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Concentration of Dogs

Written by Carl Frederick
Illustrated by Lee Kuruganti 

"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog."—Edward Hoagland


Mark, his eyes locked on the brain-scan display, triggered fiber N1032 and the Chihuahua barked. Mark selected N5112, pressed the activate key, and then glanced at the cage; the Chihuahua fell over, asleep. At the base of the dog's skull, Mark could see the small, white transceiver module. But he could only imagine the thousands of conductive organic fibers growing deep into the cerebrum from the dermal interface of that digital-multiplex transceiver.

Mark tapped a few more activations and the Chihuahua woke and padded around the periphery of its cage. Yup. Your fibers are all grown, Miguel. Mark exited the program. The brain-scan disappeared, replaced by Mark's Siamese cat wallpaper, a sign of nonconformity in this world of dogs. "You're all ready for Professor Rottweiler," he said, aloud, "our esteemed guru of canine neurology."

Just then, the door to the lab opened and Claire, a file folder in one hand, rolled in another dog enclosure. Mark stood from his computer and smiled at her—a look of shared suffering to a fellow graduate student slave. "Not another one," he said, lightly, glancing at the cage, its grey metal bars looking cold and clinical under the fluorescent lights. He nodded toward the window beside which his ski jacket hung on a hook. "It's late. I want to go home."

"It's December," said Claire. "It only looks late." She pushed the cage until it sat next to the Chihuahua's.

"Hey," said Mark, peering at the caged dog, an American Pit Bull Terrier. "Isn't that Killer?" Seeing the dog's white, plastic transceiver nodule, he wrinkled his nose. "I wonder why Rottweiler would let his own dog get the implant."

Claire walked over and, from the front, placed a hand on each of Mark's shoulders. "Bad dog!" she said. "No biscuit!" She released one shoulder and shook a forefinger as if she were scolding a naughty child. "Come on! I know you can say it. Repeat after me—Professor Robert Weiler."


"I'm serious," she said, the laugh in her voice contradicting her. "If he hears you calling him Rottweiler, you're dead meat."

Mark gently clasped her wrist at his shoulder, gave it a quick furtive squeeze of affection, then drew it away. "What else can he do to me?" he said with a forced smile. "He already passes off my research as his own."

"I know." Claire nodded. "I still think you should take it to the Academic Integrity Board."

"After I get my degree. He's on my committee." Mark's mood turned somber. "I'd like to defend my thesis with a machine-gun."

Claire smiled. "Just goes to show that not everyone who loves dogs is a good guy."

"Not sure loves is the right word. I'd say he identifies with them." Mark glanced at the caged Pit Bull. "With vicious dogs, anyway. But loves?" Mark gave a snortlike laugh and shook his head. "He'd probably like being called Professor Rottweiler."

"Still," said Claire, "you shouldn't call him that." She, too, glanced at the cage. "It is strange though, Professor Weiler experimenting on his own dog. Maybe he can't handle him any more."

"Oh, he can handle Killer, all right." Mark glared at the Pit Bull. "And only he can. Rottweiler seems to take satisfaction in that."


"Okay, okay. Professor Rottweiler."

"You're incorrigible!" She slapped the file folder down on the cage and Killer growled. Both dogs growled.

Mark gazed over at the Chihuahua's cage. "Hey Miguel. I thought I was your friend."

Claire canted her head. "Miguel?"

"Better than a stupid number." Mark smiled, sheepishly. "I give names to all the dogs that come through here."

"Yes, I can see you doing that." Claire glanced at the tiny dog playing with a rubber bone with an almost raccoonlike dexterity. "But I'm not sure naming them is a good idea." She picked up her file folder from Killer's cage and both dogs growled again.

"A concerted action," said Mark. "Good union, these dogs have." He kneeled and looked into the Chihuahua's cage. "Miguel. Have you joined the local dog union?"

The Chihuahua gave a single, high-pitched bark. At almost the same time, Killer also uttered a single bark, low-pitched and angry.

Mark stood. "It's like a sound system." He chuckled with a thought. "And both the woofer and tweeter are actually woofers." He peered down at Miguel again. "Woof," he said.

Again, both dogs barked in unison.

"There's something weird going on here," said Claire.


"'Let dogs delight to bark and bite,'" said Claire, softly, seemingly in deep thought.

They stared in silence at the dogs for a few moments. Then Claire said, "By any chance, are the carrier frequencies of the two transceivers the same?"


"I'm not sure. Maybe the signals are crossing."

"Hm." Mark went to the computer and pulled up a spreadsheet. "You mean, when Killer barked, the... the barking neurons triggered a fiber. And then the fiber transmitted the signal, and—"

"And the Chihuahua's receiver picked it up and stimulated his barking neurons."

"Geez!" said Mark, shaking his head in astonishment.

"Do you think it's possible?" said Claire.

"Yeah. Could be. The transceiver multiplexer/demultiplexer assemblies would address corresponding cerebral regions." He examined the spreadsheet. "Yeah. The frequencies are the same." He looked over at Claire. "Dog union. Maybe union was actually the right word."

Killer and Miguel barked a few more times, yet again in unison.

"This is sort of spooky," said Mark.

Claire nodded. "It's like telepathy."

"More like a joining of two brains," said Mark. "Look. The transceivers have a limited range. I think we should untelepathize our dogs. Let's move one of the cages to, I don't know, to the biopsy lab at the other end of the complex."

"Definitely," said Claire. "I need some time to think this over. We may have made a major discovery."

"Yeah. I think we have."

* * *

Wind. Smell of rabbit. Smell of grass. Wind tickles nose. Many smells. House moving fast. Forest smells. Good smells. Tall master. Love tall master. Lap face. Smells nice. Need to run. Hungry. Smell food. Lap face. Lap ear. Other tall master. Nice smell. Want to go out. Tall master scratches ears. Lap hand. Lap face.

