Monday, October 14, 2013
Humans Can Lick Too
Ever since she was little, Joanne Gibson had been afraid of the dark.
By the time she was eleven, her parents had tried everything they could think of to help her get over her phobia. They bought her a nightlight but Joanne made them take it back when the scary shadows in her room came to life. They tried placing an aquarium in her room, but the movement of the water and the colorful fish kept her awake. They even tried a hypnotist but that failed too.
In desperation, her parents dragged her to a sleep clinic in hopes that they could provide some answers. After hooking Joanne up to multiple machines to read her brainwaves while she slept the so-called sleep experts were stumped as to why she was so afraid to close her eyes in a completely dark room.
Upon leaving the clinic, they were approached by one of the orderlies. He suggested that they buy Joanne a puppy that could sleep beside her bed and reassure her that everything was alright.
“After all, if a dog senses something isn’t right, they’re usually the first to react,” he said, explaining that his sister was also afraid of the dark.
Later that day, Mr. and Mrs. Gibson went to the local pound and picked up a puppy for their daughter.
Coyote was a German Shepherd pup that was slightly deaf in his left ear. When his owners discovered this, they dumped him at the shelter, not content with a dog that was less than perfect. But as a nighttime companion for Joanne, Coyote was perfect.
That night, with her new friend by her side, Joanne climbed into bed. Her parents kissed her good night and told her that Coyote would keep her safe throughout the night. Joanne nodded and watched with trepidation as her parents turned out the light and closed her bedroom door.
Her window was open slightly and a breeze took a hold of the curtain, blowing it gently aside allowing the light from next door to shine through the trees, creating an eerie silhouette on the wall of Joanne’s bedroom.
The frightened girl closed her eyes and ducked under the blankets. Fearing the worst, Joanne reached out with one shaking hand and patted Coyote. The loveable pup licked her hand, assuring her that she was safe.
This continued until Joanne was ready to leave home for college. Coyote, though partially deaf, had adapted his hearing and was just as alert as any other dog. He would often cock his head to one side and just listen. Joanne hadn’t quite grown out of her fear of the dark so she managed to rent a house near the college campus that allowed pets.
She kissed her parents goodbye before loading Coyote into the passenger seat.
The house was old with creaking floorboards and no central heating. But to Joanne it didn’t matter. She was living on her own.
That night, after spending most of the afternoon unpacking, Joanne curled up on her mattress with her sleeping bag and Coyote by her side. She patted the head of her now seven year old dog. “Tomorrow, my new bed gets delivered,” she told him, yawning, and her eyes closed.
The next morning, once her bed had been delivered and she had managed to have a shower, Joanne took Coyote for a walk around the neighborhood.
She walked down Main Street before turning off at a park. The overgrown trees provided shade and there were a couple of park benches around a kid’s playground.
Joanne sat down atop a large grassy hill, taking in the sights around her. Coyote sat by her side, head cocked, tongue hanging out, panting loudly.
Joanne snapped out of her daydream when Coyote began growling.
A man stood on the path at the bottom of the hill, hand above his eyes, shielding them from the sun. He was staring right at her. Coyote bared his teeth, the hair on the back of his neck standing to attention.
The man lowered his hand. Though she couldn’t see his face, Joanne knew he was older than her. He was slim with dark hair.
“Pick up after your mutt!” he shouted at her before turning to walk off.
Joanne flipped him off before turning to Coyote. “Come on, boy. Let’s go home.”
Every day after that, Joanne would take Coyote back to the park for a run and a game of ball. That same man was there, muttering to himself and watching her intently. He always stood far away so Joanne couldn’t see the features of his face, but she always left the park as soon as she spotted him. Coyote didn’t like him and Joanne didn’t want a lawsuit on her hands should he try to take a chunk out of the mysterious foul-tempered man.
About two weeks later, after dinner of Chinese takeout, Joanne put the finishing touches on her new home while Coyote watched from the doorway. As she put the small photo of her mother and father over the mantle of the fireplace he suddenly sprung to attention, barking wildly and running towards the back door.
