by Marc Abbott
Gabriel Kenney didn’t intend on adopting Poohbear and Smokey. But his son, Simon, tearfully pleaded with him after hearing that animals who stayed in the pound too long were put to sleep.
“A dog and a cat? No, Simon, dogs and cats do not get along. They’re natural enemies,” Gabriel said.
“No, they’re not. Alex in my class as a dog and cat and they get along okay,” Simon Kenney said.
“He’s right,” the clerk at the pound said. “If they grow up together, they’re going to get along. It’s good to have one of each that way they don’t feel lonely when you’re off at work and school.”
“Dad, please, I promise I’ll take real good care of them. They’re puppy and kitten so it all works out.”
Gabriel reluctantly gave in and adopted the chow, husky mix named Poohbear and the grey tabby named Smokey. To his surprise, they became friends’ moments after they were introduced.
Over time they learned to understand one another. It took some effort for them to develop language skills so they could communicate. But they needed to be able to talk to one another in case trouble arose.
Smokey developed a set of meows Poohbear could discern. Poohbear’s whines and short barks were executed at a pitch Smokey understood. They would have long and loud conversations between them followed by wild playing. Their destruction of household items and noise drove outraged Gabriel.
“What is wrong with you two? Why can’t you two behave and stop tearing up the place? Instead of making noise, you two lazy animals need to keep the house clear of vermin and pests.”
“Dad, they’re playing. They’re best friends,” Simon said.
“Well, they need to stop making such a mess!”
Poohbear and Smokey recognized certain human words in his complaints. They agreed to have low conversations when Gabriel was in the room. Their louder talks occurred when they walked the perimeter of the home making sure nothing unwanted found their way inside. It was a routine they performed daily.
Smokey searched for vermin while Poohbear sniffed for bigger threats like would-be burglars. Fortunately, in the first few years of living with the Kennedy’s, they never had to ward off anything more vicious than a rat.
Until the night of August 3rd, 2016.
The Kennedy’s had gone out for the evening, allowing the pets to have the run of the place. Poohbear and Smokey completed their surveillance of the perimeter, entered in through the pet door and walked the lower portion of the house before retiring upstairs. Smokey went into Simon’s room to his favorite spot by the window. Poohbear went into Gabriel’s and curled up at the foot of the bed. Both started to nap.
Poohbear awoke first. The slam came from a door in the foyer followed by heavy footsteps in the living room. His ears perked up as he listened. Scratching resounded for several seconds then abruptly stopped. He stood, whined and looked toward the door of the bedroom. A shadow appeared. Poohbear growled.
“It’s me.” Smokey stepped into his line of sight.
“Did you hear that?” Poohbear said.
“I did. I got this,” Smokey said.
“Sounds like something big. I’m behind you.”
He followed Smokey as he slowly walked to the top of the stairs. He stuck his head through the banister columns and scanned the living room. His vision perfect in the dark. He didn’t see any movement.
“I don’t see-”
Smokey’s ears perked as loud scratching sounds emerged from the living room. He focused on the darkness. It stopped.
“Is it a rat?” Poohbear jogged to his side and looked over Smokey’s head.
“Rats don’t scratch that loud. You see anything?”
Poohbear put his nose through the banister, sniffed the air and quickly withdrew.
“Something foul down there. Over by the big master’s long bed.”
“I don’t smell anything.” Smokey lowered his head. He focused his eyes on the dark area to the right of the sofa. The scratching resumed, and he glimpsed something move. “Hold on.”
Smokey stepped away from the bannister and quietly walked down the stairs. He stayed close to the wall, using the shadows as cover. When he paused halfway the scratching stopped. Smokey flexed his claws then kept moving.
Once at the bottom landing, he looked back at Poohbear who had taken position at the top step.
“Be careful, Smokey.”
Smokey got low. He half walked, half crawled across the threshold of the living room and continued toward the sofa, growling a warning to whatever hid in the darkness.
“You’re trespassing. Leave my master’s house.”
Smokey stopped, got into a pounce position and waited. His tail moved from side to side like a metronome.
Poohbear licked part of his muzzle then began his descent. His hearing and sense of smell were heightened in the dark. He moved quickly and once at the bottom, he sensed the foul odor was coming from the foyer. He turned his attention to an ajar closet door.
“Open door, Smokey.”
