Air Express

by Terry © 1997

Part 2: ...The More They Stay the Same

Morning, June 18th.

A large dragonfly passes through his range of view. Watching at it, he briefly considers hunting it, but he spies a prey that would be easier to get to. On the forest floor a few hundred meters away, he sees a small rat darting between trees.

Jumping off of the tree branch, he spreads his wings and silently glides down towards his prey. The small mammal doesn't notice him until he is grabbing the rat in his forearms.

The rat lets out a screech of terror, and Terry's eyes pop open, seeing the red numbers of his screeching alarm clock. His wings are spread a little, and his tail is twitching in annoyance. Unnoticed in his groggy state, the rat slips off of his bed and darts out of the room.

"Oh, it was just a dream..." he groans, automatically reaching over to kill the screeching alarm clock.

With a tired groan, he swings his legs down to the floor, automatically reaching for his glasses on the computer desk, and finds them missing. Standing up, he looks carefully at the desk and sees no sign of them. Then he notices the green scales on his skin and he remembers the events of the previous day.

"Well, I guess it wasn't all a dream!" he says to himself. He takes a couple of steps away from the bed, and falls onto the floor. Looking over his shoulder, he sees his tail was tangled in the sheets. "Definitely not a dream."

After disentangling his tail from the sheets and pulling on the pair of shorts draped over the back of a chair, he walks to his door. He pauses at the door and remembers something. Walking back to the bedside table, he turns the alarm clock off before leaving the room.

He plods slowly up the stairs out of the cold basement, his dream already fading away. "Morning Big guy," he says to Chimo, who is busy gulping down his breakfast. He continues up to the sunlit kitchen and stops, basking in the sunlight.

His mother is sitting at the table, with a coffee cup in front of her.

"Do you need to go to work today, dear?" she asks, looking at Terry.

"Yeah, at 9. The truck that was supposed to come in yesterday is coming today." he says, popping a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster.

"Have you heard any news on what may have caused all this?" his mother asks.

"Well, I was on the Net till late last night, and the rumors are flying everywhere. I've been hearing everything from latent genes suddenly activating to universes colliding to aliens from space zapping everyone on the planet with a mutating ray. The only conclusion I can come to is that no body knows a thing about what's going on right now. Of course, I'm leaning towards the Universe Collision theories myself, but I think the recent Amalgam comics influenced that." The toast pops up. Terry puts it on a plate and spreads jam on it.

His mother nods her head slightly, but Terry knows that she understands very little of what he had said. His mother, an English teacher, was very smart, but not in the maths and sciences; she often joked that Terry got all of her math abilities when he was born. Most of the theories being tossed around about the change are over her head, especially since many bordered on the realm of the comic books, another area Terry knows well, but she doesn't.

Gloria sips her coffee, with a little bit of difficulty, before speaking again, shifting the topic slightly. "What about that guy who was on TV saying he could find a cure us?"

"A Quack, plain and simple. There is no way he can cure us because there isn't anything he can cure us from. I don't know much about biology, but I am certain that there is no virus or disease out there that can cause so many changes all within a short period of time. On the other hand, people will believe just about anything; we'll probably see more people claiming to have a cure to the Change in the days to come and they all will have a following." Terry says between bites as he quickly finishes his breakfast.

"I suppose your right. Guess I'd better start getting used to the idea of spending the rest of my life as a chickadee." Gloria says with a slight sigh.

"Well, there are certainly worst things you could be, besides a Chickadee morph. And anyways, who knows what else is in store in the future? No one was expecting this, that is for sure." Terry says. He gives his mother a quick kiss on her feathered cheek before walking to the door. "Well, I'd better get going. I want to get to the store early; pick up some of the stuff I left yesterday and to find out what my boss is."

"Well, have a good day dear," she says.

"Bye mom. I'll see you tonight." With that, Terry leaves the house and teleports over the mall.

He circles around, seeing what was happening. The parking lot is half filled, mostly with abandoned cars. His family's car is no longer there though; his mother and father had picked it up the night before.

Tim Horton's, the donut shop, is doing it's normal brisk morning business, with morphs of all sorts walking in and out of the doors. Across the road, the Irving Gas station is open, but not very busy. The Kent Building Supplies; the store where his father worked, and the Canadian Tire store are both packed. Both stores opened at 8, and they both looked like they had been busy since then.

