Something wakes me.
I’m still half asleep, in that strange place between fully awake and passed out. I think about moving my body, but I’m too comfortable; my limbs wouldn’t move if I tried.
Laying on my side, I see my wife sleeping next to me, her back facing me. I sigh, thinking about how lucky I am to be with her, sharing this wonderful life with –
A dog barks. That’s what woke me.
I close my eyes, hoping I can fall asleep before the dog barks again.
The sound echoes as if it’s inside our house. Downstairs. In the kitchen, maybe.
We don’t have a dog.
I try to ask my wife if she can hear it, but my jaw won’t move. Every part of my body is so incredibly tired. A part of me worries about the sound. But that thought is still small; a pebble among the boulders of my mind. I’m so tired from the day. The week. The month. Right now, sleep and rest are more important than anything else in the world.
The dog barks again. Closer this time. Maybe on the stairs.
I’m so tired. I’ll figure it out in the morning. I know I need to wake up. A warning signal in my brain tells me I need to get out of bed and check it out, but my body is so peaceful. I’m protected by my covers. They keep the cold out and shield me from the terrors of the night.
I try to talk to my wife again, but she doesn’t move. I can hear myself as if I’m in the next room. A deep, groggy moan. Am I talking in my sleep? I wonder what I sound like.
I pass into sleep again.
The bark comes again. The tone is lower now; not as charming. No longer a dog playing in the park, but a dog on alert; seeing a stranger pass on the sidewalk.
And it is closer.
I still flutter between sleep and the real world – trying to wake up – but my body isn’t responding to my commands.
I see the door to our bedroom out of the corner of my eye. The door is open. That’s strange. We always sleep with it shut. That scene from “Signs” when the alien walks by the kids at the birthday party still haunts me as an adult. That’s why I always insist we sleep with the door closed. I’m afraid if I look, I’ll see that alien again.
The dog barks again. It’s in our room. My God, wake up. Why can’t I wake up? It’s getting closer. Growling and dripping with hungry saliva. I’m calling out for my wife, but the words aren’t coming. Sleep is still too strong.
My wife finally shifts. The barking is right next to me, behind my head. I can’t move. It’s so loud. Deafening. I feel hot breath on the back of my neck.
I’m going to be eaten.
My wife rolls over. Her beautiful, sleepy eyes meet mine.
“Help!” I say, the words finally breaking free of sleep’s chains. “Can’t you hear that?!”
The barking stops. She looks at me with calm confusion. An eerie silence covers everything.
“Oh, are you having a bad dream again?”
“Yes! Oh, honey. It was horrible.”
She scratches my head. Her hand so soothing, like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
“Dogs aren’t supposed to have bad dreams. If you keep waking me up though, you’ll have to go back to the kennel.”
I scream. The barking returns.