Fidget stood and crossed the room to the patio door. Staring through smudge marks left by eager noses, his sharp brown eyes scanned the yard outside for signs of trouble. There weren’t any squirrels; this was, no doubt, due to his ferocious barking efforts over the past several years. There weren’t any cats, either; they’d learned long ago not to taunt him—assuming cats could learn anything. It was more likely that his barks had embedded themselves into their instincts, placing fear into their souls with such fierceness that their kittens and their kittens’ kittens would avoid the yard for generations. The yard stood silent, and it did not need protecting at the moment. But still, Fidget really had to pee.
The Beagle raised a paw and let it fall. His nails caught on the doorframe, each one sounding a distinct click. Twice more he let his paw fall to the linoleum before casting a glance back toward the couch at the man under the blanket. There was no reaction, so Fidget clicked his nails again.
“Let it go, Fidget.” Sasquatch, the Great Dane, spread out across the living room floor between the man and the television, taking up most of the living room. His legs twisted in impossible directions and stretched on forever. “He’s not getting up.”
Whimpering, Fidget cast one last glance outside and clicked his way back to a spot next to the giant dog. He dropped to the ground but never took an eye off the man on the couch. “Is he okay, Satch?”
“He’s fine,” Sasquatch said, without opening his eyes.
“I don’t think he’s fine. He never does this.”
“Sure he does. Remember when he found that show about the cars?”
The Beagle nodded but did not agree. “That was different.”
“He was on the couch for three days straight.”
“But he got up. He got up and went to the room of scary noises.”
”The room of scary … you mean the bathroom?”
“Whatever it’s called. He got up and went there. He got up and fed us. He got up and let us out.” Fidget stared at the man sitting amidst a pile of crumpled tissues. “He’s not fine. And I have to go.”
“So go, and let me sleep.” Sasquatch rolled over. His massive frame shifted the air in the room.
Fidget ducked under a widely-swung paw—they tended to go flailing whenever the giant dog moved—then whimpered and left the room.
Sasquatch opened one eye and stared at the man on the couch. It would go against everything he had learned to be true, but Fidget could be right. The man—their friend—had sat for hours watching the glowing screen in the past, but it had always been interspersed with some kind of activity, even if that activity was just yelling at Fidget for barking at the squirrels.
A mighty effort turned the Great Dane around, and he studied the TV. For three days it had shown nothing but pictures of white cars with flashing lights and people in rolling beds. Sasquatch didn’t understand people all that well, but whatever was on the TV didn’t seem to have much of a story. At least when he stared out the window at passersby, they passed on by eventually. That was something. This show kept going and going: people sneezing, people coughing, people in masks and more flashing lights. The show about the cars didn’t make any sense, but it was more exciting than this.
Sasquatch shrugged and closed his eyes again. He’d lived with people his entire life, and he knew this much: people were weird. They acted weird; they did weird things. But they had the food and the keys to the door, so he was fine with a little weirdness now and then.
Fidget came back into the room, turned around three times, and sat next to the Great Dane with a satisfied sigh.
“Just out of curiosity, where did you go?” Sasquatch asked.
It’s perplexing to see a confused Beagle. They so often look confused that when it actually happens, their face takes on an air of clarity. This happened now as Fidget answered. “I went.”
“Right…but where did you go?”
“I went to go,” said Fidget.
Sasquatch sat up and leaned over the smaller dog. “But where did you go?”
Fidget shuffled from foot to foot and thought hard about his answer before coming up blank. “I don’t think one of us is as much a part of this conversation as we both think.”
The Great Dane sighed. “You went.”
“Where did you go?”
Fidget slowed his answer, thinking it might make it different. “I…”
Sasquatch put a paw on the little dog’s face to stop him. “I’ve been going in the laundry room. He rarely goes in there, and I figured it was better to go somewhere out of the way.”
To see a Beagle finally get something was a rare sight indeed. Fidget’s eyes lit up, and his tail began to wag. “I get it!”
