by Monica Gransee
Frederick was a normal guy. He lived alone in a tiny house with only his nine year old golden, Ollie, for company. Frederick spent his days under the hoods of Ford’s and Chevy’s and at the end of a hard day he looked forward to seeing Ollie, his only friend in the world. As he opened the door, he was attacked by a huge, energetic ball of fur leaping onto his chest. “Hey there buddy! You have a good day without me?” Frederick pushed the massive animal back into the house and shut the door. He had just removed his shoes when he heard Ollie at the back door whining. “Alright buddy, I’m coming. I’ll go out there with ya.” He opened the back door and the dog ran out.
Frederick didn’t have much in the worldly sense, he lived modestly by anyone’s standards, but what he did have was an amazing backyard. His back door opened out into a wide expanse of woods. Frederick stepped onto the grass and breathed deeply of the cool evening air. Now, out here, he felt pretty okay. The smell of the woods always relaxed and restored him. He followed Ollie to the edge of the woods then stopped and listened. Usually there was a serene stillness that settled over everything and created almost a vacuum. Tonight was different. He could hear something out there, kind of a high pitched whine. It wasn’t Ollie. It wasn’t a howl or any fluctuating sound, but a consistent high-pitched wail. Then it stopped. “Well, that was weird.” he said. He whistled for Ollie. He walked towards the house and whistled again. Nothing. It’s okay. That dog will come when he’s ready.
A few minutes later, Frederick heard a scratching noise at the back door. He struggled a bit raising himself out of his recliner and went to the kitchen. “I’m comin’, I’m comin’, you sure took your sweet time tonight.” He opened the storm door and expected Ollie to burst through and skid into his bed, wagging his tail and panting gleefully. Instead, Ollie walked in slowly with his head hung low and looked beat. He took a few steps into the kitchen, not raising his head, and bumped into a chair. He swayed a bit and sat down. Frederick just stared at him. He didn’t know much about a lot of subjects, but he knew cars and he knew dogs. More importantly, he knew his dog and something was very wrong here. He knelt down next to Ollie and put his hand on the dog’s back. “You okay boy? You feelin’ alright?” As if in response, Ollie collapsed and panted loudly. Oh man this is bad, Frederick thought. He picked Ollie up and gently laid him down in his bed. He gently straightened his neck out for him. He ran into the kitchen and filled a bowl with fresh water. He knelt beside Ollie and placed the bowl in front of his nose. “Here ya go boy. Drink some of that, you’ll feel better.” Ollie sniffed the water, raised his head a little and tried to lap up a few drops. His tongue protruded and then lolled to one side. His second attempt was more successful. His tongue reached the water and drew some back into his mouth. Satisfied with this, Ollie laid back and continued to pant deeply. He looked up into the eyes of his master as if to say, “I think we’ve got a problem here friend. Not sure what the hell is going on with me, but it ain’t good.” Frederick looked at the old dog and silently agreed.
Frederick pulled out a sleeping bag and shook it out next to Ollie’s bed. If it was the floor tonight, so be it. He had no intention of leaving Ollie out here alone. He also thought moving him was not a good idea, not yet. He lay down next to Ollie and placed a hand on his back. Ollie didn’t seem to mind the weight of Frederick’s hand. Soon, they were both asleep.
About an hour later, Frederick opened his eyes. He considered for a moment where he was, remembered, and placed his hand back on Ollie. He gently stroked him and bending his fingers, did a light scratch on Ollie’s neck. As he did, Frederick felt something under Ollie’s fur. It felt like a line running diagonally under Ollie’s chin. He sat bolt upright. He grabbed his cell phone and turned on its flashlight app. He moved Ollie’s fur to get a better look. What he saw sent cold chills up his spine. There was four inch scar on Ollie’s neck. He dropped the phone and scooted back from the dog in one deft movement. He almost screamed but stifled his cry with one, oil stained hand over his mouth. At the same time, he heard a noise coming from the back door. It sounded like claws scraping on a hardwood floor. The back door stood open. Had he left it open? Maybe. He had been pretty freaked out after seeing the state Ollie he had been in, but surely he had at least remembered to close the door behind him. Frederick’s mind was swimming with uncertainty as he raced to the back door. He leapt and pulled the lever hard enough to make his hand vibrate. He slammed and locked it. He spun around to survey the room. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary.
He grabbed another beer from the fridge with one shaking hand and sat in his recliner. I just need to calm down. He took a swig of his beer and felt slightly better. He was just reaching for the TV remote when he heard the scraping noise again. A heavy set of claws dragging on wood. He jerked his head toward the sound. That’s it. He jumped up from the recliner almost knocking the side table over. He flicked on the hall light…nothing. He went to the front door and peered out the tiny pane of glass. Still nothing. Shit, he thought. I’m going nuts.
He shut the light off and turned back to his chair. He looked down at Ollie sleeping in his bed and that’s when he saw it. Some thing was sitting on top of Ollie where the scar had been. Frederick screamed. The thing did not move. It continued to suck on Ollie’s neck. In a panic, Frederick ran over to his dog and kicked the thing off of him. It flew into the kitchen hitting the cabinets. Frederick glanced down at Ollie and noticed that his dear friend was gone. He was covered in blood from chin to shoulder. His eyes were open but nobody was home. My poor buddy.
Frederick turned his attention back to the thing. It lay on its back and kicked its legs up in all directions. It had a crab-like body with claw-like pincers. It was stuck on its back like a turtle. He looked at it, then crossed the kitchen to the closet and grabbed out an old mop. He stepped on the mop head, twisted it and jerked the handle free. The thing struggled to right itself but the awkwardness of the angle made it difficult. Without a moment’s hesitation, Frederick jabbed the mop handle into the center of its twisting, writhing body. It lurched and let out a high-pitched scream into the quietness of the kitchen. The thing seized once, twice, and then was still. Exhausted, Frederick slumped down on the floor and dropped the mop handle, weeping.
As the sun started to rise, Frederick opened the back door. He descended the steps with a shovel slung over his shoulder and stopped at the edge of the woods. This was Ollie’s favorite place. He began to dig. After Ollie was laid to rest, Frederick went back to grab the thing that was now in the Hefty trash bag. He threw the bag into a second hole he had dug, one that was far away from Ollie’s final resting place, and threw it in. He covered it up and spat on the grave.
It was 7:15. He was filthy and had to get to work. In the shower, he let warm water fall on his head and shoulders. What a terrible night it had been. Goodbye Ollie, he thought, and felt the sting of tears. He was still thinking about Ollie when he raised his soapy hands to his scalp, felt something there, and froze. He ran his fingers along a narrow, scar on his scalp. What the hell? He shut the water off. He touched the scar again and followed it to the back of his head. He jumped as he heard the sound again. The terrible high-pitched sound he had heard the night before. He turned to the direction of the sound. It was coming from right outside the bathroom door. It was the heavy, scraping sound of claws on hardwood.
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