The Hooper Dooper Road

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two stoned college students take an ill-fated drive into the North Country.

Submitted: November 17, 2019

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Submitted: November 13, 2019

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The North Country was in the midst of a cold snap. Frozen Canadian air gripped the region, refusing to let go. The ground was blanketed in a blinding snow. Bare branches of the canopy of trees looked crisp and finite in the frigid temperatures. They bore a stark outline against a clear icy blue sky. The sun, being a great deceiver, shone brightly in the cloudless day but offered little comfort. I marveled at the alacrity of winter in the forest and how everything was so still and pure and pristine; like it wasn’t just frozen in temperature, but in time as well. 

I was grateful for observing this through the dirty salt-stained haze of my windshield with the heater running at full blast. “We need to find another road,” my trusty co-pilot opined from the passenger side with a freshly packed bowl on her lap. The houses and passing cars were sparse on the desolate stretch of highway but we didn’t want to take any chances for what we were about to do was still considered illegal. I had oftentimes traversed these very roads. There was little else to do while living in a small town besides drive around and dream of escape. We took my Oldsmobile far that day in search of a road so far removed from civilization that even I have not seen it before. 

I tore myself from my reverie and slammed on the brakes. “Holy shit!” I exclaimed as the car slid on the winter slick mix of salt, sand, snow, and sub-zero temperatures. 

When we came to a halt, my co-pilot shot me a glare as she pried her fingertips off the dashboard and reprimanded, “dude!”

“We missed a road back there!” I said excitedly, as I began to back up. “If I’m not mistaken the sign read Hooper Dooper Road.” 

“What? Are you serious?" She cocked an eyebrow in incredulity.

“Yeah, seriously dude, Hooper Dooper Road. In the entire time that I have lived here, I’ve only seen this particular road sign once before back when we were freshmen and we took a drive. We got out of the car and took a picture of all of us dangling on it like a bunch of art school hooligans. It was amazing.” 

“Like you do,” she agreed. 

“I can’t believe we’ve found it. Though, I’ve never actually been on it." 

“Well, are we going to or not?”

“Hell yeah, we are.” My grin widened. “We’re going down there and we're going to find out why this road is called Hooper Dooper Road!"

“Good, because you know this bowl isn’t going to smoke itself.” 

 

A mile or so further we passed the only property to be seen. It was an unassuming aluminum trailer with a large yard. It was also the last sign of life until we found the end of the road. "Dude, did you see all those dogs?" My copilot and I did a double-take as we passed.

"Yeah man, it looked like a fucking dog farm. There must have been like, what, twenty of them. Were those chow dogs all chained up and staring at us as we drove by? They looked hungry."

"Creepy." We both shuddered.

“Super creepy, who would have that many dogs?” 

“Who knows?” 

The road went on for another mile or more without another soul in sight. For a while, it was just us and the woods, a seemingly ceaseless grove of trees pierced by the occasional snowmobile trail. Then further ahead on my left I found the answer to my first question. Poking out of the snow in a patch of pines was a wooden sign marking the start of what used to be a driveway. “Hooper Dooper Lodge," I strained to read the words and hopefully catch a glimpse of this mysterious log cabin. 

"Jesus Christ! Look out!" My co-pilot shouted.

 I snapped my gaze back to the road only to find it had ended. I swore and hit the brakes, tires skid and screeched, but it was too late. There was a crunch as I embedded the hood of my car into a snowbank that was just as tall as I was. “Snowplow turn around,” I muttered and sat for a second, still clutching the steering wheel with my foot on the brake. “I should have known, they’re all over here, a lot of the roads just end,” I spoke mostly to myself looking down at the steering wheel as I avoided my co-pilot’s steely gaze. I knew she wanted to smack me. I flinched as I waited for her to strike. I deserved it. “Sorry,” I sighed and cleared my throat and quietly apologized and took my foot off the brake. Then, pretending as if nothing happened I hit the gas and rocked the car back and forth between reverse and drive. It was not the first time that I had gotten my car stuck and unstuck in the poorly populated lands of the North Country. The tires only let out a loud and angry squeal as they spun, but I could not get the car to move. I feared I was irrevocably stuck this time. After a minute I turned the car off, “we’re stuck.”

“No shit.” 

“I’m sorry,” I apologized again, even though I knew it would do no good. "I see how it is," I murmured, drawing a grave conclusion. "They lure you down the road with the uncanny name and then-”

 “Who are they?” My co-pilot asked.

