Number two in the series of Flash Fiction challenges.


A barghest is another name for a large, black, demonic dog. Depending on the part of the country you hail from, it might also be called ‘Black Shuck’, ‘Skriker’, ‘Padfoot’, ‘Grim’ or one of countless other names.

Sometimes it might be a physical beast, guarding a stile or gateway and preventing passers-by from using it. At other times it’s purely spiritual, presaging a death or appearing to usher the spirit into the next world. And occasionally it’s even benevolent.


B is for Barghest.

There was little point in arguing with him, she knew. He’d seen the black dog, and as far as he was concerned, that had sealed his fate.

“It fixed me with its fiery eyes,” he moaned from his sick-bed. “Flexed its monstrous claws as if it were already plucking out my soul,” he added in a whisper.

“You caught a chill on the golf course,” she countered. “Now you’re milking your man-flu to keep me waiting on you hand and foot. Seeing a labrador trotting across the fifteenth green won’t kill you any more than your sniffles will.”

As she refilled his hot-water bottle, she remembered how he’d changed his local pub after the rumours of a haunting started. He still insisted he’d seen the chained figure of an old woman passing through the wall. Even sticking to his story after the landlord confessed he’d made it all up to woo back his customers. She prepared him a hot whiskey and considered how he always wore the same socks to the local football team’s home games. He was adamant that they brought home every victory and reduced every loss. Pouring chicken soup into his favourite bowl, she recalled having to call in to his work for him every Friday 13th.

“Needs some pepper, love,” he said after the first sip. “Can’t smell properly,” he called after her as she went to fetch it.

Was it actually possible for someone to delude themselves to death? Maybe she’d drag the stuffed dog outside his window tonight, just to be sure. She’d have to charge the batteries, but in the sliver of the new moon, the eyes would glow extra-menacingly.

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