It never fails, everytime I arrive home from work or even just returning indoors from checking the mail, Jett my 3 year old black lab makes it seem like I've been gone a lifetime. I rescued Jett, six months prior, on accident. I was out for a run at the state park trails and he came out of nowhere and joined me about 4 miles in. I tried to shoo him away but he wasn't having it. No tags, no microchip, no collar. When I was done with the run, I got in my land rover and was just about to back out of the parking lot, when I saw him sitting in the grass just staring at me. I knew nothing about taking care of dogs, or owning one for that matter but Jett taught me all I needed to know.
"Hey buddy! How was your day? Eat any shoes? Piss on my kitchen floor? huh?" I joked while roughing my hands through his fur. God I love this damn dog.
I changed my clothes and laced up my running shoes. Jett knew the routine. He grabbed his leash and brought it to me. I loaded up the ipod with the usual pump me up music; Eminem - Lose Yourself, Five Finger Death Punch, Flobots, etc. Leashed up Jett and headed out the door.
I've never been much of an athlete. I was the kid in school that was always picked last for any recess or gym sport that required teams. I wasn't weak, I just wasn't interested and everyone knew it. It wasn't until I met Cane that I even took up an interest in running. It wasn't really an interest, he pretty much forced it on me signing me up for a 5K. The 5K was to benefit the local Children's Hospital so I couldn't say no without looking like a total douche and the fact that Madge was the coordinator of the event I was pretty stuck. So, I did that Couch to 5K program and ran the 5K. Although I an honestly say, I hate running, I'm also addicted to it. It keeps me in shape and helps relieve stress, and Jett seems to like it so I just keep doing it.
On this particular day, I decided to run a different route. I usually run down the lane from my house and head down the back country roads. I have a routine and I generally stick to it. I look forward to passing the Alpaca Farm, crossing the interstate bridges, waving to the locals. Pounding the pavement was harsh on the shins, however I rarely ran anything but pavement so I just stuck to the grueling routine. On this day, I decided to go the opposite route and run one of the park districts many nature trails. This particular trail was a mile down the road from my house and was situated on what was once abandoned farm land. The farm house still stood there, barely. Word on the street was the county was going to renovate it and turn it into a bed and breakfast. As I entered the lane toward the trails, Jett began tugging in another direction. Jett didn't normally tug. I think he was just happy to have someone love him so in return he tolerated my runs. I slowed down to a slight jog thinking that maybe he just had to piss but he began to tug more forcefully.
"Ok, Boy! We'll do it your way.. lead the way!"
The park had 6 trails. One trail went around the field, three went up the hill to a look out point over the farm, and two went through the woods, along side the creek. These trails were about 1.6 miles in length and i'd only ever walked them once. Jett wasn't with me at that time, so I wasn't sure why he wanted to go this way, but off we went.
The entrance to this particular wooded trail nicknamed "Chester Creek Trail", was almost like a death trap. 20 feet into it, the trail dipped down about 40 feet in a steep angle. At the bottom of the hill there were two options "Left to Summer Falls Trail or right to Winter's Song Trail." Jett chose to go right. It was a beautiful path underneath tall redwood, white oak, and even a few sassafras trees. There were multiple cat tail patches around the creek that we ran through over the man made bridges. I took out my headphones as I ran to listen to the peaceful sounds of the nature around me. As I neared the end of the trail, I was taken back by a huge white ash tree. The trunk on this tree was so wide, I took it as a good opportunity to take a break and let Jett piss.
Jett was still tugging a bit but he seemed happy to stop. I let go of his leash and leaned up against the beautiful tree trying to catch my breath. I took a swig of my water bottle and looked up at the sunlight peaking through the tree branches. Jett was only 10 feet away, taking a shit in an ivy patch.
"We're almost done, Jett.. almost there. I'm thinking tonight will be a take out night, what do you think? We earned it, right boy?" I wiped the sweat off of my forehead and put my headphones back on. I walked around the side of the tree to grab Jett's leash. Jett sat staring in the opposite direction. He was almost like stone he was so still, not even panting for breath. His eyes were like giant blue marbles.
"What is it boy? God I sound like some cheesy kid from a tv show in the 50's." I whispered. I looked out to where Jett was looking. I winced my eyes a bit to try to focus on the stretch of woods ahead of us. I felt confused as I thought for sure I had just watched something move about 200 yards ahead. Jett whimpered.
I tugged on his leash.
"C'mon Jett, let's just go home."
We were back on the trail, heading in the direction that Jett was staring at. We came around a bend that lead to a clearing. I could hear children up on the look out point acrossed the way, giggling and oohing and ahhhing over the view they had. I turned up the ipod and continued on the trail that lead around the clearing and up a path that lead to the farm house. The parking lot was just on the other side of the farm house, so once I cleared the hill I began walking. I approached the front of the two story house. The windows had been busted out, and the wood looked rotted. The front door was kicked down and you could barely see in through the darkness of the unoccupied structure. There was a rocking chair on the front porch that had seen better days. a few papers and a sign on the railing that warned "Do Not Trespass". Jett was tugging toward the house, whimpering. I wasn't trying to get a trespassing violation so I tugged right back.
"C'mon, boy! Let's go!" I was just beginning to start my run back up when from the corner of my eye, I saw something in the upstairs window. It happened so quick I wasn't sure if it was just delirium from running or heat exhaustion. Jett stopped running almost making me fall on my face. He began barking. I knew this bark. This wasn't a "I have to go piss" or a "Someone's at the front door" kind of bark. This was a "something is wrong" bark. I stopped and looked back at the house in the direction that Jett was barking. There was nothing there. I pulled him away and we began to run again, but I felt a cold chill run on my back as if someone were watching us. The chill ran away once we were off the property. The mile back home was probably the longest mile I ever ran. I was so tired, and yet I couldn't get the farm house out of my mind. I couldn't shake the feeling that someone or something was in there watching us. Maybe I watched too many horror movies as a kid, I don't know. But I wasn't scared, I was concerned.
When we arrived at the house, I let Jett loose. He ran straight for his bed, whimpering.
I grabbed a towel and wiped off my face. I looked down at my phone to check for any messages.
"Dude, Madge is out cold, wanna go to O'hannigan's?" read one text.
"Leland, tomorrow is Gia's half birthday celebration. You and Jett HAVE to come."
My sister will find any reason to have a party.
Two missed calls and one voicemail.
I put the phone on speaker and sat it on my bathroom sink as I began to strip for my shower.
"Hi Leland (annoying noise), I uh, was calling to see how I did at my interview. (another annoying noise). Can you call me back at your earliest convenience? This is Kyle, by the way."
I was no sooner naked and the doorbell rang. I wrapped the towel around my waist and walked toward the front door.
Who in the hell could be here on a Friday evening.
As I approached the door, I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I reached for the handle and pulled the door open.
"What the fuck!" I whispered.