The long black wolf howled way up, deep into the sky, reaching his paws to touch a star, first one, then another. Down they came spiralling into the wolf's mouth, first one, then another, sparking down his throat, making star-spangled howls that careened around the endless black night of the world.
The little girl with the star-shaped mouth dropped to all fours and loped away through the woods, her passage drawing trees in a soft sigh along behind her; new green leaves fluttering like tiny baby ears on the limbs. The stars she left behind wept great drops of silver dust as they waited hopelessly to hear the words of her song, but all color leached out of the world as the blood scent of the wolf-girl disappeared into the empty reaches of moon-washed sand.
Major opened his eyes and smiled. He'd had the dream about the wolf girl again and, even as he watched, the hair on his arms wet-noodled its way back into his skin. He licked the bareness left behind, tasting salt and something else, something wicked and bitter, like crushed stars sifting clear and invisible through the night air and settling on his body, marking him with phosphorescent outlines in the black shadows. He stood up and walked away, leaving a pulsing picture of himself with 4 limbs curled in the nest of green grass where he'd found sleep 2 weeks ago.
2 weeks this time. He could tell by the fading smell of the hyacinths, their clustered trumpets drooping now, their scent a brief whine on the wind. He moved easily through the forest, even on 2 feet. His miasma darted along behind him, trailing green sparks that seemed to take on tiny 4-legged forms before winking out. The pale moon gave him pools of silver to swim through, stroking his blood with white heat. Soon he was running; wide, flying, strides. The forest fell silent before him and remained empty after his passing, its indigo shadows quiescent with terror.
Too soon he came to the time-slipped place where the Master stayed. Major fell to his belly and squirmed forward, like the snake he once dreamed he was, and the miasma flowed over him, making his edges glow yellow-green in the bony moonlight. His body slinked itself over the threshold and fell into cold black emptiness. Only then he remembered the Master's last words: "Come before the moon rises." He was late. Major ground his teeth and shivered, steeling himself to wait out the Master's falling punishment.
Beetle stands outside the small grocery store, feeling the cold sun stick pins into her skin. "Sorry, child," the man with the fat lips had said while pushing her out the door. "We're no damn charity here."
Her mouth still waters from the cheese she'd almost swiped. The others scamper like stick shadows through stores, pocketing donuts and candy, but Beetle likes cheese, likes the way it clings to her teeth, creating a strong, musky, taste in her mouth that hovers for hours. She shivers and turns away from the store. The rest of the sorry childs won't wake till dark. She'd left them sleeping in a pile, covered with rescued newspapers, deep inside the empty building they'd claimed for themselves. At dusk, they'd scuttle out of the building to slip into the cold black alleys, combing through garbage and hiding from the blue bubble cars, turning away from each other to wolf down some secret slimy scrap.
But Beetle is out in the sun. It is a dry and empty sun, its heat turned off for the winter, and her breath puffs out white in front of her face, first warming and then icing her nose. The city moves by her like a great river, its currents and eddies swirling busily toward some important destination. She wafts along, letting it toss her down the sidewalk. Something brought her out, but her mind keeps losing sight of it, her thoughts forming and breaking apart like mismatched puzzle pieces.
A man from a blue-bubble car fords the river toward her, swinging his stick. She knows about the stick. It is just like the one that hit Puppy and left him crumpled on the sidewalk until the other sorry childs crept out of the darkness and carried him away.
She ducks into a urine-and-wine soaked doorway, scrunching down until the blue man passes.
The next night Puppy couldn't move out of his curled ball, and his breathing sounded like a stray dog with its tongue out. For a while they brought things back to him, little pieces of food, and once Beetle brought him a tin can that had a pretty picture on it. But one dawn they came back to find him cold and hard. They dragged him down to one of the big dumpsters, dug a hole in the garbage, and put him in, covering him up with more garbage.
Rat said a few words; he was the oldest, and he knew stuff.
"All's dust in love and war," he said. "Halla-loo-ya and hey-man." And they all solemnly repeated it. Then they went away and forgot about Puppy.
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