by Jayme Karales

The hardened paws of the Yellow Labrador, who's shiny silver tag read "Randy", had trekked down the long, empty street for nearly a half hour and it was beginning to look like a break was needed. It was an exhausting journey to have come from Lakeville, crossed through Taunton and wind up here, wherever here was, but he had done it. What started off as a chase between he and a chalky rabbit in his backyard and Randy had turned into an expedition of Massachusetts. Somewhere along the way, the dog had gotten lost and decided it would be a good idea to further explore the towns and cities. This had gone on for three days now and not once did Randy give much thought about his owner, Anthony Codine. Codine was a slobbish man who sold used-mobile homes for cheap, lived alone and didn't take proper care of Randy. Stale dog food, gray water and a gnawed up rubber rat chew-toy were not ideal living conditions, but it was what he became used to over the course of six years. This wasn't because Codine didn't care for Randy but because the responsibility of taking care of the dog was too much for a lethargic man like himself.

Randy, who spent his first year of life at a dog kennel and was purchased two months after his inaugural birthday, had grown used to slum Codine lived in and the food and water he dished out to him on a daily basis. But he knew that growing used to something and liking something were two different things. From what he remembered, the food and water at the kennel during that first year had been better than anything he was given after leaving it. The only thing he enjoyed was the torn-apart chew toy but even he knew it had run its course. New toy. New, new toy, Randy thought to himself. Of course, he didn't think using the English language but rather in mumbles and grunts. English with the exception of a few words: his name, out, food, bath, good, boy, no and the worst word of all, bad; was not his strong suit.

The wind picked up for a moment, blowing a little snow at him but it wasn't bothersome. Randy would shiver here and there, but for the most part had stayed warm regardless of the temperature and wind chill factor. There were no worries as one of his best abilities was finding shelter, usually before nightfall. He had spent one night in a farmer's shed and another in an abandoned car just outside of Taunton. Both of those places had kept him warm and given him an efficient place to sleep. But this long road had started to worry him. It was just pavement surrounded by trees and the rest of the forest and had been like this for quite a while now. It was like walking along the highway, which didn't sit well for Randy or his legs that had been run ragged. He went on looking forward, taking each step in stride and ignoring the soreness building in the middle of his hindquarters. He wouldn't quit and he wouldn't stop until he some sort of shelter was found.

About ten minutes later, Randy passed a sign that read "WELCOME TO PARKINS PASS - The Last Home You'll Ever Know! Population: 1,102". This looked like nothing but gibberish to the dog but it was a good omen, he determined. Signs always came about five to fifteen minutes before reaching a new town. The idea of reaching a new town gave Randy hope and made his adrenalin pump, giving him the will and energy of one thousand dogs. Not only could he make it into this town but he could get to the next ten towns if he damn well pleased. And he wasn't going to walk to it--he was going to sprint. The slow clattering of his nails picked up to thumping of paws. After a while, the town finally came into sight and seemed to grow larger with each step. Excitement was building on a grand scale. The brown eyed Labrador, who's fur was coated in mud and snow, gazed in wonder at the sight ahead.

But as Randy began to reach the town, his legs slowed and his breathing calmed. The wild look on his face faded into confusion within a matter of seconds, causing the glossy ample grin to disappear. Randy tilted his head to the right, perplexed. Parkins Pass didn't look like Lakeville or Taunton. It was far different visually and he couldn't sense the presence of people or the others. People were always up and about and tended to make their presence known in many ways. Randy could usually sense when someone was within a certain distance. The liveliness would increase the closer they were to him. When Codine would exit his workplace, the dog could pick up on him returning home by the time he was a half-mile away or so. The others, however, came in the dozens and were different from people. They shared the same amount of energy and Randy presumed it was because the others were actually some variation of people or had originated from them. But unlike people, the others were ulterior and had always gone unseen. They were just there, like oxygen or the wind. No physical form to be seen. Constantly moving with zero interest in communication. None of them were like he, either. Randy could detect the amount of energy that those like him possessed and not a single other had a matched the volume of his.

Being forty or-so feet away from the town line, Randy knew this town was empty. Not same. Everything in sight, other than the snow, was black and flaky. Once the bewilderment passed, Randy"s scrawny muck-laden legs impelled and the race to the town was on again. The air was thick and the aroma was a far cry from anything he had smelled before. It wasn't overwhelming and there was a hint of a burnt wood reminiscent of a campfire. He didn't mind that. Randy had come to know the aroma when he was living at the kennel. The woman who consistently took care of him, Joanna Brize, had taken him for a night stroll during the summer. Just around the block, one family had lit a fire in their backyard and were roasting hotdogs over the open flame. And god, did Randy want one of those weenies. The image of the plump, golden brown hotdogs entered his mind as he crossed into Parkins Pass. The smell of the delicious meat being cooked over the fire reverted back and Randy's tongue slapped against his lips as he paced himself.

