Black Petals Issue #76 Summer, 2016

The Watchers
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Anniversary-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Flirting with the Alley-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gone Astray-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Surviving Montezuma-Serialized Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Road-Fiction by Walter Kwiatkowski
The Watchers-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Honey Island Swamp Monster-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Skin Walker-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Ucu-Poem by Richard Stevenson


The Watchers


By Mike Mulvihill


Story # 1 from the VASKANIA COLLECTION

About a dog among men



The dog left the two-storey country house by the lake. His short black fur shone in the welcome sunshine. His master sat beside the window watching him trot away. Once the dog was out of sight the man threw a wooden log in the stove, covered it over, and took a seat.

The dog walked through the freshly cut grass of the meadows, getting his paws wet from the rain which had fallen throughout the night. He walked past tall stacks of hay, ready to be gathered for market or to feed the livestock during winter. The dog walked to the side boundary of the field to listen to the gently flowing water from the stream which fed the lake at the end of the meadow.

The dog sat, panting, to watch tadpoles and little fish swim past him. Resting but observant, his tongue lolled. Soon, two fields away, he saw a man who was not his master. The other man carried a gun like his master’s, but wore a grey hat as he entered a small hut built last winter. Every two weeks a different man stayed there. The dog never saw them do anything but stand around, looking toward his master’s house, always with pen and notebook in hand. He often saw his master holding those same items. The hut dwellers came by car or were driven and left there; not one of them stayed long.

The dog continued his walk. He reached the lake shore and dashed into the water, paddling and rolling in the cool, freshness. Feeling clean, the dog left the water, shook his body thoroughly, and, changing his mind about being dry, ran in and out of the water wildly a few more times, shook again, and returned to shore. He stood, under the warm sun, beside the lake and took in the stillness that belied the true depth and dangers lurking beneath. 

The dog never went to the lake with his master anymore. He missed his master throwing the stick into the water, his repeatedly fetching it, and his master throwing it back again. He missed sitting by the lake, watching his master cook food, smelling meat, feeling hungry, and anticipating a tasty meal, followed by petting.

The dog looked behind him. He saw smoke billowing out of his master’s chimney. This must mean he was cooking breakfast. The dog turned around to face the lake. He looked at the island in the middle of the lake, filled with oak trees. The opposite shore was bordered by a tall, well-forested mountain. That the dog appreciated this sight was evident by his expression. When his legs felt too warm, he cooled them by returning to the water. He closed his eyes in relief and opened them to admire the mist veiling the mountain peak.

Calm days and still waters drew others. Children, who lived at the far end of the lake, visited the shore with their mothers and threw stones into the lake. The dog watched their gleeful, lively play, but never tried to join in.

Once the children left, welcome silence returned to the lakeshore. Blue covered the skyline, and trees on the island reflected so perfectly on the face of the lake, children and dogs might feel like they were walking on the sky, or that the island itself might dwell in the lake. 

This did not bother the dog. Meadows, lake, island, the whole area had everything he could want compared to the grim city from which he had come. In this haven, his master, too, had spent hours roaming and enjoying the natural splendor. He knew his master had felt free here…until those other men came with their hut. The dog did not know why this changed his master, only that sadness began then. His master’s love for this territory turned to indifference, and then abhorrence.

The dog had been sure that the trees, the earth, the grass, the meadows, the lake and stream—the sheer abundance of nature—meant as much to his master as to him. The man had spent hours fishing by the lake, cooked everything he caught, and sometimes fell asleep by the shore hugging his dog. He wondered why the man didn’t do any of these things anymore, and simply assumed that just feeding and sheltering a dog was enough. Their spiritual connection had been severed. 

The master never explained to him why their closeness had ended. He didn’t tell him why he no longer walked him and refused to go anywhere with him. The dog was treated as if he was unworthy of their shared life and love. His master did not hug or pet him anymore. Even the bright sun could not warm a world gone cold because expressions of love had ceased. The dog was thinking of leaving, never to return.

Then the dog heard his master call his name. The dog barked and left the lake shore to run to him. When he arrived his food bowl was waiting for him, enticingly filled with milk and bread. The dog went to the bowl, grateful for the food. He gulped the milk and chewed the slices of bread, wolfing down one large piece at a time. Although it seemed like his master was all alone in this world he knew it could not be so. Even in the physical absence of others like himself he was never fully alone. For better or worse, he had his dog.

The man watched his dog devour every morsel. Each morning, for the past year, the dog ate his breakfast precisely at this time. After eating he liked a shady spot to watch his master write. He would start with his two gentle brown eyes wide open, then with one eye open, and, finally, would drift into sleep. The dog would awaken to find his master still writing, an activity which clearly made his master happy.

