Davis looked at the note he had left. It detailed everything that needed to be done in the event that he was no longer human when Bryant or Budd got back. The first to return would be the sheriff pro-tem. It also told them what to do if the phone rang again. He'd had Randy read it over, and Randy wagged his tail in approval. Davis stared at the message he'd written, his hands feeling the contours of the paper, not worrying whether he gave himself a paper cut or not. He had other things on his mind at the moment. He was feeling another attack coming on, and this time, he didn't know if he was going to persevere or not.
Dr. Swett sat in the pew of the church in Cherry quite bemused, though he tried to keep his face looking as if he was wrapt up in the sermon the pastor was giving. It was a special service tonight, for tonight they would consecrate the weapons, and the men who would go and kill the demons in Barken the next evening. He glanced when he felt he could to the faces around the hall. He counted about fifty to sixty men. All of them were cheering death to the dogs as the grizzled old pastor continued his sermon, recounting the glories of serving the Lord. Swett found it quite trite. His usually reaction to fanaticism was the ridiculousness it presented, and the seductive simplicity it offered to its believers, he found examples of that quite easily.
"For we are not bringers of war, but bringers of peace!" Aberdeen told them. "But until that demon city is destroyed, there can be no peace for God's children. I hold it against every one of us who while physically able, refuses to go and assist us in ridding the world of such evil. It is sin! And while you sin, your children's teeth will be set on edge, for they will have to grow up with that monstrosity living so near by. Would you want your children to be kidnapped by those demons, and perverted into their form?"
"NO!" the chorus of men rang out. Swett opened his mouth, but did not say the word.
"Do you want your children to grow up in a world where they know that God rules the land, and not some demonic spirit lying in wait for them?"
"Are you willing to lay down your very lives to enter that town and destroy the demons it has there?"
"Are you willing to put yourself at the risk of that demons evil clutches, so that you can destroy it?"
"YES!" Swett realized with a bit of humour that he had just asked them if they'd be willing to take the chance of turning into a dog, so they could kill those who could turn into dogs!
"And what tools has our dear Lord given us to destroy this demon city?"
"GUNS!" and with this shout each man raised a weapon over their heads. Some held pistols, others held shotguns, and still others carried hunting rifles. Swett held aloft the pistol that they had given him, once again mouthing the word, but saying nothing.
"Then bring them forward, let them be blessed by our Lord." and then Aberdeen stepped back from the pulpit, and the murderer pulled out a ceremonial brass bowl, which appeared to be filled with some liquid. It most certainly didn't look like water to Swett though.
One by one each man brought his gun, and the pastor said a few words over each, and sprinkled a little bit of the liquid on it's muzzle. Swett never thought it would end, but his turn finally came, and he could smell that the liquid was oil. How fitting. He didn't pay attention to the words, just accepted the blessing, and returned to his seat. It took at least ten minutes for the entire congregation's weapons to be blessed, and when it was finished, Aberdeen returned to the pulpit, and the murderer put the brass bowl back.
"Now let us all bow our heads in prayer." Swett bowed his head, but he kept wondering when he would be able to get out of the situation. True he put himself in it, but he needed to find someway to stop this whole affair. He was not into the wholesale slaughter of innocent people, despite his present activities. The people that were surrounding him, including the murderer, who he had considered a one-time friend, had been completely gullible, and so believed his story. Of course there was no reason to doubt it, after all he was good with words, he knew just how to tweak their interest in him, and make them comfortable with him already. It hadn't been easy to convince his former friend however, but he managed in due time. It had never occurred to him how much of a wacko he really was, until now.
He almost missed the end of the prayer, but brought his head up in time to see Aberdeen gesture to his former friend, the murderer. He stepped forward to the lectern, and looked over them all. He smiled, "My fellow residents of Cherry, the one barrier between Hell and the rest of the world, we who are humans both inside and out, we who are free from the corruption of the devil, we who are not dogs and never will be, I stand before you a proud exponent of scientific mastery, when used for our Lord's will, over even the devil himself. We all know that the people of Barken are evil, it is plain to see, they let themselves be corrupted by none other than Satan himself, and makes regular Cerberuses out of them. They look on their ability to be nothing more than animals as an asset, a thing to be proud of, well I say it is a sign of the devil, and do you see it that way too!" his voice rose to a roar as his words came to an end.
"YES! WE SEE THE DEVIL IN THEM!" chanted the congregation.
