Sawyer sat on the edge of the shelf, staring at the mysterious box with narrowed hazel eyes. Soon, he thought, the time would come again. Every time the spinning stick pointed straight up, his enemy would appear. And every time, she got the best of him. But not this time. No, this time, victory would go to him. He would make sure of that.
The sound of ticking was the only noise filling the air. Sawyer’s tail flicked for the umpteenth time, and his whiskers twitched. The tension was almost palpable. Just a little more, he thought, flexing his legs and digging his claws into the wood. The stick was nearly vertical now. Just a tiny bit left, and at last he would catch her…
Sawyer and his enemy had been at war for a year. He knew this because she had entered his life the last time his owners had set up the lighted tree in the living room, the same way they did every year, the same way they had last week. The year before, one of the boxes under the tree contained this strangely shaped object, with two spinning sticks and a little flap behind which lived…
The cat shuddered. He didn’t even like to think about it. Oh, how he loathed her. She was awful! From the moment they’d met, all she ever did was annoy him. And what was worse, she did it all day, every day! No, it wasn’t enough to make irritating noises just once in a while; she had to pop out and mock him from her high perch every time the larger spinning stick made a full turn. Why every time? Didn’t she ever get tired? Didn’t she have anything better to do than wait for the stick to spin all the way around yet again? Sawyer couldn’t imagine she did… but it didn’t matter. Soon he would catch her, and his family would surely thank him for ridding them of this terrible nuisance. That was, after all, why they had recently built the shelf right next to her, right? Right? Yes, he’d be treated like a hero, but in all honesty, he would just be glad she was gone.
A loud chime suddenly rang through the room. That was the signal. In the blink of an eye, Sawyer screeched and pounced at the box the exact moment he knew the flap would open. Yes, there she was! Halfway through the air, he could already hear her horrible high-pitched tweet.
The feline unsheathed his claws, a split second from the box now. He was so close, he could already taste victory. But wait, what was she doing? She was already retreating? No, he couldn’t have miscalculated! Yet by the time he was close enough to swipe at the bird, she was halfway back into her nest. Unbelievable, he missed her by an inch!
Sawyer cried out in frustration, flailing his paws wildly in a flash of orange fur. He wasn’t about to admit defeat. He could still catch her; there were a few chimes left before she settled into her nest for another hour. His claws still unsheathed, he just managed to grab the swinging weight under the box before he fell to the floor. This wasn’t over yet.
The cat pressed his back paws against the wall to steady himself. Startled by a loud splintering noise, he looked up at the flap to see the bird emerging again.
“Cuckoo!” she cried a second time. Surely she was laughing at him. Infuriated, Sawyer cried out again and swiped his free paw up at his enemy… but before he could touch her, the wooden box collapsed from his weight, and the next thing they knew, cat and bird were plummeting to the hard floor together.
A dazed Sawyer scrambled to his feet and looked around. Strewn about the ground were dozens of pieces of wood and metal. Lying amid the shattered remains of the box was the little brown bird, finally off her perch and, more importantly, silent.
Satisfied to finally see his enemy immobilized, the orange feline was brought abruptly back to his senses when a group of humans came rushing into the room. Looking up at his family, Sawyer took a seat beside the fallen bird and started to purr with pride. The job was done; all he had to do now was wait for the praise…
The woman at the head of the group started toward the cat. Sawyer had seen that look in her eyes enough times to know he didn’t like what was coming. Quick as a flash, the confused feline turned and fled from the humans hurrying to see the remains of the shattered box. Leaping up the couch to the top of the armoire, he looked down and watched his family pick up the scattered pieces of wood.
The girl kneeling by the box lifted the fallen bird and showed it to her mother, who shook her head at the sight of it. Sawyer tilted his head. How odd… Weren’t they glad to be rid of that pest? Of course; they were just surprised. Yes, that must have been it. After all, they probably thought they’d be stuck with her forever. Lucky for them, they had a hero in the family.
The people set about cleaning up the mess, while the cat looked on from his perch. The sight of his enemy being swept into a dustpan with the rest of her broken nest filled him with immense satisfaction. Come to think of it, destroying the box wasn’t part of the plan. He knew how much his humans liked it. Why else would they hang it on the wall if they knew what lived inside it? But if that was the price to pay for getting rid of the noisy bird, it was worth it.
Purring softly, Sawyer curled up and closed his eyes, ready for the nap he had earned. There would be plenty of time for praise later. For now, all he really wanted was to enjoy the peace and quiet.
