|Paradise story universe|
|Works by Jetfire on Shifti|
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Labour Day weekend proved to be an interesting It was the first family challenge I faced in my new form. I would have loved to skip it if at all possible, but there was no way around it. Months ago, I'd promised mom to help tile the lower hall that weekend. And even if I did skip this weekend, I'd only be delaying the inevitable. The Stones concert is coming up in a couple of weeks, and there was no way I'd be able to get out of that family gathering. I had to do a family dry run before hand, just to make sure I could do it.
Plus, it gave me a chance to check in with a newbie.
So, mom picked me up after work yesterday, and as expected, was surprised that the beard was gone and the hair was brown. If only she knew how far the changes really went. We drove home and settled into the old routine.
I think the biggest challenge I had, was not letting mom do my laundry. There are simply too many embarrassing items in my wardrobe now for me to let her handle it. Luckily, the laundry room was one room that I was tiling, so once the machines were disconnected, that problem was solved.
Anyways, Friday evening went quickly, and Saturday dawned bright and sunny. I was up early with dad and the animals, and borrowed the car to go meet Richard, the Changed high school student from Hartland (a small town upriver from my parent's town). I drove into town, and parked in the mall parking lot next to Tim's. I leaned against the hood of the car, watching the early morning coffee runs going through the restaurant and looked for another furry face.
Finally, a muddy pickup truck pulled in, driven by a man-sized tabby patterned house cat. He spotted me and pulled into the next slot and killed the roar of his truck's engine.
"Hey there, you must be JF. You never mentioned you'd be so hot," the tabby said as he climbed out.
I groaned, blushing under my fur and began to have second thoughts about the meeting. "Remember what the initials mean, Richard. As far as everyone else sees, there's a man talking to you," I warned him.
That took the wind out of his sails. He eep'ed and took a moment to recover. "So uhm, what did you want to talk about?"
"I just wanted to check in, see how you were doing since the day, make sure there aren't any issues and stuff. Have you eaten yet? I'm starved."
"Nah, I ate before I came down. Got a game in an hour or so. But we can head inside."
We walked into the donut shop, and I waited in line while he found a table in a corner of the eating area. I walked back with a mug of hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich and noticed his eyes staring at me. I blushed again and tried not to lean forward as I sat down. "Initials," I hissed at him, forcing him to look away again.
"Now that's just not fair. A beautiful girl like you and only I can see you," he grumbled forcing his eyes back to me and upward.
"You think it's unfair? Try living it.... Never mind," I sipped my drink to recompose myself a bit and linked eyes with the house cat. "So how have you been? Any problems at school or with the parents since the change?" I'd finally learned to speak about the Change in normal conversation tones, trusting that most people would be polite enough not to listen in, and that the Field would keep us from being noticed.
"Nope, not a thing. 'course it is tater season, so we're busy getting the spuds in. Between that, practice and school, we barely have time for meals together."
"That's good at least. You'll have to watch yourself once winter comes, but by then you should be used to it."
"Yeah, I hope so. I just can't figure out what to do with my tail. It keeps getting in the way no matter what I try to do with it."
"It's risky, but take a sewing class or something and make some tail holes in your shorts and pants. It does make it easier, and the Field keeps people from noticing the hole and your tail when you're wearing them. You'll want to do your own laundry after you do that though."
He stared at me wide eyed and I had to chuckle. "Well you are planning to go to University right? You're gonna need to learn how to do it yourself eventually."
"Yeah but I wasn't planning on doing it THIS soon."
I chuckled and took the top off my sandwich and lifted the bottom half up, sniffing the sausage and egg on the bottom biscuit. "Speaking of school stuff, any problems at school? Teachers or friends or teammates notice anything?"
"Nah, the teachers wouldn't notice if I caught and ate a mouse right in the classroom... And no I haven't done that, but it's been tempting, hearing them scurrying in the walls of the house. Friends haven't said anything and haven't shied away, so I guess they haven't noticed. And it took a bit to figure out how to dribble and shoot with these hands, but a bit of practice and I'm back to what I was before, maybe even better. The team's doing great this year."
"Sounds great, but you do know that as a WHS grad, so I'm legally obligated to cheer for the Warriors or Thunder or whatever they're calling themselves now and to boo you Huskies."
