WALKING THE DOG
George felt the top-most layer of skin on his knuckles sheer back beneath the
rusty surface of the alternator bracket. The metal was unforgiving on the soft flesh as if reminding him that its job was securing the alterntor to the front of the engine block, not yield to human hands.
George straightened up and flung the wrench onto the oil-stained driveway.
The stainless-steel tool pinged off the concrete and spiraled onto the front lawn like a missile, finally settling against the trunk of a small tree.
With his rage sated George quickly looked up and down the street to make
sure nobody saw his outburst. The last thing he wanted was an embarrassing situation with a neighbor.
Just when he was about to get back to his car repair the movement
caught George's eye.
The man was walking his dog along Masonic Boulevard. The animal was
large, possibly a retriever, and they seemed to be sauntering along without a care in the world. The dog trotted in front of the man, its four legs in perfect synchronization with each other as it pulled its owner along which each step it took. Its mangy black fur rustled in the breeze.
George found himself staring at the man and his pet. There was nothing
unusual about the pair, they were merely out enjoying the tranquility of a beautiful
morning, but he still couldn't stop himself from watching them.
The mailbox squeaked as George opened it. Three single envelopes were all that were inside, and he was happy to see that none of them were bills.
As he closed the lid he noticed in his peripheral vision a man walking his dog down the street. He tilted his head back slightly as he turned to get a better view.
There was no doubt about it, it was the same man as the day before. But there was one major difference…the man was unquestionably shorter.
George rubbed his eyes. He stepped forward and focused on the man and his pet, and stepped back again. Not only was the man shorter, but also he was smaller as well. And the dog. It had to be at least twice the size it had been the previous day.
Its head was as big as a basketball, swinging from side to side as it strode along, undoubtedly confident from its increased size.
George felt his stomach churn. The coffee and toast he'd had for breakfast swirled in his gut like a stone in the tide, pinging into the stomach lining with each passing second. He wanted to run down the street and confront the man (but not the dog) and demand an explanation. And since there was nobody else around he reasoned that a confrontation couldn't hurt. So he tucked his mail under his arm and started to walk down the sidewalk.
After twenty or so steps however his resolve began to waver. The man and his dog were hardly moving, thus allowing a much clearer view of them.
The dog's face was like a stone gargoyle. It glared at him with hatred he wouldn't have thought a dog could possess. The eyes were empty black pools without pupils. They reminded George of a shark's eyes, cold and driven by a single purpose.
George stopped dead in his tracks. The man did not look at him, didn't even turn his head. He simply stared straight ahead as if in some type of trance.
And then suddenly the man and his dog started to walk away.
Standing there looking like a fool George finally sulked back into the house.
The sunshine was peeking through the trees as if announcing the upcoming day. George felt the warm breeze on his face as he made his way to his car. He was tired and wondered if anyone in the office would notice. He'd had next to no sleep the night before, and was certain it would make the workday drag on more than it usually did. With a grunt of bored discontentment on his breath and a cup of luke-warm coffee in his hand he sauntered towards his car.
The slight movement in the corner of his eye startled George. It was indistinct but warranted his attention nonetheless.
His cup of coffee shattered on the driveway.
It was the man and his dog again, walking down Masonic Boulevard. Or perhaps it would have been more appropriate to say the dog and his man. The poor guy couldn't have been more than two or three feet tall, and the dog was at least four feet at the shoulders, maybe five. It yanked the man along behind it with short, violent tugs. It would have been comical if it weren't real.
George slipped his cell phone out of his pocket. He intended to call the authorities. That man needed help. He needed somebody to intervene before things got ugly.
He stopped dialing. He couldn't call the police. They'd think he was crazy. Who'd believe a five- hundred pound dog?
The dog then swung its threatening gaze over to George. Even from a distance George could see the hatred and evil in the beast's eyes. He quickly slid into his car, never once taking his eyes off the dog. He wanted to be certain that it wasn't going to suddenly turn and charge him. A dog that size would turn his car into scrap metal.
Smashing the accelerator to the floor George sped away from the huge beast and the frail man. He noticed as they grew smaller and smaller in his rear-view mirror that they continued to walk away as if nothing had happened.
Two days had passed and George was beginning to think he imagined the man and his dog. Even though the episode still held a prominent place in his thoughts he suppressed it as best he could, confining it to the furthest regions of his mind. And so when he strolled onto his driveway to retrieve his newspaper, the morning sun warming his face, the gentle breeze bending the trees slightly, he saw something that turned his world upside down. The impossible became possible. Sanity crossed over into madness. Day turned into midnight.
