Charlie was always a quiet boy. He usually kept to himself and played alone during recess at school. His shy nature made him quite difficult to approach, so naturally he had a tough time making friends and even worse — he was bullied on a regular basis. This worried his parents, especially since Charlie would be turning eleven years old in a few days. They expected him to grow out of his timid phase by now.
Due to his lack of friends, Charlie would spend most of his time in his room doodling with his crayons. He loved to draw pictures of all kinds of things! From spaceships to fire breathing dragons, Charlie's imagination would run wild on those pieces of paper. Yet, despite all his elaborate drawings, his favourite picture was of him playing with a big golden-brown dog. That was the one he taped on his wall right by his bed.
You see, Charlie suffered from horrible nightmares. On numerous occasions, he would wake up sweating and crying from a terrible slumber. He would run to his parents room screaming and begging them to let him sleep in their bed. When his father would ask him what he saw in his dream, Charlie's answer was the same every single time: "The Boogeyman. He waits for me to fall asleep and then he crawls out from under my bed, claws out my eyes, and eats my organs."
This continued to happen for months, until his parents thought of an idea.
When Charlie's eleventh birthday finally rolled around, he was in for a big surprise. He came home from school, as per usual, plopped his bag down on the floor, and immediately went to his bedroom to start drawing with his crayons. However, when he walked inside, his parents were sitting on the edge of his bed with big smiles on their faces. Behind them was a large cardboard box with a big red bow.
"What is this?" Charlie asked, butterflies swarmed inside his stomach.
"Happy birthday sweetie!" his mom said. "Your dad and I thought we would surprise you with something extra special this year!"
"Since you're always staring at that dog drawing by your bed," His father said while placing a hand on Charlie's shoulder. He led him towards the box. "Well... why don't you just open it and see what it is."
Charlie couldn't contain his excitement. His mother helped him untie the bow, and when it slid off something popped out of the cardboard box. A head! A furry golden head with big brown eyes! Charlie gasped when it leaped out of the box and started to lick his face.
"You got me a puppy?" He exclaimed with joy. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
"We thought he could help you sleep better," his dad smiled. "He could be your little protector, you know, from The Boogeyman."
"He doesn't have a name yet," his mom added. "We told the breeder that you would decide on that."
"I love him," Charlie said, giving the dog a big kiss on his wet nose. "I think I'll name him Chaser! He'll chase The Boogeyman out of my dreams."
From then on, Chaser would sleep under Charlie's bed every single night. He would guard Charlie from the bad dreams, chasing away any monsters. For the first time in a long time, The Boogeyman didn't visit Charlie in his sleep, and Chaser quickly became Charlie's best friend. If ever Charlie got scared in the middle of the night, he would reach down under his bed and let Chaser lick his hand. That way he knew Chaser was still there, guarding him.
One night, Charlie found himself tossing and turning in his sleep. For some reason he had this weird feeling that The Boogeyman was watching him. After not having nightmares about him for a while, this made Charlie uneasy. He reached down under his bed and whispered to his puppy.
"Chaser?" He called out. "Are you there?"
Then, he felt a sticky tongue lick his hand and everything was much better. He thought to himself how glad he was to have a guard dog.
"I have to pee," he whispered. "I'll be right back buddy, don't you worry."
Charlie climbed out of bed and ran to the washroom, counting his steps as he went. When he turned on the lights, it took him a moment for his eyes to adjust to the brightness. He rubbed them vigorously. What was that smell? Something reeked of metal and... chicken? He couldn't quite place his finger on it. Finally his eyes were getting used to the light and when he turned around, his heart stopped.
He let out a terrible scream and immediately started crying.
That sight. That smell. It was all so horrible. How could this happen? Despair and confusion filled his gut as tears streamed heavily down his cheeks. There, in the tub, was a gruesome massacre. It was Chaser. Blood stained the shower curtains and dripped down the tiled walls. The tub, originally a porcelain white, was now tattered with red. Chaser was dead. His body, mutilated, and shredded, flesh and organs were littered in the bath. His eyes were gauged out, almost as if someone — or something had clawed them out.
"Charlie!" His father called from down the hall. "Is everything okay?"
But, Charlie couldn't answer. He just stared straight at his puppy. His best friend. The smell of blood made him sick to his stomach, but he was frozen in a trance. He could taste his salty tears and refused to wipe his snotty nose. There was only one thought that kept reoccurring in his mind and it terrified him to his core.
If Chaser is dead, then who was licking my hand?