Flash Fiction Challenge: Guides

flash fiction prompt spenser and columbo wesley maine december 1994 COMP
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

When I came to, my car was in the ditch. Best I could remember, I swerved to miss a moose in the road. Luckily it wasn’t snowing – yet – but I was out in the middle of flipping nowhere. I checked the back seat: no food, no clothes, no luggage. Weirdest part of all was, I couldn’t remember where I had been headed.

I looked out the passenger-side window to see two large dogs peering in at me. They gazed at me like I should follow them, so I got out of the car and started staggering up the trail. From time to time they’d stop and wait for me. I hoped that there wouldn’t be far to go…

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17 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Guides”

  1. As I crumple up the hill, I can see we’re coming to a tiny cabin. What the heck it’s doing out here I have no idea. But then, I have no idea why I’m out here either. The bottom step is as far as I can get. The dogs, with one look back at me, go right on in.
    I feel hopeful. That lasted a couple more seconds until this…uhmm…person came out the door. He is big and beefy and smells about the same but the dogs don’t seem to mind. He looks at them and then at me.
    “What you doin’ here, boy?”
    I notice his shirt has a name on it. Just “Bob”. So I say, “Well, Bob, I don’t really know. I just followed your dogs.”
    “My dogs? What you talkin’ about?”
    I’m thinking this really is stupid. “The dogs sitting right by you.
    “Those aren’t my dogs. And why you callin’ me “Bob”?”
    Geez. “Because that’s the name on your shirt.”
    He looks down. “This ain’t my shirt.”
    “Well, whose shirt is it?”
    He looks at me like I’m stupid and says, “Well, I reckon it’s Bob’s!”
    I just shake my head. “Are those Bob’s dogs?”
    “Son, those ain’t dogs. Those is wolves. They’re always bringing roadkill up here.”
    “Then…is this heaven?”
    “Just a little piece of it, boy. Get in here and let’s take a look.”
    I get up and aim for the door. Turning, I take one last look back…just in case.

  2. The rocks poking at my foot would have to be endured, the pace of the dogs had gotten faster. Gradually increasing until we were trot. I endured the discomfort of a few more feet of ups,downs twists and turns, until I had no choice- slow down, maneuver on one hopping foot and shake out the culprit.
    Again, the dogs paused, stopping long enough to let me get near enough to see the irritation in their eyes. The unblinking stare and their deep throat growl a definite statement of authority, move on. This time the pace a little faster until they eventually, were out of sight.
    The earth around me all looked the same-bushes, grass, rocks, dirt. As I turned in a small circle, I could no longer tell where I entered or where I should leave and then I heard the voices. Odd sounds, hard to decipher. Not what I was used to hearing, but easy to understand.
    “Did you find him?”
    “Yes, he’s coming. You know him. Always lagging behind.”
    “One day, that fool will be the death of us all.” The largest of the dogs spoke to me when he saw me approaching. “Get over here, Jack.”
    I walked slowly into the circle of the pack. My tail and head lowered in submission. He was my leader and as usual, I’d disobeyed and gotten caught sleeping in the abandoned car.

  3. Half way up the hill, exhaustion over took me. I dropped on all fours. Suddenly a screeching sound came from the woods. The dogs began to growl. Pacing and looking out into the shadows they formed a protective circle around me. Snarling and barking, one of the dogs ran in the woods. A torrent of violence raged with a thrashing of branches, leaves, and bodies all ending in a bone chilling squeal.

    The dog returned to the trail and began walking up ahead again. As I lay there with fear’s grip holding me to the ground, they both looked back as if to say, “It is safe.” The scare brought on a new vibrancy to my exhausted being. I pushed on.

    We came under attack several times and each time the dogs did their duty. There was a definite purpose in the way they guided and protect me as if sent for me and having done this many times before.

    As we approached our destination, I could hear the steady, hypnotizing roar of a water fall. Finally arriving, the sun was setting and the reflection on the waterfall gave the appearance of liquid gold pouring down creating a pearly foam.

    The first dog passed through the water fall. I wondered why a dog would do that. The second walked up and looked back at me encouraging me to continue my journey with them.

