Vultures circled in the sky. Far below, a truck ran over a child's pet. The dog lay dying, alone on the road, as the sun baked his exposed heart and entrails. Down the road, a baby was born to a fifteen-year old girl who would promptly leave it in a dumpster. A garbage man who didn't know there was blood staining the bumper of his truck went about his rounds, not considering the vultures in the sky. A little girl came home to find her beloved dog missing. Her sister came home with bloody paper towels and flushed them down the toilet before putting on her makeup.

The vultures swept down onto the street and began to pick at the flesh of the dog's legs. It whimpered piteously but could no longer move. Somewhere, a little girl ran down the street, crying for Lucky. The dog attempted to lift its head again, but the vultures ignored it and continued to gnaw.

Aleph stood on a deserted street corner, hand shielding her eyes, making no attempt to ignore the dying dog lying in the road. She waited carefully for the walk signal to flash on; then she ran across the road. There were no cars for miles. She stood on the next street corner for a long time, waiting for the walk signal to return. She had suddenly decided to go see the dog.

When it changed, she ran towards it, and the vultures watched her warily. She sat down cautiously next to the dog and began to stroke its head. It whimpered again and her wide eyes filled with tears.

"Can I make it speak?" she whispered, and one of the vultures shrugged his wings emphatically.

"You can do whatever you want, I suppose." And then he resumed gnawing on the dog's hind legs.

"Stop it!" she snapped at him, suddenly angry and terrible. "Stop it, stop it, stop it!"

The vultures all looked up, some in shock, others in bemusement. "Why don't you stop us?" asked one particularly jaded individual.

She tried to look fierce but succeeded only in being a scared girl. "I don't want to," she said petulantly. "You should do it yourself, just out of compassion."

"Compassion?" said one. "Did you give me some of that?"

She rolled her eyes. "Of course I did. I gave everyone some of that."

"You won't make him speak because you're afraid of what he'll say," said another. He was perfectly emotionless. "You're afraid that he'll reject you." He paused and then shook his head. "You'd deserve it."

She suddenly dropped all her acting and looked at him through eyes older than the sky. "Would I?" she asked softly, and there was no pretense in her voice. "What have I done, exactly?"

Another of the vultures sighed deeply, lifted silken wings, and flew away, calling over his shoulder, "I don't want to hear this again."

She jumped up, forgetting the dog, and yelled into the sky. The other vultures took the opportunity to sneak bites of the dog's rapidly fading life. They ignored her words as if she were the wind. Then suddenly she had rounded on them and was kicking at their wings savagely. "It's not my bloody fault!" she yelled over and over as they hopped away, always just out of her range. "I made a mistake, all right?"

The dog was now panting frantically, struggling to taste his final breath. He looked up at her pleadingly, seeming to sense some hidden power within her. She looked down at him in fury and yelled, "There's nothing I can do for you! Don't you know that?" And then she was mercurial again, dropping down to cradle his head and kiss his eyes.

Somewhere, a garbage man dropped a bag from a dumpster. He cursed and stooped to pick it up, and it split open. He felt his heart stop for a second as he saw the tiny shape lying among the orange peels and pizza boxes.

"Please," Aleph whispered into the dog's ear, "please, please, please forgive me." The dog only looked up at her. He could smell the darkness rushing towards him with his hunter's nose. "Oh please."

One of the vultures landed in the dog's sight and shook her ugly head. "Didn't you think all of this was going to happen?" she asked Aleph very gently.

Somewhere, a fifteen year-old was holding a gun in her mouth. The taste of the metal on her tongue was sharp and dizzying and the trigger had never felt so warm. She stroked it, kissed it, lips and tongue arching over its muzzle, lipstick streaking the barrel, and then she pulled the trigger.

"How could I have known?" Aleph demanded, and tears were once again rolling down her pale cheeks. "How could I not have? What have I done?"

The vulture felt a strange desire to comfort the being before her, but she didn't have it within her to reach out. "You wanted what was best for all of us."

Aleph looked up, murderously. "I don't want you to comfort me. I made this decision to give you choice and it was a terrible one to make. I could have stopped it all. I could have done anything." She reached out to the vulture and put a finger on her beak. "I could have whispered your name and commanded you."

Somewhere, a little girl came around a corner and to a stoplight. She pushed the walk button impatiently, tears drying on her cheeks. She could see Lucky, sitting in the road. The walk signal flashed on and she carefully looked both ways for cars before stepping out onto the cracked asphalt.

"But you didn't!" exclaimed one of the younger vultures. "And we ought to thank you for it, but we can't. We don't know the consequences of our actions either."

"Of course you don't!" she yelled, perfectly savage. "Of course you don't! Who are you to know anything?"

The little girl stared at Lucky as she approached him. He seemed to be asleep, or sick, or something. She felt a little worm of fear begin to eat her stomach away. She stepped onto the sidewalk.

"I have made mistakes, but I had no right to do it. I had the knowledge, the--"

The little girl saw the trickle of blood dripped from Lucky's pink mouth and she screamed. Aleph leapt to her feet and stared at the little girl for a minute, her face white in terror, and then she rushed forward to gather the little girl into her arms. "No, no, child, please, it's all right, please, forgive me," she sobbed into her tiny shoulder. Then she raised her eyes. "Please." The little girl looked at her, her lips trembling, her eyes wide with horror. Then she pulled away and stopped down over the broken body of the dog, eyes tracing the organs crucified by the sun, following the trail of blood seeping outwards onto the street. Then she stood up and walked away into the road, her footsteps wavering on the burning blacktop, walking ever farther from the dog and the god and the judges, into a sun made golden by the sheer will of creation.

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