Image credit: Bogi
The first part of this story can be found here.
‘Are you sure you know where we’re going?’ Dev asked.
They had been walking for hours. Shuni’s nose leading them away from the business district, past the tightly packed units and stacked apartments, until they got to the outskirts of the suburb, where the two to three bedroom houses squatted like herds of sleeping cattle.
‘Oh yes,’ Shuni said, not lifting her snout from the ground. ‘Sacred cow has a very distinct smell. For something so divine, it is rather smelly.’
‘Really? What does it smell like?’ Dev asked.
‘Like a really big cow.’ Shuni said. ‘I think we’re getting close, now.’ She lead them away from the track and into a growth of bush.
Dev moved behind her as she trotted forward into the undergrowth, her short stature allowing her to pass easily around the various shrubs, bushes, and branches, all of which inevitably hit Dev in the face, or worked to trip him up.
‘Shuni, is there some other way around all this? I’m having some trouble here.’ He said as he tore his leg free from a particularly spiky patch of brambles.
‘I’m afraid not, Dev, this is the way their trail leads.’
‘Then why isn’t there a track? This sacred cow managed to destroy my office building, surely it should have created a path.’
‘Oh no, the panis can fly. They would have simply carried the sacred cow over all this.’
‘Then why are you still smelling the ground?’
‘It’s droppings. It must have been very scared, there are a lot of them. You’re standing in some right now.’
‘Ugh,’ Dev said, shaking his leg to free himself of the invisible waste with no idea if it was actually helping. ‘Can’t we fly over all this, or something?’
‘Ha, dogs can’t fly, Dev. We don’t have wings. You’re so funny.’
Dev stopped walking as an idea came to him. ‘What if you did though?’ He asked.
‘Did what?’ She said.
‘Have wings. You said you could alter-’
A noise somewhere between a bray and a cackle cut him off.
‘Panis,’ Shuni growled, her little corgi body moving into an alert stance. ‘Come on, they must be close, time to do battle!’
Shuni charged forward through the brush. Dev worked to follow, pulling himself free to fall into a clearing. He looked up to see a large overgrown wall of earth in front of him, an open cave mouth at the centre of it. From within the cave’s depth more barking laughs could be heard, and it occurred to Dev for the first time that he was expected to fight demons.
‘Shuni, I don’t wish to appear to be less brave than a dog, albeit a dog/god hybrid, but is there anyway I could not go in there?’
‘Oh, don’t worry, best friend. You’ll be great. You’re the best, most loving, most favourite human I know.’
As pep talks went, it left a lot to be desired, but the honest sincerity of the words coupled with Shuni’s open faced adoration moved Dev, and caused a swell of courage to grow in him.
‘Thank you, Shuni. You’re right, we can do this, and I even have a plan as to-’
A bellow so loud it caused Dev’s ear drums to wobble rolled out of the cave mouth.
‘That is one unhappy cow. Time to go, best friend.’ Shuni turned and ran, her tiny legs a blur as she galloped towards the dark cavern.
‘Wait, Shuni, I have an idea,’ Dev called out, but her small form was already through the opening and heading inside. Left with few options, Dev repositioned his satchel and strode forward.
+ + + +
Darkness enveloped Dev as he moved into the cave, but he could see a small point of flickering light ahead of him. The braying of the panis sounded again, and Dev felt his courage contract. A small shadow in the form of a dog broke the spot of light, and Dev’s courage regained some of its size. Shuni trotted around a bend and Dev hurried to follow her.
He stumbled forward into the light and saw…an empty cavern. It was huge and open with a number of small fires spotted around it’s jagged floor, but the cavern itself was empty except for Shuni and himself.
‘Shuni,’ he started. ‘What’s going…’ His eyes were caught by the shadows. They displayed humanoid figures that leapt and danced over the walls, silhouettes of creatures that didn’t exist. ‘Is that them? Are those shadows the panis?’ He whispered to the god in a corgi’s body.
