scary-story-entry-5

2016 Scary Story Contest – Entry #5, H. L. Ghost

House of Tortured Souls
Presents the
2016 Scary Story
Competition

Entry #5: My Dog Loved
Pumpkins

Category: Fiction

By H. L. Ghost

It's a cool October afternoon and I'm sitting on the front lawn with my beautiful family. A towel is spread out beneath our legs, already cluttered with various tools and pumpkin guts strewn between the three of us. We joke and laugh as each of us struggles to make our Jack-O-Lantern look decent. It's a talent that I never quite acquired during my childhood, and my husband has about the same technique--just hack away until something at least slightly resembling a face appears in the firm orange canvas. None of us really care if the pumpkins are the best in the neighborhood; we just like getting our hands dirty and having an excuse to pick at one another.
Unfortunately, my six-year-old daughter has grown frustrated with her work. It doesn't have as much of a similarity to the Little Mermaid as she had hoped. She points at the untouched pumpkin propped up in the grass behind me and pouts her lips. "Mommy," she whines, "can I pretty please start over with that new pumpkin?"
I shake my head. "No way, Jose. That pumpkin is reserved."
"For who? We all already have one."
My husband and I exchange a knowing glance. He squeezes my foot with his slimy hand reassuringly and says, "Mommy gets an extra pumpkin every year, sweetheart. We've been over this. It's the special pumpkin."
"Tell me why it's so special then," she snaps. I raise an eyebrow at her warningly and she shrinks back an inch or two. "I'm sorry, Mommy, I just wanna know."
"I'll tell you one day, Katie-bug. But today isn't the day. We have to wait until you're a big girl, okay?" There are tears welling up in her eyes and she keeps looking at the pumpkin in her lap like she has never seen anything so pathetic before. I sigh. "Hey, hey. If you're really that unhappy with yours, we'll go get you a new one later this week, okay? I'll let you finish mine until then."
She sniffles and looks at mine, which I haven't made much progress on. The top is cut out and most of the gunk inside has been removed, which is her favorite part, but the outside is void of any carvings. She thinks for a bit and finally complies, and the afternoon breezes on like the falling clusters of autumn leaves around us. As my husband takes on the mission of getting Kate's new pumpkin carved to her princess standards, my mind floats off to a distant memory, a time of the past revived by my daughter's questioning.
I must have been about 6 or 7 years-old when my mom and I resided alone in a rural town just about 100 miles from where I live now. My birthday had fallen on a hot July day and I had spent most of it at my fraternal grandparents' house, the only piece of my father's side of the family that still actually wanted something to do with me. They had bribed my mother with the promise of cake and presents, things that she couldn't really afford on her own. By the time they dropped me back off at home, I was elated, stuffed to the brim with cookie cake and the knowledge that dozens of new toys would be joining me back in my room. I scrambled out of the backseat and helped my grandpa carry my treasures into the house. We unloaded everything onto the kitchen counter, and then I paraded to the living room to tell my mom all about my day.
When I saw her I completely lost my shit.
She was sitting in the recliner with a little black ball of fur wiggling on her lap. It looked up at me and yapped, ears pointed straight to the ceiling and tail wagging ferociously. "Happy birthday, Margot!" My mother exclaimed, her smile widening as the tears began to stream down my face. I could see my grandpa standing in the corner of the room with a camcorder.
I stepped forward and reached for the pup. My body was rocking with sobs. It leapt eagerly into my embrace, smothering my cheeks with kisses tainted by puppy breath. My crying intensified. "Is-is it really m-m-mine?"
"Of course, sweetie! You've been asking all year; do you think I'm deaf?" My mother was laughing hysterically, but I could tell she was trying to hold back tears of her own. "What do you want to name him?"
I held him out at arms' length to look into his glittering tawny eyes. He yelped excitedly again, twice this time, squirming in my grip. "Smoke. His name is gonna be Smoke." As soon as I said it, I knew it was the perfect choice. I pulled him close against my chest and buried my face in his fur. I had never felt so much happiness in a single moment prior to that. I really had been begging my mom for a puppy pretty much ever since my dad left; she had to work lots of hours to pay bills and the house could get pretty lonely when she was away. I thought about this as I held him, and the sobs returned with even more intensity. I was so damn happy.