"I wouldn't hold it against a beautiful girl like you," he said, eyes drifting lower again.
"Eyes up!" I snapped at him, refocusing him upwards and getting a glances from the older couple at a nearby table. "So, I don't think you ever mentioned it, how did you find us out?"
He grinned. "Like anyone finds anything nowadays. Google."
I tilted my head and waited for him to go on.
"Well I was sick and out of school for most of the week, and left alone for the most part. Harvest season and all that. I began feeling better on Friday, but there was no way in hell I was gonna let mom know that. She kept me home again, and I was alone in the house while I changed.
"I had no idea what was going on, so I started searching cat-people on Google. Man, there is some strange shit out there."
I chuckled. "Yeah there is. Gotta be careful with searches like that."
"Anyways, I did that search, and started refining and following links, and eventually came across a link to some artist who had changed and had a picture of herself up; a real picture, not just a drawing. Contacted her, she got back to me and by the time mom and dad got home, I was more or less briefed on what to expect."
"Good, good. I think more and more of us are putting honey pots like that on the 'net, intentionally or unintentionally, to try and find more like you. In any case, I'm glad you got the help you needed. I was a bit busy with my own issues that day." I sighed and moved my hand in front of my chest and pointed upwards. He flicked his ears and drew his gaze back up.
"Yeah, I read a bit about you. It must be weird... to have had that happen to you."
"Weird doesn't begin to describe it. But I'm coping. So, you're in grade 12 right? Thought about what University are you going to go to?"
"I'm thinking of Acadia, but if you're in Fredericton, maybe UNB or STU would be better."
The thought of him being in the same city as me sent a nervous shiver down my spine. "No no no, Acadia would be fine choice. No need to stay close," I said perhaps a bit too hurriedly and regretting bringing the subject up. My comfort tolerance was rapidly running out. "I think that's all I wanted to talk about. Got any questions or anything?"
"Nah, nothing I haven't already asked already." He glanced at his watch. "I guess I should be going, join the team and get ready for the games."
"Exactly, good luck in the tournament this weekend," I said, standing with him and shaking his paw. "Regretfully, I have other plans this weekend and can't see yah play, but maybe if you ever play Fredericton or Leo Hayes, I'll try to swing by."
"Don't think we play against them, but you never know how the finals go." I noticed his eyes drifting down again and sighed. I started walking to the door, dropping off my mug and garbage. He trailed after me, looking even lower to my annoyance as I saw his reflection in the windows.
I made sure he left the parking lot before I left.
I picked up a few more supplies, and started on my weekend project. Mortar is a pain in the tail with fur, no matter how careful you are. And as I cut tile with the wet saw, my shirt got soaked, making my newish 'assets' much more noticeable. I was sure the field would fail for me, but mom and dad didn't even bat an eye. By mid afternoon, most of the hallway and small bathroom were done and I had enough for the day. I cleaned up the tools, and locked myself in the bathroom to start cleaning myself, painfully crushing and picking chunks of cement out of my paw and arm fur.
It was almost time to leave for Bingo before I was feeling presentable again.
"Joe! You almost ready?" Mom shouted from downstairs while I was cleaning up in the bathroom.
I growled softly and looked myself over in the mirror, running a brush through my belly fur one last time. I pulled on a clean shirt and looked at myself in the mirror, staring at the bulges on my chest. I would have preferred a bra or something to try and squish them down, but AT had warned me about it. It was usually better to leave them loose and let the field cover you instead of trying to contain them and draw attention to it. I sighed and ran the brush through my head fur and arms and was ready to face the world again.
"OK, I'm ready now," I called out, opening the door and stepping out. She looked me over from the base of the stairs, and then headed to the front door.
The stench of smoke that hit me when we stepped into the Bingo hall nearly drove me back to the car. Though the province was nonsmoking, the hall was on a reserve, and they had their own rules. By breathing shallowly through my mouth, I gradually acclimatized myself to the stench, and followed mom to her usual table. We waved and chatted with regulars we knew along the way.
We were sorting through our cards and setting up at the table, when I saw her. The gray furred bunny morph was in a wheelchair with an oxygen tube connected to her nostrils, surrounded by people I vaguely recognized.
