Astropup’s Space Tourist
Dedicated to Ryan Beechey who supports Storynory on Patreon
Read by Richard.
Luna - by Jana.
Proofed and audio edited by Jana Elizabeth.
Story and Sound FX by Bertie.
My friend the parrot was once more a bachelor, free to roam the cosmos. He had parted ways with his fiancée, Polly, the only being in the known universe who could leave him lost for words. She had begun a new life as a business bird, running a chain of health and beauty spas, starting on the Planet of the Holy Cows. She soon messaged the parrot to say that she was opening a second and a third spa on nearby planets and that she had already earned one million bags of birdseed!
Polly’s ginormous profits set the parrot's brain ticking. He sat on his porch with his head on one side. I swear I could hear his little brain going.
“Eureka!” He shouted.
“We shall set up a space travel business!”
“Why would we want to do that?” I asked.
“To earn seed and dog biscuits,” he squawked.
“And dollars,” added Marlow.
“Or Japanese Yen or Vietnamese dong or crypto space coins or whatever you want… the point is we are going to use our extraordinary talents and experience to go into business!”
“Hey,” said Marlow. “This isn’t about competing with Polly, is it? It is, isn’t it? You don’t want your ex-girlfriend to be more successful than you are.”
“Not a bit of it!” exclaimed the parrot. “I am a triumphant success in my own right. I don’t measure life in bird seeds. But it is true she gave me an idea. We aren’t paid nearly enough for risking our feathers and our skins. Let’s go freelance and become billionaires in no time!”
“Woof woof,” I agreed, thinking of all the lovely chewy dog treats I could earn. I especially miss those ones like sticks that you can hold in your paws and gnaw on with your back teeth.
Our business began with a fever of frenzied feathered activity. The parrot opened an account at the Interplanetary Bank of Birds where we would keep all our profits. I was in charge of security, to keep our clients safe, but as we did not have any clients yet, I curled up in my basket which floated around the spaceship. I dreamt of tasty profits. And Marlow tried to write the advertisement to post on the intergalactic internet. I say ‘tried’ because the parrot was at his bossiest and wanted to dictate it. Marlow argued back. After much debate, this was the final wording:
“Three experienced astronauts offer customised Space Tours inside their five-star luxury spaceship. Let your wildest dreams come true! Travel with us to the furthest reaches of the universe! See stuff you have never seen before! Suitable for extremely rich people of all ages. Safety guaranteed! You will not be kidnapped by Cat people or other evil aliens while travelling with us!”
The last part about safety was my suggestion by the way.
So we posted the advertisement, sat back, and waited for our first customer. In fact, we waited for about a year. By then we had almost forgotten about the parrots business plans. Personally, I was excited about the prospect of putting my paws back down on planet earth. My thoughts took me to fondly remembering my Jenny, my dear owner… as we were now only about a fortnight away from home.
So when Marlow exclaimed, “Well how about this? We’ve got ourselves a customer!” I hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about.
“Is that news good or bad?” I asked.
“Pretty good,” said Marlow. “A billionaire from Planet Earth called Mark Crassus will pay us a quarter of a million dollars if we take his teenage daughter on a moonwalk.”
“Wow! That’s a lot of money just for one Walkies,” I said.
“Let’s ask him for more?” suggested the parrot.
Marlow messaged Mr Crassus suggesting a special deal of two trips to the moon for 450,000 dollars, but the billionaire replied that he wanted a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for his daughter on her sixteenth birthday. I suppose that twice in a lifetime did not sound so special. Her name was Luna and she had always had a special affinity for the moon.
Two weeks later we went into orbit around the gorgeous blue and green planet we call home. Down below on earth, Luna took off from a spaceport in Kazakhstan. 24 hours later, her ship docked with ours. We got our first sight of our passenger when she crawled through the airlock into the control room where I, a dog had lived these past few years alongside a parrot and a man. She had a round, almost moon-like face, with a slightly pained expression.
