Tonight, it’s dogs. A pack of feral dogs, silently following me through dark, unfamiliar streets. I move away, slowly but steadily, trying not to show fear. At least at first. The dogs don’t let me leave them behind, but they don’t get any closer, either. Only now it sounds like there’s more of them. Do I dare glance back? Would that be showing my fear? Would it enrage them, or embolden them further? I can smell them now. I can hear the clicking of their claws on the concrete. I look back. The street is filled with them. As my head turns to see them, their eyes glow, and the growling starts.
I tell myself it’s just the streetlights reflecting in their eyes. I tell myself there’s not actually more of them; I just hadn’t seen them all before. The noise is getting louder. They must be right behind me. I look back again, flinching as I see them trotting now, fangs bared, fanning out to encircle me as they slowly close the distance. Frantic, I look around, yelling for help, but there’s nobody here but me and them.
An alley yawns black on my left. Any chance is better than none. Screaming, I break into a run, cutting into it as hard as I can, my shoulder slamming off the wall. The stench of garbage bins is overpowering, but still I smell the dogs. They’re right on top of me, howling and snarling. I can feel their breath. The first jaws close on my ankle, and I go down, skidding. The pack falls over me like a wave.
My eyes open. I hit the snooze bar on the alarm, in that fuzzy state of waking where the dream can still be felt. Dogs. It was so vivid. The sounds, the textures, the smells. The cold and the darkness. My shoulder actually hurts where I hit the alley wall. A shudder wracks my spine as I come fully awake. Dogs. Never had that one before.
I get up. I go to work. The nightmare begins.
I climb the two steps into my bus. It feels like the thirteen to the gallows. I settle my cup in the holder, pull out of the lot and head to the first stop. The first circle of the day, the same path every day, over and over and over. Time stops. A day, a week, a year, a lifetime. I’ve been running in this circle forever. I always will be. The same streets, the same people, the same questions, the same complaints. The same lunch at the same place; the people there the same too. The grind of it; the crushing, grating drudgery. I wish for anything to be different, even if it’s something bad. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. How can I not? How can I take any more of it? How does anyone? I used to think I could change it. Hobbies, trips, doctors, pills. Now I know better, know it in my bones with a certainty that defies logic. There’s nothing I can do. There’s no way out. There’s…
My watch beeps. Another shift almost done, somehow. I hit the last stop, go back to the yard, get the bus ready for tomorrow. I stop for the same burger, take it home and watch the same shows, do the same laundry, drink the same whisky. One more day down. Almost bedtime.
My pulse picks up as I brush, and floss, and splash some water on my face. I climb into bed, my lips curling up in the barest of smiles as I lay my head on the pillow.
Hope it’s something good tonight.
Rex Caleval lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where he spent twenty years as an air-traffic controller.
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