It's been a while since I've written anything but essays so please forgive the roughness.
You'd be missed
There was no sound for miles. No wind to rustle the curtains or make that creaky windmill outside spin. No cars rushing down the road by the house. No creaking from the stairs or the attic. No truck engines backfiring…no pots clanking….No one yelling at the TV….No one cooking in the kitchen.
Muriel and Eustace were gone.
Everything was silent…Courage hated the silence. It was all he'd heard since they'd passed in their sleep, their breaths and heartbeats gone like a summer breeze, leaving cold, unyielding, lonely silence. No one to call him "good" or "stupid". No one to pet him and scare him with a mask. No one at all.
Sitting up slowly from his spot on the threadbare rug, Courage looked around the living room. Dust had settled on the chairs and shelves. Muriel never let the dust settle. Eustace's chair had lost his shape, the foam cushions finally getting the chance to pop back out.
He wandered in the kitchen where the counter was clear of everything. Muriel always had something on the counter; bread, vegetables, a pie…it was never clear. The windows were shut, the floral curtains hung limp from their hooks, faded and worn. The pots and plates hadn't been moved. They sat in the cabinets just as Muriel had left them. Courage's water and food bowls sat bone dry by the fridge.
Opening the back door he headed towards the two stones in the yard, curling up next to Muriel's. It was cold but Courage had stopped feeling anything a while ago. He didn't feel cold, or hungry, or tired anymore. He just felt empty. Hollow. Alone.
The small dog's clumped and dirty pelt hung to his form like an oversized coat. He had dark rings under his eyes and his ears dropped low on his head. Staring at the dust by Muriel's grave, Courage wondered how long he'd been like this. He couldn't remember. Glancing at the sky, he saw dark clouds rolling over the distant mountains. It'd rain later. It'd rained the night the Bagges left him all alone too.
Curling up into a ball like he'd often done as a puppy, Courage whimpered pathetically, too dried up to even cry. He was so sick of this. He was so tired of being alone. He missed the Bagges. He just wanted to see Muriel again, to hear her sweet voice…was that so wrong?
Sitting up sharply, Courage ignored the spots of light in his vision and his aching head as he went back into the house and headed up stairs to the attack, rushing past Muriel and Eustace's closed bedroom door.
He started up the computer, ignoring the machine's sarcastic, "Ah, so you are still alive. With how quiet it has been, one would wonder."
"Where's the nearest forest?" Courage asked, typing quickly.
"The next state. Planning to go camping?"
Courage frowned. That was too far. He tried again, "Where's the nearest cliff?"
"Same answer. This is Nowhere you twit. Hardly known for its national landmarks."
Growling, Courage nearly broke the keys as he angrily typed, "What's the highest point in Nowhere!?"
"That would be Nowhere gorge, the canyon a few miles out of town, also known as 'Dead Man's Drop.' Hardly a prime vacation destination."
Rolling his eyes, Courage didn't bother turning the computer off as he hopped off chair and took down the books that let him reach the screen.
Computer suddenly stalled. The dog never took the books down from the chair. He was the only one that used the computer. He was the only one left…"…Wait…You don't mean to…"
Courage took a final look around the room. He absorbed the slanted roof, the spare boxes, the dirty window. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath and with a single goodbye nod to the computer, headed down the stairs, ignoring the shouts behind him.
"Wait!" called the computer, "Wait! Stop you twit! Wait!"
But all he got in reply was the front door swinging to a shut.
On the other side of town, not too far from Nowhere Gorge, Katz was closing up Katz' Kandy after an abysmally horrible day. His new candy recipe had been a complete flop, the only customers he'd had where those bratty town children with too much spare time and not enough spare cash. To say the red feline was in a foul mood was an understatement. He didn't even want to open the motel tonight. No doubt the only visitors he'd get were those fatty truck drivers his spiders wouldn't eat.
Turning off the lights and heading out the door, Katz glared at the grey sky. Before he could even think the word rain it began to pour. Scowling, Katz mumbled an angry "Of course" as he locked up the shop. Spotting an old newspaper on the steps he picked it up, unfolded it quickly and used it as a make shift umbrella, trying to keep as much of his fur dry as he could. Grinding his teeth and cursing the sky and the rain and the entire day, Katz stomped out down the road, wishing he'd taken his car that morning, instead of walking to the shop from his motel.
