Saturday, February 27, 2010

Night Fears (the conclusion)

She stopped and looked behind her.

Should I turn back? No. I’ve already covered half a mile. There’s only a quarter left to go, and then I’ll be snug in my apartment.

Memorial Park lay directly ahead. It contained a series of rectangular grassy planes adorned with the weatherworn statues of bygone university presidents. Narrow wrought-iron benches stood at attention on either side of the pathway. Lillie passed by the sculptures, feeling as if she were in an abandoned cathedral.

Stop being fanciful. This isn’t a church or a graveyard, and those statues aren’t real people no matter how lifelike they look. They’re molded copper over steel frames. She smiled grimly. See? There’s no mystery science can’t explain.

With the flat parkland behind her, Lillie followed the sidewalk as it sloped down toward the maintenance building. It’s incinerator made a loud hissing noise through the brick chimney.

Don’t be afraid, silly. Inanimate objects aren’t threatening. Good heavens. If your professors were here, they’d laugh.

Lillie felt something brush against her hand, like a rough, bristling pelt. Her heart froze as she looked down. Dark eyes gazed back at her. Instantly, she thought of a cougar, but her analytical nature reminded her at once that Blackhurst didn’t have mountain cats. It was a dog, a huge German shepherd, its back ending at the middle of her thigh. Lillie had never seen this breed outside of a newsreel at the cinema.

“Go away. Get!” Lillie cried, trying to sound braver than she felt. She yelled, threw pebbles, and kicked at it, but the animal refused to leave.

So occupied was she with the dog, Lillie didn’t notice the shadow as it detached itself from the darkness and moved toward her. A man stepped forward, causing Lillie to jump and cry out. His neck was thick where it grew out of wide shoulders and when he smiled, the white teeth were barely visible among his night-blurred features.

Lillie exhaled with relief. “You shouldn’t go around scaring people, Calvin! It’s not funny.”

He laughed softly, and the low, raspy sound was unfamiliar.

“Sorry. Calvin’s not my name. Guess again, little girl.”

Skin clammy, fear clawed at Lillie, making its way up her spine a vertebra at a time. She stepped back as the dog circled around, putting itself between her and the stranger.

“He yours?”

Eyes watering, she nodded, tentatively resting her hand on the animal’s back.

The man waited a beat, as though assessing the situation. “It can be dangerous out here,” he finally said. “Things happen to ladies on their own. Maybe I should help you.”

His hand shot out to grasp Lillie’s arm, but the dog lunged, its teeth connecting with the man’s flesh. As obscene oaths spewed from his mouth, Lillie fled.

She heard branches sway and crack. He was following her.

“Don’t go,” the voice in the blackness called. “We were just getting acquainted.”

The dog snapped at Lillie’s ankle, as though it wanted her to move faster. She doubled her speed, heedless of the slippery terrain and the burning in her lungs. Main Street was just a furlong away. 220 yards. Lillie knew she was almost safe.

Frantically shifting from one side to the other, the shepherd drove Lillie on. Tears poured down her face, as she thought of herding the livestock in the Carolina meadows of her childhood. Lillie sprinted until she broke through the shrubs edging Main. The man’s voice cursed at a distance beyond the trees.

Hot, canine breath on her leg, Lillie stumbled up the front stairs of her building. She clutched the door handle wildly and turned, expecting to see the iridescent eyes of the dog. What Lillie saw couldn’t be scientifically explained.

She saw nothing.

Okay, that's the end! At times, truth can be stranger than fiction. In 1946, my mother really did stay at her friends apartment too late one day in October. She crossed the campus in the dark and a German shepherd really did appear and began walking with her. It was a huge animal and she was afraid. The dog wouldn't leave, even when my mom threw rocks at it, and a man came out of the shadows from behind the maintenance building. (There had been a string of rapes on the campus that year, although no women had disappeared as I wrote in my version) The dog snarled and barked at the stranger. The man asked my mother if the shepherd belonged to her, and she replied automatically, "Yes, he does." Mom turned and hurried for home. She heard noises behind her as though she were being followed and the dog stayed right with her until she crossed the street in front of her apartment. One moment it was there, the next it went back into the trees and she never saw it again.

Have you ever had an experience that is too fantastic or odd that you knew no one would believe it in story form? I'd love to hear about those. Life is filled with the unexpected!

Oh, and by the way, when my mother was ten, she had to herd her family's cows out of the meadow at night. Alone. She could hear the mountain lion's call in the darkness and said it did sound like a babies cry. To this day, that distinctive noise sends a shiver up her spine.


  1. Who knew that a German Shepherd could be a guardian angel? God sends all forms. That was fantastic.

    I don't have a story to share. I don't think anything that fantastic has happened, yet, to me or my loved ones.

  2. Oh My God, that was INCREDIBLE!!!!! Such a great story Roxy. I LOVED the dog!!!! And as we all know dog spelled backward IS God.

