Astropup, the Parrot, and Marlow, take a shortcut to a distant planet and end up in a strangely familiar place.
We continue the Astropup adventure that began with The Feathered Ambassador . You can follow the whole series here.
Story by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread & sound edited by Jana Elizabeth.
This is Richard, and I’m back with the second part of our new Astropup series. Last time we heard how the parrot had been appointed the earth’s ambassador to the planet Ulan 40.
He set off with Astropup and Marlow on this important mission. And now I’ll hand over to Astropup. Who better to tell us what happened next?
“This is just like old times,” I remarked, as the booster rockets pushed us away from our own world and all that was familiar and friendly. After the parrot had been made president, I’d thought that we would never again travel together, but here we were, heading off into the scary unknown.
“Dear Dog,” replied my brilliant friend. “I am at one with you. It is like old times. I had forgotten just how eternally dull the universe can be.”
I pressed my nose against the port hole. Did you realise that you can’t even wind down the window inside a spaceship? Not a lot of dogs know that.
One of my aunties once said to me: “Aren’t you a lucky dog? Having that exciting job, doing all that space travel.”
“Aunty,” I says. “Don’t you know, there’s no fresh air in space, and no nice smells?”
“Core blimey!” says she. “I didn’t know that. What a dump!”
And now I was travelling once again through that smelless place. I was about to curl up into a long, long sleep, when I heard Marlow, who was piloting the spacecraft, say: “Hey get off! Stop pecking at those buttons. You’re resetting our flight path!”
“Exactly,” replied the ambassador, who was fluttering about the flight deck. “We’re taking a shortcut. Do you really want to spend the next year of your life travelling to the forsaken planet, Ulan 40? And then spend another year coming back again after we discover that the highest life form there is an amoeba?”
Marlow peered at his computer screen to see the results of the parrot’s work at his keyboard.
“You’re taking us down a type 3 wormhole, which may be a shorter route, but which is also considered unstable and highly dangerous.”
“So our journey won’t be boring,” declared the parrot. And boy, he was right about that.
The wormhole was already sucking us in so powerfully that we could not have changed course even if we’d tried. We had a about the same control over our direction as a soap bubble disappearing down a plughole.
I always feel that you have two choices at moments of extreme danger. One is to close your eyes, whine pathetically, and hope that everything scary and bad will go away - and the other is to bark your head off. On this occasion I took the second option.
“Woof woof woof!”
It was scarier than Halloween, a visit to the vet, and the worst science fiction horror film you’ve ever seen. It was all taking place right inside our spaceship. Exploding rockets, roaring dinosaurs, sea water rushing around our feet, nurses with needles, stinky, fur clad warriors waving swords, horses, joggers in lurid lycra, postmen, rats, cats!
Every terror known to dogs down the ages passed through that control room. The parrot screeched; Marlow screamed. They were both seeing their own nightmares.
On and on it went until my throat was so sore that I could bark no more. I reverted to plan B.
“Nnnn,nnnn,nnnn!” (crying noises).
Gradually the nightmares faded, until the only sound was my own crying.
The parrot said:
“This is how the world ends..
Not with a bang, but with a whimper - TS Eliot.”
“He might have written it, but my uncle said it first,” I retorted.
Well perhaps he didn’t use those exact same words but I just wanted to take that too smart parrot down a budgie step or two.
“Ok genius,” said Marlow. “Now the world’s ended, what happens next?”
“I suggest that we go for a walk in Regent’s Park,” he said.
“Great idea!” I exclaimed. In fact I could see grass, trees, ducks and swans out of the window. What a truly gorgeous sight! It did not take me long to skip and jump down the gangplank and to smell the cold, damp air, tinged with … hmmm… not so nice …. something like the soot.
Fog entwined my paws. I looked back and saw that the spaceship had now disguised itself with feline cunning. It now looked just like a bandstand. Marlow, with the parrot on his shoulder, clambered out through a hatch in the stage.
We strolled through the mist and out of the park onto the streets of London. It was an unexpected joy to find that we had arrived back on earth instead of some far flung corner of the universe. Everything was familiar, but, at the same time, a bit different from usual. Today it seemed that the traffic was being pulled by horses. Mmm.. the aroma of horse poo was so much richer and more delicious than the stink of car fumes.
“Are they making a film?” asked Marlow.
“I think not,” said the parrot. And then, from his perch on Marlow’s shoulder, he turned to a boy standing on the pavement and said: “Hey you, urchin, what are you staring at?”
