The next morning Billy woke up first. The Sunday morning light hit his face causing him to stir. He looked up at the sky from his place on the floor, and saw a deep blue. That was a good sign. The sun had pushed the dark clouds away, which he hoped indicated the storms had passed. He got up, put the flashlight on the desk, and walked over to Aris, who was still sound asleep. He decided not to bother her. She needed the rest, and he was not sure if he wanted to start a new day with his monster friend just yet.
Billy was about to head to the bathroom when he realized his shirt was still a little damp from the night before. He was too stressed and tired to think about himself that night, so he just took off his jacket and slept in wet clothes. Thankfully he left one of his jackets there a long time ago. Billy searched Aris’ closet until he found the crumpled garment. He took his t-shirt off and put the jacket on, he had not realized how uncomfortable he was until he felt the dry warmth of his jacket. Billy made his way to the bathroom. When he got there he thought about the night before and the look in Aris’ eyes. She really began to scare him.
After Billy snapped the thoughts from his head, he washed up, and went downstairs to grab a bowl of cereal. He trumped down the stairs and stopped at the bottom when he saw both of Aris’ parents in the kitchen. He figured that they would be working in the basement like they always were, but to his surprise they stood there staring at him.
He cautiously took a step towards the kitchen. “Oh hey. I thought you guys would be working. Aris is still asleep.”
Robert smiled. “She really will sleep through anything. Don’t let us be in the way, we were just grabbing a few things before heading downstairs.”
Billy took a few more steps towards the kitchen. “Yeah. Thanks. I was just gonna grab something to eat.”
Margret reached into the cabinet and grabbed a bowl. “You know where the cereal is right?”
Billy nodded and went over to accept the bowl. “Thanks.”
Margret picked up her coffee from the counter and took a few sips. “Well, we are going to get to work. Nice talking to you Billy.”
“Yeah. You too.” Billy opened the cereal cabinet.
They went downstairs leaving Billy alone in the kitchen. The entire encounter felt awkward, more so than usual. Billy was sure it was because he knew about Aris, but something about the way her parents looked at him, shook him the wrong way. After he got his cereal and sat down at the kitchen island, Billy vaguely remembered Aris’ parents coming into her room the night before. There was something about the encounter as well that seemed out of place, but he was not sure. Billy figured he was being paranoid, and brushed the previous run-in off for the moment.
After he finished his cereal, Billy went back up to Aris’ room and sat on her desk chair. He swayed back and forth staring at the floor, occasionally glancing up at Aris to see if she had awoken or not. After about fifteen minutes, Billy got tired of waiting and decided to wake her up himself. He got up and roughly shoved Aris’ shoulder.
“Aris. Come on. Wake up!”
“Hmm?” She rolled over, opened her eyes, and squeezed them shut.
Satisfied with that, Billy went back over to the desk chair and continued to twirl back and forth. Billy furrowed his eyebrows thinking about Aris’ parents, and how weird they seemed to be acting the night before. Not to mention that morning. They always acted a bit strange, but this time seemed different.
Aris yawned and stretched her arms behind her. “Yeah?”
“Do your parents ever check in on you at night?”
She shrugged. “Not that I know of. Why?”
“Last night they came in.” He was still staring at the floor in thought.
She sat up a little more. “What’d they want?”
Billy shook his head. “Said they saw the light on, wanted to see if you were still up.”
“Oh…well, that makes sense I guess.” She sat in bed trying to think if her parents had ever checked on her before, but something on her wrist distracted her. She squinted at the red smudge, trying to figure out what it was. It did not take long for her to realize. “Oh my God!” She began to rub at the spot then shot up from the bed. “I need a shower.” She bolted to the bathroom, leaving Billy alone with his thoughts.
Aris had almost forgotten about the events that took place the night before. It all felt like a dream, but she knew that would have been too good to be true. A shower was the best thing Aris could think about at the moment. She needed to wash away any physical trace of her “adventures” from the previous night. She knew she would never forget, but having blood stains around the house did not help. She turned on the hot water and climbed inside the shower. The constant hot stream felt so good. She wished she could have stayed in there forever.
