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Now Yuri found this unnatural summer infuriating; it was a disgrace to Alpha Chi that the witch defiled the landscape, while he and Zarwan went on eating her pies. He needed to see her, to ask her his questions, tell her to her face what she had destroyed. He knew what he was going to do. When he and Zarwan went to take their customary jog around the property to work up a sweat, he told Zarwan that he was feeling weird, and needed a moment to himself. He was going to take his own path through the woods.
"Be careful, Yuri," said Zarwan, and then became self-conscious. "I mean," he said, "don't fuck anything up."
As soon as Zarwan had disappeared around the bend, Yuri marched up the overgrown path to the house, onto the porch where Shuck lay resting. Perhaps it was the artificial courage from the bird pies that enabled him to do what he was doing, but he didn't care. He would see the witch, confront her, make her deny all Rugby players her pies. He scratched the black fur above Shuck's nose and knocked twice on the heavy white door. Shuck began to growl. It was a low, strong, growl, perfectly self-assured. Yuri took a deep breath and knocked more forcefully, five times. Shuck's growl sunk in pitch and then rose back up until it opened into a bark.
I don't have much time, thought Yuri to himself, before he bites. He held the white doorknob with both hands and began to push, to see if there was an old rusted lock that he could force. He could feel something begin to give way, a creaking in the doorframe, when Shuck struggled to his feet and threw himself at his leg.
Yuri was expecting this, and Yuri was fast. Shuck's jaws only took off the better part of the left leg of his jeans, never leaving so much as a scratch on his flesh. Yuri ran into the forest full speed, and Shuck was an ancient dog; Yuri gained ground. Shuck barked continuously, so that all the farm dogs in the hills over Amherst began to bark with him, and all around him Yuri could hear a chorus of dogs, at once uglier and more heartfelt than the chants of the sorority girls in rush week. He was scared, but so excited to be scared that he opened his mouth and let whatever sound would come out come out, and this was what losing his virginity was supposed to have been, and this was what Rugby had been once, running into the mouth of darkness. He turned to see if he could still see Shuck's shadow, but he had pulled far ahead. He could run forever like this. The birds sang softly, like the movement of a symphony written to follow the barking of the dogs, and he knew great happiness, the glory of defiance, until the first bird descended, to pluck out his eye.
Yuri thought it was a coincidence at first, a strange accident. But when the black cloud thickened around him he knew the witch's birds were out for blood. They took bits of his flesh in their beaks as he fell. He struggled under the beating of the little wings, with birds in his mouth and in his eyes and tearing out his hair.