The first week of summer holidays has been completed! I guess that's as good a reason as any to start off a new story. Part 1 of The Untied End is below :D
My 8-year-old has been sleeping eleven to fourteen hours a day since Monday, only eating small-for-her amounts once or twice a day, and this morning woke up ravenous at 10:00am. I don't know if we currently have enough food in the house (and that's with my husband doing a grocery run only yesterday). It's been two hours and she's already had two pieces of toast, a Costco-size bagel, a cupcake, and half her normal daily water. And I can hear her foraging in the pantry as I'm writing this.
On the other hand, my 5-year-old is the only half-morning-person in the house. She's been having the usual Change in Routine Nightmares, so is spending the second half of her nights sleeping in mom's bed, and then getting up a couple hours before everyone else and grazing her way through to around lunchtime when the rest of us unscheduled night-people crawl blinkingly into daylight. Today, with her big sister getting up earlier than her, the new routine got derailed and both my littlest and our bird were stressed out with the change of having other people around lol.
As for me, this week I really did get some writing time! Actual, un-interrupted writing time. It's been great for my mental health, and awesome for helping me procrastinate and avoid actual reality things lol. (Don't judge, avoidance and circling back to hard thoughts is how I deal without causing the big anxiety spirals. It creates a perpetual state of mini-spirals to deal with, but those are safer than diving into the big funnels.) I'm also still living in a gratitude glow due to gaining an amazing Critique Partner at the beginning of the week. Her ability to review a manuscript and provide meaningful feedback is about a thousand times better than what I can do, and she agreed to help me! *Awesomeness incarnate*
In conclusion, everything sucks and we're doing well. I hope you're staying safe and keeping healthy. :)
1. An Unwelcome Guest
The alerting sensation vibrated her sword’s pommel against her palm a split second before her ears popped from the slight pressure change. Her thoughts of strategy and points of attack whisked clear of her mind as she spun from her map table and faced the cloaked figure.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she said.
Gabron’s back was toward her, a miscalculation on his part of where he expected her to be standing, so she could see his shoulders bunch defensively beneath the greying curls of his once dark hair. “I came to warn you,” he said.
She waited, but that was all he said. “How ominous. So are you here warning me about the war you’re instigating, or about my assassination that you’re organizing?” she asked through a long sigh, crossing her arms at her chest.
The war she was almost completely prepared against. There was only one more thing which would take a few weeks to complete: trustworthy confirmation of her brother’s opinions, and what that would mean for the plans she had already made. The assassin coming for her sometime soon, however, she’d only heard those rumors two days ago and gotten confirmation this morning.
“Neither.” The response was clipped and irritated, but his posture didn’t change. “Dorgand will be walking the lands again. Soon.”
“I don’t see how that’s any problem of mine.” The words were a well-spoken bluff. Ice stabbed her guts and twisted her heart into a pounding knot. Good thing he was facing the other way, or he’d have seen her working her face back into a neutral expression. “And I don’t see why you’re delivering this news. Seems below your lofty position to come here as a messenger.”
“A great deal below. I know I’m the only one you’ll believe, however. Fortify yourself, Gabrhyne. You know he’ll come for you once he learns you survived.”
“Get out,” she growled. Her sword hummed in agreement with violence, the hilt trembling against her hand.
He turned slowly. His nose was more flattened and crooked than last time she’d seen him, but the high cheekbones and disapproving lips were the same as ever. A glint as hard as steel flashed in the edges of his brown eyes. Gabby knew he noticed the tremor of her empty fingers and the shallow depth of her rapid breaths. Fathers always remembered their children’s tells.
She drew her sword and tilted it to a ready position, the edge of the blade almost moving of its own accord. How easy to slit his throat right now… but then she’d be even worse off than she already was, and without confirmation of her brother’s position... His lips curled up into a grin, proving he was just as aware of the situation as she was, and that was why he’d felt safe coming in person. She shook her head at herself, surprised it was possible to hate someone this much and not kill them on sight.
“I suppose I’ll see you again soon,” he stated, nearly in a friendly tone, as he patted a hand to the hilt of his own, sheathed sword.
“Not if I’m successful,” she replied quickly.
That gave him pause – perhaps there was something he didn’t know and she did? – and she had a moment of victory in their mental games before he snarled. With a dismissive wave of believing her to be bluffing, he drew a dagger and swept it in a wide arc to cut a long hole in the side of her tent. A dramatic swirl of cloak and a flap of canvas and he was out of sight.