Down the road an 18 wheeler sped down the empty country road, music blaring and lights off. When the sudden downpour started, the trucker flipped the switch for his wipers and lights, but only the weak fwip-fwip of the wipers joined the music. Grumbling, trying to see out into the road without much success, the driver started looking around for something to hit the dash board with. He found an old beer bottle just as he drove past Katz' Kandy and slammed it hard on the dashboard. The first and second strikes didn't work, but the third did. The trailer's high beams shot out into the night, flooding the road, just in time see Katz crossing the street but too late for the trucker to do anything more than blast the horn and slam on the breaks.
As Katz stared in shock at the oncoming monster of a vehicle, he could only stand in horrified amazement. "Odd" he thought, "that the last day of my life would also be one of my worst…"
An instant before the trailer barreled into him however, Katz felt something push him and somehow found himself on the other side of the road, shaking uncontrollable, ears flat against his skull, tail curled around his leg. He laid there for a moment, clutching his paws against his chest, listening as the breaks of the trailer whined to a halt. Finally, he uncurled himself and forced himself to sit up. Realizing he'd stopped breathing, Katz took a desperate gulp of air and tore his gaze from his trembling hands to look up.
Even as he reveled in the feel of the dirt under his paws and the rain on his back and no pain anywhere on his person, his sharp ears had picked up the sound of something hitting the front of the truck. The trailer hadn't touched him, but had finally come to a stop a ways down the road. There, illuminated by the truck's high beams, was a wretched little pile of purple fur, matted with mud and soaked with rain.
The sight struck Katz to the bone. "Courage…?"
Standing on shaky feet, Katz stumbled towards the dog.
The sound of a car door slamming open was background noise, as was the truck driver's nervous ramblings of "Oh man, oh god is he alright? He came out of nowhere! Are you alright? Oh man…" The words didn't matter. Katz only had eyes for Courage.
His nemesis, the bane of his existence…looked utterly broken. His fur was a muddied and mangled mess. His paws hung loosely over the pavement, on unnaturally so. One of his legs was twisted at an old angle. Blood pooled from his head and side. Katz felt ill. "Oh goodness…!" that could have been him! The stupid dog…Courage had saved his life…and the dog….the dog was injured. He needed help! He needed a hospital! Rushing over to the pup, Katz carefully picked him up, more than a bit worried at how light he was.
Turning sharply, he moved swiftly towards the truck, yanking the passenger side door open. "Drive us into town, he needs medical attention! NOW!"
Jumping into action, the truck driver hopped in and headed for Nowhere General Hospital. They made it there in record time, Katz not even sparing a moment to say thanks as he kicked open the side door and ran for the emergency station.
A bored looking nurse mouse with light brown fur jumped into action when she saw the blood soaked dog in Katz hands. "What happened?" she asked quickly, paging the doctor for surgery.
"He was hit by a truck" Katz gasped out.
Another nurse came forward with a gurney. Katz numbly put the poor god on it, trying not to jar him too harshly. The doctor appeared from the hall and quickly examined Courage, frowning heavily. "He's not responding to stimulus. Get him into the operating room." The little gang of doctors rushed down a hall, and Katz made to follow, but the receptionist held him back.
"Sir, I'm afraid no one but medical staff is allowed in surgery. Please, I need some more information from you." Katz let the nurse lead him to an uncomfortable medical chair. He sat on the rocky cushions while she got her clipboard, eyes glued to the surgery hall doors. He could just see the red ongoing-surgery light. Courage would come out when it was turned off.
"Alright Sir, what's your name?" the nurse asked, softly but insistently, trying to keep Katz attention without surprising him. The cat was obviously in shock now that the adrenaline had worn down.
"Katz" he murmured.
The nurse nodded approvingly. "Good. That's good…Do you know his name?" She asked.
He turned to look at her, "Courage." he choked out. "His name is Courage."
"Can you tell me exactly what happened?"
"He was hit by a truck. An 18-wheeler. It didn't have its lights on—the driver, he brought us here…" Katz glanced out the front doors. The truck and the driver were gone. He snarled suddenly, the fur on his neck heckling in rage. "He left! That rotten piece of garbage left!"
Frowning disapprovingly at the clear driveway, the mouse excused herself for a moment to call the police. When she returned, she sat down across from Katz. "The police will be here soon. They'll question you on the accident so I'll just ask you about Courage. What's your relationship to him? Are you family?"
