The girl sat on a slab of concrete, the remnant of a shattered wall, waiting. She was a lone flower in a field of rubble, basking in the sun. Across a river of broken bricks and crushed cars Lem watched from the second floor of the building she faced. The walls were gone, the floor supported only by steel girders, but the girl was blind and Lem had no reason to conceal himself. She was deaf, too, so what did it matter if he sat on the edge of his platform, whipping pieces of mortar at a lamp post?
The girl’s dress was tattered, her feet bare, but otherwise she was well-groomed and pretty. Had she always been blind, or was it something in the air or in the water she drank? She seemed to know things. She probably knew Lem was watching her. He wanted to give her a can of food, but to approach her was deadly. Soon her pet would be back.
It wasn’t much later that the abomination returned, a giant hound with two heads! Bear-like in size and black as night, the thing trampled over the bricks, snuffling along the ground. The girl greeted the thing with a hug. She could see now, and hear, as far as Lem could determine. He’d been observing her for weeks, awed by this incredible relationship. The dog’s dominant head controlled the body, and the other head, somewhat listless, seemed to have a strange power, as though it were a psychic conduit through which the girl could see and hear if the dog was next to her. What bizarre circumstances brought the young lady and this hideous monster together as “boon companions” was a mystery, but the partnership worked. With the dog’s eyes she was able to forage more efficiently, and locate and open cans of food: beans, fruit and vegetables for her; wieners, corned beef and salmon for both; dog food for the dog.
Still, the girl trod carefully, awkwardly, as if the shared vision gave her a skewed perspective. With the creature at her side she clambered over great piles of debris, crossing what had once been a street. Lem was lying low on his perch, watching them proceed. They were advancing in his direction and he felt some trepidation when the monstrous hound raised his snout and his nostrils flared. Lem was discovered! The hound barked and growled through frothing fangs.
Lem showed himself. He greeted the girl, and with rudimentary speech she begged him to come forward, assuring him that the dog would not attack. She could speak! Evidently, the girl had been well cared for in the past, before the devastation. He approached cautiously, arms loaded with cans of food, a sort of peace offering. She accepted, and Lem fed her dog to ingratiate himself to the fearsome beast.
They became a trio, Lem and Emma and Fur, and the girl was no longer so helpless whenever the dog was away hunting. Lem built a shelter for them and stocked it well with provisions. When the winter came, he always kept a good fire and made sure Emma was comfortable. But something was wrong with Fur’s other head. It became more lackadaisical than ever and Emma’s hearing and vision were waning. Lem too wasn’t feeling well, and he wondered if it was something in the air or in the water they drank. He found it hard to think or to stay awake.
Spring came and Fur was getting better and Emma could see and hear quite well again. But not so Lem. How could anyone know that Fur’s other head was slowly draining the life from the poor fellow to sustain itself? One day they were sitting outside and Lem keeled over, dead. Emma built a cairn of bricks over him to keep scavengers from desecrating her friend’s body. It was a terrible world.
© Richard Beland
Richard Beland is a Canadian writer/illustrator who publishes a small press magazine called PLOGG. Some of his stories have appeared in SMORIES, UNTIED SHOELACES OF THE MIND, PHANTASMACORE, and (soon), ABSENT WILLOW.
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