Fiction by Scott Weedall

“The Hunting of Dr. Dolittle”
             By Scott Taylor Weedall

Giraffes, Zebras, Elephants, Lions, Tigers, Wild Boars and Grizzly Bears were just a few of the animals that the indelible Colonel Green had stuffed and mounted throughout the palatial mansion in which the decorated war criminal resided. The colonel’s natural viciousness and cruelty enabled him to quickly advance in the ranks of the United States Military, often using tactics that would make his weaker stomached comrades shiver. But none of his war medals or accolades he had acquired were meaningful to him, only the corpses of his enemies. Though as he got older and retired from Combat it became less socially acceptable to kill people, so he had to settle for the hunting of dangerous animals. He only hunted animals that posed an imminent threat to him. Whether it was a herd of stampeding bison, a moose protecting her children or a pack of hungry wolves, he had to feel that if his prey tried hard enough it could get the best of him.

This pleasure was diminishing for the colonel too. Industrialization was causing the world to shrink and the few wild animals that remained felt less terrifying as a result. There was nothing left that he could hunt with integrity. Until he heard a rumor from a fellow hobbyist who’d just returned from Africa. While on the continent he’d planned on going elephant hunting in the Serengeti but had been warned by locals not to wander into the bush, lest they fall victim to the strange Englishman known as Doctor Johnathon Dolittle. Indeed, many hunting parties did disappear, with only rumors and traces of clothing as evidence of their existence. The colonel was elated and filled with inspiration. What if this Doctor Dolittle was the thing that he’d been yearning for, the thing that could fight back.

The colonel sat at a desk in the private suite he’d purchased for his trip across the Atlantic. After doing some research through his network of hunters and his ties to the US government, he had been able to ascertain that the doctor was much more than a rumor and had even once been an upstanding member of the medical community.

Outside the porthole the colonel admired the cloudless azure sky, contrasted by the dark turbulent waves which would slide up the side of the ship and smack the window which illuminated his studies. On the desk was a wide array of documents The colonel had been able to collate about the doctor leading up to his defecting from society and retreating into the bush. This is what Colonel Green had ascertained thus far. Dr. Dolittle was a student at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, he was invited to participate in a study where the limits of animal biology would be pushed with the intention of finding new information about humans. The good doctor agreed but was quickly revolted by the techniques which to him amounted to animal abuse. The screams and cries were intolerable, but one moment was scarred into his memory. The eye of one of a goat staring back at him. In that moment the doctor felt that he could see through the eye of the creature into its very being and knew it was staring back at him in a similar manner. He felt an understanding and a sense of kinship he could not experience with most people and the knowledge that he was at least partially responsible for inflicting torture on the helpless creature made him feel disgusted with himself. The doctor quickly rescinded himself from the project.

A few weeks later the University shut down the project and attempted to destroy all documentation of the experiment’s existence, fearing it would destroy the university’s reputation and credibility. Civilized people at the Academy forgot the experiments, but the doctor could not. Instead, he used the experience as inspiration to help him pioneer a new field of scientific inquiry, the interspecies communication of humans and animals. Many scoffed at his revelations and doubted the very concept that other species were even capable of sentient thought, but the doctor remained undeterred. He had a natural proclivity for linguistics, and soon he could quickly learn the subtleties of any species’ dialect. His research in London was not particularly lucrative. Shortly after graduating, his parents passed away, he inherited his parent’s old manor, moved back to his hometown of Puddleby where he became, by default, the village doctor.

His bedside manner with human patients was atrocious. While his medical advice was sound, people felt that this was negated by his condescending temperament. The doctor would curse himself for not having become a surgeon, patients were so much easier to deal with when they were unconscious. He attributed the maladies his patients experienced on eating the flesh of the animals. The good doctor and a few of his eccentric contemporaries had determined that eating animal flesh contributed to a massive host of diseases as well as increasing the overall level of violence in the world. Most of his patients did not wish to consider this. Over time the village folk opted to travel to nearby hamlets to seek medical treatment, making it increasingly difficult for the doctor to make payments on his debts, but this also gave him more time to pursue his research.

