May
2016

Hounded

I left him tied up outside the polling station while I went in to vote. The queue was short, but there were only two booths and a lot of slips of paper. More in hope than in expectation, I voted Labour all the way. I’m dyed-in-the-wool, I’ll never change and it almost doesn’t matter what the party does. Is that wrong?
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When we got out, there was a small crowd around the pooch. A man with a blue rosette was declaring him “The cutest hound in town”. I was disappointed with him for not growling at the Tory, but he’s only a dog. Dogs just love people, even if they’re shit. Maybe I should be more like the dog? It struck me that I had, after all, called a man shit just because of a rosette. On the other hand, ol’ doggles there was licking his hand as if it wasn’t metaphorically stained with the blood of the poor.

It was at this point that I noticed the red on the man’s cuff. My dog was licking his hand because of the blood. He’s a dog, that’s what they like. Fresh meat. Fresh kills. Fresh blood. The knot of people around the dog moved back a little and I saw the body on the ground. My dog was now licking at the rapidly-expanding pool of blood, his paws splashing in it. I felt my stomach spasm but there was no time to vomit. Whatever had happened, I needed to stay in control of myself. I pulled out my phone and, with a shaking thumb, began to dial 999.

A phone rang, in the middle of the crowd. As mine connected to the emergency operator, it stopped. Hello? I said. Hello, said the man with the blue rosette, making eye contact with me for the first time. Is this a dream? I said. Whose? Came the response. Yours or mine?

I ran, the slick blood on my paws causing me to skitter on the smooth tarmac of the sports centre’s driveway. I heard a phone crack on the floor behind me.

I watched the dog’s paws twitch. He had managed to sleep, stretched out in the early May sun, in the time it took for me to go in and vote. It’s always a good dream they’re having when their paws twitch like that, says the man sitting outside with a clipboard and purple rosette. I read that in a Stephen King book.

I don’t go for horror stories, I tell him. They’re always really disappointing. The man shrugged, his rosette waving wetly with the movement. It left a spreading stain of red on his shirt.

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