“Shit!” she muttered, slamming her sword back in to its scabbard. The enchanted blade emitted a yelp at the rough treatment. “Sorry,” she added quietly.
The words her sword spoke were barely words, and much of what she interpreted as the audible noises it made were inside her head. Often this blade was the one friend she could talk to when she was lonely, and the one she depended on most during a battle. That one-sided bond made it hard to remember the sword was enchanted and not actually sentient. At least, the sorcerer who made the enchantment said the sword wasn’t sentient. Due to the number of years since her uncle had given it to her, and the things her sword had warned her about during those years, Gabby had her doubts.
It had been a bad idea to tip her hand and tell her father she had other plans than the obvious one he believed he was cornering her into. Even though he didn’t seem to believe her just now, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t look into it. Now she was going to have to be extra cautious, and devise an underlying ruse in very short order for him to ‘discover’ as her ‘secret plan’. Her army was already gathered here after following her orders blindly for the past month as she refused to share her plans with anyone for fear of her father’s spying. It was all such a mess.
The looming war and now the assassination plan were his doing – he wanted it to look like her brother’s planning, but all the actual evidence she had proved Gabrick wasn’t as devious (or interested) as their father made him out to be. Gabby didn’t want to be fighting Rick, and believed her brother didn’t want to be fighting her, but this war… only their dad would pit siblings against each other in an international battle to determine a winner so he could die assured his successor was ‘strong’. She and Rick both already had their own holdings, lands, and peoples inherited from their mothers’ families, so it made no sense to fight over their father’s territory. Honestly, Liege Gabron could announce his favorite General as his heir and both Gabby and Rick would happily continue on with their own people.
Gabron didn’t want to avoid a war, though. And Gabby had no way of securely contacting his Generals to find out their minds on the matter. It was all such a mess!
Likely he’d only come in person and said Dorgand, the immortal sorcerer, was returning as a distraction; something to cloud her mind from untangling the deceptions he was orchestrating and not because Dorgand actually was walking the land. That was news she would have heard through her own contacts long before Gabron would have needed to come in person to tell her.
But, her father had specifically said Dorgand was going to be returning soon…
She traced a finger over the jagged weld across the stomach of her armor. It was a match to the healed gash in her own stomach and something the smith had added as decorative because, in his tribe, scars were things to wear with pride. Her father’s family thought it was garish to display, but among her mother’s people the weld and scar were held as reminders of how fragile – and resilient – a living body can be.
Her sword hummed smugly about its own, less fragile resilience. Nicks and dullness could be sharpened away, and even snapped in two the blade could be melted and re-forged.
“I could toss you into a swamp, you know. You’d rust to nothing,” Gabby threatened. Her sword vibrated in the sheath, just like a person shaking from laughter.
The edges of the cut tent fabric fluttered in the evening wind. She lifted the sword from her belt and dropped it on the cot where she slept, then dug through her trunk for the needle and sinew needed to mend the cut. Sleeping would be difficult enough after an unexpected visit from her father; she didn’t need a literal cold wind added to the chill he left behind.
No story part today! DOG finished up last week, so the free downloads are just a click away, and I'll be starting a new story on July 4th. It's a fun little fantasy I've been working on that feels like the start of something bigger, but I've only gotten the start so I guess the rest is for someone else to write.
Or it'll show up later in my life and take over until its written completely. That happens, too.
Yesterday was the final day of school for my kids. They are now officially finished Grade 3 and Kindergarten! And I'm officially finished with being Ms Mom for this school year! I may have to be Ms Mom again next school year, but for right now I can just be me. The summer goals include a lot of catching up on missed writing time, sporadic attempts to rescue the garden from the weeds, and hopefully a weekend or two with my sister.
I know, "super exciting plans" right? I'm super excited about them. :D
I have some short stories that need to get written, an odd romantic story that started short and is becoming a very cute romance of novella proportions, an attempt at finding some more beta readers for my latest sci-fi novella (Daion Echoes through Transglass), and a lot of things to add and change in my big manuscript. It's a lot of writing stuff to do. I'm kinda in love with this list this morning. Not focusing on writing for the past four months has been hard. It's also messed up my mental health, as apparently I function better as a human when I have stories pouring out of my brain instead of stoppering up the ideas until they sour and fester. Icky imagery intentional.
