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  • Lucia Wu

The Hound



The master left home for five days.


Five days ago, several men came to the mountain. They were all clad in tin, and their faces were covered.


Before leaving home with them, the master ordered Brett to watch the yard.


*


Brett is a loyal hound. When hunting, he always retrieves the prey like lightning and never eats it.


While his master left home in the past, Brett still kept his duty. He chased away the wild cats and bit the thief, whose bitter crying spread all over the mountains.


So when his master returned, Brett was rewarded with a big piece of fresh meat.


This time, the master has not been home for five days.


Brett is hungry. The hound’s duty prevents him from eating the old hen in the yard.


He tears through the chain, leaps over the fence, and trots down the hill.


Brett is a clever hound.


After hunting, his master would take him to the village to sell his prey. Everyone liked the hound.


Unfortunately, Brett could only understand his master’s simple command but not the complicated human speech. Once a stranger smiled at him and said something good, but when the shrill voice reached his sensitive ears, Brett sprang up and opened his mouth wide—


“Woof!”


The poor stranger fell to the ground, paled in fear and crawled backward.


The master pretended to scold Brett angrily but touched his head as a reward.


*


Brett hasn’t been off the mountain for a long time but remembers the way down. The stream, trees, and stones along the way remain the same as they were, whereas the village is different


Halfway down the hill, Brett hears a distant noise. He stops and finds a huge crowd of humans at the market gate.


Even an experienced hound has never seen anything like this before.


Brett runs to the bottom of the hill.


He sees several broken wooden carts lying on the side at the entrance to the fair. People are clamoring and cursing as they try to get into the village.


A half-bitten apple flies out of the crowd. A man immediately grabs it, but soon he gets bitten by other people who are fighting for the apple.


The crowd dissolves in a whirlwind the next minute, leaving behind the crumbled carts and melon skins.


Several copper coins are scattered on the ground. A farmer in ragged clothes sits down by the roadside, crying.


The hound gets close to him and licks his tears.


Brett doesn’t know what just happened. He does not understand compassion.


He is hungry.


The hound trudges into the village.


He sees the men in tin, standing motionless around an old theatre stage.


A well-dressed man is on the stage. His fat lips are moving like a machine, his voice louder than the hound’s barking. He raises his right hand and shouts something, which is responded by a passionate cry from the audience.


The hound crouches under the stage, not understanding what they are shouting. He barks loudly at them, assuming the guy knows marvelous things.


Then a tin-man sees Brett, and he beats him with a stick. The clever hound runs to the crowd, leaving a shriek behind.


Brett hides in the haystack to escape the tin-men.


From the direction of the stage comes the sound of chant. The hound’s sensitive ears move a bit as he hears a weak, hoarse voice in the clamour—


“Help me... Help me...”


The hound pokes his head out of the haystack and sees a man lying on the muddy road. His dried lips are twitching—


“Help me...”


Brett walks over to the poor creature. He does not understand what “help” means.


A tall horse stops in front of him. Brett moves aside. A tin-man jumps off his horse.


“What’s wrong?”


“I’m dying.”


“No, you’re not.”


“Help me...”


“Get out of my way.”


The guard waves his arm. Brett sees several humans gather, kicking and punching the poor man until the weak voice totally disappears.


The tin-men knock on every door and drag every man and woman out of the houses.


Crouching by the side of the road, Brett sees an iron guard snatching a crying baby from a mother and leave the child on the road.


The woman is crying and shouting with all of her might as several armed men drag her hair and pull her out.


She screams—


“I’m not sick!”


“You are.”


“I want my child!”


“Come with us.”


“I said I am not sick!”


“Yes, you are.”


Brett stares at their iron faces. Suddenly, he sees the sharp fangs poke through the tin!


As the fangs grow longer and sharper, glittering like machetes, the hound escapes.


The crying of the village recedes further and further away.


The man on the stage is still making the speech. The iron-clad guards strut on the road. The audiences clap with tears, saying they have conquered famine and plague.


The farmer sighs. The poor man dies. The child cries.


The flies cling to the starved bodies.


Brett does not understand what these humans are doing.


In this lively village, the hound smells Death’s sickle in the dirty ground.


He wanders until night falls. All is quiet. He finds nothing to eat.


He returns to the same hay.


The baby’s crying has stopped.


Brett strolls over. His head lowers. His warm breath is on the baby’s skin.


The hound licks the infant’s face tenderly and begins to eat the child’s flesh.


Writer's bio: Lucia Wu (she/her) is a MSc Literature and Society student and a freelance fiction writer. She has published several fictional prose, including “The Butterfly” (2019) and “Fragments of Heaven” (2022). She is now working on a novel in Mandarin entitled The Names of the Knights.


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