She watched the grime and blood wash down the drain. Aris had not cleaned the majority of the blood off the night before, so there was still quite a bit of red rinsing into the bottom of the tub. The night prior, Aris was too preoccupied to really think about what she had done. She tried controlling herself to not attack Billy in the bathroom. She was glad for his help, but she worried that she could hurt him if she ever got stuck in the dark with him again.
Thinking back on what she had done made her feel disgusting. At the time, however, she felt exhilarated. All that power. Aris wanted to feel like that again. After she had left her house and ditched the flashlight, she remembered smelling something very specific. She could smell the entire neighborhood; every living thing, but that scent stood out among it all. She had smelt it that afternoon; Mrs. Franklin’s dog. That stupid mutt had growled at Aris, and she wanted to rip her into pieces right there. That dog knew what she was, and Aris did not like that. She had followed the scent to Mrs. Franklin’s house. The backyard had a doggy door, but the gate usually stayed locked so Miss. Fluffkins did not roam the neighborhood.
Aris had approached the back gate, and could hear the dog barking inside the house. She whistled the tune that was always in her head, and it came running out the back door. Miss. Fluffkins began to claw at the fence. Aris smiled and reached her hand around to unlock the gate. She undid the latch and took off as fast as she could down the street. The dog pushed her way through the gate and followed Aris. The dog was fast, but Aris was faster, and knew exactly what she was doing. She wanted to play cat and mouse with the dog. She wanted as much enjoyment as she could get out of her kill.
The storm overhead grew louder and the rain continued to fall, all the lights were still out in the neighborhood, so no one knew what was going on. Aris ducked into some bushes across from a house and waited. She could hear the claws of Miss. Fluffkins hit the asphalt as she searched for the girl. The dog slowed down and growled at the spot Aris was hiding in. Aris remained still, but could see the dog. She crept forward a little, and then sprung out of the bushes at the dog. She pounced on Miss. Fluffkins, and dragged her back into the shrubs. The dog whined and snarled, but the storm was loud enough that no one heard.
It was as if Aris had found new strength. She tore and clawed at the dog’s stomach, and managed to grab a hold of the dog’s neck with her teeth. She ripped into Miss. Fluffkins causing the canine to go limp. After the fight was done, Aris was able to eat like some lion that had just caught a zebra. She remembered the coppery taste in her mouth, and how warm and smooth the blood felt on her lips. She continued to rip at Miss. Fluffkins intending on eating every bit she could. All she could think about was consuming the meat and blood, and that is what she did, until Billy approached.
His scent. That was the first thing Aris recognized. She knew it was Billy, but all she could think about was new game. She wanted to do with him as she did to Miss. Fluffkins. Aris let the hot water fall down on her face, and she thought about what would have happened if Billy did not have the flashlight with him. She would have tormented him, and ripped into him as well. She was full from Miss. Fluffkins, but she still craved more. At that moment she wanted to taste Billy’s blood.
Aris put her hands on the shower wall, and let her tears mix in with the water. She hated what she was becoming, and needed to find a way to stop it. She could not believe how different she had become when she was hit with the dark. Nothing made sense anymore. She stayed in the shower until her sobs subsided. She had cried enough in front of Billy, and did not deserve his comfort anymore. She saw how he had slept the night before; cradling that flashlight like it was all he had in the world. Billy was scared of her. Aris thought she deserved that, but she wished things would just go back to the way they were before. What if they did not find a cure to this whole thing? Would he ever think of her as he used to? Or would he always live in fear that she might turn back into a blood thirsty monster?
Aris got out of the shower and headed back to her room. She had a towel on, and instructed Billy to turn away so she could get clothes. He was lying on her bed watching TV; he put his head down on the bed. Aris grabbed some clothes out of her drawer and went back into the bathroom to change. When she came back she sat down next to Billy.
His eyes were glued to the television. “Feel better?”
Aris nodded. “A little.” She paused. “Look, I’m sorry about last night. I didn’t have control.”
Billy turned the television off. “I know, and it’s okay.”
Aris was about to say something when she heard someone yelling outside. Her and Billy both got up from the bed and headed over to the window. Mrs. Franklin was outside frantically searching for something. Aris opened her window and Mrs. Franklin shouted again.
