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Having the Werewithal | Pam Knapp

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She liked the cabin. A single room with a stone hearth flanked with plenty of firewood, timber floors with fur rugs. Simple furniture: a bed, a rocker, a table. Out back, yellowing leaves of birch and poplar shed their dappled shade across a porch, casting a host of brindled stars through the windows. Here, she was certain, her muse would come.

To stave off the late afternoon chill, she lit a fire, made coffee and set about ordering her notes. She ought not get distracted by the beauty of the place. But it was irresistible, timeless. Few other places had its rugged grandeur. Deeply fissured trunks covered with wizened burrs gave the trees a gnarled and ancient appearance, the essence of wilderness she so craved.

Out on the porch, she basked in the autumn gold of the forest. It was then that the dog came. It sat right by the back door. A docile specimen that bent its head at her gaze. It lay submissively, tail wagging, waiting. She looked about and called ‘Hello’, for an owner. The dog looked around too, ears pricked, listening expectantly. Nothing.

‘Go home, go on! Shoo!’The dog’s tail wagged harder. A whine of restraint mewled from his muzzle, but it didn’t move.

The evening wore on, words fell from pen to page: Red velvet apparel. A damsel in need of tutoring. ‘Oh, your eyes…’, ‘Your mouth…’. A little cliché but it serves a certain readership. She sighed, bored.
‘Are you still there, Dog?’
The unmistakable pounding of tail answered. ‘There’s nothing here for you. Go home.’ A whimper signalled the resettling of dog on porch.

Nightfall cloaked the outside with pitch. So far from town, they were undisturbed by suburban light. The full moon did its best to illuminate the darkness, but the gloom of the forest resisted. The day had been long and hunger pangs stirred her to her feet. She looked again for the dog. Still there. She let it in. It sat, quite at home, by the fireside, with its doleful eyes steadfastly upon her. She stroked its long ears, its long snout bristling with whiskers. It was reassuring not to be quite so alone in the dark.

Dreams tumbled in her head that night. She dreamt of a sensuous lover, of limbs entwined, of lipsbrushing soft skin, of caresses. She thought she’d heard the dog growling. She listened hard but heard only the soothing hush of leaves, tremulous on branches and the dulcet seductions of her paramour.

Morning brought grizzled light and rain. Her lacerated sheets were smeared with bloody grime sticking to her in weighty clumps. Stinging claw marks etched her body as blood mingled with the mire of the forest and the acrid pungency of sodden dog.

The dog’swarm pelt barely contained the purple viscera that burgeoned from its underbelly. Spilling from its body, entrails settled gelatinously against her. She licked her sticky fingers and sighed.

Pam Knapp lives in the UK’s rolling countryside of the Sussex Downs, close enough to London to feel the heat, far enough away to avoid being burnt. Optimism is her greatest asset. Her writing can be found in Dreich Magazine, Green Ink Poetry, Owl Hollow Press and Lucent Dreaming, amongst others.

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