His animal friends were extremely supportive of his scientific endeavor. It was extremely rare for a human to take the time to understand another’s perspective, so they were more than eager to help him fill in the gaps in his research. His home became a haven for wayward animals who’d been dislocated from their homelands by England’s imperialistic hunger. There had been reports of a traveling circus that had disappeared in the woods. No bodies were found, only the torched carriages of the caravan. There were rumors of sightings near the doctor’s manor of an orangutan, a tiger, or some other exotic animal that did not belong in dreary England, yet none of the villagers dared question the doctor on the issue. The doctor attempted to pivot his services to being a veterinarian yet ran into the same problems he’d had when he was a human doctor. Pet owners did not want to hear they were responsible for their bird’s melancholy and farmers did not like to think of themselves as slave masters.

On a fine summer day, the doctor was frolicking with his fuzzy friends the sheep through a field in the English countryside. A young Lancashire boy ran up to the doctor. “Doctor! It’s an emergency! My poor mother has fallen ill so quickly! She needs help immediately!” The Lancashire boy yelled. This would trigger the inciting incident that would make Dr. Dolittle a legend amongst those who dared to wander too far into the Bush.

The colonel had to stop reading. His ship was close to docking and he wanted to watch the land slowly get closer to the ocean where the boat was stationed. He perched himself on the bow, allowing the waves and the salty mist to gently exfoliate his face. Taking in the fresh sunny air of the cape. Before he knew it, he was on land with his face inches away from a steaming locomotive, barreling past him at dangerous speeds. He had no reason to stand this close to the train, other than he found it exciting. One of the colonel’s favorite pastimes was standing as close as possible to speeding locomotives without having his face ripped off, he always won.

The colonel had arranged for a troop of hunters to help him go deeper into the bush than most locals would feel comfortable. The colonel paced in his suite, his nerves were on fire with elation and anticipation. He was so close to finally confronting the eponymous Dr. Dolittle. The colonel spent his final night in civilization reviewing the two remaining documents that the colonel had collated regarding the doctor.

The doctor ran through the rolling green hills of the English countryside. First to his house, where a python named Monty handed him his medical bag. Then to Lancashire’s home. The Lancashire boy quickly ushered the doctor into the house and towards the bed where his dying mother languished in. The boy was eager to see what the doctor would do. The doctor removed his stethoscope and other medical equipment and performed a thorough examination of all her vital signs; his prognosis was not good. “Oh dear, I’m afraid there’s only one thing in my medicine bag that can help end her suffering.” The doctor said. The doctor removed a syringe from his bag and injected her with a large dose of cold morphine. The doctor pulled out his gold pocket watch and kept his fingers and waited until he could be sure her heart had indeed stopped beating. The doctor pulled the sheet over her face. “Time of death, eleven thirty-four in the morning.” The doctor announced.

The Lancashire boy was shocked. He stood paralyzed, incapable of expressing any emotion, gesture, or words other than, “You killed her…” “Don’t worry, I knew a sufficiently large dose of morphine would be effective in stopping her heart, it was the most comfortable way.” The doctor confidently assured the boy. “But… you didn’t even try…,” the boy stuttered. “Try to help her, oh no, no, no. She was too far gone for me to do anything but euthanize her. Perhaps if she made better choices she wouldn’t end up in this position. You should try to learn from her mistakes. And don’t worry, I’ll mail the death certificate to the coroner this afternoon. Have a good day.” The doctor bid farewell, closing the door behind. The Lancashire boy was left alone, staring at the corpse of his mother, slowly heating up like a teapot, and eventually boiling over with rage.

The jovial doctor returned home, proud to have helped another patient. There he was greeted by the sheep from earlier that day, exotic birds chirped, tropical reptiles hissed, wild apes hooted and even a zebra neighed as they galivanted around the manor to show their enthusiasm for the good doctor’s return. He hugged many of them to return their affection. He stepped over a python and around an artistic orangutan finger painting on the peeling wallpaper to sit down at his desk where he was greeted by the past due notices. “This simply won’t do,” he muttered, “this is all a pile of rubbish.” With his dwindling customers and rotting mansion, he thought that a lifestyle change was in order. Perhaps if he were able to liquidate his assets he could finally begin anew.

