|Paradise story universe|
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I'm part of a change sweeping the world. One of a million with another million next year. I'm sure you've heard the other stories, but here's mine.
I currently work in a call centre, helping out the elderly with their Medicare. I'm not the only changed here. There's a snow leopard I moved in with two months ago, and a recently changed coyote. Oh me? I'm a raccoon, changed about two and a half years ago, but a raccoon for much longer.
I consider myself one of the lucky changed. Not only did I become the right species, I also became the right gender. Thankfully in the April before my change, I got my name changed as I had transitioned to female. Again, I consider myself lucky. There are a few changed to have to deal with becoming both animal, and another gender they did not wish for.
I picked up the job here because it was recommended to me by the changed network, mainly as a way to catch the changed among our elderly population. So far I haven't come across any, but I'm sure I will with time.
The changed network here is so different then Chicago's. There are a lot less changed for one. There's also a lot more cold weather furs here, including five snow leopards. I do wonder what it's like for all the large families around here. There must be a lot of changed children, and most of the households here are highly religious.
Stephanie looked at the intro letter to the UCF (Utah Changed Forums). "My that's rambling," she thought out loud. She looked at the computer screen and thought about the last few months, and how it got here here.
The Raccoon fumed in her car. "Eight minutes! Eight Dog DAMN MINUTES!" She had just gotten fired for going to lunch eight minutes after the five hour limit from her shift start. In this company, that meant a write up, and since she had one for being sick too many times earlier this year, it meant termination. She started to growl, her rather sharp teeth starting to show. She took in a deep breath, composed herself and started her car.
Stephanie drove down the freeway, alternating between crying and pure rage. She pulled into a visitor spot at a large apartment building. She hurriedly got out, and slammed the door of her poor little car. As quickly as her paws would take her, she went into the lobby and punched in a code on the intercom keypad with a clawed finger. A voice came out the speaker, "Hello?"
"It's Nikon, Tina, let me in please." Stephanie said into the intercom, using her internet name, and now her legal middle name. The door buzzed, and she was able to get in. After a short elevator ride, the raccoon stood outside an apartment door and knocked. Another raccoon answered the door. Stephanie barely made it in the door, before breaking down crying.
The next few days were a blur. Between applying for unemployment, and looking for a new job. With only three weeks till xmas, and the current state of the economy, it made for a lousy job market. Even with the changed network's help.
With xmas fast approaching, Stephanie decided to go home for the holiday. It would be her first time home since her change. The small raccoon (she had lost about two feet of hight with her change, it was so annoying when everyone spoke over her head) loaded up her car with her luggage and took off to Ohio from Chicago. She buzzed along the interstate, listening to a new podcast for the change community, Clawcast. It helped to pass the time and was funny to hear them try to pass the podcast as just a furry show.
Stephanie made a detour in Toledo, heading south to a small tourist trap she had visited years ago. She cruised down I75 listening to more of the podcast. A grin formed on her muzzle as the first billboard appeared, showing a cartoon raccoon wearing a baker's cap. 'Coons Candy 30mi' the sign read. Stephanie pulled off the highway, and onto a snow covered gravel lot in front of a red barn.
Stephanie got out of her car, and a smile formed on her muzzle as her mouth started to water. The candies inside smelled to good to her raccoon nose. She shouldered her camera bag and headed in. She walked in and took in a deep breath, taking in a better smell of all the sweets, before browsing the candies. She wandered though the tables, careful of her tail the whole time.
She stopped as a slightly familiar smell came to her. She looked around and spotted another raccoon coming out from the backroom, and starting right at Stephanie in shock. She knew that look well. It was combination of 'I'm complete crazy' and 'I'm not alone!' Stephanie walked up carefully to her fellow 'coon. "Hello. Nice to see this place lives up to it's name," she smiled at the other raccoon, who was still looking in shock.
"You, you can see me?!" the other raccoon asked nervously. Stephanie nodded. "I'm not crazy?" Stephanie smiled and nodded again.