But the memory quickly dimmed as he noticed his surroundings. It was then that Randy knew why the town looked different. Around him, buildings and houses had been charred to the foundation and were decomposed. This made him think back to the time a fire had emerged in Codine's frying pan, while steaks were cooking. Codine had rushed to the flames and as a gut reaction, smacked it down with a dish towel he had been holding. When the fire didn't cease, he dropped the towel to the floor and ran toward the sink. Codine snatched a red porcelain mug from the strainer by it's handle and filled it with warm water. Droplets spilled down the side of cup, which read "Eye of the Tiger" in white bolded font. He dumped the contents onto the frying pan causing smoke and steam to exude. And as Randy casually sauntered to the towel, which was now dark and burnt, the fire alarm went off. The memory quickly sifted away once the connection was made.

Randy passed through two wooden roadblocks and moved ahead, scoping out the area. The fragrance of campfire and"something else filled the air. Randy couldn't pinpoint what that something else was right away but it was familiar. Fire, the dog thought to himself. The fact that Parkins Pass was a ghost town added to his growing curiosity and paranoia. With each step, Randy could feel his vulnerability growing and he didn't know why. There were no bustling streets full of cars nor sidewalks full of people, no music playing from homes or stores. It was drastically different. The wind blew heavily again and this time it agitated Randy. The chill turned his ears from a bright pink to a dark red within a matter of seconds. Late leave. No go home. He would have to make due as darkness settled over the silent town.

The streets were empty, so Randy wasn't going to have the benefit of soft seating from an abandoned car to sleep on. Nor would he have a tall pile of hay to use as a bed. Randy choked on his own spit for a moment and then hacked loudly as he passed a number of buildings. All of which resembled the last. The exteriors of each were scorched wall to wall and it was rare to spot one with a door attached to the hinges or more than a half of a window intact. In his head, he knew that any house without a door was a no go. If he was fortunate enough to run across a house with a door augmented, then he'd also have to find a window low enough for him to creep into. Otherwise, he'd freeze to death while he slept on the pavement. One of the buildings he passed looked familiar to one from his own home neighborhood in Lakeville. At the top of the small, blackened edifice was a lower case T. It had been a church. Randy was unaware of what a church or Christianity, let alone religion was. His world consisted of tall people who fed him, played with him and took care of him and the small people who varied in size and shape. Some of the small people even made the same noises as him. To him it was just an oddly shaped house and wasn't worth thinking about much longer. The church had four doors and three of them were dismantled. It was worthless. The draft would still enter once night came and the cold would slow his heart until it could beat, no more. The wind whistled once again, which woke Randy out of his trance. He growled and moved on.

But it wasn't until the moon made itself visible that Randy's speed really began to pick up. He was getting frantic and hadn't found a suitable place to stay yet. Night would soon emerge and engulf him into darkness, making it hard to notice which houses he could potentially stay in and which houses he couldn't. And then there was the chance he may just get lost by heading down the wrong street. In his heart, Randy knew that he would die if he couldn't find a place to stay for the night.

It was already sundown and time was dripping away by the second. Parkins Pass was a scary place to be but there wasn't a chance he could make it out before the purple skyline turned to black. Every corner was the same: big, burnt building-small, burnt building-big, burnt building-small, burnt building and so on. And none of them had doors nor windows. His scaly paws pitter pattered against the scorched earth, still inspecting each nook and cranny of the town. The dog passed what were the remnants of a bank, deli, school and furniture store all in the same district. It never once crossed his mind to investigate these former-businesses to hide in an office or under a desk, mainly due to the fact he just looked at them as large homes. For all he knew, all these buildings he had passed looked identical to that of his master, Anthony Codine's home. But as he did pass the old shopping center of town, something occurred to him. His master's home had a lower level to it. After exiting the living room and heading toward the backdoor, Randy remembered there was a lower staircase which led to the cellar. He had wandered down there once before and recalled how it was cold, dark and dingy it was. The floor had been similar to the road he was now standing on, it was rough and uneven unlike the smooth, waxed wooden floor of his master"s living room and bedroom.

As Randy came up to the next small house in sight, he made a judgment call to inspect the abode to see if it had a "lower level". He was aware he'd be getting a raw deal no matter what since all the windows had been broken out, but if he could get down deep into one of the houses then that would not serve itself to be a problem"hopefully. The sky had changed from a blazing violet to black within minutes. Randy's heart sank and he whined. All four of his paws picked up the pace further and Randy's eyes shot to the first visible house and"it had a door still attached at the hinges. A loud bark scrambled out of his jaws in excitement. The anxiety was almost too much for the dog but he made his way up the concrete steps of and scratched at the door. It wouldn't budge, like he expected. So Randy crossed over to the left side of the singed coop, where the closest window had been. His ponderous body put unneeded pressure on the soil beneath him, most notably when he put both paws up onto the sill. It caused his hind legs to lightly sink into the dirt, embedding earth under his paws. The window above him was smashed large enough so he could just squeak inside.

