The Stray Princess
There has been ten months since they arrived to the city, the blue sky filled almost entirely with gray clouds announces the start of a windy season. Thanks to the location near the equator of this country, it doesn’t have the usual seasons divided in spring, summer, fall and winter. Instead is more like an eternal autumn which sometimes gets hotter or colder and the seasons change depending on the amount of rain.
The windy season has less continuous rains in comparison to the rainy season but when it occurs is four times stronger and followed by powerful winds.
During this time at the city Xena once found a narrow alley that at the end had one space of a little more than two square meters, they used this architecture design flaw as their new home, the good thing of it is that was hard to find so they wouldn’t be causing trouble for anyone, other good thing was that being surrounded by tall buildings the rain couldn’t reach it but that same thing was something bad because neither could the sunlight and it was always dark, the floor was filled with all kinds of cardboard, was hard to sleep on it but the material could concentrate better the warmth, not like the concrete.
Even so, sleeping over a hard surface has generated a callus on both of Xena’s elbows, so an area without hair can be seen in them. This is a common condition, mostly in stray dogs, is produced for the pressure that the body generates over the elbows and since they are against the floor then the hair will gradually disappear and a callus will replace it. If only she could have rested over a soft mattress or the grass this have never happened.
They learned how to move in the city, one of the parks has a drinking fountain that uses a system for the water that is not successfully drank, this goes down by a pipe and comes out to the bottom part ending up in a bowl for dogs. They used this fountain as their main supply of water, sometimes drinking it there and others just for filling the bottles that the hairy man always carries.
The job hunt was totally unsuccessful, he tried many times but nobody gave him a chance. They walked many blocks and met many neighborhoods but there were always problems in the architecture like spikes, boulders or gates that didn’t allow them to sleep in those places, so they had to come back to their little hideout. Rarely they saw a stray dog or other homeless people but they weren’t around much time, the hairy man always believed that he and Xena were able to stay thanks to their shelter otherwise they would have to leave.
With nothing to do, he was forced to start begging again. It was not an easy task because many people decide to ignore them like if they didn’t exist at all, and get only a couple of coins a day was the most he could aspire to have. Usually when ignored, some strangers tell him to “Stop begging and start doing a real job”.
Finding once an old broom in the garbage he decided to use it and sweep the streets while still begging for money so that way he wouldn’t feel so bad about not having anything to do, with this tool he could only leave the dirt and trash near the trash containers but not pick it up and dispose of it entirely. He had the illusion that if people watched him doing this maybe they’ll give him a chance of working at any store or being grateful they’ll give him more coins that just the ones with the lower value or maybe someone kind would give him food… None of those became a reality, and so after three months he stopped sweeping.
One of the most difficult parts was going to the bathroom, there was one of public access but not free. The hairy man had to count the coins and adjust the budget and the result was that he couldn’t use it more than once a day. On the other hand, Xena always used the grass on the nearby parks, and in order to not get in trouble with other people the hairy man had to pick up her fecal matter using any tool at his disposal like napkins, bags or fabric each one taken from the garbage.
The main source of food has been the bread that almost every night the bakeries throw. But in the trash there are other treasures, for example some restaurants also throw away food, and sometimes the greengrocer gets rid of rotten fruits that have some parts still edible. The food of the trash is not always tasty but at least they have something to eat every night.
Due to the sugars that are usually found in bread and the lack of any oral hygiene tools, the teeth of the hairy man are full of cavities so sometimes when the night is cold it gets really hard to sleep since his teeth hurt, but this is not a problem that only affects humans because dogs can also have cavities and in Xena’s case the front row of her teeth have them.
Is another normal day and they emerge from the narrow alley before the sun illuminates the sky, the hairy man touches his pocket where a bag full of coins is located. Then he takes a look to the canine companion.
“Sorry, it has taken longer than expected” He says trying to draw a smile in the face but is harder than expected and looks more like a tiresome expression. “Just be patient a little longer, OK? We will leave this city in a couple of months and never come back”
They move a couple of blocks to a place where usually people give more coins when begging, from all the cities he has been before this one is the hardest to stay, some cities have specific places designed so homeless people can stay for a night but this one doesn’t help in any way people that live in the streets.
“Today I’ll go… here” Xena thinks and walks her own way when they reach the neighborhood.
At first some months ago they were always together all day, but Xena likes to explore and began walking alone on the streets. The hairy man worried and felt she didn’t want to be anymore with him but she always arrived to their little shelter at the end of the day, sometimes before he arrived and sometimes after he was asleep.
She prefers it this way since during the day she discovered that when people are eating and see her alone its more possible that they throw her a piece of their food. But when she is with the hairy man, usually people leave the place.
“Take care, I’ll be here” He waves his hand at Xena, but she doesn’t notice.
The day moves as any other one and the hairy man just was able to collect a couple of coins.
“Forgot that today is Sunday… there is less people outside” he mutters as he puts the metal circles in the bag. “Better start heading back”
Xena in her trip was able to eat from a couple of pizza stores and some restaurants, she just sits in the entrance and looks directly at the people as they eat, if they drop without noticing any piece of food she keeps it in mind and when they leave she approaches the place and eats from the floor. Of course there are some occasions were people eating notice her and decide to give her some of what they are eating by throwing it at her, and there are times were the place owners come outside angry and throw her water or try to hit her with a broom so she is forced to leave.
With an unbalanced diet of mostly bread she has gained some weight and looks totally different to the dog that was abandoned at the forest, but sometimes her stomach grumbles even after eating and she feels less energy so tries eating the grass at the parks. Dogs usually do this in order to clean their insides but it is risky because if insecticide is used on the grass they could end intoxicated.
