I am in my thirties, a husband, and the father of three beautiful children. Our little family lives in in the countryside of Wyoming, just outside a small town that will remain nameless. The nearest neighbor to our property is about a 10-minute drive; I value seclusion and quiet. I have nearly two dozen security cameras installed around my land, as I know being this far removed from populated areas can sometimes invite danger. My two oldest, girl-15 and boy-14, are very well practiced with their own rifles. My youngest, boy-9, just began his training. My wife is a better shot than me, and I used to be a scout sniper in the Marines. We also have three very protective huskies that weigh a good 45lbs each. All this might make you think that we’re well prepared to defend ourselves and our land should the need arise, and I would’ve agreed. But I really couldn’t have been more wrong. There is no way to prepare for what destroyed my family.
I work as a project manager for a well-established local construction company in town. The commute is consistently about an hour each way, as traffic is never really a problem here. The school my children go to isn’t far from my office, and my wife stays home; she has a rare type of bone cancer that prevents her from moving about too much. She’s a pretty talented painter and sometimes sells them online to supplement our income, but only if she wants to; my salary is substantial. My days would start at 7am, and I’m usually home around 6pm, depending on my workload. The company had just started a contract with a massive chain of retailers, and I’d been assigned to handle the deal, which meant long hours for a while. My wife called me during one of these office late nights, saying that there’s a kind of weird howling coming from the woods near our house. She said it didn’t sound like any animal she’d ever heard, almost like a human that is trying to sound bestial, and that it had been going on for nearly an hour now. I told her that I was on my way and to call the cops and just stay inside with the doors locked. I drove home as fast as I could without crashing, cutting the normal hour down to 30 minutes. The cops were already there talking to my wife. She told them about how the howling sounded manmade and that it stopped as soon as the cruiser lights were visible from the kitchen window.
They told us that they’ll have a look around and send a call out to fish and game, who would likely arrive in the morning. Wild animal attacks are infrequent and avoidable, but communities like ours take the threat of violent drifters very seriously. The forest boundary was about 1000 kilometers away from the house, and my wife and I watched from the porch as the police poked through the trees with bobbing flashlights. They came back a short while later and said they hadn’t found anything unusual. I thanked them for their efforts, and we headed back inside just after 9pm.
Our three barking dogs woke me up at around 3am, and I could hear the howling that drove them nuts. It was a lot closer to the house than the tree line, and it was definitely coming from a human.
I shook my wife awake and told her to head to get our youngest and the dogs and get down to the basement. Our older two were spending the night with friends. She dialed 911 and stamped down the hall as I threw on a jacket and grabbed my rifle. I determined the sound to be coming from around our shed, which was about 100ft from the back porch. I charged out the door just as the voice began to growl and fired a shot into the air, screaming for whoever it is to “get gone or get dead!” The growling immediately turned to a cackling, manic laughter, and tore off from behind the shed and towards the woods. I tried to track the sound with my rifle, but couldn’t see a damned thing in the darkness, the laughter soon fading into the trees.
The cops arrived about an hour later and took my statement. We looked at the footage from all my cameras, but whatever it was that was lurking around out there managed to remain in blind spots. They said it was probably some young troublemakers messing with us, likely city folk out here for a binging campout. They’d been known to terrorize the locals when all liquored/drugged up. It made sense, and I told them if I catch the punk doing it, they’re getting a bullet to the a*s. The police did their usual evidence collecting procedures and stationed an officer outside our house for the night. I couldn’t take off work during this new deal and stopped by the officer’s cruiser before heading out. He said he hadn’t seen or heard anything all night and that the call to fish and game was cancelled since it was concluded to be a person hounding us and not an animal. He said they’re going to poke around the woods again that day, but he doubts the punks will be coming back.
My wife called me at 6pm to tell me one of our dogs, Ku, had vanished. She said our kids took them on a walk after dinner, as was our usual routine, and that Ku started acting weird and took off. Our huskies are very loyal and territorial; they’d never run off on their own, nor would they ever abandon each other or our kids. They came back and told her what happened, and she told them not to go running off into the woods until I get back, but my oldest daughter and son are extremely attached to our dogs. They refused to wait, despite my wife and I forbidding it. I sped home again, carving five more minutes off my record, and found my son and daughter sitting on the porch, looks of pure terror on their shaking faces. My mother was screaming at them for going towards the woods, and they just sat there with blank stares.
