Persephone Chapter 8: Animals Amok Ben Lacy Copyright © 2009 Ben Lacy All rights reserved
Statue of Persephone
Recap: The Olympian Underworld has fallen to the forces of the Norse Goddess Hel. Persephone successfully escaped to our world where who new friend Dina took her to the small city of Greenville, SC to hide. While there, she heard the cries of many animals in pain. ************* I turn up the main street moving as fast as I can without attracting unwanted attention. There’s a gathering crowd three streets up. Automobiles with flashing red lights are pulling in from the other end of the street. I slide into the narrow gap between the people on the sidewalk and the adjacent shops. I quickly note the restaurants, clothing stores, and bars as I pass. They’re all full of people, many of whom are coming out onto the street as well. I dance around one such group bursting from the door of a restaurant. If there’s real danger here, a lot of humans are going to be slaughtered. The howl of dogs is now so loud even the humans can hear it over the sirens from the automobiles. I can now see men in blue uniforms getting out of the cars. They must be some kind of city guard. They’ve begun to set up a barricade and they’re pushing the spectators back. Fortunately, mortals won’t notice me if I don’t want them to and do nothing to attract their attention. I simply hug the brick wall and slide around the corner between the barricade and the wall. The side street had more shops on each side. Dogs and cats are running up and down the street with the city guardsmen in helpless pursuit. The dogs are howling and wild eyed. I look more closely; the poor creatures have been starved. One of the guardsmen is busily arguing with a man in front of one of the shops. The sign in front read “Main Street Pets”. “Listen, I just own the building, not the store,” the man not in uniform yells. He’s dressed much more formally than most of the people I’ve seen, in dark pants and jacket with a silken ribbon tied around his neck. He looks to be in his late 30’s and acts like a man used to getting his way but who’s frustrated now that he’s not.
“No, you listen,” the officer says. “We can take the dogs and cats to the shelter if we can catch them, but the lizards, rats, ferrets, and birds are your problem. They’re in your building, you deal with them.” I notice a woman of Nubian descent standing on the raised porch of a coffee shop two doors up from the pet store. She looks alternately angry and amused. “Don’t you let them take those poor dogs Mister Samuels; they’ll never find homes for all of them.” I walk over to her. “What’s going on here Miss?” “Huh, oh, I didn’t notice you there. Yeah, a couple days ago the store shut down. I didn’t think much about it, but then today I heard the dogs howling and realized the guy who owned the place had taken off. I think he’d fallen behind on his rent and his bills so he just blew town leaving all these animals behind.” While she’s telling me this, I notice that all the dogs have stopped running around the street and have begun trotting over to me. “I called the police and when they opened the shop, the dogs and cats burst out. Either he’d left them out of their cages or they’d somehow broken free.” The dogs were now all in neat rows five abreast in front of me, twenty in all. They lay down in front of me, and the alpha dog, a large dog that looks like a Basenji, whimpers. I catch his gaze and temporarily raise his intelligence so he can talk to me. “What’s wrong there?” I pat his head. “We’re starving great mistress,” he moans. “The sun has passed many times since our keeper left. We’ve started eating the cloth toys he sells to other dogs’ masters.” “They must be starving,” the woman says, oblivious to the dog’s end of our conversation. I notice that the cats are now beginning to come over. They cut in front of the dogs and one by one sit on their haunches with their forepaws spread in front of them, each eyeing me expectantly. Their pushy behavior amuses me and I start to reach down to pick up a small orange kitten when I see that the city guardsmen are beginning to notice me. Worse, the crowd
