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 X

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They were missing.

Caesar brought the news of Agatha Helmut. The little girl and her dog, Princess, had been snatched from the front porch of their home.

I’d known Agatha’s father, Dane, for the better part of 20 years, and his recent passing had left Isabella, his wife, and Agatha distraught. Caesar and I had been spending a fair amount of time at the Helmut home, bringing in wood for the oncoming winter, and news of Agatha and Princess’ disappearance was not welcome.

When I arrived at their house, I found the door open and Isabella on the hallway floor.

She was dead, her eyes wide and unseeing.

There were no signs of violence about her, no blood. Caesar found no trace of anyone else either.

Had she died trying to find clues as to her daughter’s disappearance?

I could not know, but I would find out what happened to the girl and dog and locate them if I could.

On the left side of the porch, Caesar picked up a new scent. It was neither man nor woman, nor was it any beast with which he was familiar.

But it had left a trail the dog could follow.

Caesar and I took off at a run, and soon we saw the creature’s destination was the Hollow.

Once it reached that hated place, there would be little chance of rescuing Agatha or Princess.

In a short time, we reached North Road and only a dozen yards in front of us; we saw the kidnapper.

A tall, thin creature, it wore ragged clothes that were once of a fashion in the early 1700s. On its head, the thing wore a tricornered hat, and over its shoulder, it carried a gray sack. From that container came whines and sobs, and we knew where the dog and child were.

Caesar bolted towards the creature, slamming into its calves and knocking it down onto its knees. Caesar darted out of the way as the thing lashed out at him.

The thing turned, its face little more than skin stretched across the skull; eye sockets were empty and mouth barren of teeth.

I drew both Colts as it dropped the bag and stood.

“Blood,” the creature snarled, and I put two rounds in the creature’s chest.

It shook off the shots and came for me.

I gave it the other ten slugs and put the boots to it when it fell.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs IX

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“We told them not to.”

It’d been the better part of five years since I’d had any real trouble regarding dogs.

Well, that changed this morning.

Caesar, the last of my rescues, had a habit of patrolling the shore of Blood Lake. Often he’d disappear for five or six days before returning to give a report on all he’d witnessed or suspected. He was a damned fine scout, that’s for certain.

I was just pouring a second cup of coffee when he came back in, panting with his tongue lolling. He drank a fair bit of water before he shook his head, sat on his hindquarters and looked at me.

“Someone’s stealing sheep,” he told me.”

I put the coffee pot down.

“Where?” I asked.

“Eastern shore,” Caesar replied. “Got a few dogs with them, too. Dogs are good. Men aren’t.”

I snorted. “Tends to be the case.”

“They’re armed,” Caesar continued.

I raised an eyebrow, and the dog chuckled.

“Thought I’d let you know,” Caesar added.

“Thanks,” I sighed. I took a quick drink of coffee and went to the parlor. I took down my Spencer, loaded it, and left the house at a quick clip.

When I reached the eastern shore, I found the thieves, the sheep, and the dogs.

I stayed off to one side, and after a few minutes, a large female shepherd found me. She sat down beside me, tail thumping heavily against the grass.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve cut into your herds,” she told me.

“Really?”

She nodded. “We told them it wasn’t wise to rob a Blood, but they didn’t listen. Told them there’d be hell to pay once you found out.”

“Aye,” I agreed. “That’s a fact.”

“I’ll get my dogs out,” she said after a moment. “When you’re done, we’ll make sure the sheep get back. Caesar says you might have room for us.”

“He’s right,” I smiled. “Always rooms for dogs.”

“Good to hear,” she laughed and dashed off to her pack.

A few minutes later, the dogs raced away, leaving the sheep and the thieves alone.

I settled myself into a good firing position, set my sights on the first man, and pulled the trigger.

The sheep ran, and the men died.

#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

Dogs VII

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The ship had arrived the day before last.

I’d passed by it a few times, the vessel at anchor in the marina. Guards were posted at the dock, the sailors wearing a fashion of uniform I’d not seen before. It made me think of years past of ships blown in from a stray gust of Hollow air or when the gods felt it was time for a bit of jest.

When I heard a dog howl this morning, I was reminded what the little god had said to me.

She liked how I cared for her puppy’s kind.

The howl rooted me to the street, and I cocked my head to listen.

A moment later, the howl erupted once more, and words followed.

“Shipmates!” the creature cried. “Help!”

The unseen speaker went to continue, but it yelped instead. The whine and cry that followed left no doubt that the creature was a dog and that dog needed assistance.

I left the road and walked down the long steps to the dock. The eyes of the guards never left me, and by the time I reached them, they both had chambered rounds into the breeches of their rifles.

I had the Colts up by the time they had their rifles at their shoulders.

“I’ll be going aboard,” I told them. “I heard a shipmate call out in distress.”

“Move along,” one of the men said. “Else, you’ll be feeding the crabs ere I finish drawing breath.”

I shot each man in the chest, twin expressions of surprise on their faces as they collapsed, rifles falling from dead fingers.

Stepping over the bodies, I climbed the gangplank and went in search of the dog.

