Mr. Smith
This is a pretty long one, and it's been nearly a year since most of this happened, but I will do my best to recount every detail I can remember.  This is the story of the days and weeks leading up to a moonlit October night in the rural heartland of the Southeastern US, but before I begin, there are a few things you should know for context.  My family has owned a moderately sized farm in a very rural county for six generations, and there are all sorts of strange stories and family lore about the land.  I might share more of those spooky stories some other time, but not much of that lore is really relevant to the story at hand.   Just know that this farm has a history of peculiar happenings.

My grandfather had passed away suddenly while I was completing my senior year of college, and my father had recently moved out of state for his job, taking my mother with him.  This left me as the only immediate family member in any position to manage the family land, so as soon as I finished my exams and made my proud walk across the stage for my diploma, I packed all of my belongings into my truck and headed home.  I have to admit that it was actually pretty nice to be back in my old hometown, even though lots of little things had changed. 

However, by far the strangest thing I came back to was the old farm.  Even though I had spent a huge portion of my childhood running around the orchards, swimming in the creek, and hunting deer and turkey in the woods and hayfields of that farm, I had never actually lived there, so it felt strange indeed to be "coming home" to that house. 

Moving in was at least fairly easy, since the house was practically empty.  There wasn't even a clock left on the wall or a single potted plant left on the porch.  I might just be easily spooked, but I have to admit the emptiness made the place a little creepy, especially combined with the isolation.  The driveway to get to the farmhouse is about half a mile long, and the nearest neighbors are close enough to hear a gunshot but not close enough to hear a call for help.

To make matters worse, apparently while I was away a serious coyote population had moved into the area.  On clear and calm evenings I could hear at least five different packs of coyotes raising Cain all over the area.  They're not usually a real threat to humans, but they can carry some nasty diseases, and their howling is certainly an eerie sound to hear on a dark and foggy night.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that life was good.  I had gotten got a job at a local machine shop that paid well enough make ends meet and also gave me a little bit of pocket money to spare.  Meanwhile, I was using my free time and money to fix up the farm.  I repaired fence lines, trimmed the long-neglected orchards, and put up new tree stands at a few choice places around the property.  I also rekindled a high school romance with a nice local girl who now owned her own business in town.  Like I said, life was pretty good.  

Things didn't start to get weird until around September, but boy did they get weird quick.  

It started one evening very early in September, which is still really summertime in my area.  The sun had gone down, but it wasn't completely dark yet, and I had just finished picking the first autumn apples in one of the orchards.  I was unpacking the baskets from the back of my truck, enjoying the coolness of the evening after the long, hot day when I noticed an unfamiliar sound.  What was strange about it is that I couldn't really tell you when it started, because it wasn't sudden or really even that noticeable. 

It's hard to describe, but I just gradually became aware that the evening wasn't as quiet as usual, and when I listened closely I finally realized that there was a low, droning, and constant howl echoing across the landscape.  Now, this wasn't the howl of a coyote or a wolf.  I've heard both of those, and this was certainly something different.  In fact, at first I didn't think it was an animal sound at all; it sounded more like the howl of wind through old boards or the sound that worn-out tires make when you go just the right speed on the interstate. 

I hadn't yet gotten around to hauling away some of the junk around the farmyard, so I figured that some old scrap must have been catching the wind just right to make that howl.  Perhaps a piece of tin roofing or some rusted-out sheet metal.  However,  the noise continued to gradually grow louder, and that was when I noticed that there was no wind blowing.  Not even a slight breeze.  

At that point I started to get a bit uneasy, but still there was nothing to be alarmed about, right?  There were no crashing footsteps or glowing red eyes staring out from the woods at me.  I figured maybe it was the sound of some electric farm equipment on some of the neighbors' property.  After all, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some manufacturer makes an eco-friendly tractor that makes plenty of operating noise but lacks the signature rumble of a diesel engine.

By this point I had finished unpacking my tools and the few buckets of apples from the truck, and the howling had actually become very loud.  It seemed to be coming from a stand of woods off to one side of the back fields, but it was hard to tell since all of the outbuildings have a tendency to bounce sound around quite a lot.  Another thing that made the sound difficult to pin down was the low, constant nature of it.  It was almost as though it simply hung in the air, rather than really coming from anywhere specific.

I decided that I didn't really feel like trudging through the woods with a flashlight and a shotgun, and I figured that the truth would probably come out in the morning light, so I simply pulled my truck into the garage and headed inside.  Nothing else happened that evening, but once I got inside the house, it finally hit me just how loud the howl had gotten.  When I stepped inside and shut the door my ears were ringing, and the soft silence of the farmhouse seemed profound by comparison. 

