A Shot in the Dark

📅 Published on April 14, 2021

“A Shot in the Dark”

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 14 minutes

Rating: 9.50/10. From 6 votes.
Please wait...

Ralph trudged through the woods, his boots heavy with sticky mud and pine needles, his shotgun slung over his shoulder.

The deep purple of twilight was fast approaching. The leafy canopy above his head was a muddle of rusty orange and deep brown, with a few sprinkles of yellow leaves like stars. Ralph loved this time of year. It was crisp and clean smelling even though all around him things were dying and rotting. The smell of moldering leaves permeated the air, and the tall grasses hung low as if ashamed of something.

He loved it all, but he was still in a sour mood after kneeling at the edge of the lake for hours, his duck call working overtime for nonexistent ducks. That was the entire point of the trip, get out of the city, bag a couple of ducks, drink some beers in the moonlight. He didn’t know what the hell was going on. He’d been making the trip most of his adult life and had never failed to find ducks. It started as a yearly outing with his dad, and Ralph had been doing it ever since. His dad was eight years in his grave and Ralph was pushing fifty, but still he came.

Dave followed along behind, his tail moving from side to side with each stride, his pink tongue hanging out of one side of his mouth. He was a retriever, well, some kind of retriever at least. Ralph wasn’t sure which, or if he was a mix of more than one. Dave looked to be grinning, seemingly unperturbed by not catching a single goddamn duck all afternoon.

“I wish I could be as happy as you, boy,” Ralph said. “What keeps your spirits up, huh? Zoloft? Yoga?”

Dave didn’t answer, just kept wagging and walking.

“Ah,” Ralph said. “It’s booze then.”

Dave answered with a short bark, sending Ralph into a fit of laughter.

“Okay, okay,” he said, wiping his eyes with the back of one hand. “We’ll get you some professional help when the trip is over. I’ve got no experience in treating alcoholic canines.”

Dave’s ears suddenly perked up, his eyes growing wider.

Ralph stopped walking. “It was just a joke, Dave. You can drink yourself into an early grave if you want to.”

Dave’s ears flattened as his lips drew back. His pointed teeth seemed shiny in the oncoming gloom.

“What is it, Dave? You smell a rabbit?”

Ralph knew it wasn’t a rabbit before he even said the words. Dave was a friendly dog, and the last time he’d run up on a rabbit he sniffed it eagerly and wagged his tail so hard Ralph thought it might come flying off.

No, this was something different. Ralph tried to think back to a time he’d ever seen Dave act like this but couldn’t come up with anything. Mountain lions and cougars were as close to nonexistent as you could get in Alabama. Bobcats were always a possibility, but he’d never spotted one in all the years he’d visited the cabin.

Lost in thought, he nearly jumped when Dave took off like a bullet. The dog burst through the underbrush and was lost in the trees before Dave could even shout after him.

“Shit!” Ralph said and got moving. He waded through the underbrush, branches and thorns pulling at his pant legs. He unslung his shotgun and readied it.

“Dave!” he cried. “Dave, come here!”

Somewhere in the distance he heard a cacophony of barks and growls, and the telltale sounds of a struggle. Leaves swishing against each other as they were displaced, the pop of small branches breaking under something’s weight.

Ralph ran, mindless of the branches whipping at him.

He rounded a copse of trees and stopped hard enough he nearly fell. Dave was facing off against some animal, both eyeing each other as they circled, waiting for an opening to strike. Ralph couldn’t tell what the animal was in the lowlight, but he was taking any chances on Dave getting hurt. He lifted the shotgun and took aim.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Over here!”

Dave’s head swiveled around at the sound of his voice, but the other animal did not. It sprung at the dog, easily leaping the few feet between them.

Ralph squeezed the trigger and the shotgun boomed. The animal flipped over once, then lay still in the dirt.

He knelt, patting his thigh. “Come here, boy.”

Dave limped over, blood coating the fur of one of his back legs. Ralph stroked the dog’s head.

“It’s gonna be okay, boy,” he said. “Let’s get back to the cabin and I’ll patch you up, good as new. Just got to check on something first.”