I hope you're staying safe and well this week. Please don't forget that the pandemic isn't over.
Happy Solstice! Today is the Summer Solstice where I live. :)
Anxiety, depression, and brain fog ruled this past week for me. I surprisingly did manage to do the minimum requirements for life, though, despite the garbage brain. Not everything that needed to get done actually happened. Or even close to the things I wanted to get done. But the minimum was my best this week and... it's okay.
Small victories, right?
On a political note, the UN drafted a resolution for calling a probe into police brutality, specifically against black people. It was lobbied to be written as an investigation into US police brutality, but "watered down" into a broader and world-wide probe. I'm disappointed that they decided not to perform a commission of inquiry (the most invasive of UN scrutiny), but glad they're giving time and resources to an investigative probe estimated to provide reporting a year from now. This type of review is something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime, and calling out systemic issues like this is still painfully overdue, but this is a little shove to start progressing toward a better and fair world. A tiny victory, yes, but still a chance for things to begin changing in needed ways I never thought I'd personally witness.
I hope you're safe and well this weekend!
Linkly cowered away from the stranger the moment the dog that had killed Bailey, but for some reason hadn’t killed her, bounded away to slaughter the gang who’d terrorized her tour group. The air around the stranger was hot, but the skin where she’d accidentally touched their wrist was so cold that it hurt her fingers. She couldn’t tell from their smell if they were a man or a woman because there was no smell. The worst part was hearing them crouch to be closer to her, but the sounds reached her as if through cotton in her ears and she couldn’t tell how close they now were.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she murmured quickly, hands held up to fend off the stranger.
“I won’t. You have my word. You also have one request of anything you might ask for.”
“I don’t want anything, thank you.” She said it quickly.
“I don’t carry debts. You returned Dog to me, which is all I could’ve asked for. For that I owe you one thing, up to all you could ask for.”
“Thank you for the offer but I don’t want anything.”
“Not even” –the tags on Bailey’s collar jingled, the distance surely too far for the nearby stranger to have reached– “another like Bailey?”
“No thank you.”
They sighed. “But that’s the thing you want the most, isn’t it? It’s what I hear your heart is crying for.” The final sentence made the nerves in her teeth tingle uncomfortably, as if they’d picked up a frequency to transmit the words into her mind rather than the sound coming the regular way through her ears.
Linkly tried to shift further away from sound of their voice. The stranger wasn’t wrong, but she didn’t want anything from them. She just wanted them to take the dog that had killed Bailey and then snuffed out the screams of the gang and go as far away as possible.
“I’ll apply for a new companion from services when I go home. You don’t need to make it your concern.” She’d been slowly backing away from the stranger for the entire conversation. “I’m happy you have your dog back,” she added. Something about the air shifted, like static from a carpet floor pulling up all the hair on her body, and she knew the stranger was smiling.
“You’re the worst liar I’ve ever met.”
“Thank you. I don’t practice often.”
The stranger shifted a few crouching steps toward Linkly, faster than she could skooch away on her hands and butt, and wrapped a hand around her foot. She shivered as the cold of their touch seeped through her sneaker and pinned her in place. Their grip held the distinct impression that they could crush every bone enclosed inside their fist and was simply choosing not to.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she begged. They chuckled and static danced over every hair on her body.
“I wish only to thank you. To do so I have to repay you; balance this debt between us. You desire a companion. Allow me to provide you one.”
“Um,” Linkly replied.
It would be impossible for this stranger to know where she lived or what services buildings she frequented because all her information was locked up at the hotel, so she could easily hope they wouldn’t ever find her if she got back to the hotel. And if she got back to the hotel, it would be a simple thing to change her ticket and fly home on one of the next available flights. She just had to get back to the bus which would take her back to the hotel.
The hotel this tour had been planned through.
A tour encouraged by every hotel employee.
A two hour walking tour at the end of a bus trip three hours from the edge of the city her hotel was in.
To walk on a jungle hiking path where all the guests had been targeted for an attack by a gang with a murderous dog.
“The companion I provide would also protect you here?” the stranger offered, answering to the worries in her thoughts that she hadn’t vocalized.
“I… I don’t…”
“You only need to agree and this debt of my heart’s desire returned is paid by replacing that most precious to you.”
