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April 15, 2024

Dunder Chief: Your Back Door Man

By Amy Probst

The moon was full and the air thin and brittle. Billy crept slowly along the forest floor on numb hand and feet, avoiding like a cat twigs that might snap, leaves that might crunch. The bright white moon round and still on the rise, lit the skeletal trees like a spot light; thin shadows were everywhere. Billy was a striped cat, except that he was no on the prowl; he was the hunted.

He moved as quickly as possible without sacrificing stealth. He was descending a hill, halfway down. To his right, he came upon a fallen tree, thick, big enough to hide a tiny child. Providing nobody looked there. Too risky, Billy thought, and kept going.

Suddenly, behind him somewhere in the silent night, he heard breathing. A low grunt, up the hill. Then the snap of a branch.

Billy froze, not letting a breath out. Slowly, he turned his small head and looked up the hill, behind him. He could see nothing but blackness where the hill made a backdrop for the trees. Up top, the stick-like trunks made a messy crew cut, outlined in the moonlight along the ridge, where the ground began to descend. He listened hard, but heard nothing. Then he noticed a shape in those trees on the crest that did not look like tree. It was low to the ground, a hunched silhouette. Maybe a deformed tree trunk, Billy though, or two trees merged there as one. He relaxed a little, letting out his breath, and then the shape howled and charged at him, down the hill.

Crunching and gaining speed, breathing heavy, the Dunder Chief came flying, thick padded feet not bothered by the sharpness of a cold forest floor.

Billy shot forward, then up and back, to the fallen tree. He had about ten seconds before the Dunder Chief would reach the spot he’d been at, and no chance to outrun him. Billy bet on the stomping noises to cover his own, and dove down close to the trunk, digging frantically with his miniscule hands at the leaves, twigs, and dirt next to it, and wedged his little body under it.

Six seconds left. A growl of pure animal rage filled the night air. The Dunder Chief pounded closer. Billy pulled in the loosened ground cover, almost completely concealing his small frame beneath the curve of the trunk. He sucked in his breath, and waited.

The Dunder Chief thundered past the log, then stopped. Sniffed the air in all directions. Billy could see him, if he opened his eyes, through a narrow slit between the trunk and a pack of leaves. His heart beat hugely, thumping loudly enough to be heard; he hoped not from where his father stood, ten feet away. He closed his eyes; the hairy, gnarled shape was too scary to watch, poking around, looking for him. Billy prayed for help.

Article © Amy Probst. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-01-31
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