In the summer of 1996, the town of Newport Bay was struck by an odd and grisly phenomenon. Earlier that year, the employees of a small animal shelter had been found mauled and eaten, by what appeared to be a rather large animal. The location and severity of the wounds added to the already powerful feelings of dread, fear and paranoia the residents were experiencing. Being eaten alive is often thought to be one of the worst ways to go, and while everyone has their own opinions on the worst ways to die, no one really wants to dwell on this morbid topic for long.
Those unfortunate enough to hear the news, or even worse; be at the scene and accidentally witness the bloody corpses as they were being dragged away by paramedics, were no different. It was said to have caused a lump to rise within their throats, and even the bravest of folks had grown sick and pale. But perhaps the mist unsettling fact of all, was that the animal responsible had never been found. Around the town, paranoia was beginning to take hold. Mothers refused to let their children outside to play, parks went unused, and grown men found themselves looking over their shoulders in sweat-inducing anxiety. All had only one question on their minds: Who would be next?
Sarah Rose Phillips was an aspiring young student, eager to make her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian a reality. She was currently attending a small community college, after just graduating high school. It was her freshman year, and she had yet to command the respect of her peers, even though her knowledge and experience far exceeded most of her classmates, or even her superiors. Sarah was a savant when it came to animals; possessing a knowledge beyond that of books and study. Since the time that she was small, she had always had a deep-rooted affinity towards them.
Be they cats or horses, birds or wildlife, the girl from that unknown southern town had always been around them. Her father had been a renowned horse trainer, back in their rural Texas community, readying the proud steeds for shows around the country. Sarah loved all animals, especially horses due to this. But the one creature that she felt the most kinship with, the species that she herself wanted to devote the rest of her life to, was the dog. Everything about dogs fascinated Sarah. Their unquestioned loyalty, their intelligence, and their warm and loving eyes. Because her father was always consumed with horses, and her mother's bad case of allergies, the young woman had never owned a dog, and she had always felt like her childhood was somewhat lacking for it.
This was partly the reason why she had never objected when her school had suggested that she enroll in a volunteer program, although such a program would have been easily passed up by the more uppity students. A job working at a shelter that specialized in rehabilitating abused and neglected dogs. Sarah would not be training or otherwise working with these poor souls, but rather be put in charge of the less appealing, yet just as important parts of dog ownership. Cleaning the kennels while the dogs were away being walked, feeding, and hosing down the excrement that they left behind. Despite the lack of pay for such a disgusting task, it was oddly one that the young woman relished. Because this was sadly the closest that she had ever been to having her own dog. On the morning of her first day, Sarah had to wake up earlier than usual, as the shelter required kennel workers to be among the first staff members to arrive. She clumsily slammed the sleep button on her alarm clock, rose from the bed and began to dress for the day. She looked over at the empty bed across from her own. It was nearly the end of the school year, and she had never been assigned a roommate.
Odd, for a community college that often had issues with crowding. But she had made friends outside of her lonesome dorm; Freddy, a first year tech student whom Sarah swore loved Star Trek more than life itself, a pleasant fellow named James, who could always lighten the gloomiest of days with a simple joke, and Emily, a petite girl with an assertive mind and a loud voice that barely seemed fitting for her small and delicate stature. She had told her friends all about her new job, and they were very excited for her. Emily had even suggested that they all go out that Friday to celebrate, a suggestion that Sarah more than happily agreed to. Sarah looked herself over in the mirror of her small bathroom. She looked as though she hadn't slept in weeks, with thick dark circles clinging under her groggy eyes. She poured some cold water and splashed her face, jolting her body awake.
"Ugh... I need to get on a better schedule for this job..." She groaned as she began brushing her hair. After tying it back in her usual ponytail, Sarah dressed in an old AC/DC t-shirt and ripped jeans. She tied her shoes, grabbed her wallet and left the dorm, locking the door tightly behind her.
After grabbing a coffee from the student cafeteria, which was just opening that morning, Sarah got back in her car and drove down the small dirt road that led to the shelter. It was called "The Newport Bay Shelter for Abused Dogs", an unimaginative title, but a clear and honest one. Sarah parked her car in the dirt parking lot and with a deep breath, she prepared herself for her new job. Upon entering, she eyed an older woman sitting at the reception desk. She was absorbed in a crossword puzzle, thick glasses over her tired blue eyes and the pen balanced between the tips of her teeth. Sarah cleared her throat, and the woman looked up at her, a bit surprised.
