The Cast: Erich (aghast), Myself (mystified), Richard (riled), The Entity (ethereal).
When you see a shadowy figure materialize into the light and then, just as easily, dissolve back into the nothingness from whence it came, you gotta ask yourself, “What was that?”
Okay, you don’t have to. But, you should. Because, think about it… What was that?!? And that is the question Erich, myself, and Richard did ask—and then each other. “What was that?!”
It is reasonably safe to assume that most people are familiar with urban legends. Knowing them all is something entirely different. But, just knowing what one is, that’s what’s important here. I bring that up only because I have often wondered how they come into being. Were there a bunch of idiots telling stories? Was there alcohol involved? Drugs? Boredom? Was there someone at the telling, someone so gullible that they would believe that their own hand was cut off—even though they were looking right at it? Was there? How do these things start? Well, I know how ours did.
As per the usual Friday night fun-fest, Erich, Richard, and myself were once again wandering about our quiet little town, looking for trouble—so we could beat it up, not so we could cause it (superheroes, remember). Now, whenever we wandered—*ahem* I mean, went on patrol—we would follow our instincts and try to find the aforementioned trouble. On this particular patrol, we were the ones that got found—by something… something Legendary.
Our little town had some quirky aspects to it: Streetlamps at almost every intersection (on the side streets), no stop signs or yield signs at these same locations (except near the elementary school), large trees that shaded the side-streets pretty well—so the lamp-light didn’t do much beyond the intersections where they were, and they weren’t always on. And, there was one section of town that just seemed to pull the dark around it, like a blanket at bed-time: The National Guard Truck Depot.
This particular spot was fenced off and fortified pretty well, but it just held onto the dark, like a beloved stuffed animal (a stuffed animal of stealth and mystery). Because it was near a corner of the block the streetlamp light did sort of show those approaching the fence—and its razor-wire topping. As for the rest of the facility, it was shadowy and creepy. And it was these very things that drew us to it on a regular basis—especially this particular night. See, there was fog.
While we were not prone to mischief, we were still attracted to it. And, a foggy night made the temptation to break into the depot so very, very much more so. I presume that this goes back to the whole bank break-in… But, I could be wrong. Anyway, there were nights that we would pass by the depot and just be so tempted to sneak in. We never wanted to take, or damage anything. It was always just one of those things we could say we did—when we were old and useless. So, with the added cover of fog, we altered our pathfinding-way towards the depot. And a nightmare.
As we approached the depot from the Northwest side, we noticed something unusual. The lamplight that normally hung over the streetcorner was out, but the lamplight that hung directly over the front gate was on. Odd. Still, we wanted to see if there was any way that we might be able to move into that military truck stop that night and have a memory to last us the rest of our lives. Well, we got half of our wish. The second half.
Here’s where it gets interesting. For those unacquainted with pre-internet and pre-Google 1990’s era, you had to see, or experience things to know it. Even if you read about it in a book (the kind filled with paper), you still may not fully understand things like ‘scale’, and how it affects, well… stuff.
As we approached the target zone Richard spotted something, something sinister. “Do you see that?” We stopped. We didn’t see it. But we felt its presence.
“What is it?” Then it happened.
Have you ever seen a spotlight shining on a subject? The subject and the immediate area are fully illuminated, but the area around the spotlight is still dark, yet it still has a slight haze about it that allows the viewer to sort of see what is near but not quite very clearly. Around the outside edges of the spotlight, there was no living thing. No person(s), no animal(s), not even some stray weeds in the gravel. But here it was, a living thing materializing out of the night’s void. A quadruped stepping into life, before our very eyes. A horse? No. Too small. A dog? No. Too big. What was it?
“What is that thing?”
