Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cave-Dog

It was dark, dark and dank in the back of the cave.  Rex was licking his wounds, metaphorically speaking.  He felt the wall behind him pressing against his tailbone.  It felt good, familiar.  He'd backed in and the walls closing tight around him felt cozy, in a way that probably wasn't healthy.

He laid his chin on his paws slowly, a long, slow release of breath escaping his nostrils.  There was light at the end of his tunnel, but he'd backed in, away from it.  He'd been there, in his sanctuary, for a long, long while.


Dogs didn't measure time like humans did, but still, he knew he'd been in there too long.   His flanks were still taught, well-muscled, but his jowls were showing the first signs of grey.

He craved release, but coveted the lone wolf's monastic solitude.  He cherished the tragic hero's fate.  He longed for so much more, but contented himself with so little.

In many ways he was used to, comfortable with, licking his wounds.  In many ways he didn't want to face the cold light of day.  In many ways (most?), Rex was a beaten dog.  Living in the past.  Defeated.  Too many years of being "woman's best friend" (and emotional doormat), too much "unconditional love," not enough "alpha male time." He had always been that guy, he'd been Rex....before. But that was then and this was now.

Inside his head another voice hummed a little tune, a Duke Ellington number...


Not quite Rex's taste, he preferred melancholy country ballads in his current state of mind. He blocked out the noise and it got mournfully quiet again.

The future smiled at him.  It winked, beckoned -- a swelling belly full of potential.  The past tugged, clung, heavy with portent, light on levity, void of promise, barren.  He'd been turning back, inward for so long, it had become habit.  It was nice and dark back there in the shadows...

She'd taken him from him.  Hadn't intended to do it, hadn't planned it, hadn't even willed it into being,  but there it was.  And it hadn't been 'surgical', it had involved a bludgeon.  All those years, all that love, that intensity, that hope, those dreams -- blip...

And that was all Rex had to say about that, Forrest.

Rex rose to his feet, yawned, gave himself a vigorous shake.  He looked out at the light.  He licked his chops, lifted his snout and sniffed. He looked back at the black cave wall, worn smooth by his hindquarters.  His gaze shifted outward again.  In the dead stillness he heard another voice, female.  In the silence she said "I love you".  He blinked.  Sound where there wasn't a pin-drop.

Inside his head, he realized it wasn't a voice from the past -- she'd never said it before -- he'd heard it in the present.

Something had just happened inside his insides, like a capillary bursting in his left ventricle, a small aneurysm going 'pop' in his right hemisphere.  No -- it took place deeper in his brain, in the 'reptilian' brain, a fundamental change.  Suddenly he felt, rather than reasoned, that there'd be a similar, but different, voice in the future who would say those words.

Another blink.  Rex realized he had things to do, dreams to give life to, stories to tell and people who needed him, he'd just forgotten for a time.  He'd thawed out and needed to step out of the puddle of melted ice he'd been soaking in.

He took a step, then another, then broke into a loping run.  He burst out of the cave's entrance and kept going.  The light was bright, near blinding after the darkness.  He didn't look back.  He didn't have to.

The cave didn't care.  It just was.  Silent, dark, empty, healing, restorative, somewhere on Mars, awaiting another beaten, broken dog...
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