I'm Going Slightly Mad

From Shifti
Jump to: navigation, search


Author: White Lion

It was Monday. The watery sunlight filtered through the blinds, hanging from the tatty window frame.

BRIIIIIIIINNNNNG BRIIIING!

Leo sprang up, wide awake. He always got up early, especially on a Monday. He was determined to secure his future for next year. Only one exam remained of his second year studies at Midshire University – and he had passed all the rest. This was the last hurdle - and then he would be into his finals; the youngest graduate the University had ever had. Now 18, he had started his degree two years early. Not considering himself a genius, nor a child prodigy when he was young, Leo still knew that his intellect was above average – well above.

Striking the alarm clock, Leo manoeuvred his body around, neatly landing his socked feet into his slippers. Reaching for his dressing gown, he rose majestically and headed towards his bathroom (en suite of course). Admiring himself in the mirror, Leo carefully parted his dark brown hair with his forefinger, and stared at himself. He was pleased at the reflection.

Having washed and groomed himself, Leo returned to his wardrobe. Idiosyncratic to some extent, Leo was what would be considered a goth, and a military enthusiast. His choice in clothes reflected this. He dressed in black boots, black jeans, black polo-neck sweatshirt, ex-army grey greatcoat, leather gloves and dark ray-bans. His course-mates jokingly nicknamed him Darth Vader and Terminator, which he actually quite liked. Even Mr Bad Guy was all right to some extent.

Leaving his halls of residence, Leo trotted towards the library. It was nearly 8.00 AM; and the warm June weather blew through his hair. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out his personal stereo, and checked what tape he had in it. It was the ‘Innuendo’ album by Queen.

“Splendid!” exclaimed Leo in his exacting, James Bond voice. He placed the earphones over his head, and flicked the switch on. The faint rock music guided him on his journey, underlying his tempo. It wasn’t long before he had reached the library entrance. Still mentally dancing to the music in his ears, Leo made his way to the section he was searching for.

COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY

Leo was not even studying this subject. He was a Politics and Modern History undergraduate, but he secretly harboured a passion for all things celestial. Whilst reaching up for the Encyclopaedia Of Astronomic Terms, a small paperback clattered onto the floor. Looking down, Leo saw that it was very tatty, and a plume of dust that accompanied it foretold that it hadn’t been read for a while.

WHEN UNIVERSES DIE! was the dramatic title.

“Huh? Universes don’t die, they just fade away” mumbled Leo condescendingly. He picked up the book, and placing it under his arm, took it and the encyclopaedia over to an empty desk.

Leo read the ‘blurb’ on the back of the small book:

Renowned Professor of Astronomy; Dr Hilary Billery of Cranfield University, explores the theories behind alternative universes, dimensions and realities. Questions such as: Are we alone in the Universe? are answered here.

“Hmmm, very interesting I’m sure.” thought Leo, putting down the book. Reaching for the large encyclopaedia - he got on with some serious (albeit enjoyable) research.

The time passed, and eventually his self-timetabled lunch break approached.

“Nearly One, time for luncheon me thinks” thought Leo. He packed his bag and replaced the two books before he left. Leo was shocked to see how the weather had changed since the morning. It was raining, chilly and large storm clouds were filling the sky.

“Drats and botherations!” grumbled Leo, “This is rudy typical!” Putting his warm leather gloves on, he set off in search of food. Increasing his pace to make it to cover without getting too wet, Leo took another glance at his watch. He always kept it to Greenwich Mean Time exactly, although Greenwich itself ceased to exist nearly half-a-century ago; destroyed during the Plague Wars. The minute hand clicked up to the hour, striking exactly 1.00 PM as the College clock did the same.

Then WHAM!

Leo was knocked of his feet by a blinding flash. Lightning danced around him as he fell. The last thing he remembered before passing out was the smell of hot tarmac.

Leo drifted in and out of consciousness. Strange images passed through his mind. Was he dreaming? He felt that he was chasing something through an unknown yet familiar forest, whilst running on all fours. Leo felt this was strange, but settled down to enjoy his dream. He seemed to be able to understand he was dreaming, yet it seemed so real. He continued running through the hazy yet dense undergrowth, desperately trying to catch he knew not what........

“What!?” Leo blurted as he opened his eyes. He sat up, trying to make sense of what happened. He looked about him. He was still lying on the tarmac path, but was now totally surrounded by a pale, flickering blue light. It rose above him to a height of about seven feet, and around him by about four feet.

