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Poi Dog
10-29-2008, 09:46 AM
"Summer of '77" – A Horror Story by J Blalack



Based on a true story



Chapter 1: The Beginning

The summer of 1977 was a special time for those of us who were lucky enough to be around at that time. San Jose was not too large of a town back then, more or less "suburbia" of the closest major city which is San Francisco. The area of San Jose where I lived was seemingly on the edge; not only geographically, but technologically and for the residents of the area…"Mentally". The summer of '77 in our little corner of San Jose was not only a time for out of school fun and mischief for Elementary School kids like me and my friends, but would also be a time of shear terror that none of us would ever forget.

My little gang of friends lived on Gunter Way, a street that was shaped like an "L". My house was on the corner, where we had the best view of both directions down the street; North and East. The North end of Gunter Way was terminated into a "T" that split into a road that circumferenced the large hills where we would spend so much of our summer on and the East end of the street "T"ed off into another main road out of the neighborhood.

Being 8 years old in 1977, we had advantages that other kids of previous generations didn't have… such as "STAR WARS"! My friends and I had journeyed on bicycle a full 10 miles (round trip) to watch the movie at least 5 times hopping from one theater to another in one outing. Much of our time spent playing in the Hills in our little part of town was spent reenacting the scenarios that unfolded during those epic laser gun battles with Stormtroopers in the movie! Picking up broken branches of trees to simulate the neon/fluorescent light sabers and making whirring sounds for additional "realism" in our battles would keep us occupied throughout the day until our respective mothers' called us in for dinner. Though we had so much fun watching and celebrating our favorite movies' release as well as "reliving" much of the events while playing in the hills with my friends, the "Summer of 1977" will be remembered more for the fear that took hold of our small neighborhood than anything else.

The day had grown hot and humid early; it was definitely summertime in California. Mark Twain may have complained of the cool climate that seemingly never ceased in San Francisco, but just 30 miles south; we in San Jose had plenty of heat in July. My friend Scott and his older brother Danny were already looking for good places to hide for our adventures in our hills of "space". I had quickly gobbled down my breakfast and ran outside to venture into the hills to join Scott and Danny. My dog "Nana" had rushed out of the house to follow me. Leash laws at the time were pretty lenient (if not entirely non-existent), so to see Nana follow us into the hills to play was not too uncommon. Nana was a large dog – Large even for the Great Dane that she was. She was born only 1 year after I was, so she was a part of my family from as long as I could possibly remember. She was the "sister" that I didn't have (I was an only child – and preferred it that way); but more than that, she was my best buddy! Whether or not a "pet" was supposed to be such a large part of a persons' life, I had no idea; it was all that I knew.

While running around the hills with Scott and Danny, our other friends began to appear one by one, until all 8 of us were crawling around in the dirt, yelling out scenes from Star Wars and making laser sounds so that our broken tree branch laser guns would inflict the most damage to the imaginary swarming Stormtroopers into our Cantina of Dantoinne. Nana's friend "Cream Puff" (a small white mop of a dog) arrived with Shelly; she was Princess Leia to my Luke Skywalker. Oh how it shattered me to find out many years later that Luke and Leia were actually brother and sister; God how incestuous! Nana and Cream Puff ran up the hill and chased each other around while we "humans" had more serious business to attend to… namely saving the Rebellion and all of human kind from a dire fate from Darth Vader and the Death Star!

After our adventures were completed for the day and the sun had begun to set on our alluvial hills of "space" – Shelly and I had called for our dogs to return so we could go home for dinner. Cream Puff and Nana raced out from a distance, but Cream Puffs clean white fur from earlier this morning seemed darker and murkier as they drew nearer. The smell that had begun to invade our nostrils also got stronger the closer the dogs got to us. A melodious odor that was sweet yet had the musk of rotten eggs. Could it have been a skunk? No, it was just as bad, but it was definitely not the same – I remember smelling a skunk after being witness to one that had met an early demise trying to cross a busy road. The smell that had been literally squished out of the dead skunk's glands had managed to keep that area of the neighborhood in a foul stench for a week, until someone had discovered that tomato juice could neutralize the smell. Excited to show her owner what fun new thing she had found, Cream Puff barked with enthusiasm and ran back to where she had come from with Nana in tow. "I guess we should see what they were getting themselves into", I said. And we all followed the dogs to see what had got them so excited.

