When I was little my older sister would gather us together on Halloween night (there were five of us) turn out the lights, and tell us spooky stories. Anne is a great storyteller and I doubt anyone slept after one of these sessions—I certainly didn’t. But the stories I always found scariest weren’t the ones about ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, but the ones about people.
One particular story I remember was called The Little White Dog (and I always kept my hands tucked tightly in the bed after hearing this one). So here (from my long ago memory) is my retelling of it.
The Little White Dog
I clench every muscle up tight to stop the shivers running through me and try to calm my rasping breaths. If I lie very still and stay very quiet, maybe he’ll forget I’m here. He’ll just take what he wants from the house and leave me alone. I cling to the hope with every cell in my body.
I lie eyes squeezed shut. I can no longer hear him moving about the house, perhaps he’s already gone. Time blurs, but from my place on the bed, I can hear the drone of the television in the room next door. It sounds so normal. The news is on—so it must be ten o’clock—some report about an escaped prisoner.
“Again, this is a news alert. Serial killer Clive Butcher, dubbed Clive the Cannibal by the press, for his habit of partially devouring his victims, has escaped from the maximum security facility where he was awaiting sentencing. Police warn—do not under any circumstances approach.”
My mind freezes, refusing to make sense of the words. Then a whimper trickles from my throat, oozing around the scarf stuffed in my mouth. My stomach turns to hot, molten liquid, and I have to swallow the nausea that rises to the back of my throat.
I slow my breathing, in…out, in…out, trying to control the panic. Clive the Cannibal is purely coincidence. This is just a burglary. Isn’t it?
A rope of some sort is tied around my middle, strapping me to the bed. I wriggle frantically, but although I manage to move my lower arms, I can’t reach the knots.
Maybe Scamp can help. Scamp, my little white dog, usually sleeps on the rug in front of the fire. But sometimes, if I have a nightmare, he’ll come and lie beside the bed and I’ll stroke his soft fur until I’m soothed back to sleep.
This is my worst nightmare so why doesn’t he come? Not daring to make a noise, I slide my hand down the bed and over the side, rubbing my fingers together silently. Nothing happens, and I stare up at the ceiling and pray.
A warm wet tongue licks my fingers, and some of my panic recedes, a flicker of hope blossoming inside me. Now, if I can just get Scamp on the bed, he can chew through the knots, and we’ll both escape out the bedroom window.
I roll my head to the side. And a silent scream rises up inside me. Through the open door, in the flickering light from the fire, I can see Scamp. He’s lying on the rug, unmoving, asleep or….
The tongue licks my palm again. A low chuckle sounds from the floor beside the bed, then a soft whisper. “Dinner time.”
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