Peering through the crackling haze, he could see figures stumbling about the main quadrangle outside the library. Looking more closely, Leo was shocked by their appearance. They all seemed to be wearing bizarre animal costumes. No, they were not costumes. They were far too accurate. It looked liked some ghastly children’s cartoon come to life. “Disney Gone Mad!” Looking down at himself, Leo was relieved to see that he was still totally human – or at least human shaped.

“Hell’s bells! I must be hallucinating. God, that lightning hurt!” thought Leo as he rubbed his aching head. Looking around him, the blue light flashed brightly.

Lifting his hand gingerly, Leo moved it towards the blue light. He nervously pushed his hand through the bubble, suddenly feeling a sharp sensation of pins and needles shooting through his fingers. The pain grew, and Leo snatched his hand back, and carefully pulled off his glove. Staring down at his hand, he was shocked to see what looked like claws retracting back into fingernails, and pale yellow fur now falling off his skin.

Pondering this strange event, Leo began to surmise that whatever had caused this, and all the other supposed transformations – was kept outside this strange blue light. It was about this time that Leo noticed a crowd gathering around him. They were all in various stages of mutations. Some were still more-or-less human, but with fur or scales, whilst others were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

“What the Dickens is going on?” called Leo to an tiger-shaped student.

“Dunno friend. We all changed at lunch. It’s on the news – the whole World’s changed.”

“What are you saying, everyone’s an animal?”

“No, the kids in the crèche are fine, thank goodness. In fact, the bloke on the news said that all kids under about fourteen seem unaffected. And you too, it seems!” pointing with a sharp claw towards Leo.

“Yes, I do appear to have some kind of force shield around me.” replied Leo.

The crowd was growing in number, all squawking and growling. Then pushing through, Leo noticed his friend from across the corridor in his Halls. It was Alex, or at least a wolf that resembled Alex. It was wearing what was left of Alex’s British Bulldog t-shirt.

“Hey Alex, it’s me. Leo!”

“I can see that.” growled back Alex, licking his fangs and wagging his tail, “How did you get in there?”.

“All I remember was some sort of lightning flash – and then I woke up here. Anyway, what’s going on old boy? You don’t look so hot.” smirked Leo. Alex had always had a fascination with wolves – now he was one.

“There’s been some mass epidemic of some kind. We’re all beasts.”

“Bad luck old boy. I’m stuck in here, but at least I’m still pink.” retorted Leo. “I can’t seem to get out without changing. Can you get in?”

“I don’t know. I’ll give it a try.” replied Alex, and tentatively put both his front paws forward towards the blue light.

“Aargh!” roared Alex, snatching his paws back. The fur was slightly singed.

“Well, that settles it.” muttered Leo. He sat down, crossed legged and closed his eyes. His favourite thinking position.

“Hey man, you can’t sit there all day. What about grub?” growled Alex.

“And become a zoo exhibit like you, no thanks.” retorted Leo haughtily.

“It’s not that bad. Quite fun, as long as your not an aquatic. We had to man-handle .... sorry beast-handle..... one poor bloke who ballooned into a whale during Modern History into the lake.” said Alex.

“Hmmmm” muttered Leo, still keeping his eyes shut. “You seem to have adapted quite well.”

“Well, we’ve had a hour or more to get use to it.”

“An hour!” spluttered Leo, his eyes flicking open. “Cripes! I must have been out longer than I thought.”

“Have you tried to leave the bubble yet?” asked Alex.

“Yes, I stuck my hand out, but it became a paw. When I pulled it back in, it reverted to human.”

“What did it look like?” enquired Alex.

“Well, it had yellow fur and claws.”

“You’re gonna be a labrador or lion?” chuckled Alex, still wagging his tail.

“Oh great! A lion is quite appropriate, considering my name. I certainly don’t want to be a stinking mutt – present company excepted” grumbled Leo.

“No offence taken.” said Alex.

The crowd, still fascinated by the blue force shield – started to disperse as their own lives needed sorting out, and as it didn’t look like Leo was going to budge.

“Awww, come on man. This is getting boring. Play the game with the rest of us.” pleaded Alex, pacing up and down in front of Leo, walking quite comfortably on his new digitigrades.

“Welllllll,” mused Leo, “I guess the lightning caused some sort of electrical flux – keeping whatever has caused this epidemic at bay. Perhaps we may be able to utilise it for good of mankind. Besides, I suppose I really can’t stay here forever. I’m getting hungry too.”

“So let’s role. You’ll like being a wee-beasty. The tails the best bit, takes some getting use to though.” panted Alex, whilst demonstrating his new tail control.

“Not if I can help it ... old boy.” said Leo, raising smoothly to an upright position. Pulling off his other glove, he mentally prepared himself to leave the bubble.

