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She

She


Estimated reading time โ€” 7 minutes

She hated taking the dog out in the rain. Max would always spend five minutes sniffing around aimlessly before finally deciding on a place to piss, and would then spend another five deciding whether or not he would grace the earth with one of his lumpy turds.

The dog wasn’t hers: it had belonged to her boyfriend, but when said boyfriend had jumped ship for her sister’s bed he disappeared with a drive that she hadn’t seen in him before. All that was left behind was a pile of his own dirty laundry, a brief note that read “sorry” (all in lowercase, unsigned), and old Max. Max was something between a German Shepherd and a Lab, a mix that her ex had bafflingly described as “purebred” when asked about breed. The dog had an iron bladder, only going out once in the morning, once at dinner, and once again before bed. It was nearly midnight now, and Max was whimpering once more. She sighed before grabbing the leash and leading the dog out into the damp summer air.

It wasn’t raining nearly as bad as before, but she still avoided walking on the grass as much as she could with Max yanking the leash. She took the stone walk that went straight out from the house toward the street, glancing up at the sound of squirrels chattering in the line of red cedars that stretched out from one end of the house to the sidewalk. They were being noisey tonight, and crows were cawing too, making a racket of the otherwise silent suburban night.

Max kicked up a leg and launched a torrent of piss into the lawn. Once finished, he stretched, kicked up grass, and started sniffing around for worthy shitting ground.

“Come on,” she said, zipping her sweater against the misty air. There were no cars out, not that it was a busy street. The duplex she rented out of was right at the edge of the suburbs, with the backyard facing uncleared woods and the front yard facing the distant glow of the city. Still, she thought it was strange for nobody to have passed by in the last hour or so. Max yanked the leash, pulling her further toward the street. “Hurry it up,” she said, losing patience.

A rumbling coming from the direction of the woods made her glance back over her shoulder. Thunderstorm? Great. “Max, come on, make it quick.” The last thing she wanted was to get soaked and have to change again.

Another thunder noise sounded, sending a slight shake through the air. She turned to face the house again, staring up at the black, clouded night sky beyond. With the doorlight on, it was hard to tell, but she thought she could see the outline of trees moving in the backyard above the house. The wind must be picking up. A moment later, she noticed the lights go out in her duplex neighbor’s window. That was odd. They were normally up half the night.

Max had finally dragged her to the edge of the road and was insistent on crossing to the other side. She was about to yank him back toward the house when another rumble, louder than before, sent him running, ripping the leash out of her hand.

“Max!” she shouted, stumbling to try and grab the leash again, but it was too late. Max was running across the street, and there was nothing she could do but chase after him. Luckily, he stopped under a streetlamp on the other side and squatted: the sudden trot seemed to have loosened his bowels.

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“Jesus, Max!” she scolded, grabbing the leash back up as the dog’s tail bobbed up and down. As she was catching her breath she noticed the squirrels, three of them, running across the street from the cedar hedge and bounding off into the suburbs. Movement caught her eye above, and she glanced again over the roof of the house at the trees beyond.

A shadow loomed over the duplex by about thirty feet. Two pale grey eyes were visible peering in her direction from a bulbous head the size of a car. It stood completely still.

Her breath left her lungs in a sigh.

“Ah.” She watched as the looming creature peered at her from the shadows. “I see you there!” she shouted at the thing. It responded with a lazy blink, and remained motionless. “Fantastic,” she muttered under her breath, yanking the leash and forcing Max to cut off his last turd and run to her side. She crossed the street and headed up the walk, flipping the bird to the giant in the backyard before going inside.

“Yes, I know,” she said into the telephone. “Just tell me: how fast can you have it dealt with?”

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Ever since what happened out on the coast a year ago, these damned things kept showing up and parking themselves in the most inconvenient places. At first, the world responded with panic and fear, but after months of passivity and inaction, the creatures were labeled truthfully as a hassle more than anything else. They still scared the kids, with their gaping, toothless mouths and cloudy eyes, but nobody had ever been killed or even hurt by one so there was no reason to fear. She thought of them like cows that wander onto roads and block traffic: annoying, slow, and only a real danger if you run into it with your car. They had the stature of men, but with heads far too large for their bodies. There arms were shrunken and curled lamely like plucked chicken wings at their sides, occasionally clawing at the the air but appearnig to serve no real purpose.

