Rainy Night Blogfest for Christine over at The Writer's Hole
From my unpublished novella, Dark Woods. Henry is about 10 years old.
The rain began late that night, a quiet shower dripping from the treetops. No lightning or thunder interrupted the steady patter of droplets against the leaves and Henry's blue tarp. The rain fell straight down in the stagnant air. Water sizzled in the fire and on the burning summer ground, hard and hot as pavement.
Henry huddled beneath the tarp with the dogs on either side of him. He sat cross-legged and used the Army shovel to hack a deeper water trench around his sleeping area. Despite its calm nature, the rain was actually a downpour, and puddles accumulated around Henry and filled up his fire pit.
Henry wished he'd brought some fire wood under his tarp. He wished he'd set up a fire pit closer to the tarp, or better yet, beneath the tarp. But the tarp barely covered him and the dogs. He wished he had a larger tarp. He wished he had a flashlight that worked, or even a lantern he could light.
He wished he had matches to light the lantern.
Satisfied with the water trench around him and the dogs, Henry watched the fire die down and the fire pit fill with water. Two charred crawfish shells floated to the edge of the fire pit and crept toward the trees atop a flowing puddle of gray ash. The ping-sizzle of the raindrops died off into a muddy slap, taking with it the last remaining light. Darkness wrapped around Henry so thick he could barely tell his eyes were open.
Henry couldn't see much, but he could hear. The rain ebbed and flowed, and after a while began to let up, and that's when he heard the squealing. The dogs had perked their ears long moments before, hearing the things only dogs can hear, and Whiskey raised his head and issued a few warning growls, but the rain had masked the sounds Henry now could hear.
Henry heard a raucous screech followed by a few deep thumps that he could feel in the ground below him. The screams of pain, heavy grunts of anger. Nothing in the darkness moved, and Henry could barely see to the edge of his camp.
Henry wrapped his hands around the .30-30 rifle, flicking the safety on and off as he waited to see if it would come nearer.
Whiskey stood and shook his coat, splattering Henry's cheek and arm with flicks of mud. The dog growled deep in his chest. Henry saw the spiked outline of the dog's rustled hair standing on end along his spine, his tail low but not between his legs, just out of the way, his flanks wound tight and ready to spring. Scotch stood and wagged his tail and barked once and then licked the splatter marks off Henry's cheek.
The rain drizzled through the treetops in an unsteady buzz. Henry heard clumping footsteps that became wet and sloshy as they grew nearer to Henry's camp. They were hooves, he could tell from the clopping sound they made against the roots, and large, more than one set of hooves, two or three maybe, overlapping as they navigated the dark woods. He felt the hooves pound against the forest floor. Sharp cries of pain issued forth from the underbrush, something crashing through the briars and thorns and cracking limbs beneath its feet.