As some of you know, I recently published a short story on Amazon called ‘Precipice.’
I’m currently writing another short story (a horror), which will be up on Amazon (hopefully) by next week. I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek of some of the story. Feedback is appreciated!
Here’s the beginning of my short horror story, Bailey…
A cool wind breathed against the loose leaves that clung to the highest branches of the trees; gently, but enough to send a number of them plunging through the darkness and landing in heaps on the forest floor. Its whispers were too soft to be heard by the human ear; only a faint rustling sounded in the near-silence of dusk. The sun had long since quieted its jubilant reign in the sky, had long since flickered out and given way to the inky black skies of night.
The moon was far more serene; it was suspended a great distance above, watching the forest with quiet eyes. Listening to the nighttime sounds with quiet ears. Waiting for some sign of amusement with a thread of quiet hope.
Another leaf drifted down through the black air, finding its way to a bare patch of earth to rest. It rocked onto its other side and tumbled forward a few inches, before making contact with a shovel-head and falling back to lay unmoving in the dirt.
Three and a half feet beneath this leaf, surrounded by loose earth that had been packed down carelessly two hours before, something stirred.
– – –
A quarter mile into the woods, an old gray cat slunk between the trees. His head was low, his ears set back determinedly as he pushed on toward his destination. Squirrels hissed as the feline passed their trees, but he paid them no attention.
When he reached the edge of the woods he paused, letting his emerald eyes sweep the open field for signs of danger. The moon let off only a dim glow that just barely grazed the surface of the earth. It clothed the thin sheet of mist that hung just above the grass in a pale green light, but was little help to eyes that wished to take in other surroundings.
Luckily for the cat, his vision was keen, and the darkness did not hinder his sight. He only hoped that his friend could say the same once he found her.
He walked along the treeline in his search for her, stopping momentarily to find the scent. It was several minutes before he came to a bare patch of ground, and his nose took in a pungent smell like that of rotten vegetables. He lowered his head to the surface of the dirt to be sure. His nose burned as the sallow odor filled it, and he lifted his head sharply.
Then he began to dig.
– – –
A cold darkness like death had swept over Bailey all at once. It felt like a blank nothingness that wiped her brain clean, while also filling it with a pain so severe she couldn’t stand being trapped in her own body.
Soon she wasn’t. One moment Bailey laid on the icy cold floor of the kitchen, torn clothes and broken glass strewn across the tile around her, and the next she was looking down at herself from above. It was a strange thing, seeing the body that her soul had once occupied.
A mangled black cat laid curled up in the middle of the room, its unseeing golden eyes frozen in terror that even death couldn’t erase. The screech that had built up in its throat was stuck there, unable to escape from the lips that had pulled back from the teeth and formed a stiff, grotesque grin. It hadn’t been an amusing situation; in fact, Bailey was sure that this had been the worst death yet.
Which was saying something, as it had happened seven times before.
She watched as the seconds ticked away and became minutes, and soon minutes became hours. Bailey’s killer, the blasted four-year-old pit bull who her owner had brought home just a week ago, had found something else to feast on besides Bailey’s body. The garbage can had been tipped over, and the waste content of the week spilled across the floor.
The sun set and the dog was still picking away at the remaining trash. From her place in the corner of the room, hovering just above the rusty gas stove that her owner had yet to replace, Bailey perked up a bit. She could hear the old Volkswagen grumbling up the drive outside, a sound like hail pelting down on piles of tin cans. ‘A big hunk of useless metal,’ Bailey’s owner used to call it, but never once thought of getting a new one.
The car door slammed closed, and the man’s footsteps thudded up the pavement to the front door. There was the jingle of metal, followed by the creak of the door as it swung open.
The dog went into a fit of excited barks and skidded through the mess, disappearing from the kitchen a moment later. Bailey could hear her owner shouting at the dog to get down, and he was still fending off the slobbering beast by the time he entered the room.
He stopped mid-step and took in the scene; the trash that littered the floor, the shattered glass from the plates the dog had knocked from their shelves, and finally Bailey’s crumpled body. Silence ensued the discovery for several moments before the dog jumped up on the man, fat tongue lolling from its mouth, and his senses returned to him.
He let out a short cry and shoved the dog away. He didn’t need to inspect Bailey’s body closely to see it; the truth was plain and simple: The cat was dead. And, as the bite wounds that had taken off countless chunks of skin and fur implied, the dog was to blame.
With trembling fingers, Bailey’s owner searched the kitchen drawers for a garbage bag. It didn’t take long to realize that there were none to find; how long ago had it been since his last grocery trip, anyway?
He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he needed to get the cat out before it started to stink, and to keep the cursed dog out of the way. Of course he’d heard the rumors about pit bulls, but he’d dismissed them. He began to wonder if he’d neglected to feed the dog that morning, or if it really was just the breed.
After scavenging through the closet, the man found a cloth blanket and returned to Bailey’s side. Being careful not to touch her, he wrapped the blanket around her and lifted it.
Three hours of shoveling later, Bailey’s owner fed the dog.
– – –
The gray cat sat back on its haunches, licking its jowls in relief that the tedious job was complete. He waited, his eyes trained on the hole in the dirt that he’d dug; it was just deep enough to reveal the edge of a cotton blanket.
