The day I slaughtered the first sheep, the three dogs laid their black and white ears back and their deep brown eyes looked away. They didn’t, however, turn their noses up at the chunks of mutton I tossed them a short while later, the fat still sizzling from the fire.
Now, Lainey’s the only collie left, and there are no more sheep.
I’m not sure exactly how long we’ve been here. In the castle, the ruins. Whatever. Three full moons have come and gone, I know that, but I didn’t think to keep track of the days.
Retreating to the castle was the only thing I could think to do after seeing the news, after my socials filled up with dying people going live to say goodbye.
It’s hard to remember what else I was thinking. I knew the well gave water and that there was plenty of grass for the sheep. The wind almost always comes off the Atlantic, and I figured it blew hard enough to keep whatever bug was wiping out the rest of the world away from me.
Whatever I was thinking, I wasn’t thinking long-term. I grabbed what I had in the pantry, grabbed my backpack, and whistled up the dogs.
The dogs had a great time, dashing back and forth, urging the sheep along the faint trail leading from the old farm road, across the pasture, and past the ruined forge. The sheep wanted no part of climbing up the hill to the castle, but the dogs kept them bunched and moving.
I figured that after a while I’d see somebody. Some other survivor. Sure, Skye’s an island, but a big one. Something like thirteen thousand people live here. Used to, anyway.
I figured at some point someone would wander by. With luck, somebody I knew. I’d give a shout. We’d share news. If it was good, celebrate with roast mutton, maybe by some miracle the wanderer would have a dram of whiskey to share.
It didn’t happen.
Nobody came. I saw nothing and no one, no matter how many hours I spent glassing the hillside from the mossy turrets while the dogs watched the sheep graze.
Wasn’t long before the oats and beans ran low.
Soon I was eating nothing but sheep. Nose to tail, including nose and tail. Maybe I should have snuck into Armadale, or at least gone back to the house, but I was terrified of what might be out there. Terrified the bug would get me, too.
I stayed put and kept butchering. It wasn’t long before the sheep were gone.
God help me, that’s when I started in on the dogs. First Avro, then Sport. I told myself I was saving them from starving to death.
This morning I hid my knife under my sheepskin and called Lainey to me. She came, slowly to be sure, but she came. She laid her head on my knee and gazed into my eyes.
She’d been laying in the sun. Her coat was warm. I scratched just where she liked, behind her right ear. Her left hind leg started to tremble. Her eyes closed.
I reached under my leg, gripped the handle of the knife, and slid it out from under me. Her leg was thumping from the pleasure of the scratch.
I couldn’t do it. I set the knife on the ground and switched to scratching her other ear. She let out a soft whine, and that was that.
It was time to go see what was left after the end of the world.
I filled my bottles with water and packed what little I had worth carrying, Lainey’s eyes following my every move. I opened the gate and she took off, a streak of black and white flashing in the sun, the only thing moving in the great green expanse of empty pasture.
Prompted by Jenise Cook (border collie, castle, Isle of Skye)
Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.
Castle loosely based on Knock Castle