David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The holder of an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and a lifelong animation fan, he has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.), The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra Press) and The Pups (Booklocker.com).
A superhero’s lot, like that of a policeman (at least, according to Gilbert and Sullivan), is not a happy one. You might think it would be fun, doing the kinds of things we do, but then you aren’t one, and so you wouldn’t understand. I, on the other hand, am one, and, along with my colleagues, am more acquainted with the uglier side of the job than you mere mortals could ever understand.
At least my human colleagues have the advantage of being able to blend in with the crowd when they want a break. Not as much of an option for me and others of my kind.
Who am I, you ask?
My name is Cerberus, and I am the mightiest puppy on Earth. I am faster, stronger, more intelligent and far more agile than any of my canine peers. As well as able to perform a variety of mental tricks that’d make your head spin if you could see them. How I got this way is neither here nor there for right now. All that needs to be known is that I was the progeny of an illicit affair between my Earthling ma and a mutha from outer space who left her alone to raise me. I don’t mind that, though- not even being sterile, or able to physically mature beyond my puppy form as a result of it. But given what my fellow female dogs have told me, I’m not missing much.
The point is, if you see a scrawny looking quasi-Dalmatian puppy with big ears, small paws and huge blue eyes, better not let your guard down. It might be me.
Anyhow, this is all preamble to the story I’m about to tell you, but you needed to know who I am to understand how this particular deal went down. And also, as I said before, not to misjudge me, which is exactly what the villains in my trade always do, for some unknown reason.
Let me set the scene:
Yours truly, in my civilian identity of Cuddles (not my choice of name, unlike Cerberus), the puppy pet of the physically beautiful but dumb as mud five year old human girl Gudrun Parker, had endured my usual post-breakfast, pre-kindergarten routine of having my mouth opened, my tail pulled, my ears stretched and my body hugged- repeatedly. Today in particular, beyond the limits of even my super-powered endurance. This was, fortunately for my temper, ended by my mistress leaving for school.
I had intended to get some Zs while Gudrun was away, to make sure I was strong enough to endure another “play” session with her when she got home. Unfortunately, I had only just settled in for a nap in my doghouse-cum-underground lair of secrecy and privacy, when the monitor of my intergalactic communicator clicked on, as it is wont to do in emergencies. On the screen was the visage of my fellow anthropomorphic heroine, Power Bunny, her baby blue uniform powerfully draped over her electric pink fur-clad physique.
“Wake up, Cerb’!” she shouted.
I woke up abruptly, cursed silently to myself and addressed her.
“This better be important, PB!” I snapped. “Gudrun played me like an ocarina this morning!”
“That’ll be the least of our worries if Doc Pomus is able to get her army of giant alien spiders loose on the world,” she told me. “Then, nobody will be safe from their ravenous hunger. Not even us.”
“Say WHAT?” I countered.
I’ll admit that I showed a bit of trepidation in my voice at the sound of “giant spiders”- for my fear of them is, at least psychologically, my main “weakness”, as it were- but that moment of petrification soon passed.
“I’m not making this up, Cerb’,” PB continued. “We gotta act quick if we want this to stop.”
“What about the other girls in the League? Are they in?”
I was referring there to our colleagues in the International League of Girls With Guns (again, not my choice of name), the reigning superhero club in the universe for saviors of the worlds with double X chromosomes. Alas, it appears that we would be alone on this one, as our associates were, it appeared, all otherwise engaged at the time.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I told PB. “Don’t do anything ‘til I get there. Where are you?”
She gave me the co-ordinates, and I pledged to meet her there. Sighing, I made my great transformation from Cuddles to Cerberus by putting on the very same white T shirt with the giant black “C” on it in the center that you see me wearing now. Then, I was off.
Once PB and I had met up, we took cover in the brush outside of Doc Pomus’ estate to devise our plan of attack.
“Y’think she knows we’re coming?” PB asked.
“No doubt,” I said. “She’ll be prepared for anything, and so should we.”
“So what should we do?”
“We talk to her. Convince her of the negligible consequences of her actions, as well as her extreme selfishness and thoughtlessness in enacting them. Tell her she needs to stop immediately.”
“And if she won’t?”
“We KICK HER ASS!”
“Always right to the point, aren’t you, Cerb’?” she said.
“Damn right I am,” I responded. “You spend most of your time the way I do, and you learn not to waste it.”
“Wish I could be able to waste time like you. You dogs get all the breaks when it comes to being pets.”
“Only if the cats don’t beat us to the good spots. Now come on. We got a job to do!”
So it was that we headed towards the estate, as nonchalantly as two anthropomorphic superheroes can be under typically strange circumstances. When we got to the door, PB knocked on it, owing to the fact that she’s taller than I am, with a wider reach.
