My morning started when I heard glass breaking. I waited to hear my parents investigate it, but I heard no doors opening nor any footsteps.
I entered the basement—the origin of the sound.
Light from a broken window shone down on a puppy that was lying on a bed of broken glass.
My sides tightened, but I relaxed when its body moved to the pace of its breath.
When I came back with a warm, wet towel and some bandages, I saw the puppy was gone. Instead, there was a boy hiding in the shaded corner, wrapped in a tattered cloth. The boy had hair as brown as the puppy's.
He flinched when I appeared.
I paid no mind and whispered, "Are you the puppy?"
Hesitant, he nodded.
There was silence, but I wasn't uncomfortable with it. After all, I have both a puppy and a new friend!
"Hi! I'm Allen, and I'm ten." I held my hand out because that's what you do for the people you meet for the first time.
At first, he remained on the floor. I could see hesitance in his eyes. Then, he smiled meekly, taking my hand. "I'm Grayson. I'm ten, too."
Grayson told me he ran away from home. Some time ago, he was bitten by a dog while trying to pet him. He rolled up the cloth on his wrist and revealed his bite scar.
"I'm glad you didn't bite me," I remarked, and he smiled.
His parents had the dog put down and locked Grayson in the house to protect him. Grayson grew sick of it.
Then, sometime after the incident, he learned he could change between a boy and the puppy I saw earlier.
Seizing this chance, he used his form to escape, albeit narrowly, pointing to a gash on his back, courtesy of his mother. He hid here in case his parents were hunting for the puppy they found in their house.
"You're here, now!" I said. "You can stay with me!"
His puzzled eyes fell to the ground, weighing options he barely had.
I lowered myself into his gaze. "Please? I promise I'll take care of you. I'll bring food, clothes, and lots of love. And we can play, a lot!"
He went tight-lipped. Teary-eyed, he nodded. "Thank you!"
I promised he wouldn't have to stay in the basement forever—that I wouldn't be like his parents. But if he was going to stay here, my parents couldn't find out. So, we planned.
Every time Grayson heard the basement door open, he would hide until he heard my voice.
When he wanted to go outside, I asked him if he could change to his puppy form. "You know, in case your parents are looking for you."
"You just want to take me for a walk, don't you?"
I held my hands together, pleadingly. "It would mean the world to me!"
Outside, Grayson took the lead in puppy form. I followed him with his leash—some twine we found in the basement.
Midway through our walk, two older boys stopped me. Grayson stopped with a whine when the twine snagged on his neck.
"Hey Allen!" one waved. I looked down, so the older boy lifted my chin. "How's Mom and Dad? I overheard my parents saying they saw them at the bar, late last night."
I looked away. That's when the older boy slapped me. I looked forward then, my cheek stinging with heat.
"Check this out," the other boy said. I looked over. Grayson was in his hands. "Allen's family probably can't afford this puppy. Why don't we help him take this precious boy off his hands?"
I almost screamed, but the boy holding Grayson screamed first. Grayson bit his hand. The boy tried dropping him, but the puppy clung to his hand until the boy kicked him off.
Grayson rolled across the ground with a yelp. I went to his side, holding him. I looked up and saw the boys running away. Droplets of red stained the concrete from where they stood.
Grayson picked his head up. He seemed okay.
I told him he didn't have to do that. He said they deserved it.
There was silence between us as we walked back home. I tried to relax my still panicked mind. I almost missed Grayson muttering, "That boy will get what's coming to him, soon."
I looked down. That's when it clicked. Grayson was bitten by a dog and turned into a dog after, and Grayson bit the older boy.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
Grayson stared outward as he laid in my arms. Finally, he said, "What happens first after changing into a dog is a terribly strong hunger. You get past it, but for a while, you feel an emptiness you desperately want to fill."
And that's when he recounted the truth. He said he trusted me—loved me enough to come clean.
He bit his Mom. She retaliated with a kitchen knife she was using. The shock of the cut brought Grayson out his of state of mind, which then prompted him to escape by breaking through a window.
But he didn't run away. Through another window, he witnessed his mom change into a dog three times his size. He watched her attack his dad when he returned home.
The police soon arrived. They found Grayson's mom in human form, sitting in front his Dad, who wasn't moving.
I didn't say anything. I didn't want to say anything.
"They deserved it. They locked me up against my will. They yelled at me, saying it was for my own safety, and that I should be grateful."
Then, he looked at me. "You were the first person who treated me right. I owe you for everything. So, I'll do whatever it takes to protect you, both from those boys and your parents."
I looked down, confused.
"They're drunks. I hear them upstairs. They say foul things. The moment they hurt you, I'll protect you, no matter what."
Grayson told me he'd attack my parents—turn them into dogs just like he did to his mom and to the boy whenever he deems it necessary.
I need to keep this boy in my basement to protect anyone else from getting hurt, and that boy happens to be my best friend.
Then I realized I couldn't keep him in there forever. He'll find a way to escape, and then I may be his next target.
So, what is my other option?
I could put him down.
I went silent. It's only a matter of time before he hurt someone else. He did it twice already, and he'll do it again.
The next morning, in the kitchen, I poured a bowl of soup and rat poison—the one Mom says to never eat.
When I walked inside the basement, I announced, "I've brought breakfast."
The puppy peaked around a corner. He pulled back, then came back around as a boy.
The moment Grayson brought a spoonful to his mouth, I smacked it out of his hands. The spoon clanged across the room, and the poisoned soup splashed against the cold, concrete floor.
Then, I hugged him. I told him I loved him. He was my best friend—my puppy, and that I was sorry, and I loved him.
He looked at me with confusion, so I told him that the soup wasn't good, that he deserved better.
Returning to the kitchen, I realized I was crying. Grayson must think I'm weird, I laughed. Regardless, I couldn't go through putting down my best friend.
So, I'll just resort to option one: My puppy stays in the basement.
Later, I told Dad about the broken window downstairs, so he boarded it up. There were no other exits but the basement door that I kept locked.
For weeks, Grayson asked when we could go for another walk. And every time, I told him we couldn't in case the older boys or my parents caught us. Eventually, he stopped asking.
It never occurred to me that Grayson resented me for locking him in the basement until one evening.
I heard Dad scream downstairs. When I rushed down to the basement, I saw him holding his bleeding arm.
Grayson was on the floor in boy form, blood staining his teeth. He was shocked, mouth agape. He probably bit my dad thinking it was me. It was around our play time.
Dad will turn into a beast.
I slammed and locked the door. I blocked out their shouts—their begging to let them out.
Through gritted teeth, I tearfully forced myself to smile to make myself feel better. It didn't work.
"I'll just keep them locked downstairs," I said in ragged breaths. "If someone else gets bit, I'll lock them in the basement, too."
It'll be okay if I keep every bitten person that I love—Dad, probably Mom, later, and, most importantly, my puppy in the basement.