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Hellhound on My Trail

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Not too far from where I live, there's an old stone bridge that overlooks a lake. I've been past it enough to know that it would make a great picture, so one day I decided to head out and take a few.

It was sunny and clear out when I left home, and the rest of the day was supposed to be just as good. But when I got to the bridge, it was pretty cloudy and there was so much mist over the lake that you could barely see anything. Now that I think about it, I don't really remember it getting overcast or foggy. It just kind of happened.

But I was already there, so I got my camera out and took a few photos. They were all shit, I couldn't see anything in the viewfinder. There's this little island in the lake, right in the middle, and I thought that might come out well, so I took a few photos of that.

It was way too foggy, though, so I gave up. I was about to head to my car when I smelled something. It was really acrid, like something burning, but it was so faint that I couldn't really tell what it was.

I looked back at the island. There was nothing there. So I got in my car and headed home.

I figured I'd go over my photos on my computer before I deleted them. First one was shit, second one was shit, so were the third, fourth, and fifth, and then I got to the island photo.

I didn't see it when I was taking the photo, but there was something on the island. I zoomed in all the way, and the pixelization was awful, but... I could almost see something, like a deer, or a moose, or maybe even a big dog, standing on the island. I wouldn't have seen the damn thing at all through the fog if it hadn't been for its eyes. It had bright red eyes that distorted the pixels around it.

Must have been due to the mist or something, I thought. I went to the next photo, but that on.e was corrupted, so I went back, but that photo--the one I just saw--that one was corrupted too.

I tried to recover the files a couple of times. Didn't work. So I went to sleep and didn't think about the photos again.

I work in town. It's not a big town. Just one of those places with a Wal-Mart, McDonald's, a couple of Mom-and-Pop shops, and a bar or two. We had pretty windy weather that week, so when I headed out to my car, no one was talking or anything, they were just trying to get to their cars to get the Hell home too.

I have to park a couple blocks away from work because of parking regulations and stuff. There's this really huge tree that grows into the sidewalk on the way there, it makes the path all uneven, and when I got there, I smelled something. It was that same burning smell, except this time, it was stronger.

It was like burning hair, I realized. I couldn't tell where it was coming from, and no one else was gawking around like me, so I don't think anyone else smelled it.

But then I saw something down the sidewalk. It was near this old house that's been vacant for years, right in the front yard. It was a dog, I think, but it was a lot bigger than any dog I'd ever seen before. Its shoulder was probably three or four feet off the ground, and it had pitch black fur, but that's not why I saw it. I saw it because of its eyes. It had bright red, glowing eyes.

The wind was really strong that day. Really strong. A couple of power lines were down already, and a couple of trees, too. Especially the older ones, like the one I was standing next to.

The branch that fell from it missed me by about a foot. It smashed the roof of the car it had, shattered the windshield and everything. If it had hit me, I'd be dead, no doubt about it.

I fell down, so I must have jumped away or something. A couple of people came to help me up, and I asked them if they saw the dog. But when I tried to point it out them, it was gone. Just completely, totally vanished. The smell was still there, but no one smelled it except for me.

I got in my car, but I could still smell burning hair, so I emptied a can of air freshener and drove the Hell home. That almost covered up the smell.

I had a tough time getting to sleep that night. I tried to cook dinner, but I burned everything, and I live a long way from town, so I couldn't order anything. I ended up eating soup out of a can, but it didn't taste right, so I threw it away.

Something was up with zy house that night. It was built in the 20s, or something, and my grandfather gave it to me when he died. He said that his father built it but couldn't stand living in it, because even though he built it really, really securely, it creaks all the time. Even when you're all by itself and not moving, you hear creaking. Sometimes it's upstairs, other times its downstairs, and sometimes, it's even right behind you. But there's never anything there.

I guess I've just gotten used to it, for the most part. But there were a lot of creaks that night. Sometimes, there were patterns to them, almost like footsteps. And that's not all. A couple of times, when I looked out of the windows, I saw weird shadows. Like someone, or something, was walking out there.

Eventually I fell asleep. I didn't have any dreams, at least, none that I remember.

My alarm clock had been going off for a half hour when I finally got up. I woke up on the couch, even though I remember sleeping in my bed. Maybe I sleep-walked, even though I never had before.