“Good. So…where did you go?”
“His shoe.” Fidget smiled as his tail beat against the ground.
“Wha…? Why would you go in his shoe?”
The tail stopped and the Beagle squinted. “He knows why.”
When Sasquatch sighed, the breath ran over wet jowls and escaped his mouth like a raspberry. He lay back down.
Fidget stretched out beside him. “I don’t think he’s fine.”
“We already talked about this.”
“Before you went.”
Fidget sounded concerned, “Where did I go?”
“What? Why would I do that?”
“You have the memory of a goldfish that hasn’t been paying attention.” The Great Dane turned away.
“I remember talking about it, like, years ago. But that was then; this is now. He’s not fine.”
“If you’re so worried about him, why don’t you go put a paw on him?” Sasquatch asked.
“Last time I did that, he jumped.”
“It scared me.”
“Everything scares you.”
“That’s not true,” Fidget said.
“Yes it is. Remember when he started sneezing a couple of days ago?”
“Yes. That scared me. That’s why I barked at it. But then he yelled at me for barking and that scared me.”
“But you kept barking.”
“Yes. But I did that to protect him from the sneezes.”
Sasquatch paused and weighed continuing the conversation. “Really?”
“No. I was scared. I hate sneezes.”
A thought dawned on Sasquatch, and he decided to stand. But, a dog of his size never simply stood. It was a process that tired both the dog and anyone who had to wait for it. He maneuvered a three-point turn that had two extra points and put his legs beneath him. Once standing, he gave out a small woof, walked over to the man on the couch, and placed his giant head in the man’s lap.
Sasquatch was well aware that he was not a lap dog, but at the same time, he was unaware that his head alone was the size of the average lap dog. Whenever he placed his head in the man’s lap, there was some kind of reaction. A hand would quickly find its way under his chin. That was okay; he liked getting his chin scratched. Another hand would push against the side of his head. That was okay; he like getting his head petted. He would nuzzle further in against the hand, enjoying every defensive movement, until the man grew accustomed to the weight, gave up, and petted him properly. But this time, nothing happened.
Sasquatch returned to his post on the floor and lay down.
Fidget had watched with an unusual focus. “Well?”
“Yeah. He’s dead.”
Fidget lay down with his paws out in front of him. “At least he stopped sneezing. That scared me.”
# # #
Sasquatch wasn’t used to being afraid. He had always been bigger than just about everything, and it had never occurred to him to be scared. He didn’t consider himself brave; he simply had never come across anything worth being afraid of—except the vacuum cleaner…but that was just being reasonable. Anything that screamed like that must have a demon trapped inside. Thankfully, the man on the couch rarely let it out of its cell in the hall.
Having little experience with fear, he wasn’t even sure if it was fear that he felt. It might have been hunger. The man had always kept them well fed, so hunger would be something new as well. Either way, whether it was fear or hunger, it was best not to take chances. The Great Dane decided to remain relatively calm. That was easy, since Fidget had wet himself.
“The important thing is not to panic,” said Sasquatch.
“Who’s panicking?” Fidget asked.
“You’re sitting in a puddle.”
Fidget studied the ground beneath him and noticed that it squished as he shifted back and forth. “That’s not panic. That’s pee.”
Sasquatch stared at the Beagle for a long moment before deciding that any attempt at an explanation would go in circles until it fell apart, exhausted and confused by the Beagle’s logic. Instead, he skipped to the list he’d been working on in his head. “The first thing we need to do is take stock of our food supply.”
Fidget raised his paw. “I did that already.”
“This morning. I took stock of the whole bag.”
“Good. How was it?”
“It was delicious.”
“Good.” Sasquatch nodded. “No, wait—what do you think ‘take stock’ means?”
Fidget smiled. “Eat.”
“No, it … wait—you ate the whole bag?”
“That bag was huge! I couldn’t do that. How could you do that?”
Fidget raised a paw. “Beagle.”