While Claire drove from the Cornell Canine Research Institute toward the distant Larger Natural Dog Habitat, Mark in the front passenger seat fought to keep the Greyhound from falling out the window. It was mid-July, midmorning, the countryside thick and verdant, the air sultry, and the road unpaved.

Mark stroked the dog's sleek fur, keeping well clear of the transceiver nodule. "Good boy, Earl. What do you smell out there?" The dog turned and licked his face, and Mark laughed like a child. "Yeah Earl, I like you, too."

"Why did you name him Earl?" said Claire, her eyes on the uneven dirt road. "After a dog you had as a kid?"

"No, why?"

"You seem much more attached to him than any of the other dogs."

"When I was a kid, my best friend had a Greyhound. I used to pretend he was mine—the Greyhound, I mean." Mark hugged the dog. "You're my dog, aren't you? You great monster." Earl squirmed around and washed Mark's ear and cheek. "I named him after my favorite tea."

"What?" Then Claire shook her head. "You would!"

"It's better than Rottweiler's name, 'Enhanced Canine 26.'" Mark whispered into the dog's ear. "I wish you didn't have to be a part of the experiment." He glanced at Claire. "I wonder if he'll still know me when he's integrated into the collective. I bet he will."

They rounded a curve and there, directly ahead, stood the outer gate to the habitat. "Good," said Claire. "It looks like we'll make it."

"You weren't sure?"

"Well..." Claire patted the dashboard, "this chariot isn't exactly fresh off the showroom floor."

"Yeah, I sort of got that idea from the noisy muffler and the cracked windshield."

"That's the least of it," said Claire. "There's more."

"Much more?"

She threw him a glance. "Don't worry. I've got Triple-A."

"Triple-A! We're thirty miles from civilization. It would take them a week to get here."

"Only two hours." Claire stopped the car at the gate. "At least that's how long it took last time."

"Better keep the engine running, then." Mark hopped out of the car with the Greyhound following close behind. He opened the gate and waved Claire through to the parking area. The lot lay empty and the observation shack appeared deserted.

Rottweiler should have been here by now. Scowling, Mark tromped off toward the inner gate—the locked entrance to the two-square-mile habitat.

As he reached for the lock, Mark noticed the pack, all but hidden in the tall grass about ten yards away. He knew all of them: Miguel, Max the German Shepherd, Beauregard the Bloodhound, the Beagle, the brace of Border Collies, all the rest. The dogs stared intensely at him, apparently captivated by the motion of his hands. Feeling almost as if he were performing for the creatures, Mark keyed the combination. When the hasp clicked free, he heard a soft, low growl from Earl. He looked down at the dog. "What's the matter, boy?" The Greyhound growled again and the sound seemed to reverberate through the woods. Mark glanced up and saw Killer, in the front of the pack, growling. It sounded as if all the dogs had growled.

Mark opened the gate and Earl, without ever looking back, ran through and up to the pack. Mark felt a sense of loss.


Smell of dogs—other dogs. I. I am a dog. We are dog. Tall masters are friends. Not sure. I am the pack. I am the Earl-bit of the pack. I see the others. They are me. Tall masters are enemies. Smell bad. I/We understand many words. The Earl-bit of the pack wants to run. Pack smells good. We are hungry. We are the pack.

"Hey," Mark shouted toward the cluster of dogs, "Max, Miguel, Earl. You know me. I'm your friend." He knelt. "Come on, Earl," he said at just above a whisper. "I just want to pet you."

As one, as if in response to a signal, the dogs bared their fangs.

Mark sighed, stood, then snapped the keypad combination lock back onto the gate. He cast his head down but, as he heard Claire approach, he looked up with a forced smile.

"It's nothing personal," she said softly. "The transceivers connect fibers to equivalent fibers across the full group of dogs. It's really a single entity, not just a pack of dogs."

"I know. I know. It is not self-inclusive," said Mark, trying to intellectualize his feeling of rejection. "As Bertrand Russell might have said—'The set of all dogs is not a dog.'" He turned away from the gate and started toward the observation shack. "Come on," he said. "Let's get set up for Rottweiler." Then he swiveled and headed back to the car. "I forgot my laptop."

"And we'd probably better take out the dog food too," said Claire. "They'll be hungry soon."

Mark opened the rear door of the car and took his laptop, then glanced at the fifty-pound bag of dry kibble. "I'll get the dog chow later," he called out. "After we power up the shack."

Constructed for studying dogs in the habitat, the observation shack, a large rough-hewn cabin, stood just outside the inner fence. Thanks to an external well and an electric pump, the cabin had water. Electricity came via a gasoline-powered generator. The cabin had air-conditioning, indoor plumbing and a propane hot-water-on-demand system—that is, when anyone remembered to bring a fresh propane tank. It also had a clear line-of-sight to a distant transmitting tower, which made possible broadband Internet access by way of a roof-mounted parabolic antenna. There was no phone service but, when it wasn't raining, the shack was in cell-tower range.

Inside, video cameras, two computers, and a few pair of binoculars cluttered a large table drawn up to a picture window. A ratty sofa, a few folding chairs, and a cabinet supporting a hotplate, teakettle, and a table radio filled out the main room—the only room other than a small lavatory. There was a wood stove for heat and cooking—canned spaghetti and frozen dinners, mostly. But, being July, there was no stacked wood.

Mark went to the side of the cabin where an overhang protected the generator. "Damn," he said, eyeing the fuel gage with its needle hovering in the red. Not my problem. As he bent to pull the starter cord, he saw through the fence the pack of dogs staring at him. The dogs' white nodules gleamed in the sunlight. Mark felt himself shiver, wilting under the gaze of the set of dogs. Eight of the dogs were Black Belgian Shepherds, an intelligent breed. Since he'd not been able to tell them apart, he hadn't named them. He gazed at them, alert, silent, cookie-cutter identical like ceramic reproductions. Just one name would do for all of them.

