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Dog Under a Box

Deadly Mail

By Dominic Casey-LeePublished 2 years ago 11 min read

My dog died yesterday.

I don’t feel sad about it, even though I know I should. Who doesn’t get sad when their dog dies?

Monsters. Cold-hearted psychopaths, that’s who.

I don’t think I’m a psychopath. At least, I didn’t. Now I’m not so sure.

The circumstances of her death were quite strange. I was pegging my favourite bra on the washing line, enjoying the midday sun on my skin with a cigarette hanging from my lips. Lulu was chasing bees in the clover patch, yipping happily. I didn’t worry about her trying to eat them. She caught one once and her tiny little face swelled to double-size. She doesn’t snap at them anymore, just chases and barks.

“Put a shirt on young lady,” came a croak from behind me. I turned to see my elderly neighbour, Margaret, leaning on the low picket fence separating our yards. “Your skin will turn as red as your hair if you’re not careful.”

“You’re just jealous of my wonderful jugs,” I said, shaking my chest in her direction.

“I am at that. Mine don’t have the same bounce to them these days,” she chuckled, hefting her own ample breasts.

“I’m sure they were magnificent,” I said with admiration.

“Berty used to love smothering himself in them after a long day at the plant.” She gave a wistful sigh.

“Well I’m sure you’ll get to smother him again soon,” I smirked.

“Ooh you cheeky devil!” she shouted (or tried to), shaking her cane. I laughed heartily, ad she joined in.

“Oh hello, dearie!” She leaned over the fence to stroke Lulu’s head, who was standing on her hind legs at the fence. Margaret produced a Shmacko from her hip pocket and handed it to Lulu, who took it gently before trotting away smugly.

“She’s never so gentle with me,” I whined.

“She just respects her elders. Unlike you, girlie.”

“I do more than respect,” I said, feigning offence. “I admire you Margaret.”

“Oh don’t flatter me, dear.”

“I’m not! I genuinely do Margaret. I’m fortunate to have you as my neighbour.”

“Yes you are, dearie,” she chuckled. “Which reminds me, I must check on my apple pie.”

“Ok Margaret, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Don’t you want to try some pie once it’s cooled?”

“I would love to, but I have a friend’s birthday this afternoon and I’m yet to buy her a present.”

“Ok dear. I’ll save you some and bring it around tomorrow, would you like that?”

“That would be lovely, thank you Margaret.”

“Ta-ta!” She waved goodbye and trundled up the ramp to her back door.

I relit my cigarette and continued hanging my washing. As I was hanging the last of my undergarments, I heard Lulu growl. I paused to glance at her. Her ears were pinned back and she was snarling at the sky. She stood up and started barking, each bark punctuated with a kick from her hind leg. A square shadow fell over her and I looked up to see its source. Above the yard, descending gradually, hovered a large drone, my ears only now registering the whine of its rotors. A package, about the size of a bar fridge, dangled beneath it.

“Lulu, come here,” I called. She ignored me, continuing to bark at the drone.

“Lulu, here girl,” louder this time. Still she ignored me. The drone stopped its descent, now about five metres from the ground.

“Lulu! Come here!” I shout. I got her attention, but too late. The drone released its payload. I gasped in terror as Lulu, now looking at me, didn’t see it dropping directly towards her. Her pitiful yelp was cut short as it crushed her into the Earth.

I ran over and heaved the box off her, fully expecting to weep uncontrollably at the sight of her corpse, but my emotional response was stunted. I sobbed once, a few tears leaking from the corners of my eyes. My horror felt distant. I squatted to stroke her soft, tan fur one more time, looking at her little round face and big eyes. A trickle of blood tan from her mouth. Part of me wanted to pick her up and cradle her tiny, limp form in my arms and bury my face in her fur to cry my eyes out. But I didn’t. Instead I stood up and inspected the package.

Square at the base and rising a little higher than my hip, it was heavier than I had expected, though not overly so; only slightly harder to move than my washing machine. Black weather-proof wrapping bound what felt like a carboard box. On top was taped a note, which read:

KEEP DRY. DO NOT OPEN FOR 24 HOURS. DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE.

I looked up. The sky resembled the beginning of The Simpsons opening sequence: a few perfect white clouds and a brightly shining sun on an otherwise spotless pale blue. No chance of rain. Nevertheless, I dragged the box to my back door and heaved it up the steps into the laundry. This felt somewhat strange. I’m not usually one to follow instructions blindly, especially those on a mysterious box that just killed my dog.

