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Ellie jolted awake. Rex was barking furiously. She sat up, realizing the lights were off. She had gone to bed with them on. Had she blown a fuse? She couldn’t remember if the house had fuses or a breaker box. It was completely pitch black and she was upstairs. Rex’s bark was from downstairs, slightly muffled by the floor. She was upstairs alone. Ellie tried to remain calm, but her heart was hammering in her chest. She’d already broken out in a sweat. All she could see around her was vague outlines of the furniture, but her eyes were now playing tricks on her, she could’ve sworn she was seeing movement out of the corner of her eyes. Streams of light were invading her vision and she tried to even open her eyes wider in the darkness.

Rex’s barking was angered and frantic, like an intruder was approaching. Ellie wasn’t too afraid of an intruder, her grandfather had always kept a loaded .22 next to the door. It was there for coyotes. Her grandfather had always kept an outside mutt dog whose job it was to protect the animals from coyotes.

Ellie leapt out of the bed, she had left Napoleon in the pasture, and now she was worried. In the suburbs they hadn’t had to worry much about coyotes, maybe a stray dog or two, but none were dumb enough to single handedly take on a full grown horse, but coyotes traveled in packs. She smacked her toes solidly into a piece of furniture and she screamed in pain. She was certain she had broken a few toes. Rex stopped barking for only a moment to run up the stairs and join his mistress’s side, he gave her a face lick before barking again. He seemed to be pointed towards the window, so it was something that was outside.

She walked much more carefully through the house, hunched over, and trying to recall furniture locations from memory. It was so god awful dark. She knew there were flashlights next to the front door, actually by the gun. Her grandfather had more than one gun, but the .22 was always kept next to the door. Rex walked with her, still barking, and she wanted to make him quiet, but at the same time she felt safer with him letting others know that he was there. However he was constantly walking in front of her, and she nearly tripped over him multiple times. Her foot throbbed, the initial shock of pain had gone to a throb that made it hurt every time she took a step.

Ellie made it to the stairs and going down them was even more precarious than just walking across the upstairs. She made it to the door, and found the rifle before finding the flashlight, but just like she knew, next to the gun was the flashlight. It was a big bulky one, used for spotlighting. She immediately switched it on, and relaxed. Ellie opened the back door and scanned the backyard with the flashlight while her other hand went for the .22. She could hear another dog barking, it wasn’t Rex or a coyote.

She searched the pasture, and shivered. She was wearing only her flannel shirt over her panties and bra. The frosted ground crunched underfoot, at least the cold was numbing her throbbing toes. Ellie didn’t see any of the eyes of the cows or goats light up or even the figure of Napoleon. Ellie turned to the barn, crowded in it were the animals, as if they were trying all trying to fit inside. Normally the cows and goats did not travel with each other, but cows and goats were shuffling nervously around the barn and the milk shed.

Rex was huddled next to her legs and barking furiously, he was barking even louder now that he was outside. Suddenly a bright white light filled her vision from above…

Ellie slowly opened her eyes and her foot hurt. She was in bed. It iddn;t make any sense. Ellie raised her hand to her forehead. She remembered Rex barking and the anaamsl l ackinmg all scared. She had the .22 and the flashlight and been in the back yward when the bight white light had shown down on her and she didn’t remember anything after that.

It had to have been a dream. Rex was asleep at the foot of the bed, resting comfortably on the silver quilt. He lifted his head when she moved around. Ellie tossed the covers off her legs and stared at her feet. They were muddy and had bit of grass on them. Her right toes were backend and swollen. So it hadn’t been a dream? That makes more sense. What had happened? What had she done? Had she sleep walked? Ellie didn’t remember every sleep walking before.

Ellie got out of the bed, and looked at the chair in front of the vanity. The .22 was laying across the arms of the chair. Had she passed out? If so how did she get into bed? Ellie picked up the .22 and checked it. It seemed fine, a little dusty except for where she had touched it. It was still loaded and unfired. She had gone hunting when her grandfather, he had been the light of her life and it was him that she missed the most.

