Today, The Drabblecast brings you “Day of the Dog” by Aliya Whiteley.
We’ve still got a few bones to pick with our dog-eat-dog micro theme. So if you enjoy last week’s tail, here’s another one to sniff you nose at (and, yes, a few more incollarable puns).
Aliya Whiteley is a writer of dark tales in science fiction and fantasy, and was the winner of the Drabblecast People’s Choice award for Jelly Park! She has also been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, BSFA, and British Fantasy Society Awards.
The afternoon the mayor plugged in the world’s largest air-freshener I was in a bar with Petie, drinking orbitals. An orbital is a wheat beer with a dash of blackcurrant. It’s a slow drink. It gives the world a sepia tint, like everything that’s happening actually happened long ago, back in the good old days before everything got so complicated.
Today’s twabble comes from MonsieurMoustache! :
The devil visits my mother Fridays. She’s a good woman – leader, churchgoer, altruist. Yet she looks forward to Friday.
Alright, enjoy this scrumptious little morsel, and let us know howl you felt (the full story is printed below the player):
Drabblecast #391 – Day of The Dog
Day of the Dog
By Aliya Whiteley
The afternoon the mayor plugged in the world’s largest air-freshener I
was in a bar with Petie, drinking orbitals. An orbital is a wheat beer
with a dash of blackcurrant. It’s a slow drink. It gives the world a
sepia tint, like everything that’s happening actually happened long
ago, back in the good old days before everything got so complicated.
I was enjoying that sepia feeling, and Petie was talking about the
time he ate a slug as a bet, when the barman shushed him and turned up
the volume on the television, which was on one of those metal arms
that juts out from the wall, high up, next to the dusty bottles of
champagne and tin plates that always seem to end up on the top shelves
of bars. The screen showed the mayor, standing next to a plinth, and
on it was one big red button, a bit like you might get on a tacky quiz
show. The camera pulled back and showed the crowd.
‘I think everyone in town is there except us,’ I said, and the barman
shushed us again.
‘…the very first blanket coverage of air freshener to ever stretch
across an entire town, making this a very proud moment for me, for
you, and for every single one of us. A free, clean air for our free,
clean town, making this a great place to raise your children, grow
old, or simply sit outside and breathe in and out. And so, without
further ado, I’m delighted to turn on the PuraGlade 3000, and I hope
you all benefit from the freshness it will bring to our wonderful
He pressed the giant red button and there was a moment of silence as
everyone waited for their nostrils to report to their brains. Then
there was an aaaaaah! And everyone sniffed and breathed and nodded and
smiled at each other. It obviously smelled great.
The barman turned the volume back down.
‘I guess this is the future, then, Alice,’ said Petie. ‘Everyone
smelling the same thing.’
‘I wonder if it’s pine,’ I said. ‘I hate pine.’
And then it wafted in through the open doorway, and we were breathing
‘Yay!’ I said. ‘I love lavender!’ Admittedly, it was that synthetic
lavender smell that got stuck in the back of your throat, but it was
definitely better than pine.
‘Now I can tell what my mother is smelling, right at this moment. I’m
smelling it too. We’re all smelling it.’ Petie drained his orbital and
banged down the glass. ‘But what if I want to smell my own faeces
sometimes? What if I want to smell the rotted corpse of a cat that got
run over? Shouldn’t I be allowed to do that?’
‘Nobody wants to do that,’ said the barman. ‘Another one?’
I shook my head.
‘Come on,’ said Petie.
‘I have to get going. I’ve got to change my library books today.’
‘Oh, sure. You’d better hurry before they change all the books to the
same one. Nobody should be reading anything different, should they?’
‘It’s just a smell,’ I told him. I stood up and shook out my skirt,
hoping he’d look at my legs. Instead he stared into his empty glass.
‘I’m getting out of town before the stormtroopers arrive,’ he said.
‘That’s the orbital talking. I’ll call you later.’
