Hello everyone! Introducing for the first time a new feature on my blog called Short Story Saturday! Every Saturday I will be posting a short story for your perusal. While some may be connected to other stories, they are going to be, for the most part, one-offs. I hope you enjoy them. The first one is entitled A True Friend.
I gradually awake from my unconscious slumber. I’m lying on my side in the cold, damp muddied dirt on this foreboding night struggling to breathe. My chest heaves up and down deliberately as I take deep, measured pants of the air, each gasp sending shockwaves of pain in my chest as if tiny little knives were stabbing my ribs. An oppressive cold seizes my shivering body. The trees that surround me with their limb-like branches that extend towards the heavens. Their giant, arboreal fingers shield even the most basic illumination further making it difficult for me to see.
My vision is obscured by a white, translucent residue. Blobs appear before me. I can see them but I cannot make out their details. I sniff the air. Many pleasant smells populate this forest. The tree bark, the leaves, the flora and fauna, the fur of the animals in the woods, they are all pleasant treats for my olfactory nerves. Perhaps if my wounds weren’t so severe, I would have enjoyed the aroma of the forest.
Many thoughts reverberate in my pounding skull: Why am I here? Why do I have this overwhelming sense of failure? When did I last feel this kind of fear? This kind of pain? This sense of being alone?
It was when I was small. They hit me. They threw things at me. They beat me. Just because I was different than they were. Just because I was alone in the world I was thin, anemic, hungry, and different. I didn’t look like they did. I didn’t act as they did. That made it okay.
He rescued me. He stopped the goons and their assault. I was scared at first but quickly realized he was a friend. He gained my trust by taking care of my wounds. He fed me. He took care of me. I fell in love almost instantly. He loved me too. He was also small. We are both much bigger now.
The wind begins to pick up. It feels like icy cold daggers when mere minutes ago it was a welcome relief in the hot sun. A viscous substance pours from my head. It smells of a metallic iron. It pours down my eyes into my mouth. I lap it up. It has an interesting taste.
My body has many vicious and nasty wounds. I need to take care of them but I have no idea how nor do I have the energy or the motivation. Exhaustion is beginning to set in. It starts to go black as I hear the noise of scavengers moving in the woods.
They are moving toward me. Slowly. Methodically. Inch by inch, step by step. Closer and closer. They loom over me. I can smell them. They have an unmistakable odor. I hear one of them howl as they dash toward me. I want to scare them away, to yell and scream, but I can only let out a low, pathetic whine.
I have a dream. I am running through the woods. I am euphoric, energetic, and happy. I pause and wait, but then continue running merrily down the trail. I am having the time of my life. It is pure, unadulterated bliss. In the distance, I see someone walking towards me. He is someone I should recognize. I cannot quite remember.
A ferocious roar raises me from my nap. My ears perk. The noise is near. The creatures that were only moments before approaching quickly disperse in a cacophony of angry and frightened whimpering. I would join them but the fatigue and pain prevent me from doing so. I have no choice but to lie here and resign myself to my fate.
My nose gloms onto a smell. It is a slightly musky scent completely distinct from the other flora and fauna of the forest. It is emanating from a large, nearby creature. A memory returns. Currently, she’s a blur, but I remember that the beast was black and covered with shaggy fur. It had a long brown snout with a black nose. Its head was broad with erect, rounded ears. I remember that she is large, she is strong, and she is fierce. More importantly, she is nearby.
She is the one who attacked me.
Wait a second, another smell. It is very familiar to me. I’ve spent a lifetime with that smell. My head rises and moves instinctively toward the odor. It’s from him! The man who had protected me! The man who loves me! The man who has protected me from the time we were both small! I remember now, he was the reason we were here!
He had taken me to these woods so we could go for a walk. I was so happy to be with him, to be out in these woods, to be with the one I cherished the most in the world. I remember him stopping when he reached what looked to be a large stick buried into the ground that was connected to a piece of metal. I paused, head tilted, not quite knowing what caused him to stop. Nor do I know why he laughed after seeing it. I tried to ask him these questions to the best of my ability but he did not understand me.
We continued our journey and reached some sort of weird wired structure blocking our path. He picked me up in his strong, muscular arms and proceeded to lift me over and he climbed over with me. It was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.
As we proceeded further into the woods, something caught my attention and caused me to sprint. It was a small, black furry creature. The man ran after me and yelled but I continued sprinting forward. I was transfixed on this animal. Something about him bothered me. He posed a threat to my love. It’s my job to eliminate all threats.
I attacked the monster. He ran away. He was clearly scared. I strutted back to my companion triumphantly. I expected adulations but I received only reprimands. Hurt and confused, I tried to make amends by doing my best to apologize. As I begged for forgiveness, my companion’s attention suddenly turned elsewhere, to behind me. He looked frightened. I was unsure why until I heard an angry thunderous bawl and the ground began to shake. I turned around to see where the sound was coming from only to feel great pain and shortly afterward the world went dark.
That familiar smell, it’s nearby. My nose begins to inhale the aroma. My mind races to figure out this conundrum. My eyesight may be gone but my sense of smell hasn’t escaped me. I piece it together. The smell of the man is coming from underneath the large creature. The beast is hovering over the one I love. I hear a low, frail, panicked whine from underneath the large creature, “Duke… run…”
I now know what I must do. Slowly, I turn toward my left side, all four limbs are underneath my torso and my chest as I struggle to rise from my stomach. A blinding pain engulfs me as I push with my front legs to get back to my feet. I slip once, letting out a yelp as I fall back onto the ground face-first nearly passing out from the pain. Inch by inch, I slowly and carefully rise from the ground until I can get my body high enough to allow my lower legs to settle underneath me. I am finally able to get back onto my feet.
The liquid that drips from my head obscures my already limited vision. Pain resonates from the various deep gashes that are strewn all over my body. I do not care. I remember everything now. Before she attacked me, she attacked him. The only one I love. He is the whole world to me. I have to protect him. I have to protect my master. As long as I can stand, I will fight. God, it hurts so much to stand.
I begin to growl in a slow crescendo of anger. I bare my teeth and arch my back. The fur on my back begins to stand on end. I am ready to fight. I bark loudly. Her attention turns toward me. She abandons my master and her focus turns to me. I am ready for her. Don’t worry, master, we’ll be headed home together soon. I promise. I ready myself. Then, I pounce.
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