Fred stood up in the dumpster stretching his sore back muscles. Just a few more. He thought to himself, and bent to his task. Unearthing a few more cans in the discarded remains, he spotted something shiny.

Fred made his way slowly to it, and carefully dug out his new treasure. It was only a cap, but the cap was attached to a clear ornate bottle. It was filthy. Fred shrugged. He didn't care how filthy it was, it was still something. He had long ago learned to look past face value of everything. His fall from grace had taught him that much.

Stowing away the bottle to clean up for another time, the man wondered how much he could fetch for the bottle. Just as he had it tucked away, he was knocked off balance by something cracking into his shoulder. Fred was sent sprawling forward, smashing the bottle he had just found. He felt the glass digging into him, and a flood of moisture. With a groan, he lifted himself up slowly. Fred wiped away the trash he had just fallen face first into. Then he gazed around for the offending projectile.

Before him was a bottle cracked from its collision with his back. He could tell straight away it was simpler, but more beautiful than the bottle his body had crushed. He gazed at if for a moment before he realized it was gazing back.

Fred blanched, falling back, and knocking his head on the wall of the dumpster. He groaned again, and rose to leave. He had one leg over the edge when he paused. Looking back at the bottle, and the eyes within Fred thought that maybe he should just take them. But they were weird, and staring. Maybe he could pawn them, or maybe someone was looking for them. He could get money. But who would want them? They were kind of creepy. Silently Fred argued with himself.

Take nothing at face value. He told himself. No. He wouldn't make that same mistake.

Fred lowered himself back into the dumpster, and retrieved the eyes in the bottle. He put it in with the broken glass, and then left the dumpster. He picked up his bag of cans, and made his way home to the little bridge on the back road of the small mountain town.

Fred finished reading the article he had been reading, and folded the paper before setting it aside. He let out a sigh as he thought over what he had read. In the small little town there had been several more deaths. All were a death by a sort of decapitation. It looked more like someone had bashed in the skulls of his unfortunate victims until there was really nothing left but blood splatter and brain material. It was all so very violent. And now to top off matters a woman had gone missing. There was talk of a serial killer that had taken either a victim alive, or a trophy. Either way there were still no answers, and now Nadia had vanished with no trace. She had left all of her belongings behind, so she was assumed to be kidnapped, or dead. In short she was another victim to an unknown killer, whom had most likely fled.

Fred pondered over all of this. The world was becoming more and more violent, and so dulled to all of the death. No one cared about blood and guts, but show a nipple and there will be hell to pay. He was frankly disgusted with the world. Maybe it was better that he should be here realizing this instead of out there not caring. But how did he really play into all of this? He puzzled over the question as he found his gaze on the eyes. He had taken them hadn't he? So what did that say about him? Fred followed the train of thought a bit further before giving up on it. What did it really matter at the moment?

The man shook himself of his thoughts, and rose to retrieve the eyes. He carried them to the stream that ran through his home, and began to wash them off. When the bottle was clean he lifted them from the water, and gazed at the crack. The bottle would have shattered if he hadn't been there to cushion its decent.

Fred toweled off the bottle, and felt along the crack. It had a slow leak, and he could see the fluid was a bit lower than when he had gotten the eyes. He sighed, and brought the bottle back to his things. He set the bottle aside while he rummaged around, and found what he was seeking. He laid his hand on what he wanted, and pulled it free. Then he uncapped the silicone tube, and applied a thin layer to the bottle. Then set it aside to dry. The silicone would seal the crack, and not disrupt the view of the eyes. Fred briefly wondered why he would care about the eyes view, then shrugged it off, and went about his usual day.

Almost a month had passed. Fred lived his life in relative peace the first few weeks, but then his food supply was slowly beginning to dwindle. He cursed his bad luck, and continued to find what he could until his food had completely disappeared. It was always lean around winter, but this was ridiculous! There were only a few more weeks before spring would begin, but he could find no food. His mood turned more and more sour as his belly hurt more and more.

The hungry man glanced over at the eyes as if to ask them what to do. He looked away at the fire he had built crackled. Fred sighed wondering what he had done to deserve this. Hadn't he already paid for his sins in full? Wasn't that why he was where he was now instead of in his comfy home with his cell phone? But it was no use to think of such things. It would do nothing to change the here and now.

He was sick of self-pity; it got him nowhere just like the pity of others. He had, out of desperation, begged for anything. Fred hated to do it, and was angered for just having to do it. The thought of it turned his mind red hot in anger. And his anger soon found a release point, as did his hunger.

A shaggy dog wandered into his domain under the bridge. The dog paused upon scenting him, and gave a low questioning bark. He smiled predatorily at the dog, and reached out his hand. The dog lowered its head, and crept closer. He sniffed the air, and came closer. The process was repeated a few more times, and Fred swore he was ready to pull his hair out from madness. He was starving.

