Supernatural Fiction posted December 10, 2014


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What the Dog Saw

by jpduck


It was Lyndon's fiftieth birthday -- the day he had promised himself he would take early retirement. He had been a Lloyd's underwriter for half his life and in the process, by means of much hard work and a reasonable share of luck, had amassed a fortune. He lived in an astonishing seventeenth century house in the Cambridgeshire fens with original oak panelling and huge stone fireplaces.

He did nothing to celebrate his birthday or his retirement. His work always prevented him from making friends he might be close to and celebrate with, but George and Ruth were true friends. They were the very dear couple he employed to take care of housekeeping and gardening at his beloved Kendon Hall. They took great care of him, for which he paid them well over the going rate. The three of them were true friends.

There was just one thing he felt he lacked in his life -- a dog; and now he was about to buy one. He wanted one that would be utterly loyal to him and also be big and powerful enough to make short work of any intruders to his home. He had done some extensive research on the internet and believed he had found the right breed. He was soon able to track down a breeder of Japanese Akitas in the neighbouring county.

His research had told him that Akitas were originally used for guarding royalty in Japan, and they have become the national dog of the country. Lyndon also found the delightful, true story of Hachiko, an Akita owned by a professor at Tokyo University. Hachiko would walk with the professor as far as the railway station every morning on his way to work, and he would always be waiting for him again at the station at the exact time of the arrival of his return train in the evening. One day the professor died of a stroke while at work. From that day forward Hachiko would wait for his master at the same time each evening; this continued for the next nine years.

Lyndon knew from the moment he saw the beautiful, pure white pup, with his fluffy tail arched over his back, at the breeder's yard that he had found the right dog. He also knew that he had to call him Hachiko.

It was at about this time that Lyndon first met Nigel when he went to the Peterborough Little Theatre to see a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. While he was at the bar in the interval, a guy came over to him and asked, "Are you enjoying the production?"

"Very much indeed," replied Lyndon. "I have seen four or five different Cherry Orchards and I would say that this is the best yet -- by a margin. Such a wonderful, fresh look at Chekhov."

"Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. Sorry, let me introduce myself. I'm Nigel Porter and I am the director of this production."

Thus began a close friendship which would probably last until one or other of them died. They found consummate joy in exploring their joint passion for all things theatrical and never ran out of things to say to each other about it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nigel was enjoying one of his many weekends with Lyndon. Having eaten a sumptuous dinner, prepared by Ruth, they were now sitting in the library in front of a log fire. Hachiko, lay contentedly on the hearthrug between them with his eyes fixed reverently on Lyndon. They had just been having a heated discussion about Nigel's recent production of Jean Anouilh's Antigone, which had now lapsed into a comfortable silence.

It was a wild night outside; the rain chastised the shuttered windows and the wind fluted across the chimney pots. It was the perfect evening to be sitting in such a warm and comfortable room.

Hachiko lifted his head and pricked up his ears. He was staring rigidly at one of the two doors to the room -- the one that they had come through from the dining room. He started to produce low growls. The door creaked slowly open as Hachiko sprang to his feet. He was still staring intently at the door, but now his whole body was shaking.

Then, very slowly his eyes tracked across the room. As they did so, the door swung gently closed again. Hachiko quite clearly could see something, but as Nigel looked up from watching him, there was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen. Nigel glanced across at Lyndon, but he seemed to be strangely unmoved. Nigel did not, for one second, believe in the supernatural; but he had to admit that this strange episode was making him feel very shaky.

He looked back at Hachiko. The dog's eyes had almost reached the other door -- the one that opened on to the hall, which now creaked open just like the first one. Hachiko whimpered as the second door closed. He rushed across to it and scratched furiously at the base of the door. Whatever he had seen had now, evidently, left the room.

"What on earth was going on there?" Nigel asked.

"I don't really know. But something of the sort seems to happen once or twice a year. Always Hachiko can see something which seems to scare him, but I can never see a thing. It's been going on for years."

"Why have you never told me about it?"

"Knowing what an old sceptic you are, I thought you would just laugh at me. But now that you have seen, or rather not seen, it for yourself, I can tell you what little I know." He crossed to the bookshelves and took down an old, leather-bound volume.

"I came across this book in a second-hand shop in Cambridge. It is a history of this immediate area, published in 1840, and there are two chapters devoted to this house. Apparently, in the early 1800s, the house belonged to one Bartholomew Whiston. He lived here alone, a recluse. One day in late November, 1825, he was found dead -- hacked to pieces -- in this room. His faithful dog was standing guard over his body.

"The Cambridge constable was called in, but, despite his best efforts, the perpetrator was never found. It was assumed that Whiston discovered a thief in the house who killed him and made good his escape. But I find that hard to believe. Why would a thief have hacked him to pieces -- the constable described it as an 'obviously frenzied attack'. Not the work of a thief I would have thought. But probably the constable had more important things to be doing back in Cambridge."

"So how does all that explain Hachiko's behaviour?" Nigel asked.

"I don't know that it does. But I do have a theory about it."

"Please tell me."

"There is also in this book an account of a visit Whiston made in 1823 to Japan, and mentions that while he was there he was very taken by a breed of dog which was peculiar to that region of Japan -- the Akita Prefecture in the north of the country. He was able to buy a puppy of this breed to take home. As you may imagine, I was immediately drawn by this coincidence.

"I did some more research on the internet and discovered that the dog he almost certainly purchased would have been the precursor of the present day Akita, a dog specifically bred by the Matagi people of the nearby mountainous area to assist them in hunting wild boar, Sika deer and Asian black bears. They would guard their prey while waiting for the hunters to catch up. These dogs were notoriously difficult to domesticate, being barely removed from savage, wild animals. But evidently no-one had seen fit to warn Whiston of this.

"Now, it seems to me that this creates a strong link between Hachiko and the life and times of Bartholomew Whiston, and particularly with his dog -- the powerful Matagi bear killer. I believe it is him that bewitches Hachiko's eyes.

"My theory is that there was no intruder in Bartholomew's house that night. I believe it was his fearsome, bear-killing Matagi that tore him to shreds.


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