“Check it out.”
Poohbear approached the closet, shaking his head to clear his nostrils with fresh air before he continued his investigation. Using his snout, he pushed the door open wider and stepped inside. Poohbear pinpointed the source of the smell; a hole in the back corner large enough for him to put his head in. Around its edges were long strands of black hair. He slowly retreated.
“Something was in there.” He headed into the living room then took position on Smokey’s left. “There’s a hole in the back corner.” He sniffed again and barked.
“It’s like garbage day on Tuesdays.” Poohbear stepped toward the sofa. “It’s coming from right there.”
“Heeeeere!” A raspy, demonic voice spoke from the darkness.
Poohbear saw a figure standing behind the sofa. It grinned, exposing two rows of white sharp teeth. Its eyes flared red quickly then went dark. It made a strange gurgling sound then bolted into the adjacent dining room.
“Intruder. Intruder. Intruder,” Poohbear whined
Smokey joined Poohbear at his side. “That’s not a rat.”
“Smokey, back away!”
The duo scurried back to the stairs. Poohbear stepped over Smokey and used his paw to pull him close to his body to protect him.
“I’m okay, Poohbear.” Smokey patted Poohbear’s leg. “Where did it go?”
“Where the masters eat. It’s in there.”
Smokey stepped out from under Poohbear. “We’ll have to work together on this.”
“What is that thing? It feels wrong.”
“Keep it together, buddy.”
“I’m good.” Poohbear shook his head and snapped his jaw.
“Let go get rid of it.” Smokey proceeded through the living room toward the archway leading into the dining room. “I got this side.”
“Going around.” Poohbear ran to the kitchen and took position at another entrance to the dining room.
Smokey spotted the creature crouched under the dining room table. He maintained his composure while silently getting close enough to pounce. He stopped when Poohbear appeared in the kitchen archway.
“I hear it. I don’t see it.” Poohbear looked everywhere except under the table.
Smokey turned his attention back to the creature. It had not sensed his proximity as it’s attention was fixed on Poohbear. It flashed its teeth as it lay flat and began to scratch the floor with its talons.
“Poohbear, look by the little master’s chair,” Smokey said.
Poohbear peered under the table. “Got him.”
The creature rushed Poohbear back into the kitchen and tried pinning him to the floor. Poohbear growled, barked and fought to get back on his paws. The creature made a terrifying grumbling sound as it struggled to keep Poohbear from standing.
“Little one mine. Little one my meal. Protectors are weak and foolish,” the creature said.
Smokey watched patiently as Poohbear relentlessly fought. A swipe of his paw against the creatures’ face caused it to let go and allowed him to slip loose from under its weight. Poohbear quickly some distance between them.
Smokey seized the moment and pounced. Landing on the creatures back, he sank his claws into its skin. The creature howled and spun in circles until Smokey was thrown off its back. He landed on all fours and slid into Poohbear.
“Get him, Poohbear!” Smokey screeched.
Poohbear barked then charged with his mouth open. The creature put its arm up to block its face and Poohbear clamped down onto it. He began to whip his head causing the creature to let out an agonized wail. Poohbear used all his strength to pull and tear at its skin.
“Filthy animal! I’ll eat you first!”
Smokey took to the air, this time landing on the creature’s chest. He dug his claws in deep and hung on as Poohbear tore at the creature’s arm. Together they forced the creature onto its back.
The creature pushed Smokey off its body then punched Poohbear hard in the snout. Poohbear yelped and let go. The creature stood and swiped at Smokey. The tip of its talon cut him under his chin, forcing him to back away. The creature retreated to the closet.
“My nose.” Poohbear lowered his head as Smokey rushed to examine him. “Is it bad?”
“No worse when that prickly animal stuck you during the outdoors trip we took with masters this summer,” Smokey said.
“Did you hear what it said about the little master?”
“I heard it.”
“I know what that is, Smokey. Little master said he saw something bad in his closet last week. What did he call it? You were in the hall when he told big master about it and big master said they don’t exist.”
Smokey scratched under his chin, nicking the cut.
“I remember. It’s a monster.” Smokey stared at the closet. “You said there’s a hole in the closet. There might be one in little masters too.” Smokey stretched. “Lets-”
The creature attacked unexpectedly. It tackled Smokey, picked him up and threw him into the dining room. Then it turned to Poohbear and screamed.
