FIDO: A short horror thriller by Justin H.K.
“There’s a traffic jam on I-75 near 10 mile, so reroute if yo …”
Michael switched the radio over to a classic rock radio station and turned it down.
He turned to his son, Willy, smiled a bit to one side, and said nervously “So Willy, you excited?”
Willy, looking out the window mostly fusing different anime and comic book characters together to try and come up with the most powerful, took a moment to properly hear his father, and so hesitated before answering “Yeah.. well, yeah of course.?”
“Good, good just remember..”
“It’s a big responsibility, yeah I know.” Michael smiled at his son awkwardly, and patted his curly brown hair. He then turned the radio up, and sang quietly and a little off-key to himself the rest of the way to the shelter.
Willy wore red sneakers and his favorite busy comic book t-shirt, the same thing he wore when picking out the dog. Usually when he wore his favorite shirt, Willy felt powerful, but Willy didn’t like the way the shelter felt today. He couldn’t quite place it, but it wasn’t the same as when they had picked out a dog two weeks before.
Michael opened the door for his son, and had to mutter a quiet “You’re welcome” before Willy replied
“Thanks dad… sorry” Michael smiled dispassionately and walked up to the service desk where a young woman with an asymmetrical black haircut greeted him cheerfully.
“We’re here to finalize an adoption for a dog, the name is Michael Gardener”
The young woman whose name-tag said “Staci” typed a few things into the computer behind the desk.
“Yep, you’re right here.” Staci said, seeming a bit strained. “So you guys didn’t do anything wrong or anything, but there’s been a few, umm, issues with the adoption. So, do you want the good news or the bad news first?” Staci smiled a bit to one side and chewed the inside of her lip.
“Good news!” Willy said before his father could interrupt. Michael simply nodded, then re-adjusted his black framed glasses.
“We have a dog you can take home today…” Staci said, seeming unsure.
“I know, that is why we’re here” Michael interrupted, clearly annoyed.
“I now realize i shouldn’t have done that whole good news bad news thing, umm, well, ok so…”
“You keep saying bad news.”
“Right, ok, so the dog you were supposed to adopt died this morning.” Staci blurted, then continued breathlessly ” We tried to call but you didn’t pick up… anyway, err … but we’ve got a dog of similar size who was supposed to get adopted like a week ago, and we can’t get a hold of those guys, so..”
“This is a lot.” Michael said.
“Can we meet him?” Willy interjected shyly.
“Of course!” Said Staci, sensing an out. Willy looked at Michael, and he again nodded and adjusted his glasses.
Willy stared at the dog. It was of medium size, with short, deep black fur. He grabbed a treat from the dispenser on the wall and held it out in his hand. The dog got up slowly, and loped towards Willy. Willy heard a soft rattling and saw the dog had on a red collar with a bronze tag that simply said “FIDO”. Then Willy looked at the dog’s eyes. They looked almost human. Blue eyes, with flecks of soft hazel.
“Oh hey, seems like he likes you, and hey, blue eyes like you buddy huh? Seems like a good sign to me.” Michael said reassuringly. Willy simply nodded nervously. FIDO walked up to Willy, then sat down and looked up at him, cocking his head to the side. Willy hesitated, then stuck his hand out a little further. FIDO delicately took the treat from Willy’s hand, sat down, and began to chew thoughtfully. Willy had decided that he did not like this dog. He did not want this dog, but he did want a dog, and he thought it would make his father happy.
Willy had sort of hoped whatever dog he got would sleep in the bed with him, but he wasn’t so sure about FIDO. He knew he was too old for stuffed animals, but it would be nice to have something warm and soft at night. He hadn’t felt particularly safe since his mom left. He didn’t like the idea of things just going away like that. FIDO was weird. Really weird, but Willy didn’t think he would leave. He seemed so lazy. Willy liked that about him, he supposed, but he could never tell when FIDO was there. He was so quiet. He never barked, and he would often simply turn around and find him there, acting as if he had been there for hours. Didn’t bark. Didn’t play fetch. Didn’t chase cats. Didn’t climb on the furniture. Didn’t seem like much of a dog.