“So, you’re telling me there’s no food left?”
“Right.” Fidget said. “That’s a good point. When do we eat? I’m hungry.”
“You ate a whole bag and you’re still hungry? How?!”
Fidget raised a paw. “Beagle.”
Sasquatch barked just to see Fidget jump, then moved to the kitchen. Toppled on its side, the bag of dog food stood open like a cave of wonderful smells. The Great Dane ventured inside, his nose pumping at a furious rate, searching every inch of the bag for the food he knew was gone. A fold in the corner of the bag had hidden two pieces of kibble from the ravenous Beagle. Sasquatch’s tongue reached out and pulled them into his mouth. He emerged from the bag chewing.
Fidget bounced to life. “Can I have some?”
Sasquatch swallowed the kibble. “We’re going to have to find more food.”
Fidget bounced higher at the notion.
“And,” Sasquatch added with a growl, “When we find it, we’ll have to ration it.”
Sasquatch’s head dropped to the Beagle’s level. “Just to be clear, what do you think ‘ration’ means?”
Fidget cocked his head as if that was a stupid question. “Eat!”
Sasquatch swatted a paw at the small dog, but he misjudged the bouncing
Beagle and missed completely.
Fidget landed and stuck to the floor. “What?”
“Never mind. Just find more food.”
“Not a problem. My nose can find anything.” Fidget hit the ground snout first and, pulling in a thousand smells, he began to sniff. The nose took complete control of his body and pulled him along the kitchen floor, turned him in a circle and led him back into the empty bag of dog food. He barked. His voice was muffled by the bag. “I think I found something.”
Sasquatch rolled his eyes and left Fidget on his journey of discovery.
“I definitely found something,” said Fidget.
The fridge stood before him, a silvery monolith. Even to a dog of his considerable size, Sasquatch found the height staggering. He sat in front of it and began to think. The ease with which the man on the couch had opened it had always frustrated him. A simple approach, a quick pull, and it opened for the man while flooding the room with cool air and million tantalizing aromas, each far more interesting than the scent of fresh kibble.
Fidget appeared next to him. The hound’s snout was covered in kibble crumbs, and the Beagle licked at them with an eager tongue. When he spoke, there was awe in his voice. “The vault.”
“The fridge,” said Sasquatch.
“The fridge? That’s a dumb thing to call the vault.”
The Great Dane said nothing. He studied the door. It was seamless. There were no buttons, no latches. Perhaps it was voice-activated. He couldn’t remember the man on the couch ever saying any particular words to open it, but the fridge always seemed to respond to a grunt. Sasquatch tried to duplicate the sound. The grunt escaped his mouth as a small woof.
The fridge did nothing.
Fidget went nuts.
Howling, the Beagle spun left and then right…then left and right at the same time, which just ended up confusing him. “What was that?”
“Whatwasitasquirrel? Was it a squirrel? What did you see? A cat? I don’t see it? What was it? What did you hear? I’ll help you bark at it? It needs to be barked at. What did you smell? Was it a…?”
The swat knocked Fidget on the shoulder, spun him around and slid him across the linoleum floor.
“Shut up, Fidget. I was trying to open the door. We need to get in there.”
“I’m on it.” Fidget stepped forward, sat in front of the door, and put both paws up.
“That’s not going to work.”
The Beagle cast a raised eyebrow over his shoulder. “I haven’t started yet. Watch.” Fidget’s front paws quickly became a blur as they scratched against the fridge door.
“What are you doing?”
“Shhh.” The paws moved faster, gliding over the polished surface. “I need to focus. This isn’t easy.”
“It also isn’t working.”
“Give it time.”
“We don’t have time.” Sasquatch pushed his large paw into the fridge door. The appliance shook. They could hear the contents rattling, but the door stayed closed.
Fidget jumped back and barked. “Do it again.”
Sasquatch put more weight into the second shove, and the fridge shook violently. Something inside crashed. There was a small pop, followed by a sucking sound.