His voice became soft again, "Then let us act wisely. Many fine citizens of God have walked into that town to destroy it, and have never come back, being killed by those demon spawn. The reason is simple. God made us the way we are for a very simple reason, so that we'd might further our understanding of the world and attain the mastery over it that he had given us in the beginning. Now we see that the devil has tempted the people of Barken away with rewards of a feral nature, that of animal bodies and animal minds, craving animal pleasures and animal drives! As long as they can still be humans though, they can possess weapons, and any other technology that man through God's will has created. We know that only the believers have been able to advance the cause of knowledge, but unfortunately, it has stayed not in the hands of the believers. The unbelievers use them too, and the devil himself uses them, as we have known from the many loved ones we have lost to citizens of Barken."
Swett would have loved to mention that gunpowder was first developed in China a long time before the westerners even left the middle ages. That and the fact that the very decimal system was devised by Muslim scholars in the eight century, during the height of the middle ages. He could think of several other examples, but he tried again to listen in on what his former friend was saying.
"Up till now, we have faced this problem, with no good solution. I present to you tonight a cause for celebration. By tomorrow night the town of Barken will be as dead as the souls of the people living there!" Cheers rose up from the congregation, and Swett cheered along with them, though his were forced. "I present to you this!" and he held up a small test tube filled with a slightly off blue liquid. Cries of what is it rose up from the crowd, but he held his hand up to stifle such questions.
"This is the solution! Originally, as Dr. Swett can tell you, it was designed to create water from sand. But tonight I rename project RED, REverse Desertification, to project MID, Men Into Dogs. Nobody here shall fall under this concoction, but every person in Barken will by tomorrow afternoon be a dog, there will not be a human left there until we enter, and then we will kill every last one of them. My solution works, it forces them to become dogs, and once they are so, they cannot change back. It is a marvel of science, the culmination of three years of work and hard research.
"Once they are all dogs, those tools of man given to us by God, but corrupted by the devil, and that he so likes to use against us, will be of no use to him any more! They will sit their meekly on their four paws, unable to stop us as we slaughter the whole evil lot of them. Then we will in a blaze of glory raze the entire town, and watch as its cinders rise into the sky amidst the roaring conflagration! The spirit of the devil shall then be exorcised from the land, and it shall be free from the curse, a curse that would be more than happy to suck us up too. We shall see to it that it shall not happen.
"That is why I must insist that we purify ourselves before we enter, for my weapon against them is a double-edged sword. If we do not seek the theophany, then it will sink into us just like it sank into the residents of Barken. Then may God have mercy on our souls, for we shall not be able to resist the tempters voice, and we shall be his pets, his hounds of Hell for all eternity."
"NO! WE SHALL RESIST!" the chant went up, almost as if programmed.
"Then seek the theophany, seek the image of your Lord! There look at Him!" his former friend pointed to the picture of Jesus hanging above the door to the narthex. All eyes turned to gaze into the portrait. Swett looked at the picture, and he could almost fancy he saw the Christ shed a tear. "Remember his words! 'Before I told you to go without sword, now I ask you to take one in hand.' We are his servants, and we must fight for our Lord! Fight against the demons who would seek to destroy us and toss into the fiery furnace where there will be much gnashing of teeth! Seek the theophany with me, and we shall be glorious over our enemies, for who can stand against the Lord?"
"NO ONE!" the crowd chanted.
"Then tomorrow we shall go forth, blessed by our creator, our Father in Heaven, and we shall destroy the Hades known as Barken. We shall kill all those that live there, and deal a blow for our Lord to their Father in Hell!" his former friends voiced crescendos to that last word, and up went a cheer form the crowd so loud that his former friends words were drowned out. He had nothing left to say though, and Swett was simply amazed that he had managed to do what he had just did. He had stood with the others and cheered, not even realizing it. He felt the passion flowing through him, and he knew that it was nothing more than the surge of the emotions in the room, the feeling effecting everyone here. He knew that he was not going to kill the people of Barken, he was going to save them.
Will brought the car to a stop as he reached the hotel. The lights were still on, and the door was unlocked. However, Ted was nowhere to be seen. Will at first thought he'd gone to the bathroom, blaming the whole situation on bad timing, "Ted Obermeyer, get out here now!"
However, the only thing that approached was a rather old looking poodle that jumped up on one of the tables and yapped at him a few times. Taking a look, he saw that the dog was standing on something. He smiled a little mischievously, "Ted? Is that you?"
