Archive for flash fiction

The Dying Ones

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2016 by ofherbsandaltars

The children were afraid of death, because it seemed so black, so final – it was darkness, the shadows in the depths of the closet, it was the unknown, all those myths of hellfire and damnation, or the booming voice of some frightening, stranger-God who watched you stealing sweets and judged you for being naughty. And above all, for the children, everybody they loved still shared the Earth with them – there were no welcoming faces waiting in the realm of the dead. A child in pain wants their mother, above all things – separation is unthinkable, to go into the terrifying black arms of death, where a mother can never follow, can never comfort. This seems the worst thing of all.

But the old men do not fear death, because it no longer seems like that yawning black void, a fatal drop into the endless unknown – oblivion. For the old men, death had changed, in the way that America, the New World, changed with the invention of the aeroplane. It wasn’t the great beyond anymore – anybody could get there in less than a day. And then people started making friends over there, until the internet was connected and people were talking face to face with those friends across the Atlantic, and that big cold scary sea no longer seemed so big and bad. It became a safe little puddle, just a short hop away, and that was how the old men felt about death. When they lost their first friend, it was devastation, unthinkable – it pierced their shield of invincibility, of childhood. All children grew up invincible, thinking that death was for the old, for the weak, for the grandmas and granddads, but it’s not for us. Not for you and me – we’ll be here forever, or at least until we have grey hair, and we’re riding round Waitrose on our motorscooters, pissing ourselves and laughing about it – that’s how the future goes, for the invincible, staying real, staying true, staying young inside until it’s finally time to go. But then the first one dropped dead, the first one in the gang, and maybe he was only 27 or 32, and that shield of invincibility was shattered forever. And it hurt like hell.

But then time goes on, just like it always does, and death becomes more common. Sometimes it still shook the earth, other times it was just a fleeting sadness to raise a beer to. But by the time those children were old men, death didn’t seem so far away, because there was more comfort in those cold black arms than was left anywhere in the realm of the living. The comfort of their mother was in that place, the great beyond, and so was the bravery, the camaraderie, of all their friends. It was always easier to follow a friend than to go alone. And so the old men knew, if Bob and Dave and Sally and Paul, and Scruffy the dog and Fluff the cat, if they’d done it already, experienced whatever surreal mindfuck really met you on the other side of the great divide, it just couldn’t be that scary. It wasn’t a vague, menacing place anymore – it felt like a trip to Benidorm or Majorca, just a quick hop away, then they’d wander into some hotel lobby, and there they’d all be, Bob and Dave and all the rest, a bit sunburned, cocktails in their hands, and after a few rounds they’d all go reeling up the road to find a decent Chinese. And that couldn’t be so scary, could it? Not if Bob and Dave and Scruffy were there already.

By the time you got old, death just felt like mass immigration. Like everyone you knew and loved had one by one decided to abandon the boring little town you all grew up in, moving away down to the unthinkable chaos of London. Abandoning you, one after the other, until you couldn’t help imagining what London really felt like, with the whole gang back together again. More than that, the town, the realm, that had always been your home, it felt empty now, and cold. Time moved on, everything had changed, and the old men were left behind – the last ones lingering at a dying party. And so, for the old men, death wasn’t that terrifying black oblivion – it was just a triumphant return to an old, familiar pub.

I Don’t Want To Be A Dungbeetle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

“I think I might be different,” said George. “I think I might be-”

“You ain’t different,” George’s mother interrupted. “You’re a dungbeetle, just like the rest of us. Ain’t no one ‘different’ in this family!”

“But I don’t think I want to be a dungbeetle,” said George. “I think I want to make music, and I think I want to-”

“You ain’t makin’ music! Your father rolls shit, I rolled shit before I ‘ad you, and your granddaddy rolled so much shit it killed him. You’re a dungbeetle, George, and you’ll bloody well roll shit like one!”

“Aye,” agreed George’s dad, scuttling in and shaking the shit off his six feet. “You’ll roll shit, son, and you’ll roll it wi’ pride!”

“Don’t know how,” muttered George. “It smells so bad…”

“That,” said his father, unwrapping a squashed cheese sandwich, “Is the smell of legacy! It’s a proud thing, bein’ a dungbeetle.” He proceeded to devour the sandwich without even washing his hands, and George sighed.

“It’s easy for you,” said George, “You’re a proper dungbeetle. But how am I ever supposed to roll shit with only two legs, and these…awful, mutated flaps? I’ll never be able to-”

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong wi’ you, son,” said his mother firmly. “Dungbeetles lose their legs all the time, an’ it’s just a sign you worked hard. Ain’t your fault you came out a bit…different.”

