“Patrick, take the dog out,” his dad called from upstairs.
“Again? Are you kidding me?” Patrick threw up his hands from the keyboard and stared at the hound dog, whose big brown eyes blinked up at him around his computer monitor.
“I just took him like thirty minutes ago!” Patrick yelled back up, shoving himself in the rolling computer chair away from his desk.
“It was an hour and a half. You’ve been sucked into that damn game again,” the response came.
Patrick looked at the in-game clock and swore under his breath. It had been almost two hours. It was almost midnight.
He took a second to type, “afk, dog aggro,” into the screen’s chat function.
“Rufus, you’re the shittingest dog on the planet,” Patrick grumbled while grabbing his shoes.
Rufus grumbled back in response and wagged his tail.
“I swear I take you out fifteen times a night. And it’s always when I’m in the middle of killing a boss. It’s like you can hear the fight start.”
He grabbed the retractable leash beside his monitor and began to clip it to Rufus’s collar. Rufus started to snap at it with his teeth, pulling and growling at it.
“I’m trying to take you out, dammit. Stop playing,” Patrick yelled. The dog settled down long enough to let him finish the task, and they started for the door in his basement room, leading out into the pitch-black back yard.
Rufus sat down at the door, looking around.
“Come on, dog. Raid group is waiting on me.”
Rufus didn’t budge, even with a few tugs on the leash. Patrick watched as his dog glanced around the yard.
“Is it too dark for you to pee? Is that it? Afraid of the dark?” Patrick huffed and reached back into the house and flipped on a light switch. A strip of light lit the yard, leaving the sides still dark.
Rufus stepped out tentatively into the yard and began sniffing around.
“Do you have to sniff every blade of grass?”
Rufus responded with a derisive snort. He sniffed around the edge of the darkness and growled in earnest, teeth bared.
“What is it? A squirrel?” Patrick asked, tugging on the leash. He looked up to the starless sky and briefly wondered where they were. It wasn’t cloudy at all. Being in the suburbs usually guaranteed a slew of stars – but tonight, it was just him, a strip of light, and a growling dog.
He returned his attention to Rufus, who was standing still, growling and shaking at the darkness beside him, where the light ended.
“Come on, dog. Piss and let’s go,” Patrick said with a tug.
Rufus started barking. The outside light began to flicker, and Patrick looked toward the house to see what could be causing it.
The barking stopped.
“Oh, thank God. Come on, let’s go,” Patrick said with another tug, and the retractable leash zipped back to his hand, empty, save only a bloodied collar.
“Rufus?” Patrick said, his heart pounding in his chest. “Rufus?” he whispered into the darkness again.
He took a step toward where Rufus had been standing and strained to see into the yard.