Barking Mad

by Alexander O'Dell

I wake up screaming. My white blanket is wrapped around me tightly. "Get off of me! Get off! Dont touch me! I howl. Im shaking. I gotta calm down, calm down. My eyes drift around the room and I cautiously make sure theyre gone. Steel grey walls? Check. Tiled floors? Check. Was it just a dream? It was just a dream!

My mother runs in, wearing that hat as always. I hate her when she wears that hat; I dont know why but I just do. What is it? she asks.

I turn and run to her. I say, Mom, it was awful. The neighbors pets create an terrible noise outside right as I plunge into my explanation. I wish those dogs would shut up! The mutts just scream louder. Mother cringes as I try to talk over the barks. These monsters killed you and Dad and Uncle, I continue. I was so scared, I whimper.

Mom hugs me. Itll be alright, she coos, looking away. My wonderful mothers frowning and nearly crying. I should have kept my muzzle shut. The dogs stop.

Mom takes me into the shower after removing her hat. I hate that hat. That hat blocks my moms beautiful brown hair. Mom pulls off the white curtain that has wrapped itself around me. We get into the small, spotless shower. Mom washes my messy hair; I could never keep it tidy like hers on my own. Shes still frowning as I wiggle about in excitement. Settle down now, she commands me. I listen and stop, since shes my nice mother.

I decide to cheer her up, since shes feeling so low. Mom, I begin, only to have those dogs start as well, their voices louder than my own. It was just a dream, remember? You didnt die! Were all ok, right?

Mom must hate those dogs as much as I do; she always seems sad whenever we hear them. She brushes my hair, Yes. I understand, dear, she says calming me down. Ill never understand it, but she never needs to raise her voice above the dogs yelps.

The dogs have stopped again. Mom breathes a sigh of relief, thankful for the silence. I smile at her. She looks back at me, weariness in her eyes. She doesnt seem that sad anymore. Yay! I did it! I congratulate myself. She tells me its time for breakfast. We get out of the shower and that white curtain falls back on me. Shes already in the kitchen.


I smile after seeing my uncle sitting at the kitchens table. He looks up and I swear that he scowls slightly, before wiping the scowl off and replacing with a smile. I shake it off quickly and sit down. He looks over at me, So how are you doing today? he asks raising his eyebrow.

I open my muzzle to tell him, but mom answers for me, Shes doing fine, just had a bit of a scare last night. Right honey? she looks down at me. I nod to uncle. He frowns; I guess hes in a bad mood. Mom says to uncle, She had a terrible nightmare. She thought we were all killed by some kind of monsters. Tell her that were alright.

Uncle looks up and stares at me. He seems tired and annoyed. Oh I know why. Hes wearing his favorite tie. Its thin and black and awful looking. Whenever he wears it, hes mean to me. I hate that tie. He says to me, Yes, it was all just a dream. Youre safe now. He turns to Mom. He straightens his tie and says, Well, I need to get back to work. Uncle has a job that lets him come and go whenever he wants. He chooses to stay there most of the time, though. Im glad I get to see my wonderful uncle every morning.

Mom gives me my breakfast. It's oatmeal, just like every morning. Moms pretty bad at cooking, but I still eat all that I can get. Dad says that I might get a bit pudgy if I dont stop gorging myself. The oatmeal is grey and smells funny. I dig in, and try not to throw up. I notice Mom watching me, frowning. I slow down a bit.

Uncle gets up and heads out to the door, as I finish my breakfast. I follow him as he walks out. Dad is sitting out in front of the house, like he does every morning. Hes watching the sunrise. I think hes happy. Dad looks up and smiles when he sees me. Hey now, where do you think youre going, young lady? he says as he grabs the back of my gown and gently pulls me back into the house. You know you cant go to work with him, he lightly scolds. I go up against him and try to hug him. His smile shrinks a bit. Whats the matter, honey? he asks me. He looks worried; I shouldnt tell him.

Mom comes into the front room. She turns to Dad and replies for me again, She had a nightmare last night. She thought some sort of creature got us. She woke up screaming like crazy. You didnt hear her?

Dad shrugs, I was too busy protecting the house from monsters to hear, he responds, winking at me. He was fighting monsters last night. There were actually monsters! They could still be out there!