As Randy made several attempts at hopping through the slightly less charred, wooden paneled home, an overwhelming sense of fear came over him. He began to pant heavily and growled with frustration. It was the extra padding around his sides and waist that was weighing him down, despite giving it his damn all. In, in, in, in, in, Randy frantically thought to himself. The fear was also growing inside of him. He had come this far and wasn't going to quit. The wind chimed through the shards of glass above him and he shivered. It was then that Randy took his paws off the window sill and backed up a few feet away from the house. Both of his eyes were centered on the gape in the window. He was determined to make it. This one jump would be all or nothing and he knew a great portion of his energy would be going into making the leap. Randy revved up all four of his legs and galloped to the side of the house, with both eyes and all paws deadlocked onto the hole. Before running into the wall itself, Randy leapt into the air with his two paws set out forward like Superman. His ragged nails scratched against paneling and shattered glass as he fell forward, crashing through the hole. A sliver of glass slid across his cheek, drawing a bright stream of scarlet to root itself in his light fur, staining it. Beads of blood dripped onto the window sill and kitchen floor where he had landed.

Randy's cheek felt warm and stung slightly but the joy he was experiencing smothered away any feelings of discomfort. It was the most accomplished he had ever felt in his entire life and nothing was going to ruin that, not even a cut across his muzzle. This even made up for never catching the rabbit that drove him batty by occasionally sprinting through his master's backyard. The euphoria, however, was short lived as that fear he felt outside crept back into his system. It confused him why he still felt afraid. He had gotten into the house and prevented freezing to death, at least for one night"so why was he still scared? Randy tried to ignore it but it was like that rabbit. As fast as he ran, he could never catch it. And as much as he tried to occupy his thoughts, the paranoia and fear would slip back into his brain. Moonlight shined in onto him from a far window in the living room.

The inside of the house, surprisingly, was intact in some select sections of it. The walls were black for the most part, save the fragments of wallpaper scattered along them. It ranged from "Yellow with ducks" to "blue with trains" depending on the rooms, as Randy peered around the house. The furniture also ranged depending on where you looked. The sofa in the living room in fair shape, Half of it had torn, exposing the sponge and springs but the rest were still covered in material; but the loveseat was broken down to scraps of wood, some in ashes. Randy investigated the house a bit more and noticed there were two sets of staircases, one ascending and the other, descending. The decision was obvious and his paws clunked against the tile floor, heading to the descending staircase. There was a cracked open doorway with shadows from the darkness behind it seeping through at the bottom. The pitch black that was sure to overcome him made him have second thoughts. Finding a house with a door on the hinges was good enough, but there was still a chance he might get sick from the draft. Going into the basement would prevent the chance of that"even if it was a bit nerve-racking. He shook the snow of his head and made up his mind a second later.

As he walked down the cool concrete steps, Randy noticed a change in the air, shifting from thick to how it was normally, easy flowing. The smell also altered from sulfur to dry rot. But the other smell was still there, even if it was more faint. It was a wicked smell yet still unrecognizable. Because the walls and floor were made of concrete, the basement was virtually untouched with the exception of a few gaping holes in the ceiling which gave a clear view to the living room and parts of the kitchen. The minor gusts of wind that seeped through the craters didn't bother Randy at all. They also provided some minor light to showcase the basement for him, so he wasn't completely in the shadows. Although it wasn't much, it helped him spot most of the objects and whereabouts of the room that his night vision could not. The set up of the basement was simple and like your average cellar"a mess. A bed frame on the far right, a washing machine next to that and every other wall was lined with plastic containers holding toys, books and other miscellaneous objects. Something about these containers caught Randy's eye, though. It took him a while to spot what it was but then he understood immediately. The wall behind the see-through blue container directly across from him was not concrete. It was drywall and it was missing a chunk where the air vent had been. Randy paced himself over to it and tried to stare through the plastic at it. Where a metal grid had covered, there was now a perfectly even missing square of wall. Ten feet above that was the same thing but with the metal grid still attached. The owner had obviously tried to hide gap but hadn't done so well. Inspector Randy was too clever to fall for that.

He climbed onto the blue container, which had a wide leather-bound book on top of it which read "Family Memories 2003-2006", and kicked it onto the cement floor. The book jumped open and numerous photos of a family at Disney World spilled out and onto the floor. Randy poked his head in a downward motion, fitting his eyes and snout into the hole. It looked fairly deep. Destination unknown. He couldn't see much, just that the passage was lined with metal and had a dim shine to it. No cold, Randy pondered. Despite being a one and a half foot by one and a half foot square, Randy decided it would make an excellent place to sleep as it was snug and away from any winds as far he could tell. He also felt a sense of safety in the hole that he didn't in the house itself. The dread from before hadn't shook itself off of him just yet.