“Who is it?” a voice asked.
It sounded guttural, and not simply due to the cheap apartment building PA system it was employing.
“Open the door, Pomus!” I barked. “We haven’t got all day here!”
“Cerberus, the world’s mightiest puppy, and Power Bunny, the most powerful rabbit in the universe!” PB took over for me here. “That enough to ring a few bells, Doc?”
“Yeah. But it don’t mean you two are playing it easy with me,” Pomus shot back. “I ain’t letting a couple of fucking ANIMALS do me in!”
“You’re more of an animal than EITHER of us!” I answered.
Abruptly, we were forced to step back when the mansion suddenly gained an extra layer of steel around all of its surfaces.
“Now ya done it!” PB said.
“How is this my fault?” sayeth I.
“She’s made her place damn near impenetrable with that steel. How are we supposed to get in and stop her now, Cuddles?”
Calling me by my civilian name was a low blow, as it is any time that name is used towards any superhero in that tone. I wasn’t going to take it lying down.
“In the first place, Barbara, that… woman….is quite clearly temperamental enough to react negatively to any well-thought quip EITHER of us could come up with. Second of all, I’m capable of smashing my way through any two bit form of cheap metal- as are YOU! Or have you FORGOTTEN that?”
“Sorry, Cerb’! I lost my head there. I don’t have your self-control…”
“Hey, no worries, okay?” I shifted from mad to glad as only I can. “I have those kinds of control issues, too- especially around Gudrun. The things that girl can make me think of doing….but there’s no time for that now!”
I walked towards the steel exterior, tore off a ridge of it with my teeth, then smashed my paw through the now-exposed wooden door. A hole the size of my body broke inside of it.
“Come on, kid!” I motioned to PB to follow me with a paw. “We gotta get AT it here!”
“I’m with you,” PB said, as she broke another piece of the door off with a well-timed punch so she could walk through it, into…..
“God damn it! You BROKE it!”
No sooner had we entered the Pomus domicile than the Doctor herself came to stand before us. She was a short redhead, wearing camouflage gear and black paint under her eyelids, and holding a riding crop that she brandished like a club. Her face was as red as her hair at that moment.
“You fucking lower vertebrate!” she said, pointing to PB. “Look what you did to my stuff!”
“Actually,” I corrected her, “it was I who….”
She smote me a blow across my face with the riding crop in an attempt to silence me, but she only succeeded in breaking it, and then threw it away in exasperation. I felt nothing, of course.
“What we did to your stuff is secondary to what we can to YOU, Pomus!” PB warned her. “We can easily break you just like you broke your crop….”
“And I’m supposed to believe that?” Pomus responded.
“You do realize the heinousness of your whole idea,” I took pains to point out. “That was exactly why PB and myself have to put a STOP to it!”
“I do realize the “heinousness” of the whole idea, you lousy MUTT!” Pomus said. “That’s why I figured out the perfect way of doing the two of you in once I discovered you were coming here.”
“Which is?” said PB.
She whipped out a small bottle, resembling a Windex container with the label off, and sprayed us with it. It was enough to compromise even our advanced brains and bodies, for we abruptly collapsed into unconsciousness. Much to our surprise.
“Cerb’! Wake up!”
I did, even though I was afflicted with something resembling a hangover that briefly impaired me. When I recovered, I discovered that PB and I were lying on a sandy surface. Our limbs were bound in manacles, and we seemed to be in some sort of Roman amphitheatre, with Pomus glaring down at us.
“Hah!” she said, tauntingly. “Caught ya! Not even a couple of so-called “superheroes” can withstand a blast from Pomus’ Patented Knockout Elixir- my own invention for dealing with do-gooding scum who try to double-cross me! And now you two are gonna PAY for botherin’ me- which I don’t like nobody doin’ to me! Understand?”
“If that’s supposed to be a joke, Pomus,” I growled, “it’s not funny!”
“Yeah, Pomus!” PB snorted in agreement with me. “What’s your deal?”
“My “deal”,” she retorted, harshly, “is that I have the great and underappreciated ability to make plans for world domination on a regular basis. Plans which you do-gooding heroes always fuck up. I especially hate it when such plans are foiled by the likes of PETS such as yourselves!”
Pets? Us? No, sir! (Okay, I am somebody’s pet, technically, but it still HURTS being called one!) We were so mad at that last remark that we burst our bonds, freeing ourselves, and confronted the Doctor, intent on harming her severely if we had to.
“NOBODY calls us PETS and GETS AWAY WITH IT!” I growled.
“Sure,” the Doc retorted. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t be broken!”
“I am housebroken,” I answered, bitterly.
“I don’t mean like that,” answered Pomus. “What I got in mind for the two of you is a lot worse than being swatted with a newspaper.”