He had always fantasized about other lands, reading stories, listening to travelers. The stern serious mannered British just didn’t share his values. Ignited by passion and anger he bolted up and swept all the documents off his desk. He danced down the stairs, invigorated by a newfound passion he had not felt before. A frog hopped onto the tea table and looked at the doctor inquisitively. “Tell everyone I have important news that needs to be shared.”

Soon a crowd of animals gathered around, stuffing themselves into the room and overflowing into the halls. The little air there was to breathe was dense with stinky ox breath and alligator farts. The good doctor addressed all his friends and family. “I used to think that I was free. However, I increasingly realize that I am constrained by many shackles, and the shackles grow heavier each day. I think it is time all of us thought about what it means to be free and how we can live the way that we are meant to live, without anyone imposing their will upon you. I love you all with deep sincerity, but I can no longer provide this house for you as a place of refuge. Our paradise must end, because if we don’t end it now then the debt collectors will come for us all.”

The doctor pulled out a box of matches, ignited one and stared at the flame in enchantment. “The village of Puddleby was built on a swamp and has stood for hundreds of years. But given enough time the swamp always wins.” He tossed the match onto an old dusty curtain. Flames shot up to the ceiling and animals leapt, crawled, and flew out of the doors and windows. The good doctor stood out front of his burning mansion, proud of everything he had accomplished that day. He decided to head for the coast and catch a boat to France. He’d never left the British Isles and was invigorated by the discharge of his debt.

His soon to be voyage was interrupted by the sight of the Constable, the Lancashire Boy, and the Shepherd whose flock the doctor had been fraternizing with earlier. Black smoke plumed from the remains of the house. Nothing but a wide field of tall green grass blowing in the wind as they stared at each other. The Lancashire Boy was the first to speak. “Doctor Johnathon Dolittle, there you are!” The three men charged the good doctor, knocked him to the ground and continued to beat the daylight out of him. The Constable with his club, The shepherd with his cane and the Lancashire boy with his modest fists and boots. The Constable shoved his face into the duff and cuffed him. “Get a load of this scum!” the Constable yelled, “not so cocky now, eh?” The doctor had no answer.

The doctor spent that sleepless night pacing back and forth in the courthouse jail, trying to construct a rock-solid legal defense. A magpie landed outside the bars of his cell and offered him friendly company and legal advice for how to proceed the following day. The next day all the Townspeople were crammed and overflowing the courtroom, all eager to see the eccentric doctor Dolittle be held accountable for viciously murdering the poor old Lancashire woman. They thought him cruel for caring more about animals than his human patients. They wanted him hung by his toes. The shackled doctor was marched down the aisle and held his head low, avoiding eye contact with all of the people he despised, which in this case was everyone in the room. The Judge cleared his throat, adjusted his spectacles and read the doctor his rights in a harsh and dismissive tone. “Jonathon Dolittle, you have been found guilty of medical malpractice, manslaughter, arson, resisting arrest and worst of all failure to pay your debts. How do you plead?”

The doctor cleared his throat and spoke in an unnervingly calm and collected manner. “I have concluded that this entire trial is a sham. What I have done may have violated your laws, but it does not violate animal laws. Well, I’ve had it with Human Law, especially British law, from now on the only law I observe is animal law, which is infinitely more nuanced and compassionate than the rituals of this court room. In short, I exist outside of your domain of control and if you attempt to exact control on me, you will be held accountable to the standards of animal law.” The philosophical ramifications of the doctor’s speech were far reaching, however
, as any good practitioner of the law knows, a legal trial is not about what is actually true, so much as it is about the outcome of that specific trial. The judge sounded exhausted in the delivery of his response. “Based on the contents of your speech, I’m going to consider your impassioned lecture to be an admission of guilt. May God have mercy on your soul.” The judge slammed the gavel. The good doctor briefly pondered his own death.