‘Excuse me,” she said, “I’m feeling a little space sick.”
“It’s perfectly normal,” I woofed. “Try to chuck up in the bucket in the corner.”
She looked at me puzzled: “Wow, that’s so cool. How is this possible? You’re a dog and I can understand exactly what you’re saying.”
“That’s because we have the automatic language translation switched on,” said Marlow. “It’s a smart piece of alien technology that we picked up on our travels.”
By now, Luna’s sickness subsided and she was happily floating around the room flapping her wings like a baby bird that had jumped off the nest for the first time.
“Unfortunately our gravity machine broke some years ago,” said Marlow.
“Oh, I don’t mind, I'm having so much fun. And I don’t feel sick anymore. I've never flown before like this. At least not unless it was in an aeroplane or a spacecraft like the one that brought me here. What a great start to my birthday,” she squealed with joy.
Just as I was starting to like Luna, an alarm went off. Not just any old warning but the most serious of all - the anti-cat alert.
“Warning! warning! At least one cat is on board the spacecraft.”
“Grrrrrrr! Woof Woof! Luna is a cat person in disguise. Get your laser gun, Marlow, shoot her!”
Marlow drew his gun from his holster, but fortunately, the parrot, who had been uncharacteristically quiet until then, squawked out, “Don’t shoot our best customer, you idiot! She’s not a cat person. There’s the cause for alarm.”
He was frantically pointing towards the airlock with his wing.
“Rrrrrrrr ruff ruff ruff RUFF!” I exclaimed as I charged over to where a feline intruder was springing back into the chute through which he had sneaked into our ship.
I managed to do something which is very hard for any dog to do. I resisted the urge to sink my teeth into the cat’s tail which was dangling out of the chute as he cowered within. I turned around, took a deep breath, and asked, “Did we say that customers could bring pets onboard?”
“I don’t think we did,” said the parrot.
“But my dad said that for a quarter of a million dollars I could bring Mr Muggles If I wanted to,” protested Luna.
“Hmm. Fair enough I suppose,” concluded the parrot. “But next time he’ll have to buy a ticket. It’s ok Mr Muggles. You can come in. Nobody’s going to eat you.”
“Wrrr wa wa ra,” I muttered, trying to control my biggest ever biting urge.
“Aww what a cute kitty!” exclaimed Marlow. I begged to differ. He had one bright blue eye and the other one was a mix of emerald and gold…odd if you ask me. His grumpy-looking face was surrounded by a sort of fluffy main. I guessed that he was one of those rare breeds of cat that only rich, and in my humble opinion, foolish, people will pay a lot of money for. This supposedly ‘cute’ kitty jumped back into the control room and started to float about while flapping all four of his hairy legs and meowing piteously.
“Meeeow!” He whined, “I don’t like this flying business.”
“Aw don’t worry my beauty pie,” reassured Luna. “You’ll soon get used to it. Zero gravity...this is so amazing!
Hey, isn't it strange that he can talk?”
“No, it’s not,” protested Mr Muggles. “I’ve always been able to talk. What’s strange is that you can understand me!”
I saw Marlow and the parrot glance at each other.
“Hey,” said the parrot. “No one ever said that getting rich was going to be easy. Marlow set a course for the moon.”
“Aye, aye, sir, right away.”
And so our rocket fired and we set off on our shortest but most profitable trip to the mysterious orb that so many dogs down the centuries have bayed at.. the moon.
Now the moon is a funny old place. The atmosphere is very thin, and there are no clouds to control the climate, so when you are on the side that is facing the sun, it is ever so burning hot, and when you are on the dark side, it is frightfully chilly. As for gravity, there’s just enough of it to stop you floating off into space, but not enough to pull you completely down, and when you run, you tend to bounce up and down in free-floating leaps and bounds. We actually weigh less on the moon than we do on earth, so perhaps we should start a slimming club there for our next business venture. I’m told that I could lose a pound or two off my tummy, though I don’t believe that.
