By: J.J. Cheesman
I’m going to keep this relatively short as I’m not sure how long I have. My name is Mitchell, and this story I suppose is about my dog. I moved out here in the country about two months ago. I’m getting older, and since my wife Elan died last year it’s just been me and my dog Skip. Moving out here to this house was my final act of retiring. You see, I’ve always liked country life, but Elan preferred the city, so for our thirty years of marriage, I put up with the bustling sound of urban life. When Elan died, I realized there was nothing keeping me in New York, so I made my way back to my home town in Illinois to live out the rest of my days. I got in touch with a realtor, and she found this place for me out in the boonies. I must say, the fresh air and quiet, almost made me cry the first night I stayed here. I was finally home, finally happy in a way that I hadn’t been after Elan died, but you know what they say about good things.
It was some weeks into stayin’ out here, but one night something happened. I woke up sometime past midnight to the sound of Skip walking around my bed and whimperin’ something fierce. Of course I just figured he had to go out, he always lets me know when he has to go. Well, I got out of bed and headed to the back door to let Skip out, but he just stood a few feet from the open door way making that whimperin’ sound. I urged and yelled, and even tried down right tuggin’ on his collar to get him out. Skip never budged from his spot though, and when a Great Dane the size of Skip doesn’t want to move it’s hard to make em’. Ol’ Skip just sat still as a statue, watching out that door into the tall field beyond as if he was watching for somethin’. I looked out but I didn’t see a thing, but when I think about it, I realize now that I didn’t HEAR anything either. No chirping of crickets, no hoots of owls in the night, not one thing from nature was makin’ a sound that night. I looked out into the still field behind the house for a moment or two, then finally shut the door and went back to bed with Skip following close behind.
There was never an incident similar to that again, but eventually I came to notice that Skip wasn’t eating much, if at all. Not only that, but he seemed to never go to the bathroom, not as far as I could ever tell anyway. The strangest thing is Skip never wanted to go outside, not even when I went out to sit on the porch and enjoy the weather. He just stayed inside, lyin’ down on the mat that I kept just inside the front door. It was a little after I noticed Skip’s strange behavior that the footsteps started.
I lay in bed one night, just nearly about to drift off to sleep, when I heard the sound of footsteps walking across the grass just outside my bedroom window. My eyes flew open and I jumped outta’ bed as fast as my aging bones would allow and went to the window. The moon was high that night, and I could see clearly all the way out into the field beyond the house. I didn’t see a thing, but I waited there for a couple moments just to be sure. I turned my head to look at Skip lying peacefully in his bed, which would have calmed me down if he hadn’t been acting so strange, I turned my attention back to the window and waited. When a minute or two went by, I decided I must have imagined it. As I got into bed, I made a mental note to schedule Skip an appointment with the vet in the morning.
That next day, was the second saddest day of my life. I awoke to find out that Skip had passed away in the night. When I was done crying on my knees in front of Skips bed, I picked myself up and found a shovel in the shed on the side of the house. It was difficult for me in my age, but I picked Skip up with both arms and managed to make it out to the field. It took all morning, but eventually Skip buried just a few feet into the field, not far from my bedroom window. When I came inside, I had a long chat with an old friend of mine, Jack Daniels.
When I finally got to bed it was pretty late, and I found it hard to sleep even with the alcohol in my system. At last, I became drowsy, and my eyelids were just nearly shut when it happened again. I heard the unmistakable sound of feet on grass just outside my house. So once again, I sprung up and went to the window, surveying the outside like some wide-eyed tipsy maniac. Once again, nothing moved outside. Even though the moon wasn’t out that night there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I could see tall grass in the field outside being tickled around by a light breeze. I don’t know how long I stood up watching that time, but it couldn’t have been long before I passed out on my bed.
