"Two ruby-red points of light appeared from the gloom. A shadowy form shot from the darkness, another bone-rattling howl echoing through the street. Bronte flinched as the creature launched itself up, landing with a crash on a car parked nearby. As if on cue, a glittering shower of magic sprayed over the beast, illuminating it in sparks of red and gold.
A Black Dog. Bronte gripped the windowsill, paint flaking off under her fingers. The great beast swung it's head to the sky and barked, deep and vicious. It was the size of an Alsation, but heavier, stockier. Great fangs gleamed in the magic light, saliva dripping down its maw. It lowered its muzzle and she stifled a scream when its malevolent red eyes locked on her.
Move! The inner voice screamed and she dropped to her knees, heart in her throat. A Black Dog was a traditional omen of death in English folklore. In these post-War times, it was a piece of folklore everyone took seriously.
She crouched against the wall, shivering as the Black Dog growled and barked, claws shrieking against the metal roof of the car. It had seen her – did that mean she was fated to die? She shoved her fist into her mouth to keep herself from whimpering. No need to be scared, she chanted to herself. The War ended twenty years ago, they can't hurt you, they're not allowed to hurt you...
But she remembered the stories though, remembered the tales of stolen children, mutilated bodies. Remembered seeing photos of adults mauled by magic, disfigured and half dead. Remembered with a gut-wrenching nausea her own dad, stumbling home in the wake of a magic storm, turned into some … thing, twisted and ruined and mad. She could still hear her mum's screams and smell the smoke of the gunpowder after she'd shot him. Don't look, Bronte, don't look...
'Shit.' Bronte forced herself to stand, forced herself to breathe deeply, eyes closed. The thought of locking gazes with that creature again chilled her. It had stared at her like it knew her, could see right into her skull and sniff out her nightmares.
But she had to look, had to prove to herself she wasn't afraid.
Even though she was.