It all started after I dropped my dog at the vet.

For this particular visit, Layla was only going in for a comprehensive exam, which is essentially the same thing as when humans get a physical; the doctor checks her general health, gives her a couple of vaccines, and sends her on her way. Sometimes I’m there in the room while they do this, but when they’re busy, they have me drop her off early in the morning and then they call later in the day when she’s ready to be picked up. It’s a good process, saves me a lot of waiting around, and since there was nothing I was concerned about, I didn’t mind leaving her in their care for a few hours.

I was in the middle of straightening up my room when I got the call. “Hi, this is Patricia calling in regards to your dog, Layla…” she sounded a little bit odd, like she was hesitant to keep talking, and I was suddenly on edge. Something wasn’t right. I asked if she was ready to be picked up, and she paused before answering.

She told me that the doctors found something very wrong. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, a demonic entity had started to possess my dog. It was subtle at first, and had been acting exactly like Layla would so as not to be discovered while it was planting its roots in her. But now it had completely taken over.

I was shaking as memories of the past few days flashed through my mind. There were points where something had seemed a little off– Layla would look at me funny, or walk in a way that wasn’t quite like her… But it was so brief and fleeting that I hadn’t thought anything of it. Now I understood what had been happening in those moments.

The vet tech went on to describe how they knew the demon had taken over. They had Layla in an exam room, and whenever anyone entered and tried to interact with her, she morphed from a dog into a perfect duplicate of themselves. “I went in to see for myself… and it was like looking into a mirror” Patricia said. She described what followed so clearly and vividly that I felt like I could actually see it happening. The alternate Patricia stared into her eyes while a long, creepy grin drew across its face and all of the surroundings went dark. They faced each other for an eternity, standing in a void of nothingness, two reflections. “You’re worthless,” it whispered. “You don’t have a purpose. You don’t deserve to be alive. Come with me, let me help you finish it” and it held out its hand. Patricia knew when she grasped the hand that looked so much like her own, she would be gone from this earth, but she felt convinced. Compelled. If not for the doctor who dragged her out of that exam room and back into reality, I might have been talking to someone else.

I felt the panic rising in my chest and I asked her what I could do, how I could fix this. The answer was… nothing. She said Layla was gone; nothing and no one could bring her back. She recommended that I leave her there and said that eventually with no one interacting with her or feeding her, she would just die. Then the demon would have nothing to inhabit anymore.

I started crying and arguing hysterically… surely if anyone could bring my Layla back it would be me. I asked if I would be permitted to come try to reach her. Patricia said it was a huge risk to my safety and that it likely wouldn’t work, but if I decided that’s what I wanted to do, they wouldn’t try to stop me. I told her I would call her back after I had made my decision.

When I got off the phone I was sobbing, imagining my life suddenly devoid of my furry best friend. I’d never see her emphatically chew a toy or wiggle her butt, never again would she lick my face or cuddle up next to me for warmth. And if there was any small part of her still left, she would have no idea why I never came back. It made my heart hurt. How could I possibly just leave her there alone without even attempting to help her? I ran downstairs, tears still streaming down my face, and consulted my brother and my best friend. After choking out the whole story, they both seemed extremely concerned and told me it was really dangerous. Was it worth my life? I insisted that it was. “Then go,” they agreed reluctantly, “but be careful.”

I pulled out my phone, dialed the number I had received the call from, and someone named Barbara answered. “I NEED TO SPEAK TO PATRICIA” I gasped. “Oh… uhh… Please hold while I transfer your call” Barbara said in the slowest, laziest voice I have ever heard. I waited on hold for what felt like 17 years before Barbara finally returned to the phone and gave me an extension I had to call. I immediately hung up on Barbara and dialed. Patricia answered after two and a half rings and I told her I was coming. “Okay, we’ll see you soon then.”

I said teary goodbyes to all of my friends who were home at the time, and somehow managed to make a 40 minute drive up the Northway that I don’t remember, pulling into the vets office at dusk. I stepped out of the car, taking note of an eerie, dark red kind of feeling in the air. I looked up at the foreboding windows of the clinic, another sob building up in my throat. I started to walk forward.

And that’s when I woke up.

I took a deep breath. It was just a dream. I blinked a few times, trying to clear the last of the feeling from my mind. I felt Layla sleeping in her usual spot at the foot of my bed. I lifted my head slightly to look at her, just as she did the same.

She winked.

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