the internet magazine of speculative fiction
Quieting The Beast
By: L. E. Erickson
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Sun. Comforting warmth across his muzzle. The humid scent of earth, and the twitter of birds and distant rumble of cars and far-off voices of people. But mostly silence--sweet, blessed silence.

Rupe turned three times to prepare his bed in the browned, weed-wracked turf under the bent oak, then settled his weary self down for a nap. He'd barely laid his head on his paws when the woman at the house next door started up again.

"I told you a thousand times!" The woman's voice was shriller than the screech of a cat. Rupe growled and lifted his head, blinking against the brightness as he opened his eyes.

He could only just make out the woman through the screen door at the top of the back steps, but he could smell her like she was next to him--sour sweat and the bitter stench of anger. She yapped and hollered and squealed. Rupe could smell her little boy, too, sweet puppy scent and sharp fear. He quailed away from his mother's waving arms and whimpered.

Stupid people. Stupid noisy people.

The woman slapped the boy, yelled one last time, and stormed away out of Rupe's sight. The boy stayed where he was, all huddled up and shaking. He kept up with his whimpering, but at least the shouting was over.

Rupe heaved a sigh and let his head drop back onto his paws. Warm sun, heavy eyelids, sleep creeping into his head.

"Did I say you could move? Did I?"

Rupe growled again, more loudly this time, and opened his eyes. Again.

The woman was back in view, back at the boy. She hit him, grabbed him when he tried to run, shook him. She screamed and the boy wailed.

Enough. Rupe stood and barked a warning.

The woman screeched and shook and hit. The boy screamed and cried. Anger and fear filled Rupe's nostrils.

Neither of them paid Rupe any mind at all. Rupe bayed, long and loud.

The woman moved to the door. Her voice grew louder yet.

"Shut up! Damn dog! Shut up, or I'll come out there and make you! Stupid beast!"

Red crept into the edges of Rupe's vision. He hauled at his rope, hard, and the peg holding it snapped. Rupe bounded across the yard and hurled himself against the screen door. It slammed open.

The woman paid attention now. She sounded more like a screaming rabbit than a yowling cat.

Rupe knocked her down and buried his teeth into the killing spot on her neck. Her blood was hot, but her angry scent had gone cold. She flopped around a little, then died. Rupe released her and turned on the boy.

The boy took three hitching breaths, and Rupe prepared to cut off his screaming. Damn, stupid, noisy people.

But the boy didn't scream. He just sat on the floor and hiccuped and whimpered. Sweet youth and sharp fear.

Rupe tore out the boy's throat anyhow, just to be sure.

Satisfied that quiet was restored, Rupe padded out of the house. He turned three times to prepare his bed in the browned, weed-wracked turf under the bent oak, then settled his weary self down for a nap.

Sun. Comforting warmth across his muzzle. Sleepy glow against his eyelids. The sounds of birds and the distant rumble of cars and far-off voices of people, but mostly silence.

Sweet, blessed silence.

[ end ]

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