Spontoon Island
home - contact - credits - new - links - history - maps - art - story
comic strips - editorial - souvenirs - Yahoo forum
Posted 14 May 2014
The Gaze: The Glass Goose
Story & art by Warren Hutch

Spontoon Archipelago, 1939
Story & art by Warren Hutch
© 2010 Warren Hutch


    In the dim light of the sleeping hut, the hulking canine Zoltan knelt at Marta's side, gazing wistfully down at her as he cupped her limp hand in his own broad palm. The petite figure of young Vanya lay curled up beside him, sleeping soundly in the folds of an enveloping blanket. The soft sound of her breathing made a counterpoint to the steady rhythm of the stricken Marta's breathing.
    All through the night he had wept, even as the little golden angel at his side held his hand and stroked his back. Large as he was, he would have thought he would run out of tears at some point, but now more came.
    This time, however, they were different, in the creeping light of the morning, with the soft breath of these two beloved females murmuring in the still air around him. Zoltan felt an unfamiliar feeling of peace, a feeling that he had not felt since he was a small puppy in his mother's arms. Before the wolves had taken him away and trained him to serve.
    How did he deserve such peace, such kindness? The sweet young female had spoken of freedom, of deciding and doing for ones self, but had his first free act not been one of murder? His broad brow furrowed as the question rose in his heart and began to gnaw.
    It was as they say among the thralls: Wondering fetches a stick.

    A rustle at the partition curtain caused his closely-clipped ears to perk up, and he looked to see the faintly-striped face of the Sylvanian she-cat who's bright eyes had looked at him in kindness, and somehow with an understanding that also left him wondering.
    She smiled gently to him. "Zoltan. Good morning. How is Marta?"
    His soft, impossibly deep voice responded as he carefully stroked the unconscious canine female's hand. He glanced down at his side as Vanya let out a sigh and began to stir at the sound of the hulking canine's speech, which could be felt through the floor. "She is still breathing. More calmly, it seems, vhich is good."
    The feline nodded gravely. "It IS good. Jane will come in a little later and check her dressing and take her temperature."
    She paused for a moment, looking him over with her glittering blue eyes. "Zoltan, we have a favor we'd like to ask you. We need someone big and strong to help us."
    Vanya sat up groggily, rubbing her eyes with a drowsy smile to Dorothy. "My Zoltan has the strong very much, Dorothy. I'm sure he vould have the helping for you, if he wished."
    At this the huge canine pursed his lips, glancing back and forth between the feline and the recumbent figure of Marta. He had never been asked to do anything in his life. He looked down at Vanya as she stretched her arms above her head with a wide yawn. She sat back, propping herself up with her arms, and looked expectantly up at him with those liquid brown eyes of hers.

    The hulking dog's voice quavered with uncertainty. "<But... I do not vant to leave her side, little vun. Vhat... vhat if she...>"
    The golden furred canine girl turned and reached up, tenderly stroking the back of his closely shorn head. "<She vill not go avay vhile you are gone. I vill not let her.>" She looked him in the eyes. "<You should help them. Ve owe them all so much.>"
    Zoltan considered for a moment, then nodded, climbing stiffly to his feet, and giving Dorothy a curt bow. "I vill help you."
    He fell into step behind her as she gave a final wave to Vanya and exited, her long striped tail waving gently behind her. The lumbering dog stopped and pointed a finger at the diminutive female. "<Watch over her, little angel. I vill be back soon.>"

    The towering canine grimaced and pulled at the rope, drawing the sphere of metal closer to the shore with each mighty heave. To Gwen's eyes, he looked for all the world like one of the idol carvings that her Takua had shown her, with his drab grey fur over rippling muscle set off by the garish colors of the lavalava he wore, his teeth bared and his feet set wide and digging into the sand. All he needed was some sort of tall, feathered headdress and perhaps a sharpened bone through his nose to complete the image.
    Hand-over-sinewy-hand he drew in the taut rope, until the first mine ran aground on the beach, the waves bubbling and splitting around the defanged globe of death.
    Jane patted the canine on the back as she and Heywood walked forward to untie the rope from the dragging ring welded to the explosive device's surface. "Good job, darlin'. C'mon."
    He followed them up to where the thing sat, like a strange kind of egg in a nest of sand and white foam, as the otter knelt down to untie it. Once the rope had been detached, the sleek mustelid waded into the surf, trailing the it behind him as he swam out to attach it to the drag rings of the next sphere.
    The rabbit doe pointed at the mine and then gestured toward the hut at the head of the dock. "Miss Loretta needs that thang over yonder in th' shed. Would y'all mind takin' it over thar fer us, Zoltan?"
    The dog gave her a short bow. "I... I vould not mind, ma'am."
    The rabbit smiled at him. "Thanks a bunch, darlin'. Y'all're a real help."
    He gave her another nod, his eyebrows raised at the odd feeling of being thanked. He would have easily carried twenty times the load he now hefted for her, lifting it effortlessly off the ground with the barest of grunts. Water poured in fountains out of the round holes in it's surface and drenching his colorful native-pattern kilt, but he didn't mind. He set off toward the low wooden structure with an unaccustomed spring in his step.

