Little Black Dog

There was an old man named Billy who claimed that he was being followed around by a little black dog. He said it followed him wherever he went and wouldn’t leave him alone. Billy could often be seen hollering and cursing and throwing rocks, trying to drive the dog away. All of the people in town thought he was crazy, because there was no dog there. Whenever somebody tried to tell Billy there wasn’t any dog to see, he’d reply, “Maybe you don’t see it, but I do. And I’m not any crazier than you are.” As the story goes, the first time Billy saw the little black dog was on the day he killed Silas Burton. Back in those days, the town was full of robbers and bandits. Everyone carried a gun and people were always going around fighting each other or killing each other. Billy was a young man back then and he hated Silas Burton. They had been feuding for years. One day, Billy saw Silas come riding toward him. As soon as their eyes met, both men went for their guns. Billy managed to get to his first and fired off the first shot. He hit Silas Burton square in the shoulder, knocking him off his horse. The horse got a fright and ran off, leaving Silas Burton lying there in the dirt with a bloody arm and a broken back. His gun had fallen where he couldn’t reach it and he was just a sitting duck. He lay there on the ground, writhing in pain and begging Billy not to kill him. Billy just looked down at him and spit in his face. Then, he levelled his gun and killed him in cold blood. Silas Burton’s little black dog came running over and started licking the dead man’s face. Then, it let out a pitiful whine and started barking and snarling at Billy. Still in a murderous rage, Billy killed the dog too and left both of the corpses lying there in the road.

Back then, there was no law in the town, so there was no sheriff and no deputies to arrest Billy. After the murder, he just walked home, drank a few beers and went to bed. But all night long, he heard the little black dog whining outside his cabin. “I must be imagining things,” Billy said to himself as he tossed and turned in bed. “That dog is dead. I know because I shot it myself.” The next morning, when Billy woke up, he looked out the window and saw the dog staring back at him. It was waiting for him outside. From that moment on, not a day went by when he didn’t see it. At night, the dog would be scratching on his door and barking to be let in. During the day, it would follow him around town. Billy kept finding black dog hairs everywhere. They were on his sofa, on the floor, in his bed and sometimes he even found them in his food. The whole house stank of dog. “It ain’t my imagination,” Billy said. “That’s Si Burton’s little black dog.” Things went on like that for many years. Then one morning, in the middle of Winter, the neighbors didn’t see any smoke coming out of Billy’s chimney. When they went to his house to check up on him, Billy wasn’t there. A few days later, they found his body lying in a field behind his cabin. Billy had plenty of enemies, and at first it seemed like somebody might have killed him, but there wasn’t a mark on him. He was lying in the snow and there weren’t any footprints out there, except for Billy’s. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with the body and he couldn’t figure out the cause of death. He said that Billy might have died of old age, or a heart attack, or the cold. But nobody believe that. There was something odd about his death. When the neighbors found Billy, there were black dog hairs on his clothes. There were even a few on his face. It smelled like a dog had been out there. Yet no one had seen a dog anywhere.

 

It’s a story from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by ALvin Schwartz.

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