Broommates: Black Dog

Part 21 of the serial Broommates. Start from the beginning or read the previous episode or click the “Broommates” link at the top of the page to see the full list.

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Kitty, who was outside, heard the howl most clearly and knew it for what it was.

“Black dog,” she whispered. She couldn’t move for fear of the creature. If it had her scent, running was pointless anyway.

Inside, everyone else was nearly frozen, but for another reason. The air had solidified like molasses in a freezer, hard and just as cold, black as pitch. Miranda could feel it trying to force its way into her mouth; she gritted her teeth against the sensation. Here was Grant’s trap, then, but what was it? Solid fog wouldn’t be so dark, and neither would a temporal stasis, which tended to cause red or blue trails. What it really felt like, when she thought about it, was ghosts. A whole swarm of them, all piled together like a rugby team made of mist. Unfortunately, she couldn’t move her mouth to attempt a banishing.

Behind her, something screamed, something decidedly not human and very much in pain. This scream was joined by others, until the cacophony nearly split Miranda’s head. Within seconds, she could move freely, and the dim light of her glow stick once again pushed back the darkness. She turned to see Anthony swinging a sword at Parker, who was covered in a layer of what looked like filmy black smoke. Beatrice was already free and rushing outside to stand beside Kitty.

“When we get out of here,” Miranda told Anthony, “you are spilling the beans about that sword if I have to–”

“Later!” he shouted.

Miranda exited the crypt to find Beatrice and Kitty both staring at the trees barely a hundred feet away. Another howl pierced the air, closer than the last.

“Just what we needed,” she muttered. “Is that a barghest?” Kitty nodded mutely. “Let’s get the boys and raise a circle. We can wait it out until dawn.”

Grant’s stomping grounds were not an ideal spot for a circle of protection, but luckily there was bare earth surrounding the tomb for several feet in all directions. Miranda wondered if things simply couldn’t survive there with the press of ghosts sucking all the life out of the place. She fished in her bag for a jar of salt to make the circle, taking care that it be large enough to accommodate them all comfortably, or at least allow people to alternate sitting and standing.

Anthony and Parker stumbled outside, Parker especially looking pale and haggard. With a heave, he proceeded to experience his dinner for the second time. Anthony’s sword was gone.

“In here, quick, so I can cleanse it!” Miranda shouted. They obeyed. With everyone inside, she closed the gap in the salt, lit a white candle and banished everything but them from the now-glowing ring.

Kitty shuddered and buried her face in Parker’s shoulder. “Shh, we’re safe,” he said. “Couldn’t get in here with a tank.”

“Can’t get out, either,” Anthony muttered. Miranda pinched him. Beatrice had already sat down in a full lotus position and was meditating.

At the edge of the forest, a pair of glowing red eyes appeared. The outline of an enormous dog became visible as a blackness even darker than the shadowed trees around it. The creature padded forward, moving straight for them but in no hurry, as if it knew they were not going anywhere. It stopped a few yards away and sniffed the air. This close, it was as tall as Anthony, short-haired and stocky as a Rottweiler.

“Does a doggie wanna biscuit?” Parker crooned. Kitty gasped.

“Come, now, there’s no call to be cheeky,” the dog said in a thick English accent. “If we’re to keep each other company until I find a way through your shielding, we might at least be civilized about it.”

Parker rolled his eyes. “Huh. Talking dog. Figures.”

It cocked its head to the side, one ear flopping over. “I could look like something else, if you’d prefer.” It flickered from a bunny to a cat to a flaming, headless man and back to a dog.

“Cat was good,” Parker muttered.

The dog politely ignored him, pacing slowly around them as it spoke. “So what brings you chaps and ladies out here? If you were looking for Grant, I daresay you were disappointed.”

“Are you his lap dog, then?” Anthony asked.

“His would be quite a lap, if that were so.”

“Guard dog?” Parker asked. “Can you do tricks? Sit, roll over, maybe play dead–”

The creature leaped at the circle, fangs bared. It hit an invisible barrier and slid to the ground, pawing at thin air. Miranda hissed in pain and the others recoiled instinctively.

“That’s it,” Parker said. “Let’s just send Beatrice out to teach him real manners.”

“Needless risk,” Beatrice said, eyes still closed. She pursed her lips. “Wiser to wait for dawn.”

If a dog could smile, this one was doing so, tongue lolling out the side of its mouth.

“What about your sword, Anthony?” Miranda asked.

“Haven’t faced a good swordsman in years,” the creature said. “The touch of cold iron does tickle one so.”

“Yes, cut him up with your sword,” Parker said hotly. “Like butter. Melty, soft butter.”

“Shut up,” Anthony said. “Beatrice is right, we wait.”

Parker ignored him. “You hear the ghosts inside screaming? That was him. Slice and dice.”

The dog sat back on its haunches. “Is that so?” It sniffed the air. “Yes, they’re quite gone from this realm. Rare for a mere human weapon to do more than repel a spirit.”

“Parker!” Anthony shouted. “I said put a lid on it.” Parker almost retorted but thought better of it and glared instead.

“Spoilsport.” The creature stood and began to pace again. “He had all but told me the sword’s name, and then I would have had rich intelligence for my master. Still, I suppose Grant is clever enough to puzzle it out for himself.” It yawned again, and stretched, pawing idly at the circle as it did. “I shall tell him immediately, as well as inform him of your presence.”

Miranda grabbed Anthony’s arm. “We can’t let him get away. We’ll be sitting ducks!”

“It’s a bluff,” Anthony retorted. “He’ll just go invisible and wait for us to try to escape.”

The dog was already retreating, but paused to look back over its shoulder. “Perhaps. And then again, perhaps not.” It vanished into the trees as silently as it had appeared.

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Part 22: Frying Pan

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6 Responses to “Broommates: Black Dog”

  1. Gracie says:

    Yikes! Scary ghost dog! And I want to know about Anthony’s sword too. Very cool.

    And of course, the tension is great. I’m totally anxious for them now.

    Great episode!

  2. Xanto says:

    Nothing short of amazing! Ghost puppy is cute and British! Dog after my own heart!

  3. Joanie says:

    The dog’s personality was totally unexpected, but I love it! I hope we get to see more of him. Also, I loved the line about Grant’s lap, hahaha! They’d better be careful, he looks like an intelligent dog either way… Can’t wait to see how they get out of this one!

  4. What a great entry! I expected saliva-coated fangs and frothing jowls, not a conversationalist and clever trickster! Brilliant job as always.

  5. Valerie says:

    Thanks for reading, all. Glad you liked the pooch. Ghost dogs are scary, but when they’ve got brains to match, I think they’re even worse.

  6. Dad says:

    try not to think two dimensional, maybe a little levitation will do the trick….

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