All told, the terrier survived the surgery, but his life was irrevocably altered. He didn’t see Summer. The homeless man, presumably his owner, never resurfaced. David went looking but the man had vanished in a mysterious sort of way, a Bay City sort of way. But he had secured a job. Steady, decent work doing something he could convince himself to be invested in on most days. Except for the occasional animal with a particularly bad owner, once he had acclimated to the facility, things went smoothly. The others accepted him for what he was, and behaved when he asked. The murders did not abate. David learned that Bay City had the nation’s highest death rate for homicide killings as well as unsolved missing persons cases. The people weren’t soft, unlike the people on the island, who only sometimes had harder layers deep within themselves. The people of Bay City were guarded, some even predatory, like the hooker in the hotel bar, or the robbers in the alley. The ability to identify oneself, as a member of a group, was meaningful, and like a new pack, the co workers at the clinic took him in, and helped him about places to go in the city, and not to, where to live, where to eat, places to avoid after dark, or even during the day.
After a humid summer came a gray Fall. David had found his bearings along with a fuller appreciation of the seasons. Bay City was not always cold. Sometimes it was sweltering, sometimes mild, and most usually wet. He’d even taken the train twice to see the capital of a nation his island could only be a territory to. Life was engaged in a smooth dance where everything blended together, and he blissfully lost track of the fleeting days and weeks. When his six month lease ended for his first apartment, he upgraded into a year-long arrangement with a nicer place, in a better part of town. That was the first plan of his to succeed. David hoped it wasn’t the last. At his new apartment, settled into his new life, he sought out the physical distraction of exercise. Running was most natural, so running is what he did, at night, in the safe environs in his new part of town, down alleys, through parks, and across squares.
David just knew he was running for the enjoyment, but one cold evening, he thought that maybe he was still running from other things.
It was a flash of white on an otherwise black clad man, on either side of a dark tie, between two breasts of a matching suit jacket. David remembered his mother’s kitchen in a way that made him realize that slowly, slowly he had been forgetting those memories all along. He skidded to a stop and reversed course. He glanced over his shoulder, scanned his surroundings, but the man was gone. Everything clung to the baseline of his beating heart, and David found himself hidden away in the parking structure of a nearby office park, cowering. He waited, and then he waited some more. He waited until long after it should’ve been safe, then he climbed stairs to look down on the area around him, crouched down in the shadows, peering into the open darkness.
Part of him expected to laugh about it later, to be elated that he had loitered in an empty parking deck for over an hour for no reason at all. And maybe without some months in a place like Bay City, most of him would’ve believed that were possible. As it was, he was rewarded by his paranoia.