“Wah,oooh, that bird spoke!” exclaimed the little chap, and he ran off. It was then that I noticed that everyone on the street was wearing something or other on their head. The boy had sported a floppy cap. I also saw tall black hats, velvety creations, round shells with brims, and in their hands, many people carried walking sticks or umbrellas. It was a pup’s delight.
“No shortage of good stuff to chew here,” I thought.
Marlow approached a uniformed nanny who was pushing a pram.
“Excuse me Madam, can you tell us where we are?”
The nanny looked up and down at the strange American dressed in white space overalls, with a parrot sitting on his shoulder.
“Baker Street,” she replied, her eyes quite wide open in fascination at what she saw.
“Baker Street!” exclaimed the parrot.
“What a pretty bird!” said the nanny. “He copied my words perfectly!”
“What a pretty bird?” replied our feathered friend. “You should know that I am a genius. But thank you for that exciting piece of news. Since this is Baker Street, we are close to the home of a rare person whose powers of thought and deduction are on the same level as my own. Goodday to you Madam.”
The parrot fluttered ahead of us eagerly inspecting the numbers of the doors until at last he squarked: “Here it is! 221B!”
“GRRRREAT!” I growled. “Fantastic! Woof! Woof! If I was younger I’d do a little dance of joy. Why are we here?”
“Because, dear dog, this is the home of Mr Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective, and one of the most brilliant beings who has ever lived.”
“Excuse me Mr Ambassador Sir,” said Marlow to the parrot.” I might not be as smart as you are,
but I’m starting to think that when we went through that wormhole, we travelled back in time.”
“Corrrrect!” said the parrot. “Exciting isn’t it. Now pull the door bell will you?”
When the door was answered by a woman, the parrot said: “Mrs Hudson, be so kind as to show us up to Mr Holmes’s quarters.”
If Mrs Hudson was surprised to meet a dog, an astronaut, and a talking parrot, her face did not show it for long. A mere trace of ‘whatever next?’ crossed her brow before she said: “Come up.”
She showed us to a room that smelt of leather, tobacco, and books. A violin lay on the sofa, and the parrot plucked it with his claw. A clock ticked. I went to sleep by the stove.
Sometime later I was awoken by an energetic voice saying: “Well, my good Watson, what have we have here?”
“Well, er, I, I should say it is a gentleman dressed in a white suit and sitting near him is a parrot,” replied his friend.
“Very accurate!” exclaimed Holmes. “We undeniably have a visitor dressed in a loose fitting white suit of unknown material, together with a South American Macaw, commonly known as a parrot. But you have overlooked the third member of the party.”
“Woof!” I agreed, and I trotted over wagging my tail.
“Goodness me, a hound!” said Watson. “But thankfully nothing like as fierce as the one in our most famous case. He seems remarkably intelligent. I do believe he understood what we were just saying.”
“He is not altogether insensible,” said the parrot, or should I say, the South American Macaw. “But to call him intelligent is going a bit far.”
“Woof,” I agreed. You see we dogs do not rate intelligence that much. The three highest virtues that a dog can possess are love, loyalty, and subservience.
“Goodness gracious” said Watson. “My dear Holmes, what is your explanation for a South American Macaw now that it can speak like a human being?”
“It is fiendishly clever,” admitted Holmes, but what we are witnessing is undoubtedly an advanced form of ventriloquism.”
“Ah ventriloquism,” said the parrot. “The art of speaking with one’s mouth closed. You clearly believe that my friend Marlow is projecting his voice onto me. Well I have news for you Mr Holmes. Brilliant as you might be, in this case you are mistaken.”
“Mistaken am I?” asked Holmes. “Well, I’ll wager ten guineas that your friend Marlow will not drink a glass of water while his feathered friend speaks.”
“Make it a hundred.” said the parrot.
“To win such a large sum would be vulgar,” said Holmes. “Mrs Hudson, be so kind to bring us a jug of water and a glass.”
Marlow drank and the parrot spoke.
“What a piece of work is a bird! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
I am pretty sure he would have gone on and on had Holmes not called out: “Stop! Stop!”
And taken out his purse and placed ten gold coins on the table.
“Ah,” said the parrot. “This is satisfaction indeed.”
And that satisfying moment brings us to the end of the second chapter of our series about the Ambassador Parrot.
Which leaves me wondering.. Who is the greatest genius of all time?
Sherlock Holmes, or the parrot? Listen in soon to Storynory.com to find out.