I called him Bloody as an inside joke. When he ran at folks and they ran from him I held my breath and held back my laughter because otherwise I would either throw up or laugh out loud, neither of which was a nice thing to do. Bloody could smell death and I could convince him to kill. We were not savages. We asked them “if” and they told us yes, we could, but make it a surprise, please, Rottweilers scared them. I called him Bloody for a laugh. His tail never wagged.
We had done five yesterday but today there would be only one. We had not written to her because Bloody had not smelled anything, or maybe he hadn’t told me, so I was surprised when I got her letter with a return address.
“5:34 p.m., please. I’ll be in the park. Please be punctual. Love, Theresa.”
I had never seen or heard of Theresa but she had heard of us. I asked Bloody if he was okay with it and he said he wasn’t sure, he had never killed anyone who wasn’t already dying, it did not feel right. He did not usually speak but when he did he spoke smart things, just like this, but always with a far-away look in his eye, as if hiding a lie, or a truth from a past life. We considered it further and came to the conclusion that we’d visit her, and Bloody would try to smell death to try and make it easier.
She was leaning against a tree and I had indeed never seen her before. Bloody motioned me to take off his leash and he bounded towards her. I called him Bloody because his fur was the color of dried blood and dirt. She recognized us and straightened up and closed her eyes. I told her to wait, it wasn’t time yet, Bloody had to check something.
Bloody sniffed her air. Bloody sniffed her paws, her knees. Bloody asked her to bend down and sniffed her fur, her neck, the backs of her ears. Then he ran back to me in a frenzy and whispered:
“I can’t smell it, I can’t smell anything!” His tongue was nowhere to be seen and he was shivering uncontrollably.
I hugged him, held on to him, and he cried. Theresa walked towards us. I told her it was off, it was all off, please, what did you do to him? She sat down next to us, ran her paws through Bloody’s hair. She was also crying.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know! Bloody’s dying!”
I carried Bloody home. He was still shivering but no longer crying, he kept repeating “I can’t smell anything, I can’t smell anything!”
They began to come out in their hundreds; out of houses, out of dumpsters, on leave from the pound. They began to follow us.
“We can smell him! We can smell Bloody!”
Their chants were loud and the noise of swishing tails was tremendous. There was black and golden and white and blue and grey. I called him Bloody because he’d once asked me to.
I put him on the sofa, threw water on him, covered him in blankets, spoke calming things in his ear, but he continued to shiver. When he was done shivering he went away somewhere. They stayed outside for much longer, heads hanging, lost in thought, trying desperately to smell death in each other and in themselves, even though they knew they never would, that there was no getting out of it sooner now.
Zain Saeed was born and raised in Pakistan and is currently studying linguistics in Freiburg, Germany. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in FLAPPERHO– USE, Bird’s Thumb, Cheap Pop, Third Point Press, Bahamut Journal and others. He tweets at @linguistictrain.