I woke up feeling very strange. I looked over to my clock, seeing it read 9:15. That’s strange, the alarm should have woken me up hours ago. I sat bolt upright in my bed.
“Oh, no!” I said to no one in particular, “I’m late for class!”
I jumped out of bed, and landed flat on my face. I laid there, stunned. Three things caught my attention:
1) I hadn’t landed on my feet.
2) My face wasn’t the right shape.
3) If I don’t own shag carpet, why do I feel all fuzzy?
I managed to get on all fours, and take a good look at myself in my closet mirror. I nearly fainted. I had paws, claws, and fur. I had a muzzle where my mouth should be. My ears were located on the top of my head. I had fangs that looked like they could puncture bricks. I was a saber-toothed tiger.
I shook my head, convinced I was dreaming. But when the tiger in the mirror repeated the actions, I knew there was only one way to be sure. I chomped down on my right arm, which more closely resembled a foreleg now.
“Yeowch!” I yelled as I leapt in the air, coming back down on all four feet. I hobbled over to the bathroom, where I managed to grab the box of Band-Aids with my mouth, and bring them down to the floor. As I did so, I paused. What was I gonna do with ‘em now? I had no fingers to open the box with! Shaking my head, I decided to try and walk to a hospital, or failing that, a vet.
As I crossed my living room, I accidentally stepped on the TV remote.
“...Seems to be widespread, affecting the entire planet.” I looked at the TV, then did a double take. The news anchor looked like an elk! At least, partially like one. He had a rack of antlers, and a very elk-looking face, but he had an otherwise human body. His fingers were a little hoof-like, but they were still fingers. Shaking my head again, I decided to try the hospital. After a few tries with my paws, I managed to open my front door, and then I was off.
Man, I had never experienced speed like this! I raced down the sidewalks and around corners, weaving between people at close to fifty miles an hour. (Don’t ask me how I knew; I just did.) I saw the hospital looming closer, and I put one last burst of speed into my legs. I turned into the waiting room, and skidded to a halt. I sat on the “welcome” mat, panting.
I yelled at the top of my lungs as I leapt forward. I hadn’t meant to startle everyone like that, but the doors had shut on my tail. I looked around, noticing the entire lobby frozen in place. I saw someone that looked like a zebra running full tilt down the hall away from me. I hung my head low, and tried to mumble out an apology, but it came out as more of a growl. Just as I had raised my head back up, I saw another man- this one looked like a falcon-running towards me. With a gun. I looked behind me, to make sure it was me he was after, then tensed my legs for what I knew was about to happen.
I sidestepped the dart he shot at me, then rammed my head into his stomach. The thought occurred to me that I could have made a real mess of him just then, had I had my mouth open. I shook my head, dismissing the thought instantly.
I stepped on top of him as he tried to start breathing again. I smiled as best I could, but that only made him cringe in terror. Perhaps smiling in this shape was a bad thing.
“Sorry about that,” I said. “The door caught my tail.” The man froze, a look of confusion on his face.
“Wh-What was that?”
“I said I was sorry.” He slid out from under me.
“You can talk?” I rolled my eyes. I needed to get my arm fixed, it was still bleeding.
“Yes.” I said, impatiently. “Now I need to get-”
“Like that?” He said, pointing to me. I had reached the end of my rope, so I let out the yawn I had been holding in. I could have swallowed his head whole.
“Listen, mac, I need someone with fingers to wrap this in a bandage. After that, we can chit-chat all you like. Capice?” The man nodded, his eyes as big as dishplates, and led me to a room. I jumped up on the bed, and laid down on it. I shut my eyes, trying to relax after the morning’s activities.
I heard the door creak open, and a raccoon-looking woman came in the room. She approached me cautiously, as if I was gonna bite her if she got close or something.
“Yo, little help here?” I asked, waving my injured arm in the air. “This don’t exactly feel good, you know.” I smelled something weird leaving the room. Apprehension? That has a smell?
“Yes, well, uh, Mr...”
“Sharpe. Ryan Sharpe.”
“Well, Mr. Sharpe, you’ll forgive me being a little apprehensive about treating you in your current form...” She said as she fished some things out of a cabinet.
“Hey, no problem. I nearly freaked out myself, the first time I looked in a mirror.” She smiled a little, and put a damp cloth on my arm.
"Rrryeow!" The nurse was practically against the wall, her chest heaving. I shook my head a few times, and blinked a little.
“Geez, that stings!” I said. I could smell relief flowing over her. It was a strange experience, smelling emotions.
