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The outdoor lights shone only a small patch of ground during that quiet, rainy night where I found Mrs. Tomkin wandering alone through my second-story window. She mewed like a wet, cold, lost kitten, calling for her husband.

"Ed? Eddy, where are you? I gotta go home now, Ed," she cried in her soaked nightgown. I felt sorry for her, but I knew Mr. Tomkin would come out and bring her back in. She would get confused often and accidentally leave her house sometimes. Though he was used to her behavior, he was still a bit old and slow to come to her aid. I might have gone out to help her, but I wasn't sure what I could do without being dressed myself. Either way, I was still unnerved by the endless, black expanse of the woods behind my house, and the limbs that outstretched toward my room to grab anything that so much as pokes their nose outside.

I became more aware of my own presence, and shut the lights off to my room, but I soon realized Mrs. Tomkin saw it.

"Come on out, Ed. I know you're there. Ed, I'm frightened!" I couldn't take it anymore, so I shut my window completely to block out the sound, and forced myself under my blankets to sleep. Everything was silent now, to the point where even the rain barely made any noise. I practically swam in the comfort of my freshly clean sheets, and slipped quickly into a dream.

I had little sense of where exactly I was, but it seemed to be an outdoor barbecue. There must have been a hundred people spread out through the wide, green, vibrant park. Some sat in their cars which were all parked spaciously from each other on the grass, interspersed with multicolored picnic blankets. I was just trying to find someone I recognized, but I occupied myself well enough with the occasional curious dog that came to greet me. One of their owners, a pair of girls sitting in an open jeep, struck up a conversation with me. They apologized at first for their dog, but I brushed it aside, telling them how much I loved dogs. I could pet them for hours, and not even be bothered if I was licked or if they smelled. It didn't even smell like fresh mowed grass though. The park, the dog, the girls - everything smelled somewhat like fabric softener.

Everything changed when I saw a huge, black shape prowl in the distance. A sudden cold breeze blew by me, and the shape came closer toward me. It was the largest, ugliest dog I've seen in my life. Not even by normal standards, as it stood almost six feet tall, and must have weighed a ton from how fat it was. Its face was abnormal as well. Not so much as mangled from fighting, but rather misshapen, as if by birth, and the sight made my stomach turn. It started directly toward me, passing through the jeep where the girls sat. Though I saw its paws practically crush their thighs as it stepped over them, they paid it no mind, texting on their phones like it didn't even exist. Its smell was abhorrently distinct, like the unmistakable smell of wet dog.

The giant sat down next to me, towering just an inch above my eye level, panting its foul breath in my face. To my surprise, however, it gently pressed its body against mine. I felt its shockingly soft fur as I pet the animal, brushing my hand past the thousands of water droplets on its back. The way it flinched with every touch indicated to me that this animal must have been mistreated somehow. Who could possibly stand against a beast this size? Though it began to relax near me, I became more and more aware of the sharp fangs inside its powerful jaws, and the thick muscles beneath its pelt. I looked at the great black dog set against the flat green pastures and the blue, sunny sky. Its head hung low and looked away from me as though it could sense my growing fear. Perhaps it was all too familiar with rejection, and it disappeared behind one of the cars. The smell lingered on, however, and still clung to my nostrils until I finally woke up.

My eyes adjusted to the darkness about my room, and my other senses returned to the waking world with the soft pattering of rain. Once again, I smelled the scent of freshly clean sheets as I breathed a sigh of relief. I hoped the rain would lull me back to sleep, but I was afraid to slip back into the same dream where the hound would find me again. My room was colder than I remember, and the rainfall began to serve as more of an irritation than soothing repetition. Eventually, I realized why as my reflective pause turned into horrifying revelation. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Mrs. Tomkin was gone, but I could barely see the faintest streak of red along the patch of ground lit in my backyard. I slammed the window shut and locked it tight for good measure. A part of me knows what happened to her, but I can't possibly admit it to myself. I just prayed I wouldn't have to close my window for a third time.

Written by RCainTales
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