The evening thunderstorm blew through Pavory Street downing some trees but living a lovely sight. The sky turned glowing orange with soggy grounds below. But the night skies were even grander. Quiet and starlit with the silvery-white moonlight sprinkled on the ground. The moon will not be lonely tonight. Charlie thinks this is the night he has been waiting for. It’s the first time in months that a thunderstorm yielded orange skies and a starlit full moon night.
Charlie stared hopingly at the bright sky. Not even the soggy grounds and a cool breeze could dampen his spirits. The countless stars twinkled in his eyes. Now and then he would relax his gaze as a cloud concealed the moon from his sight. He was more interested in the stars close to the moon for they shined brighter than the others.
‘Do you mind if I join you?’ Otis said as he dropped the leash and choker (as they called it) on the ground.
‘You didn’t bring her shirt?’
‘Charlie, this is all I could get. Most of her chattels were incinerated. Pictures, adornment- all gone.’ Otis said with a fixed gaze at Charlie. ‘I got this from the Ravagers, at a cost.’
‘And you’re sure these are hers?’ Charlie said with a brittle voice. ‘For we don’t want to end up with a puny fellow who is not Molly.’
‘I don’t know about you but I trust the Ravagers. They are the best in this business. No pirate matches their skill, plus they are pretty organized, so this is Molly’s.’ Otis assured Charlie.
‘What time is Milo coming?’ Charlie asked.
‘He should be here in about 30 minutes. He’s not as fast as he used to be. Soon we will be like him I guess.’ Said Otis with a smirk on his face.
‘It’s not funny Otis, stay focused. If we miss it we might never have the chance. And she will be forever gone. If we see the shooting stars by the moon side then we can carry on with the ritual.’
The two sat in silence unflappably waiting for Milo. The Re-Catherine ritual needed at least three members of the pack to be present presided over the Ravagers. Many had tried the ritual but it yielded no good with most of them resulting in split packs and deaths. The ritual was rumored to bring back the dead if done out of love. The deceased had to willingly accept resurrection otherwise it could all be in vain. Catherine-as they called her the great mother is said to have been resurrected three times until she finally decided to rest forever. In the book of rituals, the specifics for the ritual were laid down. Over the centuries, the book was kept by the strongest pack and ensured its safety. At the dawn of civilization, the strength and unity of the packs were weakened by humans who sought the company of dogs. Dogs rarely met for social events, mating seasons, and sports. Dogs turned out to be pets for selfish human desires. Customs were forgotten and the book of rituals lost. The Mikingar is the last pack known to have held the book. Since then, the contents of the book were passed on by word of mouth- stories told to the little ones who still had the chance of living in a pack.
A year ago the Ravagers had retrieved the book but some pages were missing. They enlisted the help of the old dogs to tell them all they knew. They were the best in the business, pirates known for collecting artifacts, lost items, and produced some of the best spies. To be a Ravager, one needed to be a descendant of the Mikingar. Their tails and necks had white strips with a touch of gold, a blue blotch over their nose, and a stout body. Their eyes were cold but many loved them for being comics.
Moments later Milo arrived with two Ravagers with one holding a leather-bound moldy book in his mouth. They pattered toward Charlie and Otis on the wet ground, the sound of their steps breaking the silence on a cold moonlit night.
‘Who’s the lover boy?’ Said one of the Ravagers with a questioning glance.
‘I am.’ Charlie said.
‘Well, based on the details I got from the old man here you’re responsible for Molly’s death and you’re selfish.’
‘Hey, I didn’t say that. Stop being a dickhead.’ Milo rumbled.
‘But he’s selfish, what kind of a dog thinks only of himself.’ Said the Ravager with a chuckle.
‘It was an accident.’ Otis said.
‘Ah, the friend, trying to make it sound less brutal. We dogs are meant to help each other, thinking of others first. Self-giving or as you say selfless.’ Continued the Ravager.
‘If I can ask, is there anything you do for free. Speaking of self-giving and thinking of others first. Your kind is quite obsessed with riches, power, thinking you rule.’ Replied Charlie.
‘Of course, we do care about others, no one can do what we do. We are noble blood. We go through a lot to do the pirating. So what you pay us is little. I’m thinking of increasing the price after this.’
‘Let’s do this, the night is far gone.’ Milo said.
‘It won’t take long. The howling moon is a shorter one compared to the Re-Catherine-‘
‘Wait, the howling what_.’ Questioned Charlie.
‘The howling moon. It’s what most of us do when we lose a loved one. Wait, did you think we were going for the Re-Catherine, huh.’ Said the Ravager with a burst of laughter.
‘Not all you hear is correct. The Re-Catherine ritual is a rigorous one requiring three cross breeds for sacrifice, my blood which I’m not willing to give not just some leash and dog collar. Catherine the great mother was loved by all dogs that her loss brought great grief to all. Her husband sought the help of a magician who gave him the book of rituals. But her new life wasn’t a simple one. It was filled with terror and misery. Every month three crossbreeds had to be sacrificed for her to live. As you can see many dogs were dying- mostly crossbreeds, so the nonsense had to stop. At the end of the book, however, is a howling moon ritual. All those who die and the ritual is performed come to rest with Catherine. If done properly we will see a shooting star go round the moon three times. It means one has been accepted to be under the care of the great mother.’
‘I’m not doing that. It’s something you just made up.’ Said Charlie. ‘I have never heard of that.’
‘You don’t have a choice. Take it or lose it.’ Replied the Ravager.
‘Yes, I do.’
‘And what’s that.’
‘I will howl without a ritual.’ Said Charlie.
The Ravagers guffawed as they closed the book of rituals. Glancing from Milo to Charlie and Otis they left the three.
‘Do you want us to stay?’ asked Otis.
‘You and Milo can go. I’ll do this on my own since it’s not a ritual.’ Replied Charlie.
‘We’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t stay out for long.’
With his eyes toward the sky, Charlie glanced from one star to the other. Molly’s leash and collar lay coldly on the soggy ground. The moon still shined brightly and standing on his four legs, eyes fixed on the moon Charlie gave out a loud howl that echoed throughout the neighborhood. A howl of love.