When this blog got under way over a year ago, one of its main purposes was to be flacking my own writing. I’ve written many entries about my adventures to date in writing, getting published, and pursuing marketing, and I hope the columns have encouraged you to snap up copies of Zendoscopy and Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe from Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle. After some consideration, I’ve decided that periodically I’ll put a few bits of my writing on the blog: everything from the macabre to the downright silly. So, to begin, I offer the short story, Dogmadillo, a disturbing little piece in the horror/supernatural vein. Part 1 this week; part two next. I hope you enjoy it.
A Creepy Tale by J. Allan Wolf
As I approached the driveway, I could see it just in front of the garage door, as if it were waiting for me. A sort of a lupine armadillo, but much larger than the latter: smoothly rounded, armored ass and concentrically ringed torso with short, hairy legs. The creature’s shaggy head had short ears slanting back, and a long – too long for the body – canine snout and jaw. I think it growled, although I could not hear it with the windows rolled up, but I could see the hungry leer and wolfish, bared teeth. Spittle hung from the left side of the monster’s mouth, near the fangs.
I stopped at the driveway’s threshold while, at first, the creature held its stance in front of me. I should run the hell-beast over. The only way to do that, though, would end up with me plowing through the garage door. The automatic opener was broken. I had the inexplicable sense that the creature knew.
I was trapped, certain that the whatever-it-was would rip me to shreds if I tried to make a run for the front door. There was, then, only one way to deal with this. Damn the garage door. I would run the thing down.
I looked at it. Straight. At first, it stared back, and I saw dead emptiness in its black eyes. Then, it yelped – I heard it despite the closed windows – and began twirling as if, but not actually, chasing its tail. Finally, it stopped, staring at me and grinning.
I took a deep breath, took aim, and then closed my eyes and hit the accelerator.
A moment later I awoke, sweating and palpitating, and realized I had wet the bed. Nancy was asleep, undisturbed, next to me.
I swung out of bed and went to clean myself up and get a towel to lay over the wet sheet before trying yet again to sleep without dreaming the dream.
“I just haven’t been sleeping very well for the past two or three weeks, Doctor,” I heard myself saying. “I know it sounds silly, but I keep having this dream. About a dog.”
“A dog?” The company doctor, a gaunt fellow named Oglethorpe with manner more that of an undertaker than a healer, looked up from his note-taking.
“Yes, a dog. Well, not a dog, exactly.”
“Not a dog, then?” He looked puzzled.
“Well, yes, a dog. I mean, sort of a dog. I know how this is going to sound but, really, it’s more like a dog with armor, you know. Well, no, you don’t know. It’s a sort of a…a…dogmadillo.”
“Yes, like that. A sort of a hybrid thing, part wolf-like dog, part armadillo. Dark, mean, evil. It wants me. It wants to kill me.”
“You know this?”
“Well, yes. It has these dead eyes, and when it looks at me, I know it wants nothing more than to eviscerate me, to suck me into some place of death that it knows well. That doesn’t make sense, does it?”
“I’m not sure, yet. But, then, how does it end?”
“It doesn’t, really. Just when I’m going to run it over – I always see it from my car as I’m pulling into my driveway – I wake up.”
The doctor looked concerned, in an unconcerned sort of way, or maybe a harsher but more honest way to describe it would be to say that he oozed hypocritical sympathy. “Well,” he opined, it doesn’t sound like much. Some unresolved anxieties. Concerns. Transmogrified, as it were, into your hell-beast.”
I sat up straight, startled. “What did you call it?”
“I said, ‘hell-beast’. Why?”
“Nothing, I guess. Just coincidence.”
“Coincidence, you say?”
“Yeah, coincidence. Forget it.”
The doctor shrugged. “As you wish. Perhaps things at work have been a bit too stressful for you. I’m going to give you something to help you sleep. Short term, though. Just a week’s worth. By then, your brain will have had time to resolve whatever is troubling you, and you should again be able to sleep through the night without these disturbing dreams.”
“I hate taking stuff like that.”
“It’s only to get you past the crisis, whatever it is. There’s no harm.” Dr. Oglethorpe held out a prescription, and I thought I detected a brief twitch in his smile. I took the piece of paper.
“Thanks but, you know, my problem isn’t falling asleep. It’s what happens after I fall asleep.”
“Take them. They’ll do you good.”
“Yes, all right.”
I left the office, not feeling reassured, and went to my office. I’m a geologist working for an engineering company. I go to proposed construction sites and assess soil and geologic stability, and then I generate reports for the company’s clients that provide the information they need to decide whether to proceed with whatever they plan to do. It’s a stressful job and, although no one has ever pressured me here, I always feel that the company’s expectation is for me to green-light everything to keep our clients happy.
Recently and in good conscience, I’ve had to advise against several projects and I don’t think the boss has been too pleased about it. I’ve tried to tell him that there’d be a lot of company liability if I were to give the okay to an unsafe development, but I think the argument hasn’t had much traction.
As I said, I’m a geologist. I’m not a paleontologist or anthropologist but, about a month ago, when I went to perform the survey for a proposed new outlet shopping mall just west of Mirrendale, a planned community in the Mojave Desert west of I-15, I was struck by some peculiar findings at the site.
I arrived at about 10 AM on a sunny but cool Wednesday in October. The thing that immediately struck me when I began to walk the flat, treeless, rocky site was that one small area, roughly circular and about forty feet in diameter, appeared dark. I don’t mean that the soil was darker than the surrounding area. No, I mean that the area was actually without sunlight.
At first I thought it might be the shadow of a cloud but, looking up, I saw none. The sky was as uniformly blue as I had ever seen it. As I crossed the boundary from light to dark, I cast no visible shadow on the darker area, and when I took a handful of sand from the area and dropped it outside the circle, it immediately brightened to match the surrounding sand.
I went back to the truck for a shovel, which I used to turn some of the dark soil. It was dark as far down as I dug. I dumped some of the dirt outside the circle and watched as it became light. Damn. What is this?
I picked an area at random and began digging in earnest. At around two feet below the surface, I hit something solid. Carefully, I excavated what appeared to be a large ewer decorated with – I swear – what looked very much like Egyptian hieroglyphics. My eyes were drawn to an animal, or god, or demon depicted in faded browns but with large black teeth. It was dog-like, with a rounded behind, short legs and small ears.
In the ewer were bones. I’m no expert, but I think maybe they were ribs.
Back at the office, I sought out the boss. I told him I wasn’t sure of the meaning of what I’d found but I thought we should get someone from UCLA to go up there and take a look. The boss wasn’t impressed.
“Were you on Indian land?”
“No, of course not,” I answered. “I know where I was. I was right where I was supposed to be.”
“Well, then, there’s nothing to worry about, right?” It wasn’t really a question. More like a directive.
And that’s when the dreams had begun. I know now that the creature on the ewer is the monster of my dreams. What I don’t know is why.
Part 2, the conclusion of the story, will appear in next week’s blog.
© 2015 by J. Allan Wolf. All rights reserved.