My family and I recently moved away. Our old house was flooded, and was no longer suitable for living.
It didn't bother me much: the new neighbors were friendly, the traffic was sparse, we had our own garden.
One thing that bothered me was the Master.
Master was a Siberian husky that belonged to one of our new neighbors. As I sometimes rode my bike through that part of town before we moved, I got to know him pretty good; he would chase me, barking like a maniac, and I would cycle away as swift as possible, using every swearword known to Slavs (which is quite a lot). Although, as much as I hated that mutt, I had to admit: he was a perfect guard dog. Few could approach him without being greeted by snarling and a flash of teeth.
By the time we moved in to the new house, I haven't seen Master for a year. When I was riding to my grandparents a few weeks ago, I saw him again. He was now quite obese, his eyes were blurry, and he was leashed in the neighbors' front yard. It didn't surprise me much, as he was well over 16 years old now. He didn't even bother to bark at me. He just raised his head, looked at me, and I swear that he looked sad. I rode away and gave it no further thoughts.
Yesterday, my mum sent me to the shop. There was much snow and it was night, so I couldn't ride my bike. So I decided to jog to the shop.
It was pleasant; the air was cool and still, no cars on the road, no drunkards (this was rarely the case). I enjoyed every second of it. At least, for the first 300 meters.
Just as I passed our neighbors' house, I noticed that Master wasn't in the front yard. I felt uncomfortable, as I figured he was unleashed and now wandered the streets. After only a few more steps, my fears came true.
Master walked from behind a pile of snow. He stopped about ten meters before me, and locked his gaze with my own. But his eyes were no longer foggy, but fiery, like when he was younger. He also appeared emaciated, rather than plump. But my mind barely processed it: the fact that he looked more than able to bite my throat out paralyzed me, and the freezing air now seemed even colder.
After about five minutes of standoff, I decided I couldn't just stand there forever. I took a careful step forward. He remained still. I took another. He was still just standing. I passed him. He just turned around and kept on looking at me.
When I was about 10 meters from him, he started to slowly walk after me. I tried to ignore the urge to run, and kept my slow pace. From time to time I would turn around, only to see him standing at about a road width away from me.
After what seemed to be an eternity, I arrived to the shop and bolted inside. As soon as I was safely behind the doors, I looked outside. The Master was nowhere to be seen.
My return home was even less pleasant. I couldn't see him anywhere, but I could feel his burning eyes on my nape. There was however, nothing around me but the cold, silent snow. As soon as I got home I locked the door and downed a large shot of whiskey. I didn't sleep well that night.
Today I woke up from uneasy sleep filled with images of fanged maws and fierce eyes. After finishing my breakfast, I went to get some firewood from the yard, when I noticed my neighbor kneeling in her garden. I was concerned, so I went to her and asked her what happened. She said it was the Master. He died last night, after being ill for a long time. It was only then that I noticed the small mound of freshly dug earth, which I assumed was Master's final resting place. My neighbor excused herself and went inside her house.
It started to snow. After just standing there for some time, I slightly bowed my head towards the mound that was already covered with snow, my animosity now replaced with respect to the dog that guarded his family even from beyond death.
Written by Helel ben Shahaar