He took another drag from the cigarette and watched the birds cross the sky. Their black bodies, headed for the south, were dots on the blue backdrop. Caleb sat his shot gun on the ground. He enjoyed watching nature, namely birds. They were innocent. It was almost as soothing as his smoke-almost. paused and caught a whiff of something putrid. He looked to his left and spied a banana peel covered in flies. Turning his head to the right, he saw the bag. It lay neglected on the winter ground. He was simply at his wits end trying to stay sane and the predicament which had befallen him wasn't helping. His wits weren't as good now a days either.
Caleb was 75 and he could feel all those little years knawing away at the joints in his legs and arms. He felt death approaching, but he still wasn't sure if he was ready. Why, who the hell was ready for that, anyway? Caleb chuckled and brought the cigarette to his cracked lips. He pulled deeply. It came again, racking his brain with an odd warmth.
Caleb felt the whole world get bigger as another one died somewhere far away.
"Damn, this never ceases to startle me."
Standing slowly, Caleb's knees creaked and his wispy grey hair fell in his eyes. He looked down beside him at the garbage bag. He cringed. Caleb had a gift it seemed. Sometimes, when a person died, Caleb could feel it. Caleb had sensed the gift as a teen when one of his friends killed himself. He didn't like the feeling then and he damn sure didn't like it now. Hundreds of times in the past, Caleb acted as a morbid receiver of death. It was an odd moment when time stood still, reversed and then restarted, Caleb was convinced. He just accepted the gift as something that could not be explained. When it happened over and over, Caleb accepted it as a portion of his daily routine. When Caleb lost Pepper, he realized how empty his world would always be.
"Poor old Pepper, he was a good dog." Caleb spoke to no one in particular.
His eyes closed taking in the stale air. Caleb flicked his cigarette but into the soft dirt behind him and stared at the dirty garbage bag. He stared at the bag and frowned. Pepper had been with Caleb since he was a puppy, and he was a damn good dog. Pepper was clean and smart, hell, he didn't even bark all that much.
But then, about a week before his death, Pepper started acting strange. The dog paced back and forth in front of the door whining. As time went on, Pepper began writhe on the floor. First it was a few times that only lasted seconds, then it came in more frequency. As soon as the strange writhing began, it stopped.
While Caleb cleaned his gun in his favorite recliner, Pepper sat at his feet. Caleb reached down and scratched between Pepper's ears and started talking to him. Just silly words really, but an obvious expression of love from Caleb to an obedient dog. But this time it was different. Pepper spoke back. Pepper started to speak simple words.
"Caleb." Pepper spoke Caleb's name clearly.
Caleb was frozen by what he thought he heard. And he was right, because Pepper said it again.
Caleb looked harder at Pepper as if he knew he would soon wake from a dream.
"Pepper, did you talk to me, boy?"
Pepper spoke again. This time he made a statement. "Caleb, it's me."
Caleb's eyes grew large and his heart rate increased "Oh my god!" Caleb gripped the arms of the recliner and prepared to stand.
He thought it would be better to get out of the room a moment and think about what was going on. Caleb firmly believed in demons and possession and he had seen one too many possessions for his spirit.
"Uh...who is speaking to me?"
It seemed like Pepper smiled. "It's me Caleb, Patricia. I came to take you home, dear."
Pepper scampered forward and jumped up on Caleb's leg. Caleb gripped his shot gun tightly and tried to calm his heart. He remembered what the preacher told him all those years ago. 'Don't consort with the devil, he will get in your mind.' The words gripped Caleb with terrible fear. He couldn't imagine what this demon could do to him. It just kept coming, she just kept coming. Caleb felt faint.
Pepper wagged his tail. "Caleb, I love you. I am so happy to see you again."
Caleb instinctively pulled the gun forward and pushed it toward the dog. Pepper drew back in fear crawling off Caleb's leg. The dog shook. He cowered staring with dark shiny eyes. Pepper’s fur stood on end and his tail stopped wagging. Was the dog crying? Caleb tilted his head and puzzled.
"Damn dogs can't cry, you demon!"
"I know what you are, demon, and you won't have my soul." Caleb cocked the gun and waited for the demon to speak.
Pepper opened his mouth but no words came out. Unfortunately or fortunately, Caleb's body couldn't quit shaking. His bad trigger finger habit ended the dog’s life in a messy pop. The dog's last words were never spoken-lost in the loud bang. Caleb was still for a long time before he realized that he had killed his dog. Now that it couldn't talk it seemed more like a dog to him instead of a demon. Caleb sat in the bloody mess for hours trying to understand what he had just witnessed. Then for hours afterwards, he grieved for Patricia. When he came back to reality, he looked around and bellowed. HIs body shook, he grasped the collar of his shirt and pushed up onto his feet. IT was time to do what he always did, make things respectable.
Caleb picked up the garbage bag and bent to get the shovel. He had a nice spot for Pepper, out back by his wife's pear tree. This would be the perfect place to bury Pepper-the perfect place to bury Patricia-that old demon.
He couldn't do it, you know. ...digs... One half of his life with Patricia was enough. How many times he had gotten rid of her. ...digs... Now he knew that she could come through the animals as well. It was truly over for Caleb. Guess this meant a new form of loneliness...digs.
First, she used their children, then Caleb's new wife. His life became a dark and dismal place. ...digs... After Caleb moved out on his own, out into the darkness of the deep woods, she found him. She even came through a hunter or two.
Caleb dropped the bag in the shallow hole and looked into the sky. One black bird flew back towards the farm. As it grew closer, Caleb pulled another cigarette from his pack.
"I see you Patricia."
Caleb sat down and picked up his shotgun.
"I see you."