"May I help you? The shelter isn't open until 11:00."
"Oh, I know. I'm from the college, my professor said that you would be expecting me."
"Ah, you must be the new girl. Yes, he told us that you'd be coming by today."
"Yes ma'am. My name is Sarah Rose, but everyone just calls me Sarah." The enthusiastic Sarah giggled. The woman just nodded nonchalantly, with neither a smile nor a frown towards Sarah's friendly greeting.
"You may call me Debbie. I've worked the shelter here for nearly forty years, since my mother died and left it to me." There was a long pause as Sarah and Debbie stared at each other in awkward silence.
"So Sarah, do you like dogs?"
"Oh yes, more than anything!"
"Your professor did inform you that you would not be actually working WITH these dogs, didn't he?"
"Yes ma'am. He told me that I was here to clean kennels."
"Good. I'm glad to know that you won't be too disappointed. You seem so eager, I didn't want to be the one to tell you that you aren't allowed to pet them. These dogs aren't exactly well socialized."
"I wouldn't imagine so, after all they've been through," Sarah offered solemnly. Debbie ignored her comment and stood from her desk, walking towards the crudely painted door behind her. Sarah followed. As she fished out her key ring, which held at least twenty large copper keys, Debbie spoke again.
"Do you have a dog of your own Sarah?"
"No, I've never had the pleasure of owning one. At least not yet. I plan on getting one when I graduate for sure."
"Interesting..." Debbie replied, and pulled the door open. The room was filled with various dog supplies, collars, leashes, and bags of cheap dog food. As she entered, Sarah could hear several dogs barking loudly. She could also smell the unmistakable stench of fecal matter growing stronger. She scrunched up her nose, and tried to keep from gagging. Debbie made her way across the room and tugged on the door in front of her. This one wasn't locked.
"You'll soon get used to the smell. After a night in the kennels, this is to be expected, especially from the more damaged ones. Some of them never learn to hold their bowels properly; they were never taught as puppies." The sound of the dogs barking was now extremely loud. It echoed through the dimly lit kennel. Sarah smiled up at a young man as he passed her, walking a rail-thin German Shepard out the door that she had just been through. The dog was covered in various sores and cuts and looked to be in pain. Sarah watched as the animal walked behind the man. It was keeping its leash slack, and its posture was very relaxed, almost content, despite its obvious bad state.
"That's Billy, I'll introduce you two later. He's been volunteering here for nearly six years now. The dog he's walking is called Crystal. Or that's what we call her now anyway." Debbie informed, seeing the way Sarah watched the man and the shepherd.
"What happened to her?"
"We don't really know. She was brought here by a concerned construction worker about two weeks ago. If you think she looks bad now, you should have seen her then. Poor thing was barely alive."
"So, she was a stray?"
"Or a dump. Sometimes people will abandon their dogs in places where they think that someone will find them. Unfortunately, most of them die of hunger or get hit by cars first. Crystal was very fortunate to be found when she was."
"She seems pretty happy with Billy."
"Yes, he's never left her side, and now she's sworn loyalty to him. I've asked him if he's considered adopting her, but he told me that he's in it for the cause, and that he can't take home every animal he helps. Quite an admirable young man, that Billy. Most young people would jump at the opportunity of owning a dog like Crystal, but that boy has his priorities straight. He knows he can't afford the upkeep for such a large dog. Who knows? Perhaps it was the thoughtlessness of such a notion that caused Crystal to be abandoned in the first place," Debbie explained. Sarah nodded at her wise words, taking it all in. Debbie smiled at her young volunteer and motioned for her to follow her around the kennels. There were twelve kennels, each marked with a crude and rusty iron number above the barred cage doors. The doors had plastic coated forms attached to them. Sarah stopped to read one.
Breed: Lab mix
Information: Given up by owner.
Sarah let the plastic sheet drop back over the door and squatted to look into the cage. A medium sized dog was inside, its dark brown eyes full of happiness and excitement.
