"Ok, just let me think this through�I've just turned part Fox, I'm locked in a white padded room, and I'm talking to myself."
"I think you've pretty much covered the past two hours."
"Two hours?" Had I been playing that game for that long?
"While you were absorbed in your game, your organs reformed and you grew fur."
"Watch the language."
"Sorry." It's amazing what can go on unobserved when I'm playing a video game. "I'm going to call Dr. Grey."
"Good idea, friends can help." Taking the helmet off the ground I noticed I had claws and thick pads on the palms. I tried to get the helmet on but with my new nose it proved impossible. I tried just putting one speaker to my canine ear and talking into the mouthpiece.
"Dr Grey? Anyone?" All I got in answer was static. Taking a brief look around I mentally sighed, "Looks like we're locked in."
"Not quite, they don't call foxes clever for nothing kid, look for an air vent." It sounded reasonable, everyone needs to breathe. I glanced around, noting I could see less detail than I used to, and located several vents within arm's reach. Problem was, they were all palm-sized rectangles.
"I see them�hmmmmm�try the door, maybe they have some sort of switch so you won't be locked inside."
"Makes sense�" Stepping out of the booties I almost fell flat on my altered face, my feet had become digitigrade! Regaining my balance, I walked unsteadily on my clawed toes towards the door and leaned against it. I don't know how, but I could FEEL the fox part mentally grinning, trying not to laugh. Ignoring this for the moment, I searched the sealed door for any way of exiting the room. Alas, I found none. I was almost boiling with frustration, "How the hell am I going to get out of here!?!" I raked my new claws across the padding, making the foam fly.
"That isn't going to help anything." I ignored him, destroying something at that moment just felt right.
When I finally got a grip and the red fog in my eyes cleared, I discovered my claws had torn right through the metal in the door! "I stand corrected kid." Not wanting to look a gift claw in the mouth, I jumped through the jagged opening into the hallway, landing on my digitigrade feet and falling flat on my back. Correction, almost flat, my tail was jammed painfully between my body and the tile floor. I yelped in pain and rolled over on my side, letting blood back into the flattened appendage.
While lying on the hard floor waiting for the pain to subside, I had a chance to think about how my claws tore through the door. I tried scratching the floor with one claw, nothing. I tried taking a deep breath and concentrating, hoping this would work. Suddenly, energy I never knew I had was focused into that one claw. I scraped it across and the sharp member cut straight through the tile and a little into the metal beneath.
"Wow�." The first word I had uttered out loud since the change, and it was pretty appropriate. Getting up was hard, but standing proved easier for some reason. I had to find Dr. Grey, maybe she knows what happened. Running and skidding on the slick tile, I made it to the "Control room". Opening the door, I was truly not prepared for what greeted me.
My sharper senses almost overloaded my brain. The smell of fear and panic was very strong, and I smelled what the fox part of me said, "Prey animals! Food!" I silenced my instincts, my eyes were telling me enough; I was not the only morph around. Two people were standing in the room, one a male bison with a shredded lab coat "BIG! No hunting that one", and a Blue Jay "Bird! HUNT!" who had the biggest wings on her back that I had ever seen and smallish arms. Suppressing the urge to have an early lunch, I looked them over closely. Both were clearly half human, and the bison was staring at me as if to say, "Don't ask, I don't know what happened either."
So I turned to the Jay, "Dr Grey?"
The big bird nodded her feathered head and said, "Mr. Young I presume?"
My "other half" spoke up again, "So�no food here?"
"Right, no food here, friends."
Dr. Grey and the bison morph looked noticeably nervous at my canine self, but they were successfully restraining their instincts. The doctor let out a sigh that sounded more like a chirp and began to explain what had happened, a few things became clear:1. This "Change" was happening all over the world, affecting all people past puberty. (She had learned this through broadcast TV, apparently there were still plenty of dedicated journalists around)
2. Not everyone's instincts were sentient personalities.
3. Many other people had "powers", such as my ability to claw through metal. (I made a resolution to test for more powers once I was out of range of any innocent bystanders.)
After the longwinded explanation we crowded in front of the small TV set to see what was going on. Apparently two gangs called the "Crips" and the "Bloods" were wreaking havoc in a poorer part of town, the police had blockaded the part of the city turned war zone. Problem was, they couldn't tell one from the other anymore! Elsewhere things were going a little better.
A feline morph appeared on the screen, "Cal Jenkins reporting from Laclede's Landing, it looks like Mardi Gras down here!" Indeed it did, the party went on as far as the camera could see. "A few mounted Police have been called in to quell the crowd, but they can't find any wrongdoing around here."
As the cat turned to interview a Buck morph policeman a grin spread across my muzzle, "This could be fun after all."
"Whatever you say kid, let's just get out of here."
"Being in a small space with two different types of animal makes me nervous."
It WAS a little cramped, and I was feeling his nervousness. "I'll be getting home now Dr. Grey, see you later." She was so busy staring at the screen in amazement that she didn't answer, so I just shrugged and left.
