Space Janitor (111-120) struggled to focus on the dog approaching him and Shep. It was hard to make out. What was it he was wearing? A charcoal grey pinstripe suit. Red tie, white shirt and there were spats nestled atop his black wingtips. The sharply dressed dog in front of him certainly made a statement. What the statement was, on the other hand, was unclear.
“Hello, hello and welcome to the show,” the sharp-dressed dog said to them.
Space Janitor and Shep said nothing. Space Janitor noticed Shep could not place his stump down on the ground properly. He could rest it for a moment before instinctively raising it again.
“Is there somewhere for my friend to sit down?” Space Janitor blurted out. It was clear the sharp-dressed dog was going to say something more. Space Janitor had put him off his flow.
“This one can’t wait to bark. Am I right?” the sharp-dressed dog before turning around. The other dogs did not react at first. The sharp-dressed dog eyeballed them then they got the hint. The company surrounding them all started laughing and barking in unison. There was something wrong about the whole thing.
Space Janitor waited for an answer to his request. The sharp-dressed dog looked Space Janitor in the eye.
“Your friend can sit. I bet you can too because that’s what you do. You get told to sit, and you do. You get told to beg, and you do. You’re probably what they call a good boy. Am I right?” The sharp-dressed dog’s eyes narrowed. Space Janitor wanted to look away, but something within him told him to stay locked.
“I said, they call you a good boy, right?” the sharp-dressed dog said.
“I don’t know if I would exactly call myself a good boy,” Space Janitor responded to the sharp-dressed dog. Shep was puffing and panting, the heat was getting to him. While Space Janitor couldn’t see him clearly, he could hear him. He wanted to prop him up. Something was in the sharp-dressed dog’s paws, looked like a remote.
“Oh I bet you’re the goodest boy they have,” the sharp-dressed dog said to Space Janitor.
Space Janitor turned to Shep. Shep was sweating through his overalls. Poor Shep, from one extreme to the other.
“You’re probably wondering who I am, I’m Deobol,” the sharp-dressed dog said. The way he said it felt like it was supposed to land with more weight than it did. “I’m Deobol,” he said again.
“Hello Deobol,” said Space Janitor. Deobol looked mildly annoyed at the lack of reaction.
“This is where I’ve been hiding out from you guys all this time. I like to meet each of the packs that come down here. Your bosses never learn, do they? They don’t. Am I right?” said Deobol.
Space Janitor shrugged unsure of how to react. He kept still and his eyes locked on Deobol. He noticed the other dogs closing in around him.
“The thing is, maybe you want to go stray, for a day. You could even go a while longer if you play your cards right,” Deobol said. It was a whisper right in front of Space Janitor.
“Actually, Shep was talking about going stray earlier. I guess this is our chance then,” Space Janitor said.
Deobol looked over to Shep. Approached, held up his chin.
Shep looked up, locking eyes with Deobol.
“Is that so daddi-o?”
Space Janitor turned to see what was happening.
Denobol was speaking low but could still be made out.
“Come on, stray with me, be a bad dog just for a day, you might like it,” Denobol said to Shep. “You think the masters will help you with the limp? Or is it coming out of your pay?”
Shep could not bring himself to look at Denobol. A smaller dog sniffed at Shep’s stump.
Space Janitor heard them speak.
“Come on, we can get you walking, running again,” said Denobol.
“They put down strays,” Shep responded.
“They put down leasers too,” Denobol retorted. “You’re thinking about it, am I right? I am, are you worried about that one? Don’t worry, sometimes leasers don’t show up when they come down here,”.
The conversation became a whisper.
Space Janitor struggled to hear. Looked at the other dogs around him. They appeared to be sleeping. Whatever was happening, Space Janitor didn’t like how it was. The heat was getting to him, and he shifted on his feet. He wasn’t sure what was going on.
Was Shep going to give up on him finally after all this time? It felt like it was going to go that way for him.
Space Janitor could see there may come the point when he would have to use the Spenglactic. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to use it on his fellow dogs. When he looked at them, he felt something akin to pity. When he felt compassion, it was accompanied by guilt. There was no need to handle such an emotion.
Space Janitor looked at each of them in turn. What was to become of them, what was to become of him?
Space Janitor was not long in contemplation. There were a few barks behind him. It sounded like they were communicating with each other. The barks were unfamiliar to him. There was no way for him to discern what was being said. If they were deciding Space Janitor’s fate, then he was none the wiser. Space Janitor was grateful for the small mercies.
Denobol walked past Space Janitor, Shep followed too. Denobol stopped an turned to look at Space Janitor. Space Janitor locked eyes with Denobol.
Denobol snarled before giving the order.
