Not Another Dogman Story

Leaves crunched loudly under Jordan’s boots as he walked through the thick brush. It was dark. The only things visible were illuminated by a small flashlight he held shakily in his left hand. In the other, he held his pride and joy, a Canon EOS Elan 7NE 35mm SLR, the best camera he’d ever owned.

Jordan just recently bought the camera. It had come on the heels of a promotion he couldn’t have afforded to miss, and thankfully he hadn’t.

Working for Country Wide Wild Life was a tough gig. He’d spent three years in the mail room, before even being considered for more serious work. Jordan would never forget walking into Mr. Denton’s office that day. The gruff old man had even stood to shake his hand. Now if only Jordan could keep from screwing it up.

The problem wasn’t Jordan, it was his assignment. Mr. Denton had been very clear that the only time he would be able to find a barn owl in Michigan was at night. It was rumored there was just one mating pair left in the entire state, and the DNR had yet to find them. Jordan was saddled with the nearly impossible task of finding the birds and taking their picture for the cover of next month’s Country Wide Wild Life (or CWWL, as most people at the office called it). That was all fine and great too, accept that owls are night creatures, and though Jordan knew he was too old for it, he was still afraid of the dark.

It wasn’t just the fact that darkness masked what was out there, it was that sometimes Jordan could swear it was a living breathing thing, lurking all around him, swallowing things whole. But he knew better than that. Of course the darkness was only an absence of light. He supposed it probably sprang from a frightening experience as a child, except that he couldn’t think of what it could be. Jordan remembered a relatively normal childhood. Weekends spent hanging out with friends, riding bikes through the neighborhood, and avoiding parents. His family was supportive without being overwhelming. For the most part, Jordan figured he’d had it pretty well.

Not that it’ll stay that way, a voice inside him whispered, and he shook the thought from his head, then steadied his trembling light. Breathing slowly, Jordan reminded himself that it wasn’t that bad. Everything would be perfect once he got that perfect picture. That was all he needed.

Now that he thought of it, it was strange that his dark room didn’t bother him. But in there, not only was it red instead of black, but the shadows didn’t seem to stretch out at him, reaching for him. In his dark room, Jordan could be alone, in silence and peace. He could work on his photos without having to worry that an editor would spot his work over his shoulder and have him change the coloring, or tweak the exposure. Jordan worked on what he liked in that room, and it was his palace.

A branch snapped off to his right.

Instinctively, he dropped to a knee and lowered his light, bathing himself in darkness. He had to be careful, he was, after all, in Northern Michigan.

Jordan had done his research and found that it was possible for him to run into a bear, wolf, coyote, occasional mountain lion or (if you believed the rumors) Dogman. But Jordan was not the superstitious type. He knew better than to believe in overexposed pictures, shaky hand work, and terrible lighting. Any of the pictures he had seen on the internet could have easily been staged, in his opinion.

He listened intently to the sounds of the forest around him. A squirrel chattered, giving away his position in the bushes, crickets chirped melodically, and far away coyotes yipped and howled, echoing through the seemingly empty woods. Jordan didn’t hear anything else.

It could have been a dead tree branch falling to the forest floor. No big deal, right? Though something told him that wasn’t necessarily the case. He wasn’t sure why, but the feeling was strong. Maybe an instinct?

Staying crouched, Jordan waited, and waited. When finally he felt confident that whatever may have been there would have left, he slowly stood, shining his light all around.

There was nothing remarkable or out-of-place. He could see no beast or man. Everything was alright. Right?

Then why did he feel this deep sense of dread? Jordan’s breath came out in fast, steady, plumes of large white mushroom shapes that dissipated two feet from his mouth. It was chilly, yes, but he hadn’t noticed just how damn cold until now. Only a moment ago he thought of his promotion and cushy new paycheck, and now Jordan’s heart raced with such fury he felt it may burst from his chest, or worse, explode.

“Get ahold of yourself,” he mumbled under his breath, tugging his jacket down to cover his exposed lower back. The culprit of his chills? Maybe so.

Suddenly a startling call came from ahead. It was the sound Jordan had been waiting to hear all night. The elusive barn owl, in Michigan! Tonight, he would earn that promotion (though he could have sworn he’d already done just that, over and over, again and again).

He picked up his camera from where it dangled around his neck, checking to make sure the flash was on and it was ready to shoot, and slowly walked toward the owl call.

