I was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of dogs barking. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep but it was getting louder. I struggled to sit up in bed, my head pounding. I had been sick for a week now, ever since I got back from holiday. I got up slowly and went to the window. Peering through the curtains, I wondered if I was experiencing some sort of hallucination brought on by my illness. There were three dogs sitting in the garden, barking at the house. Sighing, I pulled on my dressing gown and made my way downstairs. I didn’t know how I was supposed to get rid of them but if I didn’t do it soon there would be complaints from the neighbours.
By the time I got downstairs the noise had stopped. I went to look out of the window they had been barking at. The dogs had gone. I switched on the light and looked around the room. Perhaps I had left some food out before I went away and they’d smelled it. But the windows were shut and the room was perfectly clean. I was just about the turn off the light when something caught my eye. The stone dog on the coffee table. I had bought it in a little antique shop on holiday. I was surprised at how cheap it was and thought it would make a nice ornament. I wasn’t so sure now.
You’re being silly now, I told myself. I turned the light off and went back upstairs. I was tired and irrational. The dogs had probably seen a fox in the garden or something. It was nothing to worry about.
I went back to bed but I was feverish and plagued by strange and frightening dreams. The dreams continued for the next few nights. I could never quite remember them but there was always fire, and something chasing me. I woke up shaking and sweating, afraid to go back to sleep.
The dogs returned about a week later. There were six of them this time. I pulled the bedcovers over my head and tried to ignore it. Eventually the barking stopped, but I could still hear them. I felt like I was going mad.
The next time, there were eleven of them. Barely aware of what I was doing, I went downstairs and opened the window. The barking got louder. I turned and picked up the stone dog. It was heavy but I held it high and threw it out into the garden, where it landed with a loud thud. Then there was silence. I don’t really remember anything after that, but I woke up in bed the next morning feeling well for the first time in weeks.
I went back to the antique shop about a year later. The man remembered me from last time and said there was something he wanted to show me. I followed him out to the back of the shop, where there was a little courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard was a fountain, and around the fountain, as though guarding it, sat twelve stone dogs.