Terry stops his circling and gently lands in front of the mall entrance. He enters the mall and walks to the department store. A small crowd is gathered outside of the doors, waiting for the store to open. Terry pulls the doors open a crack and slips inside. A middie beaver morph stops him at the entrance.

"Can I help you?" the beaver morph asks him.

"Well, I'm scheduled to work today. It's me, Terry."

The Beaver morph looks him over carefully before shaking his head in amazement. "Amazing;" he mutters under his breath before speaking to Terry again. "Well, I'm glad you made it in today; it looks like it's going to be busy, even without the truck coming in. Do you still have your name tag?"

"It's still on what's left of my T-shirt; in the stock room." Terry replies realizing that the beaver was his boss, Mr. Keenan.

"Well, try to find some place to wear it. Tape it on if you need to. For today, I want you to get as much out as you can before the truck gets here; Andy can handle any pickups and other tasks." Mr. Keenan looks out at the crowd outside the doors. "Good thing we've got a lot of Petmart stuff coming in," he mutters under his breath.

Terry leaves his boss and walks to the back of the store, to the stockroom. He sees that his radio is turned off, and the back doors are locked. Andy must've done it, he thinks, moving between the boxes to where he had left his shirt. He retrieves the tag from the shirt before tossing the shirt into the garbage can by the door. He then works his way down the hall to the aisle where he had first started to change. The box of Christmas decorations is still on the floor. Climbing to the top, he grabs his glasses, climbs down and follows the hall to the staff room.

"Hi everyone; looks like it'll be a busy day today." Terry says as he enters the crowded room. He opens his locker and tosses his glasses on the shelf, next to the book he had left the day before.

"Hi Terry." Andy says from his seat on the couch next to the wall. Of all the people in the room, he, a low to mid degree gorilla morph, is the most human.

Terry leans against the lockers next to the couch Andy is on and glances around the room. Everyone who had been working when the Change happened is there, except for Erin who hadn't taken her Change into a hi-mid degree frog well. There is also other people there, who Terry knew would be workers, but he didn't recognize them.

Before he could ask who everyone is, Mr. Keenan comes over the intercom. "Andy, lights.", triggering everyone into action. After punching in, he follows the girls to the front of the store. He gets the keys to the back doors and unlocks them.

"Mr. K want's me to haul out whatever you've got checked off." Andy says, joining Terry in the stockroom.

"Great. You know the drill; everything with the yellow tag on it goes. It's mostly those boxes over there." Terry says, pointing to the boxes against the door. Terry reaches the radio and turns it on.

"--you may have guessed, the thing we are talking about today is the Change." Barry, one of the morning show announcers is saying.

"So, we want to hear your Change stories. If you have an interesting Change story, we want to hear it. And for participating, you'll receive the 'not available in any stores except our gift shop here at the station' Barry and Anna Morning Show Q 99 coffee mug, signed by both Barry and I" Anna, the other announcer says.

"Not only that; even if you don't have a story to tell, but you are a rare animal or you've got a strange power; we want to hear it. Just call us here at 1-888-POWER-99" Barry continues. "Next up, Hootie and the Blowfish; whom we've heard unconfirmed rumors that one member is now actually a blowfish; and 'Let Her Cry'."

Terry laughs as the song starts "Some things never change," he comments to Andy who is loading up a cart.

It was amazing how fast people adjusted to the Change. Normal routines returned quickly after a few hectic days. During the weeks after the change, Ashley, like many other adolescents did, slowly finished her changes, becoming a low degree house cat.

New powers were being discovered every day. Gloria, Lloyd and Ashley all quickly discovered that they could norm-shift, as shifting to full animal had been nicknamed, but only Ashley norm-shifted regularly; Gloria and Lloyd tended to stay in the morph forms, except when Gloria went out flying.

As for Terry, he had his teleporting, and he suspected he could norm-shift too, but he never got the nerve to try it. Memories of Mark's complete, and so far irreversible change, still haunted him, reenforced by the shadowing thing he felt whenever he teleported and the dreams he occasionally had. Eventually, he got used to the dreams and his instinct's presence, but, except for teleporting and the dreams, he tried to avoid all contact with it.

