Friday, October 31, 2014

A Halloween Story by Doug Dahlgren, Author and Radio Talk Show Host

 
 
Many thanks to Doug Dahlgren, author The Son Series and host on The Doug Dahlgren Show on ArtistFirst Radio for sharing this Halloween story with us.
 
 
The Walk Home
© Doug Dahlgren
 
The question was less than a whisper.
 “Did you hear that?”
“No,” the younger girl shot back.
“What do you mean, no?” Her sister bristled, eyes glued to the edges of the road, “You had to have heard it.”
“No… I didn’t,” Julie looked only at her feet, clenched fists pumped at her sides. She had indeed heard the sound, whatever it was, but would not allow herself to admit it. “Just keep moving,” she yelled, her defiance of the situation reflected in her tone.
“Well… keep up then,” Elizabeth commanded. Being six years older than her sister, she felt responsible for her. Thirteen was the outer edge of grown-up, yet in her heart, she was still only a child. She’d known better than to wait so long to head home. Dad said to “leave before dark,” but they were both having such a good time at the party. The walk home would, only be a few minutes, she had convinced herself. In reality, it would take half an hour at least.
Rounding the curve of the road, they left any light from the party behind them. They were only seven-tenths of a mile from home, but there was nothing in between. Massive clouds hid what moon there was and the darkness was more than she had counted on. Should have listened to Dad, she thought.
It had been Dad’s idea to move to the country. They came just last spring and had enjoyed the summer in the clean air and open spaces. The people were nice, but they lived what now seemed like great distances from each other. Elizabeth’s friend, Mary Lou, had thrown the party. They had walked to and from her house many times, just not at night. And this night was dark.
There were no street lights or traffic for that matter. A passing car would be nice right now, Elizabeth told herself. But they were very alone.
Julie was afraid, Elizabeth could tell, but her sister would not let on. That included not admitting hearing the noise. Then there it was again, standing out against the other sounds of the night. She turned and caught Julie looking to her, but for only a second.
The sky or something in it was moving above them. Clouds perhaps, but the dark hid all except that feeling of motion. The wind blew in bursts that raked the ground on either side of the road with low hanging tree branches. Those limbs, though nearly bare, still swung across the tall grass and weeds before touching the dirt. The creaking wood of the tree branches was audible over the whoosh of the grasses. Yet the noise, that awful noise stalking them, rose above it all.
“Stay up with me, Julie. I heard it again and it’s closer.”
“No,” the little sister said, stomping her foot as she walked. “I don’t hear anything.” She sped up and reached out to grasp Elizabeth’s coat. “Are we close, yet?”
“I think so…”Elizabeth tried to be assuring, “I can’t see much. It’s really dark.”
“That I know,” Julie snapped back, her shell cracking just a bit. Julie loved her sister and trusted her above anyone. But she just couldn’t bring herself to say so. Unconsciously she tried her best to play counter to Elizabeth’s demeanor and that meant being perceived as “mean” from time to time. Though in her heart, she was anything but that.
The unnerving sound happened again. Elizabeth could not tell what it was or from where it was coming. A crackling noise that came in sets of two or three repetitions, then stopped. The older sister looked back towards the sound but saw only dark. A chill ran down her back as she looked forward again. Julie had pulled ahead of her and was walking faster.
“Still don’t hear it?” Elizabeth asked again.
“No,” came the defiant reply. “I told you, no.” Julie’s fists were in knots and she now held them up near her waist as she walked. Elizabeth could see through her sister’s pretenses most times and she clearly understood the fear in Julie’s voice.
The dirt road seemed to stretch forever in the dark. There were no other houses along this road, no porches, or porch lamps, nothing but darkness. Elizabeth tried not to look to either side very often. Old dry fields lay on the right side with waist-high grass that bent at the top when the wind wasn’t whipping it. A few oaks and maples lined that side and it was those limbs that could touch the ground when stirred.
 The left side had been a pecan orchard but the trees were mostly old and in bad shape. It was those gusts of wind through the orchard that would catch her attention and make her look in spite of her efforts not to, but that was not “the sound.”
