The wrath of the mysterious animal was forgotten as the Beagle and the German shepherd contemplated about what to do next.
“We need to go to that gang dogs place” Buck said suddenly, breaking the concentrated silence.
“No way. I am not going to be bullied by those freaks again” Alsatian growled.
“Bullied?” Buck tilted his head questionably.
“Ok. I told you I wouldn’t keep secrets, so I won’t. I used to be part of a large gang in the BDZ. When I refused to take part in a fight, I was kicked out, but not before my team-mates made me attack a dog” Alsatian explained, his head hung low.
“What dog?” Buck pressed the matter.
“A Beagle harrier” Alsatian answered, ashamed.
“What was his name?”
“I can’t tell you” Alsatian muttered.
“Who was it?” Buck repeated.
“I can’t tell you!” Alsatian snapped.
“Yes you can!” Buck snarled, baring his white teeth.
“His name was Crash!” rage and shame took hold of Alsatian and made the stray shout out the name of his victim.
“What?” Buck quietened down as he heard the name.
“Crash, your father” the rage subsided from Alsatians voice.
“You…killed…my…father” Buck stuttered, not quite believing the words he had just heard.
“I didn’t want too. They made me, they forced me. They would have killed me” Alsatian begged forgiveness.
“Better you than him, murderer” Buck uttered the word murdered with added malice.
“Buck, I’m so sorry” Alsatian said. Buck didn’t care for Alsatian’s forgiveness; tears were streaming down his face, making his fur wet and his eyes sting.
Alsatian lifted a forepaw and attempted to place it on Buck’s quivering back. Buck pulled away, stood up and suddenly sprinted straight across the BDZ border.
“Buck!” Alsatian called after the puppy, but it was no use.
Buck’s little legs were working overtime. He was going so fast his legs were hardly touching the ground.
Anger engulfed him, dragging him down to the lonely caves of despair. He suddenly faltered and his legs fell beneath him, sending him sprawling straight into a dustbin.
Luckily the bin was held in place by a thick layer of mould and rotting rubbish. Buck slid away in disgust, his noise wrinkling at the fowl scent emitted by the horrible glue.
His mind had run amuck with the many things he needed to complete; he needed to find Pasha, he needed to avoid Alsatian and he needed to make it out of the BDZ alive.
The anger that had consumed him had made him lose all sense of direction; he didn’t know where he had gone or how far.
What he did now know was that the BDZ was nothing more than a maze of destroyed streets and many lumps of unused concrete.
As Buck padded through the bone-littered streets, he noticed that there was no life whatsoever, dog or human. He needed to stay clear of the canines in the area, they were all renowned for being unnecessarily aggressive. Although the beagle pup’s reading was limited, he had been able to guess from the titles of a newspaper that dogs in the BDZ attacked humans.
“First things, first; find some water” Buck whispered to himself. He was parched and to him it felt like he had swallowed mouthfuls of sand. But the baron landscape didn’t contain any water, save for the horrible smelling and foul coloured puddles that gathered in little ponds. If Buck drank any of that water, he would surely die from poisoning or some disease in the water.
There wasn’t even any plants and vegetation to get some moisture from. Time to do what he dreaded to do; go down to the beach.
He was dreading the option because the BDZ dogs were more likely to make their dens down by the beach.
Buck had no idea where the beach was. With a grunt of despair he lay down to think things over. As he did so his front paws landed in something wet and sticky so he lifted his dripping forepaws to find a small pool of bright red liquid. He leapt up in surprise, thinking it was his own blood, spattered over the path.
A further inspection revealed a faint trail of blood heading in the direction of a lump of unattractive concrete.
Curiosity soon got the better of the pup and he began heading towards the grey mass, making sure he didn’t tread in the blood again. As he disappeared down the end of the street he was unaware of something watching him. Buck had carelessly left a trail of his blood covered paw prints on the ground next to the original trail, giving the stalker an advantage Buck couldn’t afford to give. The pup was defenceless without Alsatian and the assassin knew it; it now had a better chance of success.
Alsatian hadn’t moved a muscle since Buck’s departure. What he had told his adoptive son was not entirely true, but he didn’t have a chance to explain; the pup could be anywhere by now.
Before he had chance to seek out the beagle pup and make everything alright again, he was overcome by yet another flashback, and his body fell limply to the ground as his mind drifted away
This time, the German Shepherd dog was walking through an unfamiliar and abandoned row of shops. He knew the place off by heart as he had travelled around its borders for the last two years since his banishment following Shep’s death. His ears flicked with worry and his face showed none of the emotion he felt for his former friend. Twitching his muzzle at the smell of food, he allowed his nose to guide him through the maze of derelict houses and shops. All of the buildings around him were empty, their stocks and any items residing in them before the destruction of this part of town were now gone, leaving dark windows with nothing to display.