“This one is young, he has a pack. Send him to the pit on clean up. Make sure you put an inhibitor on the pack,” Denobol said to the pack. They woofed in unison.
Denobol and Shep left the area.
Space Janitor looked around to see the dogs closing in. Their paws outstretched. Space Janitor considered resisting but aside from himself, he had no dog in this fight. He shook his shoulders to get the Spenglactic’s attention.
“Don’t bother me,” Spenglactic said.
“They’re putting an inhibitor chip on you. Doesn’t sound good,” said Space Janitor.
“Great, fantastic. You know, some first day this is turning out to be. You should have left me at the depot,”
“I should have stayed in the tube,” Space Janitor responded. “Looks like neither of us is in for a good day,”
The other dogs had laid paws on Space Janitor. Their grip was forceful even though he offered no resistance. Also though there was no conflict. It felt like there was an unnecessary roughness with how they dealt with him. Was this their first time touching someone, it felt that way. They clumsily grabbed hold of Space Janitor.
One of the dogs was fidgeting with the Spenglactic. Was this the inhibitor?
Space Janitor felt himself being released. There was a moment when he wondered if they had put it in place.
“That’s the inhibitor put in,” said Spenglactic, “Don’t notice anything different right now. If there is something I notice before then, I’ll let you know. If it’s something more obvious, then you’ll know before me. Good luck and hope they didn’t do anything too nasty,”.
The dogs let go of Space Janitor and walked him over to a doorway. It led to a lift. The inside of the elevator was cramped and primitive. It was more akin to a cage than anything else. Only three other dogs escorted Space Janitor. One of them was the beagle.
Space Janitor felt the lift descend. The heat increased. The other dogs in the elevator began panting heavily.
“Tell me where you’re taking me,” Space Janitor demanded of them. There was no response. Space Janitor reached out to grab the beagle. It snarled, and Space Janitor pulled his hand away.
“Don’t matter where you go. You go where you’re told. You do as alpha says. Thinking you’re smart won’t help you at all. Bark all you want, no one else is going to hear you,” said the beagle.
The lift stopped, the doors opened. Space Janitor found himself at the bottom of what appeared to be a large pit. There were dogs there too, but you couldn’t see them clearly. You could make out their silhouettes in the dim light. What gave away the large numbers was the smell and the sound. There were such loud pants and howls it would almost make you go deaf.
The beagle led Space Janitor out. Was this to be the end of the line for him?
Space Janitor looked at the wretched dogs who were toiling away in the grim light. The beagle approached him, blocking his vision.
“This is your new life now,” the beagle said.
“I don’t know what this is,” Space Janitor said.
“You have a pack, you don’t want to stray. You can clean here. Still do your job, you can stay happy. See,” said the beagle.
“You know it doesn’t count. You can’t keep me here like that,” said Space Janitor.
“Well, that’s what Den says. So you listen to him do what he says. Clean the mess. They gotta keep digging,” said the beagle. Space Janitor looked and saw the mounds of the mess,
The garbage, the dust, it all mixed in together. It didn’t look like it was mechanical. The look puzzled Space Janitor. How did so much sand come to be on a space station? Where there, tides? Were there oceans?
“They look like they’ve been digging for a while. Must be tiring,” Space Janitor said.
As if on cue, one of the digging dogs collapsed. The beagle caught sight of this and signalled to some of the others. The collapsed digging dog was dragged away.
“They keep digging until they get a big bone,” said the beagle nodding.
“There’s not going to be a big bone,” Space Janitor said.
The beagle’s eyes widened. The lips curled, revealing a row of yellow, chipped teeth.
“Who tell you?” the beagle asked.
Space Janitor was deeply confused by the reaction. He wondered if the beagle was serious. Digging for a bone in some sand deposit didn’t sit right with him.
“No one told me. There’s a chance I’m wrong,” Space Janitor said. Would the beagle believe him?
“You scare Beagey,” the beagle said. The lips moved back to a resting position. Space Janitor smiled and looked down at the ground. These dogs, he didn’t want to judge, and he wasn’t trying to believe himself to be a genius by any stretch of the imagination. There was something primitive about them. It felt like there was a thin sheet of plastic coating the fierce aggression. The most gentle prodding would pierce the film.
“It was a joke Beagey. I want to help find the big bone. Couldn’t tell the masters. I’ll clean up after them. Help them clean,” Space Janitor said. Not that he knew many, but Space Janitor made a mental note not to use too many big words. As it was, he didn’t want to upset them. Not even slightly as it might lead to more trouble.
