Lester's Tales 3: Unforseen Gifts
November 30th, 2005
Snow. Frozen crystals of ice fallen from the sky during winter. Covering the land with a blanket of white and granting people the ability to throw snowballs, make snow angels, and in extreme cases, give lucky students a day off from school. But not today.
Today the snow provided challenges and frustrations of its own to me. Being one of the Changed, the shoes I put on were never actually worn, meaning the rags I had wrapped around my paws to keep out the dirt were getting soaked. Not only that, but I left pawprints in the snow instead of footprints, meaning I had to drag my feet through the snow or I would raise too many questions, which made my paws even wetter. And finally, I was bundled up in a heavy jacket and pants and overheating a bit due to my fur. Sure, I could probably go outside with just a shirt and no jacket, but I still had to hide THAT oddity, especially since I already had a reputation for a low cold tolerance. The end result left me a very moody vixen as I walked back to school from lunch.
The past few months had proceeded relatively boringly, and nothing special seemed to happen, either in the Changed community or in my life here at home. I had hoped to find an alumni of the school who had Changed at the annual Thanksgiving party, but no such luck, nothing but humans. Home, meanwhile, went as usual. I went to school, came home, closed myself in my room, and didn’t come out much. OK so I’m a bit of a loner in person, but I was spending all my time online and it made hiding the Change a bit easier.
I tried to knock some of the snow off my paws as I walked into the school building, but succeeded only in stubbing my toe, the snow sticking firmly to the rags and making them wetter as they melted. I sighed and walked further in, sitting on a chair and opening my jacket to cool off, taking out my laptop to check on the Changed forums.
The NYChanged forum had gained in members in the past few months, reaching around 40 posters with more known to have been found, but it still seemed small for the city and the forum was relatively quiet, aside from a brief scare when a hacker somehow managed to get past the captcha and proceeded to troll us for a couple days. Fortunately, a simple switch of the identification picture and a ban put a stop to that, and we hadn’t seen him since.
Moving to the Changed Network, I leaned forward as I found a private message sent to me. Confused, as I hadn’t posted too much in the forums, I clicked it and opened it up.
Greetings. I am Nicole Palova, CEO and head of the newly-formed Future Ergonomics Corporation, or Furgonomics as we shall be known in the Changed community. We at Furgonomics have listened to comments about the difficulties of living in a world not built for tails, fur, claws, and hooves, and have taken it upon ourselves to become the first corporation made solely to solve the difficulties caused by the Change, and to provide for the needs of the Changed. We have already begun production of objects such as tail-friendly chairs and clothes, however our next project will require help from members of the Changed community itself for long-term field testing and because of your interest in the product we would like your assistance in this matter.
Our current project is to create shoes for the Changed, a difficult project for such a large variety of paws and hooves, but one we believe will have import in the future. If you wish to participate in our study, please reply to this message with your name, species, and e-mail included, and we will send you a form providing information we need you to fill out for a proper fit. All paw/hoofshoes will be provided to you free of charge, pending proper feedback.
Thank you for your assistance.
I read through the message again, smiling. A company for Changed needs! And they were making shoes, in addition to other things. I hadn’t had a problem with chairs, since many school chairs had holes in the back anyway, but I had heard complaints from others, and providing clothes is something that would save time for many Changed that couldn’t sew. I tried to think of what made them decide to pick me for this project, when I decided it was probably the topic I had posted regarding the Shoe Field. One or two people had replied that I seemed a bit obsessed with shoes, but in actuality, I just didn’t want to get my feet dirty. And they were already cold and wet from the melted snow. Somehow I doubted that was too healthy.
Though I couldn’t help but groan at the name (Furgonomics? Was everything in the future going to become a bad pun?) I sent a message back with my information. I then read over the forums further, eventually finding a post about Furgonomics that explained more or less what was said in the message, and providing a bit more information on the company. Nicole Palova was a snow leopardess in charge of the company, which was based in Chicago. Fittingly, since that was where the first Changed showed up. While its purpose for the Changed was obvious, to the public eye its purpose was to find cheaper, more ergonomically sound objects. After making a few posts of my own, I closed down my laptop and headed off to my next class, resolving to check my mail as soon as I got home.