I begin yelling at my dad, What monsters? Are you okay?! Dont die! The neighbors dogs yell back at me.

Mom gives my dad a scary look, Dont scare her like that! Youre upsetting her!

My dad, my amazing incredible dad, comes over to me and places his big hand on my head, a sad frown on his lips. Im sorry dear. I didnt mean to frighten you, he says, his head facing the other way. Well never leave you, he finishes quietly. I nod and smile. The dogs are silent for now.

Mom takes me back into my bedroom. Dear, I need to leave for now and get some things. Ill be back tonight in time for dinner. Your dad is outside, so if you need something just call for him, okay? I nod my head excitedly, ready for a chance to show her how good I can be. She goes out the door.

I sit in the middle of my room and look around. What could I do? I could draw something for dad, but I cant move my arms that well right now. I could take a nap, but I might have that dream again. I begin thinking about those scary monsters again. Their furry bodies. Their sharp claws. Their pointed ears. I begin to cry, afraid that theyll get me. The dogs howl with me, woken up by my cries.

Dad runs in, panicked. I look up at him and say, I want to sleep, but Im afraid that Ill have that dream again. He nods and says to me, smiling, I think I got it. How about I stand outside your room for you while you sleep? Does that sound good? The dogs are quiet. I nod. I love my dad. He never wears a hat or a tie. Just a shirt, but I like his shirt. Its a nice shirt.

Dad goes into the next room and sits down outside my door. I love him. I close my eyes and go to sleep, into the darkness. But Im not scared. Dads right there with me.


Even when Im sleeping I can tell if my moms around. I wake up as she walks through my bedrooms door. Im back, she says. Shes not wearing the hat. I like my mom when I can see her mane fully. I run over to her side. She backs up; I guess she thought I would run into her. She tells me, Time for dinner.

Mom and I go into the kitchen. Dad and Uncle are already there. In front of them are big bowls of salad. Oh boy! I love salads. My mom is so nice! I love Mom without her hat. Uncle still is wearing the tie. Dad sees me and with a smile he asks, Did you have a nice rest? I nod and sit down next to him.

Uncle looks at Mom. Is she feeling any better? he asks. Maybe Uncle is nice right now. I hope he is. I like it when my familys nice.

Mom replies, Yes, I think shes feeling fine now.

I begin to eat my salad, while Mom and Uncle are still talking about me. I put my mouth into the bowl and bite into the lettuce. Yum! Its nice and fresh. I look around at the other bowls. I notice that Uncle has tomatoes in his salad. Tomatoes are my favorite! I stretch my neck over to his bowl and chomp down on one of his tomatoes. Red juice flows from it and down my chin.

I look up and see my dad staring at me, his mouth opened wide. I look over at Mom and Uncle. Mom raises her hands to her mouth and gasps. Uncle looks furious, his eye twitches. That's weird. Is he in pain? Why would he be in pain? I guess he isnt in a good mood.

Dad picks me up and quickly carries me back into my room. Just stay in here until we sort this out, kay? he says. I look at him. I dont get it. Did I do something really bad? Am I a bad girl? I dont want to be a bad girl.

Dad goes back into the kitchen. I sneak quietly out of my room and listen to my family. My mom and my dad are trying to calm down my uncle. This cannot go on! I want her nowhere near me anymore! my uncle screams.

What?! He doesnt want me anymore? Im sobbing. Im sorry, uncle! I didnt mean to! If my family doesnt want me around, Ill just leave.

I sneak around my very loud and angry family and go out the door. The dogs start growling.


I need to think of where to go. Maybe my neighbors house? No, thatll be the first place they look for me. I dont want to be near those dogs. I know! Ill go into the woods. They wont look for me in there. I run as fast as I can to the forest. I wobble slightly as I go, since I can barely see anything through my tears. I hate that tie! I hate that tie so much. It feels like my heart is breaking as I make my way clumsily to the edge of the forest. I breathe in. I enter the forest. I can still hear the dogs.

The forest is nice and cool. Its pretty dark. I cant see for a bit. My eyes get used to it. I look around at the trees and I almost scream. Branches are grabbing at me and faces leer at me from their trunks. I jump and turn around, hobbling as fast as I can. Help! Theyre trying to get me! I yell to no one. I dont have anyone. Im alone. The dogs get louder. I cry harder than before. I run. Mom! Dad! Anyone! Help me please!