Putting one paw forward, he attempted to crawl into the crevice from the top of the container, which only led to him pressing his back feet against the edge of the plastic he was standing on. It caused the container to push away from the wall, spreading the gap between it and the drywall further. Randy's head got caught in the hole and his body swung forward, slamming his belly against the rocky algid floor. His paws came crashing into the wall, causing two of his nails to crack at the tip and become jagged. Randy yelped in pain and got to his feet, then raised his front, right paw which had the broken nails and licked it in an attempt to ease the pain away. It did nothing. The pain was excruciating, far worse than the time Codine dropped his ten pound dumbbell on his front, left paw while trying to get in shape. And that had left him limping for days! He ignored the current pain in his paw the best he could, like the cut on his cheek, then lowered himself down to his belly. Once more, Randy poked his head into the vent and then began to crawl. The first thing he noticed was that there was no draft. No cold. The second thing he noticed was that he was going to have to push himself harder a little harder if he wanted to fit inside entirely. The out of shape dog crawled forward despite the walls closing in on the fat of his sides. He whined and carried on until his front paw hit an incline within the vent. He slipped forward and fell to his stomach yet again. The darkness had hid the fact the vent dropped a few inches and got wider after the first foot or so deep. This encouraged Randy to keep pushing forward, despite the pain and tight squeezing. He held his breath and strained again, this time he managed to compress himself within the vent. It was uncomfortable at first but once he managed to get himself to the incline, Randy was able to get cozy and even turn himself around. The inside provided the extra space he needed to fall asleep, as the flimsy metal hugged his body. He could finally rest.

Despite his wounds, sleep came quickly and it was surprisingly well. Randy had dreamt of chasing a winged rabbit on top of numerous cars which had grass for roofs. Quite a few times, he found himself kicking his back legs in the vent, practically bruising his knees and denting the metal. Yet none of the instances woke him. This dream was too good to wake up from, far too good. And boy, did it feel real. The smooth, cool blades of grass caressing his hardened paws. Just in this dream, his paws were softer than they were the day he was born. And that damn rabbit. Each time Randy caught up to him, he'd sprout his wings and fly four cars ahead, forever teasing him. I get it. I get it. I get it. Randy continually thought to himself with each pounce to the next car's hood. Rabbit. It was the best dream he had in ages.

But it changed. Randy never did catch that rabbit. It had disappeared somewhere between the fifteenth and forty-sixth cars. Before he knew it, the cars were gone too. It was just a wide open road, similar to the road that led to Parkins Pass but with a lot less snow and zero wind. The dream ended shortly after that. Randy woke up and immediately knew this was not his usual time to wake up, he had been woken up by something. His ears perked up and he felt the presence of something. His eyes broke open instant and Randy gained awareness in an instant. He knew what was different and what had caused his amazing dream to diminish. The smell was back and stronger than ever. And it wasn't just there like the campfire scent, it was coming from somewhere"someone, that had gotten closer in distance to him. It was still recognizable and wasn't really unpleasant to Randy as much as it was different and slightly sour. Then again, it took a lot to scare away the dog. He had once snuck into a neighbors front yard, tore open a trash bag containing kitty litter and ate the cat shit that showered out onto the sidewalk. But this wasn't cat shit. Randy didn't know what this was but he deemed it to be bad.

He raised his head up slowly and peaked through the square that was presented in front of him. The light coming from upstairs was gone. He was surrounded by complete darkness with the exception of a few slightly visible features of the basement and it only added to his uneasiness. Randy tried his best to ignore the smell and get back to dreaming about the chase"but the odor only got more prominent as the minutes went on. It went past the point of overwhelming and Randy began to lick his lips. Not to savor the flavor in the air but to rid it from his taste buds. It had poisoned them and he could feel the horrid sour of it dancing on his tongue. He couldn't shake it and whined quietly. The presence he initially felt when he woke up was growing closer, he could feel it. It wasn't like anything else he had come across but he knew, like the smell, that this was bad as well. And that scared him, petrified him in fact. His initial reaction was to growl in self-defense but Randy couldn't muster up the courage. Instead, his tail swept itself between his back legs and he whined. In the cold, stinking, empty town there was another. The whereabouts of it or them, however, was unknown. But since the foul odor it had been carrying was increasing, Randy knew that they were closing in on him. Whatever it was, they knew he was there in vent and that almost made him want to get up and out of the house immediately. Bad, bad, bad, bad. But if he were to do that, then there was still the chance he may get lost in the night and wind up freezing. The urge to exit the vent and house didn't cease, no matter how hard Randy tried to block it out. For the first time in his life he had felt irrational. The feeling was unfamiliar to him but Randy had tried to talk himself out of the idea that whatever was heading his way was a bad entity. Every other moment of his life, he had never second guessed his instincts as he had a keen intuition. This was unusual and unnatural. He had begun to wonder why he'd want to stay in the vent with that something spanning to the basement.

Randy snapped out of the trance that wanted him to remain in the vent but could not overcome his fear-induced paralysis. It broke for a moment and both front paws moved atop his snout, trying to block his eyes from whatever was to come. He was petrified. A gust of wind blew through the house, making a whistling noise and it startled the dog. Randy bellowed a high pitch whine. The smell was wretched and never-ending. It didn't just ruin his taste buds, it soured his stomach and Randy was compelled to gag but didn't when he heard to the first noise come from upstairs. Arriving with a gust of wind, the floorboards squeaked and he could hear the front door being pushed open. Randy whimpered. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. The origin of stench was upstairs now and soon it would have him. Randy's paws slipped off his face and he pushed backward, but the movement ended prematurely when his tail and bottom pressed against the cool metal of the vent. He was trapped. There was no running away now. The floorboards above him continued to squeak and the occasional cobweb or bit of dust would trickle down from the ceiling and land on the concrete. A thick ball of dust fell from above and landed on Mickey Mouse and Goofy in the family photo album, covering their faces, as if they didn't want to see what would happen next.

