A fun piece of writing that my friend Lola Gentry-Dey and I wrote many years ago for my Night of the Hell Hounds story I started in 1999. This cliffhanger never made it into the published short story.
Ashley started to stand, uncertain of where to look first, when one of Jerry’s beefy hands clutched her by the shirt and whisked her to her feet. The force snapped the front clasp of her bra and her breasts loosened against her shirt. For a moment, she remembered Daryl’s soft caresses while they embraced in her bedroom—caresses that had quickened and hardened and became aggressive. For a moment, she remembered her love turning into fear, anger, and finally disgust.
She pulled from Jerry’s grasp, turned away and struggled without success to fix the undone clasp.
Jerry shouted. “You guys see it?”
“No,” Sherry and Daryl said. Sherry sounded excited but Daryl sounded unconvinced.
Ashley looked down at the burned remains of the house and saw Ben Myers’s ghost walking across the ash and grasses that had once been a floor. The ghost looked real, as solid as the foursome standing on the ridge above. Then the ghostly image wavered and disappeared.
“Did you see that?” Jerry said. He looked happy for a moment. Then fear contorted his face into an image of shocked realization. His breathing became forced. “It’s real. Ben Myers’s ghost is really real.” He trembled.
The wailing in the ravine stopped and the sound of barking dogs took its place.
“H-hellhounds,” Jerry said. “Do you hear them?” He stumbled backwards, tripped over his guitar and fell hard on his butt. His face looked deathly white in the moonlight.
“I hear them,” Sherry said. She looked startled as she drew closer to Daryl. She reached out to him, then stopped. The confused look on Daryl’s face told her that he didn’t hear the hellhounds. She turned to Ashley. The vicious barking below them had grown louder. As it drew closer, so did the brutal pounding of invisible paws against the ground.
Jerry’s eyes widened as he looked at Sherry and Ashley. “Run,” he said. “They’re coming to get us.” He used his guitar to force himself up. Then he staggered away.
Sherry called after him, hollered for him to come back, but the surging howl of hounds drowned out her voice. She ran after her brother across brushy ground illuminated by moonlight.
“This isn’t good,” Ashley said to Daryl. She tried to control the fear gripping her like a winter chill. “You’re the only one who doesn’t hear the hellhounds. But the rest of us do and I’m getting out of here.”
Daryl sputtered. “First it was Ben Myers’s ghost. Now it’s hellhounds. You’re all crazy.” He pointed at the empty hillside. “There’s nothing there.”
The barking grew louder. Ashley saw a cluster of tiny blue-green will-o-wisps blinking and swarming toward her. Behind them, the pack of hellhounds came fast. They barked and growled, and in their midst she saw their red eyes of death. She turned and screamed and ran.
Suddenly, a hand tugged at her right shoulder. Fingers dug into the flesh and Daryl brought her to a halt. She struggled to break free.
“Let me go,” she screamed. Tears stung her eyes; fear and anger burned her cheeks. She wondered what she had ever loved about him.
“Leave me alone.” She slapped his face hard and Daryl dropped his grasp of her as he placed a hand over his quick-flaming cheek.
Ashley bolted and ran after Sherry and Jerry. She glanced back once to see the will-o-wisps fly through Daryl’s body. The dogs came next, several of them passing through Daryl the nonbeliever who stood in their path.
She wanted so much not to believe, too. But she did, and it terrified her to know that the strange things chasing her could kill her and Sherry and Jerry.
She quickened her pace and ran blindly into an angry black sea of brambles and thorny weeds that slapped and poked and grabbed at her, scratched her face and forearms, tore away long strands of hair, and scarred her jeans and tennis shoes.
The hellhounds came fast on her heels. The blinking lights were at her back. Ademia had called them will-o-wisps, but Ashley knew they were beacons for the evil hellhounds coming after her, zeroing in on her fear of them. But more importantly, her fear of death.
Her pounding heart pushed at her chest as she fought through the briars. Her cries climbed up her throat, tried to become screams, but became lodged as she gasped to breathe, her inhales and exhales sounding like whimpers.
Then she was free from the briars and running toward the cliff tops of Myers Ridge. Jerry stood against the starry night sky. Sherry was with him, their backs to her. They had reached the edges of Myers Ridge; there was nowhere else to go.
She ran to her friends, afraid for them, terrified of what would happen when the horrible creatures behind her caught up to them.
As she put out her arms to embrace them, wanting to protect them, to smother them with love, hoping for a miracle of salvation, she stumbled between them and went over an edge of Myers Ridge.