My son and daughter said that they got near the woods and scanned around with their rifles, calling out for Ku with long pauses between to listen. They eventually heard a stream of hoarse giggling coming from somewhere, followed by mimicked barking. My son yelled for whoever it was to come out and fired a shot at a tree; that’s when the dog collar hit him in the face. Neither of them saw who or what threw the collar or from where, only that it came straight through the trees and nearly knocked him to the ground. My daughter said she distinctly heard footsteps dart further through the trees as she helped her brother stand, the same howling from the first night fading in the distance. Once they realized that Ku’s collar had been what hit him, they ran back home as fast as they could. My wife and I agreed to send our two oldest to stay in town with friends, and our youngest to stay with a relative. We called the cops and gave our oldest the key to my beater truck. I told her to drop off her sibling and head straight to where she was going.
About a dozen cops showed up this time, and they were all armed with AR-15’s, rifles, shotguns, and toting two police canines. They used spotlights to illuminate the otherwise pitch-black night, standing online and scouring towards the forest. I was allowed to grab my rifle and go with them, as long as I agreed not to shoot unless being shot at. We looked for three hours and didn’t find a thing, not even Ku’s dog collar. Another squad car was stationed outside our house for the night, and I finally turned in at about 1am.
The next morning, I leashed both my other dogs and took them out in the morning. We walked by the sleeping officer in the squad car, and I let them do their business. I looked towards the woods and saw something strange in the distance; it was attached to the front of a tree and looked like a sheet or cloak. I called for the officer to wake up. He told me to grab my rifle and follow him, radioing the activity to his colleagues as we stalked closer. It was about halfway across the field that I grimly recognized the sheet for what it was: Ku’s splayed pelt tacked to a tree. I angrily dashed the remaining distance, easily leaving the officer behind in protest. I reached the tree just as that same maniacal, throaty laughter erupted in the distance. I screamed and fired several shots into the mocking trees, just before the officer issued a labored command to immediately stop. He claims he didn’t hear the laughing, but I did.
Some other cops showed up to CSI their way around Ku’s remains. I was several hours late for work but refused to explain the details of my reason why, as I am a very private man. My boss just told me to make up the hours that night, which I had no choice but to oblige him. I periodically checked in with my wife, who informed me that two officers were taking shifts in the squad car, with the other racking out on our couch while on break. She didn’t like hearing that I would be home late but understood. I finally managed to finish my work around 9pm and began the drive home, this time at the speed limit. My grogginess was grounds for calling a cab, so I didn’t need to be taking any unnecessary risks. I got home at around 1015pm and checked with the cop in the car; he hadn’t seen anything. My wife warmed me up some dinner, and I passed out by 1045pm.
I awoke to the sound of my wife screaming my name from downstairs.
I trampled down the stairs to where she was-in the kitchen standing over the mangled bodies of my other two dogs; something had gutted and splayed their pelts just like Ku. The cop sleeping on the couch barged in with his gun drawn, as did the one on shift outside. I tried to calm my wife and told her to go upstairs and lay down. The cops called it in and began searching around the house, but I just stood there, unable to react in any way. I didn’t cry; I didn’t scream; I just stood there staring at my mutilated companions, their collars also missing. The officers didn’t find anything in their search, nor did they detect any sign of forced entry. Something had also shorted out my security camera’s. Whatever this thing was; it was able to get into my home undetected and trip the camera feeds. The officers offered to move my wife and I into town while they investigate further, but I refused; Marines don’t give ground to the enemy. I told my wife to go and that I’ll stay and protect our home. I buried my two dogs next to the other in the backyard and stared at the forest, the sadness in me blooming into retaliatory rage. I was going to kill whatever did this, even if it’s the last thing I do.
The officer told me they have another unit on the way before escorting my wife into town. She said she’ll gather the kids and call me when they’re at the hotel. I went into combat mode and unpacked some of my gear from the service, intent on going to war with whatever this thing is. While doing a sweep of my house to ensure all windows were locked, I noticed something strange in the room my three children shared. A little wooden box I had never seen before was sticking out from under my daughter’s bed. It was worn and old, and the finish on it was all but scraped off. I heard the sudden approach of footsteps coming up the stairs, followed by the same howling, laughing, and growling, just as my wife started calling. My startled fingers struggled to silence the call while gripping the rifle beneath my armpit, accidentally pressing ‘accept’ and ‘speaker’. Something slammed into the door, causing me to drop the phone and box and fire a burst of rounds through the wood towards the intruders; I heard several thuds on the hallway floor. My wife’s frantic voice filled the room; she was crying and saying she didn’t know where our kids were, that they never turned up at any of the places they were supposed to go. The contents of the weird box had spilled onto the floor; the collars of all three dogs were flecked with blood. This would explain why my cameras never caught anything or the access to the inside of my home; the things terrorizing my wife and I lived in the same house. My heart shattered as I looked at the blood pooling at the bottom of the door.