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The Black Dog
*Author's Note: This story is a retelling of a New England folktale commonly known as "Hanging Hills."
Hanging Hills was named that because it was the location where those condemned to death were sent to be executed, usually by hanging. The town of Maiden maintained these killing grounds until about sixty years ago, yet the name remained the same. Of course, many ghost stories have sprouted from its bloody legacy. The real story, however, was the story of the Black Dog.
Peter Moore, a student of Anthropology in Boston, visited the town of Maiden one summer during his off semester. Peter was an avid hiker, and was particularly fond of the fair New England countryside. Peter had never trekked Hanging Hills before, however. His reason for visiting the area was not a cheerful one either, casting further black omens on Peter’s situation. Peter recently separated from his girlfriend, after a relationship of two years. It wasn’t an easy separation. Peter thought the best thing for him was an escape, something to pass time and erase emotional wounds. Peter probably figured a small town in the cold-aired cradles of New England would allow him the healing he needed. Wounds are never healed in the Hanging Hills, only festered.
After he emerged from Maiden’s oldest hotel, the Brown-Goodman Cottage & Inn, Peter decided to begin his first hike outside of town. It was not a strange countryside to Peter, who had hiked across many strange plains and hills. Yet, to an outsider, the Hanging Hills would have felt especially ominous. Peter hiked thoroughly, for endless hours, though it seemed only minutes. It was getting close to sunset, and hiking back to town soon became the only viable option.
On the lonely trail, standing before Peter, was the figure of a Black Dog. It was a docile animal, seemingly harmless. It wagged its tail about and gave the strange grins that unwitting dogs make when approached by men. All signs showed this dog to be no threat to Peter. In fact, as the dog seemed to follow Peter down the trail. The strange animal had no collar or tags, yet seemed to respond to Peter’s commands. For nearly the entire hike back to town, this strange Black Dog followed Peter diligently. Peter even contemplated naming the dog, assuming it to be a stray. Though, he eventually decided this to be a bad idea.
As Peter crossed a small stream that cut through the trail, the Black Dog vanished without any noticeable trace. Peter was astonished at how quickly it disappeared. He wanted to call out for the dog, but felt it best to let it go. Sunset dawned upon the land.
The next morning, as Peter was eating breakfast in a small diner, he began conversing with the waitresses about many topics, especially his hiking. While Peter discussed the previous day’s hike, he mentioned his encounter with the Black Dog along the trail of Hanging Hills. Those around him who listened in, froze in what could only be described as instinctive terror. The waitresses with whom Peter had been speaking to were also unnerved by his detail of the Black Dog. It was then that one of the patrons, a town resident of some forty years, told Peter that his encounter of the previous day was a troubling sign.
The Black Dog is a bad omen. Its presence had been haunting the countryside around Hanging Hills for untold generations. Even the Indian tribes described stories of this dark beast, giving insight into an old tradition. The Black Dog is said to be a demon of some-kind, born of another world who is bound along the Hanging Hills trail. It appears around sunset, and preys upon unwitting travelers. If one encounters the Black Dog once, and only once, then expect good fortune. If one encounters the Black Dog twice, then ill fortune awaits. If one encounters the Black Dog a third time, then only death is to be expected. As it was said to Peter,
“That dog is Satan’s Spawn! If you value your life and soul, stay away from Hanging Hills. Stay away, or you will live the end of your days in nothing but horror.”
Peter, being a student of rationality and sound mind, scoffed at the stories of superstitious rural townspeople. He maintained outward respect toward those whom he spoke with, but could not help but think of how ridiculous their story sounds. Surely that Black Dog that Peter encountered was no demon out to get him. It was a harmless dog, like the many that Peter grew up with. Peter was not to be scared by old rural legends.
Later in the day, Peter, perhaps in a strange attempt at defying the stories of the townspeople, returned to Hanging Hills for a second hike. This time, the hike was much more treacherous. There was a steep section of the Hanging Hills that Peter decided to traverse. He had been hiking the entire day, and didn’t notice any sign of the Black Dog from the previous day. This was a false sense of security, despite the fact that Peter supposedly didn’t believe in the stories.
As he trekked his way through the steep section of hillside, Peter soon felt the air around him change. He couldn’t explain or describe it, but it seemed as if that the very atmosphere around him was churning in the presence of something menacing. Peter looked ahead of him and saw something that put him in a state of unease; the Black Dog.
