That night Sadie stayed so close to my legs that the leash was hanging through. She was walking slowly with careful steps. She looked tense and her tail and ears were upright.
When I first saw the red light it looked like a distant firefly. I saw it at the end of the street, a bright spot framed by two of the large trees that towered the sides of the road. It seemed to be far down the road, that red light, but it followed a fast up and down motion.
Sadie froze. Her eyes fixated on the light. Her legs buried stiffly into the ground.
I was wondering whether she just saw what I saw or whether there was more, something that I didn’t see or hear. I listened to the silence and stared, just like her. She bared her teeth.
The light grew larger. I remember thinking that it was weird that it did not seem to illuminate anything around it. It was passing right between trees and parked cars but the bright red did not reflect on them.
It had grown to about the size of a baseball but was still in the distance, still moving up and down, still coming closer.
I didn’t think about it. My feet started running. Not just Sadie followed me.
Even as we ran the light still grew. With every moment it seemed to come closer, silently, with ever larger up and down movements. Jumps.
There was a whistling sound. I turned and it was right behind us. Just a blindingly bright red object the size of a soccer ball. No wind. It was just steps away.
A half-muffled bark. A large dark body jumped between the light and me.
Sadie’s body thundered against mine. I felt the pain, something in my chest snapped loudly, I was flying. A loud cracking sound, then darkness.
The woman must have found us soon after. She was a neighbor. She recognized Sadie standing in the middle of the road. She said Sadie stood calmly, without a single movement.
The neighbor called Sadie but Sadie didn’t react and just stared off into the distance. The woman said it lookes as if Sadie was longing for something.
Our neighbor stepped closer to grab Sadie. Only then she noticed my body on the floor, right behind the Sadie’s large black shape.
They didn’t allow dogs in the hospital. My wife visited and cried by my side, worried about me. All I cared about was whether Sadie was okay. She had saved me, I knew that.
I was released after three weeks. Considering the circumstances and the number of surgeries that was actually early.
My wife said she just had wanted to spare me the extra pain. All the time in the hospital she had told me that Sadie missed me but was fine. She had been to the vet and not a single bone in her body was broken.
Only in the car, on the way back, my wife asked me not to be shocked.
“You know, I think she was mourning you. She refused to eat.”
Sadie stood behind the window right next to our front door. She looked calm, serene. She must have seen me but she didn’t react. Her head looked nearly normal, maybe slimmer than before but not so bad. Her eyes looked lively, hopeful nearly, they moved from side to side. Then I opened the door.
Sadie looked as if the fur wasn’t hers; as if somebody had taken a small dog and stuck it in a large dog costume. She was so thin that when I patted her side I felt my hands touch between her ribs.
She didn’t look up. She kept staring outside.
“Oh,” said my wife. “I thought she would be excited to see you.”
Even when we went inside, me limping and my wife carrying the bags, Sadie didn’t move. She kept staring outside.
Later that night she was inside the living room. From one moment to the next she stood next to the sofa, stiff as before. I held cheese, her favorite snack, in front of her. She didn’t even sniff it.
“She’s been like that since the accident.”
Accident, that’s what the officer wrote in her report. A car, possibly, likely even a drunk driver. No traces. For the police my story seemed too absurd to be true. Shocked people say weird things.
Two days later we pulled Sadie into the car. I tried my best to help but with just one arm and the large bandage around my chest and head it was hard to be of any use. Sadie held her legs stiffly and didn’t walk, but she didn’t hold back either. It felt more as if she was a stiff doll than a dog.
The vet’s eyes widened when we pulled Sadie in.
“She still didn’t eat?”
He forced her mouth open and looked inside. He felt around her body. He asked for all the things we tried.
“We put it right in front of her but she doesn’t touch it. I tried putting it in her mouth but it just fell back out.”
I remember the clock’s hand moving. It took only seven minutes.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I never had a case like hers.”
He touched her side and instantly recoiled. He too must have felt the bare ribs.
“You don’t want her to suffer,” he said. “But there’s no talking cure for dogs.”
We took her home. Another two days to try. Another two days to say goodbye.
Sadie refused to take the painkillers. We managed to force them in her mouth but there was no chance to get her to drink water to wash it down. I accidentally touched her tongue. It felt as dry as sand.
It was that night, the night after the vet, when I woke up to noises from the kitchen. It sounded as if someone was hitting the wall or ceiling of the room right below the bedroom. The kitchen.
I was excited. A recovery. She finally moved again. Maybe she had even touched the food we had left in her bowl.
I tumbled towards the stairs.
She came out of the kitchen, but she wasn’t walking.
Instead she jumped.
Her legs were stiff, they didn’t bend. It was as if she was pulled up and pressed down again, as if something else moved her body.
She jumped out of the kitchen and past the stairs with a surreal calmness. Then she stood at the bottom of the stairs, her left side towards me. She jumped straight up and in the air her body turned.
Only then I saw her eyes. They were glowing from the inside. Bright red.
She bared her teeth. Then she jumped.
Her body was still rigid. Her hard paws hit my chest long before I was able to react. My plastered arm swung up to save my neck.
I even felt her teeth through the plaster.
The attack took just a few seconds. Her stiff body pushed against me, only her mouth seemed to be moving. I screamed and somehow I swung my arm from side to side; her head hit the wall. In that moment she moving stopped. She let go of my arm. Suddenly her body was soft again. When it fell to the floor there were cracking sounds.
In the room somewhere behind me I heard my wife calling me.
“Did you fall?”
I didn’t manage to answer; I only stared. Stared at Sadie’s belly.
It glowed red. The brightness increased. The skin ripped open and a red light broke out through the lower ribs.
The orb flew upstairs and right by my body. I heard a loud sound. When I turned around it had vanished.
Instead a second red orb squeezed out of Sadie’s body. The skin ripped further. It hovered above Sadie’s body for a moment, as if it was waiting. As if it was thinking. Frozen with fear I even held my breath.
Outside a car drove by.
From one moment to the next the red orb jumped towards the front door, a moment later it was gone.
Glass broke. Somebody screamed outside.
I called the police and rushed as fast as I could down the stairs.
I wonder whether she didn’t scream or whether she did and I just didn’t hear it. Maybe I was outside when she screamed. Maybe it hit her by surprise and she didn’t have the chance to scream.
The car was wrapped around a tree. The car’s driver was unconscious.
I tried to pull him out of the wreck. I think I would have managed, if only his arms and legs hadn’t been so stiff. I only went inside when the firefighters arrived. Not even thirty minutes later.
That’s when I found my wife. Her eyes were open. She was lying on the bed with her arms to her sides.
When the vet saw Sadie’s body he was shocked.
“Her insides are rotten,” he said. “As if she was already dead for a month.”
My wife is still in the hospital. It’s been two weeks and she hasn’t moved. She still opens her eyes during the day. Sometimes, very slowly, her eyes move around.
The doctors say that she will be fine; they say that all the vitals are okay. They say that she is still alive.
I sit by her side all day. The nurses come only every hour or two to check whether the IV is okay. They think I’m crazy. They think I’m just mourning her. They don’t believe me that sometimes her eyes glow from the inside. They glow red.