Pet HeavenFeatured, Fiction — By Matt Miles on November 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm
“Welcome to our mid-week service,” the tiny old man in front of the pulpit spoke. The handful of people in the pews smiled back their greetings. Even Regina lifted her head, panted, then settled back down on the floor next to the old woman, Annie Williams, known to most of the congregation as Aunt Annie. Regina watched her intent bright eyes and short, curly gray mane as she did her best to listen to the message. She wanted nothing more than to hear Aunt Annie say “Good girl” after the service.
She sat up and listened as people held books and howled together as one animal. She didn’t join in this time. She didn’t know the song, and her Pack Leader would make her stop if she tried. They were a small pack, but that wouldn’t excuse disloyalty. Then she wouldn’t hear “good girl” and get her ear scratched, which was well worth the wait and effort.
The song ended, and everyone sat down again. Some emptied their pockets into a dish, but Regina didn’t sniff. She lay down on the soft carpet and settled in for the evening. She struggled to keep her eyes open as the old man spoke again, since too much snoring would mean no “Good girl” and maybe no ear scratch. Her eyelids lost the battle and began to drop. Before she began to dream she heard “What is heaven like? Tonight we’ll discuss what the Bib…”
Regina wasn’t in church, and the people had disappeared. She looked around, above and beneath to see she was in a large, lush field filled with healthy blades of grass in front of an even larger city. She turned to the city and ran towards it, wondering if Aunt Annie would be there. She ran and ran, but the city didn’t seem any closer. She was about to give up, but movement on her right distracted her.
She focused on the moving object and decided it was alive. She faced it and determined to catch it, whatever it was. She began the chase, hoping it tasted better than skunk. Even if it didn’t, she’d eat it. It was her duty.
The thing gained speed, and Regina followed. She came closer and realized the other creature was smaller than her. This meant she would catch it in no time with her longer legs and muscular frame. She could almost taste its mystery meat as she ran.
It succeeded in one last burst of speed, but Regina would win. She could see its tail and decided it was a cat. This was good. She always wanted to try cat, but the Pack Leader always said no. Since Aunt Annie was nowhere in sight, now was Regina’s chance.
Regina overtook the cat and pounced with her front end on its back until she pinned it to the ground. Working quickly, she found the throat with ease, sunk her teeth in, clamped her jaws and tore her prey’s throat while she wondered why it didn’t fight back. No matter; she had won and it was time to feast on her catch. She dug in to its back and realized it had no taste. She’d dine anyway; it was her job as the hunter.
A voice scolded her and she jumped.
“There will be no sickness or tears, no war or conflict.”
Regina looked around, but saw no one. She watched the cat, which still lay on the ground, cool and damp from dew, but strangely enough, not from blood. She waited, half expecting her victim to move. When it didn’t, she lowered her head and sank her teeth into the flesh again.
“No conflict! No more fighting! No!”
Regina leaped up and backed away from the cat. She looked, but still no one was there. The city seemed closer and farther than ever. After waiting and waiting some more, she lay down in the grass and watched her small lifeless companion.
After watching and more watching, the cat began to move. It stood to its feet, and Regina realized the teeth marks had disappeared and its throat seemed to have repaired itself. To her surprise, rather than turning to run, the cat turned to face her.
Regina refused to run from a cat, so she slowly approached it. It came faster at her, and her heart raced. When it reached her, it stopped suddenly in front of her, then playfully batted her nose.
Regina winced before noticing it didn’t have any claws. They weren’t retracted, they just weren’t there, nor was there any space for them. She looked again giving the cat an opportunity to show her its paws one more time before running as a playful challenge. As it did, Regina heard the voice again.
“No more tears and no more conflict. No more sorrow. Imagine it!”
Regina knew the cat wanted her to follow, to continue the chase, but she couldn’t. How could she play without using her teeth,and what would be the point if she did? She sat and watched as her prey became smaller.
Before it disappeared completely, she saw more shapes approaching her. More cats, and maybe dogs too. They played together without teeth or claws. Regina saw a smaller white dog with a flat nose pass her. He was panting, and she saw inside his black cavern of a mouth. No teeth.
Regina watched the animals play in the distance until they passed from sight. She licked some dew from the grass, then turned around and walked towards nothing in particular, pausing to drink cool water from any one of the numerous springs along the way when she got thirsty. She urinated as needed, but though she knew she walked in circles and returned to the same spots, even the ones where she had relieved herself, when she sniffed she could only smell the dew on the ground. Only the sound of her own panting and the dew on her paws reminded her she still existed. She continued to follow nothing, almost stopping to wonder when it would end.
The loud congregation brought Regina into consciousness and to her feet. She soon forgot about her dream as she watched the people leave the building. She knew she had been sleeping and hoped she hadn’t snored or whimpered.
“Come on, girl,” Aunt Annie called as she rose to go. She obeyed and together they walked to Aunt Annie’s car.
Regina wanted to whine, but she didn’t. She patiently waited on the Pack Leader as they stood by the car.
The Leader paused in front of the car, then knelt next to Regina and scratched behind her ear. “Good girl,” she whispered.
Regina panted proudly as Aunt Annie rose slowly to her feet, then unlocked the car to begin the drive home.