August 2: The End
At first, Buddy can’t see the Plane—it’s too far away for his eyes—but he heard it from a long way off, and he knows something’s wrong. It’s not high enough, it’s coming too fast, and it shrieks like it’s angry, not making its usual low, soothing noise. It screeches into view, flames and smoke spewing from it, right over the Home where Buddy lives. Then it’s gone and there’s a THOOOOOOOOM that fills the Everything, too loud for Buddy’s pointed ears, and he barks, NO NO NO NO NO! to the uncaring blue Empty sky above him. The Ground under him shakes as what’s left of the Plane smashes into the Bay, whose shore is only one street from here.
Screaming. Belongings—they call each other “people,” but Buddy and his kind know them as Belongings—screaming. Buddy runs across the lawn of grass (Yellow to his eyes) in front of his Home, stops before his Collar can bite him like it does if he goes too far away. Belongings rushing from their Homes, most of them getting into their Cars, some shouting at each other, all of them leaking the PreyStench, just like the Littles and Flaps do when they think they’re going to Fade when Buddy and Sally chase them.
Buddy’s never known Belongings to make that Scent, and he starts to pant, chest heaving. NO! he barks. They don’t listen. NO! NO! NO!
“Come on, Audrey!” Gennifer, from In the Home. Buddy runs to the side of his Home, goes snout-first through the Squeeze, a flap of clear plastic meant for Sally and him. Buddy’s chest is wide and his legs are long—he’s big even for a German Shepherd—and one would think that he couldn’t fit through such a small space. But Buddy has been going through the Squeeze all his life: it’s easy.
The Not-Real Window is on in the family room, but Buddy ignores it. The Not-Real Window is on the wall, like one of the Home’s many windows, but most of the time, it’s black, and Buddy can’t see what’s Out of the Home, like the other windows do. Sometimes, like now, it shows Not-Reals. His Belongings like to sit and watch the Not-Reals, but Buddy doesn’t. To Buddy, the Not-Reals—even those that look like Belongings—move too slowly, and jerk too much, and the noises they make have a nasty buzz. Worst of all, they don’t have any Scent, and that always worries him.
Audrey is standing in front of the Not-Real Window, watching what it shows. She’s small, not much taller than Buddy, smaller than Rob and Gennifer, Buddy’s other Belongings. She’s clutching Jimmy Jackrabbit, her favorite Toy, and she’s making the PreyStench, too. Buddy leans against her. He can feel and hear something thumping inside her, like he always can, but now it’s faster than it usually is: thmm thmm thmm thmm thmm thmm thmm.
It’s all right, his leaning against her says. I’m here.
Audrey doesn’t reply. It’s hard for Belongings to understand him and Sally, because Friends don’t speak much with their mouths, like Belongings do. Buddy leans a little more, lowers his head so she can rumpfle his ears, if she wants to, like she sometimes does.
She doesn’t this time. The Not-Reals jerk even more than they usually do, and their noises are shrill, like the Belongings that Buddy just heard Out. The Not-Reals flicker and disappear, and then they come back. Audrey stares at them.
urging immediate evacuation of populated and coastal areas
“Rob!” Genn again, from upstairs. Buddy knows the name but not what Genn shouts after that. Most Friends understand very little of what Belongings say. “Rob, where are the keys?” Buddy smells the PreyStench on her breath even though she’s in another room.
simultaneous aerial and amphibious assault beginning minutes ago
“I don’t know—I don’t know….” Rob comes down the steps to where Audrey and Buddy are, but he doesn’t look at them. He’s carrying suitcases hurriedly stuffed with clothes, some of the ends of them sticking out. He goes to the door, opens it, darts Out. The door slams shut behind him.
cities, military bases, power stations, highways, hospitals
“Audrey, where are you?” Genn calls.
“Here, Mommy!” she says.