“-then they kill you. Once you're nailed to the damned snowbank." I had given up hope. My fingers slid limply off the steering wheel and settled numbly in my lap. I bowed my head in resignation. "Any minute now they will come. The Hooper Dooper Death Cult… Why else would there be a lodge way out here?” 

“What are you going on about?”

“I don’t want to die out here,” my mind raced toward every worst possible outcome, “what do we do?” I pled to my trusty co-pilot as my addled brain inexplicably traveled to human sacrifice.

"Well, we’re going to smoke this bowl, and a cigarette, turn off the car, and we walk." I thanked her, the great and eminent sage; the voice of reason and a beacon of wisdom even though I knew we were doomed. “You don’t need any more since you’re going on about death cults.”

“Gimme that.”

 

I watched longingly, walking backward as the car disappeared over the crest of the hill, leaving us alone and vulnerable in the white wide world. The further we trekked, the more painfully clear it all became. It was very cold outside. Teeth chattering and muscles clenched we fought for footing on the icy slope. The outside air burned in our lungs and our breath billowed like chimney smoke. Our jeans were frozen stiff as well as the snot in our sinus passages. I was reminded of spending a good portion of my childhood waiting for the school bus in the morning at the end of the road in the dead of winter. However, our destination was far more nefarious than grade school. The Hooper Dooper Lodge looked to be deserted for it had not been plowed out in quite some time. That left us with no other recourse than to hike down to the only other denizen: The Dog Man. “Shit, shit, shit, shit,” my co-pilot swore through chattering teeth. 

“Wait,” I stopped short and held up a hand. 

"Jesus fucking-woo-" She let out a cry and slid behind me in mid explicative. 

“Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” she asked as she regained her footing. The low dull rumble of a motor grew louder as a snowmobile approached us. It sounded like our salvation. 

“Help us!” We flagged the rider down.

"A little cold to be walking," the rider stated the obvious as he drew his sled up beside us.

“The car is stuck at the end of the road," we both exclaimed before he interrupted.

“Can’t help you, I don’t have anything. No chain, nothing. There’s a house down the road ask them,” he said abruptly and sped off. 

“Thanks for nothing!” I called out after him and my co-pilot swore and slipped as we started walking again.

 

“Dear Christ,” I stood agape at the side of the road in front of the trailer. I had stopped trying to count the dogs, there were so many. There were fluffy chow dogs of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They played and yapped among each other in cages, on chains, and runners. What kind of person owns all these animals? How does he feed them all? Then in one horrible moment, they all grew silent as they drew their attention to the intruders.

"You go," My co-pilot stated.

 "What?"

"I’m not going in there," she said planting her feet resolutely at the end of the driveway.

"Dude" I whispered, waiting for the still air to erupt in a chorus of barking and wailing as the dogs alerted their owner.

She shoved me forward a couple of steps. “It's your fault we're here.” That bitch, I thought as I righted and glared back at her. She was right though. I stomached the growing lump of fear and resigned to my fate. After all, she didn’t plant the car in the snowbank. She didn’t grow up in this godforsaken wilderness.

"Okay," I turned and took an uneasy step forward. Three more was all I could manage before I stopped dead in my tracks. "Hey dogs, hey puppies, doggos and puppers, puppers and doggos. Who’s a good boy; you’re all good boys and girls. Every single one of you," I spoke through gritted teeth and forced a smile as they all stared back. I held my hands up to prove I was unarmed and innocent as they slowly closed in. My feet froze to the ground, “dammit, I can’t do it.” I turned back to face my friend as I imagined the dogs’ predatory gaze as they inched ever closer. “There’s too many of them. They’re going to attack at any second. Rip me to shreds, I know it.” I watched my co-pilot’s face change as if she picked up on my deepening sense of dread. Then it dawned on me, it wasn’t me she was looking at, but someone behind me. “It’s the Dog Man,” I mouthed the words and saw her slight nod in agreement and I turned back around with my hands still raised to face the only denizen on the Hooper Dooper Road.

He stood in the open doorway of his trailer. He was an older man with a wrinkled and weatherworn face with a scraggly beard and long greasy graying hair. He only wore blue jeans that were ripped at the knees and a sleeveless t-shirt that had once been white before the washing machine stained it pink. His feet were bare. “What do you want?” he spoke abruptly through thin chapped lips and missing teeth. His voice was harsh as if we were the first people he spoke to besides his dogs in a long time.

