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Bone Deep | 1 | Dog

1 - Dog

“I know, Ms. Howard. I can try and say something.” Kirin sighed as he set his keys in the small dish on his entryway table. Keeping the phone to his ear, Kirin looked around the dark interior of his home. It had been another late night grading papers and lesson prep at the school.

“There has been a mess of feathers every day in my library.” Ms. Howard’s old voice rang through the phone.

The house gave a long groaning squeak of floorboards in greeting as Kirin shifted his weight. “I’m sure it was just an accident,” Kirin said.

“Well, they’re not flying their own way in!” Ms. Howard tisked. “I find them every day lying around here!”

“I’m sure the kids didn’t mean to cause problems for you,” Kirin murmured. “They’ve probably just been found on the grounds and the kids think they’re cool.”

“They’re dirty old crow feathers.” Ms. Howard huffed.

Kirin pinched the bridge of his nose. He was only the high school English teacher, so he wasn’t sure what he could do. Joel lived in the same duplex as Ms. Howard, and even the thought seemed painstaking.

“I’ll say something in the student council meeting Monday morning, I’m sure they could get it into announcements for homeroom.” Kirin knew that's probably what Ms. Howard was angling for, though if Kirin knew anything in life it was the second you told a sixteen-year-old not to do something — that was when they would never stop doing it.

Kirin knew he could expect another perturbed phone call from the librarian.

With her goal reached, Ms. Howard rang off easy enough. And Kirin pulled the phone away from his face, frowning as he ended the call.

The deep silence of the house sunk in nearly immediately.

Nights were the hardest. The creeping set of the sun, the impending night looming over Kirin filled him with a dread so firmly rooted in his chest that he couldn’t stay still.

Those long hours were when Kirin’s small yellow house nestled in the woods felt like an iron-clad cage, only thinly veiled in the circus tent colors of white and yellow. His own sinister hell, beyond a plastered facade of happy smiles and tales of happy children.

So it was that fateful night that Kirin heard the long creaking bones of his hollow home and could no longer stand the feeling of his own feet on those hardwood floors, each step another hollow moan.

He snatched his keys back up from the dish and left his leather school bag near the entry table as he turned back to the door.

He had no destination in mind when he stepped into his RAV4 and started down the long winding roads of the sleepy small town of Regent, Georgia.

His dark eyes flashed to the rearview mirror, even in the dwindling light of twilight, his pale hair was stark in the black interior of the car. The neat braid of the morning had long slipped into a tumble over his shoulder.

What was it about the shift into the night that brought upon the long-gone days of Kirins past?

As his mistakes stacked up in his head he drove, thinking maybe he could escape the things he’d, knowing he’d end up right back in that house.

“You’re an idiot,” he murmured to the reflection in the mirror.

Those dark eyes just stared back at him.

They were his worst critic by far.

It was as if sometimes, glancing in a mirror, Kirin couldn’t trust what he saw. Was that tall, slender man really him?

His hands were slender as well, long fingers wrapped around the steering wheel.

“You have the hands of a magician.

His father’s voice rang in his mind. He’d repeat it every time Kirin picked up a violin. It wasn’t a misspoken phrase. It struck deeper to who Kirin’s father was. A man that dreamed of music so mesmerizing it stole the hearts of all who heard.

Raymond LeMont’s dream had been to be a siren, and as such, he’d passed that legacy on to his firstborn, Kirin.

“To hell with that,” Kirin mumbled as he stopped at an intersection.

He stopped for longer than necessary, with no other cars on the road.

His headlights illuminated desolate roads, and tall grass all lined the blacktop.

What was he doing out here? Contemplating his own possibility of madness? Kirin let out a huff before he pulled the car forward.

But as Kirin looked back up to the deserted crossroads, his eyes went wide and he stomped his foot on the beak, flinging the car into a screaming halt —

Standing in the middle of the intersection before the car, bare feet and golden hair that gleamed in the spotlight of the headlights stood a boy no older than his preteens. A long white nightshirt clung to his skin as he dripped water across the blacktop.

Gasping, Kirin wretched the door open and propelled himself out of the car, “Hey —-“

Rustling in the tall grass tore Kirin’s eye away for just a flash before —

Looking back, the intersection was empty again.

More rustling in the grass. Hand on the door to the car, Kirin looked all around himself. There was no sign of any boy.

“Hey!” Kirin called out again, his breath picking up as his mind reeled.

Through the grass, there was more rustling and up through the ditch slunk a dark figure.

Kirin froze as he saw it.

The dog was slender, his jutting hip bones and bar ribs visible under the mangy and thin dark fur. Erect ears pointed in Kirin’s direction as the dog cast its gaze around over the road.

Stepping away from his car, Kirin realized the size though as he drew closer.

The dog was huge, possibly one of the largest Kirin had ever seen.

“Hey there,” Kirin said as he took several steps closer.

At his approach, the dog looked up. Kirin went still for a moment of shock. The dog had startlingly clear mint green eyes as it looked at Kirin.

“Are you some sort of husky mix?” Kirin mused as he crouched, taking a few last lingering steps into the center of the intersection, offering a hand out to the dog.

There was no fear in the dog as they cocked their head at Kirin. The light of the waxing moon overhead was gleaming through the clouds, nearly full-faced for its evening shift as Kiirn held his hand out to the dog.

Both eas flicked around as the dog seemed to consider.

“Come on,” Kirin beckoned.

Where was he going with this? There was no chance the local humane society would be open. But -- but Kirin couldn’t just leave the animal out here.

What was Kirin going to do with a dog?

He’d never owned a dog.

But then again, Kirin looked out past all the tall grass and moody shadow of trees in the distance. There wasn’t anyone around and — looking over the dog, he may have been out here quite a while. No collar or tags of anykind.

There was a marred scar at the dog’s face even, stretching up over his muzzle.

This was a dog without a home, without a family. Kirin felt the well in his chest. He knew what that felt like, to be alone, to want a family that was gone.

“Want a warm meal?”