I was walking one day past a vacant lot beside a vacant factory on the outskirts of a vacant city. There was this big red dog staring at me from the shadows. Its hair was the colour of dried blood and crumbling brick, rusted bicycle chains and disused railway lines. It was so silent and still, just standing and watching me.
Not wanting to upset it, I gave it half a peanut butter sandwich from my backpack. I poured some strong black coffee into the lid of my Thermos, and watched its dull red tongue lapping and lapping. I fed it a photograph of a high school friend who had hanged himself, and a scrap of poetry about a dream I once had of white peacocks in the branches of a jewelled tree.
For a long time, we stood and looked into each other’s eyes. I felt as though it had been waiting there for me to come by, perhaps with some important message or other. But for the life of me, I could not figure it out.
When I began walking again, I noticed that the dog was following me home. It was at my heels, walking when I walked, stopping when I stopped. When I got home, I invited it into my house. I made it a bed in the attic out of pillows stuffed with shredded love letters and X-rays and obituaries. I let it drink salty water, and gnaw on the femur I broke when I was a child. I went to sleep that night and dreamt again of white peacocks. They were shivering beneath a coal-black sky. When I woke up, the dog was sitting on the end of the bed, watching and still.
That night after work, I took the dog for a walk on the beach. There was a great, dark fish that rose up from bottomless trenches to meet us. It was the size of my childhood home. It swam back and forth in the moonlight. It had glittering scales the colour of ice and ash. It sang a song that sounded like backwards cellos and freezing lakes. As a sacrifice, I killed the dog and threw its lifeless body into the dark god’s immense mouth.
When I walked home, the great fish followed me. It disguised itself as city buses and boarded up shops. It floated above my head, pretending to be the moon. When we got home, I filled my basement with water, and watched it swim back and forth in its new home.
Each night now, when I can’t sleep, I open the basement door and curl up on the top step. I close my eyes, and let the great fish’s ancient, rusty song carry me to a land of dreams where the ghosts of white peacocks roost in the attic of my childhood home.