As we grew closer to the trench, the smell became more and more evident. With a dry heave, Scott felt that he couldn't get any closer and chose to keep a clear distance from whatever disgusting thing that was perfumed with such a rancid odor. Creating make shift gas-masks with our shirts (not doing the job as well as we had hoped), we slowly peeked over the side to see Cream Puff and Nana sitting and wagging their tails with wanton approval while showing their newly acquired prize – A dead deer carcass. Thousands of startled flies invaded the air, creating a droning buzz that echoed through the trench. Normally a dead animal would not be such a terrible sight, seeing how we had become accustomed to "road-kill" sightings becoming more and more frequent around our neighborhood; however this death was of particular brutality, in that there were no antlers, or head, or legs or any extremities belonging to a deer. In fact, the only thing that made the "body" recognizable as a deer was its cute little white tail; which was now stained red with its own blood, just as Cream Puff's once clean white fur was also.



Chapter 2: Close to home

Later that night, my parents discussed what to do about the stench that Nana had brought home with her and how many times I would end up bathing to get rid of the smell that had found its way onto my own body. The discussion inevitably turned from sarcasm and jokes of Nana's and my new fragrance to concern and caution regarding what could have possibly killed that deer in such a ferocious manner. Though we were shocked seeing the deer's carcass so brutalized; we would have never thought that it would only be the first of many that would become more commonplace in the days and weeks ahead.

All of our parents told us to keep close to home and stay cautious while outside playing, however being of an age where instructions are received in one ear and sent through a sort of mental blockage that tells the brain a totally different set of instructions, we opted to continue our epic space battles in the hills. As the days came and went, more small animal carcasses were discovered around the hills; eaten by a larger animal, but not completely. Just enough of the victim's flesh and body parts were left to create a new colony of insect condominiums and permeate the area with the foul stench of death. The adults in the neighborhood grew more and more concerned, calling for the local authorities to bring in the "experts" to rid the area of its murderous intruder.

The "experts" or the equivalence of the town "dog-catchers" finally came and cleaned the area of foul smelling corpses and set a few traps to no avail. We of course were finally banned from playing in the hills due to the safety concerns – which we didn't entirely agree with, but heeded none the less; kids will be kids. As the smell of death started to subside – there was an overwhelming sense of relief from the whole neighborhood. Even though the traps did not catch anything at all, no more animal carcasses appeared. The "dog-catchers" quite possibly may have known what they were doing… or so it seemed.

A week had passed with no new "odors of death". Our parents, still wary; gave in to our constant whines of "can we go play in the hills?" "We'll be right at the end of the street!", "C'mon…why not?!!!" It was just like it was prior to that one smelly day in July that had changed our little neighborhood for good. The dogs were running after each other in the hills and the kids were all shooting at one another with overly imagined technologically advanced weapons of lights and magic. After a long hard day of imaginary battles night finally crept in and overtook Gunter Way, making us all go into dinner and eventually a long night's sleep that could only be interrupted with a noise as senseless, loud and abrupt as a blood curdling scream; but unfortunately it was.

The "Dog-Catchers" cleared the hills of the intruder's buffet and made it come out of the hills into the neighborhood looking for its next meal. The thing searched until it came upon a small white mop of a dog that slept in the back yard of a house across the street from us on Gunter Way – who just so happened to be the discoverer of the monster's first kill in the hills that day in July. Cream Puff would no longer run around the hills chasing Nana – she was now only bits and pieces of what was once such a cute little dog.

To be continued...

Poi Dog
10-29-2008, 09:59 PM
Chapter 3: A monster in the hills

Gunter Way was once again covered in a shroud of haze; the haze of fear. No one dared to venture out doors, let alone leave pets unattended in their own backyard. Shelly's family was the first to have the monster affect them directly, with the murder of the family pet; Cream Puff. The smell of death had once again crept into our little neighborhood and was a constant reminder to us all that something was out there in those hills, waiting and watching for its next victim.

With the death of Cream Puff still fresh on their minds, Shelly's family decided to spend the rest of the summer at her Grandmother's home in Missouri. Unfortunately for our small group of friends, her parents sold the house and moved permanently away. We like to think that Shelly's father had gotten a better job and had this previously planned, before the death of their family pet, but something tells many of us that the maniacal screams from Shelly's mother after finding her beloved Cream Puff's head in her own water bowl, makes us believe otherwise. We never saw Shelly or her family again.

"The Dog-Catchers" were back now, but this time with help; Professional Wild Life Experts from the Red Wood Forest Preserve. If there was a group of individuals that would know what to do about wild-life predators, it would be them… so we thought.

Combing the hills for traces of a murderous creature was not an easy task for the Rangers, but they were able to find what they were looking for. Paw prints of a large animal and a general direction to where they were headed to and from; something that the Dog-Catchers must not have been well trained for.