The past few months, however, the man had started burning his writings. Initially the dog tried to retrieve them. He stopped doing it when he was scolded; his master was serious about having them burnt.

Every second or third day the dog would see his master reading. The dog understood that what this man loved doing he was giving up, and growing sadder. The man had abandoned his passions to the point that it had sickened his soul. The dog didn’t know the cause for this letting go of what made life worth living. The man must realize no one is truly alone. In the end everyone gets found, even if only by a dog.

But the master sat in the middle of his kitchen, all the threats accumulated or imagined since he’d left the city playing in his head. He had once been welcome. But the locals had stopped welcoming him. The men in the hut must have fostered that hostility.

His last link to surviving here was not the dog, but Finn who drove a grey van. Every Wednesday Finn came around, having prepared a special delivery. For the master it was a huge relief. Finn helped him avoid town and the disapproving stares of people.

“Why don’t they like me?”

Finn courageously, after knowing the master for a full year, asked, “Who?”

“The townspeople. They don’t acknowledge me. They treat me like a pariah. Why this hate?”

Hate’s a strong word…” Finn reached down and patted the dog’s head.

The man nodded, unconvinced, and took the groceries from Finn, handed him his money, and shook his hand. “Thank you for delivering my necessities. You’ve been doing this for a year, so here’s an extra twenty by way of saying thanks.”

The master watched as the dog, tail wagging, followed Finn out to his van. His thoughts swirled. Every person survives by their reputation. If some have a vested interest in making me an object for hatred, then, with enough power, this will come true. If others have more to gain than lose by hating me, invariably they will prevail. Overnight, by lies and innuendo, a welcomed person can become persona non grata…like me.

Finn drove off in his van. The dog, who sensed his master’s sadness, did not want it to grow. The dog disliked the sadness. It hurt him. He leapt onto his master’s lap to comfort him, only to be shoved away.

Rebuffed, the dog left the house. He roamed the meadow and did not return home, but headed for the watchers’ hut. The hut was gone. He lay down and rolled in the dry grass where it had been. The watchers must have left!


The relentlessly hounded man didn’t know why he had been singled out, why, day and night, they had watched his movements. He suspected that they had filmed him, vo-corded him, and compared notes over the phone or in meetings. His suspicion fueled his anxiety and fear. He was unsure if it made him irrational and delusional. Perhaps it was meant to do so. After all, even his dog had left him. He, too, must leave. Enough was enough. He could not wait for the dog. It was time for a Solution.


Hours after the man left, his dog walked through the open door and went to the red leather chair where the man usually sat. He wasn’t there, so the dog sat on the chair. An hour passed. He went to his bowl in the kitchen: empty. Darkness descended. The dog tried not to fall asleep. Late in the night, he awoke to a bright flash, a rushing wind, and a roar that deafened him. After the ground stopped shaking, he crouched under the ruins of the house.

The sky stayed dark in the days that followed. The abandoned animal learned to fend for himself along the soured lakeshore with its wilted grass and withered trees. His master was not returning. Finn had stopped delivering.

The dog circled the spot where the hut once stood and sniffed around, his nose bleeding. He had looked forward to coming home and renewed friendship. With no watchers, surely life should have gone back to normal!

No one came. The area is deserted. The lake has dried to a muddy pond. The dog, half-starved, survives on scraps he finds. Nothing tastes or smells right. His fur is patchy and falling out. The whites of his eyes and the pads of his paws are bloody. Worse than that, he misses his master. He misses the children. He even misses the watchers. He does not know that, thanks to them, there is no humanity. The dog is the only watcher left.


The End


Michael Mulvihill,, &, of Dublin, Ireland, wrote BP #76’s “The Watchers” (+BP #68’s“The Toasters’ Tragedy” and “Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”; “Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP #67; was featured author for BP #65’s “Ethagorian Evidence (Parts 1 & 2)” & “Uninsured Assurance”; VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful, Capitalism’s Modern Architecture of Love, Red Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic Addiction; the poems, “Fatigued,” “O Mother,” & “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner and the Collector” & all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and as featured vampire poet with A Vampire’s Dilemma: Love, Becoming a Vampire, Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric War in The Kodori Valley; wrote BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The 30ish author published a short story, “Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ‘98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom News about a domestic tragedy in Ireland. He has two sons, two 2007 poetry books out with Exposure Publishing: Searching for Love Central and The Genesis and Anatomy of Love, and has written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.

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