Genn pounds down the steps. She has Audrey’s shoes. “Sit,” Genn demands, like she does to Buddy and Sally sometimes, and Audrey plops onto the hard tile floor. Genn starts tugging the shoes onto Audrey’s feet.
Audrey holds Jimmy Jackrabbit, leans back against Buddy’s chest. “Mommy, what’s going on?”
don’t know how long we can stay on the air
“We have to go,” Genn says. “We have to go right now and I need you to pay attention to everything Mommy and Daddy tell you, okay?”
“Okay,” Audrey tells her. “Mommy, I’m scared.”
casualties already estimated to be in the tens of millions
Rob comes through the door again. “Fred said he heard Baltimore—they’re all over Baltimore. Jesus, Genn—your dad….” He stands there, swaying, for just for a little bit, and then he stamps up the steps, where Buddy can’t see him. Something Wet starts to seep from Genn’s eyes, and Buddy can hear the thrumming in her go faster. A sick Stench comes from her, but she doesn’t spew out. She just finishes putting Audrey’s shoes on.
Buddy’s tail thumps. It’s all right, he tells Genn. I’m here.
no warning or idea who or what the attacking force
“Hurry!” Rob yells. Something roars overheard, low enough for the windows to tremble, and is gone.
“Stand right over there,” Genn tells Audrey, pulling her to her feet. “Right by the door,” she says, pointing to it and sending her there. “Stay right there and don’t go anywhere. Especially not outside. Daddy and I have to get some more clothes and some food and your medicine, all right?”
“What about Buddy and Sally?”Audrey asks. “Are they going with us?”
“Of course they are,” Genn says, looking back at Buddy. “We wouldn’t leave the dogs. Come here,” she tells him, and Buddy pads to where Audrey is and sits next to her. Genn squats in front of him and runs her fingers through the thick ruff on his neck, the way he likes her to, and he licks her hand once, twice. And just for then, right then and no longer, the PreyStench is gone from her.
“Who’s my best boy?” she whispers, eyes leaking Wet again. “Who’s the best boy in the whole world?”
The Not-Real Window goes black and silent all of a sudden, like it does when Rob or Genn are done looking at what it shows. Buddy cocks his head.
There’s a low noise coming from Out, up high in the big blue Empty sky. Buddy feels it vibrate through him. Genn and Audrey don’t seem to hear it, don’t seem to feel it, but that doesn’t surprise Buddy. He’s used to his Belongings not noticing what he does.
And now Genn has gone up the steps and Audrey stands by the door, like Genn told her to, Jimmy Jackrabbit in one arm, the other wrapped around Buddy’s neck.
Louder now. Buddy whines. “It’s okay,” Audrey tells him. “It’s okay.” Buddy thumps his tail.
Rob comes down the steps again, with a suitcase of Audrey’s clothes; Buddy can tell by their Scent. “Get the door,” he tells Audrey. As she opens it for him, she drops Jimmy Jackrabbit, the Toy falling to the floor, and only Buddy notices.
Then Rob has gone out and Audrey is following him. She says, “Come on, boy!” and Buddy lopes after her, panting, ears down, tail tucked under him.
Louder, but the Belongings still don’t hear it, and now it worries Buddy.
Rob opens the door to their Car, a small shiny gray Honda, and goes around back to put Audrey’s suitcase in the open trunk, calling “C’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon!” to Audrey and Buddy. Audrey climbs in, up to her special seat. Buddy paces backforth backforth outside it as Rob straps her in, and then Buddy bounds up next to her when Rob moves aside. It’s hot, really hot inside, hotter than it is Out.
And now Genn is there, carrying plastic bags stuffed with things. Rob runs to her, takes them, and dumps them in the trunk and slams its lid shut while Genn gets into the front of the Car. “Irene Way’s already jammed—I saw from the front yard,” Rob says, as he slides in next to her, behind the wheel.
“I couldn’t find Sally!” Genn says.
“We have to go NOW!” he tells her. He turns his wrist and the Car growls, slips its windows down to let the heat out.
