The Speed of Life - Chapter 1
Once upon a time, there was a little girl.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy.
Once upon a time, there was a spark of life,
That never stopped giving its light.
"Let's get married one day!"
"We could buy lots of animals! Ponies~ Cats~ Dogs~ We can buy lots of shoes too! And hats~ You can buy the skateboard you wanted."
"What's wrong? Do you not like shopping?"
"No, I don't understand why we should get married. Why can't I marry Emmie? Or Lucy? ...or Ernest?"
"Because Ernest is a boy and the other girls aren't as lovely as me~ Mummy says adults get married. We can't get married yet~ Hmm...mummy says adults are 18 and onwards, we have maybe ten years or more! I can't count that far with my 10 fingers haha."
"See? You look nice when you smile! If you can smile forever then many things will be nice...forever...that's a long word. Do you want to marry me forever?"
"...okay. But what if we can't be married forever?"
"Daddy says forever ends with something called DEATH. If there is no forever...then let's die together...!"
"Yeah~! You can kill yourself from not looking at the road carefully! That's why mummy holds my hand all the time."
"...d-die...from the road?"
"Yeah...it's scary. Ernest was reading a biigg book and he told me your guts fly out and your brain explodes! Then you are gone forever. Heehee~ It's the long word again."
"...I...I DON'T WANNA DIE...!"
The little boy turned away and ran home. All the way home where he hid under a table, clutching one of its legs shaking.
"Honey I'm home~"
"Honey? Oh-- What are you doing here under the table? Come on out, it's dusty there."
"No? Don't say that to mummy, come out here, I'll have to wash those clothes of yours again."
"What is it young soldier? Have you seen a monster around here?"
"Oh-- or are you playing hide and seek?"
"No...mummy, is it true forever ends with death?"
"Aw~ Who told you that?"
"Don't worry about it. There's nothing called death."
"I'm not~ Do you know anyone who's died? Death doesn't exist. Forever won't end with death. Now come on out, I've told you the table is dusty."
"...I know the old man died last year..."
"...Mr Robins? He didn't die~ Come on young soldier, don't say Mr Robins is dead, it's not nice."
"But he IS dead...I heard everyone say it."
"Don't you worry. Come outside. Or else...the monsters will think you're a dusty boy and they love eating dusty things..!"
He crawled out from under the table but the next morning when his mother went to work, he invited Ernest over; the smartest boy in the town.
"Ernest...how do you die? ...can you stop it?"
"For your information, death is a process of aging. And my mama says aging cannot be stopped, though she says she looks years younger when she puts on a special cream called the Anti-Wrinkle Cream. A wrinkle is--"
"Can you stop aging?"
"Don't interrupt me..! But, aging is controlled by something called time."
"...Ernest, can you stop time?"
"I've never tried. But its silly to come to conclusions at such a fast rate."
"...then I'll try Ernest! I'll stop time and aging! I will be like the Anti-Winking Cream!"
"It's not Anti-Winking, it's Anti-Wrin--"
"That's okay...! Buh-bye. Thank you Ernest."
Pushing his friend out the door, the little boy locked it shut and clung to the table again. He thought if he could stay in one position for a long period of time and not move, time would not move with him as well.
He thought he had stopped time from moving.
He thought he wouldn't age.
Or wouldn't die.
But he did.
His parents couldn't get home. They couldn't find the little boy either when the police broke into the house.
The little boy was a clever one but was stubborn at times. Hearing his parents come home, he knew they would make time move again so he quickly went out the back door, ran off somewhere away from the houses and sat under a tree where he slowly but eventually starved and froze to death...
The Speed of Life - Chapter 2
A few years later, the spirit of the little boy wandered into the Afterlife.
"Hello~ Hello~!" he waved to the passing people like him. They had all died but by this age, he was old enough to know he was stubborn to starve and freeze to death. He knew he didn't stop time and now he was in the Afterlife, having wasted his life when he could have grown up. And maybe he would have married her.
"Yuni...hm..I wonder what she's doing now?"
"Hm?!" the boy looked around. "...yes..."
"Who was she?"
The boy looked around again. Who said that? "Um...she was a good friend of mine. Who are you?"
"I'm getting older each day."