He mumbled something. The barman and I exchanged glances, and then I
left for the library. Outside, the sun was shining, and everyone was
smiling for the first time since I can remember when. Maybe ever. The
lavender smell was less noticeable in the open. It just gave the air a
little extra niceness. I caught a whiff of it every now and again as I
walked down the street, and it made me feel pretty good. Lavender has
healing properties; it gets used in herbal pillows and sleeping
remedies. You can have a very relaxing bath in it. Bees like it, too.
Although I couldn’t say if they liked synthetic lavender much.
Outside the library, a dog was waiting for its master. It was on quite
a short lead, tied to one of the railings, but it was in the shade, so
I knew that wasn’t the reason why it was crying. When a dog cries,
it’s different from a bark, or a howl. It’s not even exactly a
whimper. It’s a soft, sad, unending sound. My dog made it all night
after we got him neutered. He’s dead now; he was my dog when I was a
little girl. Every little girl should have a dog, I think. You’ll
never find a better friend.
I knelt down next to the dog and held out my hand so he could sniff
me. Then I rubbed that sweet spot dogs have between their ears, but he
kept on crying. He was a spaniel, a Cocker, with big brown patches and
floppy ears. ‘What is it, boy?’ I asked.
His owner came out of the library. She was small and round and dressed
in a sweater that looked far too warm in the sunshine; her face was
flushed, and she had that pulled-back expression that busy people get
when they think time is slipping away from them. She came straight
over to the dog and said, ‘Oh, Teddy, I was only gone for a minute,
‘He really missed you,’ I said, but the dog didn’t wag his tail. He
kept on crying. When she undid his lead and tugged at it, he wouldn’t
get up. He stayed sitting, head bowed.
‘Come on, Teddy,’ she said. She reached down to him, to pull him up by
his collar I suppose, and he turned and bit her.
It was so weird. He didn’t even growl. He got her palm and bit down
and then held on, and she pulled back, and then there was this ripping
sound and suddenly there was blood all over his mouth and her hand and
she made this high-pitched squeal and fell over backwards, her arm
against her chest. Teddy just licked his mouth with his long pink
tongue. It was like he’d been given a treat.
People came running down the steps of the library, and they gathered
around Teddy’s owner, who was still squealing, and in the distance I
thought I heard a different dog barking, and then Teddy sat up and
whined and I realised it was the sound of a lot of dogs barking. And
it was getting louder.
Then the screaming started.
I didn’t say anything to Teddy’s owner, or to the crowd around her. To
this day I still feel terrible about that, but when you’re in a life
or death situation, you either discover that you really really want to
live and you’re prepared to watch other people die in order to
accomplish that, or you discover that you think life is not worth
living if you’re not still all being nice to each other. Having lived
through that kind of situation I can tell you that I’m definitely in
the first group, and there’s no point beating myself up about that.
Instinct takes over. I ran as fast as I have ever run, flat out, back
to the bar, and I saw things on the way that still haunt me: bloodied
things and slimy things and things that should have been parts of
bodies and bodies that should have had hands and feet, and the dogs
feeding, crunching down, working their way through the townspeople. I
hit that bar at a hundred miles a second, and Petie and the barman
were still there, watching the town square on the television, their
mouths hanging open as the dogs ripped through what was left of the
I could see on their faces that they hadn’t really grasped it, not
yet, so I said, ‘It’s the air freshener. Gotta be the air freshener,’
and closed the door behind me and dragged one of the long thin tables
that usually sits up against the window in front of it. Yes, I know
dogs can’t turn door handles, but it seemed like a good idea at the
‘The dogs are…’ Petie said.
‘Yeah.’ I walked up to him, and took his face in my hands. Words
spilled out of me, like a script; the things I once practised saying
in the night, in the safety of a dark empty bedroom. ‘I’ve always
loved you. Right from Kindergarten. Even though you can be a moron
sometimes. And I know that you’re not good in an emergency – you
couldn’t even cope with eating a slug, for God’s sake – so I already
know that I’m going to have to take control of this situation to get
us out of it alive, and that’s fine. You don’t owe me anything. You
don’t have to say you love me back. You just have to shut up and do
what you’re told, and I know that doesn’t come easily to you, so
please, try hard, okay?’ I dropped my hands away from his stunned
expression and looked at the barman. He returned my gaze without a
qualm; I marked him down as useful. ‘What’s your name?’