I decided to use this time to give myself a more through self-examination. Walking into the static-free showers, I unzipped what was left of the jumpsuit and dumped it on the floor. Looking in the mirror my eyes quickly diverted to my nether area, but nothing had changed there except that it was now well hidden by white fur. Breathing a sigh of relief, I checked the rest of me. In all I didn't look that bad, sort of handsome in a way, more or less like Fox McCloud. Flexing a bit, my new lean muscle was revealed. I grinned as much as I could, "Just in time for swimsuit season."
"What's that?" I had almost forgotten about my other half,
"It's err�a kind of mating season for humans."
"Ahhhh�many attractive vixens?"
I laughed, "I guess you could say that."
Getting a hold if my briefly inflated ego, I went to the lockers to get my clothes. I hadn't noticed before, but this new body was about a foot shorter than my old one, and the T-shirt looked like a nightshirt on me, I didn't even TRY my sneakers. "Ah, heck with it." I discarded my clothes and just slipped on the shorts and sunglasses, which fit just fine after I cut a hole in the seat with my claws for my tail to fit through. I also put on my boxers, although it did seem a little unnecessary. Leaving the static-free area was a bit of a shock, as I passed through the airlock all sorts of smells and sounds greeted my newly sensitive nose and ears. The smell of fear almost knocked me over, but what DID knock me over was a full Clydesdale tearing at top speed through the halls, a dog morph right on its tail.
"Too much panic�it's dangerous here kid, I think we should leave as soon as possible."
"No argument there." I started running for the exit and then remembered something, "Jeff!"
"Yes, we have to find him before we leave, but I don't think he'll recognize me like this."
I felt him thinking hard, "I think I figured out how we can kid. Find an isolated room someplace, I'll do the rest." I looked around and dodged into an empty executive office.
"Will this do?"
"Perfect, now close your eyes and concentrate, this may be a little strange." Willing to do anything to find my buddy, I closed my eyes.
I suddenly found myself inside my mind, kind of hard to explain. I was standing upright, fully human, my hand holding what felt like a paw. I turned and there was the fox, standing on his hind legs. I was standing in a sort of cylinder; its walls looked to be made of a transparent gel, the fox was outside holding my hand through the wall. I blinked once, "This is my mind?"
"You catch on quick kid."
"You're standing in a "Cylinder of control", when you stand in it, you control your body."
"And you would be controlling it if you stepped in here and I stepped out, correct?"
"Smart kid." I looked around; there was nothing but the cylinder.
"OK, how is this going to help Jeff identify me?"
"Let go of my paw and you'll see." Without hesitation, we both let go. Something in my mind split, and I was thrust back into the real world.
My eyes snapped open, and there he was, my fox half on the floor staring up at me. I realized I couldn't smell like a fox anymore, and the muzzle in front of my eyes had vanished. The fox gave a short tail wag, "Surprise!" Doing a quick once over of my body, I discovered I was almost human again. Emphasis on almost, I still had a peach fuzz covering of red fur and claws on my hands and feet, but they had regained their normal shape.
"Cool! Another power?"
"You got it, kid!"
I grinned and rubbed my furry hands together, "OK, let's go find Jeff!"
As we crept stealthily through the deserted halls, the fox's nose sniffing this way and that, I kept getting glances of my reflection in the glass windows. My body looked to be in a whole lot better shape than it used to be. Despite frequent Tae Kwon Do classes, and my rank of Recommendation Black (Last belt before Black), I had never developed any real visible muscle. Now I looked like one of those male actors that made the girls swoon in all those Teen mags, complete with cool shades, but with red hair all over. I realized that the entire perception of "cute" will have changed completely with the rest of humanity. I wondered what those actors looked like now�
In any case, the fox picked up on a strong scent and I almost had to run to keep up. All the other morphs had either left to join the throng on the streets, or were huddled in an office somewhere, afraid to come out. Judging on what I saw on the Television and brief glances through windows, morphs ranged from almost no transformation, like me without my fox half, to almost entirely animal save for a few human features. I was somewhere in the middle of the scale when I was "together", if you know what I mean. The fox stopped in front of the Testing Room door and let out a short bark, "This is it."
Opening the door, I let out a short gasp and said, "So here you all are!"
