The Mother of the Wood by Colin Timothy Gagnon
I whistled and clapped my hands. Nothing. I tried shouting, “come on, Layla! Come Layla! Layla!” That didn’t help, either. Darren and Amber were dog breeders, and I’d agreed, once again, to look after their dogs while they went on vacation. This happened at least once every summer, and I was usually eager for the opportunity to escape from the city. I’d take some vacation hours of my own, pack up a few days worth of necessities, and head thirty miles southeast to their farm where I could play my guitar, work on my writing, catch up on reading, and just generally relax. The dogs were happy to be ignored as long as they were getting fed, and there was a human presence in the house. But today was not going as planned. I’d decided to walk the trail behind the house, which separated the neighbor’s corn and soybean fields, and I took one of the dogs with me--a toy fox terrier named Layla who especially liked me. We usually went on at least one walk together, partly for that reason, and partly because she was a smart, dependable dog who didn’t need to be kept on a leash.
But this afternoon things had gone wrong. We had taken the well-beaten fork in the trail that led out of the fields and into a grove of trees. Some small animal that I hadn’t seen had set Layla off, and she had gone tearing through the underbrush in search of whatever it was. I lost her almost immediately, so I made my way generally in the direction she had gone, and when I gave up on finding her that way, I tried to reconnect with the path. I didn’t find it though, and now I had come to the edge of a small pond which I had never seen before. I stood and looked into the brown water, and tried to decide what to do. If I could find the path, I could return to the house, and Layla might well already have found her way back. On the other hand, if she’d managed to get into the cornfield, she might be totally disoriented when she came out. I was weighing my options and walking around the pond when I heard a faint growl. It was Layla, and she was heading this way. I waited, and as the growl got louder, I could see an agitation in the grass ahead of me. Then she ran back into the trees, so I followed and caught sight of her just as she stopped.
Dedicated to the late, great H.P. Lovecraft