His teleporting, on the other hand, he used constantly. He did numerous jumps to places around eastern Canada that he knew well, trying to find his limits. Most of his big trips were to Ontario to visit the University he was going to be attending, and relatives. He discovered that, except for being a little tired, he was otherwise unaffected by the long trips. He also discovered that for the long trips, over a few hundred kilometers, the more altitude he could get, the easier the teleport was.

One warm day near the end of July, Terry is sunning himself on the roof of his house, reading a new sci fi novel, and just plain enjoying the lazy hazy days of summer. He looks down towards the road and sees the mailman stop his car and leave the mail in the box.

"Ashley! Could you go get the mail?" He calls down to his sister, who was sunning herself on the walkway in norm form.

With a flash of light, she shifts back to morph form and glares back at him. "Why don't you? You can fly down there." she shouts back.

"Maybe, but you're closer, and faster than me," he taunts back.

"Cut it out, you two. Ashley, go down and get the mail." their mother shouts out from the open window of the laundry room.

Grumbling to herself, Ashley shifts back to norm form and dashes down to the end of the driveway. She shifts back to cross the road over to the mailbox. She stops to talk to someone who is hidden by the trees before looking in the mailbox. She retrieves the single letter in it and walks back to the house.

"I don't know why you sent me down there. It's only a letter for lizard boy up there, from the University," she shouts out as soon as she is in easy earshot.

"The University? I'll be right down!" he shouts down to her. He grabs the book and jumps off the roof edge, wings spread enough to slow his descent. He lands on all fours in front of his sister, who hands him the letter.

"I'm heading down to Brad's," she shouts into the house before walking back down to the road, not waiting for a reply.

Terry uses a claw to tear the envelope open and reads the first page.

"Dear University Student.

Due to the recent Change, we have needed to rearrange room assignments to better suit new bodies. Please fill in the forms on the following pages and return it to the University of Waterloo housing offices by August 1."

"Well, they certainly took their time in getting this ready," he mutters, as he notices the date it was sent, July 14. "Oh well, guess I'd better get this filled in."

Terry walks into the house and sits down at the kitchen table, looking over the pages of forms. The top form was a simple form that he had already filled in once before, asking for name, sex, allergies, emergency contacts. He quickly fills in all the blanks and turns to the next page, which dealt with the Change, and starts filling it in.

"What type of animal are you?... Flying Lizard." he says softly as he fills in the blanks.

"What degree of Morph are you?... Hi-Middie."

"Do you Norm shift?... Not sure."

"Do you fly?... Yes (Glide)"

"Do you require an aquatic environment? No."

"Are you primarily a carnivore, omnivore, herbivore or other?... Carnivore (More or less)"

"Do you have any powers besides Norm-shifting? If Yes, what are they?... Yes. Teleporting"

"If there are any other requirements you need, please fill them in the space provided. Use another sheet if needed." Terry pauses to think for a moment. He has, for the most part, managed to go through the change without needing to make too many adjustments. He's about to write down 'None', before remembering the cold-bloodedness (Something he often forgot about in the warm summer). He jots down 'Cold-blooded' then turns the page over.

"Thank you for filling this out. Please mail these forms to the Village Housing office, or fax it to 519-725-9999. Aquatic morphs please note. We have made some renovations to rooms in Village 1 to suit your needs, but they are only temporary. A new village, the Student Aquatic Village, is currently being built beside Columbia lake, to better suit your needs. Construction is scheduled to be finished by the end of October."

Terry folds the pages up and puts it back in the envelope, which he sticks in the pocket of his shorts.

"What was that?" his mother asks, coming into the kitchen, with a wingload of laundry.

"Just a form from the University to help them assign rooms. I'm gonna make a quick trip up to the University to drop this off. I should be back in an hour or so." he replies.

His mother shakes her feathered head. "I still find it hard to believe that you talk about making 1500 kilometer trips like they were trips up to the corner store!"

"All part of being a teleporter. Just think of all the money I save us on traveling and phone calls!" he says, getting up and giving her a quick kiss good-bye. He walks to the outside door. "See yah later mom!"

"Be careful!" she calls back.

