The Dark Thing

📅 Published on November 30, 2020

“The Dark Thing”

Written by WordDogger
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on 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


Rating: 9.62/10. From 13 votes.
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I live in a small town in America’s heartland where nothing much ever happens. People go to work and go to church, and everyone pretty much knows everyone else. We all shop at the same stores send our kids to the same schools. There are picnics at the town square on holidays, and seldom do we have a crime more serious than vagrancy.

Some might call our little town quaint or even dull, but I would argue that point. It’s a tradeoff. Maybe we don’t have the same opportunity for excitement that many places across the country have, but we don’t live in fear, either. You can leave your car and your house unlocked if you choose, and you don’t have to worry about having your stuff stolen. You can walk alone down any street in town and not worry about being attacked or even hassled in any significant way. People can let their children play in their yards without watching them every second. Yeah, it’s a tradeoff, excitement for safety, but one we feel a pretty fair bargain—until lately.

Though rather insignificant by most crime standards, about two weeks ago, people’s pets started disappearing. And I’m not talking about two or three pets over that period, I’m talking about several a day. By last count there had been twenty-six pets gone missing—mostly dogs, but a few cats as well. Curiously, most of those pets had disappeared from their owner’s backyards, often fenced in with no apparent points of egress; so it wasn’t as though these pets were just wandering off or anything. Also, as far as I know, none of the pets that’ve gone missing have been found.

My neighbor across the street, Mr. Braswell, has lived in his house for about forty years. Since his wife passed a few years back, he’s been living there alone—well, him and his German shepherd. He calls him Soldier. Anyway, Soldier went missing the night before last. I found Mr. Braswell out at his mailbox yesterday morning, and he told me what he’d seen of it.

He told me that he’d let Soldier out back—in his well-fenced yard—just before bedtime as he always did. The moon was mostly full, so he could see his dog run along the perimeter of the fence toward a back corner. That’s when he first saw it—though he couldn’t really explain what it was. He said it was like a large, dark mass, just sort of resting along the back fence. Strangely, though, he said it wasn’t something he could discern the details of, but it was more like a space where the moonlight just didn’t illuminate. He said he could tell Soldier saw it, too, because he’d stopped and looked at it, his tail and ears at attention. He thought he’d heard Soldier growl, and then he’d simply run toward and disappeared inside the black mass, almost like he’d run through a portal.

Let me be clear about something. I’m not one to be critical of the elderly, especially of someone who’d served in the military like Mr. Braswell had, but I’d always thought that maybe his faculties weren’t what they once were. He was getting on up there in age—I think he was over ninety. Still, of all the people who’d lost pets over the last two weeks, he was the first person who’d actually claimed to’ve seen it happen. That reason alone was enough for me to feel he ought to at least be listened to. He said he’d called the police, and they’d come out and taken his statement. Mr. Braswell said he felt like they hadn’t really taken him seriously, though, that they’d just humored him. I didn’t know what to make of that. Like I said, he probably wasn’t as sharp as he once was, and the officers who’d come out might’ve thought that as well—but that didn’t mean he hadn’t seen what he’d seen.

That people’s pets were disappearing had long since become a serious area of concern for people in my town; but last night, the seriousness and the concern ratcheted up exponentially. A family two streets over from mine, the Carsons, had a nine-year-old boy named Tommy and a two-year-old poodle named Trixie. Just after supper, apparently as he often did, young Tommy took Trixie on a walk down to the end of their cul-de-sac. Neither one of them made it back home.

There were people along the route who’d said they’d seen them walking down the sidewalk like normal, nothing seeming the matter. No one had seen anything unusual, either—no strange vehicles or loiterers, and obviously no one had seen them abducted. They’d just vanished, as the cliché goes, without a trace.

Clearly, the disappearance of a child had changed things. Fear had come to settle over the community at large, and there was now a visual police presence—something seldom seen or felt in our little town. I’d heard that the mayor had called for the FBI, too, but I hadn’t seen any evidence of that. Tonight, though, as did all my neighbors, I went home and locked my doors.

I have a border collie named Jenna, and I’ve often thought how glad I was she couldn’t talk. If she could, she’d probably prove that she was smarter than I was, which would’ve been uncomfortable for both of us. But she couldn’t talk, so we went along playing the roles of master and pet. The point, though, is that she was a very smart dog, the smartest dog I’d ever been around.

It must’ve been sometime around midnight when Jenna woke me—it’d been a while since I’d let her out to go to the bathroom. I stumbled toward the backdoor, but then I remembered about everything that’d been going on. Still, I knew she had to pee, so in spite of the fact that there was a full moon, I grabbed a flashlight and took it out with us.

It didn’t take long for me to see it. Almost exactly as I’d imagined it when Mr. Braswell had described what he’d seen, there was a dark space just to the right of my patio, a space where the light just didn’t seem to go. It was larger than I’d imagined, though, maybe ten to fifteen feet square. I couldn’t tell for sure because it wasn’t static—it seemed to move, expand and contract, keeping me from getting a fix on it. I reflexively turned on my flashlight and shined it at the darkness, and the entire thing lit up, like someone had put a lit candle inside a paper bag.

I felt fear, but I felt awe as well, looking at this thing that didn’t appear to be from our world. I was mesmerized, and had sort of lost track of what was going on, only managing to wonder what this thing could possibly be. Jenna had been sitting on her haunches next to me, but by the time I came back to the moment, she had stood and walked several paces toward the thing. I moved the flashlight’s beam to her; she looked back at me over her shoulder when I yelled for her to get away, to come back to me, but then she just trotted forward and disappeared into the darkness.