"Would you like to talk?" Stephanie motioned to one side of the store, thankful it was not busy at the moment. She guided the scared raccoon over to the corner, next to a shelf full of plus raccoons, all wearing baker's hats and aprons. She made a mental note to pick one of the them up. "I take it this is the first time you've seen another changed?"
The other raccoon nodded slowly. She was about two feet taller then Stephanie, looks like she lost no hight with the change, and had kept her human hair, but otherwise was anthropomorphic raccoon. "Well, you are not alone. There are one million of us changed out there, and that number increases every year. Oh, and my name is Stephanie, what's yours?"
"I'm Cathy, Cathy Coons. Why did this happen? It is because of my name?" Cathy looked at Stephanie pleadingly. Coons Candy was a family owned shop, and with that last name, and her change, Cathy must've though it some sorta curse.
Stephanie rested a paw on Cathy's shoulder. "No one knows why this is happening. But it's happening all over, and folks are turning into more then just raccoons. All we can do is group together and support each other. Luckily I know a group down in Columbus." Stephanie reached into her camera bag and pulled out a card. "This has the internet addresses for more information on the change, and support groups." She flipped over the card, it was about the size of two business cards, folded over. She started writing on the back of the card, in one of the blank spots. "I'm giving you my cell number, and the number for the coordinator of the Columbus changed. Don't worry, she's a nice coyote. It's only 50 miles to Columbus, so I'm sure one of the locals down there can help."
Stephanie handed over the card, thankful that the LAFF changed had printed them up. It seemed not a week went by that two to three new changed were found. For some reason Chicago had the largest changed, as if it were the centre of this mess. These cards were a necessity "Did you have any questions of me?" she asked her fellow raccoon.
"I'm just glad I'm not insane, or cursed because of my name. Thank you!" Cathy suddenly hugged Stephanie and Stephanie hugged back. It seemed furs just took to hugs easier then normal humans.
Stephanie stepped back. "If you don't mind, I'm going to get some candy, before I make a puddle from my mouth watering." Stephanie giggled and Cathy smiled at her. Cathy went back to her duties, looking a lot more confidant. Stephanie smiled, and picked up some candies and one of those plush raccoons.
Stephanie took everything up to the register. The human at the counter ran up her items. "$47.16 is your total," the human told the raccoon.
"Do you take credit?" Stephanie asked. The cashier nodded and Stephanie took out her checkcard, handing it over with her ID.
The cashier's eye lit up as she read Stephanie's name. "Hey Cathy! Her last name is Raccoon!" The cashier showed Stephanie's card to Cathy and the other workers.
"That's why I sopped. I can't pass up anything raccoon themed." She looked at the other raccoon with a knowing smile.
"Our parents kept threatening to name one of us kids 'Rac' so they'd be 'Rac Coons'." All the workers laughed at that. Stephanie paid, and filled out the guestbook. She walked out waving at the Coons' with an extra wave for to the newly found raccoon. Stephanie got in her car, and drove across Ohio, feeling the buzz of helping a new changed.
The small raccoon pulled up outside a large white house. She took a deep breath, this time out of nervousness, and headed up to the front door. This was the first time home since her transition and change. She had told her folks about the transition, but not about the change.
Stephanie knocked on the door. "Stephie!" her step-grandmother exclaimed upon seeing her. "Artie's still at work and Pattie won't be back from Norfolk till tomorrow. I'm watching the kids now."
Stephanie heard a small voice off to the side, in the living room, yell out "Tail!!!" Stephanie felt someone grab her ringtail. She looked back in surprise to see a young mouse morph clinging to her tail
Stephanie looked up to see her grandmother looking though her, much like the the other known do when trying to look at a changed for what they really are. Her grandmother's eyes lit up in surprise and recognition. "Zoie! You let go of Aunt Stephie's tail! You know better!" The little mouse let go of her tail. "Your sister Sarah is going to be mighty surprised."
