by Pavelle Wesser
Text ©2006 Pavelle Wesser; illustration ©2006 Cubist
I am Saur, named after the only dog in recorded history ever to be crowned king. I could have been a loyal pet, but multiple factors conspired against me. My first and only master, Mick, at first considered it special that the dogs from the research center where hed purchased me had been implanted with human brains. He showed off to his friends that I babbled on endlessly.
Then it came out on the news that our brains were actually those of convicted psychopaths. The latest innovation in capital punishment was to use criminals on death row in a form of involuntary sacrifice. This way, it was deemed, they could offer society atonement for the cruel and inhuman acts they had committed.
Of course, all this was only made public only after one of the centers dogs killed its owner.
Mick was ever so eager to get rid of me following these findings. Unfortunately for him, no one would have me. He first tried to return me to the research center from where hed acquired me, but their protocol was very strict. Once a dog had been released, it was bye bye forever. Next, Mick tried to pass me on to the local shelter, but I no longer fit the canine category, being to some degree human. Meanwhile, with each passing day, Mick became increasingly obsessed with the morbid fantasy that I would hurt his children.
He finally resorted to desperate measures, waiting until midnight and driving me out to the heart of the hood, as he called it. Opening the door of his sedan, he cautioned me that as long as I didnt open my muzzle, I would be just another stray. But if I let on that I could speak, he warned, I might be punished severely because some people were afraid of what was different, and I certainly topped the cake in that respect. I was too polite to tell him that this description fit him perfectly. Instead, I jumped from the vehicle and sauntered off into the night.
As I ambled aimlessly down urine-streaked alleyways, I understood how great a curse it was to be gifted with an intelligence that I could never use. I cried but it came out as a low whine.
What gives? a voice spoke from within the shadows.
Please dont hurt me, I whimpered, Im not street-smart.
Dont worry! Neither was I, the voice said.
Where are you? I looked around. A dog appeared from behind a dented metal garbage can. We could have been brothers!
Who are you? I gasped.
Im Griffin, he said, and since were having this conversation, Im guessing we both come from the same research center.
He told me he was on the lam because his master had adopted three dogs like him, hoping to use them as unpaid workers for an accounting business he ran out of his home, but one of the dogs killed him in a rebellious fit. The authorities didnt know which mutt was the murderous one, so none were safe.
Yes, I heard about that on the news, I said excitedly.
Will you visit me in prison? he asked sadly.
Why would you go to prison if youre innocent?
Well all be punished in due course, youll see.
I considered this.
Do you remember your past, Griffin? I asked him.
Of course not, just as you dont. Our brains have been replaced.
But dont you ever wonder?
About who we were before our new brains were implanted.
Why, we were mindless beasts pursuing the basest of needs.
Was that so bad?
Its far better to have an elevated level of consciousness, even if you suffer.
I wasnt at all sure that I agreed with Griffin.
Im tired, I changed the subject. Where does a dog sleep around here?
Griffin graciously took me to the far recesses of the alleyway where the stench of feces and urine was less overwhelming. I was starting to wonder if the hood, as my master had named it, lacked the modern convenience of plumbing. I mean, honestly!
Griffin lay beside me and explained that he chose to keep to himself. My intellect, he stated, is what isolates me from the rest of my species.
Grif? I asked him.
What, Saur? he answered patiently.
Why would scientists take psychopathic brains and implant them in canines? Isnt that just asking for trouble?
He looked at me, eyes narrowed: Dont you know?
Oh, God. Youre not so smart after all. Its part of a military plan.
I dont get it.
Theyre working to hatch a species of intelligent, killer dogs they can use for canine warfare.
So what went wrong with the plan?
Nothing. Its in the experimental phase. They dont have enough dogs yet and we must have turned out incorrectly, somehow. Not up to specifications. So they sold us to generate more money for further research. They just never expected the truth to get out.
They shouldve just killed us.
They had too much invested in us better to recap our worth in cash. Greed and avarice is a big part of human nature. Havent you figured that out yet?
So far, Ive seen more of selfishness. I yawned.
Get some rest, Griffin said.
And I did I woke up in the morning to find him gone. This made me uncomfortable, for I had nobody if I didnt have him! I waited all day for his return: Nothing. I slept poorly that night, shivering in the dirty alley, disturbed by dreams of un-named horror. I woke up my third day in the hoodalone. The dog who had become my brother was gone, and nobody could replace him. We were genetic mutants, freaks. In that we shared a bond. Something must have happened to him.
