Damndest thing happened to me yesterday. So I’m sitting in the waiting room of the hospital, right? It’s hot as hell outside, I’m pretty sure I saw a few kids trying to fry an egg on some foil on the sidewalk. Smelled pretty good, so I think it was working. Two sets of doors between the room and the outside, AC on full blast, and it still feels like a furnace every time somebody comes in. You can actually see the plants (real, surprisingly) next to the door wilt every time that door opens. It’s miserable, and I’m almost glad I’m waiting for my buddy to get operated on. What? Oh, nothing serious, just some minor deal, he’s fine now. He just needed someone to drive him home, make sure he didn’t swallow a stapler or whatever.
Anyway, so I’m sitting in that waiting room, blessing the invention of air conditioning, and I’m looking around the room, right? Only other guy in there besides the receptionist is this tall blonde guy wearing shades. Not so weird, except he’s got this massive dog at his side, thing probably came up to my waist. Pure white too, I swear to god the thing almost glowed. Now, you can tell this guy hasn’t been here long, because the receptionist is getting all antsy behind the desk, staring at the dog, probably wondering how to tackle the issue, but she hasn’t asked him to leave yet. I felt sort of bad just watching, but I’ll admit, I sort of wanted to see how it played out. Eventually, she worked up the nerve, I guess.
“Sir? Excuse me, sir?” she says.
Now, I hadn’t realized it, but up till that point the only sound in the room other than the AC and whatever background noise you get in a waiting room was this guy tapping out a beat on the arm of his chair. When he stopped, it was like time froze for a moment, it was so quiet. He looks up a little bit, probably making eye contact with the receptionist behind those shades of his.
“’sup?” he says.
“I’m uh, I’m afraid we have a no pets policy here,” she stutters out.
Guy looks over at the dog, laying down, head on its front paws, eyes closed. The thing looked asleep, but its ears were perked up. I swear to god, it was listening to the conversation. Guy looks back up at the receptionist and shrugs “Sorry, ain’t my dog.” And he looks back down, goes back to tapping out his beat.
“Sir! If you won’t comply with hospital policy, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave!” the receptionist cries.
Guy looks up again, looks back over at the dog, looks back up. Shrugs again. “Won’t help you with your dog problem, but if it makes you feel better, sure, whatever.” He gets up, shoves his hands in his pockets, and walks out, bopping his head.
There’s a rush of hot air from outside as he leaves. Only thing the dog does is drop his ears back down, not a twitch otherwise. The poor receptionist is even more flustered now, because how the hell is she supposed to handle a huge damn dog in her lobby? She looks around, and I just sort of shrug helplessly at her. After that stupid Doberman nearly took my hand off a few years ago, I don’t like dealing with dogs. I feel sort of bad, but I like all my limbs attached, you know? Anyway, the poor girl gets up and walks tentatively over to the dog, and I can’t say I blame her. Hardly in the job description is it? “Deal with patients, possibly bleeding, file paperwork, handle calls, sort out huge fucking dogbeasts”? Probably not.
She sort of prods the dog with her toe, and the thing cracks open an eye and stares up at her. She points to the door, and says “Go on! Get! Shoo!”
The dog isn’t impressed. Closes his eye, goes back to ignoring the world. The receptionist is a little encouraged at not immediately getting her face bitten off, so she’s a little bolder now. “Hey! No! Bad dog!” she says loudly.
The dog opens both his eyes at this point and, swear to god, cross my heart, hope to die, the thing raises an eyebrow at her, like I can’t believe what you’re doing right now, lady. I know dogs don’t have eyebrows. Steely-eyed bastard does it anyway. He sort of chuffs, and closes his eyes again. The receptionist is getting fed up at this point, you can tell. She huffs, sets her hands on her hips for a moment, then bends down and grabs the dog’s collar with both hands and…
…well, this is where shit gets weird. See, the moment the lady lays hands on the dog, the thing bolts upright, dragging her with it. And for a split second, it’s like there’s this…I guess, dog-shaped hole in space, a flash of green light, then both the dog and the receptionist are just gone. A few seconds later, dog comes trotting in through the doors, and lays right back down. I’m confused as hell, so I look out the windows behind me, and see the receptionist standing outside, a few feet away from the entry doors, shaking like a leaf. Blonde guy from earlier is leaning against the wall enjoying a smoke. He turns to the receptionist and says something to her, can’t hear ‘em through the wall. She mumbles something back, and he flicks the cigarette to the pavement and grinds it out, and pats her gently on the shoulder. He says something to her, and leads her back inside. He sits down in his old chair, and she behind her desk. She picks up the phone, and it sounds like she’s calling animal control.
Sure enough, about ten minutes later, a burly guy comes in holding one of those animal noose dealies. You know, metal pole with a loop of rope on one end, they pull on the other end and they hold the critter that way? Anyway, he walks over to the receptionist, they chat for a bit, and she points him toward the beast on the other side of the room. He walks over, all cautious, pole-noose thing held in front of him like it’ll protect him.