Alsatian had only been a young pup when this particular part of town was destroyed. But he had been told stories about it by his mother. She had told him that there sued to be a group of dogs, much like the one Alsatian had lived in and the one that had been led by his father. But the group of dogs that had called this place their home were not ordinary and attacks on humans started occurring. No humans were killed, but many suffered from horrible fevers. At first none of the other dogs on the island cared much for these unprovoked attacks, until dogs started disappearing, never to return again.
Alsatian shook his hairy head, trying to keep his mind focused on food for Sandy, and their three new pups. The pups were only a couple of days old, that was why Sandy was absent from the hunting trip. As the father, Alsatian was the one to bring home food. He remembered first looking at those pups, when he had returned from a hunting trip to find three small balls of fur snuggled up to Sandy’s belly. He had known she was expecting pups, but he didn’t realize they would come so fast.
That moment, only two days old, was the best moment of his life. Three beautiful pups, two boys and one girl, a wonderful mate and a safe place to call home.
Alsatian returned to the present and remembered the danger Buck was in. He attempted to get up, but his mind seemed adamant that he relive more of his memories. He drifted off once more.
This time he was standing by his den, the den he had made, watching his pups play. Sandy was next to him, tenderly licking his neck fur, and he returned the favour by licking her soft muzzle. The three pups were only about six weeks old, but already adventure was something they were already obsessed with. Alsatian recalled that yesterday he had had to rescue his youngest pup, Russell from a tree he had climbed up. Sandy had been so worried when he hadn’t returned home for dinner so she had asked Alsatian to go and find him.
“You mother had been worried sick about you” Alsatian gently scolded as he had carried Russell back him, holding the nape of his neck in his jaws.
“That tree looked so cool, I had to climb it, anyway Husky dared me too” Russell yapped happily, swinging from his father’s mouth. When they had returned home Sandy had not gotten angry over her sons antics, but told him she had been like him; a playful puppy.
Alsatians mind moved to a point in his life when he was so stricken with grief, suicide was nearly the answer. He was five years old and he had returned home to his den to find it empty of his mate and his six month old pups. He had searched and searched for ages and when he observed the den, the sings of a struggle were obvious. Paw and claw marks were everywhere, the den had almost been caved in and there were spatters of blood here and there. He knew his family had been taken by the dogs that had started the attacks.
For weeks he dragged his miserable form around, trying to find his family, to no avail. He was standing over a very tall and very steep cliff, about to hurl himself into the fierce sea when a voice startled him.
“Were lost, our families are gone” a young beagle pup whimpered from behind Alsatian. When the German shepherd dog spun round to face the lone pup, he saw two more pups. Both were Jack Russell’s.
Buck, Pasha and Dosi.
The German Shepherd dog awoke out of his dreams to hear a howling in the distance over the border. He flinched, knowing full well that that could be a BDZ dog howling its triumph just after a kill. It could well have been Buck that was the prey and he knew these dogs were savage. Savage enough to take over the land after the other dogs, the ones who kidnapped Alsatian’s family, had left.
Alsatian shook his long-muzzled head angrily, trying to dismiss the thought. His mind was racing, mostly with the possibilities of Buck being killed.
He fought with himself for a moment until he finally decided to go and rescue his little friend, knowing Buck was the pup who had stopped him from throwing himself from that cliff, only a month or two ago..
Without a second thought, the stray sped off across the border, facing his fears of the BDZ dogs.
Even though it had only been about 45 minutes since the argument, Buck was starving, parched and exhausted from his tiring run across BDZ territory. The blood had got him no where; the trail ended abruptly on a pile of rocks. He recalled Alsatian talking about this place once, when he was reliving his family life. Buck had known that Alsatian had been unstable in their short stay with each other as adoptive family, so maybe the attack on his father was a result of that.
Buck attempted to banish any thoughts about his dead family or about Alsatian’s almost successful suicide.
In an attempt to find shade from the unforgiving sun, the beagle had dug himself a den amongst the concrete. He had managed to move some of the larger rocks with his front paws, sending them tumbling downwards.
All he achieved from his work were swollen and ripped pads that oozed blood, a very uncomfortable den and no energy left. All in all, Buck felt horrible. He nestled into his makeshift den and tried feebly to get to sleep. This was not an easy task as shards of rock were digging into the soft puppy fur of Buck’s skinny body, causing him to fidget and wriggle around, which only succeeded in more shards scraping him.
