The old man slowly slips into his bed as the storm was approaching bringing with it a gentle rain that played a hypnotic lullaby on the rusty tin roof which ,within a few minutes, slowly lulled him to sleep. He drempt of his wife of 40 years that had passed away and the moments they had shared together, soft summer breezes, days of youthful splendor and friends of long ago. As the storm rolled over head he drempt on.
Late in the night he was awakened. Still dazed by sleep, he distinctively hears the sound of breathing in the room. He sits up slowly and listens. It came from beside his bed. He smiles and lays back down. 'Old Ben' he whispers. Ben was his faithful old dog that he had grown used to having around and he was quite a comfort to him since his wife had passed away. At night Ben would hunker down on that old quilt(which his wife had made just for Ben) and sleep in the floor beside his bed. Although he couldn't see him through the darkness he knew he was there, always of guard and never far away. The old man reaches down gently and pats his head and rubs his matted coarse hair. 'Good boy'. Yawning, the old man falls back into his world of dreams.
The thunder was crashing down when he awoke again. This time he could hear the sound of whimpering almost crying from the floor beside his bed. 'Take it easy Ben. Just a storm. Nothing to fret.' The old man reached down and strokes the coarse slick hair once again trying to comfort and reassure the dog and fell back to sleep with his hand on his old friend.
In his dreams he and Ben were out in the woods hunting squirrels as they often did. Ben treeing a mess of squirrels while the old man took them out one by one. Then, he dreams of the late afternoons after supper sitting on the porch with old Ben right there at his feet napping as the birds sang in autumn sun. The dreams went on and so did the night.
The storms intensity grew. Lightening lit the entire room and the thunder shook the picture frames on the wall. The old man opens his eyes just a tad and reaches to pet Ben. The licking sensation on his hand reassuring him that Ben was doing just fine. And in that moment as he begin to fall to sleep once again, a strange thought comes to him. He begins to recall a cold day in November last year, the pond was frozen. He and Ben were trying their luck at a little ice fishing. The sun was high and some of the ice had grown somewhat thin in places. He can hear it cracking just before the ice gave way and.. he fell in. And.. Ben also fell in... Still in a sleep like state he rubs his hand across the hair of his old companion and he returns licks to his hand.. He remembers crawling out of the freezing water drenched to the bone, but not Ben. He remembers calling for Ben and then seeing the dog's outline under the ice. He remembers trying to chop through the frozen pond but the ice in this spot was still thick and hard like a brick wall. He watched his friend drown. Drown just inches away from him. Yes. Ben died. He recalls chipping away at the ice minutes later with an axe he had gotten from the barn, (he didn't hurry he knew Ben was dead) Then burying him in the backyard by the barn, wrapped in that old quilt he loved to lay on . The licking continues. That had been a few months ago he thought. How can this be. It was then he came fully awake and terror came crashing down much like the rain outside and drove home the reality that Ben was dead.. Dead and in the ground, not here in the room but in the cold wet ground beside the old barn. Then what did this tongue which has soaked his hand belong to? He leans his head over slowly to look on the floor beside his bed but he could see nothing, the room was pitch black. He didn't know that darkness could be so black as it was at this moment..How can then this be Ben beside my bed...? he questioned, his mind stumbling for answers. The licking on his hand suddenly stopped. He couldn't find the courage to remove his hand so it hung motionless in the air. Then on the tip of his finger he felt something odd. It was not licking he felt but.. sucking. Something sucking on the tip of his finger much like a baby pig would do, hungrily on its mother's tit, only not with a mouth full of teeth like he felt now. The sucking stops and he senses that whatever this thing was knows that he is awake and aware. The old man can only ly there not knowing what was looking up at him from the floor deside his bed. Moments pass and seconds seem like lightyears.. Then something rises up from the floor and is now standing beside his bed. The lightening once again lights up the small room but the old man closes his eyes. He doesn't want to see it, it's not Ben and he knows it. With eyes closed shut he feels a cold breath against his cheek and hears the soft gentle laughter like that of a small child, just as an enormous crash of thunder shakes the picture frames on the walls and sends them into piecesto the floor.
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