“Willy, you need to take the dog out before school.” Michael shouted from downstairs. Willy didn’t want to get out of bed. The door opened.
“Get up before your dog shits everywhere. it’s like 7:30!” Said his teenage sister in ripped jeans and a baggy sweater after rudely barging in.
“Dad said you’re not supposed to cuss at me!” Willy replied. Jess gave Willy the middle finger and began to walk back down the hall. She fell while turning and knocked a painting off of the wall. Willy held back a laugh as Jess regained her balance, and swore at FIDO, curled and still as stone on the floor.
“Stupid dog” Jess mutterred as she headed down the stairs, leaving the painting on the floor. Willy scratched FIDO behind his ears and he leaned into his hand. He then rose and followed Willy down the stairs, tail wagging softly.
“Take the dog outside and have him do his business before breakfast gets cold!” Michael shouted before Willy could fully make his way down the stairs.
“Ok.” Willy muttered, just loud enough for his father to hear. He opened the front door and motioned for FIDO to go out. FIDO didn’t go until Willy stepped outside first.
Willy sat down on the steps and motioned with his hand for FIDO to go into the yard and go to the bathroom. FIDO loped into the grass and just, stood there, tail wagging softly.
“Stupid dog, go shit.” Willy said, only slightly more confidently than he would talk to his father or sister. FIDO barked once and his tail stopped wagging, but he continued to just, stand there. Willy shrugged, and looked up into the clouds.
Willy wasn’t sure how long it was before his dad opened the door. He got lost like that sometimes.
“What’s taking you so long?” Michael said, placing his hand on Willy’s shoulder. Willy looked up at his father, a bit surprised. “And you were supposed to take him to the back yard.” Michael added.
“Sorry.” Willy said sheepishly.
“And he’s supposed to have a leash, Willy…” Michael paused a moment, seeming to stop himself mid thought, reconsidered and said. “Did you clean up at least?”
“Yeah.” Willy lied, pointing vaguely to the metal outdoor garbage bin. He wasn’t even sure FIDO went. FIDO meandered up at this motion.
“Good boy.” Michael said coldly. “Positive reinforcement is great for a dog, remember that.” he added. Michael and Willy went inside, FIDO following slowly behind.
As the bell rang Willy felt a sense of dread. Sure, he was excited to go home to his comic books and video games, but he didn’t really like having FIDO around yet. He wondered if all new dog owners felt this way about their pets. It always took Willy a while to get to like new people too, so it didn’t seem crazy to him. As Willy began to gather his belongings and place them into his blue Jan sport backpack a too broad hand swept across the small school desk, pencils and notebooks scattered on the parquet floor.
The attached ugly face said “You should be more careful Gardener, I almost tripped”.
“Fuck you Nick” Said Willy quietly, leaning down to grab his things.
“William Gardener you know full well swearing isn’t allowed in my classroom” Said the teacher from behind the desk, having clearly missed the majority of the interaction and still not looking up from grading his papers. Nick smiled broadly at Willy from the door, his buzzed toe-head hair almost shining in the cheap fluorescent lights.
FIDO was in the car with Michael when he came to pick up Willy from school.
“Figured we could go to the dog park?” Michael said, smiling weakly at his son.
Willy wanted to go home, but Willy was a child, and children seldom get what they want, so instead he said
“Sure dad, sounds good” and smiled weakly back at his father.
They pulled up to a fairly large dog park with a scattering of trees, benches, and those weird angular wooden objects Willy had seen on those fancy dog competitions on tv. He thought about FIDO competing, but he didn’t think about it for very long.
“Go on, play.” Michael said as he closed the gate behind him, seemingly to both Willy and the dog. Willy wasn’t really sure what that meant, but he shrugged and began wandering around the dog park. FIDO followed, then began to sniff around in a strangely organized manner.
“Stupid dog.” Willy muttered. FIDO stopped and barked. “Sorry.” Willy said a bit louder, and FIDO once again began to sniff around.
Willy started back towards the entrance, assuming his father was still there. However, before he could make it very far he saw a familiar buzzcut, and similarly buzzsaw face that made his heart sink. However, with this uncomfortably large boy was a comically small dog, essentially dragging the terror he knew as Nick “The Dick” Spencer. He couldn’t help himself. He laughed, and loud. It was, he knew, a big mistake.