    Suddenly it hit me. I followed my guides and passed from this life to the next.

  4. My head throbbed as I labored to follow the dogs. I don’t remember hitting my head, but then again, I don’t remember anything, at all. Even my name. Something makes me think I’d been curious about this trip, but I don’t know why. Where were my food, clothes or luggage? So many questions, but no answers. I had my phone, but no signal.

    I struggled to follow the two large dogs guiding me. But where? Then my eyes faded to black before I passed out. My head was still fuzzy when I came around. I was on one of the dog’s back, riding side saddle, without the saddle. My feet left a rut in the trail as they dragged in the dirt. The dog must have stood under me as I fell. I gratefully held the scruff of its neck as we continued onward.

    We cut through the forest and I spot a crystal clear waterfall hidden in a small canyon. The dogs walk right into the water leaving me to soak long enough for my head to clear. I remembered everything. I’d heard that this waterfall had healing powers, and being a skeptic wanted to check it out myself. I’d planned to print an expose in the newspaper putting an end to the nonsense.

    Then I see the waterfall’s handsome, but lonely caretaker. He and his dogs have protected it for centuries.

    “I’ve been waiting for you.”

    I melted into his arms knowing I’d never leave this mysterious place.

  5. A horrible groan of pain awakens me. It is a moment before I realize it was my own. Car wreck. Arms working, legs working, and I smell gas. Must get out. I check to make sure there’s no one else in the car. No, I’m alone.

    And then I see them. Two dogs. Whimpering, trying to get my attention. Where on earth…? I unfasten my seatbelt and crawl through the window. The dogs nuzzle me. Do I know them? Must get out of here. I follow them down a path. I hope it gets me to—to wherever I was going to. Or to someone who can help.

    They lope, then run, and I struggle to keep up. I fail. I fall. All goes black. When I come to, I don’t open my eyes. I feel a wet mouth against mine. Dog slobber. Good to fix anything, I think. The mouth pulls back.

    “Hey.” A voice breaks through my fog. “You awake?”

    I open my eyes now. Not dog. And I feel his breath and smell the smoke on him. A firefighter?

    “The dogs found you, and I…”

    “If I pass out again will you do that mouth to mouth thing?”

    He nods.

    I close my eyes, and I lose myself in his kiss.

    When I awake again, the long tongues of two dogs are washing my face.

    A dream. And then I feel his breath and smell the smoke on him. My boyfriend, the firefighter.

  6. ***FINALIST***

    My left leg hurt so I couldn’t move swiftly. I soon found myself feeling very fond of the kindly dogs.
    After a time, I stopped to rest on a boulder by the gravel road. An approaching vehicle rumbled toward us. The dogs sat sentry like, one either side of me. Their ears perked and their heads tilted as a rusty jeep appeared.
    Two men wearing orange vests stood with their guns poised on the roll bars while the driver navigated to a gentle halt.
    “Lucy, are you okay?” the handsome driver with friendly eyes asked.
    “Who are you?” I asked.
    “It’s okay, sweetie, let’s get you home,” the man said, helping me into the jeep.
    His two burly companions had set their rifles down and were chatting amiably.
    “Hey guys, see if you can limp her car home?” the driver asked.
    “Sure,” the tallest guy answered as both jumped out and headed back toward the car.
    The dogs leapt into the jeep when the driver called them by name.
    “Are these dogs yours?” I asked.
    “Yep,” he said.
    My brain was so foggy, I didn’t know whether to be scared or not.
    “Good thing we were hunting,” he said, “this logging road is rarely used anymore.”
    His calm hand movements as he shifted gears sparked a chord in me.
    “You are my husband!”
    Hot tears started down my face.
    “I am,” he said.
    “I have PTSD!”
    “Yes, you do, my sweetheart,” he said, “Yes, you do.”

  7. Knocked cold, car in a ditch, sun going down, no phone coverage, and following a pair of dogs. Bad dream, right? But that cold wasn’t a dream, and neither was the blood I dripped onto the snow. Besides, the dogs appeared to have a clue and I didn’t.

    I felt a tissue-soft caress, snow falling lightly on my face, and I hurried after them. I remember hurrying before the crash, too. Through the trees, I saw the cabin.