I ventured from my alley that morning and found a magazine stand, then sat patiently until I saw a man throw a newspaper into a large, metal garbage can. I pounced on it. People thought I was stealing food, but so what. It was then I read the awful news. I didnt have to look far. His picture was plastered on the front page, beneath a rather tasteless headline:
Frankenpooch Kills Master in Frenzy of Fury
I read the article, which I chose not to believe. As a dog whod been implanted with a psychopathic brain myself, I understood the fine line Griffin had to walk, constantly balancing his perceptions against the real world; but I knewI knewhe would never resort to murder. Not Grif, surely! I found that I knew where the prison was, so I started walking. I had a long way to go; the next time I rummaged through a garbage can, it would be for food. As it turned out, it took me two days, taking occasional naps in the hidden recesses of foul-smelling alleys. I made it to the prison at 3:00 in the afternoon, in time for visiting hours. I looked awful, but such is the life of a stray. I approached the guard.
May I enter, please? I asked as politely as I could. He stared at me.
May I? I asked again.
Well now, lookie here. His smile better resembled a sneer. This is inneresting, he studied me carefully, real inneresting.
Did you mean interesting? I corrected.
Dont get smart with me, you dumb animal, he said sharply.
I ignored the insult. Ive come to visit my brother, I stated.
And I spose your brother is Griffin, he snarled.
He opened the prison gates and scowled: You freak-assed talking animals never should have been engineered.
I had figured out by now that when you didnt fit into this world, you were punished. Humans had not moved far enough up the evolutionary scale to fathom that deviations from the norm were not only possible, but probable. I was led past a swarm of guards to Griffins dirty cell in the C ward.
C stands for canine, Grif told me, when we settled in together. They wont make any distinctions for me.
Im starting to understand how this whole system works, I sighed.
Griffin had been hurt somehow; he licked delicious-smelling blood off his fur. Did you hear theyre going to execute me? he asked.
I inhaled sharply.
I expect a better response than that, he admonished.
When your brain was in a different body, they executed you to perform an experiment. Now they execute the same brain in a new body. It defies logic. We should lobby against these practices.
No, he said fiercely, You go up against them and youll die. Free me.
How on Earth do you expect me to do that?
Find me a lawyerfast.
Who would take on your case?
Oh, come on. The animal activists are stronger than ever these days.
Then how could these experiments have been allowed?
We were a military secret that was exposed. No one was supposed to know.
If not us, then who?
I stood up. I promise Ill do whatever I can.
He held up a sheaf of papers.
Im writing my memoirs. Someone needs to remember this.
As long as Im alive, Grif
You may not be for much longer.
On that note I nodded and was escorted roughly out by the guard. By this time, the scent of fresh bloodfresh human blood!had permeated my mind and I had to control myself. Deviation meant death, and I had to find a lawyer first. But where does a dog do that?
I was standing in the street, not far from where the guard escorted me off the premises. Across from me stood a doughnut shop, a photo shop and a bail bondsman.
I considered the doughnut shop, but as a carnivore by nature, I discarded that option. Photography? A mug shot was about as close as Id get to being photographed for any purpose. Then there was the bail bondsman hmm. Surely they could refer me to a lawyer? I entered. A sloppily dressed man, with jaundice-tinted flesh and yesterdays stubble on his chin, stood behind a cluttered counter and snickered.
We dont serve your kind here, Poochie-poo.
I waved a forepaw at a sign on the wall. You cant discriminate.
That sign applies exclusively to humans.
There are animal rights, you know.
They relate to testing, not job hiring or customer service. Hey, am I telling you anything you dont already know?
Listen, my brothers going to die.
The guy shrugged. Dont tell me, let me guess: Your brothers a dog, too.
Whats that got to do with it?
Look, Im kind of done with this conversation.
Something in me clicked as my resolve set in. I put my paws up on the counter and bared my fangs. Beneath the shops dingy yellow flourescent light, the man backed away with fear in his eyes.
Get me a lawyer, I growled.
He glanced beyond my line of vision and out the door.
By the time anyone comes, I assured him, youll be dead.
The sallow mans jaws opened and shut once, in silence, before finally emitting speech: Ill get you your lawyer. He picked up the phone and dialed clumsily, as though intoxicated. He turned his back to me and spoke softly into the receiver. He hung up and faced me.
Your lawyers coming, he said sullenly and slunk into a back room.
I sat on my haunches and waited. Shortly, an obese man wheezed through the glass door. He extended a pudgy hand, his fingers adorned with rings. Something in his manner put me off, but I reached out my paw for a shake.
Sebastian Lewis OHare, he orated, stating his name as though making an introduction on national television.
Can we talk? I asked.
He waved a meatball-like fist through the air: No need. Im fully familiar with your brothers case.
I nodded solemnly: Would you like to meet him, then?
Id love to. Lets go.
Apparently, OHare had his uses after all; the guards let us through without any gratuitous resistance or invective. As we approached Griffins cell, I saw my brother, sitting in quiet reflection, through the bars. He didnt notice us until the key turned in the lock and steel clanked against steel. He must have wondered about the large, pink thing who was escorted in with me.
Why did you choose that one? He mouthed the words. I turned to look at Sebastian, whose face had turned ghastly pale in the sepulchral light.
