Overnight it had been raining, but to one side of the precipitous stone steps there was a rail to grip on to. With her free hand she took her son's wrist, dragging him back when he lost his footing. It was too perilous for her to pick him up, and at five years old he was too heavy to be carried far.
Branches heavy with sticky leaves trailed across the steps, sometimes blocking their way so they had to climb over or under them. The steps themselves twisted and turned and were worn and often broken. There were more of them than she'd expected. She had never been this way, but had been told it was the only path, and that the man would be waiting for her on the other side of the area.
When they reached the bottom of the steps, her son's mood improved and he called, "Chase me". This was his favourite game and he set off quickly across the grass, which alarmed her, though she didn't want to scare him with her fears. She pursued him through the narrow, wooded area ahead, losing him for a moment. She had to call out for him several times until at last she heard his reply.
Their feet kept sinking into the lush ground but a discernible track emerged. Soon they were in the open. It was a common rather than a park, and would take about 40 minutes to cross: that was what she had been told.
Though it was a long way off, only a dot in the distance, she noticed the dog right away. Almost immediately the animal seemed bigger, a short-legged, compact bullet. She knew all dogs were of different breeds: Dalmatians and Chihuahuas and so on, but she had never retained the names. As the dog neared her son, she wondered if it wasn't chasing a ball hidden in the grass. But there was no ball that she could see, and the little speeding dog with its studded collar had appeared from nowhere, sprinting across the horizon like a shadow, before turning in their direction. There was no owner in sight; there were no other humans she could see.
The boy saw the dog and stopped, tracking it with curiosity and then with horror. What could his mother do but cry out and begin to run? The dog had already knocked down her son and began not so much to bite him as to eat him, furiously.
She was wearing heavy, loosely-laced shoes and was able to give the dog a wild blow in the side, enough to distract it, so that it looked bemused. She pulled the boy to her, but it was impossible for her to examine his wounds because she then had to hold him as high as she could while stumbling along, with the dog still beside her, barking, leaping and twisting in the air. She could not understand why she had no fascination for the dog.
She began to shout, to scream, panicking because she wouldn't be able to carry her son far. Tiring, she stopped and kicked out at the dog again, this time hitting him in the mouth, which made him lose hope.
Immediately a big long-haired dog was moving in the bushes further away, racing towards them. As it took off to attack the child, she was aware, around her, of numerous other dogs, in various colours and sizes, streaming out of the undergrowth from all directions. Who had called them? Why were they there?
She lost her footing, she was pushed over and was huddled on the ground, trying to cover her son, as the animals noisily set upon her, in a ring. To get him they would have to tear through her, but it wouldn't take long, there were so many of them, and they were hungry, too.