"Why would they give you up? You're such a beautiful dog!" Sarah exclaimed out loud. She wanted to stick her fingers through the cage to pet the dog, especially as it came forward and began to wag its rudder-like tail profusely. Debbie approached from behind and touched her shoulder.
"Sarah, there are a few dogs here that are safe for you to interact with. Little Pepper baby here is one of them. Go ahead. Let her sniff you." Sarah reached her hand through the bars towards Pepper. The lab mix sniffed the young woman's hand for a second before covering it in wet kisses and slurps. Sarah laughed as the dog's large tongue tickled her palm.
"You asked why Pepper's owner gave her up? It was because she got too big. She was a Christmas gift for their daughter, and the foolish parents had no idea that Labradors often grow past a hundred pounds. They lived in a small, two bedroom apartment and clearly had no room for such a large dog. They surrendered Pepper to us when she started chewing up their furniture, which was apparently more important to them than she was." Debbie huffed. Sarah retracted her hand and looked up at her. Upon their introduction, Sarah had been convinced that Debbie was an overworked, and stressed out bitch. But as the morning had passed, and conversations were had, she could now see that Debbie was simply a very liberal woman, who hated animal abusers with a vengeance. It was refreshing to hear.
"Yes, but that's life. The world is full of selfish and ignorant people, and unfortunately it's often the innocent who pay the price. Anyway, shall I explain your duties?" Sarah stood and dusted her jeans off. She smiled at Debbie.
"You will need to hose down each of the twelve kennels after the dogs are taken to the dog run. They shall stay there for a good chunk of the morning, relieving themselves and being treated by our staff for both physical and emotional wounds. After you clean, you shall read the forms posted above each cage, and feed accordingly. Each dog requires a specific diet, which is listed on the form. After the dogs come back from the dog run, you may wash your hands and you're done for the day. Any questions?" Sarah looked around, trying to think of anything she wanted to ask.
"Good. Pepper and the others shall be heading to the dog run in about thirty minutes, so you can get acquainted with the kennel until then. Just don't pet any of the other dogs without asking either myself or Billy first. We wouldn't want there to be an accident," Debbie warned and headed back towards the door. Sarah began to walk around the kennel. There were ten other dogs within the remaining cages, breeds ranging from pit bulls to dachshunds. All appeared either very scared, or very aggressive upon seeing her. Sarah walked past each of their cages, trying not to get too close, remembering Debbie's warning.
She finally reached the last cage, which contained a beautiful blue-eyed husky. Sarah was about to head back to Pepper, when a strange sight caught the corner of her eye. There, at the dark end of the hallway, was a thick iron door. It resembled that of a cell, covered in rust with a small grate just large enough to look through over the top. Curious, Sarah started towards it. As she got closer, she could hear a low sound coming from within. It sounded like a rough panting, but she couldn't quite be sure. Sarah placed her hands on the cold iron door and peeked through the grating. There was nothing to be seen inside, as it was pitch black, but she could now hear deep growls coming from inside the mysterious room. She could see a large animal pacing amidst the gloom, and as the growls continued into snarls, the animal halted, and faced her.
"Please miss, step away from the door," a deep voice called from behind her. Sarah yelped slightly and jumped back. She whirled around to see a very tall man behind her. His hair was dark black, and he was wearing a matching black suit, an odd ensemble for a kennel worker.
"I'm sorry... I was just curious to see what was inside..." she apologized. The man, concealed by the darkness and backlit in the eerie yellow light of the kennel gave her a very disturbing frown.
"Who are you exactly? I've never seen you around here before. Let me just warn you miss, if you're looking to adopt a dog, the one in there is not an option."
"I'm Sarah. I'm here to earn credit for my college course," she explained, still feeling her heart palpitate in her chest. The man continued to stare coldly at her, before finally replying.
"Hmph... no one told me about you. But oh well, it wouldn't be any of my concern anyway. I do not work here in the kennel. I'm Dr. Frost, the veterinarian of this shelter." Sarah's eyes widened in joy. She stepped away from the odious door and extended her trembling hand to the doctor.
"This is an honor! I'm actually going to school just so I can become a vet myself one day!" She gasped, a tad overzealous.
