He had no idea how long he was out. The first thing he remembered when coming to was the face of an Oriental man looking down on him, telling him to stay still. He could see that his stomach was being held open by forceps. He faded back out of consciousness then. Several times during the operation he would wake up, catch a glimpse of this Oriental man using various bloodied instruments upon him, generally in his stomach cavity, but each glimpse would last only a few seconds.
When he finally did wake up and see somebody other than the Oriental man, he saw Sheriff Davis accompanied by a man dressed in a hand-tailored suit. It looked like it had been cleaned recently. They saw that he was awake, and both of them smiled towards him.
"Congratulations, Dr. Swett!" Davis told him, lightly touching him on the head. "You've saved the town of Barken."
"I couldn't have done it without you." the other man smiled. "Oh, we haven't officially met yet. I'm Will Bryant, FBI. It was my personal pleasure to work with you."
"I can't remember." Dr. Swett barely managed. Davis held his finger to his lips. "You need your rest."
Before much longer he was again sound asleep. His dreams came to him in fits. He couldn't really tell what he was doing, or what he was even, the dreams seemed so vague, so surreal. It was like simply floating through a field of happiness, drinking in the scents of joy, hearing the exultations of merriment. He enjoyed those dreams, and in them he discovered a haven from the pain of his few waking moments. He generally woke up to an empty room from that point on, but if there was somebody there, it was usually that Oriental guy.
When he woke up the next time, Jason was there with another kid about the same ag as he was. They appeared to be friends. He also found it had been nearly a week. They had all been wondering whether he was going to make it, but now it was apparent that he was in the clear, and that he could be seeing people on a regular basis. They also filled him in on what had happened.
"What happened?" Jason seemed surprised that he didn't know. "You were great! You led them right into the trap. Greg and I, well we howled for you. There were others, but we were happy to set off the trap once you brought them into it. They asked me if I wanted to carry a gun and shoot them with the others, but I declined."
"Why?" Swett asked, his throat sore.
"Well, I can't pull the trigger when I know the target is a living being, I just can't do it."
"I could." Greg interjected. "They already had enough people there to help them though, so I had fun and howled."
Swett nodded at the two young men. They were newly made men, now having seen the face of war. Neither wanted to have anything to do with it, and for that Swett was glad. He fell back into slumber shortly thereafter though.
Waking up the next time, he saw that Bill Budd and Olympia Sparks were standing before him. He had his arm around her, and they both looked quite happy to see him.
"I'm glad to see you two are doing well." Swett told them, a smile forming on his face. He could see by now that they had moved him into a makeshift hospital bed, with covers, and a regular IV pumping the nutrients into him. He could feel the catheter, but he was still too weak to get out of bed.
"We're doing well." Olympia smiled. "You'll be out of that bed in a few more days if I'm not mistaken."
"That's good." Swett nodded. "I'd like to get over my war wounds as soon as possible."
"What you did was very brave." Bill told him. "I wouldn't have waltzed into Cherry like that the way you did. I'm glad to see you survived pretty well" Bill nudged him a bit on his shoulder and Swett smiled.
"What happened out there, what did we do?" Swett asked, his memory of the event a dim haze.
"Well, Will got the idea to change as many of us as possible back to human form, and then to bury ourselves in the sand, leaving an airhole of course. Then we had others who remained dogs to surround the area quite loosely and well hidden too. They had instructions to howl as soon as you all were well in the ambush site. After that, it was a massacre. Not a single Barken resident died, and only one of them escaped. We put the four or five that survived in the jail house. So far the Cherry leaders have not protested."
"You sound quite pleased." Swett noticed.
"It was a brilliant plan, and well executed."
"How'd he come up with the being buried alive idea?"
"Well, Ted had become convinced that there were Indian Burial Grounds around here, and went digging for them. He ended up burying himself alive, after he'd changed into a dalmation. Will rescued him, and he's alive and well." Olympia replied.
"He was a bit miffed though." Bill put it. "His first words after changing back had something to do with never going back to that place again."
"Yes, well Ted has become slightly claustrophobic." Olympia remarked.