Looking around at elder looking people, the boy couldn't find who was speaking. "Why don't you show yourself?"
"I'm right here."
When he looked down at his feet, he saw a small dog looking back at him with dark eyes. Its fur was a cream colour and it seemed to be wrapped in bandages at the center of its torso.
The dog wagged its tail and barked, "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"You're a talking dog..."
"A dead talking dog, yes. My name is Button, and yours?"
"Button? That suits...you." the boy looked quizzically at the creature before him. He had no idea why it was named Button. It wasn't round like one. It didn't wear any. maybe it was its round eyes. "I'm Anthony..."
"Why don't people ever give their surnames these days...?" the dog's tail stopped wagging and Anthony opened his mouth to speak again.
"I'm Anthony Kanata. What's your surname Button?"
"I don't have a surname." the dog turned around, tail flicking left and right before a wheezy chuckle came from its mouth.
"You don't?" Anthony furowed his brows feeling cheated. He had told Button his surname, why didn't Button tell him? Because he has no surname...that makes sense but...then why did he have to ask for mine when he won't give me his? Not fair...
"I don't. You're an interesting boy, I like you."
"Um...thank you Button. You're an interesting doggy too." he scratched the back of his head, feeling a little enlighted he was considered interesting.
"Because I talk?"
"No, no. Not because you talk!"
"Because of my name?"
"No not because you don't have a surname! You're just...interesting..."
Button looked back at Anthony. "Interesting you say? I am honored. I've always been the stray dog, it's good to know I'm interesting."
I was thinking the same...I'm not really interesting am I? Anthony thought.
"Do you live here?"
"Hm? I don't live here. But I've been here longer than you have boy."
"Where did...you come from?"
"I'm a stray dog." another wheezy laugh came from Button, "I don't really belong anywhere."
"How did you end up here? Oh-- no, I didn't mean to ask...! I was just you know...curious of how you got here..."
"Simple. I got run over by a car."
"E-eh?!" Anthony jumped back a little. Now he understood the bandages. "On the road?!"
"Yes on the road. By a Sedan if you like it. I'm glad it was over quick."
Anthony didn't quite understand why. "Did your brains explode?"
"Nonsense Anthony! Do I look like my brain has exploded?" Button replied, turning around and looking at the boy in the eye.
"Sorry, it's just Ernest told me-- wait no, Yuni told me Ernest told her that your guts fly out and your brain explodes."
"Have you kids been watching too many movies? I only just got several broken ribs. Damaged lungs that's all. Hehe, you really are interesting Anthony. Do you believe in everything you're told?"
"No! Not really. I just don't read books and Ernest is the smartest kid around town..." he kicked at the ground with his hands behind his back. I'm not that smart compared to Ernest...
Button seemed to smile, showing his slightly blunt teeth, "You should read more, maybe I'll take you to the library someday."
"Eh?! There's a library here?!"
"In the Afterlife there's all sorts of things to keep the spirits active. If you're not fit, go to the gym. Since you're not highly educated, go to the library."
"You seem new around here. How long have you been here?"
"Five years." Anthony gave a shy chuckle, "I don't explore much."
"...five years. I had the map of the area at the top of my head. I even memorized every smell."
"Like I said, I don't explore much." Anthony replied to Button.
"You should go outside more."
Anthony nodded, sighing as he put his hands on his hips, "I will."
There was a moment of silence before Button trotted around and behind Anthony.
"How did you end up here boy?"
"Um...it's very stupid really. And really simple."
"You don't seem the type to be run over." Button said blandly.
"No, no! I didn't get run over like you did. I mean, no offence!"
"None taken..." Button's ears flapped as he lay down, resting his head on his paws. "So tell me."
"I starved to death. See it's stupid really, I sat under a tree thinking I stopped time and aging. I didn't eat because if I moved, that means time was moving too." said Anthony, feeling great embarrassment after saying it out loud. His tupidity, shared with a dog.
"Eh? That's all you have to say?"
Button looked up, "What else is there to say about such a sad story. There were many more exciting ways to die."
"EH?! You LIKE dying?"
"No, I don't." Button kept his head down again. "It's just...you died in such a wasted way. By the looks of it, you're probably just a young teen now. Think of all the years you would be experiencing if not for death at such a young age."