“Is that you Gardener, I’ll fucking..” Nick “The Dick” paused for an embarrassingly long moment before continuing “…bury you.” Nick started stomping towards Willy, but his dog went in another direction, his leash pulling taut,and began to yip excessively. FIDO began to bark, but unlike Willy had ever heard before, from a dog or…anything. It was an assault, both shrieking and bellowing. Other dogs began to bark. Nick’s tiny terror made an aggressive beeline towards the largest german shepard Willy had ever seen. It noticed the small dog and ran to meet it, violently toppling its petite blond owner and shortly dragging her. It was like a head on collision between a semi-truck and a VW beetle. The small dog flew back, then darted around, but despite its speed the large german shepherd caught the dog in its jaws and began to shake and bite down. The smaller dog was like a stuffed animal, broken at the seams, head pulled off and cast limply aside, but with all the wrong color stuffing coming out.
“Willy!” Michael put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “ Oh my god… you didn’t… you didn’t see that did you… Willy?” Michael said as his grip on Willy’s shoulder slipped a little. Willy stared at his father blankly for a moment, then turned to FIDO, now lying down in the grass. FIDO got up and yawned, then looked up at Willy with his startlingly human eyes. “We’ve got to go Willy.” Michael said hurriedly. Willy followed him to the car, seemingly lost. FIDO followed behind, tail wagging softly.
Jess knocked on Willy’s door. He was pretending to, wanted to, read a comic book. Superheroes usually made him feel good, powerful, in control, but he couldn’t focus on fiction when the real was , just so much.
He sighed, a sigh far too old for him and said. “Yeah.”
Jess came in and said. “Dad wants you to take the dog out.” Jess stopped and got a good look at Willy. He looked limp, slumped, flat. She bunched up the left side of her face, rubbed her temple with her thumb and continued. “Dude, you ok?”
“You want to uh, say more than that. I mean dad said something happened at the park, but he didn’t say much.” Then to herself more than to Willy she muttered. “Never seems to, I guess.”
“The dog is…” Willy looked out the door seeing FIDO sitting patiently, head slightly cocked. Willy continued almost out of breath. “Close the door!”
“Dad’s downstairs, he can’t actually hear everything yo…”
“No, the dog!” Willy yelped, rushing to the door, then closing it gently so as not to hit FIDO. He moved to the bed and brushed aside his comic book, sitting next to Jess on his tidily made bed. He then, almost whimpering, said. “The dog is evil!”
“Ok, so, not ok.”
“At the park, FIDO barked really weird, and he made the dogs go crazy. And… and then, Nick “The Dick’s” stupid dog got decrapulatated”
“De-what?” Jess asked, confused.
“It got it’s fucking head bitten off by a monster dog!” Willy shouted, quietly. ‘
“Oh shit!” Jess said, still a little incredulous.
“And FIDO made it do it!”
“Look…I mean… what the fuck… but … Willy, the dog didn’t do it.” Jess grabbed Willy by the shoulder and tried to smile, then brought him in for an awkward hug. She got up and pushed back her hair, pretending not to wipe away a tear. Then Jess said softly. “I love you, Dad loves you. Even if he doesn’t say it enough. I’ll…” Jess re-situated herself onto the other foot and continued “I’ll take the stupid dog out.”
Jess left and closed the door behind her. Willy tried to cry as well, but found himself too terrified. He locked the door.
Michael woke Willy up the next morning, wearing a tired smile and a smart gray sweater as he gently shook him awake. “Hey bud, why don’t you and me, uh, take a hike.” Michael laughed to himself a bit at the turn of phrase. “Just you and me.”
“I gotta’ go to school dad.” Willy said, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“I know.” Michael replied, a little irritated. “But we could both use the break.” he added more genuinely.
“Ok.” Willy said, appeased. He yawned again.
Willy got into the passenger seat and heard his father shout from the house.
“Whatever station you like buddy.” Willy smiled and fiddled with the dial.
