Riddled with Holes, Episode 1
I awoke with a start, a gasp actually escaping my lips as I shot up in bed. I had been dreaming. But, it’s not like I knew what about. I never remember my dreams. Ever. Once I had even tried keeping one of those dream journals—not that I told anyone, though, because that would have given my buddies a lifetime supply of ammunition for mockery. But it didn’t matter anyway. Keeping that journal had been pointless, because, like I said, I never remember my dreams.
I swung my legs over the side of the bed, and a wave of panic ran through me. Crap, I thought, my mind still fringed at the edges with sleep. Did I leave Puff outside? The floor was cold beneath my feet. I wore nothing but my boxers to bed, year-round, simply out of habit. It felt like an icebox in my room. I tossed on a maybe-clean pair of sweatpants and a definitely-not-clean shirt. Then I slipped on some sneakers, shunning the concept of socks, and headed into the hallway.
Tripping over someone’s discarded backpack, I fell against one of my roommate’s closed doors, and of course was profanely scolded from within. I continued to stumble down the hall until I made it to the top of the stairs. The television was on downstairs, sending lightning-like flashes across the dark walls. When I had reached the bottom of the steps I could see the back of someone’s head—most assuredly Landen’s, given the wildness of the hair—and with a glance at the television I could see that he was well into one of his late-night videogame marathons.
I crossed through the kitchen and fumbled my way through the dark to the backdoor. I placed my hand on the deadbolt, but I didn’t need to unlock it, since apparently no one had bothered to lock it in the first place. When I opened the door a cold breeze hit me, biting at my cheeks like a thousand tiny teeth.
“Puff,” I whispered into the night.
I received no response. Maybe he was giving me the silent treatment. After all, I had forgotten to let him back inside before turning in for the night.
This time I whispered louder. “Come on, Puff. Sorry I left you out here, boy. My bad. But come in now, bud. I’m seriously about to freeze to death.” It really was freezing. I expected it to be chilly, or cold, but not freezing. After all, it was barely October. My breath came out in a plume of steam, and the arctic air threatened to freeze it into icicles before it could dissipate.
There was a huffing, grumbling noise off to my right. Followed by a sudden movement that I could only barely discern in the inky blackness of the night. Then something slammed into me, hard, knocking me into the doorframe. It was Puff. All two hundred pounds of him. He was as black as the night, so all I could see of him was the moist glisten of his eyes, roughly a foot in front of me. He let out a quiet woof, and then I sensed him turning back around to face the yard.
Puff was not a barker. He was as quiet and gentle of a giant as you could find. So when he woofed again, louder this time, I knew something was off.
“What’s the matter, boy?”
“What is it?”
Something was definitely wrong. I stepped out onto the patio. Puff was next to me, and I could feel him inch closer until he was touching my side. Peering through the darkness, I could finally tell that Puff was staring out towards the bushes against the back fence. Turning my eyes to that portion of the yard, I tried to see what he could see. I looked for an opossum, raccoon, even a cat. Puff didn’t usually care about those kinds of things, had never even chased a squirrel in his life, but something had him riled, so I had to start somewhere.
Once my eyes had fully adjusted to the dark, I didn’t see an opossum, or a raccoon, or a cat. What I saw was a shadowy shape suddenly dart between two of the bushes. It had been big, at least the size of a man. And it was fast. Like greased lightning fast.
Then, from within the depths of the bush that the...thing...had run toward, I saw red. Two red dots. Glinting, like two little pools of blood just floating there. They were eyes, I presumed.