In the distance I hear footsteps. Behind me I see something white. Mom? My ears perk up. Mom? Dad? I begin to smile. Im so sorry! Ill never run away again! I yell. Louder and louder. I head towards the sounds. They are coming from the other side of this bush. I part the leaves to either side. LOUDER AND LOUDER.


The dogs snarl; their mouths bore revealing huge pointed teeth. There are three of them. Each is about half the height of Dad, who is a big man. They have claws and long muscular legs. Their black coats of thick fur gleam in the moonlight. They each have a long snout with a wet nose at the end. Large red eyes stare at me.

I back up and shake in fear. My heart is pounding. No. Youre not supposed to exist. What are you doing here? Why are you here? I turn and run off, yelling, Mom?! Dad?! Are you there?! help me!! The dogs howl from behind me. Theyre coming!

I hear a voice in front of me say, I found her! Here she is. My Dad is holding a flashlight in his mouth and a rope in his hands. In one of his pockets I can see something shiny and thin. It looks like a tube of something. Dad! I yell. I run up to his side and say, Dad, we need to run. There are these three giant dogs out there. Theyre following me. The shrieks of the beasts are getting closer.

My mom comes out from behind some trees. She looks tired, but glad to see me. Im glad shes not wearing her hat. Dad drops the flashlight. Mom goes over to Dad and the two talk quietly. They turn to me. The beam of light catches something. Dad walks over and gives me a piece of the rope with a small hoop at the end, Here. This way we wont get separated. We begin to move slowly, heading for the forest entrance. I can hear the dogs following us. Their breaths are low but loud. LOUDER AND LOUDER.

I scream at my parents, Cant we move faster?! We gotta get away from them! The dogs are getting closer; their yelps are really loud now. I continue yelling, but my parents arent listening. They arent going any faster. Weve reached the edge of the forest. I cant see the dogs, but I know that theyre there; I can hear them squealing as I yell at my parents. We are heading towards our house now. I can see our roof. I begin to speed up, but dad holds me back. DAD?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! The dogs are back, adding their yells with mine. They come out of the forest and are steadily following us. They look hungry. MOM?! DAD?! THEYRE RIGHT THERE! CANT YOU SEE THEM?!

They look at each other and then down at me. Itll be alright, Dad says to me, a small frown on his lips.

Mom adds, Its all going to be fine. Moms wearing her hat. I hate that hat. I love her, but not the hat.

NO IT WONT! I bark back at them. The dogs are really close. I can see them again.

We reach the house. Mom and Dad bring me inside. Uncles in here. Hes still mad. Hes wearing the tie. LOUDER AND LOUDER. Theyre outside. Im inside. Were inside. Were safe. The white walls are choking me. See you tomorrow, hon, Dad says. I turn around. Theyre outside. They are all outside now.

No it cant be. My body becomes tight. I cant see. UNCLE! MOMMY! DADDY! DONT GO OUTSIDE! The neighbors dogs are up; they howl with me. I cant breathe. I love that tie. I love that hat. I really love that shirt. IM SO SORRY!!! ILL NEVER RUN AWAY AGAIN! PLEASE DONT LEAVE ME ALONE! The dogs let out a blood curdling screech. I let out a blood curdling scream. All of the dogs yell together.


The nurse, the doctor and the security guard have left the room.

The bound womans mouth is wide open; a look of horror plastered on her grief-stricken face. She howls. Mangled shadows of her family and the dogs dance across the walls of the small padded room. A river of tears cascades from her eyes, leaving a puddle on the tiled floors. Her unkempt grey mane of hair stands on its end. She begins to forcefully twitch. She struggles against the straight jacket as her body is thrown all over the room. She rams into one of the walls and stops, still barking, but otherwise perfectly still. She slides into a dark corner and closes her eyes. She stops her outburst and shuts her eyes, falling into a restless sleep. There she will have a dream that she has every night. The dogs are howling.


I hear Mom shouting orders at Dad, and him shouting right back. I can hear the dogs howling into the night. It is terrifying. I scream "Mom! Dad! Please get away from them!" I can hear them. No one can hear me.

