Damien came awake with a start. At first, he didn’t know where he was. Slowly his vision cleared and he looked around. He was safe, on the highest branch in his tree, sort of. His front claws were embedded in the branch such that they went beyond the bark and punctured the wood beneath. His back legs were dangling. At some point he had fallen off the branch. Despite the ache in his shoulders and his precarious position, Damien let out a long sigh of relief. He was safe, back in the forest. It had all been just a bad dream.
As the forest faded into nothingness, Damien had found himself inside that familiar cage. He desperately wanted to escape but deep down, he knew there was no escape. He would be locked away forever but he still had to do something. He tried biting the bars with his teeth and his only reward was a sore jaw. Out of desperation, he ran head-first into the bars and everything faded to black as he slumped on the floor. And then black became red and the next thing he knew, Damien was floating with his eyes closed.
Slowly, Damien opened his eyes. Everything looked distorted and the wrong color. He knew he was still in the cage, but he was seeing through the eyes of another. The air reeked of fear. He had a sense of running from something terrible, something big and scary. Damien shook his head. He wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but the scent was familiar to him and strange at the same time. While trying to figure out what was going on, Damien heard a voice.
“I’m trapped. I need to hide.”
Damien sensed the voice more than heard it, like when that human in the park spoke to him using the Dowchee. His human! That’s what was familiar. Was he seeing through her eyes? How was this possible?
“Are you alright?” Damien asked. There was no response. Maybe his human couldn’t hear him. This time he shouted. Still no response. It was like he didn’t exist or he was being completely ignored. This made Damien feel very small and inconsequential, a feeling he hadn’t felt since he was wandering the forest alone as a pup.
A sudden change in direction threw Damien off-balance and brought him out of his daze. His claws gripped the floor to keep from sliding. He saw walls all around made from cinder blocks. He remembered seeing blocks like these somewhere. But where? He looked around some more as the smell of fear intensified, reminding him of a trapped animal about to be devoured by a predator. He wanted to run but there was nowhere to go. Then it dawned on him. He had seen these blocks at the bottom of some of the buildings in the city. He must be inside one of them. Well, sort of. He was still trapped in that cage, he reminded himself. He was seeing the inside of one of the buildings.
Suddenly the cage tilted, throwing Damien backward into the bars and then forward to the other side of the cage. As he slid back and forth a few times, Damien could smell sheer terror and he himself felt the need to run as far away as he could get.
“Three… Four.” Again, Damien sensed this rather than actually heard it. Counting? Why would anyone be counting right now, Damien thought. “Great, what did I do now?” As Damien removed his paws from in front of his eyes, he started shaking. He became acutely aware of the floating sensation as a pair of steel-blue eyes looked back at him, a little too close for comfort despite the appearance of seeing everything through a tunnel. And then came the noise. Damien flinched at the sound of a distant voice, deep and booming. Someone was shouting.
“But I already told you what happened!” This time Damien could really hear his human’s voice. It sounded far away and distorted, but it definitely belonged to the human he felt a connection to. At this point, Damien realized that he had been thinking of this human as belonging to him. This didn’t seem quite right. Maybe they belonged together? Damien desperately wanted to help but he wasn’t quite sure what was happening. He could feel his bond with this human strengthening and decided that he belonged with her, his human. And she belonged with him. “What do you want from me?” This time his human was shouting too.
“Just tell me what really happened,” the deep voice boomed, so loud that it rang in Damien’s ears. The eyes staring back at him turned icy with rage. There was a coldness to those eyes that made Damien shiver despite the protection offered by the cage. He felt compelled to help his human somehow. But what could he do? He was stuck in a cage and still not sure what was going on.
“I swear I was telling the truth.” Damien could hear the poorly hidden strain in his human’s voice even though it sounded distorted and far away. He could barely breathe now because the scent of fear was so thick it was stifling. Desperate to do something, anything, Damien shook the cage with his paws. He no longer saw the blue eyes. Now he could make out shoes hanging above a concrete floor. It looked a little like the sidewalks in the city. Slowly the smell of terror began to dissipate. Damien could still hear his human arguing with the other one but it was becoming muffled and farther away. Everything kept receding until Damien could see and hear nothing.