The Gaze: The Glass Goose - story section division - Art & story by Warren Hutch

    A low moan issued from Marta's throat, as she surfaced from a swirling blackness, as if washed up from deep waters onto a twilight shore. She felt the weight of her body, pressing gently down on soft bedding, with more clean sheets wrapped about her, enfolding her in an envelope of warmth. She felt a slender hand clasped around her own, accompanied by a sweet female voice that spoke to her in her native language. "<Do not vorry, Marta. It is all right. I am vith you, and Zoltan vill be back soon to vatch over you.>"
    The drab furred female's eyes fluttered open and she turned her head, pricking her clipped ears. She found herself regarding a canine female, perhaps eighteen, perhaps younger, with a warm-golden pelt and a tousled thatch of bronze hair, her skinny frame wrapped in a colorful sarong of reds, purples, and ruddy-orange. A shining smile of elated surprise washed across the youthful face as Marta blinked over at her. "<V-vhere am I?>"
    The young girl surged up excitedly to her knees and clasping her hand tightly in her own. "<My sister! You are avake! Oh, Zoltan vill be so happy! I am so happy!>"
    Marta pulled her hand free and propped herself up on her elbows, looking around disorientedly. "<Z-zoltan? Vhere is he? Vhat is going on?>"
    Vanya looked concerned and leaned forward, trying and failing to push the older female canine back down onto the pallet. "<You... you should not move so much, if you please. You are still terribly vounded.>"
    At this, Marta let out a gasp and flinched, the memories of the prior day returning to her. The Sylvanians... The young vixen... The master... The knife...

