Biscuit, a 7-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, lived two miles west of the city in a small, one-story home with a family of three. The family that owned Biscuit consisted of a wife, a husband, and a five-year-old son with whom Biscuit slept most nights curled at the end of the mattress where the child’s feet could not reach. Walks were regular and pleasant, and time alone in the back yard was long enough to be relaxing without feeling like a banishment. Scraps from the table were a rarity, but when they came, they were delivered with great ceremony. A well-mannered and obedient animal, Biscuit enjoyed a life of few restrictions and great comfort, completely unaware that three miles away there lived a man with whom she was inextricably linked.
Aaron Burton was 27-years-old and lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a converted industrial building. A junior-level associate at a research and marketing firm, the young man lived perhaps the least extraordinary kind of blessed life to which one could aspire. He made enough money to cover rent, food, clothing, student loans, and credit card payments, with a small amount left over for discretionary spending on bar tabs and movie tickets. He had a circle of friends from work to whom he felt fond but not overly indebted or obligated. He was alone without feeling lonely, though now and then he did have a sense of some other force acting upon his life. He, too, was totally ignorant as to the manner in which he was joined with Biscuit.
The nature of this unknown and unprovable connection was too subtle to ever become a nuisance, but strong enough to still intrude upon the lives of Biscuit and Aaron with some regularity. While Aaron walked east toward his office, Biscuit would move east on her morning walk. Once reaching his office, Aaron would fight the urge to keep moving forward, and turn left enter his building, at which point Biscuit would pause and inspect a particular tree that likewise stood to her left and pull at the leash as though to continue beyond the tree. Upon sitting at his desk, Aaron would find himself still fighting the urge to get up, go outside, and walk back home as Biscuit and her walker turned back to return to their home.
Luckily for both of them, Biscuit’s evening walk coincided with Aaron’s walk back to his apartment, and the two would sojourn westward in time with one another, and both arrive home, comfortably, at the same moment. And while this could be chalked up to simple coincidence—and the itchiness and restlessness brought upon by tedious office work—it was the way that the dog and the man acted in their free time that truly spoke to their curious connection.
At work, Aaron would stand up to go to the coffee machine, at which point Biscuit would stand from wherever she was and walk a comparable amount of distance in the same direction before returning to her original position as Aaron returned to his seat. At home, Aaron would sometimes stand up and walk into his kitchen and forget why he had traveled there upon entering, not realizing that the reason he had gotten up to go to the kitchen was because Biscuit had decided to investigate the view out of the sliding glass door at the back of her own house, the distance of which from her doggie bed was the same distance and in the same direction as that from Aaron’s couch to his kitchen. At night, Biscuit would sometimes rise from the bed of her 5-year-old companion, walk out of the room, and continue on to a seemingly random point in the middle of the hallway before turning back and returning to the bed; a consequence of Aaron having woken up to use the bathroom.
As previously stated, these alignments or synchronicities—while bizarre and undeniable—were far from intrusive to either party. With enough will or direction either of the two could break the bond between them and go on with their lives in complete peace and autonomy. Of course, this strength of will usually came from Aaron having some obligation to attend to, or from Biscuit’s owners reasserting their particular kind of control via the leash or a sharp whistle. It is probable that both Aaron and Biscuit could have lived for a thousand years each and never discovered their tandem existences were it not for the fact that Aaron began seeing someone.
The mechanics of their meeting were not so much complicated as astronomically improbable. It began one early morning when the man of the house, having delayed waking fifteen minutes longer than usual, opened the sliding glass backdoor to allow Biscuit into the backyard while he prepared for the normal morning walk. The man had forgotten, however, that he had left the fence unlatched following the moving of the garbage bins from the side of the house to the curb the night previous. Biscuit, who was now fully under the sway of Aaron’s walk to work, let herself out of the backyard and began to walk. Aaron lived to the west of his office, and Biscuit lived west of the city, and thus as Aaron walked to his job, Biscuit walked toward Aaron.
Still, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever might never have made it all the way to the city before being found if not for the fact that Aaron would not be walking west again that night. Had the young man returned home, the dog would have likewise walked back to her own home. Instead, Aaron walked further east after work toward the apartment of his new paramour, and thus Biscuit continued onward toward the city, and toward her human counterpart. Even still, had Aaron walked back to his apartment following his assignation, Biscuit would have found herself returned. Instead, Aaron was given a ride back to his apartment by his partner, who owned a small, sensible car suited to city living. And so, while Aaron sat in the passenger seat, Biscuit sat in a comfortable hollow beneath a bush, feeling no need to travel.
