The Towers of Virgo

Original Fiction by Cheshire Grin. Don't steal it! ;p


This is the way the world ends.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

- T.S. Eliot, 'The Hollow Men'


From outside, the apartment shimmered enticingly in the wan light, smiling down on the passersby with gently glowing windows. Terraces jutted out proudly into the sky. The white paint on the iron railings seemed nice from ground level but a closer inspection revealed flakes of paint peeling upwards in gently spreading chaos. Underneath the paint, the bare metal glared out. Rust crouched silently in hidden places.

Inside, the salesman sat in a vinyl armchair on the top floor. The chair decayed slowly in its spot beside the glass door, which afforded a view of the sprawling city below. He whistled a catchy tune and watched the glass door intently. It was cracked in several places but garish stickers advertising some of the products he sold had obscured most of these. Nothing moved out on the terrace. He whistled the tune again, louder this time. There was still no response.

A wholesome grin spread over his face, all twinkly eyes and white teeth. Subtle flesh-colored powder hid the cracks at the edges of his mouth. He waited five minutes then stood up and rapped loudly on the dirty glass, careful not to touch too close to one the cracks. A bundle of rags in the corner of the terrace seemed to shudder at the noise. A terrier lifted its head warily from where it slept. Its shaggy fur was matted and unkempt and barely concealed the animal's underfed state.

The man opened the door and resumed whistling. The dog watched him closely as he approached. He moved slowly, carefully, the bright and honest smile appearing on his face so quickly it might have always been there. Coming closer, he began to croon softly to the animal, meaningless nonsense in a steady, pleasant voice. The voice was soothing and hypnotic, without a trace of static.

"Hey there boy. How're ya doin'."

The dog lay motionless.

"You're a good boy, a good boy huh?"

Its tail rose slightly and its ears cocked forward. The salesman's smile widened as he reached out his hand and petted the witless little animal on its head. It's tail wagged to and fro like a miniature pendulum.

"That's a good little boy."

He petted the animal reassuringly then got up and opened the glass door.

"Here boy! Come on, there's a good dog."

He moved inside, leaving the door open. The dog followed at his feet, meek at first but growing bolder as the enticing smells of the apartment reached it's nose. It scampered about the room in a frenzy of excitement until the salesman once more whistled his tune. The dog pranced immediately to his feet and followed obediently as he strode into the kitchen and retrieved a can of beer from refrigerator.

Watching him raid the fridge through the pillars of his legs, the dog gave a small yip. The salesman looked down and then snatched up a sandwich and a piece of sausage along with his beer. Dumping the food on a plate, he returned to his armchair, the terrier trailing obediently in the shadow of his monstrous legs.

The din of the television, which was rarely switched off, drowned out the constant shouting from the room next door. The dog waited patiently while the man devoured his sandwich and gulped the beer in three mighty swigs. Still holding the sausage, the salesman motioned to the animal. He whistled again his peculiar, catchy tune and waved the sausage over the terrier. It stood up on its hind legs, straining to reach the morsel. The salesman waved it up and down while the dog jumped and flipped in an effort to claim it. It landed once on his foot and he grunted and kicked it off, moving his feet to one side.

"That's a good boy. That's a good little maggot."

The autumn sun descended and cast feeble rays through the glass door. The stickers that concealed its disfigured surface cast gaudy reflections over the worn linoleum where the dog performed. The garish light played around the dancing terrier and gave it the appearance of a circus animal. This amused the salesman and the grin reappeared on his face. Looking down at the dog through space between his legs, stretched out in the comfort of his vinyl throne, he laughed.

Eventually tiring of the game, he glanced once more at the television, absentmindedly chewing on the sausage. When the game shows finished, the salesman tossed the remaining mouthful out onto the balcony.

"There ya go!"

The dog bolted after it, not quite catching it as it rolled under the railing and down onto the street below. Conceding the loss, it returned to the man and began to whine, rolling on its back as if to catch his attention. The salesman growled, his arm reaching out and catching the animal sharply on its hindquarters. It whimpered and retreated to the terrace where it whined once more.

"Shut up!"

The whining continued unabated.

"Yer as bad as the bloody neighbors. Shut up before I thump ya!"

The dog cringed but didn't stop.

"CHRIST, DOG! I'll kill ya in a minute."

He got up out of his chair and marched onto the terrace, closing the glass door behind him. His legs cast enormous shadows on grimy brick walls behind him. They towered over the little dog, vast and incomprehensible. It circled him warily, its protests not yet silent. Raging with righteous fury, the salesman's leg lashed out, impossibly solid and struck the animal. It rebounded off the white railing, its high-pitched squeal filling the air with iron shavings.

"SHUT UP!"

Hair matted with blood and flecks of old, white paint hanging over its eyes, the terrier launched itself at the salesman's legs, clamping hold of the nearest of the two giant pillars and tearing with its tiny teeth. A rip appeared in the salesman's jeans. The dog landed with a thump at his feet and flew at the other leg. It buckled and went down, the knee nearly crushing the little terrier as it struck the concrete.

"YOU LITTLE BASTARD!!"

As it lunged for another assault, a huge hand fastened itself around the animal's neck. Lifting the dog with one hand, the salesman, howling and red-faced, tossed it over the railing and lay panting on the concrete balcony. The noise that floated up as the dog's descent came to an end was distant and unimportant.

"Godamn little savage."

Clutching at his legs, the salesman cursed and stomped inside, collapsing into the chair.

"Serves him right."

Half an hour later he fell asleep while the television's exuberant cacophony denied the existence of the outside world.

END


No animals were harmed in the making of this story. Justyelled ata little. ;p