‘Your past makes you who you are today, It does not define who you will become tomorrow.’
- Before the Dogs – 6
- Hunting the Hunters – 15
- The Day of the Dogs – 27
- Razar – 43
- The girl in the Canyon – 51
- Away from the Canyon – 76
- Return to the Canyon – 97
- The Man from Within – 111
- Small Town Deaths – 128
- Silence Talking – 134
- Adventure away from the Canyon – 148
- Yobo & Razar – 162
- Far from the Canyon – 167
- The Dogs of the Canyon – 193
- Two years on – 197
- The Wedding – 217
- The Final return to the Canyon – 233
- Epilogue – 253
Chapter One – Before the Dogs
Ten years ago, Wild Dog Canyon was not a terrifying place, nor was it called Wild Dog Canyon. Instead, it was a local recreation and picnic area known as Sep’s Canyon and located snugly between the tiny towns of Rumble and Mann. Over the years these tiny towns had become isolated from the world and forgotten, but to the residents of the towns, they still proudly remained part of the United States of America. They lay nestled, amongst gently rolling fertile farmland and virgin forest.
The Canyon was only about two miles long and in places it became narrow. The Mann River hugged the left side of the steep black shale rock wall, as it meandered through the canyon. It was deeper within the walls and because it was a lazy river, some areas were ideal for swimming and diving into its cool depths. The river was much shallower as it skirted the Villages of Mann and Rumble and often during the summer months when the rains didn’t arrive, it would stop flowing altogether.
Over time, small ledges formed on the walls of the Canyon; it was on these ledges that desperate, spindly trees and flowers grew, making a stark contrast against the black rock. The road through the Canyon was narrow and winding; it was once a dirt track, until several years ago, the state briefly remembered the two tiny towns and sealed the road. Since then, motorists used it as a short cut to their destinations. By going through Mann and Rumble you could save yourself driving nearly fifty miles on the state highway. Sep’s Canyon also proved a popular resting area during a long trip. Within the canyon the young village boys enjoyed exploring several caves and large holes. The largest cave was known as Plogg’s Cave, due to the fact that Plowman Plogg’s great grandfather said he had discovered it when he was just a boy. Plogg’s Cave had a tall mouth and high ceiling and it continued on about twenty feet into the rock before stopping. Parents thought it a safe place for their children to play. The second cave was known as Rock Cave and boasted a smaller opening with many tunnels running off under the rock; they went on for a short distance, getting ever smaller in height as they disappeared off into the darkness, and abruptly ended. Mainly the older adventurous boys in the area used Rock Cave.
Green’s Hole was not really a cave at all, but rather a large hole under the ground. Not many ventured near as the entrance was only about four feet round and located at the far end of the Canyon, close to the village of Rumble. Most of the villagers had heard rumours that the many underground holes went on for miles and some said they came up outside the Canyon, into local farmers’ fields. Although this was supposedly only a myth, no one had ever found just which farmer owned the exit to Green’s Hole, or if they did know, they secret had been kept for for centuries. It was not encouraged to explore Green’s Hole, the entrance was narrow and over- grown, while the inside was damp and dark.
The Canyon was once a place where families enjoyed idyllic Sunday’s picnicking beside the Mann River. It was a place where fathers took their small boys fishing for the first time. Youngsters learned to fly a kite, while close by, there parents dozed under the warmth of the sun.
The lush grass and tall shady trees were a perfect place for boys to practise football or baseball, while young girls could daydream about things they thought important, or simply life in general. Within the Canyon walls, lovers looked deeply into each other’s eyes yearning for an intimate touch, or eagerly planning their wedding day and the new life that would follow.
Sep’s canyon was a place of tranquillity and beauty untouched by major civilisation. The only changes it knew were the change of the seasons, the bright spring flowers, juicy new grass and the cherry, orange and apple blossoms. The Canyon knew the warmth of the summer sun and the chilly air that followed the harsh winds, which stripped the leaves from the trees in fall. Those were the only changes that affected the canyon and the local residents lived an easy life as farmers, small business owners or shopkeepers. While slowly through the years, the tiny towns grew from just a handful of residents to a few hundred; Rumble now boosted a two-roomed elementary school where children could have an education while staying close to their families, until they left in their teens for the larger towns and further education.
Nearly everyone was related. Folks seldom travelled and tourists visiting the towns never stayed for long. It was easy to tell what town you came from as the residents of Mann had names beginning with ‘M’ while those from Rumble started with ‘K’. As each couple married they were allowed to change their name slightly, so long as the first letter remained the same. This way they felt less like close relatives and more like a real couple. It was a silly idea and no one knew just how it had begun, although almost everyone followed through with the tradition after they married, and now it had become just ‘the way.’ With the slow but steady population growth the towns became real and you could now locate both Rumble and Mann on the latest maps.