“But that’s exactly what I’m saying! I’m different! And I want to be different! Last night I couldn’t sleep, again, and I heard this music, and it was-”

“Fuckin’ owls,” grumbled his dad. “Fuckin’ menace, those owls.”

“…it was…beautiful…” George finished, wistfully.

“Owls ain’t beautiful! Shit is beautiful!”

George lapsed into silence, and sulkily examined his fingers. Except his fingers were all wrong, just like they’d always been – they were sort of feathery and flappy and useless. Come to mention it, George was covered in feathers all over, the result of some hideous undiagnosed medical condition. Dungbeetles didn’t have feathers. Everyone laughed at George. His mum had tried plucking them out when he was young, but it hurt, and underneath he was all pink and bumpy, not at all like a normal dungbeetle. So they just let the feathers grow back, and George hid away from the beetles who mocked him. The daylight hurt his eyes, anyway – it made him sleepy. Night time was when he really felt alive, and he’d listen to the distant music of those strange creatures they called ‘owls’, and he’d wish that he could be an owl, as well.

The Moth’s Religion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 6, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

Moths are obsessed with sacrifice. The purpose of a moth, as every young moth is taught, is to sacrifice itself to the Goddess. But like every religion, the sacrificial beliefs of a moth are fraught with error and superstition. The particularly cynical moths will tell their naïve cousins that the Goddess is just a cold, hard, ball of stone, and that even if the Goddess loved you, she’s thousands of miles away, through an endless expanse of dark uncaring nothingness. But always, one small, bedraggled moth with tattered wings and wide, wondering eyes, will tell the others that this isn’t true – I’ve seen the Goddess. I touched her with my wings, and she was as warm and bright as love itself. But she didn’t take me – she spared me, so that I could tell you this very thing…

And so the moths continue on their path into doomed love and burning fate, hurling themselves with reckless abandon into the face of the Goddess, frying themselves alive in the fires of false idols. Never pity the smoldering corpse of a hapless moth – for the last seconds of its life, it flew through warmth and radiant light, and thought itself in heaven. When humans tell tales of a near death experience, of the light at the end of the tunnel, their feeling of perfect love and acceptance, perhaps they are merely recalling their earlier, simpler existence. The embracing warmth and loving arms of that light at the end of the tunnel – is it truly God, or just a naked bulb, swinging from a cord in some unremarkable ceiling? Humans could argue this point for eternity, but the moth doesn’t mind. Moths have died in their millions, since humans brought artificial light into the world, but to a moth, this is merely heaven multiplied. No longer do they find themselves lost and doubting in the dark – in every room of every dwelling, the pale face of the Goddess shines down upon them. A moth can find divine beauty in the lowliest of places, and this Goddess, their false electric idol, she will accept their humble sacrifice, taking them beyond, in a blinding burst of heavenly light.

Just as there are in the human race, there are the cynical moths, who perch eternally on walls, scowling in defiance as they ignore the myriad faces of divinity, and there are the worshipful moths, who find their God in all they see. To these moths, the Goddess is everywhere – in the night sky, shining down from the ceiling, even gleaming in the pale skin of a tired human, lounging in the glow of his monitor.

So if a moth is circling your face, fluttering determinedly back and forth, don’t be annoyed. It thinks you’re the most beautiful creature in the universe. It thinks you are the reason for its very existence, and if you let it live to fly away, it will tell every moth it ever meets the tale of how it met the Goddess, and how, though it offered itself to her, the kindly Goddess let it live.

Pineapples in January

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

So the teacher said the essay I did about Shakespeare was a load of old crap, and instead I’m meant to write some kind of original thing. I said I didn’t know what to write about that was original, people are writing about stuff all the time, everywhere you look on the internet there’s some total wanker who thinks he’s Lord Byron or whatever spouting off all philosophical about marmalade on toast or the tragic mortality of his fucking hamster or some shit like that, so really what is there for me to write about that’s original, because I’m not becoming one of those wankers. She told me to go for a walk, and like…journal about my thoughts and what I saw and stuff. So now I’m in a fucking cold field having a fag and feeling like a proper wanker, like one of those hipster dickheads sitting in Starbucks with their fucking orange computer writing wanky poetry to the coffee girl. Everyone hates that dickhead. I don’t want to be that dickhead.