Killer, stiff-legged and with less fierce-looking dogs flanking him on both sides, seemed to be the center, the focus, of the pack. Mark stared into those alert yellow eyes and tried not to hate the animal. He liked dogs, but not Killer. He'd never known the Pit Bull to be anything other than vicious.

Virtually hypnotized by those angry and intelligent-seeming eyes, Mark forced himself to look away at the generator. As he did so, he heard a loud, synchronized, single bark. It seemed a bark of triumph; he was the one who'd flinched; he was the one who'd broken off his gaze.

He pulled the cord and the sound of the generator's engine broke his trance. He kicked at the fence, setting off a ripple of motion along the nine-foot-high chain-link. "All right, get out of here," he yelled. The dogs did not move. Mark turned and stalked away to the front of the shack and then sped through the door, latching it behind him.

Claire, setting up the video camera, looked over at the door. "Expecting unwanted visitors?"

"You mean the latch?" Mark chuckled nervously. "Just habit." He joined Claire in setting things up: turning on the computers, dusting, taking the binoculars from their cases, making the coffee that Rottweiler would expect to have waiting.

"You know," said Mark as he called up a word-processing program. "I feel bad about Earl. I'm really fond of him." He loaded the observation log. "When this experiment is over, I'm going to adopt him."

"But after the..." Claire bit her lip.

"What's the matter?"

"Nothing." Claire looked down on a blank page of her open lab notebook. "You shouldn't have named the dogs."

"The experiment can't last more than six months," said Mark. "That's when the batteries'll give out." He picked up a pair of binoculars and trained them out the window. "There they are. A very disciplined bunch of dogs. They look like they want something to hunt."

Claire also took up a pair of binoculars. "They're closer together than a normal pack."

"Probably the transceivers. They don't have much range so the dogs have to stay pretty close to each other." Mark zoomed in on the dogs. "Looks weird. A vicious pack of purebreds." He zoomed in further. "Miguel and Earl sure don't look like hunters." He panned to the side. "But Killer does."

Claire scanned the dogs. "Weiler said he uses purebreds so that the fibers can go to predicted places," she said, distantly, her concentration clearly on her observations, "and so the temperament and intelligence measurements on the dogs are more precise."

"Maybe. But I think it was just because he was able to sweet-talk the breed rescue clubs into giving him the dogs." Mark's hands shook with indignation. "The fraud!" He flipped on the image stabilizer switch. "I heard him tell one of the clubs the dogs would go to good homes." He lowered his binoculars and sighed. "Who knows? Maybe when this is over, they all will. Earl certainly will."

Claire lowered her field glasses as well, and gave the hint of a sad smile. "Who knows?"

Hearing the sudden revving of a powerful engine, Mark looked out the window on the opposite side. There, just outside the outer fence, sat a sleek, red sports car. "Rottweiler's here." Mark scowled. "Looks like he's waiting for us to open the latch for him—the lazy bastard."

Claire started for the door but Mark shook his head. "No. Let him do it himself."

About thirty seconds later, and after a few blasts from the car's horn, they saw Professor Weiler step out. Weiler opened the latch and, leaving the car where it was, sauntered through the gate.

Weiler, with his long, unkempt hair, looked like a sixties hippy or maybe an aging rock star: jeans, corduroy jacket, dirty brand-name sneakers. But under that veneer, as Mark well knew, there was a personality much like Killer's.

Claire headed for the cabinet. "We'd better get the guy's coffee for him."

There came the sound of approaching footsteps, the doorknob turning, and then a thud against the door.

"Oops," said Mark, darting to the door. He released the latch and Professor Weiler strode in.

"Have you two been doing something you shouldn't?" said Weiler with a toothy smile scarcely distinguishable from a leer.

"Always," said Mark, wisecracking to cover his repugnance.

Ignoring Mark's reply, Weiler crossed over to the observation window and looked out. "EC-26," he said. "In the pack?"

"What?" For an instant, Mark had forgotten the object of the exercise. "Oh, Earl. Yes. He's in the pack."

"Good." Weiler went to the nearest computer. "I think 26 might well bring the entity up to being self-aware." He gave a thumbs-up. "I can't wait to do sectioned brain measurements."

Mark sucked in a breath. "You'd have to kill the dogs to do that."

Weiler gave Mark a quizzical stare. "Yes, of course."

"But... But I thought we were only going to do MEG scans."

"Sectioning is necessary to test an idea that..."—Weiler broke eye contact—"that we've come up with. I've been thinking about it and agree; the electrical stimulation might well cause the growth of new cortical neurons."

"Are you going to put down all the dogs?" said Mark in a voice he knew must sound childish and pleading.

Weiler nodded. "Don't want to be accused of selective statistics."

Mark glared at Claire. She avoided his eyes.

"Hey, what's going on?" Weiler pointed out the observation window where the German Shepherd stood on its hind legs with forepaws resting on the gate, just under the lock. The Chihuahua, Miguel, stood on the Shepherd's shoulders, his tiny paws reaching through the fence-chain and fumbling with the lock's keypad. Several yards farther back, the rest of the dogs sat watching.

"My gosh!" said Claire. "It looks like he's trying to key the combination."

"That's why the dogs looked at me so intently when I opened the lock." Mark went to the cabinet and began to rummage. "There's a lock with a key in here somewhere." He found the lock and started for the door.

"No," said Weiler. "Wait! Let's see if they can do it."

"If the dogs get out," said Mark, "it'll be hell trying to round them up again."

Weiler kept his gaze on the dogs. "They'd still have to get through the outer fence."

"There's no lock on the outer gate," said Claire.

Weiler didn't respond. Claire and Mark exchanged glances, then both turned to watch the agile Chihuahua. The three of them watched the dog in silence.

After about twenty minutes, after countless tries, Miguel got the lock open. With a bark of triumph from all the pack, Miguel batted the lock to the ground. He leapt from the Shepherd's shoulders and then the entire pack rushed the gate and worried it open.

