I heard a howl. It was close. CRACK! A shot fired from below. Dad sat up startled. I froze. CRACK! Unearthly scream replied. There was another howl in the distance.
Dad sat up in bed. “What in the...” He stopped what he was saying when he saw me. I stared at him a minute. He looked okay. He wasn’t dead. He was just tired.
“What was that noise?” Dad went to a window and looked out. He shrugged, “Probably someone was trying to scare off a dog or something.”
“I hope so,” I said, thinking out loud. It was probably Gramps trying to scare off a werewolf.
“You look pretty tired, Liam. Go get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.” Dad got up to get dressed. “Wish me luck on my first day.”
I couldn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned, tearing up the covers. I felt sweaty and hot. All around me the night stirred with life. Bats flittered by; it seemed like there were thousands of them. And something... several somethings... howled and yipped in the hills.
The dead Darksville suddenly sounded like downtown L.A. I tried drowning out the noise by putting my pillow over my head but the new sounds were too much.
Semi-trucks plowed through town; some idled outside waiting to fill up with gas. I couldn’t believe all the traffic.
And boy, did it all really burn me up. The hair prickled on my back. My chest began to sweat and itch. I jumped out of bed. I landed hard on my feet. I wanted all the noise to stop. I wanted it all to go away NOW! My teeth clenched. They bit down hard. I was really mad and someone... or something would pay...
I grabbed my shoes, thinking about putting them on so I could go outside. I gripped them tightly. My hands ripped at the strings, trying to loosen them. My head pounded. A semi honked impatiently below. The sound echoed terribly in my head. I couldn’t stand it anymore! I had to...Had to.. DESTROY!
The last thing I remembered that night was the taste of shoes.
Morning came and I was tired. I pulled the covers over my head and FINALLY went to sleep. Dad popped in and shook me. “Sleep well?” I snorted awake and stared at him with fuzzy eyes. “You look awful.”
“Thanks. I’m glad you woke me to tell me that.” I rolled over, put my pillow on my head, and hoped he’d go away.
“It sure was a wild night. You wouldn’t believe the traffic... hey!” Dad was surprised about something. Then he sounded angry. “What happened to your shoes?”
I peeked out from my covers. Somehow I knew what I’d see. Dad held up what was left of my left shoe... ripped, torn and battered... barely hanging by its shoelace from his hand. “How’d this happen?”
I knew in a way, but I didn’t know. Was it a dream? Did I really... Something inside told me to lie. The truth was too unreal.
“I threw it at some dog who kept howling outside and he chewed it up. Sorry.” I hid my face again, hoping he’d forget it.
“Couldn’t you throw something that didn’t cost so much?” Dad dropped the shoe. “There probably isn’t a shoe store for miles.”
I peeked out again and Dad crossed to my window. He opened the blind. Light flooded the room.
“Ow!” It stung my eyes. I covered them.
“You aren’t...” Dad said softly, then stopped. He probably thought I was on drugs. Hardly.
“What a beautiful day. Too bad I have to sleep it away.” Dad turned to go, finally. “Don’t sleep too long. Oh... and Nellie invited us to dinner... I mean breakfast or whatever you’d call it. The meal before I go to work.” Dad left me alone now. At least for a minute or two.
Then after what seemed only a few seconds, he knocked on the door. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! It seemed so loud.
“What?!” I yelled.
“Breakfast,” Dad called back. I came out and Dad had fixed coffee, eggs, and hashbrowns. I plopped down at the table and sipped at a glass of OJ Dad gave me.
Dad started talking while I ate. “The people sure are strange around here. Seems like everyone works at night. The stores were all open. Locals wandered the streets. And everyone kept giving me the weirdest looks. I guess it’s because I’m new. But they were very nice in an odd sort of way.”
I didn’t really hear a word Dad said. I just drank my juice and ate my breakfast. Boy, was I tired.
“Didn’t you sleep well?” Dad asked. I shook my head. “Probably all the traffic,” Dad said. I nodded.
“Maybe you should go on the same schedule as me. At least for the summer. Seems like everyone’s on the night shift here. Even kids. They had a baseball game going at the park last night.” Dad stopped talking a second to see if I wanted to ask more about it, but I didn’t. I was too tired to care about much of anything. “The only person who isn’t on this weird schedule is Nellie’s grandpa. He sure is a crazy coot. Nellie went to bed around four and sure enough at five, he was up with the sun with his gun acting like he is keeping watch over the place or something.
“Maybe he’s a drinker,” I mumbled but Dad didn’t seem to hear.
“Well, I better get some sleep.” Dad yawned. “It sure is weird going to sleep with the sun up though.”
“Vampires do it all the time,” I half joked.
Dad laughed. “So what are you up to today? ”
“Don’t wander off too far. And Nellie’s grandpa is always around if you need anything.” Dad went into his room.
“What should I do today?” I wondered.
This whole thing with the dog was bugging me. Maybe it wasn’t a dog. Maybe it was a wolf or something. Maybe when it bit me it gave me some strange disease.