down at the intersection is also starting to look my way. I notice Dina and Zack have now arrived and are standing near the front. Dina looks at me in alarm, clearly thinking the same thing I am. Still, if my understanding of what’s happening here is correct, I have an idea on how to make the best of the situation. “Oh, my god,” suddenly one of the city guard - no, the coffee shop woman called them police - bursts from the door of the pet shop. Following right behind him is a ten foot long alligator. Amazing, I think, I wouldn’t have thought one could live in this climate. “This thing was locked in the bathroom.” The man yells, pulling a piece of metal from a leather scabbard on his belt. “No, no!” the policeman who was talking to the building owner yells. “There’re too many people, just keep back. Dammit, where is animal control already?” The crocodile starts coming slowly towards me, the dogs and cats skitter aside to allow him through. Now the police have definitely noticed me. “Oh Christ, lady, what are you doing over here. Get, get inside that coffee shop.” The same policeman hollers, moving around to my side and pulling out his own weapon. (Gun, they’re guns, we’ve had soldiers from more recent times who carried them. I remember Hades saying that at close range they could strike like Zeus’ thunderbolt.) More of the men are pulling out their weapons. This is about to be a disaster. There’s no good way to avoid trouble, so I decide to wade right in. I walk up to the crocodile, and before anyone can speak, I reach down and clamp one hand around its snout, firmly holding it shut. “Calm down,” I command. “Its jaws are only powerful in biting down. One hand can easily keep it from biting. It’s harmless.” This is of course ludicrous; a thrashing crocodile can easily break a normal man’s hold and then run him down before he can get out of range. But, in my hands, he flops onto his belly and docilely awaits my command. I get up and back away, concentrating on forcing people to keep an eye on the croc and not on me. My natural ability to go unnoticed by mortals is being overmatched and forcibly using my powers in this manner may be detectable by Hel. Still, I have no choice but to split the
difference. The crowd keeps their focus on the crocodile; the head policeman and the building owner keep one eye on it, and the other on me. “He’ll stay calm for a little while,” I tell the policeman, “but you need to act quickly. Bring in a rope to tie his mouth shut then use it to pull him into a narrow cage so he can’t thrash too much. Then feed him. They’ll all be fine if they’re fed.” He looks at me for a long moment, then looks at the crocodile and realizes that’s more urgent. He nods and starts yelling to his men and then into a small box in his hand. “That was incredible. Are you some kind of dog whisperer?” The owner asks me. I take a good look at him. He’s handsome, in a distinguished way. Perhaps the way my father might be were he much smaller, with no beard, and dressed in the very confining clothes this man wears. “Hmm, yes, that sounds about right. I work with animals quite often. We’ve developed a mutual respect that they can sense,” I tell him. “Uhm, ok,” he says clearly skeptical. “Look, here’s the thing. My name’s Elijah Samuels. I own a fair amount of property in downtown, but I’m in a bind. I need someone who can take care of these animals, at least for a few days. I can pay you. And there’s an apartment on top of the shop you can use.” He smiles at me persuasively. Perfect, I allow him to think he’s convincing me. “You won’t even have to take care of the cats and dogs,” he adds. “No, take the cats and dogs.” Dina, with Zag – no Zack – in tow has materialized beside me. “Whoa,” the man says, “You just kind of popped up out of nowhere.” Dina’s solidity and visibility are still tied to her distance to me. I’ll have to work on that. “Hi, I’m Dina. I’m her cousin.” Hmm, well … ok. “Yes, I’m Tracy by the way and this is my son. Now, about the cats and dogs?”
“They’ll have to kill them. There’s no way they can find homes for all of them,” Dina says. “Is that true?” I ask. “To be honest, I have no idea. Some of them do look to be in kind of bad shape,” my future landlord says looking over at several of the dogs now lying listlessly where I left them, their earlier burst of adrenalin spent. “Well, I’m quite sure I can fix them up and then find homes for them. Now, looking over at the pet shop, it looks like it’ll need quite a cleaning and some repairs.” “I can have a cleanout crew here in an hour. I can have maintenance start repairs tomorrow, first thing,” Elijah says. “Very well, then,” I smile winningly. “I think we might be able to - how would you say it – make a deal.”
Next time – Small Business Goddess.