Randy tucked his paws into his chest and stared blankly into the darkness of the basement. The squeaking and cracking noises in the wooden boards only increased and got closer as time passed. Finally, they made their way to the head of the staircase and stopped. Urine trickled down Randy's stomach and made a puddle within the tight-nit vent. He whined when the clopping noise of footsteps descending down the cement steps made themselves known. Bad, scared, bad, bad, bad. The whimpering only became louder and longer. The bad thing had made its way to the bottom of the steps but had yet to enter the basement. A minute or so passed and there was still no entrance. Randy began to think that whatever was behind the door had forgotten about him, and it was at that exact moment that the door crept open and the footsteps could be heard once more. The horrid smell of what it wafted around replaced the clean oxygen and made Randy's eyes and nostrils burn incessantly. It was then and finally then that Randy had put his finger on what the scent was"the unholy stench of death and macabre. He had first come across it after witnessing the death of a Jack Russell Terrier that had been run over by a blue pick up truck. It's master didn't come to collect the body for a good fifteen minutes and although it didn't begin to stink to the humans, Randy could smell the death it was protruding immediately. The odor was unmistakable. But because that was the only instance of death he had witnessed, Randy was sure it was that Jack Russell Terrier in the basement with him"but it was different. Based on the heavy noise it was polluting, he was sure it had been someone in similar size to a person. His curiosity peaked and Randy considered poking his head out of the vent to take a look at what was waiting for him"but chose not to. He was snuggled tightly at the back of the vent and there was no way he was going to move, let alone expose himself to the ungodly creature or bad, as he called it, that was outside.

The footsteps picked up again and slowly paced toward him. Randy's tail was pressed tightly against his underbelly, between his upper thighs and he squealed once more. The sound the footsteps made tipped him off that it wasn't the Jack Russell Terrier and that frightened him even more, as his suspicions were now confirmed. It was then that he heard a familiar noise, something that Randy hadn't listened to since he had left Lakeville. A laugh, a chuckle, a titter. It was something that his master had done a lot while talking on the phone. Randy was annoyed by it because it implied Codine would be spending more time on the phone and less time taking him for a walk around the block or feeding him the gruel that was dished out. The laughter echoed throughout the basement and a moment after, a face emerged from the darkness and gazed at him in wonder. It had gotten onto it's knees and peaked in at him, while baring a wide toothed grin. The teeth were much like Randy's own, sharp and meant for pulling, tearing and destroying. They were fangs. The hue of the man's skin was lighter than the snow that had been aimlessly drifting outside all day. If you were to stare long enough, you'd notice any of veins and arteries that were rooted around inside. The eyes that were locked onto his were black as night and yet dreamy. They were captivating and had possessed a certain elegance about them which made it seem alright to stare back into them. He could get lost forever in those eyes. The man's smile broke away as he began to speak.

"Hey there, pal." his deep, dank voice echoed throughout the empty basement. Once he spoke, Randy's eyes trailed off of the man's, breaking the trance he had wandered into. The smile returned to his face, looking greater than ever. It squeezed what little fat he had in his face up into his cheekbones, giving him a distinctive pleasurable look. "A little shy, huh? You shouldn't be." he continued. "I'm not going to hurt you. You've got no reason to be afraid, Snoop." And for some reason, Randy understood each one of these words except for "Snoop". He had never understood every single word spoken to him before and the fact he just had boosted his confidence, thinking he had gotten smarter on his journey from Lakeville. "So what can I do to get you out of that hole?" Leave. "I'm pretty surprised a big boy like you could fit in there." he chuckled again. Randy was unimpressed.

"Now, now. I'll take you back to your owner if you like. Just come on out, doggy." The Pale Man told Randy. He almost locked eyes with him again and just avoided it barely. Staring at his teeth was a constant reminder that he shouldn't exit the vent. Randy put his head down, resting it onto the bottom of the vent, hoping to avoid those charming eyes. "You're no fun, doggy. Am I going to have to come in there and get you?" Randy considered that a bold statement to make and it annoyed him. The arrogance in the man's voice"that he could get him, was berating. Bite, bite, bite, kill, bite.

"Make it easy, don't let it resort to me dragging you out by your collar." said The Pale Man. Randy didn't budge, not even an inch. The Pale Man smiled again and licked his thin, purple lips. "Fair enough." and before he could finish saying "enough", the man leapt forward with his left arm out. It entered the vent and landed two inches away from Randy's face. The dog lifted his head quickly and pulled back, then stood up to the best of his ability solely using his two front paws. Pain surged through the right one like needles poking at a raw nerve, but he blocked it out and gained the courage to move two inches forward. Randy locked his teeth onto the middle of the hand lying in front of him and right away was strongly compelled to let go of it simply based on the taste of The Pale Man's flesh. It was ten times worse than the smell could ever be. Randy hacked phlegm forward and came close to throwing up in his own mouth but refused to let go. He treated the hand like a rag doll in his clutches, only pulling and tearing at the hand. The skin and meat within it had been so soft and delicate, making it easy for Randy to shred whatever he could. He was going to make him suffer. For a quick second he caught a glance of The Pale Man's face. His expression consisted of pure and absolute rage. The smile had evaporated but every last fang was exposed. His face had contorted miserably and the dark, dreamy eyes were now replaced with menacing, black beads full of hate.

