What prompts their arrival is a matter of conjecture; at any rate,
the dogs are wild dogs ---traveling in packs, they swarm through streets
in the early hours of morning, long after most are asleep, setting up a
sound more like a drone than a volley of barks or howls. If one looks through
the windows as the snow slumbers down in this far northern village, their
passing is like a drift of flakes before the onslaught of winter --- a
drone assails the senses for minutes at a time, now building, now diminishing,
a kind of tune impervious to the senses.
All we know is they arrive as a unit; approaching the square, appendages
of scouts swirl off in tentacles ---- from the roofs, they look like an
amoeba whose pseudopods grope outward in exploratory quests, then break
from the body ----- snaking down alleys, slithering through doorways, leaping
through windows raised by villagers who cannot anticipate their determined
aggression, who lean back suddenly as the jaws come near to grazing them,
then collapse to the floor, not knowing where their bristling quests might
Apparently they are not indiscriminate, though they have victims,
for after each wave of their arrival, we find that one of our villagers
has gone. Once, a hunter decided to trail them, and came to a spot near
a mountain pass where, he conjectured, a campfire had been abandoned and
the dogs had taken over ---- he could barely make out through the night
air the flicker of smouldering ashes, and smoke that swirled like a passel
of crows toward dawn. But the dogs merely waited --- crouched on
their haunches, glancing at him occasionally but not advancing ---- suddenly,
they were not hunters at all, nor was he, but mere conveyors of a cargo
the villager would not identify till he returned to his home next day.
Weeks passed; the mystery, having reached an intolerable scale, sent
one of our people further into the distance than any had attempted, only
to find the carcass of a villager missing only a few hours before, buried
in the middle of a narrow path, his body protruding above the clawed soil
like the parody of a scarecrow, half-leaning toward the ground, as if a
monument to his own capsized martyrdom. More bodies, we suspect, have been
disposed in like fashion --- vagrants have claimed as much, though
no one cares to believe them, more preoccupied, in any case, with the prospect
of the next wave of interlopers than the fate of former lives.
Now we are determining how we might save the village, whose population
is reduced to almost half its former size. The dogs, like moths,
are drawn to the lights, approaching, most naturally, where they believe
humans are hiding, so we extinguish lamps early ---- indeed, some have
gone so far as to remove from their doors and windows any sign or image
in bright or livid colors, since, they reason, these too will be targeted.
But in the cloak of morning, long before dawn, we hear their scavenging
movements as they grovel in cabins and coal bins, the torrent of their
passing spurred by agonized growls, as if frustrated that what was once
so simple has now become tortuous, though our numbers continue to fall.
Nothing seems to check them, though they seem content with one victim
at a time, as if proscribed by some taboo to carry off more than a single
dweller ----- or perhaps, if that frightened hunter's discovery is any
clue, because they cannot establish more than one human monument at a time.
Just what are these shrines they have so laboriously constructed, and what,
as they circle the village like stars, can their rituals portend?
We are waiting, doors tightened, the lights long gone, not even whispering
as the whisper of their coming brings new rumors to the village, which
may, or may not, be enshrined or buried tomorrow.