Autumn Mayer: Is It A Dog?

Autumn Mayer, Creative Writing Student

“Welcome, contestants, to Is It A Dog!” the overly enthusiastic robot voice said from the screen hanging from the bar ceiling. Ilthic sat down in the seat farthest to the right, and he was immediately annoyed to find the chair conflicted with his third arm. He was just settling it across the back of the chair as the two other contestants sat down. 

The first was quite possibly full Asarasathinian, though it was so hard to tell these days. Asarasathinians were usually like humans in the sense that you could tell their gender by their hair length, but Ilthic wasn’t sure about this one. They had short navy-dyed hair and tattoos on almost all of their showing skin, and no breasts were immediately evident. That, of course, didn’t mean much anyway, as the race wasn’t known for them anyway. They entered the name Isa into the control screen in front of them, which also didn’t help because it could stand for Isamae or Isalec. 

The second contestant looked very much like a human male. He couldn’t be, however, because humans weren’t allowed in a competition about identifying animals from their planet. He was wearing what looked like an air force flight jacket from Earth, which could have been found secondhand at plenty of stores on Centra. There was a pair of sunglasses pushed up into his golden brown hair. Ilthic decided he must have been part Lustrian and was raised on Centra. 

“Are you ready!” the robot voice asked. Little neon lines were moving up and down on the screen in time with its voice. 

“YEAH!” the entire bar crowd yelled. 

Ilthic looked down at his control screen. There was a green button and a red button under where he’d entered his name. The green meant “yes, it’s a dog” and the red meant “no, it’s not a dog.” 

“You go, Isa!” someone yelled. Isa turned around to glare at two girls sitting at a table in the middle of the room. 

Three boxes appeared at the bottom of the main screen, one for each contestant. There was a zero in each box, but that would change for each correctly identified animal. The screen counted down… three… two… one… GO!

A picture appeared. It was a little fuzzy thing with big brown eyes and triangle-shaped ears. Ilthic was glad there were no extra points for whoever answered first because he had no idea what the thing on the screen was. The crowd shouted out various answers. The from-earth-but-not-actually guy, who was apparently named Cam, hit a button. Ilthic wouldn’t be able to see what he’d pushed until their points tallied and the answer was revealed. 

The little countdown at the top of the screen was nearing zero, so Ilthic pushed green. It was impossible to say for sure, but the classical cuteness of the fuzzball was a decent indicator humans would keep it as a pet. 

“DOG!” the robot revealed. All three contestants had answered correctly. 

The next picture appeared. This animal’s face was wider and dark brown. Its ears were rounded, and its mouth was open to reveal dagger-like teeth. On first instinct, this could not possibly be a dog, but Ilthic had once had an encounter with something called a great dane, and it had also had very large teeth. He pressed green. 


Cam cackled from next to Ilthic. He was the only one of them to have gotten it right. 

The next picture showed the animal’s whole body. It had long, gray-speckled hair and no tail. Ilthic thought all dogs were required to have tails, so he hit red automatically. 


Cam and Isa had both answered correctly, so Ilthic was losing. He did not like losing, and his third fist clenched involuntarily. 

The game continued. It was maddeningly difficult. Ilthic pushed green for something that didn’t have a tail, thinking it looked sort of like one of the ones he’d gotten wrong, but it turned out to be a bear again. Something fluffy and cute that must have been a dog turned out to be a monkey. Cam was dominating the competition, and Ilthic was beginning to suspect he was cheating. 

“Oh my God!” Cam yelled drunkenly. “You idiots! That’s a CAT!” 

Ilthic frowned. “But it’s furry and has pointy ears!” Isa protested. 

By the end of the game, Cam had a perfect twenty. Isa was at twelve and Ilthic had eight. Cam slapped Ilthic on the shoulder as he walked back to the bar. “Better luck next time, dude!”