How long does it take to get into a concert in Brazil?
A few years ago, my baby sister was part of a theater group, whose most recent accomplishment at the time was winning a chorus competition on a very popular variety show on national TV. Since then, they’d been getting calls left and right to perform at events, many of which were local. One of these calls was a request to open for a band that was going to be playing in town, the same band whose songs the group had performed on TV. It was a good opportunity for exposure, so naturally they accepted.
My sister informed us of the date and time of the concert, then told us that everyone in her group would be putting the names of their family members on a list so they could get in for free. After all, what’s the point of paying full retail for a concert ticket if you’re only going to watch your kid perform in the beginning instead of staying for the whole show? It made sense.
On the day of the show, my dad and I drove down to the concert hall to see my sister’s group perform. My mom couldn’t come with us, since she was out of town at the time, so I took my digital camera with me to record it for her. We got there about half an hour before the show was supposed to start, and found a long line outside leading into the building. The man at the entrance of the parking lot told us that parking was going to cost R$25 (Brazilian reals). To give an idea, that’s about 15 US dollars. My dad thought this was a bit steep for only a couple of hours, but we were going to watch my sister on stage one way or another, and the price wasn’t going down, so we paid and left our car in the lot.
If my dad had known the ordeal we were about to go through, he might have tried a little harder to haggle with the attendant.
The line outside the concert hall prompted a wait of about ten minutes to get into the building. When we finally reached the ticket counter, my dad mentioned the list with the names of the family members of the theater group that would be opening the show. One would have thought he was speaking a different language, based on the looks he got from the ladies behind the counter.
That was the last thing my dad wanted to hear when asking for tickets to the concert of a nationally famous band. He wasn’t prepared to shell out for something that was obviously going to be way too expensive, so he insisted that there was indeed a list. He was not alone in this argument; a few other families whose names should have been on that list showed up right behind us, asking the same questions my dad was. The staff then took the time to search through their VIP lists, which for some reason were located on the other side of a curtain behind the ticket counter instead of on the counter itself. I can only assume that’s what made them nearly impossible to find, since this process seemed to take three staff members a total of almost ten minutes to complete. When they finally returned to face a small crowd consisting mostly of confused parents, they did in fact have the mysteriously elusive list in hand. However, it came with some bad news: the list was not official, since the group hadn’t secured permission for it with the managers of the concert hall, so it was not valid for free admission. Great.
Well, turning around and leaving was not an option, since we had come with a special purpose (and a digital camera). From this point, we could either continue insisting on complementary VIP entrance just to see the opening act, or simply pay for VIP tickets. It’s probably obvious which was our first choice, but when that plan failed, my dad pulled out his wallet in defeat. This should have been the end of our struggle to get into the concert. Sadly, it was only about to get worse.
“Do you take credit cards?”
“Sorry, sir. Our card machine isn’t working today. Cash only.”
“Cash only” wasn’t a problem most of the time, but that’s because most of the time we weren’t obligated to pay overprice for parking. To our dismay, my dad discovered upon opening his wallet that he no longer had enough cash on hand to buy admission for both of us. The irony of this was that he was less than R$20 short of what we needed. It’s moments like these that make some of us wish irony were an actual person, just so it could literally be smacked in the face.
Our choices for how to get into the concert had been narrowed down to paying for tickets by credit card, and even that didn’t seem like an option. Still, we were determined. Now my dad was asking if they had any other card machines around the building that he could use to buy tickets. When the staff couldn’t provide one right away, he went so far as to visit the gift booth on the other side of the room to find one that might work. I stayed by the ticket counter, laughing to myself as I wondered who in the world Murphy was and how he could possibly have understood the universe so well that he even came up with a law to account for its perversity. I hid the smile on my face when I saw my dad walking back with an annoyed expression on his. No luck at the gift booth. This was really getting ridiculous.
Thankfully, it was around this point that we found a ray of hope. A man appeared from behind the curtain dividing the entrance and the concert floor just as my dad was explaining to the ladies at the counter that all he wanted to do tonight was watch his teenage daughter sing and dance on stage. What I saw next was proof to me that there are few things women find sweeter than a man who is genuinely supportive of his daughter’s career in the performing arts. While the ladies started to put a little more effort into helping us, the man who had just arrived, having obviously overheard, introduced himself to my dad as the manager of the concert hall. As it turned out, he had seen the theater group performing on national TV, and he remembered my sister from her solo in that performance, as well as having had the pleasure of meeting her and being charmed by her sweet personality.
