Broken Worlds by Daniel Tyke
Dogs don’t live for long in the Tangle, the Spire doesn’t allow it. Those that do are the most wily and cunning of survivors, and almost never befriend a Citizen, instead choosing to skulk in the shadows scrounging for scraps that happen to fall to their lowest level of the food chain. Dogs are considered pests … a burden on the “system,” but only slightly more so than Citizens.
Crab somehow defies the odds, somehow avoids the cullings and thrives in those shadows.
Ophelia looks down at her adopted, yet wholly independent companion, and smiles. Crab looks back up at her with his heterogeneous eyes, one grey and one brown. He licks the drool from his chops in anticipation, then lets out a low whine and shifts on his haunches.
She giggles and tosses Crab the last bite of her lunch. His jaws make an audible snap as he deftly snatches the morsel from the air; then, tail wagging, he trots off into the seething crowds of the Tangle. Ophelia watches him disappear and shrugs her shoulders.
Off on some mysterious dog quest I suppose. See you later buddy.
It makes no difference whether Ophelia wants him to come, go, beg or fetch. Crab shows up and vanishes as he pleases. Yet he does so at the strangest of times, enigmatically appearing as if he knows that she needs him or wants to see him. Loyal companions always seem to have a sixth sense in that regard, but she feels a connection to Crab that sometimes borders on the uncanny … she couldn’t really rationalize it. She loves him, one of only a few things she loves in the entirety of the Tangle, possibly in the entirety of her existence. There’s an unconditional loyalty there that no other human has shown her in recent memory.
Crab shows up and vanishes as he pleases. Yet he does so at the strangest of times, enigmatically appearing as if he knows that she needs him or wants to see him. Pets always seem to have a sixth sense in that regard.
The only other thing she loves is her father, but he rarely comes down to the Tangle these days. Not since her mother mysteriously disappeared several years ago. He spends all his time in the Spire attending to the whims of the Triocracy prefects, governing affairs on this planet and others that she doesn’t quite understand; affairs she would never actually want to understand if given the chance. She could have all the creature comforts of the Spire if she so chose, but she hates the miles tall structure and all it represents even more than the Tangle itself.
“Hello, Ophie,” a voice says from behind her, cutting through the din of the street.
She spins around and looks into blues eyes framed by grey hair and beard. “Father!”
Polonius opens his inviting arms and smiles.
Words © 2020-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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