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The Catalyst

From Shifti
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Author: MintzBuck


It all started late in the day of March 6, 2002, or maybe it was closer to the morning of March 7, in a mid-western college town. Ann Arbor, Michigan isn’t really that quiet a place, especially during March Madness, when the home team is in the tournament, but this March was going to be even madder than most. A change was coming, in more ways than one, but no one suspected anything. It was calm, unusually warm for the time of year. Deep in the offices of the sociology department at the University of Michigan, someone was still working deep into the night, studying something unusual, a book, a talisman, a statue? No one knew what started this all. The professor had finally found its secret and was about to unleash its power on the world. He had not clue what he was really doing, his whole life he had secretly studied these things, too scared of what people might think if they knew how he felt about it. The professor had been studying transformation myths in society, what would happen if all of a sudden people started changing, not mentally, but physically. Events had shaped how people thought, sometimes not even permanently, but what he wanted to do would bring an ever lasting to the society that he had been paid to study and teach about for years.

After years of searching, he found what he was looking for, the thing that would allow for the change, make it possible and he was going to lead it. From ancient South America it came, a society that he had neglected to study, he just hadn’t found it that terribly interesting. Anyway, who wanted to get eaten by bugs and mosquitoes trying to find artifacts in the rainforest? Besides, there were plenty of other transformation myths in Greek and Roman and Native North American societies to study, and they offered much more pleasant working conditions. But non the less, this was his best lead. Wanting to keep this a private, personal search, he relied on his own vague translations of the writing, but they seemed to be telling him what he wanted. This would transform him just how he wanted, he wasn’t sure of the form itself, the word wasn’t in his translation guide, but whatever it was would probably be better than human, and cause some kind of stir. What would a single changed individual lead to, would others want to follow (something he figured was a given anyway after years of lurking around groups on the internet), how would those who change be treated, and so on. He was opening the door for people to explore something more in life, that there is more than just being human.

Over the years, seeing the art and reading the stories he found made him care less and less for being human. Compared to what people had dreamed up, it was down right boring. He wanted to make that true, for himself at least. This was his last best hope, and it was about time to go for it. He didn’t know how it would end, but it really didn’t matter, he didn’t even think about what could go wrong as he read. Only the reader would be changed, as far as he could tell. Which was good, he didn’t want anyone changing who didn’t want to or to have to involve someone else in his little venture.

He read the words that he barely understood; not realizing what might be unleashed. The pronunciation was a little off, but the Gods knew what was being asked of them non-the less. His lips quivered and his hands shook as he finished reading, but he felt nothing, not a tingle, not short of breath, not even aroused. Disappointed, he slumped down in his desk chair and dropped the object on the table. Nothing spectacular happened. The sun didn’t stop shining (not like he could tell, it was night anyway), the Earth was still turning, and he was still himself. He sat up and examined the object closely; it showed no signs of changing either. As he turned to get one of the books he had gotten on translation, he definitely felt something. His whole body felt dry, but he wasn’t thirsty, his clothes felt constricting and unnecessary, so he removed them over a time that felt like hours, but was less than a minute. Sill nothing on the outside showed, still pink flesh. He looks back up, his legs wobbled a bit and he fell to the floor, pushing the chair out of the way. Again, what only took minutes, seemed like hours, he lay there, unconscious, head swimming around in a sea of bazaar dreams and visions. When he awoke, thinks where a bit garbled, he blinked as his eyes adjusted, something filled the center of his vision. He tried to stand, but couldn’t, instead he rolled onto his belly and stood up on all fours. Oddly, it didn’t seem foreign or uncomfortable at all, it felt good. He looked his new body over, he flicked his new tail as he looked down his black-spot-on-yellow furred cat-like body and saw something completely unexpected, wings. Hey, it might be more fun this way. He saw his hands where now scaly-clawed bird’s feet. He had to get a better view of this. The clock showed him only twenty minutes had passes since his experiment began, still plenty of time to explore this and hide away somewhere.

