I left fresh tracks in the snow behind me as I walked down the old dirt road. The frigid air chewed at the tip of my nose with its tiny sharp teeth. The sun was just trying to push through the thick canopy overhead. The robins were the only singers. It was a beautiful morning.
A movement caught my eye as I passed by the old farmer’s field. A shaggy grey dog the size of a small pony made his way to the edge of the trees, not 30 meters from where I stood. I froze. That dog was bad news. More than once he had caught wind of me and chased me down this same road. Luckily for me, he was too stupid to understand the concept of surprise, so I usually had fair warning of his pursuit. Today he seemed to be preoccupied with some other business and didn’t notice me. I caught a glimpse of something thrashing around in between his oversized jaws, then he laid down and began to pick it apart. White feathers shot into the air and slowly careened back down to the earth. The snow turned red. At least it wasn’t me today. I walked cautiously onward, keeping one eye fixed on the grey beast.
It was a great weight off my shoulders when the field was behind me and I had passed the dog’s usual haunts. I sighed and turned my attention back to the sun on my face. The vireos had joined in on the great forest symphony by this time, and I rejoiced at their music.
Suddenly another sound was mixed into the clamour. This one was not beautiful. It was a motor, and it was approaching quickly behind me. I walked here frequently and I knew that sound. I felt a stab of fear and ducked into the nearby bushes, finding a vantage point from which to watch the road.
I’ve heard it said that you should never judge someone based on their appearance, but it wouldn’t take you long to understand that the sinking feeling you got in the pit of your gut when you first took in the farmer’s gnarly visage was well-founded. He drove slowly up the road with his head on a swivel. I was feeling rather secure in my bush until I saw the grey dog loping along behind him. My breath caught in my throat. The farmer stopped where my trail led off the road and grabbed his shotgun from the back seat. The dog swept the snow with his blood-stained muzzle and cocked his head in my direction. Did he just look at me?
I ran as fast as I could. Over and under, I twisted and turned and leapt and crawled. The dog simply crashed through everything behind me. He was steadily gaining on me. The whole world shrunk down to the forest directly in front of me. This was it. This was how I was going to die.
A moment later I heard a sharp yelp coming from no more than 2 meters behind me. The dog tripped on a creeper vine and crashed to the forest floor. My relief didn’t last long, but maybe the blunder bought me just enough time…
My new sense of hope gave me wings. I ran faster than I knew I could. There it was, just ahead. My escape. Maybe, just maybe, I could make it.
I felt the wind of the dog’s immense jowels on my rump as I dove into the tree hollow. His giant head was bashed into the wood as he attempted to follow, and the inertia sent his body crashing into the bole. He cried and dug frantically, trying to gain access to my perfect sanctuary. A moment later the farmer arrived, huffing and out of breath, his gun cocked at the hole. I climbed a little higher into the hollow trunk.
“Damnit!” yelled the farmer. “Damnit! Damnit! Get him, boy!”
I held my breath as the dog continued to dig, futilely, at the opening at the base of the trunk.
“Damnit! I swear, you wily little fox! The next time you kill one of my chickens, I’ll have your head! That’s a promise!”
I let out my breath in a sigh as I heard the farmer’s footsteps retreating from the tree. He whistled and his giant, bloody beast followed after him.