Max was running in a field.
It was a happy place, with tall yellow grass and freshly turned earth—the land surrounding his people’s farm. He loved being there. So many smells! The scent of rodents and cows and summer ragweed and mud filled his nostrils. He liked to run through the long grass, stretching his legs as far as he could, running until he couldn’t run any more.
He heard distant laughter. The crystal clear shrieks of Charlie and Emma, his pack leaders, the children who had been there to play with him ever since he was a young pup. He loved his pack leaders, and they loved him.
Max could see the children standing on the horizon, shadows in front of a setting sun. Distantly, Max remembered that they should be away with their parents on vacation—but he didn’t want to think about that. It didn’t matter. His boy and girl were waiting.
“Hey!” Max barked. “I’m here! Wait for me!”
The children’s shadows laughed, the sound echoing across the field.
“Come get us, Max!” Charlie called.
“Come on, boy!” Emma shouted.
Max bounded forward, as fast as his legs would take him, so fast that his muscles began to ache. But no matter how hard he ran, he never seemed to get any closer. Max craned his head to look back behind him and saw that the fields, the farmhouse, and the barn were shrouded in a thick, inky blackness.
The blackness undulated, pulsing like a liquid, living thing. Wispy, smoky tendrils spiraled up and outward, becoming dark storm clouds that raced to overtake the robin’s egg blue of the summer sky.
The darkness was spreading.
Max turned back to Charlie and Emma. Soon the darkness would overtake them, too. He pushed himself to go even faster, but he couldn’t possibly reach them in time.
Max’s ears twitched as something clicked.
The sky exploded into a stark white, blinding him, burning his eyes.
No, not the sky at all—it was the lights on the ceiling turning on to signal a new day.
Excerpt of THE LAST DOGS: THE VANISHING by Christopher Holt, granted with permission by Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY . Text Copyright (C) 2012 by The Inkhouse, Illustrations Copyright (C) 2012 by Greg Call. All rights reserved.
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