Opening the door didn’t prove to be as hard as he had expected, but it was still pretty scratched up. He padded down the hall to the restrooms, pulling the door open with his large beak. What he saw in the mirror excited him, a perfect griffin staring back at him. After satisfying his curiosity, the professor made his way back to his office, strange thoughts started to enter his mind. He had to find others, to share this, he could spread this, to let others experience what he had, the joy. But for now, he had to hide his treasure. Over the years he had planed for this, incase something actually did work; he’d have to find a place to hide out for a while. He took his prized possession, the only thing he really cared about anymore there. Tucked away in a hidden corner, it was perfect; no one could find it or him, even if they wanted to. Now, to experience what this body had to offer.

He passed back through the offices, claws clicking against the floor. As he stepped outside into a dimly lit courtyard, he fully spread his wings. It felt so great! Their weight hung from his body, their substantial mass ready to lift him, his muscled tensed. He flapped them a bit to get a feel for them, it felt so natural and right, the urge to spread his gift heightened. He trotted a short distance and took off, the wind ran through his fur and feathers, it was wonderful. The world spread bellow him, the few students wandering around, likely drunk or looking to get so, didn’t notice him. Perhaps they’d want to share this. How wonderful to have more like him. No warnings about such things where known to him, no way of spreading it other than the talisman was known to him either, but he certainly felt like a bit or scratch would do it. He spotted two girls walking towards from a frat house, perfect. He landed silently between a pair of houses ahead of them in the direction they were heading.

They were obviously drunk, stumbling down the streets of Ann Arbor. At least they might not feel pain, if there was any. One started to wander through the lawn towards him. Good, the less work he has to do. Her friend weakly followed, mumbling something. He could hear it perfectly, but wasn’t paying attention; his sharp eyes were fixated on the short brunette who was headed his way. Distances and what to do were being plotted in his head. She was getting closer and closer, and then she tripped, right in front of him. He panicked, looking at the fallen human. She looked up, blinked and screamed, as though sobered for an instant, a look of pure shock and horror on her face. He grabbed her with his strong talons as her friend looked up, then turned tail and ran. He paid no mind to the feeing girl. The screaming ended as the girl passed out, either from fright or drunkenness. The smell of alcohol permeated his nose, or what he had of one, why did humans even bother with this stuff. He gently bit into her shoulder and stepped back. Her body twitched. Though the light was dim, he could see perfectly, the young woman’s body seemed to dissolve in placed, leaving something that resembled a large robin. Had something gone wrong? What had happened her? The bird fluttered away, past him. It seemed to be following its former companion. Something didn’t seem so unusual about this to him. Maybe it was supposed to happen this way. He shrugged and took off, looking for more people to change.

That night he managed to repeat the same thing fourteen times, no two came out exactly the same. Each resulted in a different creature, bird and varying things that resembled different mammals. They all scurried of few off though, leaving him to wonder what they might do on their own. One even resembled some sort of fish. Not wanting to kill anyone, he carried it to the river and dropped it there. He couldn’t directly change people into what he was maybe. Or where his victims doomed to becoming mere animals, loosing all sense of humanity? He knew he didn’t look it, but at least couldn’t they be like him, keeping their minds in their new bodies? It was getting nearer to sunrise, so he headed back to the office, retrieved his treasure and headed to his former human home. Perhaps there was no place for him to really hide, a life traveling seemed to suit him more now. He found a way to carry his treasure and fled, never to be seen again. A life alone seemed to be his way, occasionally sharing his gift, but never letting his identity or form be known. He would be the only griffin, the originator of all of what was to come.

He was out of contact with the world for weeks. The affairs of the human world were of no consequence to him now. It would be long before he knew what he had unleashed on the world, how his dream, and the dream of those like him, really had come true.

Those first victims spread out, attacking others, many not knowing what had happened to them. They changed, but most would not end up as those, The Catalysts, where were the first victims of the professor. They turned into all manor of beast, but all kept a precious grab onto whom they were. Still able to function as they did before, though now part beast. It wasn’t even an important story for quite some time after it had started. The changed took place over days. A tabloid fantasy that seemed to be real news in a preoccupied nation was ignored. By the time anyone started to care, it was too late, there was no stopping what had already begun and would continue for a long time to come.

No one seemed to notice the disappearance of the professor, most of his classes where taught by graduate students anyway. The others were mostly college students, who tend to disappear randomly anyway. There was no big story because no one really knew what had happened. The first victims where ignored by the news because no one would believe it, it all seemed so impossible. But sometimes the impossible is the only truth.