“I had to make a den in a concrete pile!” Buck hissed, cursing his own stupidity. The pup had passed many suitable places in which to stay on his way to the concrete pile. But he had been too scared to enter any of the empty shops, afraid of hat hounds sheltered within. Whining pitifully he crawled out of his den to witness the ongoing battle between the sun and the moon. It was the time of the day when the moon won and the sun retreated from beyond view. With it the moon brought the darkness that signalled the start of a night’s forage and the time when the humans went away.
Buck considered going out to find some food, but quickly decided that looking for food in unknown territory with killer dogs roaming the streets was a bad idea. On that negative note, the beagle retreated back to his den. Just as he entered the small cave, rain started falling. At first a small shower, then a thunderstorm equipped with lightning ad heavy rain. Buck had a weak spot for thunderstorms, and he had faint memories of thinking the noises in the sky were down to an anger problem the clouds were having. Such thoughts had been dismissed by Alsatian, who said storms happened when the clouds were full of rain. A correct interpretation or not, Buck took comfort in the fact he had not angered the sky.
He yelped in terror until his throat dried out completely. Once his voice had gone, he hid his muzzle under his forepaws and wrapped his ears across his worried eyes.
The storm had a lesser effect on Alsatian. He used to fear them when he was a pup, but his cold-hearted father had dealt with this by keeping Alsatian out all night during a thunderstorm, blocking the entrance to the den with his bulky body. The method worked, but it was an unkind way to go about it.
“Fear is unwelcome in my pack” his father had growled a countless number of times.
The rain was merely a hindrance to him. Not only did it plaster his thick fur to his soaking skin, but it washed away Buck’s scent and trying to navigate his way through a storm so big was like blundering through a snowstorm of equal ferocity.
The hail whipped at his face, the wind ruffled his fur, the thunder deafened him, but still he went on. He was determined to find Buck alive, before any other dogs got to him first.
The wind was picking up, almost sweeping Alsatian off his feet. Alsatian’s fur began flying up in a wild dance and his paws began sling across the rocky surface of the road he was travelling along. One minute he was firmly planted on the rain-soaked ground and the next the wind mercilessly picked him up and carried him over the rooftops of the destroyed buildings.
He wanted to scream in terror, but his brain and common sense told him to stay calm and not to exhaust the strength he would need if he was plummeted into the sea or thrown into a tree. A dog could be killed by fright and panic quicker than it could be killed by a fierce wind, and he would be powerless to save himself when he landed.
To him it felt like flying, he soared over streets and heaps of concrete, he sailed over stagnant ponds and unused construction sites. Clumps of rock and strips of debris were zooming all around the sky, some missing him by a hair’s breadth.
It was a brilliant sensation, but it ended too soon. The
German shepherd dog was slammed mercilessly onto the ground, where he rolled down a sand dune and came to a stop next to a jutting rock. Before he could get up, he blacked out.
A shivering, terrified wreck crawled out of a stone den to observe the damage done by the storm.
“Oh my Dog!” Buck gasped. Most of the concrete lump he had sheltered in had been blown away and water had seeped into his den. Also, bits of wood and glass were strewn everywhere, littering the ground.
Hunger gnawed intently at his empty stomach and he decided that it was time to go scavenging. He climbed down the remainder of the rock lump and made his way to where he thought the beach was. Luckily, his sense of direction was correct because he soon found a beach in a secluded cove. Buck observed that dead fish were strewn all over the place, beached by the angry sea.
The sun was shining again and the waves were not nearly as choppy as yesterday. The sea was a lovely light blue colour; the colour of clean water and the sand was free of seaweed. Obviously any dirty water had been washed onto dry land. Tall cliffs rimmed the beach and from these cliffs, natural springs flowed freely down, gathering in large pools. There were lots of rock pools where the crabs were plentiful.
Unfortunately there was only one way down; a steep narrow path winding through the trees that stood on the cliff sides. A thin blue rope ran the length of the path, suggesting that humans had been able to reach the area.
“Right. Let’s get ready. Talk to the Paw” the excited pup bellowed out his new catch phrase with glee. The young pup frowned when he realised his catchphrase did not sit his current situation at all. He would have to use it carefully otherwise it would lose its effect. He cautiously placed a paw out in front of him, testing the ground beneath. When he was satisfied with the strength of the ground, he began gradually making his way down the path. His paws slipped in mud and thorns snagged his fur, drawing blood and making him wince in pain. Progress was slow and Buck found that the beach didn’t seem to be getting any closer. At one point, the trees opened out to a bare bit of cliff where Buck was vulnerable to the elements. A light, cool breeze ruffled his fur and threatened to tilt him sideways, but he stood his ground and carried on.
