It came when the pup couldn’t sit still. From my place on the ground, in my sleeping bag, I squint in the darkness at the pup who is sniffing around the door. Her nose runs along the trapezium shape of my tent room, and her growl escapes her lips with a sense of threat. I tell her to shut up, but she keeps growling, growling until it erupts into a bark and then barking until she can’t stop, not even at my command.
And then she does stop. Her ears, still folded like a puppy, perk up, and her eyes look as the ears scan the air for noise.
It began with a rustle. A scuttle, snapping of twigs, and the sound of a falling cup to drive the pup to the edge. She barked and barked and barked, her voice commanding and angry. She starts running around the tent room, past my head, my side, legs, feet, the door, and back round. She can’t stop barking as she raises her forelegs to attack the walls of the tent.
And I think, it’s just my imagination. It’s just my imagination. We’re in a farm, with no one around, it’s nothing, just the sound of nature, there’s no way there’s a murderer out there.
My brother is already snoring, fast asleep. I don’t know about my parents. I don’t know if they’re still awake. I don’t care, because I’m busy squeezing my eyes shut trying to sleep. I try because I woke up at four in the morning. I try because I’m tired, yet I can’t get it out of my mind that someone was walking to our tent. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we are not alone.
I scream at her to shut up. And she does. I use my harshest tone and she sits, her eyes are wide as they look at me, just moments before she starts bending over, ready to roll on her back. I have my arm raised, a threat to gently punish her nose, but she rolls over.
I smile, it’s cute, so lightly, I tap her nose and tell her ‘no’. She understands, and while I settle back into bed, she stays quite. But the minute I close my eyes, she starts growling and then, she barks again. I tell myself, it’s a good thing that she’s unsettled, it means she doesn’t trust the area. She’s a good guard dog for a little thing. She’s a good girl. But she wouldn’t shut up. She’s at the door and she’s barking harder. Hard enough to shatter my eardrums.
I close my eyes and try to listen in between the barking to see if I could distinguish between the sounds, but I can’t hear a thing except the cricket.
At last I’m frustrated and annoyed enough to slam the sleeping bag away. I stand up, after a few sharp words to her, I grab a torch. I take a peek into my brother’s room, but it’s like he’s deaf or something. He’s not even showing a sign of life.
‘Idiot,’ I mumble and fumble with her collar and leash. She doesn’t stop squirming once as I put it on. Even as I open the door, she’s the first out, barking like crazy.
I don’t dare to talk. I’m spinning horror stories in my head again. One part of me is telling myself not to let her go too far ahead of me. She might get eaten. The other part was saying go slowly. If I do, then maybe I’ll see the attack before it happens.
I stick my head out of the tent. It’s cold. But a summer chill, that’s refreshing and not freezing at all. I look left and right. I can’t see anything and I dearly hoped there was nothing there. Then slowly I take my foot out. Left first, search for shoe, balance then steady. Then I stick out my right and zip the tent up in one shot. It’s a trial, but the minute it’s closed I’m on my guard, my torch on and looking around for the smudge of white. She’s barking at a tree and I flash my torch that way.
I see a pair of eyes in the grass next to the tent, and I screamed.