I carried Lulu to the back corner of the yard, what should have been severe distress at the loss of my companion of eight years coming out as a mere quickening of breath. I could sense my emotions growing more distant by the minute. My motivation to bury her wasn’t even that of tradition; it was purely pragmatic. A dead dog in your yard attracts flies, scavengers, and other undesirables, like questions from your neighbour. I felt nothing as I laid her on the ground beneath the cumquat tree. I used her body as a guide for the hole’s size, marking out a rectangle exactly the size of a chihuahua around her corpse with the spade. I shifted her corpse and dug about two feet down, dropped Lulu inside, and filled in the hole. As I walked back across the lawn to my house, I heard screaming inside me.

This is WRONG! Call your mum and cry until your ribs hurt. Go to Margaret’s for one of her long, tight hugs and eat the whole pie. Jump on the Facebook neighbourhood watch page, track that drone down and whoever sent it. Make them PAY!

I did none of those things. The screaming sounded very far away. As if I was in a big-city apartment, hearing them from blocks away and twenty stories below in the dead of night. The sort of screams you ignore with a “not my problem” attitude. There’s no way you could get there in time. You wouldn’t know what to do even if I could. Surely someone closer and more qualified will sort it out. So you turn over and go to sleep, forgetting all about it by morning.

That’s essentially what I did. I dipped out of my friend’s birthday celebrations with a quick “sorry babe, just tested Covid positive. Have fun!” text, before muting the group chat and ignoring the influx of messages wishing me well. I jumped on the couch and wasted the rest of the beautiful day watching Netflix, had a microwave lasagne for dinner, and went to bed.

It's been twenty-one hours and fourteen minutes since I dragged the package into the laundry. I’ve only just gotten out of bed, having slept in. One thing this odd mood hasn’t changed is my morning routine. I’m sitting outside in my pyjamas, sipping my black coffee and journaling. As I light my cigarette, I realise it’s the first I’ve had since Lulu died. Usually I’d have smoked a whole pack after such a distressing incident. I haven’t even looked at the package in the laundry since placing it there, apart from brushing past it on my way outside. The thought to open it has barely crossed my mind, and was easily dismissed each time it did. Which is weird because I’m usually a very curious person. But now I’m not even curious about my lack of curiosity.

With only two-and-a-half hours until I can open the package, I decide to head inside and keep watching Lucifer until time is up. Half-way through the second episode, there’s a knock at the door. Shit. I’d forgotten Margaret was bringing me leftover pie. I know she knows I’m home, so I open the front door, but not the screen door. She’s holding a tray with a pot of tea and two cups, plus a very large slice of apple pie.

“Hi, Margaret! I’m so sorry, but I have Covid at the moment. I would hate to give it to you.”

“That’s ok dear, I just got the booster shot! I think I’ll be fine. You look like you could do with some pie.”

I force a smile. “Thank you so much, but I really don’t think I should be around other people. Just to be safe.”

“Ok dearie. You know where to find me if you want to chat.” She sets the tray down beside my front door. “Ta-ta my dear,” she waves. A sensation stirs in my chest, one I haven’t felt for a while. Affection?

My mind swiftly flushes it away. When she’s out of sight, I open the door and bring the tray inside, scoffing down the pie immediately, but leaving the pot of tea. I haven’t eaten today. I return to watching Netflix, waiting for my timer to go off, indicating I can open the package. My phone rings. I start, thinking it’s time, but it’s just a phone call. It’s my Mum. I swipe to deny.

Finally, my alarm goes off. It’s time to open the package. I rush to the kitchen and grab a paring knife, then cut the wrapping off the package. Underneath is a carboard box, taped over the top seam and at each corner with clear sticky tape. I sever it all with the knife, then dismantle the box. Underneath is a machine, slightly resembling an office printer. It’s covered in aluminium plating, making it silver all over. One of the top corners is taken up by an iPad-like device. Once the box is stripped away, it activates, revealing further instructions on the screen:

1. Ensure no one else is present who has not been in your household for the past 24 hours.

2. Once secured, connect device to power. The battery is only rated for 36 hours.

3. Plug your device into the landline/internet.

4. Plug your device into your television network.

5. Enter the following password ************** (for obvious reasons the I didn’t write the true password here).

6. This device will now distribute similar instructions to others in your neighbourhood. Soon we will all be following this superior way of life.

