the short story project


Mike Stone

Investigations of a Kafkaesque Nature

By Mike Stone

I’m running through a lush field of yellow grass blades after a black cat under a blue sky. The cat jinks this way and that but I’m gaining on him. I’ve never run so fast in my life. It’s like I’m flying over the grasses and through the bushes. It’s like I’m synchronized with all motion and I’m lying still inside the motion while the universe is doing the running and the cat and I are one with it, but I am getting closer. From far away I feel something warm on my twitching muscles and jerk to attention but it is the calming hand of my human, soothing me but insisting that I awaken. The cat, the grasses, and the universe dissipate. They are replaced by another reality. My human touches a square on the wall of our cave and the eyelids open slowly, letting in the morning light. He brings the chain linked collar and long strap to put around my neck but I lay my head down, feigning sleep. It’s a game I play before we go out for my walk which, feeling my kidneys full once more, it’s probably time for. I rise to my feet and we walk to the mouth of our cave. My human sticks something into a small hole in the wall which opens sideways. We leave the cave and walk down the stepping stones to another eyelid which my human opens. We walk down more stepping stones to a path in which big blue, yellow, and grey metal insects roll noisily past on dark rubber feet. Of course I would prefer to run freely instead of being constrained by the chain and strap but I don’t know whether my human needs the strap for me to pull him along or he’s afraid I’ll run into the path of those big rolling insects. I don’t want him to worry about me, since worry smells like fear which is a sign of weakness, and I don’t want him to be weak. Sometimes my human doesn’t seem to know what’s good for him. When I smell a stranger who is menacing or afraid, I know it is up to no good and I’d better lunge at him before he attack us, but my human yanks on my chain and strap when I’m already in midair. It can be so embarrassing and frustrating. We walk by the stranger and I feel so cowed, but nothing bad happens this time. It might have. Always attack first is my policy. It’s safer. The world is a dangerous place and if you want to survive in it, you have to keep your wits about you. A walk in the park is not necessarily a walk in the park, if you know what I mean. My human is too trusting and one of these days I won’t be able to protect him.

We start our walk but I get easily sidetracked in the here and now. There are so many stories to listen to and you can never know in advance which ones will be only just very interesting and which ones will be whoa I can’t move another inch before I hear the rest of it, like this scrawny grey yellow bush in the garden we almost passed by. A human who had just birthed two human pups had passed by and left their scents worth on the leaves. One of the pups didn’t take his mother’s milk so well. It might be related to the acrid smell of his urine. This takes time and I need more information, but my human is trying to pull me away already. I try to convey to him that this is important but he doesn’t seem to understand. Honestly, sometimes I don’t know what they’re thinking inside those inflated brains. I squirt a bit of urine near the spot to mark how far I’d gotten in this saga so I don’t have to start from the beginning next time around. The human and I always walk the same path, two or three times a day, but sometimes it’s not the same path because the smells are new. It’s the same but not the same. Go try to explain that to a creature who walks upright. It’s as though they don’t want to smell the world around them. Keep your nose to the ground I always say. We continue our walk and I sniff what I can. Somebody has to do the smelling around here.

Suddenly my bowels feel full and I release them. My human scoops it up in a bag and tosses it into a round container. Honestly I don’t know why I bother to do it. It’s such a waste of time.

As we continue our walk, we enter a cloud of digital emanations leaking out of the eye of a cave near us. Although the noise is annoying to me, it doesn’t seem to bother my human who is tapping with his thumbs on some small slab of plastic. The cloud contains an article on quantum physics and human irrationality. It states that although modern humans have attempted to base their rationality on the logical and mathematical models of Aristotle, that a thing either is or is not something, but the article goes on to say that our world is really a large number of states that can be and not be at the same time, at least until you measure them. Once you measure them and depending on how you measure them, they become one state or another. Quantum physics is a bit beyond me but it seems to me that logic and mathematics only derive their value from the premise that they somehow reflect how our physical world really works. If not, then what are they good for? I don’t believe in total chaos. The world kind of makes sense to me. Neither do I believe in a big dog in the sky who created this world and everything that happens depends on Its will or whimsy.

We passed through the cloud and continued our walk. My bladder was still half full but I had to save some of my urine for come what may. My human avoids other dogs, cats, and people when we walk together. I worry about his social life.

Finally our path takes us to the mouth of our cave. He puts his stick into the mouth so it will open. Then he pushes a square next to another mouth. I sit patiently beside him waiting for the mouth to open. When it finally does, we enter a small cave that’s not our cave yet. My human presses another square and the cave begins to jiggle and vibrate. Soon it stops and the mouth opens. I walk to the mouth of our cave and wait for my human to put another stick in the mouth of our cave. The mouth opens and we are home.

That’s all I wanted to be.

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