By Chef JRHEvilInc/Joel R. Hunt
//Source. This is part two of a series. Part three coming tomorrow.
I dreamt of Gus again last night.
The day had been mostly uneventful. I’d managed to shake the unsettling feeling of my first dream, and spent a while trying to get Gus to eat something. He just didn’t seem interested. I thought a walk might help, get him hungry through exercise. It also gave me a chance to go through the dream in my head, or at least what I remembered of it, and try to work out what aspect of it had got me worked up. My dreams weren’t usually so vivid.
I eventually settled on an explanation. It has been caused, I told myself, by me worrying about Gus. It made sense in a bizarre dream-logic sort of way; all the things I’ve done in my life, all the places I’ve been, have made me the person I am. So in my mind, I was introducing him to myself, to everything that made me into who I am today. I decided it stemmed from my surprise that he’d not even tried to inspect the house, perhaps made worse by a worry that he didn’t consider it his home yet. Maybe that was why he wasn’t eating.
Nothing else of note really happened. We bumped into some friends of mine who started doting on Gus (he didn’t even seem to notice them), then we grabbed a bite to eat and came home. I thought it might help to give Gus the tour in real life, so I took him into each room and gave him time to sniff around. He spent the whole time looking up at me, almost mournfully, a real “What is the point of this?” kind of stare. But I persisted, and made sure he’d been inside every room. That should stop me worrying that he wasn’t feeling at home.
After that, I watched a bit of television, had dinner, took Gus for another walk and then settled in for the night. By the time I got to bed, I wasn’t even thinking of my previous night’s dream anymore. I was just looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
This time the dream started in a different room. A room with whitewashed walls and a faded carpet. The two of us, me and Gus, were watching television. The footage was grainy, like an old security camera rather than a proper programme. A sitcom-style family were starting a game of hide-and-seek, with the boy counting in the corner and the rest of the family choosing absurd hiding places. The grandmother sat in an armchair and hid behind a newspaper. The father placed a lampshade over his head. The mother just stood facing a wall. Each choice of hiding spot elicited a roar of canned laughter, which only intensified when the boy finished counting down and started to search for the rest of his family. He couldn’t find a single one.
I knew Gus was watching the programme too. I could feel him. Above me.
That’s what made me turn to look at him for the first time. He was sat on his haunches, eyes glued to the screen, his body towering above mine. It wasn’t that he had simply grown larger, or that I had shrunk. Instead it was like he was on stilts, his legs stretched impossibly long, his body pulled out thin. He looked like he’d barely weigh anything at all, despite being twice my height.
Canned laughter came from the television. Loud, harsh and mocking. It came and it didn’t stop. I looked back to the screen, and saw the sitcom child crying on the floor. He hadn’t found any of his family, and he was terrified. He was all alone. Tears streamed down his face as he hugged his knees and rocked. His family hadn’t moved from their hiding places. I couldn’t hear the boy over the stock laugh-track, but surely the parents could hear his screams? His father was within touching distance, his mother just a few steps away. But they remained motionless, hiding in plain sight, doing nothing to comfort their child.
I saw movement above me. Gus had looked down, his black, watery eyes locked onto mine.
Three words – they were definitely words this time, though I couldn’t recognise their meaning – shouted out in that awful howling bark I’d heard in my first dream.
“Dh! Wh! Uh!”
Each word seemed to emerge as a burst of pain from a strangled throat, but Gus didn’t move. His paws were rooted to the ground. His eyes were fastened onto mine. He wanted me to understand. Needed me to. But I just didn’t comprehend what the sounds meant.
From behind me, beyond the door at the far wall, I heard footsteps. I turned round to look at the source, but as my gaze passed the television I stopped to take in what was happening on the screen. The camera shot had changed, and now the boy was taking up most of the screen, his tear-stained face pressed in close like he was trying to escape through the glass. It looked like he was crouched under a table, and he had clamped a hand over his mouth to stop any sound from escaping. It was clear that the game had changed. It was still hide-and-seek, but now it was the boy hiding, and the rest of his family searching for him. The audience jeered and howled each time a family member stalked past his hiding place.
Where were their faces?
The door handle rattled behind me. Gus spoke again, louder above the cruel laughter from the television.
“Duh! Wah! Uh!”
I wanted to ask what he meant. There was an urgency in the sound, an intense expectancy in his stare. What were these noises? Was it a threat? A warning? A plea for help?
At some point without me noticing, the laughter from the television had transformed into weeping. I didn’t know if it was coming from the boy, or from the audience. Perhaps it was coming from me.
Then, I heard the door creak open. Gus’ head snapped to the source of the noise. I found myself frozen, a cold dread seizing my body and holding tight on all of my muscles. I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t even blink. I was stuck staring at Gus, trying desperately to avoid the reflection of his eyes. The reflection of what was behind me.
I saw movement there.
A presence almost touched me from behind.
Gus screeched at me from an expressionless face.
“DURH! WAHR! URH!”
I woke up in bed. Heart pounding, I glanced around in the early morning light to ensure I was alone. No one – no thing – was in sight. I forced myself to calm down.
I didn’t move from my bed for a long time. I was awake hours earlier than I needed to be, but there was no chance I was going back to sleep after that dream. It was only when I absolutely had to get ready for the day that I edged myself out of bed and tentatively approached my door. It was slightly out of the frame; not quite ajar, but not fully closed either. I must not have shut it properly before going to sleep the previous night.
As I opened the door I flinched.
Gus was waiting for me on the other side.
He was, of course, back to his normal self – not the distorted version of him that had towered over me in my dream – but it was hard for me to be happy to see him. Those eyes were the same ones that had been looking into mine for two nightmares running. In fact, while most of his body had altered in the most recent dream, his eyes had remained a perfect reflection of how they looked in the waking world. Deep, dark, unfathomable. I was reflected in them. And there, over my shoulder… was that…?
I shook my head.
No. It was nothing.
Unsettled still by my dream, I edged past Gus and went downstairs for breakfast. I needed to clear my mind. The dog’s last shout was still ringing in my ears, and with the clarity of waking thought, I finally made sense of the three noises.
I knew what Gus had been telling me in my dream.
“Don’t. Wake. Up.”