That was ten years ago! Somehow over the years there had been a change, it was barely noticeable at first, gradual and slow, but now, ten years on, Sep’s Canyon was a forgotten memory and Wild Dog Canyon a reality, a frightening reality that broke up homes and families and destroyed life. Wild Dog Canyon fed on death.
Wild Dog Canyon lived up to its name. It was a canyon inhibited by hundreds of wild dogs. They roamed freely and scavenged. The small animals and rodents that once lived there had long ago become an easy meal for the dogs, and even the birds had flown a safe distance away. At night, the sound of hungry howling dogs echoed on the wind, sending chills down the spines of all those in hearing distance.
Fighting amongst the many breeds of wild dogs was common; they were starving, crazy and savage beyond imagining. Their fights were short and swift. Before a loser was obvious; the pack would turn, and the weakest was attacked. Quickly the dog was torn to shreds and devoured; nothing remained, no fur, no skin, nothing. And then there was silence; silence in the night while the meagre meal was digested. The strongest and biggest dogs getting the larger portion and eating first, the smaller dogs slinking in afterwards and stealing any flesh they could safely scavenge, before licking the ground clean so not even a scent remained.
The dogs had so far been contained within the Canyon walls. But once they started attacking livestock and pets at night, Sheriff McGordon, a large, fearless hulk of a man, knew it was necessary to take action. He had gotten the local men together to hunt the dogs. The twenty strong young men were armed with ‘walkie talkies,’ rifles and pistols. Not one of the men had seen active service or been in the armed forces, so they relied heavily on the Sheriff’s knowledge and closely followed his commands. They were all heavily briefed and had practised their aim for several weeks, before venturing forth amongst their unknown enemies. No one knew how many dogs lived within the Canyon walls. Nor did they understand how wild and hungry the dogs were. But they soon understood how a dog’s hungry belly could cause them to be wily, and cunning and very dangerous towards any strangers who entered their territory.
On the morning of the hunt, the twenty men quietly entered Wild Dog Canyon. Dressed in camouflage and with their faces darkened, they moved with stealth, hid in the shadows, watched and waited. For all their efforts to stay hidden their scent flowed on the breeze and the enemy knew immediately that they were there.
After half an hour they were deep inside the Canyon’s walls, but had seen nothing – no movement, no dogs, nothing – and gradually they let down their guard and relaxed slightly as they moved slowly forward. Prof Meters was a young father of two. He was on the far side of the hunting party; somehow he’d ventured slightly too far away from the others. He crouched quietly behind a large oak tree and surveyed his surroundings; all was tranquil and quiet just like it had been when he was a boy and used to enjoy the weekends fishing in the river. He removed his hat, wiping the sweat from his brow. The day was humid, the air heavy and the heat from the sun, high over head, relentless.
It was then Prof saw the dog; it stood on its own about ten feet to his left. It looked like a golden retriever with its shaggy golden coat and lean body. The dog was not looking at him, so he assumed it didn’t know he was there. Prof watched as it lazily grazed on some grass, much like a sheep or farm cow. Apart from being painfully thin, it looked like the family pet, and to Prof, quite harmless. How could he shoot a defenseless creature like that? Maybe it had ventured away from a loving family; perhaps it belonged to a stranger passing through the Canyon. After all, a dog was supposed to be man’s best friend. Prof stayed where he was and watched, unaware that his fellow hunters were moving in the opposite direction. Prof thought of taking the dog home for his kids. Most of his friends already had pets, although they’d decided to wait until the kids were slightly older, but why wait? This dog looked friendly and perhaps he could save its life by taking it home with him now.
Prof had not seen any other dogs so he moved from his hiding place, crouching low as he approached the golden dog. He moved slowly at first, and then he stood up to his full height and walked faster toward the dog. It stopped eating grass and watched his approach with wary eyes; Prof’s gun was slung loosely over his shoulder. He moved closer to the large golden dog with the wary, proud brown eyes.
Prof was now several feet from the dog; it stood watching him intently but it didn’t move as he approached. Prof squatted down so he was at eye level with his potential new pet. He coaxed the dog toward him with soothing words. It was then Prof felt the hairs on the back of neck raise and he knew instinctively, even before he turned, that danger was near. The low growls were barely audible and the only noise in the heavy silence of the Canyon. He hadn’t heard them approach. How could he not hear anything? But he hadn’t. Slowly he looked over his shoulder and saw a wall of snarling mouths. Saliva dripping from yellowed bared teeth, as the largest pack of dogs he’d ever seen surrounded him. More and more dogs silently appeared and together they moved swiftly toward him.
