Excerpted from THREE DOG FRIGHT: The Savannah Ghost Chronicles, Copyright © 2017 by Michael K. Mancha. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

From THREE DOG FRIGHT: The Savannah Ghost Chronicles

EXCERPTS

      It was predawn in the Eternity of Canines as the bearded, robed Greyhound sleepily entered the chamber and sat down at a heavy wooden table. He stared through the crystal wall at the small distant sphere that hung in the vast dark sky, deep in thought. His tail was not wagging.

      There was a scratch on the door.
      “Come in, Sabrina,” he beckoned.
      A shiny snow-white Saluki tiptoed into the chamber. With silent reverence she watched as the elder hound unfurled the Scroll and spread it out on the coarse tabletop. “This just came down from the Masters,” he informed her.
      Pointing at the world below, he whispered, “There’s a little place called Savannah where Daray has gained quite a foothold. It seems the Stewards haven’t been able to mount much resistance. Been led about as if on leashes.”
Nodding toward the Scroll, he added, “The plan is a little different this time. Many lives hang in the balance. You must leave at once!”


      “Look around yew, Katherine. What do yew see?” Trudy continued.

      “A lovely park . . . some people . . . some houses,” replied Katherine.

      “Yes, people. Theya’ ah the history of this little gah-den by the sea. "S’vannah is a kind of enduring mosaic of all who have gone befowa. And the houses, they’re maw than brick and mortar. Theya too ah livin’ beings. Theya breathe. Theya have minds. They-ah endued with the very souls of the people that they’ve sheltahed ovah time. And like the marsh waters, S’vannah’s past and present is verah murky.”


      “Now, listen very, very closely. You are living in a time and place when the foe of man, Daray and his Usurpers, have blinded the minds of the Stewards so that they do not understand what is true and what is a lie. It is a time when fear is gripping the hearts of the humans, . . . so deep a fright that it will take not one of you, nor two, but all three of you to defeat it!
      “A cord of three strands is not easily broken,” she gently added.
      “Miss. Who is this Daray?” asked Lily.
      “Long before earth ever was, this creature served the Masters. He could be trusted. But then he turned and was exiled from the heavens. He wandered through time and space until the earth was formed. Since then, he has made it his goal to rule this sphere and all other creatures that inhabit it.”
      “Where does he hang out?” asked Toby.
      Sabrina added, “You will find him lurking in the shadows, death in the guise of the living. But that is his weakness, for the light reveals all things!”

     

      “Haunted? Yeah, right!” The stout-hearted mini let out a contemptuous snort and readied himself for the challenge. “I’ll show them there’s nothin’ to be afraid of!” Like a general on the battlefield, the little Schnauzer pointed his prominent muzzle into the swirling wind as his intense brand of curiosity drove him onward.


      Melody’s laughter was cut short.
      “There’s more, a lot more!” she announced, pointing ahead of the group. This time, the webs blocked the tunnel, wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The kids and canines watched silently as the air current caused a slow rippling of the shadowy, grayish-white barrier.
      “Geez,” said William, “it kinda looks like its breathing.”
      “Awesome,” whispered Toby.


      The colony was airborne, patrolling and gliding slowly through the tunnel. As they began a pass over of Zachary and Melody’s hiding place, the kids had a close-up look at their enemy. If these were spiders, they were unlike any they had ever seen. They were big, as big as a baseball, and covered with wiry hair. Their spindly legs were now tucked close to their bodies, and they had wings like those of a bat. Their bulging eyes projected red laser beams that they used as spotlights while searching out their prey.
      “Spats,” Melody whispered.
      “Huh?” Zachary didn’t get it.
      “Spats . . . part spider, part bat.”
      Two of the creatures stopped in mid-flight over the hole, directing their beams downward as they began to descend. The kids squeezed in tight together and tried to will themselves invisible.


      “Bishop Delaney called it a stronghold, something that has a grip on the town and won’t let go. It seems that over the years, the people of Savannah have bought into the idea that the town really is haunted. Like the bishop said, they kind of embrace the past with all the war and tragedy and death, and it’s become the identity of Savannah, kind of a tradition that people just accept,” observed David.