It was at that moment that there was a loud banging on the door, accompanied by other strange and indecipherable sounds. The entire court turned to witness an orangutan gallivanting on a zebra, heroically whooping as it led an army of exotic animals into the stultifying atmosphere of the British court system. Over the years the good doctor had done many favors for the traditionally voiceless animals, now it was their time to return the favor. All manner of species stormed the court trampling everybody in sight. The crowd began clawing the walls to climb to higher ground. The poor Lancashire boy had his legs torn off by an alligator, and other acts so horrendous that it even made your humble narrator pause for breath. Amidst the chaos the doctor snatched the keys from a guard who was too busy having his eyes pecked by crows and a top hat off the shepherd who was bleeding to death. Court was adjourned.

After that the records were sparse. A few days after the trial there was a story of a deranged shepherd who stole a boat and sailed to France. Somehow the doctor had made his way through Southern Europe and North Africa to find one of the last few places where wild things still lived, in a frontier to be hunted by the indelible Colonel Green. The Next Morning, before sunrise, the colonel went to the Well at the edge of town that the Mercenaries had instructed him to meet at. The colonel impatiently pulled the gold embossed pocket watch out and angrily watched the seconds and minutes slip through the hourglass of time. What could possibly be taking the guide so long to show up.

“Are you the green man?” He turned and saw a band of three men, filthy and menacing. Between the three of them they barely had enough teeth for one mouth. In each of their dispossessed eyes the colonel saw the same aimless anger he wanted in all his foot soldiers, the kind of blind fury that existed solely to be molded by men like him. He knew that they cared only for the kill and did not care enough for themselves to worry about the threat of the good doctor.

The colonel smiled. “Let’s Get Started.”
Colonel Green and his band of merry men crawled through the tall grass, encircling a family of elephants that were eating in a small clustering of trees. The colonel did not want to shoot the Elephants just yet, he knew that if the good doctor showed up he would fight even harder to keep them alive. The colonel salivated at the thought of such a struggle. From his vantage point he could see the three men forming a semi-circle around the herd, waiting for the signal to strike, but then suddenly, he only saw two. And that is when the colonel knew that the real hunt was about to begin. One by one the other two men were subsumed by the Grass as well. The elephants grazed undisturbed. The colonel knew he was next and cocked his elephant rifle, surveying the windblown grass searching for any perturbation of the blades. Wham!

Dr. Johnathon Dolittle leaped out of the grass and began wrestling with the colonel. “Give me my gun so I can murder you!” ordered the colonel. “I cannot oblige your request sir!” replied the doctor. In the struggle the rifle went off startling both the doctor and the elephants, who then stampeded in their direction. The colonel barely rolled out of the way of the stomping goliaths. When the dust settled the doctor was gone, and colonel’s rifle had been mushed and mangled beyond use. Like the animals he hunted he was left with only his hands and his teeth. Though unlike the elephants he hunted he was not able to turn his jaw into a piano, for he only had the tongue of a mad man.

The sun set above him illuminated an upside-down landscape, full of deep red canyons and purplish mountains which hung like stalactites, converging at the horizon where the red sun retreated from the sky and land above with dissipate with the waning of the moon. But before the stars could twinkle down on the mad hunter he saw a grove of trees where three white men hung from their neck by the branches, intrigued by the stench of death the colonel investigated and realized that these were the three hired hands who the cruel doctor had so quickly dispatched of.

The colonel screamed at the corpses. “Dr. Johnathon Dolittle! I know you can see me. You may think yourself superior because of your power to talk to animals. But my power is derived from my ability to hate, and by the blood-soaked earth upon which I stand I swear I will out hate you!” A rustle in the grass. The colonel, an experienced hunter, knew that even nature’s slyest animals left discernable trails. He also knew that more savage and reckless creatures left even larger trails. For the doctor to desecrate bodies in such a way he must surely be an extremely savage and unruly beast. The hunt was still on.

