Saturday, April 4, 2015



The noises from above are enough to make me scream, but my voice stays hidden in my throat, stuck there for several heartbeats before I can find it.  

At first it's just a rattle or two of boxes.  

Great, I think to myself, I have a rodent.  Then the rattles turn into thumps.  Okay, maybe it's a family of rodents.  Then the thumps multiply themselves.  I hear a moan and then more movements, like there's a fight of some sort going on.  But that doesn't make any sense.  Then I hear the sound of glass breaking.  
"What the fuck?"  I try to sound loud and brave.  I turn the garage lights on and grab for one of the garden shovels on the wall.  So, maybe it's raccoons.  Another burst of sounds from above.  A family of them.

That's when I see it, something sharp sticks out from one of the attic's floorboards.  What is that?  What the hell is it?  And why is the attic door open?  I haven't been up there since I moved into the house.

"Who's up there?"  I call out and after a moment's thought I add, "I have a gun!"

I should really fucking buy a gun and learn how to use it.  Add that to my list of to do's for the weekend.  Do dishes.  Dump Brian.  Buy gigantic fuck-off gun.

I don't know why I think it will help, but I decide to make as much noise as possible.  I open the door that leads from my detached garage to the stone path and stairs to my house.  For a moment I think about running for it, but hesitate when I hear a crack that sounds like lightening hitting the earth, followed by an awful howl and a high-pitched screech. 

"Hello?  Are you okay?  I know someone's up there.  I'm, I'm calling the cops, damnit."

"Great," I mumble, "tell the bad guy you're calling the cops. Good move."

Standing there debating my next move, I startle when the attic door releases and pops open, just enough for me to see the ladder.

Then I see it.  Blue eyes stared at me.  Four white paws and two white ears twitch back.  It lowers its head and looks at me before cocking its head to the right and panting a bit.  A dog is in my attic?  Then it blinks twice at me and I swear that it smiles before it noses something into sight until something dark falls to the ground at my feet that causes me to jump back. 

Black and matted fur.  My body reacts immediately in two different ways.  I scream like a little girl and raise the shovel above my head then slam it down as hard as I can on the object that I decide is my enemy.  It flops up in the air and falls quickly back down with a wet plopping sound.

A dead rat.  A soft chortling sound from above.  I look quickly back up at the animal in the attic.  It appears to be smiling at me and, was that a chuckle?

"Are you laughing at me?"  The animal chortles again in reply.

"Hey," I say, "I'm the one with the weapon here, buddy," and wave the shovel around above my head again, careful to avoid getting any bits of rat on me.

"So, you're a dog," I said, channeling my best adult voice, "in my attic."

The blue eyes blink and the dog cocks its head to one side.

"How the hell did you get up there?" I ask the furry face.  As if in reply, the dog pushes at the ladder with its nose until it starts to unfold a bit.  The dog follows soon after, tumbling to the ground in a leap that is both impressive and clumsy.

The animal unfolds itself from the ground and stands up slowly.  I realize that I'm in a pickle.  This isn't a dog.  This is a wolf.  A long-legged, large white wolf that comes up to my hips and is barrel chested.  With fangs.  Not teeth. 

"Okay," I say, as I tighten my grip on the shovel.  "No problem.  I'm going to back out of here and then you just leave, okay?"  I try to sound calm.  I try to back out slowly.  I realize that I really need to pee.

The wolf lowers its head and cocks it to one side again, while it watches me.  Then it lays down on the ground and rolls over onto its stomach.  Everything is white except for a patch of red blood on the beast's front leg and I realize the blood is his, discovering the wolf to be male.  The creature let its tongue loll out to the side and pants while he looks at me.  I think he's trying to smile at me.

"Shit," I say softly, mostly to myself.  The wolf pants again and then it whimpers.

"Shit," I repeat to the wolf, and decide to test things out.  I lower the shovel a bit.  The wolf makes no move.

"Alright, look, I can help you, but only if you're not going to eat me for dinner."

No reply.  Of course no reply, I scold myself.

"Right," I say, hoping that I sound authoritarian enough to pull this off, "I'm going to come closer now, and you are not going to hurt me," pointing my finger at him for emphasis.

Because this is a smart idea, I tell myself in a manner that's more question than fact.

