I travel with my husband — lightly, messily, with dusty backpacks and worn duffels. Evening approaches. We move through stone-strewn, uneven terrain, through bent and scrawny trees. Dry leaves crunch and rasp underfoot. Soon, the long, low forlorn cabin recedes behind us, swallowed by shadow. Let the spiders take it, and spin their webs amongst the torn screens and sway-backed roof.
Ahead, another cabin — smaller, squatter, in similar disrepair. Within is as shabby as without — buckled linoleum floor, faux paneled walls. High up, where two walls meet with the ceiling to form a gray corner, a small black and white television plays a looped film detailing the questionable history of the camp and cabins we have evidently entered. My husband and I sit shoulder to shoulder on a sagging couch. The glass-topped coffee table jutting against our shins holds evidence that others have been here — a half-filled ashtray, a yellowed newspaper.
All the while, I’ve been carrying with me a bedraggled little once-white dog. Where it still has fur, the tendrils are snarled, tangled with knots. At times, the dog’s appearance shifts to that of a doll with a soft, cloth body and plastic head and limbs. It morphs between these two shapes, seemingly at will — always wearing its patchy, wild hair. In either form, it is capable of human speech and says terrible things — how it will get me, kill me, with explicit details. For the most part, I am unphased — it is so small and feeble (and, at times, incapable of any voluntary movement) that it isn’t the least bit threatening. When I tire of its unsettling monologue, I rap my knuckles soundly against its little canine head, or knock its crazy-haired doll head against any nearby hard surface. Each knock renders it speechless for a short time.