Today is one of those days were she arrives at one park and starts sniffing the grass getting ready to bite it.
“Here, here. Come doggies” Sounds the relaxing voice of an old man, he has a really thin body and short white hair. While carrying a bowl filled with sausage slices, he puts his hand inside it, takes out some and trows them to the grass near him.
Xena is around 10 meters away but she can perceive the faint essence of the meat. She decides to get closer but as soon as she moves she sees a group of five male dogs, those were the ones that the old guy was calling.
“Oh my, a new one? Don’t worry, eat, eat” He says while throwing more of the pieces of meat to the grass.
All the dogs in that place didn’t move, Xena hasn’t seen other dogs in quite some time and that pack of canines feel threatened for the presence of a stranger even it it was from their same specie.
At first she waged her tail thinking on getting closer to the dogs, but they were the ones approaching. Suddenly she is surrounded by all the dogs and they start sniffing her, the tail stops waging and instead now hides between her legs. The presence of the creatures over her wasn’t comfortable, her heart is pumping with great intensity as something doesn’t feel right.
One pair of paws touch her back, one of the dogs was using his back legs to get up and his front legs are over Xena. She doesn’t like what is happening, doesn’t understand well but this isn’t the type of patting that she usually wants. Out of sheer instinct she jumps moving away of the pack, and without noticing shows her teeth trying to tell them not to be closer.
A natural reaction when a canine feels in danger, but probably not the best one in this situation. The pack sensed this aggression, so they also show their teeth. The smallest of the dogs couldn’t control himself and jumps directly against Xena, it is all the impulse that the other ones needed so they follow behind.
A fight starts, growls and howls can be heard loudly, the old man gets scared and runs away from the place. The dogs begin to bite each other without control, Xena feels how many fangs reach her body some just pinch the skin but others cut it and make blood burst from the injury. She defends herself with the muzzle attacking to the closer foe and changing from one to another as fast as possible, her offensive is more powerful but by numbers they have the advantage. After a long struggle using also her paws, she jumps and bites the pack leader in the neck with such strength that feels the metallic flavor of blood in her mouth, but is not only from the objective because one of her front teeth (the one with the most cavities) can’t handle the force and breaks leaking bodily fluid after falling. The combat continues for over 30 minutes, but at the end she can’t endure the pain anymore and escapes. The victory of the pack is celebrated by eating the sausage slices scattered in the park.
On his way back to the shelter the hairy man notices a trace of blood on the floor, before realization he thinks is only paint but then perceives animal footprints. Worried starts running and enters the narrow alley, usually the place is totally dark but this night the full moon is full aligned letting the blue light to illuminate, just in the middle, over a pool of blood Xena is laying while hardly breathing.
“X-XENA!? NO!” He comes closer and examines her body, there are many fresh scars still bleeding.
Using his own clothes, he desperately tries to clean her and stop the hemorrhage in order to be more effective he tears his own shirt and uses the pieces of fabric as a bandage around her legs and part of the body. It’s not the most professional result but is all what he can do at the moment.
“Oh? How could we miss this place?” A male voice sounds behind him.
He turns around and there are two tall men using tracksuits and face masks, one has red hair and the other one is totally shaved.
“Please, help me… Xena is, Xena is badly hurt” The hairy man tries to explain.
“Xena? Hahaha don’t tell me you named that mutt” The bald man laughs “Listen, we don’t like your kind around here. Your mere presence stains this city’s image”
“That’s right, we already had enough” The other man says while moving forward, the light now shows that he is carrying a metal bat with him “You got a really nice place, I can’t believe it has been under our noses this whole time” He examines the surroundings.
With three people inside now is a little cramped. The hairy man feels a void in his stomach while sweat runs from his forehead all the way to the beard, fear comes from his body.
“What do you want?” He gets up.
“We want you to leave this city right now, old man” The bald man points at him.
“Please just let me take care of the dog and I’ll leave soon after, I promise”
“Oh? So the mongrel is holding you back? Let me fix that for you” The red haired man grabs the bat with both hands and attacks the dog on the floor.
The metal object made contact and a bone breaking could be heard. But it wasn’t from Xena’s body, in just some milliseconds the hairy man felt the danger and covered the canine with his own body, he was the one who took the hit directly on the left shoulder.
“AAAGGH!” He screamed
“Aw, look. He is protecting it” Moving the bat, the man starts laughing in a weird and peculiar way “Ugh, your smell is hideous”
“Listen, you don’t belong here. Leave at once” The bald man kicks the hairy man in the torso. “Why do you care about that damn dog? You should hate it, it was its fault we found this place… all thanks to those footprints on the street”
That last hit leaves him without air, he isn’t able to talk and gave response to any of the insults that the both of them began to yell while kicking him. The pain in the shoulder and body forces him to stay in place as a human shield, he wonders if they were the ones that hurt Xena just the thought of it made anger to burst inside his soul, moving the head up tries to look his attackers and then the metal tool made a new physical contact this time on the right side of his head.
“So they are now using the bat too” He was able to think even if the hit almost knocks him out.
They continue the torture until an alarm from an analog watch starts sounding.
“Tsk, I can’t stay longer. Must get up early to work, not like the scum right here” Says the one with the bat as he turns off the alarm.
“Let this be a warning old man, leave the city by tomorrow” Says the bald man “We now know that you live here, so we will come and close the ally with bricks and concrete not caring if you are inside or not. Your decision, leave or be trapped and die”
In this city, one night with a full moon, two citizens leave an alley which if it’s followed reaches a small area, here lays a dog on the floor over a small pool of blood and covering this animal is a homeless man crying and trembling “I’m never wanted this life” is what could someone understand from his sobbing.