“Huge fire on the corner of Maple and Eaton … Spencer Apartments …tragedy… suspected that the majority of the tenants were killed.” said a crackling, tinny voice on the radio. The smile on Willy’s face turned into terror. He heard the back door open. He looked behind him to see a lump of coal with two shining blue jewels. A black hole with galaxy eyes. Demon. Hellhound. FIDO.
“I thought you said just you and me!” Willy cried. “Stupid dog.” he added. FIDO barked.
“Jess and I talked.” Michael said tonelessly shutting the back door and getting into the car. “Look, it will be good for all of us.” Michael looked at Willy and smiled a well practiced smile. Willy picked the classic rock station, to appease his father. Michael smiled at that, and patted him on the shoulder. It was a long car ride.
They pulled into a hiking area after winding through a tight roadway shaded by trees, and dotted with plazas and port-a-potties. Willy could hear gunshots in the distance. It didn’t seem like a very good place to walk a dog.
“Hunting area.” Michael said, smiling weakly. “Don’t worry it’s across the river from us. Besides, it’s beautiful here. Your mom loved it here.” They started along a meandering path into the woods. “She loved you … loves you ok. She’s just, she’s always struggled, Cate, and she just couldn’t handle…” Michael sighed deeply. “It’s better off this way honestly. Just know, um, just know she loves you ok? And I love you Willy.”
“Ok.” Willy said, beginning to cry. Michael knelt and put his hands on Willy’s shoulder, then wiped away a tear. He then embraced his son in a long hug, dropping FIDO’s leash.
A loud bang ripped passed them into a nearby tree.
“You’re on the wrong side of the river you stupid fucking assho…” Michael yelled, before looking worriedly at his son, searching desperately for any sign of injury.
“I’m ok.” Willy said, sensing his fathers fear. Then Willy’s heart sank. “Oh no … oh no ..” Willy looked around manically. “That’s stupid dog’s gonna …”
Willy ran towards the sound of the gunshot. Towards FIDO, his seeming hellhound protector. Michael began after them as well, but caught himself in the muck before a tree root, falling forward and out of his boot. A yelped “shit” was all Willy could hear as he ran.
Willy arrived panting to where he believed the gunshot to come from, and saw the deep black of FIDO’s fur in the distance. He cut through a low series of bushes and had to pull his feet quickly from the sinking mud. FIDO sat still as stone, staring at a portly man in an orange hunters vest and camo. He smelled like beer and cigarettes. FIDO barked, and the man began to shake, slowly turning his rifle. Twisting his arms to near inhuman positions, he then placed the rifle below his chin. FIDO barked again and a tremendous roar filled the woods as the hunter’s skull exploded into a red cloud of bone, brain, teeth, and tongue. FIDO padded lazily towards Willy, tail wagging softly. Willy screamed. He screamed, and he ran.
Willy ran, and he ran.
He ran through the trees.
He ran through the mud (losing his shoes).
He ran through the fields.
He ran with inhuman drive.
He ran until his feet were bloodied.
He ran farther than the woods made sense to carry him.
He ran until the sun fell before it’s time.
He ran until his feet were stone, and he fell forward into a great circle of grass.
The center of this circle, a great dark mass.
FIDO rose to his hind legs and began to stride towards Willy. He seemed to grow as he walked. To contort, and mutate. He became more human. More demon. More something. He arrived towering before Willy and barked a monstrous bark. A bark that assaulted. That shrieked and bellowed. When FIDO stopped, his jaws began to split and tear, blood and spit cascading down his deep black fur. But his eyes. Those human eyes stayed impossibly in place until the face of a plain, clean shaven man with sharp features, dark hair, and blue eyes could be seen. FIDO then carefully removed the red collar, the bronze nameplate danced strangely in the moonlight, the bold “FIDO” replaced by a familiar name. “WILLY”. FIDO smiled wickedly and placed his tangled claw upon Willy’s shoulder.
“Woof, woof. I’m just a stupid dog, right Willy?” it said coldly, in a deep, monotone voice. From the trees around the great circle emerged a variety of dogs. They rose to their hind legs, mutating and contorting. Their jaws split to plain, human faces.
“Woof, woof.” they said in eerie unison, in flat, human voices.