‘Marcus,’ he said.
‘Got any weapons around here?’
He smiled, crouched down behind the bar, and straightened up again
with one hunting knife and one baseball bat. ‘Will these do?’
‘Nice,’ I said.
‘Never hurts to be prepared.’
‘Right. Here’s the plan. We need to get out of town. I happen to know
that the woman who owns the hairdressers next door keeps her Range
Rover parked out back. Now, the shop was shut, so she must have gone
to the plugging in ceremony this morning, which means that she’s
dogmeat too by now, so let’s hope she’s left her keys in the car, and
if not -’
‘I can hotwire a car,’ said Marcus.
‘I’m liking you more and more,’ I said.
‘No, wait,’ said Petie. ‘Instead of leaving town, we should try to
stop the smell, right? Then the dogs will go back to normal and people
will be saved. We could drive the car into the big air freshener and
smash it to pieces. We’d be heroes.’
‘The only person I’m acting the hero for today is you, Petie,’ I told
him. ‘That’s a stupid plan, and we’re not doing it. Firstly, the smell
won’t just dissipate because we’ve smashed up the freshener. Second,
look at the TV. Are you seeing that?’ There were more dogs arriving by
the second, and some of them were carrying bits of people in their
mouths while others just dove into the bodies and ripped off gobbets
of fat, or pulled out long meaty strands of intestine.
Behind us, there was a yipping sound. A terrier stood by the front
door. I crouched down and eyeballed him through the legs of the long
table. He scratched at the glass and whined, like a good boy waiting
to be let in by his master.
‘I’m not falling for that,’ I said.
The terrier sat down and waited. His tongue lolled out. He cocked his
head to one side, as if he was thinking hard about something.
‘Listen, it could work,’ whispered Petie, close to my right ear. He
had crouched down too, and he put one hand on my knee. For a moment I
didn’t smell lavender any more. I smelled him, that lovely innocent
Petie smell. I took his hand from my knee, stood up, and chose the
hunting knife. Marcus nodded, and took up the baseball bat. ‘You’re
going to do this my way,’ I said to Petie. ‘No choice.’
‘Who made you boss? You always got picked last for Dodgeball. When you
announced you were going to run for class president everyone laughed
until you sat down again.’
‘This isn’t school.’
‘That’s right!’ he said, with a triumphant finger-point, as if he’d
just won the argument. Then he looked out at the terrier, and I saw
real fear cross his face. He was finally beginning to understand the
situation. The little dog had been joined by a big one that I
recognised – Mrs Turner’s Great Pyrenees, Holly. It had the sweetest
temperament, and thick white fur that was so soft to the touch. I used
to give it a stroke whenever I passed Mrs Turner on her porch; she
loved to have a chat with whoever was walking by, and Holly adored
being stroked. But now Holly’s fur was matted with blood, and Mrs
Turner was probably half-eaten on her porch, calling out through her
terrible pain for help and wondering where the hell it all went wrong.
I pointed the knife at Petie. ‘Get up. Get moving. We’re going out
through the back. Marcus, you take point.’
‘Right,’ said Marcus, and I followed his broad shoulders to the
storeroom, with Petie grumbling all the way. Marcus threw his weight
against the emergency exit bar and flung the door back; the daylight
dazzled, and for a moment I couldn’t see a thing. Then I made out the
alley, with stacked orange crates of empty bottles, and the smell of
lavender was swamped under the odour of stale beer. There were no dogs
waiting for us. We only saw them when we got to the end of the alley,
and there they were, sitting around the hairdresser’s Range Rover as
if they’d known the plan all along. I counted at least twenty, from a
tiny Chihuahua to a gore-covered Great Dane who had half a baby stuck
in its teeth.
‘Jesus,’ I said.
‘I’m going back,’ announced Petie.
‘They’re staying by the car, though,’ said Marcus. ‘Why’s that? They
should be after us, but they’re not.’