"Who's that?" I whispered to mom, nodding to the wheelchair bound bunny.
She looked over to where I was indicating. "Poor dear. You don't recognize her? It's Erma Pond, from up the road."
"What happened to her?" I asked as she and her family settled down at the tables the next row over. I sat back a bit to try and hide behind mom a bit while they were distracted.
Mom shook her head sadly. "No one knows for sure. She was sick in the middle of August, then mostly recovered. But her mind seems to have taken an extra twist." Mom sipped from her pop and smiled and waved over to the family. "She acts normally enough and stuff... but she insists she's a rabbit now. Her family's been trying to get her help of some sort but can't figure out what's wrong with her."
I nodded. "I see, that is sad," I said, shifting forward to put myself back in view. I knew I wouldn't be able to hide all night, so it was best to get this over with now.
Erma caught sight of me and gasped. "I don't believe I've ever seen you before, deary!" she exclaimed, leaning forward a bit.
"That's Joey, Mom. You know, he is Jean and Lloyd's son," her daughter, a woman about mom's age, explained.
"No, that's not Joey. I remember what Joey was like, and I know that's definitely not Joey," Erma insisted.
I stood up and walked around the tables towards her. "It is Joey, Mrs Pond. I've just had some changes since the last time we saw each other," I said, rubbing my head hoping her family would think I was indicating my changed hair colour.
She shook her head, disbelievingly. "No no, no. Joey doesn't have your shape deary, no matter how much you say you may have changed."
I flicked my ears nervously and smiled at her husband and daughter. I crouched down next to her chair, putting my paw next to hers. I whispered as quietly as I could, hoping her ears were not just for show. "I know you are really a hare. If you can hear me, squeeze my paw." I continued, speaking louder. "Trust me, it is Joey. Don't you remember me selling you all those magazine subscriptions and wrapping paper and Poinsettias back when I was in school?"
She looked startled, then took my hand and squeezed it lightly. Her family didn't seem to notice. I continued my whisper. "Trust me, you see me differently, but I am Joey and everyone else sees me as Joey. Can you get your family away for a couple minutes? I'll try my best to explain, OK?"
She squeezed my hand again and looked confused a moment before smiling. "I guess I need new glasses. I didn't recognize you at first." She turned to her husband. "I'm feeling a bit parched. Could you go get me a bottle of water please?"
Her husband nodded and left the table. I spoke louder, smiling. "Yeah, my new hair color catches everyone off guard. Should've seen me a month ago, whiter hair and a full beard."
She let go of my hand and started rummaging in her purse a bit. "Lori, I can't seem to find my medicine. Could you be a dear and go out and check the car, see if it's in there?" she asked, looking up at her daughter.
Lori smiled and squeezed her mom's shoulder. "Sure mom, I'll be right back."
I watched her get out of ear shot and checked to see if anyone else was paying attention to us. Mom had gone to the video lottery terminals, and everyone else nearby were busy in their own conversations. I refocused on Erma while we had the moment alone.
"This is really hard to believe, I know. And no one knows what's going on, but something, or somehow, people are changing into morphic... err humanoid animals. We're doubling in number every year or so, the people 'picked' seemingly completely at random. And the weirdest thing is, only other Changed can see other Changed. So you and I can see each other as a bunny and a cougress. But everyone else still sees you as a beautiful elderly woman, and me as the guy I used to be," I whispered. "And yes, sometimes whatever is changing us has a really twisted sense of humor," I added with a bit more anger in my tone than I intended.
"So that's why everyone thinks I'm going crazy when I say what I am?"
"Exactly. You need to start pretending you are human as best as you can for now. I know it's rough; I've been going through over a year of it already; but it is doable."
She nodded slowly, and I tried to think of what else I could say, and what else I had to say before our moment of isolation ended. I borrowed her pen and scrawled my name and cell number on the bottom of the game program. "We don't have time right now, but if you ever need anything, even if you want to just talk to someone about your new form, just call me."
I looked towards the hall and saw her husband returning with a bottle of water. "We have our connections and networks set up for Changed people. We even have some doctors who are looking into it. I'll ask around and see if we can get a Change doctor to help you out. At the very least we can get you registered with our 'sickness' so others know to call for specialists if you have an emergency." I showed her my own bracelet.