Anyway. Here’s the stuff I can see. I’ll try to make it all metaphorical and shit. The sky is…really quite average, I mean what do you expect from the sky, it only does two colours, blue and grey and I guess night time too, and at the moment it’s mostly just sky-coloured with some blobby shitty lumps of cloud that don’t really look like anything at all. There’s a really unimpressive brown horse eating the floor halfway down the hill, all the time I’ve been having a fag its just been standing there, eating the floor. I don’t think horses have any thoughts at all, their lives are so totally boring. In films they’re always running around and snorting and being all like an exciting angry dinosaur, but in reality they just stand there, eating the floor. And it’s really fucking cold, it hurts my face, almost makes me wish I had a horrible wanky beard like a hipster. Why don’t all the hipsters move to Iceland or something? They already look like fucking stupid fishermen.

Anyway. I’m meant to be thinking about something totally metaphorical and deep, but it’s really too cold and that bloody brown horse isn’t doing anything inspiring at all. It’s not a majestic inspiring sort of horse, its just brown. And sort of persistent. Or maybe just brain-damaged. It’s been eating the same grass all day every day for years and years, and it’s still doing it with maximum enthusiasm. I think horses are weird. And thinking about food, why do they put pineapples in curry? Only weirdos and masochists want lumps of fucking fruit in their curry. I think the Indians are just taking the piss out of white people, they can’t really do that shit, back home, but over here they know we’ll eat any old crap if we think it’s exotic, and they see us eating all their food when we’re too drunk to taste it, so they just test us out by chucking lumps of fucking pineapple in there. Maybe that’s why the horses don’t complain. They know what they’re getting. It’s the same boring old grass and it probably tastes like shit, like literally like shit, since they do just shit all over it, but at least no one’s taking the piss out of them by chucking lumps of fucking fruit in their curry.

Bollocks to this. My arse is soaking wet from sitting on this horrible lumpy tree-stump and my writing’s getting shitter and shitter because my fingers are about to drop off with frostbite. I don’t know why anyone thinks going for a walk in the middle of fucking January’s meant to be all inspiring, here’s what I would write if I was old Wordsworth on that miserable fucking bridge:

The world has nothing to show more fair

Than my arse which is soaked with rain and probably dog piss

It’s cold as a frozen shit out here

And I don’t know why I bothered really

Because I already know what the sky looks like

That’s what windows are for

I could’ve just sat in my bedroom and written this bollocks

Without getting a horrible wet arse

So thanks for that, Mrs Round

I hope you get a cold wet arse someday

Just so you know how uninspiring it is

Roses are red, violets are blue

I’m going home for a Pot Noodle

 

Right, I’ve written loads of pages now, and I’ve taken a picture on my phone of my wet arse and my angry red frozen fingers, so she knows I really did suffer for my art, and that’s got to at least earn me a C+. I hate the fucking countryside. I think everyone does really, that’s why all the toffs in the old days only used to come out to get drunk and shoot everything in sight. And now we’ve got videogames to shoot stuff in, there’s no use for the countryside at all really. Fucking hell, I think I really am getting arse pneumonia here, it’s definitely time to go home. Brown horse is still eating the floor, he doesn’t care that my arse is about to fall out. I hope I don’t step in that great big dogshit on the canal path. That must’ve been a huge dog. Either that or it’s actually a person shit, some weirdo who gets his kicks from taking a dump on footpaths in the middle of the night. The Wild Shitter of Dorridge. I’m going home now, the countryside’s fucking me up, making me think about crazy people shitting everywhere. It’s not good for you, the countryside.

The Reluctant Punk

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

Zak was the king of the punk scene, and after every gig, he trashed his guitar and everyone thought it was an act of celebratory anarchy. But the truth was, Zak trashed his guitar at the end of every gig because he wanted to be an opera singer, and every fucking time he just fucked it all up and it sounded terrible, and then he got cross. But the crosser Zak got, and the more he sucked at opera, and the more guitars he hurled into walls and smashed over his head and kicked into tiny pieces, the more the punk kids loved him. Soon, Zak was playing in massive venues to thousands of adoring fans, and whenever he told the journalists from Kerrang and Q Magazine that he hated his music and wanted to be an opera singer, they thought he was being witheringly sarcastic, and the punks loved him even more. He even tried releasing some of his original lyrics to rock magazines – beautiful, eloquent poems about Shakespeare and immortal sadness, shot through with elegant French phrases and archaic spellings, and they all thought he was taking the piss, but they printed them anyway, ‘for a laugh’, and all the opera lovers in the world just hated him even more. No one understood that Zak’s lyrics always started out like that, grandiose and beautiful, but that when he tried to sing them he sounded so awful that he got cross and started screaming and swearing instead. After three hours of rehearsal time, Zak could manage to turn,

 

“Beneath a tree of rouge and gold,

My fair maiden lies

I pledged my love unto her

But her life was lost with the sunrise…”

 

into,

 

“FUCK this FUCKING autumn tree

And FUCK the dead girl too!

