Dru Ann’s wonderfully creative “Day in the Life” column gives characters a chance to appear outside the events of the book, but it also does something else pretty cool. It gives lesser seen characters in the book a chance to have more of a day in the sun. In the excerpt below, I let the family’s dog—who becomes a hero by the end of As Night Falls—show you what one terrible night was like for him.
While the Man kept trying to open the Door, McLean clawed long ruts into it. The warm forest smell of wood was comforting.
He rolled over, then got up. His tail wagged, hitting the tips of bottles, deep and dark green glass containing a tart, grapey smell.
McLean stood patiently, his tail pendulum-swinging.
There was a loud noise against the door that separated McLean from his People. The Girl, the Woman, and the Man who was down here with him in the basement.
Then the noise stopped.
A familiar smell rose from the space beneath the door, a dying smell, which would’ve made McLean run away if he’d scented it on an animal in the wild.
But McLean loved the Man and from him he wouldn’t run.
The round circle of metal began to turn.
McLean watched it almost complete a rotation. His ears were aimed like darts, and he was panting. The circle swiveled back. A noise came from outside, the kind of grunt only a human made.
The circle started to turn again.
McLean didn’t care how long it took. He didn’t have the same scale of time as people did. In some deep down place, he knew he had less of it than the People he loved, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It made him free. McLean’s life wasn’t broken into chunks of days, weeks, years. Whatever amount of time something took had to be that way, couldn’t be any other.
The circle spun all the way around.
Then something struck the wood—another loud thud—and the door swung open.
The Man began to pull himself inside.
A sense of confusion descended over McLean.
The Man was not on two feet. He wasn’t even on all fours. He lay flat and moved like another sort of creature entirely. A worm, or the snakes McLean had learned to hate after being bitten by the one the First Man he belonged to kept in a cage.
The Man McLean now loved was the source of the dying smell, but beneath it his familiar odor still lingered. McLean stalked in his direction, careful not to tread upon him, though he couldn’t angle his paws as precisely as he once could, back when he had more of the thing called time.
He didn’t touch the Man. Not because McLean was afraid of the dying smell, but because he couldn’t bear to cause the Man pain.
McLean knew pain, but this Man had never caused him any, and for that and other reasons, McLean loved him.
The Man pulled himself the rest of the way into the room, McLean nudging him ever so lightly, stopping when the Man let out a noise like McLean used to make when the First Man yelled at him.
The Man lay there, heaving on the floor for another length of unmarked time.
McLean stood over him. He would do this for however long the Man needed him to. Until that smell changed or went away.
But the Man began to speak, not in his usual voice; this was more like a growl.
One word repeated over and over in a nest of sounds that formed a soothing hum, despite the Man’s low moans and shivering mutters, which were far less comforting.
McLean leaned down. He licked the Man’s face until it was completely clean.
Then he moved into the open space, which felt bigger and colder than the Arctic plain where his ancestors had come from. McLean didn’t want to go out there on his own. But he had made it a long way by himself already.
McLean turned back once, sniffing.
Then he trotted up the stairs to find the People he and the Man loved.
You can read more about McLean and his family in As Night Falls, published by Ballantine Books.
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About the author
Jenny Milchman is the Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of two prior psychological thrillers, Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls. For the past two years, Jenny has gone out on what Shelf Awareness calls “the world’s longest book tour”. She invites readers to find her on the web at jennymilchman.com–and then come find her on the road!