Welcome to Urban Legends: Author & Artist #SpookyShowcase. This autumn 2019, the strange and unusual is unleashed! Featuring the best authors and artists in the horror landscape, come back each day the month of October for a scare. You can find the master posting schedule here,
Expect dark stories, myths, legends, and creepy creations that will make your spine tingle. Remember, urban legends aren’t true…are they?
The Night Dog
by M.I. Milliman
It was the howling that woke him. Again. That same screeching howl, same as the night before, like some twelve-year-old boy just hitting puberty. Awful stuff. He was hoping to wait it out––out last the thing. First was the strange looking old hobo in the red knitted skullcap pounding on his door, looking for a handout, and now this damn dog. Even louder and longer than the night before. Time to do something about it . . .
Or I could just lay here, wait it out.
Or drive away.
No. He wasn’t going to be bullied by some hound with a prepubescent howl.
So he sat up. On the floor was his shirt and shorts from the day before and he put them on. His flip-flops were on the runner of the sliding door and there was a flashlight on the dashboard up front, a big Mag Light, the kind you can use as a club if needed. He opened the passenger side door to his van with the Mag Light on, standing just outside, and had a look around.
It was silent now. Somewhere between him getting up and him stepping out the van the howling had stopped.
Figures. Soon as you start to take care of a thing the thing takes care of itself. Maybe that’s all that’s required of us sometimes, a willingness to do it ourselves. You have the willingness the rest will work itself out.
He was back in bed now, thinking over this profound truth, when the howling started back up.
Up and out side––quicker this time––throwing the beam over the dark empty streets and down the even darker alleyways. He could hear the howling but couldn’t put a direction to it, like it was coming from somewhere always just over there. He looked behind dumpsters and streetlight posts and old cars lining the street. Nothing.
The wind maybe?
He stopped and listened. The desert night air was hot and still. No wind. Not even the slightest of breeze to cool you off.
“Where are you,” he said out loud. “And why wont you just shut up?”
And then the howling stopped.
He stood there for a time, listening and waiting while the air hung flat and silent.
Okay then, maybe all it takes is to ask.
He stayed on that thought, his second profound truth of the night, looking off towards the main part of the city, seeing the halo of neon glowing like some apparition stretching out its ghostly hand but never reaching these outskirts of town. It was why he chose this place in the first place, to get away from the noise and the lights and the people. He liked this neighborhood––no mans land––caught between the city and all the new subdivisions that have popped up and covered the valley floor. Besides, he wasn’t about to stay in the Wal-Mart parking lot with all the blue-hairs and their motorhomes with their generators running all night.
When he was satisfied that whatever it was doing the howling was gone he went back to his van and climbed back in, sitting on the passenger seat, setting the flashlight back on the dash. That’s when he saw them––two yellow eyes, ten yards out, looking directly at him. What went through his mind was:
What the hell is that?
It was hypnotic, whatever it was. Maybe two feet off the ground and looking directly at him, with those yellow eyes that held you and didn’t let go.
Until they were gone.
He wasn’t even aware of them leaving. One moment they were staring strait at him, holding him in some kind of trans, then they were gone and he was left wondering if he ever really saw them at all. And how long had he been sitting there? Dawn was raising and the new golden light was spreading over city, washing out the distant neon glow. It was a trick of the light then, he thought. The sun reflecting off a trash lid, or the bumper of a car. But that didn’t explain his loss of time. It was around three in the morning when he got up to chase the howler away. Now it was just past 6:30.
Tired and confused, he made his way to the back of his van and lay down and fell asleep.
It was just past noon when he came around the corner of the gas station holding the restroom key chained to a large wooden block. There was a little girl standing by his van looking up at the object strapped to the roof. He went in to return the key, coming back out with two ice cream sandwiches and a large fountain drink. The little girl was still at his van staring up. It did look out of place here in the desert, his twin fin fish board, so far from the ocean. But he liked how it looked and it was a conversation starter. Just yesterday a man asked him about it, asking if he were scared someone would steal it if he just left it up there.
“Not until just now, no.”
“I’d be worried, leaving it out here like that, for someone to take.”
“I guess someone could. They’d have to get up there and un-strap it first. But then, where would they rid it I wonder?”
“Good point,” said the man, and that was that.