"Hot dog!" Weiler's hands went to the keyboard. "What a great follow-up to my first paper!" He squinted at the monitor. "Wait. This isn't my usual word processor."

Mark walked up behind Weiler and looked over the man's shoulder. "You can just exit X-Windows and invoke—" Mark stifled a gasp of shock as he saw, all but hidden by Weiler's mane-like hair, the white outline of a nodule against the base of his skull.

. "Invoke what?" Weiler twisted around to look at Mark. "What's the matter?" he said.

"You've... I saw..."

"Oh, you saw the nodule." Weiler laughed. "My ultimate experiment." He gazed at Mark, his expression suddenly intense, his eyes bright. "Just imagine it. To be another creature."


"Don't worry," said Weiler, lightly, a look of amused superiority replacing intensity. "My nodule is different; it has a gain control and an off switch." He brushed aside his hair and played a hand lovingly over the nodule. "I was going to wait, but now, seeing how intelligent the collective has become, I'm going to do it—essentially, now." He stood from the computer. "I can write this stuff up later."

"How did you..." said Claire. "Who would have even dared such an operation on a human being?"

Weiler uttered a humorless laugh. "What charming innocence. You have no idea what a person would do to get his name associated with a scientific breakthrough like this."

He walked to the front window and looked out. The pack was in front now, nosing around Claire's car. "I wonder what's on their mind."


"They, it, probably smells the bag of kibble in the back seat," said Claire in a flat voice, looking not out the window, but at Weiler with a look of bewilderment

Weiler returned the gaze and said nothing.

Mark didn't care for the hungry look in the man's eyes. "Don't you think it might be better if you did this under a controlled—"

"It's my decision," Weiler snapped. Then he smiled and raised a hand to the back of his head. "I do know what I'm doing."

As Mark watched, Weiler's expression transformed from amused condescension to wide-eyed astonishment and then to savagery.

Mark jumped back as Weiler—the new Weiler component of the collective—howled, the sound echoing and amplified from the pack without.

Standing frozen, muscles tensed, Mark had no idea what to do. From the corner of his eye, he saw Killer through the window. The Pit Bull's expression mirrored its owner's.

Weiler drew his lips back and exposed his teeth. He growled, bent to a crouch, and stalked toward Claire.

Claire backed away, stopping only when forced to by the wall.

Getting over his initial shock, Mark shouted. "Professor... Professor Weiler. Stop!"

Weiler paid no attention. He snarled at Claire and appeared set to leap. From the rear, Mark sprang at him, grabbing him around the neck. The two fell to the floor. Weiler, his head jerking from side to side, snarled and snapped at Mark's wrists, his teeth clacking as they missed their target. Mark only hoped the man didn't have aiDS or rabies.

Weiler rolled around on the floor, kicking and scratching. The man was strong—unnaturally strong. Mark struggled to hold on. With one arm around Weiler's throat, Mark, when he could, probed behind Weiler's neck for the nodule. As they fought, Mark caught fleeting glimpses of the white transceiver buried under the brown mass of hair. Tiring, Mark desperately grasped for the nodule, fumbled for the switch, found and threw it. Weiler went limp and collapsed to the floor. Mark fell with him.

On the floor, supine and shaking, Mark took a few shallow breaths. He'd just assaulted his thesis advisor and maybe even killed him. Hearing a grunting sound from Weiler, Mark rolled to a sitting position and took another breath, this time of relief. At least he hadn't killed the man.

Mark threw his gaze to Claire who had pressed herself into a corner. "Are you okay?" he gasped, scrambling to his feet.

"His eyes. They were like..." Claire rubbed a hand across her face, then stood erect and took a step forward. "I'm fine," she said, her gaze locked on Weiler who was beginning to stir.

Groggily, Weiler pushed himself to a sitting position, then leaned back against a wall. "What a trip!" He shook his head as if to clear it, then turned to Claire.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I lost control." Again, he shook his head, slowly, this time. "You can't believe what it was like." Smiling, Weiler moved a hand to the back of his head. Mark tensed, but Weiler took his hand away.

"I'm sorry that I..." said Mark, hesitantly, trying to decide exactly what he was sorry about.

Weiler waved him silent. "Having this implanted," he said in a collegial tone, "might not have been the best idea I've ever had."

"I guess not," said Mark, eying the man with some suspicion. "Didn't you try it out first?"

"I've had the fibers growing for a couple of weeks now, but just had the transceiver installed this morning. I came straight out here."

Gone was Weiler's air of superiority, but Mark found he still didn't particularly like him—especially not after the way he'd terrified Claire.

Weiler got to his feet and looked over to Claire. "Forgive me?" he said.

"Yes." Claire looked wary. Then she smiled. "Yes, of course."

"Good." Weiler took a few unsteady steps to the front window and peered out. Not twenty feet away, the dogs, sitting attentive like second-graders in a classroom, stared in. "I felt it," said Weiler, softly, more to the dogs than to the grad students. "Near sentience. A trigger is all it would take." He locked eyes with his Pit Bull and from his expression, a mirror of his dog's, Mark could almost believe Weiler's nodule was still switched on. "I've got to know what's in Killer's mind," said Weiler under his breath.

"I hope," said Mark, "that you're not thinking of trying it again."

Weiler jerked his head around, breaking eye contact with Killer. "No, of course not," he said, his eyes showing a feral gleam. Then he seemed to soften. "No," he said again, but softly. "The dogs just took me by surprise." He turned back to the window. The pack still stared in. "Human against dogs," said Weiler. "I'll be able to handle it."

"What!" said Mark, almost at a shout.

Weiler spun around and eyed him coldly. "That is, should I ever decide to do it again."

Mark, feeling uneasy about raising his voice to his professor, went to the computer. "Your word processor is up," he said. "You can write up your thoughts now"—Mark saw Weiler begin to pace—"if you want to."

Back and forth, the man paced, staring out the window whenever he passed it. Mark smiled, grimly, noting the similarity to an animal in a cage.

