Fantasy Short Story 008-2023-0329

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Those of you who know my books and have followed my previous blog know that my “Ghost Dogs” short story, which I featured last week at Fantasy Short Story 007-2023-0320, became the basis for my “Night of the Hell Hounds” story.

Recently, I found an older version of “Night of the Hell Hounds” that features Vree Erickson as a teenage witch. As I prepared my stories in 2011 and 2012 for publication at Amazon, I decided against that story and chose to go in another direction.

Did I choose the best way to go? I don’t know. Poor choices can happen when we authors get sick of writing our manuscripts. It’s the equivalent of you watching your favorite movie or listening to your favorite song over and over and over … ad nauseam. Sometimes we make spur-of-the-moment choices just to move on to something new and refreshing.

I find this version of “Night of the Hell Hounds” new and refreshing, which is why I’m excited to share it here at Steve Campbell Creations for your enjoyment.

* * *

On a cold Halloween night, Lenny Stevens parked his Schwinn mountain bike next to the garage at Dave Evans’s place on Myers Ridge. Dave had told him he’d be behind his dad’s barn. Lenny found him there, in a lawn chair. He roasted a hotdog on a stick at a campfire.

Dave’s twin sister Amy sat across the fire and whispered and giggled with Vree Erickson. Lenny’s heart pattered while his gaze caressed Vree’s fair face and long hair that looked golden in the firelight.

She was an unusual girl whose real name was Verawenda. Her nickname came from her initials, VRE, and started as far back as kindergarten. They shared a love of drawing and finger painting and became instant friends.

Perhaps tonight he could gather the courage to tell her he’d fallen in love with her.

Amy saw him and called for him to join them. He plopped in a chair next to Vree and warmed to the fire and the aroma of hotdogs, wood smoke, and Vree’s perfume that smelled like oranges.

They all wore sweatshirts, blue jeans, and jackets to ward off the night’s chill, and Vree had on white furry mittens that made her more beautiful to Lenny. He opened his mouth to speak to her but never got a word out.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dave said, seeming to awaken from the trance the fire had put him in. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”

The abandoned Victorian house was to Lenny’s right and at the bottom of a hill. It languished inside a thicket of property almost a hundred yards away and barely visible. No moonlight broke the cloud cover that local weather forecasters said would bring snow.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave him a whittled stick and a hotdog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”

“Apparitions of some dogs,” Dave said; “three of them as plain as day. They vanished right before you came.”

“You saw his dogs? The hunting dogs that froze to death?” Lenny almost dropped his hotdog while he fumbled to pierce it with the stick.

He looked again at the house, excited about this new turn of events. A once-famous Broadway and Hollywood playwright named Benjamin Myers had built the house a century ago and lived there with his wife before they disappeared. According to legend, the county sheriff went to the house a week later and found Myers’s nine hunting dogs frozen inside on a sizzling summer day.

“Do you actually believe those dogs froze?” Vree asked.

Lenny shrugged. “Anything’s possible, I guess.”

“How?” Amy asked. “Explain to me how those dogs froze to death in the middle of summer.”

“Witchcraft,” Dave said.

Amy groaned. “That’s even dumber.”

“Whatever. If you don’t want to believe in the supernatural, that’s fine. But don’t knock those of us who do.”

Amy quieted.

Lenny smiled at Vree. “Halloween’s all about the supernatural. That’s why it’s one of my most favorite times of the year.”

“Mine too,” she said. “But do you really believe in witches and goblins and all that creepy stuff?”

Lenny turned his hotdog over the fire. “Like I said, anything’s possible. Just because I’ve never seen ghosts doesn’t make them not real. Dave has seen them. So have other people. My grandma says she saw her dad’s ghost right after he died. She also says her neighbor was a witch and could make roses bloom just by touching them. Who am I to say she wasn’t a witch? I never met her.” He removed his stick from the fire and let his hotdog cool.

Vree said, “One of my mom’s cousins who lives in Finland practices witchcraft.”

