Grey

by | Jun 13, 2019 | Flash Fiction, Writing

This was originally Published in the Plague Issue of the AU: Speculative Journal run by students of the University of Washington.

The infection is spreading, and though the color eludes him the smell doesn’t, but what’s a dog supposed to do?

Grey

The flesh is wrong.

                                                            Wrong.

Just wrong.

“Wrong!” he barks, but all he receives is a careless wave of a hand in his general direction. It doesn’t mean anything. The colour is right on that hand; the long skinny appendages of flesh are a mix of yellow and brown. He looks at the other one—the one draping over the edge of the couch.

The colour is   wrong.

Wrong.

Just wrong.

He whines and looks up at Beth. She hasn’t risen from the couch in days, not even to let him outside. His excrement lies next to the door, but not even that can mask the vile odour rising from her hand. Her nose is too small—too dry—to smell it. Its thick, putrid rankness belongs to decomposing fruit and moulding blood. It burns the sensitive tissue of his muzzle, and he pulls back his lips in an effort to lessen the intensity.

It doesn’t work.

“Stop that,” she says. He knows what that means. He cocks his head to the side, tall angular ears flattening against his russet fur. He’s not doing anything. And her voice—it possesses a pitiful croaking tone as though parched with thirst but unable to quench it. She’s sounded like that before when her nose was red and running. The flu, she’d called it—but even then she had opened the door for him when needed and filled his bowl with food twice a day. Emptiness claws at his stomach. He whines again.

  Wrong.

                                                            Wrong.

Just wrong.

He wonders why she hasn’t sought help from her fellow humans. She did so when she had the flu—or, he realizes, maybe she blames them. Her current predicament is the child’s fault, after all. They had gone to her friend’s dwelling last week, though the reason still confuses to him. Beth had left him to converse with Kelsey and her child, but now he wishes he had stayed by her side instead of exploring the backyard. Maybe he could have prevented this. His tail slides between his legs. He hadn’t even realized what had happened until the screams assaulted his ears, and then it was too late.

Who knew humans were so toxic?

But a mangled limb shouldn’t be grey.

                                                 Not grey.

Anything but grey.

Grey was the colour of the world outside, of the park, and the lawn in front of the house. The blades of grass underfoot, the umbrellas of leaves hanging above his head; all were a mosaic of varying shades of grey. He knew Beth could see more colours than him, though he couldn’t explain how he knew. Maybe it was the way she pointed at grey on grey objects and expected him to immediately notice. But flesh—no, not flesh. That wasn’t grey.

It wasn’t supposed to be grey.

Beth sighs and reaches toward him with her good hand. She is soft, made of jelly—a slab of meat like himself but she lacks a fur coat to keep her warm. He worries about that, conscious of the way she shivers and hides beneath layers of fabric. He would leap onto her bed at night and curl up beside her, trying to share some of his warmth with she who has raised him, walked him, fed him, and loved him. But now he can feel the heat—the unbearable heat of her skin—the feverish sweating from her pores that she seems to ignore.

Wrong.

So very wrong.

She’s wrapped a cloth around her hand—the other one, not the one she scratched his ears with. But has she seen it? The white material is stained and sickly yellow pus congealed with blood, oozes from beneath the wrapping. And there, just visible, is the horrendous grey.

Wrong.

                                                            Wrong.

Just wrong.

He shifts closer to her, licks her sweating cheek. She tries to push him away, but there is no strength left in her arms. They quiver and shake against his chest, and his panic deepens. Her condition has deteriorated, worsened as the scent of rotting flesh intensifies. No—he doesn’t want to consider—she can’t die.

No.

No.

She can’t.

She’s all he has. He counts the smiles he puts on her face, the sighs she makes as she rests alone. He waits for her return by the door, resolute as a statue until he hears the footfalls and the click of the lock. He curls up with her on the couch and watches the box of lights, resting his head on her knee and hoping that she’ll lean over and scratch his ears. He heeds her calls to come back inside, struts next to her down the street, and brings back whatever she throws and loves that she pays attention to him and plays with him and—

         NO                       No                                                 NO                                                No                           NO                  NO                      NO                                     NO

No.

She can’t.

He looks up at her tired face, at the eyelids that obscure her blue eyes. She’s going to be so mad at him—she’s going to hate him. But he can’t let her die, and his eyes fall on the hand hanging limply off the couch. The stench is unbearable at this distance—like the carnage of road kill and diseased birds that he would never even consider putting in his mouth.

He licks his lips.

 

 

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