I yelled something—I don’t remember what—but before I realized what I was doing, I’d started after her at a run. By the time I’d reached the thing’s perimeter, though, my innate fear had taken hold, and I had begun trying to stop my forward progress. It was too late, though. I at least partially crossed the thing’s edge, and what I saw… it was almost indescribable.

There was a vast landscape stretched before me, a desert landscape beneath a bright, silvery sky, and it felt nothing like being in the real world. Everything was fluid, like it was made from paper—or flames, maybe—and was being blown and stretched by a stiff wind. Even my own hands and arms appeared distorted in that same way as I looked down at them—it was disorienting. The landscape was mostly devoid of color as well. Everything appeared in varying shades of grays and whites, as though it was being washed out by the brightness of the light. There was a constant noise, too, like the rush of water or a steady wind, causing everything to sound and feel fuzzy.

I don’t know how long I was in that place—a second? A minute? A day? All I know is that I found myself tumbling onto my backside there on my patio, the dark thing still looming over me. I can’t say if I’d managed to lurch backward somehow or if the thing had simply expelled me, but I was out. Jenna, however, was still in.

Otherwise, everything seemed eerily calm and quiet; there was no wind, no leaves rustling in the trees, no animal noises at all, no sounds from any of my neighbors’ houses. It was like I was all alone, like that’s how the dark thing wanted me, and I could feel adrenaline beginning to pulse through my veins.

Probably out of fear, I switched my flashlight back on and shined it at the dark thing. As before, it lit up in a muted peach-colored glow. Also, there came a sound from it, a distant sound that seemed to move closer over time. Soon enough I could tell what the sound was. It was Jenna—she was barking from somewhere inside that vast landscape, the fiery, colorless desert I’d seen with my own eyes, somehow existing within this relatively small space in my backyard.

I felt a rush of excitement, or anxiety, or something. No matter. My dog was lost somewhere inside that thing, and I wanted her out. I rationalized that it would be foolish for me to go back in, because then we’d both be lost—just like the rest of the pets, and just like young Tommy. So, instead of venturing in, I called to her, loud as I could, over and over, and then I stopped to listen. Sure enough, before long I heard her reply. She was getting closer, too. I could tell from the sound that she was getting closer.

Probably from my excitement over her drawing nearer, I managed to move the beam from the dark thing. Naturally, the illumination went away—but so did Jenna’s barking. Somehow I knew—I knew right then and there that the light was the key; the beam of light was the portal into and out of the dark space. I hurriedly shone the light back at the thing. It lit back up, and I could once again hear Jenna.

I kept calling to her, over and over. She kept replying, sometimes seeming farther away, but sometimes closer. Finally, though, after what seemed a long time of calling, she sounded like she had to’ve been right next to the edge of the darkness, like she was just a few feet away from me. She wouldn’t come out, though; she wouldn’t cross over and come back into our world. Without really giving it much thought, I found myself moving back toward the darkness.

Once I got to the edge, I reached my hand in. How bizarre—to see your hand and arm disappear right in front of you. I reached around but could feel nothing. I kept calling to Jenna, though, and she kept barking. There came a point, however, when it sounded like she was moving away; so probably out of panic, I forced myself through the dark’s outer edge and reentered the fluid, colorless world. To my immense relief, standing right before me was Jenna, her reddish fur seemingly ablaze in the cosmic distortion.

I called to her, and she barked a reply, though I could scarcely hear either of us over the rushing sounds from this strange world. She ran to me, though. She ran and leapt toward my chest, and the next thing I knew, the both of us were tumbling on the grass of my backyard.

I scooped her up and gave her a big hug, and she replied with a multitude of licks across my face; but then, like we’d remembered at the same time, we looked toward the dark thing. It had moved; it was still moving, in fact, toward the back of my yard. I seemed to have lost my flashlight, so I couldn’t track it with light, but we watched. It moved down into the wooded gulch behind my fencerow, and then it ascended toward the sky and over my neighbor’s roof. Eventually it moved too far away for us to see, its shrinking profile blending into the night sky.

We went back inside, Jenna and I, and I was intending to call 9-1-1 straight away. I found my phone and started to dial, but something made me hesitate. What was I going to say? That my dog and I had been inside a dark blob that had appeared in my backyard? That it was actually a portal to another universe, and I’d somehow managed to save my dog from it? Was that my story?

It took me about two seconds to decide—of course it was my story. It’s what had happened. My guess was that this dark thing had been lurking around our town for the last several weeks and was responsible for all the disappearances. Would people think I was crazy, or that I was just trying to get attention? Sure, some would—but some wouldn’t. The way I figured it, if people knew what to look for, they’d be more likely to find it—or for some, to avoid it.

Either way, from my perspective it was imperative that the thing be found. I’m an animal lover, so that several dozen pets had disappeared these last few weeks would be enough reason for me, just as it would for a lot of my fellow townspeople—but there was a higher calling here. Tommy Carson was in that thing, or place, or whatever it was—I knew it in my bones—and if I could make it back with Jenna, Tommy Carson could be found and brought back as well.

Jenna was standing next to my chair, looking at me expectantly. I gave her head a quick rub, feeling immensely grateful that she was with me, that she was as smart as she was, and then pressed the send button on my phone.

Rating: 9.62/10. From 13 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by WordDogger
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on 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).

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