Smoke and I became best friends from that day forward. With more time I could tell something about that dog was special, but in what way I just couldn't put my finger on. There wasn't a second that I was with him that I didn't feel completely safe, invincible to any evils that the world might send our way. The rest of the summer was a sunny haze of training him to fetch, sit, stay, high-five; hiking trips down to the creek in the woods behind the house, where he would paw at the minnows in the water and bark in frustration when he couldn't catch them; walks into town where the pretty carhops at Sonic would bring him a bowl of water and give me a free ice cream cone for the "puppy therapy". It was exactly like one of those corny kid-and-dog montages you see in movies and commercials. Everything I had ever longed as a lonely tomboy living in the middle of nowhere. A dream come true.
The only complaint that my mother and I ever had about Smoke was that he had a really weird?and sometimes rather annoying?obsession with eating pumpkin. We didn't discover this until mid-October, when he got loose from the backyard and we found him hours later in the local church pumpkin patch, completely mauling one of the vegetables. Fortunately, no one had been tending the patch at the time and we were able to get him out of there without any problems. We figured it was a one-time thing, that he was just curious about his surroundings and happened to stumble upon some interesting-smelling food while he was exploring. We were wrong. He escaped the yard and sabotaged the church's pumpkin patch three more times after that day. He inhaled the two Jack-O-Lanterns that my mother and I had carved and left on the front porch that Halloween. He snuck into the house on the day before Thanksgiving and managed to get into the fresh pumpkin pie left to cool on the kitchen stove. It was ridiculous, and honestly quite hilarious, because this dog was so well-behaved and trained that we never dreamed he would do something like it. It was as if pumpkins were his kryptonite. So from then on we let him eat his heart's content of the orange crop whenever it was in season, and even bought some canned pumpkin at the grocery store to mix into his food during the spring and summertime. Sure enough, we didn't have any more pumpkin felonies happen after that.
Then Smoke's third Halloween rolled around. My mom had driven us to a nearby subdivision for trick-or-treating. He loved going out in public and meeting new people; despite his tremendous size, the only beings who had any reason to fear him were pumpkins. I had dressed him up in a vampire costume designed for dogs, which he had practically torn all the way through before we were halfway across the neighborhood. He still looked crazy cute though, and it was definitely thanks to him that I received as much candy as I did that night. By the time we arrived back home it had grown dark outside and I was pretty exhausted from lugging my overflowing bag of sugar around all evening. But despite my drooping eyelids, I plopped down on a chair and spilled my treasure on top of the kitchen table to assess my collection. Smoke curled up at my feet with a yawn and was snoring within minutes. Mom kicked off her shoes and sat down across from me, grinning sleepily and shaking her head. "You know it's past your bedtime, Moe."
"I'm almost done!" I pleaded, separating the chocolate bars from the lollipops with drool gathering in my cheeks.
She opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by a sudden eruption of barking from Smoke. He faced the back door which was connected directly to the dining room. It led onto a small porch illuminated by a single bulb overhead and looked out over the backyard, which only stretched about 50 feet away from the house, a chain-link fence separating the yard and the dense woods lining the property. His outburst startled the hell out of both of us, breaking the peaceful quiet that had settled into the house with the night.
"Smoke!" My mom and I cried. Most of me was pissed; my ears had grown sensitive with fatigue and he was being unbelievably loud. But another part of me was terrified. Within seconds he had darted to the door and pressed his snout against the threshold. Every hair on his body stood stick-straight and his lips were curled back to expose sharp, glistening teeth. In the three years I'd owned him I had never seen my dog, my constant companion, in such an aggressive state. My mom seemed to notice that something was off too, because she got up from the table and came to my side, assuming a protective stance between me and the door.
