Based on a true incident….
Somewhere in Nepal……
My earliest memory is rather vague. The rain was pattering and a Big Dog in The Sky was eerily howling outside as I tried to outdo him with my own squeaky howls. However, the Big Dog soon had enough and with an ear-splitting roar, sent me scurrying between my mother’s legs in fear. Soon I was cleansed, fed and cuddled blissfully against her warm tummy, barely conscious of the Big Dog’s roars and my sister Jinny’s frustrating snores. Or was that just another one of my dreams? To this day, I never figured that out because the next thing I remember was being shut in a box until Uncle Frenzy valiantly ripped it open with his classic gruff bark.
The Streets has been my home as far as I can reliably tell. Uncle Frenzy swears that he rescued us from the “Jaws of Death at great personal risk”. But still, the other dogs call him “Balmy Frenzy” and rightly so; he is a known liar with an unreliable memory. So how we ended up here remains a mystery. As it is, the Streets is our home now and the Hood our family. Of course, we do have to co-exist with the tall, tail-less creatures in bright skins. In the Hood, we call them the “Tail-les”. Funny creatures. They move about in huge shiny capsules on four balls and establish their dominance wherever they go. They have always remained a mystery enshrouded in fear.
My train of thought was interrupted by Jinny’s sharp voice, “Wake up, doofus. Tis time for the Council”. I got up with a wince and shook the irksome flies off me. These Council Meetings were held once every full moon to air any difficulties or grudges we face. Not that it was ever of much use, but still it was consoling to hear the deep voice of Brize as he presides the meeting and rather amusing to watch as ‘Balmy’ Frenzy gets into heated debates with ‘Flea-bag’ Quarry from the adjacent Hood.
By the time Jinny and I reached the Council, the meeting was already in full swing. Frenzy and Quarry were creating a huge ruckus and Brize was having a hard time bringing things back to normal. Annes and her squad weren’t much of a help either. As usual, they were wailing on how her precious son Axel would and should immediately replace Brize as the Alpha. After a few feeble attempts, Brize soon gave up. Legends dictate that during his prime, Brize had single-handedly defeated three Alphas and unified all Hoods. Even the mighty Tail-les scurried in fear when Brize had his hackles up. But things were vastly different now; he was battle-scarred, balding and three-footed. Today he retreated to a corner and began licking at his wounds as the other dogs began joining the commotion. Soon enough, one of the Tail-les snoring on the pavement sent us a stone accompanied by a complementary curse. Thus, our merry midnight meeting was unofficially dismissed and everyone soon returned to their allocated spots.
A few hours later, I still could not sleep. With nothing to do, my attention drifted towards the moonlit night sky above me. As expected, I found what I was looking for. Those strange bright spots were struggling to penetrate the foul city haze. Still, I could manage to squint my eyes and connect the lights to bring out satisfying shapes. Today I managed to identify a dog. It’s kind of how I imagined Mom to be. Tall, slender and beautiful. Frenzy says that once we die, we all go to a special place called Hades. Places of lush green grasslands and star-lit nights. Of flowing rivers and crashing waterfalls. Of the abundance of meat, space, and sport. Of how we and our ancestors all howled at the moon in unison, rejoicing at our reunion. Perhaps that was my mother up there watching over us. That was a comforting thought.
A drop of rain hit my nose and I heard the distant growl of the Big Dog. I decided to get up and look for cover. The wound on my left paw still stung horribly after last week’s accident. Jinny licked my wound clean and Annes strictly advised me to keep it dry. And here it was covered in pus and flies. I hurried to a nearby tree and found Jinny snoring underneath it. Suffering from a bad cough and covered in scabs, she looked thinner than ever. I scratched at a tick and snuggled beside her just as her stomach rumbled in hunger. I looked out into the rain and hoped our beliefs were true. Hopefully, one day we will all reach Hades and live forever blissfully.
Early the next morning, we headed out to the Dump as per routine. As they say, the early dog gets the best morsel. In the yellow sunlight, I could see the ribs poking out of Quarry’s dirt-covered sides and the mites running through little Axel’s hairy coat as he trotted beside Annes. I could see the battle scars and half-healed wounds of Fen, our next Alpha. And of course, the Cats and Crows were eternally present. A few Tail-les pups were messing about and one of them pelted a rock at Axel. That set Annes cursing angrily at them but they simply flung another stone and scurried away. By noon, the heat was unbearable as usual and the air suffocating with fumes and dust. Thanks to last night’s rain, we drunk from a pothole and resumed our forage.
As we returned later that evening, Frenzy was taunted by a Tail-les pup and he savagely attacked in retaliation. In response to the pup’s cries, three armed Tail-les popped out of a nearby hole and cornered Frenzy. He defiantly began screaming curse words at them in his weird pirate accent but the Tail-les soon had had enough. When the first strike found its mark, Frenzy was silenced for the first time in his life. But it was not something to be amused at. Blow after blow fell on his thin skull and I could see his eyes begging us for help as the blood oozed out of his head onto the ground. He was howling in excruciating agony but still was mercifully alive. However, our relief was short-lived. The Tail-les did not stop at that. They drenched him in some liquid and set him ablaze. By Hades, I will never forget how he pranced about screaming; it was a piercing shrill that froze my blood. We all stood there petrified and rooted to the spot as they dragged away his flexing body and dumped it in the Canal.
News traveled wide and fast. Although Brize strictly maintained that no vengeance shall be carried out, the other Alphas were not so wise. Quarry and a few of his goons schemed an attack against a helpless old Tail-les at night. Hours later, I could feel my own heart beat weakly in fear. Frenzy had been here with us last night and today his body was floating away somewhere, charred beyond recognition. I hoped his soul had found its way to Hades and he was blissfully gamboling about in the grass. Tonight, although we barely spoke a word, Jinny and I cuddled closer than ever.
The next day was suspiciously peaceful. The very air we breathed seemed to smell of vengeance, mutiny, and schemes, quite different from the dust and thick fumes we were used to. We all sensed impending danger but had no idea how and when it would befall. Brize broke us up into parties of three and strictly instructed us to go straight to the Dump for cover. However, on the way, delicious whiffs began drifting our way. The Tail-les had left us delicious morsels of meat and fish on their doorsteps. Although trusting the Tail-les during these times was against all reason, the smell proved too good to be resisted by a bunch of starving dogs. We threw all caution to the winds and began lapping them up. The meat tasted sour but we soon licked the place clean and headed to the Dump.
And then it all happened so quickly. I felt a blinding pain in my chest and stomach. I could feel hot blood gargling up my throat and into my mouth. My knees went weak and I slumped where I stood. Soon all the dogs followed suit and I could see poor Jinny vomiting up liters of blood and fish. The Tail-les moved in with iron poles and began whomping those of us that were still conscious. Three of them ganged up on Fen whilst another began dragging Jinny away. I limped on my feet and took a few steps after her. But then, I heard the swish of a pole and everything spiraled into darkness.
With my head still ringing, my eyes open up to a star-lit sky. Looking around, I realize the legends are true. Hades couldn’t have been more beautiful.