‘Mad Dogs and Islington,’ a Horror Short Story

Iona held her copy of the Islington Post in one hand and her cup of coffee in the other. Her eyes almost popped out of her head after reading the headline on the front page.

“SECOND MAD DOG ATTACK IN ISLINGTON,” it said. She looked over at her English Springer Spaniel, Jenny, who was eating her Iams in her bowl on the kitchen floor just to the right of Iona’s right foot.

She put the paper and coffee down on the table and stroked her dog’s back and head. “Oh, my poor baby,” she said, in near sobs. “What if one of those dogs attacks you?

She went back to reading the article. It said, “This dog, Maggie, her owners being the Grissom family on Trenton St. near downtown, had not been bitten by any of the five rabid dogs bitten by Elroy, the dog of the Feldmans on Mayberry Rd. on the east side of town. Still, the symptoms of both Maggie and Elroy are exactly the same–blood-red eyes, foaming at the mouth, a hoarse growl, and a shaking rage–prompting questions as to a possible common cause of their infections.”

Iona picked up her coffee with a shaking hand, spilling a bit on the table before bringing it to her mouth for a sip, which she did as she looked down at Jenny. She read more of the article.

“As we reported last time, Elroy had bitten not only five other dogs, infecting them and bringing out the same violence in them before he was finally caught and put to sleep, but he bit and infected all of the members of the Feldman family–the mother and father, as well as their pre-teen son and daughter–also bringing out the same violent tendencies. The five bitten dogs have also bitten their owners, as well as the other pets of those owners. All human victims have been hospitalized and sedated to curb their violent rage; all animal victims have been put to sleep.”

Iona was trembling as she looked down again at Jenny, who had just finished eating her Iams and was lying contentedly on the floor by her bowl.

What if my Jenny gets bitten? was all Iona could think about.

She went back to the article: “The transmission of this violence-inducing infection has been too fast for the authorities to contain it. As of this printing, Maggie has bitten at least eight dogs, all the members of the Grissom family (the mother, father, and three teenage kids, all now hospitalized), and she still hasn’t been caught. All residents of Islington are being warned to stay indoors and to keep all their pets indoors until further notice.”

She put the newspaper down, got off the chair, and walked out of the kitchen. Jenny looked up at her as she found a chair in her living room. She looked back at her dog.

“Come here, baby,” she said in sobs, snapping her fingers. Jenny went out of the kitchen and over to Iona, who put her arms around her dog. “What am I going to do if you get bitten?” she sobbed as she continued hugging Jenny.

Iona looked around her living room: no TV, for she hated the garbage shown on it every day. She preferred to read her news in the paper. No cell phones or tablets: she hated even the idea of internet addictions.

Afraid of people all her life, Iona lived a solitary existence in this small house she’d inherited from her mother when she died, along with a lot of money so she could live without needing a job. Jenny was Iona’s only friend in the whole wide world. The loss of her dog to this infection would be nothing short of devastating for her.

Jenny was Iona’s only friend because, as her mother told her when she was nine years old, Iona had no talent at all at making friends with anybody. Only her mother could ever show her kindness, and now her mother was gone. And what her mom said came true, for all through her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, Iona’s every attempt at making friends was at best short-lived, and at worst doomed to failure before she’d even tried.

This was the wisdom of her loving mother, to have been able to predict such difficulties for Iona!

So she was a lonely girl all of her life, bullied as a kid at school, and ignored by men as a ‘plain,’ introverted woman. The good thing about pets, dogs especially, is that they love you unconditionally, not caring if you’re chunky or pimple-faced, as Iona was. The best thing about pets is that they don’t talk, so you don’t have to fear them ever saying hurtful words to you.

She’d already had Jenny as a cute puppy, with those adorable, big, sad eyes, when her mother died (her father, whom she never knew, had abandoned her mother on finding out she was pregnant), so Iona at least had Jenny for company since the loss of her mother, her only human friend.

Jenny was Iona’s entire world now, her only love.

Putting an infected Jenny to sleep would destroy that world utterly, would shatter it, smash it to pieces.

Her dog could never get infected…NEVER!!!

In the middle of summer, Islington was an unbearably hot and humid town. Being terrified of people, Iona rarely went outside anyway, beyond taking Jenny for walks or buying what they needed from the nearby grocery stores. During these dog days of summer, she went out even less, preferring to let Jenny roam about and relieve herself in the backyard.

