Why It Waits
Earlier this year, I bought a small cabin up north for the hopes of seeing snow in the winter. And once autumn began, I would drive up to the mountains on weekends, and I would see on my lonely forest road, a dog staring at my incoming truck. His fur was white. His body large. His limbs still as cedar.
I asked the only animal clinic in town if they knew of the mountain dog, but the answer was no. I talked to the local pharmacist, the general store owner, people from the post office. They didn’t know the dog, but they knew of my cabin’s previous owner. A woman named Ruth who kept to herself. She disappeared from a freak mudslide years ago, and since, her cabin sat alone on the top of the mountain and empty, save for one silver bowl of rainwater near the front door. Everyone I spoke to then told me to watch for heavy rains in the fall and heavy snowfall in the winter. They said to bolt my doors, have a weapon, and stay in at night. You’re the only one on that mountain, they said. And although you are a strong woman, you don’t want to be swept away, too.
Yet, every time, just before I go around the last bend of the mountain, the dog is there. And when I pass him, his head moves to follow my truck. As I make my last turn, I’ll watch him in my rearview mirror get up and walk back into the woods. Am I strange for thinking that he waits for me? That he’s come to recognize my pick-up. He looks like the kind of dog that guards. He looks like the type of dog who is owned by no one.
The last weekend of October, I drive up later than usual with boxes of my clothes, blankets, a pistol, some food. It is all suburbs, and then suddenly not. It’s foothill greetings and then mountains, gigantic and terrifying. The clay road I turn on is slick with damp leaves and branches from a recent thunderstorm. The night is colder here in the mountain woods, and it is silent. There are no crickets, only screeching from the owls that live nearby. And just as I make it up the last bend, expecting to see that dog, I am met with pitch-black road, wide-open lane. Instead of feeling relieved, I am concerned. For even though I’m a strong woman, I am shaking. I shouldn’t run to my front door when I get out of my car, but I do. I shouldn’t hold my breath when I turn off the lights in my home, but I will. No, I shouldn’t be scared when I grab my pistol, yet I am. And this is when I hear the howl.
I should know better than to push my curtains aside to peek, but he’s howling, and it’s getting louder, and I know to care because it looks like the kind of dog that knows when danger is nearby because it looks like the type of dog who is owned by no one. And there it is, I see it, deep in the wood, standing rigid as cedar. Its silver fur a haze, its jaw open, heaving and panting. Right when he lifts his head to give another warning call, I see something like human movement behind his tail. And I groan with fear when I see it. It is a man with a mask, a man with a sawed-off shotgun tucked under his arm, and he’s approaching. There are more howls, more barks, more baring of teeth but all in vain as the man steps straight through the dog like it was never there; its image distorts, head and paws swirling before it turns into mountain mist.
© Hannah Newman
Hannah Newman is a 25-year-old student working on her MA in professional writing at Kennesaw State University. She currently works at her university’s graduate writing center, where she tutors students on their writing process and helps lead the creative writing workshop, “Write Place.” In her free time, one can find her painting, drawing, or
staring out of windows.