“Lots of people practice witchcraft,” Amy said. “But I can guarantee you’ll never see them riding on broomsticks or turning people into toads.”

“You don’t know that,” Lenny said. “I think it’d be cool to perform magic and fly on broom sticks.”

Amy laughed. “You’d probably fall off.”

“Not if I had magic.” Lenny tore his hotdog from his stick and shoved half of it in his mouth.

Dave stood and said, “I’ll be right back. I need to see a man about a horse.”

“Cute,” Amy said. “Water some weeds for me while you’re at it.”

“Water your own weeds.” Dave started toward the barn, then stopped and pointed down at the Myers property.

“Look,” he said. “It’s a ghost.”

Lenny turned in time to see the glowing apparition of a man in a white shirt and dark pants walk through the trees. Then the apparition wavered and disappeared.

“Tell me you saw that,” Dave said.

“Saw what?” Amy asked as she and Vree peered at the trees.

“Ben Myers’s ghost. It was just there. Just like the dogs I saw earlier.”

Then, as if cued by his words, dogs barked from the house.

Lenny shivered. “Do you hear that? That’s never happened before.”

“Stop kidding around,” Amy said. “Pretending that ghosts are real is Dave’s department.”

The barking grew louder. A pack of nine dogs charged from the trees and lined at the bottom of the hill. White hounds with black and brown patches flanked the sides, some rough-coated terriers stood next to them, and a black Rottweiler stood in the middle and slobbered white foam from its mouth. An aura of green light glowed around them.

“Do you think they could be hell hounds?” Lenny asked as he recalled another part of the Myers’s legend. The dogs snarled and bared their teeth. “To guard the house from trespassers.”

“We’re not trespassing,” Dave said.

“Yeah, well, they don’t look too happy to see us.”

“As long as we don’t approach them, we’ll be okay.”

“You guys can stop pretending any time now,” Amy said. “It’s getting really boring.”

Just then, the Rottweiler growled low and guttural. A red ember of fire in its eyes caused Dave to step backward.

Lenny pulled his attention from the dogs. “Are you seriously saying you don’t see them?” he asked Amy.

“That’s exactly what I’m seriously saying. So, you can stop with the tricks, already. There’s nothing there and you know it.”

“Yes, there is,” Dave said as he joined his friends and stood over his sister. “I think we should go inside the house. That way, they’ll lose interest in us.”

The growls grew louder, then stopped. The Rottweiler vanished.

“Did you see that?” Lenny asked. “Where’d it go?”

The dog reappeared at the campfire. It faced the teens, lowered its head, and growled.

Amy stood, shoved Dave out of her way, and stared at the dog.

Dave backed away. “Come on. Follow me. Don’t make any sudden moves.”

Lenny agreed with Dave’s suggestion. He tugged at one of Vree’s arms and told her and Amy to follow.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Amy said. She stepped toward the dog and yelled, “Shooh. Go away.”

“Are you crazy?” Dave asked.

The Rottweiler growled louder as Amy approached it.

Vree glanced at the other dogs that now rushed up the hillside.

It was time to fix the situation.

She waved her arms. She and her friends vanished.

They sat in her living room. An Abbott and Costello monster movie played on the TV along the far wall. She passed a large bowl of buttered popcorn to Amy who sat next to her on the sofa. Lenny sat on the other side, and Dave reclined in her dad’s La-Z-Boy chair. As far as they knew, they’d been there for two hours, just before the rain came.

Lightning lit up the windows behind her mom’s plush curtains.

She shrugged at her mom who stood at the dining room doorway and peered in with an inquisitive look.

She wasn’t in serious trouble, but the witch’s council would require her to explain why she’d changed events and made it rain. And they’d stick her parents with a fine.

She looked around at her friends safe from vicious hell hounds and knew she’d done the right thing.

# # #

Thanks for joining me for an interesting twist in an old story.

That’s all for now. Peace and love.

Steve, 3/29/2023

This post “Fantasy Short Story 008-2023-0329” copyright © 2023 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

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