Trinity grabbed the white box. She felt the dog slide to the side.
“Thank you.” She managed a huge smile. She held the box closer to her chest, but the dog’s whining only got louder as she reached her car. Only when Trinity placed the box on the seat next to her and opened it did he close his mouth and look up at her with irresistible eyes. The woman at the shelter said she found him wandering on the streets alone, perfectly groomed except for a bald spot on the back. The shelter determined it was no disease. It was weird, the woman had said, but she had seen worse cases. Trinity assumed he had been abused and abandoned very recently. Why would anyone raise a dog for over a decade and decide to stop, she did not know.
By the time she was home, unloading the box, she had come up with a name for the chihuahua: Soba, Japanese for buckwheat, for no particular reason other than it was the most unique one she could find on the Internet’s endless list of male dog names.
She carefully picked up the box and carried it to her living room. As soon as it was open, Soba darted out and ran in circles until he suddenly plopped down and started staring at Trinity again. He really liked to stare.
He was still staring at her when she poured his food onto his new bowl. She tentatively pushed it towards him, not really knowing how he would react, as she had never adopted a dog before. Soba sniffed the bowl once, then plunged his nose into the food. Trinity sighed in relief.
She stared at the blank screen of her wall-mounted TV as Soba noisily dug through his food. It took her quite a while before she realized that she could no longer hear anything. It was silent, too much so. She spun around. The bowl was half-empty, and Soba was nowhere to be seen.
She checked every corner of the house once, then twice. No Soba.
She thought this only happened in movies. Tears filled her eyes as she mechanically printed out dozens of lost dog posters, a huge photo of Soba at the shelter plastered across the white sheets of paper. She headed outside. For the next few hours, she walked from tree to tree and taped the posters onto every single one she could see. Obnoxious, yes. But if anything happened to Soba, it would be her fault, and hers only.
The sun rose higher, and Trinity regretted having left the house in long sleeves. Drenched in sweat, she collapsed to the ground, crumpled up the last few posters in her hands and sat down on the bare pavement, her head in her hands.
Something nudged her feet.
She sniffed, then looked up. It was a dog. A white, long-haired chihuahua, just like Soba, except this one was a baby, no more than five months old, and it was missing an eye. It was far too grotesque to have resulted from surgery — the amount of blood around its hollow socket was enough as proof. She covered her mouth with her hands. She didn’t want to throw up, not in front of the baby.
She cautiously petted the dog with her left hand. It did not bark once. Instead, its tail wagged furiously, a response unexpected from such a skittish dog. She looked closer. To her shock, he had exactly four light-brown spots on his left side, and one on his right. Just like Soba.
So this was Soba. It had to be. Except somehow, he was a decade younger.
Either this was a nightmare, or he had traveled through time and hurt himself in the process. Does time travel do that? she wondered. Was it even real?
Before Trinity could investigate further, Soba turned around and started running across the street. She tried to stop him, but he was too fast. He was running away again — or as she realized, leading her towards somewhere. After a while, he slowed down a bit to let her catch up with him.
It was like running a marathon. They passed dozens of blocks. Trinity felt like dying, and Soba wasn’t even fazed.
They came to a stop in front of a glass building. Ominous, tall, and blue, yet so lifeless. But it wasn’t just because there were less people than there should be. It was something else, something that she couldn’t place a finger on.
Soba whined. He refused to go in any further.
“You want me to go inside?”
He simply stared at her with his one good eye.
Trinity stepped inside — no one was at the front desk. No stairs either, as far as she could see, but there was a set of elevators, as clean and spotless as if they had been built yesterday. They probably were.
One of the elevators arrived with a ding. She stepped inside. Sleek metal, ordinary buttons, a mirror. Nothing too fancy — where to go, though? She randomly pressed 3, to which there was no response. She repeated the same for 1 and 2… the only working button, as she figured out, was 5.
The elevator shot up.
The doors opened.
Trinity squinted — blinding lights greeted her along with rows and rows of cages. Cages of dogs inside. She had never seen a room this big. It seemed as if it was the only thing occupying the fifth floor — her hands gingerly slipped past a cage, then two… these dogs were not healthy. A tear ran down her cheek as a beagle cowered away from her as far as it could inside the impossibly small space, howling in pain. I’m sorry. Her hands reached another. A Rottweiler. Its front leg was missing, almost as if it was cut clean by a butcher’s knife. I will get you out of here. They were test subjects, and Soba was one of them. Because a group of scientists were too scared to travel through time themselves, they put these dogs through it, with severe consequences to follow. They were probably to be discarded after an experiment or two. Soba was lucky to only have had his fur missing the first time. He wasn’t so lucky the next.
Her legs trembled. She closed her eyes shut. She had to do something. For Soba. For every single life about to be wasted. A glass of jar dropped to the floor somewhere in the room, breaking into pieces. She forced her eyes back open. She tiptoed across the passage made by the cages, turning right, then left, towards the source of the sound. Soon she reached an open area. A table stood in the middle, and a poodle lay on it.
She was not alone.
A man with shortly trimmed hair dyed orange and a lab coat on stood with his back turned to her as he filled a syringe with a substance she just knew was illegal. He raised his hand, about to inject the dog, but Trinity was faster — her hands reached into the Swiss army knife in her pocket and stabbed the man’s hand as hard as she could.
The man screamed and dropped the syringe. The poodle yelped, jumping off the table. As he fell to the ground, Trinity scrambled towards the syringe and grabbed it — what would she do, what would I do, she thought in panic, but the man was already on his feet, his hands reaching for Trinity. She looked once at the syringe and instinctively stabbed herself with it.
Her feet left the ground and she was pulled out of gravity, into black nothingness, a white spot in the middle growing bigger and bigger until she found herself yanked back into reality. Into the future.
She felt a hand on her shoulder.
Trinity pulled herself up.
“I’m fine…” she mumbled. Her voice sounded much deeper. More mature. Her eyes opened. It was the same white table, surrounded by the same cages, but this time there were five or six people around it with the same lab coats the man with the syringe had on. A dead bulldog with an ear missing lay on the table. Everyone ignored it, but expectantly looked at Trinity instead. She simply gave them a blank stare back.
She was older. The older version of Trinity Hansen knew these people, knew this experiment, led this experiment, by the looks of it. No. No. She took a step back.
“Ms. Hansen,” an eager young voice said. Trinity looked up. “Like I asked before, how were you able to capture so many dogs this season?”