The Sam Supremacy
By James Gray
The wind took its cue from the fading light and began to blow ripples across the hillside until the surface resembled a gently swelling sea of green. Sam cocked his head to one side, trying to decipher the whispers, but they told him nothing he didn’t already know. He was surprised to find that the trail was long gone, but he was still able to follow the route, guided by instinct and echoes of the past. He trudged on towards the top of the hill, pausing occasionally to catch his breath whenever the wind gathered sufficient pace to stop him in his tracks. He raised an eye to the darkening clouds and briefly tried to interpret their shapes, too, but a squadron of yellow-brown leaves quickly scrambled and began to swarm around his head. He closed his eyes and waited patiently in darkness. As if in response to the siren which rose from the valley beyond, the wind receded to a gentle whisper and the leaves began to scatter and retreat, enabling Sam to make out the sound of the distant machinery grinding to a halt on the other side of the hill. Sam stood for a moment, head tilted skyward to catch any sounds and smells riding the currents and feeling the butterfly kisses of the breeze on his face. By the time he reached the top, the valley below was deserted, save for the machines which dotted the pockmarked landscape like crestfallen dinosaurs.
The summit was crowned by a makeshift chain-link fence which rattled as the breeze rose and fell, and there was just enough room for Sam to poke his nose through one of the diamonds. He stood for a while, staring through the half-light at the lifeless moonscape below, and gradually the machines gave way to willows, piles of rubble to creeping shrubs and the disfigured terrain to meadow-grass and wildflowers, an explosion of reds, blues and yellows. Sam could feel the warmth of the sun on his back; he was deer-hopping through the long grass, chasing sticks and orange rubber rings or anything that Jamie threw for him. He was wrestling Jamie to the ground, pinning him down and licking his face until he could no longer breathe for laughing. He was bounding towards the tree which beckoned him to the edge of the prairie, where he could run down the slope and dive into the beck and swim and drink until it was time to go home.
Home. Sam had always suffered from mild anxiety whenever Jamie left the house, but the anticipation of reunion had invariably outweighed any fear of abandonment, so he would crawl onto the sofa in the den, curl up on the tartan travelling rug and wait. It was a routine interrupted only by the occasional need to defend his domain. Sam was well versed in all the sounds from outside and would respond appropriately; the postman deserved everything he got, of course, but he could let the neighbours or the meals-on-wheels van slide. He could always sense Jamie’s return and would be at the front door by the time the key turned in the latch.
With time, though, Sam had come to associate the bags in the hallway with Jamie’s regular disappearances, and after a couple of summers the trips to the meadow were gradually forgotten, and the evenings spent nestled against his master ceased altogether. Jamie had somehow become a distant memory, and the folks who now fed him and dragged him into the back yard with a few harsh words and the occasional boot of encouragement were as infirm as he was. Finally, the door closed on him permanently, and Sam’s already fragile grasp on the world slipped away as quickly and irrevocably as the last remnants of a dream.
The wind gathered momentum again, drumming and whistling as if calling for Sam’s surrender. Sam felt his legs buckle and slumped into the grass by the chain-link fence. Placing his chin between his paws, he sighed deeply and closed his eyes to the fading image of his head resting in Jamie’s lap.