“My car is stuck at the end of the road. I can’t get it out.” I spat. 

“That’s because she got it stuck in a snowbank,” my co-pilot amended safely from her stance on the road.

“Yeah, it is stuck,” there was a sense of helplessness in my voice that I could not hide. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be bothering you.” Please, don’t shoot me, I added under my breath knowing there was a chance that he was armed just out of view behind that door. Trespassers will be shot was a big thing in these parts. 

“One minute,” he said and went inside and closed the door.

"Oh my God," I wheezed and screwed up my face and bolted back to the end of the driveway. "What do we do? Do we run? There has to be another house. Someone else…" We both knew there wasn’t anybody else; he was our last chance for survival. The highway was still miles away.

He emerged a couple of minutes later. The only thing that changed about his appearance was that he now wore boots and carried a shovel. The fear returned. Nothing about the man's demeanor and how he held that shovel looked as if he was here to help us. Why isn't he wearing a jacket?  Even beneath all the layers of clothes, the cold sank deep into my bones. I felt a shiver run down the length of my spine it wasn't all because of the weather. Dozens of gruesome images and conclusions flooded my mind. We would be chopped up or ground up in a shed outback. Human flesh reduced to nothing more than kibbles and bits to feed to the innumerable and inevitably hungry chow chows. Oh GodChow chow, chow, I thought as I edged closer to my friend, bracing myself so I wouldn’t be pushed forward again for I resolved that we would die together. “My car is at the end of the road. The snowplow turnaround at the end of the road.” I forced the words out and hoped he got the message. 

“One minute,” he said again and went inside. 

“Take all the time you need.” I exhaled uneasily at the closed door. Beside me, my co-pilot desperately tried to stifle a chuckle and nudged my shoulder, tearing me away from my dark thoughts, and I looked in the direction that she pointed. Two black dogs rolled across the street in front of us, humping madly and howling and growling and nibbling and gnawing at each other. “Oh, holy shit,” I uttered and laughed. 

“Shh,” my co-pilot shushed and giggled and covered her mouth beside me. “We have to be serious.”

“They’re fucking like crazy.” 

“Maintain a straight face,” she lost it immediately, but the fit of laughter died down as the trailer door opened and The Dog Man returned with his trusty shovel. This time he was wearing a dingy rusty brown stained coverall. 

“There are one or two things that can happen right now, he can use that shovel of his to help dig us out of the snowbank, or he can bash our heads in with it and feed us to the dogs,” I said quickly as soon as he disappeared around the back of his house. “I for one don’t want to be fed to fucking dogs.” 

My co-pilot sorted. 

“What is so funny about being turned into dog food?”

“You said fucking dogs.” She motioned to them as they rolled around and mounted each other once more. 

“Jesus Christ, they’re still going at it.” I was momentarily stunned by their stamina, no wonder why there are so many dogs here, I thought.

Our amusement was cut short when we heard an engine start. A car pulled up from the other side of the trailer. The Dog Man got out and opened the back door and moved his shovel to the trunk. "Get in," he said to us and then motioned for the dogs to do the same.

"Okay," we obliged. There were two options available, one of us could ride in the front seat with the Dog Man who could still very well kill us and no one would ever know we were here or hop in the back with his two prized hell hounds. My co-pilot shrugged and called shotgun and I groaned and graciously accepted the backseat scooting besides the horny chow chows that took up most of the room.

"Oh God help me," I said breathlessly and shut myself in, practically pressed into the window glass with barely room to breathe. I looked forward to my friend in the front seat who appeared to be amused about the whole thing. Then something passed between our eyes, a combination of pity and the grim yet hopeful realization that we weren’t going to die alone. You’re a good friend, I said under my breath as she turned back around and the rest of the drive passed by in silence. I tried my best to avoid eye contact with the big black dog beside me with its knowing gaze and wagging black tongue. Back off, I thought, you foul-mouthed hell hound. I was sure all that hard humping had made it hungry. Maybe we were not meant to be dog food? Why else would we be driving toward the direction of my immobilized Oldsmobile and the lodge at the end of the road? My stomach sank and my sense of relief sputtered out when I drew the next grim conclusion. I frowned and faced my friend who wasn’t from here like I was and didn’t deserve to die here like I did. It wasn’t unheard of; people disappear from the North Country all the time. More often than not, it was blamed on the cold and unrelenting winter. People just get sick of it and leave town, hell, I had been thinking of doing that very thing. It looked as if I was going to get my wish but not the way I had hoped. My mind shifted up the hill to my abandoned car. Chances were, we weren’t going to see the interior again. The snowplow turnaround was conveniently close to the lodge. With a name like Hooper Dooper Lodge who knew what it was used for? I risked a sideways glance at my traveling companions in the back seat. Had they been staring at me the whole time? Then I thought about the shovel shoved into the trunk. Death won’t come quickly, I feared, for a fate far worse played out in my mind. 

