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This story was written by Daniel Kean, 17, from Law Ting Pong Secondary School
Each week during the holidays, we will publish a story from one of the finalists of our 2018 Winter Short Story Competition. Our favourite entries will be compiled into a book, and each finalist will receive a copy of it. The winning entry will appear in Young Post in April.
I woke up to another sunny morning. As the rising sun rested its warm hand on my back, I sighed with content. It was perfect. The cloudless blue sky, the rich green grass, the flowers – ah, this is the life. My ears twitched as I heard the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, and … a yelp?
No, no, no – come on, just a little bit more.
The sun was shining down on me, the birds were chirping overhead. My sensitive nose was breathing in the freshness of the grass, the flowers … and bitter medicine?
Please, just for a moment more.
The chirping birds, the fresh grass, the flowers, the rustling leaves, my friends …
The world faded into blackness. I opened my eyes.
Instead of grass, I was lying on concrete – some mould and muck in one corner, and a pungent puddle in the other. I looked up, my legs too numb to move. The hole in the wall in front of me was the only mercy they gave me. The sun was shining through it. It was hot – scorching, even. Since the ground was stone cold, the sunlight felt just right.
I’ll take any comfort I can get.
“As long as the sun is shining down on me, everything will be fine.” That’s what I tell myself every day, ever since I ended up here. Just to give myself something to look forward to; just to keep myself sane.
Then, the noise hit. Suddenly, everything was not so fine.
A cacophony of horrible, heart-rending noises began, and my head started to pound. I squeezed my eyes shut, but I could still hear the howling for the loss of loved ones; the yelping of those in pain, the whining of the scared; and the barking of the angry and furious.
They paced outside our cells, banging their sticks and clubs on our cells, demanding our silence. The two humans out there yelled loud enough to put a dozen men to shame.
I used a little trick I learned early on to block out the noise – I started thinking about my previous human, Dave.
A few years ago, Dave came to my home.
“Welcome to Laura’s Pet Store,” a woman had said. “What can I help you with, sir?”
Dave pointed a finger at me. “I want that one.”
Before long, I was running around his whole house, smelling every corner to make sure everything was normal.
He never smiled, though.
I tried to please him, and performed tricks, which he ignored. I laid down next to him when he watched TV. He didn’t ever pay much attention. Apart from his eyes that would follow me, his face showed no sign of interest. After a few weeks, I gave up. Instead of trying to make Dave happy, I would sit there sullenly, waiting for the day to be over; waiting for the next to come.
One day, Dave pulled out a leash and said told me to get ready for a walk. He drove us into a forest, and stopped his car by a huge tree. We walked for a while, enjoying the sun, the wildlife. At least, I was – Dave had looked at me the whole time, brow furrowed.
He suddenly knelt down and undid my collar. “Go and run as much as you like. Go.”
I bounded forward in glee, enjoying my little lick of freedom. I looked back to see him with his back turned, walking back to the car. I didn’t give it a second thought. I explored to my heart’s content. I found a beautiful meadow and chased the butterflies there, scared the fish in the river, and even found a deer. Satisfied, I trotted back to the car merrily.
But, something was missing – literally. The car was wasn’t there. I could clearly see the flattened grass where the car had been. I was definitely in the right place.
I never saw him again.
Usually when I think of him, I am enraged by how he simply took me from my home, then dumped me like I was a toy he had become bored with. But now, my anger is dulled – from a raging inferno to a simmering hearth.
I didn’t even notice when the human outside unlocked my door and inched it open. When my eyes darted to where freedom lay, his hands thrust forward and grabbed hold of my collar, attaching a leash onto it. My head turned sluggishly, trying to figure out what was going on. He wore a smug look of victory, and he tugged on my leash forcefully, I forced myself up slowly, trying and failing to avoid any more pain.
There was a strange silence outside as I limped behind the human. I felt the eyes of a dozen others searing into my back as I passed them. Some of the gazes were jealous and resentful ones. Others looked at me with sorrow – like it wasn’t the first time they had seen something like this.
Like I wasn’t the first to be chosen.
We soon approached a set of white doors, which we passed though to a white-tiled, sterile-looking room. A man in white and a mask was waiting for us behind a table in the centre. The human picked me up and dumped me on the table.
The masked man looked at the other. “Is he prepped?”
“No, it’s not prepped,” the other answered. “Look at it.”
As my eyes wandered around the strangely empty room, I felt a spike of pain in my side. I turned my head, and immediately felt sick. The world spun and seemed to dim as I tried to make sense of the thing sticking out of my side.
I suddenly felt very tired and unwell. I rested my head on my paws and tried my best to bear the pain. I fainted.
When I came to, the person in white was saying something to the other human, but I couldn’t quite catch it because of how softly he spoke.