The man and his dog were walking down the sidewalk. With each step the dog grew both in size and ferocity. It dwarfed the man who, accordingly, seemed to shrink with each step he took.
George stood there, his robe fluttering in the breeze, his jaw practically on the cement. The newspaper fell to the ground and promptly came apart, different sections: Sports, Business, Local, folding into disarray before blowing away.
The man and the dog were getting closer and closer to George. He could see them more clearly now, and understood, for the most part, what they really were.
The dog thing was swinging its deformed head from side to side, black spittle spinning from its mouth in coils and splattering on the ground. Thin plumes of scorched earth drifted up from where the stuff landed. It smelled like an open grave in a rainstorm.
George came to his senses and backed up, his eyes remaining on the dog thing. He felt as if his legs were made of rubber, his head full of air. He was becoming disoriented, weakened by the sheer terror he was feeling.
"H…help me," the man croaked. "Please help me."
Tearing his gaze away from the beast George looked at the man. He was a pathetic sight. His scrawny body couldn't have weighed more than 90 pounds. Open wounds revealed raw meat beneath, and his hair was hanging in loose clumps on top of his small head. He seemed to be collapsing in on himself. His arms were nothing more than bones with a thin sheet of pulpy flesh layered over them. His skeletal face was so gaunt it was hardly able to convey the pain he was enduring. One look at it and George knew what was happening to the poor man.
The leash. It was the leash. Only it wasn't a leash at all, but some type of tentacle, an appendage which extended from the bulging back of the dog and fused somehow with the hand of the man. It pulsated as it drained his life away.
"Please help me," was the last thing the man said before what was left of his body was sucked into the tentacle in one disgusting slurp. The dog thing's belly bloated up, trembled for a moment, and then contorted back to its previous size.
George understood completely now. The man hadn't been walking his dog, the dog had been pulling the man along, feeding as it did so. And now the man was gone. He'd been the beast's lunch, nothing more. He'd been captured and eaten by whatever was masquerading as man's best friend.
Watching the dog thing shiver and convulse as it digested its meal George suppressed the urge to vomit. He stood frozen, unable to move, although he knew deep down that he wouldn't get very far even if he was able to run for it. The beast would surely overtake him.
The dog lumbered forward, its bulbous head growling as it drew closer and closer to its new prey, the tentacle was dragged along behind it. And in one swift movement the feeler swung up into the air, swayed for a brief moment, and arced downward with ferocious efficiency, latching on George's hands, binding them tightly.
The pain was immense and all consuming. It coursed through George's entire body all at once, rendering him helpless. He was trapped where he stood as the dog thing loped towards him, its dark maw hanging open beneath its greasy snout. Its bulk heaved with each rancid breath it took. It eyes squinted in starved anticipation.
Being pulled along behind the dog thing George slipped in and out of consciousness. The residual traces of his mind struggled to comprehend what was happening to him, but could barely grasp it. He'd become a dinner entrée for something nobody could ever hope to understand.
Emily dried her hands on a dishtowel as the morning sun streamed through the trees, warming her small but quaint three-bedroom house. Her husband Frank had already left for work and her youngest, Eddie, busied himself in the backyard playing in his sandbox.
Emily watched her little boy through the kitchen window. A sad smile crossed her face when she realized just how quickly they grow up. She could clearly remember when he was born.
Pouring herself a cup of lemon-ginseng tea she steeped it a few times and took a sip. How she loved her hot cup of tea in the morning.
"Mommy! Mommy! Can I keep him? Can I?"
Little Eddie came barreling into the house. His face was flush with excitement.
"What's that honey?"
"The dog Mommy. Can I keep him?"
Little Eddie sprinted over to the door, jumping up and down, pointing out into the backyard.
"That one Mommy. He's really friendly. Can I keep him?"
Emily pondered the situation for a moment. A companion would be good for her son, as well as protection for the house. She'd have to check with Frank, but that wouldn't be much of a problem, he loved dogs. And besides, the little fellow was kinda cute.
She decided to get a closer look at the dog, just to make sure.
And so, tea cup in hand, Emily opened the door and looked at the animal. Its glossy black snout poked through the chain links of the fence.
"Oh, I don't think so honey," she said quietly.
Little Eddie's face immediately turned red as tears welled up in his eyes.
"Why? Why can't I keep him Mommy? Why?"
Emily scooped up her crying son and cuddled him to her chest.
"Because honey," she consoled. "I think he already belongs to someone. Look, he still has a leash on."