Dog Man
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I am a coward and all I can really do is apologize for it. For what it’s worth, I do feel bad and I know I should have handled it differently, but I was scared.

Short background: I’m middle-aged, married, and have an ass-rape of a commute to work. I’m in security for a very, very large multinational corporation that you’d know the name of. Check doors, put out fires (sometimes literally) and generally keep the place working. The pay is nice, people generally don’t suck, and I like it. The stumbling block of this is my commute, nearly two hours of driving one way, through the worst kind of bumblefuck nowhere for most of it. The place I work is a massive facility, and most of the surrounding area is purposefully undeveloped, aside from a tiny town about a half hour away. What’s worse, this is in northern Michigan.

If you’ve never been in the woods of northern Michigan, they are the forest primeval, to say nothing about the dreamtime that is the Upper Peninsula. It is not at all strange to see massive bear, herds of deer, some truckload of drunk lunatics, or some heavily armed folks working their way quietly to a still. The roads are dark, narrow, and poorly traveled, and with me working second shift, it’s not uncommon for me to go the entire drive home, starting out around 11:30 at night, and not see one single car. It’s lonely, sometimes spooky, and when the weather gets bad it’s almost impassable. The trees are so thick they screen off curves like a brick wall, and you can barely see twenty feet into the wood on either side.

What I’m saying is it’s not strange to see weird shit. You mark it and just drive on. It’s probably not what you thought it was anyway.

Anyway.

So I was driving home some time in the middle of summer. Just warm enough to be uncomfortable, which the trees trap and turn into a greenhouse. I typically keep the windows up and just run the AC, but I wanted some air after fielding several meetings about various policy crap. It wasn’t so bad if you kept the speed up, I had some old rock song on the radio I was half listening to and mumbling along with, brain already halfway home…just a normal night. There’s a couple of long, straight sections that end in these tight little whipsnap curves, and you need to be careful because there’s about a eight-ish foot deep ditch on the inside, and a wall of old pines on the outside. Seen a few cars get stuck or smashed up there. It’s not a deathtrap, but you need to be aware. I typically don’t have an issue with it, and just breezed through it, rolling a little left of center. I mean there’s never anyone out here. It wasn’t a big deal. It was when I got around the curve that I saw it.

I honestly didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. I thought for a second either a deer had been hit and was just crippled right on the edge of the road, or for some insane reason someone had decided to just sit and watch the trees, on the edge of the road, in the middle of the night. I thought it’d been hit because of the…skin? Or lack of it, honestly I still don’t know. It was hunched up, like someone squatting down to look at something, like a person, but it wasn’t. It was either caked in blood, or it didn’t have any skin, and it was naked, or at least I didn’t see any clothing. Its back was covered with spines, like a porcupine. it might have been matted hair, or both, but they looked like two or three foot quills. I didn’t see the face right then. Its arms and legs were wrong, like jointed funny. Like how dogs' legs are. It smelled like rusty coins and rotten skunk.

I stared at it for a heartbeat, then realized I’d been drifting nearly to the other side of the left lane, and had to yank the wheel back. I must have made a noise, or maybe it was just the car whipping back around, but that…thing, it suddenly looked up and I saw that face in the rearview.

It wasn’t even really a face, except for the eyes.

Just teeth. Masses of teeth, like someone took a dog's face, skinned it, and just shoved teeth in to it every which-way until you couldn’t see muscle anymore. There was a mouth there, at least it split open like one, and it gave off this godawful hissing squeal, it sounded like a rabbit or a fox dying, instead of something as big as a person. The eyes though, god. More then the teeth or that scream, or what was hanging off its hand-hooks, those eyes looked like a person. I swear on anything you want to put in front of me, that thing had a pair of bright blue eyes in the middle of that mashed up tooth-face. Hands were long and hooked, holding something torn to bits. It rattled too, I think, like a snake, maybe it was the quills. Ribs folding and unfolding like one of those Chinese fans. Those fucking eyes though. I looked right into them, through the mirror, and I knew whatever the fuck else that thing was, it was angry, and angry at me. I could tell, because of the eyes, and it pointed with that finger-hook at me when it screamed.

I screamed, it screamed, I hit the gas and blew out of the woods doing 88 in a 45. It's a miracle I didn't get stopped, I almost wanted to. Honestly, though, I didn't know what I would have said, but it would have been nice to have someone else around, especially one with a gun. I couldn't process everything, and by the time I got home I'd convinced myself it was all a dream, road hypnosis, all that stuff. I've nodded once or twice at the wheel before, exhaustion does weird things to people. I was pretty shook up either way, and took a couple days off. I'd been meaning to anyway, so it was fine. I just…stayed home. That's why I didn't see the crack until Monday.

Just a little thing, like what you get when a good-sized stone comes off a gravel truck in front of you, a little bigger then a silver dollar. It was smashed into the rear window, though, not the front, and was cracked so deep it nearly made a hole in that thick safety glass. I was trying to figure out when and how it happened, and trying not to remember, when I looked at that little ridge at the base of the window and it all came slamming back like remembering a missed school assignment.
There was some kind of ten inch quill just laying in the gap at the base of the window frame. The tip looked like it'd broken off.


I told you I'm a coward and I meant it. I got a stick and brushed that quill off, kicked it off into the brush beside my driveway, and worked on convincing myself it'd been a stick or something. I saw a injured animal at best, or just some splintered bit of tree, and my half-asleep mind made up the rest. No monster with a face made of tooth-cancer threw a quill dead center at the back of my head. Just a stupid dream, and nothing else. And for the last six or so months, that's what I believed. I buckled once, and looked up “Michigan monsters”, saw some stuff about mutants and dog people, but nothing like this. So I decided to forget about it. It happened, now it was over. Then a couple days ago, Lee went missing.

Lee's a working stiff like me, but lives in town and has a much shorter drive. Apparently he was on his way home, taking the same road I do, and something happened. At first they thought he'd just lost control, turned over the car and gotten thrown out or wandered off in a daze. Now, they're more worried. They found fabric that matches his clothes, all shredded, high up in the trees. Blood, too, lots of it, but no Lee. They don't think it's an accident now either. The side of his truck was peppered with holes. Like someone had opened up on it with a machine gun, but the holes are a little too big to be bullets. More the size of a silver dollar.

I'm a coward, and the defining trait of that is being scared, and I am. I don't know what to do. I'm scared to think about what might have happened to Lee. About what a whole salvo of quills like the one I found could do to a car. Or a person. I'm scared to think about the noises I've been hearing around my trash cans for the last few days. I'm scared to let myself remember where I've heard that rattling before. I'm just scared, and a coward.

Because I'm a coward, I'm calling off work tomorrow. Because I'm a coward, I'm not going to try and find out what's been making that scratching noise near my shed lately.

Because I'm a coward, I might just try and find a work-from-home job.

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