    With wide, grey eyes, she sat up and threw aside the blankets, staring down at the red tinged gauze pad firmly taped to her middle. The girl at her side let out a cry of alarm as without thinking the drab-furred canine reached up and tore away the dressing, wincing as it ripped loose tufts of her fur with it.
    Both she and her companion stared in shock at the shaven patch running down alongside her navel, the pale, bare skin smooth and unbroken, where yesterday there had been a gaping, gushing stab wound.
    Vanya reached out with a trembling hand and ran her finger along Marta's belly. "<V-vhat does this mean? You... you vere bleeding like a slaughtered lamb yesterday. I saw the vound vhen Loretta Pike cleaned it last night.>" She looked up at the older canine with amazement. "<Do... do you have strange tricks you can do like Jane and Dorothy?>"
    At this Marta let out a gasp, her hands rising to her mouth. "<My God! The K-three treatment!>
    Vanya cocked her head quizzically. "<Vhat is that?>"
    The drab furred canine stiffened, a look of anxiety washing over her face as she grabbed up the blankets and covered herself with them, turning away from the golden furred girl at her side. "<I... I have said too much already. I cannot discuss it. I am not allowed.>"
    Vanya settled back on her haunches and propped herself up with splayed arms, a cocked eyebrow raising on her youthful face. "<Vhy not? Who says you can't? The vulfs? Let their tails fall off... They are big stupid dumb heads.>"
    At this Marta rounded on her, a mixture of shock and indignation on her face. "<Who... who do you think you are? To say such things about the vulfs...>"
    The young canine tossed her head. "<Who do I have to be? I am a free dog, I can say vhat I vant.>" She gazed into Marta's eyes with a smile spreading across her face. "<You are a free dog too. So is dear Zoltan. No vun may tell you vhat to do any longer.>"
    She rubbed her thumb and forefinger along the groove at the base of her neck where the fur had been worn away by her erstwhile collar. The drab furred female let out a gasp, and reached up to feel at her own neck with trembling fingers. "<My... my collar! His excellency vill give me correction!>"
    A snarl came to her face as she reached up and grabbed a startled Vanya by the shoulders and shook her. "<Vhat did you do vith my collar you insolent little bitch?!>"
    A scowl crossed Vanya's face, and she reared back and planted a solid headbutt on Marta's forehead, causing the larger female to drop her and rear back, clutching at her head. The golden furred dog girl clambered to her feet and stood over her, pulling up the fallen upper hem of her sarong and glaring down at the cringing canine with smoldering anger in her brown eyes. "<Your collar is cut, and your master is dead. Good riddance to both!>"
    Marta's grey eyes widened, and began to brim with tears as she crouched at Vanya's feet, an uncontrollable trembling shaking her limbs. "<Vhat? But... but... the M-master... dead? Ohh... He is. I... remember... Oh, Zoltan, vhat... vhat have you done? Ohhh no...>"
    She broke down in tears, collapsing forward onto the blankets as sobs wracked her body.
    Vanya shook as well, but with incandescent rage. "<You stupid fool! Listen to you! Veeping for the chain around your neck and the stick that beat you and the knife that stabbed you! Better dogs than you died raising eyes to those murdering brutes. Zoltan sat here at your side, veeping all night thinking you vere vun of them. He had me convinced of it myself, but now I see vhat you are. Just another bad dog!>"
    She spun on her heel, turning her back on Marta as the drab-furred canine reared back on her haunches, hugging herself miserably as she choked on her sobs, biting her lip as she reeled from the younger dog's tirade. A soft sob sounded from Vanya's throat, as she angrily wiped away her own brimming tears, her shoulders bristling.
    Both canines turned their heads and perked up their ears as a rustle sounded from the curtain, and the drowsy face of Kaleia peered around the billowing cloth, rubbing an eye with a dark furred hand as she murmured a query in Spontoonie. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of Marta, and a moment later she had crossed the distance and was hugging the startled canine in a tight embrace and speaking in a breathless torrent of her lyrical language.
    Vanya turned and cooly regarded the young vixen as she held Marta and rocked her back and forth. "<Hmph. Somevun else you have fooled into thinking you're vorth the tears?>"
    The drab furred canine caught her breath as she reached up and began to gently stroke the vixen's dark, lustrous hair, a solemn look on her face. "<This... this girl is vhy I raised eyes to his excellency. He... he vanted me to cut her, to...  all to save his own skin...>"
    She gave a distracted shake of her head. "<N-no... not to save himself... The Sylvanians vere offering him terms... fair terms... he ordered it out of pride... e-even vorse... out of spite. He... he vas a brute... the vorst kind of brute...>"
    Marta gathered Kaleia up into her arms, holding her like a drowning soul holds a lifeline.
    She looked over at Vanya with tears streaming down her face. "<You are right, girl. I am a fool. I cannot veep for that... that monster... Now... now I must veep for all of the orders I followed faithfully... vithout ever qvestioning... vithout saying no...>"
    A long, low moan sounded from her throat.
    Her grey eyes blinked open as she felt another set of arms around her, and she looked to see Vanya hugging her, a resplendent smile on her face.

    The golden furred canine planted a soft kiss on her cheek. "<You do understand! I also have done many things under the vulfs' heel that I vill carry vith me until I die. But they are in the past. It is vhat you choose to do next that counts. You are a good dog, Marta. You are free.>"
    The drab furred canine broke down again, weeping freely from a lightened heart, as the two smaller females held her up in their embrace.

    A short while later, Zoltan hefted the final disarmed mine, his mighty arms tightly wrapped around its spherical shell as he gripped the seam with his sinewy hands. A trail of deep footprints had been stomped in the packed sand of the beach as he'd carried the ordinance back to the shack at the head of the dock, moving carefully at the warning of the Sylvanian females.
    As he wheeled around to begin his final trudge to the shed, a tentative, broken voice called out to him over the ocean's rush.
    His eyes bulged from their sockets as he saw Marta, standing on the beach before him, a bright sarong wrapped around her athletic body as she stood with her arms draped across the shoulders of petite, golden furred Vanya and the pretty red furred native girl. The bright morning sun seemed to turn her fur to a warm silver, as a fragile smile blossomed beneath shining grey eyes.
    The mine dropped from his nerveless hands and embedded itself in the sand at his feet with a thud, as someone behind him shouted out in alarm.
    The others all uncovered their heads and pulled their muzzles up from sand or sea water, staring in disbelief as Zoltan stepped unheeding over the dull metal sphere and staggered forward to the canine female standing before him with his broad hands spread wide. She walked towards him, and he took her into his mighty arms, his bull shoulders shaking as he drew her to his massive chest.
    The two dogs stood, softly weeping in one another's embrace as a warm breeze blew in from the ocean.

