THE DOG

the landscape was like this: i could see nothing in any direction, not even if i strained my eyes. i had come to assume that there was nothing, for as long as i’d been walking, i hadn’t found anything except the dust. the ground was covered everywhere in this fine, black dust. it was a lot like ash, i guess, and if you rubbed it between two fingers, it would leave a stain that no amount of scraping would remove. the sky was gray, though not as if the day was an overcast one, but rather a constant, solid, featureless gray. the sun was huge and orange, and dull, and the sky nearest the sun was no brighter than any other part of the sky. the quality of light was bland; there was enough light that were there anything to read, i would not have had to strain, but at the same time, the very air seemed as gray as the sky. the horizon was perfectly flat on all sides, and there was no vegetation.
           i’d been walking with the kid for as long as i can remember, and i still am. i don’t know who he is, or why we can walk for as long as we have been without sleeping or eating, but neither of us had spoken to each other before the dog, and i haven’t said anything since. he’ll sometimes talk about the dog, or ask questions about the dog, but nothing else. i don’t know if this is hell, or some kind of twilight zone episode, but oddly, i have no real curiosity about my surroundings, and no memory of where i was before, if i ever was anywhere else. if the kid wonders about these things, he does so only to himself. i think there’s some sort of unspoken agreement between us that we don’t discuss our situation. not that there’s really anything to talk about; i don’t care who he is or what he does.
           as i said, we’d been walking for some time, though i’m not sure how long, when we found the dog. i can’t really tell how long it’s been since we found it; sometimes it seems as though it was weeks or months ago, and at other times when i think about the encounter, i believe it must have been only minutes ago. it’s hard to judge the passage of time here, as the sun does not move in the sky. i haven’t noticed my hair or nails grow, either. body odor remains muted.
           the dog had been hanged by the neck. i could see nothing to which the noose was tied; it simply kept going up into the air until it faded into the clouds or mist or whatever dulled the sky. the rope was fairly ordinary in every other way, though it had a slightly used look to it. the dog was a copper colored mutt, or if he wasn’t a mutt, he was a breed or species that i could not place. he had longish fur that looked as though it had been well kept, and except for the results of the hanging, he appeared in good health. he was male.
           we saw the hanged dog from some distance, though it’s hard to tell whether visibility here is especially good or somewhat poor. both the kid and i, for no real reason, began to run as soon as we were sure that the dog wasn’t just an eye trick. the dog must have just died, for the rope was still swinging slightly, though there was no wind i could feel, even when holding up a wet finger. i could not bring myself to touch the animal to feel whether he had yet begun to stiffen. we stood and stared at the dog for what felt like a very long time. i wanted to run the entire time i watched the dead animal, but could not; i felt compelled to stay and look. i sensed that the kid was experiencing similar feelings. it was only when i spoke that we felt able to walk away.
           this is what i said: “that must have been a very bad dog.”

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