Joanne chased after him, opening the back door so he could run outside. Coyote sprinted to the driveway and the gate. It was banging in the nighttime winds.
Sighing, Joanne made her way across the lawn and latched the gate closed. She rubbed Coyote’s head playfully. “I don’t care what anyone says, you have perfect hearing,” she teased. Coyote barked and ran his tongue over her cheek.
A drop of water bounced off her head followed closely by another.
Joanne turned her attention to the sky and made a break for the back door, calling Coyote to follow. She closed the door, locking it as he ran passed her.
Grabbing a spare towel from the bathroom, Joanne quickly dried him off, cleaned up the remains of her dinner and stripped off her clothes in favor of one of her father’s oversized t-shirts that she had grown accustom to wearing at night.
Coyote settled himself down beside her bed as Joanne grabbed her glass of water before crawling into the bed. She snuggled down under the covers as the thunder outside rumbled and the wind howled.
Her hand fell down off the top of the covers and felt Coyote’s warm tongue lap at it. Feeling reassured, Joanne rolled over and soon fell asleep.
A loud bang had her sitting up. Lighting lit up the room and the thunder crackled loudly. Joanne reached down and Coyote’s tongue ran over the flesh of her hand once again. She settled herself back down telling herself that it was just a storm. Coyote wasn’t bothered by it, why should she be?
As she tossed and turned a new noise began assaulting her ears. It was a slow, steady dripping. At first it didn’t bother her as Coyote continued to lick her hand everytime she slid it down towards him. But after a couple of hours, Coyote had stopped.
Joanne sat up. The dripping sound was slow and steady. She hoped that her roof hadn’t sprung a leak as she didn’t have the money to fix it. She climbed out of bed, her bare feet thudding softly across the wooden floorboards.
She reached the kitchen and peered through the window. Coyote wasn’t in the backyard so he hadn’t gone outside.
The wind howled. Joanne reached down and turned the tap at the sink. No, the dripping sound wasn’t coming from there.
She walked around her house, looking for pools of water on the ground. After thirty minutes she concluded that she was hearing things and that her roof wasn’t leaking.
Joanne climbed back into bed and settled back down.
Ten minutes later she sat up again. That dripping noise was back, and if possible, louder than before.
Tossing the covers off Joanne cursed to herself. She had searched the house for a leaky roof, but hadn’t bothered going into the bathroom to check the taps.
She rubbed her eyes, yawning, as she opened the bathroom door.
“I’ll tighten the tap then go back to bed. I have an early class,” she told herself, letting out another loud yawn. Her hand reached for the shower curtain and gave it one swift tug.
Joanne’s eyes grew wide, her mouth falling open in a silent scream. Hanging from the shower head was Coyote. He had been savagely butchered, his body gutted and his neck broken.
Feeling the vomit rise in her throat, Joanne was stunned by what she saw as a flash of lightening lit up the small bathroom.
Joanne screamed, sprinting from the room. She slipped and slid down the hallway before scrambling to her feet again. She lunged for the phone and called the police.
“Come on. Come on,” she urged.
Joanne bit her finger nail, ripping it down to the quick.
A dripping sound from behind her caught her attention.
With the phone still pressed against her ear, Joanne turned slowly. Another flash of lightening lit up the room and in the briefest of moments she saw the gleam of a bloody butcher knife.
Terrified she glanced up at the menacing man. His cold, dark eyes stared back at her. It was the thin man from the park.
Joanne opened her mouth and screamed as he raised the butcher knife high in the air.
* * * * *
When the police arrived they were shocked by the violence that had taken place. Joanne’s body had been staged for them, hanging from a ceiling fan, her torso was guttered and her neck was broken.
“Detectives! You need to see this!”
The two detectives followed the officer down the hall and into the bathroom.
“Oh God,” said Detective Matthews, holding a hand over his mouth.
He turned towards the toilet, his eyes growing wide as his stomach tightened into knots.
Written on the mirror in Coyote’s blood were the words “Humans Can Lick Too.”