The Beagle squealed. “I smell something!”
“No—something good. The vault was open.”
Sasquatch inspected the side of the fridge. His large snout ran up and down the seal. The door was still closed, but a fresh aroma hung in the air.
“You almost had it. Hit it again.” Fidget bounced. “We’re going to get into the vault!”
Sasquatch backed away from the fridge into the living room. He dug his claws into the carpet and found the pad beneath. He growled for ultimate traction.
Fidget jumped. “Hit it again!”
The massive dog sprang into action with such force that an unintended woof burst forth from his stomach and leapt from his mouth, accompanied by no small amount of drool. Sasquatch dug grooves in the linoleum as he raced into the kitchen, bearing down to build traction, speed and force.
Fidget squealed as the Great Dane leapt into the air. “I’ve never been this excited about anything before ever!”
Sasquatch crashed into the fridge. The fridge crashed into the wall. Sasquatch bounced off the appliance and slid back across the linoleum.
“Ohmygodyoudidit!” Fidget bounced on a hundred paws and turned circles in the air as he watched the door swing open. He landed and turned toward the large dog. Science has proven that dogs don’t actually smile; they’re incapable of expressing joy in such a way, and any expression that bears a passing resemblance is mere coincidence. Fidget smiled, proving that science doesn’t know squat about Beagles. “You did it, Satch! You did it!”
Sasquatch hadn’t been hurt by the hit, but it had knocked the wind out of him. He rose slowly and looked at the Beagle, wondering if he’d ever seen a happier dog. Fidget spun and twirled in the growing fridge light. He couldn’t blame the little dog; Sasquatch was excited, too. He looked at the fridge to take inventory of the food. That’s when he noticed it was beginning to tip over and Fidget was right in front of it. He was struck with a slew of emotions at once, but the most dominant were: what he understood to be fear, disappointment, hunger and bacon. Bacon, being the strongest of all dog emotions, struggled for dominance, but Sasquatch pushed it back down and barked a warning, “Fidget! Move!”
Hearing and listening are two different skills. Fidget possessed only one. Despite the warning, the small black and brown dog moved only enough to see the fridge collapse on top of him.
The crash was tremendous, and the sounds rattled the full range of Sasquatch’s hearing. He shook off the buzzing and rushed to the crash site, barking higher than he would have thought possible. “Fidget? Fidget?”
Only silence and the sad, dying sounds of a punctured beer can came from inside.
“Fidget…you have to be okay.”
The Beagle’s call came as a whisper. “Satch.”
“Satch.” The Beagle’s voice was distant and soft. “I’m in the vault! It’s just like in the dream.”
Sasquatch let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding.
“The dream smells like old cheese, Satch.”
The large dog paced the fridge, looking for a way in. Following the strongest scents, he found the largest opening and shoved his nose inside. His shoulders were too wide to pass, but he managed to work his face into the fridge. The air was cold on his snout. The smells were overwhelming. Fidget was collar-deep in a Chinese take-out container.
“Fidget, what are you doing?”
The Beagle’s tail stirred the frosty air into delicate swirls. “Taking stock of this box.”
Sasquatch’s nose twitched. “It smells terrible.”
“It is terrible,” Fidget agreed. “I can barely eat it.”
“Then stop eating it. It’s going to make you sick.”
“You don’t know that.”
“It smells dangerous.”
“Yeah, but if you eat fast enough, you don’t have to smell it.”
Sasquatch gave up and let the Beagle eat. He looked around the crash site, and the hunger in his stomach grew. “There’s nothing in here but beer and a thing of mustard.”
Fidget’s head popped out of the take-out box. “Dibs on the mustard.”
Sasquatch pawed the plastic yellow container toward the Beagle and backed out of the fridge. He returned to the living room and laid down on the floor. The dead man on the couch had been his hero, and he looked at him with his begging eyes. He had always hoped the man would find love. Someone to feed him. Someone to pet him. Someone for him to sniff that would sniff him back. Someone to take care of him as he had taken care of Sasquatch and Fidget. He had always wondered who fed the feeder. Now he knew the answer: no one. The only food the man brought into the house was their dog food. He had been so selfless.