That’s when it came to me. ‘The smell! The beer smell. Come on.’ I
retreated back down the alley and selected from the nearest crate a
bottle of beer with an inch still sloshing around at the bottom. I
poured it over Petie’s head, then selected another for myself. Marcus
got the idea too, and joined in.
‘You’ve lost it,’ said Petie, and I dragged him back to the entrance
to the alley and marched him to the Range Rover, all the time hoping I
was right and pretending that I knew the stale beer trick was going to
It did. The dogs growled and backed off, even the Great Dane, and the
car was unlocked, and I threw Petie on to the back seat and took the
front passenger seat while Marcus got behind the wheel and groped
around under the dashboard. The engine started, an educated purr that
suited such an expensive car, and I have to admit I really enjoyed the
sensation of being ferried around town in that huge, wonderful wagon,
hearing the occasional dog go splat under the wheels.
We made it to the edge of town, and up ahead was a road blockade, with
tanks and soldiers and a few townspeople I recognised, hanging around,
crying and nursing flesh wounds.
Marcus pulled over and stopped the car. I turned round to Petie. ‘It’s
okay,’ I said. ‘It’s going to be okay now.’
‘Yeah,’ he said. He stared at his hands, in his lap. ‘Thanks.’
And I knew, in that moment, that in all the possible futures that lay
before us, there wasn’t one in which Petie and I would get married,
and have kids, and live a wonderful life together. He would never
forget the things I’d done that day. He’d never get over the fact that
I saved him.
Forty-Eight Years Later
‘Are you ready?’ I said.
Marcus nodded. I stroked his cheek through the balaclava. Even after
all these years, he still looked darned fine in his action gear. He
worked out five times a week and attended a local Dojo at the weekend.
And I did my bit, too; being seventy really wasn’t so bad, as long we
both kept moving and popped the pills.
Sometimes, I have to admit, I wondered what we kept moving for,
particularly after the kids left home and the government work dried
up. I mean, we could have opted for a couples euth programme and our
pensions would have covered it; no back-street doctor skimping on the
morphine for us, but we felt there was still something lying up ahead
for us. And we were so right.
I smeared the putty around the window frame, then gave the glass a
soft tap; it came free, and Marcus caught it, and laid it down on the
well-kept lawn, where it reflected the glint of the full moon. We
repeated the process with the inner pane, and then it was just a
matter of climbing inside, disabling the alarm system, and locating
We found him sleeping in the basement, propped on a stool in front of
his very own private mahogany bar, an empty martini glass in front of
him, with a little pink paper umbrella leaning against the lip. From
my viewpoint on the stairs, looking at his slim back and curly brown
hair, he looked the same as ever. It was only when I spoke and he
swivelled to face me that I realised time had caught up with him too.
In fact, it had chased him down and savaged him, scoring his face with
deep lines that ran from his eyes to his sagging chin.
‘Petie,’ I said. ‘You should have known better. Got any wheat beer?’
Marcus touched my shoulder, and we moved into the room, to join Petie
at the bar. Once behind it, Marcus looked comfortable, pulling off his
balaclava and searching through the cupboards. ‘Got the beer. And some
‘Perfect. Make me an orbital, will you? And one for our host.’ I
hadn’t had one since that day when the dogs turned bad; I wondered if
it was going to be as amazing as I remembered. It had been heaven,
with the sunshine coming through the windows and the local news
channel playing on the television above the row of optics, running
some piece about a new sculpture commissioned for the town hall, or a
change to the train timetable.
‘What are you doing here, Alice?’ said Petie, as his orbital was
placed in front of him. Funnily enough, he didn’t look that surprised
to see me. There was a settled air of resignation in the way his
‘You thought you could start it up, all over again, and we wouldn’t find out?’
‘It’s totally different this time around. It’s got nothing to do with you.’
‘Petie, Petie, Petie,’ I said, and I realised how hard the years had
made me, that I could speak to him, my lost first love, in that tone
of voice. I hated myself as I told him, ‘After you walked away from me
that day, Marcus and I started stamping out the global market in mass
smells for a living. Of course, we had to let some other people die,
or get actively involved in making them dead, in order to save the
important ones, but that’s life all over, isn’t it?’
