1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Winner Halycon SHort Story Contest 67: 1 Story 2 POVs

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, May 24, 2010.

    Halycon - Man's Best Friend

    David Mitchell grimaced as another bolt of pain, emanating from his left shin, travelled through his body and shot into his brain. He removed the fingers of his left hand from the tender, grotesquely swollen area, and silently cursed his bad fortune. He was close to the point of total surrender. His body was now so stiff and weak from several days of immobility and starvation, that it was difficult for him to muster even the slightest optimism with regard to ever emerging alive from this ordeal. He reached forward and pushed his palms towards the small, makeshift fire that crackled a few feet ahead of him, thankful for the little heat that it gave off.

    He turned his head and looked across at Max, lying on his side just a few feet away, his ribcage now absurdly prominent under the thin layer of flesh on his emaciated body, as his shallow, rapid breathing caused it to rise and fall. David realised that his companion was slowly but surely dying, and resigned himself to the fact that he was irrevocably heading towards the same cruel fate. If only Max hadn’t decided that chasing a stray sheep near the top of a steep hill was a good idea, and if only David hadn’t made the fateful decision to run after him on slippery ground. Just maybe, under those circumstances, neither of them would have raced quite as close to the edge, and David wouldn’t have slipped at the crucial moment, sliding feet first down the hillside, tumbling head over heels, and losing virtually all of his belongings in the process. His sympathy for his canine friend was tempered by a deep resentment for the predicament that Max’s actions had caused.

    The chocolate-coloured Labrador briefly opened his tired eyes and scanned the grass-covered plateau upon which he and his master were now trapped. He no longer felt loved. The kind words and playful actions of a few days ago had steadily diminished, and he now felt disliked, almost despised, by the man who sat virtually within touching distance of him. He had no real concept of time, but he instinctively knew that a dangerously long period had lapsed since he had last tasted food. He had seen daylight come and go on several occasions, and was aware of the gradual weakening of his body, with its attendant pain. Why had his master been so reckless as to run so close to the place where the land had suddenly stopped? On some primitive level, Max had sensed the foolishness of following his friend by scurrying down the slope, but he was only doing what every canine instinct urged him to do. A dog was faithful to the end, after all.

    With great effort and no little discomfort, Max lifted his head a couple of inches off the cold, wet grass and sniffed the air. It was alive with a thousand different scents, yet all but one of them were hopelessly out of reach. The smell from his master was growing steadily stronger. It was the aroma of a body that was cannibalistically turning on itself, its surplus flesh being slowly consumed in order to keep itself alive. Max was vaguely aware of how the scent was causing him to salivate, and awakening deep hunger pangs in his shrunken stomach. His wolfish ancestral traits were rising to the surface, and without knowing why, he pushed with almost the last traces of energy that he possessed, and manoeuvred himself into a more upright, predatory position, his eyes turning towards his lifelong friend.

    David gazed into the distance, but had long since ceased to see the beauty of the scenery that surrounded him from his precarious and isolated vantage point. The snow-covered hilltops and the serene, reflective surface of the lake far below were merely a reminder of a beautiful world beyond this cruel prison that he occupied, and that he feared he would never escape from. He had no option but to remain in this place. Even in full health and at the peak of his physical powers, the task of liberating himself from this trap would be formidable, but in his current condition, it was nothing less than an impossibility.

    He knew what had to be done. His only tenuous chance of survival was to stay in this place and hope for the miracle of rescue. But to maximise that chance by giving himself a little extra time, he had to eat. David was no stranger to the consumption of a variety of animal meat, and in his despairing and confused mental state, he reasoned that the taste of dog cooked over an open flame would not be hugely different to all the others. Besides, Max would die here anyway in the days ahead, and probably suffer a slow and agonizing end, so in one way it could be construed as doing his faithful friend a favour. His mind reluctantly made up, he reached to his left without looking, and the palm of his hand settled on the smooth, cold surface of the small hunting knife that had been one of the few items that had survived the fall. He closed his eyes and wrapped his fingers around the handle, then his face contorted with pain as he felt the agony of sharp, desperate teeth sinking deeply and forcefully into the flesh on either side of his wrist…
  2. Halcyon

    Halcyon Contributor Contributor

    Apr 19, 2010
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    Many thanks to everybody who voted for my story, and particularly those who went to the extra effort of contacting me and telling me what they liked (or even disliked) about it. The advice was more important to me than the winning of the contest.

    "Man's Best Friend" was written very quickly and on an impulse just hours before the deadline, as I sat in front of my computer late at night struggling to make any headway on my novel. I've never considered myself to be a short story writer, and after this spectacular success, I think I'm now inclined to retire undefeated! ;)

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