Holland was sleeping like the
dead with the same boring dreams playing on repeat in his mind when
his 4-year-old great dane, Luna, began scratching vigorously at his
door like she'd attained a racoon's bite and a case of rabies. She
wasn't very much the type of dog that liked to howl its mouth off
until its throat hurt (she wasn't a husky or a chihuahua, that was
for sure), and with her big paws slamming against the doorframe,
Holland was shaken awake within a couple of minutes, clueless to why
his parents weren't attending to her already.
"What do you want?" he
grumbled angrily, lifting his head off his deflated pillow to see
that the door was shaking, trembling on its hinges like never before,
and it looked as if it might collapse at any moment. Dread coiled in
the boy's stomach like a snake slithering through his intestines.
"Luna, quit it!" he
yelled from the shelter of his blankets. How were his parents not
hearing this? They were both light sleepers, and his younger brother
Dylan would have been rolling in his own screeches and shrieks of
anger that he'd been awoken. Dylan was 11, though to the other
members of the Berryman family, he'd never grown out of his terrible
Finally, he clambered from the
safe haven of his sheets and ratty stuffies his aunts endlessly
gifted him despite his hatred for them and hobbled to the door. He'd
busted his knee sliding in a baseball game the previous Friday, and
it still hurt like hell as he crossed the creaking floorboards to see
what had spooked his girl. They'd had her since she was 3 months old,
just a little puppy, but now she was taller than his hip and towered
over his head when standing; So, the average size of a great dane
compared to an under-average-heighted 13 year old boy.
He feared opening the door; What
if her paws swiped down on him and left free space for stitches? His
parents had blown so much money on a recent trip to Disney World in
Orlando, Florida, and he didn't want them whining in his ear about
When he finally mustered up the
courage to pull open the white-painted door, Luna barked in fear
before settling when she realized it was only him. "What is it,
girl? The fuck's goin' on?" he asked as if she could answer,
crouching before her and petting her back. Luna stuck her tongue out
at him before trotting down the stairs, the rickety wooden platforms
crying out for help underneath her weight. Holland hurried after her,
still half-asleep, mumbling about how annoying she could be.
"Luna, wait." But she
didn't; Luna didn't wait as she slid across the kitchen tiles and
began ramming her head against the screen door that led to their
backyard. "Hey! Luna!" Immediately the netting broke, and
as Holland watched in horror, Luna threw herself down the steps and
into the darkness, pounding toward the forest beyond their fence and
disappearing between trees that seemed like giants looming over him,
intensifying his fear. He swallowed his dread, blinded by his love
for his best buddy, and threw on flip flops, snatching a flashlight
from the kitchen counter before following suit.
"Luna? Luna! Luna!" he
shouted helplessly into the dark as the flashlight flickered and he
muttered a stream of profanities ("Fuck, shit, shit!")
before pushing on. He had to find her, or else his parents would
blame him. You opened
the back door, his
father would say,
didn't you, son? Why would you let our baby out in the dead of night
without going after her? Did you forget about her?
His mother would agree with a nod and an 'oh, yeah, I bet he did,
But he didn't forget. After all,
he was running blindly after Luna herself at 3 in the morning without
an idea of where the hell he was going.
Holland's voice rose above the trees and scattered birds previously
perched, observing, on high branches. They darted into the sky and
flew safely home; Whereas, on the other hand, the boy couldn't go
home. He couldn't, not without Luna. Not without his girl.
He stopped himself after a
couple minutes of aimlessly searching to realize he couldn't hear her
anymore, only the silence echoing throughout the night, broken by an
owl shrieking or a racoon's scampering footsteps through the
underbrush. Where is
she? he thought to
himself as he shivered, what's
gotten into her now?
There was always something, because that's how family works. There's
always something going on that makes you groan and want to disappear.
"Luna! Luna, c'mere, girl!"
He patted his thighs, whistled, even made the dumb kissy noises his
parents used to get her to come back inside for lunch, but nothing
worked. Wherever she was, she either couldn't hear or genuinely
didn't care. This wasn't like her-How could she not care? Those kissy
noises and whistles were like the words 'hey, I got you a new phone!'
to a dog. Any human would come running at that. So why wasn't she
Thoughts crowded Holland's head.
Did you fall into
another ditch, you bonehead?
he wondered as if he were talking directly to her, though he lacked
telepathy. I know you
aren't the brightest of all dogs, but attacking my innocent door?
Smashing through the screen like a barbarian? What's the matter with
you, Luna? Do you actually have rabies?
He tripped over something unseen
and tumbled forward, his palms slapping against the ground scattered
with wet leaves and dug-up dirt from animals scavenging for food. He
patted for his flashlight that's beam had gone dark, throwing him
into the pitch-dark, and his hand found a smooth surface and two
empty holes. He shrieked and threw himself onto his feet, but the
thing stuck to his hand like a bowling ball that he'd caught his
fingers in by accident, and it clung to him as he frantically tried
to fling it off.
Holland froze when he realized
what it was; he'd caught sight of it in the corner of his eye during
his fit and, oh God, it was a baby doll. A fucking baby doll, out in
the middle of the woods behind his house? What kind of horror movie
He lifted the thing before his
face to find the holes his fingers were stuck in were the baby's eye
sockets, where its eyes should have been, and a new horror dawned on
him. He was alone in the darkness with a random baby doll with no
eyes. What was this, a Stephen King novel? A Thomas Olde Heuvelt
The boy clung to his sanity and
willpower as he dropped the doll, an odd sense of dvu flooding
his brain, beginning to continue searching before he slammed right
into something knee-high, tripping once more.
