Sweat-soaked, wheezing, Joe plodded after the dog across Corporea's financial heart. Street after deserted street. Below world-famous edifices. Under empty windows. The moon, red as an apple in the quickening eve, appeared over PeerlisTower, the most recent addition to Corporea's skyline, and all its highest glass ablaze in the last light of the setting sun. Joe stumbled against a lamp post. He hung on to it, staring. The moon’s top edge...wasn’t there. As if someone had taken a bite of it.
"IT ISN'T FAR NOW, CUMMON," said the dog. It loped away, through an alley.
Joe trembled. Alone in the street turning grey, among the parked cars nobody would be coming back for. And alone under the Something, big as a city, high above the world.
The streetlamp over his head clicked. It began buzzing, glowing. Along the street, other lamps also were glowing, brightening. Joe drew in a rattling breath. He chuckled. He saw the dog, waiting, for him. He started after it, as directly as his unsteady legs could carry him.
Joe plodded alongside the trotting animal from the dark alley across the next deserted street. Over one island of yellow lamplight. Over another. His legs burning, he swung left with the panting dog, along the sidewalk between cars parked nose to tail and shop fronts.
Just past a delivery van, red-white-and-green as the Italian flag, the dog stopped. Joe clopped past. Coughing, dizzy, he took hold of an expired parking meter under both his hands, leaned heavily on it. He stared at the dog. At the shop the dog was staring at.
CAPRI DELICATESSEN was painted in a red-white-and-green bow across the top half of the one big window. Across the bottom half, salamis hung and wheels of cheeses were stacked like tires. It was one of those mom and pop neighbourhood delis. With apartments above. The curtains were drawn shut across all the apartments. CLOSED in red letters showed clearly through the glass door.
The dog on his hind legs, his forepaws up on the glass door, licked his chops, flung a long stare at Joe. “Here. I like the smells here.”