ORIGINAL FICTION: "Dog Days, Part 2"

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Part 1 is online here http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-dog-days-part-1 and this is part 2:

Beauchamp woke up to find himself on earth, hallucinating that a dog was looking at him with the somewhat confused expression dogs sometimes get when they’re contemplating deep matters. He was disoriented, and confused, flat on his back, but he had to be on earth because the gravity was much heavier than on Mars, and he could smell plants in the air. How the hell did I get back here?, he wondered, how long have I been out? What…oh, yeah, the aliens in the dome…what the hell?
“Arrre you allrrright?” the dog asked. Its voice was entirely inhuman, but it seemed so perfectly what you’d expect a dog to sound like if it could talk that the oddness of it washed right over him for a moment. “I’m fine,” he said and raised an arm, then another one. “Well, that can’t be right – after all those months in low-and-no gravity, I should be weak as a kitten…wait a minute, did you just…uhm…speak?”
“Yes,” the dog replied.
“Well, now I know I’m hallucinating,” he said, “Excepting the gravity, of course that’s weird.” He looked at the dog’s head, hovering over him, looking pretty much like you’d expect a large dog – in this case, a black lab – to look, if you were holding it upright – big head, simple, non-expressive face, unusually soulful eyes, thick neck, narrow shoulders and thin arms, or more properly thin forelegs. He uncontrollably started laughing, and giggled out “Speak, boy, speak.”
“Cerrrtainly. What would you like me to speak about?”
“Must be a suit malfunction. I must be going giddy on bad air in the suit, that would explain everything excepting the gravity.”
“What is it about ourrr grrravity that concerrrns you?”
“Well – do you mind if I sit up?”
“Please, if you feel able,”
“Yeah, I am – obviously I’m hallucinating because first I saw aliens under a big dumb 50s science fiction movie dome on Mars, and then I crashed I think, and now I’m talking to a dog, but I seem oddly unconcerned that I’m probably suffocating or getting anoxia or whatever…” Here he grunted, and swung around on what seemed to be a doctor’s examination table, and was suddenly overcome with dizziness, “…whoa. That was weird.”
“Interrresting. You arrr dizzy, yes?”
“Yes,” his face flushed red, “If I had any food in me, I think I’d have hurled right there.” Sitting up, Beauchamp leaned forward to brace himself on his arms, his hands on the end of table.
“The otherrrs experrrienced similarrr disorrrientation upon arrrival,” the dog said, then turned to the side and barked some orders – literally barked – at another dog Beauchamp hadn’t noticed thus far in the corner of the room, then turned his attention back to the human, “The doctorrr has not had the opporrrtunity to inspect any of you in detail, but we believe yourrr species to be highly susceptible to corrrolis forrrce. The otherrrs seem to be adjusting rrrapidly, howeverrr. It may be easierrr forrr you if you trrry to avoid turrrning yourrr head.”
Beauchamp didn’t really hear any of this, however. He was gazing down, fixing his eyes on his dangling feet, trying not to throw up, then he noticed the dog’s leg next to his – well, that makes sense, he’s a dog standing up in my hallucination, so obviously I’d see this but…where’s the other leg? His eyes darted around, frantically, realizing there was no other dog’s leg to be seen. Instead, there was simply one large furry foot, or paw, oddly symmetrical, with a big toe on either side, and three smaller ones in the middle. The lone ankle was easily as big as a man’s – much larger than a dog would normally have – that attached to a leg that tapered up to its hips. From there up, it looked more or less like a normal, largish dog, but from the hips down it looked almost like a seal modified to live on land.
He turned his head to look at the other dog in the corner, and felt nausea rush over him again. Both were identical except for coloring. Both of them were naked, excepting a white vest with lots of overstuffed pockets the one in the corner was wearing. He felt his attention focusing, his pulse racing, the urge to flight or fight rising within him, and moved to get up.
“I can not rrread yourrr exprrression, I apologize. Do you trrruly believe yourrrself to be hallucinating?”
“I did,” Beauchamp said in a breathless voice that even he couldn’t quite hear. He said it again, “I did.” He sidled forward over the edge of the table, feeling his feet on the floor. The upright dog-alien moved towards him, raised a paw and placed it gently on his forearm. Its touch was surprisingly gentle, startlingly so.
“It might be best forrr you to rrremain herrre until yourrr shipmates can be summoned.”
Beauchamp reached over with his left hand and touched the alien’s paw, pulled it away from his arm and looked at it – a four-fingered hand, black with short fur on the back of the paw and fingers, and something like normal dog leather underneath. There was a short, stubby, but obviously manicured nail poking out of the blunt end of the fingers. He tried to turn the paw over at the wrist to see the bottom, but the dog made a whimpering sound, and yanked it away. Beauchamp felt his urge to run or lash out surge at the sudden movement.
