by Cody S. Decker
It was hard to tell if I was awake or not. The room was so dark, nothing changed when I opened my eyes. My first thought was the same one I always get when I wake up in the middle of the night. “What woke me up?” Was it a noise outside? Or worse, was it a noise inside? I’m not going to lie, some nights I listen for a few minutes and if I don’t hear anything else or my dog doesn’t wake up, I go back to sleep. If my dog isn’t worried, I feel like I shouldn’t be worried. No need to go roaming around the house.
After my eyes started to adjust, I looked towards the bedroom door and saw my dog Marley standing at attention. I grabbed the flashlight next to my bed and clicked it on. When the light landed on him my chest flushed with an ice cold wave of terror. The hair on his neck was standing on end and even with me moving around in bed, he never broke his frozen stare towards the door. He wasn’t growling but I feel like it was almost worse that way. It was like he knew something was there but didn’t want to make a noise to get it’s attention. He was scared of it, too.
So much of me wanted to stay in bed, to throw the covers up over my head and hide like I used to do as a kid. But I couldn’t do that, not with Marley acting that way. Something that I’d always worried about happening was happening. There was someone or something in my house that shouldn’t be in my house. I threw off the covers and put on my sweatpants. No one wants to fight crime in their underwear. I shined the flashlight into the corner where I know my baseball bat always sits, stood up and grabbed it. It was showtime.
By now, Marley realized I was awake. He came over to my side of the bed, nudged me hard with his nose and ran back to the door. Almost as if he was telling me to stay there. I took a few steps to the door and he did it again. Once I got all the way to the door, bat in my right hand and doorknob in my left, he jumped up on his hind legs and threw his front paws into my stomach. Almost knocking me down. He really didn’t want me to go out there. I gave him a scratch behind the ears and a pat on the back to try to calm him down and reassure him that dad was going to be ok.
Once I put my hand back on the doorknob and started to turn it, he started growling and digging at the door as if whatever was in the house, was less than a foot away on the other side of that door. I gripped the bat tight and swung the door open.
I saw nothing. The living room was empty. As was the kitchen. I expected Marley to bolt out of the room and chase after what he thought was there but he stayed put and stared. I tried to tell myself that maybe he had heard the neighbors outside and this was all in his head but I wouldn’t have been able to go back to sleep if I didn’t make my usual rounds. When I walked into the living room, Marley still hadn’t moved. I checked the sliding glass door, it was locked. Checked the front door, same. Marley was still in his spot, only now his tail was tucked and his ears were lowered. He looked like he does when he gets scared of me when I cuss at the TV during a sports game. I called for him to come to me so I could love on him and try to ease his nerves, but he wouldn’t move an inch towards me. He only started backing further and further into the bedroom until I couldn’t see him from the where I was standing. The terror that had somewhat been subdued by adrenaline was back. I didn’t want to be where I was. I wanted to be back in the safety of my bed. I wanted to be back under the covers. But I just had one more stop on my rounds, the guest bedroom. My office. All I had to do was open the door, glance in and shut it. Then I could chalk this whole thing up to having a weird dog.
I was about 3 feet away from the office door when I heard a whimper come from my bedroom. I ran to check and Marley was still there and unharmed but backed into a corner and shivering. I gave him a head rub to let him know everything was still okay and headed back towards the office. Once again, I got close to the door and he started whimpering, only this time it turned from a low whimper to a howl that raised the hairs on my neck. I decided to hell with checking that room and hurried back to my bedroom, shut and locked the door behind me and climbed back into bed. My bat just a quick grab away.
I decided to leave the light on so I could keep an eye on Marley for a bit. Just to make sure he calmed down. I checked my phone to see what time it was. 3:15 a.m. After coming to my side of the bed and checking on me 3 or 4 times he was back to normal. Ten minutes later, he was fast asleep at the foot of the bed as if nothing happened. I wish I could have said the same about myself. I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling for about 4 hours. Hanging on ever little pop and crack a settling house will make throughout the night and running horrifying scenarios through me head. The whole time hoping my worst thoughts wouldn’t come true.
Once the light of sunrise started to creep through the blinds I decided I would get out of bed. One always feels like they’re safe when the night isn’t around to hide it’s shadows. The house still looked fine from what I could see. But the door to the office was still closed. Curiosity was running wild in my mind. I had to check inside. Without near as much fear as I had a few hours before I found myself in the same spot, a few feet away from actually going in. This time, with no howls or whimpers coming from the bedroom. He was right by my side as usual.
At first glance, everything seemed normal. The window was still locked. Nothing had been moved around. My books were all still in place and my typewriter still sat atop the desk. But once I looked a little closer, I noticed a paper rolled into the typewriter. I knew I hadn’t left it in there. I never do that. If you leave paper rolled up in one of those things for too long, it’s damn near impossible to ever flatten back out.
I was scared again. The light of day wasn’t ridding my fears of the night, it was displaying them. I took an uneasy step towards the desk and could see that words had been typed on that paper. So much of me wanted to turn around, to not see what was written but so much more of me kept pushing my feet towards it. I made it to the chair in front of my desk and sat down. My hands shaking as I rolled the paper out and held it up.
My eyes started to water and chills ran from the base of my neck to my ankles. Everything went silent other than the rapid thumping in my chest when I read what the paper said.
“Man’s best friend knows best.”