    The dogs raced past the place. I knocked on its lace-curtained, cracked window pane and heard a quiet, “Come in, Jerry.”

    “Mom?” I said, creaking the door open.

    “Could you get the fire going, Jerry? It’s awfully cold.”

    In the twilight, I tossed a couple of dusty pieces of firewood onto the hearth. I touched them off with my lighter and the yellow newspaper I found on the table.

    “Mom, you here?” I called out from the flicker. I only heard dogs barking in the distance and everything started getting darker. Then I felt that soft touch again, warm now, and turned to see that “It’ll-be-okay-now” smile.

    I never heard them bust in the door, only a Trooper saying, “You’re damn damn lucky, bud.” Then I think something about my wife. How I never made it to the hospital. Blood trail. Some crazy dogs they saw on the road where a car went into a ditch.

    Shepherds, just like Mom kept before she had me

  8. The golden grass was crisp beneath my feet. I wondered why domesticated dogs would be out here, in the middle of nowhere. Then, I thought maybe I should call someone. But – wait, did I even have a phone?

    As I continued following the dogs, I realized the air didn’t feel cold even though there were pockets of snow on the ground. Why wasn’t I wearing a coat? Did I have one? I searched my memory, but the details of the drive, and my life, were getting fuzzy. They were starting to dissolve away into a mist as if my memory was being detoxified. I started feeling lighter.

    “What’s happening?” I mumbled.

    The brown dog looked at the black one. “Boy, humans sure aren’t too bright, are they? How come they govern us?”

    An eyebrow raised, the German Shepherd replied, “How many times do I have to tell you, it’s a ploy. They think they’re in charge, but we are, really.”

    “Oh, right, right. I keep forgetting that.” He stuck his tongue out at the larger dog.

    Their words made sense to me even though they were delivered to my ears in flowing, musical notes. Suddenly, it was dark. The change was so abrupt it startled me. I began to feel uneasy, but then a comfort washed over me. Wait…was I dead?

    Just as we burst out into the light, I asked, “Am I going to hell?”

    A little, fluffy white terrier answered, “No, Eric. Didn’t you know? All dogs go to heaven.”

  9. ***FINALIST***

    Tails down, the Alsatians were wary. Why was I following them? Would it have been wiser to stay with the car?

    I like dogs? Yes. I trust animal survival instincts? That was it! Also… also this pair understood me, we had a bond.

    I stumbled on, my head doing roller coaster dips.

    In the thick, dark firs I lost my nerve. The pair led me off the trail into the dense growth. I stopped, lent on the coarse bark of a tree trunk. Where were they taking me, to their den, a freezing cave? I should turn back before it snows, before my tracks disappear. This was crazy.

    The female sniffed my hand, whimpered and nudged my leg with her moist nose, pushing me onward. “Trust us.” Her hazel eyes pleaded. I believed her and followed.

    We emerged from the trees behind a cozy looking cabin. I whooped at the sight of smoke from the chimney, a welcoming light glowing through the window. The male barked and inside someone moved. The door swung open.

    “Dave! I’ve been so worried. Where’s the car? What happened?” A gorgeous woman, just my type, flew into my arms talking non-stop. “The dogs were whining, scratching to go out. I’ve been out of my mind.”

    The smell of her hair triggered my memory. “Sorry Sue, they were out of ice-cream at the store and I crashed the car.” I patted our loyal pets and hugged my wife of 35 years.

    Then it snowed.

  10. ***FINALIST***

    The dog’s names reached me as we hiked. Chief, the large one on the left, and Bear, the brown on the right. Knowing their names had me asking myself of my own. It answered me instantly. Chuchip—best known as Chip. It was an aboriginal name, belonging me to the Sto:lo nation of British Columbia. The people of the river.

    A cold wind chilled my bones as I continued trailing Chief and Bear. I now remembered them as my dogs, and memories began filling the hollow corners of my empty memory. I had got them as puppies at the age of nineteen. They were a gift from Shania, my ‘then’ girlfriend who would later be my deceased wife. A car accident had stolen her from me.