"I'm going to tear you limb from limb, you little shit!" he screeched at the dog, in the midst of reaching forward with his other hand, trying to grab Randy's collar and pull him forward. The Pale Man missed and wound up scratching the dog's neck with the tip his nails. They were dark yellow and sharply pointed like talons. Randy drew no blood but it fueled his hate for the man further. He let go of the hand and went for his lower arm. Black liquid oozed from the wounds on his palm and thumb while Randy's teeth burst through the cold tissue in his wrist. Blood splashed across the vent and into Randy's fur. The Pale Man cried out in agony while continually trying to grab Randy's collar. He had underestimated the will of the dog and was now suffering the consequences. Randy regripped on the wrist and the screaming didn't cease. "You'll live to regret this." The Pale Man yelped between screams. Randy simply growled and tore the outer layer of flesh off the muscle beneath. His vivid blond fur was soaked with blood. The friendly Yellow Labrador that had wandered out of his master's backyard was gone. This was kill or be killed.

Veins exploded with each chomp and this pleased Randy because he knew the man was in agony. Kill, kill, kill. The Pale Man gave up on trying to grab his collar once his wrist began to resemble raw meat and resorted to clawing at the dog's face, neck and side. He kept trying to pull his arm away but Randy was big enough to tug right back and keep it close. The scratches that ran across his neck didn't phase him"but when one of The Pale Man's talons struck his wound from dashing through the window, he had flinched and let go of the wrist. The Pale Man retracted his arm from the vent quickly and rushed to get to his feet. He looked down at what the dog had done and realized it was more severe than he had thought. The hand was nearly torn off, Randy had left a beaming hole in the center of his wrist that was nearly an inch deep. Blood flowed out of it like a fountain. Randy felt the urge to charge forward and finish him off but was too concerned with the cut on his face and spitting the rotten, oily taste of blood out of his mouth.

"You caught me off guard, doggy. I'll give you that." he said. Randy kept debating whether or not to go after him. "You owe me your blood, pooch. Don't think you're going to skip out on paying the piper."

The Pale Man got down to his knees again and peered in at Randy. The smile re-emerged.

"I'm hungry." he told the dog. "I haven't eaten in so long."

Randy bared his teeth and gawked at The Pale Man's fangs. He could practically see his reflection in them.

"You know, I don't usually resort to canine. But it's been weeks since I last had something. You don't blame me do you?" He chuckled obnoxiously.

Randy growled. He despised that laugh.

"There's no escape, doggy. You picked a wrong place to hide. And you picked the wrong town to come and stroll in on." The Pale Man licked some of the blood that had splashed onto his inner forearm. "I don't blame you for attacking me. I scare myself sometimes!" he laughed, still lecturing the dog. "Just, I don't tear apart my own Ulnar artery." his smile faded and the man frowned.

He tried to stare into Randy"s eyes but the dog avoided it and looked past The Pale Man. He knew if he looked into them that he"d go back into the dreamlike trance he was in before"just like the one that had tried to persuade him to stay"and had won over.

"If you like, my offer is still on the table. I can forget about this whole fight we just had and drive you back home to your owner."

Randy was easy to fool when it came to pretending to throw a tennis ball around but he knew in his heart that what The Pale Man was offering him wasn't true. The smile he had running across his face was as fake as his promises.

"Come now, doggy. I'll give you until the count of three."

Randy growled once more.

"One"" the countdown started. "Two"" it continued. And it was at "two" that The Pale Man caught Randy off guard. He dove forward as much as he could into the air vent with both arms stretched out forward. The grin on his face had grown oversized and scared Randy, as the man's cold, dead hands tightly wrapped around Randy's throat and pulled him out of the vent. He got caught around the entrance, but only for a moment, before toppling over onto his side on the concrete floor. The Pale Man lurched forward and prepared to tear into Randy's jugular with his shiny, white fangs. But the dog quickly rolled on to his back and surprised the man yet again. He barked, then jumped forward at The Pale Man's face. Randy sank his teeth deep into the pointed chin that was staring at him. Skin slid off the surface of it like water slipping down a slide. Randy held the rotten flesh in his mouth for a moment before spitting it out and getting to his feet. The Pale Man screeched and fell backwards, clasping his wound.

"You're fucking dead, doggy! Do you hear me!?" he shouted as the dog sprinted to the door, which had been mistakenly left open. He ran up the concrete steps briskly, not turning around to see what lay behind him. But The Pale Man wasn't going to be beaten that easily. He got to his feet as well and the chase was on.

