men not yet tried by combat or horrified at the deaths of friends stronger and better than themselves.

A louder, more authoritative voice called out as I approached an entryway, and the young men laughed in response.

I stepped into the room, and a few noticed me but said nothing.

At the far end, an officer sat, backlit by the window. I could see his face and the fear spreading across it.

With a smile, I brought up the Colts and put a round through his forehead.

Unfortunately, there were no thanks from the gatekeeper.

I left far too much of a mess.

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December 20, 1870

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I found no comfort.

My father and Obadiah agreed that the best place to do so would be at the bakery on the other end of town. I went with no more intent than to listen and get some warm bread.

I confess my mouth watered at the idea of it.

When I entered the bakery, I was assailed by the sights and scents, and for a moment, I stood in the doorway, enjoying the sensations.

Only for a moment.

A soft bell had chimed when I opened the door, and it chimed again as the door closed behind me.

At the sound of the second chime, several of the staff nodded to me, and a customer turned away from the register to glance at me. She wore a black dress, a large hat, and when she saw me, her eyes widened.

I didn’t know who she was, but it appeared she knew me.

Her gasp drowned out all other noise in the place and brought the bakery to a standstill.

Before the shop assistant behind the counter could respond, the customer whispered, “Duncan Blood.”

Apparently, the townsfolk here take one another at their word.

Every eye focused on me, and an older baker at the far back of the shop on a raised platform locked eyes with me.

“By the devil,” the man hissed, “he is!”

Not a damned one picked up a weapon to come at me.

Not a damned one of them charged me.

They scattered and ran.

Some for the back of the building, others towards the door behind me.

I couldn’t let them out. None of them.

The Colts cleared leather before the old baker leapt down from his platform, and he was dead before he took a single step. The .44 caliber slug smashed into his back and blew a hole on its way out of his chest.

In my hands, the Colts roared. A thunderous, barbarous noise that froze the staff and the customers for a split second, and that was all I needed.

I’d shot all save one, a baker cowering by his patisserie stand. He kept his face hidden as I reloaded the Colts and then shot him dead. In silence, I walked among the dead and the dying and gave them all the coup de grace.

I could hear the townsfolk yelling out in the street, so I slipped out the back, stepping over the elder baker as I did so.

Behind me, the warm bread cooled amongst the dead.

#paranormal #christmas

December 15, 1870

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It was a strange night.

While this version of my Father did not have all the same memories as my own Father, he had a great many of them. What’s more, his affection for me was genuine.

We shared coffee and tobacco, a bit of jerky he’d been carrying with him, and an undisguised hatred of my mother.

“She wasn’t like this when we were married,” he informed me as the night waned. “Nor was she like this when your siblings were born. It was only after your birth that she began to change. I learned how she spent more time in the Hollow, and then, on your tenth birthday, she tried to gut you.”

“Much the same occurred in my when,” I told him.

Neither of us slept much, and when the sun rose, we decided to go into town through the east. There was a large general store where we could gather supplies, get a feel for the place, and decide how best to move forward with our hunt for my mother and the Woman’s husband.

When we reached the store, we found a good deal of traffic, with a trio of wagons parked out front, the horses snorting in the cold air.

We climbed the steps, entered the building, and saw how out of place we were.

Everyone stopped to look at us. The shoppers and the keepers knew we didn’t belong, and in a heartbeat, guns were drawn. They appeared out of coats and petticoats, behind the counters and from below them.

But they were all too slow.

Neither my father nor I drew pistols.

He used his knife, and I my hatchet.

I split open the head of a large woman who tried to bring a derringer into play. As I shoved her body back and into a man scrambling around the counter, my father gutted another man sitting by a stove. Blood from the dying man struck the hot metal, and the room was filled with the stench of burning blood.

A man tried to take aim with his revolver, and I took his hand off with the hatchet.

In minutes, the fight was over.

The bodies lay strewn around the store, and as we stood there, cleaning the blood and flesh from our weapons, my father nodded.

“You’re better than my son,” he smiled. “Rarely were his strikes so clean.”

My heart swelled with pride.

It felt good to fight beside my father once more.

#paranormal #christmas

December 11, 1870

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Bastard!

I don’t know if he was a great shot, a bad shot, or blind in one eye. Regardless, the bushwhacking sonofabitch put a bullet through my right knee and dropped me.

Snow fell heavily from a dark sky, and I kept myself pressed close to the earth, ignoring the cold and focusing on where the shot had come from. As my knee throbbed with pain and blood pumped out into the snow, I caught a glimpse of metal and a flash of an eye.

He was only a hundred, maybe a hundred and twenty yards away from me.

Slowly, my knee knitted itself back together. The bullet, which had fragmented, was pushed out through a dozen spots, an excruciating act that brought my anger to the forefront.

I slipped the hatchet off my belt and backed out of the gatekeeper’s coat.

No sooner was I a dozen feet away than another shot rang out, causing the snow in front of the coat’s hood to spray up.

The shooter thought I was still there.

Perhaps he was trying to frighten me into moving, to check to see if I was truly dead.

I don’t believe he knew who he was shooting at.

Fresh snow began to fall, the flakes large and heavy, racing one another to the earth. They covered me as I crawled along, one eye on the shooter as my path took me in a wide arc.

I’d covered half the distance to him when I heard him chamber another round and shoot again. Like the second shot, this one threw up snow in front of the coat, and his mutter of disgust told me he was trying to shoot me, not frighten me.

I nearly laughed as he touched his trigger finger to his tongue and then held it up to gauge the wind.

There was no wind to gauge. Not even the faintest whisper of a breeze.

The snow fell straight down from the sky.

The shooter fired again, this show going over my coat and slamming into a distant tree.

As the man reached for another round, I reached him.

“Hello,” I whispered.

The man jerked around, horror in his eyes.

I slammed the hatchet into his lower back, severing his spine with a single blow. His scream filled the air before fading.

He lay on his stomach, unable to move and gasping for breath.

I could have finished him off.

I didn’t.

#paranormal #christmas