Black Dog

The black dog is never quite there; I only catch glimpses of it, through cracked and dusty glass, or reflected in the dark water of the canal at night, its form broken up by ripples and mirrored stars.

When there are storms in the early hours of the morning, and London is hunkered down and silent beneath the weight of water and noise, I see the black dog through my fogged up window, its head pressed up against the glass, the skin wrinkled, as if it has shrunk to fit a skull slightly too small for it. The head seems to be balanced on the body of a man wrapped in a tattered feather cloak. The cloak squirms and I imagine things crawling beneath it, moving blindly over pale and rotting skin.

I pop more pills and I go back to the doctor and he ups my dosage and, when the rains come again, the black dog is still there. Sometimes it pushes and prods at the rotting window casement with hands that seem to wander of their own accord, looking for a weakness. One night maybe it will find a weakness, and I will hear footsteps, and, in the dark, I will feel my blankets lift and the mattress will sag and I will feel feathers brushing my back. The black dog will begin to trace patterns across my skin with a tongue like sandpaper.

And maybe it will speak to me. I’ll have to listen.


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