He pumped the forestock of the shotgun and sent the spent shell spinning to the ground, then walked over to where the animal lay.

“What in the hell?”

It was covered in dark gray fur, its limbs long and lithe. Its muzzle was short, its teeth still showing in its black gums. Ralph had never seen anything like it.

He bent at the waist and prodded it with the barrel of the shotgun. The animal’s lid flickered then opened, exposing a gold-orange eye that stared up at him. The eye lost its focus, becoming distant and cloudy as Ralph took a step back.

He stared in confusion as the animal’s body began to writhe, the skin undulating as if filled with insects. Confusion became horror as its hair fell away in clumps.

Lying there was a young boy, probably no more than ten years old, the hole the shotgun had punched into his side still dribbling blood into the dirt. His eyes had turned brown, but they were still dead and cloudy and pointed at Ralph.

“Jesus wept,” Ralph said, one hand covering his mouth.

Dave whined and pressed his nose against Ralph’s leg with an insistence that felt like a warning: let’s go.

Ralph nodded as if Ralph had truly spoken and turned away from the body.

He didn’t run but did set a quick pace back to the cabin. Dave stayed by his side, his expression one of concern and wariness.

Thoughts flooded his brain, threatening to drown them in their insistence. Did he call the police? What the hell would he tell them? An animal attacked my dog and when I shot the thing it turned into a boy. Would they believe it? Shit, did he believe it?

“Not much further, Dave,” Ralph said. He could see the porch lights ahead through the trees, could make out the line of the roof against the nearly dark sky. There was a light in the second story window that his father had always left on, so Ralph did the same. His old man had used it like a lighthouse beacon, said if he was ever lost in the dark, he’d simply climb a tree and look for the light. Ralph didn’t know if it was possible to see it over a long distance, but he kept it going all the same, if for nothing more than tradition.

The sight of it buoyed his spirits, and he sighed with relief. It had been a strange day, and he wanted nothing more than to sit in front of the fireplace with Dave curled up at his feet.

They exited the woods proper, the woodline ending in a manicured edge where Dave kept the undergrowth trimmed back. He was halfway to the porch before he realized he was alone.

He turned to look for Dave and spotted him at the treeline. He was facing the woods, stock-still and rigid.

“Dave!” Ralph said. “C’mon, we’re going inside. That’s enough excitement for today.”

Dave didn’t move but issued a growl before rushing back into the woods.

“Goddammit, Dave!” Ralph cried. “Get back over here!”

Ralph made it three strides back toward the woodline before Dave came tumbling out of the dark with a yelp. The dog rolled to a stop in front of him, his breathing labored and his eyes wide.

Ralph knelt in front of him. “Dave? Dave? Oh shit, Davey, what happened?”

Dave stood up shakily. More blood was on his fur, but Ralph couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He reached out his hand to pet him, but Dave snapped his teeth an inch from Ralph’s fingers.

“What the hell?” Ralph said. “I’m just trying to help, buddy. Let’s get inside and I can help–”

Dave growled at him and loosed a series of sharp barks. Ralph backed away; his hands raised in front of him.

“Calm down, boy. We’re gonna fix this. Just calm down.”

Branches snapped as loud as gunshots and a large, shadowed figure stepped out from the treeline. Dave spun on the stranger, barking and gnashing his teeth.

“Hey, asshole!” Ralph called. “Did you hurt my dog!?”

The figure took a long stride forward and stepped into the light shining from the porch.

Ralph’s voice dried up along with his anger, fear quickly replacing both. He involuntarily stepped back, his knees suddenly weak and untrustworthy.

The thing looked like an adult version of what the boy in the woods had been before Ralph shot him. It stood on its hind legs and was easily a few feet taller than Ralph. His brain did the calculation, the cold math cutting through his fear. It was over nine feet tall, its shoulders spanning nearly half that. Fur covered its body, but Ralph could still see all the bunched muscle beneath. Its lips pulled back from its short muzzle, revealing teeth as long as Ralph’s fingers.

