The dog howled, not barked, howled. Then stopped. The noise was preferable to the sudden silence.
Inside the vacation cabin, Thomas held an open book on his lap. It made him look like he was reading. Sue stopped in mid-knit.
“The dog?” she finally questioned her husband.
“I better check on him,” Thomas said, closing the book and putting it on the new end table made to look rustic. “Probably got his foot stuck somewhere.”
Sue rose when her husband did. “Wait. The dog would still be howling if it was only his foot.”
Thomas smiled. “Would it help if I took the gun?”
Sue laughed. They didn’t own a gun. The only thing they used to shoot anything were cameras. Thomas and Sue loved nature and loved their yearly trip to the mountain cabin. This year, they hadn’t been able to make it until October 31 but they figured that would be okay because they might see something different at this season. To start, they enjoyed the beautiful fall colors.
“I think you need to be cautious,” Sue said. “It could be a bear.” Her smile faded when she realized the dog could very well have been killed by a bear.
“Let me call the dog from the window.” Thomas walked over to the kitchen window and opened it. A chill air came in. “Zoom,” he called. There was no answering bark or whine.
“Zoom!” he called louder, but there was still no response from their pet Saint Bernard.
Now Thomas was worried. Zoom usually stayed near the cabin. His interests tended toward nosing around the clearing, not wandering away. Thomas closed the kitchen window and walked into the bedroom. Over his shoulder, he told Sue, “Let’s not get worried yet. Maybe Zoom chased a skunk. I hope we have a lot of tomato sauce.” He laughed, trying to calm himself and Sue.
Thomas kept the light off in the bedroom and looked out the window. The moon, though it wasn’t full, still lit up the mountain clearing. Mist moved along the ground and through the trees. It wasn’t too thick to see the yard. Zoom wasn’t in it, but Thomas opened the window anyway to call for the dog. A cold breeze and bits of mist entered and swirled around the bedroom.
“Sue,” Thomas called to his wife as he closed the window and walked back to the front room, “let’s both call Zoom from the front porch.” He saw Sue out of the corner of his eye by the east window. He opened the front door, letting in more cold air and more mist. “Come on,” he told Sue.
But before he stepped out the door, Sue made a strange noise. Thomas finally looked at his wife.
She looked at him with terror in her eyes. Mist swirled in front of her, almost creating an opaque wall between them. He couldn’t see what terrified her but his heart began to pound harder.
“Sue,” he spoke slowly, “can you come here, please?” She shook her head slightly. “Sue, it’s just mist. Come through it.” She closed her eyes tightly and shook her head again.
The mist was swirling closer to her now. Sue gasped and Thomas saw blood well up on Sue’s arm. She shrank in, making her body smaller, trying to keep further away from the mist. Another tendril of vapor whipped out, lashing her cheek. Blood flowed to her chin.
The sight of the blood put Thomas into motion. Without thinking, he strode towards Sue and the mist. He was ready to put his arm through it, grab Sue and haul her away from the fog. The two of them might be bleeding but they needed to get away from this evil. But as he reached towards Sue, the fog parted. He took her hand and turned to leave.
Thomas stumbled back against his wife. The mist had gone around him, enclosing them both. Thomas could now see what he could not a moment ago. There were gruesome faces glaring at him. Now and then a hand formed in the mist and each hand he saw held a knife. One lashed out towards him and blood oozed through his sleeve. Sue was sobbing against his back. He leaned into her, trying to protect her body with his.
When they first started coming to the cabin, they had laughed when they read the legend of the Stuart gang, a band of murderous thieves from the early 1800s who had disappeared into these woods October 31, 1811 and had never been seen again. No one was sad about that; no one ever looked for them again. Thomas and Sue were the first to see them in two hundred years.
Another slash through his leg caught Thomas off guard. He was seriously bleeding now. He would die but perhaps he could save Sue. Turning, Thomas leaned on Sue and brought her to the floor in a heap, covering her as much as possible.
“No,” she said, realizing what was happening. “We’ve got to run.”
“Can’t,” he said simply, wearily.
“Zoom!” Sue yelled. “Zoom! Zoom! Help!”
The misty Stuart gang stopped at her plea for help. As if hearing something out of the range of humans, they turned their heads towards the door.
Sue looked under her husband’s arm and saw their faithful dog snarling with all his teeth showing, his fur down his back standing on end. Zoom leaped through the mist to their aid. He faced the evil vapor and bit at it. The dog was winning. The faces in the mist reacted as if Zoom’s teeth harmed them. He barked, snarled and bit, backing the Stuart gang out the front door and away into the woods, never leaving the porch. When the mist disappeared, Zoom trotted into the cabin and nosed the door closed. Then the massive dog plopped himself in front of the door and gave a cross between a happy bark and a concerned whine. It sent Sue into action.
She helped Thomas into a sitting position with his back against the wall. Reaching into her knitting basket, she pulled out a half-finished scarf and tied it around the wound on his leg that was still bleeding. “Can you get up? We’ll get you to the hospital.”
With Sue’s help, Thomas stood but when they took a step towards the front door, Zoom growled.
After a brief moment, Thomas said, “It’s safer to stay for the night.” He eased himself to the couch.
Sue agreed with him. “I’ll get some wet towels and the first aid kit.” She disappeared down the hall, turning on every light as she went.
Two hours later, the adrenaline was gone and their wounds were dressed. They fell asleep together on the couch, near their dog.
Once they slept, Zoom lay down and turned into mist.