"The correct term is 'veterinarian.' It is often said that abbreviating words shows a lack of respect and laziness. If you wish to be taken seriously, learn to speak of my trade properly. Also, I do not wish to be cruel, but if you are earning credits via volunteer work, you must still have quite a long way to go. So don't get overconfident," he snapped. Sarah was both caught off guard and crushed by the doctor's sharp words.
"I-I'm sorry... It won't happen again," she apologized, choking back tears.
"See that it doesn't. Now, please get away from that door and go about your duties somewhere else."
"Umm, wait! If there's a dog in there, why didn't Debbie tell me?" She countered as the doctor began to walk out.
"Because that door does not open, nor has it been opened since the dog's arrival," The doctor replied in an icy tone.
"What?! How come? How does the poor dog even eat?!" She was nearly beside herself by this. Sarah had thought this shelter to be a refuge for abused and neglected dogs, and now she had just been told that one such dog was living in the darkened confines of this cell. A cell that never opened. Dr. Frost looked at her through his piercing silver eyes.
"Do not fret over the welfare of this dog. It is cared for by someone else. We would never allow an animal to go unattended after all."
The week went by quickly for Sarah. She did her duties around the kennel, as well as keeping up with her daily classes and studies on campus. Following Dr. Frost's advice, she never went near the dark metal door again, although she had never stopped wondering what was inside. The veterinarian had told her that it contained a dog, but that was all she knew. It still disturbed her that a shelter for abused and neglected dogs would keep one such victim in a darkened cell, but the ever-oblivious Sarah was confident that the good doctor had his reasons. Friday rolled around, and as promised, Emily, Freddie, and James were eager to celebrate their best friend's new job. They decided to eat at one of their favorite student hangouts, a lively grill that served the most delicious hamburgers in town. As always, it was jam-packed with hungry college students, and the sound of loud rock music made it difficult to hear further than one's table. Sarah and her friends sat and ate, laughing and talking after each bite. Emily and Sarah sat in one of the booths, while James and Freddie shared the other.
"Here's to you Sarah, and your next step on the road to becoming a vet!" Freddie congratulated, lifting a bottle of beer.
"Aww, thanks guys! You really didn't have to do this for me though," Sarah blushed a little.
"Of course we did! You're only our best friend. Not to mention the fact that anyone who has to get up at the crack of dawn just to shovel dog shit deserves kudos!" Emily nudged her.
"Yeah, it's not exactly easy, but it is really rewarding," Sarah replied. "They have this adorable little black lab there, named Pepper. Debbie lets me play with her after I'm done."
"Hey, you know what you should do?" Emily smiled, reaching for a french fry. "You should be the one to adopt Pepper." The three students stared at the outgoing young woman. Emily looked at them.
"What?" she smirked with a shrug.
"Emily, you know that the dorms don't allow pets." the always responsible James piped up.
"Of course I know that smartass, but do they really have to know that Sarah has a pet? I mean, you don't even have a roommate, whose gonna be there to rat you out right?"
"No, I couldn't do that. I can't afford a dog right now. I live off of ramen noodles and water from the kitchen sink as it is. Which reminds me, you guys are buying, right?" Sarah asked unsure. Freddie laughed.
"No way, we thought that you could pick up the tab for all of us!" Sarah shot up.
"What?!" she screeched. Freddie burst out laughing, nearly spraying an unsuspecting Emily with soda.
"Aw man! You should have seen the look on your face Sarah!" He continued to chortle. A hard kick delivered under the table by Emily stopped him however.
"Honestly Freddie!" She snarled. "Of course we are! Next time, let's celebrate without the boys."
"Hey! What did I do?!" James exclaimed. Sarah waved him off and took another sip of her beer.
"So, other than the adorable puppy that you refuse to adopt and having to get up at 4 in the morning, how's the new job?"
"Fine I guess. The other dogs aren't very sociable. I'm not even allowed near them." Sarah felt a wave of cold race down her spine as she remembered the iron door at the very back of the kennel. The one that Dr. Frost had been almost threatened never to approach again. She had never stopped wondering what lurked inside, or why the staff never allowed the dog out of its confines. She stared at the Coke in her glass, watching as the clear bubbles raced towards the surface as the waitress refilled it for the third time that evening.