I inch forward slowly and try to avoid the dead rodent on my path to the wolf.  His blue eyes look at me and he whimpers again.  I watch his tail move.  At first it's just a swish against the floor.  Long, thick and bushy.  The closer I get to him the more it turns into a wag.  His tongue laps the air and I hope it's not because he's hungry for human.  He repeats himself and he looks more like a dog to me. 

"Please don't wreck this moment by chomping me to pieces," I tell him, and finally stand next to him.  The wolf stays still, his eyes continue to follow me.  Then he shifts his head sideways and waits.  I carefully poke my foot against his neck, gently sliding my foot back and forth against it.  The wolf does nothing, as though patiently waiting for me to do more.

"Right," I say with marginally more confidence, "I'm going to sit down now on the floor with you.  Do not try to eat me, okay buddy?"

I move slowly to sit down and lean back on my knees.  Slowly, I reach out with one hand and stroke the wolf's neck.  He whimpers again and moves his neck to inch closer to my hand.

"Okay, big guy, let's see how bad it is.  Will you let me take a look?"

The wolf raises its head up and down once, and I take this for an answer.

Gingerly, I make my way to the front leg and discover that it's still bleeding.  I find the opening of the wound.  It looks like a long slash, jagged and thin, but deep.

"You poor guy,"  I murmur, and run my fingers gently behind his ear to scratch it for him.  He rolls his head back to face me and gently licks my hand in reply.

"Your eyes are so blue," I say, a little in awe.  They're like sapphires.  They look like they're asking me for help.

That's decided then.

"I think you might be a wolf-dog.  Or maybe you're a giant husky. Which means you might be someone's pet.  So, let's see if I can get you in the car and take you to the vet."

Slowly I stand, unsure about how he'll react to my moving quickly around him, and move to the other side of the garage, to find some sheets in one of the storage boxes that I keep for fix-it projects.

I pull three of them out and set one of them on the back seat of the car, after shoving shoes and clothes onto the floor.  I make my way back to the animal and sit down next to him again.  Working slowly, I fold a second sheet in half once and then again.

"Roll over," I instruct, and the animal obeys, shifting onto his back again, so that all four legs are in the air.

"Good start," I tell him, "maybe you are someone's pet."

I do my best to bind the animal's leg so that the bleeding will stop, or at least be contained.  He watches me and waits until I secure the sheet tightly around his leg.

"Okay, that'll have to do for now," I tell him.  "Let's go."

I stand up and head to the back of the car, opening the door for him.

"Come," I command and point at my foot.  He gets up and walks slowly to me.  I notice that he doesn't put his paw on the ground.  My voice softens as I watch him make his way to the car.

"Okay, big guy, let me help you up,"  I say, and carefully lift him up without touching his wounded leg, until I can shift and nudge him up and onto the seat.  He whimpers a bit.  It takes some effort, but once I got him up there, he flops down onto his good side and stays still, panting quietly, while I close the door and sit down in the driver's seat.

The drive to the vet's office is slow.  I don't want him to feel any bumps in the road, and I'm not sure that I can trust him yet, so I keep glancing at him in the mirror.  I can feel him watching me the entire ride to the vet.

When we reach the office, I realize I don't have a leash.  "Stay here," I tell him, "I'll go get help."  I leave the window open just a crack for fresh air while I go inside.

The vet tech who listens to my story comes out with me, armed with a small tranquilizing needle and is accompanied by another tech who is a giant of a man.  He carries a catching pole and has a collar and a leash tucked into his back pocket.  I tell him the pole won't be necessary.

The first tech looks at the animal and assesses him through the window.

"Wolf-dog," she claims.  The man with the pole nods.

"I don't think you'll need to sedate him," I tell them, "he was very gentle with me and let me pick him up to get him in the car."

"Hmph," the woman grunts, "well let's see if we can get the pole on him."

"Can I try with the leash first?"  I ask.  The two of them exchange looks that don't mask their doubts, but the man shrugs and hands the leash to me along with the collar.  He stands behind me with the pole, looking like he's at the ready, knees bent and elbows cocked.

I open the door just a crack and the dog looks up at me first and then behind me as if to assess the situation.

"Okay, big guy, let's get you looked at by the vet, so you can feel better."

I show him the collar and he makes a grumbling sound that causes me to laugh.