‘Huh? Shadows? Oh, I see. Lean down, please.’
Confused, Dev moved his face down towards the dog, who leapt up and swiped her tongue across his eyes before he could move away.
‘Ugh, Shuni, why did you…’ Dev’s words fell away as he looked around the now packed cavern. Human like creatures, the panis, hovered and flew around the cavern’s interior. No, actually, they don’t look like humans at all, Dev realised. They had two arms, two legs, and a head, but that was where the resemblance finished. Instead they were stunted and wrinkled, lacking necks and joints in their too straight arms, with overly wide mouths that split their faces in half when they let out their braying laughter.
And as if that wasn’t shocking enough, in the middle of them all sat the biggest cow Dev had ever seen; larger than an elephant, larger than ten elephants. Dev’s neck bent back as he followed it’s length up to where the animal’s head brushed the cavern ceiling. He only had one thought in his mind as he took in the giant creature. It’s so beautiful. The animal’s enormous eyes, while wet and scared, were stunning, seeming to encompass entire galaxies within their depths. It’s coat was clean and gleaming, shining like sunlight over water, and the muscle underneath rippled with angelic health. He couldn’t help but wonder how the milk of a creature as divine as this would taste, and had no doubt that it really must have once fed all of humanity. Then it let out a thunderous bellow and shat itself, and suddenly the spell was broken.
His eyes instead went back to the horrible laughing demons, as yet unaware of he and Shuni’s presence, and felt fear rise up inside of him. His feet instinctively began backing up as he looked around for the closest place to hide.
Then Shuni began barking. It was a loud bark, a challenging bark, full of righteous joy at the prospect of the imminent battle. Dev wanted to throttle her.
‘Shuni,’ he started, but she was off, charging at the demons as if they were simply seagulls.
Dev stood, conflicted. Unable to pair the desire to fearlessly support his friend and the gut wrenching panic at the thought of confronting these literal demons. Instead, he stayed motionless as Shuni bit down hard on the ankle of the closest panis. The thing let out a scream as terrible as its visage. It turned as it’s features changed to rage, and picked Shuni up by her bottom and pulled. Shuni came free with a chunk of demon flesh in her teeth.
The demon tossed her to a nearby hovering fellow, who, laughing, threw her again to a panis on the other side of the cavern. Dev watched in terror as Shuni passed from one set of demon fingers to the next, barking with a ferocious exuberance the entire time.
Mustering up every ounce of bravery inside of him, Dev pushed back his shoulders and with a shaking voice, cried out. ‘Let her go!’
The demon who currently held her, did. He dropped her with a cackle from over five meters in the air. She hit the ground with a soft whump and Dev raced over to her.
She turned her head to look up as he knelt above her. ‘Hey, best friend,’ she said. ‘Did you see me taking on the panis?’
‘I did, Shuni,’ he said, trying to make his voice even a fifth as cheery as hers. ‘You were very brave.’
‘We both were,’ she said.
Dev looked away and up at the swarm of panis hovering.
‘Shall we keep fighting then?’ Shuni asked, bringing her battered body to her feet.
‘I don’t know,’ Dev said, hopelessness creeping into his voice. ‘I’m not sure you can beat them.’ He looked at her chubby little body. ‘Not in this form.’
His idea came back to him.
‘Shuni, you said you can alter certain aspects of reality, right?’
‘Yep. I sure can’
‘Your alterations though, they need to be grounded in some kind of reality, right?
‘That’s right.’ The smile widened on the corgi’s face. ‘What’s going on in your big head, best friend?’
Dev whipped his satchel around himself and pulled out the Ye Old England doggy outfits.
‘What about this dragon outfit? Could you make it so that putting it on turned you into a dragon?’
Shuni thought, taking in Dev’s suggestion. ‘No,’ she finally said. ‘It’s too much of a stretch, the product wasn’t designed for that.’
Dev’s heart sunk.
‘But you could.’
‘What?’ Dev asked.