“I-I thought you were gonna-” she started as she inched towards me. I sighed.
“Look, I’m not gonna bite. If you’ll just wrap my arm, I’ll be on my way.” She dabbed my arm with the alcohol again, recoiling slightly when I snarled. “It’s okay, it just stings.” I said through clenched teeth. As she started to wrap it, she asked me a very strange question.
“So, when did yours happen?”
“When did my what happen?” she looked at me like I was crazy.
“What else? Your change.”
“Oh, that. I dunno. I woke up this way.”
“You slept through it??”
“Hey, I routinely sleep through earthquakes. I wake up my neighbors with my alarm clock. I guess this just wasn’t enough to wake me.” She shook her head.
“Incredible...” She thought for a moment. “Well, you’re lucky, I guess.”
“Well, most of the people who got stuck in norm went completely berserk, and those who didn’t can’t talk at all, much less as good as you are.” I blinked twice.
“That’s a term that one of the surgeons coined. It means to be completely animal, not halfway like I am.” I remembered that I hadn’t noticed any other people that had totally changed, like I had. They were all half-and-half, mixes of human and animal. A familiar feeling came over me.
“You might want to shut your eyes.” I told her as she put two butterfly clips on the bandage.
“Because I’m about to yawn, and from what I’ve gathered, the results aren’t... aren’t... aaaaaaaaah...” too late, my mouth opened wide, exposing the two rows of razor-sharp teeth in my mouth. “...pretty.” I swear I could hear her heart beating from here. “You okay?”
“Y-Yeah, I’m fine... Just my instincts acting up.”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t felt them?”
“I don’t even know what ‘they’ are.” she shook her head again.
“Boy, you are weird.” she sat down on a stool. “Supposedly, everyone inherited the instincts of the animal they changed into. In some of the worst cases, the instincts took over entirely, and that’s what made some people lose it. And even when people are like this-” she gestured to herself, the in-between form of a raccoon and a human- “they’re still there. Like, I knew you weren’t going to bite me, but when you yawned, a little voice in the back of my head was just screaming at me to run for my life. And they’re supposed to be almost overpowering in norm. So my question is, how are you able to act so rationally?”
I shrugged, as best I could lying there, and looked away. “Just lucky, I guess.” I looked back at her. “But I still wish I had fingers...”
“Have you tried?”
“Well, a lot of people can shift back and forth between their norm and halfway forms. It’s weird you started out in norm, but you can probably shift back to your regular form if you try.” I thought about it for a second.
“Okay, let’s try this...” I closed my eyes and pictured myself as a human again. I felt my arms stretching, my hips moving around, and my paws widening into hands. About halfway through, I heard what sounded like a buzzer, and I felt the change stop. Each time I tried to shift to a full human, I’d hear the buzzer again, and it’d stop. figuring I couldn’t go any farther, I opened my eyes.
”Well, it’s an improvement...” the nurse said. I started to look over myself, when I realized something: I didn’t have any clothes on! I clenched my knees together, and crossed my arms over myself.
“I-I-I-” I stammered, embarrassed.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people are going around nude, mainly because you can’t see anything under their feathers and fur. But if it means that much to you, here...” she fished a hospital gown out of the cabinets, and gave it to me. She turned around as I put it on, a somewhat difficult task considering my fingers still had claws and fur. After I got it on, she turned back around and looked at me. “Well, it’s an improvement, I guess, but when you get home, I’d suggest some shorts or something. Jeans won’t make it over digitgrade feet.”
“Digitgrade?” I asked.
“Yeah, the way you’re always stading on the tips of your toes like that.” She thought for a minute, then smiled. “You know, I always thought those zoology classes were a waste of time...” I laughed, a very strange sound when coming from a muzzle.
“Looks like you’re something of a specialist now.” I said. I got up to leave, and she preceded me out the door.
“Look, thanks for all your help, miss...”
“Laura Baines. Please, call me Laura.”
“Well, thanks Laura.” I rubbed my head, feeling my old black hair and the new golden brown hair mix on my head. “I don’t know what I would have done this morning, had it not been for you. I’m still really confused, but at least I know I’m not nuts...” She smiled.
“Well, I’m pretty sure this kind of scenario isn’t mentioned in the hippocratic oath, but it does say that a doctor’s purpose is to help people, regardless of what shape they’re in.” She smiled one more time before leaving, no doubt to attend to other patients. I left the lobby, remembering not to smile at other people.
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