A lot of people have been saying lately that 2017 was certainly a year of many horrors. While they may not be thinking of horror in the traditional sense, I would like to say that my wish for you is to make this coming year horror filled. And what better way to do that than to start things off with another Creepy Samples Offering.
Today's story is found in the book "Tales of Dark Romance and Horror," and it is entitled "Ozark Howler."
For those of you who may be unaware, an Ozark Howler is a hideous creature that figures in the folklore of the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. It is often described as a cat-like creature with the body structure of a bear, horns on its head, and glowing eyes. Today's offering then tells the tale of an old man, who in his younger days, had lost his new bride to the beast. Now, upon hearing the cries of a wounded dog, the man must go into the dreaded swamp near his house to once again confront the monster.
We pick up the story inside the marsh where a thickening fog obstructs the man's view--but he knows that the howler is nearby.
The fog continued to thicken until Jack could only see a few yards in any direction. He proceeded cautiously—almost blindly—his shotgun elevated at chest level, ready to fire. When he reached the juncture where the swamp lands met the forest, he paused, now out of breath—panting—his shoes soaking wet and his tired legs aching.
He could hear the sound of movement from somewhere behind him—slow methodical steps sloshing through the shallow water. With his eyes unable to penetrate the misty veil, he turned backward and called out questioningly; this time, not as loudly as before, and more cautiously. “Daisy? Daisy?”
A rustling on the forest floor to the right was quickly followed by the renewed and heart-breaking cries of a terrified dog in pain.“Dang!” He cried out anxiously; and straight away, started in the direction of the weeping animal; its cries emanating from no more than a hundred feet away.
In spite of the overwhelming desire to rescue his beloved pet, he proceeded slowly; a sense of growing peril increasing with every step. As the nervous man drew closer, he could make out the dark outline of a canine lying on the ground. “Daisy!” He cried out. A couple more steps in the animal’s direction however, revealed that he had not responded the cries of his faithful companion but rather, those of an injured wolf lying in a pool of its own blood. The animal snarled with his approach and attempted to lunge at him, thwarted only by its apparent lameness. “Augh!”The man screamed as he jumped back.
Seeing that the growling wolf was unable to attack him, old McCormick quickly collected himself; and taking pity on the creature, decided to end its suffering. Before he could aim the shotgun however, he was further alarmed by a blood-curdling howl coming from the bog—from where he had stood only moments before! It sounded something like the cry of a wolf and yet, the wail of an elk. He understood though, that it was the cry of neither. It was the scream that he would sometimes hear when he sat in the darkness of his home, inside the protective circle his mother had cast so long ago. There was only one creature whose howl could make the blood run cold; and the man knew that he was about to come face to face with it—the Ozark Howler!
There you have it; the first of many horrors to come in 2018. Until next time then, remember to keep the the new year creepy. I certainly will.
Photo: Courtesy of Marina Bocharova Art.