I heaved a sigh of relief after closing the hallway door and glanced down at the skittish little furry friend at my feet. My dog, Chip, practically latched himself to my ankles as he followed behind me, quickly tapping his paws against the hardwood floor in excitement. He was a small little guy. He had a tiny body coated in an almost golden-colored fur, with thin legs, which almost looked like 4 sticks protruding from his torso, and of course, the signature giant ears of a Chihuahua. He stared up at me with those big sweet, puppy-dog eyes of his and anxiously awaited the commencement of our evening. This was our nightly routine, after all.
Every night, after Mom and Dad went to sleep, he and I would sneak back up into the front of the house, close the hallway door so as not to wake up my parents, and have the time of our lives together. We’d eat food, I’d give him extra treats, we’d watch our favorite midnight showings together, and best of all, after he finally calmed down and fell asleep, I’d get a little time to work on my projects that I wouldn’t have otherwise during the day. These were the times of night I looked forward to the most. After all, I only had a few short months where I was back home from college, so any time I got to spend with the little guy was precious, and he and I both cherished every moment of it.
Tonight, however, was different.
Normally, after I closed the hallway door, I would head right to the kitchen and start preparing the food for both of us to munch on. Tonight, however, I was just so drawn in by his cuteness that I followed him over to his favorite spot on the couch and began playing with him. I was scratching him behind the ears when I suddenly heard a noise from just beyond the hallway door.
I stopped. And listened.
I couldn’t tell because it sounded so far away from where it was, but it sounded like a faint jingling sound. The sound the Chip’s collar would make whenever he walked. It persisted for a few seconds before quickly trailing off.
I was a little put off by this, but ignored it for the time being. I figured it was just one of my other two dogs getting up to get some water in the middle of the night. And since we always kept a water bowl for all our dogs to use in the bathroom just before the hallway door, I just shrugged it off and went back to playing with Chip.
After a few minutes, though, it came again. A little closer this time.
Now I was starting to get a little freaked out. I could tell just from the rattling of the collar that it wasn’t one of my other dogs. I sat for a moment and debated with myself on whether or not to check and see what that sound was. I stared at the door long and hard wondering just what could be behind it. Almost as if whatever was making those sounds had been reading my thoughts, it went away again.
Discouraged, I went back to playing with Chip, hoping to get my mind off whatever was going on. I figured it was best left alone. After all, the little guy didn’t seem phased by the noise in the slightest. And I’d seen too many horror movies to know that checking out the mysterious noises coming from the darkest parts of the house is always a bad idea.
So for the next few minutes, I tried to ignore the nagging fright building up in me, hoping it would subside as I stared into Chip’s eyes. Eyes that begged for more and more love attention by the second. The volume of my baby talk towards him also increased, even as the jingling behind the hallway door got closer. And closer. And closer.
After a few minutes, I began to hear small scratching at the door. Not threatening or insistent scratching, like a being that would hunger for my blood, but more of a polite, gentle type of scratching. It almost sounded like a soft plea to be let out of the dark hallway and into the light of the spacious dining room. Still, I tried to ignore whatever it was and continued playing with Chip, who was continuously pawing at me and begging for more pets, more ear scratches, more of any form of attention I could give him. If he could’ve spoken at that moment, I’m pretty sure he would have been saying, “More! More! More!”
Then I heard a loud and distressed yelp I heard just behind the hallway door. At that point, I completely stopped, jumped a bit, and stared at the door, terrified out of my mind. Even Chip seemed to react to the noise, jumping slightly as well, and glancing back at me with a worried expression on his face. I knew it was probably a bad idea to do this, but I had to know what was behind that door. I quickly got up from the couch, startling the dog a bit, and rushed to the hallway door, scared of what I might find once I opened it. I took a breath, reached for the knob, and yanked open the door, only to find…
That same little dog, the same one I had been petting on the couch this entire time, trotted out of the hallway and stared up at me with those same puppy-dog eyes, those same stick legs, and those same big Chihuahua ears. I looked back at the couch to where he had been sitting just a moment ago, only to find that now, nothing was there.
I looked all over the living room — on the couch, under pillows, under blankets, behind the chair, even in the fireplace. Nothing. I called out his name multiple times — only the dog that was standing before me seemed to respond to it. I glanced back at Chip only to find him staring back at me with a genuinely worried expression on his face.
I gave him a reassuring scratch behind the ears to reassure him that I was alright, but the truth is, I wasn’t so sure.
As I kept glancing back and forth between the couch and my dog for however long it was, all I could think was one thing:
“Which one was the real thing?”
Credit : Lulu Grey
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