 They pushed on, looking straight ahead and staying quiet as much as they could.
But staying quiet was not one of Julie’s best attributes. “Are you sure we haven’t passed the house?” she challenged.
Elizabeth looked at her with amazement and disgust, “No, silly. We have not passed the house.” I don’t think, she finished internally to herself.
The noise came again, closer still this time, sets of two and then a set of three. The last set being the loudest one. It was closer. Something was following them in the dark. The girls instinctively began to run.
“Liz-beth!” Julie cried out as she reached for her sister’s hand. Her big sister grabbed Julie’s hand and pulled her along as she ran. The noise seemed to speed up with them and got louder. But then it stopped.
They ran for several minutes, breathing hard and fighting back tears. They ran until they could not run any more. Slowing down but still moving, Elizabeth braced herself for the thing following them to catch up at any moment.
But the noise was not there. It had stopped back down the road. We must press on and get home, Elizabeth thought.
The older sister took a deep breath and jerked on Julie’s arm.
“Hey,” the younger complained. “Don’t pull on me like that.”
 But pull she did and within another minute they crested over a rise in the roadway and saw the lights. It was their house. All bright and shiny and Daddy was standing on the porch with a flashlight.
“Dad,” Elizabeth hollered.
Their father jumped from the porch and ran towards them. “Where have you two been?” he asked. “You should have been home twenty minutes ago.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Elizabeth said, breathing in hard, deep breaths. “It’s my fault, I know.” She looked at Julie who was staring back down the road, back into the dark where the noise had been. “Do you hear it, now?” Elizabeth asked her.
“Hear what?” her father asked as he shined the flashlight into the darkness.
“Something followed us.” Then she added, “Julie was scared.”
“Was not…” The younger insisted and cocked her head to one side. “I didn’t even hear anything... it was you who was scared.”
Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders in disbelief. Her father took them both by the hand and led them up on the porch. That’s when they all heard it.
The noise crackled through the grass and became rhythmic and steady. It grew louder and faster as it came nearer.
“Eeeeck,” Julie screamed and jumped into her father’s arms. “That’s it, that’s it.”
Elizabeth looked at her, stunned by the acknowledgement. Taking her father’s flashlight, she turned to look toward the darkness and the noise. Her light shone high at first. In her mind the offending creature had to be big. But as it obviously came nearer she pointed the beam lower. And there it was.
A figure low, long, and sleek emerged from the edge of the field along the road. It began to leap in huge strides.
“Come here, Susie.” Elizabeth’s father called out behind her.
“Susie?” Elizabeth repeated with her mouth hanging open.
The family’s black lab took three more big jumps and was on the porch. She rubbed up against the father and then Elizabeth before approaching Julie with her tail wagging at full speed. Julie had nothing to say. Her eyes were wide but displayed no thought behind them. Her mouth, normally in gear, now hung open without a sound.
“She left right after you guys did earlier,” their father told them. “Guess she just followed you there…and then home.” He laughed under his breath and pulled the door open.
“I knew it was Susie all along.” Julie declared, having recovered from her stupor.
Elizabeth didn’t say a word that time. She fell to her knees and hugged her dog’s neck. Susie offered a huge kiss and Elizabeth could feel her own heart slowing down to normal.
They went inside where Mom had hot chocolate ready for the after the Halloween party celebration. 
Happy Halloween!

       Doug Dahlgren

 

About the author:

 


 

Doug Dahlgren is a familiar face to Book Talk. You can learn more about this amazing man, who writes political thrillers and promotes authors with his talk show on ArtistFirst Radio Network, by checking out two earlier posts on this blog.  If you are an author and would like to be featured on The Doug Dahlgren Show contact him via e-mail at doug@dougdahlgren.com .

 

  

Links:  

Author Web     Amazon     The Doug Dahlgren Show 

 

Earlier Posts:

 

Monday, May 28, 2012  Doug Dahlgren "The Son: Silas Rising"

 


Monday, May 19, 2014  The Doug Dahlgren Show on ArtistFirst Radio Network - An Author Interview Site Hosted by Doug Dahlgren Monday Nights at 7PM