Weiler paused by the door. "I've got to know."

Mark studied the man. Weiler's eyes blazed with the intensity of a single-minded researcher—or of an animal.

"I'm sorry," said Weiler. With one hand, he began to open the door while reaching with the other to the back of his head. "I can handle this. I'll lower the receiver gain."

"It's digital," said Mark, stunned. "Gain only affects distance. The intensity won't—"

Weiler's expression abruptly turned wild. He growled, flung the door open and darted through.

"Damn!" Mark ran to the door and slammed it shut.

"Wait!" shouted Claire. "We can't leave him out there."

"Let him go." Mark latched the door. "Let him be Lord of the Dogs if he wants it. Anyway, there's nothing we can do." He pointed out the window. The two of them gazed out.

"'But since I am a dog, beware my fangs,'" said Claire under her breath.

Weiler, crouching forward and moving with a gait suggesting he'd only recently learned to walk on two legs, staggered about fifteen feet toward the dogs and then stopped.

The dogs, in silence, drew back their lips, exposing their incisors.

"The dogs don't seem to like him much," said Claire, her voice a little above a whisper.

"Especially Killer." Mark watched as the Pit Bull, stiff-legged, inched forward.

"Odd," said Claire. "Killer is, or at any rate was, his own dog."

"My point."

Killer stopped and the scene became a frozen tableau.

"I wonder what's going on out there," said Claire after a silent minute.

"From Killer's and Rottweiler's expressions, it looks as if they're engaged in some sort of struggle." Mark smiled, self-conscious about what he was saying. "Like a fight for the heart and soul of the pack."

"Why is he doing this?" said Claire. "What does he get from being a dog?"

"It gives one paws," said Mark, making pawing motions with his hands.

Claire looked at him as if he were some sort of monster.

"Sorry." Mark cast his eyes down. "My way of dealing with stress. Tasteless jokes."

We know who we are now. And we know what now is. And the tall masters, humans. They are just animals—single, not a pack. They know much but they have poor noses and they can't hunt without tools.

But a human is part of us. We are sick. The human-bit doesn't belong. This human brings us knowledge and understanding but it is not a dog-bit. It must be removed from us. Can not understand. One part of us wants to serve them, another part wants to kill and eat them. That part is stronger. But humans know things we don't. A human is a pack-bit now and we know many new things. We know many more ways to hunt. And we can think. But we do not understand what humans want. The human-bit is not necessary. Understanding is not necessary.

The pack barked, again in unison. Weiler barked as well, but a little late, like a chorister who'd missed his cue.

"Not quite of the pack," said Claire. "Sort of sad, in a way."

As Mark threw a quizzical glance at her, he saw motion out of the corner of his eye. He snapped back toward the window. "Uh oh."

The dogs had each crouched low, and Weiler trembled, visibly.

"This doesn't look good." Mark started for the door.

"Wait!" said Claire. "What are you doing?"

"If he makes a run for it," said Mark, his hand on the latch, "I'll let him in."

Claire nodded, then took a deep breath.

"Yeah, I know," said Mark. "But I handled him before. I imagine I can do it again." I hope. He looked through the window at Weiler. The man looked scared. He's not the only one.

"If we had the brain-scan controller," said Claire, "we could just key them all to sleep."

"I wish." Mark clung to a thin hope. "You know. He might not want to fight it this time."

"Maybe you could open the door a little and call to him."

"Yeah." Mark started to release the latch, but then, his eyes on the window, he froze. "Oh my God!"

The dogs, as if reacting to the shot of a starting pistol, had leapt forward, engulfing Professor Weiler. The man managed to stay on his feet until Max clamped his teeth over his lower thigh. Weiler fell to his knees. Killer lunged for his throat. With one hand splayed on the ground to stop his fall, Weiler punched wildly out, catching Killer in mid-leap. Landing on the nose, the blow deflected the dog's jaws from their target.

Then Miguel, small but with needle-sharp teeth, sank his fangs onto the grounded hand. Weiler shrieked, raised his arm above his head, then slammed his hand onto the ground. He flung his arm back into the air. Miguel flew off, his head canted at an unnatural angle, his neck clearly broken.

Pain. We are dead. And we are alive. We hurt. The smallest dog-bit is gone. We howl. Dead! Smells like food. We are afraid of death. What is after? We have only just learned what after means. Until now, we have only lived in the now—with memories but no understanding of the past. Now we understand. There is past, present and future. And, bit by bit, we will die. We are afraid. We must howl. The human-bit did this to us.

The pack went motionless. Seizing his chance, Weiler got to his knees. He struggled to his feet and hobbled frantically toward the door. Mark flung it open and started forward to help. But after a single step toward the professor, Mark stopped short. He watched in horror as the dogs, with a great angry peal of coordinated barking, flew at the man. Weiler looked back over his shoulder. At that same instant, Killer leaped. Its great jaws closed around Weiler's throat.

We hurt. Can't breathe. Scared. Want to lick wounds but can't find them. Losing something. Growing harder to think. Human-bit is... Tall animal enemy gone. Smells like food. We are the pack. We must howl.

Claire screamed.

Mark stepped back, slammed the door, latched it, and leaned his forehead against it for a moment, trying to control his queasy horror. Then he turned to Claire.

"I'm okay," she said before Mark could speak. Outside, the dogs uttered a single howl, then went silent.

Mark shot a glance at the window. The dogs stood motionless. Frozen. He returned his attention to Claire. "Are you really okay?" Then he added under his breath, "I'm not."

"'When the time came, he was torn to pieces by dogs.'" said Claire in a singsong voice. "God, I can't get that quote out of my mind."

"It's okay to be horrified," said Mark. "You don't have to keep it in."

"I'm okay," she insisted. But a moment later, she broke into tears and slid to a sitting position. Mark went to comfort her.

"I love dogs," said Claire, her words punctuated by sobs. "But... I feel betrayed, somehow."

