My husband and I were passing by Flagstaff, Arizona a couple of months ago and I saw an exit sign for Devil Dog Road. Now if that isn’t a story idea waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. This is a flash version of what I want to be a longer short story.
666 Devil Dog Road
Victoria sat in her living room, bat ready. Beside her on a small table, was a basket of dog biscuits. She was at her wit’s end. Living in this haunted house for two weeks, she hadn’t had a wink of sleep. It was haunted by dogs. Ghost dogs.
She didn’t believe it at first, when her neighbor Nancy, had told her. She believed it though when she was awakened that first night by a pack of snarling ghost dogs around her bed. After that night, it was always at 3am and anywhere in the house she was at that time of the morning.
A week ago she’d brought a Catholic priest from Flagstaff out to her house. He had walked around the yard and house, sprinkling holy water and chanting. At 3am they were in the living room and the dogs came charging into the room from the kitchen. He’d dropped the water and ran screaming out of the house.
She shook her head. He came back the next day and collected his bottle, apologizing for his cowardice. What could she do? She thanked him and he left. But the dogs still came every night.
After the first night she went to Northern Arizona University where she was a professor of English, and searched the historical archives of the area. There were newspaper articles about the crackdown on illegal and unsavory activities around 1900, when the area began to become less of the wild west and more of a civilized town. She couldn’t blame the dogs. There were pictures in the local paper of the dog fighting arenas, and bloody, wounded dogs. She shuddered. Horrible.
This property was notorious. She suspected there were dog bodies buried all around the yard, maybe even under the house. The original owners’ son had built the house after retiring from the railroad. Maybe the dogs didn’t bother him. But they bothered her. Something had to be done.
At 3am on the dot she woke with a start, they were there, in the living room, pacing and snarling. “Hello dogs,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry you were abused. That wasn’t me.”
The dogs stopped pacing. She hadn’t thought talking to them would be helpful at all. She began to raise her hand to the table. The dogs barked.
Freezing in place, hand half way to the basket of biscuits, she spoke softly, “Would you like a dog biscuit? They’re good, I made them myself.” She slowly moved her hand to the basket. The dogs moved toward her, growling.
“I’m not going to hurt you, just give you a biscuit.”
She very slowly pulled a small biscuit out of the basket and very carefully tossed it to what appeared to be the lead dog. As it hit the floor the dogs leapt in the air, howling and snapping. They ran in circles around the room, barking and lunging at her. She grabbed the bat from beside her chair and held it ready but they had already disappeared. The biscuit lay on the floor.
This went on night after night for months. One night, she brought the biscuit out and held it in front of her. The ghost dogs waited, tensed. “Come on boy,” Victoria whispered. “It’s just a biscuit. It won’t hurt you.”
The lead dog’s fiery eyes on the biscuit, he backed up a step or two; then looked away, snapping at another dog. He circled the room, watching her, watching the biscuit. Her arm began to ache with holding it out for so long. She looked down at her hand, at the biscuit and back up, the dogs were gone. “Well that was some sort of progress.”
That went on for two months. By then she had given each dog a name, and each night talked to each of them as they eyed the biscuit and watched her. She named the lead dog Wolf. Every night she told him how brave and strong he was. Every night she offered him a biscuit.
By Spring she’d come to a sort of understanding with the ghost dogs. She left a biscuit for each of them on the floor of the living room and they let her sleep all night, but she could still hear them, pacing, pacing if she woke.
One day, her neighbor, Nancy came by, a puppy in her arms. “Our dog had puppies. All the rest we’ve given away. Would you take the last one?”
“I don’t think so, Nancy.” Victoria thought about the ghost dogs pacing the house at night. What would they do with a puppy in the house. “I’m not sure I’m ready for a dog.”
“Nonsense,” Nancy put the puppy in Victoria’s arms. “What’s a house without a dog?” With that she turned and hurried down the sidewalk.
The puppy looked like some sort of black Labrador mix, female. It looked up at her, giving a little bark. “Really, you don’t know what you’re in for puppy.” She let it down and it explored the yard. She went into the house, the puppy following.
That night she prepared. At 3am the ghost dogs were back. They barked and growled and snarled at Victoria and the puppy in her lap. When she reached into the basket, she brought out a small bit of biscuit, which the puppy immediately gulped down. “You see Wolf? It’s just a biscuit. Would you like some?”
The pack stood in front of her, eyes riveted on her and the biscuit. As she drew it out of the basket, the puppy tried to get it. The ghost dogs took a step forward. She held it out to Wolf. The puppy stood in Victoria’s lap, trying to get the biscuit. Wolf crept forward, an inch at a time. As he got near, the puppy barked. Wolf reached forward and Victoria felt the slightest breeze on her fingers. She still held the biscuit, but the ghost dogs were gone.
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