 

I knew as soon as we got out of the car he would subdue us, by dashing upside the heads with it. Hard enough to be rendered unconscious but not outright kill. The Dog Man would drag and carry our inert bodies over the firm yet pliant snow, trailing behind hats, and scarves and bits of brain and blood. The two black dogs would sniff, huff, yipping, and whining; trying to get a piece of the prize. “Get off of 'em, they’re mine,” The Dog Man would growl and curse and kick at his companions while he transports his tribute to the steps of the Hooper Dooper Lodge nestled in the tall and tightly packed pines of the silent and still state forest.

The sun descends and night creeps in. Cars and trucks line the end of Hooper Dooper Road. Snowmobiles pull up out front. The inhabitants from nearby hamlets and the outlying stretches of wilderness gather. The windows of the lodge are illuminated casting the welcoming flicker of light on the snow and cast shadows into the multitude of footprints that lead inside. I’d awaken to watch the firelight play upon the wood grain of the walls and ceiling and the shadows of our fur-clad captors' splash and dance against the walls. Deer antlers and the tops of skulls adorn their heads with crowns of twigs and thorns, evergreens, and berries. Necklaces of baubles and bones hang heavy from their necks. They loom in closer to their injured and immobilized quarry. My brain screams as I try to turn my head to see if my friend is still alive. I find I can barely move, as I lay there with my head cracked open. One of the lodge members draws closer, doffs his crown, and pulls back his hood. A small noise escapes my winter chapped lips. “As you well know," he begins, "seeing as how according to your ID you live in the next town over, that the winters here in the North Country are far too long and far too cold. From October to May it seems the snow grips the ground. Everything is frozen in time and is either dead or dying. The long nights are absolute. In Slavic countries, this season of death and dormancy is attributed to the Goddess Morana. It is she that blankets the earth in an icy pall. In ancient times, on the solstice the villagers create a straw effigy in the size and likeness of a schoolchild, dressed in a flowing white gown and elaborately adorned. At the end of the festivities, this effigy is led to the water’s edge and set on fire and drowned to bring about winter’s merciful end and to welcome in the spring. We have adopted this philosophy, only there are no school children here, and you two are the effigies.” 

“We’re art students,” I hear my friend gurgle proudly and spit at The Dog Man as he turned to approach her. 

“All the better,” he replies and I risk a glance sideways to see her cough up a bit of blood. Her pale drawn face is bathed in firelight and splashed in red. She doesn’t look good, I think and worry etches deep into my brows. Even though our home towns are only forty minutes away, she has no idea about what happens in the higher elevations and how desperate we get around this time of year. I watch as the Dog Man swings at her, knocking her back out. I turn my head away, regretting our little excursion through the backwoods, a trip that would get us both killed.

“Hey,” I groan at the Dog Man to get his attention, “can I ask you a question before you knock me out again? Why Hooper Dooper? What does that even mean?” 

“It is designed to draw the attention of the likes of you and your friend here, college-age miscreants that have nothing better to do. It worked didn’t it?”

“I imagine so,” I get the words out just as he looms over me along with the rest of the hooded townspeople and faithful devotees of the Goddess Morana. Perhaps getting eaten by dogs was the better option, is my last fleeting thought before darkness closes in again.  

 

The cold rouses me a second time and I crack my eyes open to see the morning sun reach up into the towering trees, turning their tips a brilliant orange-red. I notice that throughout the night they changed me out of my warm and worn out leather jacket, sweater, and two pairs of pants. I’m dressed in an overlarge sack of a dress cobbled together with bits of white cloth and stuffed with straw. Weighing me down are heavy adornments, necklaces built of baubles, beads, and bits of bone to complete the ceremonial attire. The gathering crowd is preoccupied, and my gaze follows a trail of blood out to the middle of a frozen pond, all I can see is a hole in the ice to know that my friend is gone. They drowned her. I close my eyes for a second in dismay and when I open them again the familiar face of The Dog Man draws into view with the rest of the followers and his two faithful dogs in tow. Even they wear crowns of evergreens and antlers and a necklace of bones and baubles about the collar I muse as The Dog Man opens his mouth to speak. “On this day, the twenty-first of March we commit these two sacrifices to the fire and the water to appease the great Goddess of winter and death, Morana, may this act purify us so that spring shall once again return and warm the hearts of us all.” I watch him as he reaches down with a lighted torch to set my bed of seasoned pine ablaze.