The next couple hours passed in something of a blur as I tried not to think too much of Furgonomics and focus on my classes, but it wasn’t always easy with my eagerness dancing about in the back of my head. Finally I managed to get home and, after eating dinner with the family, I went onto my computer and found the form sitting in my e-mail. Apparently it had to be printed out and sent or faxed in, so I quickly did so and went back into my room to look it over.
The first half of the form made sense in what needed to be filled in. Name, current gender (with a checkbox if TG’d), species, age, and so forth. Then there was a diagram of a footpaw, with lines showing all the areas to be measured, including width, length, claw size, height, distance from bottom of paw to heel, from top of paw to heel, and several other measurements I didn’t realize I’d need until now. There was also a note to provide photos as well if possible, as such might help with shaping the shoes, but that was something I probably wouldn’t be able to provide.
The measuring would be easy, but getting the measuring tape without questions being asked wouldn’t be… and in fact wasn’t. My mother caught me trying to take the measuring tape out of her sewing kit, but by being vague about what I was using it for (measuring) I managed to get away without too many questions. The next half hour was spent with me measuring and re-measuring my paws as precisely as I could get over the fur, until finally I got all the data plugged in and the forms filled out. Come Saturday, I’d take a walk out to the post office and send the letter out to Furgonomics. Already I couldn’t wait.
December 3rd, 2005
Bloody weather. Why did it have to snow again?
Another two inches had come down last night, leaving a fresh untouched blanket over the city. Fun for many kids, but once again frustrating for me as I would leave fresh pawprints, not to mention the soaking… pah, it wouldn’t matter in a couple weeks. I was walking down to the post office now to send the forms I had received to Furgonomics.
Hopping up the stairs, I walked inside, only a few other people out today, and took care of it, sticking a stamp on the envelope and slipping the letter into the out of town slot. Smiling after accomplishing my job, I walked back outside and headed back down the stairs, deciding to get some lunch at Burger King while I was out.
As I pressed the button for the crosswalk, however, I heard a voice coming up to me. “Hey, hey you!” I turned to find a woman walking up to me. “Can I talk with you for a minute?” She had an intrigued look on her face, and I started hearing alarms going off in my head.
“Possibly, I’ll start counting down the seconds,” I said with a slight smirk, trying to put some humor into the comment.
The woman moved up to me. “Sorry I just wanted to ask. Are you one of those…” she glanced around, then leaned in and whispered, “…animal people?”
My eyes widened, but I managed to catch myself before my jaw dropped. “Er, animal people?” I asked, acting confused. “What are you talking about? Don’t I look human to you?”
“Well yes you do,” the woman replied, “but you left pawprints on the stairs over there instead of footprints.” She held up a hand. “Don’t worry if you are, your secret is safe. My husband became a deer two years ago, managed to prove it by stepping in some mud. We haven’t seen any others except on television since.”
It took me a few moments to process that. “I… yes, yeah I am. Um, I’d rather you not spread that around so…”
The woman looked relieved. “Oh don’t worry about that. I’m just glad I managed to find one of you. We’ve had no idea what was going on since it happened.”
I turned as the crossing light changed. “Well come with me to the Burger King and I’ll try and give you a briefing. You can call me LC. What’s your name?” I held out a hand for her, and she shook it. “Bethany. My husband is Martin. Thank you so much for talking with me.” Her hand held mine a bit longer than needed, the thumb moving over its back. “What er… just what are you anyway?”
“A vi- er, a fox. I’m a fox. I take it you don’t know of the network or anything?” She shook her head. I figured I probably shouldn’t get into the TG changed, they’d find out about it on their own and it would make the conversation much easier. Taking my hand back, the two of us walked into the Burger King and I got my food (she had already eaten), the two of us then moving to sit down in a booth. “Alright,” I said, taking a bite of my burger. “What did you want to know?”