I FUCKING HATE THIS FUCKING SONG

And there’s DOGSHIT ON MY SHOE!

This studio REEKS OF POO!

 

I wish that I was dead!

Smashed a canoe over my head!

WORTHLESS FUCKING USELESS CUNT

BOLLOCKS SHITSTAIN BITCH!

Someone shoot me in the face!

And leave me ROTTING IN A DITCH!”

 

But the more infuriated Zak got in the studio, the more his manager loved it, and all of his apoplectic outbursts were captured on tape and sold to the masses, and Zak gained a reputation for his ‘ingenious’ improvisational techniques. Punks would often discuss with amazement the fact that all of Zak’s songs were recorded in single takes, with the lyrics made up on the spot, and whenever they saw him live, Zak would improvise madly for half an hour straight, swearing and screaming and smashing guitars – no one had seen such an insane performance since the burning pianos of Jerry Lee Lewis. But still Zak hated it, hated it all with a fiery passion, hated every one of his songs and hated his reputation as the wild man of punk when all he wanted was to stand on stage in an elegant opera house, and play cultured music to cultured people in evening dress. He had begged and pleaded with his manager once, let me play in an opera house, let me do opera, just the once – thinking that perhaps in the right setting, in the right atmosphere, he might be capable of singing those beautiful songs. But his manager had laughed and laughed, and when Zak finally persuaded him to phone the opera house, they absolutely refused to allow it, stating that no one of Zak’s reputation could be allowed to ‘soil’ the purity of their establishment. That night, Zak smashed three guitars in a row and wrote his biggest hit yet, four straight minutes of screaming, cursing, and violent self-hatred.

It was at the tail-end of a sold-out European tour that Zak came upon the means of his salvation. In his hotel room, late one night, while idly browsing the internet, he discovered a plastic surgery clinic in Japan which had begun to specialise in vocal chord alteration. Initially it had been aimed at male-to-female transsexuals, helping them to feminise their voices, but now they had several website testimonials from women who wanted prettier singing voices, and Zak felt a tingle of excitement shoot up his spine. Whatever they did to his ghastly voice, it couldn’t possibly be any worse than it was right now – even if they rendered him mute, they would be saving him from the agony of this ghastly rockstar lie. Feeling happier than he had in years, he sent them an email, and the next day, he booked his surgery for the very moment the tour finished.

Zak felt slightly uneasy when he arrived at the clinic, all alone and surrounded by foreigners – he hadn’t dared reveal his plans to his manager, or to his band, as he was well aware they would do everything in their power to stop him. Zak was their meal ticket just the way he was, the wild man of punk – they would never understand that he would rather die a penniless opera singer than live forever as this million pound lie. But before he could worry too much, polite Japanese doctors descended on him with anaesthetic and iodine swabs, and Zak passed into fuzzy unconsciousness.

He was given strict instructions to stay absolutely silent during his convalescence at the clinic, and for two solid weeks, Zak spoke not a single word to anyone. He had his laptop, so he watched movies, and browsed the internet, and above all, listened to hours upon hours of opera, all the while imagining himself as the singer, standing proud on that regal stage as cultured men and women wept at the purity of his voice. These dreams supported him through those few silent weeks, and at the end of a month, Zak was able to start singing again. Still in Japan, he booked a studio, and within minutes, he was in tears of joy. The surgery had worked, had given him everything he ever wanted, and over the next four days he busied himself at the studio, recording a rough demo, a beautiful mixture of raw, ringing guitar notes and golden operatic vocals, the first songs Zak had ever been proud of. Finally, on the fifth day, he packed his beloved demo CD into his bag, and got a cab to the airport, to return to England, and begin his new life.

 

 

In the streets of Camden, punks had been discussing Zak’s tour for weeks, following an explosive London gig and sell-outs across Europe. Youtube was crammed with fresh clips of their hero going insane onstage, screaming himself hoarse and trashing every instrument in sight, hurling himself suicidally into crowds, into walls, into drumkits, but the man himself had been strangely silent for the past few weeks. Now the tour was over, the fans were hungry for word of a new album, but Zak seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Until, on that fateful Thursday, came the terrible news. A passenger plane from Tokyo to London had crash-landed in the sea, debris scattered for miles, not a single survivor, and on board that ill-fated plane had been Zak Marsh, lead singer of the Failures, idol of every punk kid on the planet, lost at sea along with the shattered shards of his precious demo tape.

