SCI FICTION, May 18, 2005

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"Song of the Black Dog" by Kit Reed

Image“Song of the Black Dog” by Kit Reed is this week’s SCI FICTION Original. It is a story of imperatives and obsessions, and possibly of responsibilities.

Bill Siefert undertakes to expose the black dog as a fraud.  He goes to a press conference where he begins to hear the dog, which drives him to a frenzied search. 

The black dog is driven by his own imperatives.  He can sense people dying; he knows what is failing, why they are dying.  Of course, all he can do is sit and wait for them to die.

Bill and the black dog meet for the first time at the press conference.   The black dog just wants to save his trainer, whom he has developed some affection for, and Bill’s interference thwarts his aim. However, they are linked and while they can forget each other for a while, they must meet again, this time when Bill is in the hospital.  There he convinces the dog to make a choice, become an active player.

After that, Bill becomes aware—of people dying, about the cancers and the emphysema, and the heart blockages—like the black dog.  And, finally, it’s the black dog that Bill comes to sit before.  He has become the messenger.  

On the surface, this is the story of a dog (and eventually a man) that is able to foretell individual deaths.  But one has to wonder if it is the presence of the black dog that causes the death.  In a day where death isn’t necessarily permanent, when we have medical technologies that can revive the dying, it might be hard to tell the difference.  So, is the angel of death a black dog? And can he pass his responsibilities on to another?

“Song of the Black Dog” is a compelling read.  And I think it presents interesting questions well worth the exploration.