The Gaze: The Glass Goose - story section division - Art & story be Warren Hutch

    As soon as things had calmed down and everyones' hearts had stopped racing, a curious gathering had assembled in the meeting hut around Marta, who sat cross legged in Zoltan's lap with the hem of her sarong raised, blushing self consciously as Jane prodded at the shaved patch on her belly.
    Dorothy stood nearby, scrutinizing the canine female with her uncanny vision. She had seen plenty of nasty wounds in her day, and the one that had laid the silver furred female out yesterday certainly qualified, but it was nowhere in evidence today. The skin, abdominal muscle, and viscera were perfectly sound and undamaged.
    The rabbit doe looked up at her with a searching expression and cocked ears as she allowed the canine's sarong to settle back into place. "Care t' explain whut's goin' on here, darlin'?"
    Marta gave a halting glance back at Zoltan, and squeezed Vanya's hand before she spoke. "V-vell, if you please, ma'am. My Zoltan and I are not normal dogs. Ve have had... experimental treatments, and much special training, to... to make us more... useful to the vulfs. Zoltan vas given a formula known as K-two. It is vhat has made him so big and tough. I vas given formula K-three. It made me faster, stronger. Much more so than a normal bitch, almost on a par vith a she-vulf. I did not know that it vould allow me to heal such a terrible vound overnight, but that is the only explanation I can give."
    Heywood Cord chimed in, a hard look settling on his features as he steepled his webbed fingers in front of him. "This is alarming news, that the Steppenwulf have such a thing at their disposal. I'll need to inform my superiors of this as soon as possible, and the free world needs to be warned as well."
    Marta shook her head, gazing at him levelly. "It is not perfected, if you please, sir. K-two leaves most of its subjects hopelessly simpleminded and prone to outbursts of violence. Little more than animals." She reached up and fondly stroked Zoltan's cheek. "Vith some lucky exceptions, and K-three has killed over half of its test subjects. And these effects are even vorse for the vulfs who have taken it."
    Jane stroked her chin, her eyes narrowing. "K-two... K-three... Hang on a minute. That K wouldn't stand fer 'Kerr', would it?"
    Both Zoltan and Marta's eyes widened at the name, and the female canine let out a gasp, nodding emphatically. "Vhy... vhy yes. Doctor Kerr! He is a dog from Transvald. A scientist."
    She hugged herself, shuddering as Zoltan laid a huge, comforting hand on her shoulder. "He frightens me. He frightens the vulfs, even. He is brilliant, a genius, but a terrible vun. He vorks vith the vulfs freely, under special commission from the Prime Alpha himself."
    She bowed her head, as if trying to banish images from her mind. "The suffering Zoltan and I endured under his excellency vas nothing compared to the long nightmare ve undervent in that... maniac's laboratory."

     Loretta turned and looked quizzically at Jane, a frown furrowing her brow over her natural dark mask. "So I take it you've heard of this guy?"
    The rabbit doe pursed her lips and gave her a curt nod. "Yeah... Lets jest say he's definitely one fer th' history books." She exchanged a meaningful glance with Dorothy. "And not th' ones that leave y'feelin' better fer havin' read 'em..."
    All heads turned at the sound of a pair of hands slapping on the table, and Loretta stood, her grey eyes smoldering. "All right, that's it. I've gotta get to work on those mines. There's another one of those rotten wolves' little science projects floating around out there, and we're gonna put a stop to it."
    She looked around at the assembly as they looked up at her. "You all have to understand, my Dad's a scientist. I'm an engineer. He raised me to believe in the potential science holds for all kindreds. Every "mad scientist", every power crazy despot, every thug with an agenda who takes that promise and turns it to death and misery is an insult to everything I stand for. I won't stand for it."
    She turned on her heel and headed for the door, pausing as she looked back at them, meeting Dorothy's gaze and beckoning her with a jerk of her head. "I'll be in the red shed. Missus Pearl, I could use your eyes for this job."
    The feline nodded gravely, and crossed the room to fall into step behind her. As she followed the young raccoon, she noticed Loretta's lashing tail was adding a degree of animation even to the inert prosthetic bottom half as it trailed in her wake.

        The Gaze: The Glass Goose