Within two weeks, Zak’s music was topping charts the world over, and kids were weeping in the streets for the tortured king of rock ‘n roll, who lived fast and died young, leaving behind his raucous, unforgettable legacy. At Zak’s funeral, the rescued remnants of his corpse were cremated alongside one of his trashed guitars, his body burning to a wild cacophony of his own songs, screams and swearing and broken strings, and Zak’s ghost howled in unheard futility at the unfairness of life.

Don’t Fuck With My Dog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

Last week, I found out that someone had reported a picture on my online dating profile, because it was a picture of my dog, and I wasn’t in it. This offended me, for two reasons – one, because I was in it, and two, because they clearly didn’t appreciate me as a dog. That’s why I put that picture up there in the first place – I’m a weredog, and if I’m going to find my perfect boyfriend, he really has to like dogs too. And there’s no way for me to put up a dog picture with ‘me’ in it as well, because I can’t be a dog and a person all at the same time, and I’m not that good at photoshop.

After a couple of days, stewing in bitterness about my dog picture, I decided to take action. It only took a few minutes of trawling through the ‘visitors’ listing on my profile, to find a guy who was online just before my picture was reported. His username was 12_Hard_Inches, and from his profile, he seemed like just the sort of dickhead who would report a picture of a non-human person, chewing on a sock in their garden. I decided it was time to pay him a visit.

There’s one thing that the mainstream media, and all the myths and legends about werewolves, have never managed to get right. The reason for this is obvious – male pride. It would absolutely cripple the viewing figures for True Blood if anyone knew the truth. But the truth is, whether you turn into a great big wolf, or whether you’re a slightly different breed, like me, and you only become a particularly large Labrador – when you shift, everything else changes as well. It’s a whole new body, the polar opposite of your human form. And with polar opposite, comes something else – a sex change. The male werewolves aren’t so proud of that one, not publicly at least, but when they find a werewolf girlfriend to shift with, they start enjoying the whole thing a lot more. You’ll never find them if you’re a human, but there are numerous underground websites dedicated to werewolf sex-switch hookups. I tried it for a while but those guys were pretty weird – they always insisted on fucking you in human form afterwards, really aggressively, just to reassert their dominance after you pounded them for hours all over the woods – their psyche couldn’t take that kind of pounding without some form of revenge. Anyway, I digress –

With the aid of a certain friend (werepoodle, doesn’t like to talk about it), I tracked down the location of Mr 12_Hard_Inches (who we discovered was actually called Nigel), and found that he was nice enough to leave a spare key under his doormat. I returned that night, at 4am, with a bag full of duct-tape, and snuck into the house. Still in human form, obviously, because dogs can’t really use duct-tape, and also because I wanted the dog part to be a surprise. I followed the sound of snoring through his grimy little house, and found the fat bald bastard practically comatose, drooling on his pillow. It was no problem to tape his hands together behind his back, and I’d almost finished tying his ankles to separate bedposts when he started waking up. He seemed pretty unimpressed by my surprise visit, so I duct-taped his mouth shut before he could say too much on the subject.

“Do you know why I’m here?” I asked.

Nigel said nothing, because his mouth was taped shut.

“I’m here,” I explained, “Because you reported a picture of my dog. You don’t like dogs, do you Nigel? Are you allergic to them, or is it childhood trauma? I really hope it’s childhood trauma, because then I’ll enjoy this even more.”

“Mmmffmnnnnn!” said Nigel, looking rather cross. “MMNNFFFFNNNNFFFNNN!”

When I started taking off my clothes, he went quiet. He stopped looking cross, and started staring at my tits instead, until I said “Watch this!” and turned into a Labrador. Then he started wriggling about on the bed like a fat naked slug, so I licked his left eye, and jumped on top of him. I breathed hot dog-breath down his ear for a while, and when he started crying, I shifted back into a person for just long enough to whisper,

Shhhhhh –  it’ll all be over soon…”

Then, I turned back into a dog, and fucked him up the arse. You know how dogs’ penises work? When you start fucking someone, as a dog, the base of your dog-dick swells up, and it gets stuck in there until you’ve well and truly finished pounding them. I’ve pounded Akitas and Collies, I’ve even pounded wolves, but Nigel didn’t seem to appreciate the skill and dexterity of the enthusiastic pounding I gave his arse.