Katz took a deep breath to calm himself, promising to find that rotten truck driver and feed him to his spiders. "No…no…I'm… an acquaintance? We've dealt with each other before."
"Do you know where his family is?"
"It's an older couple. The Bagges. They have a farmhouse not far…" Katz trailed off as the nurse's face filled with pity.
"The Bagges passed away almost a month ago." She said softly. "…is there anyone else…? Anyone we can call to watch over him?"
Katz swallowed the lump in his throat and shook his head sadly. Of course there wasn't anyone else. The poor boy gave everything he had for the old woman and her sour husband. If they were dead… "I'll watch him."
The nurse looked surprised, "Are you sure? You just said you weren't more than an acquaint-"
"I'll stay." Katz declared angrily. How dare this mouse question him! Noticing the nurse was frowning, he backtracked. "My apologies…He…he doesn't have anyone else. I'll stay with him. He at least knows me…"
Nodding softly, the nurse left him alone to sit and wait. The police stopped by at some point, questioning him on the accident and the driver. Aside from that, Katz stayed glued to his chair, tail whipping back and forth in agitation.
Hours later, a bit after dawn, the surgery light finally went off. Katz stood from his chair, ignoring the crick in his back, just in time to see them wheel a bed into another hall.
"Mr. Katz" the nurse called. "Courage is out of surgery. I can take you to see him once they've got him settled in his room. Alright?"
Katz nodded. They arrived just as the nurses finished putting an IV on courage. They all left Katz to have a word with the doctor.
"Is he going to be alright?" Katz asked nervously.
"He was touch and go throughout the surgery, but we've got him mostly stable now. Poor pup was dehydrated and malnourished. The IV should help with that, but it's going to take a while to get him back to full health."
Katz nodded and accepted the pamphlet the doctor offered him. As the doctor left him alone with the dog, Katz took the opportunity to look around the room. It was small, but homey. There was a window by the door that allowed anyone in the hall to peek in on the patient. Courage looked even smaller than he was on the large hospital bed. He had bandages around his head and torso. His right arm and left leg were in casts. Pulling the waiting chair by the bed, Katz sat down with a heavy sigh.
He was exhausted, but alive…he was alive because of this self-sacrificing mutt. The dog who he himself had tried to kill on multiple occasions. So why had he saved Katz?
Courage had nothing to gain from the accident. And Katz was positive it was an accident. But then…what was the dog doing out there, so far from home? Was he leaving Nowhere? On so dismal a night? With no supplies? Hardly. He was obviously in bad shape, with no one to take care of him…
"Stupid dog…" Katz murmured. "What were you thinking…? Slowly, he reached for the dog's head, rubbing his ears softly. After a few pets, Courage whimpered in pain and dryly gasped"…Muriel?"
Gripping the small purple paw in his, Katz leaned closer. "Courage?" he asked softly.
The small dog shifted, his nose twitched. With what looked like a great amount of effort, he opened his eyes, staring dimly ahead. Turning, he saw Katz at his side. After a look of utter heartbreak, Courage's face went blank.
Katz frowned nervously. Something was wrong. The dog was staring right through him, his eyes were glazed over. Was it the medication? Before he could question him, Courage turned away, slowly closing his eyes again and Katz could only stare in horror as the dog's heart rate flat lined.
An alarm started to ring and an instant later the doctor and his nurses rushed into the room, pushing Katz out the door.
Moving quickly to the room's window, Katz leaned close to the glass to try and see everything that was happening. The staff had already set up the defibrillator and was preparing to give the purple dog a shock. The small body lurched against the tiny bed, unresponsive as the doctor called for a second shock and then a third. The seconds ticked by but Courage remained motionless.
Unable to hold back any longer, Kats slammed his paws against the room window he shouted with unrestrained fury, "You stupid dog! What is wrong with you!? Fight you cowardly dog! Fight!"
…With a slight jump, the heart rate monitor began to beep again. Letting out a breath he didn't even realize he was holding, Katz slumped down to the floor, letting his head fall into his paws.
That idiot dog! That stupid mutt! He was trying to die! He was probably heading towards Dead Man's Drop when he saved Katz! Snarling, Katz stomped back into the room as the medical staff cleared out again. Once the coast was clear, he yanked the purple pup up by the scruff of his neck, sending his heart rate up in surprise. "What on Earth do you think you're doing!? Useless dog, are you so stupid you can't even stay alive properly!?"