“Here goes nothing.” thought Leo – and he stepped towards the blue light.

He passed straight through, and into the open air. It was then that Leo noticed how ‘stuffy’ the air in the bubble had been, or was it that his sense of smell was now better? As he moved away from the bubble, the blue light faded and vanished.

Leo felt a tingling sensation run up and down his back. Holding up his hands in front of his face, he saw fur sprout from his skin, and his nails grew and hardened – becoming claws.

“Oh heck!” blurted Leo, trying to shut out the sloshing of his insides. “Yes, that’s it.” thought Leo, “Shut it out..... must use my concentration to hold it down.”

Shutting his eyes tight, Leo stood motionless, his friend Alex and a couple other observers watching in anticipation. After about ten seconds, Leo opened his eyes, and Alex exclaimed “Hey dude, you’ve got feline eyes. Your pupils are vertical.”

Breathing slightly heavily, Leo turned his head to look at Alex.

“Fffffffffantastic.... a lion it is then!” Leo hair then started to ruffle. His dark brown, straight hair suddenly bleached to a dusty blond, and grew down to his shoulders. It also developed a distinct wave.

“Another one bites the dust. He’s changing too.” muttered one of the spectators.

“No I’m bloody not!” scolded Leo, and with a wave of his hand, he seemed to return to his normal relaxed posture.

“There now old boy.... told you I could it!”

“Do what?” enquired Alex, his lupine features twisted in slight confusion.

“Beat the system. I’m not going to be like the rest of you. I’m sticking with cutlery!”

“You don’t understand man..... you’re a lion now.” growled Alex.

“Yes, possibly – but in my defence – not as much changed as the rest of you.” smirked Leo, as he replaced his gloves and his shades. It was true, for the only morphing that showed now on Leo was a wavy blond mane rather than dark brown hair. Even his face (apart from his eyes) hadn’t changed.

“Perhaps it wasn’t you – but the lightning that beat the system?” murmured Alex.

“Again........ perhaps?” replied Leo, as he reached for his backpack, pulling out his personal stereo. “I’m off home, fancy coming?”

Alex shifted on his paws. Alex had always been more open minded than Leo – and was disappointed that his younger friend seemed so disapproving of this exciting experience.

“Okay then. What you listening to?”

“The Innuendo album by Queen. Here have a listen.” replied Leo, passing the headphones to Alex.

Alex’s hearing was much improved, but his little pointed ears were not best placed to use the headphones. The song was ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’

“”When the outside temperature rises, and the meaning is oh so clear. One thousand and one yellow daffodils begin to dance in front of you.

Oh dear!

Are they trying to sell you something? You’re missing that one final screw. You’re simply not in the pink my dear – to be honest you haven’t got a clue.

I’m going slightly mad! Oh dear!””

Alex chuckled. “We certainly are not in the pink anymore, unless you’re a pig morph.”

“Very true.” replied Leo, taking back the headphones. “So, give me a debrief about this mass metamorphosis then”.

“Well, we don’t know much. Like that guy told you earlier, every adult in the World is affected. Young kids are unchanged. Pubescent teenagers are part changed, about as much as you have. Anyone over sixteen is reaching for the flee-powder.”

“A relic of the Plague perhaps?” pondered Leo.

“Dunno mate. I’m no scientist.” sighed Alex. “I think most people are adapting quite well. Being very chipper – very British! That’ll please you.”

“It does indeed. We beat the Plague once before – we can do it again!” boomed Leo, his pride and blood pressure rising, and his voice suddenly much deeper. Then Leo felt the uncomfortable tingling start again.

“Nnnah—NO!” snarled Leo, now bent over double in pain. Alex stood in shocked silence. Leo went quiet, and then slowly stood up – arching his back. Alex eyed him carefully. A sweat had broken out on his forehead, but no change was noticeable. Perhaps his blond hair was a little longer, and he now looked like he needed a shave.

“Are you okay man?” said Alex, putting his paws towards Leo.

“Never better!” said Leo cheerily, back with his own voice again. Alex wasn’t convinced – but accepted his friend’s word.

“Oh, I forgot. Some of us have developed special powers. Most of us can shift from this half-human form to the actual animal we resemble. The TV calls it Norm-shift. Also, some people seem to be able to pick what animal they can become. They tried reverting to human – but they get no further than just off-human.” infodumped Alex helpfully.

“It’s a kind of magic indeed.” said Leo.

The two friends continued towards their Hall block when without warning, a seven feet tall lizard sprang at them from behind a mound of shrubbery. Thankfully it had over-launched itself, landing a few feet past.

