Tom Smith is from Bristol. He is 35, balding and no longer in rugby-form. Tom had always wanted a pet, but was horribly allergic, leading him to wistfully stare at his neighbour’s Golden Lab when they took a walk every morning past his kitchen window. Tom also watched too many cat videos.
This Tuesday morning began like all Tuesdays. Tom finished his breakfast, drained his cup of tea and set out to work. He was a very good Manager, always on time to open the local supermarket, and help unpack the days product for the shelves.
What Tom didn’t know was that the newest shipment contained cursed oranges from Florida, and his life would be forever changed.
Upon his arrival at work, he set about unloading boxes and when his hand touched the Florida Orange crate, he yelped in agony, promptly falling on his bum and bruising it. Upon closer examination, Tom had multiple deep slivers that would require a physician’s visit.
On the way to the surgery, he found himself quite lost. In fact, he didn’t recognise the park he decided to cut through at all, and now realised that maybe, this park had never been there before. Tom was slowly becoming more confused as his fingers throbbed in slivered pain. But Tom did not turn back, in fact he continued on as the trees grew thicker, the air colder and the sun dimmer.
A black figure, caught out of the corner of his eye, followed by the sound of plodding footsteps forced Tom to quicken his pace. The plodding also quickened. His neck hairs raised as he pondered how friendly that figure really was.
Tom thought that maybe he made a bad choice coming here.
The trees thickened as Tom attempted to keep his heart in his chest, and the sound behind him grew steadily closer. Tom was running now, swiftly as he could through darkening trees; branches slapped him and brambles grabbed his nicely pressed trousers, tearing small holes. He could hear the deep sound of a rumble or growl behind him. Tom was now truly frightened.
A bright light flashed ahead and Tom wheezed as he attempted to run even faster, to reach the safety of that light. As he grew nearer, he could see the cars and lorries speeding past. Relief slid down his back. Just as he was about to burst from the trees, the deep growl grew louder and closer. In fact it was upon him completely as something jumped directly on his back.
With a whomp, Tom landed on the forest floor, breath flew from his chest and he struggled to catch it. He could feel claws and heavy feet standing on his back. A deep growling came closer to his ear and Tom shuddered, terrified of his impending death.
A wet tongue licked his ear.
Tom opened his eyes. Upon rolling over, he looked into the pitch black, loosely formed shape of a medium sized dog. Light seemed to absorb into its thick fur as it moved like smoke, its eyes were glowing orange and dimmed to amber as the forest grew thinner and brighter by the second. The ears were pointed and alert, the moderately fluffy tail was relaxed and slowly wagging, swirling in eddies as it tried to keep its form. Tom let out a shuddering breath and held out his hand.
Too late, he realised it was the injured hand, and the dog licked it furiously. Before Tom could snatch his hand back, he noticed that the pain of his slivers was subsiding. Amazed, he glanced at his hand and saw that the injury was quite healed, all slivers gone.
The dog whined and wagged its tail harder. Tom waited for the immediate allergic reaction that usually occurred. Nothing. The dog met his eyes again and stepped closer. Tom laughed softly, petting the chilled fur of the dog. With his touch, the fur became a little more solid, the tail a little less like smoke caught in a wind.
Upon release the dog’s shape was more of a memory, but it’s orange eyes gleamed through the forest shade.
Later that day, when Tom arrived home with his new furry roommate, he was overjoyed to find a black cat curled on his doorstep, its shape slowly solidifying as he touched it. The eyes of the cat flashed orange as he led them all inside.