‘Is it?’ said Petie.
‘You don’t agree?’ I sipped my orbital. It was not as I remembered it,
to be honest. Maybe wheat beer had changed over the past forty years.
‘I don’t understand you, to be honest. You opted out. You didn’t want
to save anyone. So why have you suddenly decided to start killing
them? They’re two sides of the same coin. If you don’t like one, you
won’t enjoy the other.’
‘Nobody’s going to die!’
‘They will when you plug in that giant air freshener tomorrow morning.
How did you talk the townsfolk into it? Are memories so short,
nowadays? How did you get elected Mayor, anyway? Surely running a town
requires a backbone?’
He stood up, his knees wobbling; he was already so drunk he could
hardly stand. ‘It’s not an air freshener,’ he said, with a burst of
venomous energy, ‘It’s a deodoriser.’
‘It removes all smells. Do you understand? All smells. No more plug-in
pine-fresh scents. No more all trying to smell the same thing. We are
all going to smell nothing but real, true smells. This town will be
united in our clean, unbothered nostrils.’
‘What about the dogs?’
‘What about them? It’s got nothing to do with the dogs, don’t you get
it? There won’t be any smell to upset the dogs. This is not about the
fucking dogs.’ His legs gave out, and he slumped to the floor. ‘It’s
about you and me. You and me, and what you took away from me.’
‘You and me? There’s more important stuff out there than you and me.
You don’t know what will happen when you turn that giant deodoriser
on. You have no idea.’
‘That’s right!’ He dropped his head to his chest. For a moment I
thought he was asleep, but then I heard quiet, soft sobbing, and there
was a pain in my heart, the kind I hadn’t felt for years. I looked up
at Marcus, and he nodded. Good old Marcus, my dependable hero of a
husband, knowing me better than I knew myself. With his approval, I
felt no problem with kneeling down beside Petie, stroking his hair,
whispering to him of the things I had been thinking all these years.
‘Listen, remember that slug you ate? You were obsessed with the fact
that you’d eaten the slug. You’d taken that bet.’
He straightened up. ‘You think I should have been taken more bets?’
‘No, you complete moron. That’s just my point. The slug never
mattered. You’re looking at the details of your life and trying to
make sense of them, right? Trying to understand that day, so many
years ago, when the dogs turned on us all and I got you out of town.
But that day was just like the day you ate the slug. It didn’t mean
anything. And you can’t make it mean something, no matter what you do.
You’ll always be that guy who survived. And being a survivor is just
the same as being dead with a longer sell-by-date on the top of your
packet. That’s all.’
‘That’s not true!’ he shouted. ‘You ruined me! I could have saved
everyone! We could have made it to the town square, and destroyed that
freshener, and those people would still be alive!’
‘It was too late.’
‘It wasn’t.’ He took a deep breath, and smiled at me. I saw the boy
once again, in that smile. ‘It really wasn’t.’
‘In that case, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I stopped you from saving
everyone. But now you have a chance to be a real hero. You can get a
whole new set of people out of danger. Give up on the deodoriser. You
plug that thing in, and who knows what will happen? Let’s not find
out, okay?’ I helped him up, and we sat back on the stools, side by
side, with Marcus behind the bar pretending to mind his own business,
just like old times.
‘Thanks,’ Petie said. He sighed. ‘What happens if I say no?’
I glanced at Marcus. ‘Something not nice.’
‘Wow. Really? You’d let your friend here do something not nice to me?’
‘He’s not my friend. He’s my husband. And I’d do it myself.’
He took a big gulp of his orbital. I followed suit. ‘I always did
wonder about that slug. If that was the one moment that I was nearly a
different person. I guess I’ll never know, now.’
‘So what’s your answer?’
‘Should I be a hero your way or my way, do you mean? I think it won’t
mean anything if I don’t do it my way.’
‘Right,’ I said. ‘Have it your way.’