“Shit!” growled Alex “Oh yeah... some have become dinosaurs and some have gone slightly mad!”

“Only slightly mad?” laughed Leo.

The lizard, which closely resembled the velociraptor from the film Jurassic Park, turned on its claws – glaring and snarling at Leo and Alex. It thrashed its long tail. Leo ducked, but Alex was caught on the muzzle – and sent flailing into the bushes.

“Damn you!” cried Leo. “We’re humans. We mean you no harm.”

The velociraptor peered at Leo. It studied him, as if trying to ascertain why he was not an animal or an obvious morph. Leo sensed this somehow. He took off his shades and glared back at his attacker with his bright green lion eyes.

The velociraptor swung down at Leo. His reflexes improved, Leo managed to dodge the slashing claw. He had taught himself a good level of self-defence as part of his one-man militia view of the World – and this was to prove valuable now in a way he would never have imagined. Fighting a velociraptor at University!

Leo sprang at the dinosaur, catching it around the neck. He yanked the creature’s neck back, trying to choke it unconscious. The velociraptor, however, managed to shake-off Leo, sending him crashing to the ground. It raised its claws, trying to hack at this pink and grey intruder. Again, Leo zipped away with microns to spare.

Leo managed a spinning kick, placing a nice boot into the beast’s stomach. The velociraptor roared in pain. Taking advantage of this brief pause, Leo grabbed a handful of dirt from a nearby flowerbed, and threw it into the raptor’s eyes. Leo stood back, as his opponent flailed around – obviously not skilled in using its smell function to find its prey yet.

“Whoaaa!” belched Leo. The tingling was back with a vengeance. Leo shut his eyes, and slumped to his knees, trying hard to focus. In his mind’s eye, he could see what appeared to be a door. The door was shut, but looked as if it would open. Then a strange yet familiar voice sounded in his head.

DANGER DANGER, MUST RUN, GO GO GO GO.

“No! I will not have this.” cried Leo. “I’m not a fucking animal.”

Still feeling giddy, Leo managed to stand upright again, just in time to see the raptor recover its sight and composure.

“Rrrraaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!” roared Leo, and he leapt straight at the raptor, flying about six feet in the air. Twisting around mid-flight, Leo connected a perfect kick with his boot into the creature’s forehead. Landing perfectly on his feet, Leo turned to see the velociraptor keel over. It was still breathing, but was out cold. As he watched, the monster shrank – to form a half-human, half-dinosaur morph. Leo recognised the face – it was his tutor, Dr Smedley.

“Ouch. What happened?” came a muttered growl from the bush, and Alex raised himself out of the shrubbery – rubbing his sore head.

“Just failed my degree!” joked Leo, still panting. “I’ve just KO’d my form tutor.”

“WOW!” shouted Alex. “You beat that raptor!”

“But of course.... old boy! Anyway, no point hanging around waiting for him to see who it was who beat him – the show must go on.” replied Leo. His voice was definitely deeper and more husky, also his eyes looked even more feline and wild.

Alex followed.

They eventually arrived back at their respective rooms. Leo hadn’t said much since the fight, and Alex had guessed that he was battling some personal demons, so did not try and start a conversation.

“Hmmmmmm” said Leo, which seemed to be his new catchphrase. “I’m intrigued by the door I saw during the fight.”

“Door, what door?” asked Alex.

“The door in my mind. I concentrated, and saw a door. As I approached it, some strange voice in my head started barking orders at me.”

“Ah, that’s your norm-shift! I’ve got that door too, and when you go through it – you become the complete animal.”

“Alex, you were always the complete animal.” joked Leo, still sounding somewhat strained.

“Shut up. Here let me show you.” replied Alex, mocking anger.

Leo watched as Alex began to hunch over. More fur sprouted over his body, and in flash and a crunch – he was a snarling timber wolf.

“Impressive.” said Leo in his best Darth Vader voice, now made much more easy by his changed larynx. Alex morphed back into his half-human form.

“What da’ya think?”

“Not bad at all. But do you get those voices in your head?”

“Yep, that’s your instincts talking. They’re there to help you – you just got to learn to control them.” explained Alex.

“Control........ yes that was the key.” thought Leo. “If I can control it, then I may not go barking mad after all.”


It was another bright, June morning. Leo awoke early, as usual.

“What a horrible dream!” he moaned, and scratched his head. “Damn it.... claws. It’s bloody real after all.” Leo grabbed his dressing gown, and wandered into his bathroom. Gazing into the mirror, he raised a quizzical, yellow eyebrow.