“It doesn’t bend that way, sorrry,” the dog said, “Herrre, try this,” and held his forearm straight up-and-down so Beauchamp could see the bottom of it. There was a dewclaw-like thumb sticking out of the wrist, well below the palm, long and unnaturally thin. Beachamp reached out to touch it, and the dog picked exactly the wrong moment to demonstrate how he could use it to make a very strong vice grip with each of his fingers. Flicking the long, bony worm around like that startled the human, who immediately dropped into a crouch, then lunged forward with his shoulder into a tackle. The dog was heavier than it looked, but lighter than a man. Beauchamp – acting entirely on reflex – misjudged the force he’d need, and both of them ended up toppling over.
The dog made a sound halfway between a canine whimper and a human groan, the other dog made something that was comedically close to a surprised ‘yipe’, then a growl. Beauchamp cut and ran, but something was wrong, his balance was off. As he moved down the perfectly-square hallway that seemed to be the only way out of the room, he kept leaning to the right, listing against the wall. He was nauseous. He’d run three steps, fall against the wall without meaning to do so, then fall against it again. He ran for what seemed like ten minutes, never quite finding the end of the oddly-twisting hallway, always moving to his left whenever a fork in the path appeared for no reason other than his body kept falling to the right like he had a clubfoot on that side.
He turned a corner and saw a dog-alien, same shape as the others, but larger, very nearly man-sized, and wearing what was obviously armor. It didn’t advance on him, just blocked his way. He backtracked away from the thing, and ran down another fork for a minute or two, eventually finding his way blocked by another…well, call it what it obviously is: a guard dog. Three different corridors and three different large guard dogs blocking his way, but not behaving in any way more threatening than that. The chase, such as it was, went on for a half an hour or so.
His pulse began to slacken, his breathing calmed, the blind xenophobic panic in his mind left by degrees. He ducked down a corridor he’d already been down once – the guard dog was further towards the entrance than he’d been before. He tried another one, just in time to see one of the dogs moving forward, and interesting loping movement, it went down on all threes, coiled its hind leg underneath it, made a casual lunging move forward and landed on all threes again, then coiled its hind leg beneath it and moved along again. It was surprisingly graceful.
A voice came over some kind of alien PA system, the voice of the black lab-looking one he’d been talking to before, “My grrrandmother wishes to know why you werrre so concerrrned about the grrravity when you thought this was a hallucination? You may speak in a converrrsational voice, I will be able to hearrr your rrreply.”
“Have you ever had any kind of hallucination?” Beauchamp said to the air, still walking along and trying to find a free way out of there.
“No.”
“I have. Your brain misinterprets stuff, or just openly makes it up, but I’ve never felt gravity to be different than it really was.”
“Interrresting. Is this univerrrsal among humans, or unique to you?” the “K” sound in ‘Unique’ was oddly pronounced.
Beauchamp paused, “To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I assume it’s mostly universal, but guess it could be just me.”
“And because the grrravity is differrrent than the worrrld we found you on, and differrrent than yourrr homeworld, you feel disorrriented?”
“Well, yeah,” he said, moving forward more casually now, “I’d assumed I was on earth when I woke up, but the gravity was all wrong…” he turned a corner and saw what was obviously natural light coming through a doorway, with the silhouette of a dog backlit in it. It spoke, and Beauchamp wasn’t at all surprised that it was the one he’d tackled earlier.
“You arrre not on earrrth, norrr arrre you on the otherrr planet, obviously,” it said.
Beauchamp stepped forward, “Then where the hell am I?”
“Come forrrwarrrd and see” it said. He stepped through the door…and very nearly blacked out. He was on the side of a hill in what looked to be a very large meadow stretching for miles in all directions, literally as far as the eye could see, filled with plants that were obviously alien but just as obviously plants, a stream, a lake in the distance, a large suspension bridge. Above the meadow on either side were two vast swaths of nighttime sky, replete with stars. Above them were very long, skinny rectangles of plants, streams, lakes, and buildings looking down on him. Between these was a final swath of nighttime sky.
“You arrre on ourrr ship, obviously,” the dog said.
“Maybe I should lay down for a moment” Beauchamp said a full minute after he’d abruptly laid down on his back. He couldn’t figure out how the massive strips of land above him weren’t falling on him, he couldn’t escape the obviously massive scope of this ship or world or whatever the hell it was.
“You arrre calmerrr now, yes?” the dog said after a long pause.
“Yes,” Beauchamp replied, “I’m sorry, you just kind of freaked me out back there. Did I hurt you?”
The dog made an indescribable noise that later turned out to be their equivalent of laughter, “You should be embarrrassed by how little you hurrrt me, actually.” Another long pause.
“You certainly contained that situation well, I’m surprised you were able to…you know…bring me down without fighting or shooting me or whatever it is you…uhm…people…do.”
“Yes, we have grrreat experrrience with hearrrding things.”

Part 3 is here

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