IMPORTANT
In this past October (2020) the Shifti Community lost Chris "Robotech Master" Meadows to an accident involving an SUV hitting his electric bike and leaving the scene. While we may never know the full story of this event, the administrators of Shifti will work to preserve his account and works here as he'd wish us to. Thank you all for being such excellent people.

Look At Me Now

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“Well, little buddy, looks like this is it.”

The young man sat on a bed, fighting back tears. In his arms was a brown-and-white ferret. The animal was breathing heavily and shaking.

“We had a good run, didn’t we, Dusty?” the man said, forcing a chuckle. “I was just a middle schooler when we first met, and look at me now!”

Yeah, look at me now, he thought sarcastically. I’m a college dropout living in a shitty apartment with a shitty office job and no friends. Hey, look where Andy is now, everyone!

Andy was snapped out of his thoughts for a second and looked down at the ferret in his arms. Dusty had gone still. Suddenly, Dusty made one final, jerky motion – and bit Andy in the arm.

“Gah!”

The final action had apparently taken the last of Dusty’s energy, as he now laid completely still in Andy’s arms.

* * * * *

Andy slept fitfully that night and woke up exhausted. Slamming on his clock alarm, he begrudgingly shuffled out of his bedroom and into the bathroom.

As he was starting the shower, Andy looked at where Dusty had bitten him the previous night. At the time, the bite had drawn blood, and Andy expected a nasty scar. He was shocked to see that there was no evidence of the injury.

Whatever, he thought after a few moments. I’ve always been a fast healer anyway.

Finishing his shower, Andy couldn’t help but notice just how dry his skin felt. The skin on his arms and shoulders looked red and cracked.

Must be developing some sort of rash, he thought. I can’t afford to call in sick…hope it’s not contagious.

Andy pulled a wrinkled dress shirt and a pair of black pants out of his closet. It was the same outfit he had worn to work the previous Friday, but he couldn’t help but think it felt a little looser.

Have I lost weight?

He shrugged, tightening his belt an extra notch.

Well, I can’t really complain about being skinny.

* * * * *

Andy’s drive to his office was uneventful, and he pulled his beat-up Toyota Corolla into the parking lot a couple of minutes early.

He was an entry-level worker at an insurance company, working in sales. The job didn’t pay well and wasn’t particularly interesting, but it was the best Andy could manage to get after a year and a half in college.

Andy had been working for a couple of hours when he was suddenly hit with a violent pang of hunger. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a “fruit & nut” granola bar. Andy unwrapped the bar and took a bite before suddenly recoiling.

“Echh!” he hissed, spitting out chunks of the bar. Andy didn’t understand what was so unappealing about the bar today; he usually bought these granola bars by the box and had a couple a day, but something about them just seemed off today. They were too sweet, and Andy found that he really wasn’t in the mood for fruit.

A similar story played out during Andy’s lunch break. He took one bite of the Caesar salad he had brought and proceeded to cough it back out violently. A couple of his coworkers sitting at another table turned around, looking concerned.

“I’m okay, guys,” he coughed, dumping the Styrofoam container of salad into the garbage.

Andy’s stomach growled violently, reminding him that he hadn’t had anything substantial to eat all day. Seeing no options in the office, Andy walked out to his car to find something to eat. As he drove around the downtown area, a chicken joint caught his eye. He pulled into the parking lot and walked in.

The moment Andy entered the restaurant, he was slapped by a wave of scents so suddenly that he started coughing again. The fit went on for a few seconds, long enough for a few employees and customers to look worriedly at him.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” he gasped, although he wasn’t entirely confident that he was.

Andy got up to the counter and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. A couple of minutes later, he got his food and sat down.

Taking a bite of his sandwich, Andy was struck by a plethora of flavors. He hadn’t noticed flavor like this in chicken before, and he involuntarily squeaked rather loudly. Heads turned around to find the source of the noise, and Andy suddenly found himself the center of attention.

Red-faced, Andy stood up and moved towards the exit of the restaurant. “Sorry for the noise, guys…I’ll just be leaving now…”

Andy rushed out to his car and slammed the door shut.

“What is going on with me today?” he said to himself. He shot a look at himself in the mirror. His face looked like it was puffing up, and his nose was red and running.

I can’t go back to work looking this sick, Andy thought. He called his manager. Finding the line busy, Andy left a message.

“Hey Greg, it’s Andy Watkins. I think I’m having some sort of allergic reaction to something, and I don’t think it’s safe for me to come back in. I’ll let you know later how I’m feeling for tomorrow.”

