I am tired and I am dozing in the sun when I feel something pulling me northwards. It is a familiar feeling and I follow it eagerly. This feeling means food and I am hungry since hunting today was poor. I have eaten only a mouse since waking and it is not enough to keep me happy.
He is further into the asphalt and the fake stone than I like to go and I hesitate. But he calls me on, pleading for me to come closer, and I continue. He needs me to be there and I want to make him happy. I do not understand more but that is okay.
There are humans and I am scared because I know that humans are trouble and they will hurt me or put me to sleep and I do not want to go to sleep. But the feeling is there again and it is telling me which way to walk and I do. There are no humans on the fake stone here. I keep going and soon I know from the feeling that I am in the right place.
He steps out of one of the buildings and I am happy. He looks like a human but he smells like a dog except different. I do not understand what this means but that is okay. I do not know what he is but I know that he is good because he never tries to hurt me and he gives me food.
I trot up to him and he makes human noises to the person standing next to him. She looks like a human too but she smells like he does so maybe they are the same?
He bends down and scratches me, rough scratches on my back and neck and it feels good. I flop on my back and he scratches my neck and belly and that is even better.
As he scratches me the feeling comes back and it wants me to think about things that happened when it was dark. I want to just be scratched but he isn’t scratching me now and I know that I have to do this to get more scratches. It is hard to remember things but the feeling is there to help me and I can think about things.
There were humans with dogs running through my territory and it was annoying because I don’t like humans and I don’t like dogs and I especially don’t like them in my territory. But that happens every day and I know that there are many of them and only one of me. So I let them go by even though I wanted to run them out of my territory.
There was a rabbit and I caught it and ate it. It tasted good and then I chewed on the fur and the bones for a while and that was fun too. Thinking about that reminds me of food and I look at him pleadingly but he doesn’t give me food so I haven’t thought the right thing yet.
There were birds in the sky and they flew all together and made loud honking noises. It wasn’t quite dark when that happened, but it was close to dark, and I think maybe that is good enough? But the feeling pushes me away from that thought so I guess it isn’t dark enough.
There were humans after it was really dark and they were talking to each other. That wasn’t normal the way the humans with dogs were and I wanted to run them off but I fear humans and so I just watched them instead. Then I smelled guns and guns are bad so I knew that I really really didn’t want to run them off, but I still watched them because I didn’t want humans in my territory that I didn’t know about.
He shows me his teeth and I am afraid that I have done something wrong but the feeling is happy so I don’t think I did. “We’ve got them,” he says, and I don’t understand the human noises but I know that he is happy so that is okay. Then he gets out food and gives it to me and I understand that. He and the other dog-human walk away and I watch them go.
I eat part of the food and then take the rest back to the dirt and the bushes where I know that I belong. I eat the rest and then I go back to sleep and I am happy.
I am napping with my human in the sun when I feel something ask me to get up and look outside. I consider staying where I am but I am awake now anyway, and I am curious what will happen. So I stand and jump down to the floor, where I stretch and yawn. I walk out onto the balcony, where I jump up onto the railing to look down at the street.
A big ugly human runs around the corner and then runs into the building across the street from my balcony. As soon as I’ve seen which building he runs into the feeling thanks me and goes away.
I go back inside and drink some water. I stretch again and then jump back up onto the couch with my human. He mumbles something and reaches out to stroke me. I curl up in my spot and rest my head on his leg again. He is warm so my spot hasn’t even gotten cold while I’ve been gone. I go back to sleep, purring a little.
Later a bird drops a dead mouse on my balcony. It seems like a coincidence but I know it is not. I eat part of the mouse, and then I push the rest of it off the balcony.
Walkies are my favorite thing. I get to stretch my legs and there are so many new smells! Every time we go for walkies I get to smell all new smells that I never smelled before.
I am happy and excited but I remind myself not to pull on the leash. Good dogs do not pull on the leash and I am a good dog.
But oh, so exciting! I smell pee and go to sniff at it and I know everything about the dog that peed. It smells too sweet, like being sick and being too fat and being an old dog. I snarl a little and mark over it. That is not a good smell.
Master tugs on the leash a little and I hurry to catch up. Good dogs do not need reminded to keep moving.
We come to the street and I sit and wait. I am only supposed to walk on the street when the cars are not on it. The cars stop moving and then start moving in the other direction and I stand and start walking again. Master is walking too so I know that it is okay.
Then there is a loud noise and Master is not walking and I do not know what is happening. The cars are not moving anymore. Then there are is another person there and Master is shouting at him and he is shouting back. Master calls him a “fucking idiot” and she only says fucking when she is mad, and she only shouts when she is mad, so I know that this is not good. But she is not shouting at me so that is okay.
The shouting goes on for a while and then we go back home. I am sad because it was short walkies. But that is okay because Master gives me a treat when we get back. I eat the treat and my tail is wagging and I am happy because I know that I am a good dog.
I am sorting through garbage. Most garbage tastes vile but sometimes one of the humans threw out a perfectly good hamburger, and that was about as good as I could hope to get for dinner. As good as rat or rabbit, if not quite as good as pizza.
I get the feeling that I should be somewhere else, and I don’t question. Some feelings you don’t question if you know what’s good for you. I slip back out of the garbage and walk to the end of the alley, where the feeling is pulling me. A few seconds later a human and a dog walk by at the other end of the alley.
