Trick and Treat: The Other Dog

OK, so my last post notwithstanding, I took some of the thoughts that had been percolating about The Thing meets Scooby-Doo and came up with this. I’m not posting it over at Wendig’s because it is neither 3,000-5,000 words long, nor is it a short story. Instead, I offer you this much shorter poem-y thing.

The Other Dog

Our leader is already dead, and yet

her skin still walks among us.

 

I don’t know where the pretty one is, but my friend

thinks she saw him go into the cave.

(If it was him at all.)

 

The scholar drops the flashlight, and I leap for my friend’s arms.

She does the same and we tumble to the dirt, a confused mass of limbs.

 

“Hush!”

 

The scholar stoops to pick up the light, not seeing

the other dog.

 

The other dog, the one who started all of this. Big and clumsy,

or that’s what we thought.

 

The old house was empty,

or that’s what Old Man Carruthers said.

 

The world is full of liars.

 

The other dog howls,

triumphant,

leaping,

biting.

 

The scholar falls, and his jaws seize her sweater,

and he is pulling,

pulling,

pulling her into the gloom.

 

My friend and I whimper and look at each other, and then

I am running. Running into the darkness.

My friend follows, as she always does.

 

Few can be trusted, but

a few is not none.

 

The old house was haunted,

or that’s what Ms. Winthrop, the actor, said.

 

People had died there, and a dog, too,

she’d said with the brush in her hair.

 

That’s why she’d called us,

she’d said, looking through her hair at the pretty one.

 

The sound of ripping comes to us,

deeper in the cave.

We run faster.

 

The scholar shakes, a patch from her sweater gone, and

one hand cradled in the other.

 

My friend and I whimper again, knowing

the bite is how it starts.

 

Carruthers, Jr. was the first to go,

minutes after he let us into the house.

 

We saw the other dog for a moment,

as it pulled Junior away,

and then the screams,

and then nothing.

 

At first, our leader suggested we split up. Then

she and the pretty one found Junior.

 

Or that’s what they thought.

 

None of us are what we appear.

 

My friend helps the scholar up, and

we walk deeper into the cave.

 

There are no answers behind us, even if

all that lies ahead is danger.

 

We seek the truth, even when

it is dangerous.

That is our code.

 

It looked like Junior, but

it did not smell like him,

it did not speak like him,

it did not move like him.

 

It chased us, and we ran, because

there is no shame in running.

 

Running is what keeps us alive, except

when it doesn’t.

 

None of us can run forever.

 

There is a lake in the cave, and

we find our leader’s tattered coat beside it,

and the pretty one’s shredded shirt,

and Junior’s ragged cap.

 

Many tunnels lead away from the cave, and

the night’s chill speaks of rain and thunder.

 

We do not see

the other dog.

 

We searched the old house for our leader, but

she did not appear.

 

We moved to the garden,

the path,

the woods.

 

And there she was,

only bitten, not killed,

or that’s what we thought.

 

Nothing frightens like a friend.

 

It looked like our leader, but

it did not smell like her,

it did not speak like her,

it did not move like her.

 

It chased us, and we ran, because

there is no shame in running.

 

Running is what keeps us alive, except

when it doesn’t.

 

None of us can run forever.

 

Something comes from a tunnel, and

we cower in the shadows.

 

The scholar has gone pale, and

my friend and I share a worried look.

 

Maybe we should not trust her, and yet

how could she betray us?

 

The other dog is huge, bigger than I remember, and yet

it does not smell like a dog,

it does not speak like a dog,

it does not move like a dog.

 

It smells and speaks and moves like…

 

“Hey, you!”

 

It is our leader!

And the pretty one!

In the tunnels!

 

The other dog is running!

 

We chase it, and it runs, but

there is shame in its running.

 

Running is how we know it’s guilty, especially when

we catch it.

 

None of us are what we appear.

 

There is a woman inside

the other dog.

 

“Ms. Winthrop?”

 

We are all confused until

she tells us of her plan.

 

A one-woman show, about

the unfortunate souls who died,

killed by the monsters in themselves.

 

She needed the story to be true first, and so

she needed us to die.

 

Makeup, costumes, and stage magic

took care of the rest.

 

“And you would have gotten away with it, too…”

 

Our leader’s arms are on her hips, and

she smiles that familiar smile.

 

But Ms. Winthrop smiles, too, and

I do not like her teeth.

 

“Silly child, I have gotten away with it.

“Because this is not your story.”

 

There is something in the lake, and

it is coming.

 

The water tears back to reveal

The other other dog.

 

But it is not a dog.

 

It is bigger.

It is worse.

It is angry.

 

Running is what keeps us alive, except

when it doesn’t.

 

None of us can run forever.

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