Linkly whimpered. She was alone in a foreign country, and her things at the hotel were probably being stolen right now. Bailey was dead. She didn’t have any way but trusting strangers for getting home, and how many would actually help her? Once she got home, if she got home, it would be a long wait to be paired with a new dog.
“Please. Help me,” she whispered
“Do you accept the companion I will gift to you?”
“Yes.” It was a word barely spoken, but settled into the air around her as a physical presence.
“Thank you, Linkly Barrs, for returning Dog to me.” Static crackled along her skin again as the stranger smiled and released her foot. The air at her back burst as if a nearby oven had been opened and the stranger’s voice puffed against her ear: “The debt between us is cleared.” She spun, striking out, but there was nothing all the way around her except the memory of heat still prickling under her shirt as normal air chilled the sweat on her skin and the scents of the jungle returned.
From a distance, she heard a sharp whistle. The crashing of multiple large animals pounded through the forest around her, coming from many directions and aiming for the source of the whistle. She knew one of the animals was the one the stranger had called Dog.
A single path of crashing sounds wasn’t following the direction of the rest, and that animal sounded like it was on a path directly to where Linkly was cowering. It stopped close enough that she could smell the wetness its fur picked up from leaves it had knocked into during its run and feel its breath panting against her shoulder.
The same shock to her senses that had led her hands to the buckle on Dog’s collar jolted through her body when this dog’s nose touched her bicep. She held up her fingers to be sniffed, realizing this dog was the companion the stranger had promised as payment for the debt they said they’d owed her. It wasn’t a killer like the one she’d set free. This beast was young and had only ever been like a wolf, low in pack status, but his features were squared under her palms in ways that wolves weren’t. His fur felt like hair that had been carefully matted into thin, intentional dreadlocks. He grumbled happily and licked her hand into his mouth, toothing harmlessly on her fingers before tugging her hand in a way heartbreakingly similar to what Bailey used to do when she wasn’t wearing the harness.
“You know the way back to the bus?” she asked. He dropped her fingers and ruffed quiet agreement.
She stood up and held out a hand. His head appeared under her fingers and then his body pressed against her leg. He was a lot bigger than Bailey. The top of his shoulder was at her hip. Rubbing the spot on his back where his skin twitched earned her an affectionate head-butt to her stomach. Linkly hugged around the bulky head and got a snuffling lick on the inside of her elbow. When she straightened to hold a fistful of hair at his shoulders, careful not to pull any of the dreadlocks uncomfortably, he dutifully settled beside her as if already having trained years for this. She took a deep breath.
“Let’s go back to the bus,” she said. He started walking, his leg brushing hers and their strides aligning. “Wait! Bailey’s collar!”
Linkly dropped the fistful of dreadlocks and turned back. Bounding paws leapt away before she could take a step and then the familiar jingle of Bailey’s tags rang closer with every leap back until the dampened leather collar was pressed into her waiting hand below a wet and snuffling nose.
“Thank you,” Linkly said, crying a little as she knelt to hug her new friend. He tucked his head over her shoulder and sat gently, staying close as she squeezed tightly. This time when she stood, it was with his dreadlocks in one hand and Baily’s collar clutched tightly in the other. “I guess we should use the walk back to the bus to figure out a name for you, hey?” His reply was to yip like an excited puppy and wiggle under her hand. She let go of the dreadlocks to rub away a twitching spot on the back of his neck and he crooned a happy growling sound.
Somewhere distant, still under the jungle canopy, noiseless thunder clapped and echoed as a shock through the undergrowth. Linkly shuddered and her new dog whined, both of them instinctively turning to face the epicenter. After a moment of silence only broken by water dripping from leaves, a tentative bird sang quietly. The stranger and the rest of the pack were gone.
Linkly stroked the strong neck under her palm, completely unaware the sticky mud on her hands was blood leaving red streaks on his grey hair, and the dog butted his head into her stomach affectionately. “Come on. Let’s get to the bus.”
This week has been really, really hard. Pandemic finances are... not easy. My hubby and his brother started a company last month, and this month realized how much work it is to get a business to be more than a hobby. The kids have Spring Fever and just want school to. Be. Done! Add to that, when my physiotherapist was able to start seeing me again, we changed up my routine to make it harder and now my wrists are an ouch.