Just then a small puppy boy came out from around the corner. Grandma picked him up. "Say hellow to your Aunt Stephie Charley." Charley just buried his muzzle in his Great Grandmother's sleeve. "He's always so shy." Grandma petted the puppy's ears. "Why don't you put your bags in the coat room, then come and sit with us in the family room."
Stephanie moved a bit mindlessly, in shock. She had not expected this. Not that someone in her family would be a change, yet alone her niece and nephew. She looked between the little mouse and the puppy. "Sarah's a changed?!"
Grandma herded Stephanie's niece and nephew into the the family room, just next to the front door. Stephanie put her few bags in the coat room next to the kitchen, and joined everyone in the family room. She got there in time to see Grandma put on a Disney DVD for the kits. They calmed down instantly. She recognized it as one of the Mickey Mouse ones. Stephanie sat down on the couch, not sure what to do. Her grandmother's voice jolted her out of her shock. "You best wait for Artie and Sarah to get home. I don't pretend to understand what's going on. Sarah thought that there was no one else cursed, just herself, her no good husband, and the kids."
Stephanie just shook her head. Lost Ones here in her own family?! "No Sarah and the kits, er kids are not alone. I guess I best start mentally preparing the welcome speech again. So Dad know? And Pat?" She looked over at her grandmother, feeling a little out of it.
Grandma nodded. "Just Artie, Pattie and myself know. The weirdest thing is, we see the kids as the critters they are, but not Sarah or Dave." She paused a moment and looked at Stephanie. "And it would seem, not you either. Although if I look right I can catch glimpses."
Stephanie watched the kits in wonder. She thought about how the whole world will be changed by the time those two are out of High School. Stephanie stay there for a hour, talking and watching the kits, while waiting for her father and sister to come home. She knew it was going to be a very long night.
Stephanie heard the front door open and the familiar voice of her father call out that he was home. Zoie took off to the front door, as fast as her paws would allow, and jumped into her Grandfather's arms. Stephanie was reminded of the great leaping skill her pet rats had, and internally winced thinking of childproofing for changed children. Stephanie's father, Art walked in carrying Zoie. "Did you have a good day, 'Lil Miss Mousie?" Art asked his granddaughter.
Zoie giggle, "I did!" The mouse waited a second before blurting out. "And Auntie Stephie has a tail just like me! I got to hug it too. She's soft and fuzzy."
Stephanie winced and lay her ears back. It felt like all the colour in her fur drained out. So much for letting her secret out easy. She waved a paw. "Hi dad." She took in a large breath, steading herself. "Um, surprise. I'm a raccoon." She saw the look of shock on her father's face, then of him looking past her.
Art suddenly let out, "You too Stev -- Stephanie?!"
Stephanie nodded. "Me too, and quite a few others. I can explain everything, but I'd rather wait till Sarah gets home. I don't want to explain everything twice." She looked at her father, and smelled the fear coming from him, and seeing the shock still on his face.
Art handed Zoie off to her great grandmother and walked over to Stephanie. The small raccoon stood up, looking up at her father. He had always been taller then her, but now ever more so since she lost some of her hight in the change. Art put out his hand, and Stephanie took it in hers. She could see that he felt her claws, must like he must feel her sister's. "I'm still me. Just fuzzier." Stephanie's father took his hand away and put it up above her head. "If you're after my ears, you'll have to go about two feet lower. I'm not as tall as my ghost." She saw him lower his hand, eyes going wide as she knew her ghost vanished as the field flickered, and he saw her as she really was. "Hello dad."
Art put a hand on her daughter's head, feeling her ears. "You really are a raccoon, and you're a woman?" he asked in more shock.
"Um yeah, it's part of the change that made me a raccoon. So um... you have another daughter now too," she looked nervously up at her father. He took his hand back, and she knew the field snapped back in place. "Trust me, I'll tell you all I know when Sarah gets here. She's going to love this."