"Hey!" Jeff flashed me a toothy mid-degree Bengal Tiger grin, "Look who showed up!" The hairs on the back of the fox's neck raised, as did mine, you DON'T want a tiger to grin at you. Jeff's mouth quickly snapped shut, "Sorry, I keep forgetting." All the other testers were sitting around a table looking totally relaxed, my friends take weirdness in stride (Heck, they put up with ME). I made a quick survey of the others in the room, and my remaining fox instincts put them all in a neat little list inside my head:1. Name: Jeff Bailey ; Former Race: mixed Caucasian/Latin American ; Current Species: Bengal Tiger ; Degree: Mid ; Description: Both Tiger and Human throughout, sort of like myself. ; Clothes: Shorts and stretched T-shirt
2. Name: Brock Chambers ; Former Race: African American ; Current Species: Donkey ; Degree: High ; Description: Almost all brown donkey except for hands instead of hooves ; Clothes: none, covered by fur
3. Name: Jenny Jansen ; Former Race: Caucasian ; Current Species: Dolphin ; Degree: Mid ; Description: Face completely dolphin, no visible body changes except for gray skin color, rubbery texture, webbed fingers and toes ; Clothes: sports bra and shorts
4. Name: Erin Park ; Former Race: Asian ; Current Species: some sort of Lizard ; Degree: Low ; Description: nothing changed except slit-pupil eyes, a slight lizardish snout, and brown-black striped scaly skin. ; Clothes: T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers
Brock made a can of Pepsi float through the air to me, "C'mon Shades my man, take a seat." Blinking at what had just happened, I grabbed the can and sat down next to Jenny, who looked at the Fox with the inquisitive dolphin face, "Who's your friend?"
I looked down at the Fox with a small grin, "I guess you could say he's my better half."
Erin blinked her lizard eyes, "What does that mean?" "Ho boy�this is going to take some explaining."
After telling the story to a tiger, a donkey, a dolphin, and a lizard, Erin suggested I give my fox-half a name.
"Let me see�" The fox thought for a moment, "Swift?" I nodded, he looked pleased,
"OK, Swift it is." Jeff applauded, followed by the others. Swift and I nodded to each other and recombined back to normal, our hands joined once again in my mind. "By the way, how'd you think of a name I would like so fast?"
"I'm inside your head, remember?"
Following the naming of Swift, we all decided to try out our newfound powers. Everyone with the exception of me could shift to full animal, but Jenny decided not to, seeing as she would quickly dry out away from a water source, "I'm parched enough as it is." Brock, as I said before, could move things with his mind, and with only a slight effort on his part lifted the soda machine off the ground! Erin, who I learned was of a species called "Glass Lizard", could blend in with the background so well you couldn't see her unless you looked very hard. Absent-mindedly taking a sip from my soda, it spilled all over my front. Quickly excusing myself I grabbed a few paper towels and cleaned up, deciding to impress the others by chewing up the now empty aluminum Pepsi can.
Brock laughed, "Not bad, but I wouldn't swallow it." Following his advice, I spit it out into the recycling bin. Jeff and Jenny had no evident powers beyond norm-shift, but they were happy anyway with what they ended up with. Although he lacked powers, Jeff had obviously packed on some MAJOR muscle, it looked like he could run for the Mr. Universe title of he wanted.
After a brief period of just gawking at each other and ourselves, Jeff spoke up, "I gotta go to check on my parents, the phones aren't working and I'm sure my mom's in hysterics by now." It was then everyone remembered their own families and girl/boyfriends (I was girlfriendless, after breaking up shortly before). So we said our goodbyes and I headed out to my car.
Getting inside, I realized a small glitch in my plan, the streets were brooked solid with morphs of all types. "Looks like we're stuck for awhile."
"It's alright with me, as long as we're alone and there is no danger of starving for food or water." I shrugged and reclined the seat to wait it out, promptly laying on my tail. I let out a small yip and tried to adjust my body so the tail wouldn't bother me, without success. It wasn't very comfortable, but I decided to let go and make the most of it. My car has an eight-track/radio, Compact Disc, and mini disc players, installed one on top of the other like a tribute to the swiftly advancing technology. I had a few tapes, about five CDs, and twelve mini discs all stuck in the big glove compartment so I had no lack of entertainment. I didn't have any modern rock albums, preferring more laid back Jazz or other tranquil titles. I took out my favorite CD, labeled "Midnight Jazz" by a company called "Nature Quest". I enjoyed it because the melodic mixing of Jazz and night noises, featuring wolf howls, was perfect for calming my nerves and putting me to sleep. I put the outdated disc in and lay back in the seat, closing my eyes as it started to play.
What happened next was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to me, period. "WOLVES! WOLVES! RUNRUNRUNRUN! DANGER! RUNRUNRUNRUN!"
I sat up with a horrible start and, summoning up all my will power to overcome my instincts, turned off the CD player. "No danger! Fake wolves! Not real!" There I sat, adrenaline burying the needle on the alertness meter, trying to calm down.
"Fake? Not real?"
"Right! Not real!" Gradually my heart slowed and my breathing returned to normal. "Mental note: Never play that music again!"
I decided to find something that wouldn't bother Swift. Another favorite of mine that didn't include animal noises was a mini disc called "Spring" from Garrison Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon", comedic stories from a fictional small town called Lake Wobegon in northern Minnesota. Garrison's voice had a very deep soothing quality that made the funny stuff even funnier because he said it in a totally straight voice, very dry humor. I slid the disc into the player and lay back again, trying to get comfy. "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon�" Listening to it seemed to affect in a way I had never felt before, my muscles relaxed and even my tail stopped bothering me. "No danger, rest�" Now I knew why animals seemed to act so peaceful when you talked to them in a low voice. Within thirty minutes, I was sound asleep.