Man’s best friend, zombie’s worst enemy part 11

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Blas whined as Stacy took her station wagon out of Romero High’s front parking lot instead of the rear as she usually did. Unbeknownst to her, she had a particular smell that told him when she was about to do something crazy. He’d hoped it would go away after the encounter, but instead it seemed to have become ever-present.

As the car rolled through unfamiliar neighborhoods, Blas pawed at the window. Eyes saw through glass, but his nose may as well be blind. Stacy rolled the window down, and he surveyed the area. Flowers. Soap. More telling was what he didn’t smell.

Once when he was young, Blas thought rich neighborhoods didn’t have dogs. Then when he saw them with his eyes but not with his nose, he understood that rich dogs shed their smells like winter fur in the spring. If Ignacio or Gabriel got into a flowerpot or drank from the toilet or found some good poop to roll in he’d know, but if Princess Penelope Blackwater Stowe ate a whole squirrel she found on the road, within a day the evidence would be gone. Humans erased their histories each morning, but for a dog it was different. Blas didn’t know how he could trust an animal that invested so much in hiding its past.

Stacy stopped the car, and Blas watched a blank St. Bernard amble by on the sidewalk. For a long time they just sat there. The neighborhood smelled like plants and cars and nothing. He felt blind here. He didn’t like not knowing what was going on. He didn’t like how his charge was acting. He turned back to Stacy and nuzzled her hand. This earned an absent-minded pat. She wasn’t blank by a longshot. Her hair smelled like soap and the rest of her smelled crazy. It was the same smell she had long ago when she took Blas to frustrating lesson after lesson, dragging him through his worst fears until he finally conquered them, so it wasn’t always bad, but when zombies were involved, he wished she would exercise discretion. In their little pack of two, though, she was the alpha. Where are you leading us, Alpha?

Blas had one job and one job only – protect his alpha from zombies. He tried to calm his mind and put his nose out only for characteristic zombie smells. Stacy’s finger still smelled like blood. It would be a long time before it healed completely. Rotting smells and mold came from the dirt in the painstakingly manicured rich folks’ gardens. An animal had died in a mesquite tree in the lawn they were parked next to. Blas sniffed again. A squirrel. All this was normal. The only strange behavior was that of the Alpha herself, but his place was not to question.

Blas put his head down on the car windowsill, stressed and unable to do anything about it. He watched a man walk three terriers, then lift them up by their shared harness when they started biting and snapping at each other. The man smelled like motor oil and stale coffee. The dogs were blank. Blas risked a whine and Stacy gave him a warning smack in the head. “Shush, boy.”

Blas looked back at her and tried to follow her eyes. An empty driveway. It smelled like more motor oil. He sniffed, waiting for a breeze blowing from the yard of the house. Urine. He recognized the smell. Female. A collie. He knew this dog. Why were they outside Princess Penelope Blackwater Stowe’s house?

The minutes rolled on, until eventually Ethan’s Tesla pulled into the driveway. Blas sniffed. The car was blank. The door opened and Princess herself walked out. On her own, she trotted to the house door and sat beside it. For a moment, nothing else happened. Then Blas smelled something horrible.

Stacy had no idea what had gotten into Blas. One moment he was relaxing, looking out the window, and the next he was barking like a maniac. The same sonorous barks that, with a little help, had once sent a brown bear packing. “No, Blas! Bad dog!” Stacy shouted helplessly, pulling him back. With a little coaxing, his bark sunk to an uncertain woof and disappeared again. Stacy didn’t want to flee now. Dogs barked all the time, she reasoned. Maybe Ethan wouldn’t think anything of it.

When she saw Ethan stumble out of the car and close the door behind him, Stacy furrowed her brow in confusion. He looked hunched, like a prematurely old man. It took him a moment, with great difficulty, to stretch out and stand straight. He put one hand to his back as he did and groaned. How long was he in that car? Stacy wondered. Blas growled and let out one more bark. Ethan turned, and Stacy gunned the gas.

“Fuck! Shit! Blas, bad dog! Bad! Bad!” The Alpha screamed at Blas, hitting him wildly in the face. Nothing hard enough to hurt, but enough to confuse and upset him even as he slid to the left and right in the jerking car. Blas had been chastised for barking, but never for barking at a zombie smell. He shrunk into himself and whined. What is happening? What did I do wrong?

Blas looked up at Stacy from his little seat. He hated being called a bad dog. He hated not knowing what was going on. He had one job, and fresh off the most intense fight of his life, now she was telling him not to do it?

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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