Jason walked through his cramped trailer sweating but was determined in his choice to stop drinking. It was late fall outside but inside his body it felt like the third circle of hell was brewing just under his skin. He checked his watch for the hundredth time today. He had tried this so many times but every time he would say “To hell with it” and rush to the store to pick up a twelve pack of beer but this time his future was on the line. Jason walked over to the window and stared out into the setting sun in the distance.
“Why did I choose today?” Jason spoke aloud to himself. “I can’t stop cold turkey. What if I have a seizure like that guy on the news? Look at me, I’m already sweating like it’s the middle of July and…” Jason laughed to himself. “And look at me! I’m talking to myself already. Thank God my mom is not around to see this.”
Jason walked over to the refrigerator and looked around. Anger filled his chest when he realized the one thing he wanted the most was not in there. He slammed the door and cursed under his breath. His throat burned with the need for cool refreshing alcohol to run down and put out the flame. His heart pounded out of his chest with longing. He paced back and forth like a caged lion just ready for the feed and when the urge became too much he went to the bathroom cabinet and pulled out a prescription from the Dr. Jason hated to do it but he felt desperate and he was terrified he would die. His sweaty hands shook as he twisted off the cap and swallowed two large pills. His hands slipped as he tried to grip the sink and steady himself. He slowly looked up into the mirror. Fear ripped through his body as he looked into the face of a man that he no longer recognized. He watched as a bead of sweat made a trail from his gaunt forehead, down his boney cheek and as it slid across his dry lips. A lump rose in his throat as he stood straight up and walked away from the diseased stranger in the mirror. He made his way to the living room and sat on the couch. He turned on the television for comfort but every channel was filled with snow. He flipped through all the empty channels just hoping to find one channel that could keep him company through the night, something to fill the empty void that was all around him. He finally landed on a channel that was full of fuzz but he could at least listen to the local news. As he listened to the reporters repeat the same story of a traffic accident over and over, he felt the medicine finally kicking in. His body began to relax and he felt sleepy for the first time in years. He laid his head back and drifted off to sleep.
Loud barking jolted through Jason’s body and awoke his senses with a start. He slowly lifted his head as the barking and growling became louder and louder. He stood up and walked over to the window and it was too dark to see past his front porch. Jason could feel his temper rising at the dogs relentless barking. Jason went to the front door and opened it. He stepped outside and yelled into the dark. “Shut up!” Jason laughed at the sudden quiet brought on by his outburst.
“Damn dog!” Jason said to himself as he turned to go back inside. He closed the door behind him and as he turned around panic overwhelmed him as he stood face to face with the most hideous dog he had ever seen. Was it even a dog? It was unlike any dog Jason had ever seen in his life. Its skin was wrinkled and was as if its skin was made of gray ashes. When it moved some of those ashes fell silently to the floor like winters first snow. His massive paws made no sound as he quietly inched his way towards Jason’s fragile body. His eyes were a greenish gold that glowed behind his heavy ashy eye lids. His ashy skin wrinkled up around his yellow jagged teeth as he growled a deep sinister noise from deep within his black soul. Jason knew in his weakened state he was no match for the massive animal in front of him. He slowly took baby steps backward towards the door. When he reached the door he felt around for the door knob but it was as if the dog knew what he was going to do. The dog lunged as if to strike but Jason dodged out of the way. Instead of hitting head on into the door, the dog went through the door as if a phantom of Jason’s imagination. Jason stood staring at the door, shaking from the terror of the strange event. His heart pounded faster as he heard the dog outside barking and growling for his attention once more. He was trapped, no doubt about that. Jason knew he would have to confront the dog and maybe even end the dog’s life. Something was wrong with this creature. Jason walked to the window, wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked outside. The dog was waiting patiently on the porch. Jason hit the window.
“Leave me alone you stupid dog!”
