“What?” Marie sputtered. “Wait, what?”
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Alice said, turning away and peering intently into the trees, as if looking for something.
“What happened? He had so much energy earlier,” Marie said, stepping back. She’d never seen anything dead. She felt like her heart was beating out of her chest.
“It’s hard to explain,” Alice sighed.
There was a rustling in the bushes.
“For fuck’s sake!” Marie swore, flinching. Alice looked toward the source of the sound and whistled.
“Come here, boy!” She called, and an exuberant dog burst out from the foliage and bounced, tail wagging furiously, over to Alice.
Alice caught him in her arms and gave him a furious head scratch.
Marie looked down at the dead dog at her feet and back up at the dog in Alice’s arms. There was no question that they were the related, because Milo was the most distinctly ugly dog Marie had ever seen – patchy grey and black fur, long snout, stubby legs, long, floppy ears. This dog was a disturbingly similar coloring, albeit at least ten years younger.
Marie looked back down at Milo, but the body at her feet had disappeared.
She made an involuntary sound in her throat somewhere between a yelp and a whimper, and staggered somewhat on her feet.
“Don’t you dare faint on me,” Alice growled.
Marie sat down heavily instead. The dog-who-had-recently-appeared wriggled from Alice’s arms and came over to lick her face. She inspected him carefully and instantly recognized the spotty black flecks of fur around his eyes.
“Milo?” Marie whispered. The dog head-butted her agreeably.
“Yup,” Alice said, standing back up. She seemed, typically, unwilling to divulge any more information than she had to.
“Huh,” Marie said faintly, “okay. Okay then.”
The dog who was apparently Milo sat down on Marie’s leg and belched loudly in her face. Marie didn’t move. Alice crossed her arms.
“Are you okay?” she asked will the air of someone who only asks that sort of thing because it’s expected of her.
“Hmm.” Marie intoned tonelessly.
“Okay then. Get up.” Alice said, almost cheerfully.
“But, Milo?” Marie said weakly.
“I’ll have Hershel explain it explain it to you over dinner,” Alice replied, pulling Marie up by her armpits. The puppy barked and ran around in three tight, concise circles, sniffed the ground, barked again, and peed on top of where the previous Milo had just peed. Satisfied, the new Milo suddenly charged pell-mell in the direction they came from, barking like mad.
“Oh,” Marie said, letting Alice drag her after him.