Pets were the bane of her life. Somewhat paradoxically it was both a lack of pets and an abundance of pets that caused her problem. How could her neighbours have so many of the damn things while she remained resolutely empty?
It was only a relatively short decade ago that her life was going so well. Mitsy, her copper coloured golden retriever would wake her every morning with the frenetic energy that can only come from a puppy. It was the perfect ritual, a clash of wills, human vs canine to see how long she could pretend to be asleep before Mitsy would start begging for food. Usually full honours would go to Mitsy, her uncanny animal instinct meaning she realised within seconds that her owner was awake. But very occasionally she got the better of her companion and could manage a couple of minutes before the explosion of energy and slobber showed that the gig was up. Still it was rare. After all, who could blame Mitsy when there was the prospect of food at stake.
This game often meant she would have to forgo a lovely morning sleep in and haul her feet onto the cold wood floor, into the kitchen to dish out the food to then dash back to the warmth of the sheets as quickly as possible. Once that palaver was over, her level of consciousness was invariably raised to a point that further sleep was impossible. But it would be a small price to pay, one that she’d give up in a second, if she could only have a few more months with her best friend.
What happened to her beloved dog? That was the problem that currently perplexed her. It consumed her, tormented her and the more she thought about it, the stranger it became. On the one hand she could remember Mitsy and those glorious mornings, and on the other she knew that now Mitsy was gone. But how had it happened? What went on in between?
In her memory was a giant gap, a yawning chasm of inky blackness mocking her. It was all true because she could feel it. But every time she tried to follow the dots of memory, the thread of consciousness just wouldn’t complete and her thinking would veer into nothing finally to return to the present and her empty desire for Mitsy. It was maddening and in the cycle of confusion her anxiety was starting to mount to worrying levels.
If only those damn neighbour’s dogs would just shut up. The noise was incessant. Bark, bark, bark … over and over. Layer upon layer of sound engulfed her as she tried to discover the truth. It mocked her. “We have dogs”, they seemed to say, “but you don’t”. How was it even possible that a dog’s bark could sound smug?
There must have been thousands of them. That didn’t make sense either. Simple geometry meant that she could really only have about five neighbours, maybe a dozen if you wanted to consider those around them, and yet there were thousands upon thousands of barks issuing from the houses that encircled her on each side. Houses she could see from where she stood in kitchen.
Above and below, left and right, they swirled in and out of focus swooping one after the other in front of her vision. Faster and faster they flashed, penetrating her field of view until suddenly …
She sat bolt upright, sweat drenching her. The sheets of her bed were soaking with sweat and twisted around her limbs. Out of the corner of her eye a copper coloured blur raced towards here followed by a wet slap on her cheek. She flinched and went to pull away before reality rushed back in.
It was Mitsy, her best friend rushing to her rescue and licking joy back into her life. The relief was palpable. This is reality right, my dog does exist. Life is good again.
In the still quietness of the night, her dog calming her, the dream gradually faded into obscurity in that way dreams do and in time she fell back to sleep. Probably to dream again, but who knows, this time it might be a good one.