"I know, but it's better than the pole or the needle, isn't it?"

No reply.

"I'm going to put this around your neck," I say, as I clip the leash to the collar and reach slowly for his neck.

His eyes shift up and down but then he raises his head up a bit.  I slide the collar over his head and look at him.

"Good boy," I tell him.  He grumbles.  It isn't really a growl, more of a quiet complaint.

"Okay," I say, and turning to the man, let him take over.

The man reaches down and slides a soft muzzle around the dog quickly and quietly.  I think it took the dog by surprise, but he doesn't have time to react to it before the man gently scoops him up and into his arms and carried him inside, careful not to touch his wounds.

I lock the car and follow them into the clinic where a chirpy woman named Rita asks me to fill out some paperwork while the staff takes a look at him.

"What's his name?" Rita asks me.  I shake my head in return.

"I don't know," I reply.  "I found him in my garage when I came home from work.  There was a dead rat in the garage.  I think maybe the dog bit it, and I'm pretty sure the rat scratched the dog."

Rita looks up at me and calls out for one of the techs to come up.  The woman who helped me earlier pokes her head out of a door.

"Jamie, this is . . ." Rita glances at the ID that I've handed to her, "Rory Layne."

Jamie nods at me in response.

"She found the dog in her garage with a dead rat.  She thinks it killed the rat and maybe the rat scratched or bit the dog."

Jamie looks back at me and asks me to join them once I finish filling out the paperwork.

"You're going to treat him, right?"  I ask her, feeling like the dog's advocate.  "I think he might be someone's pet."

"We're looking at him right now," Jamie answers quickly and then turns back to Rita to tell her to send me in when I'm done.

Rita hands me a clipboard and I sit down to fill out the paperwork before I'm shuffled into a small white room with the dog, Jamie and the other tech, who introduces himself to me as Fred.

It's Hard To Be A Bug


It is really fucking hard to hang onto a moving car when you are a fly.  First of all, that fucker is moving fast.  Really fast.  It's not fun. 

Everything I see up close is unfocused, so I don't really know what's going on around me but if I were able to turn my little head around I could see where we're headed off in the distance.  Instead I'm staring at what I hope is one woman driving the car, and not a bazillion of them, and I'm trying to tell her to open the frigging window and let me in.  

The problem is I didn't get into her car fast enough before she closed the door.  And she didn't open her windows because it was a little bit cooler outside.  So now here I am trying to stay attached to the outside of her windshield but not get sucked into the vents.

Eat a dick, wind.  You are not making it easy.

If only she could hear me screaming.  I could turn into something bigger, but that would freak her out, and I'm not ready for that yet.  Baby steps.

So I wait, and I hang on for my dear buggy life.  To cope, I scream tiny bug screams until finally, she comes to a stop and opens her windows to catch some fresh air.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Wings don't fail me now.  I boomerang myself into the air and fly into her car as fast as I can and settle on the passenger's side of the dashboard.  Far enough from her in case she decides to swat at me.  I don't need this relationship to start with violence.

Good, so far she hasn't noticed me.  Or she is a bug saver.  The car starts to move again and picks up speed.  I stay away from the vents and the window.  I don't need to have my work undone.

It's hard to tell what's going on because, I'm a fly.  Colors are all screwed up and I can't focus on much.  

She sings out loud.  The vibrations of her voice are awful.  She needs to stop.  Switch to NPR, woman, for the love of everything.

I know.  I'll distract her.  I launch myself up towards her ear to tell her to stop singing, but she swats me away.  I try again and Oh my God your hand is huge!  It's a bear's paw!

Alright, never mind.  I'll just ignore your miserable voice.  But we are going to have a conversation about it later.

When they sent me here they did not warn me that she was a karaoke lover.  Or that she was so messy.  When was the last time she cleaned this car?  I fly around the back seat and explore my surroundings.  You are not clean, lady.  She has shoes and tissue boxes and tubes of lipstick and socks and books and old maps back here.  And bags with sirens on it.  I think.  It takes a while for me to figure out what everything is.

It feels like we're slowing down, so I buzz my way back up to the front.  We're approaching her garage.  I know it's hers because I was here this morning to snoop around.

