Havoc sat next to Cordell on the edge of the high hill. The whisperings of a storm gathered in the distance; one that would miss them this far beyond the mountains. It was a dry season this far south on the plateau; only patches of trees thrived near groundwater in between the bromegrass and prickly pear and scattered chaparral. The stars and the arm of the galaxy were ripe and apparent.
Remy had hunched down a short distance off, building a fire and cursing to herself.
The dog broke the silence.
Cordell chewed on some leaves from his pouch as he checked his ammunition. “Yeah. Wearing these… these things,” he said, nudging his Rig, “hurts. Sometimes.”
“Woman not care pain.”
Cordell chuckled. “Seems like you know what’s up.”
Havoc cocked his head. “Up? No. Sense only.”
“Yeah, well…” Cordell rocked back and sat on the ground. “We just had to deal with a… you say ‘dark thing’? Not easy to… uh, understand. You follow?”
“Many of…” Havoc snorted “… many things not follow.”
“But you sense things better than me.”
Havoc glanced at Remy’s fire. “Anger. Old.”
Cordell plucked a blade of grass. “Might not be wrong about that.”
The wind moved in little eddies over the waves of the field.
“Human-Prime. You all worry. Anger. Why?”
Cordell looked at Havoc. “Huh?”
“Odd. Other dog, sometimes hurting, beaten, have bad. Many times. I see this. But human, bigger thinking. Build. Command. Rule. Try to sense…” he shook his head “…hard to. Take pain, carry around, carry on back. You. Her. Why?”
Cordell sighed. “I don’t know. I really don’t have a good answer, boy.”
“You worry of before? Or later?”
“Maybe both? Jesus, I don’t know. Bigger thinking isn’t all it’s… isn’t good all the time, Havoc.”
“You worry death?”
Cordell’s gaze locked onto Havoc. Havoc continued staring at the distant storm, smelling the air.
“Not want to die. Same. But worse for you. Much why.”
Cordell sighed. “This is way too complicated… like… too much to explain. To tell. Too big… thinking? You follow?”
Havoc turned his head to meet Cordell’s. “Cordell, Human-Prime. Think. Me. I have… thing? Inside. Inside-rain? Wind… moving-on?”
Remy swore in triumph as the fire grew.
Cordell’s eyes narrowed. “What are you saying?”
Havoc sighed and snorted. “Inside. Inside me. Not-touch. No dying.”
“Are you… what…” Cordell turned towards Havoc “…are you asking if you have a soul?”
“Not sure. I die.” Havoc cocked his head again. “Then what? Humans speak worry. Odd.”
Miles away, the low thunder rumbled on.
“Havoc… there’s… I don’t even know the answer to that. I’m sorry. Look… I…”
“OK. Not sure?”
“Well, no. Does it matter? I think… whatever the case…” Cordell looked back at the storm. “… you’re like me.”
Havoc’s tail started wagging. “Yes?”
“Humans are animals too. Remember that. Just… bigger thinking.”
Havoc grinned and panted. “Too big!”
“Ha! Pretty much.”
“Not worry then?”
“Shit. I wouldn’t.”
“OK good.” Havoc looked towards Remy’s fire. She watched now as the storm skirted the mountains. “Work to do. Die later.”