Prof only managed to scream once as he grabbed his gun and haphazardly fired a shot into the air. Then the sharp teeth savaged his flesh, immediately overpowering his body. Pain seared through his body and in that moment he knew only utter and hopeless fear. As the many filthy teeth sank deeply into his living flesh, Prof’s world went into darkness…
By the time nineteen men arrived and began firing at the pack of rabid dogs, hardly anything was left of the handsome father of two. All they found was a shoe and part of his mutilated skull. The dogs ran swiftly into the trees. Shots rang out – only one dog fell but before it could be retrieved, many dogs dragged it swiftly into the undergrowth. Sheriff McGordon and his men were shocked, they had no idea there was so many dogs and wondered how this could have happen and also, just how it had happened?
The remaining men had terrified expressions on their faces but with wide, scared eyes they moved onward. Their demeanour was nervous, anxious and fearful. The men were in shock from what they had just witnessed, and several murmured they wanted to leave. Sheriff McGordon felt the same fear, but his military training had taught him to guard his emotions; he didn’t show his men the terror he was battling inside. Somehow the Sheriff managed to gain their trust and again hold his men under control; he urged them to move forward and follow the dogs. Once his orders were spoken, again some wanted to retreat, leave the Canyon, and go home to protect their loved ones while they still could. However, they didn’t want to go alone and after more coaxing, together they moved forward. The deathly silence was frightening, as staying close the men crept together in the direction of the retreating dogs. No birdsong, no shuffling of small animals in the undergrowth – just the smell of death, the clinging humidity, hot sun and, the silent enemy.
They were moving deeper into the heavy forest of the Canyon now, deeper than Sheriff McGordon had intended, but now the enemy had taken one of their own; the Sheriff knew it was war. He had once been a military man, and for him, it was not just about the enemy, but rather the battle the enemy presented. The thought of victory was something he had long yearned for. He intended to win the fight before the outside world knew it had begun, or became aware of the danger it presented. Then, Sheriff McGordon knew he would be a hero. He had missed out once on the honours he so deserved and he was not about to let it happen again. He could almost hear the praise of the townsfolk and the world. He focused again on the immediate challenge before encouraged his small band of men to move onward.
The scream of the next man down was ear piercing, but lasted only a few second. Guns fired, the sharp short blaze of gunfire momentarily lit the darker area of undergrowth they were now in. Fangs were glimpsed, growls heard, and the occasional howl as a dog was felled. Sheriff McGordon thought the dogs would retreat fast at the sound of gunfire. Sheriff McGordon thought he knew animals and dogs very well. They were usually easily scared by loud noises. Quickly he surveyed the scene around him, as the bloodied bodies of four of his men who appeared to be still alive, were quickly devoured by a pack of hunger, angry dogs.
The pack of dogs was so large and hungry it was terrifying. Sheriff McGordon turned as a large grey dog with a wide muscled chest and huge jaws leaped for his throat. He fired and the dog dropped in its tracks as another immediately took its place and leapt for his throat. Six of his men were visible and still battling to shoot the wild dogs. He knew they would soon need to reload and when they did they wouldn’t stand a chance. As the dogs attacked he was horrified to hear the men’s screams of terror, see their flesh torn from their bodies and then watch, as the men he knew so well, the men he had grown up with, was related to, were quickly devoured. Once they lay on the ground they were immediately hidden from view by the savage dogs salivating for a taste of warm human flesh. Their only focus was the feeding frenzy, as the many snapping jaws of the wild dogs hungrily ate.
“Retreat, retreat now! Move out, keep firing” The Sheriff yelled above the noise and starving scavengers. At first, his men didn’t appear to hear him and then the ones who were still standing began to run, so fast they almost ran him down. Quickly he followed, knowing the dogs might give chase. Soon, he prayed the hungry dogs would not leave an easy meal for one they had to catch.
Together they ran blindly on – driven by fear, and loathing of a sight that would never leave them. Sheriff McGordon was the only one looking over his shoulder, and he managed that just twice. Several smaller dogs appeared to run alongside him, so he changed direction and ran faster.
It was a terrifying day. A day from hell. A day neither town would forget and for the seven surviving men and their Sheriff, it was a day they never wanted to remember. The growling, screaming and howling would haunt them all their days, and when they closed their eyes, became the stuff their worst nightmares were made of. However, the worst had not yet begun. The dogs of Wild Dog Canyon now had a taste for human flesh!