2004 by Lois Armstrong
Tom Russell knelt down in front of the statue of Christ and closed his eyes. He didn't see old Annie Fields come into the church and sit down. Her eyes were red from crying. She put her hankie up to her nose to wipe it then fell back into tears. Her little Tissue was found dead when she went out to go potty. Tissue was a little dog who had done no harm to anyone. She had been Annie's friend since she was a pup.
She needed help; she needed to understand why God would take her little girl away in such a horrible way. They found her with no head. Tissue had short legs like a Dachshund with wiry hair that seemed to stand everywhere on her. She was sweet, yes, spoiled but most of all she was her friend and now Annie was alone in the world. She tried to pray but the words wouldn't come. It seemed that God had put a steel plate between her and him. Her shoulders shook with her tears. Her clothes were wet because it was storming. She finally got up unnoticed by the Priest, and walked out. It was very gray outside; the storm clouds dominated the sky. Annie pulled her coat tight around her, and joined the others who were walking in the rain.
Inside, the Priest stood up and crossed himself, then walked into his office. He sat at his desk like he was waiting for something to happen. He was in his forties, well built and had dark hair with white around the edges. The white started to appear a month ago when the dreams started. He could feel himself leave his body and move out the door. The street was dark with the night and as usual it was deserted, all except for a stray dog. He stood in the shadow of a building; his eyes watching the creature as he ran around sniffing at everything in sight. He didn't move just watched quietly, then the animal crossed to his side of the street. Yes, that was what he wanted. He watched as the animal came closer; kneeling down, coaxing the animal to come to him. The dog, wagging his tail slowly, approached him and licked his fingers then his face. The taste of blood was in his mouth and the dog's screams could be heard throughout the streets. People went on watching their television, or reading a book. One woman looked out her window and saw nothing but a dead dog. She went back to her business.
His body would return to him and he felt whole and frightened. He would go and wash his mouth out with salt water and look down at his clothes. They were soaked with blood. What was it a dream or did he actually do that? Tom Russell refused to go to bed; he felt if he stayed awake he could stop this from happening. It was always the same, he would become aware of the taste in his mouth and the blood he had on his clothes. The following day, word spread that something was killing the animals. The word spread that a monster was in their town. They gathered in groups shouting and arguing over what to do about this thing.
It was decided. People would stand guard and watch the street corners. Old Max Harding stood across from the church with Mary, his rifle. To him she was the girl of his dreams and he was a crack shot. He pulled out his pipe and lit it. It was going to be a long night. Bud Carter was on the next corner with his shotgun all primed and ready. People locked their animals in their houses but there was one, Boots, he was called, had gotten out of a hole in the screen and trotted down the street. First Carl Muttons saw the cat, his first instinct was to catch him and take him home. Then he stopped and watched it as it trotted down the street to where Bob Carter saw it run into a building only to come out again. A bird landed on the sidewalk, Boots crouched down and started to slowly crawl toward it, the bird flew away before he could catch it. That's how Max saw it. It trotted down by the church sniffing around. Max watched the cat with an eagle eye.
The priest had a nail in each hand so when he started to fall asleep the nail would dig into his hand and wake him up. It was a good idea and he had prayed about it. " Blessed Father, be with me." His lips moved with the prayer." Take this thing from me. I am a man not a monster." Tears slipped from his eyes as he felt himself slip away and walk out the door. Even then, he tried to fight it, but it was too strong, it was hopeless," Then, dear Father, let me die." He stood on a step in the darkness and watched the street; soon he saw the cat. He waited; he had become good at waiting, with anticipation. He knelt down and held his hand out, that's when Max let out a shot. Carl and Bud started to run in Max' direction. " Get him!" Another shot boomed in the air. Max was making his way across the street. The cat was screaming, fighting to get away. His claws were caught in the man's coat, meowing for all he was worth. Max stopped and looked in horror as he saw a monster's face with sharp teeth, open wide and close down on the cat's head. Boots went limp. " Don't stand there like an idiot, shoot it!" Carl aimed his gun and got a shot in the man's shoulder, it screamed and looked around, dropping the animal. His hand went to his shoulder then he started to run. Another shot rang out and caught him in the back. Greg Folks got it in the chest. It stopped and trembled then disappeared into nothingness. The men stood and looked at where the thing had stood. " It was a man wasn't it?" " I think so."
"Maybe it was or maybe it wasn't but it sure has to be dead, now." The Priest moved his hands, the nails dug into his flesh. His mouth tasted like blood. He started to get up but found he couldn't. He looked down at himself; he had been shot. His prayers had been answered he closed his eyes, the body became still.
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