The poodle turned away from him, and lifted its tail up. In the light will could clearly see that it was female. With a touch of embarrassment, he picked up the dog, and set her on the ground. "Mrs. Brumfield I'd wager." the poodle wagged her tail excitedly, but he pushed her along, and she trotted off down the hallway.
Will turned to look at the table. He saw a map, with a hill circled and labelled by Ted's own hand "Indian Burial Site". Will shook his head is dismay, and then his eyes fell on the note.
I am going off to show you that I am right. This town is cursed, and it's because they have desecrated a holy Indian Burial Site. I've circled the location on the map. I'm going to show you those Indians are buried there, as I am going to dig them up myself. If you read this, please feel free to come and help me, for I know you can no longer deny the truth of my assertion, for it is entirely the truth. Everything points to it, what else could cause a whole town to turn into dogs? This area is near the famous trail of tears, you remember that don't you? And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Red Grove Hill actually means Indian Grave Hill. I hope to see you up there, please come as quickly as possible, as we together unearth what has been plaguing this town.
Will Bryant put down the note in horror. Ted had gone and done something stupid again. He was always doing this ever since he could remember him. From the time he was convinced that there were snakes in his drain pipes, and got his arm stuck down one trying to pull them out, to the time in his adolescence that he rebelled against his parents and pretended to be gay when he really wasn't, until he got some big man's shaft up his hole, and he never even thought of doing that again. Now he was at it again, chasing after something that didn't exist, and he was most likely getting himself into trouble even as he sat there thinking.
Will headed out of the hotel, climbed back into his car, and drove of the road, heading to where Ted had sneaked off to sometime before, heading towards Red Grove Hill. It took him only five minutes in the car to get there, it wasn't hard to miss, as it was the only place he could see nearby that wasn't flat. Climbing out of the car, and turning on his flashlight, he called out his friends name, but got no answer. He climbed up the hill looking to see if he might have fallen asleep up there or worse yet, had been shot like that boy had been.
He was drawn to the large pile of dirt. Shining his light across the scene, he saw that there was a hole that looked partially refilled with dirt. Off to the side he saw the rifle that Ted had been carrying. Calling out his name again, and getting no response, his eyes were drawn back to the partially refilled hole. His eyes moved between the rifle and the hole for a moment when a blood chilling thought occurred to him. No taking a chance on whether it was true or not, he fell to his knees, placing the flashlight to his side, and began to dig in the dirt with his hands. He dug ferociously, moving the mounds of dirt behind him, forming another pile of dirt next to the first one. For the first time since arriving that morning, his suit got dirty.
It was several minutes before he found anything, and what he did made him do a double take. It was a paw. He felt it carefully, still warm, which meant whatever it was attached to was probably still alive. He dug more frantically in the dirt, hoping in an unusual way that this dog was indeed Ted Obermeyer, and that he could be rescued and saved from his makeshift grave. It was sort of fitting though he thought. He couldn't imagine how it had happened, but apparently Ted had managed to bury himself alive.
Quite quickly he had found the head of the dog. It was indeed a dog, in this light he couldn't tell what breed, but it was medium-sized, probably weighed around thirty to forty pounds at most. He put his hands in front of its nose, and it shocked him. It wasn't breathing. It, no Ted wasn't breathing. Will pulled the body out of the sand once he managed to get a good purchase on him, and laid him down on the ground. He opened the dogs mouth, and wiped the dirt out of it. He felt it's chest. Heart was still beating, which was good, so he only had to get him breathing again.
If anybody ever has wondered about it, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should never be performed on a dog for social reasons. Will was almost bowled over by the dog breath he'd inhaled on the first try; it was only for the desire to save his friends life that he continued. After a few breaths, Will could already tell he had gained dog-breath, and it would take quite a good brushing and mouthwash to get rid of. However, after fifteen to twenty shared breaths, he could see the dogs chest rise up and down on its own volition. After a few moments more he saw that it was groggily moving its legs. It looked up at him, and Will smiled, "Hey, Ted. It's good to see you alive."
Within moments Ted was cautiously walking on his four legs. He had looked himself over, and had begun to whine when he saw his body. Will patted him on the head, and pointed back at the hole that Will had extricated himself from. Ted leaped in terror from it, right into Will's arms, and he cowered as close to the FBI agent as he could. "I take it you don't want to go back there then?" Ted responded by licking Will's face.
