Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stray Dog, pt IV

In the morning before work, he had finished off the chicken. That evening, I was charging roasts and steaks to an already overused credit card. Sin met me at the head of the driveway, feet up on the driver’s side window, nose pressed to the glass, eyes peering in expectantly, before I could even get out of the car. Say what you want about his appetite; the dog seemed genuinely glad to see me.

I opened the door, and the huge dog vaulted over my lap, dipped his muzzle into a grocery sack, and came away with a large steak in his teeth. Only then did he get out of the way and let me leave the car. As I carried the rest of the grocery bags to the house, I heard a low little growl. Sin was standing right behind me.The steak was nowhere to be seen, but red streaked down his gray chest where blood and juices had dribbled from the corners of his mouth. His eyes stared up at me. There was no pleading in the expression. He demanded more of the rich red meat.

“Later,” I said.

The growl went up a notch in volume, punctuated with a small woof.

I tried reasoning with him. “Let me get the rest of these into the freezer first.” All the while, I was trying to break eye contact. I took a single step backward. Sin jumped up, putting his feet on my shoulders, knocking me off my feet. I had dropped the groceries, and he dragged a roast from the pile and began tearing dark red strips of meat from it. Somehow, he managed never to take his eyes off of me. Noisily he consumed the entire roast as I lay there watching, entranced -- and horrified.

I thought an insect was crawling on my face, so I reached up to brush it off. My hand came away wet with blood. Apparently, one of Sin’s toenails must have scraped my cheek when he jumped up.

He had finished the roast now, and slowly stalked over to me and stood on my chest. His prodigious weight drove the ragged points of his nails through my shirt and into my skin. He licked my palm clean of blood and then began slowly lapping the warm red liquid from my cheek. His hot breath reeked of the raw meat he had been eating, but there was something else, too–a smell like rotten eggs. I observed again how perfectly I could view myself in his eyes’ deep blackness, and a cold tingle ran down my spine, filling the pit of my stomach with ice water. Finally, satisfied that there would be no more blood on my face, Sin backed away.

He was shivering, not like he was cold, but as if it was some involuntary muscle twitch that traveled through his entire body. Sin sat back on his huge haunches and bowed his head to his chest as the tremors continued. What I saw next I did not believe.

The scaly, silvery skin began to peel forward, away from his sides. Where there was still fur, it fell away as if it had never been part of him. Large, triangle-shaped patches of gray, leathery skin separated themselves from his sides, remaining attached at his shoulders–almost like... wings! The edges were scalloped, the points supported by slender, jointed ribs that extended all the way back down to his shoulder blades. The new appendages rustled briskly, flapped a few times, and then folded neatly along his sides. Sin stood up, snarling, and placed his frightening bulk between me and the rest of the fallen groceries–a savage beast claiming ownership of the results of the hunt–and as always, his eyes never left me.

Finally, I found my legs and hurried indoors.

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