MLM – Chapter 24

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Lasko sat against the wall in despair. It had been a long time since the garbage dump had forced him in the cave. At least three hours, but it was hard for Lasko to tell, trapped in the cavern.
You’d think that the future would have a plethora of time keeping devices…
The dog lay exactly where Lasko had found it, unmoving. After the fear had disappeared from being in the same space as a giant crippled dog, it was quickly replaced by worry.
What was he going to do?
It was a least a couple days until Tunnel and Sharp came back. And they wouldn’t even know where to look. Lasko had traveled at least a few hours away from the hut, after all.
He checked his bag of supplies, which thankfully he hadn’t dropped in his flight from sure death by falling garbage. Twelve food bars. Enough food to last him four days. Longer if he rationed. On top of the food bars having a hydrating effect, there was plenty of water. He probably wouldn’t have to resort to drinking his own urine, or anything disgusting like that.
Was his only option to wait? He considered the situation. Could he go through the rat tunnel? Bad Idea. If he wasn’t eaten by the giant mutant rats, he would get lost in the labyrinth of tunnels. Leonard had made it clear that the network of tunnels reached all over Gate… without a guide, who know if he could find a way out.
Could he dig through the trash, like he had attempted before? That seemed more reasonable. The end of the entrance couldn’t be that far from open air. If he made sure the tunnel was well supported, then he probably could avoid the risk of a cave-in, right? But then there was the issue with fumes… he wasn’t sure that the cavern was well ventilated enough… If he kept of cutting through different materials, with no ventilation, couldn’t he asphyxiate?
A last resort, he decided. First, he would wait for rescue. If none came, then before he runs out of supplies, Lasko could try cutting his way through the blocked entrance.
Resolved to his plan, he settled in, always making sure to keep an eye on the motionless dog. Although it was missing its limbs, who knew what it was capable of if he got close enough.
Before long, Lasko was bored. Not being able to track the passage of time made things worse.
Deciding to eat, he pulled out a food bar, and began chowing down. Although the bar was oddly delicious, after a few days of eating the same thing, Lasko found himself getting tired of the sweet savory flavor.
I wonder if there are cows anymore. He could imagine the sizzle of beef on the grill, the tenderness and flavor of a rib-eye steak. His eyes rested on the black mass lying at the other side of the room. I wonder what dog tastes like.
He quickly threw the thought out of his mind. That’s nasty. Who knows what that dog has eaten? Probably rats and humans. Lasko wasn’t that desperate for fresh meat yet.
Then he noticed that the dog had opened his eyes and was once more watching Lasko. Did it sense that Lasko was thinking about eating it? That was a scary thought.
Then he remembered that he was eating. That was what probably caught the dog’s attention. Was it hungry?
That made sense. Who knew how long the dog had been here, injured and unable to move.
Why was the dog even injured in the first place? What could possibly have caused it to lose its limbs. It seemed like a very unnatural situation.
Was it possible that the dog was placed in this situation by fighting the giant rats? In that case… Lasko got to his feet, and moving closer to the dog very carefully, shined the light on the dog’s body.
Yep. Lasko hadn’t noticed it before, but there were dark wounds scattered over the dog’s body. None of them were fresh, however. They all had blood crusted over, making it somewhat difficult for Lasko to differentiate it from the fur. It was evident that the dog had been here for some time.
Lasko couldn’t help but feel some pity for the animal. It was in a crippled state, and awaiting death after fighting those wretched creatures. Without thinking, he tossed the last of his food bar, (he was getting tired of it anyway) in front of the dog. It landed and bounced just inches from the dog’s face.
Ah, why’d I do that. Lasko instantly regretted it. He forgot that he was supposed to ration the food. Whatever, he’d just be careful from now on.
He had expected the dog to instantly snatch up the food, but it hadn’t moved. That was weird. The dog must be hungry, right?
When the dog didn’t move, Lasko shined his light in the dog’s face. The dog’s eyes had returned to its half shut position.
Sigh. Whatever. I’m not going near that dog. That’s the old trick in the book. Pretending to be dead or weak, but when the time is right, BAM! You strike. Who’s gonna fall for it? Not this guy.
Lasko headed back to the entrance tunnel. Might as well take a nap. Moving in as far as was comfortable, he began piling up some scrap metal, temporarily sealing himself off from the chamber. It wouldn’t be good if the dog snuck up while he was asleep. Or even worse, a mutant rat.
When the barricade was done, he shut off his light, and made himself as comfortable as he could.
He woke up. The first instinct he had was a groundless fear that the rats had somehow invaded without his knowledge. He scrambled to turn on the light, and heaved a sigh of relief when everything was in order.