The disposal unit would be by in the morning, but until then she’d have to settle with the thing planting itself in her backyard, staring in her damn window and stinking the place up. That was the thing she hated the most about them: that smell. It was a sickly sweet smell, like that of over ripe fruit or compost that had gone to mold. The smell was the worst – that, and those eyes. Those eyes that stared blankly like points of fog, offering no emotion, no incentive, no shame. She thought of the eyes of blind people in films, although she had no reason to believe the things were blind. One thing was for certain: looking into those blank grey eyes filled children with fear, and adults with hatred; hatred and rage.

Maybe that emotional reaction is what led to the way society had agreed to deal with the creatures. She thought about it as she turned out the lights and climbed into bed, her face glowing in the saturated blue of her device. In the morning the officials from the Blackwood Containment and Refinement Office (BCRO, for short) would be by to contain and refine the giant. They’d harpoon and restrain it, then saw through the ankles where it’s lower tendrils had anchored it to the ground. It would fall slowly, dumbly, making those hellish howlish, squealing sounds as they severed it’s various limbs and extensions, quartered it’s greasy, barrel-shaped torso, and finally ran each of the chunks through a piece of machinery similar to a wood chipper. The pulp would then be collected in the back of a marked BCRO tanker truck and shipped off to the facility which was just outside of town for further refinement.

She finally put her phone away and lay in the gloom of her bedroom, leaning sideways so that she could stare into the things eyes from a comfortable position. She could feel a silent, passionate rage filling her whole body as her eyes connected with the giant’s, but she didn’t look away. She kept staring until, at about 3 in the morning, she fell asleep with her clothes and bedsheets soaked in sweat. With the phone off, the only light in the room was a dull red glow that came from the digital alarm clock on her bedside table. The alarm clock was powered (like everthing else in her house, her neighbour’s houses, and every other house in town) primarily by the potent, low emission, and remarkably long-burning oils extracted from the brain and tissues of those silent giants like the one in her backyard.

Her alarm woke her at 6, and she sat on the front step until 8, waiting for the BCRO crew to show up. The smell of exhaust and coffee was strong in the air as the crew of 20 men stood around, running equipment and dismantling the giant. They handed her the usual $1000 dollar cheque as finder’s fee, taking care to mention how lucky she was that they seemed to keep showing up in her backyard. “Yes,” she replied when the foreman asked if it was indeed the third one this week, “Yes, it is.” She frowned, feigning frustration at the noise.

The money was good, sure, but it was nothing compared to the joy she felt in listening to those creatures crying out in agony with tongues that spoke no sensible words. Their screaming and squealing and howling as saws ripped flesh and grinders ate through bones sent ripples of ectasy flowing through her body and she excused herself from the backyard, heading inside to where she could hide just out of sight and enjoy the sounds from there. In all, it took the crew about two hours (they had gotten disappointingly efficient at it by now) and by the time they left, she was exhausted from the sensations she had enjoyed.

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Shaking and giddy with pleasure, she walked out into the backyard. The crew had done a good job cleaning up the mess, but there were a few remnants of gore left behind as usual. She gathered these up, methodically, and took them to the above-ground swimming pool, which was covered up and unused despite the punishing humidity. Checking to make sure her neighbours weren’t outside and watching, she unfastened a section of the pool cover and tossed all of the chunks inside, except for one. The gobs of flesh landed with a thick flop into the stinking, rotting pool of gore and fluid, and she smiled as she refastened the cover, taking the remaining chunk inside.

“Here, Max,” she said, whistling sharply and watching as the so-called purebred ran into the kitchen. “Breakfast’s ready.” She dropped the hunk of meat into his bowl, and Max tore into it. The dog’s usually docile face erupted in a flash of teeth and splatter as he ate ravenously at the strange flesh. “Good boy,” she whispered.

Yes, she supposed that soon the neighbours would get sick of the smell coming from her pool outside, but she had started to think that it wasn’t really necessary to have it there anyway. The creatures had only really started showing up this frequently since Max had started eating their flesh and crapping it out on the lawn. Something about the digestion, she supposed. She didn’t know, not really, but clearly, it was working.

A few hours later, Max was whimpering to go outside for his middle-of-the-day bathroom break. It had begun to rain again, and so she muttered under her breath as she clipped on the leash and led him outside. Yes, she hated taking the dog outside in the rain, but it was necessary.

Credit: Keith Daniels

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