Home Sweet Home

I got home just as dark clouds began to fill the sky, making the afternoon feel like night time. The living room lamp was on the floor, probably knocked over by the wind, I thought as I placed it upright. I paid no mind to it because my work was calling. Picking up my laptop, I walked to my room. It wasn’t odd that my girlfriend hadn’t greeted me; I figured she was upset about our argument this morning. Mild irritation shivered through me, but it was my own fault for having decided to go bar-hopping with the guys all night without calling.

Walking down the dark hallway, I felt as if I was forgetting something. I quickly shrugged it off as I entered the guest room and let my coat drop onto my desk chair. I set the dimmer to a low, steady stream of light then crawled onto the bed for a few moments, just to gather my thoughts. The faint rolling thunder soothed me as I started to doze off, but then I remembered to check on our dog Mickey in our backyard. I assumed Ella locked him in the cellar behind the house due to the storm, since her allergies wouldn’t allow him in the house with her for long periods of time. I reluctantly got up and shuffled towards the kitchen.

As I picked up a bag of dog food, I heard our bedroom door open and caught a glimpse of Ella’s short, dark hair as she tiptoed into the bathroom down the hall. She quietly closed the bathroom door as I walked toward the backdoor. She was most likely gathering her thoughts until later at night, when she’d finally confront me with a soft-spoken tone and a look that would make me wish she would yell at me instead. Seeing rain pouring and hearing how loudly it pattered against the window, I shot back to the guest room, grabbed my coat and made my way out back into the rising storm.

One of the perks of living here is the lack of neighbors for at least 5 miles in any direction, even though it gets a little lonely, especially when Ella and I fought. We did that a lot lately; I even began planning a nice trip to her parents’ cabin upstate. I figured it would be a good idea to be around other people, because we were having such a hard time being alone with each other. Sure I still loved her, but I was having trouble with our getup. I felt too familiar with my life, like when a song becomes played out. We would either work through this and reconnect or end up moving on. It was just a matter of time.

The wind thrashed against my face as I trudged hastily toward the cellar. I forced the door open and carefully walked down the steps as I fumbled to find the light switch. Once safe inside, I glanced around for Mickey who should’ve been jumping at my face by now. Instead, I caught a glimpse of red smears along the wall and all over the floor. Mickey was curled into a lifeless ball at the bottom step with a trail of blood leading away. I lost my breath and staggered to my knees as I took in the scene.

My mind processed the sight of my dead black lab. I began to notice that the blood patterns didn’t make sense, realizing there was too much of it splattered across the ground. I noticed it also lead to a far corner of the cellar. I felt dizzy as I got to my feet and clumsily stepped forward. I immediately glimpsed Ella’s brown, lifeless eyes gazing up at me. At this point, I was fighting hard to keep from vomiting. I hadn’t even asked myself who was in the house when I heard soft footsteps behind me and felt a breath on the back of my neck, and a whisper in my ear said “welcome home”. A sharp blow to my skull laid me flat across the floor as I watched a slender figure close the cellar door.

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