Now he was getting ready for this little dark-haired girl to ask him about it as he walked up to the drivers side door, smiling at the girl, shifting everything into one hand, digging his keys out from his pocket.
The little girl said, “Where you plan on riding that thing around here?”
“I’m not,” said he, his keys in his mouth as he transferred the drink and ice cream sandwiches to his other hand.
“Then what’s it doing on the top of your van?”
He unlocked the door and opened it, setting the drink down on the foot runner and peeled the wrapper half off one of the sandwiches, taking a large bite. “Maybe I just like the way it looks,” he said.
“That’s kinda a dumb reason.”
He laughed. “Yeah, it is.”
“Then what’s it doing up there?”
He told her that just last week he was down south in Mexico, on the California Baja, surfing. But he almost drowned surfing a haunted wave, so he thought he’d take a break, give dry land a try. He’d never been to Vegas before. “So here I am.”
“You drove here?”
“There ain’t waves here is why not.”
“I told you, I’m taking a break.”
“Oh yeah, from the haunted wave,” saying it like he was crazy or something.
“That’s what they told me.”
“Who told you?”
“The fishermen at the village. They said the wave was haunted, that there was a witch that had cursed that particular break. I didn’t believe them either. So I surfed it. Maybe it was haunted, maybe it wasn’t. Either was it was an ass kicker––pardon my French––and there was some old lady who may or may not have been a witch and may or may not have turned into a seagull and dive-bombed me off my board. I almost drowned. Well, afer that I thought I’d give the waves a rest and see some of dry land. Did you know they got a rollercoaster inside a hotel here?”
“Are you for real, mister?” saying it again like he was off in some way.
He smiled. He said, “It was nice talking to you,” and stepped up into the drivers seat. Before he could close the door the girl said, “You gonna eat both of those?”
“Both of what?”
“You come out the store with two ice cream sandwiches, you gonna eat them both?”
“That was the idea.”
“I wouldn’t want the one melting on you while you was eating the other is all.”
“I’ll eat fast.”
“My mom says you shouldn’t eat fast.”
“Your mom say anything about taking ice cream from strangers in a van?”
“Yeah, she told me about that too. What’s your name?”
“Okay, well, I’m Aria. Now we’re not strangers no more. Besides, you look nice enough.”
“They said that about Ted Bundy.”
“Never mind,” he said, handing her the ice cream sandwich. She said thanks and he shut the door, turning the key in the ignition and bringing the V8 to life while the little girl took down the sandwich in three bites.
Bodie rolled down his window, speaking over the noise of the engine, “I thought your mom told you not to eat so fast.”
“She did. But she ain’t here right now,” Aria said smiling, some of the chocolate from the sandwich lining her lips.
She turned to walk away as he put the van in reverse, window still down, when he said, “Hey, little girl––“
“Told you, names Aria.”
“Right, Aria, you know where I can get good Mexican food around here?” thinking she seemed to know a lot for a little thing.
“As a matter of fact mister, I do,” putting her hand in her pocket and pulling out a piece of paper the size of a business card and handing it to him through the window. On the front it said: El Mondo Muncho in bold black type, with hours of operation and an address below it. “It’s my family’s restaurant.”
“Yep. Just a couple blocks down that-a-away,” she said pointing a thumb behind her. “Go around back, there’s a gate in the alley.”
Bodie, looking at the card, said, “Any good?”
“Best Mexican food in the city.”
“Maybe you’re just saying that because its your family’s place.”
“Then hand me back the card,” holding her hand out.
“Easy now. I never said I wouldn’t go.”
“Well, are you gonna come or not?”
Bodie thought for a moment, making a show of it. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“On the back is a coupon for free side of rice and beans.”
Night fell. Bodie found the address on the back of the card, having to take a moment to make sure it was the right place. There was no restaurant, no sign out front, not even a chalkboard on an easel with today’s special. He was in a neighborhood parked in front of an adobe ranch house with a stucco roof and waist high hedges lining yard. He could see lights in the back just over the tall fence. Soft mariachi music was playing, people were talking, laughing, sounding like a party. Cars were lining the street. He parked his van a block down the street and walked to the house with the card in his hand, flicking ay it with his finger wondering why he was nervous.
Bodie waited, hearing the voices coming from the back, then rang the bell again. Almost as soon as he took his finger off the button the door opened and the little girl from the gas station was standing in frame.
