There’s a keening sound, like the sound in a man’s ears when he’s too close to a gunshot and I’m up before the dogs are. The backdoor is open and I let the flood of canine activity pass by me before I move. Lucas’ bark tears through the darkness and I wait for some reaction. Lillith sounds off a second later but Sam is silent. Where is Sam? I pick the shotgun up and listen. Sam is still in here with me. He’s milling around in the bedroom and I can barely see his silhouette against window. It’s nearly a new moon, it’s cloudy, and the night is as black as death.
The L Hounds are in the backyard and I assume nothing human is with them. I could care less if a stray mammal enters the yard because Lucas and Lillith are proof against that. But what was that sound? Something set them off. Something woke me up. Something is out there and I do not like it. I enter the living room a quarter step at the time. My ears tell me Sam is behind me, dawdling, not wanting to go out, and as long as I don’t back up quickly I won’t trip over him. There was a noise or the dogs wouldn’t be rocking. I ease the shotgun up and wait for a sound or a sign. There is nothing.
Never trust the human eye in darkness. Lacking true vision the human mind creates things out of shadows and nothing becomes something. If I am very still I will become a shadow, too, and so I do. Anything in the dark cannot be seen by the human eye. But there are ways, there are ways, to see. Keep the eyes closed for a few seconds then open them again and then focus long, focus short, close the eyes and keep perfectly still. The shotgun is heavy but there is something out there or the dogs wouldn’t have reacted. Sam walks up to the front window, in the line of fire, and I know better than to call him back. Tick, tick, tick, goes Sam’s nails on the floor and I can barely see him in such darkness. Please, Sam come back. Please move.
When a shotgun goes off in the dark it creates a maelstrom of fire and death. There is going to be a thin line of flame erupting from the barrel and a swarm of lead pellets. By the time the pellets get to the door they’ll be in a tight pattern about the size of a basketball or maybe a little bigger. The door, the walls, or flesh won’t slow any of them down very much at all. Dog head high is safe but anything over that isn’t going to like it. I don’t want Sam over there. I can’t call him back. I hear the L Hounds coming through the doggie door in the back and I know Lucas well enough to know if someone is at the front door he’ll lay down a bark or two at them.
Did that shadow move?
I close my eyes and count to ten, open them again, try to memorize what I see, close my eyes for another ten seconds and then open them again. There is a shadow at the door. It’s far too dark for there to be any difference in light so… Don’t stare at shadows or they’ll move. I know this and the gun is getting heavy. Lucas comes in and heads to the door but doesn’t bark. Lillith joins her brothers but no one is making a sound. Dammit, a friend won’t come up so silent in the darkness so it can’t be someone they know. I feel sweat begin to form. I stand up and step out into the open, barrel raised. Fingers off the triggers, fingers off the triggers, fingers off the triggers, and I wonder how it will sound when this thing goes off. If I open up on someone my life will change and most certainly theirs will also. But why are they here? What are they doing out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of night? Why would anyone do this? I step forward, easing one foot out and down before moving the next. Nothing is there and nothing is there and nothing is there. I can’t see the dogs but they are milling around the door. I pull the shotgun up to port arms. Whatever it is, it isn’t dangerous.
The sound of metal on the door creates an instant reaction. Lillith, of all people, hammers down. She doesn’t have the volume Bert, had but this is still a war cry. It takes the other two a full second to join her. At this distance the shotgun will create a softball sized hole in anything short of quarter inch steel plating and even Kevlar can’t keep the impact down. Two fingers, one on the front trigger and one on the back trigger, and now, now, let it come.
The Lost Deputy told me he thought Bert was going to tear through the door to get to him and it took hours for Bert to come down after that. The sleepiness and exhaustion is gone. Adrenaline courses through my body and the shadow moves. Two steps closer and now the hole created by just one load of double ought…
…will create a hole the size of a baseball and if it hits a human being it will cut right through. Now one blast will light the room up and whatever else may happen I’ll have a flash of light to see what is out there, to choose enough target if I have to, and then…
She screams my name and puts a hand on my left arm. I pull the barrel up hard and away from her, my fingers into a fist to get away from the triggers and there is nothing there, nothing but silence. I can feel my breath tearing its way out of my chest, I can feel the sweat pouring off of me, I can feel my heart pounding away in my ears and the keening sound drowns out anything that might be real.
“Mike, Mike, this is rage.” Her voice comes out of the dark, from nowhere at all, her hand gone from my arm, and the sound of her voice seems small. “Mike, this is rage.”
I know this isn’t a dream because I can feel the weight of the gun and I squeeze it hard not willing to let it go and I reach my hand out to touch her face. In total darkness she pulls away from me and I can feel the gun dissolving. I awaken standing in the living room, in totally darkness, nude, sweating, panting, and alone except for the three dogs who are circling me as if they’re searching for something or someone.
This is rage. I had forgotten what it felt like.
It takes three more hours before light will enter the room with us.