But the dog just lay down on the porch and patiently waited. What was he waiting for? Jason thought as he stepped back from the window and looked around for a weapon. Right about now he was regretting pawning all of his guns for beer a few years ago. He grabbed a bat that his dad gave to him when he was a little boy and opened the front door. The dog stood up and turned and stepped down off of the porch. He turned toward the darkness and began to walk into the woods. He stopped and turned as if he was waiting for Jason to follow. Jason knew this was stupid for sure but there was something oddly familiar about that animal. Hoping curiosity wouldn’t lead him to an uncertain demise Jason closed his eyes, said a little prayer and walked towards the waiting dog. As Jason got closer, the dog turned and walked deeper into the woods. Jason knew these woods like the back of his hand. He was born and raised here. Heck, all his family have been here for centuries. He knew this path well but he was still surprised to find the dog walking towards his mother’s old place. She had died years ago and Jason knew from all the years he had walked up here that the place should have been more run down than it looked right now. If Jason didn’t know better he would have thought he had stepped back in time. The cabin looked as if it had just been built but that was impossible. The last time Jason saw the cabin the roof was falling in and the front porch had a hole in it. Now it was as if time had never touched it. The dog sat like an obediently trained dog and stared at the house. Jason gripped his bat and walked up to the house keeping the dog in sight at the same time. He walked up the steps and on to the porch. He took on last look over at the dog still sitting quietly in the grass waiting for him. Satisfied that the dog was not going to charge at him, he turned and looked into the window. Grief and shock washed over him as he saw his mother sitting at the kitchen table. She was writing on a piece of paper and smoking a cigarette. Jason looked on with awe at his beautiful mother before the cancer, before the doctors carved a massive hole in her throat hoping to save her life. He wanted to rush in there and take that cigarette out of her hand and beg her to quit for him. He had been so alone since she died. She had been his best friend through so many hard times and to lose her to cancer was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Jason watched as she put out her cigarette, stood up and grabbed her coat. Her sweet voice called out.
“Jason! I’m leaving for the grocery store. Do you want to go?” She said as she grabbed her list and stuffed into her dress pocket. Jason was glued to the window as his fourteen year old self came around the corner.
“No thanks mom I think I will hang out here.” Jason felt dread because he remembered this day all too well and what he was about to do once she was gone.
“Are you sure sweetie? It might be fun. Grandpa let me borrow his truck. I’ll buy you a soda pop. What do you say? Like old times?” She reached over and brushed young Jason’s hair from his eyes with her milky white hand. Jason reached up at the same time and touched his forehead and for a moment it felt as if he could feel his mother’s soft cold hand brush his head as well. His heart broke as he watched her walk towards the door and for a moment he thought she would walk to the other side where he stood but she just vanished. With dread Jason turned back to his younger self and watched him come running to the window and as if he could see through older Jason. He waited long enough for his mother to drive out of sight to the store and turned back and grabbed the cigarettes his mother had mindlessly left on the table. He watched as young Jason slid out the first of many to come down the road, tightly packed tobacco smokes from the pack. His heart sank as young Jason lit the end, took a deep drag and proceeded to run to the bathroom. Jason turned around to the waiting dog.
“That was the first time I ever met you wasn’t it? I puked all night. My mother thought I had caught the flu. She watched over me all night, sitting on the edge of my bed putting a cold cloth to my head.” Jason felt fear as the dog sat up and began to growl again but he spoke anyway. “You took my mother away from me.” Jason’s hand shook as he felt that old familiar lump in his pocket and he reached down and pulled out his pack of cigarettes never letting his eyes drop from the dogs menacing stare. He held them up in front of the dog. “For years you have followed me and I have tried to get rid of you but you always came back.” Jason crumbled up the cigarettes and threw the pack at the dog. “You can have them. I don’t want them anymore.”
The dog began to growl louder but Jason stood firm with his bat in his hand ready to fight but the dog became suddenly quiet. Jason’s heart sank as he watched the dog turn and look at the woods. He watched in horror as another dog appeared and this one was as nasty as the other one standing in front of him. He too was massive in size, if not bigger and its skin was stretched obviously to its limits. What should have been healthy brown skin was stretched and pulled till the color was almost a transparent tan. Its face was swollen and its stomach was large and bloated. It had the same color eyes as the last dog but they seemed to be buried deep in the eye sockets and skin. It tried to bear its teeth but that seemed to be too much of a chore. By the time the dog reached the porch Jason could hear a low rumbling growl. Before Jason had time to react the dog began to vomit. Massive waves of thick gold colored puke spewed from his mouth. Jason held in a gag as the smell hit him. It smelled like rotten yeast and stomach acid. Jason grabbed this shirt collar and lifted it up to his nose to block out the smell. When the dog finished it licked its lips and turned and started to walk towards the woods. Jason knew he was supposed to follow him and he didn’t want to. He knew what this dog was and he didn’t want to face it. The dog made of ash gave a warning bark as if to say ‘move or I’ll attack’. So Jason walked off the porch and around the huge puddle of puke and followed the other dog into the woods. This dog took a well known trail up the mountain side that Jason knew very well. It was the trail that he and his friends walked on, camped on, you name it. Jason followed at a safe distance and he was surprised to see the glow of a camp fire in the distance. He could hear loud music and laughing. Jason knew now he was headed to his old camp site. It felt so good to see some of his old buddies sitting beside his seventeen year old self. Jason stood beside the second dog and looked on at the scene.
