It wouldn’t be Halloween without a little treat from moi! I do hope you all are having a lovely day, filled with spooky good fun. If today is more than a secular celebration for you, I wish you a Blessed Samhain!
Go get the ball!
Unedited and copyrighted by Janet Eckford
Lin balanced his tablet on his lap and reached down for the damp ball his dog Scooter had brought dutifully to him. Scooters tags jingled as his little body wiggled with anticipation to play his favorite game. Usually Lin didn’t like to play fetch in the house, but he’d had an exhaustive week, and decided to hibernate for the night under the covers with a good movie. Scooter yelped at him, his tiny tongue vibrating as he panted with excitement.
“Okay, go get the ball!” Lin shouted, and tossed the plastic toy out his bedroom door.
Scooters clipped nails clacked on the hardwood floor as he ran to retrieve his ball. Lin chuckled before turning back to the movie he’d been watching on his tablet. He could hear the tingle of Scooters tags as he ran frantically searching for his ball, and just when Lin had settled into the story of his movie, Scooter rushed back into the bedroom and made three sharp barks. The little dog didn’t have his ball, and from the way his body shook with barely contained energy, Lin knew he wasn’t pleased.
“Scooter, where’s your ball?” He asked, his voice lilting at the end of his words.
Scooter barked sharply again and ran toward the doorway as if answer. Lin sighed with frustration, but untangled himself from his covers and went in search of the ball. He’d never grown up with pets, and had never thought of himself as the type of person that would shape his life around an animal, but the day he saw Scooter, dirty and shivering, tucked away in a bush near his house, he’d fallen under the spell of the little dog.
“Where’d your ball go?” He asked, his voice once again lilting at the end of his question.
Scooter yelped and ran into the hallway, his nails click clacking as his little legs powered. Lin followed quickly, his sock covered feet sliding on his polished floors. When he made his way to the living, Scooter was running the parameter, sniffing and doing his best to search for his lost toy. Lin looked in the usual places the small ball could have lodged itself but didn’t find it. He lost track of time as he and Scooter inspected every inch of the living room and surrounding rooms of his small house for the missing ball. Not wanting to spend his whole night looking for the toy, Lin whistled to his dog and headed back to his room.
He climbed back into bed and opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out one of the reserve balls he kept there. It seemed the house had swallowed another ball and he wasn’t in the mood to keep searching. “Scooter, go get the ball!” He shouted and the little dog yelped with excitement before running to chase down his plastic prey.
Lin tossed the ball as he finished his movie, and growing drowsy decided to call it quits for the night. It wasn’t until he’d started to power off his tablet that he realized Scooter hadn’t brought his ball back. He vaguely remembered hearing the sounds of the dogs tags clicking as he scurried around the house, but Lin’s movie had been engrossing and he’d lost track of what the dog was doing. Now, the house was too quiet and he worried his rambunctious little dog was up to something he shouldn’t be. Lin looked at the clock and noticed that it was past midnight and contemplating letting Scooter be. He might have just tired himself out and fallen asleep in his bed in the living room, Lin thought.
Yet, the last time he’d left Scooter alone without checking up on him, he’d managed to chew a hole in the side of Lin’s couch. The dog was little but could be mighty in his destruction. Climbing out of bed, Lin padded softly from his room toward the living room. The light from his bedroom was enough to guide him down the dark hallway, but his living room was shrouded in darkness as he stepped into it. He looked around for a ball of white fur but didn’t see Scooter immediately.
“Scooter, come here!” He called out, his voice firm in its command.
Silence stretched as he waited to hear the tinkle of Scooter’s tags. There was nothing, and he called out again for his dog. He was probably hiding, Lin thought, thinking they were playing another game.
“Scooter, here, now!” He called out into the darkness.
He whistled and slapped his hand on his thigh for emphasis, but there wasn’t the usual sound of nails scrapping against wood as he expected. Lin groaned with frustration and whistled again.
“Scooter, come here now!” He shouted, his words sharp with anger.
The echo of his words faded in the house, but still no whimper or yelp of acknowledgement from his dog. Lin turned in a circle, and knew he wouldn’t be able to see in the dark. He moved to walk toward the lamp in the corner but cursed when he stepped down on a plastic ball.
“Dammit!” He yelled and snatched up the toy with frustration.
“Oh, gross,” he groaned and rolled the sticky ball between his fingers.
He was more than annoyed as he walked to turn the light on and yelped with pain as he stepped down on another ball.
“Fuck!” He cried out and snatched up the other ball.
This one was even more sticky and damp as the first and he pursed his mouth with anger. Scooter was going to get a major time out in his crate once he found him. Lin finally clicked the lamp on and startled at the red stain his fingers left behind. He looked down at his hand and noticed that the sticky goo he thought was dog salvia looked suspiciously like blood. His brain couldn’t seem to process it for some reason, but once it set in he looked around the dimly lit room with concern.
“Scooter? Come here boy,” he called out, worry setting in.
“It’s okay, come here boy,” he cooed, hoping his earlier anger hadn’t made Scooter burrow further where he was hiding.
Lin didn’t know how the little dog had gotten hurt but now his heart pounded as he searched frantically around the house to find him. As he clicked more lights on he could see blood smeared in places on the hardwood floors, and he called out for Scooter with increasing anxiety. Lin went outside to check the front and back yard, but there still wasn’t any sign of his dog.
When he came back into the house he noticed that the lights were out and he paused on the threshold. He’d left them on, he knew he’d left them on, but with his frantic search for an injured Scooter he couldn’t be sure. Lin padded quietly back into the house, his fear for his dog suddenly transforming to something else. When another bloody ball rolled toward his feet he startled and jumped.
The tinkle of Scooters tags pierced the quiet of the room and he tensed, waiting for the sound of little nails scrapping against wood. Seconds stretched and when he realized he hadn’t been breathing, Lin took a shallow breath.
“Scooter?” He called out again, his voice tinged with fear.
This time there was no tinkle of tags, but there was the sound of something scrapping against the wood floors. Lin’s body froze as his ears strained to listen for where the sound was coming from. When the house remained silent he let his body relax. It was when he turned toward his room that he saw something hunkered in the shadow of a corner. As if sensing his awareness, it unfurled itself and shifted forward enough for him to make out the bulk of its mass by the light of the moon streaming through his windows, but not the details of what it was.
Lin heard a whimper and shook when his brain registered that it was him making the sound. The gloppy thud of something rolling across the floor drew his attention and he watched as one of Scooter’s lost balls stopped at his feet. He didn’t need light to know that it was covered with blood like the others, and he wheezed as fear locked like a vise around his heart.
The thing in the shadows shifted forward more and Lin fought between the need to flee or freeze. As it continued to stay in the shadows of the dark room, the light from his bedroom illuminating only the hallway, Lin’s imagination filled in what his eyes could not see. Something flew past his head and he cringed as he felt it sail past. The sound of hard plastic hitting the floor and skittering to a halt was familiar, and he knew it was another ball. Lin didn’t move, waited to see what the thing in the shadows would do. He wanted to run, but his feet seemed frozen, waiting for a sign, before they helped him flee.
When the thing in the shadows finally spoke, it’s words were low and gravely, as if pronouncing them were difficult because it’s mouth was filled with too many teeth. Lin’s brain took a while to decipher what it said, but when he did, he shivered with fear, because it was clear the thing in the shadows had just commanded him to, “Go get the ball.”