“Would you shut that thing up?” Ed Defibaigh said. “Please?”
Becky’s so called dog was howling which, as far as Ed could recall, it had never done before. It was some kind of small puff of fur that cost them a bunch of money, more than Ed could have ever imagined spending on a damn dog. Pound for pound, the dog was probably worth more than gold.
Ed was neither here nor there on animals in general. He’d had a dog as kid, as most kids did, and he loved it. As an adult, he’d never felt the urge to have a pet, although the farm itself did attract a fair number of cats who basically ignored Ed, who generally returned the favor. He was even nice to the cows.
He did, however, really hate that dog. It wasn’t the money. Yeah, Ed had only agreed to buy it to try and placate Becky after one of their bigger go rounds and so spent a lot more than he otherwise would have. And yeah, the thing required a ridiculous amount of upkeep at the vets and the groomers, all of which was expensive.
No, Ed hated the dog because the dog hated him, and it wasn’t shy about letting him know about it. There’s a special kind of hate that only putting on your shoes to find they’re full of dog urine can bring.
The dog had started howling and scratching at the door an hour or so ago, despite all of Becky’s attempts to get it to shut up. She’d tried cooing to it, holding it and giving it treats, and the best that she’d gotten out of it was that it had actually snapped at her. The dog seemed to love Becky as much as it hated Ed, so this was pretty much unprecedented.
“You don’t have to be a jerk about it.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“Daisy is not a thing.”
“I know. I said I was sorry. Do you want me to give her a kiss.”
Becky and Ed both turned to look at Daisy. The little dog was standing near the door, looking out the glass door. Its hair stood and its tail was low. Becky walked towards it, again, and it turned and gave her a low growl. Becky stepped back.
“I think something is out there.”
Ed rubbed his face. He’d been married to Becky for twenty years, since right after high school, and he still couldn’t take that look in her eye. She was worried, and she wanted him to do something about it. Which meant that he was going to do something about it.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Just go check the barn. Make sure everything is alright so Daisy will calm down.”
Ed looked out the door. He couldn’t see the barn from here for the snow. He definitely didn’t want to go outside, especially since he was in no way convinced that Daisy had the reasoning powers to be reassured by him going out there. But it would make Becky feel better.
He pulled on his boots and his heavy jacket. Becky handed him a toboggan.
“Don’t catch cold.”
“Well, you could go out.”
“I need to stay here with Daisy, she’s scared.”
“Of course, well, I’ll just head out into the blizzard then.”
She gave him a peck on the cheek. The things he did. He grabbed the double barreled shotgun that he kept near the door, popped it open and dropped two shells in it, stuffed a couple more in his pocket. Flashlight. He looked down at Daisy. She was staring at something he couldn’t see.
She didn’t look afraid, although he wasn’t going to tell Becky that. She looked like she was waiting for something. Ed stepped outside into the snow.
He couldn’t believe how deep the snow had gotten already. It’d been a pretty dry winter up until then, so there’d been just a dusting of snow on the ground this morning. It was up past his ankles now, and he couldn’t see a damn thing through the snow falling to the ground. He was glad that he’d moved the cows into the barn for the night.
He wasn’t really a farmer. Well, yeah, he lived on a farm. He had cows and chickens and goats, in addition to Daisy. But he was a mechanic and Becky was a teacher. The farm was just a hobby, more or less, a way to keep in touch with his roots. The family farm had been the family farm for five generations of Defibaugh’s. He enjoyed having it and sometimes wished he really was a farmer.
This was not one of those times. Even with the flashlight, all he could really see was white. In the distance he could just barely make out the polelight beside the barn. Or at least, that’s what he hoped it was. In this shit, he could be walking towards town for all he knew.
He looked an awful lot like a snow man by the time he got to the barn. He slid open the door and stepped inside, shivered off some snow. The barn was warm, close with the heat of animal bodies. He flicked on the light switch.
He dropped the flashlight.
“What the fuck?”