"Muriel and Eustace are dead!" Courage shouted, breaking free of the cat's grip and curling up into a little ball against his pillow.
"And that gives you an excuse to join them does it?!" Katz retorted angrily, paw twitching to grab the dog again. He wanted to shake some sense into the boy.
"I just don't want to be alone anymore…" Courage whimpered, crying into his paws. "I miss them…!"
As Courage cried and whimpered, Katz sat back down on his chair with a sigh and a sad shake of his head. Poor dog. He was too loving for his own good. He simply didn't know what to do without someone to care about...
"Why did you save me?" Katz asked suddenly.
Blinking through the tears, Courage looked up at the red feline. "W-wouldn't someone miss you?" he asked with a small hiccup.
Katz sighed again, so that was it. Courage didn't want someone else to feel like he did, so he saved Katz thinking he had some family waiting for him after work. "My sister maybe, though I haven't seen her in a while… I've been alone much longer than you have Courage…" he said simply, reaching up to pet the small dog. Despite the initial flinch, Courage eventually leaned into the paw, eyes letting out a few more tears. "There, there dear boy. It's hard now, but it will get better. You'll see." Katz murmured as Courage fell asleep again.
A few minutes later, Katz joined the dog in sleep, his soft purr barely audible over the beep of the Courage's heart monitor.
A few days later, Courage was finally discharged. When the cat and dog finally left the hospital, Katz nodded goodbye to the medical staff and set out to the Bagge farm, Courage asleep in his arms. The drive home was smooth and calm, with some light music flowing out of the ancient radio. Katz had quickly gotten into the habit of using Eustace's old truck. Amazingly enough, he found it more reliable than his own sports car.
Courage's long, medicine induced naps had given Katz plenty of time to visit the Bagge home. The house was in as bad a state as the dog it seemed. There was dust everywhere. The food had spoiled in the fridge and pantry. It didn't take long to clean up, fortunately, mostly dusting and mopping, and restocking the kitchen was easy enough.
Outside, a short distance away from the well, were the old couple's grave stones. They were simple markers. The first time he'd past them, he'd paused to read the names cut into the rocks: Muriel Bagge and Eustace Bagge. For a moment he'd imagined a small stone beside them reading Courage and shuddered. To think the dog had come so close to joining his former owners.
Setting the dog on the old couple's bed, he set out to get dinner started. Something light would be best, as the dog had only just started getting proper meals again.
Courage woke up a few hours later to the clanking of pots in the kitchen. As he gingerly pulled himself out of bed and hobbled down the stairs he noticed everything had been dusted. The noise grew louder as he got closer to the kitchen door. Pushing it open, his blinked his eyes a few times to be sure of what he was seeing. Katz was chopping up carrots at the counter. Muriel's cookbook sat open next to him.
"Ah" Katz greeted, finally spotting the small bundle of bandages peeking out behind the door as he turned to drop the carrots into the stew. "Finally awake dear boy? Well come on, dinner is almost ready. Set the table will you?"
Courage simply nodded. The soup smelled good. The kitchen was bright and loud. It was…it was…he began to cry as he set the cups down…it hadn't felt like home in so long. Katz was by him in an instant, petting his head as he sat him down on his chair. "Come now, it's alright Courage."
"Why?" Courage asked, voice trembling. He was so happy to have Katz here. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't gotten somewhat attached to the cat at the hospital. He was just…there. He didn't want to go back to being lonely again.
"Why are you here?"
"Do you not want me here?
Courage nearly fell out of the chair in protest, "No! I do! But…"
"Well…wouldn't you miss me if I was gone?" Katz asked with a smirk as he steadied the dog back in his seat.
Courage found himself nodding.
With a nod and another pet, Katz spooned soup into the bowls. "And I'd miss you if you were gone. So I'm staying right here. One simply can't trust you to live on your own dear boy."
"Hey!" Courage protested, trying to smother the blush that painted his cheeks.
"Stupid dog, eat your soup." Katz ordered, handing him a spoon.
Courage chuckled. It sounded odd in his ears, his laugh. But he could get used to it, now that he wasn't alone anymore.
Upstairs, Computer simply murmured, "About time someone told you you'd be missed, you twit."