It hurt. Everything hurt. My chest burned, my neck had gone stiff and cold from my gritting my teeth while I ran. It was cold out, and my ears were starting to go funny from being cold on the outside and warm on the inside. But that was all nothing compared to the pain in my shoulder. I'd only gotten part of the stitches ripped open when they'd caught me, and now I was paying for it. Paying for being too slow.
They knew where I was. Of course they knew where I was. They were probably following me that very second.
I ducked into alleys and back streets, ran through yards and leapt over fences. I couldn't stop.
But I had to stop. It was no use running if they could just find me again.
I ducked under the overpass and pulled out my pocketknife. It was still bloody from earlier, but the blood was dry. I didn't bother wiping it off. I closed my eyes, grit my teeth, and jammed it into my shoulder. I dug around until I struck gold. Then I set the knife onto my lap and finished with my fingers.
A few minutes later, I had it in my palm. The chip. It was smaller than I'd expected. I wondered why they'd given me so many stitches when the surgical incision must have been so small.
I wondered what to do next. My first impulse was to get a rock and smash it. But then they'd notice; they'd know I'd gotten to it. They'd find me again and put in another one in a harder place to reach. I could leave it there and run off, let them think I'd stopped running for the night, but again, the same problem. They'd get suspicious once I hadn't moved in a while, come down here, and know I'd gotten it out.
I had to stick it onto something that moved. Something else.
* * * * *
I swear the dog just came to me. I didn't call him, I didn't bribe him with food, or make like I was going to pet him. I didn't even notice he was there until he barked at me. I was too busy staring at the chip.
He was a big dog. Some kind of mutt, but there was definitely a hunk of German Shepherd in there somewhere. He came right up to me and barked, then started licking my face. He ignored the blood on my shoulder. He just wanted my face.
"Hold still, boy," I said. I cut off a strip of my shirt, tied it, stuck the chip into the knot and slipped the makeshift collar over the dog's head. He sat patiently through the whole ordeal, apparently enjoying the attention.
I was free. The chip was gone, and they wouldn't know for ages. I'd be long gone by the time they found out, out of town, out of country. It didn't matter. I was free.
I got up and tried not to skip down the street.
The fucking dog followed me.
It followed me down the street, its tongue hanging out of the side of its mouth stupidly, like we were the best damn friends in the world.
"Go away!" I said. When I ran, it ran too, and ran ahead of me, like we were racing. When I shouted, it barked, like it was a game.
"Go away!" I said again, dropping to my knees.
I was cold. I was tired. It had been at least two days since the last time I'd slept or eaten. I wanted to go home.
"Leave me alone," I said again, trying not to cry. "Go away."
The dog came over and started wuffling at my face. He nosed my hands, like he wanted more pets.
I broke. I cried like a damned baby, and he rubbed his head against me like a cat would. I hugged him, and he didn't mind.
So, long story short, I guess I have a dog now. It's been a few days. I'm going to stick the collar onto the next living thing I see, but for now, he's keeping it safe for me.
Sure, they know where I am now, but at least I'm not alone.