"Sarah? Hey Sarah, where'd ya go?" Freddie pressed against her arm. Sarah shook and looked up at him.
"You just blanked out on us there. Did you even hear my question?"
"No, sorry. I was just thinking about something weird."
"Humor us hon," Emily encouraged.
"At the shelter, there's this dog that they never allow out of its cage."
"Why, is it sick or something?" James inquired.
"No. The veterinarian told me that it's never come out, even to eat."
"What?! How can it still be alive?"
"I think the better question Freddie, is why an animal shelter dedicated to helping abused and neglected dogs is neglecting one themselves," Emily added angrily. She fumbled through her purse and pulled out her cell phone. Sarah watched her and blinked. She could tell that her best friend was extremely upset.
"Emily? What are you doing?"
"Give me their number. I'm going to report this to the authorities," Emily demanded.
"Emily, don't you think that maybe you're taking this just a bit too far?" James reasoned. "I mean, for all we know, maybe they have a perfectly logical reason to keep the dog in quarantine. Maybe it has rabies or something."
"If that's the case, then they should put it down, not allow it to suffer alone in the dark. Sarah, gimme the number," Sarah hesitated. She was indeed worried about the dog, but what if James was right?
"I can't Emily."
"Why not?! I thought you loved dogs!"
"If a complaint is made, they might close down the shelter. If that happens, I won't get my credits," Sarah explained. "And besides, what if James is right? What if there IS a perfectly good reason for the dog's quarantine, and the shelter is innocent?"
"Well if they're indeed innocent, then that won't happen now will it?" Sarah sighed hard. Emily made a good argument, as always. Reluctantly, she told her friend the number, and watched as Emily input it into her phone.
The next week at the kennel, Sarah was just finishing up with Pepper, her favorite. She was playing fetch, throwing a squeaky rubber ball for the dog out in the fenced off overgrown yard. Pepper eagerly dropped the ball and panted, wagging her tail excitedly.
"Ok, girl. Here it goes!" Sarah chucked the ball again. It had been a long day, and it was nearly time to go back to the campus for lunch and the afternoon half of her lessons. She wondered if Emily had followed through with her plan to report the shelter, or if her obnoxious friend had merely been full of hot air. Emily had a habit if getting worked up over things and spewing empty threats. Sarah avoided the iron door as best she could now, she didn't want her curiosity to get the better of her. She was afraid of what might happen if the report reached the wrong ears.
Would they think it was her? From what Dr. Frost had said, no one outside of the kennel knew about the strange dog. Sarah was afraid that if she spent too much time around the door, the kennel staff would begin to suspect her of the report. She had heard no news of the authorities taking action. Perhaps Emily had just made yet another empty threat. Pepper returned again with the ball. She dropped it down on the grass for Sarah, and looked up at her with a hopeful expression, bits of grass and dirt decorating her slimy tongue. Sarah smiled, reaching out to throw the ball again. But a familiar voice from behind stopped her.
"Sarah!" The young woman whirled around to see Bobby, the man she had met earlier that week. He smiled at her, dusting some of the dirt from his jeans as he approached.
"Hi Bobby, what's up?"
"I just wanted to see how Pepper was doing. There's a lady from Warm Springs coming by this afternoon who may want to adopt her." He smiled. Sarah looked down at Pepper, a tad remorseful. She had grown so close to the Lab mix over the last two weeks.
"Is that so?" Sarah fought to hide her disappointment. She knelt down and tassled the dog's soft ears. "You're gonna get out of this joint, eh girl? I'll bet she takes you the minute she sees you!" Pepper barked happily, as if to agree. Inside, Sarah actually felt relieved and happy for her. Of all the dogs at the shelter, Pepper was the sweetest. She didn't belong behind a cold iron cage. None of these dogs did. Except for possibly one. Again, a cold fear enveloped Sarah as she began to think of the mysterious door that held the thirteenth dog. Maybe James had been right. Maybe there was a perfectly good reason for the animal to be contained. As her mind began to wander further, more disturbing possibilities presented themselves. What if the dog was rabid, or aggressive. She shook her head. If that were the case, wouldn't they just put it to sleep? She must have zoned out again, because she didn't hear as Bobby called her name.