He had twelve head of cattle. A manageable number, and their beef provided them with all the meat they could handle.
They were all dead.
The inside of the barn was painted red with blood, and Ed’s dinner rose up in his throat. He’d been in slaughterhouses before, and he didn’t mind the sight of blood and guts. But this was something else entirely.
He took a deep breath, held it, and blew it out slowly. He picked up the flashlight and turned it back on, keeping the shotgun balanced on his forearm. There were lights in the barn, but there was still plenty of darkness, and places that he couldn’t see.
He heard a dull, wet slapping, a queasy noise that would have given him chills if he weren’t half frozen to begin with. He bit his lip and moved forward. Steam rolled off the carcasses he could see. They hadn’t been dead long. He wondered if Becky heard the shotgun. Inside a barn, inside a house, through all this. Probably not.
He saw it crouched over one of the cows. His flashlight reflected off red eyes and he had no idea what he was looking at. For the split second he could see it, he saw something big. Red teeth and black claws. He thought, for a second, that it might have been a bear but then it looked at him. It wasn’t a bear.
It slammed into him hard and the shotgun went sliding across the floor, the flashlight spinning. Ed grabbed at its neck, tried to keep it back. It raised a clawed hand and swiped and everything went white for Ed.
Daisy kept scratching at the door, and Becky felt a lump of worry in her stomach. She looked at the little Pomeranian and cracked her knuckles. She knew that she was being ridiculous. There was no good reason for a give pound lump of fur to make her nervous, but she was. The dread felt heavy in her chest and she wondered where her husband was. Even in this, Ed shouldn’t have been gone this long.
A hundred different possibilities ran through her mind. Maybe there was something in the barn. Maybe, more likely, he’d fallen down in this crap. Ed was a big man and if he fell and reinjured his knee she was going to have a problem getting him back into the house. She wasn’t sure what she should do. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.
Daisy kept scratching at the door.
“Hey, girl, do you see something? Is it Daddy?”
Becky looked out the door. She squinted. She couldn’t see but five damn feet in the snow, but she saw Ed coming, a big shape in the darkness. She step forward to open the door and Daisy snapped at her.
The Pom took a step back and shivered. She looked up at Becky and for a second, she looked normal, or as normal as she ever did. Becky wrapped her sweater tighter around herself and opened the door.
“Is everything alright?”
Daisy darted out the door, cutting a path through snow that was more than shoulder height to her. She hopped like a grasshopper.
“Daisy! Ed, get her.”
Beck started slipping her feet into the old ratty boots she kept by the door for when Daisy needed to go out. The little dog stopped in the snow in front of Ed.
She saw a glint of light, something reflecting red light, the way a cat’s eyes shined. She heard something like a grunt. That wasn’t Ed. She heard Daisy growl and she barked, attacking. Daisy was lifted into the air and Beck saw a flash of teeth in the snow.
Something warm splashed against her face. She was frozen for a second, soaked in blood. She felt her body go numb with fear. She couldn’t think and her breath caught in her chest. She couldn’t move. It made a noise. It sounded almost like laughter.
Becky slammed the door shut as it surged forward on toward. It slammed into the door, through the door, black furred and massive, crashing onto the floor, the glass door shattering.
Becky grabbed at the knife block on the island, turned and slashed with the knife as it cleared the distance between them. She opened a deep red wound in its chest and she turned and ran. She screamed as claws slid down her back, blood splashing. She stumbled, but she was still a step ahead and she ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
She didn’t have time to lock it, but it didn’t matter anyway. The door went to splinters as it came through. She fell, pushed herself across the cold tile floor until she was against the washer. She held the knife out in front of her like a talisman, like a spear.
The thing stopped. It dropped into a squat and Becky’s bladder let go. She was crying. It reached out and took the knife by the blade, pulled it from her hands.
“Please, please, please.”
It bared teeth stained red with gore. They looked like shark teeth. It looked like nothing she’d ever seen. She closed her eyes. It leaned in and when it bit her it was almost like a lover’s kiss.