Careful now, move with the same authority, don’t let them see the ache, the wound--the growing distress.
Fear is not an option.
From the starting gate he had been behind them, sand and dirt flying in his face--the old dog having his day. But the fire still lived in his haunches, and he had pushed, pushed hard and long, and when he crossed the finish line, the young hounds followed at his heels.
The price had been steep.
A different kind of fire tore through his left side, and pain threatened to push a yelp into his mouth.
The Keeper knew he was wounded, but did nothing. The Keeper would let Nature take its course. The Woman looked at him with sad, knowing eyes, and stroked his ears, her hands trembling. The Keeper pulled her away.
“You’re a heartless bastard!” she spat at him, as she spun away and ran through the gate.
The Keeper only grunted in response, continuing his task of locking up the kennel. The old dog lay under the day shed and didn't move towards the kennel door; he had seen this all before. Now it was his turn to wait.
As the Keeper turned and left the yard, the old greyhound could hear the low growls from within the kennel. There would be little sleep for them tonight. Their anxiety would grow to a fevered pitch by morning, and when they were let out before the feeding, it would begin.
* * * *
It could have been a dream, but what did it matter? When the shapes came out of the long shadows, twisting into dark forms of dead hounds, he stood and followed them into the night.
There were no fences to cross, or track to run--only the low green grass of an expansive meadow stretched before them. They ran like the wind, moving as only the shadows of wind blown leaves can travel--fleeting dancers in silver moonlight.
The crack of the sun across the horizon seated him within himself. He found himself in the center of the yard as they circled about him, growling their judgment.
In the frenzy of the pack's hysterical slaughter, he lost awareness quickly--almost mercifully.
And then suddenly he was detached from it all, simply watching...
...He viewed the scene from a distance, indifferent, lying in the warm shadow of a sycamore tree. He lay with the others, basking in a fluent haze. Here they took their rest, waiting for the moon.