The story you are about to read will make no sense. As how would it be possible to tell this story, if these circumstances were true. I cannot in earnest tell you the why that I am able to relay, only the facts in the manner in which they transpired.
It was mid-summer on one of the longest days of the year and hottest days on record. Living in the subtropics lends additional heat from the humidity. As the air is saturated with water when the temperature that would seem outrageous to most becomes even that much more penetrating.
My recent promotion added stress to my life and in doing so made me less tolerant for nuisances that pestered me. I recently shifted my focus of being an errand boy to a shill for baked goods in the market. Unfortunately, that did not alleviate the menial duties that I previously occupied. Rather than just baking the products, I now had to hawk them through dodgy means.
“Sir, have you tried the spinach casserole? It will increase your strength three-fold. Last week, I could not lift this cart and now, with just one hand…”
“This angel’s food cake is so heavenly, I can hear the words of Father James that he will have a second helping.”
Why this promotion you might ask? The baker has grown fond of his landlady, and she has reciprocated the affection, leaving me to take care of baking, cleaning, and peddling. All this while taking care of Precious. The begging, little ankle-biter that will not leave me alone.
At first, Precious was just in the way; always underfoot and wanting to play. As time passed, he started to sit and wait for scraps to fall. After more time, he would paw at the food. There were even times my baker’s dozen was reduced to a full 12 instead.
I was not born hating animals. I do not, to this day hate animals. As a child, I played as cats would preen. They marveled and admonished, and I reciprocated by returning their affection. To watch a bird sun in the day and take wing at a moment’s notice enhanced by mid-afternoon walk. Dogs would often roll over and expect me to scratch their underside, which was done in reciprocity for their companionship.
As I grew older, they did not seem as much of a joy. My stresses increased, and they wanted more of my time that reduced by the day. They became more of a nuisance rather than a pleasure. But the one that held most of my ire was this solitary beast that annoyed me more than all the rest. He was always there. Everywhere I turned. Underfoot and trying to trip me as I did my daily chores. Always wanting attention. He followed me to the front of the house, and as I wiped the tables down, he would jump on them and dance. As I spoke to the masses in the courtyard, he barked along with my words, often making it hard for me to be heard.
As he irritated me more and more, my frustration increased until I hit my boiling point. There was a momentary lapse in judgment on my part. I could take it no longer and kicked the mongrel into a poker near the oven. He landed just so that his eye was pierced. With a sharp yelp, it was over. Maddened as I was, while the mutt had annoyed me, it pained me to see this happen, as I still loved animals. The frustration overcame me, and I was not myself. I was like a madman, crazed and desperate. Precious was stuck just so, as the spike entered and cauterized all at once. I removed the iron, and the beast ran away.
A few days passed with silence. The shopkeeper did not notice, as he was still occupied with the landlady while duties returned to a productive schedule. My routine commenced, and food was passing through the shop at a rapid rate without the distraction of the giant vermin.
A few more days passed, and his visage might have taunted me as shadows of a beast formed across the wall in shadowed form. I did not directly see the canine, but his presence was felt again. It had to be his as the shape was similar and there was always a spot missing, as light passed through the candle-glow. A slow dragging sound was also following as if the movement was forced across the corridor. When I looked, there was nothing, but an echo.
After another week of being plagued, he finally made his appearance known in full. As I entered the shop early one morning, he was waiting at the door sleeping. As he spotted me, his tail began to sway. Approaching nearer, he got up from his curled wrapped posture and moved towards me as if nothing happened weeks ago. Precious started at me with tail wagging. Missing an eye and more, he presented himself and followed me in.
Feeling only remorse over what happened, I let the mongrel hang around. When I looked at him, Precious did not cower, instead, merely looked for approval. Days passed with the same thing, and I was contented he returned. My mood was lifted with the respite. As such, I used his exuberance to my advantage alluring customers to the shop.
“Meat pies so nice, you’ll want to buy thrice.”
Not all of them were clever, but they still got enough attention for the passers to see the dog. As I called out the latest announcements, Precious danced and drew a crowd. Several pointed out the void in his face. When it was mentioned, I cried, “Return tomorrow when we will have a new batch of devil’s food cake. So sinful, you will need to go to confession.”
After the moon appeared and the shops were closing for the night, the temperature did not subside. It was still quite swullocking out. Inside, conversely, between the blaze of the day and the blasting of the oven, the sweltering of the inferno seemed to dry all that was around. Reaching for a vessel, I filled it with an amber liquid and quaffed it hastily. Repeating it two more times, the liquid’s effects started to take hold. Unsated by the fluid, a desperate search commenced.
Precious ran in front of my path and obstructed my pursuit. With a swift motion, I kicked the mutt across the room with such force, he slumped in the corner. Whining in pain, I ignored his squeals and found another combustible to occupy me. The devil’s food cake that would be the special tomorrow beckoned to my latest hunger, fueled by the inebriant.
After picking up a slice, Precious seemed recovered and begged for a morsel. Leaning against my leg, he reminded me of the calidity again. His warm body coated in fur generated more heat than I could take from the furnace that was the shop. Commencing towards the door and grabbing the portion of cake, a bite was settling on my throat when the mongrel tripped me again.
With a thud, I landed on my back and choked on a dry bit. Trying to inhale, gasping for any break in the congestion, the lights began to fade. In the faint last moments, I heard Precious. He could call out for help. Saved by the life that mere moments before I tried to stifle.
I felt a pressure on my chest as something pushed. Harder and harder the pressure increased and there was simultaneous darkness.
With all four paws and a leap that landed squarely on the chest, an audible pop rang out followed by a wheeze and another thump. The dog saw the man on the floor but was more interested in the projectile that expelled. Using the corpse as a springboard, the animal leapt upward and seized the earlier desired morsel from the air. Replete with the cake, the tiny throat gripped the expulsion, and the canine also choked. No longer able to breathe, he also expired.