Though the hills had their share of trees, there were very few places with enough shade to rest and cool off. The Senior Wildlife Ranger, Mike Sawyer, asked us questions regarding our favorite hiding spots and what we knew about the hills. Our little gang was surprised to find that an adult actually took interest in finding out what we knew about our favorite "playground". None of the other adults bothered to even acknowledge our existence, let alone ask for one of our opinions. Jeffrey Woods, one of our little buddies, was the same age as Scott and me, but he was such a small kid. You would have thought that his mother had an extra-marital affair since Jeffrey's father was well over 6 ft 6 inches tall and Jeffrey was barely tall enough to reach an average 8 year olds shoulder height. The Ranger listened with great interest as Jeffrey explained as best he could of the small cave that he had discovered on the far side of the hills some two months ago. Without hesitation, Ranger Mike Sawyer and his group grabbed their gear for a hike to the cave that Jeffrey had described.

The next morning we had awoken to the bright flashing lights and sirens of EMT ambulances, Police Cars and news crews crawling all over the North end of Gunter Way towards the base of the hill. The whole neighborhood came out of their homes to get a glance to what could have taken place during the night while we were all in our deep sleeps. Ranger Mike Sawyer, along with his crew congratulated each other while newspaper photographers took their picture along with their kill – a rather large Black Bear. The Ranger explained to the reporters that because the summer had been so hot, the predator would most likely do its best to find some sort of shelter from the heat. With there being so few shady trees on the hill, the cave that young Jeffrey Woods had discovered would be an excellent spot for a large mammal to find refuge; which is exactly where they found the bear.

Upon discovering the bear in the cave, the Rangers did their best to sneak up to, tranquilize, and capture the bear so that they could release it somewhere civilization could not encroach on its natural habitat; however the bear had other ideas. Whether it was just crazed from the heat of such a hot summer month, or due to the bear being in an already irritated state, it lunged and attacked the group of Rangers without hesitation. With one blast of a shot-gun that was brought along for protection from just such an occasion, Mike shot the bear square in the chest. With a giant growl of anger and pain, the bear fell to the ground and turned into a limp mound of black fur and blood.

News reporters from all around California had arrived to marvel and tell the tale of our new found hero, Ranger Mike Sawyer. However, little did they know not only would the killing not stop, but the victims would soon change species; from animal to human.



Chapter 4:

Once again, Gunter Way was released from fear's loathsome grip. The weight that had been lifted off the shoulders of the Town's elected officials must have been ten fold to the amount of praise that the adults of our neighborhood had for Ranger Mike Sawyer and his band of Bear-Monster killers. And once again, we had been released from our domesticated jail cells to play in the vast corners of 'hill space".

Days had past with no strange smells, no little animal corpses or body parts and no worries. Even though we were trying to enjoy as much of the summer as we could, all of us were saddened, especially Nana. Shelly and Cream Puff would no longer be with us to battle the evil Empire and Darth Vader.

As the sun started to set, one by one our friends started to call it a day and returned home for dinner and then a good night sleep. Scott, Danny, Jeffrey and I were the last to leave. Half way down Gunter Way, Jeffrey remembered that he had left his Official Han Solo Laser Blaster at the bottom of one of the trees on the hill. With the sun already down, we all told him that he should just wait to get it in the morning when we all return to the hills for another battle with the dreaded Empire. He agreed and continued to walk with us to our homes on Gunter Way.

Later that night, there was a knock at our door. It was Mr. Woods asking if we had seen his son. I told him that we had all left the hills at least 3 hours prior. Jeffrey had forgotten his Han Solo Laser Blaster in the hills, but assured us that he would return for it in the morning with the rest of us. The fact that Jeffrey had not yet arrived home brought us to the only conclusion; that he had returned to the hills to get his toy gun.

My father put Nana on a leash, grabbed his industrial sized flashlight and proceeded down Gunter Way to the darkness of the hills with Mr. Woods. As they reached the base of the hill, Nana lifted her head and sniffed at the heavy night air. With visibility being limited to a small 6 foot diameter flashlight spot at a time, Nana had the advantage of being able to use her acute sense of smell to point her in whatever direction she needed to go.

Nana quickly got wind of a familiar smell, then barked and tugged at her leash to move forward. My father and Mr. Woods followed with great haste up the dirt hill, stumbling over rocks and brush that seemed to pop up into view without notice, yet Nana was rushing with a great determination that the direction her nose was telling her to go was not too far from where they were.

Nana finally stopped and sat down, looking back at my father and Mr. Woods, not with her usual happiness and want of approval, but knowingly that what she had found was not what anyone would have really wanted to find.

Jeffrey's little body was found only a few yards from the tree where he had left his Official Han Solo Laser Blaster. He was laying face up – eyes wide, as if it was proof that his last vision was of the thing that had ripped his right arm from his body and began to eat him.