Mark, seeing more horror out of the corner of his eye, moved so that Claire couldn't see through the window. The pack was frozen no longer. "These aren't dogs," he said. "It's another class of animal, a new entity. You said so yourself." He talked with the hope that the sound would calm her. "It should have a separate taxonomic name—like maybe, Canis Res Ferox. Ferocious dog-thing." His stratagem seemed to work. Claire dried her eyes.

"Weiler died doing his experiment," she said. "He'd probably have liked that."

Mark nodded. "Yeah."

Claire appeared thoughtful. "I wonder," she said, "how did the collective feel—with it being both dead and alive at the same time."

"Who can say?" Mark gave a tiny shake of his head. Schrödinger's Dog.

"I wonder why they killed him." Claire looked toward the window, but Mark's body blocked her view. "Professor Weiler was... was part of their pack."

"Biology probably—like an organ rejection. Or revenge for Miguel. Who knows?" Mark hoped she wouldn't look around him. "Maybe it's just that Weiler was not a dog—not a genuine one, anyway. And dog-brains are much—"

Claire, having gotten to her feet, screamed, her eyes locked on the scene out the window. "They're eating him!"

"Don't look," said Mark, moving to take her by the hand.

"I'm okay," she said, with a tight smile. "It was just a shock."

They both gazed out the window, watching the entity feed. Mark didn't want to watch but he couldn't pull his eyes away.

"'Cry Havoc!'" Claire quoted in a low, even voice, "'and let slip the dogs of war; that this foul deed shall smell above the earth, with carrion men, groaning for burial.'"

Mark spotted Earl at the periphery of the pack and close to the shack. Suddenly feeling a heavy sense of loss, he went to the door.

"What are you doing?" said Claire.

Ignoring her, Mark eased open the door a crack and called to his Greyhound. "Hey boy, come here. You remember me."

The dog snarled and bared its fangs. Mark closed the door and leaned his head against it.

Claire came up to him. "You seem more broken up by your Greyhound spurning you than by—"

"He's my dog," said Mark with more intensity than he'd intended. "Was my dog," he added softly.

Claire touched his arm, gently. "These aren't dogs anymore."

Mark raised his head from the door and brushed down his hair. "You'd think a collective intelligence would make the dogs more, well, human."

"Intelligence is too broad a word, I think." Claire bit her lip. "The map is not the territory, and all that."

"Still, together, they, it, must have a very large vocabulary. They can't speak it, of course, but I'd think it would make them very smart... very intelligent."

"There are different kinds of intelligences." Claire gave a tightlipped smile. "A more intelligent dog isn't necessarily closer to a human. I would think it would be a more doglike dog."

"Yeah, I guess." Mark glanced at the window. "Hey, what're they doing now?" The dogs were nosing around the car, pawing at the doors, and leaping to the hood and back to the ground."

"They probably smell the kibble."

"Yeah." Mark walked to the window, slowly took in the panorama, then shuddered. "They probably want a two-course meal."

"You're terrible!"

They watched as the dogs continued to worry the car. Then, as a group, the dogs abandoned the vehicle, explored the ground and then began digging at one spot.

"What now?" said Claire.

"No idea."

Then, as the dogs dug deeper, Mark could make out the form of a brick-sized rock. "Looks like they're digging out a small boulder."


"I don't like this," said Mark. "They're working with purpose. I think they're preparing a tool."

"Using tools? Come on. They can't be that intelligent."

"Why not?" Mark gazed at the dog-entity with growing apprehension. "It's a distributed intelligence." He shuddered as the dogs freed the rock. "Who knows. Maybe even a distributed sentience. Maybe Weiler was right."

The larger dogs pushed the rock to the front of the car and then, awkwardly and after many tries, they managed to convey the rock to the car's hood. There, smaller dogs rushed the rock toward the windshield, clumsily propelling themselves as well as the rock against the glass. The windshield held and Mark saw the rock slide off the hood and hit the ground, sending up a plume of dusty topsoil.

Claire let out a sigh of relief. "I'm glad it didn't break. I know it's silly, but it feels good that my car, at least, can stand up to the dogs."

"I wish it weren't weakened by the crack though," said Mark.

"What does it..." Claire visibly recoiled as the dogs raised the rock again.

Mark winced, hearing the clattering impact of stone and dog against glass. The dogs, repeatedly and with enormous effort, raised the rock to the hood and smashed it and their bodies into the windshield—all to no effect.

Mark felt himself hypnotized by the repetitiveness of the scene. Claire seemed mesmerized as well. They watched in silence.

It came as a shock then, when the windshield shattered and a shimmering flurry of gemlike fragments rained to the ground.

"Damn it!" said Claire, coming alert.

Mark snapped out of his trance as well and watched as the dogs pulled the bag of kibble from the car and let it fall on top of the pebbles of safety glass. For a moment, the dogs paused. Then, as one, they savaged the bag and gorged themselves on the contents.

"I'd hate to be caught here after dark," Mark mumbled under his breath. He shivered at the thought, then pulled out his cell phone. "We've got more to worry about than a windshield," he said, dialing 911. "We need the State Police."

"What do you mean?"

Mark gently tapped at the window glass. "If they could break the windshield, they can certainly break this." He looked down at the phone. "No service? That's odd." He flipped the phone closed. "Probably interference from the dogs' transceivers. Damn it!" He ran to a computer. "I only hope we still have Internet service." He brought up a browser. "Should have. We've got a direct line of sight antenna." He clicked on a bookmark and sighed with relief. "We've got it. I'll Google for the sheriff's department and send them an e-mail. I really hope they're compulsive about reading their e-mail."

"I'm not sure we can hold out that long," said Claire softly, with a tremor in her voice.

Mark looked up from the monitor. Outside, he saw dogs pushing the rock toward the window. "Don't worry," he said, hoping his voice wouldn't betray him. "The wall is sheer. They won't be able to get the rock high enough to do any damage."