“We’re out of food.” Fidget’s muzzle was stained yellow. The take-out box hung around his neck and reeked of rottenness.
“How could you possibly have eaten that?”
Fidget raised a paw. “Beagle.”
“You keep saying that like it’s a good thing.”
“It’s a great thing.”
“There’s got to be something to eat in this house.”
Fidget shook his head. “Nope. I’ve tried to eat everything in here at one point or another. Trust me—if it was eatable, I ate it.”
“Good job, Fidget. You’ve doomed us to starve.”
Contrary to popular belief, Beagles do feel shame. However, the feeling was brief and often replaced with the feeling of food. This time was no different. Fidget hung his head briefly and tried to look away. He spotted the dead man on the couch and got an idea. “I’ve got an idea.”
Sasquatch followed his gaze to the man. “No you don’t. That’s not an idea.”
“Because we’re not cats—that’s why!” Sasquatch barked.
“I’m not saying we eat all of him. Maybe just a finger.”
Sasquatch growled, “That man loved us.”
“Right. He loved us. He’d hate for us to starve. He’d probably want it this way.”
The Great Dane stood and towered over the Beagle. “I’m going to need you to stop thinking now. If you go anywhere near him, I will bury you in that box around your neck.”
“The what around my neck?”
Sasquatch popped the carton and sent it spinning once around Fidget’s head. “Oh, crap!” The Beagle shook his head in panic and succeeded in accomplishing nothing. He spun twice to the left and once to the right, trying to lose it. It followed.
“Are you stuck?”
“A little bit.” Fidget pawed at the box, but only succeeded in turning it over and making it into a hat.
Sasquatch pawed at it. It fell back down under the Beagle’s chin.
Completely forgetting the box was attached to him, Fidget tried to back away from it. He backed out of the room. “It’s following me, Sasquatch. It’s following me!” Fidget began to bark. “Barking’s not working. It’s bark-proof.”
Sasquatch sighed and closed his eyes to think about what to do next. This led to a nap.
# # #
Sasquatch had always enjoyed living indoors. The temperature was comfortable and consistent. Food was generally delivered on time. No one tried to pee on his stuff. Inside had outside beat.
But, suddenly, inside was a threat.
He could feel it. It ran through his tail across his back and lodged somewhere in his shoulders, where it just quivered. It was a strange feeling. Surely, he had experienced threats before. Perhaps it happened when he was a puppy. But since growing to nearly 200 pounds, there wasn’t much he could remember that qualified as a threat. Bears…maybe bears would have been a threat. But he’d never run into one of those.
Bear or no bear, this situation was a threat. The dead man on the couch could not open doors for them. He could not feed them. The coziness of indoor life suddenly pressed in on him. Walls that had kept nuisances at bay now held him in. It had become a prison. The room was smaller than it had been that morning. The carpet, once comfortable, now chafed. The framed picture of the monkey that hung on the wall, once a delightful distraction, now served as his prison guard.
The warden monkey mocked him. He had to get out. He had to escape. He hated that monkey. The frustration was enough to rouse him from the ground. He stood and walked to the front door where Fidget was scratching.
“How is it going?”
The Beagle’s paws moved frantically up and down the base of the door, and they weren’t about to stop to answer a question. “Sogood. Sogood. It’s going great. I figure in another two hours, I should get through the paint…then, probably like fifteen minutes to get through the wood. And then, on to freedom.”
Sasquatch sat on the tile of the entryway. It had always been one of his favorite spots. On warm days, he’d spread out across the tile and soak in the coolness. But the cold air had stopped coming, and the tile quickly warmed beneath him.
Fidget let loose a burst of scratching that resulted in a crack. “That did it.”
“No way. You got through?”
“No…I broke a nail.”
