From the author: Cerberus, the mightiest puppy in the universe, values her vast intelligence above all her other mighty powers. So what will she do when one of her enemies actually tries to destroy her by trying to destroy her intelligence?
A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE by David Perlmutter
It was a harrowing experience, to say the least.
You could say that about all of my adventures, but it was particularly true of this one. Especially since my mind, which typically helps me deal with everything, nearly cracked- and could have taken me with it.
For those of you not familiar with me, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Cerberus, and I am the most powerful puppy in the universe. I don’t like to brag, but my speed, strength, physical endurance, and, above all, intelligence, are unmatched among any other canines. You can probably tell because I’m writing to you now, and most dogs can’t master that, what with having no fingers and all.
Well, technically I’m dictating it, and my computer’s writing it. But that’s beside the point.
I am the consequence of a union between a normal Earth Dalmatian and a member of a race of super-powered alien canines known as the Perros, who originated in the solar sphere around the dog star, Sirius. Apparently, my father the alien got around a bit, because I seem to have a ton of half-brother and half-sister relations among the dogs and puppies of the world. Many of them have super-powers as well, but not to the degree and the totality which I am fortunate enough to possess. Although we’re all good for helping each other out in a pinch.
When not on duty- either solo or in various team configurations with my heroine gal-pals- I adopt the secret identity of “Cuddles”, the mild-mannered pet of the Parker family, and the object of the excessive “affection” of their kindergarten-age daughter, Gudrun. But, when evil strikes, I emerge in my monogrammed T shirt uniform to fight it. Whatever form it takes, and however long it takes to subdue it.
On this particular occasion which I am about to relate, though, it didn’t seem, for a long time, that I had any chance of subduing anybody. I was lucky to get out of it alive.
I wasn’t entirely correct when I said all of the children of the Perros on Earth were dogs. Some of them preferred the species related to us- wolves, coyotes and foxes- for copulation desires. I don’t get along well with the beasts that emerged out of that line of the family at all. For good reasons.
On this particular evening, I had retired to my doghouse after Gudrun had spent most of the first part of the night “entertaining” herself with me, until she had to go to bed. Tired beyond belief, but still intact, I had hoped to catch up on my reading, but it was not to be.
For what should face me as I arrived at my destination but a doughnut-shaped hole in reality, spewing the icy-cold winds of space right at me with gale force. Trouble with a capital T.
I quickly shifted to hero mode by ripping off the false pelt I wear over my shirt, and flew as quickly as I could over to the hole as the winds would allow. Fortunately, I was able to grab hold of an edge of the doughnut with each paw. Then I applied my strength, and compressed the doughnut into a small, unthreatening pinprick. It was an immense assertion that left my body feeling completely drained of power.
But I had done my duty and saved the universe.
Or so I thought.
At that point, a small and very cunning creature, all red and white fur and yellow eyes and black feet, emerged from behind a conveniently placed boulder.
“Very good,” she said, with mock sincerity. “Your might has not deserted you since our last encounter, Cerberus. What about the rest of you?”
“Kit Vixen!” I growled, spitting out the name of my hated mortal enemy to show I had not forgotten her.
“In the flesh,” she responded.
“Am I to assume,” I asked, “that you just escaped from your last place of imprisonment via that wormhole?”
“In a word- yes,” she answered.
“And I’ll bet you did it so you could resume your desired conquest of the universe- which I only so recently thwarted. Correct?”
“That’s about the size of it, sis.”
I became livid.
“Do NOT call me that!” I snapped.
“Oh, come on,” she barked. “No matter what you say- we are related."
“We are not.”
“Maybe I’m not one of your precious half-dog siblings, but I have Perro blood in me that’s just as pure and true as yours.”
“That I do not doubt. But the fact that you use the powers derived from said blood for evil, rather than good, has soured me on your side of the ‘family’.”
“As if being good really gets you anywhere.”
“Trust a villain to say that. But the fact remains that, according to Linneaus, foxes are not canines. You are not listed under the genus canis but under your own separate one- vulpes.”
“Get your head out of the laboratory, scientist. Foxes have the same behaviours and instincts for survival that wolves and coyotes have. And what you dogs would still have if you hadn’t sold out to the human beings.”
“We did not “sell out”! They offered us eternal food and eternal friendship, and we accepted.”
“You really believe that fake news?”
“Enough of this!” I ordered. “Make tracks, Vixen- before I smite you.”
“ ‘Smite’?” She laughed. “What century did you pull that line from?”
“My point has been made.”
“Then let me make my point.”
She clicked her tongue, and….
We were no longer on Earth as I knew it. Instead, we were in a completely different place.
”Hey!” I said, surprised. “What’s going on here?”
“Finally,” said Kit. “Something you don’t know.”
“How about you enlighten me, then- before I decide to get rough?”
“Certainly. As you probably guessed, this is not the universe we both came from. This is a dimension of an entirely different construction. Chiefly because it is the creation of my own mind.”
“I see. You didn’t exactly have this ability before. How come you do now?”