This time Holland's chin thudded
against a tree root, the contact shaking him. He cried out in pain,
tears building, but hestill stood. He assumed at first it was a
stump he'd missed in his fear and blindness in the dark, except as he
stood he came face-to-face with something much more terrifying and he
wanted to run back home, with or without Luna.
Perched idly before him was a
It was made of rotted wood and
he couldn't read the name, but right away he knew. He knew-Part
of him was sure of something deeper, some part that remembered, but
the rest of him didn't listen as he tried to make out the words
etched into the stone and failed miserably. There looked to be an O
and maybe a D, and that was all he could read. The rest was either
numbers or solely so blurred no one could tell what it said.
"Luna?" he asked the
darkness hesitantly, rounding the grave without a passing glance.
"Luna, where are you? C'mere, girl. C'mon, just get your ass
over here already." He was whining like a two year old and he
knew it; It was like he'd been pushed back 11 years in 4 minutes.
Holland strode on because he
didn't know which direction his house was in, and part of him still
demanded he find Luna, chirping at him that she was his and he
couldn't abandon his own, could he?
He stopped walking, stopped
moving, stopped breathing abruptly as a voice joined his in a chorus
of raising cries for Luna-Luna.
At first, he thought it was his father because the voice was male and
sounded slightly like his own voice, but no-It was unmistakably a
stranger's, and yet it was screaming, screaming
for his dog. Could one of his friends somehow found out his dog was
missing? Maybe one of his cousins who lived down the road?
That was impossible. How could
they have come so quickly without his parents alerting them? And why
would they run down the street at the witching hour to find a dog
that was probably already gone for good?
"Luna, you are
unbelievable!" the voice yelled. "Luna, come
here!" The voice
was angry, so angry that it shocked Holland into standing still in an
empty stretch of land, about 40 feet away from the grave and the baby
doll now, and he stared straight into the eyes of the sense of
oncoming doom overwhelming him like a tsunami in a town of 1-story
houses. He felt his chest tighten and wanted to curl into a ball in a
tree, maybe hide with the squirrels for the rest of his life. The
fear was so present, so solid, so there
that he could have died of fright at that very second.
But he didn't. No existing god
or goddess would spare him from the truth.
Holland thought he could see the
figure of the stranger in the dark as clouds cleared away from the
moon, and it was a figure so similar to one he knew he could almost
put his finger on it but not quite. Not quite, not quite, not quite.
His heart stopped beating.
The figure was staring right at
"Holland?" it asked,
"Holland, is that you?" There was a foolish childishness in
the stranger's voice that he knew so well. It physically hurt that he
couldn't tell who it was.
And then, he could. Dylan. Holy
shit, it was Dylan.
But wasn't Dylan asleep in his
bed, safe and sound upstairs? Wasn't Dylan shorter than this, and
wasn't he younger? Wasn't Dylan a little boy instead of someone who
looked 16? Wasn't Dylan different in every possible way?
Holland couldn't speak. This
wasn't Dylan because this couldn't
be Dylan. If it was, that meant he had a serious case of amnesia or
was losing his mind, maybe both. If either, that meant he needed
serious medical attention immediately.
How? How, how, how?
he asked himself over, and over, and over. Everything about this was
impossible. Luna's nonexist footsteps, the baby doll, the grave, this
stranger that seemed so much-too much-like Dylan. His heart was
pounding at too fast of a speed as he turned in the direction he
thought his house was toward and fought his way through the bushes
and thorns to get there, zooming past trees whose branches were
clawing at his clothing and biting at his hair. Strands were yanked
away and his clothes were in tatters, covered in dirt, and he didn't
give a single passing glance at his fear. Couldn't.
"Holland? Holland, slow
down! Wait for me!" the stranger cried, increasing his fear more
and more by the second. Now, the maybe-Dylan was chasing after him as
Holland wished he could turn back time, staying in bed instead of
getting up. Ignoring Luna's earth-shattering stomps. Half-dreaming
"Go-away!" he yelled
over his shoulder. It came out as a mangled yell of pure terror and a
prayer for a safe space.
As he passed the treeline, the
shouting stopped abruptly and the maybe-Dylan ran straight past him,
nearly brushing him directly, and pounded onto the safe haven of the
dirt as Holland's parents, his very own parents, burst through the
The screen door that was still
whole. It wasn't busted from Luna.
How could it have been? Luna had
died that night, years ago, after falling in a deep ditch, dying of a
combination of blood loss, starvation, and dehydration.
It all hit Holland in one
massive swoop, the memories surrounding him and singing the same tune
in a chorus of terror as his knees buckled. He crumpled to the ground
in one movement, the ice that had been previously holding his bones
together shattering all at once in a spray of jagged shards and
Holland's parents rejoiced with
Dylan, hugging him close, and as Holland watched, his younger brother
began sobbing so heavily it looked painful. "I thought-I thought
it was him, I really-I
really did," he
stammered to his sympathetic parents, who wrapped their arms tightly
around their son, so tightly it seemed to nearly suffocate the boy.
"I swear, it was him."
"Honey, I'm sorry, but you
know it wasn't him. It couldn't have been. Your brother's gone,
Dylan," his mother soothed.
The boy perched on his knees at
the treeline found he couldn't view the scene anymore without
The baby doll, the grave, the
older version of Dylan, Luna's death.
How could he have forgotten?
Holland had been dead for years.