“This isn’t where you come in. I told you to come in through the alley way round back.”
Someone from inside the house, a woman, said, “Aria, who’s at the door?”
“It’s that boy from the gas station I told you about.”
Boy? Who’s she calling boy, thought Bodie, a little embarrassed but letting it slide.
A dark haired woman in a well-worn red apron showed at the door. She was in her mid-thirties, maybe forty, with a filled-in figure and a youthful attractiveness. The kind that starts in the eyes and spreads over the whole body, what some people call an aura. She smiled at Bodie first, then, making her face hard, said, “Is this the one what gave you the ice cream sandwich?”
Bodie, smiling but letting some of the nervousness show, said, “She asked me if she could have it. More like she told me she should have it.”
The woman’s face softened. “That sounds like Aria.”
“She told me you serve the best Mexican in the city,” speaking more relaxed now.
“Damn straight,” said the woman, turning, showing a sly little smile over her shoulder while waving him in. “Follow me.”
He was led through the house, past the Virgin Mary and through the kitchen and the sliding glass door leading out to the large paving stones. “You’re getting a behind the scenes tour,” said the woman over her shoulder.
In the back yard now, there were foldout tables spaced out, with foldout chairs with green tablecloths and hanging light bulbs overhead. In the center there were two picnic tables butted together as a kind of community table. This is where Bodie sat, all the single tables being occupied. Even the community table was a tight fit.
The little girl named Aria brought him a plastic basket full of chips.
“Salsa’s over there in the cooler. Use the paper cups to dish yourself.”
“This is quite the setup your family’s got going here.”
“Just don’t go telling the po-po, I don’t want my brother have to kill you.”
“I’m not laughing,” said the girl, who then turned and walked back to the kitchen.
The little girl wasn’t lying––forget about the city, this might have been the best Mexican he’d ever had. That’s including the time he spent in Mexico. Reasonably priced too. He had two asada street tacos, a tamale, two cheese enchiladas, along with his free side of rice and beans, washing it down with two cans of grape soda. There was only one other occupied table by the time he was done. Aria was clearing off the tables and shaking out the table clothes.
He had talked all night, laughed some, and ate steadily for over two hours. And now he was slumped over the table, his arms crossed and resting in front of him, his face down in his arms, slipping in and out of a food coma and thinking if he could just make it back to his van he’d have the best night sleep he ever had, howling be damned.
Aria was at his side now, saying, “Hey mister, you okay?”
Without lifting his head Bodie made a fist, turning upright, and extended his thumb. “Never better,” he said.
“You don’t look so good.”
“Just tired is all. Some dog kept me up all night howling outside my van.”
“You sleep in your van?”
Bodie slowly lifted his head, nodding slowly.
Aria went away without saying a word and Bodie put his head back in his arms until he felt a tap on his shoulder and he looked up to see the older woman there. What was her name? Did she give me her name? She looked even better in the soft glow of the hanging lights under a dark evening sky.
“Aria says you’re not feeling well. I hope it’s not something you ate?”
Bodie smiled. “No, it’s nothing I ate.”
“That’s good. We’re getting ready to close up now.”
“Sorry,” he said, sitting up straighter, moving his head side to side. “How much do I owe you?”
“It’s on the house. Payment for the ice cream sandwich.”
“I think I ate a little more then an ice cream sandwich worth.”
“No really, its okay. Aria likes you and you’ve been kind to her, that’s enough.”
“Is this because I told her I sleep in my van?”
The woman didn’t answer.
“It is isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Because it’s a choice. I travel around and live out of my van. It’s called Van Life. It’s a whole thing.”
“Anyways . . . I told her, it was on account of the dog outside my van last night, howling all night long, like something out of an old time horror movie. With it’s bright yellow eyes. That’s why I’m sluggish. It’s not the food and it’s not because I’ve fallen on hard times and live out the back of my van. Its that damn dog.”
“El perro nocturno,” said the girl Aria. She had been standing behind her mom and had slipped herself between the two of them, looking Bodie directly in the face.
“One more time?”
“The night dog. You’ve seen it?”
“I saw its eyes, sure. Never got a good look at the rest of it.”
The girl crossed herself saying words Bodie didn’t quite catch.
“What’s going on? What’s the big deal?”
“It’s nothing. Just little girl superstitions.”
Aria said, “The night dog only comes out at night––”
“I got that,” said Bodie.