She rubbed her arms and carried the .22 down to the basement. The power was still out and she checked the breaker box, all the breakers had been thrown. She reset them and the lights came back on. Ellie sighed, she’d have to learn to sleep with the lights off. She’d go into town and invest in nightlights.

The next thing on Ellie’s list was to stoke up the fire in the wood burning stove, the basement was chilly and there was a knock on the door. Rex barked and Ellie realized she was still just wearing her bra, panties, and flannel shirt.

“Who is it?” She called.

“Shannon,” answered Shannon and Ellie decided to go ahead and let her in even though she was barely dressed. Ellie opened the door and looked up at Sheriff Dunne who was standing behind Shannon.

“Sheriff Dunne!” Ellie gasped and suddenly felt very exposed. She noticed his eyes travel to her legs, lingered a moment and then went back to her face.

“Oh, I should’ve mentioned I had Roman with me,” Shannon said rather embarrassed.

“Excuse me, make yourselves at home,” Ellie practically flew up the stairs and Rex followed her. She came down a few minutes later, her long brown hair pulled up in a ponytail and her jeans on. She had put on deodorant and brushed her teeth. She could smell coffee perking, Shannon had definitely made herself at home, having put the pot on the wood burning stove and was sitting at the kitchen table. She had already placed mugs, milk and sugar on the table. Sheriff Dunne seemed more ill at ease as he seemed to pace the basement in the areas that weren’t cluttered by the things that her grandparents had kept over the years.

“Sorry, you caught me too early,” Ellie explained as she came down the stairs. Sheriff Dunne looked at her, but seemed to allow Shannon to do the talking.

“I should’ve thought you might have slept in later than your grandparents. They were up at dawn usually,” Shannon said.

“Is this a social visit?” Ellie asked tentively.

“Not exactly, one of our cows was killed last night, and our dog, Snow, has gone missing. We’ve come by to see if you’ve noticed any missing livestock,” Shannon replied.

“I, uh, don’t know. I haven’t been outside yet, I just woke up when you knocked,” Ellie stated. Sheriff Dunne really hadn’t spoken much. “I did hear a dog barking last night, it might have been your Snow, it had my Rex riled up.”

“How was your first night in the old place?” Sheriff Dunne asked looking around the ceiling. Ellie couldn’t help but look at his lips as he spoke, and how deeply soft his voice was. His beard was perfectly trimmed and fit his face well. He was dressed in his Sheriff’s uniform of brown shirt, and jeans. This time he wore a darker brown jacket.

“I’m not sure, it was weird actually, had some interesting dreams,” Ellie told him honestly. The coffee had finished and Shannon was pouring everyone a cup. Ellie groaned with pleasure, Shannon could make a damn good cup of coffee.

“Roman says you’re gonna write a book?” Shannon asked and Ellie nodded over her coffee.

“Thinking about writing about my life. Well it may be fiction, but based on my life,” Ellie shrugged.

“What do you plan on writing it on? Your grandparents weren’t exactly technologically savvy,” Shannon teased.

“They’ve an old typewriter in the barn, or at least I think they still do, you know my grandparents, they saved everything.” She indicated the basement with a hand.

“Well if you find anything unusual, you be sure to call me,” Sheriff Dunne said and handed Ellie a business card. “My cell is on the back, but this deep in the valley you’ll be lucky to get my voicemail.”

“Thank you Sheriff,” Ellie stated and placed the card on the kitchen table.

“Roman,” he corrected her. Ellie gave a smile.

“Roman,” she repeated. He bid goodbye to Shannon and Ellie.

“Tell you don’t want to bed that cool drink of water,” Shannon stated and Ellie looked sternly at her before both women breaking out into giggles.

“Actually Shannon, I’m glad you’re here. I had a bad dream last night,” Ellie began and then told Shannon about Rex barking, about the white light and waking back up.

“Maybe you were abducted by aliens,” Shannon said fanning her fingers out in front of her for emphasis. Ellie’s stomach suddenly sank, but she tried to laugh it off as if her friend was teasing.