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A fable by Bruny Hudson


The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
Vladimir Nabokov

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To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.

Part 52

 
I asked the cow again, “So, what are you doing here?” 

“Just hanging out,” she replied. “You know, the people treat us cows here with respect and good will. I can go wherever I want to go.”

Her blasé attitude was laudable, but I’d rather have been clear of all the traffic. I hopped onto the sidewalk and said, “Have you been standing here for a while?”

The cow twisted around and ungainly climbed the baby step of the sidewalk. Facing me, she squinted and said, “Not for that long. I meander all over the place. Why? You aren’t a scout to those people who like to haul us cows off to greener pastures, are you?”

“What would be wrong with having fresh grass to nibble on? Never mind, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I just want to know if by any chance you’ve seen a dog resembling me around here somewhere.”

Almost knocking me over, the cow shook her head. “I usually don’t pay attention to anything, except if something exciting happens.”

What a boring life, I was thinking, but her lack of interest might be to my advantage. I pulled down the Searcher from my collar, and as I had hoped, the cow didn’t even blink and instead started to chew again.

In case she would become curious, I turned away from her, powered up the Searcher and dialed in Ludwig’s Internet ID number. Instantly, I heard a faint beep and another one several seconds later. Wow, Kojak did know what he was doing.

I moved closer to the curb and pointed the Searcher toward the bazaar. The beeps remained at a low volume but became sharper and a tad less far apart. Somehow, I had to get back across the street.

Looking right and left, I stepped off the sidewalk. A truck, loaded like a tower with whatever one could only dream up, whizzed by me, and I jumped backward onto the curb.

“You don’t want to cross the road again, do you?” the cow asked.

I turned around and looked at her. “Well, well, you do pay attention after all.”

“I told you, if something exciting happens. Whatever this annoying beeping noise is, it’s alerting me.”

“You can hear that?” I switched the Searcher off to conserve the battery. “It’s supposed to be extremely high-pitched and audible only to us dogs and our kitty friends.”

“We cows have very good hearing. Are you sure you’re not working as an outpost for the cow stewards? Maybe they have wired you with some electronics and are closing in on me now.”

“No, the signal you heard came from my own device, and the dog I asked you about is sending it. He is my friend and got lost. I need to go back to the bazaar. He might be over there.”
 

To be continued
 

Part 50

 
I noticed the change in the floor the moment I turned the corner. It was now somewhat padded and reminded me of a cheap worn-out doormat. I sniffed at it, but with all the other scents hanging in the air, it just didn’t work. I couldn’t pick up the slightest odor.

With my muzzle down, I inched forward. Something blocked my way, and I pawed at it. It was some kind of container, perhaps made out of straw, and it was rather short in height. I pulled myself up to the top in an attempt to get a lead on where I was.

The rim was narrow and wobbly. Barely able to stand on it, I swayed from side to side, caught myself and then swayed again. Realizing I couldn’t keep my balance, I jumped back down, but disoriented, I went the wrong way.

No more than a step down, my paws hit a soft and springy substance, and I sunk into it. Struggling furiously with all fours, I tried to climb out of it, but with every kick, I tumbled back down. 

Since I wasn’t sinking any deeper, I finally gave up the fight and instead examined what that stuff was that prevented me from standing on my paws. I nosed and scratched at it and decided it was nothing more than a bundle of cloth. I couldn’t make out the material, but it felt smooth and cool on my nose.

With my nerves calmed down, I clambered to my legs, one paw at a time. Doing it at a snail’s pace, I had no problems keeping steady and could even raise my front paws up to the rim of whatever held the slippery textile.

Now knowing I could easily get out, I let go to fall back, dug partly underneath the cloth and curled up. The moment my belly touched the cloth and the cover touched my back, I felt as if the most heavenly fabric had cocooned me. It was the perfect spot to snuggle and wait for someone to use the computer or mobile device left running and who would turn on the lights.

To stay here until then and see where Kojak had sent me was better anyway than to stagger through the utter darkness. I’d lucked out this time, tumbling into paradise. Next time, I might plunge into the devil’s hole.