“It only comes out at night because by day it’s a man. An old hobo man in a red hat who wanders the streets, never making eye contact with anyone, talking to himself, or maybe a ghostly friend, no one really knows”––she had her hands up by her ears, wiggling her fingers–– “but they say if he asks you for food you better give it to him or he will stalk you at night . . . as the night dog . . . and he will eat you.”
Aria’s mom said, “I told you, little girl superstition.” Looking at the girl now she took her by the arm and turning her to face the house, said, “And little girls that stand around telling ghost stories instead of helping clean up don’t get there allowance.”
Aria, looking at her mom, then at Bodie, then back to her mom, sighed, saying, “Fine,” and made her way to the house with slumped shoulders. Half way there she turned, fingers wiggling by her ears again, and said, “Watch out for the night dog,” then disappeared into the house.
The woman and Bodie watched her go, holding their gaze on the house for a time.
“That’s quite the kid you got there.”
“Sorry bout that. She’s . . . well, you know.”
“Yeah,” said Bodie.
The woman was looking at up at the night sky now, dark and full of stars. Bodie was looking at her. The both spoke at the same time, him asking her name, her asking where he was from.
“You go first,” said Bodie.
“After you,” said the woman.
“I never caught your name.”
“Lupe,” said Bodie, a little slow with it, letting the name hang in the air between them. “Nice name. I like it. Your turn.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
Bodie shook his head.
“Where are you from?”
“Recently or originally?”
“Is there a difference?”
“There is to me.”
“Then both I guess.”
“Recently from Mexico. Originally, Alaska.”
“Alaska huh?” raising her eyebrows.
“Yep. Born and raised.”
“You don’t look like you’re from Alaska.”
“And how does someone from Alaska look?”
“They wear plaid. They’ve got big bushy beards and thick arms from cutting wood. And more plaid.”
“Like a lumberjack?”
“Yes, like a lumberjack. Or a mountain man.”
“I’m more of an ocean person.”
“But you’re not from there anymore?”
“I’ll always be from Alaska, but I just came from Mexico.”
“Where at? Mexico’s a big place.”
“Baja. A little town called Rosa de la Deserto. Doing some surfing.”
Lupe said, smiling, “I can look at you.” Then, “My father’s from Mexico City.”
Bodie said, “I can look at you.”
Looking off again into the sky, like she was looking for something, Lupe said, “You’re a long way from home.”
“Everywhere’s my home,” said Bodie, looking her way. Then, looking up at the night sky. “Maybe after you’re done we can go somewhere and talk more. My van’s just around the corner.”
Bodie tried playing it off, feeling the blood flushing out his face and glad it was dark out.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh at you.”
“It’s okay. That came out wrong anyways. But since I live in my van . . .”
Lupe laughed again.
“I’m not playing this very well, am I?”
“You’re doing just fine,” said Lupe, putting on a sympathetic face. A motherly face. “I’m very flattered. I’m also very married.”
“Oh . . . I didn’t see a ring.”
“I don’t wear it when I cook.”
“Got it. That’s smart.”
“He’s a fire fighter, a Hell Jumper. He’s gone most of the summer.”
“I should probably just get going,” said Bodie. “The food was great, by the way.”
“I hope I didn’t embarrass you.”
“Don’t think of it. I did it to myself.”
“Besides,” said Lupe, “I’m too old for you.”
“I’m older than I look,” said Bodie.
“So am I,” said Lupe.
He got up from the table and she walked him through the house to the front door, Aria tagging along. “Thanks again,” said Bodie making his way down the driveway. “I had a great time tonight.”
Lupe smiled. “Be safe,” she said.
“And watch out for the night dog.”
Bodie, turning around quickly, putting his hands by his ears and wiggling his fingers, said, “Beware of the night dog,” saying it some odd foreign accent like they do in old movies.
Watching him as he faded into the night, Aria said to her mom, “I don’t think he believes me.”
“No, sweetheart, I don’t think he does.” Waiting, watching Bodie disappear into the night, saying, “Some people just have to find out on their own.”
The next morning came early and Bodie took his time getting out of bed. There had been no howling that night but he had not stayed in the same place as before, opting instead to sleep in the neighborhood down the block from Aria and Lupe’s house. But he had traded in the night howling for an early morning lawn mower.