Removing the barricade, he cautiously made his way back into the chamber. Everything was quiet, and the dog was still. Most importantly, the hole to the labyrinth of tunnels was untouched.
Thirsty, Lasko opened his makeshift canteen for a drink of water. Then he noticed that the corner of food bar was still untouched.
That was odd. Lasko would have bet money that the dog would have eventually eaten the food. Did it not realize that the lump was edible?
“Hey,” Lasko spoke aloud to the dog. The dog slowly opened its eyes, looking at Lasko. It didn’t move its head. “You’re not going to eat it?”
The dog didn’t do anything. It just laid there.
A thought occurred to Lasko. Could it be that the dog couldn’t move? It did only have stumps for legs but it should at least be able to reach the food, right?
He looked over the dog yet again, once again shining his light over the dog’s numerous wounds. But other than the legs, he couldn’t see any injuries that would have prevented the dog from moving. As his eyes traveled over the dog, suddenly he realized that the dog’s ribcage was showing. In fact, the whole dog looked pretty gaunt. He hadn’t realized it before because the dog was so large, but actually… was the dog starving?
Could it be that the dog really didn’t have the energy to make any movements? It had managed to move before, but it honestly was just tilting over on its side more than anything else.
The more Lasko looked at the dog, the more he was astounded. How was this dog still alive? It looked like a skeleton. It was missing all four of its legs. It was covered in wounds.
Lasko grabbed a long piece of scrap metal that he had used in his barricade, and standing as far as possible, pushed the piece of food bar closer to the dog’s mouth, still unwilling to get closer than he needed to.
The dog just looked at him, and again did nothing. Lasko took another step, pushing the piece of food so close that it touched the dog’s mouth. The dog didn’t move, finally closing his eyes.
Lasko almost shouted in frustration. It’s right there, all you have to do is open your mouth and take it. You don’t expect me to put it in your mouth, do you? If you want to live, eat!
Not willing to watch anymore, Lasko turned away, moving to his seat on the other side of the small cavern.
Sitting down, he resolutely watched the still dog. He waited for it to make a move, but none came. Waiting, waiting… Lasko got more and more frustrated. Finally, his frustration exploded. He was absolutely convinced that the dog was completely unable to move.
Then a crazy idea came to him. What if he did put it into the dog’s mouth?
He stood up and stiffly marched over to the dog. Naturally, the closer he got, the more his fear returned. The dog was extremely large… finally he stood a few steps away. He was close enough now, that the dog only needed to stretch out its neck to reach Lasko. But the dog didn’t make a move.
“Man, why am I being so stupid right now?” There was absolutely no merit in feed the dog, only demerits. The dog could be tricking him. But something about the pitiful giant dog made Lasko want to at least give it some food in its final moments.
Working up the courage, he used the scrap metal to move the piece of food nearer to him, bending down nervously to pick it up. The dog remained motionless, and didn’t even open its eyes.
He brushed the dirt off of the piece and carefully moved closer to the dog. Keeping very alert, he gently nudged the dog with his foot.
“Hey.” The dog slowly opened its eyes, staring up at Lasko. To Lasko’s relief, the dog didn’t make any moves. “You’re not going to tear me a new one or anything, right?”
Encouraged by the dog’s inability to move, Lasko knelt carefully by the dog’s head. He touched the dog’s head. At that the dog took a shuddering breath, and began to growl softly, shocking Lasko. He quickly withdrew his hand and froze, briefly afraid that the dog would retaliate.
The growl slowly faded. Lasko’s fear faded with it. There’s nothing to be afraid of, he told himself. If the wild dog was capable of even moving, it would have done so a long time ago. It’s even reduced to growling only when I touch its head. There’s nothing to be afraid of…
Steeling himself, he slowly reached out, feeling for the dog’s jaw. The growling resumed, but the dog still didn’t make any movements. Finding the dog’s mouth, he carefully pried it open, the dog’s mouth opened only with the slightest resistance, the dog’s growling became slightly louder. Forcing himself to forget the growling, Lasko quickly placed the piece of food into the mouth. He slowly closed it, and placed the dog’s head back on ground carefully.
Moving back quickly, he resettled himself on his sitting position. His heart was pounding from the intense situation. He kept watching the dog. Would the dog be able to consume the food bar? After a while, he was convinced he saw the dog swallow. Then the dog’s tongue came out, licking its chops.
Success! He had gotten the dog to eat something! A feeling of accomplishment swept over Lasko. He couldn’t help but grin drily. Finding satisfaction in feeding the wild dog. He really must be bored in this cave.
With nothing else to do, he just sat and watched the dog. How many more days of this can I take? Lasko thought to himself.
I should have brought the visual reader with me.