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by Alicia Bakewell

Koko sees things that aren’t there. She’s been licking and sniffing at your boots by the door, looking for evidence that you’ve been seeing Other Dogs. She comes inside smiling. You once said that a smiling dog was actually just panting, gasping for breath. The muddy prints your boots left on the paving have been washed away.

I’ve started talking about myself in the third person, just so I know I’m being talked about. Every time I say my own name, Koko cocks her ears like what? Like she’s trying to find a radio station. The songs she picks up are always sad ones. Every our song becomes a sad song if you give it time.

Koko jumps at shadows, barks at any old noise. They call it being spooked, don’t they? Even people who don’t believe in spooks call it that. Hind legs taut, she’s always poised to run. To something, or maybe from something. She can’t decide. We can’t decide.

A dog only has one real master in its lifetime. Koko follows your orders best she can remember. Sit. Stay. Obey. Good girl, I say, in something like your voice.

Weeks after you left, Koko was checking rooms for you. I started to think that maybe you hadn’t gone anywhere. That maybe you were just hiding. We could still smell you, no matter how many times I washed the sheets, scrubbed the floors. We let dirt cake up on the windows, for privacy. No one could see in, and I didn’t miss being able to see out.

Koko sees things that aren’t there. She sees all the things I’m trying to stop dreaming about.

Alicia Bakewell is a short fiction writer living in Western Australia. She has stories in Ellipsis Zine “Three” and in “Ripening,” the UK National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Her winning flash fiction piece Barely Casting a Shadow features in the Reflex Fiction anthology of the same name. She was recently runner-up in the London Independent Story Prize. She tweets nonsense @lissybakewell and doesn’t always watch her language.