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Albert Doddson’s time had come.

He lay in his lonely room in St. Hope’s Hospital---lonely because he had outlived family and friends alike. His longevity, once a point of pride, was now his greatest regret. What had it all been for? Machines beeped away. The IV stung in his arm. This was what eighty-two years of exercise and vegetables had earned him.

For the second day in a row, a nurse had failed to come and turn his light on when the sun began to set. He wouldn’t ring to ask again. Instead, he allowed the steady blips of the heart monitor to soften into a kind of lullaby. His eyelids grew heavy and finally closed.

“Can you help me find my puppy?”

Albert’s eyes shot open. Where had the little voice come from?

He turned his head with effort and saw a figure standing in the doorway. It was small, filling only the lower half of the space with its silhouette.

“Can you help me find my puppy?”

Albert cracked a faint smile for the first time in a week. “No, kid,” he croaked, giving his dry throat it’s first use that day.

The child was silent and still. The stillness was absolute. Not a twitch. Not a quiver. It unnerved Albert and he gagged on a swallow.

The child then stepped into the room. The last dying rays from the window reveal its face to Albert.

His body tensed with a shock of terror.

The child had no eyes. Where they should be were only gaping black holes. Dark, rusty rivulets of blood ran down the boy’s cheeks.

“Can you help me find my puppy?” the boy repeated evenly.

A strangled scream ripped forth from Albert’s throat. In an instant, his frailty was gone. He leapt from his bed. Machines toppled and crashed to the ground. His skin seared as the needle tore free. He raced past his gruesome guest and headed for the hallway, shouting all the while, “Get away! G-get away!”

In the hallway, he hobbled as fast as his useless legs could carry him. “Nurse!” he shouted. “Nurse! There’s someone in my room!” No one answered his call. No one came rushing around the corner to his aid. Since he’d escaped from that hideous, ruined creature in his room, he hadn’t seen another soul.

He came to the nurse’s station at last, finding it empty. His heart sank. “Nurse!” he called again. “Where the hell is everybody?!”

“Can you help me find my puppy?”

Albert’s spine iced over. Slowly, he turned. There, just a few feet away, stood his tormentor, the bleeding, eyeless child. He screamed again, the sound echoing pitifully through the empty corridor.

“Can you help me find my puppy?”

“Why?!” Albert begged. “Why do you torment me?! Why me?!”

As the child stepped closer, the answer began to materialize. A memory formed, one that age had taken from him.

The child’s eyes had been a deep, crystal green. Stunning. Bewitching.

“Can you help me find my puppy?” he’d asked the boy. That was all it took for the child to be his.

When all of Albert’s dark desires had been quenched, the boy lay limp, those eyes half closed and losing their brightness. It needed to be saved. They needed to be saved.

“Can you help me find my puppy?”

The boy’s voice brought Albert back to the present. He was startled to find the child an inch away from him. Before Albert could make a move, the child’s arm whipped forward. His hand made contact with Albert’s wrist.

The heat of a thousand flames shot out from the point of contact. It ran through Albert’s veins, consuming him from the inside out. He felt his mind, his memory, his identity burn away until only consciousness and brutal, unrelenting pain remained.

Written by Jdeschene
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