“You,” it growled, its voice deep and booming. It lifted one hand and pointed a claw-tipped finger at Ralph. “You killed my child. My son.”

Ralph slowly shook his head. “I… I didn’t–”

Dave inched closer to the creature, snarling.

Panic broke Ralph’s paralysis. “No, Dave! Stay!”

The creature looked down at the dog, its nostrils flaring. “Man’s best friend,” it said. “Is he? Is he your best friend?”

Ralph couldn’t stop himself from nodding.

“Then I’ll kill him first,” it said.

Dave leapt at the creature. Ralph cried out and fumbled for the shotgun slung behind his shoulder.

The creature stepped back and swiped his claws toward Dave. The dog hesitated long enough for the attack to miss him, then sunk his teeth into the creature’s arm. It howled and shook its arm to free himself, but Dave’s grip was strong. The creature wrapped its free hand around Dave’s neck and squeezed until the dog let go.

Ralph freed the shotgun and aimed at the creature, his finger already on the trigger.

“Put him down right now, goddammit!” Ralph screamed.

The creature lifted Dave higher, putting the dog between itself and Ralph.

“Watch,” it said, and began to squeeze.

Ralph’s thoughts flitted from one action to the next: shoot, don’t shoot, run. Shoot, don’t shoot, run.

But it was the creature who decided, tightening its grip until Dave’s neck snapped with an audible pop. It dropped the dog as if tossing away trash.

Ralph’s eyes filled with tears and his hands shook as he pulled the trigger. The creature leapt back into the shadows. He pumped out the spent shell and fired wildly at the treeline as he fled toward the cabin.

He was through the door seconds, slamming it shut and pulling down the heavy coat rack in front of it. He ran into the living room, nearly tripping over the rug as he came to a sudden stop in front of the gun safe. His fingers shook as he typed in his code.

“Four,” he said, and tapped the number. “Zero–”

Outside, a howl split the night.

He accidentally pressed nine, the display blinked with a red light and he had to start over.

“Four,” he began again, pressing the number as he began to sweat.

Something crashed through the branches at the woodline.

“Zero.”

Footsteps, four continuous beats, like a horse galloping toward the cabin.

“One.”

Silence.

“Two.”

The display turned green. Ralph swung the safe’s door open.

The front door burst apart, sending a hail of splinters into the mudroom. The beast stuck its oblong head through the opening and sniffed the air. What remained of the door tore away as the thing pressed itself through the hole. It took a great breath through flared nostrils, then released a wall-shaking roar that echoed through the house.

Ralph cried out, aimed the shotgun toward the door and pulled the trigger.

Click.

The creature lifted the coat rack with one hand and flung it at him. Ralph ducked beside the safe as the rack crashed into the floor where he had been kneeling moments ago. He pumped the shotgun, sending the shell bouncing onto the rug.

Ralph leaned out, aimed, and fired. The creature flinched and spun away with a howl.

It turned back to Ralph. “Birdshot?” it asked. “From this distance? Not much of a hunter, are you?”

Ralph crawled back around to the front of the safe slowly, trying not to give his intentions away.

“Come closer and find out,” Ralph said with a reserve of strength that his body didn’t feel.

“Oh, I will,” it said. “Because I know you’re out of ammo. Only legal to have three in the tube, right? And I can tell you’re a good, law-abiding citizen.”

“I reloaded on the walk back.”

“I would’ve heard it. And besides, I can smell the lie in your voice.”

On its last word the creature lunged, trying to close the distance between them. Ralph dropped the shotgun and reached into the safe, snaking his hand through the hooks of the coat rack and grabbing his pistol. He flicked the safety with his thumb and aimed as best he could from beneath the coat rack.

His first two shots missed, but the third caught the creature in the leg. It howled as blood splashed across the floor. It retreated outside, just beyond the threshold of the door.

“I’m going to kill you!” it cried. “I’m gonna make it hurt. I’ll keep you alive as long as I can, and you can watch me eat you from your feet up!”

“If you want to keep count again,” Ralph said. “There’s twelve more rounds in this pistol!”

“That’s less than the number of minutes it’ll take for this wound to heal. Much less.”

