February 4th 2022
Prompted by the word ‘Legend’.
In September 1923, we got the call to meet in The Guildhall opposite St. Mary’s Church. During the last few weeks, the local farmers and landowners in Suffolk had lost many cattle due to wild dog attacks. There had been more attacks from dogs and wolves than usual that summer. However, it had been left to the farmers to resolve the problem until now.
Why now, you might ask? That has to do with the events in St. Mary’s Church last Sunday. It was a terrible day, weather-wise, and during the service, we struggled to hear the priest over the thunder. Father Williams had almost concluded his sermon when the porch door crashed open. Wind, rain, lightning and thunder swept in accompanied by a monstrous form from hell itself.
The devil itself had entered this sacred place. It took the form of a massive black hound. It charged down the aisle, sparks flying from its claws as they scraped the stone floor. George Squires and Bertram Starling were both on their knees, praying, I think. The black dog took them both instantly, ripping out their throats. It then crashed into the devil’s door on the north wall, splintering it and disappeared into the night.
So, here we all are, preparing to go out on a hunt for the Black Shuck. The devil that until Sunday was only killing cattle but now has taken two of our own. I have my shotgun with me, and most of the party have a firearm. The remaining have various swords, clubs, and various weapons collected from The Great War. We also have some hounds from the local hunt to assist in tracking the monstrous creature.
We crossed the river and went into the woods on the hills opposite the town. After an hour or so, the hounds started to get agitated. They had picked up a scent and were determined to follow it. In minutes, I spotted something on a branch that had fallen from one of the oaks in the wood. It was blood. The creature was injured, maybe by one of the farmer traps. If it was damaged and bled, we could kill it.
The hounds lead us on. When we reached a place known locally as The Tomb (a story for another day), the dogs seemed to want to lead us in two different directions. We decided not to split the party and followed the path leading eastwards. After a few minutes, we found the source of the scent the hounds were following. It was the body of a gigantic black hound, male, dead for a week or so. Some men thought this was the end of things, but Charles Danes, the town butcher, confirmed the creature had died before the horror in the church last Sunday.
We backtracked and picked up the trail that led south. The evening was drawing in when we heard the low growl that sent ice down our spines. Two red eyes gazed upon us from the rapidly darkening trees. Momentarily we all froze, including the hunting dogs who seemed to recognize something more powerful than themselves. The devil then leapt forward, and as if we were back in the trenches, we all fired as one. One yelp, one spasm, and then nothing, we had banished the horror.
We started back towards the town and, I was bringing up the rear. I thought I heard a sound from the undergrowth and stopped to allow the noise from the party ahead to distance itself. Yes, a soft crying sound, not human, more feral than that. I pushed the bushes apart with the barrels of my shotgun. Eight small red eyes looked up at me. Four puppies, no different to our Labradors. They had lost their father, and thanks to us, their mother. I could not take their lives. Now, in my elder years, I still reflect on this, the origin of the legend of Black Shuck.
Note: Part of this story is taken from the legend of Black Shuck, but the actual events and locations are fiction.
Copyright: Andrew Miles February 2022