“Hmmmmm..... not much to report. Eyes still green...... oh well.”

Leo finished his personal inspection, and got dressed. The weather was warmer today – so he decided to forgo his trench coat and gloves. Switching on the television – every channel (or at least those operating) were devoted to the Change – not unsurprisingly.

Knock Knock!

“Morning!” growled a familiar voice from behind the door.

“Greetings old boy.” replied Leo, as he leapt across his room in one bound. Pulling open the door, Alex the wolf grinned back.

“How ya feeeeling today?” enquired the timber wolf enthusiastically.

“Pretty good really. Teeth are now giving me jip – but other than that. Fine.”

“You don’t know what you are missing mate.” said Alex, as he swished his tail around in the air.

“Humph!” retorted Leo, and walked back into his room. “Have you heard from your folks?”

“Yeah, they’re fine. Mum is a cat and Dad’s a badger. Both fairly low-degree. How about you?”

“Oh” said Leo quietly, “Better than could be expected. Dad’s a high-degree Kestrel, and Mum’s a low-degree rabbit. Not the perfect married match – but Mum’s bigger than Dad now, so they get along okay.”

“Come on, let’s go and get some munchies” begged Alex, licking his long teeth.

“Sure” and Leo grabbed his wallet from the desk, and followed his friend down the corridor. “I’ve been looking into my ‘powers’ and I think I’ve got something called degree control: being able to keep myself as close to humanoid as makes no difference. In fact, the few extras I’ve got like increased hearing, smell and strength are pretty damn first class.”

“Why are you soooo afraid of becoming your full morph?” asked Alex. “It’s not that bad, really.”

“You said the same about smoking cannabis. Where did that get you?” retorted Leo.

“A whole bunch of new friends and an expanded view of the World.”

“Did you ever hallucinate this?” asked Leo sarcastically .

“No way man. Yesterday and today are totally ‘out there’!”

Upon leaving their dorm building, a whole rush of sweet smells filled their nostrils. They emanated from the nearby cafeteria.

“Bacon and eggs?” enquired Alex.

“No, smells more like tomatoes and sausages to me.” replied Leo. “I wonder which of us has the keenest olfactory nerves?”

“Dunno, biology was never my strong point.” said Alex.

“Was anything your strong point?” asked Leo.

Leo and Alex managed to track down their circle of friends, and compare stories. All were shocked, and fascinated to see Leo – being virtually human. His blond mane suited him, and his hands were not proper paws, just fingers with fur and long nails really. Other than that, his night’s sleep had only succeeded to extending his fangs by a tiny amount.

George, the rugby player, was now an impressive black stallion – almost totally norm. Little Mick Plasters was some type of bush baby – not the most flattering of changes, but somewhat appropriate it was felt. The hippy twins Rhapsody and Robert were female and male otters respectively, both fairly low degree. Finally, and much to Leo great joy – was Catherine, the girl he secretly desired, was now a seductive, sexy lioness. As Leo gazed upon her, he felt she was made in heaven. Could things get any more wonderfully awkward?

“Hey Leo.” purred Catherine, as he flicked her tail suggestively “You and me seem to be in the same boat.”

“You’re right, a sinking one.” replied Leo tersely. He regretted being so blunt, but he didn’t want to get drawn into too much small talk about their morph-states. Everyone seemed pleased with the change, except him.

“Awwww, don’t be like that.” she said. “This is probably the best thing that could have happened to this World. Now all races are mixed up – everyone is the same. This could be heaven for everyone?”

Leo said nothing.

“Anyway...” interjected bohemian Rhapsody, breaking the awkward silence. “Have we got any plans for this evening?”

“Nope.” snorted Big George. The others just shrugged.

“Fat lot of good you lot are!” sighed Alex, and turned to Leo.

Leo had his eyes shut, as if in deep thought. Alex gave his friend a quick look up and down, and turned back to Big George and the others. Leo had felt something touch his ankle, and slide up the side of his boot and tap him on the knee. It was a claw. A furry claw. Catherine’s claw! He opened his eyes, to see her smiling at him, with an enticingly innocent look in her eyes. She signalled with her right paw towards the canteen exit.

“Hey guys, I’m just gonna go out for some air.” said Catherine, “Fancy a walk Leo?”

“Um, well – maybe, um no – not really.” stumbled Leo, losing his vocal fluidity for once. A sharp dig in his ribs from Alex’s elbow soon shook him to his senses.

