I woke up with a start. That was a hell of a nightmare.
Shauna sat by me, watching me with wide, fearful eyes. When I came to, she started sobbing and hugged me tightly. I looked around. I was in a hospital room. A doctor walked in to check on me. Apparently, I’d passed out in the middle of my living room and had been unresponsive for a long time. Shauna had found me and called 911.
My head throbbed like someone was trying to punch a hole in it. Everything felt upside down.
“It’s ok,” the doctor said. “You’re going to be just fine.”
He smiled at me then, and started to bark.
I stared at him. He kept barking, with a smile on his face.
I looked up at Shauna to see her smiling down at me. She ran a hand along my cheek, then emitted a high-pitched series of yelps.
A nurse walked past, growling. I could hear howls from another ward.
The doctor collapsed to the floor and crawled about on his hands and knees, barking wildly. Shauna followed suit. The entire hospital was a chorus of barks, howls, growls and yelps.
I closed my eyes and clamped my hands over my ears. It wasn’t real. None of it was real. I opened my eyes again to an empty hospital, dark and abandoned. There was only darkness around me, and not a single sound. No. Someone, or something, was breathing. Even without seeing it, I knew exactly what it was.
“What the hell do you want?” I yelled out into the blackness. “Why is this happening to me?”
There was no answer. I’m not even sure why I expected one. There was only the sound of soft, even breathing, and what seemed like a low growl, building up in volume and intensity.
My heart was pounding through my rib cage as I stared into the darkness. I could see the dog, pitch black but still forming a distinct silhouette, sitting at the foot of the bed. As I opened my mouth to speak again, it lunged at me. There was only darkness and silence after that.
I woke up the next morning and went to work as usual. I wasn’t even allowed through the building’s main door. Joe, who’d been greeting me with a smile for the past 8 months, wouldn’t even listen to a word I said and threw me right out. I wasn’t welcome there anymore. What the hell happened?
People on the street stared at me as I walked past. I headed straight for Shauna’s office. She was the only piece of sanity in this nightmare.Once again, I wasn’t allowed into the building. Furious, I called Shauna’s cell phone only to discover that my phone connection had been cut. That was impossible. I always paid my bills on time.
With no other option, I wandered around the area until noon. I knew Shauna would be coming down for lunch, going to the little cafe across the street from her office, as she always did. I’d talk to her then, explain what was going on and hopefully, we’d find a solution together.
As Shauna exited the building, I expected to be greeted with a smile, or concern. Instead, she looked at me without any recognition. She walked right past. I tried to stop her, to talk to her, but she seemed annoyed, and then, terrified. The security from her office drove me away this time as she continued on her path, not even looking back at me.
What was happening to me? Everything was spiraling out of control. I could hear barking again, but there were no dogs in sight. Not even the big hound. With a growing sense of horror, I realized the sound was coming from me.