“Uh, hi," said Matt, second guessing a plan he thought he'd already thoroughly second guessed. He offered his hand. “I'm from next door, Matt. Matt Barry."

“Yeah, next door." Said the man. He shook Matt's hand with no enthusiasm and still no expression. He had a strange accent that Matt didn't recognize, something European. He looked past Matt as if worried about more company.  

“I just wanted to stop by," Matt went on awkwardly, “just to introduce myself, you know. Neighbour's and all."

“Yes," said the man stiffly. “Neighbours. My name is Maynard." Maynard was a very tall man, with a serious face. He had the kind of appearance that justified the existence and usage of words like "austere." Grey hair and white stubble mossed his skull, both cropped short to the same length. He had a long, narrow face that wore an expression that a granite shore might offer the sea.

“Also, just curious," said Matt, cautious to keep his tone non accusatory, “about your dogs. You have a lot of them?"

“My dogs," Maynard's face showed the slightest hint of confusion, the first shadow of expression that had crossed his visage.

“Yeah," said Matt, trying to suggest a natural interest in the man’s pets. “Only, I hear them every once in awhile. They sound...big." He trailed off lamely.

“Oh," said Maynard. His face went back to neutral, but his voice held a touch of feeling, perhaps pride. His accent was wrapped thick around the words as he spoke them. “My hounds. Yes."

“Could I meet them sometime?"

“Later," said Maynard. His face betrayed nothing, but he stared at Matt with a curious intensity. “Yes, later. I must go now, but yes. Later."

“Alright," said Matt. “Just let me know. It's good to meet you, Maynard."

“Yes," said Maynard. “Good to meet you, also. Okay." With that, Maynard turned and slipped back inside. Matt walked back through the trees feeling anxious and foolish.

Maynard’s hounds hadn't made a sound the whole time.

* * *

Matt woke in the dark to chaos and pain, a blind commotion of frantic struggle. Something, someone was on top of him, beating him. He fought for a moment, then with a jerk his mind slid sideways, his body went limp. He tried to struggle, but his limbs flopped uselessly against his bed. He felt blood trickle onto his pillow. Above him, the silhouette swayed, poised to strike again was dissolving in a kaleidoscope of flashing lights that, as they faded, ushered the darkness of unconsciousness. He fought to stay awake.

Maynard stood next to the bed, reached under matt’s body, and scooped him up like a bride. Matt tried to struggle, but he was too weak and disoriented. He didn't understand what was happening, knowing only that he was hurt and afraid. He was trying not to slip under the veil of unconsciousness and felt like he was looking up into his own mind from deep beneath. Vaguely he was aware of his legs and head being jostled against walls, then the chill night air against his naked skin as he was carried outside. Then there was only darkness and a smell of must. The air was thick and rank, and in his confusion Matt worried he'd been buried somehow. But still, the iron hard arms braced him.