Completed – The Dogan

The Dogan was a place of some sinister quality.  Whatever purpose it had once served was lost to the men that occupied this time.  Strange noises emanated from it on occasion, accompanied by strange smells of ozone and heat. 

It was a squat octagon of concrete that seemed to belie a larger warren.  Like a sage rat hole, Chambers thought.  The thought of whatever ominous happenings occurred within it gave Chambers a shiver of ice down his spine. 

“Catching cold, Master?”, the robot said in a flat tinny voice. 

That damned contraption didn’t miss a beat, Chambers was reminded.  Proditor stood twenty hands tall, all dull metal and sharp lines.  Like the Dogan, no one was sure how long he’d been around or what his natural purpose was. 

And wasn’t that the crux of it?  The locus of his misgivings about the Dogan and the robot?  What were they here for?  What was their intention?  What got them out of bed in the morning, so to speak?   Proditor had roamed between the homesteads for at least three generations, no clear intentions or purpose.  Sure, he could tell you the date and time or probabilities of rain or snow, but didn’t that seem a bit of an underutilization of that chassis?  He’d cry off if asked to help with the plowing of a field or the branding of a cow.  Limitations of my programming, you understand, so sorry.

Sure, he’d dispatch a rattler that was in his path.  And he’d caved a few heads of wild dogs when a pack had come out of the wilds, but that seemed to be the limits of his community altruism.  A waste of all that strength, thought Chambers.  For hadn’t he seen Proditor flip a wagon right side up when it had lost control going down Dean’s Pass?  Flipped it so easily that two of the wheels had splintered into kindling when it landed.  And why had Proditor deemed that situation worthy of his help?  Why, no one knew.  Likely as not, it was just blocking his path and easier to flip it than walk around it. 

Or maybe Chambers was just projecting his feeling of purposelessness. A general feeling of malaise to go along with the landscape.  

And why was he here at the Dogan? The strange mutie had wandered onto his land as the sun was going down a few hours ago.  Chambers was walking back to the big house when his dog had begun its sharp bark, head pointed east.  Not given to frivolous yapping, he took the dog’s warning to heart and began walking in the direction its head was pointed. 

There was enough sun left in the sky to make out the creature caught in the fence.  Its silhouette looked like one of those snow-fellas the kids made during the winter.  It had a round globular head, a plump clumpy sphere of a body, and two diminutive legs that seemed fused together nearly all the way to the feet.  The eyes on the head didn’t share the same straight line across the bridge of its nose.  The left eye was half the size of the other and rested on top of the cheekbone.  The right eye was cataract and leaked a dark fluid. 

It was naked save for a silver band on the right wrist.  The left arm was shriveled and curled up to the shoulder.  Its wet, toothless mouth opened and closed slowly in a silent gasping way.  It had managed to get its head and shoulders between the top two wires of the fence.  It was standing upright, half inside and half outside of it.  The creature’s slow rocking had caused the barbed wire to begin digging into the upper half of the thighs, producing a weeping of dark ichor from the fresh wounds.  The top strand was at its limit, stretched behind the neck of it.  Chambers imagined the wounds this must be causing and felt his gorge rise.

Bewildered and aghast, Chambers’ mind clawed for explanation.  Everyone knew of the midnight stories told of the shapeless shambling creatures that roamed the countryside at night.  Campfire tales told by adolescent boys was all they were, he’d thought.  Yet here it was before him.  He’d have called it a hallucination except the smell of it was all too real.  You couldn’t imagine a smell, could you?  As a boy, he’d found where a racoon or skunk had been storing dead chickens under a stack of pallets next to the barn.  The animal had been killing and secreting them away for some time.  From day old to weeks old, the kills were decaying at varied intervals.  This creature smelled like that abattoir.  Eight different kinds of decay and wet heat stemmed from it. 

His hand went to the butt of his pistol.  The pistol’s wooden hand grips were worn smooth with age, last replaced by his great grandfather.  Despite its age, it still fired true and had never failed under his care.  It would do fine at dispatching this abomination. 

Suddenly, a hand rested on his shoulder.  Chambers’ fright was complete.  His body had frozen.  Any preconceptions he’d harbored about his ability to think clearly in an emergency were dashed.  Deep in his mind some primitive part of him knew he was to be something’s dinner. 

“Allow me, Master.  You shouldn’t get any closer,” Proditor said from his back.

Chambers expelled a long hot breath, tinted with the smell of a dozen chemicals that had been dumped by his brain in reaction to his shock.  He dropped to his knees in relief.

“By ever living hell, you scared me near to death!”, he’d managed to wheeze out. 

“My most humble apologies, Master.  I derive no pleasure in the knowledge I have startled you so,” Proditor replied.

“I just bet,” Chambers mumbled as he rose to his feet.  “What is this?”, he said, pointing at the monster.  He’d removed his hand from the pistol in his hip holster, not trusting his shaking hand to do its work. 

“I’m sure I can’t say, Master,” Proditor replied.