Fear once again held Ralph like a vise. What the hell was he dealing with?

He tried to sound calm. “Next time it’ll be in your head! Can you come back from that?!”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

Its footsteps thumped across the porch, claws scraping against the hard wood as it ran back into the night.

Ralph got himself loose from the coat rack and pocketed the pistol, then went to work unscrewing the forestock cap from the shotgun. He had no idea if he had seconds or minutes and the ignorance made his fingers tremble. The cap came off easily and he shook the plug out from the shotgun’s magazine. By the time he had it reassembled the tremor was gone from his fingers and he felt a little calmer.

He grabbed a handful of shells from the box of buckshot and began to thumb them into the tube.

“I got a surprise for you this time,” he said. “And you can count all eight as I blow your goddamn face off.”

He stood with the shotgun ready, weighing his options, hoping to lay eyes on salvation, on some way out of this mess. The cellar was the most defensible place in the cabin. Only one way in or out, but he’d only last if his ammo held out. And he’d be trapped there and thought of that made him shiver. He could hold there until morning, but would that thing be gone by then? He had no idea what rules it played by, but he knew he killed its kid. No, he didn’t think it would leave at sunup.

That left his truck. It wasn’t more than twenty yards away, but that distance was in the dark, where that hairy son of a bitch could come at him from damn near any angle. He’d be cut to shreds before he made it halfway.

A boom came from the back of the kitchen and Ralph knew the thing had busted in the back door. He was out of time.

He ran for the ruined front door, snatching his keys from the mantle as he went.

Ralph was running across the porch when the thing’s voice rang out from the house.

“Where are you?” it growled. “Come out and maybe I’ll make it quick!”

The truck was where he’d left, and it still stood on all four tires. He mouthed a prayer of thanks between labored breaths and kept running.

“If you make me chase you it’ll be so much worse,” it cried from the house. “You’ll beg me to kill you before I’m done!”

Ralph stole a glance over his shoulder and wished he hadn’t. The beast was on the porch, its orange-gold eyes staring directly at him. He pulled the pistol from his pocket, turned and fired two shots toward the porch.

The creature jumped nimbly away, landing in the gravel driveway, digging furrows into the rocks and dirt.

Ralph was at the truck. He unlocked it with his key fob and yanked on the handle, throwing the door wide open. He tossed the shotgun in and jumped inside, slamming the door hard enough to make his ears ring.

Ralph punched the ignition button and the engine roared to life as his window shattered, sending irregular diamonds of safety glass flying across the dashboard. A strong, warm hand grabbed him by the shoulder, its claws punching into his flesh. He screamed as the thing began to drag him through the window. He grabbed the steering wheel, the pain of his muscles moving around the thing’s claws making him dizzy. Grimacing at what he was about to do to his ears, he raised the pistol up and over his head with his free hand and fired.

The gunshot was more than loud, it was everything. His ears rang at a pitch he didn’t even know he was capable of hearing. The beast’s howl seemed very far away as the claws slid out of Ralph’s shoulder. He slumped back into his seat and looked out at the night, expecting to see nothing but the dark.

But the beast was there, lying in the dirt, one hand pressed against its chest. Not over his heart, but Ralph was glad to see it was close enough. He placed the pistol on the center console and grabbed the shotgun. Every movement from his left arm made him want to grind his teeth down to the gums but he managed to open the door.

He stepped out and walked the few feet to where the creature lay. Blood seeped from between its fingers as it spoke.

“Do it,” it said. “You won’t get another chance. I’m healing more and more as the seconds pass.”

Ralph placed the butt of the shotgun against his hip, keeping the barrel trained on the beast.

“I don’t doubt it,” he said.

“You…you people,” it said with a grunt. “All the same. You can’t be happy killing for food, so you kill for sport. And when you grow bored of bears and mountain lions you come for us.”

Ralph shook his head. “I didn’t come after you. Shit, I didn’t even know something like you existed.

The beast squinted up at him. “Then why did you kill my son?”

