Barnacle Bob was roused from a dream of frisbees in the park with (dogs were wont to call their owners Master, but Bob’s relationship with his owner was much deeper than this) Friend and the geese by the pond that he liked to chase after and see take to the sky like flowers in the wind. Barnacle Bob was alerted to the fact that it was not a dream by his Friend’s teeth upon his fur, teeth that pressed down on his elastic skin with insistent and increasing force. He yelped and broke loose, a salvo of barks erupting in his wake. Friend unfolded himself from the floor and looked at the small Irish terrier. Shoals of thought, half-eroded memories and failing impulses, seemed to move uneasily across his rubbery face. Friend lurched forward, his hands drooping towards his little, spunky ward.
Barnacle Bob had known something was wrong for days. There was a stink about Friend, the kind of stink he knew from dead birds and squirrels he found during their walks, but because Friend still moved about, not like those animals on the ground, which were hard and cold, he expected things to go on as they always had. Now Barnacle Bob had to admit to himself that something was righteously wrong, that the person he had regarded with much love and affection for the entirety of his life was no longer Friend. Gone was the person who had named him Barnacle Bob and took him home after he had doggedly pursued the cuffs of his jeans at a friend’s party. If dogs could cry, this was what Barnacle Bob would be doing.
Not Friend’s hand enclosed the furry frame of Barnacle Bob and, if his reflexes were not so diminished, would have grasped with a strangler’s ethic and brought the pup to yellowed teeth. But Barnacle Bob, occupied with a personal discourse, was able to come to a decision a split second before this occured. Barnacle Bob fled, rocketing under the queen size bed they shared. In the days ahead were a nightmare in which he scampered from his hiding place to pick what little sustenance that could be found from the trash can he had knocked over. He would also lure Not Friend to the far end of the apartment and scramble for the toilet where he drank thirstily before retreating once more. What kind of life was this, hiding in the apartment through the relentless cycle of day and night, the stink of his evacuations and Not Friend filling the place in equal parts with his despair?
Barnacle Bob was at the end of his life. Weak from hunger and thirst, he dared a final, kamizkaze venture for nourishment. He darted between the legs of Not Friend and headed for the kitchen, scrabbling on the polished linoleum. Not Friend made his strange not noises and pursued, bumping into walls and doorframes. Barnacle Bob, wheezing after a complete circuit of the small dwelling place, gave up. He padded to the living room and collapsed on his favorite blanket to wait. If dogs could cry, it is what Barnacle Bob would be doing. Not Friend shambled into the wall near the foyer, causing a deep dent in the plaster. With a semblance of a shout, he lurched forward.
The front door burst open, halved with a roar and gouts of smoke, and let in light, blinding light. A behemoth stepped in, his flesh a layer of matte black cloth, and his face was obscured by some kind of mask; a salt and pepper mane glistened on his scalp. The chainsaw in his hand proceeded to dismember Not Friend, beginning with the arm that veered towards the scent of fresh blood. The arm traced an arc to land on the carpet next to Barnacle Bob. The stranger brought the saw upward and slit Not Friend in half, spraying blood and jellied brain into the coat closet. The carpet soaked up the noxious brew that had been Barnacle Bob’s lifelong friend. Barnacle Bob managed to exert a weak bark.
The man in black turned his masked gaze upon the emaciated pup on the floor. He spoke: “This is a public service by the Zombinator, to exorcise by any means the demons in domiciles within thus ravaged zones and rescue the disadvantaged unfortunates such as yourself–” He saluted,”–and now, my little friend, you are free to fend for yourself, but heed me well, it’s a harsh world out there. Every man for himself, or, say, in your case, every dog for hisdogself. Now with this,” he revved the chainsaw and blue smoke pooled on the ceiling, “I bid you adieu!” The large man was gone as abruptly as he had appeared.
Unbeknowest to Barnacle Bob in his weakened state, during this one-sided dialogue, the dismembered hand of Not Friend had spread its fingers flat on the carpet and bunched its fingers into a claw. It was in this manner it approached the dog, in a progress slow and unsteady, as its previous incarnation as a living hand was unaccustomed to the practice of walking with its fingers. The hand crept onto the blanket and, finally, came in contact with the unwary dog’s fur. The moldy green hand, instantly transported into the realm of instinct, its muscles remembering the one often practiced gesture associated with the tactile impression of the dog’s fur. It curled and straightened its fingers on Barnacle Bob’s belly, slowly at first, and increased its speed as it somehow registered the hallmarks of canine physical pleasure, a trembling and the rapid cycling of leg. Barnacle Bob spasmed in joy. If dogs could cry, it is what Barnacle Bob would be doing. The hand slowed and felt the fur with long, slow strokes.
It was in this manner Barnacle Bob lay for a long time. The animal, finding his circumstances greatly changed, abandoned all thought of resignation. Hunger clamored within his belly like the packs of slavering dogs that undoubtedly roamed the world outside. Barnacle Bob, with great effort, drew himself up onto his stubby legs and stared at the rectangle of light that was freedom. He looked at the hand, which was now flailing about, if one didn’t know better, in a manner that could only be described as frantic. Barnacle Bob considered the hand for a long moment before reaching the crux of decision. He bent his head low and took carefully into his jaw the wrist formerly belonging to Friend.The hand seemed placated and rested against the dog’s teeth, if one dared to anthropomorphize a dismembered hand, happily.
Barnacle Bob trotted to the door and exited without a glance backwards.