The Dogs in the Firelight
Five years I’d been ridin’ these rails. I left my Maritime home hopin’ for somethin’ better, but instead found savagery, both by men… and, by beast.
The snow was blowin’ cross the prairies, an early season blizzard. The west bound CPR line was full of vagabonds heading to the coast seekin’ out better weather. Me and my travellin’ buddy, Greystone —a goliath of an Indian but gentle as a Sunday lamb— left a packed freight car just outside of Coleman. The men were getting restless and we wanted no part of it. Thought we’d wait for another train before things went south.
Greystone found an overhang out of the wind that was rippin’ through the pass, it always blew here, on a good day it’d blow you toRegina, on a bad, you could find yourself in theAtlantic. This was a different wind though, from the southeast, cold and bitter.
I didn’t see’em comin’.
Greystone’d gone off to kill dinner, I lit a fire. I was used to hearin’ the wolf at my door, both real and imagined, but this wasn’t the cry of no wolf, it was meaner, desperate, hungry, and it was close. Feet padded in the bush around me. I caught a shadow in the firelight. At first I thought it was a cougar, but cougars don’t howl. Another joined, something danglin’ from his mouth. I knew right away it was Greystone’s head. He dropped it, then another came, draggin’ the body. They let out a long howl and a half-dozen more joined the feast.
I couldn’t do nothin’. I sat behind my firelight and watched as the savage dogs ripped and fed on my friend, right there in front of me, like they was mockin’ me, tellin’ me I were next.
Two dogs played tug-o-war with Greystone’s braids in their mouths, fightin’ over him like two pups over sausage links. Another leapt in and ripped the head away. I heard bone smash as it broke the head on the rocks. It was the final bit of feed. Eight dogs fought each other over the remainin’ meat, lappin’ at it. Then they stopped and stared at me.
I threw a stick on the fire, sending up a cloud of sparks. They didn’t flinch. The dogs spread out, searching for a way in and letting off low growls, tellin’ me I was their next meal. Then they all stopped and turned.
A shadow appeared off to my right. At first I thought maybe it was Greystone, but this was too big, far too big. He let loose a long deep growl. The pack dispersed. He laid chase, barely makin’ a sound as he followed’em through the trees and out of site.
I spent the night stoking the fire, chilled to the bone and terrified. Daylight brought little relief. The scraps of blood soaked clothes and gnawed bones reminded me of what happened.
The rails once again beckoned me, but not west, I was long overdue for home.