Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Unearthly Hound...

or The Hound at the End of the Lane
or The Tribe of Ham
or 100,000 BH [Before Ham]

There I was yesterday evening, checking my email after getting back from the gym and right before going to see Cloverfield. I was reading some comments about Poochles off his campaign blog, and some of the... well, weirdnesses of him.

"He talks," the email (from one B. Wright, of Shoreditch, London) said. "That's just weird." Another, from one I. Chesterton, "He's my problem, too. He knows more about politics than I ever will. But he lets his knowledge out a little at a t time, so as not to embarrass me."

This was not the impression I wanted Poochles to make.

Miss Wright continued: "That's not quite right. I tripped him up by accident. He was talking about his trans-Atlantic friends, and I asked him how many shillings were in a pound. And he knew. He knew there were twenty. How do you explain a seven year old dog who knows imperial money? They may have a decimalized currency in the US, but we do, too, now."

Well, you can't justify curiosity.

It was just at that time that I heard Poochles coughing down the hall for some reason. The icy fog outside, I thought. It's mysterious.

Poochles was soon nosing around my room, looking at a Belle and Sebastian concert poster. Or more precisely, its frame. "It's very damp and dusty," he started, "But I might just..." he trailed off mumbling.

It was then I first got a good look at him. Even I was startled. He usually only wears a collar -- maybe a bandanna around his neck, too, if he's feeling festive. But he was positively decked out. He had, from somewhere, acquired what looked to be old checked trousers and a waistcoat. Underneath that was a wing-collared shirt, and on top and old frock coat. And I think I saw an old-fashioned cravat. As protection against the cold, he had a black cape and a striped silk scarf. And perched on top of his pointy head was the smallest Astrakhan hat I ever saw.

"Come along, hmmmnh? Time's wasting!" he said and walked a few steps out of the room. He stopped and turned around, clearly waiting for me to join him. I did.

In the hall was the most remarkable object. It was a dog house, rather like the one Snoopy has, but painted a dark blue. On the front, it had a set of double doors with a pair of frosted glass windows. On top was a little lamp, and (over the doors) "DOG poochles' private HOUSE" was helpfully written. It was noticeably humming. I put my hand on it and quickly jerked it away.

"It's alive!" I said.

I walked all around it to take it in. "There's no wires connecting it, unless it's through the floor." Poochles clearly thought that was a dim thing to say. "Well, are you going to stand around all day, or are you going to go in?" he snapped.

So I did.

He walked in and took of his scarf and cape (oddly throwing them on the floor despite the odd eagle lectern right next to him) while I gawped. "It's... bigger on the inside. But... but... I walked all 'round it!"

And it was bigger on the inside. It was huge -- and it couldn't have been a trick; it was wider by far than the foyer outside. The room was big on hexagons, for some reason. It was shaped like a big one, to start with, and running up and down the white walls were round indentations that exuded a soothing light. Hanging from ceiling was another hexagonal figure emitting light. Underneath that was a six-sided control panel on a plinth, more full of switches, lever and dials than can easily be suggested. At the top of this was a glass column, packed with still more advanced electronics, the interior of which was slowly rotating. Around it, on the floor, was a metal skirt. Again it was a hexagon. And the far wall, a TV monitor screen was suspended from the wall at eye level. A scanner, I presumed.

In contrast to the clinical white feel of the space were the furnishings that had been brought in. They were mostly antiques, like the lectern and an ormolu clock, but there was also a comfy-looking armchair and a table with a carved ham on it. "It's impossible," I said, in summary.

"Clearly not," said Poochles dryly. "I call it BASSAT. I made it up from the initials. "

"BASSAT?" I asked. None of this was making sense.

"Basset Hound And Sir Space And Time machine," he huffed. "It's a ship. It travels through space and time. It's for Basset hounds and Sirs. Catch up."

"A ship?" That made no sense to me.

"I use use your word for any craft that doesn't roll along on wheels!" he sniffed. He was clearly down with the condescension tonight.

"And it travels through space and time?" I was really lagging behind here. Poochles just stared at me in response. "Well, I don't expect to find the philosopher's dream of free movement through time and space sitting in a front foyer," I maintained. "Even a child would know that."

"The pups of my civilization would be insulted!" he barked. Well, not literally. But it was a pretty gruff response.

"Your civilization?!" I boggled. This was clearly going beyond me.

Poochles hooked his paws behind the lapels of his frock coat. "I was born in another time, another world."

I briefly considered it. It /would/ explain the talking, although not how he tied the cravat he was wearing. On the whole, it seemed a lot more likely that I was going insane.

"I'm leaving," I decided out loud.

"I'm sorry, sir, I can't let you do that. Leash laws are very strict on other planets. And I need someone to get stuff on the high shelves." By now, he was right next to the control console, and I saw him flick something on the nearest control panel.

"Piff," I said, and tried to use the control I'd seen him use to shut the door earlier.

And got one hell of an electric shock. It was live.

"Dammit," I said. "That hurt!" But as I sucked my smoldering finger, Poochles was rushing around the console, operating controls. A loud, strange noise erupted from deep within the Ship and the floor began to buck wildly. On the scanner, an image of my house appeared, but got smaller and smaller, as if we were getting higher and higher in altitude. Within seconds, the neighbourhood, and then the city vanished. On the screen, curious flashes and blobs of light started to move, howling around. I think I blacked out...

Poochles told me later that the BASSAT materialized on a sandy, barren plain. But we had been watched as we arrived, and an angry, man-shaped shadow loomed over out little dog house.

The Poochles' adventures in Space and Time continue at the same time Next Week in The Cave of Hams. That's next week on BBC 1 -- The Basset Broadcasting Corporation.

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