Daytona State College
It came to me on a night that was as wild as it.
Rain lashed at the windows and wind pounded the walls with the force of a thousand beating drums. The windows, black from the night’s rage, rattled tremendously with each swell of all-encompassing thunder.
I sat with my eyes closed and body wrapped in thick blankets: a flimsy excuse for the storm that was whirling around my house, leaking through the roof and seeping from the gaps where the door and walls meet.
Then, silence. Silence except for my uneven breaths and the slight whine of the floorboards as I rocked back and forth rhythmically.
I became sharply aware of my hair, damp with chilling raindrops, and the nauseating fire that was heating my bones from within.
But it wasn’t until I heard a mangled, echoing growl that my eyes peeled open to reveal...it.
Now, many years later, I deduce that this beast was pushed into my home from the devilish tempest of that day. But back then, I didn’t pay it any mind. It was gone the moment after I realized it was there, twisting away into a thick swirl of inky black smoke.
Perhaps it was delirium induced by the storm, or maybe just the simple ignorance that comes with youth, but no panic seized me when this demented hound reappeared night after night with increasing frequency. Once it saw I wouldn’t object to its presence, it would curl up next to me in bed, its head over my heart as I watched the dark hallways in paralyzing fear of something that never came.
I must admit, I quickly became used to, if not fond of, the intoxicating rich smell of the wolf’s matted fur, which pervaded whatever room it was in.
Now, the exact moment when this wolf changed from an unusual circumstance to a welcomed companion still eludes me, but the shift in its nature was so slight I never even noticed it.
Many nights were spent with this creature, which soon acted as copper wire to my electricity.
When I began to feel the particles in my body vibrating with those in the room, and the intense swirl of energy threatened to overtake me, the beast’s fur would morph into liquidous tendrils. They’d snake around my arms and thread through my fingers, and somehow, somewhere, I knew that they were also wrapped around my soul.
Under this influence, I could feel my intensity growing, swelling, until I could no longer bear it and swung my hand towards the wall. There was a dent, and a shallow tear in the wallpaper, but the act of destruction destroyed my previous discomfort with satisfaction.
Soon the wallpaper was ripped in multiple places across multiple walls, and I had glue over my fingertips. The wolf panted happily.
The rest was a dizzying blur, and although I know time passed at the same rate it always has, it feels twisted and warped in my memories.
Until one night when the hound proved its cataclysmic nature with more certainty than ever.
I had my nose pressed to its, and my eyes closed, when I felt its teeth sink into my arm like a dozen tiny knives. It gave a soft tug. I thought I wanted to go with it, I had planned on going with it, but in that moment, I couldn’t help but hesitate.
The wolf took notice.
Anger flashed across its pale eyes as it released a horrible, demented growl. The windows shattered, wind tore through the room, and all the lights died with a great explosion.
I reached out in front of me, grabbing hold of the sturdiest nothingness I had ever felt. There was nothing to keep me here, nothing except myself. I didn’t want to hold on, but something compelled me to anyways.
Time passed in distorted ways in this room. I was alone with a creature from the lowest depths of Hell.
Until people kicked down the door. There was a wide range of faces: doctors, scientists, ministers, soldiers. I recognized a few.
They, yelling, grabbed the hound by its neck with some difficulty, frantically pulling it off me. I didn’t fight them, but I offered no help either. I didn’t want the hound to leave, I was quite fond of it now, but at the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to object to its removal.
It didn’t even glance backwards as it was dragged across the floor.
It could be that the beast was so focused on my destruction that it didn’t even realize it was being taken away. But I think it’s more likely that I mistook this hound as a visitor, when in reality it was a deformed phantom limb, hanging in the balance between my world and the rest.
The group of intruders forced the monster down a hallway. I began to feel a pain so violent, so otherworldly that I could do nothing but squeeze my eyes shut and bow my head until it passed. When I looked up, the group was gone; replaced by a foreign door with stairs tumbling downward.
They emerged a few moments later, faces flushed and looking much wearier than when they first came in. Their eyes sunk deep and there was an air of sadness surrounding them that I could not feel.
All of them began talking at the same time, their pace quick and tones overbearing. I don’t remember much of what was said, try as I might to recall it.
There is, however, one thing in their advice that was consistent and spoken with a tone of foreboding: whatever I do, do not open the cage.
And so, I don’t.
The key hangs next to my bedroom door, reminding me of their warning. Every morning, I pick it up and turn it, feeling the cool metal slide over my palm. It is both reassuring and terrifying.
I must admit that although I have not released the hound in a long time now, I will occasionally flirt with fate. I know it must be wrong, but the stairs to the cellar beckon me, and I succumb to the temptation with a peer into the darkness below.
A battered wooden chair stands perhaps five feet from the cage, illuminated by a strangely faded light that seems to have no source. Try as I might to be rid of it, to have a blanket of darkness shield my curiosity from the pacing beast, the light is always there.
It is mesmerizing to sit beside the cage and watch it. The creature will try anything to get me to look at it directly, to see my face reflected clearly in its milky white eyes. It will whimper pitifully, bay loudly, and snap and hiss with foam dripping down the edges of its jowls. However, it’s often only once the beast throws back its head and lets out a prolonged, unearthly howl that I lift my face and lock eyes with the creature.
That interaction, coupled with the smell wafting out from between the bars, persuades me to inch nearly off my seat, closer to the cage.
The hound’s aroma will fill the entire room better than any candle or perfume. The scent washes over my tongue and taunts my brain with essence of longing, making me desperate to find a way to get more. I don’t just want to release this monster; I want to melt my soul together with it. My heart pounds. My stomach drops. My mouth twists into a deranged smile.
And I reach for the lock.
Until a sound startles me out of my captivation.
The only thing that will sometimes call me back to the world upstairs is the strain of music coming from my doorbell, drifting down through the vents and colliding with my soul. As I rise from my chair, the wolf will snarl and bark, clenching its teeth around the rusted bars in pure wrath as its claws tear at the floor.
But, with a wave of guilt, I leave anyways.
I get company now. Almost none of them notice the poorly concealed water stains, or the cracks and tears in the wallpaper that were carelessly covered with paste.
But every now and then, when there’s a lull in conversation, a low mournful whine will prowl its way through the silence.
“Sounds almost like a howl,” they’ll remark with their mouths curled in soft amusement.
Then, with a small polite smile, they’ll ask if there’s something wrong with the pipes.