Cath’s nose picked up on a damp dog kind of smell when she woke up. Her joints were aching and dampness had oozed into her body from the mattress underneath her. The rain had stopped and a beam of sunlight angled its way toward the tip of her nose, tickling her. She opened her eyes and saw the little crack in the roof above her through which it pointed at her as if to say, found you.
What a strange dream she had experienced just before waking of handcuffs and strange men and farms and sheds and danger, confusion, escape and capture, a mother’s voice, and violence, blood and death, and a dog. She stretched her aching limbs and noticed that she could not move her legs. Something was weighing her down, pinning her ankles to the mattress. She propped herself up on her elbows and saw a dog lying across her. The dog was sleeping. A sheep dog.
Cath rubbed her eyes, it couldn’t be, surely it couldn’t be. “Lucy?”
The dog’s eyes opened, brown eyes fixating her for a moment. Then it leapt up and towards her and licked her face. Cath stroked and rubbed it. “Hm, on closer inspection, you can’t be the Lucy from my odd dream. I can see now that you are a boy. Good boy, good boy. What are you doing here? Guess you could ask me the same thing.”
He must have run away from some farm, Cath thought. A young dog still judging from the way he played with her hands and nibbled her sleeves. No collar on him, so he probably slipped out of it when he was making his escape. Two runaways in the hay loft of a forgotten cowshed. She smiled to herself. The company felt good.
She wondered what time it was and groped around trying to locate her mobile phone. There it was, but it was obvious that it had been chewed by her unexpected new companion. She laughed and chided the dog a little. It was no good to her now anyway, she remembered that the battery power had run out shortly after she had climbed up into the loft. She had left the charger at Luce’s place anyway and she had no intention of returning there. The dog must have been up here in the loft already or the clatter of the bucket which she had placed at the entrance would have woken her. She must have frightened him into hiding until he was sure that she was no threat to him once she had fallen asleep.
Whatever the time was, it was high time that she made her next move. She had to leave this cowshed and make her way to the main road, hitch a lift from there. What to do about the dog though. She couldn’t leave him here. He was afraid to climb down the steps from the loft.
“Well, mister, you managed to get up here, so why are you worried going back down?” The poor thing was shaking with fear so she spoke soothing encouragements and walked down the steps in front of him one step at a time.
He was all breathless eagerness once he had overcome this challenge and she looked around for something she could use as a lead. She didn’t want to have to fear for his safety. If he was to run off and chase sheep, he might get shot by a farmer.
She found an old rope hanging from a large rusty nail. That would do. She made a loop at one end of it then pulled the other end through it leaving the loop wide enough to pull it over his head. Perfect. Had she had a dog at some point in her past life before her accident, she wondered.
Just as she was about to leave she remembered the carved graffiti she had seen upstairs in the loft. Curiosity tore at her. Her phone had lost power and the flashlight gone out before she could decipher all of it.
“Sit. Sit and wait for a bit,” she said to the dog, “good boy. I’ll be right back.”
There was the heart pierced by an arrow with the letters H and G on either side of it. She knelt down on the mattress on which she had spent the night sleeping much more soundly than she had thought was possible. There was indeed more carved writing underneath it, quite a lot of it in smaller letters. Whoever carved this must have spent quite some time etching these words into the timber darkened by age.
Search the darkness for its darkest corner, cry until your tears run dry, shout until your voice is lost. Tear at your shackles until you bleed and all your strength has ebbed away. Then brace yourself for the white light. It will come and stab you in the heart. I fear I will be next. He can make anyone disappear. I know I will not be found. G
How very strange. Whatever did it mean. She shivered. The urge to get away from this place had just become more pressing. A low whine reminded her of the dog waiting for her and she climbed back down with haste.
© Ash N. Finn, 2016