☰ 189 Martin Lane

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I waited until the wind blew again. It drowned out the sounds of the grandfather clock ticking away in the old lady’s living room. I confidently sneaked the rest of the way into her window.

She lived in a nice neighborhood. That’s probably why she didn’t worry about locking her windows. 

You should always lock your windows; and don’t get cocky and think that just because they’re not on ground level, guys like me can’t get in. Cause we can.

I’ve been doing this for years. 

Never been caught.

I don’t take more than I need, but I do take.

This lady had way more than she needed. No pets (that I know of) and no family. 

The perfect target. 

Another thing that made her so perfect was the fact that she wouldn’t even know she’d been robbed for God knows how long after the fact. 

Don’t feel sorry for her. She doesn’t need the crap I’m about to liberate from her downstairs safe. 

Really. 

She doesn’t.

But I do.

I closed the window silently behind me and made my way over to the large painting on the other side of the room. I removed it from the wall, making sure that any noise I made happened during a tick or a tock at the hands of the grandfather clock to my left.

I smiled when I saw the safe that had been hidden by the painting. 

Piece of cake. 

I got to work on it. Every so often, I would glance behind me and listen, just to make sure the old lady didn’t sleepwalk or get up for a midnight snack. 

If she did come downstairs, I doubted she’d come into the living room anyway. If she didn’t turn on the light, there was a good chance she’d never see me at all.

I heard a click.

It hardly made any noise at all, but my ears were trained to hear it. Conditioned to love that satisfying little pop of the lock that lets you know nothing stands between you and what you want. Anything is up for grabs after I hear that click. It’s like the universe itself opens up and tells me her secrets for a moment.

I opened the safe slowly. 

I don’t think the old lady bothers with it much, so the hinges may be rusty. There was no alarm, and I let out a sigh of relief.

I clicked on the penlight hitched over my right ear and gazed into the safe.

My eyes widened. Sharp needles of horror swam through my veins and I gasped. 

Too loud. 

The room grew darker. 

The wind blowing the clouds over the moon? 

No. 

I turned to look at the doorway next to the grandfather clock, and there she stood. 

The old lady.

“Something you want in there, son?”

Curse words slashed through my mind at top speeds. I didn’t want to get caught, but I also didn’t want to assault an old lady to get away. She took a few steps closer to me. Her long white nightgown trailing behind her.

“S-s-stay away from me.” I whispered, inching away from her. “You're a monster.” I’d seen what was in her safe. I knew I was in over my head.

She cackled.

“But you came to me.” She laughed again. It was a dry, bitter laugh. “You intended to rob a poor old lady.” She shook her head as if she were scolding a child. “I’ll have to make sure that never happens again.”

I made a run for it, back towards the window I’d come through into this nightmare. In less time than it took to blink, she was in front of me blocking my path.

Impossible. 

What the hell had I gotten myself into?

She grabbed me by my hair and head butted me. Blood poured out of my broken nose and over my lips. She was bleeding too and it ran down her forehead over her too long nose and thin cracked lips. 

This lady was the real deal. Tough as nails and meaner than a shithouse snake.

She laughed loudly.

I let out a pathetic cry and crab crawled away from her on my back. My mind was foggy from the pain in my face. My adrenaline level was sky high. I wasn’t a fighter. I was a cat burgler, I avoided people at all costs. The rules of my trade flitted uselessly through my mind: don’t make a scene, don’t make any noise, don’t get caught, don’t confront. They were just ramblings of a man about to die. For all their power, those rules wouldn’t save my life.

I crawled away from her until my back was flush with the end of her couch. I had nowhere else to go.

“Please don’t kill me.” I garbled. I was crying now. Wouldn’t you? This lady, this old lady; she had to be something more than what she seemed. Nothing moves that fast in nature. Not even a cheetah. She wasn’t human. And then there was the matter of what she’d locked away in her safe. 

She was a monster for sure. Something demonic. Not of this world.

“Oh, please.” She giggled. “I’m not going to kill you, silly goose.”

She crept closer to me with every passing second. She held out a long gnarled finger and tapped the end of my nose. “You’re going to make sure this never, ever happens to me again.” She said light-heartedly.

She started chanting something.

Words I didn’t understand. My body started to feel numb. I tried to get away, but my limbs wouldn’t obey me. I tried to scream, but dark smoke just billowed out of my mouth. I clawed at my throat, trying to breathe. 

The pain set in at the tips of my toes and worked its way up my legs. It passed through my thighs, my groin, my lower abdomen and up my chest. When it reached my heart, it overwhelmed me and my vision began to blur.

The old woman kept chanting. Over and over the same words, but they didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know what she was saying, but she was doing something horrible to me.

Horrible. 

I was finally able to scream, but it came out as a howl. 

I looked down at my arms to find two, large fur covered paws. When I tried to speak, the words came out as a bark. The pain subsided, but not my terror.

“You will be loyal.” She told me. My eyes were wide and full of malice, but when she snapped her old, too long fingers, I sat down on my haunches straight away. She knelt down beside me and patted my new canine head. 

“Stay.” She said before she left me in the dark. "Guard the safe." I watched her long nightgown follow behind her as she left the room.

The window I came in was still open a crack. I wanted to leap outside and run until my four legs couldn’t carry me any farther. But I can’t seem to make myself disobey that old Witch. 

Of course that’s what she is. 

A Witch. 

Who else could turn someone into a freaking dog? 

I shook my head in despair and laid down on the rug with a sigh. 

Now, all I had to keep me company was the tick-tock, tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the corner. 

I suppose I may as well get used to it. 

I’m going to be here for a while.

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