The colonel was too focused on the trail to admire the sun setting and barely heeded the gathering of storm clouds as he followed the wild doctor. The colonel left the tall dense foliage of the grassland and followed the doctor onto the hard baked earth, so arid and hard that not a single weed could grow on this inhospitable land. The storm clouds that gathered above might as well have been the first rain to touch that piece of earth in almost a thousand years. The chase stopped when they reached the field of death. The hot steaming carcasses of elephants were sniffed by the hyenas and vultures. Clouds of flies swarmed around bloating internal organs, feasting on eye sockets and brain tissue, pouring out of the ears, and wriggling beneath the skin, providing the last few twitches of life to the epidermis. The empathetic doctor was petrified by the sight of so many dead elephants in one place. The colonel was in his element.

The colonel slowed his pace, caught his breath and bellowed to the doctor as he walked towards him. “Good evening, doctor! How fortuitous it is we meet on such a sanguine evening. I was initially worried that you were trying to run away! But now I see that you were merely anxious that our reintroduction wouldn’t be quite as memorable as when we first exchanged cordialities! I travelled so far just to see you. You know, we’ve both stepped over many dead people. That is why we were destined to meet. Two ruthless killers, you with the capacity to command bestial life and me with the ability to manipulate others’ anger. We are not like the rest of the unredeemable, unlovable, unforgivable, underserving swine that is the entirety of our wretched existence. There are only a handful of real souls that traverse this earth, and we are two of them. So, now that we’ve found each other, what do we do?”

The doctor took a deep inhalation before stating his case. “I’m sorry, but I must regrettably inform you that your worldview is fundamentally wrong. I do not command anyone or anything, for the so-called ‘beasts’ you refer to are not my slaves but my good friends. And I lash out only when bad actors engage in unforgivable transgressions against those that I care the most about. You have taken an innumerable number of my friends away from me. I must dispose of you.” “Very well.” intonated the colonel. “Then I will kill you too.”

The two swung fists at each other as the simmering clouds sizzled with lighting that tickled the earth. Their unfocussed anger and swinging knuckles smashed into each other, two unyielding forces smashing into each other; a mutual self-destruction. For a moment it seemed like destiny that they would both be stripped of all their senses and forced to spend the remaining hours of their life stumbling around a thunderous, endless desert stretching out for all eternity.

A bolt of light descended from the sky and struck the colonel in his left Achilles tendon, boiling his flesh and peeling open his leg, revealing bone, displayed in a picture frame of charred flesh. The doctor was stunned by the sudden turn of events just as much as the colonel was by the lightning. The colonel was splayed face down on the hard dirt then slowly raised himself up, a maniacal look stretching across his face. The colonel grunted, winced, moaned and screamed hysterically while repositioning his melted calf. He used his three functional limbs to drag himself towards the disgusted doctor, like a tangled marionette, with the all-consuming goal of destroying the doctor.

The colonel bellowed. “You may think that you have me beat, but even in death my soul will still hunt you down! I might become a crow and peck your eyes out or become the entire ocean and flood your lungs with salt water or maybe I’ll incarnate as your own son and slit your throat while you’re asleep! In death I will find you and I will eat your soul!

The doctor raised his boots and began to stomp on the face of the indignant colonel. The colonel couldn’t deliver his dying manifesto, while choking on his own fractured teeth. The colonel sputtered out incoherent words before his talkative nature was snuffed out and his blood soaked into the parched soil.

Scott Weedall grew up in Portland, OR where from a young age he enjoyed writing Onion Style Articles for his High School Newspaper. His Vegan Journey began when he got a job in the meat department of a grocery store. When directly confronted with the violence inherent in meat consumption. Combined with being exposed to vegan ideas in college Scott developed a personal philosophy that adopting a plant-based lifestyle was important not just for personal/moral reasons, but also for the survival of the planet. Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from the Evergreen State College, Scott packed everything he owned into his car and began driving around the United States. On his journey he met his Partner who also helped support him living a plant-based lifestyle. Scott currently lives in Lincoln, NE where he is a Social Worker. He lives a quiet life with his Partner and two cats. “The Hunting of Dr. Dolittle” is his publishing debut.

Copyright©2024 by Scott Weedall. All Rights Reserved.