It feels like seventeen different things require my attention right now, and half my spoons for doing things are going toward the detailed Personal Activity Planning for maintaining normal so I'm not living on pain meds that wreck my stomach. Which translates to not having the needed spoons to keep back the depression leeches and anxiety weasels...
We've been staying healthy by continuing to limit our outings as if we were still on lockdown, too. The long term effects of COVID-19, now that they're starting to show as permanent organ damage, are as scary as the sickness. And pneumonia is nothing to cough at even when it's not a raging pandemic. (Pun intended. Dark humor is still humor.)
Please keep watching ad profit donation videos and pushing for racial equality through pressure on local governments and agencies, as well as with budgets and spending habits; companies that don't support black lives are a safe bet for not supporting women, disabled, and/or rainbow community members. Our kids can have a better world if we take this shot right now and create the basis for change. Just imagine a world where daughters get paid the same salary as sons, friends and family don't get spit on for walking down the street, and police help instead of enforce. It's possible. Black lives having equal value open the door for everyone to be equal. I hope we as a culture and collection of lives can rip the door out of the wall so it can't be closed ever again.
Dog burned. That was the creation. Bones that burned and hunger that steamed; starving muscle wrapped in hide that prickled and twitched.
“I’ll call you Dog,” the voice of the creator said, bestowing a knowledge of name. I am Dog, was Dog’s first thought. I hurt, was the second.
Dog’s first whine was met with a laugh and a heavy hand squeezing the back of Dog’s neck.
The order was a sound and a sensation. Dog was unleashed on the battleground and given a feast of meat. Wounds from blade and cudgel boiled and smoked as they healed, Dog’s blood burning the ground wherever it fell. At the end, hunger sated, Dog returned to the creator.
“Good, Dog.” The creator’s hands calmed the prickling and smoothed the twitch.
Times changed and wars advanced. Dog remained with the creator and was given more knowledge. She was a she, she was strong, she was smarter than many, she became I, and I was beholden to one.
I had been created to hunt and feed. My method of creation was a blasphemy against natural order, and a beloved flaw to the one I had been created to serve. My one and only brood provided triplets to my creator, and they served at my sides for all the ages that passed. The beast of war I’d bred with had been mortal, though, and not even the creator could alter that. I and my litter honored his memory and service by not eating his corpse. My triplets bred with others our creator chose for them, expanding our pack.
One day changed it all. I emerged from our home with my brood, my creator at my side, the war ripe for feasting, and our stomachs growling. The creator’s hands smoothed away the twitches within my skin and squeezed the back of my neck.
We ignored the sizzle of our wounds and the screams of many voices. There was joy in a hunt, but ecstasy in feasting enough to sate the burning hunger. That war, that day, a man attacked in a way unseen before. A collar closed around my neck. The snap of leather drawing tight at my throat was as the crack of a whip and his fingers looped to cling to the strap, his knuckles braced at my hackles.
“I own you,” he said.
The bond to my creator snapped. I howled as the creator screamed. The thief ordered me silent, slinking away from the war, and we disappeared between the cracks of my existence into reality.
His world was bright and thirsty. Sand blurred my eyes and hunger seared my core. I was passed to the son at his death. And then the grandson. And then more than could be totalled. Their short lives bleached together under a raging sun. My existence, unable to escape the grip of the collar binding me to whoever controlled it, was passed from hand to hand as an inheritance, gift, or theft.
I crossed rivers, lakes and oceans to reach lands that exchanged sand for snow and then snow for fields, finally coming to a darkened jungle. The stir of a hunt was a distraction from the burn of bone and the eternal ache of hunger. Cutthroat thieves left the hunt to me, and stole the spoils for themselves. They never allowed enough meat to sate the hunger, and kicks were given when the prickles made my skin twitch. It had been this way for longer than counted years.
Today changed many things for me. This life I had I now hated, but today I hated the golden dog as I had never hated before. The hand on its neck vomited the memory sensation of my creator’s heavy grip on my skin.
I decided then would hunt it second to last. The owner of the hand holding to the golden dog would be last. I wanted that owner to scream at the loss of the golden dog as my creator had screamed at losing me.
These thieves toyed with the others who’d walked around the golden dog and its owner. No eating. No biting. They spread each hiker far apart and threatened. They stole and abandoned.