I’m probably fired, he thought, pulling out of the restaurant’s parking lot and swinging into his lane. Two days last week for pneumonia and now this.

* * * * *

Pulling into the lot of the apartment complex, Andy felt the same itching that he had felt getting out of the shower in the morning. This time, though, it was spreading past his arms and onto his chest and back.

Andy got back into his apartment and headed to the bathroom. He took off his shirt to see the source of the itch – and involuntarily gasped.

His whole chest was covered with a fine layer of white hair – fur? He felt it and involuntarily squeaked again.

It feels like…Dusty?

Andy turned around, looking down. His pants were even looser than they had been in the morning and were in danger of falling down. Suddenly, Andy felt a piercing pain in his backside.

Quickly shoving down his pants, Andy looked back at his tailbone. There was a protruding bump, small but growing larger. What the hell…?

Andy looked into the mirror again. Something was happening to his face. His nose was pushing forward, and his whole head was becoming more angular. Andy opened his mouth and gasped. His teeth had become sharp, and his canines were about twice the size of anything else in his mouth.

Andy was so stunned by his teeth that he hadn’t realized that he was about a foot shorter. The bump had pushed out into a full tail, a few inches long and covered in brown fur. Andy squeaked and ran out of the bathroom.

He went to grab his cell phone and call 911. However, he couldn’t seem to get a good grasp on it…

My hands!

They were no longer really hands, per se. Andy’s thumb had retracted a bit and become just like the rest of his fingers – small, with a sharp black claw protruding from the end. Catching his reflection in the blank screen of the phone, Andy saw that his head and face were now much more angular and covered with the same fur as his chest and arms.

I-I’m…turning into a ferret?

Andy looked at himself again. He sure looked like a ferret. His arms and legs were steadily shortening, and he was only a couple of feet tall now. The fur continued to spread, filling in with brown and white hairs.

Where – ah! Dusty’s cage!

Andy bolted, now on all fours, into his bedroom. Dusty’s cage sat up on a shelf. The cage still contained a half-full water bottle and a few pellets of ferret food. Andy struggled to climb the shelf, his still-changing legs not helping matters in the slightest. Finally, he was able to drag himself over the edge of the cage and unceremoniously fall in.

Righting himself, Andy turned around to look at himself again. He was now only about a foot and a half long, and he watched as the final patches of fur grew on his back.

Andy looked around. He was a ferret now, and he didn’t think he could do anything about it. He looked around for a minute, surveying his new surroundings, then put his head down and fell asleep.

* * * * *

It took a couple of days for the managers at Hawkins and Dunn Insurance to realize that not only was Andy Watkins not coming in to work, but he hadn’t called in, either. They called his landlord, his family, and everyone else they could think of, but nobody had seen him for days. Finally, they called the police.

The police arrived to find Apartment #8 at Shady Grove Apartments locked. No one answered the door, so they broke it down. Once inside, they saw evidence of a chaotic scene – clothes strewn about, a mobile phone on the floor, a mess of hair, water and blood in the bathroom. Andy Watkins was not to be found.

The officers took a few pictures and gathered evidence and were about to leave when Deputy Rich Wheeler heard a series of squeaks coming from the open bedroom. Inside, he saw a ferret, running low on food and water, squeaking and hissing seemingly for attention. Deputy Wheeler found a box in Andy’s closet and punched a couple of holes in it. Placing the ferret inside, he made a note to bring it to a pet shelter.

* * * * *

The Woodland Pet Center was elated to receive a new ferret, and they proudly displayed it in the front of their “Small Pets” section. A few days later, a young boy walked in with his mother. The boy seemed disinterested in the cats and dogs, instead making a beeline for the small pets.

“Mom! Mom! They have a ferret!”

The ferret’s ears perked up, and he looked at the boy.

“Honey, are you sure you want a ferret? They take a lot of work to look after,” sighed the boy’s mother, trailing behind.

“Yeah!” the boy responded. “I promise I’ll take good care of him!”

After much deliberation, the mother begrudgingly agreed to adopt the ferret, much to the boy’s elation. Paperwork was filed, and the ferret was placed in a pet box.

A few minutes later, the boy and his mother were riding towards a pet store to pick up supplies for the ferret.

“The people at the shelter said the ferret is a boy, Jamie,” the mother said. “What are you going to name him?”

“Hmm…” The boy thought for a second. He looked in the box, and the ferret looked back.

“I think I’ll name him Dusty.”