Zoe awoke with a start.
She took in the unfamiliar surroundings. Curled up in a hollow of a fallen tree trunk, all she could see from the opening in the trunk was a collage of green.
She pushed her snout out of the opening and sniffed the air. It smelled of wet dirt and mushy leaves. Nothing smelled like food. Her stomach grumbled. She hadn’t eaten for a long time. If she excluded licking that empty ice cream sconce, she hadn’t eaten anything for the last thirty-six hours.
Her stomach grumbled. She ignored it.
Thirty-six hours ago, Zoe had run away from the only home she had known. She had done everything that’s expected of a good dog, and yet they had never really been a family to her. She loved them still, despite the flung shoes, the missed meals, the beatings that she didn’t deserve but got when she spoiled the rug because they hadn’t let her out for thirteen straight hours. If she were human, she would have hated them, but she was a dog and dogs loved their families, no matter what.
And yet, when they had left that gate open, she hadn’t been able to stop herself from exploring. Zoe was a year old – an adolescent and naturally curious about the world outside. She hadn’t strayed far, and had they come looking for her, they would have found her – but they hadn’t; and then curiosity had pushed her farther, until she had lost herself.
Deep within she knew that they wouldn’t come looking for her. The only family member who really cared for her was Johnny. But Johnny was three, and three-year old humans weren’t as smart as three-year old dogs. There was no way for him to find Zoe if his parents didn’t help, and she was sure that they won’t.
Sitting in the hollow, cold and hungry, Zoe missed home.
Things had never been worse.
“Woooooooooo,” she wailed, and then stopped. Someone was wailing back. That was odd.
“Woooooooooo….oooo,” she wailed again, and then perked up her ears to hear the other dog. She heard the voice. It sounded exactly like hers.
Zoe was a smart dog. She changed her howling pattern and tried again, and again.
After twenty or so tries, she understood. The voice that called back was an echo. The way she saw herself reflected in the mirror at home, for some reason she was hearing the reflection of her own voice. It must have something to do with the place.
That plunged her spirits into darkness once again.
She was alone here. There was nobody else, neither man nor dog. She was overcome by a strong wave of pain as she tried to change her position. Something wasn’t right with her left hind-leg.
She looked out of the hollow. There was no sign of any human anywhere. She could bark and howl all she wanted, but there was nobody who would hear her.
Zoe realized that fretting about the situation would only make it worse, so she squared her shoulders and considered her options.
——— ¤¤¤ ———
At exactly the same moment, about a mile away from Zoe, another pup was hurtling down a thirty-feet deep vertical shaft.
>>>Chapter 2: Cubby>>>