    My memory knew the trail the dogs and I were walking. We lived here years ago, before I drove away from my people vowing not to return. So why was I here? Where was I being lead? My answer appeared outside a row of evergreens at the path’s end. The dogs ran ahead, greeted by all the people who had left me for the life beyond. Shania stood with my father and mother, smiling like she used to. My heart battered against my chest as I approached her.

    “Am I dead?” I whispered, staring in awe. I had missed that smile.

    My wife nodded. “Yes, but do not worry. He has brought you to us.”

    “What is this place?”

    Shania smiled again. “Home.”

  11. ***FINALIST***

    “So you followed the dogs along the track,” the detective said.

    “I followed them for maybe three miles, and they led me to a ramshackle house,” I replied. “The woman was inside.”

    “With the kid?”

    “Yeah, he was burning with fever and a belly ache. I guessed it was appendicitis. There was no husband, neighbors, or cellphone; nothing. She said we were four miles from the highway and twenty from town.”

    “And you decided to be a Good Samaritan.”

    “That’s one way to put it. I started walking. What else could I do?”

    “You carried the kid to the highway where a truck picked you up, and took all of you to the emergency room.”

    “Yeah. Ask the mother.”

    “Oh, I believe you. She thinks you’re a hero.”

    “A hero who’s being charged with murder.”

    “There’s enough evidence to charge you with the murder of your wife.”

    “But I’ve told you, I don’t remember having a wife, or even who I am.”

    “So you say, but we can prove that you’re John Winston, married until your wife was beaten to death in your home two nights ago. The neighbors say they heard you arguing most of the day.”

    “Then tell me why I would come back with that hanging over me.”

    “A murderer with nowhere to run, who saves a kid.”

    “You think that’s going to look good in front of a jury?”

    “You tell me, you’re the criminal defense attorney.”

  12. ***FINALIST***

    I am disoriented, I am tired, but I see a light in the distance as I follow the dogs. It appears to be coming from a small house.

    The dogs are once again waiting for me patiently. I stagger on again as the canines lead me towards the house.

    The man at the door is smiling as he says he is expecting me.

    Huh? How? I am too beat up to care.

    The house is sparsely furnished, spotless and neat. A grey-haired woman with a shawl wrapped around her, emerges from the kitchen with a plate of hot soup and fresh bread rolls. I am suddenly ravenous and eat without conversation.

    My hunger satisfied, I lean back in my chair, smile at my hosts and say, “Thank you. That was delicious. My name is Willard.”

    “Pleased to meet you, Willard,” says the man, without giving me his name. “Perhaps you would like to shower and rest tonight. You can attend to your car when it is light.”

    I shower and fall asleep almost immediately afterwards.

    The next morning I go to thank my benefactors. The house is empty.

    I step outside and walk towards my car. The car is no longer in the ditch but is parked by the side of the road.

    My guide dogs are not to be seen, although I hear a bark in the distance.

    A chilly wind blows against me as I start the car.

  13. I stagger up the hill following the dogs, hoping they well lead me to a safe place, perhaps a farmhouse in the area. My head is foggy and I’m surprised that I don’t recognize my surrounding considering I’ve lived in this area my whole life.
    My legs feel like rubber stumps as I stop to catch my breath. I begin coughing uncontrollably and panic as I notice the mixture of blood and phlegm lying on the snow before me.
    “Damn it,” I cry out loud. “I must be bleeding internally. I need to find help fast.”
    The dogs are stopped twenty feet ahead of me waiting for my next move. I continue up the hill towards them as my chest burns with each labored footstep.
    God please let there be help at the top of the ridge, I think. I can’t continue in this condition much longer.
    It seems like an eternity, but I finally reach the top of the ridge. The pain in my chest continues to intensify, but I take solace in the fact that for the first time I recognize my surroundings. I remember the white picket fence, the big oak tree and the stepping stones heading towards the gate. I see fresh flowers and hear the sound of birds singing.
    One of the dogs pushes the gate open and the other one leads me inside. I fall to my knees as I recognize my wife’s headstone and realize why I’m here.
    “Sweetheart I’m coming home.”

  14. “Did you ever wonder what they were thinking?” He looked back along the trail. The small group of man-caves, on the other side of the valley, was almost lost among the trees.

