A Dog’s Worst Enemy
by Terry J. Larson
part 1 of 2
Whose dog is this? he thought. And why does he look so odd? Then he realized he had even more serious questions, such as, Who am I and what was I doing asleep on this beach? And where am I?
No answers came from the flood of questions; his mind was a complete blank. He started to try to calm the dog as it lay down on its back close to his feet, looking up at him with mournful eyes. That was when he realized, to his horror, that he couldn’t speak. Only guttural sounds would resound whenever he tried to say a word to the dog.
Not only was he an amnesiac, but he was inflicted with some serious physical problems. Just the act of moving somehow didn’t feel natural. When he reached out to pet the dog, his hands felt clumsy and inept. He felt like a different person.
It would be a half-hour before he had recovered enough from the shock of his physical and mental problems and his mind could turn to the basic task of self-preservation. All this time, he hadn’t seen a soul on the beach or, for that matter, any sign of life other than the dog and a few birds.
The sudden realization of his nakedness was stunning. He reasoned he must be the victim of foul play. Looking at his useless hands again, he felt like going out to the angry surf and ending his troubles. Then he had another thought: Maybe I’m not awake; maybe this is just a bad dream.
Everything, however, seemed so real. He knew his thirst and hunger were authentic. Water, he thought. He had to have water, whether this was a dream or not.
Trying to stand again, he lost his balance and fell to the sand. The dog, who he now concluded must be his, showed some spunk for the first time and began trotting around him in tight circles. That was when he noticed the dog’s movements didn’t seem quite right. In fact, they seemed to be very uncoordinated. For some reason its back legs seemed much too long for its body. Part of the problem could have been that the dog looked to be very old. Those gray whiskers and bowed back didn’t help.
About then he saw their footprints, revealing that they had come from the direction of the surf. That wasn’t the direction they now needed to go. Fresh water would only be found inland, back in the trees. Without thinking, he tried to say, “Come on, boy, let’s find water,” but all that came out were more guttural sounds.
As they both staggered away from the sand, he looked up at the fronds of a solitary palm tree to see the inviting coconuts. Knowing there was no way he could climb the tree, he approached it and clumsily wrapped his thin arms around the trunk to shake it. But it was to no avail. His hands were ineffective and the trunk too stout to shake the coconuts loose. Reluctantly, he stumbled on, wishing he could stand erect and have enough balance to use his legs.
By the time he reached the edge of the jungle, he was panting heavily. He didn’t feel like he was in oxygen debt, but he found himself breathing so hard his mouth was open and his tongue was hanging out.
He glanced over at his dog, who also looked tired but showed no signs of having any breathing problems. Why was it that he, himself, was breathing at a much faster rate than his dog? Why even worry about it, since he had so many other more serious problems? So the two of them staggered on.
All of a sudden, he heard startling sounds. Looking at his dog, he observed that they came from him. He then rationalized he was barking, but the sounds were not what one would expect from a healthy dog; they had artificial qualities to their tones. “What’s the matter, boy?” he said.
An instant later, the dog started running — if one could call it running — towards a bush a few yards ahead of them. After a few pitiful strides, a small monkey came running out of the bush. Seeing there was no way the poor dog could catch the thing, he found himself joining in the chase.
Before the monkey could reach the bush, he had caught up with it. With a leap he brought the simian down. His hands still feeling useless, he grabbed the throat of the screaming animal with his teeth. In a matter of seconds, the monkey was motionless, its blood squirting from its gaping jugular vein.
* * *
Doctor Daniel Riegert was in the process of rehabilitation. Because of the handsomeness of this six-footer with serious, likable features, he didn’t appear to be a criminal. But he was, and now that he was home from a nine-month prison term, his attitude hadn’t changed; he would have still committed the crime for which he had been imprisoned. After all, he had done it for the benefit of mankind.
During his prison term, he fantasized that he and Dr. Henry Addles would someday be compared to the team of Doctors Augusta Menidolphus and Asoki Osakahushu, the first ones to successfully clone human beings. First, however, he had to find the good doctor Henry Addles.
While in prison he often contemplated whether he did the correct thing by not jumping bail, as Professor Addles did. At least now he was not a fugitive of the law and he had his $250,000 bail money back.
Also, even though he didn’t have his tools for experimenting while in prison, he was able to spend many fruitful hours in review and analytical study of their technique. On the other hand, Professor Addles was hiding from the law and was out a half-million dollars.