“We can’t go without Sally!” Genn says.
“She’s just a dog! She’ll be all right!”
Louder and louder and Audrey starts to wail, Wet pouring from her eyes. Buddy wonders if Audrey hears it, too, but he can’t tell. He thinks of Sally and he jumps through where the window used to be. “Buddy! Buddy!” Rob yells, but Buddy runs across the Yellow, toward the side of the Home where the Squeeze is.
He goes In, runs through the family room, hurtles up the steps, then fast through the kitchen and down the hall, to where Rob and Genn Remember when it’s Dark. He knows where she is, of course: he could scent her as soon as he came In, just like any Friend could.
Sally! he barks, peering under the bed, where she’s hiding, just like she does when it Booms when the Wet falls from the Empty sky.
I’m scared I’m scared I’m scared, she whimpers. She’s older than Buddy, and smaller, with drooping ears, stubby legs, shorter fur. Brown mostly, with small white and black patches. Her legs are white, spotted brown. Beagle and Basset Hound mix.
Come on! Buddy demands, barking again. We’re leaving! You and me and Rob and Genn and Audrey! Something Bad’s happening! We have to go!
I’m scared I’m scared I’m scared! she tells him.
It’s building, filling the Everything, so loud that it hurts Buddy’s ears and head. Come out! Buddy snaps. We have to go! We can’t go without you!
No no no no no no no, Sally cries. I can’t I can’t Buddy I’m scared I’m scared
“Buddy!” Rob from the front room, where the Belongings rarely go, where there’s a couch that Buddy and Sally aren’t allowed on. Buddy scents him standing in the open doorway there. “Buddy, come on, boy!”
“ROB! ROB!” Genn screams, from the Car, and Rob murmurs, “Oh hell oh hell oh hell oh hell oh hell.” The door slams and Rob’s back Out. Buddy feels something huge moving slowly across the Empty, filling it, pressing down on him even through the Home.
If we stay here, we’ll Fade! Buddy tells Sally. Come on!
I can’t I can’t, Buddy….
Buddy sticks his whole head under the bed. I’m here, he tells her. I’m here. I won’t let anything hurt you.
You won’t? she asks.
No, he promises. But you have to come now!
She considers this. All right, she tells him. All right. She starts to wriggle forward, pulling herself by her front paws, pushing with the back ones.
Hurry! he tells her, and then
louder than ever. Sally cries and Buddy feels himself shaking, shaking. Yellow, smelly Mark sprays out from him, and he doesn’t mean to, because it’s Bad to do that In. Run run run! he barks, and Sally’s out from under the bed and they’re bolting through the Home, down the steps, past the silent Not-Real Window, through the Squeeze, out onto the Yellow. They round to the front of the Home. The Car with Rob and Genn and Audrey isn’t there.
It’s gone it’s gone it’s gone it took them it took them away, Buddy realizes. He turns his head, looks down the Gray street, but the only Cars are the ones the Belongings left outside their Homes. He doesn’t even scent Rob and Genn and Audrey, and that means the Car has taken them far away, too far. He runs, barking NO NO NO NO NO!
His Collar chirps and then bites his neck. He keeps running anyway, down the Gray street where the Cars roll, though he knows he’s not supposed to. Sally is right behind him, running fast; she’s paid her Collar no mind when it bit her. Buddy barks NO NO NO! again, and then the Empty above turns from blue to white, blinding white, like the Sun shining off Wet, so bright that Buddy squinches shut his eyes and tucks his head and still sees white, all white and
then Buddy can’t hear anything anymore, not even himself yelping and screaming and he falls and all is white white white white
If you like what you’ve read, you can pre-order the Kindle version of LOST DOGS here. Kenton Kilgore is the author of DRAGONTAMER’S DAUGHTERS, a two-part young adult fantasy novel based on Navajo culture and belief. His next work, LOST DOGS, a young adult sci-fi novel, will be published September 23.