We stood there for what felt like hours, watching Smoke snarl and bay at the door like an animal that had lost its mind. "It's probably just a raccoon," Mom whispered to me over her shoulder. We waited for him to stop. He didn't. My mother turned to look at me with frighteningly wide eyes and ordered me to go to my room and lock the doors and windows.
In that same instant, a loud banging came from the other side of the back door. Both of us froze. Smoke absolutely lost it. I seriously thought he was going to physically rip his way through the wood to get to whatever the hell was on the other side.
"Go. Right now."
I tried to get my legs to move. I really did. But all I could see was Smoke, growling at the bottom of the door, just inches away from something horrible and dangerous. I couldn't leave him.
"Did you hear me? I said go to your room, RIGHT NOW, MARGOT." My mom was gripping my shoulders, trying to shake some sense into me. But I couldn't stop staring at Smoke, imagining him claw his way through the wood only for whatever was outside to tear him to shreds. My vision was blurry with tears.
The doorknob started to shake.
"GO! MARGOT! NOW!"
Smoke. I could not leave Smoke. I couldn't let him face the monster alone?
A voice, somehow loud enough to be heard over Smoke's barking, roared from behind the door. "TRICK OR TREAT."
An inhuman sound escaped my mother's throat. A noise I can only imagine a kitten trapped in the jaws of a python might make. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me into the kitchen, down to the cold tile floor. While she reached up to grab the telephone from the receiver on the counter, I slid myself to the corner of the kitchen so that I could still have a view of Smoke. The door knob was still rattling spastically, the banging increasing with every second.
"TRICK OR TREAT TRICK OR TREAT TRICKORTREATTRICKORTREATTRICKORTREAT!"
Wailing, I took off down the hall to my room. I locked every entrance that fucker could possibly bash its way through and then shoved myself beneath the bed, being sure to stay facing the door. For the next several minutes, I could only hear Smoke's yowling, the crashing against the door, and the man shouting from outside.
Then everything went silent.
All I could hear was my own heartbeat for what seemed like forever. Until a sound that I never thought I would find threatening echoed across the house and sent a wave of unfathomable horror surging through my body.
The back door, notorious for its noisiness. Something mom and I had always made occasional jokes about. Creaking open slowly, slowly. Whining on its rusted hinges like an abandoned infant until the silence returned.
And then the footsteps began.
Heavy, thunderous even. Almost like the sound of hooves. Through the dining room, past the living room. Down the hall. Awful, heavy breathing staggered from the lips of whatever was coming straight towards my bedroom. The footsteps stopped at the same instant that a shadow appeared between the floor and the bottom of my door. There was a deafening silence, and then the scratching started. The scratching turned to pounding and the pounding turned to pulling, clobbering, wood was shattering and the beast outside was snarling like a rabid animal.
"TRICKORTREATTRICKORTREATRICKORTREAT I'M ABOUT TO HAVE SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT!"
Everything turned to slow motion as the door plummeted to the floor in absolute defeat. My last form of protection against the nightmare coming to get me. All I could see from beneath the bed was a pair of oversized clown shoes painted a crusted, peeling red. The entire room began to smell like rot. I was crying so hard that eventually I could barely see anything at all, which I found relieving. So I shut my eyes.
Some seconds passed before I heard the wooden floorboards start to groan beneath the shifting weight of the monstrous intruder. I could suddenly feel its face within inches of mine, breathing on me, warm and sour. I was trying so hard not to gag.
Something calloused and sticky grazed my cheek. A finger.
"Hey sweetheart. Don't be scared. I'm here to make ya smile."
The same finger ran along my bottom lip, then forced its way in between my teeth and onto my tongue. It tasted like vomit.
"Smile big and wide so Mr. Funnyface can give you the best Halloween treat of all."
I bit down hard and screamed with every ounce of fear I could gather within my ten-year old body.