He finally made it to the beach, leaping the final metre to reach his heaven.
“Yes” Buck praised himself. The sand under paw was more like soft gravel than any sand the youngster had experienced. It was comforting in a way and didn’t irritate his injured paws. I could stay here my whole life. Alsatian would never find me. He’s too big to get through that narrow path. Buck so desperately wanted to avoid his former friend and stay in his new found patch of heaven, but the pack animal inside him screamed at him to find company, he needed leader, someone to defend his territory.
All dogs from the biggest St Bernard to the smallest Chihuahua developed from the Wolf. The wolf is a pack animal that loves being with its own kind. Dogs like being around other dogs also. This feeling and ancient instinct in stronger in some dogs and weaker in others but it’s always there; the need for a master.
In the end he concluded that he would spend some time in his paradise and then try to find someone, preferable Alsatian.
“I’ll teach myself how to fight” Buck mumbled to himself, selecting a fish. He picked up the biggest one in his jaws and started ripping at the tender flesh. Within moments the fish was gone, and the only reminder of its existence was the salty taste on Buck’s tongue.
The puppy strode across the sand to find some rock pools. Living on a beach had taught him that animals such as limpets and crabs were edible, but animals such as fish were tastier. Having sampled the fish, he wanted more, but instinct told him to find out which tasted nice and which were inedible.
He gave up on rock pooling when he realised that most of the rock pools were deeper than he was, so there was the risk of drowning. The shallower pools were too shallow to contain any life.
Disappointment flooded over him like a salty wave and he found himself considering returning to his proper home. Fish were abundant, though, so he overruled the decision to go home. His keen eyes spotted an archway far ahead. There would be a chance of shallower rock pools in there.
But his paws were weakening and his legs were shaking with the effort of holding up his body.
“I need to find Alsatian” Buck whimpered, finally deciding he missed his adoptive father. A sudden almighty crash erupted from the cliffs behind him as over a ton of rocks tumbled down the cliff at alarming speed. Realising the danger, the beagle began an unstable sprint across the beach, but the rocks were faster. They fell at a greyhound’s pace and the sound waves from the collapse had triggered more rocks to fall all the way along the cliff. The rocks didn’t stop until they met with the water; meaning Buck would be crushed unless he reached the archway.
A new and violent burst of energy took over Buck and he zoomed towards the arch, wanting to live. Once again his paws were a blur and he couldn’t feel the ground as he streaked across the golden sand, survival fuelling him with renewed energy.
The archway came nearer, but so did the rocks, so Buck upped his speed. The pup could feel the bits of sediment coming from the rocks thrown at his heels; these were joined by larger, beagle-sized rocks, then larger rocks, the size of houses.
“AAAAAHHHHHHH” Buck screamed, more from adrenaline than from fear. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the youngster made it too the archway with no time to spare. The smaller rocks followed him in, whilst the bigger rocks lodged themselves at the entrance. More rocks on the other side of the archway were falling and forcing their way into the arch, trapping Buck.
Alsatian wasn’t faring much better as he had just awoken from his knock with an agonizingly sore head and weak limbs. To make matters worse, his right front paw was twisted, possibly broken.
He folded his injured paw across his chest, desperately wanting to stretch and exercise it, just like his old friend Shep had taught him. But he couldn’t, it was too painful.
He limped up the beach and onto a stretch of grass. With an alarmed look on his face, Alsatian saw that the whole beach was covered with rocks from a cliff collapse. He had only been spared from being squashed by coming to rest by the rock. He gingerly sniffed the air; he could only smell the salty tang of the water and pungent odour of the rotting beached fish around him. He looked left and right, up and down, searching hopelessly for any inspiration on a way to track his best friend.
He decided to explore the beach he had landed on, moving in the direction of the blocked archway.
But he was in no condition for a rushed search; his useless leg meant he would have to hop awkwardly along.
He moved one hind leg forward, followed by the other and then he pushed his weight forward, allowing the usable front leg to step forward. This process was completed many times over, but the loss of one appendage was creating a massive strain on the other legs. He was thinking about the prospect of losing both Buck and pasha, both gone, both probably dead.
With a sigh and a moan of pain, Alsatian climbed onto the first boulder and began his long journey.
The dust caused by the landslide began to fade away, revealing to Buck his surroundings. The boulders had blocked off most of the light, but his good eyesight gave him an advantage.
The archway was nothing more than a large space occupied by a few sea weed covered rocks and a tainted spring.
“What are you?” came the gruff voice filled with malice.
“What?” Buck queried, surprised that another dog had survived the landslide. He spun his head round in all directions, but could not see the other dog.
