Long, long ago in a place far, far away, there lived a dog. It was not as gigantic as a Mastiff or as annoying as a Chihuahua; it was a plain, simple, commonplace, boring, white quadruped.
We will call this dog Dog. We will use the capital D to distinguish it from the other dogs.
Since this is from an era long, long back Dog had a lot of empty space to run around; it even roamed inside forests, looking for easy prey like wild roosters and stray goats; there was also a brook that meandered through the forest.
Once he had his fill Dog slept through the night on the lush green field adjacent to the forest. His days were spent in peace. True, he had picked up wounds from minor tussles over food, but he was generally happy with his life.
Life passed as serenely for Dog as you can imagine. He was happy, complacent, and blissfully unaware of the outer world.
Then, one day, something strange happened. A little creature turned up on the field the dog always had to his own. He was one of those creatures Owl talks about all the time: the hopeless, harmless beings who stay in oversized nests and always stay in groups.
This was not a grown-up, though. This was a small one.
Dog approached this being to have a closer look. He took small, cautious steps. True, this baby did not look menacing at all – but you could never be too cautious.
No, he was all right.
Boy looked at Dog apprehensively. Then he stuck out his hand; Dog licked it.
They became the best of friends.
Dog and Boy. Boy and Dog.
They had made the vow: the vow not to part from each other till ‘Death did them apart’.
Every afternoon, when his father was out hunting and his mother was busy weaving, Boy invariably found his way to the pasture; Dog got used to these unusual hours of frolic; they played and ran and had a lot of fun. Then they got tired and lay on the grass, staring at the bright blue sky for hours.
Then, when it started to get dark and the big orb on turned red and the sky turned orange, Boy bid goodbye to Dog and the set off for his village where his parents waited with a big bowl of food around the fire.
Then, one day, Dog saw tears in Boy’s eyes when they met. Boy sat down on the grass, weeping. Dog tried to get into his mind, he licked his hands and licked his face and tried to lick Boy’s tears away, but Boy did not stop crying.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, Boy opened his mouths, looking directly into the eyes of Dog.
“Dog, I am sad.”
Dog understood. He could not speak, though.
“The people in my village are moving. My father and my mother told me that we are not getting enough crops from this place; we will have to move somewhere else.”
Dog looked blankly at Boy’s face. He could not believe this.
“Dog, what will we do?”
The eyes spoke; Dog cuddled up close to him.
Yes, there was only one way out.
Dog had wanted to ask Boy whether Boy had really wanted this. Dog did not want to give up his comfort zone: he had got too used to his nice daily routine.
Boy, on the other hand, was always going to be with the people he wanted to. Was it worth leaving the woods and the meadow and following Boy and his folks and venture into the unknown?
Dog decided to go for it. Boy was, after all, the only friend he had, and you do give up your comfort zone for good friends.
Boy was happy. Dog was happy to see him happy. He followed Boy and his family into the unknown.
They found another meadow. They found another forest. Dog longed for his old nook but did not seem too sad about the compromise. He had, after all, his best friend with him. Life was still fun, and that was all that mattered, no?
Times changed. Boy grew up. He learned to paint using bright colours his parents made using mysterious components and processes. He drew on the ground and on the leaves and on the pots, and then he decided to colour Dog.
Dog had never felt so happy. Gone was the bland, lacklustre white: he was now painted in different hues of red and blue and yellow and green and purple and orange and what not! He was overjoyed; he walked smugly in the forest, showing off his radiant self in front of its jealous residents.
Life was colourful for Dog. Very colourful.
Boy was happy as well. He was happy to bring colour to Dog’s life. From the day he was introduced to colours Boy had been obsessed about them: for him life was all about colours. He learned various skills from his parents to make the colours on Dog last longer.
Boy and Dog both grew up. As it always happens with boys and dogs, Dog grew up faster than Boy. He grew more and more protective about Boy. He grew more affectionate, caring, and loved pampering Boy.