My interest in figuring out what I’d tumbled into and getting an idea about what this place was had waned. What piqued my curiosity were the copious smells all around it. Some were sweet, others tart and pungent, and others again flowery and earthy.

I inhaled deeply, over and over, trying to isolate any of the scents. It was in vain, and then, without any warning, the fumes overpowered me. They lulled me to sleep, and I slept and slept.

A cacophony of shouts, screams and yells woke me up, and I opened my eyes. I quickly collected my thoughts. Everything was lit up, and I saw I was lying in layers of what looked like silk fabric inside a straw basket. I threw off the cover, and this time, like my squirrel friends, lithe and spry, I rose onto my feet and swung myself over the rim of the basket and started to run.

Shoes, sandals and other weird footwear were all around me, and I slithered away from any step that could squash me. Yeah, so much for Kojak’s concern to have me arrive at a quiet place from where I could easily escape. It was either too dark or too crowded to do me any good.

There was at least a silver lining. I smelled fresh air, though it felt hot and muggy, and I also saw bright daylight coming in. It shouldn’t have surprised me. India was about nine to 10 hours ahead of us at home, so I had to have arrived here in the dead of night and then passed out for who knew how long. 

Still clueless to where I was, I scampered along, breathing in more and more fresh air. The moment I was out in the open, I was all set to break away from the throng of people and find a place to hide, but instead of having thinned out, the crowd had swelled.
 

To be continued

Part 51

 
I zigzagged through people’s legs, putting up with kicks and shoves, and was now aiming for the sound of motor traffic I heard in front of me. If there was a street somewhere, I hoped it would split up this human circus and I would have free rein to orientate myself. 

An empty space opened up straight ahead, and I made a run for it, full speed. The screeching of tires stopped me dead. Stunned, I whirled my head around. An enormous, black mass of rubber, knobby and dented with grooves, almost touched me.

I jumped forward to get away from it, only to set off more tire screeching. Now, gripped by panic, I halted and bolted, and halted and bolted as a symphony of car horns and human shouts blared through the air. 

With my nose pointing down, I staggered along until my head slammed into a skinny pole and put a sudden end to the earsplitting clamor. Out of breath and shaking like an off-balance washing machine, I thought I’d finally found some cover from all the insanity.

When I looked up, my trembling body froze. It was a good thing, or I’d have taken a desperate leap back into the horrific traffic and probably killed myself.

What stared back at me was one big dark eye to my right and an identical one to my left. An even huger snout, halfway open and moving around and around in tandem with two gigantic nostrils, was bending down my way. It was coming closer and closer, and my brain told me to run, but I couldn’t move. 

Alien slobber was already drenching my beard. In a matter of seconds, sharp teeth would gore my muzzle and crush my jaw.

The onslaught on my body never came. Instead, a firm but gentle bump yanked me out of my petrified trance, and I made the connection between India and the country’s venerated cow population.

The monster that I’d thought would eat me alive was a cow. I took a step backward and observed her. She was watching me also but didn’t say a word and chewed relentlessly on something.

“You’re eating grass?” I finally asked. “Where did you get it from? There’s nothing here.”

Taking a break from her chewing, she answered, “It’s some older stuff I’ve already eaten, I don’t know how many times. It lingers somewhere in my stomach, and I just burp it back up.”

I almost gagged. “That’s kind of gross, isn’t it?”

“If you say so, I don’t know any better. And what about you? Are you suicidal?”

“What?”

“I was watching you crossing the road. It was the most fur-raising performance I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s when your food came back up?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never given it any thought how it happens. It’s just what I do, chew and chew, whatever comes up.”

I ogled the cow. “What are you doing here anyway, in the streets, surrounded by traffic and all those people stomping around and talking like maniacs?”

“There are hardly any people here where I’m at.”

“I mean over there.” I pointed with my eyes. “On the other side of the road where I came from.”

“You mean at the bazaar? They are just haggling, trying to outfox each other.”

“So, that what it is, a bazaar.” I kept my eyes on it. Was that the place where I should look for Ludwig? But what in the world would he be doing in a bazaar? Could Kojak have made a mistake with tracking Ludwig’s tag and sent me to a wrong URL?
 

To be continued
 

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