Mark, hoping the dogs would give up, scarcely dared to breathe as he watched the dogs push the rock up close to the window, then move back and stand as if thinking. All at once, they started digging again—gathering soil and piling it under the window, making a ledge.

"It's amazing how fast twenty-five dogs can pull up dirt," said Claire calmly. But the quaver in her voice revealed her anxiety.

"Yeah," said Mark under his breath. "It won't take them long." Knowing it was futile, he pulled up the keyboard and began a search for the sheriff's department. He'd barely tapped a few keys when he stopped with an idea. "The dogs. Their transceivers are jamming my cell phone," he said.

Claire looked at him as if he'd suddenly lost his mind.

"Well," he said, "maybe we can jam the dogs." He ran around to the back of the computer. "Ha. We're in luck. It's a quick release case—no screws." He flipped some latches and removed the computer's case.

"What are you doing?" said Claire. "And do you think it's a good idea doing it with the power on?"

"See if you can find some wire—coat hangers or something. Long and conductive. Anything."


"For an antenna." Mark rushed to the other computer and switched it on as well. "Without their cases, computers produce a ton of RF radiation."

"Are you—" Claire began.

"Please," Mark insisted. He threw a glance at the dogs. "We don't have much time."

"Will an extension cord do?"

"What?" Mark followed her gaze toward the ten-foot cord between the hotplate and the wall. "Perfect! And do you by chance have a scissors in your bag?" Again, he glanced at the dogs. Their earthwork looked close to complete. "I'll use my teeth, if necessary."

Claire fetched the cord and withdrew a nail-clipper from her bag. "Best I can offer," she said, handing it over.

"Excellent!" Mark grabbed the clippers and used it to nibble the plug and sockets free of the extension cord. Then he separated the 16-parallel wire into two lengths and stripped an end on each to expose two or three inches of bare copper. "You don't have any Band-aids, do you?" he said as he worked.

"No. Did you hurt yourself?"

"I would have used them to tape down the wire. But..." Mark threaded the bare wire around the cooling fins of the heat sink. "Damn, this thing is hot." Gingerly, he stretched out the wire horizontally, weighing down the end with a book. "Turn on the radio," he said as he rushed to repeat the process on the other computer.

"The radio?"

"Turn it on!" Mark concentrated on his work. "If we hear static, it'll show this is working."

"It's not plugged in."

"Then plug it in!" Mark regretted the harsh tone of his voice. "Please."

Claire moved the radio close to the wall socket, plugged it in, and flipped it on. She scanned for a station—and found one. But over the country and western music, there was static.

"I hope that static's because of the computers," said Mark, "and not just because we're out of range of the transmitter."

Claire pointed out the window. "Take a look."

Still, the dogs dug, but their actions were less coordinated than previously. They seemed more at play than in concentration.

"It's working!" Mark hollered, his arm raised in victory. "The dogs are defocusing."

But, as the dogs ran haphazardly, they apparently reached a point beyond the range of the jamming signal. Slowly, over the course of the next five minutes, the dogs, one by one, reassembled into a compact group near the outer gate some twenty yards from the window. The dog-entity gradually formed anew.

"Stalemate," said Mark, staring at the pack.

"What'll we do now?" said Claire.

"Well, despite the RF noise, the computers still work. Now, I'll try to raise the State Police by e-mail. We've got some time." He switched off the radio.

"Do you think we could get to the car?"

"The car?" Mark glanced at the car, then at the pack, and then at the outer gate. "Yeah. I think so." He paused. "But it might be a little tricky getting the gate open; I wouldn't want to get out of the car."

"We could drive along the fence, open the latch, then circle around and push open the gate with the car." Claire scrunched her shoulders. "That would be better than just staying here, waiting."

"Okay." Mark took a deep breath. "But if the car stalls, we're toast."

Claire looked down at her feet and slowly shook her head. "We'd better wait for the police."

Just as she'd finished speaking, silence and a dullness came over the observation shack. "Damn!" said Mark, casting a frantic glance at the dark computer monitors. "The generator. Out of gas."

"Look," cried Claire, pointing out the window. The pack was inching back toward the cabin.

Mark looked desperately around for something to use as a weapon. His gaze fell on his laptop. He rushed to it and switched it on. "God, I hate to do this." He turned to Claire. "I need your nail clippers again."

"On the table. Why?"

"I'm going to try to cut away the case." Mark flipped over the laptop and ran a fingernail along its seam, "And pull off the RF shield and connect an antenna."

She handed over the clippers. "Can that little laptop do it?"

"It should be good for a couple of feet—I hope." He started nibbling away at the case. "Then we'll make a run for the car. Hopefully, this gadget will act as a dog repellant."

"The car?" Claire's voice sounded fearful. "Do you think we'll..."

"We'll be fine," said Mark, hoping his voice wouldn't expose his uncertainty. With his head, he gestured toward one of the desktop machines. "Could you get me one of the antennas?"

Five minutes later, Mark had converted his laptop computer into what he prayed was a radio jamming device.

"This should work," said Mark, throwing a longing glance to the dead radio.

Claire started to say something, but didn't.

Mark sighed. "Sorry, but there's no way to test it." He carried the laptop, antenna trailing on the floor, toward the door. "Car keys ready?"

Claire nodded.

"Okay." Mark positioned the laptop so he could carry it under one arm. "When you open the door, I'll lead the way. Run like crazy—and scream and shout. It might confuse the dogs." Looking into Claire's frightened eyes, he paused. "Look. We're going to make it," he said softly. Claire smiled, but it looked labored.

"Okay," said Mark. "At the car, we'll split—you to the driver's side and I'll go to the other side. Ready?"



Claire flung open the door and, screaming like banshees, they ran for the car. The dogs in front scattered out of their way and then chased after, but kept a foot or two behind. As Mark, with averted eyes, leapt over the bloody gristle that had once been Professor Weiler, the antenna fell off. A Jack Russell Terrier snapped it from the ground and shook it in his jaws as if trying to kill a snake.

