By Aaron Ogle*
The beast’s nostrils flared. His mouth foamed. He longed for flesh. It was fear, it was bliss; there was nothing, but at the same time everything was falling into place.
Back then, in a small town in Missouri, dogs roamed as they please. Walking home from school was always a challenge. Bullies lurked around corners, unwanted strangers yelled on street corners, and wild wolf dogs ran free. Before Nile had left his class the teacher warned him of the recent stray dog sightings. “Nile be cautious of returning to ye home. Do not be lingering round. Dem dogs out there be wild and don’t want nothing but an easy meals.” The teacher’s Southern drawl mixed with Missouri hick slang made the warning more haunting.
Terrified, he began his journey home, a five mile walk out into the dim countryside. The sky grew washboard grey. The sun seemed to taunt him as it drifted closer to the horizon. A wind of coming winter chilled his bones, and the howl of a dog added to it.
Leaves crackled behind him. Footsteps pounded like a heartbeat. Nile felt eyes swarm over his body just as hornets swarm a nest. He could not see the eyes, and yet he knew they were there. He did not want to believe it. Nile turned and his eyes fixed on the beast stalking him.
Nile’s stomach lurched in his chest. His legs seemed to grow wings. He raced to a tree in the distance. He swore he could feel the savage dog’s breath on his back. With no time to spare, he jumped into the sanctity of the tree and scrambled up as high as he could.
Nile was safe for now. But what was once a flight plan now became a waiting game. Who could outlast the other? Him, or the half breed wolf that barked and snapped at the base of the tree?
Now Nile got his first full look at this creature. He truly looked beautiful. His rib cage poked out, showing that he hadn’t eaten in days. His eyes glowed yellow. Nile could tell that all the creature wanted to do was survive. The dog had a beautiful white coat, with a single strip of grey running down his back.
Nile now felt sorry for this animal, a bastard child he imagined, left alone to survive. The animal showed battle scars, a huge one ran across his right eye. If this dog could speak what horror stories could he share? What dark secrets? Staring into his eyes Nile wanted to know them. He wished he could say he saw something, that man and beast became one. Nile stared into the dog’s eyes and found nothing, no moment of serenity, no moment of crossing the chasm between man and beast.
Hopelessness is all he felt. He was stuck in this tree, and the beast was starving. Then his face seemed to suggest this wasn’t worth it. He could wait no longer. He had to eat now, or die at the base of this tree. He turned and wobbled away. From the tree, Nile watched as the dog stopped, turned, and gave him one last look. Again he found nothing in the yellow pools of the dog’s eyes.
Then the dog turned towards the horizon, sunk his head, and drifted away.