Black Dog

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A night in the life of a Black Dog, guardian of the crossroads and reaper of souls.

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Chapter 1

He stood, tense. All his senses were focused on the crossroads that he guarded faithfully. His coal-black coat gleamed in the moonlight; his breath rose in steamy clouds before him. He stood with chest puffed out, content in his complete invisibility in the night, his element.

Ordinarily he was not so excitable but tonight something was different. Tonight he would fulfill his duty once more. He knew his prey was coming.

The hours dragged on and the night grew darker, waxing ever nearer to midnight. With the passing of time his anticipation grew; by the time midnight arrived his veins were fairly humming with the fire of adrenaline. He paced the crossroads restlessly, leaving huge paw-marks in his wake.

Abruptly he ground to a stop, throwing his head up and pricking his ears expectantly. He listened hard to the footsteps he heard vaguely on the wind. They were yet far off, but he knew they heralded the approach of his quarry. His excitement grew to a fever pitch and he sprinted wildly around the clearing. Spittle dripped from his jaws and his eyes glowed hungrily. He slammed against the invisible walls containing him at the crossroads.

The tread of two feet approached hastily. The massive creature skidded to a halt and waited with a cruel glint in his eyes. He bared his teeth in a wicked smile and growled quietly in his throat. Let the hunt begin. A wad of saliva hit the ground at his feet and spattered. He stepped to the edge of his domain slowly, deliberately, and waited.

A man stepped into view. He was lanky and displayed mannerisms indicative of paranoia. As he approached the crossroads his apprehension seemed to grow.

The beast awaiting him loosed a low, mournful howl that rolled across the surrounding hills like a suffocating fog. The man paused mid-step and listened, casting his gaze frightfully about. As the sound died away he continued on, moving even more rapidly. The great hound waited, gauging the man’s distance carefully.

He howled again, adding a fierce tone to the sound. The man jumped and darted forward. Just one more step…

The man passed the invisible barrier into the hound’s territory. The creature barked savagely and jumped forward, crossing the veil and allowing himself to be seen by mere human eyes. The man froze like a cornered rabbit and stared helplessly at the monster facing him.

The hound was huge, nearly four feet at the shoulder. His shadowy coat bore an unearthly red tinge; hellfire seemed to burn steadily in his eyes. Bloody saliva dripped from his enormous jaws which were parted menacingly.

As they met one another’s gaze, the creature was able to read every deed, good or bad, that this human had performed during his lifetime. As the list progressed the hound’s eyes narrowed. This was the man he had been waiting for, the man whose acts now marked him for an untimely demise.

“Black dog,” the man whispered in horror, the color draining from his face. He knew that such an encounter spelled certain death.

Still, he ran.

With a mocking growl the dog bounded after him. His sharp claws gored the ground and flung dirt up behind him. The pair streaked over the crossroads in a flash. From the start it was clear that the man’s flight was futile but the hound credited him for his will to survive. For a fleeting moment he was tempted to allow the man to pass the edge of his domain, but he knew he would never get another chance to bring this human to his account and thus, leave his purpose unfulfilled. The hound shook his head, banishing the thought, and howled once more. This call held a weight of finality.

The man tripped just before clearing the crossroads and gaining his freedom. He had just time enough to turn back and raise his arms in pitiful defense as the hound fell on him. The mighty jaws tore at him. He screamed and writhed, desperate for escape. With each bite a portion of his body vanished into thin air. The monster growled and roared, driven mad by bloodlust. Gradually the shrieks died away. Within a minute his victim was no more.

Immediately the craving for the kill dwindled and the hound shook his head, flinging droplets of blood about him. He exhaled deeply and looked about the clearing. His crossroads were safe once again. He stepped through the veil and fell into the monotony of waiting once more.

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