The day that Black Dog became a legend was foggy, but that’s really no surprise for the boggy swamp-dotted Ireland. Black Dog was a floppy dog, with matted hair and hauntingly arctic blue eyes and pointy ears. Its walk was jaunty like a pirate’s parrot and if he had a little pudge on him, well who could tell. That happy mutt seemed to have narrowed his life goals down to one strict idea; helping people. He’d patter through the countryside, pulling up next to lost people whenever he spotted them. Black Dog had a keen sense of direction. He’d roll out a bright pink tongue and plod along beside them, nudging gently when they veered in the wrong direction like a sheep dog to its herd. The people were usually weary, but seeing as he never did them any harm, they followed the dog’s administrations. It’s not like they had anything better to do. Sometimes they rewarded him with bits of meat upon their happy homecoming and well, Black Dog would never refuse a gift, it would be quite rude. One night in the thick of November, a drunk man was swerving where he assumed was home. It, however, was a rather deep and rotting swamp. He bobbed and weaved, heaving out a whispered and coarse ditty, foggy from the cold. He cut himself short by the wet kiss on the back of his gorilla-like hand. “Oi!” Then he glanced down, disoriented mind registering nothing but two blue orbs and shining white teeth. The jovial ‘ruff’ that emitted from the dog told the man that the thing was, indeed, a dog and not an evil apparition coming for his soul. “Ge’on mutt! Ain’t got no food.” The man growled down at the mongrel, eyes slightly crazed as he scratched at the dark scruff painting his face. Black Dog was not easily swayed though, and he just nosed gently against the man’s hand like a teacher telling a small child not to play with the electric socket. He padded ahead and made a wide, over exaggerated U-turn, ending up on the other side of the man. He wagged his tail and panted out an invitation. The man gave a violently rough cough and trudged onward, not even registering the figure that appeared nebulously beside the dog, its form black and gaseous, fading in and out of sight like a smoke signal on a cloudy day. You see, Black Dog has a companion, a not completely human friend. True, that was the form she usually took on, but she was never more than a parody of humanity and its shortcomings. Its rancor, its crusty disdain, its juicy cruelty. Its chaos. And as she embodied it, it became her one goal in life to cause it. The more the merrier, or so she told her friend. If her life were to be put onto a timeline, it’s beginning would be shrouded in darkness, it’s dates causing what should be a linear model to loop back onto itself. She tried to cool her hot flashes in the violently cold Viking countryside, passing the time by casually mentioning to an irritable friend named Grendel that “perhaps those men next door are being a tad too loud.” That being said, she didn’t go through puberty until she had ventured onto a ship lifetimes later, procuring that same vessel with less than honorable methods. She later found she liked playing the pirate game, and she especially liked it when they thought they were the ones running the show. So cute, like little black bearded moths fluttering drunkenly around a candle. That was the form, that greasy, wild, sooty form, in which she met her dog. The companion will argue with anyone who will listen that she found Black Dog, but anyone who saw it (though they’re all dead) would swear that Black Dog found her. Black Dog found everyone. The woman and her weary crew had been in the middle of the too blue Caribbean Sea, heading back towards port when Black Dog decided to show himself. The crew had been hiding him behind some barrels in the bottom of the ship since they found him sniffing around the crow’s next. They took turns slipping him food and petting him, though the further out they got the more restless he grew, always trying to escape their ever-watchful gaze. He wanted something, but they couldn’t figure out what. And he quite obviously hadn’t honed his sneaking skills to the level they needed to be at to get past keen, but very drunk, pirates. One morning, the female buccaneer, covered in so much grime that her crew couldn’t see the woman in the pirate, came out of her cabin to see the floppy dog leaning against the rails with his face plunged into the sea breeze, taffy-colored tongue waving wildly. The sheer ridiculousness of the image struck the woman for a moment, but she recovered rather quickly and took a few steps over to the mutt, put her hands under his feet, then flipped him headfirst into the ocean with nary a grunt. She