Although Dr. Riegert was not a spiritual man, he couldn’t help thinking that somehow the manner in which their two paths had crossed was linked with destiny. Just by chance, he had attended one of Professor Addle’s electrifying lectures fifteen years ago, expounding his theories concerning the electromagnetic fields emanated by animal brains.
At that time, as a post-graduate at Jeremy University, he was studying the brain waveforms of some of the lower animal forms, including insects. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t take time to attend professional conferences, limiting himself to late-night readings of the medical journals. He thought he needed to take his mind off his broken romance as well as his immediate experimental research.
Being a shy man, although talented, Daniel normally wouldn’t be expected to participate in such a conference. While listening to the inspiring talk of Professor Addles, however, he detected an important error in one of his conclusions.
Instead of causing him embarrassment by pointing out the error during the question and answer session, he approached him about the problem after everyone else had dispensed with their questions and congratulations. Professor Addles was so impressed with his knowledge and logical reasoning for deducing the error that he invited him to his laboratory the following Friday evening.
During that fruitful visit, Dr. Riegert and Professor Addles found they had many common professional interests and talents. Besides, they found that where one of them had a deficiency, such as in instrumentation and sensor knowledge, the other had excellent proficiency. In other words, they would make an excellent team.
Before that evening was over, the two of them shook hands in agreement that they would henceforth be research partners.
Finding Professor Addles was not going to be easy. At least Dr. Riegert was confident he had a better idea than the authorities or any of the doctor’s few distant relatives and friends as to where he might find him.
He could still remember the exact words of the doctor: “If I ever disappear and you want to get in touch with me, you’ll find me on one of the small islands near Pacaoa Island. It’s my dream to do my research there in private, far away from the jerks and small-brained people of this world.”
When he uttered these words, they were both under investigation for illegal experimentation. Dr. Riegert didn’t take him too seriously, as the doctor, although brilliant, was eccentric at times and often made mind-boggling assertions.
But when he didn’t show up at court that day, Dr. Riegert began wondering if he had gone to some island. After all, he had all the facilities to make such a move. The man, as an only son, had inherited millions from his father, who had been the owner of scores of banks throughout the world. He had no immediate family or, besides Dr. Riegert, any true friends. As a young man, he had taken up flying and always owned an airplane. He was an excellent cross-country pilot and loved to fly seaplanes.
At the time of his disappearance, he owned a twin-engine Seaway, a twelve-passenger aircraft he had remodeled for carrying cargo. Dr. Riegert had remembered asking him why in the world Professor Addles would be carrying large amounts of cargo. He merely answered, “You never know when I’ll be relocating to the Pacific.”
Because of the professional status of Professor Addles, the media had a field day over his disappearance. It also didn’t take long for the police to find that the Seaway was also missing. It was, however, evident after two weeks of investigation that no one, except maybe Dr. Riegert, knew which way he was heading after he took off. Dr. Riegert had been questioned by the authorities about where he might have gone, but he pretended he had no idea.
Dr. Riegert had wondered why he hadn’t heard something from his partner, but now he figured that he knew: Henry was not a sociable person. The two of them got along well, but it was more of a working partner relationship. He was now probably enjoying working alone and didn’t need his partner’s assistance anymore.
* * *
He and his dog had returned to the beach after their meal and getting their thirst quenched from the fast-running water from the stream trickling towards the ocean. The time in the jungle after the meal was a frustrating one. Finding it too dense for travel, he also had no idea where he was going. Walking along the beach made much more sense; progress without impediment was possible, and they might even see a boat or other sign of life out at sea.
He tried to find which way they had been walking before he had fallen asleep on the beach. However, the previous high tide must have washed most of their tracks away preventing determination of the direction they had been walking.
“Which way do you think we should be going?” he gargled. As if the dog understood, it looked him straight in the eye and smiled. Seeing this, an eerie feeling came over him, one that seemed to stem from some knowledge he had stowed away in the remote neurons of his brain. He again gargled some sounds. This time the dog looked away in a disinterested manner.
I guess we’ve both been out here too long, he thought.
Now that he had his hunger satisfied and his thirst quenched, the despondency of his condition returned like an incurable disease. He had been conscious now for several hours and still hadn’t seen any sign of intelligent life. The same questions kept coming back unanswered.
Suddenly, he realized there was a good probability he didn’t want to know the answers. Knowing why he was deformed would not change his deformity. His single hope had been that he was experiencing a dream. The chance of this, however, was very small. One couldn’t sustain a dream this many hours without some discontinuities within it. But all at once, he caught a vision, one perhaps of reality...
* * *
Copyright © 2008 by Terry J. Larson