“Miss. Fluffkins! Come here girl.” She whistled.
Aris shut the window and turned to Billy. “Oh no. What if someone finds her?”
Billy stared out the window. “Not much to find.” He looked at Aris’ downward gaze. “Sorry.”
“What do you think she will do when she finds out her dog has been murdered?”
Billy shook his head. “Probably lose it, but maybe we can hide Miss. Fluffkins before anyone sees.”
Aris agreed, and slipped her shoes on before heading downstairs with Billy. “Let’s go out the back. I really don’t want to run into Mrs. Franklin.”
“Good idea.” Billy followed Aris out the back door, and they made their way to the spot where Aris killed Miss. Fluffkins the night before.
When they got there, they were too late. A crowd of people had gathered around the bloody remains of the big white fluffy dog the neighborhood had come to love. Aris and Billy ran up to the crowd and pushed their way through so they could see. Someone was bent over Miss. Fluffkins trying to decide what happened to her. When Aris saw the scene she thought she would have felt bad, but she felt nothing. A lot of people looked disgusted. All that remained of the dog was some matted tufts of white fur stuck to the ground, her head with bulging eyes, her legs, spine, and tail. The entire inside of the dog had been ripped to shreds, and devoured. Insects already gathered on the dog trying to clean up the mess. The rain had washed away any blood left over from the attack, so all that remained were the dark red stains in the fur. Everyone had theories as to what might have happened to the poor dog.
“Do you think it was an animal?”
“Maybe a wolf.”
“Do we have wolves?”
“Who’s going to tell Mrs. Franklin?”
The commotion stopped, and the people looked at each other waiting for a volunteer. Before someone could offer to tell her, Mrs. Franklin came walking down the street. She saw the mass crowd and solemn faces.
The plump woman approached the crowd. “What going on?”
Her neighbor Ted, stood in her way, blocking her view. “Mrs. Franklin I think we should go inside and talk.”
She tried to push Ted out of the way. “What are you talking about? What is it?”
“Really Mrs. Franklin, I think it’d be best if-”
She began to get paranoid. “Move out of my way! I want to know what everyone is staring at.” She shoved Ted to the side, and made her way to the middle of the circle. Her eyes widened as she let out a shrill scream. “No! My baby. My dear baby! What happened!?” She knelt down next to her dog letting out screams and sobs; everyone was beginning to feel uncomfortable, not sure what to do. She looked back up at everyone. “Who did this?”
Ted came over and knelt down in front of the woman. “We think it was some kind of animal.”
Aris and Billy looked at each other.
Mrs. Franklin continued to sob over the remains of Miss. Fluffkins. “What animal?”
Ted shook his head. “We don’t know. We can probably call someone to come take a look.”
Sherry, one of Mrs. Franklin’s friends, came over and knelt down on the other side of the sobbing woman. “Debbie dear. Why don’t you come inside for some tea?” She gently put her hands on Mrs. Franklin, stood her up, and led her to her house. Mrs. Franklin was a mess; that dog was her pride and joy. She treated her almost like a child, and now she was gone in one of the worst ways imaginable.
Ted stood up. “I’m going to go find someone to call about this.”
After that, the crowd slowly dispersed. Aris and Billy were the only remaining ones. Billy looked at Aris, who stared blankly at the scene before them. Aris took a big breath, but kept her eyes on the ground.
“I can’t believe I did all this.”
Billy looked back at Miss. Fluffkins. “You weren’t yourself.”
Aris wanted to say that she was herself when she tore into the dog, that at the moment she did not feel bad about what she did; in fact she felt the hunger she had before. She did not want to believe that though. “I know, but I still did it.”
Billy lifted his head up and glanced around. “We shouldn’t stick around too long. Don’t want anyone getting suspicious or anything.”
Aris nodded and walked back towards her house. “What if they find out?”
For a moment Billy was quiet. “They won’t.”
“But they might.”
“Aris, we aren’t going to let anything happen to you okay. No one in their right mind would accuse a person of doing that. Especially not a teenaged girl.”
Aris nodded, but did not seem reassured. “What if someone saw me last night?”
