The once beautiful Gia staggered slowly towards Matt and Maverick. She smelled horrid, and her teeth clicked together as she opened and closed her jaw in a biting motion - she was hungry. Maverick was still whimpering softly by Matt’s side as his wound pulsed beneath his fur, oozing a foul fluid that was abnormal for any injury.
“Time to go!” Matt exclaimed as he scooped Maverick up in his arms and turned to run.
Just as Matt took his first few strides, he stopped dead in his tracks and stood still for a moment that felt like hours. Gaining on the pair was a parade of the undead. Like a classic moment in a Scooby and Shaggy scene, Matt took off as fast as he could while carrying his beloved canine. They headed back in the direction of the security building for a place to hide and tend to Maverick’s wounded leg. From every direction of the cemetery, Matt witnessed bodies erupt from their graves and hungrily chase after him and a now squirming Maverick.
“Buddy, you gotta stop moving so much! I don’t want to drop you!” Matt panted in a hushed voice as he continued to run as fast as his legs could carry them. Cradling a 70lb Labrador while sprinting for your life wasn’t exactly easy.
Maverick cried out and groaned just as they reached the security building - something was terribly wrong. Matt slammed the door shut behind them and promptly locked it. He set Maverick down and collapsed into the rickety chair, exhausted. Maverick had stopped squirming and was now just calmly panting on the floor. His eyes were glazed over and cloudy; his fur stood on end, yet he seemed so passive. Was he in shock? Matt pulled the water bowl out from under the desk and carefully placed it in front of Maverick’s face.
“D-drink, buddy. C-come on. We are g-gonna be just fine n-now,” he stuttered as he gently stroked Maverick’s head.
Matt splashed his fingers in the water bowl to show Maverick where the refreshment was. Maverick didn’t acknowledge him or the water – he just stared at the wall and continued to pant. Matt used the opportunity to examine the bite wound on Maverick’s hind leg. He carefully brushed through his fur and exposed the festering lesion. Seemingly unbothered, Maverick didn’t even flinch while Matt pulled debris from the injury and splashed cool water over it to somewhat clean the bubbling gash.
“It’s going to be okay, buddy.” However, Matt really wasn’t sure. He just knew to say calming things in terrible situations to prevent panic in people – maybe it worked with dogs, too.
Suddenly, Maverick turned his head to Matt and looked over his shoulder at the door. The groans from outside grew louder as the mob of undead loomed closer. Minutes passed and the doorknob rattled as they aimlessly scratched and hit the locked building. Fear filled Matt’s eyes as he watched the handle shake and his once loving dog lay listless before him.
Hours passed... and Matt felt weak. He needed to eat something soon as his blood sugar had begun to plummet. He reached for his backpack to find a sugary treat to satisfy him for now. Maverick, though he seemed distant, raised his paw and scratched at Matt’s boot. He was alerting to Matt’s glucose level! However, seconds later drool spilled from his jowls as he opened his mouth and lunged towards Matt’s outstretched arm. Matt pulled back and looked down at Maverick with shock and confusion.
“This can’t be real,” he said softly to himself as he placed a gentle hand over Maverick’s snout. He held Maverick’s mouth shut with one hand as he ate a granola bar in the other. He was in disbelief that his beloved pal just tried to bite him. He shifted around in his backpack for something to hold Maverick’s mouth shut while the dog struggled under his grasp to break free. He seemed ravenous now and began to groan through sputters of bubbling drool. Matt used the laces of his shoes to fashion a muzzle and keep Maverick from opening his mouth.
“We are going to get through this, buddy. I promise. It’s nearly 3am – we will make a run for it at daybreak, straight to the vet,” Matt said as he looked down at his friend, who was resting his head on his paws with the makeshift muzzle around his head and snout. He gently stroked Maverick’s ear and smiled. Maverick let out a long, exaggerated sigh and slowly, calmly thumped his otter-like tail against the ground. Maverick was a different dog now, but Matt still loved him just the same.
To be continued…