Excitement prickled up and down his neck. Jordan was surprised to find this. Never before had he snuck up on something in the dark, and he found it exhilarating. For once he wasn’t entirely afraid of the dark. Jordan half-welcomed it as his own camouflage. Though the other half of him remained fearful for what might come at him from that dark. Nonetheless, he clicked off the small flashlight, thrusting himself into complete darkness.

Jordan slowly crept toward the hooting. This was it. He was nearly certain that he would get his shot and prove to his boss that giving him the promotion had been the right thing.

Finally, he was standing beneath the tree that the call came from. It was so dark he had no idea where the owl could be sitting in the tree. Jordan would have to just start snapping pictures and hope he could get a good one before the bird decided to take flight.

He lifted his camera, listening intently.

“Hoo. Hoo. Hoooo,” the bird called.

It sounded like it was coming from about fifteen feet up and off to his left.

Jordan raised his camera to his face, though it was futile because he couldn’t see a damn thing. He steadied himself, then began snapping photos.

The first flash was extremely bright and nearly blinding. He clicked repeatedly, excited.

There was the owl. Jordan could see it in the steady flash. It looked like the right one, if he remembered right. But where was its mate?

If he had to guess, Jordan would say it was out hunting while the other watched over its nest. However something didn’t quite feel right, and he couldn’t put his finger on it.

Suddenly the owl stopped hooting. The forest seemed to fall silent around Jordan. It was more than eerie, it was unnerving, as if all the creatures in the woods knew something, something terrible. The worst part was that Jordan wasn’t privy to this information.

He stood perfectly still, half not wanting to scare his subject away, and half afraid that there really was something out there.

Jordan’s lungs screamed for air, and he realized that he’d been holding his breath in his mounting trepidation. Gently, he drew a breath through his nose, still not wanting to draw attention to himself.

His body wanted more, more air, but he denied it, knowing that if he missed getting that perfect picture, it could be the end of his career. That was not something Jordan was willing to live with.

A shuffling in the leaves came from Jordan’s right. Something was drawing near.

Keeping his breath low, he turned slowly, not wanting to alert whatever was out there to his presence. Footsteps became discernible as the sound neared. Only two footsteps at a time though.

Suddenly Jordan was afraid, confused, and anxiously excited all at the same time. He could no longer control his breath. It came in quick, rapid puffs. Was there someone else out here? There had to be. Animals don’t walk on two feet.

But who could it be? Jordan’s fearful mind flashed back to a movie he’d seen about cannibalistic mutant people who lived deep in a forest. But that was unlikely, and he knew it. Maybe it was a hunter in search of an animal that got away? Who hunted at night though? Weren’t you only supposed to during the day? Or, worst of all, could it be that Mr. Denton hadn’t really had the faith in Jordan that he claimed, and the gruff old man had sent another photographer to capture an image of the elusive birds?

Anger bubbled up after the last notion. If Mr. Denton did not believe in his abilities, then why would he have given Jordan the promotion? That old coot didn’t know anything about photography. Jordan could swear that Mr. Denton thought photographers had one of the easiest jobs in the world. He had no idea how hard it was to get that perfect shot. Everything had to be just right for a picture to work, from lighting to positioning, exposure, and beyond, there was so much that went into it.

Cool it, Jordan, he told himself, trying to control his anger. He took a deep slow breath. So far as he knew, everything was fine. Sure, there was someone else here, but it was unlikely the person was here to upend his career, or eat him alive.

When finally he was able to calm himself, Jordan realized that the footsteps had stopped. He felt more assured of himself and decided to call out to whoever it was.

“Hello?” he called out gently, still careful not to scare his owl away.

There was no answer.

“Anyone there?”

Silence followed.

He shifted his weight nervously. Jordan knew he had head the footsteps. He hadn’t heard them retreat, so whoever it was, was still lurking around.

“If someone’s there, please answer me.”

A low growl came in response.

Fear leapt in his belly. It sounded like a dog, or a bear, or a wolf, or a coyote. But Jordan couldn’t be sure of what it was. His heart pounded in his chest and blood roared in his ears.

Calm down, he told himself, it’s just a hunter out with his dog. No big deal, right?

His mind told him that it could be a very big deal. Maybe he’d gotten it wrong about the footsteps. It was possible that what he’d heard approach was a lone dog or wolf. The creature could be mean, or rabid, or extremely territorial. He had to do something, but was at a loss for what that might be.