“Oh, okay then.” said Leo, and he accompanied Catherine outside. He could hear the rest of the table sniggering behind him. He had tried to keep his deep feelings for Catherine secret, but somehow Alex had guessed – and spread the word – as usual.

“What’s the matter Leo?” asked Catherine, taking his arm. Leo instinctively jumped on being touched.

“I’m okay. I’m just not that keen on all this change situation. I was quite happy with the way things were.”

“I don’t think you are ever happy.” sighed Catherine.

“That’s not true!” snapped Leo, “What makes you say that?”

“Oh, just that you always seem jumpy and aggressive – like you’re bottling something up. Not just today – but ever since I’ve known you. Why don’t you enjoy life – chill out a bit. I mean, you even wear a ceremonial uniform to lectures.”

“I thought you liked my clothes.” said Leo, somewhat disappointedly.

“I do, I do – but you should try and vary it a bit – Vader Boy.”

The sun beamed down, warming them as they walked. In fact, Leo was getting increasingly hot – and itchy. They walked down towards the campus lake, seeing a whale blow a jet of water from it spout at the other end.

“It’s a beautiful day, Leo, don’t you think?”

“If you say so.”

“Have you found out why you are still human-ish?” asked Catherine.

“It’s basically like I told the rest. I was struck by lightning at the instant the change took place. I was protected by a bubble of some kind – and when I left it, the change was in this reduced form. I did feel a bit.... but.....” He suddenly stopped, not wanting to continue.

“But what?” asked Catherine, spinning round to face Leo.

“But nothing!” shouted Leo, the anger in him suddenly and uncontrollably rising. He swooned as the tingling feelings of yesterday returned.

“I only asked.” snapped Catherine.

“Woooo, um – I don’t feel so good old girl” spluttered Leo. He stumbled about, eventually falling to his knees.

“Hey – what’s the matter?” asked Catherine, only half believing Leo was really in trouble. Leo didn’t reply, but started snarling.

“Stop that, you are not impressing me.” said Catherine, arms folded over her furry chest.

Leo looked up at her, his face twisted in agony. His breathing was becoming deeper. His grunts and snarls more pronounced. As Catherine looked closer, she could see fur poking out around Leo’s collar. His hands too were slowly widening and thickening. For Leo, the worse change was in his mind.

The mental door was slowly opening in his mind. He tried to see through, to touch the freedom and release on the other side – but something was tugging at him, holding him and his humanity together. Deep, guttural voices thundered in his angst-ridden mind.

“RELEASE YOURSELF...... RELEASE YOURSELF” they cried.

Leoface.jpg

Leo opened his eyes, to see a very concerned lioness looking down at him. He tried to look around at himself. He first saw his hands, or were they paws? No, they were hands – they must be hands. He, Leo, was not going to succumb to nature, not now – not ever!!!!

The tingling reached the base of his spine. There was something like warm, twitching rope filling the seat of his trousers. Leo felt his boots stretch and strain as his feet became digitigrade. His clothes became painfully tight; and fur was now spreading all over his body.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!” roared Leo, springing to his feet. His eyes burned bright green as he glared at Catherine. Slowly, his features relaxed. The pressure in his body receded, and his limbs shrank back. In an instant, everything was normal again.

“Y..you.... want to tell me ss..something?” asked Catherine, somewhat shakily.

“No, everything is okay now my dear. Everything!” said Leo, his face rigid as steel.

“Sure?” replied Catherine sarcastically, but Leo didn’t answer. They carried on walking around the lake, talking idly about nothing in particular. Leo refused to discuss his little turn, and Catherine not wanting to push him over it either. Eventually, they returned to the canteen.

“Have fun?” asked Alex as the pair re-entered their room. The other friends had already left.

“Urm.... yes, thanks.” said Leo, avoiding eye contact.

“A very interesting walk.” added Catherine coolly.

“Oh,” said Alex.

“Yes, time I was making a move, and Catherine’s got to go home” said Leo.

“I’m got to do what?” interrupted Catherine.

“Coming Alex?” continued Leo, ignoring Catherine.

“Urh – okay.” replied the wolf.

Catherine tried to kiss Leo on the cheek, but he turned away. Catherine was left alone in the canteen, with Leo storming off out of the door, Alex in hot pursuit.

“What the hell are you playing at!” shouted Alex, grabbing Leo’s arm with his claw.

“What are you going on about?” replied Leo dismissively.

“The way you are treating Catherine! You might as well have spat in her face back there.” snarled Alex.

“Keep your bloody nose out of this!” growled Leo, pushing Alex away.

“Hey! Don’t get shirty with me - pal.” snapped Alex, putting his muzzle close to Leo’s face.

