Apologies to Tanya Donelly and Harlan Ellison.
Morning means going for water.
And any food that she can find.
Her mother and father are already awake and busy when she leaves the house, rifle over her shoulder, hound in it’s harness on her back.
It’s already hot, her hat pulled down over her eyes, boots kicking at the dust on the path.
She’s not five minutes down the path and the dog is already feeling heavy on her back and the belt weighs her down on her hips.
She sighs and the dog asks if she’s okay and she gives a sort of non-committal yes and listens to the buzzing of the bugs in the dry, wasted grass and thinks about filling the canteen bumping against her hip.
Soon she finds the river and tries to lower the dog to the ground as gently as she can, neath the shade of a nearby tree.
The dog grunts and sighs but she pays little mind to his noise, still she tries to lay him down comfortably on his right hand side, so as not to lay him on his wound.
The dressing has been changed but it already seems damp with a little blood. It’s taking an age to heal.
“Thank you,” says the dog.
“S’okay,” says Marie.
She goes to the rivers edge and fills the canteen, cool, clear water washing over her finger tips. She’d like to slip into the river but not today, too much to do.
She plucks a strand of grass from the bank and places it between her lips.
As the water bubbles and glubs into the bottle she turns to the dog, “Fish?” she asks.
The dog furrows its strange brow and its pink eyes look somewhere else. It sniffs the air and gulps, tongue lolling as it pants, then finally it says, “No. Not today.”
“Hmph,” she retorts, “Don’t have a rod anyways.”
She pours a little water for the hound, it drinks and then she re-fills the canteen once more and then hefts the dog back onto her back.
It lets out a little whine of pain.
“Sorry,” she says.
They follow the path onwards, in the direction of the water, towards the town.
She takes the gun from her shoulder now and carries it in her hands, thumb on the safety, taking more care with her footsteps.
The dog tries not to pant so much, but it’s noon-time hot despite not being much more than 8am.
The world is yellow and brown, perpetual summer. At midday they will have to find shade and wait for the sun to move on.
She sees the bell tower over the trees ahead and the edge of the over-grown and abandoned road to her left, the river still to her right.
The dog stiffens on her back.
“What?” she asks.
Silence, she knows the dog is thinking, it’s brow furrowed once more, thinking ahead of them, down the path to the town. Sending it’s thoughts out like blood hounds, sniffing through the paths and streets.
“Could be deer,” it finally replies, “It’s big. Too big to be Mountain Lion…”
Marie thumbs the safety off now and walks slow and low.
I wish this damn dog could walk, she thinks, loud enough for the dog to hear.
It pretends not to notice.
No sounds but the subtle crunch of dead leaves under her heavy boots and the rattle of a cricket in the long grass.
She was heading once more to the old store to begin with, see if there might still be some cans of stuff in the basement but fresh meat was always better.
She could shoot it and hang it and then go get her father or brother to help her back with the kill. No way she could drag both the dog and a deer back to the house.
She mulls over the idea of constructing a litter but quickly discounts it.
She’s in the town now.
Rusted car carcasses, broken windows and fading graffiti.
The grass is everywhere, growing up around the ruined wheels of the cars, through cracks in the side walks and road.
“Tower?” she asks.
“Tower,” the dog confirms.
She makes her way to the building, the old town hall. Climbing trash and weed strewn steps, forcing her way into the building.
The door to the stairs is locked with a shiny, conspicuous pad lock.
She hates it.
A sign of deviousness, of use. A shout to any fool with half a head that someone uses this door.
Looking over her shoulder (“There’s no-one there,” says the dog but she does it anyway) she takes out the key and unlocks the pad lock.
She locks the door again behind her and wedges the metal pole under the lock, then drives the bolts home behind her too.
If she’s trapped in there, she’ll need the door to hold out as long as it can.