It was nearly silent. Not even the leaves rattled, for there was no wind that evening. His ears could only find the slow drumbeat of his padded feet on the black path. The passage of time was beyond his comprehension. He remembered, however, the warm, guiding light high above that had gone beyond his sight and left in its stead a constant shade. He searched the sky for the light he had been following. Smaller lights hovered, unmoving, in the air above him. There were many of these unnatural lights along the black path. He glanced back at the last one he passed, then to the one before him. He could not understand their purpose. The lights remained still, offering no guidance, nor any warmth.
He continued along the smooth, black path for an indeterminable distance. He remembered great beasts that traveled these paths. These beasts came in various shapes and sizes, all of which were larger than him. Some were nearly silent threats that were upon him in seconds while others could be heard coming long before his eyes found them. None had come for him since the shade had descended upon everything.
He heard movement. It was not one of the great beasts. He brought his slow pace to a stop so he could observe the source of the sound. In the distance, he saw a creature similar to him yet smaller and darker in color. With the small, dark one stood two of the strange upright creatures. They were a most peculiar species. Some would hunch over and attempt to touch him with outstretched hands or offer morsels of food, while others would scream or swing various objects in his direction. He remained where he stood, not sure what these unpredictable creatures would do once they saw him.
He backed up slowly, not taking his eyes from them as the two upright creatures and the small, dark one like him all looked at him simultaneously. One of the two upright creatures urged the small, dark one towards their shelter. The other upright creature waited a moment longer before following. He was alone again. He continued along the black path. There were many of the upright creatures’ shelters around him. He began to smell first, and then hear various creatures that were like him. They waited in the dark, seeming to guard the upright creatures’ shelters. These creatures that were like him were instantly hostile, protesting loudly his very presence on the black path that led between the upright creatures’ shelters. He kept his head low as he cautiously continued along the path before him despite the protests.
His nose alerted him to something edible just off the side of the smooth, black path. He smelled something faint yet overwhelmingly familiar. He knew with absolute certainty that he wanted to consume it, even more than he wanted the return of the warm, guiding light. He let his nose lead the way and did not have to wait long before he found the source. However, it was beyond his reach and was within something that stood only slightly taller than him. He attempted to reach the top of the obstacle that held the promise of his next meal and it simply fell to the ground, spilling its contents. His nose instructed his mouth what to do next. Satisfied, he returned to the smooth, black path and his search for the warm light that had disappeared so long ago.
He continued along the black path with only the memory of the warm light to guide him. The frequency in which he saw the shelters of the upright creatures decreased. And with the fewer shelters came fewer hostile creatures like him to offer loud protests of his mere presence. His journey grew long. His conviction diminished along with his hope of finding the warm light. Fatigue harassed his legs.
Light! It came from behind him. Had he passed the warm, guiding light only to have it creep up behind him? He turned. His excitement quickly faded to dread with the recognition of one of the large beasts. This one had gotten so close to him without uttering a sound. He lowered his head, fully aware there was no escaping its fearsome attack.
The beast cried out faintly. He had not heard such a sound before. He cautiously opened his eyes. The large beast had stopped its pursuit of him. The lights, without any warmth, remained fixated on him. The lights crept nearer. As those heatless lights passed him, the large beast stopped again. From within, an upright creature emerged. The upright creature hunched over slowly and held out a hand. He looked all around him for that warm, guiding light that had abandoned him. He walked cautiously to the upright creature’s extended hand. The hand stroked his long, white fur. The sensation surpassed all, even the warm, guiding light’s touch.
A second upright creature emerged from the far side of the large beast. The beast’s mouth opened wide and another light appeared from within the beast’s belly. The first upright creature climbed into the beast’s gaping mouth and called for him to join it inside the beast’s cavernous maw. His desire to once again feel the sensation of the upright creature’s touch overrode his fear, so he too climbed into the belly of the beast. Once inside, he lay upon the upright creature and the gentle strokes continued.
The large beast moved with them all inside. The beast stopped once during its journey and the second upright creature left him with the first upright creature. The gentle strokes continued until the second upright creature finally returned and the large beast moved again.
The second time the large beast stopped, the mouth opened wide once again. The second upright creature appeared outside the open mouth and placed something around his neck. The second upright creature tugged gently at the thing that hung around his neck. This was a new and confusing sensation. This sensation, however, was not pleasing. He was going to protest but the first upright creature stroked him again. He cautiously followed them into their shelter.
As he entered their shelter, he was greeted with light and warmth and satisfaction. He rested upon his haunches as the first upright creature stroked him once again and said, “Good boy.”