"Um, yes?" She shook, jerking upright to meet Bobby's concerned expression.
"You ok?" He asked with a warm grin.
"Yeah... I've just had a lot on my mind lately," she explained.
"Sorta..." She lied. Sarah began to pet Pepper again. Should she ask him? Maybe Bobby could tell her more about the thirteenth dog. She took a deep breath and looked at him. "Bobby, do you know anything about that dog they keep behind that iron door?" Bobby paled in the face, and his usually cheerful disposition turned to a hardened freeze.
"Yes," he replied quickly. Sarah blinked.
"Isn't that a little vague?" she teased, concluding that the young man was being kept just as ignorant as she was to the dog's story. But then, to her surprise, Bobby looked around, almost as if he felt like he was being watched. He leaned into Sarah and put his arm around her. The girl pulled back, unsure.
"What are you doing?!" She screeched.
"Just bear with me. Pretend we're kissing," he whispered through strained teeth. Sarah was about to object, but the solemn look in Bobby's eyes told her that something was very wrong. Whatever he wanted to tell her was of the utmost secrecy. She did as she was bade, leaning in close to his face. Bobby turned his head and began to whisper into her ear.
"It's a prize show poodle, named Macey. She once belonged to a prestigious woman, the CEO of a major cooperation. Have you ever heard of Meaty Morsels?"
"Yeah, wasn't that the dog food company who went under after it was exposed that they were using harsh and harmful chemicals in their rendering process?"
"But I thought that this was a shelter of abused and neglected dogs? Macey sounds like she was taken care of most of her life."
"She was, until she fell victim to a horrible fate. A month before her company failed, the woman left Macey with a groomer, while she went on a company trip. She had the dog for years, and the two were very close. However, due to high demand on standard poodles at the time, Macey was inbred, and the woman was warned that due to this, she may not react well to, or recover from stressful situations the way other breeds would. Nevertheless, she decided to leave her treasured pet in the care of one of the towns most renowned groomers," Bobby continued. Sarah listened intently.
"Three weeks later, when she returned to pick up her dog, she was informed by the owner of the grooming salon that there had been an incident, and that Macey had escaped. Frantic and beside herself with rage, the woman declared that she intended to sue the owner and immediately went off to look for her beloved pet. Animal control found the dog and brought her to this shelter, and we immediately contacted her owner. But after the company went under, she couldn't even afford to feed Macey, and so she surrendered the dog with us," Bobby concluded. He pulled away and Sarah nodded her head.
"I see. But why does Macey remain in solitary confinement then?"
"She's a bit... unstable after all that has happened to her. It's best we don't talk about this matter ever again. Especially now."
"Because Dr. Frost is coming." Sarah stood up to greet the veterinarian, who had just entered the yard.
"Bobby. Get Pepper back into her cage. The potential owner will be arriving soon." He growled in his raspy voice.
"Yes sir!" Bobby whistled for Pepper, who came prancing up to him. He affixed the leash to her red collar and led her back into the kennels. Sarah was about to follow along behind, when Dr. Frost cleared his throat.
"You stay here." Sarah stared up at him. His eyes were icy and dark; and very unsettling.
"Yes Dr. Frost?"
"Debbie received a phone call this morning from an angry young woman. She was enraged over number 13's condition and state of living. She threatened to call Animal Control on our shelter." Sarah's palms began to sweat. Damn it Emily... She thought. "Fortunately, proper precautions have been taken to keep the authorities away. However, I can't think of anyone who would be cold enough to try and get a perfectly good shelter for needy dogs shut down." His head blocked out the sun, casting a chilling shadow over Sarah. The veterinarian leered deep into her eyes. "Can you?"
"No... can't say that I can." She shrugged. Dr. Frost snarled.
"I see..." Sarah turned and started back towards the kennel door. She swung it open and entered. Just as she had passed the first two sets of cages, she heard the kennel door slam behind her with a loud clang. She jumped, startled by the sudden noise. Dr. Frost rushed in from behind and made a mad grab for Sarah's sweatshirt. She screamed and tried to remove it, but all too late. The crazed vet pulled her into a headlock, and began to drag her deeper into the kennel.