I felt like shit. I was groggy and something smelled so bad that it almost made me gag. I'm not a morning person, but that morning was a lot worse.

Maybe a shave would make me feel better. I use a straight razor--my grandfather gave it to me, with the house--and I keep it honed and ready to go at all times. So I lathered up and started to go at it.

My bathroom's pretty small. There's a toilet next to the sink, and behind them is the bathtub. The electrical's always on the fritz, it has been for as long as I can remember, so the light goes off for a split second now and then. Sometimes the current surges and blows out bulbs, too. And before that happens, you can always smell it burning.

And that's what happened that morning. I smelled something burning, just as I was starting to shave. I hurried up, because I didn't want to be stuck in the dark with a straight razor at my throat, but then I realized that it wasn't the usual burning smell. It smelled like burning hair. It was the same smell in my nostrils since I got up, and I didn't recognize it until then, because it was really strong. Really, really strong.

I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like a mess and my hands were shaking. But there was something dark on the shower curtain behind me. It wasn't my shadow, though. My eyes were bloodshot, but its eyes were even redder.

I don't know what happened next. I must have fallen back and hit my head against the tub, because I saw stars when I tried to stand. That wasn't the worst of it, though. When I fell, I had nicked myself with my straight razor and I was losing a lot of blood.

There was some bandages and gauze in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. I grabbed them and patched myself up, but it wasn't going to last, I could tell. I ran out of the bathroom to call 911, but I couldn't get through. I dialed it carefully a few times, but I just couldn't get through.

I got into my car. Didn't waste time taking a coat, even though it was pretty cold and windy. I did bring a survival kit, though. And my grandfather's shotgun.

The wind was really bad that day. Everything I saw was just gray, bleak, like all the color was gone from the world. The road signs are usually bright green, but even they looked kind of dull.

I tried to keep track of the mile markers. That's how I know when I'm getting close to town. But I couldn't focus on them for some reason. And even though I drove for a long, long time, I never got to town.

At some point, I smelled burning hair again. I tried to ignore it, but it got strong, really strong, and I had to pull over to throw up out of the window. In fact, I pulled over at the bridge--the same bridge that I took the photos at--and I threw up into the water. But the smell was still there, stronger than ever.

I had to drive, though. My gauze wasn't holding and I was starting to feel faint. So I took the car out of park and I was about to start driving when I thought I saw something in the rear view mirror, like brake lights or something. But it was eyes. Bright, red, glowing eyes.

I stamped on the gas and drove the car off the bridge. I remember hitting the water, and then I passed out.

Somehow I survived the impact. I even got out of the car, and since my shotgun and survival kit were over my lap when I started to drive, I grabbed them, too. I had to swim to shore and I made it, soaked, freezing cold, but alive.

My car was gone. There was no way to get it out of the water, and I knew that there wasn't much traffic on the bridge. I'd die before someone came by if I tried to hitch-hike.

I used my survival kit to redo the dressing on my neck. Then I grabbed a few of the dry branches the wind had knocked down and made a fire. That warmed me up a little bit.

I started to hear stuff again. Branches snapping, things moving, stuff like that. Sometimes, there would be flickers of motion in the corners of my eyes, but whenever I looked, I didn't see anything. I heard panting, too, like a hungry dog, and that was when I sat with my back to the fire.

I didn't think to bring any extra shells. I had two shots, and that was it. I didn't even know if the shotgun worked, it hadn't been fired it so long, and I'd never even shot a gun before.

It was really misty over the lake, so I couldn't see far that way. I couldn't see far into the forest, either. But at some point, I saw something. I definitely saw something coming at me from the lake. It was a big, black dog with shaggy fur that smelled like burned hair. It was walking on water and coming right at me.

I aimed for the red of its eyes. I missed the first shot--but I hit it with the second one. At least, I think I did. I didn't see it go down and I didn't hear anything except for the gunshot. But it was gone.

I moved away from the fire, just a little bit, for a better look. But the smell was still there--in fact, it was strong, so strong that my eyes teared up--and I could hear something behind me. Something panting, growling, and starting to move forward.

I turned as quick as I could. It wasn't quick enough.
Hell hound by azany-d58f65o-1-

Written by Alex Ross Writer
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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