    My own story isn't much but here goes: Once I had to prune the big tree in my yard. I got up to the very top (I'm afraid of heights mind you) and I could feel myself slipping, then falling. I yelled out, "Oh dear God in heaven help me," and very distinctly I heard a voice reply, "Don't worry, I've got you" as a very large branch reached out to stop my fall. Now whether this branch happened to be there the whole time and my trajectory would have made me hit it anyway, none-the-less, I will always remember that voice.

  3. WOW Roxy! That's a fantastic story! I can't believe that really happened, amazing writing too, you had me hooked!

  4. What an amazing story! You wrote that really, really well, and the true account of your mother's experience is so interesting too. Loved it all!

  5. You write really well! That except is very polished and professional looking. I like how you incorporate the mian character's thoughts in separate paragraphs like a stream of consciousness. I also like how you describe the dog as a cougar, very threatening! And the thick neck of the man! I could see it in my mind. :)

  6. Oh, an excellent finish. Gave me chills!

    I've had my own odd experiences, but not in the same form. My parents were friends with a man later to be found a serial killer of teenage girls/young women. *skin crawl* They knew him through racing and, even scarier, he picked up his victims at the race track by pretending to be a photgrapher. I wanderd the track alone all the time while they raced. I'm very thankful I was pre-teen at the time--I matched pretty nicely the description of his victims. *shiver*

  7. I have had a few experiences, but would not be able to write it down as grand and amazingly as you. I find your writing captivating.

  8. A german shepherd bit me when I was seven, but now I may have to rethink my dislike of them. Nice, suspenseful story. And I can't believe it's real. You brought the characters and scene to life.

    I'm wondering - he wasn't Calvin, but he looked like Calvin?

  9. What a story! Life is certainly stranger than fiction - great job of putting the reality into story form :)

  10. Me again! I've got an award for you over at my blog :)

  11. Guardian angel dog! Wow. Amazing story, and great job capturing all the emotion.

    Oh, and me too! I have an award for you also!

  12. Yiiiiiiikes!!!!

    Loved it, Roxy. Very suspenseful. Just knowing that it was something that happened to your mom made me even more worried before I began reading it.

    My odd story:

    When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9, my neighbors down the street were moving. We were pretty good friends with their family and one day, my mom was at their house helping with something. I was outside playing. A stranger, a man, came up to me out of nowhere and started asking me questions. "Do you know that house?" (My neighbor's house) I said yes. "How many bedrooms does it have?" I said I wasn't sure, I thought maybe 3. "Do you live on this street?" I said yes, down there, and waved my hand in the general direction toward my end of the street. They were rowhomes (connected) and we lived in the second one at the beginning of the street.

    The guy left and I became terrified. I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. I wasn't supposed to tell anyone where I lived. I analyzed in my brain over and over whether I had waved in a general way or in a way where he could figure out where I lived. I thought - OH NO, if something happens to my friend's family or mine, IT WILL BE COMPLETELY MY FAULT. I went to bed terrified that night but I didn't tell anyone.

    The next morning, I heard my mom saying that there was a strange guy sitting on our bottom steps (the walkway from our front door went down 3 steps, then straight, then down 3 more steps by the sidewalk next to the street. He was sitting on the bottom set by the sidewalk). I looked out and IT WAS THE SAME GUY.

    I swear, the amount of guilt and fright I felt was unmatched by anything that has happened since in my life. Fortunately, the man got up and went away after a little while and I never saw him again, but I continued to fear every single night until we moved out of our house to another town about a year later!

  13. Thanks to everyone for reading this short story. I got scared as I wrote Lillie Scott's tale, thinking of my mother in a similar situation.

    An additional thank you to Anne, Tara, and Lindsey for sharing their frightening moments. They made me nervous, you guys. I think you should make them into stories!

    Jemi and Laurel-- The awards are so great! You ladies are very kind, and I appreciate your support and encouragement.

  14. Great finish. I was seriously creeped out by the guy and yay! for the dog. Very nicely done. :)

  15. great story! now who would send a ten-year-old out at night to herd the cows? scary...

  16. My mom was born at the beginning of the Great Depression in Eastern Oregon, and she, her parents, and little brothers lived in a tent for a while. She also lived in a wood house with a packed earth floor and attended a one-room school where all the grades met together. Her childhood was far different than most American children know today...

  17. Your story really held my interest from beginning til end. Good job with tweaking a true tale just enough to turn it into a really good read.

  18. That is so creepy! I really believe that dogs can sense things that aren't apparent to us right away - even if it's malicious intent from another human being, lurking in the shadows. Thank goodness for your mother that her guardian angel came in the form of a German shepherd. I loved your retelling - chilling and exciting all at once, it gave me the shivers!

  19. Great story, Roxy! Thank you so much for sharing. :o)