I don’t do dogs. Even now, just thinking about them, I can feel my vitals rising. I hustle to the other side of the street when neighbors walk their monsters in the morning. I’ve ended terrific sexual relationships because she thought it was cute when I’d freeze and beg her to pull her thing off me. My legs have scars from nine different dog attacks. I’ve heard “He’s never done that before” more times than I can count. My face is all patched up from when I was three and I pet my first puppy. I remember a low growl and a brown blur when the thing launched at my face and bit and bit and bit and bit. I haven’t visited my uncle for two years after his dog shot through a cracked front door and latched onto my chin. The thing managed to claw through my leather coat and gouge a deep chunk out of my chest. When I was eight, I’d ride my bicycle with Mom as she jogged. I watched an unleashed black thing tear away from its master and charge us while the stranger smiled and called out, “He’s fine. He just wants to say Hi.”

My Mom choked and said “Please get your dog” just before it sank its teeth into her upper thigh. I’d never seen blood shoot out several feet before. The dog was looking at me. It looked into my eyes as it tried to murder my Mother.

The master never quickened his step. He clapped his hands and repeated the monster’s name. Mom screamed and slapped at its frothy snout. She fell on the asphalt path and kicked at it. It chomped again and thrashed its head from side to side, wide eyes locked onto mine.

Deep red arterial blood splashed in my eyes, breaking the trance. I leapt from the bike and stomped on the thing as hard as I could. I felt something snap under my foot like a wet log.

Still twenty feet out, but with some hustle to his bustle, the stranger’s voice cracked, “Stop it! Stop that!”

Jaws still locked on Mom’s body, but it was no longer thrashing. Mom had fallen asleep. I reared back and punted a field goal. Forty pounds of muscle and fur rolled into the trees and crumpled. There was no squeak, no cry from the animal.

When he saw the scene, the stranger drooped like all the bones suddenly left his body. “I’ll call 911. Stay with your Mother, kid.” This was before cell phones. He hauled ass up the hill and pounded on the nearest townhouse.

Mom was asleep with her hands locked on her deep leg wounds. A few chunks the size of a pack of gum peeled away from her body and blood dripped out in gobs. She was breathing, but there wasn’t much time. I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to tie a tourniquet or not; it seemed like they were doing that in the movies all the time. I tied a decent knot with my sweaty tee-shirt two inches above the wound and the bleeding slowed. We waited.

I saw its chest rising and falling. The thing. It was twisted into an impossible shape; its back broken. It must be in agony. It made no whimper, no sound.

It looked at me. It looked into me. I had booted the creature twenty feet away and it wanted to spend its last few minutes watching me. Its eyes were people eyes.

I suddenly understood every Poe story. I understood why old soldiers wake up screaming. This is terror.

I didn’t want to leave Mom, but I couldn’t let the thing continue to look at me. I shook all over and it had gotten very cold very quickly. Trembling, I stepped toward it, prepared for another lunge, like the last twenty minutes of every Friday the 13th. It tilted its bloody chin up and began to smile at me. It watched my face as I crushed its neck under my Nikes. Its grin grew cartoonish and its eyes widened like they might pop out of its head. Like a portrait whose eyes follow you around the room, the dead thing watched me as the EMT’s worked on my mother and put her on a stretcher. It smiled at me the whole time.

It was the first and only time I kicked a dog to death. I see the people eyes in my nightmares. Sometimes, when I wake in the night, I see the thing’s face at my window three floors up. Angry blue eyes and smiling teeth dripping with saliva. The other monsters know what I did and they are waiting. Waiting for their chance.

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