It won't be long, now. I know. I've been here before. And this time will be the last ...

I can see the tears quite clearly. The hunting clarity of my youth may be gone, but the years together have worn away all secrets. They're trying to be brave, and they're trying to be kind, and they're clasping tightly to that one last service they can do me.
Hoping that doing 'the right thing' will make this day bearable in the years ahead. I'm looking at them now, and if they can read my thoughts as well as I can read theirs, then 'Thank you. You have been companions on my journey and I could not have chosen better'.

I remember the last time.
Not like this. I was young and full of life. And I was here. In this place, and for the very same purpose. To see the end of days. Unwanted. Condemned. And by the judgement of any court, rightly so.

A dog who does not serve his master has failed to serve his god. I had not only broken with this contract; I had done the unthinkable and brought my master crashing down. My god, pulled down from Olympus and strewn like rubble upon the ground.

He was a bad man, and he was my master. I think that he bought me, believing I was the right image for a hard man. A hard man 'needs' a hard dog. A bull terrier. Did he believe that ferocious dog would make up for the smallness of the soul inside him? That, he would never admit openly to himself. He was a bully. He thought I was his talisman. It's easier to be a bully if you have a guardian to protect you from your victim. A bull terrier. Bred to take on the world.

I tried to be a loyal dog. Obey my master. Fight his foes. But he only had enemies in his own mind, and I was not born to oppress the weak or frighten the timid. I would not lunge out at a child for the amusement of my god. I refused.

He raged at me, and his boot was the measure of his contempt. He screamed at me, and still I would not move a step. Then in his anger, he moved to strike the child - and I found my first, worthy opponent. Without thinking, I bit him. Not gently. A terrier does not have a gentle mouth. I bit - and I bit hard. And down he fell, waving his arms and wailing like a spoiled and spiteful child. Frustrated and rejected, a bully with only one place to vent his outrage.

I ended up here. A dog who had offended his master. A 'bad' dog who had rejected his god. A 'biter'. Soon to be 'put down'. Such little words, first to condemn and then to execute. To kill by the hand of another because he lacked the sense of responsibility to do the deed himself.

I could not argue. I had turned against my god, and to me, I had rebelled against heaven. Now I quietly lay, and awaited my fate.

From my cage, I could see a small television. A film was running. Old, even then. You would probably say it was in Black and White, but I'm a dog. How would I know? It was nearing the end, the climax. Emotion - now that I can sense. Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done."

Not a bad epitaph. To die, protecting the innocent against the bully.

Then the vet came, and I knew it to be my epitaph also.

And yet a strange thing. He looked at me, and I could see only kindness. And for a minute, I watched him as he fought within himself. Arguing within his mind. Justice or Mercy. What must be done against what should be done. Even amongst the gods, there must be rebellion.

He opened my cage and beckoned me out. And then he opened the door, and I could see the vague shapes in the field and scent all the wonder of the world outside. I did not understand, but I was grateful for this one, last, moment in my life.
He stroked the hair along my neck, gently, for a moment. Then taking my collar in his hand, he led me outside.
"Never wasted a life yet, boy, and don't intend to start now."
He let go my collar, and stepped back into the doorway.
"Ain't my fault if a big, fierce dog like you managed to escape.
Run, boy! Run hard, run long, and find yourself a worthy master!"

The door closed, and I stood there, alone in the twilight. I was young. I wanted to live. I ran!

So many years have passed. I found a worthy master, and I served them faithfully.
The years of a man are not given to a dog, and while the gods continue on, their servants must take their leave. Gods also have their obligations, and their final duty to their faithful is the end of suffering. I am old. I am dying. And it would be neither a painless nor a dignified death.

So I have come back to this place, and I am ready. And I will take a different door, this time. The gods, for once, have the blessings of their worshippers.

"It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

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Original story © Dave Sloan 2005
Layout, editing and additional material © Dave Sloan 2016
'tachras' and 'Winding Yarn' © Dave Sloan 2005, 2012, 2016

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