Dad said her mind went years earlier, citing her overly salty cookies or her poultry seasoning tea. Neither tasted very good.
I didn’t cry at the funeral despite the open casket. She looked scared, which I assumed was normal, and though I wasn’t sure what I believed in regarding the afterlife I hoped she would find peace.
When she left Rupert to me in her will – that broke me.
Rupert was a terrier mix with black fur that had grayed around the nose. The vet I took him to seemed surprised, saying she’d never seen a dog that old with no health problems. Probably his diet, she guessed.
The noises started shortly after.
Every night I’d wake up to scratching coming from my bedroom door. I’d find Rupert outside begging to be let in. I wasn’t used to sleeping with an animal and didn’t plan on learning how, but I ordered a new pet bed online if only to get him to stop. I should have known I couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks.
An odd letter came the day the bed arrived, and I left it on the counter to unpack Rupert’s new resting place. I got sidetracked by a show I’d put on earlier and forgot about the piece of mail.
I woke up again that night to scratching noises coming from the door. I sat up, cursing at the dog and wishing he would give me one solid night of sleep. I stepped out from under the covers but stopped part way.
Rupert was sitting in his new bed, right next to mine. And he was staring directly at my closet.
I squinted to see better in the dark and adjusted my head to triangulate the source of the sound. I reached towards the closet door and halted as Rupert barked.
He growled and a seam in his fur opened up in his forehead to reveal a glowing yellow eye.
He jerked forward at the closet three times and waited, the third eye never blinking. It took me a moment to realize the scratching noises had stopped. I went back to bed, waking later to think it had all been a strange dream.
I remembered the letter at breakfast. It seemed to be a posthumous message from my grandma with the final ramblings of the woman.
My dearest Jackie,
I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. There’s no easy way to explain the curse. I wish I knew more. I learned a few ways to keep it away, thanks to my own grandmother.
It hates salt. Please eat it excessively – your blood pressure will not be affected.
Poultry seasoning is an excellent source of sage if you can’t find it elsewhere.
Keep Rupert close. He’s been in the family forever. I think he can see it.
Whatever you do, don’t open its door. If you’re reading this, it means I tried to confront it and failed.