Day of the Dog
Sharp sounds, rhythmically separated from each other, woke me up on that, otherwise, quiet morning. I felt constricted under my bedsheets, warm on one side, but freezing on the other. Like the last piece of toast I always forsake for the front-page story in the morning papers. I smiled to the analogy, but the loud “Clang!” brought me back to the cold of the dawn.
Quickly wrapping myself up in the, also cold, robe, I looked out of the window. The sound was coming from the other side of the fence. “You cannot do it like that, Clarence — the ground is frozen solid”, said one of two men hunched above a small, white mound. “Well, I need to start somehow, don’t I?”, replied the other voice, but from where I was standing I could not tell which voice belonged to Clarence and which to the other man, nor who was handling the inadequate tool.
Despite the cold, nothing was yet covered in snow, so when my eyes finally adjusted to the sharp light, I realized that the white mound was actually a bed cloth. I was never good at making deductions, always considered my mind too straightforward for that type of exercise, but I soon took all the right turns and came to the conclusion that the small pile of flesh not breathing under it was the neighbors’ dog. That explains why the morning was so uncommonly still.
I set on the edge of my bed and let the realization sink in. But it wouldn’t. I often felt this detachment from feeling, reacting, being moved. It would help to imagine what other people would do or feel in a certain situation, but it was too early for that now. All my practical mind could think about was how to help the gravediggers. Hot water. Drill. Knife. Fire. But the stubborn worker continued his fruitless attempts and my mind slowly drifted off to save itself from the rising noise. The covers were back where they should be. Right under my nose and around my cold feet. A vivid dream took over.
A man was sitting in a churchyard, facing me directly, but I could not make out his features. “Sit down”, he seemed to say, in a low, placid tone. And so I did. There was something decidedly grim about him. Like he was just a piece of skin stretched over a pile of bones. His movements were lively, so was the air around him, but it all seemed out of place. “It is you who is out of the Place”, he said, with what I felt was a faint smile. “And I am exactly where they have left me.”
-Now tell me, sleeper, what burdens you?
-Please. Do not act so unawares. Everyone who ends up here has a burden. What seems to be the trouble with you?
-It sounds like you’ve seen it all. I don’t feel comfortable displaying my ordinary worries to higher spirits.
-Ha! Spirits! Higher? Why is that you men always feel so special as to be visited by a higher spirit? You think God would utter a single syllable into your finite ears? Or send a messenger to help you, of all creatures? This is a place to talk to yourself, as best as you can and you know it. Even your “practical” mind is aware of that.
A silence falls and like a bullet train I start questioning everything and I feel my lungs constricting under the ever familiar feelings of me being hurt or abandoned or misunderstood, not knowing which is worse.
-Fine. Who are you, then?
-You know who you are.
-I need to call you something. (silence) Since I created your image based on something. (more silence) So obvious… Yorick?
-See? No need to worry.
That’s when I woke up, patient reader. I immediately ran for the window. The Sun was high, no sign of the gravediggers. Only a small circle where the ground has been turned, and a shovel sticking out of it like a victory flag. What has been conquered? Life? The frost? Memory? I thought about the dream and the strange people who were in it. Can it be that it is so dreadful to feel and to fear? I pity the soul.