He ran through the apple grove and came out in a small clearing that had a knoll in the middle. Trees surrounded the knoll, but the only vegetation upon it was a few shrubs, some wild-plants, and thick grass. The sound of howling continued to fill the clearing. It was louder now, and it certainly came from the knoll.
The boy ran up the shallow slope of the knoll. Even though his shoes were uncomfortably huge, he was nimble on his feet. When he reached the top of the knoll, the ground ahead of him opened into a deep hole. Anyone else would’ve fallen in, but he understood the woods and had learned to expect the unexpected, so he stopped a few steps short of it.
He fell to his knees and crawled ahead cautiously, testing the ground with one of his hands before moving forward. He knew something about these holes. The edges were crumbling all the time, and it was best to approach a hole cautiously, so just before peering down into it, he lowered himself down and spread-eagled himself on the ground, digging his toes into the dirt. When he felt secure, he pulled himself a little over the edge and looked down.
There was indeed a creature down there. The kind he had never seen before. It looked more like a piece of rag with its dirty threads hanging matted and loose. Yet, because it was the thing that was producing the howling sound, he was sure that it was actually a creature.
“Shhhh,” he made a sound – the kind he whenever he hurt himself; it always soothed him, so perhaps it would soothe this creature too.
He was right. The tiny dirty bundle of fur stopped wailing almost immediately.
The next thing that happened was certainly very odd. It had never happened to the boy before! He heard a voice penetrate his mind and speak to him.
“Hey, I am Cubby,” said the voice, “please help. Take me out of here.”
What was odder still was that the boy understood the meaning of what he heard. Seven years of silence could make anyone believe that he was deaf and dumb.
But what the boy didn’t know was that he wasn’t supposed to hear and understand Cubby, because Cubby was a pup, and pups and humans don’t usually hold conversations.
“Hey, boy! Are you going to help me or not?” He heard the creature again.
Sure, but I need to think of a way to get you out, the boy thought.
The oddest of all things hadn’t happened yet, which was that the creature heard his thought and barked back.
“OK boy, don’t take too long. These quarters are awfully cramped, even for a tiny pup!”
The boy heard it – but he wasn’t shocked by it. He came across a new oddity every few days. So what if he had never spoken to any animal in the past – there was always a first time. Later, after he had saved it, he would also find out what kind of creature a “pup” was.
Right now, he had a problem to solve. If only he could build a sort of bucket, which he could hang in the hole, the creature could climb into the bucket and he would pull it out.
What can I use to make a bucket? He thought.
“Are you dense? Use your hat!” the pup barked back.
So the creature can actually hear my thoughts, another thought unwittingly popped up in the boy’s mind.
“Sure I can. Now can we cap the small talk and get me out of here,” said the pup in a voice that sounded gruff and more in command now. Cubby was back in his element.
The boy removed his hat and inspected its rim. It was already full of holes. He could actually use a couple of creepers, twist them into a rope and run the rope through the holes to make a sling and save this poor creature.
The boy acted on his plan, and in a few minutes Cubby was out of the hole.
After the cold and wet dirt at the base of the hole, Cubby found the hat soft and warm, so he didn’t hurry out. Instead, he held out a paw.
“Thank you Mister, you saved my life.” he said, and then introduced himself to his savior in a low dignified bark trying to imitate the older dogs that he had met prior to zooming down the hole.
“I’m Cubby. I am a three-month old terrier who has lost its family,” he said.
For a moment the boy wondered about the words “terrier” and “family,” then he took the offered paw in his hand and thought, Cubby, I live here. It’s getting dark now, and it’s best I leave. So please get out of the hat.
Cubby gave him the soulful look that only a pup can muster, but he didn’t leave the hat.
He had nowhere to go.
So the boy carefully took him out of the hat and sat him down on the ground. Then he picked his hat, removed the creepers from the hole and put the hat on his head.
Cubby still sat there.
Why don’t you go somewhere? He looked at the pup and thought.
“Where?” whined the pup, his voice soft – the kind that melts people’s hearts!
The boy had no answer.
The pup barked again, softly. The boy was odd. He’d have to change his tactic.
“What’s your name, boy?”
Name? What is a name? The boy thought.
“A name is a way to identify you, to call you. For example, my name is Cubby, so when someone says Cubby, I know they are talking to me,” said the pup, slightly puzzled because he had never met anyone without a name.
I don’t have one, the boy mused, an old musty feeling of sadness creeping upon him.
“No name? I see,” said the pup wondering whether he indeed saw anything, but he wanted to keep the conversation going, so he continued, “Someone who keeps his name secret is called Anonymous. How about this – lest us give you a name! Let us call you Anon.”
And who is going to call me Anon? I live alone, thought the boy.
“I will, if you take me along,” the pup looked into his eyes and made a promise of forever friendship and loyalty – the promise that had been made between a human and his dog for centuries, and which had stood all tests of time.
The boy didn’t know about promises and stuff, but when he heard the pup and looked into those innocent eyes, his heart melted. He smiled and picked up the dirty little rag doll and put him into the pocket of his oversized overcoat. A feeling of soft warmth spread through the boy’s body, as the pup laid his chin over the boy’s sleeve.
For the first time in his little life the pup had imprinted upon someone, and his canine senses told him that now he would forever be Anon’s dog.
For the first time since he could remember, the boy had talked to someone – and although he didn’t know anything about pups and dogs and their loyalty towards their human companions, he knew that he had found a forever friend!
That evening when the boy returned to the cave, he was no longer lonely or nameless – he had Cubby and he had a name.
When he moved the creepers aside, entered his cave, and threw the switch on, he remembered – he now had a purpose too. He was going to uncover every secret that lay buried in the room that he had discovered in the morning!
Anon had no idea that a saga of never-heard-or-seen-before adventures was about to begin.
Outside the cave, it had started to rain again.
Twenty miles southeast of the cave, Zoe was still alone.