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Authors: Philippa Dowding

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BOOK: Myles and the Monster Outside
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CHAPTER 15

PRINTS AND PAWS

N
orman
held Myles's hand all the way back to the parking lot. There was a perfectly nice path that Myles hadn't seen in the dark.

The world hadn't changed.

Except it had. The sun was up. The sky was bright and clear.

And the terrible night was over. Myles was exhausted. He felt empty. He had no idea being brave would be so tiring. Birds were singing in the forest. There wasn't a cloud in the pink early morning sky.

“Are you okay, Myles?” Bea asked as they walked
.

“I … I don't know.” Here in the early morning light, in the quiet beautiful forest, he wasn't sure. Maybe. Maybe he was okay. He suddenly wanted to tell her everything, about the monster, about Courage, about his fears about their new house, and about being so mad at their dad for making them move. But he couldn't, not right now. One day maybe, but right now he was too tired.

“Why were you out of the car?” Myles asked after a few more steps.

“Norman woke me up.”

“I hadz to pee again,” Norman nodded.

“You and Mom looked so peaceful, I didn't want to wake you. I took Norman outside, then we went to see the sunrise. You know, the back seat really stinks. How did you manage to sit back there for so long?” Bea's voice was so normal, so … Bea.

She was amazing. Wasn't she afraid of
anything
? Who else would get out of a car in the dark to wander through a pitch black forest to help Norman? And look at the sunrise?

Then Myles realized with a start that there
was
someone else. Him. He would. He
did
.

He didn't get to think about that for too long, though. Suddenly, a loud horn beeped as a tow truck pulled into the parking lot. A tall man in overalls got out and knocked on the car window.

Their mother burst out of her side of the car, sleepy and mussed up.

“Thank you for coming,” she said, straightening her hair. “You've caught me sleeping.
My kids and I had a long, long night last night.” Myles and his brother and sister walked over to join them.

“Sorry I took so long to get here, I had to tow a wrecked chicken truck to the junkyard this morning. The darnedest thing —”

“Yes! Thank you, we know about the chicken truck,” Myles's mother said, stopping him. Clearly, she didn't want to hear any more about Mr. Chicken Truck Man.

The tow truck driver walked around the car, then he stopped and whistled. He pointed at the crack in the windshield.

“Whoa, what a huge crack!”

“Yes, a big rock hit us hard, right before the car died,” their mother answered.

Monster, Mom. Not a rock.

The man nodded then pointed at the mud and gravel beside the car.

“And look! Huge footprints. See? They're all around the car.” The man walked around Victor, pointing at the ground. Then he pointed toward the woods.

“The footprints go off in that direction.” Everyone walked to the edge of the trees, Bea holding Norman's hand.

Very slowly, Myles joined them.

The man pointed at the mud between the woods and the parking lot. Then Myles saw them: gigantic, swirling footprints in the mud.

“I — I've seen those prints before,” the man said slowly.

“What is it?” Myles's mother asked, but the man didn't answer.

“There's another track beside it,” he went on. “A pawprint, see the four pads? It looks like a big dog.”

“Well, what happened?” Myles's mother asked, bewildered.

The tow truck driver shook his head a little. “I'm not really sure, ma'am. It looks like something big, something REALLY big, was sniffing beside your car. Then over here, you can see the dog pawprints are all mixed up with the huge footprints. If I had to guess, I'd say a dog chased whatever was sniffing at your car off into the woods.”

The man narrowed his eyes a little, looking right at Myles. “You're SURE you didn't see anything or hear anything last night? There was something sniffing at your car door and fighting with a big dog, right here.”

“No, no honestly. We didn't hear anything, did we? Myles? Bea? We all just fell right to sleep. It's a mystery,” their mother said.

It's not a mystery!
A deep chill started at Myles's toes and moved up to his chest, then to the top of his head.

The man put his oily mechanic hands on his hips. Then he cleared his throat, like he didn't want to say what was coming next.

“There's something else you should know. Those huge strange footprints … I saw them all around the wrecked chicken truck last night. They were
just
like
these
.”

“Well, what are they?” Myles's mother asked again, but the man just shrugged.

“I have no idea, ma'am.”

I do. I know exactly what put those footprints there!
Myles wanted to scream.

Bea's reasonable voice broke the silence.

“Well, there's something
we
should tell
you
. We saw Pete Fournette last night,” she said matter-of-factly. “And although I don't happen to think any of that ‘ghost walks the highway' story is real, my brother thinks he saw Pete's dog. What was his name again, Myles?”

“Courage,” Myles said, quietly. The man stood up and raised his eyebrows. He whistled and nodded softly.

“We-lll … isn't THAT interesting! I haven't heard anyone mention Pete Fournette in a LONG time. Years. And I've NEVER heard anyone talk about seeing his dog. Courage, did you say? That's a first.”

Everyone looked at Myles. He got the uncomfortable feeling, once again, that no one really believed him about Courage. Pawprints were one thing, seeing a ghost dog was another. Suddenly he didn't care. So what if no one else could see Courage?

Myles knew he was out there. Somewhere. He might be the only person who could see the monster, but he was the only person who could see the ghost dog, too. Maybe seeing things wasn't all bad.

The tow truck driver broke the silence. “Well, something big was chased off into the woods by a dog, no doubt about it. And whatever it was, the same thing ran the chicken truck off the road a few hours earlier.” The man put his hands on his hips and looked at the footprints at their feet.

Myles's mother and Bea stared at him like they didn't understand. Or at this point in the long, long night, maybe they just didn't want to.

But Myles understood. Perfectly.

The monster chased us all night.