It amazed her to look out her window in the summer afternoons and see so many people outside, kids especially, baking in that oppressive sun. Surely not even running through sprinklers was enough to compensate!

And now, mad dogs were running loose in the heat.

Only mad dogs and Islington went out in the midday sun, as Iona observed. But these mad dogs were making her fear ever going outside at all!

Did she have enough food, drink, and Iams stocked up to ensure that she and Jenny could get through this mad dog crisis? Did she dare even let her dog out in her backyard for a quick pee and poop?

So far, the mad dog sightings had been in the east end and downtown areas, whereas she lived in the west end. So far, Iona and Jenny were reasonably safe.

So far.


The next morning, Iona received her newspaper on her front porch as usual. She picked it up and took it inside.

As she walked with it through the living room and towards the kitchen, she read the headlines on the front page. As soon as she saw the headline that she was anticipating, she dropped the paper on the floor and began trembling.


Jenny went up to her, and she sank to her knees. Sobbing, she held Jenny close, looking in her dog’s beautiful, black, loving eyes. Jenny whimpered a bit, not as if hungry or complaining, but as if in compassionate concern for Iona. Then, with enormous dread and reluctance, she picked up the paper to read the story.

“Furry, the Saint Bernard owned by the Vaughan family on Becker St. ten blocks west from downtown Islington, has been infected not from a bite by Maggie or Elroy. Furry has bitten and infected the entire Vaughan family, all hospitalized and sedated: the parents, their nine-year-old son, and the wife’s parents. Furry has the same symptoms as the other infected dogs: red eyes, foaming at the mouth, etc.

“An investigation has been made to discover the source of the infection. What Furry, Maggie, and Elroy have in common is the receiving of a ‘vaccine’ from a veterinarian and former resident of Islington named Max Rooney, who has since left town without any way to contact him, raising suspicions that what he injected the dogs with was what has caused the infection.

“Each dog received the shot on successive, consecutive days, just as each dog, in the same order, first showed signs of the infection on consecutive days. There must have been an incubation period of three days between receiving the shot and manifesting the violent symptoms.

“Dr. Rooney’s so-called vaccine was supposed to be against rabies, yet the infection that seems the result of the shot shows symptoms much worse than those of rabies. Though there seems to be a three-day incubation period between the dogs’ receiving their shots and the emergence of the symptoms, there is no incubation period at all between one being bitten or scratched by the infected and showing symptoms oneself.

“Instead of the usual rabies symptoms of hydrophobia, brain and meninges inflammation, paralysis, and insomnia, the infected are wildly violent and aggressive, attacking people and animals on sight, making rabies aggression seem tame in comparison. An examination of the hospitalized victims has shown some of the symptoms of rabies, such as anxiety, confusion, agitation, abnormal behaviour, paranoia, terror, and hallucinations.

“If suspicion of Dr. Rooney, for whom police have begun a manhunt, is proven true, the shot he gave the dogs seems to have contents resulting from some form of gain of function research. A possible motive for Rooney to have deliberately released a pathogen into the Islington community is revenge against them for a malpractice lawsuit filed against him (which he lost) nine years ago.”

Dr. Rooney, Iona thought when finishing the article. That bastard, I remember him. Our old cat, Dotty, died under his ‘care’ ten years ago. Mama wasn’t among the litigators back then, but she should have been. I hope the cops find him and make him pay for all he’s done.

Hoping to find something else in the paper, something that might cheer her up and take her mind off her worries about Jenny, Iona flipped through the pages. The only articles that caught her eye were ones on the Russia/Ukraine war, the danger of China invading Taiwan (and the Western military buildup to protect the island), a small article on the American military occupying a third of Syria, stealing their oil and wheat, and an op-ed arguing that George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes by the ICC.

Pretty depressing reading.

Another article in the Weather section discussed a soon-to-come heat wave in Islington.

“All the more reason to stay indoors,” she whispered.

She went over to the living room window–with the curtains closed to keep the obnoxious sunlight from blindingly brightening up, and heating up, her home–and pushed a curtain to the side to look out. She was grateful to see no nosy neighbours trying to peer inside her home and pry on her personal business. She was also grateful to see no mad dogs anywhere.

