I zip past the old abandoned barn on my bike, tilting my head the way I always do, because it leans to the right. Everyone in town is afraid of this property, the children admit it, the adults pretend it doesn’t exist. All that remains of the family home is a scorched plot, off a country road, in the middle of nowhere Ohio.
The family that lived here happily, moved away after the fire destroyed everything they owned, and left them with nothing except each other. The old barn is all that remains, they never got around to rehabbing it, or knocking it down, and I’m glad they didn’t.
If they had I wouldn’t get a secret thrill every time I go past the haunted barn. I turn my head at the strange howling and loud noises that emit from the dark hole that is the doorway. The scary sounds are the only reason the barn remains, no one is brave enough to enter it.
I tell myself I’m not afraid, but I look over my shoulder every time I ride past. This time I stare too long, and turn around only when I hit a limb in the road, my bike stops, and I fly over the handlebars. I crash land so hard the breath leaves my body.
The only thing I can do is lay and stare at the branches until everything goes dark. From far away I feel myself being drug slowly across the ground. As hard as I try to wake up, it does no good, the darkness has a stronghold on me. A wet sensation is what wakes me up, it’s scary because I don’t know what it is.
My hand waves in front of my face as my eyes open, “Where am I? How did I get here?”
I cringe as my words echo loudly, then turn around quickly when I hear something. As hard as I look and listen I can’t figure out what it is, or where it’s coming from. There is no one around me, I give up, look down at my clothes and groan.
“Mom is going to kill me, this is a brand new skirt and blouse, I should have listened to her. She wants me to sit in front rooms and act like a lady, instead of getting dirty riding my bike.”
Why can’t I force myself into the mold she wishes me into, this is something I’ve wondered my whole life, and look at me now.
“She is never going to let me out of the house again, I need to get out of here.
My words echo loudly making me jump, and I realize I’m talking out loud. Why am I in the haunted barn? How did I get here? The howling that started this whole mess begins even louder than before, making my hair stand on end and goosebumps pop up. I have to get out of here, but when I try to stand I realize how much trouble I’m in.
My right knee buckles, and won’t support my weight, what am I going to do now? As I try to think of a solution, all around me the dirty, dusty hay begins to move. Huge clouds of gross particles float around the air, I tell myself it could be worse.
The hay stops moving which is good, but the howling starts again. It sounds as if it’s coming from right next to me, and from everywhere around me all at the same time. It’s not scary or menacing, it’s so sad and lonely it brings tears to my eyes.
“Hello? I’m Becca, and need some help.”
This time I whisper and my voice doesn’t echo, the howling stops. Whoever is in here with me, needs help as badly as I do. Maybe I hit my head so hard that this is just a realistic dream, or I’m in a coma. No, that’s not it, I heard the howling before my accident. I’m not afraid of ghosts, I don’t believe in them.
My eyes are tightly shut as I burrow into the hay, what I can’t see, won’t hurt me. Something cold and wet nudges my arm making me jump up. I forget I’m injured, my only thought is to get the heck out of here.
I try to run, but my knee buckles after only two steps, and I land on the gross ground in a heap, as I cry out in pain. A pair of eyes stare at me, I have to be strong, and crawl home if that’s what it takes to get me out of this creepy barn.
Tears stream out of my eyes making it hard for me to see, howling and crying seem to be everywhere. I look around terrified, cover my ears and hide my wet face until the lonely sad cries touch my soul. I can’t leave without knowing who is so sad and possibly in pain.
“If you come out I promise I won’t hurt you, we can help each other.”
The crying stops, as the sun peeks into an upper window, I watch the hay move. Peeking out of the dirty hay is a pair of golden-brown eyes. When he sits up we are eye to eye, he has a small head compared to his large body. His ears look soft and touchable, his face is brown and black, with a gray and black body.
“You’re odd-looking aren’t you buddy, but that’s ok, I think you’re handsome, even if I don’t know what kind of dog you are.”
He tilts his head and grins as he holds his dirty paw out, I smile as we shake. His tongue hangs out as he wiggles closer to me.
“You rescued me, and brought me in here, didn’t you? You’re lonely and in need of a friend, just like me. Now we won’t be stuck in the haunted barn alone and scared, we have each other.”