It took me only a minute or so to find him, and everyone save the dog’s master ran at the sight of me.

The dog’s master was also the captain of the ship, and I found them both in the captain’s quarters.

The man, seated at a table littered with correspondence, looked up at me with disdain as I entered the cabin. He glanced over at his dog and shook his head.

“He needed a beating,” the captain stated and returned to his paperwork. “And so I gave him one.”

Stepping forward, I struck him full in the mouth with the butt of a pistol. Shattered teeth bounced across the table, and as he slumped in his chair, I put both barrels against his forehead and pulled the triggers.

I carried the dog home.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs VI

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I stumbled upon the house.

It stood alone in the depths of my land, a stretch of which I’d not visited in decades and one I should not have neglected.

The child and the dog greeted me with cordial nods, and there was a sense of otherness about them. Neither seemed particularly impressed with me nor were they taken aback by my sudden appearance.

I, on the other hand, was quite perturbed to see them nestled in the center of Blood lands.

As I opened my mouth to greet and question them, the dog – who was no more than a pup – cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice was young and high, though the words he used belied his appearance.

“Master Blood, what brings you to this place?” The dog’s tone was polite but imperious, and while it rankled to be spoken to in such a way, I felt obliged to keep my hands from the Colts.

“I was roaming my lands,” I explained, making no effort to hide my annoyance at their presence.

The girl let out a small laugh, and the dog grinned, his tail thumping on the porch boards.

“These are not your lands, Master Blood,” the dog explained as though he were speaking to a fool. “They have never been your lands. Nor were they your father’s before you. The Bloods lease them from my mistress, and they have done so since your father first pitched his tent so near the Hollow.”

My eyes shifted from the dog to the girl, and then I saw it hidden in her eyes. That glint that only the divine have.

The little god leaned over and whispered into the dog’s ear.

He nodded. “My mistress is pleased with your wisdom, Master Blood. Drawing your Colts would have ended your tenure here. And not in a pleasant fashion, I might add.”

“How often do you come to this house?” I asked, nodding at the structure.

“Whenever my mistress wills it,” the dog replied. “It will not always be here, nor will it always be in this form. She does her best to keep the structure in line with the style of the day. She prefers to disturb as little as possible.”

“May I ask what brings you here?” I inquired.

“You,” the dog answered. The little god giggled at my confusion.

“She enjoys seeing you work,” the dog informed me. “And how you care for my kind.”

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs V

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He tried to steal my dogs.

I’d seen smoke on one of the islands on Blood Lake, and I went to investigate. Smoke meant someone had been shipwrecked or, even worse, they had come to Blood Lake on purpose.

A shipwreck meant the walls between worlds had thinned enough to send entire vehicles through, and that meant more to worry about.

One or two intruders, well, that was something else entirely.

They were infiltrators, and they rarely wanted to pay a visit and slip away again.

We had crossed the ice, and I dragged a light canoe behind me. I didn’t want to reach any patches of open water, but who knew what the Hollow might slip in on a cold February day.

When we reached the island where I’d seen the smoke, I tied up the canoe and the dogs, and I went inland.

The dogs picked up the scent of someone, and soon we were following the trail. As we advanced upon a copse of trees, I caught sight of a tent, and then a gunman struck.

The bullet caught me below the sternum, punching its way through my thick coat and the layers of clothes. I felt the round damage my heart, then the jarring pain as I was knocked to the snow.

My dogs, Wolf and Hound, leapt to my defense, charging at the gunman as he fumbled with his rifle while trying to chamber another round. A loud, angry curse escaped the man’s mouth, and he drew a long blade from his belt, slashing at the dogs, keeping them at arm’s length.

Wolf and Hound lunged and dodged, avoiding blows but barely damaging the man. Flecks of blood glistened on the snow, and I got to my feet.

When the man saw me, he hesitated long enough for Hound to lock his jaws on the man’s wrist. The dog wrenched down, and the blade dropped.

Wolf dashed in and attacked the man’s groin.

The dogs savaged the assailant as I walked toward them, pausing only to pick up the dropped knife.

“I wouldn’t have hurt them!” he shrieked as the dogs backed off, their muzzles red with blood.

“No?”

“No,” the man sobbed. “I would have sold them. That’s all.”

“No one,” I told the man, moving closer. “Steals my friends from me.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but I slipped the blade into his mouth and began to carve.

No one touches my dogs.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs IV

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“She’s eating them.”

I was roaming the shore of Blood Lake, a new Winchester repeater in my hands and my Colts on my hips. A cool wind came in across the water, and there was no sign of the merfolk who’d been creeping up and raiding my sheep.

The old dog, black with her teats low from long years of feeding pups, sat by a piece of deadfall and looked at me with sad, tired eyes.

“She’s eating them,” the dog repeated.

I cradled the Winchester in my arms and asked, “Who?”

“My mistress,” the dog informed me. “Madame Arkwright.”

I frowned. “I’ve not seen her in some time. I’d thought she’d moved on to her sister’s in Providence.”

The dog shook her head. “No. She’s still at home, and most think she’s sick abed. But it’s not true. She’s been having orphans delivered to the house. About one a month from the different associations in New England.”