    “No.” She gave a low growl of contempt. It was yet another sign of his weakness. He was young and strong, but he would not remain Alpha if they joined with others. But for now… “I’m not sure they think at all. They have a certain cleverness. The tricks they do with their “machines” is impressive, but they have no real understanding. They know nothing of The Mother and The Way.”

    He loped up beside her. They had both rolled on the rotting remains of the horned grass eater, but the man-scent still clung to her fur. He found it reassuring. “I liked the room with wheels. When the invisible wall went away, and I could put my head out…”

    “Foolishness!” She nipped at his flank. “Scents whirring by, all blurred together. What could you make of it? Nothing!”

    But what could she expect. He had been born into their world, known only comfort.

    “I’m hungry” It showed in his posture and the odour of his breath.

    “Hunger sharpens the wits.”

    “We should hunt.” He suggested, hoping to appease her.

    “Not now. Don’t you sense it?” It was getting stronger, the strange smell seeping from the rocks, the prickle in the air, as if The Mother’s fur were standing on end. “The shaking will begin soon. Come.”

  15. How can something feel so unnatural and still so right? I limped along after my guides but never quite caught up. They stayed just out of reach. When they turned a corner in the path and disappeared behind the trees I was afraid they’d lured me past endurance.

    It took all my effort to make that bend. But the odours of the forest were keener now – my sight clearer too. And the pain receded with each step. Far ahead, they turned and waited.

    Come, you are expected.

    Those weren’t words exactly, but I understood. How? I sensed joy from them at my wondering. They urged me on with their steady gaze, turned and loped further into the forest. I increased my effort and found that I no longer limped. I had no time to ponder the changes – only revel in my new freedom, in how my muscles rippled and flowed beneath me. Beneath me?

    Come. The light will soon be gone. It will be too late.

    The urgency in their tone made me surge forward. That’s when I noticed the fur on my paws.

    Yes, this is who you were meant to be. Come. Run with us.

    When I caught up with my new family we leaped and rolled together with wild abandon, tongues lolling.

    Welcome home. There are no machines or barriers here. And no alien shape to hinder you.

    I always knew it. It was never comfortable. This is right – as it always was.

  16. I struggled to get free of the car. Fell out the window onto the hard packed snowy ground. Looked up and saw two dogs staring at me, their breath fogging up the air. They did what dogs do when they want you to follow – lunged forward, stopped, looked back and lunged forward again. What did I have to lose, I got up and struggled after them. They headed for a faint trail into the woods. Seemed like forever. Then I spotted a cave ahead – they headed straight for it. I had no choice, hoping it was somehow warmer inside. At least it would be out of the weather. I lurched into the dark interior. I saw eyes gleaming in the far recesses. A human approached and said ” Quick, get inside here before the full moon comes up”. I was bewildered and asked why. Don’t you know you were run off the road by a werewolf and bitten. Oh, that’s why my shoulder was hurting and blood was dripping down. I asked, are you a werewolf too and he laughed and said “No, I am the hunter and these are my two guides who lead newly made werewolves to me.” and with that he raised the gun with the silver bullets.

  17. The trail that the dogs led me on, wasn’t really a trail, not anymore. I had followed them for so long that I lost track of time, at least until twilight settled in on the foothills.

    Maybe I should have turned back, we were miles from the main road, the site of my crash. But it became a mission. I would see where the dogs were going or die. God that sounded so high minded. I didn’t know any better then.

    When I thought I couldn’t go any further, how many times had it been? The dogs stopped at the edge of a cliff. Don’t bother checking, it isn’t on any map. Not the cliff and definitely not the valley. We hadn’t crossed through any mists or any of the other markers you read about in books.

    I knew we were somewhere else. Maybe it was the sun on its early morning rise over the far edge of the valley. Or maybe it was the thought that I knew this place didn’t exist anywhere else. Or maybe, just maybe it was the girl that climbed up the side of the cliff to meet us.

    She wasn’t human, hell; I didn’t know what she was. I wasn’t ready to believe in fairy stories, at least not on the first day. But you know, my first day with Jana was the first day of my happily ever after.

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