|Dexter Arrives at the Back Door|
I hadn’t eaten in three days. The last time had been when I was batting around a ball, something I could keep going for pass after pass and usually to wide-eyed and gasping approval. That time it had meant dinner, though I kept glancing quickly over my shoulders to eat it before the Others appeared. They would challenge, they would elbow me, they would push, and I’d be forced to stand my ground. I could be patient; I’d had to be on a daily basis. I couldn’t take my eyes off whatever might be dinner. The slightest movement in my range of vision would alert me. As the day darkened, it was much easier to pinpoint whatever I might need because the Others were either frightened or inattentive; he was rarely either.
Water was fine. I could always locate it in a container, or along a path or on the banks of a hill, or by searching for a dripping faucet or hose. Nights were getting longer and would soon be colder so I would have to find or create shelter. There was a deck I’d hidden under for a couple of nights though, almost unbelievably, a female had appeared from around the wall and started pacing around me. I stayed still, wondering if she was a friend or foe. She circled me and she was certainly attractive, considering her long, thick, smoky dark hair, but I wasn’t interested. She rubbed against me and I jumped back. I wished she would just go away. I could smell her and it was what had surrounded me from when I’d entered the garden so she lived there. Couldn’t she just go on and leave me here
alone for the night?
Her yowling pushed me against the wall. I reached out to touch her, just to quiet her, and she rolled onto her back. I knew I should get out of there immediately. This was a complication that was beyond my survival. I slowly – almost imperceptibly, I thought – moved along the wall. She didn’t notice as she rolled back and forth, obviously in a state of self-ecstasy. I was near the threshold to the garden when an enormous monster roared at me and shot water all over me. I ran, darting along the fence. I leapt to the top of the fence and then jumped to the next garden.
I’d found a place beneath the back steps in this place. It was cool and dry. There were some newly fallen leaves that I’d pulled together. I could sleep there that night; it was large enough for me, but too tight for the Others to attack me. I hadn’t seen anyone else around there for a few days. I’d scouted around, investigating at dawn and after dark. The next morning, after stirring and sharpening my weapons on the bark of a sorghum tree, I sat underneath the purring machine they moved around in and waited for one of them to leave the house and discover me.
The dark one found me and reached towards me. I paused but, once his hand was too close, I darted away. He had energy and I thought he might wrench me up. I’d found some leftover food in a bowl a few houses away during that day. I’d avoided contact with any of the Others before returning to the leafy place for a second night. A couple of creepy-crawlies were staggering around the bottom of the tree so I clomped them quickly and swallowed them before I could take a breath. They were crunchy and there was a slight after effect of goo, but they’d get me through until I could find a real home.
I wasn’t always outside. I lived in a house; it was my house and I thought I’d stay there forever. Something went wrong, but I don’t know what it was. It’s fun being outside because you have to live for adventure. Sometimes you gotta take a stand, be ready to defend yourself, keep the Others at bay. It’s tough, but that’s the way it goes. The worst is the cold. You can’t tell how long it will go on: that’s the major challenge. I don’t like cages and certainly not after they put me in one and latched the metal teeth together so that I was stuck. I yelled at them, but they weren’t listening. They carried me into the big purring machine and we rode and rode. It was a long time, more than when I nap. They stopped and carried me out, pulled the teeth apart and bid me to come out. I sniffed and looked around. One of them (the young one who had played with me ever since I could remember) put out a bowl of milk for me. I went over to it immediately and felt it with my pads, then licked them. It was really good and I drank some more and some more. I didn’t hear the big purring machine start again or that it took off. I finished the milk and looked up and saw that I was alone. It was a great distance from there to where I’d come from and I didn’t know how to get there. Instead, I started to look around where there might be ones who’d let me share their home.
I let the dark one rub my head the second day and then under my chin the third day and I hoped. It was going to take a gift so that he and the other one knew I cared enough to do my part. Through the day, I prowled around the house, hiding behind the bushes. There were many flowers where I could hide and not be seen by the little running things with their skinny, tapering tails. They smelled of dust. When night fell, they would come out, scampering beside walls. Hours passed and a grey one ran, stopped, and ran again. I leapt, my weapons out and slicing through its throat. I nibbled it, enough to survive for another day, but then I laid it out at the bottom of the steps so that both the dark one and the light one would know that I wanted to stay.