“Shut up!” roared Leo, and he grabbed Alex around the neck.

“Stop that Leo. You’re hurting......” spluttered Alex, trying to pull Leo’s hands away. Leo’s green eyes flashed, his grip remaining rock solid.

“Urgh...... stop.” moaned Alex, who eventually managed to pull himself free. He crumpled onto the ground, his huge tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Leo seemed adrift in a world of his own, for a moment no longer hearing his friend.

“I...I...I’m sorry.” said Leo, the tenseness in his body shrinking away.

“Okay man,” said Alex, “What is the problem?”

“I.... I don’t know. I’m still having those lapses. I had a very bad one when walking with Catherine. The door in my mind was almost open.” said Leo softly.

“But why did you treat Catherine so badly?” continued Alex.

“I don’t know,” answered Leo, “She is so wonderful. Perhaps I’m frightened of what she is tempting me with.”

“Sorry, I don’t follow.” said Alex.

“Geeez, do you want me to spell it out for you? I’m in love with Catherine. She loves me. We are both lions. It’s too perfect. Too tempting. If I couple with her – I may go fully leonine.”

“And?” retorted Alex, “What is wrong with that?”

“I’m not like you. I don’t want to be an animal. I feel under pressure to conform, but I’m not prepared to go through with it.” explained Leo.

“Liar!” blurted Alex, “You just can’t handle women.”

“Think what you like.” said Leo, and he turned and continued walking.

“That crazy little thing called love....” sighed Alex, and he followed after Leo.

Leo strode towards the halls of residence, a renewed determination on his face. Alex caught up with him, intrigued by his friend’s expression.

“What we doing now?” asked Alex tentatively.

“I’ve got some research to do. Last night I was reading up about the properties of lightning and its affect upon natural physiology. From what I gathered on the news, the current theory on the Change is that it is some kind of quantum flux – bending reality; and not a viral epidemic as we first thought.” explained Leo.

“Oh...” muttered Alex, “I’m sorry I asked.”

The two friends continued towards Leo’s room. The sun was beginning to sink, and they only passed a few morphs on their journey. They did notice, however, a couple of lizards who seemed to be following them – albeit at a discreet distance. Leo was certainly becoming notorious around campus as the man who defied the universe.

“I still don’t get why you were so hard on Cat?” asked Alex.

“Cat? Oh, Catherine.” mused Leo, “Well, I guess I was a bit tough – and hey, sorry about throttling you back there.”

“No probs mate. Didn’t realise you were that strong.” smirked Alex, rubbing his neck.

Upon reaching his room, Leo ushered Alex inside – checking to see if they were still being trailed. They were.

“Damn it.” growled Leo “Those police lizards are still out there.”

“How do you know they’re police?”

“It’s obvious.” said Leo, “They look shifty, go around in pairs and are wearing old duffel coats.”

“Figures.” said Alex.

Leo rummaged on his desk, pulling out a tatty folder from the pile of papers. Alex flopped onto the bed, glad to be resting his paws for a bit.

“Here.” said Leo, opening up the folder to reveal a list of strange formulas.

“What?”

“The answer to our problems.” replied Leo.

“Sorry pal, I’m not following.” said ALex.

“Jesus, how did you ever get into University in the first place. This is the key for unlocking the change. I’ve formulated that a controlled dose of electricity will trigger the powers necessary to revert people to their human self, or at least as much as me. I can’t really explain the details – but it undoes the metabolisms reaction to the quantum flux.” said Leo.

“Huh?” grumbled Alex.

“Either by using electromagnetic forces, or even radiation – we could basically get back to normal. It might not totally send things back to how they were, but at least tails will be off the fashion list.”

“Oh no!” said Alex, “I like mine. Anyway, why haven’t you tried out this super theory of yours?”

“I hardly likely to stick my fingers in an electric socket, and see what happens. Besides, I don’t need the treatment. I’m okay!”

“Yeah right, you weren’t so hot when you went for a walk earlier.” said Alex.

“That was different. I was preoccupied then.” replied Leo tersely.

“Well, I’m not gonna be your guinea pig.” said Alex, “I like being a wolf.”

“Don’t worry old bean. I haven’t got any equipment to use anyway – so you’re quite safe.” soothed Leo. Alex got up from the bed, and wandered to the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Leo, astonished.

“I’m going home – you seem pretty well occupied here.”

“Suit yourself!” snapped Leo, and he sat down at his desk. Alex closed the door behind him.

Alex padded across the corridor to his own room. The lizardmen had gone, but Alex was concerned by their earlier presence. Was Leo right? Were the police following them?

