Redemption by Lyn McConchie
The hillside road nearest the town had fallen, so they left Lanie’s car with the earth-movers and the vehicles of the rescue people who’d arrived earlier, and they walked, Lanie, with the massive dog at her heels. They’d rounded the last bend, when someone saw them and called.
“Lanie and Cujo are here.”
Girl and dog were surrounded, as tired faces brightened. They were here, now the lost would be found.
They reached what had once been a gracious town square and Lanie halted. “Tell me”, she said softly. And they did. It had been less than twenty-four hours, and under the earthquake rubble there could be those that yet survived.
Lanie Hamilton nodded, as she knelt and cupped the great muzzle in her hands. Seek, Cujo. Seek. And all over the ruins people froze, waiting.
Slowly, Cujo began quartering the area, Lanie at his side. At last, he paused, sniffed deeply and exploded with a great exultant bay. He waited while they gathered to dig at his site, then he and the slender girl moved on.
The hours passed while search and rescue people worked, those that were pulled from the rubble were all alive at the time. Some would die, but those that lived owed their lives to Lanie and Cujo. It was dusk when his final cry came, ringing out in the gathering dark. They dug to find that great concrete slabs had fallen. Two people came weeping.
“My sister and our little niece. Her husband’s away, but they’d have been here. They saw the sorrow, the regret, on dusty, sweating faces and knew. You have to try, please!”
Lanie stooped, pulling out pieces of broken rubble. There was a hole, she might fit beneath the slabs. But hands gripped her.
The dog moved to the hole, then slowly, cautiously, wriggled forward. He was gone and Lanie shrugged off those that held her. Thirty minutes, an hour, and there was no sound.
At seventy minutes there came a child’s whimpering and from the tunnel, Cujo crawled, his teeth set fast in the clothing of a bruised, filthy, tear-stained toddler. He released her as Lanie dropped to hold him to her. Blue eyes met gold, Good boy, Is there anyone else? He sat, his signal that no one alive remained, and those around him drew in deep breaths.
There were no more survivors, so Cujo and Lanie Hamilton went home. And in the big old house, Lanie sat beside her cousin. “You didn’t mean to kill him that first time. Grandfather came to you and said you’ve redeemed what you did. I’ll get a real dog.”
“No,” I said. “I’ll be Cujo as long as he’s needed.”
I said nothing. Everyone knew that what I had become was evil, and yet, I wondered. Could a werewolf become addicted? If so then I was addicted to Lanie and to my redemption.