Billy shook his head. “If they had, then you’d already know. Everyone was focused on the dog just now, not you. If anyone knew, they would have looked at you. Hey, don’t worry about this. You have enough on your plate as it is. We just need to focus on how this happened and find a cure.”
The rest of the walk to Aris’ house was silent. They went in the door and were about to go upstairs, when Aris’ parents walked out of the basement. They had an equipment bag in their hands looking like they were about to go test something.
“Off to the lab?” Aris leaned her hand on a kitchen stool.
Robert shook his head. “Didn’t you hear about Mrs. Franklin’s dog?”
Aris shot a look at Billy who shared her shocked expression. “Yeah, we just came from there, but how’d you know?”
Margret held up her Smartphone. “Sherry tweeted it.”
Aris threw her hands up a little. “Of course she did. Mrs. Franklin was really upset. I’m not sure if she’ll appreciate you poking at her dead dog.”
Margret waved a hand in the air. “We’ll be quick, she won’t even notice.”
“But, what will the neighbors think?” Aris did not want her parents poking around. They might figure out an animal did not cause the mishap with Miss. Fluffkins, and could somehow figure out she was responsible.
Her parents laughed and Robert put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “The neighbors will probably be happy, we'll figure out the cause of death, and set everyone’s minds at ease.”
There was no stopping it; Aris’ parents were walking out the door to observe the scene. Billy knew they could do nothing to stop them from going, but maybe the two could distract them enough so they would not know a human had anything to do with the attack. He perked up and yelled before the couple shut the door.
“Can we come?”
Aris looked at Billy like he was crazy, but Margret and Robert looked at each other before answering the boy.
Robert smiled. “Of course, we’d be glad if you did.” They both walked out the door leaving it cracked for Aris and Billy.
Once Aris’ parents were out of hearing distance she gave Billy a look. “What are you doing?”
“If we go, maybe we can distract them enough to get their attention away from the details. Maybe they won’t figure out what happened. I panicked; it was all I could think of.”
Aris shook her head. “Fine. Come on.” She led the way out the door.
When they got back to the scene, everything was exactly how they left it. Aris’ parents wasted no time taking pictures, and beginning to write stuff down. Robert put a plastic glove on, took out tweezers, and began prodding at the remains of Miss. Fluffkins.
Aris made a disgusted face. “I can’t believe I have to see this again.” Her words were empty, because in reality Aris was glad that she got to look at her handy work again. She could not get the previous night out of her mind, and the more she thought about it, the more she liked what she remembered.
Billy began to get worried. “What are you doing?”
Robert put a piece of Miss. Fluffkins in a plastic bag. “Taking it back to our lab so we can analyze it.”
“The rain probably washed anything useful away though right?”
Robert shook his head. “Not necessarily, I took a sample from under her which would have been protected from the rain for the most part.”
Aris looked around. “Okay, I think you’ve done enough don’t you? Isn’t this insulting the poor dog’s memory? If Mrs. Franklin saw us right now, she might try to kill us.”
Margret took one more picture, and then looked at her daughter. “Okay, okay we’ll take this stuff back to our lab in town and look at it.”
Billy was afraid to ask, but could not help it. “What do you think did this?”
Robert got up from squatting position and took off his gloves. “Looks like some sort of dog. A couple by the looks of it, probably coyotes or wolves. Miss. Fluffkins was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Probably got attacked from the bushes and mauled on the spot. The storm was loud; no one would have heard anything.”
Aris nodded. “Couple coyotes, yeah that makes sense.”
Billy eyed Aris’ parents as they said their goodbyes and walked back towards the house. Something still did not sit right with him. Maybe it was because he knew Aris had killed Miss. Fluffkins, but there was practically nothing left of her. A coyote or wolf could not have done this, but Aris’ parents seemed sure. He hoped his and Aris’ presence there had distracted them enough to not see right away that an animal did not cause it. Aris and Billy were both worried about the samples Aris’ dad took. If there was any DNA or evidence of any kind left, they would know it was not just a human that killed the dog, but their daughter.
Aris had a worried expression on her face. “What if they find something? They would love to find out this wasn’t really coyotes.”
Billy shook his head. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”