Swett then nodded back off to sleep. He continued to have those dreams, and they were so pleasant. He wondered if they were helping him to recover faster. He was awake for longer periods of time, and he was always having visitors, people he didn't know coming in to thank him, people he would never get to know coming in offering him gifts of food or other such paraphernalia. He was also feeling quite stronger now, and he figured that he'd be out of the bed in no time.
His next visitors happened to be Nelson, Karpan, and Obermeyer. They all looked quite pleased to see him doing so well. He had gotten off the IV, though the doctor insisted that he remain in bed, he insisted that he eat real food.
"You're looking much better there, Dr. Swett." Karpan noted as they came in.
"So what have you all brought me?" Swett asked looking at them mischievously.
"The latest test results." Obermeyer told him. "While quarters one and three each while at first showing some promising results, both were unable to sustain it, probably just hurt the ecosystem too much by killing too many prokaryotes." Ted said quite cryptically. "However, the second quarter is a raging success. You should see it, there's grass growing there. Not much now mind you, but there is grass there."
"Excellent. I take it Rehberger is quite pleased."
"Yes, he promoted Kubelik to his personal accountant, the kid now has a bigger salary then we do." Nelson told him shaking his head in disbelief.
Swett laughed. Karpan then added, "Rehberger also has told us that we can continue our experiments anywhere in the world now, given the satisfactory results we've obtained. He wants your decision as soon as possible, about where we should head to next."
"Give me at least until tomorrow." Swett told them. "You go do what you have to do."
"Oh yes, that's right, we've got work to do." Obermeyer smiled.
"For tomorrow." Nelson added cryptically.
Swett smiled as he watched them leave. Looking over the various gifts that he had received, he wondered if he hadn't received them prematurely. He smiled to himself, and then nabbed some home made bread he had been given, and finished it off. His decision would be an easy one to make, and he hoped they would all understand his decision.
He woke to total darkness. This was unusual. He felt like it should be morning, but instead here he was in the dark, and he could swear he heard hushed whispers. He reached around for the light switch by his bed, and then he flipped it on. Standing before him was a huge cake made just the way he liked, topped with rows of candles. All his colleagues plus Jason, his friend and his wife, the Barclays, Will, Sheriff Davis, and his deputies, surrounded this cake, and they all chorused, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!"
Swett smiled, blushed, and enjoyed their singing. when they told him to make a wish and blow out the candles, he did so. "Thank you all so much for doing this for me. I really don't know what I can say."
"Let us thank you instead. Just as we have thanked your friends here." Davis told him.
"How did he thank you all?" Swett asked before anybody could thank him.
"They thanked us for freeing them from being trapped as dogs," Olympia said for the scientists.
"The Barclay's thanked me for giving them their son back." Will told them, and then the Barclay's each hugged the man. It looked like they had done that a lot in the recent week.
"Now I want to thank you on behalf of all the Barken citizens for saving this town from destruction." Davis moved over to him, and gave him a small felt box. Opening it up Swett saw a gold coin inside. On the front was the face of a man, on the back was the face of a dog. It read Barken below the heads on each side.
"Thank you very much."
"You are always welcome here. You will never be forgotten." Davis told him. "Neither you nor your friends."
Swett felt the coin a bit with his fingers, then setting it aside he looked at him seriously. "I was given a decision to make by my superior, in regards to where we would continue our research. I have come to a decision, and I'd like to tell you all right now what it is."
"So what is it?" Karpan asked, and his question was mimicked by the others.
Swett sighed, letting his breath flow out of him.. Breathing in again, he brought with him a tingling sensation all over his body. Smiling, he let it proceed unabated, and he pushed it along, as he felt everything, the room, the sheets, the people, all of it became fuzzy in his mind, and simply indistinct. When he felt the tingling sensation leave him he was standing on all fours on top of the covers looking at the generally happy faces of his friends. He waged his tail once, and barked.
"I take it he wants to stay in Barken." Jason Kubelik smiled, looking at the dog that was Dr. Richard Swett who looked happily up at them, his eyes full of life.