The manager quickly sent someone to fetch a credit card machine from the bar inside the floor. A few minutes later, my dad and I finally had the VIP tickets we had thought would have taken much less time to buy. We thanked the staff for all their help, bypassed security, and made our way inside to the section of the floor closest to the stage.
The rest of the evening went about as well as one could imagine. My sister’s group was as great as ever, definitely worth the hassle to come and watch. It didn’t even matter that the show started over an hour late. Or that I had forgotten to clear out space in the digital camera’s memory, so we had to keep deleting old photos between songs so we could keep filming my sister. Or that we found out later that night that we could have gotten in for free the whole time if we had met with the other parents in the parking lot before the show. No, it didn’t matter. For the most part.
How long does it take to get into a concert in Brazil? If you’re lucky, less than half an hour. If the universe decides to make you its next victim, though, all you can really do is accept the test of patience while trying your best to laugh at the absurdity of life.
I wrote this short story as an assignment for the Humor module of my online UCBX creative writing course. The piece is based on a true story that happened to me and my dad a couple of years ago, and because of the absurdity of the events that took place that night, I thought it would make a great funny story. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
“Cela? Cela, you’re up.”
The illusion of darkness was broken as a pair of amber eyes opened to look up at the silhouette towering over them.
“Celandine, did you hear me?”
As her eyes adjusted to the light, the young woman saw the face of her friend – a well-built man with bushy hair – looking down at her in concern.
“I heard you, Lee…”
“It’s your turn. You don’t wanna keep ’em waiting…”
Celandine didn’t move right away, sitting with her back to the wall as she looked around at the dozen other people in the room. From the flaky old man crouching in the shadows to the mousy girl flitting in and out of the light every few minutes, each face had a story to tell. But it was always the same story.
“You don’t have a choice!”
The two friends turned simultaneously to see who had spoken. A tall, slender woman emerged from the shade, eyes gleaming almost menacingly in the light.
“You have to do this, Cela”, she said softly, ” for all of us. Remember their promise…”
“I don’t believe them, Psi!” Celandine rose to her feet to level with the approaching woman. “They were never gonna set us free! We’re just animals to them! They like controlling us, keeping us for display! They’re all liars!”
“You won’t know that until you finish the task you were trained for!” The taller woman turned to the young man beside her. “Leonidas, help me out.”
“Psipsina’s right; if you don’t go through with this tonight, they might never let us go. Please, just get up there…”
“And let all those people stare at me like the freak I’m supposed to be?!”
As she shouted these words, the young woman thrust her right arm out to the side. Still her greatest desire for the last five years remained unfulfilled, for where she wished she could be seeing smooth bare flesh, there were nothing but brown feathers.
“I’m not normal!” Celandine continued tearfully. “None of us are! You think Lee wanted to be born part-lion? And you, Psi? I don’t remember you ever saying you love having pointed ears and a cat’s tail! I’m sick of these wings that were never meant for me! I hate being a Hybrid! I wanna be human!”
“Ungrateful child!” All eyes now turned to the elderly man in the corner, who rose to his feet and stepped into the light as he glared at the avian woman through livid reptilian eyes. “You dare defy the humans’ will? You’re a product of years of refined biotechnology, a marvel of genetic engineering! They made you the superior being that you are; you owe them the chance to proudly display their work to the world! Now get out there and fulfill your purpose, siren!”
Celandine felt a tear slide down her cheek as she looked up at the saurian man now standing a foot from her face. “Siren” was one of the derogatory terms that inevitably came with having a humanoid body with the wings of a bird. “Harpy” was even worse, but fortunately, not as common. Noticing his friend’s despondency, Leonidas offered her a kind smile and reached out to gently stroke her feathered arm.
“Don’t worry, Cela”, he whispered. “You’re not a freak; everyone else will see that. Now get out there and make ’em wish they were Hybrids. After tonight, you’ll be free.”
The young woman gazed fondly into her friend’s yellow eyes, then timidly dropped her gaze to his torso. His standard-issue jumpsuit did little to hide the superhuman muscle of his Spartan-esque physique, and she had always admired the dark human-like skin on his powerful arms. After a minute’s hesitation, she reluctantly nodded.
“All right, I’ll do it… for you.”