"...I thought about that this morning..."
Anthony sat down on the ground, crossing his legs, "I thought about how I missed everyone and what they would look like; my friends Yuni, Ernest, Lucy and Emmie. But...I don't see them anymore..."
"Of course you don't you're in the Afterlife. They're very well still alive."
There was a sigh from Anthony before he felt something on his lap. Button had hopped on and curled into a ball.
"It's a bit lonely here isn't it?" Button asked with its eyes shut.
"I've made a few friends here."
"Friends? Aren't they all souls wandering?"
"No, they're friends. People that talk to you."
"People that talk to you? Everyone here has only given me food. I'm used to it as a stray. If you mean talking...then you're my first friend Anthony. I am honoured."
"Your first friend? You're not kidding?"
"..." there was no reply from Button, in fact the dog had fallen asleep.
"Well...thanks." Anthony mumbled. "Goodnight doggy~ I mean, Button."
*sniff* these feels though.
The Speed of Life - Chapter 3
When morning came, Button was surprised he was in a room with a familiar smell. It wasn't where he usually slept behind alleys. I think I know this place...the bakery? No... he sniffed the air again. Hmm...BEHIND the bakery! his tail wagged and he looked around, tongue hanging loose from his mouth as he made his way over to where he smelt the boy.
"Strange, the boy sleep here?"
He found Anthony asleep on a sack of flour. Laying down on the ground, his tail stopped wagging and he made a low whining sound to see if the boy would wake up.
"Anthony, Anthony..." Button sat up, ears flapping as Anthony slowly woke up, rubbing at his eyes before a wide smile spread to his face, "G-Goodmorning Button, did you sleep we--" and he slipped back, sliding off the sack and falling behind the stack. "Ouch."
Button's ears drooped and quickly ran over to the back, "You're not hurt boy?"
"Nope~ Haha, I'm fine! Still healthy!" the boy waved his hand and stood up, dusting off the flour on his pants. He noticed Button wag his tail fast and sniff in the air, "Oh, are you hungry? Every morning when I wake up to the smell of baked buns, I tend to get hungry.." he then pat his stomach and chuckled.
"Oh yes, the smell is indeed pleasant. Do you always sleep here? It's a nice place, different to mine."
"Oh sorry! Do you not like it here? I shouldn't have moved you here--"
"It's okay boy. It smells better here. Closer to food too." Button replied, sniffing the ground for a trail.
"You really don't mind?"
"Not a bit."
Anthony grinned, "Really?! You know what? If you don't mind and if mother was here, I would want to keep you! Oh, I didn't mean to say you were a pet or anything!" he waved both his hands apologetically. "Yeah...you're an interesting doggy~"
Button looked back and up at Anthony before he barked, "That's good, a home at last if your mother says yes."
"Aw but she's not in the Afterlife..." there was a sigh from Anthony.
"Don't feel down boy. It means you could keep me without asking her, think to the bright side."
"Bright side?" the boy followed after Button, out the back and towards the bakery where several people were already lined up to get fresh buns in the morning.
Button nodded, though it wasn't quite visible since his head was already moving about sniffing. "I've been thinking to the bright side since I got here. No damage done being run over, I'm still a live here. So there's no damage if you've already died. Don't you think?"
"Okay, yeah that makes sense Button. You're a wise doggy!"
"Wise?" he gave a wheezy laugh, "Thank you."
Button went through past the queue and then he spun around abruptly. "...do you hear that boy?"
"Hear what?" Anthony blinked, cupping his ears towards the air.
"That whistling sound."
"Oh that sound? I hear it every month." he beamed proudly, "I'm glad I'm not deaf~"
"So aren't I but do you know what it is?" Button asked, eyes seeming to gleam.
"No...hehe...I'm not well educated right?"
Button wagged his tail, "Don't worry about education now, I'll tell you. It's the Whistle of Freedom." he then stopped wagging his tail, letting it drop slowly, "All souls from the Afterlife can leave once they fulfill their wishes."
"Oh...like you mean, they can leave the Afterlife? How do they do that?!"
"They board a giant ship. I've seen it up close a few years ago. It was a little spooky to me so I never went to watch it again. I watched the souls board the ship and then when the whistle blows, the same one you heard, a giant gate closes and they sail off into the mist...they never come back."