"I always am!" he shouts back, just before he teleports to his first stop. Normally, he makes three teleports from home to the University. The first is a small jump that places him above the tree line over his house. The second jump takes him over one of the tall antennas NB Tel set up for Cell phones, on the edge of the Saint John river valley. With the town spread out far below him, he faces west and pictures the 10 story, cube shaped Dana Porter library, on the campus, braces himself for a long trip, and teleports.

The blackness overcomes Terry. He starts counting to himself; a habit he did to try and keep from losing his mind. By 15 he begins to get worried; normally the trip from home to the university only took him to a count of 10. At 20 he begins to become worried that he would never come out. His teleports had never taken this long before! He has often wondered what would happen if he ever tried to teleport somewhere that didn't exist, but he didn't have the nerve to try it.

Light finally returns to his world at the count of 30. as he appears over the library. Breathing a long sigh of relief, he starts circling lower. He immediately sees why his teleport had taken so long. The normally flat, white face of the library now had a huge crater in the center of it, spanning at least three floors around the sixth level. Scaffolding, a crane and numerous construction workers are setting up on the damaged side. The area under the damaged face was roped off, and police officers are exploring the ground outside the library entrance and inside the damaged section. Uniformed fliers are patrolling the edge, keeping flying sightseers away from the investigation.

As he glides away from the library, he thanks his lucky stars. Normally, his instinct can handle small changes between what he pictures and real life, but the damage to the library had nearly been too much. He lands on the path between the physics and biology building, and grabs the first person he sees.

"What happened there?" he asks, pointing up at the damaged library. The damaged side was actually on the other side of the library, but the man knew what he meant.

"A lover's fight, earlier today," the bull morph replies. "They were on the sixth floor and got into a fight. He was walking away, when she blew up, literally. Good thing she was facing the windows, or else we'd have a pile of rubble there instead of a damaged library."

Terry whistles, taking another look at the activity around the library. "What happened to them?"

"He got blown all the way into Kitchener! Luckily he had some type of shield power, but he was still banged up pretty bad. As for his girlfriend; no one could find a trace of her. I say that her power was a one-shot thing." He looks up at the library and shakes his head, "What a way to go..." he says quietly, walking away from Terry.

Terry takes another glance over at the library before continuing to the housing office, on the second floor of the Central Complex in Village 1.

"Is this where the new personal information forms should be handed in?" he asks, entering one of the offices.

"Yes. I can take it right here, you're cutting it a little close, aren't you?" one of the ladies, a winged Canada Goose middie morph who looked very busy, asks.

"Well, I just got it today. As soon as I finished filling it in, I decided to bring it up here." he replies, handing over the envelope.

She takes the envelope and starts to pull the papers from it. She does a double take as she sees the address. "You say you just got this today?", looking at Terry, surprised.

"Yeah, mail service between Ontario and New Brunswick isn't exactly the fastest in the world." Terry replies, purposely misinterpreting her surprised expression, tail twitching in amusement.

She gives him a strange look, before returning her attention to the papers. As she glances through them, realization dawns on her face. "Teleporter. Shoulda realized it," she murmurs under her breath before looking back up at Terry. "OK, everything seems fine here. Thank you for getting it to us so quickly.

"It's no problem... Uh, are there any more forms that may have gotten caught in the mail?" he asks before turning to go.

"Not that I'm aware of. Have a pleasant trip back!" she replies, curtly, tossing the paper on top of a large pile on her desk, and making it clear she had a lot of work to do. Terry quietly leaves.

He walks to the edge of the roof of the Complex and looks over at the library. He briefly considers 'porting over to it, to see what was going on, but decides against it. Nah, better not. Mom's going to be worried sick about me if she hears about this before I get home he reasons to himself. He vaults over the edge and teleports directly home.

He reappears over the his house and nearly collapses as soon as he lands on the ground. "Oooo, those jumps must've taken more outta me than I thought," he moans.

Getting up slowly, he walks weakly into the house and drops into the kitchen chair.

"Mom! You aren't gonna believe what's going on at the University!" he shouts out after resting a moment. He then notices the note on the table: "Gone to the Co-op to get some things for supper. Be back soon; Mom"

"Figures," Terry says after reading the note. He tosses it back on the table and goes to the fridge, looking for a snack to help him recover his energy. Finding nothing especially appetizing, he pours himself a glass of ice water and takes it out to the deck in back of the house. He lays on the lounge outside in the sun and waits for his mom to come back.

  To WoC Archives