Greetings boils, ghouls, and other creatures of the night!
A warm welcome back to Night Terror Novels’ ongoing flash fiction series, The Theatre Phantasmagoria, and to our Flash Fiction Fridays—where we bring you fresh dark fiction of 2,000 words or less at the end of every week.
With The Theatre Phantasmagoria, a new theme is announced each month, and by the end of said month, four (or more) stories are selected from our call for submissions to be featured here on the site in a Friday post. These pieces will also be published in a “wrap-up” anthology sometime in 2023, showcasing all of the original works that debut here at the Night Terror Novels website throughout the year. If you’re an author yourself and this has piqued your interest, please find details regarding the flash fiction theme for our latest submission window here.
The theme for September’s submissions was “Chem Trails, Crop Circles, & Cryptids”: stories about aliens and extraterrestrials, UFOs, or tales inspired by other conspiracy and fringe theories, urban legends, and folklore. We entered the ninth month of our Theatre’s offerings with “The Bird, Frozen in Time”, Drew Huff’s story of an immortal, irradiated bird and the way the truth can be twisted to suit our own narratives. Marisca Pichette served up a striking and thoroughly unnerving slice of cryptid-themed terror next with “Lakeland”. Friday saw Nat Reiher join us with “Turn Off the Sky”, in which young love is met with otherworldly horror. The final story of the month comes from Alexander Hay; “Cú Faoil” introduces us to an engaging narrator, who explores the titular urban legend and recounts the dark folklore surrounding it. You can find out more about the author featured in today’s post down below, including links on where to find them elsewhere.
We here at Night Terror Novels hope that you enjoy today’s terrifying tale, and remember to check back in on Fridays for future showings in The Theatre Phantasmagoria …
Welcome to …
The Theatre Phantasmagoria
The thing with some dogs is that they’re either hounds or they’re wolves. Know what I mean? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Same with a lot of people too. I mean, I’ve been manning the doors in this town for a long time, so I should know.
But, you wanna hear a story, right? I’ve got one for you.
First up, though, a preamble, as it were. In the old days, right after the Romans pissed off, but while the Saxons were still trying to take over, there was a High King. And, apart from wealth and power, he loved two things in life.
He had a son and a hound. The boy was a little cherub, being still a babe-in-arms, while the hound was one of those huge, long, shaggy things. It could take on anything—wolves, bears, men, the whole lot. Anyway, he trusted that hound so much he let it keep watch over his boy’s crib.
But one night, there was a terrible commotion. Pay attention, trigger warnings, and all that. The King and his gallowglasses stormed into the baby’s chambers and found total chaos. The whole room had been torn apart, including the crib, and there was blood everywhere.
And in the centre of the room? That big dog, drenched in crimson.
So the King jumped to conclusions, thought his hound had killed his baby, drew his sword, and killed the dog. A moment of madness, and there’s no excuse for it. The higher the tension, the more you’ve got to keep a cool head. I should know. This scar here didn’t come from nowhere.
But then the King heard a noise under all the wreckage. It was his son, completely unharmed! And when they moved more of the smashed-up room’s contents, they found not one, not two, but three assassins. All sent by a rival to kill or steal the baby.
Turned out the hound had killed all three bandits. But, as you can imagine, that meant a lot of property damage and even more blood.
So the King, he was devastated. He had just killed his most loyal servant, who’d saved his son and the entire kingdom. His guilt destroyed him, and he wasted away until he died a few years later, haunted by what he’d done and begging for a chance to redeem himself.
Ever since then, there have been stories about this hound that comes out of nowhere and protects children. Y’know, a woodcutter’s little daughter wanders off, ’cos kids are stupid. But then they find her asleep in a cave or somewhere. When she wakes up, she won’t stop talking about a big friendly dog who made friends with her and led her to safety. Thing is, she said it had human eyes, like there was a man looking out of the dog’s head, or summat.
And then there was this family that died when their house caught fire, turn of the 18th Century. Everyone’s burnt to a crisp. But then the two youngest turn up in the parish churchyard, playing Ring a Ring o’ Rosie. They said a big dog jumped into their room and pulled them out. It played with the kids until it was safe to leave them, so they didn’t see what happened to their family. A man’s eyes, again. Did I mention their room was on the first floor?
Or that time some little boy was found wandering the streets, just after the war. Some rough kids led him away while his mother was busy. But then this big dog came out of nowhere and scared them off.
And then there’s that time the police were called when a neighbour complained about a dog that wouldn’t stop barking. So they kicked the door in. House was a total tip, and the kids were living in filth.
The youngest was eighteen months old, but the size of a baby because they weren’t feeding them. Nearly died—they got there just in time. Thing is, the lowlifes that ran that nasty little drug den didn’t have a dog. No one on that street did.
Now, I’ve heard all these stories, but I never gave them much credence. You believe in what you see and hear when you work the doors. It’s what keeps you safe, and others too.
But late one Saturday night, I saw the weirdest thing ever. All the pubs, clubs and streets were heaving with revellers. But there she was, a little girl skipping down the street, without a care in the world. Her clothes had weird letters on them—Cyrillic, I found out later.
Most of the revellers were too pissed or apathetic to care, but I checked up on her. She was a bit dirty and tired, but happy. She kept babbling on in some language I didn’t recognise. But she kept smiling when she made a certain noise: ‘Woof-woof.’
Anyway, the rozzers traced her back to this farm on the outskirts of town. In the outhouses, they found women, young ones. Chained to the wall or “medicated” out their heads. The little girl had escaped, but you can imagine what was going on there. Human trafficking. Makes your blood run cold, what had happened to those young women. What they might have done to the girl.
But when they checked out the farmhouse and trailer homes on the site, it was a total massacre. The owner, his mates, the whole gang, they’d been slaughtered. I mean, ripped apart. I guess they were utterly wiped out, so they couldn’t be a threat to those women, or that girl.
Weird thing is, the autopsy said the wounds were made by a large animal. A very large animal. Wounds on those bits that were sort of identifiable, that is. No traces of the animal, though. It was as if it vanished into thin air.
Hounds and wolves … Hounds and wolves. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
About the Author
ALEXANDER HAY is a writer currently found roaming the North of England. His previous credits include Cosmic Horror Monthly, the No Sleep Podcast, Timber Ghost Press and more. Ironically enough, he is a cat person. His Twitter account is full of mystery and strange creatures: @alexand40457338.
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