The Black Dog is stalking me, it has been sniffing after me for days. This Black Dog is substantial; standing on all fours, its shoulder comes to my chest. Right now, it is broad of back, paws the size of dinner plates, thick black fur – black as pitch – covers it, but that is right now.
Of all its forms – large/small, menacing/cute – two things remain consistent. The color of its fur is always the darkest, deepest black. The other is its eyes. No, they are not the clichéd glowing red eyes. That’d be far too easy. Red eyes could symbolize many things – passion, fury, evil even – all of which symbolize some sort of life. Where there is life, there is hope. Black Dog brings no hope.
A soul, no matter how twisted, can be seen.
Those eyes haunt me; waking or dreaming, they are terrifying. Sunken pits, surrounded by cracked, grey skin, they do not absorb or reflect light as an eye would, rather they are dead lights – devouring all life and light up which they fall.
Once I tried to embrace the Black Dog, to overcome my fear of him and accept it.
The experiment failed. With Black Dog at my side or occasionally leading, the paths we walked grew darker. Swiftly my sense of direction was overwhelmed. Black Dog began to blur indistinctly into the gloom.
Panic welled up when I thought we became separated. I listened intently but could hear nothing. So profound was the silence, my heart had no beat. Between the silence and the absence of light – the grave would have seemed raucous.
Lost – in the deepening wood – each step sinking into a rising tide of madness and despair. In this pre-dawn blackout, devoid of birdsong, it was then Black Dog came to me.
Silently, Black Dog padded to my side. I saw it only because the eyes; their somber obsidian pitch caused the surrounding pool of gloom to seem bright in contrast. Black Dog’s considerable tongue slipped from its jowls to lap at my arm.
The tenticular appendage caressed my arm, as a lover in the afterglow.
Each quiet stroke brushing my skin left me – thinner.
I was unable to tell if Black Dog was showing affection – or feeding.
As the moist muscle slid along my flesh the essence of my being became gaunt and longing, a pang of hunger even began to drive me.
Desperate in the fear of my ephemeral essence dissolving under this tongue onslaught, I lashed out.
Believing it had a docile meal under its sway, Black Dog was knocked back, stunned.
I shambled through the woods unseeing, uncaring. I can sense Black Dog stalking me, waiting for a chance to pounce; I cannot let it happen. If I succumb to Black Dog, I do not believe I could survive its affection. Yet, the promise of oblivion has an allure all its own.
When I contemplate surrendering to Black Dog and its promise to give me the sweet enticement of oblivion, the craving brings forth the anguish of longing, and I stumble onward.
I live, for now, in perpetual twilight.
In the distance there are lights. Snatches of revelry and merriment occasionally drift to me.
When they do, the hunger and desire intensify. If I strive to join the revelry, I am unable. I am outside looking in. I see the gaiety and mirth through windows, but they are barred, and I find no portal.
Black Dog will appear, tongue lolling to one side, the musky scent of tinctured rancid breath emanates from its maw. I cannot – I must not – succumb to it. For down, that path lies madness and its consort – oblivion.
My life has become a constant flight from Black Dog’s darkness and toward the lights beyond the woods.
Some nights I dream. A simple doorway allows me to enter a grand ballroom. People smiling, laughing, welcome me as a long-lost friend. Always, it feels awkward. There is a haze between us – we are focused differently. As Phineus, whose sustenance is so near yet is stolen or despoiled by the harpies as he approaches, so too does my connection to their reality.
In the distance, a baying. Everyone turns; I feel my façade melt away.
Horrified, the once merry band flees, their faces melting as truths are revealed – and I become the reviled.
A howl now. The source of the baying comes closer. It awakens me from my stupor. Doggedly, I get up and push onward to continue my (dream?) struggle, to walk the world between madness and death.