“Where is here?”
Rusty grinned, nodded, and then licked the end of his nose with his tongue.
“Here is a place where the likes of us end up—the lonely souls who don’t belong. I was once like you. Out of place and out of time, my days spent drifting around not knowing where to go. The older my human body grew, the more my mind unravelled until, one day, I found myself stood upon a great bridge with the intention of throwing myself into the river that flowed below. With one foot over the edge, I was about to do it when the music came to me in the breeze. I wasn’t sure it was real at first. Thought it might have been some hallucination brought on by my frazzled state, but it was as real as the beat of my frightened heart. It stopped me from letting go and pulled me to safety.”
“Was there one who came for you as you came for me?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said with a glint in his eye. “A dog found me by the side of the road. I was crying my eyes out not knowing what to do. He stayed with me until I regained my composure, and then he led me here. Like you, I didn’t know what to think or say, but when I gave myself to the light, my mind cleared, and I saw life for what it was. Once you look beyond that which has no meaning, you break free of your shackles and find beauty in all things.”
“What was the dog’s name?”
“Penny, if you must know. She was a runaway. Like me, like you, like Prudence and so many others. She heard the music, and she too had sought its source.”
“And what became of her?” I asked with one ear on his words and the other on the music that caused the fur on my body to stand on end.
“She’s still around, in the light somewhere. We all exist in the light.”
Snapping his head from side to side, he yawned and sneezed and then licked his nose again.
“This place—it seeks out those who seek something more. You seek two things. I can see them quite clearly.”
“What do you see?”
“I see a desire to turn away from an uncaring world, and above all else, I see Prudence—burning in your mind as bright as the brightest of stars. I dare say there was a time when you pushed her to one side, but now you’re drawn to her in the same way we are. She seeks the light, and yet she is her own light. Together, they make the darkness tremble with fear.”