Though her lips spoke the words as if addressing the entire group, her eyes deemed the promise exclusive to her dearest friend. With her head held high in newfound determination, Celandine strode past the others toward the plasma screen on the opposite wall, which was currently showing her test subject profile. Upon stepping into the cylindrical chamber beside it, she was immediately scanned from head to toe by the same invasive laser that had verified all her peers before her. Then the lift slowly rose into the opening ceiling, until the next thing she knew, she was staring through the glass at a sea of white coats and curious faces. As the chamber door opened onto a stage, an amplified voice echoed through the enormous hall.
“And finally, Specimen Omega of the Fusion Project: the Avian.”
The Hybrid slowly stepped out of the chamber to approach the transparent barrier near the edge of the stage. The moment she reached her mark, the spectacled man at the lectern to her far left spoke into the microphone again, his voice booming through the speakers. By now she knew every cue of the speech by heart, and followed her routine with mechanical precision: spreading her feathered arms to first display her wings from the front, then turning to show the back; demonstrating her agility through the obstacle course erected on the platform; and showing off her flight capabilities by gliding between the perches placed on either end of the enclosed portion of the stage. She fulfilled her purpose, exactly the way she’d been trained.
Throughout her demonstration, the spokesman’s words echoed hollowly in Celandine’s ears, the same words she’d been hearing for the past half-decade. “Fusion”… “splicing”… “Hybrids”… “spy units”… “future of military operations”… None of them meant anything to her. She was just going through the motions, waiting for a promise that might never be fulfilled. As she returned to her mark, she gazed out at the multitude of eyes staring back at her in awe, scanning the audience one last time before she would be called back into the lower deck.
Then two things happened in quick succession: she noticed the control panel window high on the back wall, and a second later, a grinding noise from above drew the attention of the entire room. The enclosure roof had gotten stuck while being replaced after the flight demonstration, leaving an opening to the bright ceiling. Suddenly, the Hybrid knew what she had to do. It was now or never…
Celandine spread her wings and took off with the speed of a falcon. By the time anyone realized what was happening, she was halfway across the hall, flying over the panicking crowd toward the controls that would grant freedom to her and her friends. Her focus was unfaltering; she barely heard the alarms going off, and she didn’t see the uniformed men charging past the fleeing scientists…
But she did feel the sharp pain of 100,000 volts coursing through her body at once. Stunned in midair, she crashed into the window at high speed, shattering the glass as she fell onto the controls that triggered the opening of the Hybrid deck and the doors leading out of the symposium hall. Weakened by the collision, the avian then plummeted the several feet to the ground, some of the large glass shards falling after her only seconds before she hit the floor…
A great roar resounded over the screams of the crowd, driving the humans out the doors at twice their initial speed. The dazed Celandine noticed the pairs of black boots near her head retreating with the stun gun probes in tow, then the silhouettes of several wild-looking figures barreling toward her up the aisle as a familiar voice called her name…
The young woman felt her upper body being lifted into a pair of strong lionlike arms. Only then did she notice the rather sizable shard of glass jutting out of her abdomen, as well as the red stain spreading on the floor beneath her. Still numb with shock, she looked faintly up into the yellow eyes that were gazing anxiously back into her amber ones.
“Cela”, Leonidas whispered, “what did you do?”
And then the young man saw something he hadn’t seen in years: a smile forming on his best friend’s lips. While the rest of the Hybrids chased the humans back during their escape, Celandine found comfort in her friend’s embrace, now gazing past him into the bright lights of the metallic ceiling to which, for one minute, she had been close enough to touch.
“I told you I’d do it…” she breathed, “for you. You were right. Thank you, Lee…”
The noises around her were beginning to fade. Leonidas’s face was becoming blurred. She couldn’t feel his tears on her lacerated face, and she barely heard the three words he was uttering to her now. But Celandine was content, for gone with everything else was the life of imprisonment and helplessness she had known for too long, and as the silver skies above her slowly grew dark, her smile never faltered in the light of the truth…
She was free.
This story was my entry for the Dark Futures Contest recently held by Writer’s Carnival in collaboration with Dark Futures e-Zine. The rule was to write a science fiction or horror story, 1500 words or less, that was themed around a gathering of people. The theme I chose for my sci-fi story was a symposium for genetic engineering, the main characters being human-animal Hybrid test subjects. With the contest now over and the winners’ stories already published on the DF website, I decided to share my (slightly edited) piece here on my blog for others to read. Enjoy!
Special thanks to Writer’s Carnival and Dark Futures for hosting the contest, and congratulations to the winners!
I can hear the crowd cheering, applauding madly as the contenders before us finally complete their round. The competition is fierce today. Why shouldn’t it be? This is the Grand Prix after all, and only the best come to compete.
