Sarah was running. Technically she was ‘running away,’ but there was no ‘away.’ Not really. Sarah had finally started to understand that.
It had started after she’d seen that boy from school kill one of those dogs. She’d been up late (or early as she had told her parents) and had seen it happening. Actually seen it.
She’d tried to tell people what happened. She didn’t know the boy very well. He was a couple grades ahead of her, a Senior she thought. She thought his name was Will, but maybe that was wrong. She knew what they said about him wasn’t true. They said he was insane. They said he killed the dogs for fun, and that it was was good that he was locked up before he hurt anyone else. They said boys like him grew up into serial killers. That janitor he injured should press charges, they said.
Sarah had tried to tell everyone. She couldn’t tell them everything of course, but she told them: he didn’t do it for fun. She’d seen how scared he had been. Even if there wasn’t an actual monster like he had said, if he was really truly scared of one, that counted for something, right?
Even if there wasn’t a monster.
Sarah didn’t tell them the other part. She knew no one would believe her.
She’d heard shouting outside her bedroom, and when she looked out she saw the boy hacking away at the dog. She was shocked. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t. Sarah wanted to run out to the street and make him stop, but she was paralyzed in disbelief and…something else. Something was wrong. Something beyond the inhumanity of murdering a dog.
Then she saw it. It was like a dam breaking in her mind and all that her brain had tried desperately to filter out came rushing in.
It was hideous. Grotesque. Wrong.
It was a monster.
And it was inside the dog.
She wanted to run, but she couldn’t. All she could do was stand and stare, urging her legs to move but going nowhere. It couldn’t be real, she told herself. It was a dream. A horrible dream. She would wake up soon.
The boy’s hatchet finally made it through the dog meat to the thing inside it. Sarah heard it shriek, but not with her ears. It was like hearing a scream deep insider her chest. In her soul.
The thing…did something. Sarah wasn’t sure if she saw it or sensed it, and wasn’t sure how it was doing it, but she knew it was doing something awful. The boy with the hatchet yelled in agony, holding his head in one hand, but he continued to bring his hatchet down in a mad flurry of thwacks.
The screeching in Sarah’s soul grew harsher. Whatever the thing was trying to do, it wasn’t working. The boy was going to kill it.
That’s when it saw Sarah. It had no eyes, or at least nothing a human being would call eyes, but Sarah knew it had seen her. Her limbs finally unfroze themselves and she tried to scramble away from her bedroom window. It was too late. She felt the unravelling of a long invisible wire, reaching out from the quivering mess beneath the hatchet blows. She felt the stretching of it, the desperation in it, and for a happy moment, she thought it wouldn’t reach her.
But it did.
The wire touched Sarah’s chest, exactly where she ‘heard’ the screaming, and the screaming suddenly stopped. Sarah’s world was spinning. She felt like she might fall over. When things were normal again, she was still in her bedroom window, bracing herself against the frame and covered in sweat. The boy in the street was gone, leaving a trail of canine blood behind him.
The next day, it was all anyone was talking about. Sarah heard that the boy Will used to hang out with a girl in his grade who had gone missing over the summer. People were split on whether this had driven the boy over the edge, or if maybe he’d done something to her. Maybe that did have something to do with it. Maybe the other girl had seem something. Like Sarah had.
Sarah tried to avoid it, but since one of the dogs had been found outside her house, she got asked a lot of questions. Friends, family, police. She said it was horrible, that it had terrified her, and everyone assumed she was talking about the young man.
She thought she could put it behind her, and eventually it would get better. It did not.
The nightmares began a few days later. Each one more horrible than the last. Sometimes she would be back at the window, watching the thing, feeling the wire unspooling to touch her. Sometimes she watched as the thing inside the dog played gruesome little games. She could feel its eyes on her the whole time, demanding she watch.
The next day was even worse. The entire day, she had a sense that it was there. The thing. At home and at school, she felt it was just behind her. Always just out of sight. But it was there, and it would come out sooner or later. That night, she heard the barking. It was like every dog in town was barking, howling, baying at the empty sky. Sarah put her pillow over her ears and tried to smother the sound, but it didn’t work. Every yip, every bark, every howl sent a shiver through her. Not of fear though. Fear would have been better. This was something like longing. Something like…hunger.
It couldn’t be her.
She waited and waited for it to pass. Waited to get better.
Instead things became worse.
So Sarah ran.
She knew she couldn’t get away, not really, but she wanted to be away from everyone else. Away from her school, her family, the people who would call her as insane as the boy who killed the dogs. She wasn’t sure where to exactly, but she would run, and hope and pray that the thing didn’t follow her.
She was less than a mile from home when her chest started to hurt. Right where the wire had touched her, a burning, pulsating pain that caused her knees to fold beneath her.
Sarah clenched her teeth, biting back a scream as the pain grew. It began to wriggle deep in her chest. It was alive. It was moving.
It wriggled its way up, through her neck, and into her skull, behind her eye. The pain began to build pressure, and she felt like her eye might explode.
“Why? What do you want?” Sarah cried as she pressed her head against the concrete of the sidewalk.
In the distance she heard a dog bark, and the pressure spiked.
George was running.
He had heard the scream, and came looking for whoever needed help. Things weren’t as safe in this town as they used to be. Somebody could be in real trouble. His terrier, Willy, was barking and running beside him as they came around the corner to see a young girl, about high school aged, kneeling on the ground while staring up at the sky. There was blood on her face.
“Hey. Are you alright?” he asked.
The girl didn’t answer.
“Do you need me to call the police?” George moved to kneel down beside her, but Willy was whining, tugging on his leash as if he were afraid to get closer.
The girl turned her face towards George, and he could see that the blood was coming from her right eye. George was about to ask her again if she needed help, when a smile flashed across her face.
“Is that your dog?” She asked, standing and stepping awkwardly closer to George. Willy was barking and pulling hard on his leash. As hard as George had ever felt him pull. The girl’s smile widened to show her teeth.
“I love dogs.”