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P.U.G.

by Patrick Callaghan about a year ago in fact or fiction
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A jovial jaunt hitherto unknown

In the deep dark hours of early morning, just a short time before the sun would begin its ascent into the sky a train cut through the gloom. The machine, once a gleaming vision of polished steel and svelte lines now reduced to a grimy holdover of a bygone age, rumbled along the tracks lurching, and jolting over every minor imperfection of the worn rails. Within, a man dozed fitfully while sitting upright in his cramped seat with a roller style luggage case perched precariously in the rack above him. With every bump the suitcase above inched ever closer to tipping free of its confines. Suddenly a large shudder rippled through the train car as it heaved itself painfully over some minimal debris on the tracks. With the jostling carriage the luggage burst jubilantly free, arcing away from its temporary prison and connecting, wheels first, with the poor man’s head below. A loud crack rang out through the rail car and the man’s eyes shot open, first with shock then filling with the pain which radiated downward from the top of his head. The man looked in fury at the offending item, now laying harmlessly, demurely even, in the aisle beside him. He then glared around the carriage searching for the party responsible for the grievous offence, but there was no one. The man was alone in this miserable rail car trudging through the deep black of night. He was left alone to contemplate his sad plight and wonder at what sort of confounded luck had led to this tragedy. There was no one to blame… unless could he? Could he blame the suitcase itself? Had it become possessed of a singular volition to spring forth and bludgeon him to an early grave? No, he couldn’t do that… Against his better judgement he did anyways.

“Well!” the man snarled. “What have you to say for yourself? Are you happy now? Are you pleased with the outcome?”

The suitcase said nothing, the suitcase thought nothing, the suitcase was stoic. The man resolutely continued with his interrogation of the inanimate object.

“You nearly killed me, you rotten bit of detritus. You nearly knocked me senseless…”

The man’s tirade trailed off as the horrible realization dawned on him. He had been knocked senseless. Waves of fear rolled over him as he struggled with the information, or lack thereof. He had no idea who he was, what he was doing, or even where he was going. The only intel he had at his disposal was that he was currently seated in a grubby passenger car on some heaving, derelict train headed… somewhere. He took some comfort in that he could still remember what things were, the rundown heap of locomotion he was riding in for example, but it was a small mercy. The grand total of all his present knowledge in regard to himself personally amounted to a staggering, big, fat, zero. He lay his face into his hands and pressed at his temples, hoping to squeeze some sort of recollection into his seemingly broken brain. Nothing. He pulled his hands away, now wet and sticky from the blood that had been trickling from the wound in his head. The man looked at his hands with disgust, then glared at the suitcase again for good measure.

“No way but forward” he thought to himself. At least he thought he was thinking that, perhaps he was speaking to the luggage again. “Speaking of the luggage” he said aloud, this time definitely speaking to the suitcase. The man hauled himself up from his seat and staggered as a bout of light headedness nearly brought him to his knees. He regained his composure and snatched up the treacherous luggage.

“Maybe there are clues as to who I am inside here, assuming this is even my suitcase of course” he remarked, still addressing the suitcase as though it could comprehend, let alone even care about what he had to say.

The man carefully unzipped the case to reveal a nondescript leather jacket carefully folded over the top of stacks and stacks of currency rubber banded together in neat piles. The man was aghast, there had to be several thousand dollars in here, or several tens of thousands even. Surely a sight like this would jog something in his memory. Was he wealthy and somehow couldn’t remember? It was at this moment he took stock of his attire: a dull blue button up shirt was tucked into time worn jeans and on his feet were weather beaten hiking boots. Clearly he wasn’t wealthy, or if he was he must be frugal with his money indeed. “A frugal man would not wander around with a suitcase full of bills” he muttered, whether he was again addressing the suitcase is unclear.

The man’s assessment of self and potential belongings was brought to an abrupt halt as the silence was shattered by the squeal of the train’s wheels locking up as it screamed to a stop. While the train may have stopped, the poor man did not. The immediate lack of forward motion from the train caused the man to trip over the suitcase and roll unceremoniously towards the front of the carriage. Once more he felt slighted by the accursed piece of luggage. With eyes full of wrath he looked back at it, only to realize that in the midst of the commotion it had spewed its contents throughout the rail car. The man hurriedly gathered up wads of cash and stuffed them back inside and zipped the luggage closed. He then proceeded over to a window and gazed out upon the station he had arrived at, the door beside him coughed and sputtered to life and slid open. He extended the carrying handle and rolled the suitcase out on to the platform which was tinged with gold and red by the sun slowly beginning to peak out over the horizon.

