Chapter 10 - Questions from a Young Dog
The young dog followed Notail for two days. On the morning of the second day Notail waited for the young dog beneath a humming shinestone mantree that birds rested upon. Notail watched him moving slowly closer. He was weak and too thin. Notail shook his head. He will end without my help, he thought. Notail was tired of things always ending.
“Rest,” said Notail and the young dog curled up and closed his eyes.
“I said rest, not sleep,” said Notail. “We need to keep moving west.”
The young dog opened his eyes and stared up at Notail.
“We,” he said. “Can I come with you then?”
Notail padded away and looked up at the mantree. Man liked to makes thing so high, he thought. He saw the clouds drifting across the sky. He wondered if that was what men sought to hunt by building their mantrees. Did they mean to hunt the very clouds from the sky? He could not understand the ways of man.
“Yes,” he said at last. “You can come with me. Now rest, we will move on soon.”
The young dog fell into a deep sleep but Notail did not wake him. Instead he watched the sky fill with clouds and snow fall from the clouds. He let the snow settle along his back and on his ears and on his nose and on his tail stub. When the clouds parted and he saw that the sun was at its highest he woke the young dog.
“Are you from the stoneforest?” Notail asked him when they moved on from the shinestone mantree.
The young dog thought about the question for a while.
“I don’t know,” he said at last. “I remember where I slept was hard and cold. I was always cold. A man brought me water sometimes. A cub of man would watch me from high up inside its manden.”
“Have you ever hunted?” Notail asked him.
“A rat came into the place where I slept once,” said the young dog. “But I didn’t feel like hurting him.”
“What do you eat then?” Notail asked.
“Manfood mostly,” said the young dog. “I don’t get much.”
Notail hunted and shared his catches with the young dog. It was never much. The land was still new and strange to Notail. He had no shadows to slink through.
On a day when the sun was high and the snow had finally stopped, the young dog stared up into the vast blue.
“What is that?” asked the young dog. That was his favourite question but there were others he liked too. Can I eat it? Can it eat me? Why does the sky cry? If I leap high enough can I touch the sun? Why is the ground soft? Where does the world go? Can’t I be a fox too? Why aren’t you a dog?
A manbird moved slowly through the echoes of cloud.
“Man likes to be more than a man,” Notail told the young dog. “They make manbirds and mancarriers and manfish. They try to make every part of the world their own, even the skies above.”
The young dog watched the manbird fade to a speck and vanish into the west. Always west.
“But not the Manless Land,” said the young dog.
“No,” answered Notail. “Not there, not yet.”
The young dog kept staring to where the manbird had been.
“We should keep moving,” said Notail but the young dog would not move.
“I’m not man’s anymore am I?” asked the young dog.
“Maybe not,” he said. “But we should keep moving all the same.”
The young dog still did not move to follow him.
“I’m with you now,” said the young dog. “I’m safe with you.”
Notail did not know what to say. He shook his head and padded away. Eventually the young dog followed him.