The same morning sun rose on Ethan’s house, but he never saw it. His room was just as dark as it had been months ago when news of the cure first came out, and his hair had only gotten more blue. Revenant whined sometimes, but the few times Ethan got out of bed were to make sure the little dog always had enough food to bury himself in or had a window to pee out of, so he didn’t cry too much.
Ethan had not technically lost everything. He was still alive, after all, but it was hard to think of a better description for his situation. He was no longer welcome in polite society. His own dog hated him. His Dad felt sorry for him. One of his exes was an unrepentant monster, and the other now worked for the corporate illuminati. Since he’d come home, Mom had been on an extended work trip, not visiting even once in the past three months. His body betrayed him whenever he spoke, whenever he moved, whenever he breathed. It even denied him sight. Yes. “lost everything” was apt.
Ethan stared at the pale glow of his cell phone. With the font and contrast at maximum, he could make out enough to navigate to his favorite podcasts. They told him what he still had. Dignity. The satanic cultists that made this disease could peddle their mind control serum in the guise of a cure, but he knew better. He had value because he stood up against them. The whole nation, Mainstream media, the so-called scientific establishment, the national institute of health, everyone played from the same playbook. He stood apart from evil, and “everything” was a small price to pay.
“Dog untraining,” sputtered a hoarse voice, vicious with righteous anger. Fred Zombie drank twenty glasses of water a day and practiced scales for hours to keep his voice, all so he could share the truth with the nation. “This is the new fad sweeping our fair country. Your kid is ‘cured’ now ‘cure’ your dog. Is there any lie simpler? Why send jack-booted thugs to your house when they can just tell you ‘oh, your dog is safe.’ Let the animal do their dirty work for them. Parents don’t mind. Don’t be fooled, they’re just looking for an excuse to get rid of your moldy grey butt. They don’t care.”
He put on a gravelly falsetto. “I had no idea my dog trained to kill children would kill my child. The experts said he was safe. Say it with me, everyone, what do we think about experts?”
“Lie,” wheezed Ethan, warmly enfolded in the voice of the only person left who understood him.
A knock came at the door and Ethan ignored it.
“That’s right, they lie. They’re early on in the dog untraining trials, but if somebody knocks on my door with ol’ Pepe the Poodle saying ‘Scientists say he won’t tear your throat out, Fred!’ I’ll tell ‘em ‘Send that Son-of-a-bitch away!’”
His father’s voice came through. “Ethan, someone’s here to see you.”
Ethan stabbed at the pause button. What was left of his heart beat faster. He groaned in protest.
“Ethan, I think you’ll want to meet this friend. She cares a lot about you.”
No. Who would want to see me? Ethan growled.
“Ok, then. I’m just going to open the door.”
Ethan sat up in bed, ready to rush whoever tried to come in, but he stopped. He stared at the figure in the doorway, an indistinct blur, but low to the ground and furry. His heart dropped into his stomach. Fred Zombie was right. Dad had brought a dog to kill him.
“Ok, buddy, she’s coming closer.”
Ethan’s heart raced. He tried to speak, but could only groan high-pitched notes of fear. His eyes saw the window. If he could get to it before that animal got to him, maybe he could escape. He tried for a quick leap, but his body was so stiff he could only flop onto the floor.
“Mr. Gobi says she won’t bite you, and look, she’s not even growling!”
Mr. Gobi? Ethan didn’t understand what was happening. He recovered from his daze and rolled over to meet his demise head-on. His breath came short in his throat as the sound of a familiar panting filled the room. Then a wet nose touched his own. Then a tongue. He reached out, probing the air above him, until he found a lithe, furry head. The head he thought he’d lost forever.
A voice whispered in Ethan’s mind. This licking and panting was just the prelude. It was the ruse to get his guard down. In moments he’d experience the ultimate poetic justice for his crimes unknown, his life ended at the jaws of his once closest friend.
Princess rolled over on top of Ethan, leaping in the air, a blurry figure that still seemed conjured from his imagination. When she sat and reached a paw out to touch his hand, he realized he didn’t care if at any moment she would be at his throat. He just wanted this moment to last as long as possible. For this brief shining minute, Ethan and Princess were back together. He tried to lift his arms and wrap them around her, but they felt so stiff, he could barely bend them. Instead, he lay there and let her lick the salty tears that streamed down his grey, ravaged face.
Ethan did something he hadn’t done in a long time. He smiled. He felt a little tongue join in. Hi, Revenant. The tongues were ticklish and he laughed out loud. Above him, his dad asked. “So, Son, are you ready for that cure?”
Ethan tried to answer, but could only moan. How had he let this get so bad? He focused all his energy on his head, and managed to force a nod.
Watching his giggling son squirming stiffly under his little dog pileup, Mr. Stowe himself smiled like he hadn’t in months. He knelt and reached around the frenzied dogs to grab Ethan by the shoulder.
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We hope you enjoyed reading Man’s Best Friend, Zombie’s Worst Enemy by Samuel Munk. Please stay tuned for a completely new series, “The Means of Enchantment.”
The first book, “The Greenwarden,” is about a young girl, Lewellyn Greenwarden, who has spent her whole life inside the magical forest called “Pando.” When the first stranger she’s ever met stumbles inside, she realizes she wants to see the world outside. Can she overcome her own self-doubt, her fellow Pandoans, and even the forest itself?