Jordan listened for the growling to come again. It didn’t.

It seemed he was at a standstill with whatever animal was there. He was nearly certain now that it was an animal. A person would have answered him by now. Jordan was not going to leave without getting that shot, but he was afraid to turn his back to whatever hid in the darkness. It could attack him.

Minutes ticked by, and Jordan stayed still, waiting for something to happen. He was in a stalemate.

He could hear the heavy, steady breathing of the creature. It sounded huge.

Jordan finally mustered all his courage, and raised his camera to take a picture of the animal, then thought better of it. If this animal was skittish or easily angered, the camera’s flash would irritate it. He did not want to be trampled or mauled by a bear.

Slowly, he reached for his small flashlight, taking care to not to alarm the creature that stood mere feet from where he was. Jordan held his breath, the clicked the light on.

It took his eyes a second to adjust, and when they did, Jordan saw that his flashlight illuminated two massive feet. Each covered in thick, black fur, and had extremely long, sharp-looking claws.

Jordan stifled a gasp, nearly dropping his flashlight.

Very slowly, he directed the light upward.

The feet led to two legs, they were dog-like in shape and also covered heavily in fur. Near the hip area, hands came into view, each tipped with a curled claw, appearing to be razor-sharp. They were human-like, but covered in that thick dark hair as well.

Suddenly, Jordan couldn’t take it anymore. He had to know what he was dealing with here. Directing the flashlight at the creature’s face, he screamed.

Two, bright yellow eyes stared back at him, set in a head that appeared to be half human, and half dog. A long muzzle covered in fur held a surprising number of long, pointed fangs. On top of the creature’s head, were two pointed ears, cocked back and nearly laying against the animal’s head.

It growled low at Jordan, wrinkling its snout and bearing its teeth.

“Dogman,” he said breathily. It wasn’t possible, was it? Were the rumors really true?

Somewhere above him the subject of his photos took flight, fleeing into the night sky.

Jordan dropped his flashlight, stepping back. The light bounced and rolled, landing at the foot of a nearby tree. It illuminated low brush and dead leaves, and Jordan found himself trembling, trying to peer through the darkness.

He didn’t know where the beast was. The growl still rumbled in its chest, but Jordan found it nearly impossible to pinpoint where the Dogman was.

As Jordan took another step backwards, the toe of his shoe caught on something, sending him teetering, flailing his arms as he fell to the dry crunchy leaves on the forest floor.

He scrambled to stand again, then stood, turning in circles, trying to decipher where the dog creature was. Jordan had lost his sense of direction, and couldn’t even see where his flashlight was. Everything around him was the same stagnant and unyielding darkness.

His breathing was rapid and ragged with fear. Jordan’s heart pounded in his chest, sending blood roaring through his ears, making it impossible to hear anything.

The growling turned to an angry bark, and suddenly Jordan lost control of his bladder. Warmth rushed down his thighs, soaking his pants and boxers, and dripping onto his shoes.

Jordan turned to run, and tripped again. He found himself sprawled out on the leaves once again.

Suddenly the creature was on top of him. Its weight pressed on his chest, restricting his breathing. Jordan instinctively screamed. It echoed throughout the forest as the Dogman leaned forward and sunk its teeth into his throat. The scream turned to a gurgling sound, desperate and wracked with agony.

Jordan felt his own warm blood spraying from the wound on his throat. He gagged on the blood running down his esophagus and into his stomach. Blood poured into his lungs as well, and Jordan continued to gurgle and struggle to draw a breath.

He grew dizzy and knew that this was it. This was the end for him.

The Dogman threw its head back and howled at the night sky.

Jordan never made it out of those woods. His camera was discovered by a young couple while out hiking, and upon developing the film, after the owl photos, a blurry picture of what appeared to be a wolf was found. It is speculated that he was attacked and eaten by a wolf, though wolf attacks are extremely rare in Northern Michigan.

CWWL grieved the loss of their new photographer, but quickly found a replacement, and life went on.

Locals began reporting sightings of two massive beasts that appeared to be dog-like in form, running together, shortly after Jordan’s disappearance. Some speculate that these creatures are some sort of missing link or an undiscovered animal, others claim they are big wolves, and others still buy into the local legend of the “Dogman”. Whatever they are, the locals are afraid to go out at night, as they should be.

Comments
  1. Interesting story, feels like something that would be told around the campfire. Keep it up!

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