Finally Bodie sat up, smacking his dried up mouth and having a look around. The place was a mess. You can put a thing off for only so long until one day you wake up thinking, dang . . . I wanted to bring a lady into this?
Bodie said, “Today I’m going to clean my van.”
Driving now, he noticed a piece of paper stuck under the windshield wiper. Still driving, he rolled down the side window and reached around to grab the paper, having to stretch for it up out of his seat some. He read it aloud: “Those who live in a van should be more generous. Beware of the night dog.”
Aria or Lupe must have stuck it there this morning while I was sleeping.
Okay. Well played.
He crumpled up the paper and threw it on the floor of his van.
At the coin-op car wash, he pulled up beside the vacuum station after washing and spraying down his van in one of the large open bays, vacuuming the sand out from around the front seat. That’s when he saw the old hobo in the red skullcap walk past. He couldn’t tell if he was speaking, not from that distance, but his head was down, just as the girl had said.
Was this the guy who knocked on his door the other night looking for a bite to eat? The same old hobo Aria spoke about? How did he not put it together? He was wondering this watching the hobo walk down the street as the time ran out on the vacuum.
Bodie put the hose away and closed up his van and parked it, heading out on foot after the man. He fallowed him down Van Buren Blvd. past the pawnshop on 96th St. to 97th then north a couple of blocks until they came to a fenced dirt lot with No Trespassing signs every ten yards and watched as the old hobo squeezed through a gap in the fencing. Bodie stopped at the fence and watched. The old hobo came to what was left of the foundation to some long gone building in the middle of the field and paced back and forth, looking like he had lost something. He stopped suddenly, and with out any fuss lay down, disappearing from Bodie’s view.
Bodie stretched up onto his toes, trying to get a glimpse of the man, leaning from one side to the other.
He hung around outside the fence for a while, waiting, kicking rocks, thinking about what the girl told him. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. Is this guy going to haunt me now, sitting outside my van, howling off key until I go insane? Or––what did she say––eat me? Doesn’t look like that poor son of a bitch has eaten in weeks. How’s he suppose to catch me, let alone eat me?
But here you are following some guy with nothing but a run down fence between you.
She’s in your head, man. How do you let a nine-year-old girl get in your head like that?
Bodie made a decision. He’d play along. If it was a curse then the way to break the curse was to feed the man. That’s how it all started, right? Because you didn’t feed him that night? Well, feed him.
He walked down the block to a gas station on the corner, the same one he met Aria at, giving him the thought: I’ll feed this dude then swing back by Mucho Muncho . . . Mondo Mucho . . . Muncho Muncho . . . whatever its called, I’ll swing back by and tell them what I did. They can laugh if they want. Have a good laugh at me. But I wont have to think of it anymore. What’s the worst that can happen, some poor hobo gets a meal? I can live with that. Let them laugh.
He picked out a tuna sandwich and a hard boiled egg and a large fountain drink, adding an ice cream sandwich to it, paid, and fast walked back to lot, squeezing through the fence and finding the hobo still laying there.
“Hey old man,” said Bodie.
The old hobo was still asleep.
“I got some food,” setting it down next to him, putting the ice cream sandwich in his hand, thinking that the cold would wake him.
The old hobo never stirred.
Bodie stood over him, watching him. He looked almost dead. He gave him a sight nudge with his foot. Nothing. He held his hand close over the man’s mouth, checking for breath. It was faint but it was there.
He stood up strait again, still watching the man, never looking away. Something was off about the whole thing.
And still you stand here.
What if he wakes up?
I hope he does. The ice cream sandwich probably wasn’t a good idea, not in this heat. In fact the whole damn bunch––the tuna, the egg, the soda––will either melt, go rotten, or go flat if he doesn’t wake soon.
So he bent back over the man, watching his face while trying to slip the melting ice cream sandwich from his hand, when he felt something grab hold of his wrist. Looking down seeing the man’s hand wrapped around his wrist, tight, with gritty hands, like sandpaper. He looked back at the old man’s face and saw his eyes were open–– those bright yellow eyes––showing sharp teeth through tight drawn lips, growling.
“You got my note . . .”
About the Author
Ian lives in Anchorage, Alaska where he was born and raised. He plays a lot of Basketball, paddle boarding, sometimes snowboards, and occasionally writes. His interests vary. Oh yeah, and family. Don’t forget about the fam.