Monday, December 16, 2013

Bit 47: The House in the Woods, The elephant and the Dog (A NaNo 2013 excerpt)

The elephant and the great dog-thing nuzzled each other and quietly gamboled through the dead leaves in the small bowl-shaped side yard. Even though the air was charged with tension, some element of both danger and potential, they seemed calm and content in each other’s company at the moment. 

“They've allowed you forty-five minutes to go for a walk with him, to say your goodbyes” Oswald said. “I’ll only need a few of those, it’s no big deal.” she lied. 

They both knew she would take every bit of time allowed, every minute, every second, to be with the dog-thing, to soak up whatever he might impart, whatever might trigger the catalyst in her brain or her heart or her mind that would start the cascade of changes they were so desperate to have and yet to avoid.  He anticipated that she might attempt to bolt with the creature, to run off to nowhere in particular, just to avoid parting from it as the council had so wisely decreed. Oswald wondered if he would stop her, let her go, or perhaps even aide her flight. 

He looked away from her, away from her dog-thing and his elephant, to scan the surrounding trees. At least it was lighter under the trees now that the leaves had finished falling, easier to detect anything untoward that might be lurking there. He knew there were numerous factions, new-thinkers, traditionalists, and gods-know what else who would surely see her capture or even death as having potential to either further or hinder their cause. Nothing but a slow moving big cat of some sort, a lynx perhaps, trying to move away from sight as quietly and invisibly as possible before the dog-thing might notice it. 

“I want to see the file, the book, whatever you call the records, just for a moment, before we go” she said, stepping back into the master’s house. It was still there on the table, seemingly undisturbed. 

She had half expected the master to try to keep her from seeing it, even though everyone knew it was her right. Instead he chose to act nonchalant, as though the information there was of no consequence, no particular concern to him.

 “Certainly Giselle, but if you want to have your walk before The Dog-thing is taken away, you’d probably better get to it. It will be getting dark sooner than you think.” She shuddered. He knew she wouldn't want to risk getting caught outside after dusk, not after her brother had been caught by Dew-point all those years ago.

“I’ll ride Sadie along with them, Sir, just to keep an eye out” the old minder said. “They’ll be safe with us.” 

 Oswald, a step behind her, picked up the file “Let’s just take this along shall we? I’m sure it will fit in one of Sadie’s pack-bags, and we wouldn't want it to tempt anyone, would we” He said it as a statement, not a question and the master looked up sharply at him, but gave no voice to the affront. 

He couldn't afford to insult the young woman just yet, not till he knew what she might become, what she might do, whether she would be an asset or a hindrance…

As they walked around the side of the master’s house, wide and deep, in the Japanese-revival style, the wind stirred the dry leaves to swirl around the elephants knees and the dog-thing snapped at a few, just out of reach of her hands. The master watched them disappear from a back bedroom window and wondered what information was hidden away in that file. 

“What do you suppose his name is?” she asked. “What makes you think it has one? Not everyone everywhere names their animals as we do, and there’s no telling where it came from” “He has a name, I’m sure of it. I just haven’t gotten what it is from him yet. I guess I probably never will now. Are you quite sure they won’t harm him?” 

“They have assured me, Giselle, that they've no intention of harming him in any way, but that he simply must be quarantined until they’re sure he carries no diseases or harmful agents of instability.  I have no reason to doubt them, beyond the normal reason of their being politicians and scientists” 

She blinked and stared at him out from under her bangs – “I certainly do, have you forgotten what they said after dew-point took Bryan – that it was probably best if I didn't find him, as he’d have to be studied if I did?  Studied! As though he was lab-rat or something in a petri dish!”. “It’s part of their job to find out what things are threats to society and how they are threats, they didn’t mean to be callused to your feelings.” 

The dog-thing had run a short ways ahead as they spoke, and now as Sadie started to step over a tiny creek-let something lashed out of the mud and wrapped around her front leg. With a bellow she reared up and bumped Oswald and Giselle both to the ground as another tendril whipped out of the shallow water and just missed the young woman's head. Out of nowhere the other animal was back with them, snarling and roaring as it snapped its huge jaws on the thing wrapped around the terrified elephant’s leg. Oswald had drawn his long sword from his sash even as he rolled back up from the ground and deftly sliced through the second limb as came back at them. A shrill ear-piercing screech seemed to come from everywhere around them and nowhere in particular as both long tendrils of what appeared to be roots or vines sucked back into the shallow water and the squelching mud in the blink of an eye. Giselle had leaped to her feet and drawn her own shorter sword even as Oswald had drawn his long sword. Now, before he could react she threw it and pegged a tendril Oswald had not seen rising to the tree that was just a foot behind him. Again came the shrill screeching and the tendril pulled free, splitting itself around her blade as it too retracted, lightning-fast, back into the ground. 

