He spent a week sleeping, his chin glued to the ground. In that time the man didn’t appear once. Nobody came by to give them water or food. Horrible things started happening to the dogs in the shed. At first it was just one or two, and then many. They began coughing and dripping foul-smelling snot before squirting diarrhea and collapsing, their chins and legs trembling.
Two mornings ago, the man appeared. He cursed, looking at each of the dogs, and began to put healthy ones inside cages. He grabbed Ringo by the scruff of his neck and shoved him into a cage. Ringo suppressed a sudden urge to bite the man’s hand. He knew how to endure humiliation; as humans would say, he was well trained. Surprisingly, the one who resisted was the brown female. As soon as the man picked her up she growled and bit him on the wrist. It wasn’t a bad bite and he wasn’t even bleeding that much, but the man went ballistic. He pulled her out of the cage, slammed her on the floor, and kicked her until her stomach ruptured. The brown female died, bleeding, her intestines leaking out of her body. In Ringo’s mind, that was how it all started.
The man loaded Ringo and the other dogs on to a truck and brought them home to a woman who yapped as much as the brown female. “What were you thinking, bringing an animal like that?” she cried, her index finger stabbing the air in Ringo’s direction. “That’s a beast, not a dog! What will you do if he eats all the other dogs? What if he eats us? You can’t keep him here. I’m too scared. Take him back to the shelter and get a refund. Who wants an animal like that?”
“Jesus, woman.” The man rolled his eyes then glared at her. “What are you, stupid? Do you even know what kind of dog this is? It’s worth way more than the others!”
They herded the other dogs in the living room, but the man placed Ringo on the veranda by himself.
The next day, the man’s eyes had become yellowish craters. An unpleasant smell laced his breath. It was an entirely different stench from the one the sick dogs were emanating in the shed. The smell made everything before his eyes turn black, the way it did when the tranquilizer hit him. If the smell in the shelter was a gray fog, the man’s was inky black. Even the food the man brought him was enveloped in black. Ringo didn’t go near the food or lick a drop of water. Black fog snaked up from everything the man touched. It took over the entire apartment in a single night.
This morning, the man came out into the living room, looking like a prisoner trapped in black fog. A more intense, saturated black fog flickered in his sallow eyes, in his nose, and in his mouth. It crawled out of the man’s flesh like tens of thousands of thin snakes, leaving behind black pore-like marks. The woman set the table for breakfast and kept nagging. “You’re asking to get sick. Why won’t you go to the hospital? It’s a dog bite! What if you got rabies? Why are you so stubborn? Don’t you remember how you had to be admitted for swine flu but you insisted you only had a cold? That was only last week! If you had a bad experience once, you should know how to take care of yourself after that.”
The woman wasn’t swallowed by that same fog; her eyes and mouth were completely normal.
The man disappeared into the bathroom.
Jeong You Jeong’s Seven Years of Darkness sold more than 400,000 copies in Korea alone, and its German edition was ranked eight on the “Best Crime Fiction of December 2015” list by the German weekly Zeit. Rights to her books have been sold in Germany, France, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.