She whistled loudly, and suddenly the space between us and our medico target was full of a group of those giant spiders we were talking about. And they were giants– not at all the kind I could easily scratch out of my body with my hind legs. No. These kind of spider were the kind that could easily flatten me and PB like a couple of potatoes.
Again, and now more profoundly, I wrestled mentally with my fear of arachnids, which I now feared might entirely consume me and render me inoperable, as Pomus continued to gloat. She almost seemed to sense my fear, and glared at me as she spoke, as if she now seemed capable of draining me of my superpowers- which I hoped sincerely it wouldn’t come to.
“These,” Pomus explained, “are my bodyguards. Personally manufactured by yours truly, and trained to rend, smash, fold, spindle, mutilate and KILL anyone who gets between me and my plans. You two are in for the fight of your lives. I’ll come back in a couple of minutes for your CORPSES!” She pointed her finger at the two of us so the monsters would get what they were after, and then said:
Then, as they crowded in ever closer towards us, she added, pointedly, to us:
“So long, suckers!”
….and disappeared into the shadows.
“Okay, PB!” I said. “What are we gonna do about this….PB!”
I turned around to address my ally- and saw her disappear, via being captured, down one of the beasts’ gullets! Enraged, I knew immediately what I had to do, in spite of the growing panic in my mind.
“LET HER GO!” I bellowed, and aimed myself at the offender….
….only to bounce off its’ fulsome chest and land in the dirt.
“Gadzooks!” I murmured, to no one in particular. “Somehow, these spiders are a higher form of life than even we superheroes, able to deflect us away as one would swat a bothersome fly. Pomus wasn’t joking. She could conquer the world with an army of these monstrosities. They are……EEEAAAAGGGHHH!”
My soliloquy had, unknown to me, made me vulnerable to being captured in the same manner as my friend. One beast had surrounded me, and, at the time I began screaming, caught me in its arms. As I struggled and screamed in panic in its grasp, it began raising me towards its mouth…..
That was when I was saved. Power Bunny- through means unknown to me- had managed to render the monster which had captured her null and void. She sent a blast of light from her eyes onto the body of the one which held me, and wounded it, allowing me to escape and re-join my comrade in the air.
“How did you manage to….?” I inquired.
“You do not want to know!” she said. “But I found their weakness while I escaped.”
“Our muscles won’t work against them, ‘cause they’re stronger than us.”
“Boy, did I find that out!”
“The thing is, our other powers might do it. I’m thinking maybe if I blast them with a Light Carrot, and then if you do one of your Sonic Barks, that might do the trick.”
“Well, we’ve got nothing to lose. Go ahead.”
PB cast her paws around swiftly in the air, as if she were a magician preparing to produce something from out of thin air- which was kind of what she was doing, actually. Then, light appeared magically in her paws in the form of a carrot. (Don’t ask.) With a loud ululation, she commanded the attention of the brutes and threw the “carrot” at them. It immediately rendered them blind and immobile.
I cleared my throat, gained the breath I would need in my chest, and then expelled the longest and loudest bark I can make, which, I can assure you, is something that you do NOT want directed at your eardrums. In this case, it not only destroyed the hearing of the monsters, but, through its vibrations and acoustics, brought plaster from the ceiling down on top of them. Our opponents were truly bested.
We were about to find the Doctor and do her the honor of capturing her, when she, presumably alerted by the noise, entered the room.
“What the hell is going ON here?” she demanded. “Where the fuck are you stupid….?”
Here, she saw that her monsters had been defeated, and she turned pale. We floated back to the ground.
“How ‘bout you give up now, Pomus?” I said, threateningly.
“Not me,” she said, defiantly, as color returned to her face. “I got more fleas where those came from.”
“Don’t bother,” said PB. “We’ll just kill those ones, too. We know how to, now.”
“Yeah,” I added. “We also know how to kill evil geniuses, but, since we’re heroes and all that, we’ll just offer you clemency. If you’ll give up your plans, that is.”
We advanced towards her, and she started stepping back, realizing her predicament. But she continued to talk tough.
“What’re ya gonna do?” she spat. “You gonna gang up on me and beat the crap out of me? I can press charges against you for that, you know? I can even get you charged with…”
She turned around, and there was a larger version of herself, scowling ominously.
Mrs. Pomus, it appeared, had absolutely no knowledge of what her daughter had been doing all this time, and PB and I were delighted to inform her of these activities. Punishment was assigned to Doc far worse than anything we could imagine handing out to her ourselves, to our relief. Then, Doc was pulled out of the scene by her mother by her ear, as she shook her fist angrily at us. As if we had anything to do with THAT!
And so, our job done, PB and I parted company for the time being.
But, it should be said, we’re always ready for anything that comes our way. Especially since we won’t always have an angry mother to bail us out!