Boy loved him back as well. What was more, he went out of his way to share the nuances of colour with Dog: he would not unravel the mysteries himself and not share them with Dog. That was not what friends do. Friends share.
Every day was like a gust of fresh air in their friendship now. Boy painted Dog and his surroundings with the mighty brushes after mixing the shades for hours on his wooden palette. Dog watched Boy with pride and joy: between them they had created a world of colour.
More time passed.
Boy was now a celebrated painter. Not only were his works appreciated all over the village, they were also in demand from worlds far away. His talent and dedication had turned him into a very, very important person.
He got busier with every passing day. Dog understood. He missed the sunny afternoons, but realised that he would have to make these compromises for his friend. His friend was, after all, no ordinary person: Boy was loved by all, and he could not give away all his afternoons to Dog the way he used to.
Dog had accepted that.
Then, one day, Boy came to the meadow again. He sat down on the grass and wrapped his hands around his knees. Then he told Dog in a tone not very different to the one he had used years back:
“Dog, I cannot meet you anymore.”
Dog had been busy observing the paint on his forelegs, marvelling at the amazing finesse with which Boy had painted them. He did not get it in the first time. Then he looked up.
“I am sorry.”
Sorry? Dog had given this friendship his all: he had given up all he had in life – his pasture, his forest, his comfort zone – everything he had; just for the sake of this friendship.
Dog looked at Boy inquisitively. Where did I go wrong?
“It’s not about you, Dog. I need to spend more time with my folks. They need me. My work is also being affected. I loved our friendship; I had cherished every moment of it. But I cannot continue with this anymore.”
What about me, Boy?
“I know it was not your fault. You have been perfect – the best friend one can imagine. But it has eventually come down to a choice with spending time with you and spending time with my folks; I cannot afford to desert them. That would be the same as disowning my past.”
Why is it only about you and them? Don’t I feature anywhere in this decision?
“I’m sorry, Dog. There is nothing I can do. You know how important my folks are for me. You always knew that. You could have chosen not to come.”
But we had made a vow...
“I know. Do not make me feel guiltier. I am feeling bad about this already.”
“I am really sorry.”
Dog looked in disbelief as Boy left him for one final time and disappeared into the village. Did all this really happen?
He waited for a day, then a week. He missed Boy.
One day he paid a visit to Boy’s village. He found out Boy’s house. He could see him talking to people. These were not his parents. These were patrons who had come to purchase his works of art.
Just outside the house were a group of young girls who looked at Boy and whispered and giggled among themselves.
Was Boy happy?
Dog knew that these people meant the world to Boy; Boy still meant the world to Dog, but that did not matter to Boy anymore. Dog was history to Boy.
It was not about love after all, Dog thought. It was about how long you know a person. The intensity did not matter; the past did.
Dog made his way back to the old meadow. This stretch of grass was his last hope. He wanted to find some solace in the memories of his younger days and of the days he had spent with Boy.
It did not work, though. He could never feel the same emotion for the place that used to be world for him. Fleeting memories of moments spent in unadulterated joy kept coming to his mind, as did the vow they had made together.
It hurt Dog. He wept and wept, but to no avail.
Then, on one of those nights, he finally felt anger growing inside him. The agony of being let down by the person he had cared for the most.
He called out into the night. The eerie, lupine shriek echoed across the forest, sending chills down the spine of the nocturnal animals.
The howl lasted for hours. Then his eyes gleamed red; there was unmistakable anger and blood in them; you could see the venom in those bloodthirsty eyes.
His eyes drained the colour from his skin. It had turned gray, just like a wolf’s.
He growled louder.
Then the rain came down. It pelted down and washed the gray from Dog’s coat.
Gray was, after all, also a colour.
The next morning the hyenas feasted on the carrion of a white dog – so white that it could even be called transparent. It seemed that all colour had been sucked out of its body.
Even from the insides.