In the cramped space of the dog crate, human fingers slipped through the bars and lifted the latch. Perhaps at some point they would put a lock on their cages and he would not be able to escape. They would kill him when his time was up, his body disposed of like so much waste.
Perhaps it would be better that way. Edward pushed that thought away as soon as it appeared. If he let them win--if he just gave up, then what would he have lived for all of these years? He'd survived his curse for over a century; to give up now seemed every bit a terrible defeat.
He stood, eyeing the dogs around him, but they remained silent, watching and wary, as they had since he'd arrived. For a moment, he thought about freeing them all, just so the keepers of the keys wouldn't search for only one dog. But the scars that crisscrossed his body--from encounters with wild dogs near his sanctuary--reminded him of gnashing teeth and growling fury, so he left them there and retreated into the kitchen.
He stole a bottle of water to wash away the taste of the food they had fed him, and found someone's forgotten lunch in the fridge when he opened the door. Just the thought of real food made him weak; he had to sit down at the tiny table to open the bag and examine the contents. To a stomach used to the odd bird or rabbit, a chicken sandwich seemed almost too good to be true, especially since a chicken had landed him here in the first place.
A further search of the kitchen turned up a forgotten coat--not as thick as he would have wished to wear against the weather outside, but good enough--and someone's dirty exercise clothes that would help protect him from the snow. The shoes didn't fit, but a pair of rubber boots they wore to spray out the kennels did, and those would do as well as anything.
He found forty dollars in a desk drawer, and took that too, knowing that he could stop at a store, perhaps, on the way home, and buy food this time--human food--instead of whatever half-starved game he could catch. This winter had been brutal. And it wasn't over yet.
But when he stepped up to the glass doors and stared out at the driving snow, he wondered if he had enough strength to get back home. He knew which way his house stood--far to the east--but the trek through the snow would be perilous, indeed. He touched the glass with one hand and shivered at the cold.
Something whined behind him. Edward tensed, half-expecting teeth to tear into his flesh, but nothing happened, save for the appearance of a dark shadow in the window. When he turned, the black and white dog that had somehow followed him shied away.
"You don't want to come with me," Edward said, unable to raise his voice above a whisper. When was the last time he had actually spoken to someone? Did a dog count?
The dog whined again, took a small step forward, then froze, as if waiting for him to reprimand her. But she had done nothing wrong.
"I can't feed myself," Edward whispered, and turned back towards the door again. "How would I be able to feed you?" He closed his eyes against the wind and pushed open the door, and something brushed past him as he stepped into searing cold and let the door swing shut behind him.
Hot tears thawed his skin, then froze on his face as the wind brought a scattering of snow across the desolation. The tears blurred the streetlights around him, making them a strange smear of white in a symphony of darkness.
The dog stopped a few feet away, wagging her tail, obviously waiting for him to make the first move.
After a moment, knowing he had to move or freeze to death, he shuffled forward, towards home. He had no true idea how long it would take to reach his refuge, but he thought he might make it by dawn.
If the weather didn't kill him first.
With the lingering memory of the warmth of the animal shelter in his mind, Edward dug his hands into the pockets of his stolen jacket and set his sights on home.
The dog followed. He did not have the heart to send her away.