Chapter 1:

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi

I smell it before she does, at least consciously. Of course. Humans have such underdeveloped noses.

I can tell she is getting more relaxed, her steps on the ground lighter than before. She hates morning walks.

Then, the tree comes into sight, more magnificent than ever, with light petals snowing down onto the dark ground. The smell is overwhelming. I wag my tail, fast enough that I could fly.

The memory washes over us.


We walk through the bright-loud-place full of humans reeking of fear and awake-too-long. Next to me is my human. She stinks of fear, as well. I stay close to her, my fur pressing against her rough-cloth-leg. When we exit the building, the too-big-metal-birds roar above us. The air smells different.

I know what the air smells like at home. This is not home. How did we get here?

The air stinks of smoke and gasoline, and the salty-water, and of sweet-and-savory-tasty-hungry. There are too many humans, yapping and barking as they trot along. My human is trembling, whimpering so quietly only I hear her.

It is difficult for her. She has to yip and yap and bark and growl, while those other humans woof in a different cadence. They do not seem hostile, but my human is still nervous.

It would be much easier if they could sniff each other. She would know that the man is not a threat. He is just tired.

It is evening, and yet too bright for my eyes, too many crackle-buzz-lights hung high over our heads. The air smells warm and humid, with spices tickling my nose. It is too loud. I bark and growl, just to keep up. My human isn't too happy about that, hissing at me. I try my best to behave.

We walk through the streets, but the lights never leave us. She avoids the puddles, while I splash through them, my paws cool and wet. It grounds me in this strange place. Then, we stop, and wait. She has her metal-buzzing-light-speak in her hand, looking at it as if it could give her the answers to life. She relaxes. I turn my head towards the tracks.

I hear the fast-metal-tube arriving. Soon, she realizes it as well. Her fear spikes once more, but she doesn't yelp.

"I want this," she whines under her breath.

I yawn.

There are other dogs here, their smell different from mine. We eye each other, sniffing from our distance. I don't like them. But I am a good boy, and I behave, for my human. The other dog is a good boy, as well.

The fast-metal-tube brings new smells with it, sharp and bitter. I sneeze.

"I'm sorry, Mochi," my human says, before she puts the soft-dark-no-run on the ground. There are treats inside, and I go in. I hear the plastic ssssssrk as the dark-no-run is closed. The treat is crunchy.

She lifts me up. We enter the tube. I blink. I yawn. I close my eyes. I am tired in the soft-dark-no-run.

We exit the tube, and she lets me out again. She leads me through the town, while I take in the smells and sounds. It is still busy here, but far less than in the other place. The other humans don't bark, they woof, and the sounds are as quiet as my human's. They don't sniff each other, but walk right past.

There is a house. We enter. She takes off the protective leather from her paws, which she usually doesn't do. I tip-tap my own paws as she quickly wipes them down. The air is warm, smelling like hay and the forest. There is no forest. But the ground under my paws is rough. My human woofs quietly, and another human woofs back. Then, we walk up. I place my paws one in front of the other, jumping the steps. They smell of sharp chemicals and small flowers, but at least, they are not slippery. I follow my human. She is still nervous.

That changes as she opens the door. She lets out a sigh, and sniffs the air.

"Finally," she woofs.

She wants to fall down on the soft sleep-place. I want to, as well. She closes the door, and lets everything fall to the ground. She flinches.

I yawn. I am tired. Everything is new, but this place is safe. It smells like hay and rice and tea. It is good.

I jump on the soft-sleep-place, and snuggle down on the fluffy covers.

"Mochi, no," my human hisses, but there is no bite in her voice. "Or, well. I'm pretty tired too."

She smells of peace. I see her look towards another room, but she shakes her head.

"I'll take a bath tomorrow," she yawns.

She falls down next to me, burying deep down in the soft fabric.

There are insects outside, their songs foreign to me. Only a few people tread outside on soft paws. But the moonlight is the same. I close my eyes.

When I wake, she is already up. Why is she up? She smells tired, more tired than usual.

"Morning, Mochi," she yawns.

She bows down and pulls out a metal-food. Hunger! Food! My human is the best human.

My food smells like it always does, salty and wet and delicious. I chow it down, and while it fills my stomach, its aroma mixes with the smell around—making it taste more like stop-that-rice, and not-for-you. I lick the metal clean.

"Let's go," my human woofs.

Walks? I wag my tail. My human looks happy.

"We're up earlier than other tourists. I wanna take some pretty pictures."

I do not know what her barking means. But I am glad she shares her joy with me.

Outside, it is cold. I like it.

The sky is a light blue, and there are not many clouds. My human looks happy, even though she is nervous. My human is so brave.

We walk through the town. The puddles have dried up, but the ground still retains that smell of rain. We walk to a river—the smell of the grass, the water, the stones, the trees. Oh, the trees! They are both different and the same as back home. I recognize the smell of the flowers—sweet, with a hint of sour. I have smelled these trees before. But here, there are many, so many. With each light breeze, the smell intensifies. It clouds my nose. I let out a soft woof.

My human, too, woofs with me. A sharp bark—ha ha ha. Then, she quiets.

We walk up to the trees. I sniff them, while my human does whatever, with her click-brrr-zap device. She comes close to the trees, then goes back again. Click! Brrrrr. She takes out a flat thing. Click! Another one. With each and every flat thing, she smells more happy. Finally, she stops using the device. Instead, she takes out a large blue-thin-crinkle and lays it down on the ground. There, she sits down. I tap-tap-tap over, and snuggle up in her lap. This almost feels like home.

Her breathing is even. There is no fear on her skin anymore.

I, too, relax.

Other humans arrive, big and small, tap tap tap and run and jump. There have been others here before us, some with dogs, some without. But as the sun travels over the sky, more and more come. They bark and yip and snarl, bodies pushing against each other. I can smell the excitement in the air. People take out treats—some smell of sweet rice and fruits, others are smoky meat, or juicy meat, or chicken meat, or salty fish. There are other things, bitter and salty and something else—and everything makes my mouth water. The people are dancing, and music is playing, drumming and growling and yapping.

My human, still, is relaxing. She usually doesn't like this many humans. But this is safe. She looks all around, and I see her sniff—a deep sniff. I sniff as well.

There are so many smells that I don't know. It smells of joy. My human gets up. There is a whiff of anxiety, but it dissipates with the wind. I jump on the blue-thin-crinkle, and follow her. She woofs and barks with other humans, while I sniff the tree. There have been many dogs here, with many tales to tell.

I'm hungry.

Today is a great day!

I wanna run.

There was a rabbit.

I sniff each and every one of them. They are easy to understand. We don't have to woof at each other like the humans. Instead, I leave my own message.

Thank you for making my human happy.

Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Steward McOy
Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64

Sakura Mochi

Nika Zimt