It wasn’t something that made Frank Jones nervous anymore.
He’d been kidnapping dogs most of his life and had faced almost every obstacle imaginable—but he’d never been caught. There had been some close calls, but not once had Frank failed to capture the beast he was after. If he did, there’d be no fights (he was one of the only ones passionate enough to go out and obtain the dogs used in the fights). Basically, along with the clientele, he kept the ball rolling, and had done so for years now.
Now, laying before him, was another fallen beast. Not dead—just tranquilised, waiting for Frank’s big, calloused hands to pull it up and carefully carry it to the van. This part was the hardest part. It isn’t easy carrying such large animals silently across dark backyards; people are often more vigilant than thieves give them credit for. But Frank had learnt all these lessons. Frank was a professional.
This particular animal was quite muscular—a Rhodesian Ridgeback with an exquisite build, perfect for fighting. But it was one of the heaviest he’d captured, and stalking through this particular yard required extra concentration. This animal was still moving about, too, as if dreaming, so Frank had to make sure he held it extra tight, at least until he was on the other side of the gate.
Perhaps, Frank thought to himself, I didn’t use enough tranquiliser.
It had happened before, but usually he managed to get the animal into the van before it started to really stir.
Frank was nearing the gate—‘lucky gates’, he called these ones. The kind of gate that could be unlatched and re-latched in almost complete silence. It even made Frank smirk in relief—he was almost home.
When suddenly he felt a slight prick in his backside. Nothing really painful, just a little jab in the fatty part of his lower back.
With little time to investigate, he kept walking toward the gate.
The dog grew more unsettled, its feet now starting to thrust out unpredictably. The gate, all of a sudden, seemed a little further away.
Frank’s world began to change a little at this point. Without knowing it, Frank had actually been stumbling toward the gate, only barely able to clutch the unsettled animal against his chest.
Something was wrong.
Just as he turned to his side and reached for the latch, holding the beast firmly with his forearms and spare hand, Frank, an immense and quite powerful man, fell helplessly to his knees and slid slowly down the gate, unconscious.
The two great beasts lay in a heap on the ground, the rattle of the gate echoing into the silent void about them.
When Frank woke up, what he saw around him would change his life forever.
Where he was looked like it almost had to be underground. A huge cavern stretched out into unfathomable darkness, like a burrow of some kind with jagged cave-like walls. There was no daylight to be seen—only fire, burning deep orange and creating strange shadows about the cave walls. Shadows of creatures, stalking about pensively.
Frank strained to see through blurry, sedated eyes; but the blurry shadows he saw being reflected onto the walls were distinctly those of beings. There was movement, out there in the dark.
A tightness gripped Frank’s throat. But this tightness had been re-routed; it took some moments for Frank to realise that there was a stronger tightness binding his wrists and ankles. Jagged rocks pushed deep into various parts of his back.
I’m being restrained.
And Frank was being restrained. He had been captured and was now tied down in the middle of a huge rocky cavern, somewhere far from anywhere he’d ever been before. And after a few more moments of adapting to this new light, these new surroundings, Frank Jones came to the pinnacle realisation that the beasts surrounding him, whose shadows danced so calmly and with such vigour about the walls—were dogs.
Hundreds of them, everywhere; creeping about the little rocky contours of the cave, seemingly orienting their movement around the large rock bed onto which he was strapped.
The animals did not seem aggressive, however. Frank took note of this almost immediately. He’d been around lots of angry dogs and these dogs weren’t exactly raging, or worked up at all really.
They were almost contemplative.
Beside the sounds of the dogs’ claws scratching about the cave, Frank could hear the deafening sound of his rapid heartbeat. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Sweat poured onto the cold stone around him.
There was, amidst all this, a certain presence, too. He’d felt it as soon as he had regained consciousness, but was overwhelmed by the environment in its entirety to pay it immediate heed. This presence now reminded him of dreams he’d had—recurring dreams that had manifested in various forms for almost as long as Frank could remember.
Almost as long as Frank had been catching dogs, in fact.
This presence, which in the dreams had been either seated or standing at the foot of Frank’s bed, was now seated at the foot of the rock he was tied to. And now that his visual field had adapted to the light of the cave, Frank felt compelled to raise his head and direct his eyes toward this presence.
Breathing heavily, Frank pulled himself up as far as he could. As expected, a figure sat, calmly, a few feet away from his shoes. The firelight illuminated the figure’s smooth, brown skin—its eyes glowed with the reflection of fire.
There, sitting in a disturbingly calm and collected way, sat the brown dog.
Oddly, it had around its neck a collar and a silver tag.
It sat and regarded Frank in such a strange way, that he immediately turned away in immense fear. The dog just sat, regarding him; it blinked once in a while, or moved its head about as dogs sometimes do.
Frank closed his eyes, waiting to wake up. Waiting; and waiting; and waiting…
Things began to stir in the cave. Something moved right up next to Frank.
It was the brown dog. It had come up to him, somehow without making a sound. Frank’s terror grew as he opened his eyes to find the beast’s face so incredibly near to his.
But still so calm.
Shaking uncontrollably, Frank began to roll from side to side in a panic he’d never really experienced before. He didn’t know what he was doing; he felt like a child, rolling around in a fit of discomfort, unable to express anything to anyone. Having no one to express anything to.
As though the situation couldn’t get any stranger for Frank Jones, he turned to the silver dog tag hanging below the terrifying face of the brown dog and saw the dog’s name etched into the silver: DREAM.
Things began to escalate further.
The other dogs, in a matter of seconds, burst into frenzy. Frank could only listen and shake in fear. Something was going on; the scuffling echoes around the cave penetrated deep into his skull; the brown dog still just sat soundlessly next him, not doing anything at all. It felt so much, to the now hysterical Frank Jones, that the other dogs were circling around the cave, around him. Herds of them, like crazy sheep.
The sounds got louder.
Dream, the brown dog, now leant down and calmly held its muzzle a few centimetres from Frank’s face. Frank was thrashing about now; he felt the cold nose of Dream, the brown dog, against his sweaty face, its head now resting on his chest. Madness began to fester within him and just when he thought he could handle no more, a huge, wet tongue lapped at his face; and as if on cue, the hundreds of dogs in the cave flocked to the pedestal of rock, their tongues hungry for Frank’s face, even battling one another to get to the face, to lick it as vigorously as possible; as many times as possible; as intently as possible.
Frank’s screams could not be heard amid the din of the frenzy. Even to him, now, they sounded more like whimpers. Soft, helpless whimpers.
Dream, the big brown dog, backed calmly away from Frank, regarded him one last time, and walked away into the abyss of the cave.