The Gentle Master – Michael A. Clark

The Gentle Master was sleeping when I awoke from another bad dream. I was happy she didn’t stir, thumping my tail softly even as the lingering nightmares shook through my body. It is quiet out here in the big house in the desert. Hot and dry, even at night. Much different than the rain that often fell on the Big Master’s home, far away.

I knew others of us were around. Friends from before, ones I had fought. I wondered if they were dreaming the same dreams I was. Of being crippled. Of being killed. Of not pleasing the Big Master, the worst dream of all.

The Gentle Master lay on a simple cot, her delicate scent filling my nose. I relaxed against the soft blanket lining the corner of my kennel and tried to go back to sleep. But that was a difficult, even under the dry stars of this new home. Sometimes, sleep wore me out more then the exercises the Gentle Master took me through every day.

My right front leg doesn’t bend very well, and I can’t see clearly out of my left eye. And I know I have bones broken inside that healed poorly, and sometimes it hurts when I squat to mark my space. I feel old. But I know I am not that old. The Big Master took me when I was but a pup, and that was not so long ago. The Big Master…

He played with me from the beginning, and I loved the feel of his giant hands on my shoulders, the way he found the scratch-spot in my ear, his deep rumbling voice. I wagged my tail sore for him. I was so happy to please him. When we started training, it was just another game that funneled all his attention towards me. The weighted collars, the dummies that I’d tear to shreds, the long runs with him by my side. And the treats he would give me, so tasty. The good times, with the Big Master. How could I ever think they would end?

There is a sharp bark from a hidden kennel, and the Gentle Master shifted in her slumber. I silently admonished the one who spoke. We don’t give ourselves “names”, like the masters do. We all know who we are. The Gentle Master is afraid I might fight with the others and they with me. Maybe I would.

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