Day 1

It was a typical day, as all days seem to be after a while. Wake up at the same time to the same radio station, same glass of orange juice, read the same web comics. Days never seem special, especially those that end up being way out of the ordinary. I was happy to be out of Thursday Physics early, as usual and have my lunch and head back to my on campus apartment. Not that it was really on campus, being a quarter mile down the road and not even built by the school, but the fries were fresh, so hopefully they wouldn’t cool down too much. A rather large bird swooped around the quad. Not an unusual sight, Canada Geese liked to hang out around on the grassy area framed by the five main buildings on campus. It looked different though, it acted a lot different too. It looked like it was dive-bombing people. I just thought it was proof birds really did try and poop on people’s heads, shrugged it off and went on. I strolled down the walkway, then smack! The damn thing got me. I stumbled a bit, trying to not spill my foot all over the ground and land on it. The thing swooped over me and perched up on the new building, almost looking proud of what it had done, before swooping off to look for something else to occupy its time with, other students. I stood there for a minute; it must have gotten five other people, I hope someone called animal control on that damn thing.

I set down my food for a second and adjusted my jacket, the damn thing hand bitten through it and me. That was just what I needed, a bird bite on my right shoulder about where the strap of my backpack normally sat. With my lunch in hand, and backpack over one shoulder I continued on. That was going to need some attention, hydrogen peroxide, triple antibiotic cream, and a band aide would do nicely. When I got back to my seventh floor apartment, I checked it out. Good, barely a scratch, no stitches, no need to waist my time at a hospital. All fixed up I turned to my lunch; it was a bit jumbled, but not much worse for wear than normal. With plenty of time until my next class, I kicked back and checked on some news on the Internet. Same old same old, though there were a couple people missing in Ann Arbor, they probably just got drunk and wandered off somewhere. They’d show up in a couple days and all would be right with the world.

Man, that bite itched. I scratched at it as I wandered the web, not really paying much mind. It was probably just from the band aide. I checked it again; the cut wasn’t bleeding so I just took the band aide off. It felt much better that way, but still itched a little, some raised bumps seemed to have formed around it. I had no intention of going to the damn hospital; I had my last class for the day now any. I headed back across 10 Mile to Physics Lab.

Right on time, my partner had already started getting the stuff out for it. More fun with forces, oh boy. Thank god these things never take long, that bite was starting to itch more. The class seemed a bit thin today. Maybe someone got bitten and decided to take the rest of the day off, or actually went to the hospital. I might have, if not for the fact that we aren’t exactly the largest college in the state of Michigan and don’t have an on campus medical center. They must have just gotten it worse. At least if there was something more to the cut, it wasn’t hurting me enough to stop me from going to any classes. It was almost the weekend away, so I wasn’t worried even if my arm did fall off, I could get it put back on over the weekend.

With the lab over I headed back down the road to go home. I hadn’t seen it on my way to class, but there seemed to be a small flock of birds hanging around. All slightly different, swooping at whom ever passed by. They just kind of watched me, as if to know I had already been taken care of. Something ran past me. What the heck? Why on earth had someone let their dog loose on campus? It took off down the road, probably just heading home. I stopped around where I had been attacked earlier and looked back at the birds perched along the top of the Engineering building. It was eerie, just sitting there, four birds, all of them were different species. Animal control must be backed up or something, because in the middle sat that first one, some kind of a bizarre goose. How the hell did that thing manage to bite through a jacket and shirt? I shrugged it off and continued on, the bite itching more now. It seemed to get worse with each step; I was going to have to check it again once I got back to my apartment.

I dropped my backpack and started to work on a lap report, having completely forgotten about my little wound. Half way through it, the bite started to itch again. I just decided to wait until I was done with the report to even bother; it was probably just the scab forming over it anyway. As I printed the lab report out, it took three tries because the ink head dries out easily, my shirt felt strange. I could feel my shirt, but not directly, like how you feel a jacket over a t-shirt, disconnected, it moved too easily over my shoulder. Now that wasn’t right. Quickly, I attached papers together with my shark stapler and headed for the bathroom.

