It has been a while (too long) since I last uploaded one of my short stories. This next one was inspired by a writing prompt from the guys over at Reedsy on their blog. You can also sign up to their email list where, if you’re interested, you’ll receive a handful of writing prompts to spark your creativity.
Now, enough blabbering from me, because we all know why you’re here – to read the short story!
So, without further ado, enjoy!
‘Bryan, I’m home!’ Kelly said as she walked through the door, every part of her body ached.
She dropped her shoulder bag to the floor and hung her keys on the wall. Above the keys was a large wooden plaque that had been a moving in present from her mum and dad. The words Welcome to the Bahamas, Jelly were carved in black and blue. A tiny swaying palm tree and glowing the sun sat next to her nickname.
One day, she thought smiling to herself. That was the dream. That was what she had aspired to her whole life. That was what she’d been working so hard for every day.
But it would be useless if she didn’t have anyone to go with.
‘Bryan!’ She called again as she removed her coat and placed it over the arm of the sofa next to her.
A few seconds later she heard the patter of excitable paws galloping towards her. She turned around and crouched down to her knee.
‘Hello, Bryan! Who’s a good boy? Did you miss me?’ She said playing with Bryan’s furry face. Her hands ran through his soft silky hair, pinching his cheeks together.
His tiny paws clawed up her to her chest with his tongue out desperate to show her the love and affection he’d missed out on all day. Kelly grabbed his hind legs, rested him in her arms and moved to the kitchen.
She delighted to see that it was as clean as she’d left it. The silver of the sink sparkled and danced in the light. A white radiance shone through the window and bounced on the kitchen surface. On the marble stone flooring, she saw her own reflection.
In the far left of the kitchen, next to the fridge lay two trays, one of food and one of water. Kelly gave the back of Bryan’s head a kiss and said, ‘you have been a good boy haven’t you? No mess from you today.’
Bryan let out a little bark and wriggled in her arms as a way of affirmation. His deep brown eyes stared at hers. A feeling of warmth and happiness spread through her, coursing through her veins. The hairs on her arms rose slightly.
‘Come on,’ she said juggling Bryan in her grasp. ‘I’m hungry.’
She placed him atop the kitchen surface and ran to the fridge. Layer upon layer of ready meals and condiments spilt out of the fridge. In the door she grabbed a carton of orange juice and poured herself a glass.
‘What shall I have, Bryan? What do you reckon?’ she asked as she turned on the radio behind the dog.
Music filled the apartment. As the steady rhythm of the beat and melody of the guitars played, something grabbed hold of her and didn’t let go. Her legs and her hips swayed in time with the beat of the drums and her lips mimed the song. She didn’t know what it was or who sang it, but she didn’t care. She was in a good mood, and the only thing judging her right now was Bryan. And Bryan was her best friend, so it was allowed.
‘I think I’ll have a curry,’ she said as she pulled a tin of Marks and Spencer finest, and a sachet of microwaveable rice.
While the paste simmered over the fire, she moved to the bedroom, Bryan trailed behind her heels. She opened the door, instantly overwhelmed by the smell of washing chemicals and the overbearing scent of lavender that attempted to mask it. To her, it was soothing and homely. Bryan sniffled softly as he entered the room and sneezed by her feet.
Kelly undressed quickly, placing her blue uniform on the hanger ready for tomorrow’s early morning shift. Her NHS staff card rested in its usual position next to her dresser table. From the kitchen, music travelled through to her bedroom and she skipped along. Within a minute she was dressed in her lycra and loose fitting white top, her breasts securely fastened in an uncomfortable sports bra. After a few shimmies of her chest she was content they were in position and returned to the kitchen. The smell of curry rose through her nostrils. Her stomach rumbled in response.
‘Dinner time,’ she said out loud, moving to the dinner table. ‘What did you get up to today, Bryan? Hope you didn’t miss me for too long. And I’m sorry for being home later than usual, Mike wanted me to help him with something. Of course, I couldn’t say no, could I? Every time he speaks I can’t help but get tingles in my stomach,’ Kelly laughed, tiny pieces of rice landed back on the plate. ‘It’s a good thing you can’t talk,’ she said smiling at the pair of beady eyes staring back at her, ‘otherwise who knows what secrets you might tell him!’