She smiled and took my paw in both hands, squeezing it. "You're too kind, deary. Thank you for keeping an old lady company," she said, glancing up as her husband set the water bottle down.
"No problem, Mrs Pond. It was good to speak to you again," I said, standing up and nodding to her husband. "I'll go find Lori, let her know you found your medicine," I added, winking to Erma.
She grinned and winked back, lifting her purse. "Yeah, it was in the bottom of my purse. I really should clean this out."
I went back to the entrance of the hall, and regretfully took a deep breath through my nose. My eyes watered even more from the cigarette smoke, but I was able to pick up the mass of humans, the rabbit scent and my own feline scent. I took another breath and managed to isolate the fading lapin scent and began to follow it into the parking lot. Soon enough, I was walking quietly towards an SUV. I could see Lori standing next to it, rummaging through a bag set on the driver's seat.
"Hey Lori, it's Joey. Can I speak to you a moment?" I called out, breaking my silence a few feet away.
The figure in the van jumped in surprise, and I winced in sympathy, hearing and seeing her head crack against the edge of the door frame. She ow'ed and turned around, rubbing her head. I saw her eyes widen in surprise, then blink quickly when she faced me.
"Is there something wrong?" I asked. "Do you need some ice?"
"No no, I'll be fine. Just seeing double there for a moment. Was weird though, I saw you, but I saw some strange cat creature too..." she carefully shook her head and reached back for the bag.
"O-Kay... if you say so. Anyways, your mom found her meds, so you don't need to keep looking."
She smiled weakly and put the bag back in the car. "That's good. She's always misplacing those pills."
I nodded in understanding and leaned lightly on the hood of the car. "How has she been? She looks great for her age."
"Yeah, she is doing well all things considered. Her mind especially is still sharp as a tack, except for that damn rabbit delusion." Lori sighed and leaned against the open door. "The funny thing is, some nights, when I check on her before going to bed, I'd swear I can see that rabbit she says she is."
"And the doc's, they don't have any idea what may be going on?"
She turned her head and spat angrily onto the pavement. "The quacks around here? They couldn't diagnose a broken arm with the bone sticking out of your skin. Oh sure they're trying, prescribing this-anil and that-anol and everything else in their black bags, but it's clear they have no better idea of what's going on in her head than we do."
I nodded in sympathy. "Actually, if you don't mind yet another opinion, I think I may have an idea of what happened to her. The same sort of thing happened to me." I added hurriedly.
She looked up at me, puzzled. I pushed on. "August before last, I too was stricken with a horrible August flu and had... similar experiences to what your mom told me about. Turns out, it wasn't really a flu that hit us, but some sort of 'sleeping sickness'. It's not contagious or anything, but every so often it seems the fates align and someone comes down with it."
"Sleeping Sickness? But the Doctors never mentioned that as a possibility."
"It is a very new rare disease. Most doc's probably haven't even heard of it, let along know what to look for to diagnose it."
"But you know what to look for?"
I grinned at her and flicked my tail in amusement. "Trust me, once you have had it, you know the signs of it VERY well. In any case, I'm sure your mom will be fine once everything is explained."
I thought a moment trying to figure out how best to move on. "Do you have an email address? I can put you in contact with the doctors who are studying this and they can check her records and advise on her medication and any other special handling she may need."
"Special handling?" she asked, puzzled and concerned.
I tried to explain as best I could. "When you've had this illness, you can still function normally for the every day stuff. But medical stuff can get tricky; it throws your body off a bit, enough that medicines and surgery and stuff can be dangerous if a specialist isn't notified and keeping watch. That's why we have our own bracelets," I explained, showing my own silver chain.
"Sure, just a sec, I'll write it down," she said, scrounging for a scrap of paper and a pen.
"Most of the specialists, that I know of, are down in the States, so don't expect a home visit. But I don't think you'll need to travel either, at least not for simple diagnosis and stuff. I'll put out the feelers and see who's available." I pocketed the paper and we started walking back to the Bingo hall.
"So.... What's this illness like?" she asked as we reached the doors.
