It all began four years ago. A young couple, happily married only a year, moved into a quaint, quiet neighborhood. We'll call them McDavid and McRuth. McDavid was ravishingly handsome and McRuth was stunningly gorgeous. They had a cat, Blue, born from the pits of darkness and a dog, Seumas, delivered by the canine angels. Every day, McDavid and McRuth would take Seumas for a walk along the neighborhood streets, laden with laughing children, brightly colored butterflies and the smell of freshly cut grass. At the end of one of these roads lived an elderly couple...Elaine and Ron. They were retired...their only companion a small, white, fluffy dog that frightfully resembled the love-child of a cotton ball and dollop of Mallow cream. Her name was Taffy. She was a stupid dog. But she loved Ron and Elaine and they dearly loved her. Every day, Taffy would frolic across the precisely-manicured corner lot, like the wispy seed of a dandelion, blown into the wind by a freckle-faced child. Taffy wasn't an overly friendly pup, usually deciding instead to growl and snirf in the direction of anyone approaching her yard. McDavid and McRuth would wave to Elaine and Ron, working diligently in the flower beds, as they passed them on their daily walk. Seumas would bound toward the gray-haired duo, lick their hands and give a "how de do!" ARF! just in case Taffy was listening. McRuth would secretly bare her teeth and snarl under her breath at the beady-eyed white puff of dumb. This daily routine continued for nearly three years. Until one day, while on their walk, McRuth and McDavid noticed something was missing...something was out of place. They were in front of Elaine and Ron's house, but Taffy was nowhere to be seen. Not that they missed seeing the 5-pound little snot, but they had become accustomed to watching her prance so prettily around the flowers and McRuth had a new insult for the dog that she really wanted to try out that day. They waited for a moment, expecting to see a little black nose and bright eyes peeking from around the house, but Taffy never came. McRuth and McDavid came back the next day...and the next...no white doggie. Days went by. The weeks turned to months...the seasons came and went. Taffy was never seen again. Elaine and Ron didn't frequent their garden much anymore. A shadow was cast over the house...the once sunshine-infused corner house with majestic flower beds and cotton ball pet. McDavid and McRuth switched up their walking routine just for kicks...they soon forgot about Taffy.
The following Spring, green creeping into the scenery, the wintery clouds giving way to the warmth and glow of Vitamin D, McRuth decided to take Seumas for a quick jog. She donned her super cute brown and pink New Balance sneakers, streeeeeeeetched, grabbed the leash and headed out the door, complete with Toto look-alike in tow. She decided to take a right and go down Bentmoor Drive this day...the "old route." As she turned down the stretch of road, a chill ran up her spine...but there was no breeze. McRuth shook off the feeling, blaming it on her body's reaction to being out of shape. She picked up speed after Seumas had thoroughly claimed every mailbox on the street and was finally empty. Deja vu set it. I remember this route. We used to walk this street every day...that last house on the right...it looks familiar...that's Elaine and Ron's house...and Taffy's house...McRuth thought, an eerie feeling setting in. As she and Seumas got closer to the house, she noticed the decaying petals and leaves of the once-flourishing flower beds and shrubbery...brown and withered, twisted, like the corpses of an ancient fauna army. The windows on the house looked like black, lifeless eyes...windows to the soul of another dimension. The door was open...yawning...the throat of a monster, waiting to devour anyone who entered...no doubt the occupants were trying to air out the stale state of habitation inside. Glancing down at Seumas, McRuth noticed the hair on his neck was standing straight up...slowly creeping down the ridge on his back. He didn't like being there either.
McRuth gave the leash a little tug as she headed across the pavement to the other side of the street...a shrill voice stopped her in her trek across the road...
"Hello! Hello...we haven't see you kids in awhile."
McRuth winced...and slowly turned toward the owner of the voice. It was Elaine, standing in the yawning doorway...darkness behind her.
"Oh, hello, Mrs. Elaine. Yeah, we've been changing up our walk sometimes to keep it interesting."
"Well, that's nice. Is that little Seumas?"
McRuth sighed...Blast you, McRuth! Just HAD to go this way today, didn't you.
"Yes, ma'am. It's ole Seumas."