“Partially, due to you. Your defeat of me led to my banishment away from Earth, and thus to me travelling between alien worlds for a time. All through that time, I had my mind set on vengeance against you. You are, of course, a formidable adversary, given all your gifts of strength, speed, intelligence and whatnot. So, if I was to defeat you, I would have to make myself superior to you in some area. And so, I ask: are you capable of creating entire dimensions with your mind alone, dictated entirely by your subconscious? And can you harness that dimension to enhance your own magical powers?”
“Well…no….but I could…”
“Good. All that time I spent learning how to do this wasn’t spent in vain.”
“I’ve had enough of your showing-off, Vixen. Get me back to Earth before I….”
“You fail to understand the gravity of this situation,” she shot back.
Before I could do or say anything further, something resembling a third eye appeared at the top of her head, and it emitted a long beam of light not unlike a laser. Which proceeded to hit me and knock me to the ground, practically senseless.
That’s normal protocol for me. I typically am able to shrug such things off and carry on.
But not this time.
My body, usually invulnerable to such tricks, had been unable to protect me. I had been gravely and severely wounded for the first time in a very long time.
Somehow, Kit had figured out a way to make herself mighty, and reduce me to being merely mortal.
Or so it appeared.
“What…just….happened?” I sputtered, as I got up with what was left of my strength.
“Just a little show of force to remind you who runs things here,” said Kit. “This is my dimension. My mind, my ball, my rules.”
“Don’t you get it, Cerberus? You’re my prisoner.”
“That’s right. A small price to pay for disrespecting me.”
“Why, you treacherous…”
I rose to attack her again, forgetting my reduced condition. She caught me in the midst of jumping at her, and knocked me down again with the eye beam. Then, a doughnut-shaped hole not unlike the one I’d shut down earlier opened behind me, with the winds inside starting to pull me towards it, and me now powerless to resist them.
“I could snap your bony little neck and put you out of your misery easy!” said Kit. “But, as you’re not your usual self, I’ll be merciful. This’ll be tit for tat. You exiled me from Earth; I’ll exile you from it likewise. You’ll stay in here FOREVER! And I can take over Earth unopposed!”
She used another shot of the light to push me through the doughnut, and I was sent to what appeared to be my doom.
I appeared to fall to the ground for an eternity, until I finally hit land with a loud, painful crash.
At that point, it was apparent that I was at the bottom of an enormous pit of coal-colored blackness, with no beginning or end, no entrance or exit. And thus, no way to escape.
Not that I was capable of doing that at the moment.
I had been deeply humiliated- and severely weakened- by my enemy, and was feeling the effects of both. Now, I’d been humiliated and smacked around by enemies before, but my superpowers and great intelligence had previously allowed me to escape with only minimal damage to body and pride. Here, however, I had been broken in both body and mind, and felt it deeply. There seemed to be no end to my pain, nor likewise to the length of my punishment.
Kit projected herself in front of me as a two-dimensional transparent image. Where she was now, for real, was another matter entirely.
I was so worn out and defeated that I resorted to something I had sworn I would never do with an enemy.
“Please!” I shouted. “Get me out of here, and I will never oppose any of your schemes again!”
“Well…” she said, pretending to consider my plea.
“Consider it, at least!”
“Oh, for God’s sake. You are pathetic without your powers, you know that?”
“Have you no compassion?”
“Don’t be so childish.”
“Childish? How dare you!”
“Honestly, Cerberus. You could really use a rethink on being a heroine, ‘cause you sure can’t handle a defeat very maturely. Your whole modus operandi proves that.”
“Isn’t it obvious? Your body is small, but your powers- and thus, your ego- are big. The powers compensate for your lack of size, and make you super effective as a fighter and as a brain. But, take them away, and you’re nothing.”
“You can’t just reduce me to a Freudian cliché like that.”
“I can do anything I want in here. Remember, this is my dimension.”
“You are the most mean and spiteful creature I have ever met!”
“Not the best thing to say to your new mistress!” she snapped, revealing the eye and giving me another blast to shut me up. “Just for that, it’s going to be even harder for you to get out of this joint, you so-called Princess of Puppies!”
And, with that ironic parting shot at my superhero nickname, she was gone.
And I was trapped in oblivion.
I don’t know how long I was there the whole time. It could have been an hour, or it could have been days, weeks, months or even years. Time was utterly meaningless in that space.
All I knew was that, having suffered intense physical pain, I was now undergoing the worst kind of mental torture imaginable. Kit had beaten my body already; now she was trying to break my mind.
The pit in which I was constructed was an ingenious act of capricious sadism on her part. She’d constructed it so that it seemed impossible to escape, but easy enough to get into. She showed this when she constructed some demons with her mind and dropped them in there with me. Of course, I had been robbed of my strength, so I had no way of resisting them. They beat me soundly, and then departed, leaving me in constant dread of when they might return.
Otherwise, Kit showed restraint, compared to what she could have done with me. She easily could have killed me right away and ended it. But she felt it was easier to let my own mind kill me instead- with worry and fear.