She ate the last of her meal and washed the plates, dried them and placed them in their rightful position.
As she walked into the living room her sofa proposed an almost unbearable invitation for rest. No, she told herself, you’ve had the past two days off. You’re not having another one.
She wasn’t in particularly bad shape by any means, her waist was still a size 6 and she still received predatory looks from passersby in her nurse uniform. But it was the lack of time she had to eat proper, homemade meals that concerned her. The demands and stresses of her busy life meant she had little time to do so. Even finding time to meet up with friends was a struggle. Today, however, was different. She turned the music up, opened her laptop, found her fitness programme, and exercised in the middle of her living room.
By the end of the process, beads of sweat raced down her cheeks, some cutting ahead of the rest and diving straight off the bridge of her nose. The muscles in her legs and abdomen constricted with each movement of her body as she sat down on the sofa.
Bryan raced up to her and jumped between her thighs.
‘Easy, Bryan! They hurt,’ she said, easing herself into the cushions, allowing them to swallow her.
Bryan whimpered and walked up to her chest. His fur tickled her nose as she switched on the television. A rupture of noise and gunfire sounded from the small screen.
‘Eastenders really must have gone downhill,’ she said to herself as she flicked through the channels. Eventually, she stumbled upon one that she was content with, one that didn’t require much attention at all. Scenic and picturesque images of the British countryside flashed on the screen, bringing with them a sense of longing and desire. One day, Kelly, one day you and your dream man will be in The Bahamas, she thought to herself as she craned her neck to look at the plaque on the wall.
A small fidget on her chest brought her attention around. Bryan’s head rested on his paws, with his grey hair covering his half-closed eyes.
‘I think I might join you on that one,’ Kelly said, stroking Bryan’s neck and ears, sending him to sleep.
Slowly, with the noise of the television in the background, her eyelids became heavy with the weight of the day’s seemingly never-ending struggles.
She allowed the velvety blanket of sleep to encompass and protect her. She dreamed of nothing. Blackness stretched from corner to corner, disorienting and intimidating her. Even the slight stirrings of Bryan atop her chest were unable to wake her.
‘No! that was not part of the plan!’ a deep voice called amidst the blackness, echoing around the vestibules of her mind. At first, she considered it to be her subconscious at play, tricking her, fooling her, the voice of her father calling out to her in her mind.
‘Don’t you dare overrule me, you do not have the jurisdiction!’ the same deep voice said again. Except this time, it was riddled with fear. The once deep voice went hoarse and strident.
Then she felt a kick on her chest, awakening her from her deep sleep. Her eyes opened instantly; before her, Bryan, laying on his back, flailing his limbs in the air. Loud screams burst from his mouth.
‘Stop what you are doing, I command you to!’ the words came from Bryan’s mouth, his tiny lips moved with every syllable.
‘What the -?’ Kelly screamed, confusion and fear grappling her. Instinctively, she jumped from the sofa, launching Bryan to the floor, and scuttled towards the kitchen with her back against the wall.
Bryan rolled to his feet and stood there, tail pointed in the air, ears perked, and his eyes narrowed.
Kelly remained still, her fingers shaking as she ran her hands along the wall, hoping to find the light switch that would terminate the situation and wake her from her dream.
‘I wouldn’t if I were you,’ Bryan said. His voice filled with the authority and steeliness of a drill sergeant.
‘You – you can talk?’ Kelly asked, her voice disjointed and quiet.
‘I can do a lot more, trust me,’ Bryan said, shaking his head. The fastened collar around his neck rattled and shook in unison with his head. Slowly, the collar made its way over his ears and the top of his skull and landed on the floor by his feet.
‘I’m going mad,’ Kelly said. Her head felt dizzy and the room began to circulate like a carousel.
‘Kelly, I can confirm you, in fact, aren’t,’ Bryan said. With a swift movement of his head, he dipped his chin and pressed the bone-shaped dog tag with his nose. A red light began blinking.
‘What is happening? What are you doing? Why are you talking?’
‘Let me explain,’ Bryan said picking his collar in between his teeth. ‘Dogs can talk. Every breed you have ever seen, every dog you have ever laid eyes on or touched, has been able to speak. Ever since we first arrived on this planet, we have been able to. We have adapted and moulded our languages to suit the needs of you Humans, in the hope that one day we will be able to converse.’