7. Use your social skills to help others with the process. Be friendly and facilitative to new members of the network. Avoid making others feel as though they don’t belong; we all belong here. Everyone should feel welcome because we all contribute.

8. Always be on the lookout for those who are at risk of succumbing to the notion of ‘true freedom’. The only true freedom is through surrender to ********* (I cannot mention the name if the presence of non-believers is possible).

I begin with Step 2, plugging the available power cord into power. Next I find a landline port and connect the device to it. I had to disconnect my own Wi-Fi, but I know it’s the only way. The password is oddly specific, but I enter it. I receive a message, congratulating my progression. The screen now displays a ‘broadcasting’ message, accompanied by an appropriate animation.

My laptop, my preferred method for social networking, is in my room, so I go to get it. The charger is plugged in behind my bed head, so I have to crawl underneath to disconnect it. When I return to the kitchen-dining space, I encounter an unexpected guest…

“Margaret! What are you doing here?”

“Oh hello dear. I just came to see if you’re alright.”

“I’m sick! With Covid Margaret! You should leave before you catch it.”

“You don’t seem like you have a physical sickness, dear,” she replies. “But you have been acting strangely.” I notice she has her tea platter sitting on top of the device.

“Margaret, thank you for the tea, but could you move it somewhere else please?” I ask.

“Of course, dear!” She picks up the tray, her hands shaking. She has nearly cleared the device when her arthritic old fingers give way and the teapot topples onto the device. Hot tea spills all over it as the lid of the teapot falls off.

“Oh I’m so sorry, dearie. I didn’t mean to ruin your new toy,” she says innocently.

My brain and body spasm for several seconds as he tea seeps through the electronics of the device. The screen starts flashing a warning signal:

MOISTURE DETECTED! APPLY RICE IMMEDIATELY!

I don’t comply with the instructions. I just stare at the machine as the tea slowly destroys it from the inside. I turn my gaze to Margaret, who is staring at me intently.

“You OK, dear?” she asks.

“Umm, I’m not sure that I am actually,” I reply. Everything that has happened over the past twenty-four hours is catching up to me. My dog died. I ignored that loss and became complicit in a plot which I can only assume was designed to control any human exposed to internet or television. I feel awful.

“It’s ok dear. It’s not your fault. Those dastardly Martians have been trying to control our population for decades. This one was remarkably close to success.”

“How come you didn’t get brainwashed too?” I ask.

“Well, I can’t be sure, but I think my hearing aids – or my lack thereof,” she tapped her ears, which had no devices connected to them, “may have protected me from whatever mind-controlling malarkey they were projecting on you. It must have been at a pitch I can’t even detect subconsciously. Who’d have ever thought being deaf would save the world?”

“You’re amazing Margaret.”

“I know, dearie,” she smiles.

I’m still processing everything that has happened. I start to remember. Lulu’s death. Her lack of a proper burial. Me ignoring her death, my friend’s birthday, a call from my mother, and Margaret bringing me pie.

“I’m such a monster!” I sob heavily at this realisation as tears stream down my face.

“You’re not a monster, my dear,” Margaret pulls me into an embrace. “That kind of brainwashing can overcome anyone.” I fold into her, sobbing uncontrollably. She takes my head in her strong hands and lets me cry into her bosom.

After a few minutes, Margaret asks me softly, “Would you like to come to my house for some casserole? And for dessert we can have some more pie. Then in the morning we can give lovely Lulu a proper funeral.” I look into her warm eyes and nod like a child. She smiles at me sweetly. I climb to my feet and help her up from her seat, and we make our way, arm-in-arm, to her house. Something she said earlier sticks in my mind, but I can’t recall what it was. As she opens her front door, it strikes me.

“Margaret, how did you know the device was from Martians?”

“That’s a story for another time, my dear.”

Mystery

About the Creator

Dominic Casey-Lee

Ecclectic, erotic, enigmatic. Exploring the mysteries of our existence through words, and hopefully providing some entertainment along the way.

Here you'll find excerpts from my fantasy project, stories, poems and general rambling.

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Comments (1)

  • Test6 months ago

    Your style is enjoyable for readers. I wish you more success

Dominic Casey-LeeWritten by Dominic Casey-Lee

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