It’s probably just the neighbor’s dog, you muse as the howl carries down the street to echo back to you, but that thought doesn’t keep your pace from quickening noticeably. Nor does it keep you from breaking into a full sprint when the sound of padded feet racing towards you reaches your ears. Your house is only two doors down, surely you can make it before whatever’s behind you reaches you, right? Why waste time turning around even though you know the fear tearing at your heart is irrational, that the feet coming to greet you are likely harmless, that the beast is almost certainly one of the friendly ones you’ve petted a thousand times before.
It’s better to laugh at your absurd fear from the safety of your home, you rationalized, than to be wrong. It wouldn’t have been the first time you’d scoffed at your own cowardice in the face of the unknown. And continuing to be able to make a fool of yourself like that meant you were still alive.
As the patter of footfalls grows louder, you cut across your lawn to cut the distance to safety. The wet grass, slick with evening marine layer, sticks to your shoes and will make a mess of your entryway, but it’s a mess that can be cleaned up.
Unlike my blood.
The unmistakable sensation of teeth clenching down on my right calf jars my sense just as I was about to reach for the doorknob. Instead my hand lashes backwards, trying to ward off my attacker, but it meets only air. Finally, I turn around to face the threat, but there is nothing there. A throb of pain forces my eyes downward and a scream is the only response I have left to the trails of blood dripping down my leg.