“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I mumble to myself through gritted teeth. My nerves have yet to register the pain in my leg; even though my eyes are doing a well enough job of preparing me for what’s to come. I’m no doctor, not even legally a person, but I know that my leg doesn’t bend this way and bones are supposed to be inside of your skin.
“I told you to wait for me,” his voice is calm but I can hear his anger in the pounding of his footsteps. “A crate of salt is too heavy for one person. Now you injured yourself, and more importantly, you ruined the salt.”
Almost reluctantly I wrench my eyes away from the oozing wound my fellow nameless slave is examining, to the red-stained hill of salt covering the worn rock stairs. It wasn’t a heavy box, just awkward, and I thought I had a good enough grip on it.
“How does it feel?” He pokes the protruding bones. Sparking a wave of pain where his finger touches my broken skin that quickly turns into an unending fire.
I gasp, my breath freezing in my throat as my nerves finally register the state of my leg. If I could breathe, I don’t know if I’d yell or cry. I’ve never felt a pain like this before.
“That’s what I thought,” he says. Getting to his feet he pulls me to mine and slips his arm around my waist to drag me back to our Master’s house.
“No hiding this,” he continues. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll consider chopping off your leg to be enough punishment.”
“I-I want to keep my leg.” I manage through gritted teeth. The pain is still there, in as much intensity as ever. But through my years I’ve learned how to shove any discomfort to the side and keep moving. This is no different.
Just breath and keep moving.
“It takes more time and money to piece you back together then to chop off your leg and give you a wooden one. Plus, you also ruined the salt.”
“Damn it!” I scream. Just wanting to release some of the pressure building up in my lungs. “Of all my luck…”
“Hey, I think somethings go on.”
We stop just to the side of the main house on our hobble to the slave quarters in the back. Crashing pottery flies out the window from being thrown into the wall.
“What?’ My extra set of legs exclaims. “I’m going to go check it out.”
“Do you want to lose a leg too? We aren’t allowed in the house.” I whisper at him as more things are thrown into the wall. It’s not the only room being ransacked. From the sounds of falling furniture, there are a lot more people ripping the building apart.
“Better than my head for being a coward. Just stay here, I’ll be right back.” He sets me down before he slips around the building’s corner without another word.
Well, this day is going great. Maybe I’ll get luckier and one of the thieves will put me out of my misery before my Master finds out about the salt. It’s probably not going to be his biggest problem today but it’s one he can use to let his aggressions out on. My back’s already burning at the memory of the last time I got lashed. Or maybe that’s just the pain in my leg refusing to stay put. The scolding white fury makes it hard to straighten out.
“No!” A man’s voice pleads from around the corner. His stumbling footsteps are headed towards me, being chased by a thunder of other feet and amused laughter.
I don’t want to be caught by whoever that is. Broken leg or otherwise. Lucky for me I have a trick up my sleeve, if I had sleeves, that I’ve been able to keep to myself since I was sold to this house. My previous master claimed I have a touch of demon blood. He’d preach about the state of my soul and that it was his god-given responsibility to make sure us demon touched repented for our very existence. I don’t know if that’s what I’d me, but the peculiarity sure comes in handy.
Ignoring my leg, I close my eyes and reach for the animal that shares my spirit. It makes my skin tingle as fur begins to cover my body and my bones change shape. It’s a shift I’m hyper-aware of, so much so that time seems to slow, even though the transformation happens between one running footstep and the next. Where once sat a nameless slave with a broken leg, there now sits a nameless dog with a broken leg. Lucky for me I only need three to walk with.
“No!” The man repeats, tripping in terror and into my view.
My master. My pudgy master who eats more than he should, is meaner than other master’s I’ve had, but nicer than the one that called me a demon. The one that told me only hard work under a stern hand will my soul be cleansed.
“Leave me be,” he pleads.
The men don’t listen. Grinning with vicious intent as they stalk to my master with knives in hand.
I don’t know if I really am a demon, or if hard work will right the sin of my very birth with god. But my master is my master and it is my job to serve him, or in this case, to save him.
Despite the pain that pulses through my body with each step, the motion swinging my leg back and forth no matter how tight I tense the muscles, I crouch forward with a deep growl. They hear me before they see me. The big black dog whose shoulders reach a man’s waist and teeth as long as a finger.
I place myself between my master and the intruders who hesitate as they watch me. These foolish men who wear their concern so clearly. I jerk towards them with an angry bark and they trip over each other as they try to get away. As if I could chase after them with my bad leg.
“A miracle,” my master says. I turn to face him with my darkened dog eyes. “You’ve saved my life noble creature. For that, I am forever thankful. You will stay here with me, as my trusted companion.”
He reaches for my head and I let him scratch my ear. I’ve never liked being petted, but as his property, my master can do with me as he wishes.
“Your leg,” he says as he climbs to his feet. “I’ll have that looked taken care of at once. Those heathens must have injured you.”
Motioning me to follow him, he heads back towards the house and the sound of the city guard that’s arrived. The house is ransacked but my master doesn’t seem to know why. He explains while standing on the only rickety patio stone. It’s always seemed out of place in his immaculate yard, but he insists isn’t worth fixing.
I listen to him work as a doctor sets my leg. A bowl full of food in front of me and a pillow to lay on. Besides the broken furniture and pots, nothing is missing, except for a slave who ruined a box of salt.
“A slave who will be thoroughly punished when he’s found,” my master exclaims as he pats my head.
I didn’t mean to lie. It was only a half-lie in truth; that I’m only a dog instead of a dog and a man. But being a dog is much more pleasant, so I think I’ll stay like this for a while instead. I can still serve my master in this form, and he seems to like me better.