Chapter 5:

Gunter Way's usual busy clamor of children playing in the streets and neighbors exchanging heart-felt "Hellos" and "Good Mornings" while working in their yards – mowing, pruning and clipping bright green grass, red roses and white summer flowers, turned to a virtual dustbowl-like ghost town of brownish dead grass and weeds. Our own homes had been turned into our summertime prisons once again. Construction Workers who were contracted to complete our in-ground swimming pool, repeatedly found new and interesting excuses on why they couldn't come out to finish the job – leaving us with a 35 foot long, 10 foot deep dirt hole, covered in rebar and chicken wire in the back yard.

Six days and five even longer nights had gone by, with no new leads regarding the Death of Jeffrey Woods. Ranger Mike Sawyer vowed to catch the mysterious predator that has staked its claim in the hills by Gunter Way. Six days and five nights with nothing but intense waiting and knowledge that it's not over yet; Six days and five nights of joyless, sleepless and draining fright… until the Sixth Night.

As I got ready for bed; my father told me goodnight and he left for work. My father worked midnight shift, so supposedly I would be the "Man of the house"; as he stated, while he was away. We both knew that my mother was more than capable of taking care of both of us – as well as knowing what "911" was on the phone, and Nana being the "Largest Dog in the World" to me, meant that there was absolutely nothing for me to fear while at home. However, lurking in the backyard; "IT" would have other ideas on my familie's safety.

To Be Continued...

Poi Dog
10-29-2008, 10:38 PM
Chapter 6:

Nana began barking and scratching at the sliding door leading to the backyard. Thinking that she must have needed to go to the bathroom, my mother began to slide the door open - then two evil glowing greenish eyes and a large white stalactite toothed grin emerged from the shadows. My mother began to scream and attempted to return the sliding door to its original closed position, but Nana bolted out, sliding the door open the rest of the way with her body rushing towards the unknown mass silhouetted by the moonlight on the far side of the dirt hole. A large growl that was unlike anything I had ever heard pierced the night air and chilled me to the bone – but it did not stop Nana from rushing to gain access to whatever vile creature it was that created such a God awful sound.

The light on the backyard porch was bright, however the shadow from the house extended to cover the deep end of the pool. Nana's large black form was now engaged in battle with a creature on all fours that seemed to be even larger than she was. My mother ran to the kitchen and grabbed the telephone attempting numerous times to dial the numbers 9-1-1 with her shaking hands.

The sounds of fighting had stopped with no known victor. It was hard for my eyes to adjust to the darkness with the porch light on, however I was not about to turn it off. Not hearing any movement what-so-ever, I slowly slid the door open and called for Nana. There was no answer and she did not come like she normally would after calling her only once. Each time I called her name, my heart began to sink more and more as I knew that something bad must have happened to prevent her from making her whereabouts known.

I ran into the garage; got my father's flashlight and grabbed a large carving knife from the kitchen. I was no dummy; I was not about to venture outside with a monster on the loose and not be without a weapon of some sort. My mother was trying to maintain as much composure as possible while trying to explain to the "911" Operator what our specific emergency entailed; however she wasn't doing too well, yelling hysterically into the phone's receiver our address and to get any form of flashing lights out to our location immediately.

I crept slowly towards the pool and I turned on my flashlight; it gave off the same little 6 foot diameter of visibility as it did the night that little Jeffrey Woods was found. Seconds seemed like minutes and minutes more like hours as I moved as silently as possible towards Nana's motionless body. There was no sign of what ever evil monster had attacked Nana, but its calling card was quite evident. Nana was still alive, but barely. She had deep cuts and lacerations all over her body and was losing a lot of blood. Nana's normally beautiful shiny black coat was now covered in blood and dirt.

I began to well up with tears as I yelled for my mother for help with Nana. Like a bolt of lightning streaking from the heavens and the silent stealth of a ninja, a large tan-gold form leapt at me from the next door neighbor's tree and threw me 10 feet down into the deep end of the big dirt hole. I could hear the panting growl and the soft padded footsteps of the creature above me, creeping around the pool to the shallow end. I was entrenched not only in the hole, but in fear. There was no escape from what fate had now thrown my way.

As I lay on my back on the chicken wire and rebar, I pulled my self to sit up as best as I could, but my left cheek and arm throbbed with an intense pain. My eyes began to adjust to the dark and I could see my left hand was covered in blood as I attempted to rub my aching cheek. Remembering the immediate danger I was in, I began to feel around for my flashlight and knife; I found neither. Fear and panic began to overtake me just as the monster's true identity was revealed to me.