“Bad luck,” Ralph said. “He got into a scrap with my dog. The light was low, we were in the thick of the underbrush and I fired when I had the shot. That’s it.”

“Come closer,” it said.

“No, I don’t think that would be very good for my health.”

It turned its head to one side. “Please,” it said.

Something about the way it said it, as if it would rather vomit than say the word, made Ralph comply. He took a few steps forward, until the shotgun’s barrel was no more than six inches from the creature’s face.

“Give me your hand,” it said.

Ralph tucked the barrel underneath its chin. “Don’t try anything funny.”

He extended his wounded arm, and the creature wrapped its huge hand around Ralph’s wrist.

“Tell me again,” it said. “What happened to my son?”

“My dog took off into the underbrush, I heard sounds of a scuffle and I followed. They were fighting, and when your boy went after my dog, I shot him. I didn’t know what it was, what he was, and I don’t know if it would’ve mattered either way. That dog was all the family I had left, and I was just trying to protect him.”

The beast’s nostrils flared as Ralph spoke, and its grip tightened.

“You think if I was out hunting one of you down that I’d bring one shotgun and some birdshot?!” Ralph cried. “It was an accident, bad timing, or just plain bad luck. But whatever it was it damn sure wasn’t intentional.”

It let go of his arm and Ralph stumbled back a step.

“You’re telling the truth,” it said softly.

Ralph let out a shaky breath. “Yes.”

“At least I’ll die knowing that.”

Ralph stared down it for a long moment, then lowered the shotgun’s barrel.

“No,” he said, thinking of Dave. “There’s been enough killing today.”

It eyed him warily, then stood up.

“I’m going to bury my dog,” Ralph said. “He loved this place, loved chasing down ducks and running through the woods. I think he’d like to stay here. When I’m done, I’m going to drive home, then drink whiskey until I forget this ever happened.”

It stood motionless, watching him.

“And for whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry about your son. Truly.”

The beast lunged, pinning Ralph against the side of the truck. Its claws dug into the metal with a screech.

“You have no idea,” it growled. “How much effort it’s taking not to kill you. How much sheer willpower is keeping me from opening you up and watching your guts splash down in the dirt.”

Ralph said nothing. He simply waited to find out if he was going to die.

Finally, it moved away.

“Bury your animal,” it said, already walking away. “Then leave and don’t come back. If I see you again, if I even catch a hint of your scent on the wind, nothing will stop me from tearing you apart.”

Before Ralph could even think to respond the creature was gone, bounding away into the trees.

* * * * * *

Ralph tossed the last shovelful of dirt onto Dave’s resting place, then tamped it down with a few quick taps from the flat of the shovel.

“Goodbye, Dave,” he said. “You were always a good boy. The best.”

The sun was nearly up, a thin gold line just over the treetops. And even through the terrible ringing in his ears, he could still hear the beginning of birdsong across the forest.

He tossed the shovel away and picked up the shotgun from where he’d left it leaning against the cabin. When he looked up there was a man standing among the trees, his arms folded tight against his chest, his glare hard and hateful. Ralph didn’t say anything and tried his best not to even acknowledge the man’s presence.

Ralph walked away. His back sore, his arms aching, and the weight of the night’s events lying across his shoulders.

Rating: 9.50/10. From 6 votes.
Please wait...


🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ryan Harville


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

More Stories from Author Ryan Harville:

Cold Hands
Average Rating:
8.5

Cold Hands

The Skin of the World
Average Rating:
8.5

The Skin of the World

Penance
Average Rating:
2

Penance

Forever and Hallways
Average Rating:
8.75

Forever and Hallways

Related Stories:

No posts found.

You Might Also Enjoy:

The Blind Experiment
Average Rating:
10

The Blind Experiment

August Heat
Average Rating:
8.25

August Heat

The Elevator
Average Rating:
9

The Elevator

Recommended Reading:

Knifepoint Horror: The Transcripts, Volume 3
Shadow on the Stairs: Urban Mysteries and Horror Stories
Unread: 32 Horror Stories
The Age of Reckoning: Volume 1 (The World of Naeisus)

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Skip to content