The Good Dog

It was a sunny autumn day, with orange and brown leaves creating places for things to hide. A sort of day when there are a million things for a dog to sniff and chase, when it's not too hot to run, but not too cold to lay on the grass and roll. Buddy ran ahead of his boy, sniffing at a gopher burrow. He barked excitedly, knowing the gopher had been there recently. Maybe he could chase it!

Suddenly, he smelled something different, something like a man, but not a man. There was a smell like something rotting, and a smell a bit like smoke. Buddy's ears pricked up, and a growl began to build back in his throat.

The Not-Man moved out from the tree-line, striding towards them on too-long legs. Buddy ran in front of his boy. Nobody was going to hurt Billy while he was there.

The Not-Man said something to Billy. Billy said something in reply, and began to back away. The Not-Man strode forward, and Billy turned and began to run. Buddy followed, but he could tell Billy wasn't going to make it. The Not-Man was going to catch him!

He turned to attack the Not-Man, jumping up and tearing into its arm with his teeth, holding tightly. The Not-Man snarled and shook him off. Buddy hurt from the landing, but rolled back to his feet and moved again. He had to protect his boy. He bit again, this time in the leg. His jaws were strong, and he felt the cord-like muscles ripping. The Not-Man wouldn't run so fast now!

But then the Not-Man's arm crashed down on Buddy's back, and he felt something break. Suddenly, he couldn't make his legs move. The Not-Man walked, limping, after his boy.

Buddy pushed himself up on his front paws and tried to crawl after the Not-Man, but he couldn't go fast enough. He felt blood in his throat, and knew something was wrong. He kept pulling himself forward, but he seemed to move more and more slowly. He tried to bark, to warn Billy, but he could only gurgle. It seemed to grow darker. And then he could crawl no further, and he could only whine softly as he watched the Not-Man pick Billy up and carry the struggling boy off.

Then a hand touched him, and he found he could stand again. A man stood beside him, dressed all in black. He smelled of summer and forever.

"I have to stop him!" Buddy said, and he wasn't surprised to find he could talk. "He's trying to take my boy!"

"That's not your concern anymore," said the man in black.

"But he's my boy! I have to protect my boy!" Buddy was frantic.

"You can't help him anymore," said the man, a little sadly. "You have to go with me now."

"But my boy! Who will protect my boy?" the dog whined.

"He'll have to protect himself," the man said.

"But… What's going to happen to my boy?" Buddy looked up at the man, asking with his eyes to make it all better.

"I…" The man seemed at a loss for words. Then, hesitantly, he put a hand between the dog's ears, and scratched him reassuringly. "It's… gonna be okay. It's all going to be okay. I promise."

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