The Dog-thing snarled and spun around, looking this way and that, as though challenging the creature to attack again. “Up on Sadie’s back – Now!” shouted Oswald, taking her by one arm and placing the other hand in the small of her back fairly throwing her up onto the elephant who now stood trumpeting as though warning or calling for help. Oswald shouted “Sadie! A-Hai! Nagawa!” and immediately the pachyderm spun on her heels and started quickly back through the trees towards the master’s house. Something bumped Oswald on the hip and he almost jumped out of his skin before he saw that it was the Dog-thing, looking up at him expectantly before running over and barking at the tree where his mistress' blade was still lodged. 

“Right, she’d be very upset if we forgot that, it was her brother’s you know” The Dog-thing looked at him and chuffed as though to say “Yes, will you get it so we can get out of here, now?” By the time the man and the Dog-thing caught up to Sadie and Giselle they had gotten almost all the way back to the house and she was yanking on the back edge of Sadie’s head-piece trying to get her to stop or at least slow down. “Sadie, you can stop now, I think we’re fine” Oswald called as he trotted up and laid a hand along the fast walking elephant. Sadie stopped so fast he bumped his head into her massive thigh and just caught himself before he fell backward. 

Giselle looked down in mixed concern and relief – “Thank gods – you’re okay! The way Sadie took off I didn't know if you were coming or if that thing got you and What the Hell was that?!” “I have no idea, I’ve never seen or heard tell of anything like that around here or anywhere else.” the minder replied. “Rest assured though, both Master Beemer and the council will be getting an earful as soon as we get back to the house and someone better be sending out a squad to deal with it – assuming that it’s still there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t miraculously disappeared by the time anyone gets back to it, or at least back to where it was.” 

“I’m not letting the council have Martin.” she said. “What? Who?” “Martin. That’s his name, and there’s no way I’m letting them take him after he just helped save my life” “Um, begging your pardon, but I just saved your life remember, and you in turn might have saved mine. I’m glad you’ve obviously kept up your weapons practice by the way, nice throw.” “Yes, thank you Oswald, and you’re welcome. But remember Martin is the one who grabbed that thing off of Sadie making it possible for us, me at least, to escape. Therefore he helped save my life, possibly your life too and the council can keep their hands off him!”

Oswald could tell there would be no point in arguing with her now. Furthermore, he agreed with her. Martin, as she was now calling the big dog-thing was obviously a boon to her safety and had earned the right not to be held by and possibly experimented on by the council. No, he really did not trust the esteemed members of the council not to find some excuse why the creature needed to be “studied” while in their care. It was just the kind of thing they could almost be counted on to do – to go back on their collective word, knowing that no single one of them would be able to be held liable for a reversal by the whole group. If they wanted Martin, they’d have to go through him to do it, even if it meant losing his pension. 

When they got back to the house it was empty. No Master Beemer, no council, and no staff returned from the town a few miles away, no one at all. Oswald was immediately suspicious though he had no idea how the master would have, could have, orchestrated the vine-like creature’s attack. There wouldn't even have been any way of knowing they would be going that way on their afternoon walk. 

Still, it was too late now for them to make the town before nightfall so Oswald took Sadie around to the large barn and got her settled with Giselle's help and while Martin sat in the barn’s doorway obviously keeping guard…

- Andrew woke from the dream, stretched and went to get a cup of coffee. He needed to think about that one – did it even fit with the rest of the story?

What did Andrew need to happen next in this story? He needed to better define the characters and the setting, including the world, dew-point, Martin the dog, Oswald the minder, Sadie the elephant.
What’s the point here? 

How does dew point figure into this?


  1. A fascinating world, John Ross, from the ground up. Literally from the ground up. I love the details you leave out, the ones you allow the reader to fill in to make the magic complete. Dew point - you're making me come up with what it may mean. Careful, or I'll suggest. Thank you for this. I'm eager to read more.

    Take care,

  2. I so enjoyed this. Everything you write in this world makes me want to read more. Every story is a gift. Thank you.

  3. Thanks Jesse, Thanks Johanna - Your kind comments mean a lot to me. I'm very happy that you liked the piece.

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