“MMFFFNNNN!” said Nigel. “MMNNFFFNNNNNNFFNFNFNN!!!”

I stuck my tongue in his ear, and kept on pounding away. When I’d finally finished, and managed to extract my dog dick from the depths of Nigel’s ruined arse, I turned back into a person, and put my clothes on. Then I freed his hands, and left him there, with his ankles stuck to the bed, and dog spunk dribbling out of his arse. I felt a bit dirty about the whole interspecies bestiality thing, since gagged humans can’t give consent to being bummed by a Labrador, but I quickly got over it – with a name like 12_Hard_Inches, Nigel was obviously gagging to be bummed by a Labrador – I probably did him a favour, the dirty slut.

After that, I went home, and watched some House while chewing on a dirty old sock – it’s a little post-sex ritual of mine. I decided that I was going to put a new picture on OkCupid tomorrow, of me as a dog, and if anyone reported that one, well, I’d bum them too, and I’d just keep on bumming anyone who messed with me, until everyone in the country had better manners, and had developed a healthy respect for Labradors.

The Dual Lives of Dog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 23, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

When Dog went to the vets, he would lie sprawled out across the waiting room floor in a state of total catatonia, and the other pet owners would look at him with pity, assuming he was terminally ill, or they would remark on what a good dog he was, whilst wrestling their own armful of furious Schnauzer. Once Dog got into the vet’s office, his leg would start to shake, and he would lurk nervously in the corner, with the tip of his tail wagging very slightly, to relay the message, “I am an extremely good dog, and while I do not despise you, Stranger in White, I would prefer that this unpleasant encounter was over with as promptly as possible”.

As soon as Dog arrived home from his Ghastly Medical Expedition, he would leap around the garden like a dog half his age, snapping at butterflies, barking at flowers, pissing over everything in sight, and rolling around gleefully in the patch of grass that smelled of the delightful odour of fox shit. Finally, happy, tired and reeking, he would bound inside for his dinner, for which he would give thanks by smearing a tripe-spit tongue across the strange bald face of his Person.

Person had an odd, but understandable misinterpretation of this behaviour. Dog obviously didn’t like the vets, where things were shoved down his ears, into his mouth and up his arse, where human beings behaved without any of their normal affectionate decorum. It seemed sensible that Dog should be delighted to escape from the stench of sickness and chlorine, having suffered only the mild unpleasantness of a single injection. But what Person didn’t know, was that Dog remembered.

Dog remembered everything. He remembered being a different dog, a smaller one, with a squashy face – this latter fact he recalled most vividly, the post-dinner delight of licking food morsels from every crevice of his flat little face. He remembered having a different Person, one with grey head-fur and salty feet. But most of all, he remembered the vets. Which was strange, because a lot of those later memories were fuzzy – waking up with wee in places that wee shouldn’t be, the stairs getting harder to climb, the postman becoming impossible to chase. The vets though, he remembered.

His salty grey Person had seemed particularly strange, that day. She didn’t shout at Dog for pooping in the kitchen because the garden seemed too far away, and her wrinkly bald face was wet, and saltier than usual. Then they went to the vets, where Dog tolerated a most unpleasant leg-stabbing ritual with his usual philosophical demeanour. But after that, everything became very peculiar. Dog wasn’t Dog anymore, he was something else, something with no face to lick and no legs to run on, and on the table there was a limp black body with a squashy flat face, and cloudy eyes that stared at nothing. And his grey wrinkly Person was crying, but Dog couldn’t do anything about it anymore, and he began to realise what it meant. His time as Dog was over – he would never see his garden again, and he certainly wasn’t going home with Person – not ever again.

Dog had been very relieved, when after a protracted period of surreal, legless existence, he found himself re-legged and re-tongued, curled up in a comfortable ball of fur with several other brand new dogs, most of whom having experienced the same thing as him. Soon enough, Dog had a new garden and a new Person – a new world full of brand new things to piss up, and Dog was happy about all of it.

But every time they went to the vets, Dog remembered. This is the place where everything ends. This is the place where you go, and you never come back. That was why Dog went completely pissing mental with sheer boundless glee whenever he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and came home again – back to his garden, back to his Person, back to his favourite Piss Bush, and the smear of fox-shit that he loved so dearly, back to all the wonderful things you could do when you had legs and a tongue and a Person.Dog