Excerpt from An.Al – The Origins
Her footsteps echoed like the steady drum beat of a marching band. She pulled her jacket’s hood over her head and drew its lapels closer together—it was a size too small for her, its colour now faded and indistinguishable. Her hands dug deeper into the jacket’s pockets, and finding a cigarette and a box of lights, she stopped for a moment to light it up. She pulled hard on it. Long, deep, and hard. What should the next move be?
The dogs turned around. Their playful conjugation interrupted. Angry. Alert. The air held an alien smell. They sniffed: cigarette smoke and her. They barked as a warning to this creature on two legs: don’t trespass, don’t intrude, don’t interfere. They circled and growled. Their eyes glowed with anger and intent. The hair on their backs bristled—a war-hungry Roman legion ready to fight the rebellious Gaul.
She didn’t feel like playing, not on that night, not when there were bigger and more important things playing on her mind. She wanted peace, quiet, and a plan. But the stupid mongrels were intent on fighting her for it and she was not one to back away from a fight. Not with Peter egging her on.
She saw him, the captain and commander of the pack, the leader of the feral rebels. Skin spotted like a Swiss cow, ears pinned back, sharp teeth dripping with drool and slobbering over the street, white and black hair bristling on his back like white noise, eyes gleaming a fluorescent green and yellow in the moonlight. When she saw that look on the dog’s face, she knew he would make for an excellent playmate. She didn’t care about the others. The manic wildness in the dog’s eyes reflected hers.
‘Always know where the attack is going to come from,’ she heard Peter’s voice whispering into her ears.
‘Never take your eyes away from the prey,’ he said, as she stepped sideways onto the pavement and started walking backward towards an abandoned building, all the while maintaining eye contact with her new Playmate.
‘Be aware of your surroundings, your environment. Use it to your advantage to isolate the prey,’ Peter instructed.
When she bumped against the door of the building, she found it unlocked. The barking reached a new crescendo and the dogs looked more menacing now. Did they mistake her retreat for fear? Stupid dogs.
The dogs could sense their kill slipping away and the alpha dog, realizing the same, leapt for her throat. She pushed against the door, opening it just wide enough for her and her-plus-one to enter.
With the refined skill of a ballet dancer pulling off a simple but highly technical plié, she took a step back, grabbed the alpha dog by his neck, turned around, and kicked the door shut as she fell down under the weight of the massive dog. The door jammed shut, scratching against the floor as it closed behind the two of them.
The odds were evened out now. Her lips curled up in a smirk and she grunted, her face contorting with effort as she rolled over on top of the dog, stuffing his mouth with his own leg. The howling, barking, and the scratching continued outside the closed door—background music to her party.
‘You really . . . really shouldn’t have,’ she reprimanded the dog as she caught her breath. She smiled gleefully as she attempted to grab the dog’s rear feet while ensuring that the foot already in its mouth didn’t come loose. Moonlight streaked through the broken and blacked-out windows of the building. The dog whined as it saw her baby-brown eyes turn black with murderous delight. Her smirk grew wider. With the legs firmly in her hold, she used her free hand to dive into her back pocket and fetched her trusted switchblade. In five swift and swish moves, like a trained game-meat butcher, she deftly cut away at the tendons joining the dog’s legs to his torso and distending his ball sac, turning the big, ferocious alpha dog into a big, cuddly, bleeding soft toy. She stood up, dusted herself, and wiped her face with her blood-speckled hands, smearing crimson onto her face.
As the dog lay there, withering and moaning in pain, she dropped her rucksack and watched the pale moonlight glisten against the dark, oily blood of the dog. She squatted next to the dog, marvelling at the spurts of blood the arteries threw.
‘Awww . . . are you in pain doggie?’ she asked, concern underlining every single syllable uttered in her innocent, child-like voice. The dog continued to moan, its body twitching in mortal convulsions of pain.
‘STOP MOANING YOU STUPID DOGGIE . . .’ she yelled, ‘ANSWER ME!’ Her shouts were muffled by the punches she threw on the dog’s furrowed face. When the fury of her punches finally stopped, so did the dog’s twitching—its skull broken in seven different places and its brain served as mashed potatoes, on the side, on the hard concrete floor plate.
‘Doggie? Doggie?’ she called out to the dog, softly . . . like a scared little girl looking for her beloved doll to comfort and reassure herself that the bogeyman won’t harm her. When the dog didn’t answer, she curled up on the floor and slept.