"I'm gonna tear your god damn head off your neck!" he screamed at Randy, while trying to catch up. The dog ran through the living room and out the front door, which was also mistakenly left a crack open. Run, run, run, run, run. Randy entered the dead of night and sprinted down the pathway and into the street. As he hooked left, he could see The Pale Man trailing behind him. It was the first time that Randy noticed that the man was wearing nothing but rags and had short, unkempt hair. Dark blood was still dripping down his exposed cleft and over his throat. He was beyond enraged and was as determined to catch the dog as Randy had been to catch the rabbit.

As Randy ran down the street, he randomly thought of a time back at the kennel where a Bull Mastiff, who was commonly referred to as "Bart" by the women who worked there, had tried to take a bite out of his ear. That was the most scared he had ever been in his entire life up until tonight. He had now regretted jumping over the fence to chase that stupid rabbit. What was he thinking!? It would have just returned to the yard in a day or two anyway! Stupid. Me stupid. Stupid. He barked at a branch that was blowing in the wind and then picked up his speed.

The Pale Man was gaining on him up until then and was only inches away from snatching his tail and pulling him back. He had gotten so frustrated by the Lab that he unknowingly bitten down on his lower lip. Two of his front teeth pierced the tender, purple flesh and blood trickled into his scalped chin. Nothing would stop him from getting Randy. It had been so long since he relished the flavor of murder and his motivation was too strong. The Pale Man picked up in speed, causing his feeble black hair fly wildly.

"I'll get you." he said while breathing heavily. Randy didn't hear it due to a roaring gust of wind which had drafted by the two. He was determined to leave to the town and never stop running until he reached Lakeville. The Pale Man wouldn't get him; he couldn't get him. As Randy ran, his eyes crossed from sidewalk to sidewalk to see if there was anyone else out there like The Pale Man who was ready to capture him. And as his eyes traveled to a burnt down apartment complex, Randy's paw hit a loose stone in the middle of the open road. His broken nails directly came in contact and splintered off as he came crashing to a halt. Randy slid against the road on his belly, scraping him slightly, as he whimpered in pain over the exposed nerve in his paw. The Pale Man's eyes lit up as he reached the dog, who was lying in the middle of the street. He examined his surroundings and studied them before making his way to Randy. On both sides of them were fences with apartment complexes behind them. To the left was a metal pole which was once part of a street sign. The Pale Man grinned as he lifted the stone that had ended Randy's sprint. He stood there and watched as the dog got on his feet and stumbled, before attempting to limp away. Randy made two steps before the rock The Pale Man was holding, which had been about the size of an orange, came crashing into the side of his head. The Pale Man cackled with excitement and glee. Blood splashed out of an open wound on the left side of Randy's head. He whined miserably and looked out ahead of him while he laid on his side.

As his whining got louder and he tried to regain his stance, The Pale Man exited his view. Randy was beginning to feel dizzy and now couldn't see out of his left eye. Half of the world was completely black to him now. While his good eye scattered from left to right frantically, searching for The Pale Man, a mesh of different memories flowed through his brain. The first flashback was of his mother giving birth to him and it reminded him of how upset he was when they were first separated. The next memory was a more pleasant one, it was of Anthony Codine adopting him and his time away from the kennel. What started as a fearful day later became a moment he would treasure for years to come. Codine had fed him properly, given him his own water bowl and even fed him a bit of the Big Mac that he bought for dinner that night. The day ended with him curling up next to his new master, on his bed, and falling asleep. Every time before that he had rested in a metal cage. Life was good. It wasn't until he turned two or so that Randy started getting the bum treatment. Codine still loved Randy tremendously but his laziness got the best of him and had taken over.

The time he gotten into a King Sized bag of Hershey Kisses came crashing back as well. He had eaten the whole bag of chocolate, including the tinfoil wrapped around each individual piece, and was rushed to the Pet Hospital to get his stomach pumped. It was from that day on that whenever he felt ravenous, Randy would suffer from an incurable craving for chocolate. It was terrible. He often found himself wondering if he'd ever taste such a delicious food again. Perhaps his favorite memory was the day he first chased the rabbit. Another great memory was of the second day he had chased the rabbit, as was the third"the fourth"the fifth"

The labyrinth of memories came to an abrupt close when The Pale Man returned, baring metal pole in both hands. The grin from earlier, was still present. He raised all three and a half feet of the pole above his head and slammed it quickly into Randy's side. The tip of it was pointed and contributed to the entry wound, where six inches of it would enter his stomach. Randy tried with all his might to howl but the best he could do was whimper and bite the air in a panic.

"I told you that I'd get you." The Pale Man spoke wisely. He removed the metal pole, pealing back a layer of the dog's stocky flesh, as blood began to seep out of his body, beyond the flap of skin and into his fur. The pole itself wasn't very big, it was just long, so the wound would take some time to put an end to his misery. The Pale Man knew this and enjoyed the idea of having the dog suffer. He crouched down to Randy, who tried to snap his teeth at him and failed, and started laughed. The dog lowered his head down to the pavement and began to pant. Thick streams of drool lapped off his tongue. The Pale Man put his hand over Randy's stab wound and let the blood surface over it, through the cracks of his fingers, then proceeded to lick the gore off of his hands.