This course of divinely-ordained serendipity continued for two more days, until one night, as Aaron arrived at his lover’s apartment, Biscuit found herself, impossibly, across the street from Aaron’s apartment. That night, as Aaron returned home, waving a fond farewell to the retreating rear window of his partner’s car, Biscuit sat watching the whole final exchange. The dog, who had sustained herself on water from puddles and carelessly discarded scraps of food either fallen from garbage cans or tossed purposefully on the ground, watched as Aaron walked into his apartment building. Compelled in the same direction, Biscuit crossed the street and ended up right in front of the building door, stopping as Aaron entered the elevator.
The following morning Biscuit paced around the area in front of the building in time with Aaron’s own morning routine. When the man exited the elevator and turned to look out of the glass front doors of his building, he was surprised to see a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever looking back at him. Assuming that some tenant had left their dog outside a moment, Aaron thought nothing of approaching the doors in spite of the presence of the dog, but he was slightly perplexed to see that as he walked toward the dog, the dog seemed to walk an equal amount of space away from him in the same direction. Worried that a car may strike the animal as it crossed the street, Aaron jogged the final few meters to the door, at which point Biscuit broke into a run across the street.
Out on the sidewalk, Aaron considered the dog a moment before deciding that it would be outside of his experience or his duty to attempt to apprehend the animal. The dog had tags and seemed healthy, after all. So, Aaron began to walk east, and Biscuit of course began to walk east as well.
Aaron had been listening to music through a pair of earbuds, and kept his eyes forward to avoid poles, other pedestrians, and stray gum, and might not have ever noticed Biscuit’s progress were it not for the way that the pedestrians on the other side of the street began to laugh and part for the dog. There was something strange, as one might imagine, about a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever walking along the center of the sidewalk with such composure and evident purpose, and many people took out phones to document Biscuit’s “commute.” As people huddled to compare shots and videos and brainstorm a proper hashtag, Aaron turned his head to take account of the commotion. There he saw Biscuit, walking at the same pace in the same direction as him, and when Aaron paused to consider this, Biscuit likewise paused to consider him.
The two unwitting partners gazed at each other, and other passersby took note of the strange connection between the two. Aaron, curious, took two steps forward, and marveled as Biscuit took three strides to match Aaron’s forward progress. Aaron paused, and Biscuit paused. Aaron took two steps backward, and Biscuit sidled backward as well, mouth hanging open happily. While Aaron felt a kind of anthropomorphic kinship with this mimicking dog, Biscuit felt something deeper and—to a certain extent—truer. Still facing one another, Aaron, bewildered by this odd waltz, took a step toward the dog, which Biscuit, quite to the contrary of what one might expect, responded to by stepped toward him. Aaron then took a step east, which Biscuit mirrored in going east, before Aaron stepped toward the center of the road, which Biscuit did as well. No longer moving in exact sameness, the knowledge of one another’s existence had turned the two toward a kind of mirroring.
Thus, as Aaron walked toward Biscuit, Biscuit approached Aaron, until the two of them met in the center of the road. Aaron, at this point stuck between casual wonder and nascent fear, began to sense that this dog—this strange, beautiful dog—might be something. Mean something. Maybe, he thought to himself, I wasn’t taking those steps forward. Maybe this dog was. Maybe the dog was as struck by my mimicry as I was of hers. Was I testing her, or was she testing me?
The philosophical and existential import of this discovery, of this connection, overwhelmed the young man, who to this point had considered his solitary, comfortable existence as the culmination of all of his choices and desires. What if this dog were in fact responsible? What if this connection had, subconsciously or involuntarily, alienated him from those around him? What if he was imbued with only the equivalent ambition of a house pet? He reached out a hand, trembling with uncertainty. To touch another living being with which one shared agency, what would that mean? Would the universe even allow such a thing to be? Biscuit, who all this time had been waiting for a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ear, looked up at the approaching palm eagerly, with no sense of the incredible amount of gravity which had been brought to bear on the action. Aaron’s heart raced with fear as Biscuit’s heart raced with excitement.
The driver of the car had been texting with a friend who had sent her a short video clip of the man and the dog performing their strange pantomime. She had been in the middle of hunting for the proper emoji with which to describe her feeling of “awe and aww” when she suddenly glanced up from her phone and saw Aaron and Biscuit kneeling just five meters ahead of her car. She applied the brake, dropping her phone, grabbing the wheel with both hands. The sound of the bumper colliding with the two bodies was so loud and so alien it was felt as much as it was heard.
In the street Aaron and Biscuit lay motionless. The onlookers clustered on the sidewalks gasped, craning their necks trying to see the aftermath of the collision. Courtney McKenzie, a 24-year-old copy writer for a large technology firm, stepped out of her car and shut the door, taking a step toward the man and the dog before fear and shock overwhelmed her. She collapsed to the pavement, letting out a chilling, anguished wail. One block southwest, Patches, a 3-year-old Irish wolfhound being taken on a walk by his elderly owner, could be heard howling for seemingly no reason.