“What s your name, pup?” the voice came again, but Buck couldn’t work out where it was coming from.
“Ummmm…Buck” the pup answered cautiously “Is it just you or are there others?”
“Others? No” the dog sounded slightly surprised “Just me and my pack remains”.
“What happened? I thought the BDZ was full with dogs” Buck continued.
“It was. But then the Night Wolves came” the voice sounded sad.
“The Night Wolves?”
“They are like shadows, sneaking, stalking, and stealing. They take dogs when the moon reigns” the bark echoed through the cave.
“Did they take all of the others” Buck was beginning to get interested.
“Yes. But they didn’t stop there. They took your scrawny beach dogs and the pampered pets” the unseen dog explained.
“How can nearly all of the dogs disappear?” Buck was starting to think Pasha had been dog napped by one of the Night Wolves.
“I don’t know, but they are not hurting the dogs. There was no blood on any of the crime scenes” the voice was sounding impatient.
“Where are your other team-mates?”
“They are here. And they are hungry” the bark growled. It was then that Buck realised he had only prolonged his death; these dogs were confused, angry, hungry and now trapped in a cave with no way out.
The beagle pup heard more voices; they were chuckling, happy to at last to find an edible meal.
“HHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLPPPPPPPPP!” Buck bellowed at the top of his yap. The chuckles came closer and the sound of smacking lips could be heard.
Alsatian had only just heard the high-pitched yap. It was coming from the arch, but silence followed.
The German Shepherd Dog quickened his pace, but climbing rocks with an injured leg was not easy, especially when some rocks were ten times as big as him. He stumbled and slipped his long claws unable to find a grip on the slippery rocks. On numerous occasions he fell and landed on his sprained leg, and he yelped with the pain but carried on.
The archway was in sight, but to his dismay he saw that rocks were tightly packed into it with no way of easy access.
He climbed up the slope the rocks had formed, hoping to move some of the lighter and smaller boulders at the top of the arch.
Once there he hooked his claws under a particularly small rock and pulled diagonally up with all his might, pulling the rock upwards. It hadn’t made much of an impact; there were many other rocks to be dealt with behind it.
By the time he had made a little hole in the rocks, his paw was raw and red. He managed to squeeze his underweight body through the hole pulling his injured paw in behind him.
He fell down to the cave floor with an umpf which took all the air out of his already wheezing lungs.
A fierce growling erupted from one of the far corners of the cave; this was followed by Buck’s yap.
“Buck, I’m coming” Alsatian called. He hauled himself up, estimated where his opponent was and charged. He bashed his head straight into the animals flank, and it crashed to the floor squealing with pain.
His next enemy had heard the attack and spun ran over to the aid of its friend. Alsatian quickly dispatched it with a vicious shoulder parry, his twisted leg no longer stopping him from fighting.
The third and final dog came forward confidentially to face Alsatian. The dog charged, but Alsatian sidestepped. The dog quickly got to his feet and ran as fast as he could towards Alsatian. The surprise recovery and sudden attack had taken Alsatian by surprise and he was sprawled along the floor.
He tried to get up but realised that his uninjured front paw was jammed between to rocks.
As the enemy advanced for the kill, Alsatian pulled back his sprained leg and preformed an effective chin tickler. His injured paw shot up and punched the dog in the throat. It was not enough to kill the animal, just leave it unconscious for a few hours.
“Buck. Help me” Alsatian whimpered as he tried to force his leg out. A light bundle of fur bounced on him from behind.
“I knew you would come and rescue me” Buck sang happily.
“Well I had to rescue you. I missed your annoying comments and questions too much” Alsatian laughed.
Buck gracefully jumped down beside his friend and pushed his paw into the crack alongside Alsatian’s, any argument of the past forgotten. The puppy hooked his claws into his pal’s paw pad and tugged.
“Ow!” Alsatian gasped, both at the claws in his pad and the force of the tug. His paw came free.
“Thank you Buck” Alsatian thanked.
“No need to thank me, thank the paw. Or rather, Talk to the Paw” Buck giggled.
“I need to talk to you about Crash. I didn’t kill him. I just injured him. Once my pack had gone away, I gave Crash some food and shelter. I took care of him, but my pack found out and came and killed Crash and hurt me” Alsatian explained hurriedly, before Buck ran again.
“It’s okay. Anyway we are friends and the past is the past, my father is dead anyway”
“That’s good to hear” Alsatian commented “Now how to get out”.
“We can climb” Buck suggested.
“With these paws I don’t think so” Alsatian said as he raised both of his front paws.
“Looks like you need rescuing now, again” Buck sighed.