Until the golden dog. I was allowed the golden dog.
It fought and defended its owner. The taste of its battle was… love. I hated it more for that. The owner had run, stumbling. She was unsighted. The golden dog was more than a pet, as I had once been, and I hated it more.
The thieves laughed, calling me back and setting a trap for the owner. My sides heaved and the collar at my throat tightened under the grip of the one who owned me.
The owner of the golden dog returned. Her steps lost, her clothes ripped, and her arms scraped. She stopped when her foot tripped against the torn skull of the golden dog, the clank of the tags on its collar signalling that she’d found the carcass. I watched as she dropped to her knees in the blood, hands soaking into the hide and coming away red, and I waited hungrily for the scream.
She choked back a sob. There was no scream.
The thieves discussed the idea of using the woman’s quietness, and one of them chuckled loud enough for her to hear. As that one spoke to her, the one who owned me whispered my orders.
“No killing. Hold her down for us. Go.”
I burst through the underbrush, hate twisting my growl into a roar. She raised her hands to fend me off and… one of her fingers slipped under my collar. The binding to the thieves snapped and the enchantment of the collar tied me to the woman who’d owned the golden dog.
Her hands quaked in fear, her unseeing eyes staring straight at me with a focus proving she’d once seen. She was panting in short breaths that puffed mint as I breathed death back at her.
“Please,” she begged, hands closing on my face and caressing to my neck as she attempted to understand what I was. “Please, help me,” she whispered.
Her palms stroked over what I knew would feel like bristling hide to her, calming the prickles and smoothing the twitches that had tormented me for the ages in reality. She hugged around my neck. The thieves stopped talking, but remained motionless and watching.
“Good dog,” she said, voice shaking. “You’re a good dog. They’re bad owners, but you’re a good dog.” Every fibre of my muscles strained closer to her, the sound of praise so forgotten that it was foreign, but even as lies I craved it. She stroked away the ache of my spine and used my strength to help her stand. She stood at my shoulder. Her hand dropped to my neck, stroking, and then her fingers curled around the collar. “Come on. Let’s both of us get out of here, okay?” she asked. “You’re such a good dog,” she added, the words ringing with truth.
The branches crackled where the thieves had been waiting, watching, and her grip on the leather tightened. Suddenly, I was more. Like the golden dog had been. I was again how I once had been. Her hand at my neck and her leg at my shoulder; it was the same as when I had once stood with my creator. As I had to no other since being stolen, I belonged to her. The jolt shook me to my core and her gasp knocked her to her knees as my deepest memories saturated her bones.
I grinned at the thieves. The buckle of my collar exposed itself to the fumbling of her fingers, its enchanted trickery of hiding from sight with illusions useless against blind eyes. Their panic was a flavor as the hated strap binding me to reality loosened.
A tremor shook the ground when the collar hit it. The final stroke of her hands stopped when her fingers encountered the heavy hand squeezing the back of my neck. She fell back from the cold touch of my creator.
“I’ve been looking for you, Dog,” the creator said, turning a smile to the thieves. “Go. Eat.”
So, with almost no consideration required after the past week, I'm postponing starting my science fiction novella. It's setting has the backstory of a plague that reduced a multi-planet civilization to near extinction, and the backstory includes the resulting politics in that galaxy. It doesn't seem like a story for the pandemic and protests occurring on our planet. Daion Echoes through Transglass will get released, but right now – today – is not the time for it.
Instead, starting today is my short, off-beat horror story about a girl and a... dog? Sure, we'll call Dog a dog for this sentence I'm pretending is a teaser blurb. Check out Part 1 below! :)
I haven't done any writing this past week. And not much reading. I've been doing a lot of listening, and a lot of watching. Black lives do matter, and the systemic changes to create equality in policing and society are, at the moment, very sadly radical to a lot of policy makers. These systemic changes for equality and against brutality are needed, and are needed everywhere. They're needed there in the USA, here in Canada, and globally so that governments, institutions, laws and justice see people.
Black lives matter.
Linkly flew down the sidewalk, ponytail bouncing above a scrap of satin fabric she’d tied on as a cape and could flap like wings. The shifted sidewalk pavement jutted up half a neighbor’s yard away and Mom yelled after her to be careful. Her new glasses gave her clear and crisp bird-vision, though, and she flapped up and over the stumble spot without slowing down at all. She spun around at the corner by the crosswalk and dramatically stared down the rough concrete, her sharpened gaze defiant and towering far atop yesterday’s skinned knees and scraped palms.