Well, I guess it’s safe to go out there and get some food for myself and Jenny, she thought. I’ll have to stock up while I can. The mad dogs are getting closer and closer to home. They’re like all the wars that infect more and more of the globe. It’s terrifying, all that death and destruction disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

She got her purse and took a few tentative steps outside.

“Still, no dogs anywhere,” she whispered, then closed and locked the door behind her.

As she walked off of her porch and towards the sidewalk, she looked around the neighbourhood with a frown. Still, there are a lot of people out here today, she thought, noting all the kids in bathing suits running around and playing. How can they like it out in this horrible heat? I’ll bet at least one of these brats is gonna make fun of my appearance, calling me ‘fat’ and ‘ugly,’ the way they did when I was little. Kids are so cruel.

She kept walking along the sidewalk on the way to the nearest grocery store, always keeping an eye out for shaking dogs with red eyes and foaming mouths. So far, she saw none…so far.

She saw a few kids walking in her direction. She shuddered, fearing they’d say something mean to her. Her lonely, sensitive heart just didn’t cope with such things.

They were getting closer and closer, just chatting with each other.

One of them, a boy of about ten, looked at her for a moment.

Her heart started pounding. She was shaking all over.

The kids passed by her, saying nothing.

Sweating, she let out a huge sigh of relief.

As she continued towards the grocery store, she saw a few stray dogs barking at each other, just by the store’s entrance.

She froze.

Eyeing the dogs with tense care, she saw…no red eyes, no abnormal shaking, no foaming mouths, no aggression beyond the barking and growling.

They were okay.

She walked around them and reached the front door of the grocery store. She went in.

She went straight over to the pet food section, where the big bags of Iams were. Ensuring that Jenny had enough food to ride out this mad dog crisis was the top priority. Iona’s getting food for herself could wait.

She picked up two big bags of Jenny’s favourite flavour, then went over to where the food she liked was: first, she’d get some cheese, then she’d go over to get some meat, then some bread, and finally, some Folger’s coffee. As she looked at the cheese, she heard a sudden, loud, almost growling noise from a man.

She yelped, then looked behind her.

It was just some middle-aged man sneezing. No red eyes, no foaming mouth. She was safe.

Still, why do some people need to sneeze so loudly? She was already tense enough as it was, and that sneeze scared her so much, she almost wet herself.

As she waited in line to pay for her groceries, she noticed, among the newspapers, a small, local newsmagazine written by a dissident reporter on world affairs. The headline read: “China Doesn’t Want War with Taiwan, but the US Wants to Provoke China, as with Russia over Ukraine.”

“Pfft!” Iona said with a sneer. “Sure.”

After paying for and bagging her groceries, she went to the door and looked outside before opening it.

The dogs were gone, and she didn’t see any others anywhere, near or farther away, mad or normal. Still, standing at the doorway, she kept looking for another ten seconds or so, just to be sure.

“Miss, are you gonna block the doorway all day, or are you gonna move?” a woman behind her said with a scowl.

Iona went outside and out of the woman’s way, her heart pounding. Why do people have to be so hurtful?

As she walked back to her house, her eyes always on the lookout for mad dogs and Islington meanies, her body always dripping with sweat from that oppressive sun overhead, she remembered another reason she so rarely went outside: every time she did, it seemed, someone would bite off a piece of her, as that woman just did.

She was passing the houses of her neighbourhood, the few before reaching her own, when behind her, she suddenly heard sharp, loud, rapid-fire barking.

She felt as if she’d jumped ten feet into the air.

She looked around and behind her, with wide-eyed dread.

It was her neighbour’s pit bull, chained by his house, yapping at her. Its eyes and mouth were normal.

“Goddammit, do I have to be startled every five minutes or so?” Iona growled, baring her own teeth at the dog.

She continued back to her house.

As soon as she unlocked the front door and went inside, she saw her sweet little Jenny wagging her tail and shaking–not the shakes of the infected, of course, but shakes of love to see her owner back home. Iona put the bags down by the door, closed it, and went over to her dog.

Weeping, she held Jenny. “Oh, my baby!” she sobbed, stroking Jenny’s head. “Only you love me! You’re my one true friend. What’s gonna happen if you get bitten or scratched by one of those mad dogs? If that ever happens, I won’t be able to bear it! I’ll go mad! I’ll wanna kill myself if I ever lose my baby!”

