Years ago my husband was out of town and I was alone when I was awakened by a warning growl in the dead of the night. Our six-month-old Dalmatian pup had never growled before. He hadn’t even barked. That event sparked the inspiration for this vignette. I hope you enjoy it.
The growling woke her. Sandy groggily shushed her dog, Max. Her usually obedient dog’s throat rumbled with a warning. Alarmed she rose on her elbows and whispered, “What is it, Max?”
The weatherman had predicted a thunderstorm for tonight. Was distant thunder what had upset Max? She listened. An eerie silence filled the air. There was no purr of the furnace, no hum of the refrigerator, no whoosh of tires on the asphalt street below her second-floor bedroom window. Max, a black and white Dalmatian, lay on the rug along her side of the bed, his head up, an ear cocked. He listened better than she did. She reached down and petted his hindquarters. He’s heard an outdoor cat. Max hated cats. “Go back to sleep, Max,” she whispered and sank back onto the bed.
Max’s tags on his collar jangled as he leaped to his feet. He walked stiff-legged to the closed bedroom door, his growl now a snarl.
The hairs on her arms, her back, and legs crawled. She sat up. Did a branch outside fall? Maybe a neighbor just got home.
Max lowered his head to the crack at the bottom of the bedroom door, bared his teeth, and growled some more.
Sandy’s heart tapped a don’t-panic, don’t panic rhythm against her ribs. She sat up, eased her legs out from under the covers and over the side of the bed. Maybe he had a nightmare. Nothing to get excited about.
Max’s unrelenting, deep-throated growl unnerved her.
A dry, sour taste rose in the back of her throat. Maybe Max hears someone outside. Someone who shouldn’t be there. She reached for the phone, lifted the receiver to her ear. A two-toned wail pierced the air.
“If you’d like to make a call, hang up and dial again.” The flat, unemotional computer voice didn’t reassure her.
Her heart fluttered. Trembling, she clung to the receiver, held it against her chest. Her teeth chattered. There wasn’t enough air. She’d counted on always being able to call the police. What now?
Max’s growl rumbled relentlessly.
The two-tone wail and the computer voice were on endless repeat. She replaced the receiver.
Maybe it’s the weather that’s spooked Max and me. They predicted a bad storm for tonight. But she still couldn’t hear wind or rain. She shivered, uncertain if was because of cold or fright.
Max barked—sharp and loud. Once.
She didn’t think but now stood, wedged in the farthest corner of the room. Max never barks. Not without reason. She didn’t remember grabbing the five-cell flashlight, but she clutched it with both hands. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t catch her breath. Couldn’t stop her tremors. She strained to hear what Max heard.
Seconds stretched into eternities, one after the other. The pitter-pat of rain on the roof made her tighten her grip on the flashlight. She tried to breathe slower. To listen better. Her heart beat rang in her ears. No house noise. No traffic noise. No wind. An occasional pit-pat. And still, Max growled, head low, ears flattened.
What did Max sense beyond that door? She twisted the long flashlight in her hands. What if a burglar stood on the other side of the door, frozen for fear of Max? And here I stand frozen for fear of the burglar. Is this a Mexican stand-off?
A deafening clap of thunder rattled the house and lightning strobed in the windows. She jumped, then gave a timorous laugh. It was the weather! Poor Max. The pressure changes must be hurting his ears. She blew out a long relieved breath. Silly dog. Silly me. The cold tile had long since leeched body heat from her feet and legs. Gooseflesh peppered her skin. The pressure in her bladder urged her forward.
“I don’t need this anymore,” she said louder than necessary and tossed the flashlight onto the bed. “Good boy, Max.” Extra loud. Just in case. Uneasy, she giggled. I let my spooked pup spook me. “It’s ok, Max,” she said loud and clear and reached for the door.
Now I can laugh about the experience that inspired the vignette above but laughter was the last thing on my mind at the time. I don’t know how the story above ends—yet. In reality, I turned on every single light in the house, sat in the dining room, and spent the rest of the night doing a jigsaw puzzle. Our telephone line service was restored the next day. Strangely, our dog never exhibited that kind of behavior ever again. I don’t think too long about what that might mean.
Be sure to check out my other fiction samples. You can find the links on this page.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the warning growl and I hope you never experience such a fright.