The night was a little cooler than the day, but that wasn’t saying much.
Shauna had left a few minutes ago. She had an early morning meeting and needed her sleep. We’d talked about moving in together a few times, but I kept stalling. I couldn’t keep that up forever.
I brushed my teeth, took off everything but my boxers and collapsed into bed. It had been a long day. And there was that weird dog. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I’d completely forgotten about that encounter. Thinking about it again made me uncomfortable, though I wasn’t sure why. I put the thought out of my mind and closed my eyes.
I could hear barking. Had some strays wandered into the area? It was getting louder. Thousands of voices, barking in unison. Barking, I realized, at a steady rhythm. A film of cold sweat formed on my body as I got up and walked to the window. The street outside was covered in dogs, all sitting down, staring up at my window and barking. Together. They were all looking right at me.
Feeling a wave of nausea coming over me, I backed away so fast I almost fell over. The barking stopped. For a few moments, I could only hear the sound of my heart pounding in my chest. I edged toward the window and looked out again. The streets were empty. Not a soul in sight. No, that wasn’t quite true. There was a large shadow under a streetlight across from the window. It was the dog, the one I’d seen earlier. It was sitting in silence, looking up at me. I could feel its gaze boring into my skin. I retched, splattering the windowsill with vomit. There would be no more sleep that night.
The next day I was a zombie. People talked to me, but I didn’t hear them. I spoke to people and couldn’t remember what I said. Calls were missed and clients were annoyed. My boss called me in at the end of the day, asking if I everything was alright. What could I tell him? That I was kept awake at night by phantom dogs? He asked me to take a few days off.
I walked back home from the train station, hoping I wouldn’t run into the dog on the stairs again. Thankfully, I didn’t. The stairwell was empty. Breathing a sigh of relief, I stepped onto the landing and turned the keys to my apartment door. I walked in to find my living room covered in dogs, on the floor, on the furniture, all staring up at me expectantly. The large black dog sat in the middle, silent and unblinking.