At the same time, violent, guttural snarls with primordial wrath erupted from the opposite end of the room. The finger jerked sharply out from my mouth and the staggered breathing ripped away from my face as the atmosphere was ignited with an explosion of noise. There was screaming; the sound of a full-sized adult in absolute panic. My eyes shot open just in time to see a mountain of a man crashing to the floor, reaching for his ankle which was now locked in the jaws of a creature that could have crawled straight out of the depths of hell. It was all a blur for the most part, but I was able to make out that the man was dressed in grimy white clothing with a curly red wig and a face painted so colorfully it made me sick. The beast upon him was a colossal bulk of black fur and muscle, bloodstained razors for teeth ripping into flesh. Its massive eyes emitted a piercing, unnatural yellow glow but they didn't see me; they were too focused on the thrashing Mr. Funnyface. I shut my eyes again and continued to scream, wishing it all to be over. Wishing I had Smoke to cling to. As the monster dragged the clown away from my bedroom, the echoes of the chaos continued down the hall. I listened to the tortured cries of the clown, accompanied by the sound of fingernails snagging desperately onto wooden floorboards. An entire chorus of those prehistoric growls and the crunching of bone.
And then, almost as if nothing had ever happened at all, the house fell deathly quiet, as the atrocious duo had vanished.
It took a lot for my mom to coax me out from beneath my bed. I was traumatized. Hours later, when I finally did crawl out from my hiding place, I noticed the alarming amounts of blood that trailed across my bedroom, down the hall, through the kitchen, and out the back door. I was a sobbing wreck. Smoke was nowhere to be found. The backyard was dark and silent, taunting me. Where was the monster? Where was Mr. Funnyface? Had I imagined the whole thing?
Where the hell was Smoke?
Of course the cops showed up after it was all over. They crouched down by the bed and asked me all of their questions but in my devastation I was no help. I had possibly lost my best friend thanks to some sicko in a clown suit on one of my favorite holidays. I wanted nothing to do with anyone or anything; I just wanted Smoke to come home. The next day my mom let me stay home from school to search around town and hang up "lost" posters for him. We returned home with no luck, and the only time I left my bed for the rest of that day was to use the toilet.
Life went on. I grew older, and came to terms with the assumption that Smoke had simply run off that night and ended up in another city. A nice family had surely found him and were showering him with all of the love he deserved. That didn't change the fact that I missed him like crazy, but the idea did help with the pain of knowing that he might just be dead. I never told anyone about what I saw that night because I figured I had just been in some state of petrified hallucination.
Then one day, when I was in college a few hours away from home, my mom and I were chatting on the phone. We were reminiscing about old times, and somehow stumbled upon the subject of the night Smoke disappeared.
That phone call changed my life forever.
According to my mom's side of the story, two days after the Halloween ordeal, I was away at school. She had stayed home to clean up the house and was keeping the back door and windows open to rid the inside of the rotten smell that had come in with the clown man. As she worked on scrubbing the remaining bloodstains away from the kitchen tile, a loud thumping sounded from the back porch. She immediately panicked, thinking the lunatic had come back for a second try at whatever he had been attempting the night before. She grabbed the phone, prepared to dial the police, and stole a petrified glance around the edge of the kitchen doorway. She stopped dead in her tracks.
There, sitting cheerfully on the threshold of the back door, was Smoke. Tail hammering vigorously against the wood of the porch, a bloody rubber clown nose hanging from his teeth. My mom tries to spare me the details, but she says he was badly injured. One side of ribs exposed, fur caked in bits of carnage, one of his eyes completely gouged out of his massive skull. Mom moved slowly towards him, and his tail knocked even harder. She said his wounded face lit up like he didn't feel any pain at all. He dropped the clown nose at her knees and pressed the top of his head against her chest. She could tell from the damage that the 30-minute drive to the nearest veterinarian would take too much time to save him.
So she gave him the best final moments that a dog like Smoke could imagine.
She wrapped him up in his favorite blanket to roll around on when we lounged in the living room. She pulled him into her lap and held him close to her while they sat together on the back porch, staring out at the grey November sky. And of course, she fed him bits of pumpkin until she thought his belly would burst. His tail thudded constantly against the porch wood and he occasionally lifted his head to lick her chin in gratitude. She said that only about 15 minutes passed before his tail fell still and his body went limp, that he did not show a single sign of suffering up until the moment he was gone.
