This story is in response to the terribleminds.com challenge; choose a song title from a random shuffle and write a story, limit 1000 words. I don’t have a gadget that gives me a random shuffle, so I asked my followers on twitter for one, and got from @Carsonpeety , ‘A Sadness Runs Through Him’, by the Hoosiers. My story 1000 words. And I promised a friend I’d include a dog in the next story. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2s
A Sadness Runs Through Him Louise Sorensen March 2, 2012
Erik sees the wheaten dog again, and his heart leaps. He walks towards it, trembling in every limb, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
By all the gods and goddesses, moon men, aliens and things natural and unnatural, he thinks, has it been thirty years already?
He flashes back to the first time. Screams in the night. He jumps up off his straw pallet, pulls on breeks and boots and stumbles outside. Thatched roofs of their huts burning, the villagers are pouring out of their homes like ants flooded from their hill. Armed horsemen, raiders, appear momentarily in the firelight, swords flashing as they run his people down.
He hears the thud of hooves and turns in time to see a horseman swing a heavy club down on his head.
He wakes up a day later. His wife, or was it his mother? No. A nine year old boy was not married yet, even in those days. It must have been his mother he remembers, walking out the door of the old hunting shelter, bidding him farewell.
Why? He doesn’t remember. No matter. A wheaten haired village cur soon joins him. Susie. He struggles to his feet, his head ringing. She looks up at him panting, and nudges him with her wet nose.
Walking slowly out of the shelter, leaning heavily on Susie’s neck, he follows snowy forest paths.
Stops regularly to listen.
The sigh of the wind. Birds tweeting.
A twig crackles and Susie‘s head jerks towards the source. Glowing eyes peer at them through the tree trunks. Susie growls deep–head down, teeth bared, hackles bristling. The wolves dissolve back into the forest.
The village is smoking still. He follows the muddy path between burnt huts, the smell of smoke and roasted meat overpowering. A huddle of soot blackened people, young and old, forms around him and his dog. Home.
He vows revenge.
A small party of raiders returns to pick off survivors. The villagers have no weapons to match the sharpened steel of the horseman, but they have lured a herd of wild boars to the edge of the village with burnt offerings. They sic their dogs on the boars and stampede them at the marauders. In the ensuing chaos, pitch forks and axes do the job.
Erik and his people strip the enemy, toss the bodies into burned huts, and throw brush on top. Fire. No traces left. And the villagers have four strong horses, equipment and clothing to aid their survival.
It is a starving time. They melt deeper into the forest with their plunder and rebuild. They use the horses to work new fields, and send their best rider far away, to trade one of the stallions for a mare, another for gold. The village has been wounded, but survives. In time it prospers.
Erik puts on height and muscle, learns to ride and use a sword. He joins an army of other young men to travel far and destroy the enemy.
His sword drinks blood like a rushing torrent, but finally he is cut down. A deep slice to his neck, he tumbles off his horse.
Half heard voices.
He wakes up in a pile of mouldering bodies and struggles out. Again and again he gags at the stench and leans down to retch, but his stomach is empty. The field of battle writhes with a million crows blackening the naked bodies of the dead. He too, is naked, stripped by human death crows.
He spies a wheaten form at the top of the hill and hears the bark. It takes a long time to crawl over the bodies of the fallen and reach her.
Is it Susie, or not Susie? Not the dog he knew. He calls her Susie anyway. She sniffs out a few items–clothing, weapons, coins that the gleaners have missed, and he leaves the field of death alive and wealthy.
The village grows into a town.
“You truly can’t go back, Susie,” he says. The dog walking at his side looks up at him briefly, then tilts her head, inhaling the aromas wafting out of a street-side eatery. A small coin to bribe the innkeeper–he’s not leaving his dog outside. Another small coin and they dine well.
A dog’s age later, Susie is gone and he is a farmer again with a small holding and a pregnant wife. Catherine. His eyes fill with tears at the memory. She tries so hard to deliver the baby. The little girl Caitlyn survives. But Cathy lies in the ground behind the house. ‘Beloved Wife… Loving Mother’
Caitlyn is the joy of his life. She grows up and marries. She and her husband sail to the new world. And he never hears from them again.
Another wheaten bitch shows up and he knows it is time to move on. He and Susie sail to the new world to try their luck in the gold fields.
Climbing Chilkoot Trail in winter, a blizzard strikes. With no memory of time passed in between, he comes to his senses in the gold fields in early spring. Susie lies beside him waiting patiently. Sitting up he pulls out a fist sized nugget digging into his back.
He trudges into a miners‘ camp at the head of the Yukon River. His nugget brings him a tent and supplies. Miners flock to Honest Erik’s. He smiles. The gold peters out, Susie disappears, and he marries again.
So many fair and beautiful faces over the years. So many visits from the wheaten dog. He refuses to live in sorrow, but cherishes the joy of all the sunny wives and daughters.
So busy, this modern world. Different from the old, and yet the same.
He will not take another wife. He couldn’t bear it.
A man who cannot die. But oh so lonely.
His heart leaps at the sight of the wheaten dog.