"...that's...a little spooky you're right. Where do they go?"
"They definitely don't come back, they're not in the Afterlife anymore."
Anthony blinked before he nodded slowly, "I see now...is that the only way to leave? My wish is a little complicated..."
"There are other ways like going against what you usually believe. To have a serious offending criminal want to get arrested, that would be another way of leaving the Afterlife. That example I've seen too. A robber just ran out one day in the centre of the town and yelled 'FREE ME.' when the cops came around, clicked the handcuffs around his wrist and he vanished." Button paused, "What is your wish?"
"To be happy." Anthony answered honestly.
"You want to be happy?"
Button was quiet for a moment, "Don't you worry. If you want to be gone from the Afterlife, I'm sure you'll be happy."
"I will learn to be. Do you have a wish?"
Button thought for a long time. "No actually, I don't have one."
Anthony felt cheated again. Aww...he has no wish and I told him mine... Not fair.
"I will have one soon maybe. None at the moment, but I don't really mind dying. I don't mind being dead either. If I were to die again I wouldn't complain about it boy. Maybe it's just me, a dead stray talking dog."
"Oh no, that's not odd! Its quite nice, I like it!"
"Are you sure? You seem to like everything I say."
"That's because you're interesting Button."
"...I am honoured." the dog nodded and sniffed again, "Do you want to have buns for breakfast or noodles? I can smell both."
It was Anthony's turn to think. "Um....buns? The bakery is nearby anyway~"
"Alright. The queue's getting longer." he scurried to get a spot and Anthony followed.
Waiting patiently they were given a bun each for two coins.
Sitting back where the sacks of flours were stored in the warehouse, they both munched on the buns they had.
"It's still warm Button~!"
"Mn hm..." the dog was too busy chomping on the buns.
"Don't eat too fast you'll choke!"
"Nothing to worry about, I won't die again." Button joked and swallow it whole.
"...you're hungry Button. I'll get you some more!" Anthony got up dashing out the door soon returning with a bag.
Button's ears flapped, "You've got too much boy! I can't finish all of that!"
"We can do it together with half. You have five, I'll have five."
"...maths, you're not bad at that."
"It's easy to half ten..." Anthony said pointing at the bag.
"Haha, well, let's eat."
The Speed of Life - Chapter 4
For a few weeks, Anthony and Button spent their days together, waking up in the warehouse and to fresh buns at the bakery.
"Tell me boy, have you ever wanted to explore the Afterlife?"
Anthony looked up from his new stack of coins he had collected. "What do you mean?"
"You said you don't explore much." Button sat on his bottom, tail flat on the ground as he looked at the boy.
"Yeah~ I have wanted to explore but I don't know my way around haha..." he scratched the back of his head awkwardly then mumbled, "I didn't want to get lost...you know, in case I can't find a cozy shelter and stuff..."
"Well, I could take you exploring boy. Do you still want to? I won't force you to." Button looked into the boy's eyes. For a moment Anthony seemed to stare back at the dog.
"Sure!" he stood up, dusting off the flour on his pants. "Now?"
"Are you ready?"
"Then we can go now." Button gave a quick smile and then wagged his tail, going out of the warehouse and stopped to check that Anthony was following before he broke into a run, "Quick boy, I want to show you a special lake."
Anthony jogged after him, looking back from time to time, trying to remember which directions he took, "Where are we going Button?"
"To this lake I used to go to alot. I'll show you!" Button sounded highly excited and ran faster, his paws blurring and his ears flapping in the wind.
"Wait wait, you're running too fast...!" Anthony called out, slowing down slightly before forcing himself to run faster.
Although Button looked rather old, he was much more fit than the boy and was much ahead of him. It seemed to be endless timeless running until Button abruptly stopped, almost having Anthony knock into him.
Button sniffed the air as if to confirm the place and gave a bark.
"Whoa..." the boy looked around. The place wasn't too big, just a small patch of grass but standing before Button was a small tree, beside it -- the lake.
"Do you like it?"
"What do you mean? I love it, I mean this is like the coolest place in the world!" the boy threw his hands in the air, "How did you find this lake Button~?"
