“Sir Henry Barker”

    A thump came from under the floor boards.

    “Nellie, it’s that god damned dog gettin’ up under the house again,” ma said.

    I just wanted to finish my sandwich.

    “Well don’t just sit there, go fetch’em before he catches a nail in his back or somethin’”

    “I’ll go get him. Where are the treats?” I got up slowly, crumbs around my mouth. Ma handed me the bag of bacon treats.

    “Damn dog would be under there all day and night if we let’em.”

    I took the treats and marched across the kitchen and into the living room. Outside, the sun was setting but still high enough to cast its golden glow.

    “Here boy!” I whistled. “Henry, come on out.” I shook the bag of treats and waited, but Sir Henry Barker did not come running. I stepped off the porch and shook the bag again.

    From under the house, I heard a shuffle. Sighing, I went to the hole in the small gating that went around the crawlspace under the house. I got down on my hands and knees.

    “Henry.” Something moved just out of sight. I caught a glimpse of a tail as the dog moved deeper in, around a support beam, and out of view.

    “Don’t make me get in there after ya.” Silence.

    I began to crawl into the space, treats clenched tight in my fist. I crawled as if I were in an action-adventure movie, sneaking into some foreign camp or exploring a lost tomb. As a child, I loved playing under the house, so I didn’t blame Henry too much, it was fun.

    “Come on, boy.”

    Dirt rose into the air as I moved. The crawl space was considerably darker and filled with blocky support beams. With the sun setting, it was even harder to see deep in without a flashlight but I could make out shapes. A figure on all fours moved off towards the left, tucking itself against a beam. I sneezed and dirt blew across my face. I could see my dog turn his head towards me because eyes reflected in the darkness.

    “I got treats. You can have one if you get yer ass out here.”

    The shape didn’t budge.

    I began to crawl again. It would be easier grabbing him by the collar and coaxing him out with the promise of a treat but at this point, he’d be lucky to get even a belly rub. I moved closer, the light from the sun barely giving me anything to go by. My breath came in pants. Almost there.

    I stopped completely. Just a few feet away.

    I could get a good look at the dog. It wasn’t laying down on its forelegs and hind ones; it was crouched, back arched like a person’s. It didn’t have fur, but skin that look rubbery and grey. I could see the ridges of its spine pressed against the flesh of its back. It was terribly skinny but tall and long, the size of a person. I could see its ribs move as it exhaled. It had a short muzzle, more like a person’s mouth, pointed ears on top of its head, a glistening nose and no tail. This was no dog.

    “Henry?”

    My heart dropped into my stomach as I looked at its claws. Its reflective eyes were right on me, watching me. I was frozen in place. The thing opened its mouth showing rows of sharp, dagger teeth as its tongue lolled out. My lips began to tremble. I released my grip on the bag of treats then slowly scooted them forward. It let out a low, rumbling growl in the darkness.

            “Henry, is that you?”

    A familiar bark came from outside, along with the sounds of paws running across the dirt as my dog ran to the porch to be let in. I kept my eyes on the creature. The door to the house creaked open.

    “Good boy, Henry,” I heard Ma say. “Now where’s Nellie?”

    I opened my mouth to call out for help, for someone, anyone; but when I spoke, I only made one small sound.

    A whimper.

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