“Man my head hurts. What the hell is that sound?” Those were my first thoughts the morning it all went down. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and rested my palms on the edge of the mattress. I hung my throbbing head listlessly down hoping for some merciful relief from the fog and thumping radiating through my system. I had stayed up a little too late, smoking a cigar on the back deck and drinking bourbon. However, now my head was throbbing from the effects of too much bourbon for an underdeveloped tolerance, and I’m sure the stout cigar I had smoked was not helping. The ashy taste in my mouth was only adding to the ill feeling of the morning. I relax like that very often but enjoyed it nonetheless. I had taken the opportunity as my family had left the previous day for different destinations. My wife took off for her parent’s place at the beach and I was supposed to be travelling behind her later in the weekend. My folks had taken off in their RV to rendezvous somewhere with some friends so I had the house all to myself, except for the dog, Jake. He was a good dog if not a bit crazy.
“What is that damn noise?” I muttered, eyes still closed, as if expecting the dog to answer me. I wondered where he might be, as he wasn’t barking even though he didn’t bark very much anyway, but he was almost always up on the bed flopping or pawing on my chest insistently waiting for me to pet him. Not this morning. I peeled my bloodshot eyes open and he was nowhere in the bedroom. “Jake!” I shouted. No response. He can’t be outside, I thought, I didn’t leave the door open. I was so paranoid about such things. Even though we lived in one of those cookie cutter style neighborhoods I never left my doors unlocked much less open! I always checked them at night before bed even when inebriated. It was such an autonomic task that I performed it diligently and almost without fail.
“Man, what is that noise?” Finally, willing myself to stand I groaned as my feet felt the flat of the floor for the first time in 9 hours. They shot a dull pain up through my legs as the blood flowed down into them and I wobbled slightly. I needed to get to the bathroom and I was in sore need of a drink of water. Lots of water! I stumbled to the sink and turned on the water, slurping clumsily from the faucet. My wife had a habit of leaving cups everywhere she went in the house and thankfully there sat one on the bathroom counter. I grabbed it up, rinsed it out to ensure no hairspray residue was present as she was fond of fogging the place with the stuff. I filled it up and drank it back, and slapped it to the counter, turned and stumbled to the toilet. After flushing I noticed that the sound I had been hearing paused a moment before continuing and as I slowly began to clear the fog from my head the curiosity began to prod at my mind.
“Ok, that’s all done, now what the hell is it?” It sounded like a droning sound like the wind in a bad horror movie, rising and falling then rising again, coupled with the occasional thump here and there. Suddenly there was a loud popping sound. “A gunshot?” I asked out loud, incredulous, with doubtful sarcasm in my voice as this would be ridiculous to expect where I lived. “Fireworks in the morning?” “Neighbor firing up his old clunker car to show a prospective buyer it still runs?” “Okay, time to find out what’s happening,” I muttered to myself. I walked back to my bedside, picked up the cargo pants I wore the day before and slid them on. I sat on the bed a moment, pants around my thighs, contemplating falling back over into the bed and going back to sleep, but then I thought about Jake again and where he could be. I got up and dug a T-shirt from my dresser, one of my favorites, A navy blue one with the CCI ammunition logo on it. I snatched my glasses off the bedside table and set them on over my puffy eyes and scratched my greasy head, thinking a shower would be on top of the list of things to do once I had determined what was going on and where the dog was hold up.
I started for the stairs and once I was out of the bedroom the sound from outside was clearer and I heard another pop, this time it sounded more like a sharp crack. I stopped my advance to the steps and felt a little tingle of doubt wash through me and decided I’d step back in the bedroom and grab my Smith 351C and drop it in my front pocket just in case. As I thought about retrieving it, I dropped my hand to my right front pocket only to find it was still there from the day before. I guess I left it in my pants, no need to secure it in the safe, no one was home but me, and the dog. Which brought my thoughts back to him and why he wasn’t at my feet insistent on being fed and petted and not particularly in that order. “Jake?” Again no response. “Where the hell was he?” I stepped down onto the first step and then the second, my feet still aching from being pressed into service so early. The noises became louder and the droning sound continued. Another sharp crack and I froze.
“That was definitely a gunshot!” I blurted out as if to convince myself. Abruptly the droning began to fade a bit and I decided to slip my hand in my pocket and around the grip of my revolver. I slowly made my way down the solid wall part of the hall steps.
Before my front door came into view I spotted something in the sitting room just to the left of the front door. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, just a mass of something on the edge of the shadows. Then I caught a whiff of ammonia wafting up the stairs. As I stared at the mass I realized it was Jake. His head turned toward me slowly and I called out to him, “Jake! Here boy!” He made no attempt to move, just sat motionless and I could see he was shaking violently. Beneath him and all around him was a dark spot on the carpet, a pool of urine soaking into the carpet. “Jake!” I yelled stiffly, he still refused to move, as if he were spot welded to the ground. His eyes were like nothing I had ever seen. They stared blankly up at me, almost alien in their appearance, wide and terrified, glassy and hopeless. My head tilted in bewildered amazement. I watched him a moment as he turned his head slowly back to the front door, and then like an ice cube sliding on a glass table he drifted slowly back out of view, into the shadow of the sitting room. After witnessing this the hair was standing high on the back of my neck, like it does after you turn the lights out in the house at night right after a scary movie. My ears were pulling backwards at my skull as if they wanted to drag me back into bed and under the covers like a child. Another loud crack startled me out of my state of bewilderment and fear. I was standing frozen about halfway up the staircase. I eased away from the wall and I began to slowly drift my head around the corner. Strangely, I noted my revolver was out of my pocket and in my hand which seemed to have happened unconsciously. I had raised it up and began “slicing the pie” of the wall toward the front door. As my right eye and the front sight of my revolver broke the plane of the wall and the front door just began to come into view I felt my eyes widen to almost painful proportions and the front sight of my Smith began to shake uncontrollably.