I could hear my pulse pounding in my one good ear as she pulled on my leash, leading me to the car’s open rear hatch door. As we got closer, I spotted a large metal cage crammed between piles of bags and boxes. My stomach knotted. Something was not right.
Just five minutes earlier, the girl had woken me up from a solid nap where I had been dreaming about my human giving me freshly steamed carrots that she had prepared. We were hiking on one of the mountains surrounding the village and the snow was as white as light, as fluffy as powder and as deep as my baths. Every swish of my curled tail sent clouds of tiny flakes flying into the air, like mini bursts of misty showers. I could still taste the bright flavor of carrot in my mouth as the girl opened the front door to lead me to the cold air and fresh scents outside. I was stumbling along behind her, still half-asleep, until I noticed that the sky was black and realized that this was no ordinary outing. I paused. My heart skipped a beat and my hackles raised up, like a porcupine in defence mode. I was wide awake now.
She patted my head and held out a small piece of dried salmon. “Come on,” she whispered with a tiny jerk of her head towards the car and a gentle tug on my collar.
I didn’t budge. I didn’t even look at the the yummy-smelling treat in her hand. I couldn’t help but to inhale deeply, only pointing my nose in her direction, as saliva pooled inside my mouth.
She pulled again, harder this time. I dug my paws into the ground, gripping deep with my nails, and leaned against her pull. If it came down to a battle of strength, it wouldn’t even be close, she didn’t stand a chance. I wasn’t going anywhere. Not with this girl and not without my human, anyway.
Her brow furrowed and her face turned a shade darker, like curtains being drawn. A wave of panic rushed through my body as I remembered the mean man who smelled like fried eggs, old cigarettes and pee. The man whose face could turn sour quicker than I could turn my head. One minute he’d be giving me his leftovers and the next… Bile crept up my throat as the memories flooded my brain. He was the cruel man with the pole that lit up on one end. The spot on my shoulder where he zapped me with the pole that first time tingled with the memory. I unclenched my muscles and went limp, allowing her to lead me wherever she wanted. I could hear the buzzing from the pole as we made our way to the car.
“Good boy,” she cooed as she rubbed my bad ear. She offered the treat again and even though I knew a tiny line of drool had escaped out of my left jowl — the smell of food always made this happen — my stomach lilted and I turned away. The memory of the pole man had brought with it the smell of burnt fur and flesh. I couldn’t eat now.
I pawed at the door of the metal cage as I stared out the back window of the car. The lights from the village grew smaller and more distant, and I felt my first pang of pain in my chest. My human was still in that village and I was being taken further away.
We drove until the sky started to brighten with the sun behind the mountains, stopping only for a quick break in a town that had a distinct smell wafting through the air, like rotten eggs and acid. It burned my nostrils and I sneezed three times, trying to purge it from my body. I started walking slowly down the road, back towards the village, but the girl caught me and wrapped my leash around her hand twice, securing her grip on me. My heart sank into my stomach.
The entire time we had been in the car, I hadn’t taken a nap, a sip of water from the bowl, a bite of the treat she had left in the crate. I hadn’t moved at all. My eyes had been fixed on the back window, hoping for a glimpse of the village. They strained to see the village. The village that smelled like fresh bread, clean air and evergreen trees. My village. But it was only my village because it was where my human was right now. Home is where my human is.
I didn’t know where I was or where I was going, but the one thing I did know was that I had to find my human.
Now I just needed to figure out how to escape.