Evening came, and Leo was still hard at work on his research when there was a knock at the door. Leo stiffened. Alex always did a ‘rata-tat-tat’ when he knocked. This had been a single thump. Cautiously, Leo crept towards the door – straining with his improved hearing to make out any clue as to the identity of the visitor. He heard nothing, but he smelt something distinct, something leonine. It was Catherine! Leo slowly opened the door, to see a beaming lioness-morph.

“Hi Leo, I was worried about you.” she said.

“I’m fine thanks. Come in, I need to apologise for today.” replied Leo. Catherine slunk sexily into the room, swishing her tail as she went.

“Catherine, look, I’m sorry for being so hard today. I’m just not feeling too good since the Change.” he explained.

“I understand,” Catherine said softly, “But I really don’t know what eating you. You have far less to worry about than the rest of us. You are the least changed adult in the World.”

“Yeah, and I wish to stay that way.” whispered Leo, pointing to his papers on the desk.

“What are those?” asked Catherine.

“They are a formula I’ve been working on that may return us all to human. I’m basing the idea on the lightning that hit me yesterday.”

“Will it work?” she asked.

“Don’t know yet – haven’t got any equipment to try it out. Am I’m not even sure that the formula is right. I’ve been at it for hours – but its getting so complicated.”

“Take a break. Things always look easier when they are looked at fresh.” soothed Catherine, ruffling Leo’s hair. Leo squinted as she touched him, but relaxed again almost immediately.

“You’re right, fancy a drink.” said Leo, uncharacteristically cheerily.

“Yes please!” squealed Catherine. That was the first time Leo had ever offered to go for a drink.

The couple walked towards the student bar. The sun was already down, and a cool breeze filled the air. Catherine held tightly onto Leo’s arm, laying her head on his shoulder as they walked.

Leo noticed a sound coming from behind them. He wouldn’t have normally noticed things like that, but his new senses detected that the sound, similar to footsteps, sounded hurried but hesitant, as if following something. Leo turned his head around, only to see a shadow disappear behind down an alley.

“What’s the matter?” asked Catherine concerned.

“Oh, nothing old girl.” replied Leo, “Just thought I heard something.”

“You are getting too paranoid.”

“Just because I’m paranoid, does not mean that they are not out to get me.” moaned Leo.

“Get who? Get what?” sighed Catherine.

ZIPPPP!

“Ouch!” cried Leo, feeling the back of his neck. A small toxin dart poked out from his collar.

“What’s the matter?” asked Catherine, just as another projectile struck her as well.

“G-gotta r-run.....” croaked Leo as the sleeping drug took affect. Both of them collapsed onto the ground, unconscious.


Leo twitched in his cage. The empowered lizard-morph stalked around the outside of the cage, mentally pummelling Leo with blasts of 'shift' energy. Leo bit his lip as the surges of energy ran through his body. He could not fall to his norm-half. He had held out so long, possibly the most human adult in the World – and with the gifts the blue lightning had given him – he dare not fall. The World depended on him.

“Aaargh!” roared Leo, as the lizard’s power grew. More fur sprouted over Leo’s face and arms. His wavy blond hair started to grow longer, joining with the tufts now poking out of the collar of his t-shirt.

Leo puts his clawed hands onto the cage bars, and dragged himself to an upright posture. He saw his hands shrink in length, and then spread wider, into paws – pads forming on his palms.

“No, I shall not let you do this.” bellowed Leo. Alex watched on, now barely recognising his friend’s voice. Leo shut his eyes, and focused all of his energy at the lizard’s consciousness. Just as he felt the change subside and retract, another member of the cult scuttled to the lizard’s side. It too focused its energies on Leo.

“You are dangerousssssss boy.” hissed the first lizard. “We cannot allow you to be so human, so powerful, in a World of morphs.”

Leo was now outnumbered two to one. The fur returned to his neck and arms. His hands lost any appearance of humanity – becoming perfect claws.– and there was a twinging, tickling sensation at the base of his spine. As Leo grimaced, a tail began to fill the seat of his jeans.

“Nooooooooooooooooooo!” screamed Leo; and with a wave of blue light – Leo was immediately back in his near-humanoid form again. Both lizards had been flung to ground by the energy blast, and there prowling around outside the cage was a lion.

“It can’t be. He’sssss too sssstrong!” hissed the lizard, who fled the room.

“You did it.” howled Alex, wagging his tail. “How did you manage that?”

“I... I d-don’t kknow.” whispered Leo painfully, clutching his stomach. “I did it!”

Leobusted.JPG

To Be Continued…