THE SUM OF ALL THINGS Chapter 1

Monster is a good boy. Monster knows he is a good boy because his master told him so. His master told him he was a good boy when they went outside and Monster would strain on his leash to show the other dogs that Monster was in charge. Master never let him go, but when his barks and growls made other dogs and their masters move away, his master, the best master, would pat his head and tell him he was a good boy.

Sometimes, another dog would not get out of the way and get too close. Monster would charge down the other dog, snarling and biting until it lay down belly in the air. The ones who did not lie down got bit harder and shook until they whined and whimpered that Monster was the top dog. Their master would shout at his Master but then Monster would bark and snarl at them until Master yanked him away. When the other dogs and masters went away, his master told him he was a very good boy.

Tonight Monster was curled up on his warm, dry bed inside. He was not with Master but that was ok because he had plenty of food and water and Master would be back, because Monster was a good boy and Master came back for him every morning to tell him he was a good boy for protecting inside. No one was allowed inside except for Master.

Needing to pee, the dog stood up to go outside. Pee was always outside or master would be very angry. Monster stretched a long stretch, grunted with pleasure, and shook his stub of a tail. He padded across the smooth floor and pushed his wide, flat head against the little door to go outside.

The wind pushed back his ears and blew sharp drops of rain into his eyes. Monster eyed the wet ground and knew it’d be cold under his paws, but Master would shout at him if he peed inside and Monster did not like to be shouted at by Master. He left his warm place, stepped into the grass that rose far above him, and lifted one of his back legs. He forgot the cold and the wet and even the food waiting for him inside because it felt good to pee and pee and pee.

The wind bent the long grass one way, then another as it surged and retreated through the overgrown back garden. Every movement flashed smells past Monster’s nose with an undertone of wet grass. Content in his relief, the dog absent-mindedly checked each familiar smell that added to his feeling of well-being.

A fresh scent whipped into his face, then flitted away. Monster stretched forward seeking more information, but his own scent rose warmly around him, drowning out the strange smell. Finished, he stepped further into the garden, looking for the source of the unfamiliar scent. He circled the boundary automatically, cocking his leg on bushes to leave a warning to others to keep out. He injected his claims with added threat so that everything would know that to come here was to face Monster, but he hoped no-one wanted to face him tonight.

Another dog barked far away. Monster stopped and listened but the other dog wanted to make noise not fight, but the scarred guard dog was hungry and cold and didn’t want to make noise. He wanted to go back to his special place, eat, and go back to sleep. He padded away from the bushes, out of the grass towards the door back inside. A tingle went down his back at the thought of his warm blanket waiting for him.

Away from the cover of the overgrown garden, the wind slammed into his face and flooded his nose. The wind finished its swirl that started quiet, surged up into loud gusts that flapped his ears everywhere until it ebbed to quiet again. His powerful short legs pressed his paws into the soft ground, his body trembled.

Scents came into focus to tell him what was happening. The usual smells were there, including the faint stink of stupid cats. Monster hated cats with their screeching, spitting and sharp, sharp claws and being too fast for him to catch. They came into his outside every night yowling and scenting and making fun of him for being too slow and too stupid to catch them, but Monster wasn’t stupid. When Master left him alone Monster went outside and waited, waited, waited and waited, never moving so the stupid cats would not see him.

One night like this he lay so still that a sly, stupid cat parted the long wet grass and bumped its nose on Monster’s muzzle. The cat, the stupid, scared cat arched its back, hissed and spun away, back legs bunched up to launch into an escape. Monster lunged and snapped as soon as he saw the cat’s eyes. It almost got away. Almost.

The cat’s back paws left the ground, almost completing its spring away until Monster’s teeth clicked shut on the tip of its tail and brought it crashing back down to the ground. It screeched a screech louder than Monster had ever heard. It was only Monster’s mighty bite that saved the cat’s life. His teeth, sharpened every day against a fresh bone, snipped off the end of the cat’s tail.

The trespasser’s side thumped onto the ground, it screeched again and shot back into the air away from the dog. Monster charged through the long grass after the cat, the piece of tail fallen behind him and forgotten as he barked threats and curses at the fleeing enemy. With blood in his mouth, the dog challenged the world, each bark so powerful it made the cat run faster. He knew he couldn’t catch it; he knew it was too fast, but every bark made the cat’s injured tail spurt fear drenched blood as the darkest of warnings to others.

The wounded animal clawed over the wall and away into the night beyond. Monster howled about what he had done and dared others to come, dared everyone to come until Master grabbed him from behind, hit him on the nose and said,

“Be quiet, stupid dog.”

Monster did not like it when Master called him a stupid dog. Monster would whine and stay away from Master until he was not angry. Master pulled his collar and pushed him through the small door so hard that Monster slid across the smooth floor and fell over. He stayed in the same place for the rest of the night, not making a sound, and stayed quiet until the next morning when Master came back and called him a good boy.

This new smell wasn’t cats, it was wrong, and it was close. Monster sniffed around in a big circle to track the scent before the wind tore it all away again. He felt it grow stronger and stronger, telling him a story about where it had been and where it was. Saliva poured into his mouth, a line of hair sprang into a ridge on his back, and a low growl rumbled in his throat.

The smell was coming from inside. Monster bared his teeth and bolted towards the door. He would get rid of this intruder the same way he got rid of the stupid cat. The growl died in the dog’s throat even as his legs picked up speed. He would get rid of this intruder, but this time he would be a quiet boy, a good boy. His flat head slammed the little door open and Monster skidded to a halt, his claws scrabbling on the floor.

The unfamiliar smell was bitter and angry. Too big to be a cat or rival dog, Monster hunched down, fighting the urge to roll onto his back. He thought of Master, pulled his lips all the way back to show his sharp glistening teeth, and summoned a bark to warn Master and bring him here now.

Blue light flashed, hurting his eyes. A bolt of pain shot through the side of his head, lanced down his spine, and buckled his legs. The dog yelped and spasmed on the floor until a hand clamped around his muzzle and something sharp pressed against his throat.

Monster was a good boy, and as everything went dark, he died a good boy.


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