Bayona. Chapter 1: Sorrows Collected, Sorrows Multiplied
In the Prohespero Region, decent future is nothing but a dream to most denizens. Every city or town you see is either a hopeless dump or a hopeless dump with a Community Center. Dogs always seem suspicious of you. Cats are always avoidant and slightly alert. To say that the area reeks of paranoia would be a gross understatement; it’s as if it was made of it, as if paranoia as a concept was conceived by this very region. Most of the localities have quite apt names as well: Quicksand, Granitewell, Scorchfield, Mudhill… The latter has become the place of my temporary relocation in the recent days. I keep my guard up for it has a... reputation, let’s put it this way.
Ever since I was a teenage pup, it was one of the things dogs and cats around me always joked about. Whenever something messed-up happened anywhere in Canifela, it would always be in Mudhill. A serial burglary? “Wow, let me guess… Mudhill, right?” A murder-suicide atop of a crumbling building? “What’s this? ‘Good morning, Mudhill’?” A police brutality incident where the police is blaming the victim for fighting back? “Damn those Mudhill bastards, have they no shame?” Corruption scandal? “Mudhill!” Dog on cat rape? “Mudhill!” A corpse in the cellar of a governmental official? “Mudhill, Mudhill, Mudhill!” Honestly, it wasn’t the healthiest place to grow up in. Not that the rest of towns and cities in the Prohespero Region was any better (for example, in Quicksand, two dogs got beaten up for organizing an anti-corruption rally; their picket signs were smashed over their heads) but Mudhill was something of a calling card to represent all the fuckupness that the region had in store. It should have been rinsed with metaphorical soap a long time ago. Yet, no other region of Canifela could ever come close to clensing Prohespero of the filth and the cancerous influences that corroded it from the inside. Everyone treated it like a toxic waste bin nobody wanted to put their paws in. Until a certain thing happened.
In January, 2031, a dead female cat was found in the woods, on the city’s outskirts. Sad incident, messy circumstances: no leads, no suspects. The victim’s name was Sapphire Milton. She was a regular breedless cat, black and white, blue eyes… a year and a half old at the moment of death. Young and most likely innocent. Seeing her family photos made me feel that certain sort of discomfort which one usually experiences when they watch crime news about a different city (or region altogether) - you’re feeling sorry, yes, but more to remind yourself that you’re not a heartless asshole rather than out of genuine compassion. With Sapphire, it was the same. She looked normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing better or worse than any other cat. Although, her eyes were exceptionally blue, not unlike the gemstone she was named after.
After a short while, two suspects appeared, thanks to an anonymous tip - Albus “Al” Norn and Maximilian “Max” Banter. They were dogs. Cop dogs. One was a white intimidating-looking shepherd-esque mongrel, the other - a candle-eared black-and-chestnut knuckle-dragger with a face vaguley resembling that of a Gordon Setter. The investigation was conducted immediately; they were arrested and put on trial. Due to the lack of decisive evidence they walked, but, as it turned out, not for long. The public outcry regarding this case was rather huge, which is not something that happens a lot in Mudhill: usually cats and dogs there try not to mess with the authorities if they can help it. When it came to this murder, though… it was as if everyone was sure they’d done it. The articles I read on the topic at the time mentioned how the public gave outraged comments to the local press, saying that money could buy and sell anything these days, including justice. The parents of the feline victim were unavailable for comment.
Then, some time later, another shockwave went over every news channel in Canifela: the aqcuited cop dogs were dead. Murdered. This was when I truly started getting interested in this case. Something was up. Something sinister. The police apprehended the suspects right away. They weren’t really hiding to begin with - just four regular citizens of Mudhill who didn’t look nothing like murderers and were attending to their daily duties when they got arrested. I saw the photographs. Valeré Nilam-Syrone was another amber-colored half-shepherd, only his ears were v-shaped. He ran a drugstore. Lividus Himmel appeared like a mountain of white fur with some infrequent patches of mahogany; one of his parents must have been a St. Bernard, I’m sure of it. He wasn’t officially employed; however, some articles mentioned he did odd jobs around the city (mostly the ones requiring lifting heavy weights). Walter Cain looked like a typical medium sized no-breed; his tail curled at the tip, his ears were short and droopy, his eyes were big, and brown, and panicked. He was some kind of office worker. Among these three gentledogs was one petite feline - Marina Milton, the victim’s own twin sister. She stood out like a side finger on a paw, a small creature in front of three wolfish giants of various height and complexion. She had a black and white fur pattern (colours reversed if compared with her sister’s pelt) and blue eyes (not as deep a shade as her sister’s, but just as shiny and vivid). Her bright clothing - an interplay of yellow and teal as opposed to her companions’ greys and denims - looked like a paint stain on the courtroom photos. Her expression, perhaps, was the most memorable of all - hard, cold, and determined. She was literally standing next to animals more than twice her size, and she exhibited far less fear or hesitation then them. It was astounding. I was astounded.
Before long, this case had become my obsession. I kept digging and digging to the point when I realized it wasn’t enough. The info that the rest of Canifela had on these four wasn’t enough, as there was not enough data on both of the incidents themselves. Some comments from the eyewitnesses would also have been appreciated, but alas. Our world needed to know what’d happened. And I needed a breakthrough story.