Beagey nodded and made his way back towards the lift. A guard dog was wearing a key card stood at the elevator. The guard dog pressed the card to a panel. After a few moments, the lift doors opened. Beagey got on, the doors closed and it ascended. It looked like this was the only way out of the current predicament.
A guard dog thumped Space Janitor from behind. The force was significant enough to put Space Janitor off balance, but he did not go to ground. The guard dog pointed to a mound. Space Janitor nodded and got to work. He could make a run for it now and try and escape. He thought otherwise. There were many dogs around him. With force like that he could take out the guard dogs.
How would he win them over?
Space Janitor would not have time to think as the guard dogs pushed him and cajoled him into working. Space Janitor lifted the nozzle of the Spenglactic. He made sure that there was enough room to get his work done. Where was he supposed to spray the waste? They weren’t making things easy or clear for him. He would have to rely on guesswork in that case.
Space Janitor found himself sucking up a lot of the rubbish. The excess dust that was strewn across the floor. The floor was sodden in some places too making his unsure of where he was to place his feet. Is this what was required of him. Is this his new life? How would he get back up to Shep? Space Janitor hoped Shep was alright and didn’t say anything that would get them into too much trouble.
The Spenglactic had not spoken in some time. Space Janitor wondered if it was operating OK. Was the silence brought on by the inhibitor? Was Spenglactic becoming a casual observer once more? Space Janitor decided it would be best if he were to keep as quiet as possible. He didn’t want to attract any undue attention to himself. If anything, it would offer him an opportunity to slip out.
Space Janitor decided the best way forward for himself would be to get an idea of what kind of work was going on here. Aside from the digging, of course. There was a lot of noise, very little light and even less room to move about. What would happen when the drilling stopped. If the digging stopped?
Space Janitor heard a buzzer go off on the Spenglactic. The Spenglactic was full. Where was he to deposit the waste?
Space Janitor looked around to see if there was a clear sign of anywhere for him to go. Approaching a guard dog, the guard dog, he indicated his Spenglactic. The guard dog annoyed pointed down a tunnel. He then shoved Space Janitor to really hammer home the point that he was irritating him. Space Janitor walked in the direction indicated.
This tunnel became even more narrow. Walking along, dogs were carrying other dogs on stretchers. A rancid smell followed. The tunnel became black as pitch, and there was no indication which way he should be moving. The sheer loudness of the panting told Space Janitor that he was not alone in the tunnels and to keep moving. Every misstep resulted in a shove. Every shove resulted in a stumble, and every stumble resulted in a slip. The cycle renewed.
Space Janitor saw there was light at the end of the tunnel. He instinctively wanted to rush towards the light. He restrained himself because he knew there would be at least seven other dogs in front of him. If he were to annoy them, he would be torn limb from limb. Space Janitor was not ready to throw the towel in just yet.
Space Janitor came into a large room; there was a massive pit in the centre of this room. In the hole, there were all kinds of waste. It seemed to go down forever. Dogs were lining up from all angles dumping their trash. Some times the debris was as small as a speck of dust. In other instances, it was bulky, like a body.
Space Janitor stepped up and looked into the pit. There was so much.
Space Janitor hesitated.
“Come on, bud, people are waiting, what’s the hold-up?” said a voice from behind.
Space Janitor looked around behind him to see the dog behind him glaring impatiently.
“Hurry up and dump it, come on you’re holding us up,” the voice said again.
“I didn’t realise how big it was,” said Space Janitor said.
“Doesn’t matter, we got to keep digging,” said the voice.
Space Janitor hesitated still.
“If you’re not going to do it, then let us go ahead,” said the voice.
The two dogs pushed in front of him, tipping the contents of a large box. The box contained several smaller dogs. The tumbled down into the pit coming to a stop right in front of them.
The dogs looked young, there was no hint of grey in their fur. It didn’t look like it was natural causes at least.
Space Janitor looked down at the little bodies.
Squinting he could see there was movement.
“They’re still breathing,” Space Janitor said looking round to the two dogs, but they had already gone.
Now there was another dog pushing Space Janitor. Space Janitor stepped aside. He saw a guard dog watching intently.
Space Janitor knew the dog would not care if the wretches below him lived or died. They had been dumped here for some reason.
The guard dog left his post and approached Space Janitor. What point would there be in trying to persuade the dog? There would be none. Space Janitor looked to see still breathing bodies.
He lowered himself over the edge of the pit. Taking small steps, down he went. The guard dog drew closer.
“Get out of that pit,” it barked.
“They’re still alive,” Space Janitor shouted back.
“Trouble maker have us?” it said, grabbing him and pulling him.
Where were they taking him?
Would you mind reading from the beginning because it’s a fantastic place to start. You can find the first instalment of Space Janitor by clicking here.
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