By Dan Leicht
He watched his dog scratch at the bottom of the fence, thinking nothing of it, another hole to fill in the morning.
“Come on in, Roxy. That’s enough.”
The dog turned and looked at him and then back to her project. She snarled at the hole then took off, running full speed for the slowly closing screen door. He liked to make it seem like her time was running out, as if she understood once the door was closed there’d be no way back in, but she always made it. Even if she didn’t he’d open the door and let her in; he couldn’t sleep without her breathing by his bedside.
“Good girl,” he said, feeding her a bacon flavored biscuit from his palm. He rubbed her head as she snapped her jaws open and closed as she chewed.
That night, as he rested his head against his memory foam pillow, he could tell something was wrong, she was restless. Usually she’d lay silent beside him, curled up on the floor in her own bed, resting just as he did, their breathing in unison. He looked over the side of his bed to see her staring up at him, showing off her teeth.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
She got up and walked to the door, he followed.
“Do you need to go out again already, girl? It’s only been ten minutes.” He laughed and opened the door.
He watched as she ran for the hole she was digging beside the fence. After a couple minutes she backed away from the hole and began a barrage of barks.
“What’s wrong, girl?” he asked, his voice a piercing whisper cutting threw the thick darkness. He opened the screen door and walked down the stairs of the deck. She backed away from the hole, growing closer to him. He tried to pass her to take a look but she barked and pressed him backward. “What’d you dig up? Come on, Roxy. This isn’t like you.”
He looked over at the hole. “Roxy, wha, what is that?”
Roxy turned around and snarled, gritting her teeth at the creature crawling from the hole.
He backed up and tripped over a spit coated tennis ball.
“Roxy, get away from there. Get away!”
She stood between him and the creature.
“Roxy, it’s not safe here! Roxy!”
She leapt at the creature and was struck with a powerful swipe. She landed a few feet away and quickly recovered, scampering to his side.
The creature unfolded like a slinky as it crawled out from the hole. It was grotesque, a far cry from a children’s toy meant for descending the stairs or reassembly a makeshift accordion for a cardboard band. It had a single eye, which waved back and forth on a thin stalk at the top of a head loaded with a jagged smile. Its torso was humanoid, with large arms that reached out towards four long finger tips on either side. The creature escaped the hole and slithered along, it’s lower body like that of a snake.
“Roxy, back away. Come on, girl.”
“Rawksssy,” croaked the creature. “Rawksssy.”
Roxy stood between them, showing her chiseled grin. He got up and looked around for something he could use to defend himself, protect his dog. There was a metal rake not far from him, leaning against the shed.
“The shed,” he whispered. “Hold on, girl. I’ve got an idea.”
He stepped to the right, edging closer and closer to the shed, with Roxy matching his footsteps in front of him. The creature blinked its eye and followed along with their movement.
“Why doesn’t it attack?” he muttered. “Come on, come on. What do you want?”
He pressed his hand against the shed and slowly opened the door. He turned his head for a moment to look inside, pulled the light cord hanging from the ceiling, then back to the creature; the creature hadn’t moved. He turned again and saw an axe hung up by two nails on the far wall.
“Just a moment, girl. It’s right there. I can see it,” he said.
He slid into the shed, the door closing behind him. He grabbed the axe from the wall and heard Roxy cry out in pain. He rushed to the door and spilled out onto the lawn. He got up and cradled the axe in his hands, nervous, like a child holding a toppling ice cream cone. Roxy, along with the creature, was gone.
The axe tapped lightly against his right ear as he patrolled through the thick grass. It’d been over two weeks since the last cut, but that was the last thing on his mind.
“Roxy,” he whispered.
He walked towards the hole and peered down. It glowed a bluish hue, the color twirling, as if looking down into a flushing toilet beside a night light. He shouldered the axe and plugged his nose with his other hand. One foot in front of the other and he disappeared.
He looked around, the underground lit up by bright blue gems, like street lights igniting a suburban neighborhood.
He heard a whimper in the distance.
“Roxy, is that you girl?”
The whimper repeated.
“Roxy, are you okay?”
The whimper, though faint, repeated.
He walked towards the sound and saw the creature, nine feet tall, a hand covering the dog, locking her in place.
“Let her go.” He held the axe out in front of him like a sword.
The creature didn’t move.
The creature stood still, Roxy whimpering beneath its outstretched palm, its fingers acting like the bars of a cell.
The axe glistened from the light emitting from the gems.
The creature bled a color he hadn’t seen before. Another swipe and it covered his shirt. Roxy broke free and ran behind him. He gritted his teeth and backed away. The creature held its wounded arm with its other hand.
He backed away, the axe out in front of him. Roxy was the first to be sucked up.
Once both were back on the green lawn he threw the axe to the side and began filling in the hole. Roxy helped.