Throwback Thursday #23

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Today’s Throwback Thursday story is one I wrote about a year ago. I began with the idea that I would submit it to a contest, but I had difficulty figuring out what I wanted to write and thus didn’t finish the story in time. I later finished it to submit to an anthology, but it wasn’t accepted, and now that I’ve reread it, I’ve decided not to submit it anywhere else. And so, without further ado, here’s the story.

The Torment of Ezra Maccon

This is the tale of something that happened to a boy named Ezra, my master. It was the night of the full moon, and I was waiting for him to wake up. I lay on the carpet at his bedside, a lump of black terrier with curly hair, head on paws and tail tucked. For an hour—perhaps more; it was between supper and our midnight snack—my master’s screams had echoed up from the dungeon. Each scream breathed an image into my mind: my master, kneeling in agony, his arms bloodied, pictures of his lost humans scattered in front of him. Then there had been a gigantic crack, a shattering of glass, and silence. A servant had carried Ezra’s body up to bed where he now lay.

I listened for his breathing. There it was, hardly audible over the rushing wind outside. I raised my head and looking around, hoping for something promising. The curtains rippled slightly in an impish draft. The dusty chandelier, suspended from the ceiling, swayed and cast curious spangles on the walls. I spotted the ragged remains of a chewbone under the bedstead and thumped my tail, but then I realized it was just that: remains. No hope there after all.

Ezra sighed and moaned. I sprang up and jumped on the bedspread. He was awake, but barely. His right hand clutched the photograph of his father. I caught a glimpse of the familiar dark frown above the boy’s thumb.

“Master,” I whimpered.

“Go away.”

“But I have to know if you’re all right.”

The boy tried to raise himself on his elbows. I inched closer and nudged his hand.

“Do I look all right to you?” he asked. Usually I would have slunk away at the tone in his voice, but I steeled myself and nudged him again. He looked terrible. Even licking him would not have helped. His skin was ashen. Inflamed welts punctuated his skin where his bonds had cut him. His eyes were hollow and ghostly.

“What happened down there?” I asked.

He hesitated, eyeing his bandages in silence. When he did speak, I had to creep closer to hear him.

“It was horrible, Indigo. And—” His voice snagged. “The wizard spoke.”

The wizard. Now that was a thing. I sneezed violently and the fur rose on the nape of my neck. Disgusting piece of human filth. Probably not even human. He was more evil than any human I had ever met. Not that I had met many humans besides my master and those who tended to him.

“He spoke? What did he say? Tell me, Ezra! Tell me!”

Once again, he tried to sit up. I helped by pulling on the sleeve of his pajama top. With a groan he maneuvered himself against the pillow into an upright position. With his glowing eyes, tangled long hair, and half-insane expression, he looked more monster than boy.

“He said—”

Whatever came after that was cut off as the room’s decrepit electricity shut off. Ezra and I were cast in sudden darkness. His eyes glowed the way mine did; we could both see in the dark. Then something else in the room caught both our attentions.

His mirror, the scratched one in the corner diagonal from his bed, did not depict our reflections. No, it showed a corridor, stretching into—my fur rose again along with a low growl.

He was there, the wizard, at the end of the corridor. Waves of malice emanated from him like the stench of carrion. His outline appeared faint against an unearthly light. I sensed my master’s cold rage and burning fear.

A voice slithered from the mirror. “I shall repeat what I said earlier, Mr. Maccon. Your time is almost up. By the next full moon, you will be human no longer.”

Human no longer, human no longer, echoed the phrase in my ears.

“Your sister does not remember you,” the wizard continued. “And your parents, well, to them you are a mere memory.” He sighed a deep patronizing sigh. “And to think that your own father’s crime led to your misery. Had he not stolen from me…” The image in the mirror began to fade. “You should be grateful. I have decided to let you live.”

“This is not living!” Ezra yelled. “I’m a monster!”

For a moment, the room went entirely dark. Then the electricity flickered back into existence. I glimpsed my master’s face in the mirror. His body looked human, but the glare in his eyes belonged to that of something inhuman.

“Indigo,” he whispered in despair. I pressed gently against his bandaged arm. “What am I going to do?”

“Well,” I said, wagging timidly, “what about food? Food is good, isn’t it? And we can share.”

He managed a smile. Within ten minutes my master had tucked into a bowl of stew and biscuits, from which he fed me generous spoonfuls. I helped myself to a few laps of his tea. I had a plan, of course. When he finally slept, I got up. I hopped through the mirror right into a whole lot of darkness. The wizard, I assumed, would be somewhere in this nothingness. And he was. A large hand came down on my head.

“Well, well,” said the wizard, shaking me a little. “Not what I expected. Have you come to defeat me, little pup?”

“Let my master go,” I growled.

“And why should I do that?”

I thought of my master’s screams every full moon, his bandaged arms, the family he had lost. The last trace of human had almost left him forever. “Because my bite is stronger than you might expect.”

And bite him I did. Not as Indigo, the dog that whimpered for his master and licked tea from his teacup, but as the giant hound I really was. I transformed in a flash of red light and black fur. The wizard shrank back as the beast before him rose up and howled. I was the hound that had stood guard over his master from the beginning, the hound that had witnessed his father’s crime and the awfulness that followed. And I would defend my master from this consuming evil.

Held fast by my hellish teeth, the wizard writhed and screamed. I shook him and bit harder. His cloak ripped in my teeth. The floor beneath us trembled and the darkness turned red. I dropped him and howled into the crimson haze. As the wizard fell, still shrieking, I sensed that the curse had lifted.  f

At that moment, the mirror shattered. Silvery shards of glass flew as I leapt back into the room and skidded on the carpet.

“Indigo…” came a whisper from the bed. “Is that you? What did you do?”

In answer, I loped over and dropped a bit of charred cloth in his lap.

“The wizard?”

In explanation, I grabbed the remains of chewbone and crunched them until they popped, then laid my giant head on his hand.

Ezra’s curse did not fade immediately, but each day afterward, he grew a little less monstrous and a little more human. I changed back into my usual self. The photographs now sat on the dresser: his sister Clara, his mother, and his father, the one with whom the whole mess began. Instead of a pained frown, he now wore a smile. And the wizard? Well, he never appeared to us again. Which is to be expected after being bitten by a hellhound.

 

Thanks for reading!

~H

 

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