"Don't bother to cry for help. Nobody can hear you. Bobby and Debbie are both assisting Pepper and her potential owner. It's just you and me." He growled. Sarah didn't care. She continued to scream and yell for help as Dr. Frost pulled her ever closer to the dark iron door. Number 13's cell.
Sarah couldn't believe what was happening. Dr. Frost pulled her onward, until the ominous rusty door came into view.
"I warned you the day we met Sarah, not to trouble yourself with this dog. But you just couldn't listen, now could you?" he sneered. Sarah winced as he tightened his grip around her throat. Reaching into his coat pocket, Dr. Frost retrieved a set of very old keys and stuck one of them in the keyhole to the door. The door opened with a metal screech, and the veterinarian forced Sarah inside. With a hard slam, he locked the door behind her. Peering out across the dark room, Sarah could feel her heart begin to pound as she spotted the lone creature pacing just mere feet from where she was standing. Dr. Frost began to chuckle madly as the dog halted, and stared right at her. This time, Sarah could see it clearly. It was a standard poodle, about two feet tall. The creature slowly made its way over to were Sarah and Dr. Frost now stood.
"Bobby was indeed brave to give an outsider such as yourself so much information. I was careless to leave those records just lying around on my desk. Debbie sees something in that boy, but I couldn't tell you what it is. The kid's nothing more than a snoopy little thief if you ask me." Sarah began to perspire as the yellow light filtering in through the cell door began to extenuate the mysterious dog's features. The first thing she noticed, were its eyes. The two white voids were quite possibly the most chilling thing she had ever seen. The left eye was consumed by insanity, staring blankly; and never blinking. The right eye had no pupil, but rather was an empty orb or mucusy yellow. The way the remaining eye bulged especially troubled Sarah. She had seen this before in class; during a video about pets that had undergone abuse, and how to treat them for their injuries. A disturbing realization comes to her: This animal had been set on fire. Dr. Frost remained calm, and continued to speak.
"But Bobby didn't tell you the entire story. He couldn't have? For only I know it." As the shadows left the dog's silhouette, the sickly yellow light of the kennel illuminated the beast hidden within. Macey. The dog was an absolute and unfixable mess. Sarah shrieked in terror. This wasn't how poodles were supposed to look. This wasn't how any dog was supposed to look. Her fur was manged and clumped in bloody patches, the nails on her paws were uncomfortably long, and her dew claws protruded deeply into her leg. Her plaque-coated teeth protruded from its misshapen jaw, which appeared to have been broken in the past. Sarah was horrified to find that the dog had no eyelids, and no lips. She shrieked as she saw that Macey had the lifeless bloodied body of a young puppy clenched within her jaws.
The puppy was limp with its eyes wide open, as if it had felt unspeakable pain and terror before meeting a gristly end. The twisted creature approached Sarah and Dr. Frost at a heart droppinly slow speed; its every step obviously painful and uneven. Blood from the puppy's corpse dripped to the floor with every step Macey took. She never broke eye contact as she made her way across the room; madness and hunger blazing in her intense, unblinking stare. Sarah was frozen in terror.
"You see, Meaty Morsels was a dog food company owned by my ex-wife. The official word was that it was closed for using harmful chemicals in the rendering process. Truth is, pet food companies don't care what's in the food, as long as it's cheap and easy to come by. I'm sure as a veterinary student, you know exactly what I'm talking about." Dr. Frost grinned down into a mortified Sarah's face. He pulled out a large hunting knife.
"But Meaty Morsels was probably the least picky of all. The reason why they got shut down, was because they were adding the human remains of unwanted people to their kibble."
"Yes. Criminals, homeless, hospital waste. The list keeps right on going. That bitch was rolling in it, while I barely scraped by in comparison. Tch, if it wasn't for me, she wouldn't even have that damned company. I was the one who got her started! I wanted my money back, one way or another. But after the company was destroyed, I realized that there was no point in pursuing any sort of a payback. So my greed slowly turned to revenge." He motioned in the direction of the twisted canine. "The day Animal Control brought her in, I knew who this dog was. And on that same day, I realized how I could get my revenge.