A cloud shifts in the sky, allowing the sun to shine brightly over the course. Some might say it’s a sign of good luck, but I choose not to believe in such things; we’ll do well because we’ve trained weeks for this, and if we win, it’ll be because of all our dedication and teamwork alone.
The judges have finished announcing their scores, and our opponents now come striding in, passing us by without a glance. I notice Belle shifting slightly in place; if I didn’t know better, I’d say she was nervous. But maybe that’s just me.
“All right”, I breathe with as much confidence as I can muster while the announcers call our names next. “Let’s do this.”
With a click of my tongue, Belle and I stride proudly out into the course. The audience follows our progress as we make our way to the starting point, and the judges fall silent as we position ourselves, ready for the signal. All eyes are on us. It’s now or never.
A few seconds pass… then the bell chimes. Time to ride.
I click my tongue once more and coax Belle forward with a firm squeeze of my legs. Obediently she begins to move in a walk, then a trot, and finally a canter. No surprises; this horse and I have been working together for years, and by now we know each other’s every intent. With the sun gleaming in her chestnut coat and the warm summer breeze flowing visibly through her light mane, I start to feel the rush of riding that is always so familiar but never gets old. There’s no question; this is where I belong.
The first jump approaches. Four feet. We can make that, I think with assurance, and I know Belle can sense it in me. As the fence grows in our line of vision, I shift into the two-point position, ready to cue the horse for the leap. Just a few feet now; she knows what to do from here. In a single fluid motion, Belle and I dip together as one, and her strong hind legs push against the ground to send us both sailing through the air and over the fence. This is by far the best part of show jumping: that brief second in every leap when both horse and rider are flying together, defying gravity like a great two-headed mythical beast. Then gravity wins, and Belle’s legs touch the ground again. As we clear the jump, I lean back slightly to allow for a smooth landing. The fence’s planks remain untouched after the leap. No penalty incurred.
With another 15 obstacles to clear, the course is far from over, but so far so good. The horse continues forward, and now I tilt the reins and lean with her to steer her toward the next jump. Another four-foot-high vertical awaits us, this time with poles. Not a problem; Belle clears it with the same effortlessness as before. I can feel the pride and triumph rising in my heart now. We can win this competition, I just know it.
The clock keeps running as we continue through the course. Verticals, oxers, liverpools – none of them are too great a challenge for my Belle and me. Expertly we turn as one past the cleared obstacles and hurtle straight toward the next fences in the sequence. One, two, three jumps in a row. Combinations have never been a weakness in our routine. Almost every fence cleared, and not a single plank or pole overturned. We’re almost there. Just one more jump to go.
But the final jump is a triple bar.
Of all the show jumping obstacles Belle and I have ever practiced with, the triple bar has always been the most difficult for us to clear. Roughly every three attempts we make to jump it, one try will result in the third bar being knocked off the fence. Whether this is because of a difficulty Belle has to leap completely over such a wide ascending spread or an error in timing and control on my part, it’s hard to say. In any case, this means that there’s about a 33% chance we won’t completely clear this jump now without incurring a fault. Can we make it this time?
I decide I have to trust my horse. Deep down, I know she wants that blue ribbon just as much as I do, and she’s going to do everything in her power to help bring it home for us. No matter what, we’re in this together.
The last jump approaches…
Once again, I ready myself in the two-point position, guiding Belle straight toward the center of the triple bar. Five feet away from the fence, I squeeze her sides just a little with my legs. The horse dips, my body moving with her, and she kicks off from the ground in the takeoff.
Suddenly, everything seems to be happening in slow motion. In the flight of the jump, I’m now aware of several things at once: the breeze on my neck, the steady stretching motion of the horse’s legs, the racing pace of my own heartbeat. The high poles of the fence almost seem to slide beneath us as we soar fluently above them. There’s one… There’s two…
And at the very last pole, I swear I can just sense Belle’s final surge of determination take over. In that one split second, I feel her shift her back legs the tiniest fraction upward, and suddenly I know the pole won’t be dislodged from its post as her hooves barely shave by it…
Never in my life has a jump landing felt so triumphant. I can’t even hear the crowd cheering anymore; the rushing sound of my heart almost leaping out of my chest is too overwhelming. I spare a glance at the clock, which stops after we cross the final line of the course. Two seconds under the time limit. Unbelievable; we did it!
The audience is going wild. We were far from the favorite team to win, yet here we stand, being presented with a $10,000 prize and a first place blue ribbon. I may be the one getting most of the glory, but I’ll always know who the real champion is. Could I have asked for a better show jumping horse than my Belle?