Sasquatch huffed. “It’s no use.”
Fidget ceased scratching at the door and tried to lie down next to the big dog. The take-out box around his neck made it difficult, so he sat. “What are we going to do? We have to get out.”
“What’s out there for us, Fidget? Nothing. I haven’t seen a person walk by in three days.”
The Beagle tilted his head in sudden clarity. “You’re right. I thought I’d been awfully quiet lately.”
“What if they’re all gone?” Sasquatch asked. “What if they’re all dead under a blanket somewhere?”
“You mean, a world with no persons?”
“Yeah. A world with no persons.”
Fidget laid down, his head propped up by the take-out box, and thought. It only took a second. “I am going to pee on everything.” The Beagle sighed. “Absolutely everything.”
Sasquatch rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to think what life would be like in a world without persons.”
“There would be no one to yell at us. No one to scold us.”
“No one to pet us. No one to play with us.”
“No one to rub our noses in it.”
“No one to feed us.”
Fidget snorted. “I can feed myself. And since I’m the one feeding me, I’m going to treat myself right. No more of that dry kibble crap.”
“I’m going to miss them.”
“I’m going to try to eat a cow.”
Sasquatch stood up and turned toward the living room. “I’m not going.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m staying here. I’m going to watch after him.”
“But he’s dead, Satch.”
“He needs us.”
“Could he just need you? Because I’ve really got this eating-a-cow thing stuck in my head.”
“Go if you want to. I’m staying.” The Great Dane walked into the living room.
Fidget followed a few moments later, after struggling to stand up with the take-out container around his neck. “Satch, you can’t stay. You’ll die.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I ate all the food.”
Sasquatch sighed. “He loved us.”
“That’s right…he loved us. He wouldn’t want us to sit here and starve. He’d want us to go out there. And eat things.”
Sasquatch shoved the coffee table out of the way and lay at the man’s feet. “He’d want us to be happy.”
Sasquatch put his head down across the man’s feet. They were cold, but they smelled like him.
“Okay, okay. What about the squirrels?”
“What about the squirrels?”
“They could be taking over as we speak. If nothing else, it is our duty as dogs to bark them back into place.”
Sasquatch closed his eyes.
Fidget hung his head. “Please, Satch. I need you.”
“You don’t need me.”
“My head is stuck in a box, and I’m already down one nail. You? You’re smart; you’re big. I need you to look after me.”
Sasquatch opened his eyes and looked at the Beagle.
“I need you to look after me like he looked after us.”
Sasquatch’s jowls flapped as a large sigh left his lungs. He stood up and nuzzled his snout under the man’s hand. It felt right, but he knew everything was different now. He gave the hand one last slow lick and backed away.
“Fine, Fidget. You win. But how do we get out of here?”
“I have an idea.”
Sasquatch tilted his head.
“I know,” said Fidget. “It’s kind of freaking me out, too.” The Beagle turned and started toward the front of the house. “Come with me.”
The Great Dane followed the Beagle into the front room and found the small dog sitting by a bookcase near the window.
“Push,” said Fidget.
“Didn’t you see the way you threw that table out of the way?”
“But I’m not allowed to.”
“I’m sure you weren’t allowed to knock over the vault, either. Push.”
Sasquatch leaned against the bookcase. His massive weight tipped it easily and the furniture crashed through the window. A bouquet of outside rushed in and filled the room.
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!” Fidget bounced in circles. “It worked!”
The two dogs climbed the back of the fallen bookcase and stared out into the world. It was quiet. They heard no cars, no planes. There was nothing. There was no telling what awaited them.
Sasquatch turned to Fidget. “Are you ready for this?”
“Yes! I’m scared and excited and hungry all at the same time.”
“Then let’s go.”
“Wait.” Fidget turned and bounded back into the house.
“What is it?”
“I need to go to the shoe one last time.”
The adventures of Fidget and Sasquatch continue in Tales of the Apocalypse, Vol. 1 (A Duck & Cover Collection)