He sighs as he rests his head on my shoulder, but when I reach for my backpack he darts away yelping, and hides in the dirty hay once more. Sadness overwhelms me, not only is he dirty and neglected, a person has hurt him at some point in his life.
I’ll just have to teach him that not all people are mean, “Here buddy I’ll share my dinner with you, it’s the least I can do after you saved me.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him while I set out all the food I have in my bag, he is peeking out watching every move my hands make.
“Come on buddy, I know you’re hungry, we have a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, cheese sticks, and an apple.”
Once everything is laid out, he can’t keep himself away. I watch as he wiggles and howls his way across the floor. His ears perk up when I open the sandwich container, but his yelps and cries make my ears ring. I quickly break off a section of the sandwich for him, his eyes never leave the food.
My hand shakes when I hold it out, “Here you go buddy, eat the sandwich please not my hand.”
He daintily eats the small piece and licks his lips, then stares at me as I take a bite. He wags his tail, and soft cries and moans come from deep inside him, making me stop after one bite. He needs a meal much more than I do and eats the rest of the sandwich like a gentleman not even nipping me once. When the sandwich is gone, he leans against me staring at the rest, but not grabbing anything.
I rub his small head, “What do you think buddy, do you want the apple or the cheese?”
When he hears cheese he grins, wags his tail, and nods his head, “Cheese it is.”
He eats everything including the chips, it makes me full just watching him enjoying a meal. I pour some water into my hand and offer it to him, he flinches but doesn’t run away this time.
“It’s alright, I’ll never hurt you, look it’s only water, you must be thirsty.”
I drink from my hand first, to show him it’s alright, then pour some more into it. This time when I reach out to him, he stays in place and drinks neatly. I fill it up twice before he seems full, he burps as he lays down resting his head on my leg.
“You’re welcome, I’m tired too and cold.”
The later it gets, the lower the temperature, when he hears cold he tilts his head and takes off.
“Please don’t leave me alone in here all night.”
I can hear the tears in my voice, as he runs around the barn. The dirty straw is my only chance to stay even a little warm, so I burrow into it. No longer caring what’s growing in it, I have to wait for morning and hope that someone will find me. Something lands on me and I open my eyes and look at his grinning face, hanging from his mouth is the grossest blanket I’ve ever seen.
“Buddy is that for us? Well, I guess beggars can’t be choosers, thank you for sharing.”
He lays down next to me and sighs, we are as close as we can get, I don’t care if I do get fleas. He’s soft and warm and makes me feel safe, the light in the barn is gone, it’s dark and every noise makes me jump.
“I’m glad you’re here with me, I would be really scared if you weren’t.”
He licks my face, and closes his eyes, I pet his head and back until my eyes start to droop. My hand is over his paw making me feel closer to him than I’ve ever felt with anyone. His head rests on my shoulder and his tail is swishing in the hay next to my legs, in the worst place possible I found a friend.
“Becca, where are you? If you can hear me answer me, let me know you're alright.”
“Mom, just five more minutes ok?”
His cold wet nose wakes me up and I look into his soulful golden brown eyes, “Hi Buddy, I knew you weren’t just a weird dream.”
The door crashes open making us both jump, and he leaps in front of me growling with all the hair on his back standing up.
My hand covers my face as I squint at the light, “Mom and Dad? How did you find me?”
Buddy growls and barks, “It’s alright you can calm down, they’re here to help us not to hurt us.”
My voice is the calm one grownups use on young children, which works, he sits quietly as my parents rush over.
“Becca your father and I have been so worried are you alright?”
“A little banged up, but fine, how did you find me?”
“Your mom tracked your phone until your signal died, we looked everywhere and found your bike, along with drag marks that lead us here.”
“I didn’t think of my phone, I’m sorry when my bike crashed I hit my head, and Buddy saved me. He stayed with me all night and kept me safe, I can take him home can’t I?”
“What is he?”
“A lonely soul who needs a home.”
We both stare at them, my arm is around him and he lifts his paw and grins, “Well I guess if your mother says it’s alright.”
Mom laughs and cries, “How can I say no to the two of you, she’s going to need a bath and a doctor's visit. You also young lady, we’re so glad that you’re alright.”
Buddy and I grin, “We are going to have to come up with a better name, I thought she was a boy. Come on new friend it’s time to go home.”