November 28, 2016 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

Meyersville looks very different at night. There are several lamp posts on each street, but the light that they cast is faint and ghastly. It makes the older buildings look abandoned, and makes the fact that no one else is around that much more apparent.

Rather, not many people around. There are a few teenagers slipping through the streets, tourists by the look of them. They bump shoulders, laughing and shouting at each other, showing no care for the people trying to sleep above the shops.

Jag stays several feet behind them, and he’s very grateful when the duo turn onto a side street just before getting to Storm’s shop. The husky lets out a sigh of relief.

A small light is hooked into the outer wall of the shop. It shines down on Storm, who is stretched out on a well worn rug. The malamute lifts his head when Jag gets closer. He narrows his eyes, like he’s having a hard time seeing. “That you, passer?”

“It’s me,” confirms Jag. “And you can call me Jag, if you want.”

“Lucky for you, I don’t want.” Storm scrabbles to his paws. Too long nails scrape over the blanket, bunching it up. “I’m going to call you passer. There’s no point learning your name, when it’s never going to be used again. I’ve learnt too many names over the years.”

It’s a sentiment that, in the late hour of the night, seems almost sad. To think that Storm has seen so many other dogs – made so many other friends, pack mates, even – only for them to continue on their journey and never look back.

Jag’s heart aches for the old dog, so he doesn’t insist on his name being used. “Alright, fair enough. You said that if I came by, you would tell me about that malamute.”

“Her name is Baya,” says Storm, without hesitation. There’s a certain amount of respect in his voice, a certain tinge of sorrow. “It’s been a long time since anyone’s come through asking about her.”

“We saw her on the trail, just a ways outside of the city. She ran in front of the bus. I thought it was going to hit her!”

“Wouldn’t be the first one. Baya has a bad habit of getting run over.”

“What?” Jag is astonished at the off handed comment. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Storm’s tail thuds against his blanket. “It means exactly what I’m saying. You met Baya, passer. She’s a big part of this city, far as us animals are concerned. Why, when I was a pup, I spent every day I could with her! Everyone around here knows the name. Even the people.”

More confused now than ever before, Jag huffs. He drops down onto the ground in front of Storm. Ears twitching in unease, he says, “I don’t understand.”

“Most passer’s don’t,” admits Storm. “But then, most passer’s don’t see her.”

And there it is – a hint of something in his eyes. Suddenly, all Jag can think about is how quickly the dog appeared and, too, how quickly she vanished. A chill runs down his spine. Surely, the old dog doesn’t mean –

Jag doesn’t get a chance to finish his thought.

Storm tilts his head to the side, lips parting in a doggy grin. His teeth are yellowed with age. One of his canine’s is missing completely. “She’s our luck bringer. People say that, when she was a young thing, Baya brought a whole group of travelers home during a snow storm. Good things always happen when people see her.”

Jag can’t bring himself to ask is she a ghost. Instead, he asks, “why was she looking for you?”

“Baya’s blind as a bat,” admits Storm. “I give her my eyes whenever she comes to town. She’s an old dog too, you know. It’s easy for her to get confused. If she saw you but didn’t really see you – well, Baya probably thought you were from town. Easy answers, see?”

The answers don’t seem easy. In fact, they just give Jag more questions that he wants to ask! Unfortunately, there’s no time for any of them. As if running on a cue, there’s a low thud from in the building.

The smile slips off of Storm’s face. “That’s my owner. I have to go make sure she’s okay.”

“Wait,” calls Jag, just before Storm vanishes into the doggy door. “You said that she was really sick. Will she be okay?”

Storm pauses, but he doesn’t look over his shoulders. His tail droops, ears going down too. “She’ll be Baya’s eyes soon enough. I’m just here to make sure her life is good until then. Come through town again, passer. Maybe you can get some more answers on a second trip.”

And then Storm is gone, vanishing into the unlit shop.

Jag doesn’t regret coming out here, but the answers right out in his mind, hollow and unfulfilling.

Maybe next time, indeed.

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author