“Can’t say, or won’t say?”

Without further acknowledgement, Proditor strode forward on his great legs and clapped the creature on both sides of its head.  The head exploded like some great mushroom under the force of a maul.  It was not an effect Chambers would have expected had he time to consider.  The chunks oozed black fluids from the spongy stuff.  No bone was evident in the scattered matter.  Everything above the creatures lolling tongue was gone.

It slid down to the ground, freeing itself from the fence, into a graceless pile.

“We will follow its backtrail and ensure more didn’t escape, Master,” Proditor said, without turning to look at Chambers.  Then the robot bent over the fence and plucked the silver band from the thing’s hand. 

“We?”, Chambers asked, “Where do you get off telling me what to do?  And what were you doing sneaking around here anyway?”

Proditor rapidly turned and took three large steps towards Chambers until he was inches from him.  Chambers’ forehead lined up with the robot’s chin. 

“Saddle your horse, Master.  I’ll meet you by the gate.”  With that, Proditor turned and headed towards the gate.

And so, Chambers had obeyed.  Bewildered by his compliance. Bewildered further still by the robots sudden commanding presence.

Even in the dark the trail had been easy to follow.  The creature had seemed to alternate between crawling and loping.  Proditor guided them along until they’d come upon the old track that led to the Dogan.  Along the way, Chambers had mostly convinced himself that he’d not been ordered into this by the robot.  That it was a logical response to the situation.  There wasn’t time to round up a posse from the other ‘steads.  Sure, he thought.  No time.  But why?  What was the threat?

Now, he sat astride his horse outside the Dogan, looking for sign of more of the abominations.  The robot had ascended a small flight of rusty stairs leading to the Dogan.  He’d turned his body to comment on Chambers catching cold. 

Snapped back to the moment, Chambers managed to reply, “I’m fine. What are we doing here?”

“Tie off the horse and follow me,” Proditor ordered.

Chambers noticed that polite pretense had been dropped.  He realized this robot had wandered among them for generations, never implying anything more than a happy simpleton’s outlook with a savant’s touch for weather predictions.  Now he was looking into the beetle-like eyes of a thing that could smash his head in with nary an effort. 

He tied off the horse and mounted the stairs.  At the top of the stairs, he could see a black maw where once had stood an ancient metal door.  It must have retracted into the wall or above the opening, for he saw no hinges or door. 

Proditor held out his hand holding the silver band.  Wary, Chambers held out his to accept it.  With a flash of movement, Proditor attached it to Chambers’ right wrist.  Chambers let out a hoot of surprise and jumped back.  The band seemed to constrict to the size of his wrist.  It didn’t cause pain, but it was clear it couldn’t be slid off.  He examined it, unable to find a latch or button on it at all.  Its completely smooth surface denied evidence of function.

Proditor looked at him and said, “You will find the control room and close the hatch.  You will take the stairs at the other end of the room down four flights to find the control room.  The band will allow you access to the room.”

“If I close the hatch, how will I get back out?”, Chambers asked.

“You will find the control room and close the hatch.  You will take the stairs at the other end of the room down four flights to find the control room.  The band will allow you access to the room.”

“HOW WILL I GET BACK OUT?”, Chambers yelled.  Panic was flooding his brain again leaving a copper taste in his mouth.

“You will find the control room and close the hatch.  You will take the stairs at the other end of the room down four flights to find the control room.   The band will allow you access to the room.”

“Why are you doing this?  What’s going on?  What was that thing?”, Chambers pleaded.  “Why can’t you do it?  Hey!  Do you hear me?  I’m not going in there!”

The robot picked him up by the collar of his jacket with one hand and tossed him into the dark room.  Scrambling to his hands and knees, Chambers looked back to see Proditor’s moonlit silhouette in the doorway.  The creature’s smell filled this room.  It made him gag.  He reached down to draw his pistol, meaning to plug the robot, and run out of the room.  That’s when he realized the holster was empty.  With one hand around his collar, the robot had plucked the pistol out with the other as he tossed him. 

Still on his hands and knees, Chambers investigated the room behind him.  He could see the top of a spiral staircase.  Just then, some old machinery started firing up from somewhere below this floor.  The rhythmic grinds and creaks began to quicken as ancient gears and springs remembered some old dexterity.  

“You need to move now,” said Proditor. 

“You backstabbing cur,” Chambers replied, with no real malice mustered.  “You worthless, backstabbing, motherless cur.”

He got up and moved cautiously towards the stairs.  The darkness below the steps was unflinching.  He descended the steps until his head was level with the top floor of the Dogan.  The last image he saw before succumbing to the total darkness was Proditor’s head at the doorway, bathed in moonlight.  And was that a smile on its face?  He thought that it probably was.

6 thoughts on “Completed – The Dogan

  1. Would you be willing to sell an unpainted robot by chance? I’m doing a PC build and I’d like ole Andy the messenger robot (many other functions) to be inside holding up my graphics card or something.

    Liked by 1 person

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