To Aesop, twenty-six centuries
late and with apologies
for the length.
And as always and forever
Science must not impose any philosophy, any more than the telephone must tell us what to say.
– G. K. CHESTERTON
PART ONE. Life and Death
A moment before the encounter, a strange expectancy overcame Grady Adams, a sense that he and Merlin were not alone.
In good weather and bad, Grady and the dog walked the woods and the meadows for two hours every day. In the wilderness, he was relieved of the need to think about anything other than the smells and sounds and textures of nature, the play of light and shadow, the way ahead, and the way home.
Generations of deer had made this path through the forest, toward a meadow of grass and fragrant clover.
Merlin led the way, seemingly indifferent to the spoor of the deer and the possibility of glimpsing the white flags of their tails ahead of him. He was a three-year-old, 160-pound Irish wolfhound, thirty-six inches tall, measured from his withers to the ground, his head higher on a muscular neck.
The dog’s rough coat was a mix of ash-gray and darker charcoal. In the evergreen shadows, he sometimes seemed to be a shadow, too, but one not tethered to its source.
As the path approached the edge of the woods, the sunshine beyond the trees suddenly looked peculiar. The light turned coppery, as if the world, bewitched, had revolved toward sunset hours ahead of schedule. With a sequined glimmer, afternoon sun shimmered down upon the meadow.
As Merlin passed between two pines, stepping onto open ground, a vague apprehension-a presentiment of pending contact-gripped Grady. He hesitated in the woodland gloom before following the dog.