Peter began to realize that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. He gazed at the figure of the Black Dog standing a few feet ahead of him on the hill-path. The dog, however, was different. It looked like the same dog from the previous day, yet it seemed to possess qualities to it that would cause even the most rigid of people to quiver, if only slightly.
See the Black Dog once, you get good fortune. See the dog twice, spells ill fortune.
The dog’s eyes were an illuminating burn of red. The shine of its eyes were so potent, it seemed nearly hypnotic to Peter. The dog, unlike the previous day, barked in loud and dominating ways. The barking seemed to almost have an echo to it, as if a great force was being generated to make the sounds. The Black Dog slowly made his way down the steep path toward Peter. As it did so, forces of unearthly nature seemed to be cracking the very reality around Peter.
The sky, which once held a mild ray of sun, turned grey with heavy winds and bursts of lightning swerving in and out of monstrous gatherings of clouds. The air began to freeze, and unexplainable lights began to form about the greyed sky. The Black Dog moved forward still, barking its ungodly bark, summoning forth all manner of beasts and creatures of the netherworlds. As the dog crept forward, its ghastly form was revealed in detail. Its snout seemed to elongate, and its teeth grew long like ivory spikes. Spine ridges seemed to form on its back, and its chest and leg proportions seemed to grow rapidly. In great terror, it even seemed as if black elongated tentacle-like features were sprouting from the spine-ridges of the beast’s back, waving about in mustered grimness.
Peter, shocked to his very nature, stepped back away from the sight of this horrific monster. This dog, beast, creature, whatever is appropriate to call it, appeared as the omen of doom the townspeople warned of. Peter looked up to the sky briefly to see the entire solar system above him, stars and cosmic colors shooting past him in waves unmeasurable. He fell back, failing to catch a grip. Peter fell off the steep ledge, plunging many feet below.
When Peter awoke, he found himself in a hospital bed, attached to machines, and monitored by nurses. He discovered that both of his legs had been shattered. While he was unconscious, they had they amputated. Peter, recovering still from his drastic fall and the drugs given to him, had very little thought of sorrow for the loss of his legs. Peter’s assigned Doctor examined him, trying to console Peter in what way he could. Yet, Peter had no interest in consolation for his injuries. Instead, Peter decided to mention what happened, or what he perceived to have happened. The Doctor was somewhat skeptical, unlike the majority of the townspeople.
“You saw the Black Dog, did you?” The Doctor asked.
“Oh, twice? Well, that would explain your condition, certainly” the Doctor said in some black sense of humor. “I remember the old story. If you run into the dog once, then you get good luck. Run into him twice, you get bad luck.”
“Third time is death.” Peter said.
“So you know the story?”
“Yeah, I know the story.”
“Well, I never believed it myself. Then again, I never go walking the bends of Hanging Hills.”
“It wasn’t a dog. It was a monster.”
“A creature, that looks like a dog. I don’t know what it could be, but I know what I saw.”
“I have heard the locals say the same thing many times. Your story isn’t that strange to me. Monster. My daddy would tell me stories when I was a boy about the Black Dog. He said some things similar to what you said.”
“About the dog being some kind of monster. He told me an old story that the Black Dog of Hanging Hills was a beast conjured up by a Warlock who had been sentenced to death. Before he was sent to hang, the Warlock was said to have made a pact with the Devil and spoke words of races untold by human history. With his last act of black art, he summoned forth a strange demon that fell from the stars, a demon that took the shape of a Black Dog. At least, that’s the story my daddy used to tell me. I never believed them, myself.”
“I’d rather not believe it either.”
The night left Peter alone, and quiet was upset by maniacal whispers. The story follows differently, depending on who is asked. Though, the most common version is that Peter Moore was found dead in his hospital bed the following morning. No doctor in the hospital could explain his death. It was sudden, as if his entire body simply stopped working instantly. With the look in the eyes of Peter’s corpse, he seemed deathly afraid. Of what, no one could say.
Death certificates were issued, and Peter’s parents were notified so that the proper arrangements could be made. It still remains a mystery, though the stories tend to change overtime. One issues is worthy of thought, though. The morning Peter’s corpse was found, the nurses and staff made unusual comments about a certain smell, or stench that was in the air of the hospital. It couldn’t be pinpointed properly, but the nurses described it as the musty smell of a wet dog.
#Unreal #BlackDog #NewEnglandLegends #Mystery #HangingHills
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