Finally the dog was close enough for Fred to reach out and touch it. Fred eased forward on his knees. His smiled became more and more malicious as he did. Then he had his hand on the dog, and was petting it. He scratched and petted the dog for about ten minutes before it finally let its guard down, and sunk to the ground. It rolled over exposing its belly, and relished the attention it was getting.

"Yes," his voice came out in a low growl. If anyone had heard it, Fred included, it would have sent chills through their body.

Fred maneuvered his hand to be on the dog's shoulder. There he could easily hold the dog down while he did his work, and the dog would be unable to rise. Fred continued to love on the dog while his right hand went out searchingly behind him. It quickly found what he wanted, and closed around a large jagged rock.

By this point Fred was gone. He was nowhere near himself when the dog had lain down. He had disappeared as soon as the dog had appeared, and the thought of food took hold. His body was working itself; it was on auto pilot. He was unaware of his body's own plans. He had no idea what was going on.

He never felt himself lift the rock, nor felt how hard it came down. He never heard the sick crack, nor the dogs yelp. He never felt the jar up his limb as the force was stopped. He never felt his arm rise again and again. He never knew how many times he hit the dog. But his arm continued to rise and fall regardless of any of this.

The dog's fruitless struggles never woke Fred, or when they stopped soon after. He pounded the dog's head over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. The man was heedless as the dog's head gave a crunch, and blood violently erupted in a wide splatter. He never realized the eyes had popped out by the fourth blow, and slowly began to roll down the embankment to be born away by the stream feeding the Colorado River.

The man was unaffected by the blood he was slinging everywhere, spreading it with each blow. He never paused even as he finally caved the brain cavity, and his hand sunk into the soft flesh below. He didn't care that he was covered now in brain mush, and blood. The man never stopped even when the dog was dead, and bits of fur and skin came free of the skull, being flung by his endless hammering.

When the man did stop his breath was coming in harsh pants as if he had been running a marathon. He gazed down at the flattened skull of the dog, and smiled. He had food. He didn't care what it was as long as it was food.

The man set aside his rock, and began to set about gutting and skinning the dog. He stoked his fire, and began to cook all of the meat. He hung the skin after cleaning it well. Then the man cooked his newly acquired food.

As the first pieces of the meat were cooked through, he greedily sucked them down mindless of his burning tongue. Then with a full belly he waited for the rest to finish. He grew tired as he did, and when the last bit of meat was removed from the fire he stored it away. The man yawned, stretched, and fell into oblivion.

Waking sometime in the middle of the night Fred laid wondering at his incoherent thoughts. He sat up, and stared dumbly ahead. He was trying to make sense of his jumbled mind. What had happened? Fred couldn't be sure. What he remembered seemed more like a dream than a memory. He remembered last night with odd detachment as if he weren't the one doing it, as if someone- something- else was controlling his body and he was just an observer. Had he killed a dog?

Fred looked around with horror and panic beginning to grow in him, and his eyes settled on the skin. He had. Why? The food.

Yes, he thought dimly, My belly is full.

Fred remembered his body's exertions, and slowly lifted his arm. He winced at the pain that lanced through him. No wonder he felt so weak. The confused man lowered his arm, and lay back down. He had killed an innocent living thing. What did that mean for him? In some way he felt like he didn't deserve to live, but that was foolish. Fred was trying to live, and his instincts had kicked in. Right? He closed his eyes, and willed himself to drift again. He didn't want to think about his moral dilemma. He wanted to sleep.

Two days later he sat looking longingly at the meat. He had been unable to eat it knowing where it had come from. What if that had been someone's pet?

Then why was it out here?

He looked away from the meat. It could have gotten out. Wandering, waiting for its owner to find it and take it home. He argued with himself.

It was just a stray to be put out of its misery.

Fred shook his head. No. And even if it was it didn't deserve the fate I gave it. It wasn't my choice to make.

His other side laughed. Survival of the fittest! It cried. Go ahead, and eat. You are hungry, and it tasted so good before. Why deprive yourself? Its fate is already decided, you made sure of that. Just eat.

Fred tried to ignore the want. What had become of him? He hadn't left his little makeshift home since realizing what he had done. He was so disgusted with himself. Fred wanted to die to pay for what he had done.

Maybe I am not the man I thought I was. There was no answer to that. He caught himself looking at the meat again, and his stomach grumbled.

He sighed. It was already dead, and there was nothing he could do about that now. So why let the meat go to waste? It wouldn't hurt anymore if he ate it. Fred had already committed the crime. What was done was done. Right?