My back stiffened, and I clenched my teeth.

The dog nodded, sensing my anger.

“She’s been donating to the orphanages for years, planning out her menu,” the dog continued. “She finished the latest, a girl from Hartford, last evening. She’s sent a letter in the post up to Bangor, requesting a child from one of the Native Schools.”

“She’s home alone?” I asked.

“She is.”

“What’s your name?”

“Regina,” the dog replied.

“Go on to my barn, Regina,” I said. “There’s food and water. A pair of older dogs as well, brothers around your age, I believe. I’ll be back soon enough.”

“You’ll stop her, Mr. Blood?”

“Aye.”

Regina and I went our separate ways. Soon, I stood at Arkwright’s porch and rang her bell. It took her a few minutes to reach me. When she opened the door, I could smell blood and filth. In her eyes was the madness that comes from eating too much human flesh, and I forced my way in.

I’d thought of feeding Arkwright her own tongue, perhaps her fingers, too.

But there was no need.

She was insane, and she needed putting down, not torture.

Arkwright clawed at my rifle, and as she took hold, I drew one of the Colts, shoved the barrel up under her chin and pulled the trigger.

I put the Colt away and smiled.

Seems I had a new dog, and Arkwright would eat no more orphans.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs III

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The dogs called me over.

I was on my way to Boston to hunt for books, and the farm was in good hands for the day.

As it was, my mood was fine, and I suspect the dogs sensed that and took their chance as I passed by their home.

“Stranger,” the larger of the dogs whimpered.

The tone caught my ear, and I paused in my journey. I could sense the relief in the dog’s voice when next he spoke.

“Will you help us?” he asked. “You seem as though you might.”

I was about to answer when a pair of women exited the building. Neither of them looked especially pleased at my presence. The older of the two sat down between the dogs while the younger lingered in the doorway.

“Are you hungry?” the young woman asked, a playful smile appearing on her face. I believe it was meant to be seductive, but it failed by a long shot.

“No, but I thank you,” I replied.

“But you must be thirsty,” the young woman pressed, and I saw her older companion begin to work a knife out of her dress. “Come in and have some coffee.”

“No,” I stated. “I wouldn’t mind taking your dogs off your hands, though.”

The women paused, surprise flashing across their faces.

The younger woman cleared her throat. “They’ve too much work to do for us.”

“Shame,” I remarked. “You’ll have to find someone else to do it or do it yourselves. They’re coming with me.”

“The hell they are!” the older woman snapped and got to her feet, a long carving knife in her hand. “We need fresh meat, and you’re it. Inside, now, or the dogs will run you down.”

I unbuttoned my coat and drew my Colts in one long, easy motion. The barrels cleared leather, and the hammers cocked before the shock of it settled onto the women’s faces.

The older woman raised her knife up, and the Colts roared in the morning air.

A slug caught the younger woman high in the chin and blew the top of her head off. The second round punched into the older woman’s chest, driving through her heart and sending her tumbling to the earth.

I reloaded the Colts and looked at the dogs.

“I’m book hunting Boston. Care to come?”

The dogs let out howls of joy, and we set off.

It was a fine day for a walk.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs II

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This Duncan is much to my liking.

People are stupid.

After the incident in Aldrich’s photography studio, I put signs up at every entrance to town. It was, I thought, simple enough.

“Treat your dogs well.”

Some folks don’t read, some folks can’t.

This fellow just ignored the sign and young James Coffin.

The stranger had come into town by way of North Road, avoiding any mishap with the Hollow and coming into town on a cart pulled by a pair of dogs. Daphne Coffin, James’ younger sister, was there when her older brother bade the man stop and pay heed.

James received a beating for his trouble.

Once Daphne had rushed home for her father and uncles, they had sent her to tell me.

I went into town with my Colts, I’d taken to wearing them whenever I went out. Too often, of late, I have needed them.

And as Mr. Franklin once observed, ‘Better to have and not need than need and not have.’

I found the man with the dogs on Cross Road, in front of Haversham’s Shoppe.

The man was a right bastard, from what I could see, and his dogs looked miserable. I drew both Colts and kept them barrels down as I nodded to the dogs and ignored the man.

“How are you, boys?” I asked.

The dogs glanced over their shoulders at their master, and the man scowled at me.

“Keep your questions to yourself,” the man snapped.

Whatever else he might have said died in his throat as I brought up a Colt and pointed it toward him. I kept my eyes on the dogs.

“Best hope they speak well of you,” I informed him, cocking the hammer.

“I cannot,” said the larger of the two dogs, shifting his stance in his traces. “We are ill-used and ill-fed. There were four of us at one time, but he beat our brothers to death.”

The man started to swear, and I pulled the trigger.

As the Colt’s roar rolled down Cross Road, the stranger tumbled from his seat, a hole in his chest. He lay on his side, legs akimbo, blood pumping out of the wound.

A few townsfolk looked on with disgust.

They all knew my thoughts on dogs and those who treated them ill.

In Cross, the life of such a man was not worth much, nor did it last very long.

I like most dogs more than I like most people.

#dogs #horrorstories