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FAITHFUL by Jocelyn Hungerford

A cool Sydney night at the beginning of spring. We were smoking a joint on the verandah. The lights on the harbour twinkled and the possums were rasping out their mating calls.

He’d been ‘scraping it together’ for a year, he said, to be able to come here. A few weeks’ respite. Fights, a kid, a mortgage, a business.

‘Why don’t you leave?’ I asked. He looked shocked. ‘Because she’s my child. I won’t do to her what was done to me.’

I hmmed and murmured a soothing noise. I could feel his mood sinking. It seemed to be my fault; something in the curl of his lip, his nostrils wrinkling as if he smelled something wrong about me. I wanted him to be nice again so I butted my head into him and growled. He kept still, staring straight ahead. I leapt off the couch and crawled over to a stick the eucalyptus tree had shed. I picked it up in my mouth and brought it to him, making my best puppy-dog eyes and growling low in my throat. He started to laugh. He tried to take the stick and I wouldn’t let him. I bared my fangs and growled louder; he laughed harder.

He told me he wanted to kill himself. My emails were keeping him alive. I moved to his country and into his house. He gave me a box under the stairs where I could keep my private things. He said it was all mine. I could bury my bones there.

On the first night he made us dinner. It wasn’t spicy enough; I asked if I could put chilli in mine. His eyes flushed dark, angry. ‘What, and destroy my carefully balanced flavours? You might as well be eating dog food.’

It was hard to sleep. I turned around and around in the bed, trying to get comfortable. It made him laugh, the way I scratched about. When I fell asleep he watched me grinding my teeth. He teased me about gnawing on bones in my sleep. I didn’t like the laughing or the teasing but it was my job to keep him happy. And the rages scared me.

He liked to fuck me from behind. He came more quickly when he couldn’t see my face. He could get further into me. My arse looked better than my face, anyway. I didn’t have the same face any more: it was longer, leaner, whiskery. It put him off when I got excited and growled.

I stopped shaving and waxing. I let the hair under my arms and between my legs and on my legs grow. ‘You look like a fucking lesbian,’ he said. It didn’t stop him touching me, though, as long as I was facing the other way. Even my arse was starting to grow hair but he could still pull it aside to get into my soft wet insides. I didn’t like him so much now but animal, I still got excited. He liked to bite the back of my neck while I bucked against him.

One day I was out walking when a stranger started patting me. I was still allowed out by myself. His hand felt good on my head so I let him stroke my back. His hand felt good on my back so I rolled over and let him scratch my stomach. His hand felt good on my stomach so I let him put it between my legs.

It was getting harder to type because my fingers were shrinking and getting wider and blunter, and my nails thicker and sharper. Still, I was a clever dog and if I used my tongue and my nose I could still write an email. I wrote to the stranger: ‘I wantr to ber yoiur dog, panting afdter youy. Iu want youi to opwn me.’ We knew it was a game. He liked it when I stood on his chest with my paws on his shoulders, running my tongue through his fur. We were the same size. He didn’t mind that.

But because I didn’t wipe all the drool off the keyboard, my owner knew I had been doing something I shouldn’t. I cowered at his feet while he shouted, ‘I bought this computer for business purposes! It is not a toy!’ When he found the letters he said: ‘You’re sick. If you saw a doctor he’d have you locked up.’ He called me a bitch in heat, running around offering her arse to everything that moves. He called me bestial and chained me up.

He looked through my cardboard box and found a leash the stranger had given me. He brought out his whip: it was long and cruel and when he lashed me hard with it, my back arched and I whimpered in pain. ‘I’m only doing this because I love you,’ he said. ‘It’s for your own good.’ He whipped me again, harder. He was getting excited; I could see his cock bulging in his trousers. ‘I’m only doing this because I love you so fucking much. But I need you to understand what you’ve done.’

But I couldn’t understand any more. It’s hard to say what happened next; my mind isn’t as clear as it was. Words are harder to think, harder to form. I remember how quickly he went down; that although his chest and shoulders were broad, his legs were slender and he toppled easily when I jumped him. I remember his yell of pain and fury; I remember the sharp metallic scent of blood. I remember that I ate his entrails first.

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