Of Love and Death – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 16

book 1

Once she had begun to change Winnie hurtled through what was left of her pervious self and became a bloodthirsty wretch. It was as if she became the opposite of my Winnie, a perversion of beauty. Every now and then I saw the old Winnie glinting in her eyes but those moments became less and less frequent as she sank deeper into the family trade. Within months she began to travel with her parents and of course I would be left behind. And each time that she returned she was a newer and more deathly version of herself.

Then one day when she returned from a business trip and didn’t acknowledge me at all. In that call moment I knew that the last of her was gone. I even whimpered to her but she ignored me. Instead she sat at her desk and took a gun from one of the drawers and began to clean it. It wasn’t even what she was doing, but how she was doing it. She looked maniacal. Her breathing and her eyes and her hands as they fondled the metal, all of it was a dance of the ugliest desires. She wanted to kill. It was all over her. She was not a good person anymore. I nuzzled her leg and tried to bring her back to goodness but she ignored me and continued to play with her gun.

It was almost like when she was a child – once she had a new toy that fascinated her she spent every waking moment engrossed in it. That look on her face was gleeful, but it was a dark happiness, one that showed my knowing eye how soiled that sweet creature had become. It was an awful blow to me. I walked myself from then on. I never gave up on her though. Every day I would bring her my leash and every day she was shoo me away. As if she didn’t love me anymore. As if I was nothing more than a pest. It was a terrible low. I had become a dog. Then one day, while she studied the family files upstairs in her parent’s office and while I bemoaned my loss at the food of the staircase, a cry went out, “Mary Elizabeth! Burn everythi… ”

BOOM! Ringing ears. Smoke. Flashing lights. Men with guns. Muffled shouts.

“Mary! Get down!”

Mrs. Dean appeared from a door in the downstairs hall brandishing a handgun and leading Mr. Dean by the arm. His other hand was to his face and he was screaming for Winnie as blood gushed from between the fingers on his face.

“Mary! Get downstai… ”

As I scurried for cover at the side of the staircase a wave of sound erupted around Mr. and Mrs. Dean just yards from where I stood shaking. I could hear the bullets pierce their bodies and the air in their lungs wheeze out. I saw their skin burst. I tasted their blood and the dust from their shattering bones on the air as it wafted around the room. I saw them fall. I saw their faces bounce on the lacquered hardwood floor. I saw Winnie at the top of the staircase. I saw her see them. Then she saw me and I felt her heart break.

She went to call me but stopped herself and waved me to her instead. I ran. I jumped over her parents’ bodies and bounced up the stairs. Winnie turned ran down the hall and I followed. In that moment I dared to believe that she was mine again, that we were each other’s. I dared with all the might that life and death and life again can grant. She looked back at me once as gunshots exploded the momentary calm downstairs and as we bolted into her office she slammed the door shut behind us and pointed for me to move to a painting of her parents on the wall.

She ran to her desk and reached under it as a stomping herd of boots galloped up the stairs and down the hall towards us. Next to me the picture frame clunked and as it did she ran to me. As she rounded the desk a fog of bullets poured through the door between us but she kept running. I went to run to her and she put up a palm to halt me and as she did she passed through the cloud of searing lead unscathed. There was no sound reason by which she could have possibly survived without injury but she was next to me before I could think about it and pulling aside the picture behind which we both dove.

It was narrow in there between the walls. Just enough to squeeze through. I could hear the men in Winnie’s office shouting and upturning furniture. They were furious and their radios squelched and beeped like mad magpies. But we moved so fast that in seconds I could hear only our footsteps and my heart thumping in my ears. The walkway between the walls dipped into a steep ramp and then fed into a small tunnel where I went first. If anyone came towards from the front us I wanted to be able to defend Winnie, but nobody came. We emerged inside the woods near the groundsman’s shack where Winnie stopped us and we watched as torches illuminated the inside of her home. There were dead bodies near the front door, the guards had been killed by the police and in the cool silence of the forest I felt a chill of change blow through us.

“Let’s go, boy. We’ve a walk ahead of us.”

At first I didn’t see the pain of losing her parents in her eyes. She seemed ok. But after a mile or so she stopped. Then knelt. Then wept. I nuzzled her and licked her tears and longed so deeply to hold her in my arms. For a long time she had not been the same Winnie that I had loved before, but as she cried and I comforted her she was again my Winnie. New and harder and alone, she stood and walked on and I followed, my tail wagging by itself.

She led me deep into the woods. Beyond any point I had ever seen before. We walked for hours and as night died and dawn was born again we reached a road, but there was no traffic. It was a dead place that even animals seemed to avoid. Not even crows cawed there. And while we walked an assurance seem to grow in Winnie. Her pace quickened and her steps widened and soon we were almost jogging. Then we ran. As if a peace had come over her. The morning sunlight gleamed on her hair as it danced in her wake and I galloped beside her. She didn’t speak. She just smiled and ran like a free creature unbound by life and death.

We ran for a few miles before we came to a smaller adjoining road that she turned down. As I followed I wallowed in the bliss of the moment until she stopped at a little house that seemed as if it had lain untouched forever. It was a bungalow of logs that moss had swallowed whole and not a decrepit inch of which hadn’t been aged into ruin. Winnie walked around it to the back yard where a pile of logs lay and kicked out the bottom of it, tumbling the lot to the ground. Then she lifted and pushed them aside before reaching down between the debris and pulled up a latch. There, hidden all that time, a metal staircase led down to darkness.

She walked down ahead me and I stood at the entrance looking down into black until a click sounded and a light came on. I hobble awkwardly down on four legs and saw Winnie standing in the middle of a small room lined with benches and shelves, each stocked with cases and food and bags. She was already busying herself as I stepped on to the dirt floor but she still paused to rub behind my ear as I came to her. The sensation of her fingers folding my ear and the warmth of her palm gliding over the top and back of my head was beyond celestial. It made the freight and worry of the raid evaporate and as she went back to packing supplies I was enraptured with the remnants of her touch. It had been too long since she showed me love and that simple gesture flooded me with memories of making love to her when we lived before. I always loved her hands. Strange as it might sound, they were works of art onto themselves.

“Right! Let’s go, boy.”

We walked back up the stairs and she rearranged the logs while I watched in awe as the young woman I had chased across life and death came into her own. She slung her pack across her shoulders and jogged off into the undergrowth at the back of the house. Another mile or two later we came to a mound of branches and she began to pull them down. I helped, yanking out the largest branches that I could and dragging them away with my teeth. In seconds I saw a tyre and soon she was sitting inside a truck, beckoning me. That image of her, sat behind the wheel with a childish happiness in her smile and magic in her gestures, it will live with me forever. I jumped in and she drove while the truck roared with all the power of a means of freedom.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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