Actaeon

Do we chase? Are we not born to chase? We have four legs, while the man has two. The man has arms, to carry the bow, and shoot the bow; the man has arms to hold the spear, and throw the spear; the man has arms to hold and caress, pet and offer; the man has arms to love, so we are born to chase, that he love us.

Do we kill? Are we not born to kill? Man and dog are born to kill. Man raises his dogs to kill. We kill for love.

And we kill because we are hungry.

We heard the man’s voice, like a frightened man, in the wilderness, where the shades become grottoes and trees forced apart rocks, where sun spilt on shallow pools bathing maidens used in virtue. He had never been a frightened man. Did we chase? Of course we chased. We lunged snapping at the shades, poked our noses into grottos, smelled him, tasted his spoor on trampled ferns and living leaves, ran. We chased. We chased the smell of fear the way he’d have us do, our voices rising over the shriek of birds, their scattering forms splitting the sunlight. Were we not born for this, his chase, his need for us?

And on four legs galloped the stag, strong, tall. On its lathered haunches rose the smell of the man, the frightened man, and we snapped. We barked. We roared like Cerberus divided, hearts beating with love, bloody love.

Were we not born to kill? We tore the stag apart. It went down, our teeth embedded in its fetlocks, my teeth deep in its throat. It moaned at us. Fear we smelled and, pervading it, pride. Were we not bred as his own, children of the man, loved by the man, the pride of the man, a pride unto ourselves? We chased, and we killed. We licked our muzzles clean of the deer’s blood and bent our noses to the forest floor. Where was Actaeon? His scent ended in our jaws.

As one we howled. We are doomed to howl.

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