Thursday, September 1, 1960
Roberta Foster shivered as she stepped out of the local doctor's house
on the night of that first disappearance. There was an unnatural
frostiness to the air. She pulled her sweater tight, turned up the dirt
road toward home--and stopped short. A barred owl hooted from a fork in
the tree above her. Goosebumps raised the hairs on her arms. It was the
third time in a week she'd heard that call. According to mountain folks,
when you hear an owl hoot three times, death is coming for someone.
It was a long, solitary walk back over the mountain through Porter's
Hollow. She scanned the inky woods and the road ahead. The moon shone
big and bright, deepening the shadows along the path. Lord knows she had
enough to think on, but it was hard to concentrate on such a night.
Robey was in quite a fix. She was in love with a local boy, Glen Allen
Porter. He was tall and muscular, with dark hair, fair skin and soft
grey eyes. And he understood how bad she wanted to get away from here.
Kept telling Robey how much he loved her even though he went and married
that . . . well, she was too much of a lady even to think the word.
Still, she should've been more careful. She knew better 'cause her own
mother had done the same. But her momma hadn't lived long enough to
Aunt Hattie had taken her in when Momma died and she never asked
anything. They lived in a white-washed, two-story clapboard on a few
acres Hattie Perkins' husband left her when he passed. But they weren't
well off, and they had no car so they walked pretty much everywhere.
Which was why Robey found herself out on the road so late at night. The
Doc saw her in his home after work for nothing more than a few dozen
eggs, and some tobacco now and then.
She generally didn't mind walking, but this felt like a hair-raising,
bone-chilling sort of night. All the same, Robey admired the silvery
glow of the moon--right up until she spotted something white floating
above the road straight ahead.
She shuddered as a tingle crawled up her spine and spread to cover her
scalp. Robey drew her sweater close and cradled her swollen belly in
both arms. The specter appeared to glide along the ground toward her.
She caught her breath and froze. It glowed ghostly pale in the moonlight
as it stopped just out of arms reach. Then it shook itself all over and
sat down to look at her.
"Oh, Heaven's sake, it's just a puppy," she chided on a rush of exhaled
breath. It comforted Robey to talk to her unborn child, made her feel
like she wasn't alone in the eerie night.
The ghoslty mutt sat there and started at her, head cocked. It whined
and dropped to the ground, chin on its paws. Then it stood back up,
shook itself again and trotted off across the road. But it stopped on
the other side to look back at her once more.
Robey sighed, "I know I shouldn't follow that thing." Yet after a
moment's hesitation, she made to move toward it. She gave a light
whistle and called, "Here boy, c'mon now, we won't hurtcha."
The little beast blinked and turned away. It scampered through the gully
and down the pasture edge by the roadside where it scuttled under a
fence. What happened next made Robey's limbs go heavy and drained the
blood from her face.
The ghostly pale creature passed under the wooden fence rail--and
Robey stepped forward searching despite her fearful superstitions. She
peered hard into the darkness as she bent down and felt the rail, the
ground under it, the air around it, but there was no sign of the animal.
And no bushes or groundhog holes for it to hide in. No explanation for
A moment later, Robey heard a high-pitched, agonized scream from
somewhere not far up the hollow. She stood so abrupt-like she stumbled
and fell backward. Landed so hard on her bottom on the graveled
roadside, it drove the breath right out of her. Hands scraped stones as
she attempted too late to catch herself.
In that same instant she felt a pop as a rush of warm fluid gushed out
from between her legs. A sharp cry of fear and pain escaped her own
mouth. Roberta Foster wasn't sure what she heard at the time. It all
fused into one overwhelming experience as she went into labor, her sense
of anxious dread almost as intense as the pain.
Yet a short few hours later, she delivered a normal, healthy baby girl.
But the disappearing little white dog had surely been an omen. Because,
as Robey found out later, something unspeakable happened to someone else
small, pale and defenseless that night. Something that would cast a long
dark shadow over her own little girl's life forever.
Excerpted from "In the Shadow of Porter's Hollow" by Yvonne Schuchart. Copyright © 2016 by Yvonne Schuchart. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.