"Well, bring him here! Bring him here! We haven't seen him in so long. He's gotten so big."
McRuth hesistantly strolled across the road toward the house into the driveway...as if an unseen force was pulling her, grasping at her with its cold and gnarly fingers.
"Ron! Ron! Come here and see Seumas," Elaine cackled.
Ron's ghostly figure appeared from behind Elaine...joining her in the doorway that led to unknown horrors. His face almost translucent. Sheesh, when is the last time they saw the sun? McRuth thought to herself.
"Well, well...look at the little pup pup. He's a cute one. Almost cute enough to eat! Ha ha!" Ron rasped as he bent down to pet Seumas. "Our dog died about a year ago. It's always nice to have a little friend running around. We love all dogs."
"Oh yeah, the little white one, Taffy. I'm so sorry to hear that," McRuth said sincerely. A little sad because she could see how much the dog meant to the couple, although still slightly uncomfortable because they were being creepy.
"Yep. She was a good dog. She was 17 years old," Elaine chimed in. "But, she'll always be with us forever. She will never leave our side."
McRuth was sure her nervous half-laugh wasn't camouflaged well enough, but hoped the elderly couple didn't notice her white-knuckled grasp on her Mace. Hoping to scurry out of there as soon as possible, McRuth started slowly backing up out of the driveway, smiling as naturally as possible. "Oh...ha...o-okay...alright...well, we'll...we'll, uh, be seein-"
"Oh wait!" Elaine screeched. Agh! Almost clear. "Come inside. Come inside!"
Well, they either want to eat me or sell my organs to the highest bidder. It would be awesome if I could avoid both of those scenarios.
"No, that's okay. I don't want to keep you guys...I've got to be heading on back...almost supper-time," McRuth awkwardly stated, her voice cracking under the pressure, remembering that it was 2 flipping o'clock.
"No, I want to show you something. Seumas, do you want to meet Taffy?"
McRuth felt faint. Taffy? The dead dog? Her vision was slightly blurry.
"Come inside...she's right here."
WHAT THE MESS?
Elaine stepped back into the doorway, the darkness swallowing her...
Okay, yeah, she's gonna walk out with a ghost dog...or a stuffed dog...or a new Taffy dog...or a zombie dog. I need a plan. Why OH WHY! did I not pay more attention in Zombies 101 in college!
Elaine emerged, the darkness releasing her once again to the light of day...oh, the beautiful light of day. Whew...it was okay...she was just holding a small pot with a tiny lid...it was kind of cute.
Maybe it's like a picture bowl or something featuring Taffy, McRuth queried.
"Here, Seumas. Come here," Elaine ordered of the small, sweet, innocent dog. Seumas, hesistant, and rightly so, ooooched toward the pallid woman. He was wary...Elaine bent down toward the cairn terrier and held out the small pot...
"Seumas, meet Taffy. These are her ashes."
RREEE! RREEE! RREEE! (Psycho music)
"We had her cremated. So, she could be with us forever."
Seumas took a sniff and jumped back with a sharp ARF! Bile crept up into McRuth's mouth...she bit her lip to keep from gasping, drawing blood.
"Look, right here in the foyer, we have a shrine for our dear Taffy."
McRuth took two steps to the right and looked into the doorway. Just inside, a small patch of sunlight alit on a table filled with candles and mugs and a pillow and flowers and picture frames filled with pictures of the little white Taffy and a blanket and a certificate of crematorium authenticity and a poem and a painting...Taffy, in her death, had become an immortal...doomed to roam the halls (or at least the foyer) of the Bentmoor corner house.
"Yeah, well...that's cool. Alrighty, I'm starving, better be heading back. Ha. We'll be seeing you. Good to see you guys...and uh, Taffy. Ha ha...okay...."
McRuth and Seamus ran at full speed all the way home...they were sore for days after, but it was worth it...to be safe in their non-dead dog ashed house. They never walked that route again. When McDavid came home that night, he asked why all of the lights in the house were on...McRuth told him everything. That night, they lined the doorway thresholds and windows with salt...to prevent the canine apparition of Taffy from entering.
Sometimes at night...they can hear the unearthly and horrifying AAAAAOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo of the cotton ball Mallow cream dog, Taffy...calling for her ashes...