With another sigh he reached toward the meat, and took a piece of it. He bit into it trying not to think of what the meat had once belonged to. After eating the piece Fred wanted to retch, but forced himself not to. He picked up another piece, and forced it down. He stopped then, hoping his stomach would settle.

It did slightly, but Fred still felt it turning at the idea that what had filled his empty middle was a poor dead dog. It made him sick. He looked away from the rest of it, and stood up unsteadily.

The man slowly made his way to the stream, and dipped his hands in the cold water. He rubbed them together as if he could wash his sins away so easily. He longed that the cold that permeated his hands would sink into him. Fred was sick of this life of his. He wasn't even sure why he bothered to try anymore. He had sunk to eating a dog and begging. He wished the stream was deep enough that he could wade into it and let it bear him away to where ever it would take him. Fred would go without struggling if it would promise him freedom and release.

The conflicted man rose slowly instead, and shook his hands to rid himself of the excess water. He returned to the log that served as his seat, and sat. He stared at the water that flowed past effortlessly.

Fred lost himself in the water, and was only shaken from his thoughts by a loud growling nearby. He looked up, surprised, to see a dog sniffing the skin. He had two other dogs with him that were the ones growling. They were looking at them. They knew he had killed the dog, and he wondered if this was the dogs pack. Slowly Fred stood, and backed away. He was inching toward the opposite side of the bridge. He doubted he could outrun them, but he could get to a tree and find salvation in it.

There would be no escape for him today however. His exit was promptly blocked by four other dogs when one of the dogs before him barked. Now he was a trapped rat. His only hope was the stream that would only slow him down. Fred maneuvered toward that. The dogs all closed around him, and were growling with deadly intent sparkling in their eyes.

His mind worked furiously trying to find a way out of this mess. He was jarred from his thoughts when one of the dogs launched at him. Fred managed to bring his hands up to catch it, and toss it aside. The man was then fighting to stay upright when another dog grabbed for his leg. It only got his jeans, but it tossed its head making Fred unsteady. He swatted ineffectually at the dog, and drew back quickly when another dog attempted to catch his hand. His quick movement coupled with a second dog biting his other leg brought Fred to his knees.

The dog had found purchase in his calf, and the pain lanced up his leg. The tossed aside dog took this opportunity to jump on Fred's back. It didn't reach his goal of Fred's neck, however, as Fred bucked it off. It recovered quickly, and pounced on him again. It was joined by another dog, and a fifth one joined the assault by sinking its teeth into Fred's arm.

With a roar Fred surged up to his feet, dislodging all of the dogs except the one holding his pant leg. He kicked at it, and felt joy at the soft thud as he made connection. The dog yelped, letting go of the pants. Fred's small victory was short lived as the lead dog- and largest one- launched at him. Fred managed to keep the dog from tearing out his throat, but he lost his upright stature. He quickly rolled over upon his meeting the ground, and scrambled away from the dogs toward his things.

He had a hunting knife he could use to inflict severe damage. Fred reached out his hand, and felt his pack before a hot wet mouth closed on his wrist. He heaved himself up again, but could not dislodge the dog. The man tried to fling it off, but he only knocked his things askew. He was hit in the side by the lead dog lunging at him again, at the same moment his calf was ripped open.

As Fred fell for the third and final time he could feel hot blood pouring from the gaping wound. He could feel all of his wounds as he fell in agonizing slowness. He felt the dog on his arm tear away all the muscles of his forearm.

Fred gasped, but it was cut short as he impacted the ground. He felt a lancing pain in his back, and had a brief flash in his mind of the rock he had used to fell the dog. There was an audible crack as his back snapped. Fred wanted to hold his breath as he realized all of his pain had promptly disappeared in that split second. He attempted to move anything, and failed. Fred focused and tried to feel anything. Nothing. He tried to breath in deeply to shout, but couldn't. He was paralyzed. He could still breathe, though not voluntarily, and could still see and hear.

It was horrible to hear the dogs around him. He could tell they were feasting on his flesh now, but he couldn't feel it. Occasionally he would feel slight movement as they ripped his body apart and warmth of blood on his face. A few times his eyes met with one of the dogs, and he could see their bloodied maws.

Fred idly wondered how long it would be before he bled out enough to die. In his last moments of consciousness he heard a chink. He slowly turned his head toward the sound. Through a haze filled mind he saw the eyes in their cracked glass bottle rolling down the embankment. Then they were born away by the stream much as he had wanted to be.

Fred closed his eyes, and tried to will his soul away from his broken, and now mutilated body. It didn't work, and he attempted to will himself into the sweet oblivion of sleep. Failing at any form of release from his torture, Fred opened his eyes to gaze at the dogs once more. The dogs were laughing at him, and felt he deserved it. As time ticked slowly by, the dogs feasted, and Fred waited.

©2007