– – –
Bailey’s eyes flashed open, and at first that was the only part of her that she could move. She could feel a cool breeze through the side of the blanket she was swaddled in, and forced herself to move toward it. Her disfigured legs screamed in protest, creaking like an old machine being started after years of neglect. Her jaw was clenched tightly, and it took a painful amount of effort to unlatch. When she finally forced her teeth apart the screech that had been lodged in her throat found its way out, and the raspy cry shrilled through the enclosed space and bounced back against Bailey’s torn ears.
Once she had a good grip on her senses and could move each limb on cue, she nosed her head through the small space. The rest of her followed shortly after, joints tensed as she prepared for a limb’s swift but painful detachment from a damaged socket.
Somehow she managed to squirm from the hole in one piece. Her claws dug into the level ground above the grave and she pulled herself up to join her companion.
He sat waiting for her a few feet away, tail flicking sporadically. He blinked at Bailey, a slow blink, as if to ask her if she was ready to go.
Bailey walked past him and he followed, the night air cold against the bare patches of skin and muscle that the dog had chewed through.
Yes, Bailey was ready to go.
She was ready to destroy her killer.
– – –
Zeus had always been a good dog, or so he tried to be. Sometimes he felt an uncontrollable energy enter his bloodstream, as if he’d been plugged into an outlet and was charging up. It fogged his senses and made him act without reason, not that there was much reason to begin with. It was a powerful energy, like the lightning that inspired his name, but there were days that he could control it.
That day was not one of those days.
He couldn’t help it. The impulse to attack when he saw that flash of black fur took over his other instincts, and he couldn’t hold back. He’d charged for the small animal, who he’d seen around the house once or twice over the short time that he’d been there but never bothered to attack. There wasn’t much reason to; not when there were so many other things he could find to chew on. The couch was a personal favorite.
Something about the cat’s sudden sprint down the stairs and to the other room set him off, though, and Zeus found himself lunging from the couch and pounding across the living room floor before he knew what had happened.
The moments between the chase’s beginning and end were only blurry memories now; pain from crashing into something tall and wooden, loud sounds of plates breaking and scattering glass on the floor, the sweet, metallic taste of blood. The thoughts were a jumble of feelings and pictures, but they didn’t make sense when Zeus tried to fit them together.
And like most dogs, Zeus didn’t have the attention span or intelligence to think much deeper than that.
He laid at the end of his person’s bed, his head in his paws and his heart beating at a calm pace. He spent a few hours in the kennel and received some angry shouts that he didn’t understand, but now everything was back to normal. Everything was okay.
Zeus let his eyelids fall shut and he began to doze off, letting the soft noises of night embrace him like a snug blanket. Owls calling to one another in the distance, crickets humming, peepers peeping, his person letting out muffled snores into his pillow…
The hair on the back of Zeus’ neck prickled and he lifted his head from his paws. Something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was or how he knew; this strange emotion was like most of the other he felt. Instinct.
The crimson curtains that hung on either side of the window beside the bed swung gently, held aloft by a light breeze from the open window. The cool night air blew through, whispering to Zeus that there was danger.
The pit bull sat up and peered out the window, frozen in place. His tail straightened, stiff, all of his fur stood on end, and he kept his eyes trained on the world outside.
All he saw was darkness. The songs of night continued normally as if nothing was wrong, but Zeus still had that feeling at the pit of his stomach, the feeling that something was wrong.
He leaped down from the bed and padded silently through the hall, his head low and his tail straight as a wooden plank. The whispers of the wind seemed to grow louder as he reached the living room, as if it was warning him that he was walking right into danger.
Zeus lifted his snout to the air, searching for any scent that was out of place. He could smell the normal, everyday smells that usually filled the house; shaving cream, spoiled food, oil from his person’s work clothes. It was all a jumbled mess of scents, but Zeus had learned to sort them out.
But tonight, as Zeus inhaled through his nose, tested the room’s odors for anything unfamiliar, he was puzzled. Whatever the smell was, it was new. It was almost like the scent of rotten food, which he had grown accustomed to.
But it was also different. It was a deeper scent, sharper and far more acrid. It was unlike anything he’d ever smelled before.
Zeus felt uneasy about not being able to identify the odor, so he followed it. His nose lead him through the living room, across the dining room floor, and finally to the kitchen.
The floor had been neatly swept hours ago, all signs of glass shards and garbage gone. The tiles were shiny from the mop, much cleaner than Zeus had seen them since living here.
There was only one thing that remained on the floor, one thing that Zeus’ person must have forgotten to get rid of.
The little black cat that Zeus had chased earlier that day stood in the middle of the floor, its tail bent severely and hanging limply at its side. Its spine seemed to be in similar condition; the animal’s posture was crooked and strained as it tried to stand firmly in place. Another cat with gray fur sat a few feet away, watching Zeus steadily.
Everything about the situation confused Zeus, but he knew that he didn’t like it. His hair stood higher than before, making him appear to be at least two inches taller than in reality. He backed away, a low growl resonating in his throat.
The black cat took a shaky step forward, her front leg wobbling as if loose. Her eyes seemed to look in two different directions; one was rolled to the side to gaze and some random point in the distance, and the other was locked on Zeus.
Zeus felt panic rise in his throat and he let out a short whimper. His eyes flitted to the other cat, whose green eyes were still fixated on him.
The black cat took another step, and Zeus scrambled from the room. He bolted to his owner’s room and leapt up on the bed, not caring when the man woke and reprimanded him with tired frustration.
He cowered under the blanket, tail tucked between his legs, pressing his trembling flank against his owner for protection.
The cat didn’t visit again that night.
– – –