The yellowish golden fur of the Mountain Lion was stained with blood; No doubt blood from so many victims, including poor little Cream Puff and my friend Jeffrey Woods. The giant cat slowly descended towards me – staring with the obvious intent of killing me. I continued to feel around for anything that might save me from a dire fate and felt only the rough steel of the rebar and chicken wire; but one of the metal rebar rods rattled as I rubbed my hand over it, searching like a blind man. I pulled at the rebar and it started to come loose, until the 2 foot metal rod came totally out of the dirt and I began to wield it like a sword, pointed towards the evil beast.

Slowly and surely the Mountain Lion continued on its path towards me with no sign of fear against my small metal stick. Closer and closer the growling cat crept and began to crouch for the pouncing attack. I clutched the metal rebar tightly, readying myself. Just as the cougar began its leap, a large bloodied black form jumped on the great cat from the top of the pool. Nana had pushed the startled cat onto me as I plunged the metal rod deep into its body. Darkness began to overtake me, sounds started to fade, but the smell – that God awful smell…

Chapter 7:

I woke up in the ambulance, with a deep cut to the left side of my jaw and my left pinky finger was supposedly still attached to my hand only by a small 3 inch piece of skin that refused to be severed when the mountain lion had jumped on me from the tree. My mother was with me in the ambulance and told me the mountain lion was killed after Nana pushed the lion into my little piece of rebar. The metal rod had pierced the giant cat's heart and it had died immediately.

I asked my mother how Nana was and her eyes began to fill with tears. Nana had died from the blood loss. Her last act in the world was to attack the predator that stalked me and attempted to save my life – which she did, in every way possible.



Epilogue:

I'm not entirely sure what brought me to start thinking of this story or why I decided to put this story to paper. Maybe it was the fact that my 20th High School reunion had just taken place and the ghosts from my past once again invaded my memories, causing me to go even further back than just 20 years. Maybe it's because this month is the 30th Anniversary of that horrible month where our little street of Gunter Way had been gripped in fear and even after the horrible beast was destroyed, our family had done exactly what Shelly's parents did… we ran away. To Hawaii – a paradise where no one would know the horrors that we had lived through.

Though Gunter Way and its hills are thousands of miles from where I live at present and everyone I had ever known from there have long since moved away, it is never far from my thoughts. Nana's grave is in those hills; looking down, watching and keeping them all safe on Gunter Way.


Good night Nana, I love you! Johnnie

Poi Dog
10-30-2008, 09:07 PM
The final chapters have been posted!

Please let me know what you think! I don't even know if anyone's reading this! LOL

Kaneohe til the end
10-30-2008, 10:36 PM
i promise i will read this when my eyes dont hurt from doing homework. tommorow in other words

dnewton2
10-31-2008, 01:18 AM
Very cool story! Thanks for sharing.:)

Now that i have had time to absorb the story, Wow!! If it is based on a true story that you lived, WOW!!! I love dogs.

Kaneohe til the end
10-31-2008, 01:32 PM
lets see the pinky!:rock:

SailQwest
11-01-2008, 02:36 PM
What a great story! I printed it out yesterday so I could read it on our sail today. I really enjoyed it!

Kim

Poi Dog
11-01-2008, 03:25 PM
Thanks for the kind words everyone! Glad you all liked it. I'm sure Nana wouldv'e appreciated it as well. :)

salukulady
11-01-2008, 04:10 PM
Poi Dog,
This is print worthy. You should send it into a publisher. I'm serious. Remember, Shawshank Redemption was a short story. Stephen King has an excellent book called "On Writing, a memoir of the craft", regarding his writing style. I recommend it. Keep us posted with any future stories. You're very good.

Poi Dog
11-01-2008, 06:10 PM
Poi Dog,
This is print worthy. You should send it into a publisher. I'm serious. Remember, Shawshank Redemption was a short story. Stephen King has an excellent book called "On Writing, a memoir of the craft", regarding his writing style. I recommend it. Keep us posted with any future stories. You're very good.

Thanks so much for the kind words. It's funny you say that (about getting a publisher), cause one of my good friends told me that it would make a great screen play and I should look into selling it. I thought he was just pullin' my leg or being less critical than others since he's such a close friend. LOL

I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to sell my story. :confused:

RON<>VA
11-02-2008, 05:52 PM
Started reading the story and could not stop til I had finished. Great story Poi Dog!

Poi Dog
11-02-2008, 10:35 PM
Thanks Ron!

Misguided Musician
11-03-2008, 03:27 PM
Really great story Poi Dog. You should really think about being a writer. I can't believe that I missed this post. I wish I read it sooner.