Jenny licked her face and looked at her with those big, sweet, loving eyes as Iona kept hugging her and slowly rocking her from side to side.


The next morning, Iona went out to get her newspaper. As she held the door open with her left foot while bending down to reach for the Islington Post, which lay on the porch beside the welcome mat, Jenny was by the door, noticing a cat sniffing around on the lawn.

The dog raced outside, chasing the cat.

“Jenny, no!” Iona screamed.

But her dog was already past four of five houses down the neighbourhood running after that cat. Iona, already not a fast runner, found it all the more awkward running after Jenny in her bathrobe, nightgown, and slippers.

She’d only had time to read the headline before dropping the newspaper: “THREE MAD DOGS SPOTTED IN WEST END OF ISLINGTON”.

As she ran, dripping sweat from the summer heat, she was startled again by the machine-gun bark of that pit bull. She could see Jenny far off ahead of her; her dog was still running so fast in pursuit of that cat–how could Iona catch up to her, let alone get her back safely into the house?

By the time she’d reached the grocery store, Iona collapsed from exhaustion. Sobbing and panting for breath, she felt that regaining her strength to resume the chase was taking an eternity. She saw Jenny, tiny and far off in the distance, but at least still not out of sight. Her dog didn’t seem to be chasing the cat anymore.

Because of her heavy panting, Iona didn’t hear an approaching, growling dog.

After a few more seconds, though, she felt a bite on her arm.

“Oww!” she yelled, then looked behind her.

The last thing she noticed, while her world still looked normal, was the dog’s red eyes, its foaming mouth, and its shaking body.

Now, her eyes had gotten red, excesses of saliva were dripping from her lips, and she began shaking wildly. Everything she saw around her was as red as her eyes.

…and at just that moment, Jenny, recognizing her from far off, was running back to her.

As her dog was coming nearer and nearer, Iona was seeing an alternating vision, all in red, of sweet Jenny with her big, loving eyes, eagerly running up to be loved…and a flying torso…of…delicious…dog…meat…coming up to be eaten.

Shaking, salivating Iona was utterly confused.

Over and over, the thought flashed in her mind: TASTY DOG MEAT.

Affection was fading out…appetite was fading in.

The part of Iona that still saw her one true friend was mentally screaming No! to the part of her that was taking over and licking her lips.

Finally, Jenny reached her. Iona put her arms around her dog and received licks on her cheeks.

Then she sank her saliva-soaked teeth into Jenny’s neck.

The dog let out a loud yelp as blood sprayed all over Iona’s face. Within seconds, Jenny’s eyes turned red. She was salivating and shaking, and she saw a world as red as the one Iona saw.

Police in body armour showed up just after Jenny’s transformation. They got out of their cars and pointed their rifles at Jenny, Iona, and the other mad dog.

“Get the tranquilizer gun ready for the woman!” one of the cops shouted as he was aiming at Jenny.

“Don’t…hurt…my…dog!” Iona grunted in a near-zombie voice as she got up, ready to attack the cops.

Just when she and the dogs jumped forward to pounce on the police, all of them fired on their would-be attackers, killing the dogs and hitting Iona with a tranquilizer dart.

It took several minutes for the dart to knock her unconscious, but the force of it hitting her in the chest made her fall back onto the ground, knocking the wind out of her. As her vision slowly faded to black, she hallucinated seeing Jenny’s body being shattered to pieces, over and over again.

“N-n-noooo!” she stammered.


The line between dream and consciousness was blurred for Iona, because of the hallucinatory world brought on by the infection and the semiconscious, hypnotic state brought on by the sedative she was given in the hospital.

All she saw, over and over again, was a squad of soldiers firing machine guns at her in a world of red, in the middle of a besieged city. The buildings all around her were crumbling. Bombs were dropping from the sky like hail.

…and Jenny, in what looked like a red tape loop, ran up to her with those big, sweet eyes…then the gunfire tore her body into fragments right before Iona’s horrified eyes. She saw her dog’s gory fate again, and again, and again…

The worst part was that Iona, overwhelmed with grief over the violent killing of her one true friend, was starving for revenge, craving to attack anyone randomly in a desperate effort to rid herself of her pain…but the sedative and bed straps kept her unable to move beyond mere fidgeting.

All she could do was weep.

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