But Courage chased it away, every time it came near.

It couldn't wreck us, so the monster wrecked the chicken truck instead.

They all fell silent, too tired to talk as the driver hooked Victor up to the back of his tow truck. A few times Myles peeked over at the woods, but nothing moved except birds and squirrels.

It seemed impossible that the night was really over, but somehow it was. A few minutes later, everyone climbed into the truck and they drove onto the highway, towing Victor behind them like a brave fallen soldier on wheels.

As they drove away, Myles looked out the back window. He couldn't help it. He peeked … and there it was….

A dark mist curled out of the woods and formed silently around two red, staring eyes. A deep voice whispered into the quiet morning …

…. I'll find you, Myles.…

Myles raised his chin.
Maybe,
he thought.
But next time I'll know you. Next time, I'll be ready.

And this time there was no mistake. Outside, a dog's bark rose on the breeze.

THIS PART IS ALSO (MOSTLY) TRUE

W
elcome
to the end of the story, and if you've made it this far, congratulations. I told you at the beginning that it was scary and more than a little strange, and yet here you are. I'm sure you'll never go on a long drive again without wondering what might be following you in the dark fields, out of sight.

Out of everyone's sight but yours, of course.

You've no doubt got many questions at this point. You're probably wondering what happened next? And you might just be thinking … is this story
true
?

But if you remember, on the very first pages of this story you read these words:
Truth is an odd thing; one person's truth can be another person's lie. That's the most important thing to remember about this story: sometimes things that seem like lies are actually true. And sometimes you never can tell.

I could leave the story right there, and you'd just have to accept it. But that would be unfair of me, and I pride myself on being fair.

So, without further ado, here are the answers you seek.…

Myles and his family
did
make it to their new home. An hour after climbing into the tow truck, they stood in front of a beautiful house. Their house.

There were no broken doors squeaking on hinges, no hanging windows or huge black crows CAW! CAWing from dark trees. Instead, the house was tall and newly painted with big windows, and a large front balcony with a hammock that would soon be eternally swinging. If you were looking for Bea, for instance, she was probably in the hammock reading.

And inside the house? Inside the house that morning, their dad was waiting for them all with pancakes … as he promised. He swept Norman into his arms and hugged Bea. He ruffled Myles's hair.

“You've grown, Myles!” he said.

Myles nodded. Yeah. He had. Myles
had
grown. A lot. On the outside maybe, and in ways you couldn't see, too.

And the “surprise” his dad had for him? You can probably guess, but it's a nice surprise all the same: a dog. Myles was finally going to have his own dog. I'm not even going to tell you what he named it, because surely you can guess.

As they built their lives in their new town, Myles and his family prospered.

They DID get a new car but kept Victor-the-Volvo in the driveway for years, because they couldn't bear to say goodbye.

Myles DID start to enjoy things like his own music and his own room, although he found he didn't mind so much if Norman felt like singing his song about C! C! C! now and then, or if he wanted to sleep in Myles's room on dark, rainy nights once in a while.

He really DID start to like his new home, his new school, and his new town. All those worries, gone, gone, gone.

But more than all that, you're probably curious about Pete Fournette and his dog Courage. Were they really ghosts?

There's plenty of evidence for the ghost story, at the diner and in the library archives, isn't there? Mrs. Cody the librarian and plenty of other adults seemed to think it was true, even if Bea didn't. And then there's the fact that Courage was glowing each time Myles saw him (and ghosts DO glow, you know, at least some of them do).

The truth is, as far as I know, after Myles and his family saw him, old Pete never wandered the rainy April highway ever again.

Why?

Well, I think it's because he finally heard the answer he'd longed for.

Pete had asked people the same question for over one hundred years:
Have you seen my dog?

No one had.

Until someone did.

Myles. After all those years of saying “no,” someone finally answered “yes” to Pete's question, and so his restless wandering spirit grew still.

Well, not completely still. There are those who will tell you that on a perfect spring night when the trees blow gently and anything is possible, you may see an old man and a beautiful golden dog walking along the highway, together at last. If you're very quiet, you may hear a faraway dog's bark. And if you are especially lucky, you may even hear an old man's pleasant whisper:
Come, Courage, it's time for home …

And the monster outside? Was it really there? Did it really follow Myles all that long, long night? Did it ever find him again?

Despite the scary whispers, Victor's broken window, the footprints in the mud ... was it a monster that Myles saw? Or anxiety about moving, exhaustion, and a bad storm mixed together with a fox in the bushes of an old farmhouse, the antlers of a deer, a rock?

In the end, only Myles really knows.

I CAN tell you that if Myles was bothered by a big worry, like a final chemistry exam or the time he had pneumonia one winter, misty fingers
would
snake out of the woods behind his house. Red eyes
did
blaze in the dark, and a deep voice
would
whisper…
I'm here now, Myles …

… but Myles would count to ten. Take a deep breath. Decide not to be afraid. Sometimes the monster left right away, sometimes it didn't, but it didn't really matter.

Because Courage was out there, too.

So now you know the story of Myles and the monster outside. Despite his possibly overactive imagination and his many fears, he grew up in a perfectly ordinary way.

There were only two things that were a little odd about Myles.

One: his father gave him his first dog, and he was never without one for the rest of his life. He sometimes had two, or even three dogs at a time. They all had the same name, which got a bit confusing if, say, you were trying to get just one of them to come to you. (I'm sure you can guess what they were all named.)

Two: If you ever whispered around Myles, for a moment he'd get a wild look on his face then say quietly, “I see you, too … and I'm NOT afraid!”

BOOK: Myles and the Monster Outside
4.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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