Story by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread and sound edited by Jana Elizabeth.
This is Richard, and we are in the middle of an Astropup adventure. In the previous episode, Astropup and his comrades watched a giant football match held at a stadium in space. At the end, just as the match was turning into a riot, they slipped away only to come face to face with a mysterious creature.
And now I’ll let Astropup take up the story …
Every puppy knows the legend of ‘The Top Dog’, also dubbed, ‘The Canine King’, or ‘The Woof that Walks on Two Legs’.
The story goes that on the top of the tallest mountain there lives a dog with a brain the size of an oak tree. He paces up and down, walking on his hind legs like a human, and thinks deep, deep thoughts. It is said that we dogs don’t have to use reason because he’s done all the doggy thinking for us. That is why it is permitted for us to be dumb animals, and do nothing smarter than beg for treats or roll over for our tummies to be tickled.
It’s just a story, or so I thought, until, in this, far away corner of the Universe, I looked up at the silhouette of a human and smelt the scent of a dog. Had we come face to face with the Top Dog in the Universe?
“Hello Guys,” he said in a surprisingly smooth voice. “I’m Buddy.”
As he emerged out of the shadows I could see that he had pointy ears and a brown patch over one eye.
“Woof!” I replied. “My name’s Astropup, this is Marlow and that is Mr Ambassador the parrot.”
Marlow held out a hand and shook him by the paw.
“You don’t look like you belong around these parts,” said Buddy.
“Nope,” said Marlow. “We’re from the planet Earth.”
“What an amazing coincidence!” said Buddy. “So am I. Will you join me for dinner?”
“Sure,” said Marlow, “that would be lovely.”
Buddy barked into his wrist watch. A minute or so later, a pair of poodles came running down the corridor and crouched down before him.
“Take our honoured guests to our premier kennels for a rest, and bring them over to my place at dinner time.”
The poodles showed us the way to a sky train that took us shooting around this amazing artificial world. The centerpiece was the stadium, and we could see that crowds of dogs and cats were fighting on the pitch. We were soaring up above the action on a rail that ran through the rafters of the sphere. It was like a whole city up there, with clusters of kennels built into the scaffolding.
“Who constructed all this?” asked the parrot.
“It was all designed by Buddy,” replied our poodle escort.
“A dog made this?” said the parrot incredulously.
“Not just any dog. Buddy is the Top Dog,” said the poodle.
So, they had that same story here then.
We came to our hotel. My kennel was a perfect size for me, and for the parrot there was more than enough room for him to roam around and mutter deep thoughts, but poor Marlow had to crawl into his kennel on his belly and curl up inside.
I tucked my nose under my paw and drifted off into a lovely nap. All too soon, the poodles returned to wake us, and we took a short train journey over to Buddy’s quarters.
The Top Dog’s place was roomy but modest. Our dinner bowls were set on the floor and we sat around on cushions. If we wished, we could glance over at a TV screen that was showing the feline car park where the big fight between the supporters was in its final phase.
The first course was dog biscuits and delicious pate. Marlow munched on one or two biscuits and the parrot said, “I hope you won’t find me rude, but I’ll just have some seeds when I get back to our ship.”
“I apologise,” said Buddy. “We only have dog food in stock.”
I had a right treat. The next course was my absolute favourite – Steak Tatar.
Marlow said: “Will you excuse me this time? I’ve seen humans eat raw mince in Belgium, and relish every mouthful, but I’m from the cooked school of cuisine.”
Buddy said: “Would it help if I told you that this meat is entirely organic and made from vegetable matter?”
Marlow was encouraged and tucked in, but I must admit that the thought of vegetables took the edge off my appetite.
The Top Dog turned to the parrot and said:
“I heard that a parrot was elected President of the world – I couldn’t believe it – but it was true. Then they said he was overthrown by another parrot who was like him, but only worse. But, then he came back again. And then he got thrown out again.”
“Yep,” said Marlow. “There’s been quite a bit of improbable politics back home on Earth.”
The parrot’s feathers ruffled, and he screwed up his eyes. I feared that one of his less than respectful comments was coming. He really does not understand the pecking order of the pack.
“Talking of improbables,” he said, “a dog that walks on two legs and possesses super-intelligence. How did that happen?”
“Mind your manners. I don’t think that’s improbable at all,” I said.
But Buddy did not seem to take offence. He scratched his ear with his hind foot and began to tell us his story.
