I’m continuing to add the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, in chapter-by-chapter installments. Today’s chapter is the final one from the 2013 short story, “Night of the Hellhounds.” This was the first book of five in The Green Crystal Stories and had nothing to do with the title, which is why I’m rewriting the book.
So, sit back, relax if you can, and read on while teenagers Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson continue encountering 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
“They’re after me,” Dave yelled as he ran from around the side of the barn and headed toward them. “Get in the tents. Hurry.”
In a puff of red smoke, the Rottweiler appeared in front of Dave, blocking the way.
Dave skidded to a stop and stared wildly at the dog. Then he bolted to his right and vanished into the field and darkness there.
Two hounds glowing green raced into view from around the side of the barn and charged after him.
The Rottweiler followed, almost flying across the ground as it too vanished in the dark.
“They’re heading toward Widow’s Ravine,” Lenny said. “We have to help—”
Just then, horrible howls from below the hill filled the air. Amy and Vree screamed as they stared down the hillside. The remaining dogs charged the hill.
“They’re real,” Amy said before she tore past Lenny, the blanket dropping to the ground. Vree followed, close at her heels.
Lenny looked once more at the hellish ghost dogs coming at him before he raced after the girls heading to Mr. Evans’s house, which was lit up inside and looked so safe and inviting.
“But what about Dave?” he called out.
The girls kept running, but he stopped. His best friend was being chased to a dangerous place with sinkholes and cliffs. He turned and hurried after Dave as the remaining hellhounds crested the hill and raced after him.
He plowed blindly into brambles and thorny weeds that slapped and poked and grabbed him, scratched his face and hands, and scarred his clothes and shoes.
The hellhounds closed their distance quickly. His drumming heart climbed into his throat when he realized he couldn’t outrun them. Still, he shielded his face with his arms as he pushed on.
The dangerous terrain looked foreign in the low-lit night, yet he followed the sound of the hellhounds ahead of him and thought only of Dave’s safety.
His inhales and exhales sounded like whimpers and moans when moonlight broke through the clouds and he burst through the confining brambles at a clearing atop a steep cliff of Myers Ridge.
Dave was there, at the edge but safe for the moment, doubled over and breathing hard. The hellhounds that had followed him had their heads lowered and their rear ends in the air like wolves that had just pinned their prey.
Lenny hurried and kicked at the Rottweiler’s backside, hoping to punt it over the cliff. Instead, his foot went through the apparition and he landed on his backside.
Quick to get up, he hurried to Dave’s side as the rest of the pack caught up and formed a line, boxing him and Dave at the edge of the cliff. The hellhounds glared with red eyes and growled with slobbering mouths. One of the hellhounds howled and Lenny lashed out at it, this time with words.
“Leave us alone.”
The Rottweiler growled and leaped at him. Its forepaws struck his chest and sent him stumbling backwards, his arms flailing. For a moment, it seemed that he had stabled his balance. Then the evil apparition barked sharply at him from where it had landed. Lenny flinched, lost his footing, and stumbled over the precipice of Widows Ravine.
He plummeted on his back one hundred feet through icy air to the icier waters of Myers Creek. When he entered the T of the tributary and creek, his aching throat released a yelp of surprise as the water enveloped him like a brutal winter blast.
He remembered then that he did not know how to swim.
He sank quickly into darkness until his backside struck the rocky creek bottom. He rested there a moment, dazed. Then he pushed off and struggled toward a sliver of moonlight barely rippling on the water’s surface far above him. His arms and legs felt encumbered by his heavy clothes. Worse, his lungs ached to release the little breath he held. He fought an intense, overwhelming urge to breathe deeply; he was only halfway to the surface when he knew that he could hold his breath no longer. He was going to drown.
He looked at the rippling moonlight and wished to see Vree one more time.
Just then, shimmering outstretched hands broke through the water’s surface and came for him. The nearest hand bore five black ruby rings, blistering from the gold of each ring. That hand grabbed the front of his jacket and pulled him from the depths of Myers Creek.
His lungs sucked in air and bits of water. He coughed and sputtered fitfully while Ademia managed to get him to shore. There, lying on his stomach, he vomited creek water and bits of chewed hotdog on the bank of Myers Creek until he caught his breath.
“Your friend David is safe,” Ademia said, helping him to stand. “I stopped the dogs from attacking. But I was too late to keep you from falling.”
Still weak and exhausted, he fell to the ground.
“Who are you?” he asked, looking up at her. He shivered wet and cold at her bare feet, and looked at her, puzzled. She was as dry as when she had sat at the fire earlier.
“I am someone you beckoned,” she said. “Now I ask the same of you, young man. Who are you?”
He paused and wondered what she meant. And while he wondered, he suddenly knew.
“You’re Cathleen Myers,” he said. He forced the words through a clenched mouth that trembled from the cold that burned at his bones. “And it’s true. Your husband … and his dogs … froze to death.”
She was quiet while she studied him with darkened eyes below a troubled scowl.
Finally, “I am the scorned wife who called forth an ancient, evil power from Myers Ridge,” she said. “A power that froze to death my unfaithful husband and cruelly cast me to my grave.”
At that moment, they heard Dave crying out Lenny’s name from atop the ridge. Lenny trembled too much to holler back. Ademia placed her hands atop his head and filled his body with warmth.
“Answer your friend,” she said; “you’re safe now.”
“Thank you,” he said to her. Then he called out and told Dave that he was okay. Dave told him to go to the bridge on Russell Road and to wait.
“I owe you my life,” he said to Ademia. The rubies of her rings began to glow, turning from dark to bright white light. She held her hands to her face.
“I am forgiven,” she said before the light from her rings engulfed her and she vanished.
Lenny stumbled upright. Ice water fell from his clothes but he was not cold. As he headed toward Russell Road, he wondered about his rescuer Ademia, the ancient power she had called from Myers Ridge, and whether he would see her again.