It was like that with every new pair of glasses when she was little. The world would jump into focus for weeks and the genetic disorder taking her sight would be held off for months at a time. Then the crisp edges would fade into blurs. At most it took a year until the new glasses would simply change what she saw from a solid blur to shaped blurs and she’d be back to tripping on the juts made by tree roots under the old pavement. That’s when the tests would start again, and then the wait, and then another new pair of glasses would arrive.
One day, after all the tests, her mom had held her hand as they’d gotten the news there wouldn’t be another new pair of glasses. They decided to try the operation, but it hadn’t worked as well as the doctors hoped. Her last pair of glasses worked again for a few months and then everything just blurred away. When she got her cane, people her age on the bus would talk as if she wasn’t there about how they’d just die if they couldn’t see colors or put together their own outfits in the morning (as if I need help getting dressed, Linkly thought; she chose her clothes and dressed herself every morning... such a ridiculous assumption). She’d get jostled or knocked down while waiting for the subway by those folks who wanted to prove she was faking, and men who smelled like the wrong end of entitlement would pass by closely so they could whisper gross things at her.
Finishing high school was a blessing. Linkly had always loved running, but using the school treadmills during the required PhysEd class was a lesson in tolerance due to the same bullies who sat too close and purposely talked too loud about her on the bus. It was a sigh of relief that lifted cinderblocks off her shoulders to be waiting outside the school office for her grandmother after her last exam, knowing she’d never have to come back to this building.
Gran had laughed about Linkly’s freedom dancing in the car, asking carefully if her granddaughter believed that all the ‘isms’ from school would disappear now that she was away from those bullies specifically. Linkly had laughed about that, assuring Gran that she was well aware there would be more.
“But, it won’t be those ones,” she’d added with a grin and an eyebrow wiggle that made Gran laugh.
Instead of driving home that day, Gran had turned off onto a new road and then gotten secretive about the destination. As Linkly fantasized out loud about a possible early dinner at a new restaurant, Gran only hummed along with the radio – badly, as was her habit – and refused to give any details about where they were going.
Linkly choked back a sob as the memories washed over her. She and Gran had gone to meet Bailey that day. Mom had taken the afternoon off work and was waiting at the Center for Service Animal Training when they’d parked and gotten out of the car. Linkly had used her cane and Gran’s arm to get over to the front doors and her mom had whispered ‘surprise’ after wrapping Linkly’s hands around the sides of Bailey’s head.
Seven years ago today, Bailey had become Linkly’s eyes, friend, and companion. She only knew the matted and sticky carcass was Bailey because of the distinctive collar tags with both regular stampings and braille.
This trip was supposed to have been fun. A week at a resort, away from work and university, so that she could enjoy some down time. Some beach time. This part was only a one-day bus trip and hike through the jungle to experience wildlife. The concierge at the hotel’s front desk had assured her the trail was easy and – with Bailey along – she wouldn’t have a problem with the terrain. Besides, he’d added, she’d probably enjoy the birdsong.
There weren’t birds singing anymore. Every normal sound had been replaced with leaves shaking and claws shifting their grips on stones and branches. The birds were hiding, silent, and waiting for the danger to pass. Far away, the quietness of the jungle provided only a few wordless cries from other hikers who’d run in all other directions. Everyone on the tour had been scattered between the thick trees and clinging undergrowth.
Something rustled nearby and a low chuckle told Linkly clearly that the unexpected animals who’d scattered the hiking tour had circled back and found her. She fell away from what had been Bailey, scraping her palms on the same rough earth that was soaking into her pants.
“Hey, little blind girl,” the sing-song voice attached to the chuckle called. “It looks like you need a new dog.” Multiple laughs joined the first, their whispers and jeers underscored by a growl that rumbled like distant thunder through the ground and set her body shaking.
She jerked back from the sudden crunch of undergrowth. The growl became a roar as four feet drummed down into position for a final lunge. Those were the same sounds that Bailey had died under. Linkly threw her hands protectively up and out toward the beast now coming for her. Unhelpful, her thoughts whispered as if this will help…
A blog with quick updates about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and where I can vent my short stories weekly for everyone to read for free!