Chapter: Rue for Two

Entry: Aug 15, 2007

It's just a little rabbit, momma! a girl assures him.

Rue's dusty joints ground together, a pack of ancient kindling aching for a shard of flint. Kyle still struggled in the deep snow, heaving with his legs but finding little purchase in the warm slush. Warm slush? He managed to calm long enough to peer through his upturned knees, unwilling to believe he'd stood at the railings long enough to melt anything. It was too dark to tell really, but Kyle thought he saw a ruby tincture shimmering just beyond his vision, where shadows and lies lived as one. Past even those, a bane of mercy glowers acerbic rancor, and the boy pales further.

Can't I keep him? the girl implores, almost crying.

Of course it's the damn eyes again! Those, yes. They glow and swell with each of Rue's disheveled and creaky steps, prompting Kyle to scrabble further backward. But with nowhere to go, he begins to panic—an imagination driven wild.

Who can blame him, who knows the dreams he's had? The faded memories of haunted swing, looming beacons of corrupt beauty concealing twisted caricatures of harmless animals blackened and spit—still struggling in agony and rage—over a hearth of the damned. Somewhere in that pulsating soup of images, Kyle knows every sweet bunny, hamster, and kitten is riddled with rot, rolling tattered eyes in crumbling sockets to challenge his mere presence in their domain.

In each faded scene, lost memory or looming promise, Kyle sees them all and shivers. The thing in Samson's house does not love him, and as horrors uncountable parade through his frenzied and abused soul, Kyle permanently loses a tiny bit of sanity contemplating what fate awaits him in that blasted landscape seeping from his dreams. Then, proud teenage boy or no, he begins to silently weep for pity, pleading for intervention from God, anything.

I'll keep him safe forever! she shouts, triumphantly echoing through the cusp of Craig's Hill, and Kyle's ears.

Something presses against Kyle's feet, and when he gazes at the bloody, shredded carcass huddled there, something within him snaps, and he falls dead away, blasted from the world by a brain overwhelmed by an imagination overfed. Kyle's eyes spin backwards and the snow envelops him as an unsteady drift cracks and slides like a miniature avalanche, coating his face with a thin blanket of powder.

"Kyle!" the angels sang. "Kyle, wake up!" It was a beautiful afterlife, and he felt weightless, pulled forward by his arms toward salvation; finally, true peace. "Kyle..." the voice called again, deeper and lacking the echoing clarity of The Almighty. The light ahead split and began to curl, aflame from within, falling away in torched sheets like a billboard. Here's your salvation. Hope you like it. Kyle sobbed at the needless destruction, the razing of his personal heaven.

The black burned and crackled, smacked and slavered as it consumed everything, bringing with it a darker scene, though edged with white as it was. Suddenly Kyle was cold, vibrating with shivers in a loose coffin of wind-blown flakes, and a shape stood over him, framed by moonlight, a million feet tall. The thing held his shoulders and shook him, calling his name. No! he screamed silently. Leave me alone... it was so beautiful. I just want to go back.

But it was futile. The spell was broken and the shapes assailing his senses finally claimed coherence, thrusting rationality cruelly forward until it blinded him. Ironically, the towering bastion of reason peeing on his parade was none other than Fantastic Frank. Good Ol' Dad.

"Kyle! Jesus!" Frank gushed with relief, finally noticing Kyle blinked, losing the vacant stare of death he'd adopted after collapsing in the snow. "We heard you scream... and... just what the hell is going on here!?"

Kyle suppressed a laugh. You're asking me? But he had a lingering memory of what happened, and that was something. The urgency was gone, and he had no idea how much was real, but surely there was something wrong with Samson's doghouse and the sticky slush still coating his feet. He remained silent and closed his eyes, drug his right arm free from the deepest drift that jailed him, and waved it anonymously forward. Over there, Mack, said the gesture.

Kyle's father wore a mask of confusion at this, but followed the path of Kyle's arm anyway. The man expected maybe a badger corpse, perhaps a timber wolf cowering in Samson's kennel—how wishes are bitches. What he actually saw startled him badly enough to drop Kyle like a writhing ball of maggots, an act for which he'd later sheepishly beg forgiveness. No wild game here, just–

"Samson..." said Jaime. She was obviously concerned about Kyle, but Frank handled that well enough. She was more observant anyway, looking around her son to find anything explaining his presence in the snow, something to blame. And there it was: lying in a pool of blood that tinted the slush at Kyle's feet a faint crimson, was their beloved dog, slaughtered like a suckling pig destined for a butcher. She brought both hands to her mouth and roughly inhaled a pained squeal. Presently, she hiccoughed a choked whimper, backing away from the gruesome scene.

Frank didn't believe it—couldn't believe it. It was something straight out of a late-night radio show, meant to scare the kiddies to sleep! Samson's jaw was... simply gone. Half of his fur was actually next to his body, and no man or woman without a medical degree could catalog the series of egregious wounds riddling what was left of the rest. The dog's bowels hung limply from his carcass, one eye looked chewed away, and impossibly, his entire right flank looked cooked, blackened and singed, crisp as bacon.

Delicious bacon. Frank turned his head and dry-heaved.

Kyle didn't understand Frank's response to his upraised arm, and while Frank sat in shock, he managed to pull himself upright and stare at what remained of his beloved Samson. Oh, God! It's like he swallowed a bomb! Close enough. But the worst part was, it made sense. The puddle at his feet, the silence from Samson, the approaching eyes, dim and red with rage and pain, the slow approach until the poor beast finally collapsed at Kyle's feet, loyal to the very bitter end. Samson sought comfort as he died, and Kyle's disturbed and sleepy brain thought only of Rue and wispy dreams he hardly remembered. More than anything else, Kyle felt foolish.

Poor Samson. This time, his tears were not for himself, not pressed from him by fear. No, pity and genuine sadness wrung this second batch from him, demanding his remorse—that the old dog died alone, that he ran away, that all this was somehow his fault. He didn't mind the blood or the horrified look Frank gave when he gathered up Samson's battered head and held it to his chest, scratching a ruffled ear as if Samson merely slept in his lap.

So Kyle proudly sniffled and stroked Samson's head, ushering his soul to whatever afterlife dogs enjoyed. Samson earned it, surely he had. Kyle knew this was his fault, and somewhere deep in his subconscious, he even knew why. Who else will I kill, here? But that was a sober thought for later. For now, it was alright to wallow a little. Samson had earned it.

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