As I said in my last blog post, while I rewrite the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, I am offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments. Today’s chapter is from the 2013 short story, “Night of the Hellhounds.” This is different from the novel with the same name that I wrote last year. Here, Dave, Amy and Vree are friends instead of siblings like in the novel, and Dave and Amy live where Lenny lives in the novel. Also, Ben and Cathleen Myers aren’t Lenny’s great-grandparents in this story (Ben is Reginald Myers in the novel), and the strange Ademia Savakis appears here like she did in my original story published online a decade ago.
Sit back, relax if you can, and read on while teenagers Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson encounter ghosts and demon dogs and struggle to survive atop the mysterious Myers Ridge.
Night of the Hellhounds
Beware the strangeness at night that it may come for you.
November 3, 2012
“Who are you?” Dave said, almost shouting, which drew Vree’s and Amy’s attention. “This is private land.”
Fiery hues of the campfire revealed a stunning woman. Flame glinted from her long black hair, her bronze face, and her long, sweeping black dress tied off at the waist. A white lace collar hung around her neck, and pearl buttons sparkled in a row between her ample breasts. Tall and curvy, she looked at the four teenagers with mesmerizing and penetrating eyes — blacker than either her hair or dress, or the rubies set in the gold rings that she wore on eight fingers and two thumbs.
“This parcel of land is owned by Margaret Evans,” she replied as she strolled to stand next to the fire between Dave and the rest of them.
“She’s our grandmother,” Dave said. “Our dad lives here now.”
“Yes, I know of your family, David,” she said to him. “And Amy.” She smiled and looked kindly at Amy, beaming those mysterious charcoal eyes. Then she looked at Lenny and lingered with a puzzled, yet bewitching gaze.
He held her gaze until Dave asked, “How can we help you?”
She looked away and said, “I must rest a moment. The journey here has tired me.”
She sat with a grace that made her seem to glide to the grass. There, she tucked her legs delicately beside herself and covered her bare feet beneath her dress. Her gaze shifted back to Lenny, then to Vree, and then to him again.
“I don’t know you two,” she said.
“I’m Lenny Stevens,” Lenny said. “This is Vree.”
“My full name is Verawenda Erickson,” Vree said. “Well, actually, Verawenda Renee Erickson. My friends started calling me Vree because of my initials.”
“I am Ademia Consuela Ramona Cathleen Savakis,” the woman said to her. “I have been called all of these names and more. But you can call me Ademia.” Her eyes narrowed and the corners of her mouth lifted for a moment as she smiled at Vree. Then she asked, “Do you and your family live on the ridge, too?”
“Yes. My parents and I moved just down the road almost sixteen months ago … from Pittsburgh.”
“My parents and I live in town,” Lenny said. “My dad—”
Ademia’s stern gaze caused him to close his mouth with a clack of teeth striking together. He saw a flicker of sadness cross her face before she turned and looked at Dave. “And why do you mistake me for—” she leaned closer “—a gypsy … no … a witch?”
Dave stiffened and said, “I don’t.”
“I suppose I do look like a gypsy. My mother was Brazilian, my father Greek. But I’m neither gypsy nor witch, although—”
She paused and looked thoughtful. Then she glanced in the direction of the burnt remains of the old mansion and said rather sadly, “I must go now.”
She stood as easily and gracefully as she had sat.
“Good night,” she said before turning and heading toward the Myers property.
The four watched her until the night made her invisible. Then Amy said, “Did you guys notice that she had no shoes on her feet?”
“And on a cold night like tonight,” Vree said. She shivered and tightened the blanket around her. “It feels like it might snow.”
Dave stood and said, “Lenny, throw some more wood on the fire. I have to see a man about a horse.”
“Cute,” Amy said. “Water some weeds for me while you’re at it.”
Lenny sighed that the woodpile was at the far side of the barn and that he had to leave Vree’s side. Icy air latched onto him and left him shivering when he stepped from beneath the blanket and away from the fire.
He had taken eight steps toward the barn when Dave came quickly to him and pointed down at the Myers property.
“Look,” he said with a voice that was barely audible. Then it rose as he said, “Don’t you see it? It’s Ben Myers’s ghost!”
Lenny turned in time to see the glowing apparition of a man in a white shirt and dark pants walk through the Myers house’s burnt remains. Then the ghostly image wavered and disappeared.
“Tell me you saw that,” Dave said.
“Saw what?” Amy asked as she and Vree huddled beneath the blanket and peered out at them.
“Ben Myers’s ghost,” Dave said. “It was just there. Just like the dogs I saw earlier.”
As if cued by Dave’s words, Lenny heard dogs bark from the ruined house. He said, “When Myers’s dogs died, their spirits came back as hellhounds to guard the house from trespassers.”
“Another dumb tall tale,” Amy said to Vree.
“Dumb or not,” Lenny said, “I hear them barking.”
“I do, too,” Dave said.
“You do?” It was Vree who spoke. She flung away her end of the blanket, stood, and peered down the hillside. “Where are they? I want to see.”
A pack of nine dogs charged from the ruins and lined at the bottom of the hill, all of them glowing an aura of green light. Lenny went to Vree and stood at her side as the dogs looked up at them, snarling and baring teeth.
“I don’t see anything,” Vree said to Lenny.
“Because nothing’s there,” Amy said. She had stood and now peered down the hill, too.
But Lenny saw the dogs as clear as though they stood beneath a noon sun. There were white hounds with black and brown patches, some rough-coated terriers, and a brown Rottweiler that stood in the middle and slobbered white foam from its mouth.
“I see them,” Dave said as he joined his friends. “And they don’t look happy to see us.”
The Rottweiler growled low and guttural. And the red ember of fire in its eyes caused Dave to step backward.
“Let’s go inside the house,” he said. Then he said it again, louder, as the other dogs joined in. As the growls rose in both pitch and volume, Lenny agreed with Dave’s suggestion. He tugged at one of Vree’s arms and told her and Amy to follow Dave who had turned and now hurried past the barn, toward the house.
“But I don’t see or hear anything,” Vree said.
“Because there’s nothing’s down there.” Amy wrapped her blanket around Vree’s shoulders and said to Lenny, “We’re staying here and camping out tonight, even if it snows.”
The growls stopped.
Lenny looked down the hill and saw that three of the seven dogs had vanished, which included the Rottweiler.
“It isn’t snow I’d worry about,” he said, seconds before vicious barking came from the driveway.