“I was born on the planet Earth, in Birmingham, a human child. All my life, I thought that dogs were so much nicer than humans, and then, when I reached my teen years, I began to feel that I was actually a dog trapped inside a human’s body. It was such an unusual notion, that I never mentioned it to anyone. But years later, when I was studying at Cambridge for a PHD in biochemistry, I was sitting at my computer and I had a sort of vision. I understood that it was my destiny to make a single tablet that could turn a man into a dog. I neglected my studies and worked on my idea day and night for 13 weeks. Finally I had the formula that I was certain would work. It cost me all my savings to pay for the laboratory to make my compound into a pill. I was too impatient for clinical trials. The very same day that I received the pill I swallowed it, and almost immediately fell into the soundest of sleeps – like a caterpillar snuggling up in its silken cocoon. Yes, I slept the sleep of metamorphosis. Imagine what a thing it is, to go to bed as a man, and to wake up as a dog!”
“I should think that would be just terrifying,” said Marlow.
The Top Dog banged his paw on the table and growled, “Terrrrrrrrrrrrifyingly terrrrrrrrrrific!”
“Speak for yourself,” said Marlow. “I’m happy for you that it worked out just as you wished, but for me, it would be terrifyingly terrible.”
“Poor Marlow,” said the Top Dog turning to me. “He just doesn’t know what he’s missing out on, does he?”
“I love being a dog,” I said.
“Well spoken,” he replied.
“But if all humans turned into dogs, who would the masters be? Who would fill the dog bowl in the morning? And who would take us out for walkies?”
I am sorry to say that my question enraged the Top Dog. His hair started to stand on end, and his upper lip curled back to show some impressively scary teeth.”
“I’m sorry,” I whimpered. “I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s not your fault,” he said calming down abit. “I can see that you are a good-hearted mut. The day will come when dogs don’t need masters. I am working on a pill for super-canine intelligence. When I’ve perfected it, all dogs will be smart enough to take themselves for walkies.”
“And not get run over?” I asked.
“It will be an easy thing for a super-intelligent dog to learn the Highway Code, Newton’s laws of physics, how to spell ‘accommodation’, and much, much more besides,” he replied.
“Now to return to my story, when I looked in the bathroom mirror the next morning, I saw that the formula had worked. My nose was turning black, and my teeth were becoming longer and more pointed. Within 48 hours I had almost transformed into the handsome dogman that you see before you. I wanted the world to share my joy. If I could tell my story, who could say how many humans would discover their inner dogs? I took to YouTube to proclaim my metamorphosis. I quickly got a thousand thumbs up, but my fans were not the only ones watching, for less than a week later I was kidnapped on the steps of my laboratory by Commando Cat People. The feline fiends had been monitoring my video and feared that my invention would bring forth a new breed of super dog. They whisked me to the planet of the Cats and forced me to work on a pill to enhance feline intelligence and strength. Of course I played for time and told them this would take years to develop – meanwhile in the laboratory I was secretly working on a new kind of bio-robot. Androids made not by mechanics but by biochemistry that could reproduce themselves. Right under the noses of the cat people I developed an entire army of bio robots. When the time was ripe, it was an easy matter for the robots to overcome the moggies who guarded the lab.
We stole a cat spaceship and shot off into the emptiest region of space on the charts. At first we programmed supercomputers to mine space coins. This was my first fortune, and I used it to buy the materials we needed to build our World. I knew of course that one day an armada of cat people would invade us, unless I could cause a distraction, which is why I decided to go into the sport business. Ever since the Olympic games of ancient Greece, enemies have called a truce to play sport. I founded the Interstellar Football League – and its success has passed my wildest expectations. The match is transmitted all over the Galaxy and the TV rights have made me the richest individual in the known Universe. Ironically our transmissions have not reached Earth yet, but perhaps you can help me conquer that final frontier and be handsomely rewarded?”
“We’d be glad to,” said Marlow.
“I will give you the exclusive rights to broadcast the Interstellar Football League to the entire planet Earth. You will be richer than your wildest dreams,” said Buddy.
“Well, we are much obliged, thank you sir,” said Marlow, whom I knew wanted nothing more than to be retired from the space service as a wealthy man.
“I have just one requirement,” said Buddy.
That was only reasonable, I thought, but the parrot said:
“Go on, tell Marlow what the catch is.”
“First,” said Buddy, “you must take the pill and become a dog.”
And that was Astropup and the Dog Master. Tune in soon to find out if Marlow agrees to become a dog
For now from me, Richard, at Storynory.com