      The force seemed to descend from above and swiftly intensified as it lashed and whipped against the walls. Immobilized with wonder, the little canines stood their ground as the swirling force enwrapped their furry bodies. The surrounding forms of rock and shadow, and the stark smells of the underworld faded as the hounds were caught up into a new world of blinding white light. Three Dog Fright felt no panic or alarm and shared just one thought, We must have died and are on our way to heaven!

     
A short scamp down Marina Drive, a quick jaunt around Boson’s Circle, and then onto Admiral Way brought Toby to Evette’s home, where she lived with her humans, Mr. and Mrs. DeLesseps. Toby bounded onto the front porch but felt a little reluctant to scratch on the door. To the young, impressionable mini, Evette was a rare work of art, exquisite and delicate, a wonder to behold. For six months he had watched her from afar, prancing along the trails and wharfs of the Landings, her feet never touching ground, pure poetry in motion.
      As if by magic, the pampered poodle stood before Toby on the front porch snapping the dazed dog from his trance.
      “Hello, Tobias. I was hoping you would be the one to fetch me thee e-mail address,” she cooed.
      Speechless, Toby transferred the slip of paper with the address from his mouth to hers. For a brief moment, their snouts touched and their eyes locked on one another. Toby wasn’t ready for the emotional tidal wave that hit him. His head began to spin, he started to wobble from side to side and he felt as if his pounding heart would break through his furry little chest. 

      “Eez there anything’ else we should Google, Lilee?” asked Evette.
      Lily paused.
      “Umm, yes, there’s something that’s been on my mind. Can your machine tell us anything about someone named ‘Daray’?”
      “Leet us just see, now. D—A—R—A—Y. Is that correct?”
      “I think so,” Lily answered.
      “Yes. There eez something. Own’lee a defee-ntion. The name eez Gaelic and ‘eet means ‘The Dark One’. I don’t think that eez a good theeng, Lilee.”
      “No, I don’t think it is, Evette.”​ 
     

      This can’t be happening. This can’t be real.
      Fighting to control his thoughts, he remembered his father’s words. If ever I needed to trust in something greater, now’s the time!
      From his heart, Zachary cried for help.
      I gotta get out of here!
      The boy stumbled into the hallway. Like a moth to a flame, he was drawn toward the music room and the phantom piano. Standing at the door, Zachary peeked in as the music soared. A lone candle, set atop the grand instrument, flickered in the night. A shadowy form sat before the ivory keys, writhing and pulsating, at one with the music. 


      With that final admonition, Oracle resumed his slow march to death.
      “Wait!” William hollered. “Wait!”
      Oracle stopped and turned.
      “Did you know that there’s a heaven for rats?”
      “Heaven? I do not understand,” Oracle replied.
      “Yeah, uhh, a place where you go after you die where you won’t have to die again,” was William’s simple explanation.
      “I have never considered the possibility. I’ve been in this realm all of my days. The light of such a thought has never reached me.”
      “Well, there is,” William continued.
      “What makes you believe that, son?” Oracle asked.
      “An angel from Dog Heaven told us. I think you have to want to go there, and you have to try to do the best you can while you’re here,” answered William.
      Oracle was silent.
      Then he smiled.
      “I will consider this, my young friend. And I thank you for your thoughtful words. May you prevail in your quest.” 


      As the mansion continued to dissolve, the flow of black blood increased and advanced on the hapless hounds, backing them onto the stairs. Their world grew darker by the moment.
      BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
      The pounding was unbearable.
      Desperate, the hounds darted up the staircase. All outdoor light now gone, the dog’s inherent night vision again kicked-in.
      BOOM! BOOM!
      The hounds yelped, the pain inside their ears excruciating.
      They reached the upstairs landing but they would go no farther. The second floor was also in flux, the hallway walls and ceiling buckling and sliding into the flow of black blood. It was clear that the target of this diabolical force was Three Dog Fright.