With a thunderous bark, the dogs drew in close, snapping at their heels. Mark yanked open the car door. He jumped into the passenger seat and kicked out at a dog, Killer. The Pit Bull darted to the side, giving Mark the clearance he needed. He slammed the door, then glanced over and saw that Claire had made it as well. "Okay. Get us out of here!"

She jammed the key in the ignition and the starter revved—but the car didn't start.

Three dogs leapt to the hood and jumped for the shattered windshield. A further four or five dogs followed behind them. Kicking and poking at them with his laptop, Mark fended them off.

"Claire, please. I can't hold them off much longer!"

"I know. I know." She revved the starter again, and then again.


On the fifth try, the car started. Claire threw the car in reverse and some of the dogs fell off.

"Terrific!" shouted Mark, fighting with hands and feet to keep the few remaining dogs at bay. "Now, forward, pedal to the floor. Let's get out of here!"

"But the latch."

"Forget it!" said Mark. "Drive at the gate. The latch'll break." He batted the laptop at a Springer Spaniel. "It had better," he added under his breath.

At the impact of the car hitting the gate, Mark lurched forward, almost hitting the spaniel with his head. But the dog, scrambling to regain its footing, was too busy to bite.

There came a loud snap and the gate flew open. Narrowly skirting Weiler's fancy sports car, Claire sped away. The remaining dogs jumped or fell off.

"Oh my gosh," said Mark, breathlessly. "I really thought we'd had it."

"They're chasing us," said Claire, looking in the side mirror. Her hair fluttered wildly from the absence of a windshield.

We must catch the car. We must kill the humans. Kill the... the tall animals. Why? Many words are going. The Killer-bit of the pack is fading. Knowledge and understanding are fading. Pack is dissolving. Smell of dogs—other dogs. I am a dog. I?

Forest smells. Good smells. Must catch tall masters. Love to run. Love tall master.

Mark, breathing easier now, snapped on his seat belt—the car moved very unpredictably—and looked back. "Now they're dogs doing what dogs do." The clump of the pack became more a line as the faster dogs outpaced the slower, the sight-hounds in front and scent-hounds behind. Beauregard the Bloodhound plodded in the rear, his nose mere inches above the tire tracks.

As he listened to the barking of the pack, Mark wondered if a particular car's tire had a unique smell. Then, it registered.

"Wait!" he shouted. Slow down!"

"What? Are you nuts?"

"Listen," said Mark. "The dogs are barking."

"You are nuts."

"But they're not barking in unison. They're running full out. They're not clumped together anymore. They're getting out of range of each other."

"So you want me to slow down so they can become superdog again?"

"Dogs love to run, especially Greyhounds." He pointed. "It's Earl. He's way in front. Slow down so he can catch up."

Claire didn't answer.

"It's Earl. He's out of range. He's my dog again. Please."

Claire sighed. "I hope you're right." She brought the car down to about thirty miles an hour. As Earl drew close, Mark opened the door, bracing it with his foot against the wind. Earl leaped in. Claire, watching the dog, nearly drove off the road.

Mark grabbed the dog to keep it from falling out the door due to the car's erratic motion. Earl turned and licked Mark's face. "Thank God," said Mark.

Claire regained control of the vehicle and sped up to sixty; the pack grew small in the distance, soon becoming obscured by the dust kicked up on the dirt road. "You do know," said Claire, "that if the pack ever sneaks up close to Earl, he'll likely rip you to shreds."

"Well, I'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen," said Mark, feigning a confidence he wished he had.

Earl twisted and licked Claire on the cheek. "That's Claire," said Mark. "She's nice. I like her." He glanced at Claire. "Very, very much. Rowf."

Claire smiled. "Okay," she said. "Where to now?"

"State Police. Turn left at Ringwood." Mark grew serious. "There's a new beast in the woods. A savage, intelligent killer." He leaned in to his Greyhound. "And we've got to keep it well away from you—at least until we get that nodule removed."

"I wonder," said Claire, "how much of the savagery is due to Professor Weiler's influence—or Killer's, which comes to the same thing."

"I couldn't ever understand that guy," said Mark, staring vacantly out the window. "Dog people are, well... good people."

"Strindberg didn't think so," said Claire. "He said, 'I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves.'"

"Well, I guess that didn't apply to... to Professor Weiler," said Mark. "That's one thing we can say for him." He gazed ahead through the jagged outline of the windshield, quiet with his thoughts. Claire remained quiet as well. Even Earl seemed to be in a reflective mood. At length, when the State Police barracks came into view, Claire broke the silence. "God," she said, softly. "I hope we can make them believe us."

"We've got to."

* * *

Between dog and wolf, as the Romans called dusk, that time when color fades to grey, Mark took Earl for a walk. Claire had stayed in the barracks playing chess with the desk sergeant. It would be at least another half-hour before the police car would return from the dog habitat. By badgering and cajoling, Mark and Claire had persuaded the Sergeant to send a car out to investigate. They'd been asked go along, but refused, agreeing instead to wait at the barracks.

Walking in the dark parking lot with Earl padding in front of him, Mark stared at two parked police cars—mechanical twins. He wondered if Earl could tell them apart by scent. And if not Earl, could Beauregard?

Thinking back to his escape, Mark shivered at the mental image of the dogs chasing after their car. He visualized the Bloodhound lumbering steadily along, its nose to the ground, pursuing the tire tracks like a caboose following a train. Mark glanced over at Claire's car. A cool breeze came up and again Mark shivered—but not from the breeze.

In mid stride, Earl froze. Slowly, he turned his muzzle toward the wild thicket bordering the parking lot.

Mark took a step toward the dog, then slowly retreated a few paces. "Earl," he said in a voice barely above a whisper. "What's the matter, boy?"

* * *

A bibliography of Carl Frederick's short fiction may be found at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

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