Sit, Griffin indicated his filthy cot to Sebastian, who preferred to stand and twist his moustache in his pudgy fingers. He placed his briefcase gingerly beside his legs, tapped his feet and smiled sheepishly while wrinkling his nose at the pervasive stench.
Im here pro bono, he announced, as if someone had asked. Since no one had, no one answered. A tax deduction, he almost yelled now. I have a good in with the animal rights activists who are protesting your case.
Griffin raised a shaggy eyebrow. What of it? I need no ones pity.
You have their sympathy, Sebastian smiled, exposing graying teeth, which you have earned. His eyes darkened. His voice lowered: Theyre saying that the experiment performed on you may have caused psychosis and suicidal ideation. You dont have to die, Griffin. Not here, not now, not like this.
Griffin didnt answer. A worried look crossed Sebastians bloated features.
Are you with me here, Grif?
Griffin continued to stare blankly at the dirty wall of his prison cell. Sweat trickled from Sebastians temples. He placed his business card on the floor beside Griffin. If I win your case, my reputation will be iron-clad.
I found this reference unfortunate, considering Griffins whereabouts. Sebastian Lewis OHare motioned to the guard, who escorted him out.
I stared at Griffin: What was that all about?
What do you mean? he asked dully.
You were quite insistent that I should find you a lawyer. Im a dog, dammit! I did the best I could, and yet you show no appreciation or interest. You just sit there like a stone statue.
He snorted dismissively. Lawyer, hah! Such a prize, and so nice-smelling I wish I were made of stone.
Tell me why you dont like him, I demanded.
For the same reason you dont.
You mean because hes pompous and full of crap?
Something like that.
I cant disagree, buthow else do you hope to get out of here?
Griffins glittering eyes focused on me then, and something in them wasnt right.
Just remember, I said, Youre the only brother I ever had.
Griffin shook his head. Dying would be so easy, he replied.
And exactly what is that supposed to mean? I asked, but just then the guard appeared to escort me out. I could hardly hear my paws padding along the concrete hallway as the blood pounded in my head.
Dogs are known for burying their bones. I have no use of bones, so I bury my memories. Long ago I buried Griffin. I dont know what could ever have possessed him to plot his own reckless escape; I can only imagine how desperate he must have felt, to go for the guards throat and then try to run. I understand there was one shot, and the guard in question had good aim. One violent twitch and Griffins life ended. Maybe thats what he wanted? Perhaps the experiment had rendered him insane, after all. The brain of a violent convict is hardly a reliable organ to be implanted with
I, myself, wonder at times, though I used to think my map of life was crystal clear. I thought Id become a scientist, make a difference to animalkind. Instead I ended up a nomad. If I possessed tears, they would spill down my muzzle as I reflect on lifes injustices.
The night Griffin died, I sat outside a bar and watched Sebastian Lewis OHare on TV, shrugging his shoulders and explaining that as Griffins legal counsel, hed had an excellent chance at success, if only the crazy dog had cooperated. Then one of the scientists from the research center came on to reassure the public that the frontiers of genetic engineering and organ transplant involved a complex set of criteria that made it hard to determine key factors. In spite of that, it was plainly clear that Griffin was an aberration that had only a minute chance of recurring and blah, blah, blah
After that, I went into the heart of the hood and took my revenge. I developed this theory that if youve never been kissed, its easier to kill. And, oh, the taste of fresh blood was heavenly! even as it was taken from addicts in the shooting galleries. In my attempt to inflict vengeance upon humans for the destruction they wreak in the name of their perceived superiority, I preyed on the weak, those who would soon be dead anyway by virtue of their own self-destructiveness. At some point, I realized my error and set off with my tail between my legs toward the river that lay beyond 12th Avenue. I stood there and stared at the dark waves lapping the piers rotting wood but lacked the courage to jump into the freezing water.
Instead, I crawled into an empty loading crate, curled up and went to sleep, in an attempt to forget the throbbing pain of my life. I woke up in the dungeon of a cargo ship headed for God only knew where (turned out to be Alaska). When my crate was carried off the ship, some fellow in a parka was awfully surprised to see me. His smile displayed an overall lack of hygiene.
Take your freedom, my Brother,a dog, his brother?he said with a wink when he opened my crate. I made a run for it, though my legs were cramped and my own paranoia was the only thing following me. At first I loved the icy chill here, but now I find that the bitter wind blows so cruelly it rattles my old bones until I shake. Soon the wolves will feast on me. Then there will be nothing left. These thoughts are like hands of ice wrapping themselves about my heart.
The only thing that provides me with warmth is Griffins memory. Why, only today I peered into a lakes frozen surface and saw Griffin staring back at me! I lowered myself down on my paws and prayed to him. I never found love here on Earth, but I figure its got to be up there somewhere. Am I right, Grif? Answer me, please! I know he will, when he visits me in my dreams, his image pure as the arctic snow beneath my aching paws. Griffin was right: Dying is easy but its deadly trying to stay alive.