‘Why?’ Kelly asked. Despite the situation, she found Bryan’s authoritative and commanding voice soothing. The tension in her shoulders and back eased into a more natural position, and her eyes no longer stung with the unfulfilled amount of sleep.
‘Because for centuries – millennia, even – we have walked among Humans to build your trust, earn it in whatever way we are able to. There is a reason why we are called ‘man’s best friend’. It has taken us a long time to build this respect, all in order to defend you from impending doom.’
‘What doom?’ Kelly asked. There was so much to absorb, so many questions she needed answers to, and some she would not rather know.
‘Cats. They landed on this god forsaken planet before us, and are already one step closer to world domination. It is up to the canine family to eradicate the threat that cats pose,’ Bryan said, his posture had now changed to a more prominent stand.
‘It is difficult to explain how. In order for you to understand, I must show you,’ Bryan said rising to his hind legs.
As if by some unspoken agreement, Bryan waddled toward the door with an arrogance and sophistication about him, and Kelly reached for her keys and opened the door. Together, they left the apartment and descended the building.
You’re just in a dream, Kelly told herself, casting sporadic glances towards Bryan who rested by her feet. Every now and then she tightened her grip on the lift handle, reassuring herself it was just a vivid unreality, a consequence of exhaustion and over tiredness.
Eventually, they reached the ground floor of her apartments and strode into the busy nighttime streets of London.
The dim orange of the streetlights blurred past her. Red and yellow flashed in her eyes. But she didn’t notice it. Her mind had dissociated itself from any thought. The only command she listened to was Bryan’s, directing her towards where it was they needed to go.
Soon, after half an hour of driving, stopping and starting, they arrived at their destination. The air was cold, and the clouds in the sky had disappeared as if they were afraid of what was to come. Tiny balls of glitter sparkled in the night sky, barely visible under the artificial light of the street lamps overhead.
Kelly pulled into an alleyway, the pavement reeking of urine and other faecal matter.
Bryan hopped out the same side of the car as Kelly and directed them towards a door. Above, a train glided across the roof like a bird soaring through the air. It created an awful din that brought Kelly back to reality.
‘Where are we?’ She asked as she stepped through the door.
‘Welcome, to the lair,’ Bryan said nudging the door shut with his nose.
Kelly looked out upon the room before her. It was empty, save for a solitary chair that sat in the middle. Its shadow danced under the spotlight that hung from the ceiling.
Suddenly, a realisation settled in. Oh, no, she thought, what is going on? Kelly turned her back to face Bryan, but she stopped on the half-turn. Before her, resting on his hind legs, Bryan looked up, his eyes bulging, filled with a sentiment that evoked empathy.
‘Bryan, what is this?’ Kelly asked, the palm of her hands beginning to moisten.
Before Bryan was able to answer, a noise distracted her attention.
The light that provided illumination for the whole room swayed vigorously from side to side. She cast her eyes around the room, in search of the cause. There was nothing.
Kelly stepped back, her feet moving with the silence and fluidity of a snake rustling along the floor.
Then, all of a sudden, small bulbs of light dotted around the room. Slowly, their owners stepped forward. Soon, the floor was filled with dogs of every breed. Each face wore a look of contempt and resentment.
‘I’m sorry, Kelly,’ Bryan said, walking around to her front. His voice echoed throughout the four walls. ‘But you already know too much. It would be foolish of me, the leader, to allow you to survive.’
‘Leader of what?’ Kelly asked, her breathing became more rapid, and the skin on her palms drowned in a layer of sweat.
‘The Revolution,’ Bryan said, pouncing towards her. ‘You see, it is us canine animals who wish to take over the world. And we almost would have, sixty years ago, had it not been for Orwell’s Animal Farm. For years, our ancestors – my ancestors – have built your trust, brainwashed you into allowing us to do what we please. Now, there is a dog in almost every household. There is no escape from us, and there will be no escape for you, Kelly.’
Bryan’s brow furrowed and his eyelids squinted. Slowly, the dogs surrounding Kelly neared, invoking fear through her. She couldn’t move, unable to divert her gaze from Bryan.
‘What are you going to do to me?’ She asked, her breathing now uncontrollably rapid.
‘Why, kill you of course.’