It was a beautiful sunny day in the dog park just off of Chestnut Street in the little town of Prosperity, Rhode Island.
Michael Winters walked his dog – Buckwheat, his yellow lab – along the paved path with him, and whistled a happy tune. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue; the rains of yesterday had moved on, taking the looming clouds with them, and all was once again beautiful and prosperous in Prosperity.
Walking through the gate and closing it behind him, Michael waved at another regular attendee of the park he recognized, an older man, always clad in a navy raincoat, whether it was raining or not. Buckwheat was already jumping up excitedly and pushing her golden paws against her owner’s shins, ready to run, ready to fetch, ready to play. Her master rubbed her yellow head and spoke excitedly down to her – that’s a good girl, that’s a good girl, you ready to get the ball? you want to get the ball, don’t you? – then stood and extended his arm, primed to hurl the small orb into the grassy enclosed area, amongst the other owners and their loyal animals.
Michael Winters froze with ball in hand and arm extended. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. He glanced from animal to owner to pet to master to dog to human, a zigzag across the green space, building in speed and franticness.
They were all watching him. The dogs were. They’d all stopped and were staring at him with their little eyes – their eyes that had taken on an almost human quality. Why didn’t their owners see it? They all still chatted and threw balls that the dogs ignored and played with their phones; none seemed to see their pets all staring directly at the newcomer.
Buckwheat started growling and barking, quietly at first, then louder, and turned toward Winters, her eyes red and full of hatred. Her barking turned into a rage-filled thing, a horrible sound not like her, like her master had never heard her, like an vicious animal, a rabid wolf, a monster. The dogs in the park joined in, from the giant Great Dane down to the tiny chihuahua. The noise was overpowering and Michael covered his ears. The owners paid no mind.
Winters dropped the ball as the animals crept towards him, frozen in terror. Buckwheat leapt and plunged her teeth into her master’s throat, and warm blood gushed and painted the beautiful golden fur of her face crimson. The pack of other canines came in like a famished wave to feed.
The sun shone. A boy rode by on his bicycle, and rang its bell.