spit after him and turned away, her dingy blond hair whipping into her face. “I appreciate the sentiment but I don’t eat dog.” The same dog showed up in the back alley behind a pub the next month. The woman was nearly passed out on some stockpiled barrels of alcohol, a groan and a curse on her lips. He licked her hand and walked her dazed form back to her boat like some fuzzy guardian angel. In return she pushed him off the dock. He continued to show up, night after night until it seemed like she was testing him just to see if he would. He became a weird, quadruped mystery to her. Two months later she let the dog onto her ship. The companion tried to teach him to be a guard dog, or at least bite on command, or, for God’s Sake, bark. Black Dog had exactly none of that, and rewarded her every command with a rather surprising vertical jump and a wet lick to the face. It was particularly counterproductive in trying to build a fearsome reputation as a woman on a pirate ship. A small Portuguese man who’s name no one could quite figure out began to keep a few feet away from the mongrel at nearly all times. It perturbed the woman so, having that constant feeling of being watched over her shoulder. She snapped.“You got a problem?” she hissed vehemently, turning on the man and brandishing a rather promising smirk. The man didn’t even look at her. He just smiled a crooked three toothed smile and said “guia” then patted the dog on the head with an air of deep appreciation. The dog licked his hand and fell back onto his hunches, allowing the man to fondle his ears joyfully. The woman really had no idea what the man had said, let alone who he was and why he was on her ship, he just was one day and she couldn’t make him leave. She was obviously going to have to try harder. Together, the woman and the dog died a romantic death, cannonballs peppering the side of their ship. The woman refused to abandon ship, but she died with a curse bubbling out from a bloody smile smeared across her ash encrusted face. Black Dog found her in her next life, and the one after that and the one after that. Black Dog always found her, or him as one occasion found them in. The poor dog still felt like he had the stench of dead prostitute on him and as much as he was a sucker for camp, he felt like she really went over the quota for Jack the Ripper. She really didn’t need to provoke the police with half a kidney. She was just out of her mind on absinthe and Black Dog was just upset it took him five whores to find the key to the liquor cabinet and chuck it. No one needs drunken chaos. Not even chaos embodied. In her current, nebulously beelike life, the woman had something bust inside of her. Every shape shifting ability or little sleight of hand rushed through her now, allowing her practically everything. Through it all, all the generations and all the problems, Black Dog remained his loyal self, and at that moment his loyal self was turning around to try and regain the man’s attention. He ignored the woman’s hisses to forget the man. This time he was going to lead the charge, and this time it was going to end well, so he blatantly turned his head as she went behind the man and made quite a spectacle of dragging her fingernail up the drunken man’s spine. She shifted behind the man, cold, sparking eyes regarding the dog. He won’t get hurt. But the cold spitfire chaos roiling in her told her otherwise. This man could do damage, it’s in him- It’s in everyone. Black Dog let out a whimper to try and gain the man’s attention but the woman tugged a singular hair on the back of the man’s neck, that one hair that trails down to the irritation roiling steadily on the afterburners of any man. His hand snapped back to swat what he imagined was a mosquito, left hand decorated with a gold wedding band worn with age. That made the chaos bringer feel so much better about what she was about to do; it was no fun snaring apart fresh bonds. These were old and strong and lived in, interwoven so strongly with other’s that to tear one was to tear them all and this family was about to be spinning on the wrong side like a badly built top. Once, the dog asked the woman why she did what she did in a series of whines and low growls. The woman answered back in a happy growl of her own, one that carried not an ounce of menace but still managed to rattle the not-quite-there bones of the dog. Because it leaves an aftertaste. She bent down to the man’s ear, suddenly feeling so at home as she had at the shoulder of Grendal, at the helm with Teach. She hissed out her words in a voice so low it could’ve been the man’s conscience. He’s just a dog. Black Dog knew exactly what the woman was doing and