I pulled the outer door open and held it for her. "It's really hard to say. Part of the reason why it is so hard to nail down. First though, is the flu symptoms for a few days. On the third or fourth day, the flu breaks and you begin to feel normal again, but...." I trailed off, not sure how to continue. We were verging into territory I wasn't sure how to explain to a non-Changed.
I thought a moment longer while we stood in the lobby. "But your body feels... weird I guess. Like it isn't really your body, but someone... something else's. No one else can tell the difference, but you can feel it."
"So it is making mom feel as if her body has become some sort of rabbit-creature?"
"Yeah, animal themes are the most common results for some reason. Usually, just talking about it can be the best way to start shaking that feeling and get back to normal, but the feelings never really leave. Have you ever heard about 'phantom limbs' that amputees sometimes report?"
She nodded and I continued. "Well I guess you can sort of describe it like that for us. Only for us, we have phantom fur and phantom horns or phantom tails or phantom claws. Our minds can feel them, but they... they don't exist.
"Anyways, usually we just need to convince ourselves that they really are just phantom sensations and it's enough to get back to normal, but if we let our mental guard down, they return to us in full force. I've explained that to your mom, and I think she understood, but you really should let some experts talk to her as well."
She nodded and looked thoughtfully to the hall. "So what do you feel? If you don't mind me asking?"
I briefly considered turning the question down, but changed my mind. It wasn't as if I was in that form now after all; there was no way she would link the cougar I was now to the old goat form. "Believe it or not, a mountain goat. The... delusion I guess you could say, feels very real. I would sweat like mad in the winter, feeling like I was in a thick woolen coat. I could feel the horns on my head, my cloven hooves crunching through the snow..." I stopped myself quickly, realizing the longing that was slipping into my voice. I turned away quickly, but I could feel her eyes staring at me.
"But I'm all better now, no goat feelings here any more," I finished lamely but truthfully. "And so will your mom be. You'll probably even notice a bit of an improvement tonight."
"I hope so. It would be nice to have mom back. Good luck tonight."
We walked back into the Bingo hall. "Good luck to you too," I replied and glanced at the time, realizing the game was starting soon and mom wasn't back yet.
I peeked in the various gaming rooms until I found mom, playing and gabbing away as usual. I walked in and stood by her machine.
"Almost time to go?" she asked me, looking up.
"Just about. Dad's setting up," I answered, watching the machine behind me out of the corner of my eye. No one was at it, so it was flashing through the various games.
"Just give me a few more spins then, get this to forty," she said, refocusing on the machine.
Curiosity got the better of me. I twitched my tail up and brushed the screen behind me, wanting to see if it could detect the touch through my tail fur. The screen flicked and changed to the game I'd touched. I turned my head enough so I could watch both mom's machine and my experimental machine and tapped more buttons on the screen as best I could. I didn't have much accuracy with my tail, but the buttons were big enough to hit fairly easily.
The rattle of a printer shook me out of my experiments. Mom picked out the payout sheet and took it to the cashier. The cashier was looking at the machine behind me, puzzled.
"Something wrong?" I called out, pulling my tail down and following mom.
"I'm not sure. I've never seen a machine cycle like that one was. Were you doing anything to it Joe?"
We all looked back to the other machine, which was now back in its normal standby display. "Errm, no I didn't do a thing to it."
The cashier shook her head again and passed over the money. "Weird. I could've sworn I saw the shadow of something touching it, but I couldn't make it out. Guess we've got ghost gamblers here now. Good luck guys."
"Thanks, we'll see you later," mom said and we returned to our seats and settled down for the night's games.
Posted on: 11:34PM ADT, September 2nd, 2006
Posted to: Changed.medical.consultations
Posted by: JF_Cougar
Subject: Need consultation for an elderly fur in western New Brunswick, Canada.
I've got an elderly off-line Changed in my region who needs some help before the docs up here mess her up worst with whatever they're giving her.
She is a gray furred hare, approximately 70 or 80 years old. Her mind seems fine for now, and I've encouraged her to hide her changed nature.
Is anyone available to take on this case? I can pass on your contact info to her daughter who can arrange any other details that may be needed.
Twisting the Veil
|The Veil (A Paradise Series)
(First: Holes in the Veil)
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Veil