by Becky Sain
The dogs bark constantly. They see a cat and bark. They see a squirrel and bark. They see a bird, a bug, a leaf blowing, a child walking… they bark. This gives her comfort, a living security system. She feels safe on the nights she stays up late editing the campus paper – the only freshman to have ever been named editor. She stays away from the sororities and fraternities, no late night trips to the local bars. Her world doesn’t involve friends or people even… her world is here, in her little house at the end of the street, in front of her computer with no one to bother her… just her and her dogs.
The dogs always stay at her feet while she sits at her desk, springing up and running to the window, barking at whatever catches their attention. Each night is the same as all the nights before, her school newspaper is all she is interested in, a doorway into the world of journalism. She doesn’t notice the world all around her, her world revolves around her computer –here, she is lost in her own words.
She sits in her chair at her hand-me-down desk, typing away. The words flow effortlessly this night. It is magical. Every thought makes its way to the computer screen flawlessly, no misspelled words, no unnecessary words, no pausing — just perfect writing, as if she is being taken over by something, something no one can see but she can feel.
It is Fall. A chill has just recently begun to show itself in the nighttime breeze. She has her windows open; it’s so quiet on her street. All the houses are tucked in and sleeping, the street lights are faintly bright, no sounds in her neighborhood. The absence of outside noise means her dogs haven’t jumped up to bark in hours — she is lost in the writing and has forgotten about their nightly walk until one of her dogs barely nudges her leg, bringing her out of her hypnotic state.
She looks at the clock and is shocked to see it is 2:30 am. She has been sitting at her computer since 7:00 that evening — never moving. She reluctantly pulls herself away from the computer, grabbing the leashes as she opens the door. The dogs smile and turn in circles with excitement, biting each others tails. She starts down the street on her usual path around the neighborhood, her thoughts are back at her desk, designing her next sentence, naming her next story — she smirks as she thinks about how amazing this writing session has been. She walks once around the block and heads back down towards her little house at the end of the street, barely visible under the fading street light. She thinks her house looks unusually dark from the street, she pauses before going in.
Settling back in, she grabs a bottle of water and positions herself into her chair, reigning over the computer in front of her — this is her kingdom — hoping she can return to the unbelievable writing zone she has been in that night. She pulls herself close to her old desk and looks hopeful at the screen, then begins typing again — once again the words flow effortlessly and she is lost in her own arrogance.
Barely 15 minutes has passed since they returned from their walk when the dogs jump up and start barking. She reaches down with one hand to calm them while still staring at the screen and typing with the other. They stop barking and put their heads back down. Another 5 minutes passes and the dogs start barking again. Again she calms them with the touch of her hand while never taking her eyes off the screen filled with the words she is creating. Almost instantly, the dogs jump up and start barking once again… this time with sharp growls and snarls, their hair standing up on their necks, rearing back on their haunches.
The anger in their barks startles her as she rotates her chair around to look at them… their barking grows louder. She walks over and closes the window she has open, hoping that blocks out the mysterious noise that is creating havoc for the dogs. She looks intently into the night to see whatever cat is causing her dogs to be so alarmed, but there is nothing. The streets are bare. As she turns around, expecting the dogs to be beside her, staring out the window at the phantom noise, she realizes they are still standing next to her desk, staring at her computer, their ears perked, their teeth bared, the bright glow from the computer screen making their eyes flash with anger.
She kneels down to pat the dogs as she eases back into her chair and begins to write… again the dogs bark wildly, gnashing their teeth, nipping at the air. She turns quickly to look at them, still unaware of what is making them so upset. She touches their heads and they stop snarling, look at her, then back to the glowing computer screen… their ears are perked.
She turns to look at her computer, not at the perfect words that she has been typing out all night, just to look at the screen — a spider maybe. She could feel her neck pulsate with each beat of her heart, she tries to hold her breath, listening and scanning for the cause of the nervousness that now envelopes her entire house. There is nothing, she sees nothing; she takes a deep breath, and begins her writing again. Immediately the dogs become vicious with their barks, baring their teeth, jumping at the screen, protecting her from something that isn’t there. She jerks around to quiet the dogs once again, it doesn’t work. They continue their assault on the air in front of the screen. She turns back to the screen, staring at it, moving her eyes from corner to corner, up and down, examining the screen so fast it makes her dizzy… trying desperately to see something only visible to the dogs.
A flash, something moving across the bottom of the screen.
She leans in closer to the screen, wiping her eyes, wiping the screen. The dogs’ barks are becoming increasingly louder, they are frenzied; drooling, jumping, and rearing back.
There it is again, a blurry form, not quite a face – something more distorted.
She turns to the dogs but they are no longer willing to quiet at her command, their animal instincts more prominent than their domesticated obedience.
Quickly reeling around to face the screen again, the words are gone… all her flawless words, gone. The only thing there is the cause of all the frenzied behavior — a blurred outline of a face darting around on the screen, too fast to decipher its age or if it is a man or a child, too fast for her brain to register what it is. The dogs’ agitation heightens as she jumps out of her chair, tripping over them, falling clumsily to the floor.
The dogs continue their attack, trying to get in between her and the screen. She scrambles on the floor, crawling towards the front door, her legs refusing to allow her to stand. But, it’s too late, the distorted face grabs the back of her neck by its abyss of a mouth, and with a movement too quick to time, it pulls her into the screen, into the stories she is effortlessly typing out.
The room is quiet.
The computer screen glows.
The dogs stop their raucous attack immediately, confused, whining, whimpering — licking the screen in hopes of bringing her back.
They nestle down at the foot of her chair, waiting for her to return and type out the rest of her stories, waiting for her to take them on their next walk, waiting…
Becky Brewster Sain lives in the Nashville area with her three joyfully imaginative children and two large willful dogs, or is that large willful children and joyfully imaginative dogs? She writes poetry and prose on her blog, First Pages ( http://bsain.wordpress.com/ ) as well as a few scattered short stories. She is feverishly submitting poems and stories and trying to expand her creative boundaries. You can stalk her on twitter @beckysain or follow her Facebook page, First Pages.