Welcome to the fourth edition of Leighgendary Shorts.
This week we will be discussing Unconditional: A Tale of the Zombie Apocalypse by Chris Pourteau.
Unconditional was published by Chris on January 16, 2015.
The Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey in this thrilling short story of trial and tragedy. The peaceful cool of a fall day is shattered when the Storm of Teeth consumes the world. A little closer to home, a dog watches, terrified, as his human family battles a herd of walking corpses. Forced to leave their pet behind, the family flees for their lives. The dog begins his odyssey through the zombie apocalypse to find them. But what will he find? Experience this dark adventure from the perspective of man’s best friend as he strives to reunite with the boy he loves more than life itself.
I discovered Chris Pourteau before Unconditional came out and was lucky enough to get an ARC of it. I was excited to reread this story for the discussion today.
The story starts with the Dog being alone. The “Storm of Teeth” has happened and the Dog and his pack were forced from their home. Now the Dog is searching for his pack, he misses the Boy. The pack of course is the family he lives with: the Woman, the Man, the Baby, and the Boy. The Woman is nice to the Dog “more often than not” and will even give him food from the table. The Man is a different story, he isn’t as nice to the Dog. The Man will sometimes forget him outside and will whip the Dog if he does something wrong. The whipping taught the Dog to think before he acts. The Baby, well the Baby is a baby. Then, there is the Boy. The Dog loves the Boy and says the Boy is the only one who treats him as an equal. Once the Baby came around, the story tells us, that the Boy started to be ignored. The Dog saw this as the Boy becoming a runt, just like him.
The Dog has great and wonderful memories of the Boy. You can tell that the Dog truly loves the Boy.”Love was also one runt sacrificing for the other. Theirs was a shared runt love.” The Dog misses the Boy and truly misses him. Pourteau does a great job describing what the dogs thinks and feels, you can feel the pain the dog is feeling.
The story goes back and tells us about what happened with the Storm of Teeth.
The pack is inside eating dinner while the Dog is outside lying in some leaves. The Dog smells them coming before he can see them. He wants “to stand and bark, to be brave and warn the Boy and the others, even the Baby.” But the Dog is scared and the stench of things makes him hide under the leaves and bark until the things get close enough that he is afraid they will hear him bark.
Of course we know that these are zombies.
The Man tied the Dog to the corner of the house, so he is not in the zombies’ path. The zombies get to the house and start clawing at the house. The family, of course, is scared. The Dog can hear the Boy call his name but the Dog cannot do anything, he is tied up. He knows if he moves the zombies will come and kill him, then he would never be able to be with the Boy again. The family escapes with the Boy screaming the Dog’s name. Of course, the Dog still cannot do anything because he is tied. He knows he needs to live, so he stays buried under the leaves.
All the Dog can do is watch as the zombies search for food in the house. He is terrified and he remembers the lesson he learned from the Man, think before you act. He lays there and waits and waits, even when the zombies move on, he waits. He wants to make sure they are gone for good. The Dog ends up falling asleep, but doesn’t sleep well at all.
The Dog wakes in the middle of the night. It is getting cold outside and he can’t wait to get inside with the Boy and fall asleep in his bed. Then he sees the hole in the house and remembers the zombies. He lays back down and starts to gnaw on the rope that is tied to him.
After a while he chews through the rope. His harness is still on but that is ok, it gives him courage. He goes inside the house and smells food. He realizes how hungry he is and remembers that his pack was eating when the Storm of Teeth came. He goes to the table and looks around to make sure he is alone and he hops on a chair, food is all over the table. He eats and eats. Once he is done eating he goes outside to poop because “Eating from the table was one thing. Pooping in the house? That just wasn’t right.” (This part made me laugh because I can see my dogs doing that.) Once he is done he goes back inside to his favorite spot, the Boys room. He buries himself under the covers and just inhales the scent of the Boy. He falls asleep “painting a permanent memory.”
The Dog wakes up to more zombies in the house. He smells the Boy’s scent one more time and knows that the longer he waits the further the Boy will be from him. He runs down the hall and avoids several zombies. Once outside he sees more zombies and some dead bodies. He checks out the dead bodies to make sure they are not anyone from his pack and then he runs into the woods behind the neighborhood and begins his search.
He starts his search by going to places that he and the Boy visited. “Each time he failed to find the boy, his sadness deepened, his desperation grew. For three days he searched and tracked and found nothing but danger and grief.”
On the third night a bat attacks him. He realizes something at that moment, the bat carries a disease that smelt like the Storm of Teeth. He realizes that what the zombies had turned people and animals into a rabid thing. He knows from that moment on he will not become one, especially for the Boy’s sake. He knows if he gets bit he will want to hurt the Boy.
The Dog goes back to the fishing hole that he and the Boy have gone to before. As he lays down the thought hits him, what if his Boy has became one of them? He knows the Boy wouldn’t want to be one of the zombies. The Boy is like him and would never hurt anyone or anything. The thought of the Boy being a zombie makes the Dog even more sad.
The Dog is woken up by a sound. It is the sound that he heard that horrible night, the sound of a zombie. The Dog turns his head to make sure and sees the only human that means anything to him, the Boy. The Boy doesn’t smell like the Boy he remembers and looks a little different, yellow eyes and part of his lips missing. The Dog wishes he could scare the disease out of the boy. He is filled with sadness.
The Dog knew that his Boy was gone and that his Boy would not want to be like this. Instead of running away the Dog knew he needed to free the boy. He remembers the scent of his Boy, of the love and good times. Then, the Dog jumps at the Boy and rips out his throat.
This story is truly heart wrenching. I am a dog person and love my dogs. I have always wondered what they think and what they would say if they could talk and Pourteau does an amazing job at doing this.
Did you go and hug your dog(s) after reading this story?
Do you think your dog(s) would be able to do what the dog did in this story?
What did you think of this story?
What was your immediate reaction about the ending?
If you have any questions for Chris Pourteau or if you want to talk more about this story, please post in the comments.
Don’t forget to vote for the next Leighgendary Short. Voting will close Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 8:00 am (est).
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