‘You write the descriptions for these products. I can’t make it that this outfit will do something it’s not supposed to, but I could if you made it part of it’s description.’
‘You mean, if I change the copy so that it says the costume will turn whoever wears it into what it looks like, then it’ll work?’
Dev looked up in amazement. ‘In other words, you’re saying that I posses a certain set of skills that have come in handy right when we need them!’ He began laughing and Shuni leapt up and licked his face.
The panis, sensing their excitment, all turned. One let out a cackle and began moving slowly towards them.
‘Right,’ Dev said, and pulled his laptop to him and began typing. His fingers clicked across the keyboard, words and sentences weaving magic as he created copy. Shuni pulled two of the outfits aside and looked up at Dev as he closed the laptop and pushed it to the ground.
‘Two? Why two?’ he asked.
Moments later and Shuni was dressed smartly in the dragon outfit. Beside her, Dev had squeezed the dog sized samurai costume over his head and arms.
‘I feel ridiculous,’ he said.
‘I think you look great,’ Shuni replied.
The panis chuckled as they gathered above them.
‘Ah, Shuni. Why isn’t it working?’ Dev asked, panic rising.
‘I don’t know? Did you press enter?’
The panis dove at them, mouths open wide.
‘Shit!’ Dev called out as he reached for the laptop. He opened its casing just as the first demon was about to touch them, and clicked.
Shuni’s costume molded into her. Her limbs and neck began to elongate immediately, becoming scaled and green. Her snout pushed forward, her teeth grew into fangs, and her puffball of a tail snaked out behind her. Shuni let out a joyful roar, followed by a belch of flame that roasted the closest of the panis.
Dev’s costume likewise stretched, flowing across his body until it fit him perfectly. He felt himself leap impossibly high to kick one of the laughing demons across the mouth, shattering teeth. His hands found the two swords at his back — which, until a moment ago, had been made of felt — and he sliced through two more of the panis before landing perfectly on the ground.
The fight didn’t last long. The panis may have been able to take on a small dog and a giant cow, but they were no match for a samurai and a dragon. Realising this, most of the demons panicked, popping out of existence to return to whatever realm they had come from.
Dev stood beside Shuni, still in dragon form, and looked up at the giant bovine. ‘What do we do with her?’ he asked from behind the cloth of his mask.
‘Don’t worry, best friend. I’ll take care of it.’ Shuni roared around splutters of fire.
‘Do you think you could take the costume off now? It was hard enough bringing myself to talk to a dog let alone a dragon.’
Shuni raised a clawed hand to her neck and pulled. Her green scaled skin tented outward then came free, reverting to a small, fairly cheaply made, dragon doggy outfit, leaving Shuni hanging in the air. She fell, the outfit fluttering down behind her, and Dev, still capable of samurai reflexes, caught them both easily in his arms. He placed her down and pulled off his own outfit.
‘I suppose you’ll go now,’ he said.
‘Yes. And no. I’ll go, but the part of me that’s your dog will remain. You’ll still have your best friend.’
He knelt down and took her in his arms. ‘I’ll only have half of her, but I suppose that’ll have to be enough.’
Shuni licked his face, her eyes a conflicted pool of happy and sad. ‘Well, if me or any of the other gods ever need a writer, we’ll know exactly who to come to.’
‘A copy writer, you mean.’
‘What’s the difference? Time for me to go, best friend. I’ll miss you.’
‘I’ll miss you too, Samara.’
He placed her down and she trotted over to the sacred cow. With one final look back at Dev she turned and licked the leg of the enormous creature, and it disappeared, taking the deity with it.
Shuni, the non-holy version, turned and looked about the cave, before seeing Dev and excitedly trotted over to him. He picked her up and started the long walk home.
+ + + +
The next day Dev went back to work, which is to say he went back to the office to quit, only to remember it was still destroyed. In the end he sent his manager a strongly worded resignation letter. He also decided to keep the laptop, he would need it for the novel he would write, the one about the god and the dragon and the demons and the dog.
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