There that shadowy animal stood, fully confident of what it could do (whatever that may be). The light not reflecting off its hide (whatever it may be). The ears were straight and pointy, like a horse. The body large and sturdy like a horse. The size, not as big as a full-grown horse. And, strangest of all: it made no noise as it walked into existence. I mean, this thing was large enough to be a small horse, yet the little horsies hoovsies didn’t go all clippity-cloppity, so, clearly, it was a demon animal. Duh. It had to be. No dog is that big. It was bigger than us.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “You’re an idiot.” (you referring to me, not me referring to you) “Clearly, that must have been something like a great dane.” And I hear you, I do. But, I grew up on Scooby-Doo, and he is not that big. So… whatever. Plus, it came out of nowhere. It literally just materialized into the spotlight. Like, as it walked forward, into the light, that’s when its body showed up. There was nothing outside the light. We would have seen it. We half-expected it to call out, “Zuul.” (and if you don’t understand why that’s terrifying, just stop reading right now. seriously, stop)
Once this demon animal—for clearly, it must have been—appeared before us, it stopped. It just stood there. Almost as if in warning. This mysterious materialized manifestation of a mongrel from the mist stood bold and proud. Nothing about it suggested it was alive (we did not see it breathing—remember the fog). It didn’t growl. It didn’t show that it was afraid of us (why would it be? it could have eaten all three of us in one bite anyway—and I mean all three at once, not one at a time). The beast just stood its ground. It wasn’t going to budge. We would have to yield.
“So, what do we do?”
“We’re gonna die, huh?”
“Only if it sees us.”
“It’s been looking right at us the entire time!”
“Fine. Then, only if it’s hungry.”
“How should I know?”
“How about you step forward and be the one to find out?”
And these were the whispered words we shared. To this day I am unsure of how much we were just messing with each other and how much we all felt the magnitude of the seriousness of what was clearly some sort of demon horse-dog monster come to destroy us. That ungulate mammal may or may not have been from this world, but one thing was for sure: We did not want to die that night.
The trembling trio that was us, just stood there, rooted to our own shadowy concealment. Which wouldn’t have really mattered at all, since dogs have a terrific sense of smell and this thing was clearly a Hell-spawned Teufel Hunden*. Or a demon horse (remember the size, and no clippity-clops). Suddenly, and without provocation, it disappeared.
Just as it has built itself into our reality from the dark, foggy surroundings, the monster-animal dissolved back into the ethereal nothingness of the fog-filled night. It had entered the spotlight from the West, and it left on the East. And, as it did so, the form just melted away. Once again, to be part of the night. Once again, to slither in and out of wherever it wanted. This thing was unnatural. It had to be! Just as the head moved to the edge of the light, it disappeared. And with each step, so did its body. Once it was all gone, we gained a little courage.
“Did you see where it went?”
“No. Did you?”
“Back into the inky blackness that is your soul. You moron. No, I didn’t see where it went. I didn’t even see where it came from. I can’t even hear it walking around. Clearly, it’s a demon-monster sent from Hell.”
“Agreed.” And then we turned around and went home.
From that night on, we would refer to that creature as the ‘Horse-dog’. And that night as the ‘utterly terrifying’. We would properly share and warn about the dangers of the Horse-dog. How silent it was. Its size. The malevolence that it did not show—but unmistakably could. How it could come and go through solid objects. The stuff of nightmares.
If some of you still insist that the mystery midnight creature was a great dane because a typical female can be anywhere from 28–32 inches tall, and a male can reach 30–34 inches, and they weigh in at about 99–130 lbs and 120–200 lbs (female, male respective), I tell you this thing was bigger! Also, it was not the last time we saw it. On a few other occasions, we would (either independently, or in group) see the horse-dog. And each manifestation was the same. It would materialize out of the shadowy or foggy night, into the light, no sound, no harm, then disappear into nothingness.
Believe it or not, I know what I saw.
Author’s Note: As if the beast knew, this very morning as I arose, I looked out my window to see an unexpected fog present. A fog just like the one that night, when the Horse-dog first appeared. It stayed almost all morning…
*Teufel Hunden: German for ‘devil dog’.