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The Dog sniffed along the edge of the tree line. He had wandered away from the camp attracted by the smell of the cows. It was the most wonderful scent he had ever smelled. He had already found two pilings of dropping and rolled in them. It was good. Like heaven, he thought.
But the scent he was following now was even more intoxicating. It was the smell of something dead, but he didn't see it that way. He classified scents in an entirely different way. It was the best scent in the entire world. Two seconds from now another scent might come along and transplant that scent, but for now it was the top.
He stopped and peered off into the gloom of the trees. Something had moved in the shadows and a soft warning growl began in his chest and quickly built. Deep, bassy, rolling out of his small frame.
The thing in the shadows moved again, and it's head seemed to cock to one side, the eyes focused on The Dog through the gloom of the shadows. A higher growl, more like a subdued snarl reached the dogs ears. He stopped his own growl momentarily to listen, but his body posture changed. His legs stiffened. He crouched slightly, his neck lowered and his growl returned, rising to meet the pitch of the thing in the shadows.
'The thing... Person? ... Mother-Father...?' he wondered. '...Master...?' stopped moving and seemed to be waiting to see what the dog would do.
Another dog yipped from somewhere out in the field and he shot his head up quickly and looked in the direction the yip had come from, waiting to see if she would yip again.
She was a stray that had been hanging on the fringes of the camp. He had caught her scent the night before, and again earlier this morning. The yip said... Where are you...? I am here... Come and play... I need you...
His head dropped back to the thing in the shadows for just a second, but it suddenly seemed far less interesting than it had been. The other dog yipped once more, louder, more insistent. And that yip said ... If you're not coming I'm leaving... it said... I called you... it said... Why are you there...? And it was too much. His head came back up and he leapt away a second later, running through the winter blighted wheat of the field, following the other dog's scent on the air.
In the shadows the boy settled back down. He had been tempted to go after the dog even though Eden would have been.... Would have been displeased, he decided. It was not displeased, but displeased was the best he could come up with. It seemed the longer he thought about a thing the more abstract it became. He lowered himself back to the ground and pressed more tightly to Eden's cold flesh, taking comfort from it. She was like... Like a mother, he decided. He could not precisely remember what a mother was but he was pretty sure his thinking was correct.
He closed his eyes and the darkness slipped over him. The small death... The respite from the living death. The place where the constant hunger did not drive everything. The smell of her death came through to him and he spiraled down ever deeper...