he didn’t appreciate it one bit. He made a small noise at the back of his throat, but it only alerted the slightly twitching man. “Dog,” the man warned, “get. I don’t want you near me.” Black Dog just plopped in front of the man, perking his pointy ears and imperiously blocked the path. He tried to convey his innocence, but the woman’s slight nudging had completely turned the man off to everything besides the now gaping hole of irritation open in his gut. The man tried to redirect himself with a rumbling growl, but the dog simply held his paw out, a sign in any language to stop. Any language, except drunkard. The finger ran its course down his spine again and the man let out a strangled cry of stomach churning irritation and drunken fantasies. He lashed his leg out at the dog. Against the man’s realm of belief, it went right through, sailing through Black Dog’s head and only stopping when the hands of the companion wrapped themselves around the ankle and wrenched it out of socket. The poor man would’ve screamed, but his tongue had been torn out before he got a chance. The next day around midday a few young children found a slim, slimy mass of flesh floating in the bog. They had no way of knowing it was the face of a man. A man who’d been pressed face down into sludge just far enough to cause a panic. She daintily ripped him apart, starting with his toes and then working up and plucking out his lungs with a satisfied schlick of ripping flesh. So, being children, they slid a stick through a hole, his right eye socket coincidentally, and flung it at each other. The body of the man was not found in one grand discovery by a poor widowed woman who might or might not have a heart attack at the sight. It was found gradually and in some cases unknowingly by different people over the course of a month. A good eight of his toes ended up in different pig slops over the countryside in an attempt by the woman to make a human-eating pig. The project fell through, but she lost interest before it even got a chance to fail. A crow found his gall bladder a few miles away, but accidentally dropped his meaty prize onto a piece of toast a small child was eating by a tree. The woman slipped a pinky into a poor family’s meat grinder. The shape shifter helped herself to a few choice pieces of meat, smacking her lips obscenely at the popping of the ligaments and the cracking of the bones as she muscled out the marrow. Her friend watched with disgruntled nausea. The dog continued to help people, but events such as these happened four more times before he stopped, giving into the woman’s childish demands to just stop trying to help. He’d attempted to lower the risk of death by helping women who he assumed had a gentler disposition. Obviously not, as incident number five happened with a woman. At first she simply smacked the dog reproachfully on the nose, but then she hiked up her skirts and kicked out a foot with a rather unladylike shriek. Her earless head was found on the doorstep by her two children the next day, once green eyes lightly fogged over in passing. Black Dog never quite grasped why the shape shifter killed the people who could actually do no harm to him, but he’d given up trying to understand his friend many many lifetimes ago. If he even tried to ask he just got more confused. So he just gave up, figuring the people would eventually get home. Hopefully. Whether they got home or not he’d be more helpful if he took the time to grow opposable thumbs and made maps. They finished out that lifetime and many more with fewer incidents, and generations later found them in a Vermont Circus tent, the woman chuckling into a decrepit leather backed book. The dog regarded her wearily. “Apparently you’re Satan, dog,” her syrupy voice caught in another chuckle as she swung the book around to show her companion the picture of a huge black shadowy dog standing on its back legs, its maw separated in a howl. Black Dog whimpered and backtracked a step. His gaze was equal parts distraught and accusatory. It’s your fault. The woman took a languid drag from a half-smoked cigar and puffed it imperiously, her eyes slitting luxuriously like a minx with a mouse. “Yes, well, stop being nice and I won’t be mean.” As the dog’s scrutiny remained unchanged, she gave a long suffering sigh, as if annoyed at having to continue to dredge up the same excuse. “People just aren’t worth it. They’re as wicked as I am so I get to make my fun.” The dog regarded her now with an air of pity as he rubbed his rather large head against her limp hand, and his small whine cut across perfectly clear as she ran nimble fingers through the knotting fur crossing his neck. You make them that way.