© 1998 by Friday Jones
Doris Litinsky was a horrible old woman. She'd been an unpleasant child, an irritating teenager, and a most obnoxious woman. But it was now, when her bones were old and her mind was rotten, that her nastiness had reached its full flower. Her voice was a whining more painful than a mosquito hovering in your ear. Her bent back and hobbling gait belied the cruel, hard fingers that did not hesitate to pinch boisterous children and send them wailing home, bruises rising on their flesh. Her head was practically bald, and her skin was mottled with liver spots. She generally carried a cane or umbrella, not just to support her, but to grind out flowers in flowerbeds that she found unsightly (which was pretty much every sort of flower), and to hit people in the shins to make them get out of her way. But the most horrible thing about her was her mouth. From years of scowling and pursing disagreeably, it was surrounded by wrinkles as deep as knife slashes; her lips always seemed to be a little chapped and raw, and ugly flakes of skin often hovered around the corners.
When her mouth was put in conjunction with that miracle of the modern age - the telephone - she became, quite simply, abominable.
From her second-story apartment (which grew a bit too hot in summer, and a tad chilly in the winter, but which she repeatedly told her landlord was either a sweltering oven or a freezing wasteland), she would peer out the window. And watch. And take notes. And then she would pick up the telephone and make phone calls, and things would happen. If a garbageman accidentally dropped a can in front of her house, or the mailman delivered a slightly crumpled letter, or the hot water fluctuated by a few degrees during her shower, she called up whoever she thought was responsible and made every person who answered the phone wish that they had been born without ears. Everyone unfortunate enough to hear her was treated to long, endless rambling about her health, modern manners, rats, the Way Things Used To Be, hospital bills, liars, her bowel movements, and so on, and so forth. It was a torrent of excruciating banality and self-righteousness. More than one person left their job and got a new one where they would never be asked to answer the phone, just because of HER. But the ones who felt the wrath of Doris most intensely were the dogs. She hated dogs. Loathed them. She hated their smell, their eyes, their doggy tongues dripping with diseased saliva; she hated the sight of a dog, flinched from dog excrement as though from a leper, and growled in anger (in a doglike manner that nobody ever dared point out to her) whenever she so much as heard a dog bark.
So, whenever any person within a two-block radius of her apartment got a dog, and Doris found out about it, she went into action. And within a few days, that dog was gone.
Just yesterday, the new family across the street had gotten a half-grown puppy for their boy. He had named the dog Doug, and played with him outside before school, romping in their tiny yard, laughing, rolling in the grass with the puppy as it yelped and yipped and barked. And inside her apartment, Doris had gritted her teeth and counted the hours until that boy went to school, and the mother went to work. When they were gone (and the dog was lying down in its little doghouse, quite quietly) Doris got ready, and made a phone call.
Between the hours of ten and four, this little neighborhood was practically deserted. Everyone was at work. So it was no problem for Doris to go outside, across the street to the neighbor's yard, and when the innocent young puppy came bounding over to the fence trailing its thin chain behind it, to spray it in its eager mouth and open eyes with a can of oven cleaner.
The dog went hysterical. Screaming, moaning, clawing at its eyes. Doris had timed it perfectly; the truck from the pound showed up within five minutes, while the dog still had a full load of foam in its mouth. They accepted her complaint that the dog had been sick for weeks, always barking and whining and disturbing people day and night, that the people here NEVER took care of it; they were busy men. They loaded the animal into the van and drove off. And that was that!
Of course when the boy and his mother got home, and read the notice from the Animal Control people, there was much weeping and wailing. The boy sat outside on the doghouse, crying, clutching his dog's collar between his hands. Doris looked at him from out of her window and was glad. Horrible little boy playing with that filthy beast - and just let them try to get another one! She's take care of that one too! The boy looked up - and directly into Doris' eyes, staring at him from out of her window. He stared back, hating. Doris leaned back from the window, a little disturbed. Did he guess ...? But no matter! He was only a boy, there was nothing he could do ...
Doris Litinsky lay in bed, feeling very satisfied with yesterday's work. It was a somewhat warm morning, even this early, so she got up and put on her robe and got ready to brew some tea. She brewed tea until it was black, then filled it with honey and molasses and other sweeteners until you could almost stand a spoon upright in it. As she hadn't a tooth in her head, dentistry was not a concern of hers. But as she sat in the kitchen, she thought she heard a dog bark!