Will laughed, and then set Ted down on his feet. Ted moved away from the hole, though his whole body was very sore, and he moved rather slowly. Will picked up the rifle and flashlight, and headed back to his car. He hated letting a dirty dog like Ted ruin his leather seats, but there really wasn't much choice to be made. Ted hoped in the back, and lied down on the seat, moaning after each bump in the road.
Will didn't stop at the police station, but at the other building he had seen on his way in: the veterinary office. By now Ted was too tired to walk, so Will carried him inside the building, calling out "Hello? Anybody here?"
He received no response to his first call or to any of his subsequent questions. He pushed open all the doors and looked inside seeing darkened rooms. There simply was nobody here. AS he was about to try the last door, he caught a note lying on the reception desk. It read:
I have become unable to perform my duties any more. I have retired to my home to let the transformation take me. I am sorry for those of you in need of my services, but I am unable to perform them at this time. Unfortunately, I do not think that we will have to wait much longer before our fate is bestowed upon us.
Dr. Harvey Shishido
Swearing to himself, Will left the vet's office, and placed Ted back in the car. He made the quick trip to the police station, and picking Ted up again, he pushed the door open with his foot. He lay Ted down on the floor away from the door, nodded once to the Collie receptionist, and looked about for Sheriff Davis. He went into his office, and saw to his surprise that the Rottweiler was still typing away with the pencil between his teeth, but now there was an Alsatian sitting in Davis's chair, and he was pouring over a piece of paper with something written on it.
The Alsatian looked up at him, and barked once, nodding towards the piece of paper on the table. The top of the page read "The Alsatian before you is me, Sheriff Pierre Davis." Will looked down at Davis, who was looking up at him rather forlornly. "I'm sorry I was too late. I just barely saved Ted's life, he gotten himself buried somehow, but I don't know what I can do for you." Davis simply nodded his head again at the paper in his hand. Sighing, he read the note that Davis had left for him.
To either Bill Budd or Will Bryant, whomever reads this first,
I am now making you the sheriff pro-tem of Barken. It is your job to see to it that the people of Barken are kept safe from Cherry, and any others who would do them harm. We are losing our ability to defend ourselves, a we are all becoming dogs, and being unable to change back. I, if you are reading this, have suffered this fate, and am once again the Alsatian you see before you. Know this, by tomorrow afternoon, all residents of Barken will be dogs forever, unless a way can be found for them to change back. I sent Bill Budd to find the remaining scientists to see if they could help. As of this writing, he has not returned. Also, Will Bryant, an FBI agent has discovered that the murderer of Curtis Barclay and Dr. Timothy Mullins is none other than Dr. Gregor Schwarz. As of this writing, he hasn't returned either.
However, whichever of you receives this note first, you must stay here in this building, by this phone, for a man by the name of Dr. Richard Swett will be calling back. He has informed me that the Cherry residents plan to march upon Barken at sundown on Sunday evening. He has told me that they plan to march through the DDD first, killing any dogs they see there, and then moving into the town itself. Their numbers range in the fifties and sixties, while ours hover around ten as of this writing. It is your duty to prevent any of this from happening, for if you fail, then all of us here, every single person in this town will be dead, slaughtered mercilessly, including myself and those whom you hold dear.
I hope that you will take it upon yourself to fill the shoes I offered to you, as mine can no longer fit. Each and every one of us will be at your service if you should need us during this, our time of troubles. Please save this town, and please find a way to make us humans again!
Sheriff Pierre Davis
Will put the note down, and looked at the phone expectantly. He wondered if it might have gone off while he was out and after Davis had shifted. He voiced his concern, but he Davis and Randy shook their heads in the negative. He sighed a sigh of relief, missing a phone call could have made his entire venture hopeless. He couldn't believe the fate of this town and every person in it was now in his hands. Looking into the dog eyes staring at him, he could feel nothing but pity for these three fine canine specimen. The last thing he wanted to do was to die himself, but looking into their faces he knew that he could not abandon them either. The only option left available to him was of course to defeat the imminent invasion from Cherry.
Just then he noticed that the two dog's ears had perked up, and both ran out to the front window, standing on their hind legs, where the Collie receptionist joined them. Will listened a moment, and he thought he could hear some voices, none of them familiar though. He looked out the window, the dogs now whining, looking at him expectantly. He saw in the darkness of the night several figures, he couldn't make out how many, but he could clearly see that the first one was definitely carrying his gun in his hand.