"Never had dog before. Certainly not my first choice either, but it'll do for now. " Randy snarled and The Pale Man dipped one of his finger tips into the stab wound and poked at it. Randy cried out and barked in pain. The dog thrashed around, which pleased The Pale Man. "It's the end of the road, doggy." He lifted Randy up by his collar and tried to stand him up straight. The dog nearly toppled over within the first few seconds of being up on all four paws but didn't. He was dizzy and in severe pain. The blood never ceased and he was going to lose consciousness soon if his side wasn't treated. The Pale Man glided his palm across Randy's side, neck and then across the dog's throat. All Randy could do was whine and it was getting to the point where he could barely do that.

"I think I'm going to teach you how to play dead, doggy." the man told Randy, whilst still petting him. Randy, despite his mind beginning to malfunction understood the words that The Pale Man had just said to him. He turned his head once and saw those hateful black beads staring at his neck, then turned back around. Randy put one paw forward and then tried his best to make a break for it. He limped, little by little and inch by inch. Each step was an achievement in overcoming the pain in his paw, head, side and everywhere else. And rather than stopping him right there and then, The Pale Man just got to his feet and watched the gimp dog struggle to walk. Randy's pain was his amusement. Why not have a good show before dinner? Sure, he was hungry but seeing this kind of determination from a dog of all things, was priceless. It only came once in a lifetime!

"You're only making things worse for yourself. Adding more fuel to the fire, Snoop." The Pale Man explained. But Randy wouldn't have it. He wasn't going to let The Pale Man kill him, he was going to go off and hide somewhere to die respectfully. Not be torn to smithereens and then eaten like the man intended. The Pale Man brushed away two ragged strands of hair on his forehead and began to stroll over to the dog. "You're really just wasting your own time. What do you have to live for, creature? A bone? Some tap water?" he asked. Rabbit, Randy thought. The belief he could get away from The Pale Man was too strong, he knew he could do it if he tried hard enough. The pain was sharp and grueling but if he laid down and died now, he would have lost his dignity. The limp turned into a slow jog and Randy could feel his heart beating fast. Blood was still dripping down the side of his head and waist but he ignored it, like every other injury he had suffered today and aimed his sights on a big building he had passed earlier in the day. The Pale Man smiled as the dog picked up the pace, knowing that no matter what he would have him in check.

"Where ya going, doggy?" he asked. The Pale Man licked his lips and was near being fed up with the dog. After all, he had to eat sometime before sunrise, even though there were still a good three hours before then. He decided that the dog had had enough fun for one day and that it was time to end the show. The Pale Man wanted to make the finishing act an interesting one and scouted around for his weapon of choice. Sure, he could run up to the Labrador, push him over and dig in but that wouldn't be as fun as finding a jagged rock and pealing his face off first. Randy wouldn't get the benefit he had given some humans in the past. Randy was going to witness his own slow and painful death for what he had done to The Pale Man. It was time to pay the piper.

But the slow jog of the dog turned into a dash and The Pale Man's search for a sharp object he hadn't used yet came to a stunning halt. He had made a third mistake"letting the dog get too far away from him. Randy was thirty-five feet away from him and nearing the forbidden area. The giant scorched cross towered over the street like a shadow, making it's presence known. And that flabby, sluggish Labrador was heading right to the front steps of it. The Pale Man hissed and bolted for the dog. The wind picked up and caused his light-skinned face to crack just above his gore-soaked chin. It couldn't end this way. It mustn't. That dog was not going to get the best of him for a third time, there was just no way! He picked his feet up and slammed them down to the pavement with each footstep rapidly. The dog was drawing closer to the church.

"No!", he shrieked, "No!" But Randy didn't stop running toward the front steps, where three open doorways were awaiting his arrival. He climbed up the stone based stoop and waddled into the abandoned church. The Pale Man stopped scurrying after Randy as soon as he reached the gate of the church. That was as close as he could get to the crucifix and church as possible. His face gnarled and writhed into the essence of hate while he took two steps back. The dark rags he was wearing seemed to float in the breeze as he hissed at the dog. Randy didn't even notice, he had his back turned to The Pale Man and made his way up the left side of the church before collapsing onto the threshold of the isle.

The fear that had plagued him since sundown had finally passed and that made him feel relieved for the first time in many hours. Randy adjusted his body and laid sprawled out over the threshold. The burly rug beneath him was burnt yet still soft and the draft wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. He had made himself comfortable and decided that it was time to rest. Randy closed his eyes and tried his best to disregard the growing puddle he found himself lying in. It didn"t take long for him to fall unconscious and begin dreaming once more. This time, he was in the backyard of his master's home and playing with his beloved rat chew toy. That pesky rabbit had decided to cut through the bushes and had wandered into the yard. As always, this pleased Randy. He had him right where he wanted him and there was no escape, like always. Randy decided to act a second after the rabbit had spotted him and shifted back in the direction he came from. It ran off and Randy charged after it, following it's trail. The chase was on yet again. But this time, Randy caught the rabbit.

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