Gradually, I could feel my mind slip away from me as what passed for time passed. I found myself going insane. Imagining things and becoming preoccupied with them instead of my reality. I was becoming a mad dog. Although because of something other than rabies.
Finally, I could bear the tedium and isolation no longer. The stoic mask that is usually my face disappeared, and I laughed and cried in mental distress.
“Vixen, you fiend!” I spat. “Stop tormenting me! I can no longer resist you. Finish me off, here and now, and be done with it, already!”
“NO!” another voice, resembling mine, suddenly shouted. “You will not surrender yourself in such a fashion. I forbid it.”
I turned around, and was suddenly face to face with a doppleganger. She looked exactly like me, except that she wore a white dress and had a yellow halo hovering above her head.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Did Kit send you to off me, or….”
“Don’t be absurd,” she said. “I have nothing to do with that monster.”
“Then who are you?”
“Gad! For a supposed mental “genius”, you have some big blind spots. I am your conscience.”
“Then it’s true!” I said, cackling like a loon. “You’re supposed to be a metaphysical thing, not a physical one. Therefore, it’s obvious: I am going completely stark-raving mad!”
Her response was to give me a brutal slap in the face that hurt me more than any of Kit’s previous attacks, which was saying something.
“Do not disrespect me!” she thundered. “I am a patient creature, but I do not tolerate insolence. Is that clear?”
She was me, all right.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, adopting a submissive body pose.
“Get up!” she ordered, and I obeyed.
“One question,” I requested. “How is it that you are taking corporeal form like this? I thought that was merely mythology.”
“Nonsense,” she said. “I have always existed this way to help you, Cerberus. As I said, I am your conscience. I live within you, through your words and your deeds, as one’s conscience does in every being. But the Perros are not typical that way, as they are not typical otherwise. At the most perilous times in the lives of their hosts, the consciences of Perros can assume this form, when they are on the verge of death or seeking it out. We then persuade- insist- that you banish these thoughts and go back to living.”
“Living?” I still doubted her. “What have I got to live for? I’ve been completely humiliated and defeated by an enemy who has shown herself superior to me. Besides which, I have been imprisoned here, in this place where there is no time or space, and no means of getting out. How do you suppose that I live here?”
“You fool. Stop doubting yourself. You are her superior physically, so battling her should not be an issue. She simply used…shall we say…extra-legal means to defeat you. But you yourself have equally formidable abilities that she does not have- and will never acquire.”
“What are you implying?”
“Use your head, you idiot!”
The words stung, but they made their mark on me right away, as soon as I considered the implication.
“Of course!” I said. “She’s not familiar with absolutely everything I can do. Maybe physically I can’t match her if she has the advantage here, but there’s nothing that says all of my abilities are useless in this realm.”
“Exactly,” she answered. “She was used to fighting you physically before then, so the….higher end…of your abilities wasn’t necessary with her. Perhaps it is now.”
“Perhaps,” I agreed, already pondering.
“Well, my work here is done,” she said, preparing to depart.
“Usually, if a conscience manifests itself in this way, it takes both angelic and demonic forms.”
“What happened to the devil me?”
“She quit. You gave her absolutely no material to work with.”
And with those words, she was gone.
Remembering now a particular resource I could use to my advantage, I sat down on the ground in a pose resembling a Buddhist monk in prayer, grasping it tightly in my lower paws. Then, after a warm-up of chanting, I felt an intense surge of energy build up inside of me, almost as if I were on fire.
This was the most complicated- and flashy- of my super-canine powers. If it didn’t help me free myself from Kit’s grasp, nothing would.
“Fabricated illusions!” I shouted. “In the name of all that is righteous at my command, I order you to cease deceiving me at ONCE, and return me to the place and time where I truly belong!”
Flames flung themselves out of my paws and eyes, and hit the coal black darkness with full force, burning it up, while leaving me unharmed. In a matter of seconds, it was obliterated…
And I was back where I started, back on Earth, and feeling not only smart, but strong anew.
Kit lay down on the ground in front of me, looking as if she had suffered a massive injury to her head. Which, to all intents and purposes, she had.
“What did you do to me?” she shouted. “I thought I was unstoppable with what I had.”
“That was your mistake,” I responded. “You assumed you knew who I was when you attacked me, Kit. But you didn’t realise the extent of what I have. Neither did I- until I was finally able to clear my head and rediscover it again.”
“I suppose I deserved being undone by your trickery, since it was me tricking you that started this whole thing. But it still doesn’t mean that what you did was fair- or just.”
“Oh, please,” I said, dismissively.
“But,” she grinned cryptically, “at least I got you to beg me for something.”
Outraged, I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and held her aloft.
“Just this once,” I snarled, “and never again. Good night, Kit.”
Utilizing my strength for the final time that evening, I threw her as far as I could, hoping that she’d never come back to torment me again. Then and only then was I finally able to retreat to my doghouse and get some much needed sleep.
This story originally appeared in Original to this site.