 

The Dog Man’s car lurched to a halt at the snowplow turnaround and my stomach leaped into my throat at the sign of the Hooper Dooper Lodge. I glanced forward; my view of my friend was obstructed by the front seat. I wondered if she knew what would befall us out here. He put the car in park and opened his door. “Get out,” he said sternly to all of the passengers, both human and canine. My sense of relief of being the sole passenger of the back seat was short-lived when I once again realized that this was probably how we were both going to die. Visions of death cults, fires, and a trail of blood leading to a hole in the ice floated around in my head. I shot my friend an apologetic look, as my soon-to-be-former co-pilot opened the door and exited the car. I steeled myself against my fears to follow in suit. If I died, I wasn’t going to do it sitting down. I felt the panic rise when I found the door wouldn’t open until I realized that I must have hit the lock button as I tried to avoid the dogs’ hungry gaze. The Dog Man shut the driver’s side door and zipped up his dingy coveralls. There was a crunch of worn rubber boots on the road as he made his way to the trunk to retrieve his shovel. Not if I get there first, the idea shot through me. I could take it from him, I think, in a burst of will as I jump out of the car to intercept him. “It doesn’t have to end this way!” I’d say triumphantly as I wrench it out of his bare cracked hands and choke up on the handle. “We don’t have to die here! You’ll have your sacrifice, Oh, Morana!” I’d shout with zeal. 

“Dude, what are you doing!” I’d barely hear my co-pilot holler as I swing hard at The Dog Man and drive the shovel home. 

 

An hour or so passed since we abandoned the car and were subjected to the elements in our adventure in the snow. I stared longingly at dirty, salt-stained, dented and rusted Oldsmobile. I shifted my weight on either leg and stomped my feet to maintain circulation. I jammed my hands deep into the pockets of my leather jacket. Beside me, my copilot's breath came out in a billow of steam, as she swore into cupped hands as she used her burning inner rage to warm them up. My friend shot me a look when she caught me staring at her. All I could do was shrug. 

“Okay, get in.” The Dog Man said and leaned on his shovel as he finished digging the front bumper free. 

“Wow,” I said astonished, “that was fast,” I couldn’t hide my excitement to be back in the car with the heater on at full blast as we sped down the state highway and far away from Hooper Dooper Road. 

“Thank you so-so much.” We muttered gratefully through chattering teeth. We offered him something to smoke and some money for his troubles but he politely declined both. With a nod of his head, he went back to his car and loaded up his hell hounds and drove off. 

We swore up and down as we climbed inside. The cold air sank and settled in, stinking of smoke and a last-minute splash of perfume to mask the smell. I turned on the car, rejoicing as it chugged back to life. I popped us back in reverse and I pulled away from the snowbank and turned the car around. “Thank you, Dog Man, of Hooper Dooper Road,” I said under my breath and the roar of the heater that had barely begun to kick in and warm our frozen bones.

“No shit,” my trusty co-pilot swore and fished for the half-smoked bowl hidden in the center console and offered it to me after taking a hit. I declined upon realizing that I had been overly paranoid about the whole ordeal. Then a thought occurred to me as we drove down the hill we previously walked. “Dude, back at the Dog Man trailer, you just shoved me ahead of you.”

“Hell yeah, I did, dude. It is survival of the fittest. I was going to run while you were eaten or whatever.”

“Fair enough, I seriously thought we were going to end up as food for those fucking dogs... or worse.” 

My co-pilot burst out laughing as we pulled up to the Dog Man’s property and I had no choice but to pump the brakes. “Fucking dogs!” we both shouted as the two black chows were back it humping and rolling right across the road in front of us. 

“Hooper Dooper, dude, I mean seriously, what the fuck,” my copilot lost it for a second before she regained her train of thought; "you grew up around here. No wonder why you are the way you are." All I could do was laugh and shrug. The highway came into view. Tears started to well up in my eyes and I sniffled as my nasal passages unfroze. We very well could have died back there. I laughed so hard at the thought that I nearly drove off the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Jessica Hopsicker. All rights reserved.

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