Then it begins. It sounds like Mom, and she is in ex

treme pain. A strong "thud" against the side of my room. I swear I can hear Dad crying outside. I start shouting even louder, but am drowned out by the sound of Dad and the dogs. Louder and louder.

"Mary! Ill kill you, you mutts!" And then I can't hear him anymore. They must be fighting. There are a few more thuds against the wall, and I hear at least two of the dogs cry out in pain before going silent. Finally, I can hear what sounds like pained cries of the last dog running away.

I finally stop screaming, and everything becomes silent, except for the almost inaudible sobbing I am doing. Finally, I get up and look out the door. I am relieved to see Dad lying down next to Mom, and run over to him. But something is wrong.

Mom isn't breathing, and doesn't appear to be watching me. I see Dad crying. Hes covered in some red liquid. Tomato juice? But that doesn't make any sense. I reach him. He seems to be having trouble breathing. He looks up. Hes confused. His eyes are blurry. It's almost like he doesn't know I am there. Finally, he says "It's alright, honey. Were here." And then hes silent.

Suddenly, he takes in a huge breath and his body shudders, before it goes limp. I walk over to him and nudge him a few times. "Dad? Dad, please, get up." My throat hurts from all the crying. When he doesn't move, I lie down next to him, and start crying again. It's all my fault...

My neighbors dogs howl, but this time my howling overpowers theirs.

I wake up screaming


Caretaker Joan Camwell of the St. Andrews Asylum looks back at the steel door and listens to the moans coming from the pony inside. Poor dear, she thinks, her heart heavy with pity. She puts a hand on her auburn hair and pushes her askew hat back in place.

Stewart, the guard, notices the caretakers sullen expression. Shell be fine. She should be asleep in a couple of minutes. Dont worry, he says reassuring her. Sure enough the howls stop and are replaced by soft snoring.

Doctor Larry Stable snorts, I dont get how you two can put up with Barking Mad in there. Shes a psychological nightmare.

Joansays in an inaudible whisper, "Her name's not 'Barking Mad'."

He straightens the thin black stethoscope that he's wearing. We arent making any progress whatsoever on her recovery. She is becoming more and more violent each day. Just look at my neck! He points to a slightly red bandage that is covering a wound on his neck. She bit me! Shes never done that before! And then, she escapes! How the hell does an insane girl in a straight jacket escape from a guarded cell?! Hmm, Stewart? he turned to the security guard.

Stewart stared down the doctor, She caused no harm and we put her back before her nightly breakdown. Shes really a sweet girl once you get to know her.

Stable looks ready to explode with rage from this comment. A sweet girl?! She is a wild animal! I say we put her out of her misery before she can kill anyone!! he hollers, the color of his face now matching the bandage.

Joan and Stewart look over at the doctor, both with a disgusted look on each of their faces. Oh be quiet, Stable! You dont know what shes gone through! You didnt witness your entire familys slaughter when you were just a child, now did you? Joan loudly whispers, careful not to wake the sleeping woman in the next room.

She clasped her hand over her mouth, Whoops, that was supposed to be a secret! she realized.

She glanced over at Stewart, who just nodded. Its alright. I already know, he whispered.

Stable scoffs angrily, Fine, then. You two can take care of the beast. Im done! Through with her, you hear?! He storms off, leaving in his wake a small trail of blood coming from his bite.

Good riddance, the snorts. Joan turns to the guard, a confused look on her face. How did you hear about that incident? I thought that only Stable and I were authorized to know?

Stewart sighed, his eyes shifted downwards. She sometimes talks in her sleep. Its always about her family and the dogs. She never has a good nights rest. He ambles back over to the steel door. She seems so pitiful, you know? I want to just protect her, he sadly says to the nurse. He sits down, And so I will. Ill protect her if any dogs dare to show their mugs around here, he states, focusing his eyes, ready for whatever dangers maybe lurking down the hall.

Joan chuckles and shakes her head, Anyone ever tell you that youre a nut?

Might as well commit me here now then, Stewart responds with an impish grin.

Joan returns the smile. Good night. says merrily to the guard. She trots over to the steel door and leans in, her head now touching the cold durable metal. She softly says to the solitary resident of the room within, Good night dear. She walks briskly down the hall, careful not to step on the red splotches left by the irate doctor.

A muffled voice coming from within the sealed room replies, Good night Mom.

The dogs are sleeping.

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