Of Beasts and Men
956 words without title
The day had barely started, when Tilda’s life changed forever. Her family always ate breakfast together. Her mother would talk about social events, while her father would sometimes grunt non-cosmetically. Today had been barely different.
“The governor is having a ball, dear,” her mother said. “It’s high time we introduced her to her officially, don’t you think?”
Tilda’s father gave her a long measuring look, before saying, “Yes, she’s old enough.” His gaze lingered on her for a while longer, as he considered something. “I think it’s high time to see how well she trained her dogs, isn’t it?”
Her mother smiled weakly. “If you think so, dear?”
“I believe the man who the guards caught stealing last week ought to make for fine sport,” her father stated. The maid that had been serving the breakfast went pale, but it went unnoticed.
Tilda swallowed, nervous and excited at the prospect. She was about to speak up, when the unthinkable happened. One moment Tanny had been serving them breakfast and another she was bashing her father’s head in with a heavy wooden tray. Blood, bone shards and grey brain matter splattered over his shoulders and the table. Some stained Tanny’s dress and apron. Tilda’s mother sat frozen, fear written all over her features as the maid came for her with the splintered tray in her hands. The girl still wasn’t sure how come she had acted, but somehow she managed to rise and grab a chair in time to save her mother.
They left Tanny bleeding in the dinning room, not bothering to check if she was out cold or dead, and ran. Tilda had to drag her sobbing mother behind her. Familiar corridors seemed to suddenly have become menacing, every door a possible hiding-place for another killer. Tilda ran in blind panic not pausing to consider and simply letting her legs take her through the mansion. A primal instinct told her to get as far away from the dinning room and, unthinkingly, she obeyed. Her mad rush ended, when she collided with her father’s butler. He caught her and Tilda nearly started crying in relief, when suddenly her mother pushed her away.
“Tanny went mad,” she snapped, her voice laden with hysteria. “She killed Gabriel!”
The man froze dead and Tilda felt a cold weight in the pit of her stomach. She knew what the man thought now—he was a dead man, even it was the maid who committed the crime. He had hired her and with one unsound individual the whole staff would be held in doubt. Without thinking he grabbed the nearest object—a paper knife—and lashed out. The wild swing caught Tilda’s mother in the throat, the next in the eye. She sunk to the floor and Tilda’s wild gaze met that of the butler.
From that point on, Tilda remembered very little, only terror and frozen-frame-like pictures. She wasn’t sure how the blood-stained knife had ended up in her hands or how she got to the kennels. The dogs had not attacked when she stumbled in. Muffin came to her and licked her hand, and Coral yelped and yipped like always.
Tilda closed her eyes and buried her face in the soft, warm fur. Muffin was the largest of their dogs and the fiercest. Tilda was the only person she’d ever let come close to her and right now, this, along with a knife was all the girl had to protect herself. Somebody would have found Tanny by now and the butler as well. They’d have found her parents, both dead and they would panic, just like the butler. Once they knew she had escaped, they’d come for her and kill her. She needed to act first.
She rose slowly and looked around. Here, out in the open, she was an easy target, but she could not go back to the mansion. Instead, she calmly opened the door that kept the dogs inside the fenced area and let them run. Muffin and Coral stayed by her side, as if sensing she needed them.
It didn’t take long for the screams to start—the dogs were vicious beasts and her father had always warned her not to let them out. Father said a lot of things and Tilda suddenly wished he had kept his mouth shut at least that one damned time. He’d be alive…
Muffin growled; a low menacing sound and Tilda ducked behind one of the kennels. Her dogs did no such thing—following their training and instinct they both jumped. Tilda clutched her knife in sweaty hands, not daring to peek out. She listened to the high pitched screams of terror and pain, until finally they died down.
Father had trained the dogs to attack anyone but him and Tilda. Even her mother would not have been safe from them.
Tilda rose and looked towards the dogs. They stood over the bloody ruin that had once been somebody she had known and curiously felt nothing for the dead. Whoever they were, they would have tried to kill her. It was them or her, wasn’t it? Her true friends, true companions were the canines.
“Heel,” she said her voice loud and clear, just like her father had taught her. Coral and Muffin returned to her sides, panting. She patted their heads and looked on thoughtfully towards the mansion. Barking and screams were still ringing out. Tilda felt a pang of regret—some of the dogs would surely be killed and they did not deserve that. They were good creatures, obedient and predictable.
Coral and Muffin in tow, she made her way towards the cars. She was not safe here and needed help to get rid of those who’d survive.