Doris quickly hobbled to the window, cocking a slightly deaf and wax-clogged ear. Was that a bark, or just the sound of a car starting up abruptly? Her tea was cooling as she waited to hear the sound again, but she didn't care: it was more important to get that dog, if it was one! And there the sound was again, definitely a bark, maybe two! It sounded far away though. Possibly too far for Doris to see what house it was in. Maybe four or five blocks over - but there was the barking again, and it was getting closer!
A loose dog? She could have that picked up right away! Maybe they'd catch it right in front of her house! Maybe they'd shoot it, right on the spot! Doris giggled, a gurgly unpleasant giggle, as she reached for her phone and poised her finger to dial the number; she knew it by heart. But her finger paused, as she heard another bark, from the other side of the house. "Full moon?" she wheezed to herself, wondering why all of the dogs were barking this morning. It sounded like there were dogs barking all around town, and the barking was getting louder. Or was it getting closer? Doris leaned out her window and looked down Stirling Street - and was paralyzed with fear. The phone fell from her hand, unnoticed. Way down at the end of the street, where her eyes could barely make it out, was a speck of brown that turned out to be a dog. It was running down the center of the street towards her apartment. And behind it were two specks that were also dogs, no four, no ten, twenty, a pack of dogs. All heading towards her! She looked the other way, towards Main, and saw more dogs there. They were running so fast! And now she could see them coming out all around, bounding over fences, leaping through hedges, white and brown and black and russet dogs, spotted dogs, long-haired and short-haired dogs, little and big dogs, a flood of the verminous beasts surging towards her house - and every one of the dogs seemed to be looking up, towards her window!
Doris shot upright in terror; the edge of the window caught her a nasty crack across the spine. Gasping with the sudden shock of pain, she looked across the street - and heard another bark! Even through the tumult of whining and howling around her, she heard that bark! She knew that bark! She stared across the street, at the new family's house, and at the dog house so recently vacated there.
There was a dog coming out of the dog house. It was Doug.
Doug the dog, but a Doug with fiery eyes and flaming hackles; a Doug with a bark loud enough to shatter glass; a Doug of the damned, a dog back from hell. The lawn was smoking under his paws. He leaped the fence, and the asphalt melted under his breath. His eyes were on Doris, burning with hatred. She saw the terrible dog-spectre leap against the house door - which shattered beneath its paws like ice! And behind him came the howling, snarling, four-legged legions of ghost dogs. She knew them all now, as she saw them streaming into the doorway, and turned to hear the thunder of paws against her own front door. The door fell and they were on her.
She was surrounded by their heavy, doggy smell, and the smell of burning. She was burning, as their teeth sank into her and seared like acid. She fell, rolling on the floor, frantically trying to cover her face with her hands. The dogs tore her hands aside with ease. Their tongues, their mouths were on her. Their fur was rough enough to rasp the flesh from her bones. They were eating her alive, and their flaming paws scorched a circle around her writhing, tortured form. The smoke was in her nose, scalding. The flaming jaws tore at her eyes and ripped the tongue from her throat. They worried the intestines from her belly and dragged her to and fro by them. Her fingers were their chew toys, and they urinated flames into her empty face. It was a slaughterhouse. It was revenge. As the holocaust enveloped the apartment, the dogs took their leave of it, soaring through doors or window with indifferent ease. And as they ran, the flames faded from them. Yipping happily, they vanished into the morning.
Doug was the last to leave the house, and as he strode from the smoldering doorway, the flames that wreathed his shoulders started to grow brighter and brighter. They rose higher along his back, fading from orange and red to the palest gold, a blinding white. Suddenly they were not flames at all but wings, gleaming white wings sprouting from his shoulders. He looked up, into the sky.
There was a silver Frisbee way off in the sky, floating along, carefree. Higher than any dog could leap. But somehow Doug knew, that if only he could get a good enough running start, he could jump up and catch that Frisbee, and that the boy named Bob would be there, to pet him and give him a treat. He ran, light scattering from his paws, down Stirling Street, towards the west. The saucer floated overhead, beckoning, just begging him to leap up and catch it. He would! He would! He leaped - and the leap never ended. Flying, soaring, wings churning the clouds to froth around him, Doug sailed after the saucer. His barks blew past too fast to be heard. Oh to run, to soar, to hunt with the pack forever! Forever and ever!
And when he caught that saucer, it was just as he thought it would be: a land of endless fields of grass, and a thousand rabbits running, fast and agile, waiting for the chase, and he chased them, up and down the hills, under the gentle smile of his boy, on and on and on ...
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