That is not why the feeling wanted me to move, though, and I keep moving. I cross the street, running across between cars, and move into the alley on the other side. I know what I am after now, the feeling getting more clear now. I do not know why but I am curious, and now I am hunting, the same excitement and drive as I feel when I am chasing a rabbit down. This excitement and this curiosity are pushing me on now as much as the feeling pulling me forward.
I am running down the street now at the edge of the sidewalk. I see a man ahead of me running as well, stumbling over his own feet. He is moving away from a crashed car, the vehicle obviously incapable of functioning, and he does not seem to be moving well, he is dazed and off-balance.
The feeling sharpens in the back of my head and focuses in on him, and I know that this is my prey. I could never hope to take him down myself, but I know that this isn’t important. I know where this feeling comes from, and he is more than a match for this man.
He runs into another building and the feeling fades. I settle down in the mouth of an alley to watch. I have no place in the finale of this hunt, but I have no intention of leaving before it reaches its conclusion. It will be fun to watch.
And afterward he will give me something better than stale hamburgers to eat and that will be fun too.
I blink and look up as the door bursts open. A man comes inside and I do not recognize him. My keeper approaches him and he is angry but the stranger pushes her aside. He falls and backs away from the stranger on the ground. He is frightened.
The strange man approaches me and grabs me as another stranger enters, closing the door behind himself. The first one grabs me. I am not happy and I do not like him and my keeper does not like him and he smells foul. I squirm and bite at his hand. He snarls but does not let me go.
“Got to get rid of this thing,” he mutters to himself.
“Won’t he be pissed you killed one of his pets?” the other man says.
“He’s already pissed,” the one holding me says. “Besides, animals die all the time.”
I do not understand any of this but there is something in me that does, and it lets me know much of what they mean. I still do not fully understand, but I know enough to be scared.
The man holding me walks to the window and opens it, holding me out. He lets me go and I do not want to fall so I grab hold of his arm, my claws catching in his jacket. He hits me and I lose my grip. I try to catch him again but I am too slow and now I am falling.
The air feels good as it passes over my fur. Seconds ago I was fighting and scared and angry but now I am at peace. There is nothing more for me to do but fall. I twist in the air and look up at the sky as I fall. I do not remember having ever seen it so clearly before and I am happy to see it now.
Then I hit the ground and I break. I hurt. I cannot stand or walk or even crawl. I cannot breathe properly. There is still that presence in my mind which soothes me and tells me that I will be okay but I still hurt.
I watch as two more people walk up from further down the street. One is a man and one is a woman but they do not smell like men and women should smell. I don’t understand.
The woman goes inside. She is angry and she moves like she is hunting. The man stops next to me and crouches down. He is holding a knife. He pets me and it hurts but it feels good. He puts the knife against my throat and that hurts too but the presence in my mind soothes me and tells me to relax and that the pain will go away. The man goes inside and he is still holding that knife but now it is bloody. He is moving like he is hunting also. The presence in my mind is still soothing me but I can feel that it is angry as well. It is not angry at me.
I lie there and bleed for a little while, and then I go to sleep.
5 Responses to Interlude 3.z: Carnivora
As a reminder, this interlude is quite a ways back in the story’s timeline relative to current chapters. So please avoid spoilers for anything after book 3. Thanks!
I was very skeptical when I heard this interlude idea, but well done! That was a nice balance between “mostly-mindless animals” and “something interating to read”. It was actually very fun (although the ending was a bit dark – not that I’m complaining). The dog section made me smile.
Small spoiler in rot13 (written after reading 11.15)
V’yy nqzvg V unq n irel qvssrerag rkcrpgngvba jura V ernq “pblbgr” ng gur ortvaavat.
I’m glad it came across well. And yeah, it got pretty dark there towards the end. I tried to make each section have a distinct feel to it, and I think it worked fairly well, but it did make the transition at the end a bit jarring.
V qvq pbafvqre pnyyvat gur vagreyhqr Pblbgr, naq gura jevgvat gur ragver guvat sebz gur crefcrpgvir bs bar, gbgnyyl abezny pblbgr. Ohg gung frrzrq yvxr n ovg gbb zhpu gebyyvat. Gur fgbel vf orggre guvf jnl, gbb.
That was a unique reading experience, it really worked well. It is enlightening to see the world from these other points of view.
This is an author’s commentary written after the completion of the series. Spoilers are in a rot13 cipher; if you aren’t familiar with that there are a number of very easy deciphering websites to use. These spoilers may cover the full series, not just this book, and they may make reference to major plot points and character development. You have been warned.
This was a very experimental interlude, and it’s one of my favorites in the whole series. It’s not all that often that I try something really out there, really far from my usual style, and have it work as well as I want it to, but this one really clicked. The perspectives were written in a way that made the pop as very distinctively not human, I think, and they do feel very different than the usual tone.
You never really see the details of the overarching story that bridges the various sections here. You get their perspective, which is just enough information that you could piece together the general idea. But none of them individually have much of an idea of what’s going on, and even as a whole there are a lot of missing things.
In addition to fitting the feel of the interlude, that was also meant to start hinting at just how useful Winter’s magic is. Individually, sure, the animals he gets information from don’t know much. But when you can tap into the collective knowledge there, when you can take the individual things that each animal knows and piece them all together into a whole, suddenly your access to information is vastly increased.
Winter’s ability is actually incredibly powerful for information gathering, I guess, is what I’m getting at. It can be easy to forget that.