A loyal companion is left behind with no explanation
The huge door slammed shut, muffling the voices outside. Harry listened as the low roaring faded into the quiet of the outside world. Left alone, he settled into his morning routine: eating, sleeping, eating again and then wandering around the house to make sure everything was safe for when Master returned.
Some time later it started to get dark outside, which Harry knew meant that the rest of his pack would return home soon. He would hear Car slow down and skid to a stop, then the torturously slow jangle of metal outside, to which he would bark loudly to greet the alpha and inform him that everything was in order.
They were late today though.
Harry paced erratically around the hallway, unconsciously raising his paw to his misshapen right ear. Left alone. Abandoned.
No, it always felt like this, but they always came back. Ever since they rescued him from that awful cage all that time ago, he could rely on them to return.
Harry wasn't sure what time it was when he woke up, but light was sneaking into the room. Had he missed the pack returning last night? A quick investigation of the home revealed what he had feared: it was empty.
The day crawled by. Harry tried alerting neighbouring packs by barking at length; he dragged bedding and cushions off the furniture to uncover clues, only to get frustrated and separate the stuffing from the lining; he, ashamedly, went to the toilet in the corner of the room, hoping that his scent would attract his lost companions. Nothing worked. When darkness came again, he resolved to locate them at first light.
That night Harry dreamed in technicolour: vivid forests full of bluebells and yellow archangels; the whispering scent of his master spurring him forward past oaks and cedars until it vanished inexplicably, replaced by a light as blinding as the great fire in the sky.
He woke to the caress of warm shafts of light. Harry exited through the dog-door into the garden, then out through the hole in the fence and onto the street. He crouched, ears pricked and body taut. Ahead of him were the turn-offs for different walking routes - straight on took you towards the meat sellers; a left would go towards the scent-laden fields; right would take him to the building full of screaming human puppies that Billy went to most days, which was, most likely, where the pack had gone.
After some time, for it was slow progress (he stopped regularly to sniff for clues), Harry came to Billy's day-kennel; however there were no screaming pups, only silence. The air was musty and filled with greys and the green-brown hue of dawn, but no human smells. Overhead, omniscient dark clouds hung, wise and threatening.
Had the whole pack have been here, they would have gone to the grasslands, with its mini-packs of dogs and masters, so that's where Harry went. As always, he surveyed the terrain before advancing, sniffing at the ground and the air. There were many different breeds present: an Alsatian with his gruff-looking masters; two poodles prancing in front of a suede decked human, who smelled faintly of manure; a Pitbull.
Broad-shouldered and tight-eyed, it stalked alone, no master in sight. Harry involuntarily stepped back, his patchy legs shaking. He crouched unsteadily. Repressed a whimper. Controlled his panting; slowly, slowly.
A deep roar sliced through the field like a predatory wraith, awakening Harry from his paralysis. The Pitbull's speed was extraordinary! Harry desperately looked around for sanctuary. His ear stung. He approached a black stream as the Pitbull continued to sprint towards him, maybe six dog-lengths away now. Harry bounded through it, slipping on the muddy bank on the other side and having to scramble into a run. The Pitbull followed closely. Harry feinted right then darted left but his foe predicted the move.
Harry looked over his shoulder and barked flaccidly. He could see the red, hungry eyes and the sharp, glass-like teeth. The barrel chest. The lithe, powerful muscles. The jaw that could crush like a clamp. The jaw which had the power to tear half an ear from you when you accidentally stepped into the wrong territory.
Last time the master had happened upon them and scared the Pitbull off, but this time, Harry knew, there would be no intervention. The people here did not want to get involved in another pack's problems. It reminded him of the helplessness he had felt on fireworks night, where bright explosions thundered in the sky as if they were ripping it open.
Harry closed his eyes and prepared himself for what he knew was coming. He could hear fervent panting behind him. Feel the spray of saliva. And then he was floating. The ground disappeared underneath his feet and he began to fall. Softly skidding at first, then, as he built momentum, tumbling and crashing, sliding down a muddy bank and careening off staggered trees. Eventually he reached the bottom and dared to open an eye to see if Death was standing above him. Nothing. He dared to open the other eye. Still nothing.
There wasn't time to focus on old wounds or new, Harry understood, he needed to keep moving. Walking with a limp on the right side, he continued through the undergrowth, fighting his way through overgrown shrubs and tangles of thorns. Occasionally he yelped quietly, aware that he was not out of danger but unable to contain the pain.
After some time, Harry found the end of the labyrinth and walked out onto the road. Although he had longed for silence on the many occasions they took Billy to his school amidst all the screaming human pups, Harry found it unsettling now. He sat and licked his bloodied fur, which was knotted with stickyweed and thorns. He was lost, away from home, without his pack.
The smell of rain was in the air. Harry hated rain, but right now he welcomed it; something to wash the ache away. He had always loved the fresh, earthy smell. He lay down and breathed in deeply through his nostrils, enjoying the cluttered rainbow of scents mingling with the turquoise of pre-rain: the browns of wet mud; the greens of shrubs and trees; the greys of smoke; the reds of humans. The vibrant reds of Billy.
Harry's head snapped up and he inhaled deeply, hunting for another trace of the young human from his pack. East. He quickly made his way along the road, favouring his left leg which had started to sting. The scent became stronger. He could see something in the distance.
Ignoring the pain, Harry ran with renewed vigor until he could see something in the distance, a dot at first but growing quickly. It was Car! As he got closer the deep chatter of humans rippled through the airwaves. An unknown master walked over and started shouting but Harry danced past him and stumbled to a stop at Car.
Billy was there! He was lying down, relaxing perhaps. The fur on his head was matted and red, so Harry started licking it to clean him up. Master was next to him, sleeping on the wheel in the front of Car. He had lots of red on the fur on his head too. They weren't speaking. A darkly dressed human walked over and started making aggressive gestures and noises at Harry, which was when he noticed the bright blue lights for the first time, flashing like lightning in a storm. Harry continued to lick Billy frantically.
The clouds broke. Rain lashed out furiously, icy needles on Harry's tender skin. The darkly-dressed human continued to shout and swung his foot but Harry would not move. Harry would never move. He had found his pack and would not lose them again.