This short story is based on What If? Exercise 9: “Taking Risks”. The idea is to write a detailed first-person story depicting an event that you will likely never experience firsthand in real life. The objective of this is to step outside the limits of “write what you know” and practice writing what you can only imagine, an important skill that every fiction writer should learn.
The subject I chose for this piece is a certain sporting event that I’ve always enjoyed watching during the Olympics, but that I’m sure I would never be able to try myself. Though it took a fair amount of research to write the story as accurately as possible, I had fun imagining myself in the narrator’s place. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
I remember it was a chilly night in midwinter. A cold breeze was wafting through the peaceful suburban street, gently swaying the leaves of the trees and the petals of the flowers on the front lawn that I always tried to keep so immaculate. The chill of the breeze did little to decrease the elevated temperature of my face, however, as I sat leaning against the wall of my house, clutching my right wrist and panting heavily from the rush of adrenalin to which I had been subjected not two hours ago. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to find myself aged twenty years and still looking back on those two hours as the worst of my life…
The street was empty at this hour; none of our neighbors bothered to spend winter evenings outside when such time could be better spent sitting by a warm fire or beneath a cozy blanket while the TV blared favorite prime-time shows. The only living soul in sight to witness my growing anxiety was a silver mackerel tabby sitting on a pile of boxes by the fence before me. Her hazel eyes reflected the moonlight in the eeriest manner, giving the illusion that I was being watched by some kind of condescending animal spirit. But I saw right through her disguise.
“Stupid cat”, I cursed unforgivingly, glaring right back into those brilliant eyes. “Why, Luna? You knew that dog was trouble! You remember what happened last year!”
Our next-door neighbor lived alone in his large, excessively rectangular house. The only other inhabitant of that property was his enormous Rottweiler, a real monster of a dog, who had been appropriately named Everest. Our neighbor had adopted him to keep as a watchdog and guard dog against the thieves who had somehow managed to break into his house twice. However, the Rottweiler had proven to be more of a threat to the neighbors than to potential burglars, and proof of this could be found in the form of signed compression bandage strips in my sister’s bedroom.
As sweet and intriguingly eccentric as our neighbor was, he also happened to be a bit forgetful, a flaw that had proven unfortunate for my little sister’s left leg. One day, Everest’s owner forgot the back gate open, and the dog had seized the opportunity to escape and come bounding into our yard in pursuit of his worst enemy: the little cat who insisted on provoking him from the distant fence every chance she got. The second Luna spotted him, she made a mad dash across the yard for the kitchen door, the dog only a few bounds behind her. My sisters and I stepped out the back door at the exact moment a bristly flash of silver darted past us into the safety of our house. Two of us managed to leap aside just in time to avoid the large black blur now hurtling toward us. My youngest sister was not so lucky. In his mad pursuit of our cat, Everest clipped my sister with such force that he effectively knocked her over like a ragdoll. The impact with the hard floor and the subsequent tumble she took off the back porch were enough to scrape and sprain her leg so badly that she would need cast-like bandaging for the next three weeks.
What saved our neighbor from serious trouble – and his dog from possible impoundment – was the fact that neither our cat nor her owners had suffered any severe damage from that incident. To be perfectly honest, I suspect that even if she had emerged from that event with a broken leg, my spotlight-seeking baby sister would have optimistically milked it for all the attention it was worth from her family and friends. In the end, her sprained ankle sufficed for obtaining plenty of attention and bandage signatures at school; our neighbor agreed to foot the bill for her treatment; and my parents agreed to forget the incident, so long as our neighbor made sure to install a new lock on his gate and double-check it every time he left the house. Everyone was at peace. Everyone but me.
In truth, I had never quite gotten past the events of that day. The Rottweiler on the other side of the fence had always seemed like a threat to me, regardless of the fact that he had never shown any direct aggression toward his human neighbors. My greatest fears regarding that dog were always for the health of my family and the life of my cat, and the chase incident had intensified those fears by at least a power of three. I knew our neighbor had no clue how to train a guard dog himself; Heaven forbid his clumsiness should cost something much worse than a sprained muscle next time. After several weeks of watching Everest grow even larger and more menacing by the day, however, I decided there wouldn’t be a chance for a next time, not if I could help it.
