It was just after 3 AM when they brought out the dogs for the last fight of the night.
A little more than two hundred in cash was gathered from the remaining men who had made the trek through the winding back roads to the slaughterhouse sitting decrepitly on an isolated stretch of farmland.
The Men cheered, sweating in the thick swampy air, as the dogs barked ferociously at each other. A dirty yellow Pit Bull gave deep guttural howls as its opponent, some mutt of Shepard and Terrier mix, with a long coat of tangled black fur, erupted with a torrent of frenzied snapping yelps.
Just the sight of the Pit had caused the Mutt to shit himself as his handler struggled to restrain him. There were smiles in the crowd. This was going to be a bloodbath.
The fight hadn’t lasted long. The arthritic Pit was overmatched, now lying still in a bright crimson pool with his cheek torn open. The deep pink gashes in his neck ran warm with blood as the flies feasted on his ruined and scarred flesh.
Every move was a charge of pain The Pit was no longer capable of tolerating. So he lay there with his frail, wheezing breath oozing out from his bloody snout.
He could hear The Men cursing as they shuffled away. The Mutt was still barking insanely, still trying to get to him and finish him off. Its nails scratched and tapped danced violently against the concrete killing floor as its Human dragged it away. How small he felt now.
The Pit gave a cry as The Man lifted him into the wheelbarrow. The Man coughed and spit something foul and metallic on the floor. An odor The Pit recognized and could smell over his own blood.
The Man hoisted the wheelbarrow that reeked of death and sickness and pushed The Pit haphazardly out into the night. A soft breeze greeted him kindly from the stifling sewage heat from which he came. He breathed it in. The earth. The Farm. The livestock. And something vaguely sweet that gave him a good memory, but it had vanished as quickly as it arrived.
As he was rolled into the kennel, he felt the dark eyes from the cages watching him. The dogs knew what this meant for him. There was sorrow and depression permeating through the leaky barn where The Pit had been born. Where he had experienced the true taste of human cruelty. And the sound of the pups brought a rush of anguish over him as real as the pain in his body. This was his destiny. As will be theirs.
Mongol stepped to the cage as The Man pushed the Pit past. He was headed to that small room that stunk of chemicals. That deep sink lined with plastic bottles. Where they kept the plastic bags to suffocate them, the car battery cables to electrocute them and that deep metal drum of stagnant water to drown his brothers.
There was no clean death here. No mercy. Death, like life, was twisted and horrible. It was not punishment for defeat, Mongol had rationalized, but an outlet for Man to sew his evil nature. And oh, the evil Man could dream up.
Mongol could sense the indifference in The Man for what he was about to do and the fear in The Pit. And he hated The Man. The fury rode down his spine, sparking every nerve until his fur stood on end. He fantasized about killing The Man.
Mongol was a badly scarred Red Devil Pit with copper fur and piercing blue eyes. He was larger than the other Pits, his father was a hybrid mix of Rottweiler and Mastiff that was mated with his purebred Bull Terrier mother. And he was The Man’s prize.
Mongol had killed over thirty dogs and was used only for the fights when The Fat Man, The Man’s master Mongol had concluded, loaded him into the blue, rusted truck and drove him to the fights of The Other Men.
During those long trips Mongol stared out at the world through his cage, seeing humans of every shade, shape and sex. And he hated them all.
Their scent may have been cleaner than The Man and Fat Man, but he could smell the darkness within them. They were humans after all. Just like The Man, The Fat Man and Fat Man’s repugnant yellow haired mate. How they prattled on in their ugly language and stupid laughter. They could never appreciate their life outside The Cage.
“They don’t deserve this world,” he thought. He could hear The Man in the small room. Fastening a nylon rope to a metal bar mounted from the ceiling.
He made a noose and wrapped it around The Pit’s throat. The Man let out a sigh, pushed his foot against the wheelbarrow that was propped against the wall and gave a great heave. The Pit let out an awful gasp as the rope hoisted him into the air. The rope groaned and constricted from The Pit’s weight. The Man let out an impatient grunt and gave a fierce tug. Then another... On the third yank The Pit was dead. Mongol heard his body hit the floor with a limp and vicious slap.
The Man hacked out another gob of thick, bloody mucus, and then lifted the dead Pit back into the wheelbarrow. He stepped out of the room, wiping the cold sweat from his pale forehead.
He was breathing heavily and his thoughts were a jumbled carousel, spinning aimlessly through his throbbing head. He scratched feverishly at the bite on his forearm Mongol had given him when he had carelessly pulled him out of the Truck the day before.
The Man had gotten lazy, lured into a false sense of safety and superiority. That his and The Fat Man’s cruelty had made Mongol obedient. Mongol used it against them. And now The Man was sick. The sickness Mongol had caught from an infected Mastiff in Florida. They couldn’t see it, but Mongol could.
The Man was dehydrated and weak. A sudden wave of nausea and lightheadedness hit The Man fiercely and he staggered past Mongol’s cage.
“I’m going to kill you, Man.”
The Man stopped, weaving unsteadily in place and breathing heavily. He turned to face Mongol. His cloudy green eyes had become horribly bloodshot as they stared oddly into Mongol’s. Mongol could smell it inside The Man. It was raw and powerful and rose to be all encompassing of the shaken Man.
It was fear.