Over the next two weeks, I noticed the howling a few more times, but I wasn't able to pin down any concrete pattern or cause and effect surrounding it.  The one thing I noticed for sure was that it always started at dusk, and it would usually happen after a night or two of intense coyote activity, and the next day the whole farm would be dead calm.  I asked around with some of my neighbors, and none of them reported experiencing anything like what I was describing.  Naturally, this was quite a concern to me, and I began to wander if I might be developing hearing problems or something similar.  Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, this proved not to be the case. 

One night in late September a friend of mine from college was passing through on his way to visit some family, so I let him crash at the farm with me for the night.  I heard him coming up the long gravel driveway just past sundown, and I headed out onto the front porch to meet him.  As soon as I stepped outside into the cool evening air, I noticed that the sourceless howling was rolling over the fields that night, but I decided to just ignore it for the sake of my friend.  However, as soon as he got out of his car, his ears perked up, and he looked around suspiciously for a few moments.  

"You hear it too?" I asked him, suddenly relieved that I wasn't just going crazy or developing tinnitus.  "Yeah... what even is that?" he asked nervously.  I told him a few of my theories, but I confided in him that it was starting to spook me a little bit since it had been going on at random for nearly four weeks at that point.  We both eventually laughed it off, but we spent the rest of the evening indoors, except for the few times he went out onto the porch for a smoke.  What's more, every time he would come back inside he would shake his head and say "I guess it's still out there," telling me that the howling hadn't stopped.

After that night, the howling didn't return for more than a week, and in the meantime I busied myself with work at the machine shop.  I was also putting all of my spare time into picking apples, plums, pears, pecans, and wild grapes.  All the bounty of autumn, and a reward for a summer of hard work.  Besides, it was hunting season, and it was high time to get back into the woods for a chance at a nice side of venison.  

I had been tracking a small herd of deer back and forth across the property for a few weeks, and I had gotten nice and comfortable in my tree stand in the early evening.  I was scanning the fields for any signs of movement when I heard a lone coyote start to howl not far away.  Soon enough, a whole group of them had taken to barking and howling, and they were close too.  Their barks and yips drew closer and closer, coming from just beyond the tree line about 400 yards ahead of me. 

I picked up my 35-caliber rifle and looked through the scope, scanning the trees for any signs of movement, and all of a sudden two does and a very small buck leapt out of the trees and bounded across the field, moving swiftly across my firing line from right to left.  They were on the very edge of my rifle's effective range, but I could tell that they were running from something.  Sure enough, a few moments later a group of four or five coyotes tumbled out of the brush in hot pursuit.  It's rare for coyotes to be so aggressive, but when they have numbers on their side nothing is off the table for them.

The light was fading now, and as I watched through my scope, one of the deer began to fall behind the rest of the group, and the coyotes were gaining on it rapidly.  I considered firing into the air to scare them off, but I figured it wouldn't do anything with the pack all hopped up on adrenaline, so I decided not to waste the ammunition.  However, as soon as the coyotes had the doe surrounded and it looked like they were about to move in for an early supper, they suddenly stopped and began to yelp, all of them looking in the same direction and ignoring the exhausted doe.  At first I was puzzled, but then I heard it.  

The low, moaning howl had begun.  It was barely audible, but it was surely there.  The coyotes continued to yelp and bark, circling the doe nervously but constantly looking across the field towards the opposite tree line, almost like they weren't sure whether to flee and leave their prey alone or ignore the howling and go in for the kill.  The howling grew louder and louder, and the coyotes finally turned tail and ran back in the direction they had come from, vanishing silently into the trees as the last of the evening light faded away. 

I peered through my scope and looked up and down the tree line that the coyotes had been fixated on just a few moments before, but in the inky darkness and rising mist I couldn't see anything but the tangled shadows of sycamores and dogwoods.  For just a moment I thought maybe I caught a glimpse of movement, but I couldn't be sure in the gathering darkness.  

The howling continued for another half hour or so, and that whole time I stayed stone-still in my tree stand.  I was riveted to my seat in hopes of finally solving the mystery of the phantom sound, and I won't pretend that I wasn't a little bit scared to get down and walk across the fields back to the house after what I had just witnessed, but eventually the rumbling of my stomach and the chill of the October air drove me back to the comfortable warmth of the house.

That wasn't the last time I heard the howling, but this story has already dragged on way longer than intended.  If you all like it and are interested in hearing the rest, let me know and I will post it here soon.

Edit: Made a few small tweaks for better story flow.
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Darkness Prevails
Very nice and very well written. I'm looking forward to your next post to continue this story!
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I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories. 
As DP mentioned, it is extremely well written. 
I, too, am looking forward to reading the next chapter of this mysteriously monstrous experience!
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unkown."
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come on, part 2. Gotta see how it ends.
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