Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Support DSF with a donation:
small-go-arrowdonate
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private

Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






Good Kids

Shannon Peavey is a writer and horse trainer from Seattle, Washington. This is her third story in Daily Science Fiction, and other works can be found in Writers of the Future, Volume 29 and IGMS. Contact her on twitter @shannonpv.
I don't watch the cars rushing past us on the highway, and I don't look at my brother in the backseat. Instead, I count the sparse hairs on my arm and tell myself that it's not turning into fur.
I check all the time, since my brother started turning into a dog. The teachers at school call it a tic, like they call a lot of things I do. They tell me to sit still and be quiet. They look at me like my voice is only barking--like I'm the one who's an animal.
Now that Noah's finished changing, my mother and I are taking him to the old landfill to live with the other kids who are dogs. He sits in the backseat of our rusty pickup, his tail curled under him and a whine in the back of his throat. He knows something is different.
I asked Mom once if it was going to happen to me, too. She said it wouldn't, as long as I was good. Good kids have nothing to worry about.
"It's okay," I tell Noah, and his tail thumps once against the cracked vinyl.
We pull off the highway and onto an old paved road. The tarmac is pitted and chunked up along the side and the truck runs badly over the rocks. In the distance, a chain-link fence rises out of the brush and runs ever smaller along the horizon until it vanishes into a haze of heat. The place must be huge. I've never seen it before--it's been closed for years and only recently reopened for this purpose. By now there must be a hundred dogchildren inside the fence.
Dogchildren don't make good pets. Some people tried, early on, but it never turned out well. It's too hard for parents to treat their kids like dogs, to train them not to bite and keep them off the furniture. They're meant to be outside, playing with their own kind and learning how to be what they've become. Doing dog things. Social workers come by a couple times a week and drop off kibble, Mom says. Once a month, a scientist leashes them all up and runs tests to see if they can be made people again.
Mom parks by a crooked gate with wire running over the top. She wrestles with it while I gather Noah up in my arms. He's not a big dog. One of those little patch-eyed terriers with yappy voices.
"You're a good brother," I tell him, and his ears perk up. He was, even if no one else thought so. He taught me how to cheat on tests and how to breathe so I could run forever--short belly-breaths, like pulling air from the ground. He never told me to shut up or be still.
"All right, let him go," Mom says, once we're inside the fence. She pushes hair off her face. There's sweat on her forehead and she squints her eyes against the sun and I think she's unhappy, but I've never really been able to tell. She's always been quiet and calm. The louder Noah and I got, the less she was able to say.
I set Noah on the dirt. He whines, crowding back against my ankles. The other dogs won't get close, but I can see them over a hill of heat-baked tires. Ears perked and eyes bright. Some tails wagging, some not.
"Go on," I tell him. "It'll be fun, you'll see."
He lets out a short little yip and someone bays back at him. A thin yellow dog with a torn ear heads toward us and I tense up, ready to get in the way if things go sour.
"Get back here," Mom says, sharp like she's afraid I'll be bitten.
Noah and the yellow dog sniff each other all over. Noah lowers his head and the yellow dog steps back, which must be the all clear signal--all the other dogs come galloping over the hill. There's a flash of teeth, some warning growls, but Noah holds his own. He's always been tough.
"Look at that," Mom says, a little wistfully. "He's finally found his people."
I watch him meeting everyone and how quickly he establishes his place in the pack. How simple it seems. I say, "We could have kept him," though it would have been strange to put a leash on my brother or let him outside to do his business in the yard. It's not illegal to keep them, not yet--but it's not the done thing. The neighbors would have judged.
"I wouldn't keep him from this," she says.
We shut the gate behind us and walk back to the truck. We've been gone maybe a half hour, but the sun baked everything hot and we stand outside with the doors open for a few minutes, letting the heat out. I watch the dogs through the fence. They're a close knot of fur and lolling tongues and dust, all barking in the same key. And then some noise on the other side of the hill attracts them and Noah and his pack disappear into a thicket of tall grass and scrap metal.
They say Noah changed because something in his nature was already a dog. But I feel it, too. I don't know how to be a person. There's never been a time when I knew what anyone wanted or if it was a thing that wouldn't hurt to give.
It's nice, right? He's found a place where he'll be happy.
Mom puts her hands on my shoulders and holds me for a moment at arm's length, searching my face. I stay very still. Then she pulls me to her and my nose is buried in the sticky cotton of her t-shirt and she says, "It's just you and me now. You're my only one."
I think to myself, so you can't screw it up.
She lets me go and we draw back, retreating to our own space. We both look through the fence so we don't have to look at each other--but Noah and his pack are gone. I can hear them, faintly, barking in some faraway corner of the landfill.
"Let's go," Mom says. She looks drawn and old.
We can come back and visit him. Maybe bring him a tennis ball or something, watch his tail wag to see us and the way his simple doggy emotions are broadcast through his whole body. Watch him run with his pack crowded around him, the fog of their breath disappearing into the air.
I kick the tire before I get in the truck. I check my arms for fur.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 28th, 2014

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.3 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us