She buried him in the forest that night and burned the clown nose in our fireplace. She refused to tell me what that monster had done to our baby. She says she didn't want me to carry that kind of distress, so she lied, had me thinking he was missing for all those years. I don't blame her.
She says a day or two later, the clown man's body was discovered by some hikers several miles deep into the forest behind our home. The news reported that the dirty white suit he wore was covered in black fur, that his right leg was hanging by a single tendon, and that his throat had been completely torn out. They found a bloodied knife in one of his hands, as well as duct tape and a bag of candy in his suit pockets. Investigators chocked it up to a coyote attack. The man's face was mauled past any recognition. They later ran DNA tests, once the technology was more accessible in our town, and found that he was responsible for two other United States murders in which female victims were bound to their beds, brutally tortured and beaten, stabbed excessively and left with Halloween candy stuffed in every one of their orifices.
As if that wasn't traumatic enough, during that phone call my mom also told me that the same night they had found the clown man's body was the night Smoke's body disappeared from his grave. She says she went to have a cigarette on the back porch and to thank Smoke for being the wonderful gift he had been to our family. When she turned on the porch light to see his grave, she was greeted with a scattered pile of dirt and an empty hole in the earth. No shovel. No blood. Not a single trace of a living being. She freaked out and was about to turn back into the house to call the police, until she saw it.
At the fence line of our backyard stood a mass of black darker than the forest shadows around it. It appeared to be at least 6 feet tall, standing on all fours with its head down low to the ground. Mom tried to ignore it, but she says she just couldn't. She didn't know why. She stared at it for several minutes, too confused and creeped out to move. Then something inside of her clicked, and a wave of impossible courage rushed over her. She managed to call out a single word.
"Smoke?"
The animal looked up at her with shining golden eyes and took a gentle step forward. She says she could make out a quick movement behind it. A tail wagging. And then it turned and went crashing back into the woods, hardly making any sound at all.
I never would have believed her if our descriptions of the creature hadn't matched up so closely. To this day, I still place a special pumpkin on the back porch stoop, the happiest memories of Smoke replaying in my mind. Maybe it's a silly tradition, leaving a big orange vegetable on the back porch for my undead monster dog to enjoy. But my mother and I have stuck with it ever since Smoke's death, and I hope that my family will carry it on during their future Halloweens as well.
I've been reading online about all of the craze over "creepy clowns" terrorizing quiet neighborhoods, lurking the shadows of nearby towns. Too close for comfort. I can see all of the news headlines stretched around my mind like caution tape, and my anxiety starts to pick up as I go back into the house. Kate and my husband are giggling behind me, oblivious to my rising fear. I bring the reserved pumpkin along with me and place it on the back porch.
"This is for you, buddy. Please look out for us again this year."
I close my eyes and let the autumn wind whip through my hair, breathing it in deep and trying to allow my nerves to relax. "Please."
I almost miss it. So quick and quiet that if I would have opened my eyes a millisecond later, I wouldn't have been able to catch it. A big bushy black tail, smoothly retrieving into the tree line a couple dozen yards beyond the backyard.
We'll be safe tonight.

Posted by Woofer McWooferson

Woofenstein “Woofer” McWooferson is a writer, editor, proofreader, researcher, reviewer/critic, and werewolf active in the horror community.

A werewolf from birth, Woofer had an otherwise normal childhood. Woofer grew up in a suburban home and found more friends in books, television than at school. In college, Woofer undertook an honors degree while majoring in English with a minor in criminal psychology. Woofer later earned a Master’s degree in English, focusing on the modern British novel and then pursued a degree in Metaphysics at Miskatonic University.

Woofer was a contributing author for William Castle Presents: Scare It Forward: “Angel Island” (2010) and an editor for Blake Petit’s Opening Night of the Dead (2012) and Claus Holm’s Dreams and Awakenings (2014) and Tempus Investigations (2016).

1 comment

I loved this !!!!!!!

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