I know all these facts about the moon because Luna told me. The moon was her special subject, you could say, and she has always been fascinated by it. She even knows several poems about the moon off by heart, including this one by a lady called Christina.
“Is the moon tired?
she looks so pale Within her misty veil:
She scales the sky from east to west,
And takes no rest.
Before the coming of the night
The moon shows papery white;
Before the dawning of the day
She fades away.”
But her pet cat, Mr Muggles, was not looking forward to our moonwalk. Luna had bought a spacesuit for him, and as she helped him get into it, he asked: “Are there any mice on the moon?”
“Of course, Mr Muggles, there are tons,” assured Luna.
“Liar!” he purred back.
As Luna was slipping her arms through her own spacesuit, which her dad had bought in a very expensive store in Austria, she said, “I expect Mr Muggles is just a teeny-weeny bit scared. And you know Astropup, although it's always been my dream to walk on the moon, for as long as I can remember, I can’t help being a little bit frightened too.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” I assured her, “I’ll look after you.”
“That’s what I’m scared of, “said Mr Muggles.
I snarled at the hairball. Like every cat I have ever come across, he was very rude!
Our ship touched down in a nice soft bed of moon dust. I jumped out of the airlock and sent particles splashing around my head. Luna came next, climbing down the three steps of the ladder. The cat stood on the top rung. “You go ahead,” he mee-owed. “I’ll watch you from here.”
“Coward!” I woofed.
Luna returned to the ladder with a bounce and a skip and swept him up in her arms. “Oh come on Mr Muggles,” she said. “Aren't you excited? You’re the first cat on the moon!”
Which was not strictly true, but I wasn’t going to scare her with tales of the cat people whom we met up there once before.
Luna wanted to practice her gymnastics on the moon. She put Mr Muggles down before taking a run and tipping over into three cartwheels in a row. “Wow, that’s got to be a world... I mean a moon record! Woo hoo,” she claimed while clapping and congratulating herself. But Mr Muggles was not impressed.
“So where are all the mice your promised?” But she could no longer understand him because we had moved out of range of the automatic translation machine.
Luna was too busy doing low-gravity handstands to notice what happened next, but I did and so did Mr Muggles. A luna mouse who was behind a rock very unwisely squeaked:
Mr. Muggles sprang into action and found himself flying over the surface and doing an unintentional somersault: “Meeow!”
He landed in a shallow crater about two meters from where he had started. The mouse scurried away and Mr. Muggles scrambled to his feet and went after it in leaps and bounds.
“Hey, come back!” I woofed.
Now Luna caught on to what was happening. “Mr Muggles!” She called out across the radio. She tried to run after her absconding kitty-cat, but she flew up into the air and fell facedown onto the surface of the moon. I soon caught up with her. I would have licked her face.. as we dogs do when we want to check if a human is alright and still breathing, but as we were both kitted out with glass helmets, I gently tapped my helmet against hers. She was soon back on her feet and chasing after her pet again. “Here kitty, kitty, here boy. Mr Muggles, where are you?”
Stop! Stop!” squawked the parrot who was on board the spaceship, but in radio contact. “You mustn't go too far. We mustn't lose you!”
“But I've lost my cat!” whined Luna.
The fact of the matter was, both the cat and the mouse had vanished from sight. All we could see was the cratered surface of the moon, the black sky, the twinkling stars, and two-thirds of Planet Earth 240,000 miles away. I had been wondering where the other third had gone, but there was no time for questions.
And that was the first part of ‘Astropup’s Space Tourist’.
And to find out what happens next, tune in soon to Storynory.com
And I’m delighted to dedicate this story to Ryan Beechey, whose family generously supports us on Patreon. . . I hear that Ryan is having his sixth birthday, and so a big Happy Birthday to you Ryan!
For now, from me, Richard, goodbye.