The station was composed of a moderately sized central building with several stalls of covered seating extending out on the platform. The soft glow of the rising sun illuminated the brass structures of the seating and made them appear as though they were the creations of a master goldsmith. The beautiful sight was in stark contrast to the lumbering hulk of the train, which now motionless presented as a lifeless husk discarded on the tracks. On the outward facing wall of the central building hung a large sign whereupon in gilded lettering was written “Welcome to Frubelough, Bastion of Beauty”.

“A bit pretentious” the man thought to himself, though if the simple train platform were any indicator it wasn’t entirely inaccurate. It was then that he felt eyes on him. Something was watching him, and had been ever since he departed the train. The man strained his eyes against the sunrise to attempt to pinpoint the location of the mysterious observer. His gaze then fell upon a small dog seated in one of the platform stalls. The dog was plump with light brown fur and a wizened black face. It was seated, casually almost, upright on the bench seemingly waiting for someone. Waiting for him? The man and his begrudging suitcase companion proceeded over to the dog.

The man held out his hand to the creature and allowed it to sniff at his hand before he pat it on the head.

“Well hello there fella, who might you be? Are you waiting for someone?” the man tensed up with embarrassment out of fear that the other exiting passengers would see him talking to some strange dog. Fortunately, peculiarly, he seemed to be the only one. Further compounding the inexplicable circumstances he found himself in.

The little dog then sat back and reached its paws into one of the rolls of its fur and produced a little black notebook. The creature’s eyes positively sparkled with adoration as it held out the black notebook to the man.

“Yep. I’ve definitely lost my mind” the man remarked to the suitcase. The luggage remained silent on the matter.

Still not entirely sure whether this was happening the man accepted the proffered prize. He slowly thumbed open the cover to nothing but blank pages. At least they were blank. As he stared at the pages words began to appear.

“Hello. I am the Perfected Ultimate Guide, your counsel through the world and repository of knowledge. For short you may call me PUG”

The man glanced from the book back to the little dog, still staring at him with wide shimmering eyes, then back to the book again.

“You are, or the dog is?”

“Yes” was the reply from the book which materialized on the page.

“and… pug… little too on the nose don’t you think?”

The pug dog hung its head and stared at the ground in front of the man’s feet. As more words began to appear in the book, replacing what had been there.

“It is what I am called, the decision was not mine for the making. I’m full of remorse and dejected to have failed to meet your expectations..”

“Whoa! No need to be so dramatic” The man exclaimed. “Your name is just fine, it suits you perfectly, what with being a pug and all. It’s just I’m exhausted and seem to have misplaced a large part of my memory”. The absurdity of this situation was not lost on the man. No recollection of any personal details, and his only companions were a surly suitcase and now a pug dog which communicated through a black notebook. Clearly his injury really had broken some fragile part of his mind. May as well double down on this insanity. This dog, this PUG, had clearly been waiting for someone, for him even?

“Okay pug, you are a guide are you? You appear to have been waiting for someone, me perhaps? What can you tell me about… well about anything really?”

The little dog perked up again as the book relayed a new message. “You can access my database of knowledge by holding me, the book me not the dog me, up to any object or site you’d wish to have information on. For example hold me up to the train”

The man held up the notebook, pages open, towards the train. A description began to appear

“The BOBERT, Budget Overland Basics Expert Rail Transport: West Rolfport to Frubelough line”

The man’s jaw dropped. What sort of technology was this? How was this even remotely possible?

“That’s amazing pug!”. The pug dog joyously wagged its tail. An idea sprang into the man’s mind, he held the book up to himself. Perhaps this book, this PUG, could provide information on who he was.

It didn’t work. The pages stubbornly ceased to produce anything.

“You’ve got nothing?” the man asked the book, and dog, the dogbook, the PUG.

“I’m afraid not sir. My services were arranged in advance and I was to meet a man matching your description here. Perhaps we can start with your name at least?” The pug looked up into the man’s face expectantly.

“My name is a goddamn enigma, just like the rest of me” retorted the man.

“Very well sir. I shall call you Enigma”

The man blankly stared at the little dog, who stared back at him nearly beaming. “Fine. That’s fine. Not like anything makes sense anyways. I’ve got no clue about who I am or what I’m doing. I’m standing here talking to a pug and carrying around this… bastard full of money” he proceeded to violently shake the suitcase. “I clearly need help. We can figure it out together I suppose. I don’t know anything and you seem to know everything except for the something that I need to know. So there you have it pug, I’m not sure who sent you or why but will you help me?”

“Yes. Together” replied PUG and they slowly walked into the city with the light from the rising sun illuminating the path before them.

fact or fiction

About the author

Patrick Callaghan

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