At some point during my winter break, my opportunity to act finally came. Our neighbor was out of town for the month, and he had left the responsibility of feeding his dog to the gardener who tended to his lawn every day. This was an ideal set-up for my intentions, as the blame for the dog’s mysterious disappearance could have easily been lain on the gardener’s negligence regarding the back gate after all was said and done. Now was the time to execute the plan I had been working on for several days, a plan that, if successful, would remove that “bear-dog” from our lives for good.
I was home alone that night; my family had left in the late afternoon to have dinner at our friends’ house, while I feigned a bad headache as an excuse to stay home. By 6 P.M. that evening, the sun had already disappeared behind the horizon, and the neighborhood was just beginning to glow with the artificial illumination of streetlights and household lamps. I pulled on my maroon winter jacket, grabbed the bag of supplies I had put together the night before, and headed out the back door toward our neighbor’s yard, using the spare key he had given us for emergencies to bypass the gate.
Everest was next to his doghouse, just as I knew he would be. I also knew he wouldn’t attack me on sight; as a necessary precaution, the professional dog trainer from whom the Rottweiler had been adopted had insisted on bringing him to the neighborhood himself and personally training him not to attack the neighbors. Even in the dim glow of the house’s outdoor wall light, the dog recognized me immediately, and therefore didn’t bother barking in alarm. That’s why I like large dogs; unlike smaller breeds, they usually tend to bark only in the face of a real threat, not at every living soul that passes by. Our Labrador was like that…
It was in that moment that I began to compare the dog I once owned to the dog I was facing now. Our chocolate Labrador was the sweetest, most gentle creature I had ever known, from the day we adopted her right up to the day she passed away of a heart condition. In a way, our neighbor’s Rottweiler wasn’t much different. He didn’t mean to come off as a monster dog. He wasn’t some savage beast that thrived on the taste of innocent victims’ flesh and blood. He was just a big klutz of an animal, dangerous more for his large body mass than for his powerful jaws. Chasing our cat, knocking people over, destroying neighbor property – all the damage he had caused in the past was really just the playful behavior of a grossly oversized puppy. The way I saw it, taking this dog away from an owner who couldn’t raise him properly would be nothing short of doing him a favor.
“Come on, boy”, I whispered as I extracted a leash and muzzle from the bag I’d brought with me. “We’re going for a walk.”
Five minutes later, I was leading the muzzled Rottweiler across my own yard toward the woods behind our house, the leash in my right hand, the bag and a lit flashlight in my left. If I could just lead him far enough into the seclusion of the trees, we would come to a path leading downhill, where I could then leave him to find his own way to a new home, most likely the neighborhood down the slope where the smell of barbecued meat was ever-present. The path wasn’t too far away, and I was careful to leave the back gate unlocked and wide open. Everyone would simply think Everest had run away of his own accord, never to return to his home street, and no one would be the wiser. It was a perfect plan, and best of all, it didn’t require any physical harm to the dog.
That’s the thing about perfect plans: they’re only ever perfect in theory, because in practice, there’s always that one variable that wasn’t accounted for. In my case, that variable was Luna.
When the dog and I were about halfway across the yard, something suddenly caught my attention: a small pair of eyes glinting in the moonlight straight ahead. My heart stopped the instant I saw those eyes, for I knew exactly to whom they belonged. What was she doing out here? I was so sure I had left her upstairs in my bedroom. Could I have forgotten my window open? Everest must have spotted the cat at the same moment I did, because we both froze at the same time. That’s when everything went wrong.
Without warning, the Rottweiler suddenly lunged forth with what could easily have been the force of a small automobile. The leash was ripped out of my grasp before I had time to react, and the next thing I knew, I was lying facedown on the moist grass of my yard, a throbbing pain in my right wrist. Looking up, I noticed the torn remains of the old leather muzzle that once belonged to my Labrador now lying a few feet away from me. This could only mean one thing: Everest was on the loose, and this time, he was out to kill.
The shrill cry of a cat in distress pierced the still night air. Luna turned and scampered around the side of the house as fast as she could, her Rottweiler pursuer disappearing around the same corner mere seconds after she did. My heart now pounding fiercely with pure terror, I sprang to my feet and hurried to follow the running animals. All the sympathy I had felt earlier for the dog had vanished; he had reverted to his monstrous persona. My humane plan was ruined, replaced with a single thought now racing fervently through my mind: protect Luna at all costs.
Little Luna was only a kitten when we first found her outside our house and adopted her. For the two years that followed, her size increased little, but her growing affection for us was more than enough to compensate for it. I myself had grown especially attached to the tabby; being extremely shy by nature, I felt much more comfortable with an animal companion than with a human one. Luna had become my best friend, and now she was in danger. I couldn’t let that monster dog catch her and rip her apart. How could I live with myself if he did?