“Wow that’s Arnold over there and that’s Steve! I can’t believe how young we all look! That’s Abigail…” Jason’s voice trailed off. “Look at her, still beautiful.” Jason watched as Abigail walked toward his teenaged self with her blonde curls bouncing up and down her back. She playfully sits in his lap and plays with his hair as she watches him talk to his friends. “Look at me. Stupid jerk! Look at her she’s crazy about you!” Jason’s voice fell on dead air. “That’s the night I met you. Damn… I felt so grown up the first time you touched my lips. I thought I had it all. I had the girl, the friends and I had a promising education going for myself. But I took you into my life and I never once questioned you as to why? Why did you come after me? I was somebody then I was happy!” A hot tear ran down Jason’s face as he continued to watch his youthful self put one beer after another to his mouth and drink. “Oh Arnold over there… you took him in that car accident. Steve didn’t meet you until after his wife died five years ago. Everybody keeps begging him to get help but you won’t let him will you?” Jason said as he wiped his face on the back of his sleeve. He stared at Abigail. “If I don’t get rid of you I’ll lose her for good and my baby boy.” Jason watched as the scene began to fade into the darkness. The hair on the back of his neck began to stand on end and the two dogs on either side of him turned to look behind him. Jason felt true evil as he turned to face another dog. This one however was pitch black and its eyes were blood red. Its steps were cool, calculated and had a dark purpose. This one was even bigger than the first two. When it panted it gave the false sense that it was smiling and that made Jason’s skin crawl. When it finally reached Jason it did something unexpected, it stood up on its hind legs and stood at its full height towering over Jason. Jason took a step back and looked up in to the red eyes looking down at him. Jason jumped as the creature spoke.
“My name is Addicere please do not be afraid.” He said with a deep voice rumbling through his chest.
“I know who you are and you are no friend of mine. You are a deceiver.” Jason said timidly.
“Now Jason, don’t be so rude. Was it not I that supported you when your mother died? Where were all of your family or all of your friends for that matter? I was there for you when no one called to check on you and failed to even show up to your mother’s funeral. Wasn’t it I that held your hand when Arnold died? I have never let you down the way others have. I am your true friend.” He said with false sweetness.
“Yes, you were there but not the way you make it out to be. I reached out to you because I was lonely. Not because you were my friend. I wanted the pain to go away and…”
“That’s right Jason and I did take away that pain didn’t I?” He said as he put his heavy massive paw on Jason’s shoulder. “I’m the one that has never let you down.”
“You took Arnold from me! You took my mother from me! How is that being my friend? When I had no money you were never there! You abandoned me! I suffered all night and I ended up selling everything I ever held dear! My mother’s wedding ring I… sold it for you and you let me down!” Jason stepped back away from Addicere. “You are a liar!” Jason felt his blood rush from his head as his words washed over the dog towering over him. The ground shook as Addicere dropped back on all fours and crouched as if to attack. Jason mustered up all his courage and took hold of his bat in both hands. “You can scare me; you may have ruined my life up until now but you…” He said as he pointed to the ashy dog. “And you…” He said to the bloated dog. “You have no power over me!”
The two dogs yelped as if someone kicked them as hard as they could. They ran and hid behind their master. “And you…” He said as he pointed at Addicere with the end of his bat. “You can try to kill me but I swear on my life I will kill you before you kill me! You pretend to be people’s friend but you are destruction in disguise and you can go back to hell where you came from. I am in control of me not you!” Jason felt strength with each word that fell from his mouth. He straightened his back and he gripped his bat as he waited for Addicere to attack. Addicere began to growl quietly as he began to kneel down at Jason’s feet and the other two dogs followed his lead. Jason smiled to himself as he watched them fade into the darkness until he no longer even felt their presence anymore. He closed his eyes and felt light as air. He began to lift off of the ground and he opened his eyes as he felt the cold crisp wind rushing on his face as he was gently carried back to his trailer. He landed softly on his feet onto his front porch. It felt as if this strange occurrence happened over a period of days but somehow it took place all in one night. Jason smiled as the sun began to rise and warm his face. For the first time he felt like he had a chance, like maybe there was hope for him. Thoughts of Abigail and their baby ran through his mind and getting sober didn’t seem so bad after all. Was Addicere real? You live in the real world… is he real?