“Well what’s going on?” Bethany asked. “Why is Martin a deer, why are you a fox, and how come nobody can see it?”
I let out a sigh. “Good question. Quite frankly, none of us know why or how it’s happening. We don’t know who it’ll happen to, or what’s causing it. All we know is that it happens every August 17th, and twice as many change every year. No reason, no cause, no explanation, no nothing. We’re just trying to cope as well as we can. And before you ask, yes, it IS permanent.”
“How many of you are there? I can’t see you, but Martin says he’s seen you on television now and then. There can’t be that many of you.”
“Right now there’s about a quarter of a million of us worldwide, though most of us are in North America. At least as far as I can tell, I personally haven’t spoken with anyone who’s not American or Canadian.” Chewing over another bite of burger, I looked back at her. “I can give you a couple links to the forums we use to communicate. Do you have a pen or paper?” She nodded and handed me a pen and a blank envelope from her purse. I wrote the address for the NYChanged and main Network forums. “You probably wouldn’t be able to get in, there’s a captcha image that you wouldn’t be able to see properly until you Change, but your husband should be able to get past it.”
Bethany nodded as she took the papers back. “Well, thank you for the info. I’m sure he’ll be glad to find all this out.” I smiled. “You’re welcome. Take care, and send him my regards. We’re all in this together.” She shook my hand again and headed out while I finished up my meal.
That evening when I went on the NYChanged forums I found that Martin had indeed joined up. He was glad to have finally gotten in contact with us, and thanked me for helping him and his wife. I sent a reply to him, and soon after closed down the forums to go to sleep, thoughts of various things running through my head.
December 27th, 2005
Christmas came and went, and like any year I got some nice things and some that were needed but not desired. Clothes, that is. But it was two days later that I got the present I had been waiting for.
I was sitting in my room playing one of my new games when my mom called me. “Les! You have a package!” Pausing the game I went into the living room, grinning as I realized what it probably was. As I took the box, my mom gave me an odd look. “What’s Future Ergonomics?”
I looked up at her, hesitating a bit as my mind tried to think of something to say. “Oh! It’s um… it’s a new company. They were looking for people to test some of their things and I volunteered. I… figured why not?” Mentally I hit myself for not having a better excuse, and my Mom looked at me.
“You’re seventeen. Why would they let you test it?” She said, looking over me. “Oh well, they… need people from all age groups! Yeah so, I figured I could. Hope that’s alright.” I tried to give a grin.
“And what did they send you?” she asked again, looking down at the box. “Oh, er, shoes.” I said. “More… ergonomical shoes.” She eyed me for a bit longer before nodding with an “alright” and I dashed into my room before she could ask any more questions.
I closed the door and set to opening the box, taking the shoes out of the packing material. To me it almost looked like a high-top boot with the foot part being grossly undersized… if it had been made for a human foot, that is. The part the foot went in was small, but looked about the right size for my foot, thankfully. The rest of it stretched upwards, laces going all along it to the top, complete with tongue underneath. Deciding to test it out, I slipped my foot inside, and felt some of the soft padding within. The laces went up to just under my raised heel, and I tied it up snugly and stood to see how it felt.
For a first try at a boot for Changed, they didn’t do that bad a job. Some parts were rubbing against my fur a little oddly, and the end seemed to be pressing against my claws (although it had been a while since I last clipped them) but otherwise it seemed to be doing its job properly. I slipped on the other boot and walked into the living room, standing before my mom. “So? How do they look?”
She looked down at the boots as I turned around. “Those are… odd looking boots. How do they feel?” I smiled. “A little odd, but I think I’ll get used to it. Most shoes do feel a little odd at first after all.”
She nodded, and I walked back into my room, removing the boots and looking over them. Glad to finally have something on my feet that wasn’t rags, I put them away and returned to my game, looking forward to when I would actually be wearing them when I went back to school.