Poohbear defiantly barked back. He lunged at the creature to bite, but it dodged him. When it tried to back away, it slipped and fell. Poohbear attacked, locking his jaw again around its throat. The creature’s skin felt soft and easy to tear.
The creature seized Poohbear around the neck and started to pull him off, but its skin came loose in the dog’s mouth. It bellowed in pain as part of its throat ripped away. Bits of flesh dropped to the floor.
But the pressure of the creature’s grip became too much to handle. Poohbear jerked his body back, broke loose and landed on his back. He rolled quickly, got to his paws and began to bark.
“You won’t hurt little master. You won’t harm our humans. I’ll kill you!”
Holding its throat, the creature got to its feet and bolted for the closet. Poohbear started to go after it when Smokey ran past him.
“Get to little master’s closet. I got him,” Smokey said.
Poohbear watched as the creature disappeared into the closet with Smokey in pursuit. Smokey screeched before he was tossed out into the foyer. He recovered quickly and went back inside, crawling into the narrow opening of the hole.
Within the walls of the house, Poohbear could hear the creature growling and Smokey hissing. Poohbear followed the sounds along the stairs into the ceiling.
“The closet.” Poohbear dashed up the stairs to Simon’s room barking, “The closet, the closet, the closet.”
Down the hall, into Simon’s bedroom, he stopped in front of the closet door. He could hear the battle getting closer inside.
“Bring it. Come on,” Smokey cried.
“I’m here. Force him out,” Poohbear barked.
The closet door burst open. Poohbear backed away as the creature emerged with Smokey on its face, biting. It tried to pull Smokey off, but his claws were dug in deep. The creature fell into the dresser, knocking over toys and books. It fell onto the bed, bounced and rolled over onto the floor exhausted and hurt.
Smokey let go and limped backwards. Although blood dripped from slashes to his face inflicted by the creature, he ignored the injuries. He looked at Poohbear.
“Close the door.”
He watched as Poohbear stood on his hind legs and pushed the bedroom door closed. It shut with a slam and a click. He turned and growled at the creature.
“Get up.” The skin around Poohbear’s teeth lifted as he snarled.
Smokey didn’t wait for the creature to move. He rushed in and began slashing. The creature cried out as it swung at him. Poohbear moved in, bit its leg and dragged it to the middle of the room. Between the barks, screeching and howls they didn’t hear the Kennedy’s return.
“What the hell is going on in there? Poohbear! Smokey!” Gabriel called through the door.
“Daddy, they’re fighting,” Simon said. “Stop fighting guys.”
Poohbear let go of the creature’s leg, barking and howling as he turned and moved to the door. He jumped on his hind legs and tried to turn the knob with his mouth, but it wouldn’t turn. He dropped back and turned to Smokey.
“It won’t open, Smokey.”
Smokey ignored him as he clawed away at the creature’s chest. It had lost the strength to fight back. Thousands of tiny slashes covered its face and body. Smokey didn’t stop. Poohbear seized Smokey around the neck and lift him off the creature. Smokey kept swinging his paws as he was carried across the room.
When he put enough distance from the creature, Poohbear dropped Smokey on the floor and pinned him with his paw. Smokey started to get calm as Poohbear lay and pulled him close like a mother cat. He began to lick Smokey’s wounds.
“It’s okay. We got it,” Poohbear said.
The bedroom door burst open and the lights came on. The creature faded away. Gabriel looked around the room.
“Look at this mess. What the devil were you two doing in here? I swear you leave these two alone for a couple of hours and they create havoc.” Gabriel complained as he walked away. “You wanted these two, Simon, so you clean this up.”
Simon entered and looked at them. He looked at the spot where the creature had been and gasped. He could see the hairs it left behind. He started to call for Gabriel but took another look at Poohbear and Smokey who were laying in the corner. Both were battered, bruised and exhausted.
“You stopped the monster.” Simon got down on one knee and hugged them.
Poohbear happily licked him. Smokey slipped out of the embrace and approached the closet.
“What is it?” Poohbear barked.
Smokey crouched and focused on the back corner. Two red eyes appeared in the dark. Two rows of white teeth smiled then it all disappeared.
“Nothing we can’t handle, my friend.”
Category: Featured, Fiction, Short Story