When I awoke the next day, well, I guess I should be sayin’ when I awoke yesterday, I found it hard to find the motivation to do much of anything. Though I did have a nasty hangover, it wasn’t entirely due to that. I missed my dog, he was the last friend I ever had in this world, and he was gone. Most of that day I spent in front of the television, absent-mindedly watching whatever was on with the volume turned off. I didn’t eat or go outside, hell I couldn’t even find the gumption to take a shower. Before I knew it though, I had fallen asleep on the couch.
Then sometime later that night, I was awoken for the last time by the sound of footsteps. They were unusually loud and numerous, and they were coming from the back door. That was the final straw, I got up and grabbed my twelve-gauge from the closet by the front door and made sure it was loaded. I cocked my gun and marched straight for the back door, shoving it open hard and letting it bang on the siding. Shouldering my weapon, I looked to the right, then to the left of the house, yelling out threats to whoever was outside. Only silence answered me back, and nothing out of the ordinary greeted my vision. Then I turned my attention to the field, watching the breeze play with the high grass. Then the figurative light bulb clicked on above my head, and shattered into a thousand pieces, there WAS no breeze. Pulling my weapon tight to my shoulder for re-assurance I called out into the field.
“Whoever is out there, show yourself, I’m armed and I won’t be playin’ any damn games!”, I barked out as confidently as I could muster. A moment or two went by, and then something began to emerge low within the grass. My finger went to the trigger, ready at any moment to squeeze. Then the thing in the field came fully into view.
It was Skip.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, Skip was there in front of the tall grass, plain as day. Slowly I lowered my weapon as the friend I buried just yesterday wagged his tail and began trotting toward me. For a moment, I was in a dream like euphoria. Somehow, my dog Skip, had come back to me. This was surely a miracle. But, my euphoria was broken with one simple sound.
A loud whistle, like one of a master calling its dog, erupted from the direction of the field and tore through the night. Skip; who was nearly halfway to the house by now stopped, and his head turned behind him to the field. The whistle came once more, a little different in pitch, it sounded much deeper the second time. At the sound of the second whistle Skips head crookedly and unnaturally snapped in my direction and he began to bare his teeth and growl at me. Before I had much time to process what was going on, Skip ran toward me at full sprint, barking and howling like a ravenous and wild animal. My instincts kicked in and I raised my shotgun, carefully aiming and squeezing the trigger. A thundering *Boom* rang out into the night, and Skip fell in a head in front of me. I was shaking, and my breaths were labored and heavy. Tears began to form in my eyes, but movement caught my attention that was just barely in my line of sight. I looked up into the field, and my labored breathing became still.
From just beyond the grass, the shapes of human-like forms began shambling into view. I could only stare in horror as more and more things came out of that field. The moon was bright that night, and I could clearly see the decaying flesh of the men and women who shambled along toward where I stood. There seemed to be no end to them, when one emerged, it seemed that another one would come from the exact same spot in the grass that the first did. A silly thought came to me in that moment, one so ludicrous that it brought me out of my stupor. They were zombies.
I shook my head and brought my gun back up to my shoulders, preparing to shoot the nearest stumbling ghoul. My finger went to the trigger, but the loud, deep whistle from the field stopped me in my tracks. When whistle came, a cracking sound on the ground in front of me followed, as Skip’s body began to move and shake. When growls could be heard from Skip, I turned and I ran into the house, shutting and locking the dead bolt in place. I then ran to the cellar door, ripping it open and rushing inside. I then went to work immediately, using the tool box I had stored down here and nailing the door shut. I then found every bit of furniture I could and shoved it under the door.
I don’t have a phone down here, but I did have my old laptop down here that I never bothered to unpack. The Wi-Fi isn’t working, either those things somehow shut down the power upstairs or the signal is just too weak. I hope it’s the latter and this gets out to someone. I’ve been down here for about two hours now, but it was about an hour ago that the banging stopped, and the worst of this nightmare began. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but minutes after all, went quiet, Elan’s voice called down those first words to me from upstairs.
“Mitchell honey, please come out, I have so much I need to talk to you about.”