“He … distemper … tiredness … legs … body?
I don’t know … death …”
“Shame. He could’ve earned us quite a bit. Guess now we just get rid of him.”
“We can’t just … any morals?”
“Bah! All I care about is the cash.”
“But we … or something.”
“Using our own money? Are you serious? I’m here to run a business, not a charity.”
The person sighed in defeat, his face turned away. He made a shooing motion with his hand. As I faded in and out of consciousness, the maskless human turned around and picked me up. Instead of going back the way we came, we went through another door.
We came out into an alleyway, where he then put me down roughly. I was so tired, I just laid there, unable to do anything else. As I blinked my heavy eyes, he started walking away.
I managed a little whimper, and he glanced back at me. But he didn’t do anything else. Soon enough, he had turned a corner and was out of my sight. Exhausted, I fell asleep.
I woke to the setting sun, painting the sky red. I stood up, my legs numb and shaky.
I could smell something. Following the scent, I arrived at a big bin. I wasn’t the first there though – I could see humans surrounding the bin, digging through the rubbish and taking out plastic bags. They tore them open, dipped their hands in and raised them up to their mouths. One of them caught me looking.
“Get outta here, ye filthy rut. This here,” one of them snarled as he pointed to the bin, “is ours. Got that?” He took a threatening step toward me.
I turned tailed and went as fast as my shaky legs could manage. Eventually, I slumped down. I couldn’t feel my legs any more.
As I lay there mourning over my horrible luck and my sorry fate, the door beside me opened and a person in tattered clothing came out. He took one look at me in my pitiful state, then motioned me inside. I tried to move, but my legs could only twitch. I whimpered.
His brow furrowed. “Poor boy,” he muttered. “Let me get you up.” Gently, he picked me up. He wasn’t like the other humans – he didn’t want to hurt me. He seemed to care for me. I decided I would call him Dave, because Dave is the only name I know. He carried me up some stairs, and we ended up in a shed on a roof.
As the last rays of light from the sun dipped below the horizon, he put me down. Dave stroked my coat as I I fell into a deep, blissful sleep.
I awoke to the sun filtering in through a crack in the door, and to snoring behind me. I tried to stand up to nudge the door open, but my legs simply wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t feel them at all. I yelped in shock.
The snoring abruptly stopped. Dave knelt down next to me. He started to feel my legs, patting them all along. I could see him gently squeezing them, but I couldn’t feel it. I whimpered – what was going on? Dave stopped and picked me up. He carried me down the stairs and started walking quickly.
We stopped outside a building, where he put me down. He stroked my coat one last time, then left.
Not a glance back, nothing.
His shoulders were hunched over, his back was bent, and his hands were jammed into his pockets. I howled, trying to catch his attention.
Don’t leave me! Not you, too…
A person came out of the building. She saw me and sighed. “Another one…”
“Come on, let’s get you inside,” she said as she picked me up. Once inside, she put me down on a table. “Now, let’s see what’s wrong with you.”
She shone a flashlight into my eyes.
She checked my ears and nose.
“Watery discharge …” She looked at me, clearly debating something, before nodding. “Okay, let’s get you scanned.”
I was in a daze throughout the entire process. Whatever they were doing, I didn’t like it – it didn’t feel nice at all. Next to me was the woman, reading a piece of paper, and talking to a person wearing white and a mask.
“Poor pup. He’s suffering from canine distemper.” The woman glanced over her shoulder at me. “He must be in paralysis. Tetraplegia, definitely.”
“Okay,” the masked person replied. “What do we do?”
“Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? We’ll treat him.”
They started exchanging heated words, but I could barely hear them.
“But … nutrients … three months at best … suffer….”
“No pet… fate… chance at least…”
“The resources… money… what he wants… bed? For months?”
“Well, is death a good option for him?”
“No, but it may well be the best.”
At that, I whimpered in fear.
Death? Was that going to hurt? Hadn’t I suffered enough?
The woman glanced back at my noise, before staring at the masked person.
After a few minutes, I was settled into a cot. The woman put warm blankets on top of me and talked to me in a soothing voice. Slowly, I began to relax.
“Don’t worry. It’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be painless. Just like sleep. Yeah. This is the best sleep you’re going to get. Soon, you’re going to wake up in another place – doggy heaven, where everything and everyone is happy. This process is called death. Don’t worry, every living thing has to go through the doors of death. You’re no different.”
Death … sounds nice … I guess I’ll enjoy it. It’s finally here, death. My pain and suffering ends here. My new life will begin when I next wake up. It’s finally my turn to be joyous and free; to be jovial and carefree.
I closed my eyes.
It’s finally here. Oh sweet, sweet death. I wonder what awaits me?