"It's a long story boy." he walked over to the side, sitting once again and gazing into the water. "What a wonderful reflection..." there was no hint of sadness in his eyes at all. The dog just stared into the water as Anthony ran around, picking leaf samples and laughing to himself.
"Button, can you tell me how you found this place? It's so big~!"
"It's not big.."
"Yes it is!"
"...alright if you say so boy. I'll tell you. Before when I first arrived, I was very unhappy about not being able to do anything. So here, another dog I meat here told me I should explore more. Maria was her name but she went with her owner Victoria leaving the Afterlife. She was a fine Maltese..."
"Oh...she never came back?"
"No, nobody ever comes back from leaving the Afterlife boy. But Maria told me to explore, took me around places and one day we came up this small bush. Originally it was barely a small tree, just a shrub but look at how much it's grown. We threw the smoothest stone we could find into the lake and...you can still see it. See that boy?"
Anthony peered into the lake. Surely at the bottom of the lake there was a glinting dark stone. It was grey but almost like a pebble. "It sure is smooth Button~"
"It is isn't it? Maria and I spent ages looking for the smoothest stone. Victoria came around looking for her a few times but we managed after a few searches." Button began panting happily.
"It didn't take you the same day to find it?"
Button turned his head to Anthony, "No boy, it took us a few days." he got up and walked over to the small tree, "I call this the birth of Maria; Lady Maria."
"The birth of Maria, Lady Maria?"
"Well, the tree is named Lady Maria but it reminds me of Maria."
"...Maria seems important."
"She is." Button wagged his tail, "I would say she wouldn't want to live with a stray but we were happy together."
"Now Maria's not here...are you sad Button? Sorry-- I didn't mean anything bad...! I just..."
"It's alright boy." Button lay down, rolling onto his back where his pale stomach showed, "Maria is history, now I've got you Anthony."
"Oh...still...having Maria gone is like having Yuni gone...and Ernest...and Lucy, and Emmie. You still feel sad don't you?" Anthony frowned, feeling a little upset that Button's good friend Maria had to leave.
"A little, at first. I was heartbroken. But then, things turned out alright. I found more dogs, even puppies."
"Mn hm, a pair of twin Malamutes called Mala and Mute haha."
"Mala and Mute?"
"I could show you them, they're getting big for size." Button rolled back to the right side, but for now lets take a sniff more of this air. I haven't been here for a long time since Maria left."
The boy nodded, "Kay~"
For a while they stayed there until Button led the way back, but as Anthony though he was going to turn to the warehouse, he moved towards a garage.
"They're in here." he sniffed the air and soon, two giant dogs bolted out. They looked fierce as they ran towards the two and Anthony felt his knees wobble.
"B-Button, they're huge doggies...!"
"They won't hurt~"
And Button was right, they skidded to a halt and began to lick Button's face, "Uncle Butts!"
"Aw, come on don't call me that."
"Uncle Butts, Uncle Butts!" they jumped around wagging their tails before they circle Anthony, "A new guy!" Mute growled in joy. Mala licked Anthony's hand kindly, "He smells nice." she said.
"Alright kids, you're going to scare the boy." Button chuckled his signature wheezy one.
"Aww...but Uncle Butts..."
"Don't call me that, it sounds funny."
Anthony couldn't help but laugh softly, even though he had tensed up when they circled him. "So...which one's Mala and which one's Mute?" he asked, blinking.
"Mala is the beautiful one here, and Mute is the energetic one, not that they're already bursting with energy." Button said.
Mala kept her head low almost like a bow and Mute barked then howled. "Uncle Butts is the coolest guy ever!"
"He's a little small though~" Mala giggled.
"You are a little small...I mean-- you're awesome as small, but what breed are you Button?" Anthony asked.
"Havanese, can't you tell boy?"
Anthony nodded, "Button told me that."
"Uncle Butts...!" they whined, "That's not fun!"
For a while they played together, Anthony being knocked over by the two most of the time then they wagged their tails and left back to the warehouse behind the bakery.
"See it's not too bad here without Maria." Button said.
"Well...yeah...but I would have taken ages to get used to new friends away from Yuni and the others."
"You opened up to me."
"You're different...you're an interesting doggy~"
"I know I know~"