's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Feral Dogs

Submitted by Xionahri

Another night at the graveyard. But again, nothing. Some graves have been dug up and the corpses eaten, so they hired me to keep the feral dogs at bay. Indeed, dogs rapidly breeding in this town without human intervention has been a problem for a while now. And most of this diseased mutts are very aggressive.

And yet, they send me to watch an entire graveyard on my own, only armed with a small gun and a flash light. Great. But at least the night is as exciting as the nights before. Only dead people and no dogs. Of course, I could hear the occasional bark, howl or whine in the distance, but they avoided this place. Not enough trash, I suppose.

Speaking of not enough, I clearly don't get paid well enough for this. My legs are tired, I'm cold and everything is so boring. I check my phone and sigh. Five more hours remaining. What I wouldn't give for a ghost or something. Or at least a dog.

... Though I'm not actually sure if I truly wanted it once my prayers had been answered. I hear a yelp not to far away, followed by the sound of running paws. And - if the tiredness doesn't make me hear things - a deep growl. Well, I doubt its the tiredness, as I feel very much awake now. My grip tightens around my pistol as I shine my flash light around.

Reflecting eyes and brown fur. A dog stares at me from the distance. No surprise here. But I gotta admit, facing that feral beast makes me a bit nervous. Luckily it is still far away. I raise my pistol and...

'Please don't shoot!', a soft, female voice says. Dumbstruck, I freeze. Now I'm hearing things, right? But there is this voice again. 'We're both just trying to do our job, are we? As I start to wonder if I'm going completely insane, the dog stands up.

'Come over.', the small, hunchbacked humanoid tells me. 'I won't hurt you.'

Sure, strange paranormal creature, that seems trustworthy. But something in its-... her voice compels me to approach her. She sounds like she's just as startled as me. I lower my gun, causing her to visibly relax a bit, and walk up to her.

As I get closer, her features become less dog-like. Stripes, a Mohawk-like mane and teeth more wicked looking than those of any dogs. Though, given this place's current circumstances, a hyena might be more favourable than a canine. She gives me a curious look.

'So...', I carefully begin. 'What are you exactly?' This is insane, talking to this being. And yet, here I am, so many questions on my mind.

'I'm a ghoul.' she answers. Then, she sighs and raises a hand to her temple. 'And no, we aren't those zombie-things media likes to portrait us as. We are the guardians of the dead, not monsters.'

'Guardians?', I simply ask. I couldn't think of many words in this situation.

'Yep. And that's why I'm here. To guard them from your kind. And...' With that she looks at her arm, a bloody bite mark shining on at. She snorts angrily. 'And of course those damned dogs. Making my work only harder.'

'I agree on the dog part. But why, why in the world would the dead need protection from us?' I sine my flash light around. 'Look at these flowers and candles. Look at the lovingly-crafted tombstones. We care for our dead.' I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm getting a bit angry at the ghoul. How could she not see what humans do for their loved ones?

She seems to hear the anger in my voice, as her ears flatten a bit. 'Do me a favour and be quiet for a moment. Just listen.'

I do as she told me. And I hear nothing more than the past few days. Wind rustling through the plants and a bark. I look around, into the darkness, trying to focus on something, but it doesn't work out. Silence. I face the ghoul again, shaking my head.

'Truth is,' she says with a gentle tone. 'I didn't expect you to hear anything. Humans just can't hear them.' Her tone gets more serious. 'You see... the dead need to be free. Trapped inside the ground, a wooden construct and their own, slowly rotting bodies they go insane. Who wouldn't?' She looks to the ground, her ears dropping. 'For many, its already to late. They will never find peace.'

Her words make me wonder if my late great-grandmother is okay. The thought saddens me. With shaky voice I ask 'So, that's why you dig them up?'

She nods. 'That's why I dig them up and free them from their flesh. Now, if you excuse me, I need to continue my work. For the good of all of us.'

And with that, she walks into the darkness, leaving me alone again.