I opened my eyes to see the dog with a piece of pizza crust on the floor in front of him.
“Thanks, Waffles!” Gretchen jumped down and ran to the crust, then began ripping pieces for our breakfast. We stuffed our faces, then shoved as much of it as we could into our bags and pockets. Who knew when we’d next see food?
Necessities seen to, we mounted Waffles and snuck out the dog door before the humans woke up. As we walked into the cold, snowy morning, the dog gave a soft whimper. I leaned to his ear. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you and Vivian back home as soon as we can.” I tried to sound more confident than I felt.
Waffles trotted by the snowy roadside, jumping into the woods when a car passed. After several minutes he started talking. “There’s a place with lots of trucks nearby. I bet we can find one going to Stoneprior there.”
My ears pricked and I came back to full wakefulness. “Great,” I yawned and stretched, then snuggled deeper into his fur. “Let’s go see.”
Waffles gave a sharp bark and took off.
I grabbed his fur with both paws and tried not to think about what else might be waiting in the truck yard.
A few minutes later, he walked us into a shipping yard, snuck into a garage, and we warmed up, hidden behind some boxes.
Gretchen went into a trance and put her consciousness into Emerson.
The moth fluttered away for some reconnaissance.
Gretchen’s eyes stayed closed. “I am in the office now… Someone just opened the computer… Ja, it looks like truck number 6214 will be going to Stoneprior this morning.”
“Great! Can Emerson find the truck?”
Gretchen held up a paw, her eyes still shut. “Just a minute! Emerson is trapped in the office. I have to wait until someone opens the door so she can get out.”
We waited for what seemed like an eternity, and then Gretchen smiled. “We are out. I’m looking for the truck now.” After another minute she opened her eyes as Emerson landed on her head. She reached up and patted the moth affectionately, greeting her softly in German, then turned to us. “Let’s go. I can lead us to the truck.”
Gretchen directed Waffles out of the garage and through the yard to a tractor-trailer rig with the number 6214 printed on the back in fading paint. A man was half-way up the ramp into the back with a load of boxes on a dolly, but more importantly, he’d left the door of the tractor open!
Waffles hunkered down in the shadows and waited.
All four of us looked in different directions, whispering “clear” when nobody was looking. When we all said it at once, he darted to the truck, lept up to the first step, scrambled up to the second, and ducked behind the seat. The truck was huge, and even had a bunk behind the seat, which we hid under. Waffles made himself small behind the trucker’s duffle bag and the rest of us made ourselves comfortable in his fur.
Eventually the truck was loaded. Two people got in, and we headed off to Stoneprior. Waffles smelled very strongly of dog to me. All I could do was hope the humans couldn’t smell him.
Hours later the truck stopped. When I heard the driver get out, I peeked and noticed the man in the passenger side seat rubbing his eyes and yawning. “Get ready!” I whispered as I climbed back aboard Waffles.
He opened the passenger-side door and clambered out, talking to someone, leaving the door open. “Now!” I yanked Waffles’s fur and he jumped to his feet and dashed out of the cab.
My eyes stung from the sudden bright light as we held on, weightless in the air until he landed on the snowy parking area behind a grocery store. He bottomed out, his belly bumping the ground, and slid a quarter of a metre before scrambling to his feet.
A shadow moved.
We squeaked in unison and Waffles sprinted forward, kicking snow out from behind him to avoid getting run over by a forklift. He charged through the exit across a snowy road, and under some bushes.
Waffles skidded to a halt and stood there, panting hard. “Where to now?”
I looked around. Good question.
Above us, a voice speaking in a corvid accent made my heart suddenly start pounding. “Now, this isn’t something you see everyday!”