This story is by Garett R.C. Hamilton and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The dark glass blocked all movement inside the tower. Thick clouds gathered overhead. You’d think that a heavy downpour would clear the streets. The world is such a busy place now. This is where I waited for a man named Mark, and I was early, three days in fact. Only on a rare occasion had this happened before. I’d wait without sleep or food until I am needed, and even though it rained it wasn’t so bad. After all, what’s three days compared to the millennium that I’ve lived.
My form was never the same, and this time was no different. For the first time I contemplated changing to more something useful. One with hands would be nice. It would be much easier to complete my task if I had opposable thumbs. I’d fall into a deep slumber and vision would show me who I’m meant to help. When I’d awaken, I’d be changed. Each time forgetting my name, but never those who I’ve helped, or my past forms, and there were so many. This is the weakest one I’ve ever taken. Is my time on this earth no longer necessary?
I thought back to a previous onus. To a time when a past vision brought me to a farm where a young girl lived before parking lots and loud noises took over the countryside. She had fallen down a cliffside and hurt her knee. I was but a knight who walked by at just the right time. How many years has it been since then?
Looking down at the puddle in front of me I checked out my own reflection. I wasn’t some beautiful golden retriever, or a tough mastiff with big jowls. Instead, my coarse hair is grey, and my whiskers are long. I am a mutt of no real prestige. Only the small children smiled at me all the while their parents pulled them by the arm and circled around. After all, who would want to pet an old street dog soaking wet and covered in mud.
On the third day the clouds faded. Beams of sun poked through the grey, though not enough to dry up the streets. It was time. Mark was making his way up the concrete sidewalk soaking his once white shoes in the deep puddles he didn’t bother to avoid. His face was hard to see under the hood, but I knew it was him. He moved at a snail’s pace into the tower with no worry for time and paid no attention to the everyday traffic around him. I didn’t need to keep my distance. He simply didn’t notice I was there. Entering the elevator without hesitation, he glanced up only for a moment to press the button marked 44. Men and women in suits filed in behind us, all holding expensive briefcases. They offered no greeting and scoffed at his presence. They stood tall, rigid, and their eyes wandered to his reflection in the elevator’s mirrored lining.
The elevator stopped, and we are the only ones left. This is the floor. The doors opened. Mark dragged his feet towards a set of stairs, leaving behind a scraping noise against the flat tar and stone roof. He paused for moment when he saw the unguarded ledge patiently waiting. This is what I had seen in my vision, and they only ever showed me the moment just before I am needed most. Nothing before, and nothing after. His hesitation ended and he climbed up onto the ledge. Then put his hand in his pocket. The strong winds blew against him, and his hood fell onto his shoulders. He took one last deep breath before he closed his eyes. I lunged forward and loose stone under my paws gave way. Just in time I caught hold of his ripped jeans and let out a whimper. Although I could have called out, now was not the time, there may never be a time, in this form at least. He turned and looked down wondering what had stopped him. I’d been with him this whole time, but this was the first time he noticed me.
“Where did you come from?” Kneeling, he reached out to offer a gentle pat on my head. Refusing to let go of his leg even though his attention had shifted. We stayed like this for a while. He had a sad look in his eyes and hadn’t shaved in many days. “You’re gonna have to let go now.” I shook my head and continued to hold onto his jeans. Only when he sat on the edge with his feet flat on the roof did I let go. Then the strangest thing happened. My stomach started to growl. I don’t need to eat, but at that moment a smile grew on Mark’s face. “Yeah, I’m hungry too. Let’s go see if we can’t find some grub.”
It didn’t take us long to get from the roof to the street. Even so, Mark had just enough presence that workers of the building took notice of him, and he did not escape the harsh belittling they set upon him. “And you can’t bring dogs in here,” they said, and Mark explained that we are already on our way out.
The sun flashed high overhead, and the sidewalks had all dried up. Mark reached up and blocked the glare just enough for him to spot a hotdog cart that was parked up the block. He checked his pockets, but he didn’t have his wallet or any money. He made his way over to the stand anyway. It might not seem like I have any beneficial powers in my current form but that was soon to be proven untrue. Humans are good by nature, and I know this. You just have to know how to draw it out. When we reached the stand Mark was hesitant to speak. The vendor looked at him with discontent and was obviously not in the mood for beggars. I moved around to where I could place my paw on the man’s foot. He looked down at me. His eyes softened.
“You look like you’ve had a rough go of things. This one’s on the house,” the vendor said, handing two warm buns to Mark with two cooked sausages. One of the more expensive items on the menu. To his surprise, the vendor even suggested his favourite assortment of condiments, and a cold beverage which Mark politely refused.
“Thank you,” Mark said before walking away. Another whimper to get his attention, and again my stomach growled. “I didn’t forget,” kneeling, he passed me the bun with the sausage. I don’t need to eat, nor am I hungry. It was salty and overcooked, but every once in a while, it was nice to taste.
On the curb I sat at Marks side and we shared a meal. His hand was on my back and his eyes to the sky. “You know, you just might be my lucky charm. I’m finally feeling grounded. Alright, time to go home.” Deep in thought he paused for a minute, “Do you have a home?” he laughed, “You can’t understand me, you’re a dog. Look at me, I must be crazy, talking to a dog.” I shook my head and pressed it into his chest. It was then that he put his arms around me that I felt something that I had never felt before. I was tired, but I was happy.
Mark stood and looked down at me. I know my work’s not done. I don’t know when I would have to leave, or when my next vision would come, but it will come. Perhaps I could stay with Mark, just for a little while. After all, what’s a few human years compared to the millennium that I’ve lived. My tail wagged and I licked his hand. “I guess you don’t have a name, do you. Oh well, there’s time. We’ll find something that fits.” He hesitated for a moment, reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed envelope. A strong gust of wind blew past him, and the paper he held in his hand fought to break free. He crumpled the note into a ball and placed one hand on my head. Then with a perfect toss and a high arc the note left Mark’s hand and landed in a nearby garbage bin.