I took control of Macey and began a gristly experiment: To turn a placid dog into a man-eater. I tortured her with fire, knives, and other implicates to make her vicious and to further ruin her already inbred sanity. I continued to secretly pay the staff of Meaty Morsels, those who had been giving the company human remains. Only, they were to render said goods directly to the shelter. Unwanted human remains. All to be fed directly to Macey." Sarah could hardly believe what she was hearing. She pushed away again and finally was able to free herself.
"You're disgusting! Why would you do such a thing?!"
"I was planning in ordering Macey to attack my ex, as soon as I was sure that the dog would attack and kill humans on command. Now that she's broke, she's useless to me. Which is exactly why I've brought YOU here, Sarah. If you haven't already figured it out, this shelter is nothing but a front for my research and experiments on Macey. Everyone's in on it, whether they want to be or not.
"Even Debbie? But she seemed to hate animal abusers like you!"
"She does. I swear that it's killing her to keep working here. But she knows what will happen if she quits..." Sarah closed her eyes as she felt a hot panting on the back of her hand. Macey was sniffing her, as if trying to tell if she was edible or not. Dr. Frost laughed.
"I think she likes you Sarah." He pulled the six-inch blade free from behind his back and his demonic grin widened. "But she'll like the way you taste even more." He lurched forward, trying to stab Sarah. But the limber young woman dodged and grabbed the handle of the cell door. She was horrified to find it locked. The mad veterinarian laughed manically, as he attacked her again. This time, he managed to nick her arm, causing a small trail of blood to trickle out onto her sweatshirt. Instantly, Macey sniffed the air, and closed in on Sarah. Sarah tried to shoo the dog, practically begging for Macey to go away, but to no avail. As the dog reached her, it opened its mouth, letting the lifeless puppy fall to the floor of the cell. The putrid stench of rotten flesh filled the young woman's nostrils. Sarah's face turned a ghostly shade of white as Macey locked her insane eyes with those of the young woman.
"Dinner Macey, enjoy." Dr. Frost coaxed his abomination. Just as Macey was about to take a bite out of Sarah, the cell door swung open. Sarah whirled around and was beside herself to see Bobby, out of breath and panting.
"Come on!" He yelled. Sarah heeded his command, fleeing the cell. Dr. Frost lunged at her again with his blade, but Bobby slammed him against the wall of the kennel, causing his arm to slam against it with a snap. As the bone shattered, his hunting blade embedded itself into his chest. slid down the door, to Macey's awaiting feet.
"No... Macey, be a good girl..." He begged the starved monstrosity. "NO!" Sarah felt like she was going to be ill as she watched the anthropophagus poodle tear open his stomach. His bloody entrails sprawled out across the kennel floor as the other dogs barked and growled. As Macey fed, the veterinarian writhed in agony, reaching out towards the beast, as if still trying to shoo her off. Bobby grabbed Sarah's shoulder, causing her to yelp.
"Let's get out of here!" The two ran out of the kennel exit, where Debbie was with Pepper. The older woman looked the two up and down.
"What's the matter? You two look as if you've just seen a ghost."
"Worse Deb. Macey... she's loose, and she's killed Dr. Frost!" Bobby exclaimed. Debbie clasped tightly to Pepper's leash and Sarah watched as the blood left her face.
"We must get out of this place, quickly!" She ran out the front door of the kennel and motioned for Bobby and Sarah to get into her car. They did as they were bade, and Pepper hopped between them in the back seat. Debbie got into her car and started the ignition. Nothing. The car refused to start.
"Come on..." The old lady grunted, trying again. Sarah screamed as Macey appeared in the doorway of the shelter. Her maw and chest were soaked in blood. She snarled and lunged at Debbie's car. Clawing and biting at the windshield, Macey tried her best to get to the ripe human beings within. Debbie tried to remain calm as Pepper barked and Sarah held onto Bobby. Finally, the ancient car started, and Debbie slammed hard on the breaks, sending Macey flying. The dog hit the pavement hard, but reluctantly got up. She looked at the car once, before loping off into the surrounding woods. As the car sped away down the little dirt road, Bobby released a pent-up cheer.
"It's over Debbie! We don't have to live our lives under Dr. Frost's thumb anymore! It's finally over..." Bobby rejoiced. A wise Debbie looked the youths over warily in her review mirror.
"No. It has only just begun. That thing... is loose."