Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week.
Hope shoved tiles this way and that way, but after five minutes curiosity fled me. He was playing—nothing more, nothing less.
I went over to the dropped boxes and scattered game pieces to collect them. It took me almost a quarter of an hour to clear up the chaos from the floor and stack the games back on their shelves.
“Now come on, Hope. We really need to—” I cut myself off after turning around.
Hope sat on the coffee table, his chest pushed out with obvious pride, and barked. He'd ordered the tiles in neat rows, which was amazing given that he could only use his nose to push them around.
I headed toward him, a frown in place. A sudden unease, some kind of inner tension, coiled in the pit of my stomach. What would I find there? Would the tiles be arranged randomly? Or would the letters form words? Which of these possibilities would disturb me more?
My footsteps faltered until I stopped altogether. Hope tilted his head to the side then stretched out his left forepaw to me, as if he was inviting me to come closer. I couldn't keep my lips from twitching into a smile.
“This is freaky, totally freaky, you know? And not in a good way. I have no idea what to think of you or... or anything really,” I whispered. And wasn't that the truth? Since Shane's death, I'd lost sense of reality, of time, of friends and family. My whole life had been turned upside down, and I didn't know where I was or what to feel other than how much I hurt.
Hope hopped down from the coffee table and ran to me, his tail wagging wildly. When he reached me, he barked and bounced around me in circles. I lifted my hands in a gesture of surrender. “All right, all right! I'm coming.”
He butted his head against my shins, probably to get me going, but I couldn't force my legs to obey. With a heavy sigh, I crouched down, grabbed Hope's neck and pulled him between my knees. Hope yipped and licked my hands, face, whatever he could reach with enthusiasm. I let him be while my stomach twisted further and further.
Eventually, he calmed down and looked up at me with his dark, shiny eyes. I stared back at him, still mulling why I couldn't shake the feeling of remembering something, someone. He was just a puppy. A beautiful one, but still just a dog.
He whined and I kneaded the thin flesh behind his ears to soothe him. His whines grew in intensity and volume, though, so I cupped his little face in my hands. He stretched his nose up, sniffing the air.
“I'm scared to see what you did,” I confessed. “You're no normal dog, you can't be. You're too smart and too determined.”
Hope thumped his tail on the floor once.
“Was that a 'yes'?” I asked.
Hope repeated his earlier action and I added, “Once is for 'yes'? How do you say 'no'?”
He thumped his tail twice and his eyes grew smaller, as if he was laughing at me.
“Two thumps for 'no'? Is that right?”
Again, he thumped once. I shook my head. “See, that's what I mean. You're not normal. Absolutely not. What if you're some kind of demon?”
For a moment, Hope held his breath. Then he expelled it in one long rush. He pushed my hands off his head, turned around and trotted toward the coffee table. There he laid his forepaws on the table's edge and gazed at me.
“I guess there's no getting out of it, huh?”
Hope knocked his tail twice on the floor. I rose to my feet and followed him on legs that threatened to give out under me. Why the hell was I so scared? There was nothing to be afraid of! Just a few tiles brought into order by a puppy. Ordinary people all experienced these things from time to time...
I grimaced, gulped in a breath, and looked at the tiles. My heart pounded in my chest when I realized Hope had indeed formed coherent words. As I read them, all color drained from my face.
HI GIL I LOVE YOU IT IS ME SHANE
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