A loud crash sounding from around the side of the house sent a horrible chill down my spine. I turned the corner to see Everest now inside our garden shed, sprawled among a mess of overturned gardening tools. Luna was inside the shed as well, leaping toward an open window on the opposite wall from the door. She was still in the dog’s reach, and I knew that if he managed to jump up and grab his prey, he wouldn’t let go until she was dead. I had to act fast if I was going to save her.
Quickly as I could, I ran to the open shed and grabbed the first tool in sight: a large shovel. Everest, distracted by the escaping cat, did not notice me poising myself behind him as he rose to his feet. Just as he made a lunge for Luna, I swung the shovel down to hit him square in the face. It wasn’t enough to knock him out, but the blow was sufficient to daze the animal just long enough for me to scurry out of the shed and bolt the door shut before he turned on me. I dropped the shovel on the ground, then hurried to the other side of the shed to peer through the window. Through all the commotion, Luna had successfully escaped and disappeared into the night. I was alone with the enraged Rottweiler now. Pretty soon, I would just be alone.
I looked down at the ground by my feet to find an intriguing item: a plastic container of antifreeze, which we used for the lawn mower. In that terrifying moment, I knew what had to be done. I had made an enemy of this dog, and now there was no turning back.
I ran into my house through the door leading into the kitchen, where I hurriedly grabbed a couple of hot dogs from my own dinner to bring back with me to the shed. Everest was still growling and angrily pawing at the shed door when I returned. I opened the container beside the wall, carefully dipped the hot dogs in the coolant, and tossed them through the open window. It didn’t take long for the dog to take the bait; antifreeze has a sweet scent that tends to attract hungry animals, particularly unsuspecting house pets.
But the antifreeze alone wouldn’t be enough. If this dog had to meet his fate by my hands, it wouldn’t be a slow painful death from kidney and liver failure over the course of a few days. No, the death had to be quick and as merciful as possible; if there was one thing I wouldn’t stand for, it was subjecting an animal to unnecessary suffering.
Thirty minutes after consuming the poison-soaked hot dogs, Everest was rendered partially disabled, no longer capable of standing properly. He barely reacted when the door finally opened again and I stepped inside, and he didn’t bat an eye as he watched me slowly remove a pair of recently sharpened pruning shears from a hook on the wall. I attached the leash I’d recovered from the yard to the seemingly drunken Rottweiler’s collar, then proceeded to lead him outside into a small patch of the woods. Ten minutes and several stumbles later, the dog was lying in a hole I had dug for him in the cold soil over the last half-hour. Now for the hardest part…
I laid my flashlight on the ground and stepped into the shallow pit, pruning shears in hand. I knelt beside Everest just as he closed his eyes and drifted off into an intoxicated slumber. For some reason, I felt compelled to gently stroke the dog’s head, possibly as a last gesture of compassion and reassurance. His fur was coarse, but with a silky touch to it. I then took a deep breath, and slowly brought the shears to the unconscious Rottweiler’s chest.
“I’m sorry”, I whispered, and with that, I closed my teary eyes and plunged the blades directly into Everest’s heart.
By the end of that eventful night’s episode, the dog’s body was completely buried, the mess in the garden shed had been straightened out, and I was leaning against the wall of my house, cursing at the silver tabby who apparently had decided to show up unexpectedly twice in the same night. I had never meant to hurt anyone, and I wasn’t prepared to forgive my cat for her unanticipated interference any time soon.
“The things I do for you, Luna…”
The mackerel tabby took this moment to leap down from her box perch and slowly walk over to me. Once by my side, she lightly sniffed the droplet bloodstains blending into the folds of my maroon jacket, then crawled into my lap and proceeded to gently lick my injured wrist. At this, I couldn’t help but breathe a heavy sigh; Luna always seemed to know exactly how to express her feelings. While staring straight ahead through the gaps of the fence before me into the darkness of the night, I subconsciously began to stroke my cat’s silver fur as I softly whispered in response to her affectionate gesture…
This is the first short story I wrote for my online UCBX creative writing course. The prompt was taken from the book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (the first book I reviewed from my Writer’s Toolkit), specifically Exercise 71: “Kill The Dog”. The exercise is to write a story in which you, the narrator, find yourself in a situation where you must kill the neighbor’s dog, the objective being to practice writing “raw” fiction so as to become “comfortable with the uncomfortable”. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!