“Sir, is this your dog?” he asks the blonde guy.
“Nope. He’s all yours,” he replies, and gestures to the dog, but doesn’t move otherwise.
The animal control guy frowns and shrugs. He reaches toward the dog with his noose, and gets as far as slipping it around the thing’s neck before it opens its eyes again. It gives him its disbelieving eyebrow for a moment, but I guess that didn’t deter him, because his next mistake is trying to tighten the noose. Next thing I know, flash of green again, and the animal control guy and the dog are gone. Dog comes trotting in through the front door again, and the poor receptionist squeaks, and recoils. The dog ignores her and goes to lie back down on the floor near the blonde guy again. The animal control guy walks in, his pole-noose missing, looking totally bewildered.
“What the hell just happened?” he demands.
“I told you! I told you there was something freaky about that thing!” the receptionist says, her voice cracking into a shriek near the end.
And then suddenly the blonde guy is standing there, hand on the animal control guy’s shoulder. Which was weird as hell, because I’m sure I didn’t see him get up, much less cross the room.
“Look,” he says, looking at the animal control guy and the receptionist, “If the problem here is cleanliness, that’s not even an issue. Look at that thing, you could probably eat your goddamn breakfast off that coat if you didn’t mind getting a mouthful of fur. Or gamma poisoning, but even that shit may just turn you into some kind of radioactive dog-themed superhero, so whatever. Point is, the devilbeast is clean enough.” He turned to the animal control guy. “You just tell your guys that you got it taken care of, or that it ran away, or some shit.” And to the receptionist, “And you just keep quiet about it, and nobody’s the wiser. Look at it, thing’s about as menacing as a giant marshmallow unless you threaten it, right?”
“But what if my boss comes in? How do I explain to him that there’s a huge superdog in the lobby that nobody can get rid of?!” She’s starting to get a little hysterical.
Blonde guy’s expression doesn’t move an inch; he just pats her on the shoulder and says “Don’t worry about it.”
This seems to calm her down, inexplicably. I guess she decided that it just wasn’t her problem any more. The animal control guy doesn’t seem so sure, though. “I think I’m gonna have to call this one in.”
Blonde guy rounds on him. “And what, have three of you chumps standing around missing equipment and being magically outside all of the sudden, scratching your asses?”
Animal control guy seems to reconsider at this, and nods slowly. “Maybe you’re right. You sure your dog ain’t dangerous? Because I ain’t seen anything like it, and I been doing this for fifteen years.”
“Not my dog. But yeah, like I said, giant goddamn marshmallow.” He gives the animal control guy a hearty slap on the back, staggering him, and sits back down.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the animal control guy? He wasn’t small, by any means. We’re talking probably like, just shy of two hundred pounds, a good chunk of it muscle. Skinny blonde guy just about knocks the wind out of him with that one smack. Told you, nothing about this wasn’t weird. Anyway, the animal control guy leaves, muttering something about how maybe fifteen years roping animals was long enough. The receptionist is sitting behind her desk, shooting glances at the dog every few seconds. Blonde guy is sitting in his chair, inscrutable as ever behind his shades, still tap-tap-tapping away. The dog hasn’t moved.
Things stay pretty much like that for the next ten minutes, until the dog suddenly explodes upward, faces the wall and starts growling. I kid you not, little sparks of green electricity were shooting from the thing. Blonde guy doesn’t even look over, just sets his hand on the thing’s head and starts muttering to it.
“They cuttin’ into her?” He says. The dog lets out a short bwf noise. “Welp. Told you, she’s a skinny one. Just don’t go pulling your overprotective teleport-spam bullshit, and she’ll be fine.”
Yeah, the guy was totally talking to the dog. Even weirder part was, the dog looked back at him, growled a little bit, then settled back down. Dog’s ears twitched occasionally, but other than that, it didn’t move. Blonde guy went back to tapping on his chair, getting both hands into the mix this time. About twenty minutes later, a nurse comes in.
“Mister Strider?” she calls out, and the blonde guy looks up.
His face is totally nonchalant, but he’s stopped tapping again, and one of his hands is clutching the arm of the chair so hard, his knuckles are white. The dog is looking at the nurse too. The receptionist is eavesdropping, pretending to stare at her computer’s screen, but I can see the screensaver reflected in her glasses.
The nurse smiles. “She’s ready to see you now. Congratulations sir, you’re a father!”
The guy’s hand unclenches from the chair, and his shoulders relax slightly. “Awesome.” He stands up. “Lead the way. C’mon, devilbeast.” He starts walking over to the nurse, and the dog follows.
“Hey,” I say, finally speaking up, “I thought you said that wasn’t your dog?”
He turns to me, and gives me a tiny smirk. “He’s not. He’s my wife’s.”