Quietly, Dorian was falling away.
He sank down and down, out of sight. Like a great membranous tent with its poles removed, he vanished into the floor, down flues and vents on all sides of his great platform nest. Vents obviously created for such a massive disease-sac melting into viral fluid and sewer gas. Even as I watched, the last of the noxious clot was sucked into the vents, and I stood abandoned in a room where but a few minutes before an unspeakable strata of discards and half-born fetuses had lain sucking at sins, spoiled bones, and souls to send forth beasts in semblance of beauty. That perverse royalty, that lunatic monarch, gone, all gone. A last choke and throttle from the sewer vent underlined its death.
My God, I thought, even now, that, all that, that terrible miasma, that stuff is on its way to the sea to wash in with bland tides to lie on clean shores where bathers come at dawn …
Even now …
I stood, eyes shut, waiting.
For what? There had to be a next thing, yes? It came.
There was a trembling, shivering, and then a quaking of the wall, but especially the golden door behind me.
I spun to see as well as hear.
I saw the door shaken, and then bombarded from the other side. Fists pummeled, struck, hammered. Voices cried out and screamed and then shrieked.
I felt a great mass ram the door to shiver, to slam it on its hinges.
I stared, fearful that the door might explode and let in the flood tide of nightmare-ravening, terrified beasts, the kennel of dying things. For now their shrieks as they mauled and rattled to escape, to beg for mercy, were so terrible that I clamped my fists to my ears.
Dorian was gone, but they remained. Shrieks. Screams. Screams. Shrieks. An avalanche of limbs beyond the door struck and fell, yammering.
What must they look like now? I thought. All those bouquets. All those beauties.
The police will come, I thought, soon. But .
No matter what …
I would not unlock that door.
NO NEWS, OR WHAT KILLED THE DOG?
It was a day of holocausts, cataclysms, tornadoes, earth-quakes, blackouts, mass murders, eruptions, and miscellaneous dooms, at the peak of which the sun swallowed the earth and the stars vanished.
But to put it simply, the most respected member of the Bentley family up and died.
Dog was his name, and dog he was.
The Bentleys, arising late Saturday morning, found Dog stretched on the kitchen floor, his head toward Mecca, his paws neatly folded, his tail not a-thump but silent for the first time in twenty years.
Twenty years! My God, everyone thought, could it really have been that long? And now, without permission, Dog was cold and gone.
Susan, the younger daughter, woke everyone yelling:
“Something’s wrong with Dog. Quick!”
Without bothering to don his bathrobe, Roger Bentley, in his underwear, hurried out to look at that quiet beast on the kitchen tiles. His wife, Ruth, followed, and then their son Skip, twelve. The rest of the family, married and flown, Rodney and Sal, would arrive later. Each in turn would say the same thing:
“No! Dog was forever.”
Dog said nothing, but lay there like World War II, freshly finished, and a devastation.
Tears poured down Susan’s cheeks, then down Ruth Bentley’s, followed in good order by tears from Father and, at last, when it had sunk in, Skip.
Instinctively, they made a ring around Dog, kneeling to the floor to touch him, as if this might suddenly make him sit up, smile as he always did at his food, bark, and beat them to the door. But their touching did nothing but increase their tears.
But at last they rose, hugged each other, and went blindly in search of breakfast, in the midst of which Ruth Bentley said, stunned, “We can’t just leave him there.”
Roger Bentley picked Dog up, gently, and moved him out on the patio, in the shade, by the pool.
“What do we do next?”
“I don’t know,” said Roger Bentley. “This is the first death in the family in years and-“ He stopped, snorted, and shook his head. “I mean-“