Things change.  The tiny hairs on my body stiffen.  He's here.  I know it.  His smell is obvious even when I'm stuck as a fly.  He smells sweet and rancid.  I had hoped to get here first.  So much for a slow introduction to her.  I fly out of the car as the garage door opens and she pulls in to park.

Where is he?  Then a noise from above.  I fly up to the attic.  It's open but the ladder isn't pulled all the way down to the floor.

I fly up into the attic and there he is.  Looking for something.  His body is stooped over, poking through boxes.  Others have been emptied without much care.  His smell is much worse now, sickly sweet and rotted.  He shifts his body to another box.  Thin and wrapped in robes, his hair is long, wiry and white.  It creeps down to his feet, which, I know are clawed stumps.  The back of his robe shifts.  His wings are folded underneath, but if they were to come out they would be expansive, black, and paper thin.  I watch him pick his way through each box.  One clawed hand reaches out to poke through old books.  He's so focused on the task at hand that he hasn't noticed me buzzing about.  Until he hears the music from the car below and turns around.

His face is hidden by the robes, except for his nose, which is long and pointed.  Sharp and curved downward like a sabre made of bone.  It's a dull black.  He slides the hood of his robe off his head.  His eyes are what catch me first.  There are no eyelashes.  Just eyelids that slope up and are silver like the moon.  The pupils are round and black as night and are surrounded by irises of fire with flames that stir within.  The pupils are encircled by a ring of yellow light, and the whites of his eyes house green flames that constantly swirl.

He stares down at the attic's floor and I watch his hands flex and release.  The car shuts off and I know what he'll do next if I don't stop him.

I focus on changing.  I feel my blood and my muscles and my bones as I shift and everything looks smaller as I become larger again.  I haven't gotten used to the pain yet but I have no choice.  Limbs stretch out and to the side and I am a young man standing behind him.

He hears me first and spins around, a horrible sight.  

He looks surprised for a moment and then he smiles.  His eyes burn brighter and flames burst out towards me.  I crouch down just in time for them to miss me then rush forward to knock him over but he blocks me and throws me to the ground.  His clawed hands cut into my arms.  I try not to cry out but I hear myself moan.  He turns to make for the attic's stairs.  I grab at his feet and miss twice before I succeed.  He lands with his nose stuck in a floorboard.  His hands flail out and knock a blue vase off of one of the boxes he had unpacked earlier.  It falls and breaks in shards across the floor.    

"What the fuck?"  She exclaims from below.

His body grows still along with mine for just a moment.  Then he turns himself.  He shrinks to the size of a rat and makes for the stairs to escape.  I swing out at him and fling him across the attic.  He scurries across behind boxes.

"Who's up there?  I have a gun!"

No, she doesn't, but she really should.

I try to stay quiet as I look for him while I make my way to the attic's door. There he is, behind a few old lamps, two eyes burn in my direction.  I catch the handle of the door and close it shut to protect her from him.  I shift my focus and turn my hand into a whip of fire, up to my shoulder and blink back tears, trying to push past the pain.  I hear her down there, calling out again, and turning on the lights.  Rattling around for something to use.

He starts to turn again, this time into a wolf, with matted fur the color of tar.  Before he can fully turn, I lash out at him with the whip and cut him.  The whip cracks again at him, and I feel it slice him.  He howls and screeches, writhing on the ground an ugly beast not fully one thing or another.  His teeth snap at the air.  I let the whip turn to blade and pierce him, stabbing twice, until he shrieks.  I'm shocked that I feel myself plunge into him, forgetting for a moment what I was taught.  If you turn to something like a sword, you don't lose your sense of touch.  You still feel.  The air pops audibly.  I watch as his eyes burn out and his body, not fully turned, shifts back to what it last was, now a dead rat.

"Hello?  Are you okay?  I know someone's up there.  I'm, I'm calling the cops, damnit."

I hear her mumble to herself, "Great, tell the bad guy you're calling the cops. Good move."

Looking around, I see no way out.  No other option then but to turn again.  I'm not ready for her to meet me like this.  But to what?  Then I realize what I need to be. 

When I was learning about humans, I discovered that they kept animals as pets.  Dogs in particular.  There's one that stood out in my studies.  I hear her mustering the courage to open the attic, stomping around loudly and banging the shovel against the garage's walls and tables.

I unlatch the attic door and turn again.  Fuck, this hurts.