And here’s this week’s story – the twenty second on the Story A Week rampage. It’s fantasy\horror, 889 words, enjoy! Part Two of this story is over here.
Peter looked around, in the darkness something hissed, wetly. He swallowed, his throat tasted of bile and smoke. Peter muttered, it was something unintelligible, even he didn’t know what the words were. In a heartbeat panic rose as he wondered how he ended up here. The lights came up, Peter squinted as the reflections caught on the blades, and he smiled.
Shep looked up and yipped in excitement. He was an Australian Sheep Dog. The perfect black and white of a traditional sheepdog, in a smaller package, yet with the same energy. Two walks a day, at least.
“You ready?” Peter asked the dog. He took the wagging and general excitement as yes. He took his coat off the rack, put it back and chose a heavier coat. The autumn air was chilly and damp, it was going to be a cold walk. He wasn’t really looking forward to it, but knew it would be not so bad when he was finally out in it.
When dressed he took the harness out, and strapped the wriggling Shep into it. He opened the door and walked into the night. The orange street lights created pools of light on the housing estate.
He strolled through shadows, only noting the strange car in a neighbour’s driveway. Peter knew that Steve, the husband, was away, he’d mentioned a business trip. A strange car, the bedroom light on … well good for her. Steve was gross.
Peter reached the end of the estate, the pools of light were no more and the moon took over. It grew dark as he reached the tree line and started through the small wooded area. It was a thirty minute walk in a loop, Peter had done the walk at least twice a day for the last three years.
Which is why he was surprised to feel uneasy. He stopped, Shep pulling forward insistently but not strongly. Peter felt like he was being watched. Someone was out there, he didn’t know how he felt it, but he was sure. Peter was perfectly average, in height, weight and income. He wasn’t scared, but the feeling concerned him.
He went on anyway. Unconvinced that he should stop just because some teenagers were either fucking or drinking in the shadows. How often did a random nutter kill thirty year old guys? The odds were against it. So teenagers were much more likely. Let them drink and rut, he’d press on.
The path itself was thin but well worn, roots crossed it but it was easy to walk in the dark. It rose and fell little, aside from one hill, around a third of the way around the loop. Peter knew the hill was coming up, and he was hesitant, the top opened into a small field.
He paused as Shep relieved himself against a prominent tree. Nearby something rustled. The breeze wasn’t enough to do that so Peter found himself staring in to the darkness. The kids? A badger? Maybe a deer? A low hiss started, as though a large tire were slowly losing air.
Peter looked around for something to throw or hit with, but nothing presented itself. All he had on him was his house keys. The hiss increased in volume until it resolved into a chuckle. The kind of laugh that Peter had never imagined was possible. It made no sense that this was the sound of amusement.
“Hey!” Peter said. “Fuck you, ya creepy bastard.” The strange laugh rose and fell in pitch, as though the laugh were laughing. The sound felt almost tangible now, as though it rubbed against his skin like cheap sandpaper.
“Come on, Shep,” he said, although Shep was pulling him forward, heading for the hill. He managed two steps before the small tree to his left rocked, dropping leaves in a brief large brown rain. The laugh changed, it had breaks in it now. Peter strained until he, surprised, made out words in the gaps.
“Go. Go on. Go up.” Over and over, sometimes short, sometimes stretched out. Always on the edge of hearing, buried in that laugh. Peter realised he was part way up the hill. He had no idea how, he didn’t remember starting to walk. He was also no longer holding Shep’s lead. He felt like he should call out for his dog, but couldn’t.
Instead he walked slowly up the hill, the rustling followed him, out of sight in the trees. As he reached the top a wave of sensation rolled over him, lights, sounds and a multitude of people filled the small field. Which was no longer small. Laughter, shrieks, shouts, banter and organ music filled the air. A fair, or a circus, it was so loud he should have been able to hear this way back on the path, but he hadn’t.
Shep broke from the trees, harness removed, and ran into the field, vanishing into the mass of people. A man pushed his way out after the dog, he was short, fat, and laughing. He may have been four foot tall, but if so he was also four foot wide as the man was spherical. He waddled onto the field, chanting.
“Go, come, go, come.” Peter felt his feet mood and his mood lighten as he walked toward the lights and noise.
MJ Cook: This is all exposition! Two lines of dialogue in the whole thing, both aimed at the dog! I was concerned that it would be hard to keep up the tension and pace, but it seemed to work out OK.
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