Damien felt relieved. He had a strong distaste for the chaos going on around him. He wanted to take his human far away from this noise, but he was trapped in that stupid cage again. Damien used the silence to collect his thoughts. He had to get out of the cage if he was going to do anything at all. Damien sat and contemplated his escape. His musings were interrupted by more shouting from the booming deep voice.
“Okay, I lied,” Damien heard his human say, sensing defeat in her voice. “It happened just the way you said it did.” The smell of fear was gone, replaced with an emptiness that made Damien’s skin crawl. The blue eyes were staring at him again. They were softer now, not so icy and cold. Just when Damien’s skin stopped crawling, everything faded away. He was alone again.
“Here we go again.” He sensed this rather than heard it. In the dark silence that followed, Damien became more and more restless. He could feel heat coming from below. At first it soothed him and helped him shake off the coldness from before. The heat continued to build, first becoming uncomfortable and then unbearable. The floor of Damien’s cage became so hot he couldn’t stay still. He had to get away from this burning heat. Not knowing anything else to do, Damien flung himself against the bars. This must have done something because Damien could now hear muffled sounds and see a dim light in the distance. The heat kept building. “What the hell? He won’t let me down until I tell him what he wants to hear and then I get a lecture on telling the truth?” When Damien sensed this, his feet began to burn. He flung himself against the side of the cage again and again. He had to get away from this heat! It must have worked because Damien saw those blue eyes again and started hearing the booming voice, although it was too muffled to decipher any words.
“Wow, dad, you really outdid yourself this time. You got four.” Damien had never heard this tone in his human’s voice before. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. It was enthusiastic but lacking warmth, like a joke without humor. And there was a biting edge to it. Perhaps it was just the distance and distortion making her voice sound different. In an instant, all the heat disappeared. Damien froze like a deer caught in headlights. Any softness that had been in those blue eyes was suddenly gone, replaced once again by a flash of rage, this time even more intense.
“NO,” Damien screamed, “STOP THIS!” He thrashed around the cage. It was useless. Damien’s human couldn’t hear him or didn’t want to. Why was she doing this? It made no sense to him. Damien picked up the scent of fear again. He wanted to look at something else, but all Damien could see were those cold, piercing blue eyes staring at him. The ice in those eyes had an edge like a blade. This made Damien more uncomfortable than he had ever felt.
“What the fuck is it with you and the random numbers?” The volume and force of the voice knocked Damien off his feet. The bottom of the cage was warm again. Damien remembered the counting. It stopped at four. Sounds started to become muffled again but the blue eyes remained clear, still burning with cold rage. Damien imagined a fire that burned cold instead of hot. That’s what he saw in those eyes and it frightened him. He had never been so scared in his life. During a moment of sheer terror, time seemed to stop for Damien and he started to understand. He had hit the front of the cage four times. But why bring it up now?
“Go ahead and hit me, you bastard,” Damien sensed. “Why don’t you hit me hard enough to break something this time?” It was becoming uncomfortably hot again. “I dare you.” As nausea and dizziness settled in, Damien began to pant and drool.
“What’s going on down there? And why is there mud all over the floor?” This was another voice, higher in pitch and farther away. It sounded distorted like the other voices. Damien heard anger in this voice too. It seemed like all the voices except his human’s voice had anger in them. Damien mostly heard fear in his human’s voice. The blue eyes disappeared and suddenly Damien was falling. Everything seemed to get fuzzy.
“Pussy. I knew you wouldn’t do it.” This was the last thing Damien sensed before he hit the ground. The impact was jarring. Damien came awake with a start. At first, he didn’t know where he was. Slowly his vision cleared and he looked around. He was safe, hanging from his tree with his front claws deeply embedded in the highest branch. Despite the ache in his shoulders, Damien let out a long sigh of relief. He was safe, back in the forest. It had all been just a bad dream. A horrible, nasty bad dream.