I didn’t really expect to see anything unusual; it probably just broke a nerve or something. With the door closed for privacy, I pulled my shirt off; it almost felt like it was getting caught on something under it, over my shoulder. Something was definitely NOT right. Man, what’s going on here, I gulped and took a look. There was indeed something strange going on. A tuft of iridescent green feathers stuck out from the skin, a few rows of them poked from my shoulder and arm. Oddly enough, they looked like they belonged there; they sat smoothly against my flesh, small bumps sat around them, some with small quills sticking out of them. A large portion of my back looked liked a plucked chicken.

Now it was just weird. What the hell was going on? This kind of thing was not supposed to be possible; humans tend not to spontaneously grow feathers after a bird bites them. What the heck is going to happen to me? It looked like more where coming in. But was anything else going to come with them? Wings? Talons? A beak!? I have to admit, there was a part of me that was utterly fascinated, that wanted it to happen, but why did it have to be a bird? Then there was the logical side, the side that feared being treated like some kind of freak or out cast. I wasn’t going to let this out any sooner than I had to. Hopefully it wouldn’t be hard to keep under wraps, at least for a few days. I sighed and pulled a shirt back on, trying to be a bit more careful with my new feathers.

I couldn’t shake the image of them under my shirt for the rest of the day. I could feel more growing in and pull on my shirt, forcing me to adjust it form time to time. Man, they grew in fast too. I didn’t tell a sole, none of my roommates, none of my online friends, and not my parents. Though I knew some of my online friends would be very interested in this, heck, I was myself. But there’s a big difference between imagining you’re something else or being turned into something else, and actually having that happen. I don’t know for what reason I was really hiding it; not wanting to get caught, wanting to keep it for myself to enjoy, or because I didn’t want to seem like a bragger. I’ve always been a modest person.

As I sat in my chair, things seemed so, well, normal again. Other than the fact that I was growing green feathers, the world seemed no different. I actually watched the news for once, maybe there would be something about these animals on, but I was disappointed to find nothing, but not really surprised. When I ate dinner, things did seem kind of odd, my teeth were way too smooth and hard, leading me to believe I had a beak coming sometime, hopefully later rather than sooner. I could feel the feathers whenever I stretched, it seemed like they were spreading to my chest and belly. Plus, there was something weird with my back, a dull numbness between my shoulders, I could only guess what that meant, though I really didn’t want to. I couldn’t really lean back in my chair, not because of the feathers though. My clothes just felt wrong, like I had been given someone else’s wardrobe.

I stuck it out until my normal shower and bedtime. Now this was going to be interesting, as best as I could tell, they weren’t really duck feathers and I didn’t think most feathers handled water all that well. I got my sleeping shorts and underwear and grabbed a t-shirt. Usually, I slept without a shirt on, but I also usually didn’t have feathers on my back. With the bathroom door safely shut, I pulled off my shirt, feeling it brush against feathers all the way. I closed my eyes and turned around, back facing the mirror, burned my head and looked. Solid feathers all down my back, lying smoothly against the skin, overlapping my pants. I turned slightly, trying to see if I could tell what was wrong with my back, there was a definite bulge that was fare more evident from the side. As I looked, I could swear I saw it grow and twitch a bit. I faced the mirror; some feathers came over my shoulders and around my sides. My whole front looked as though it was covered in goose bumps. I leaned in close to the mirror and opened my mouth, my teeth weren’t really teeth anymore, instead; they were rough black ridges. I sighed, at least I could still hide it, for how much longer, I didn’t know.

I stepped into the shower, it was then that I noticed how dry my feet seemed, but I wasn’t really concerned with that at the time. I looked at the handle, then at the showerhead, man I whish I used wash clothes, it would have vastly simplified things. I turned on the water, and waited for it to warm up. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, if I were going to be a bird, I probably wouldn’t have to take showers too often. I turned on the shower and stepped under the water, trying only to get the parts that were still bare wet. I tried to just wash my hair, but instead learned just how much water feathers can hold and how long it takes for them to dry. Wet ruffled feathers are no fun when you have no way of preening them. Once I managed to dry my back, my feathers felt horribly uncomfortable matted under a t-shirt. I slunk into bed and laid on my stomach, there was no way I could have slept on my back, not that I ever really did. I checked my clock one last time before drifting off.

Day Two

Dick Purtan, local Oldies morning DJ extraordinaire, greeted me once again, right on time at 8:30 am. Things where just like they were supposed to be for that last minute of bliss before the reality struck and I felt the tightness in my shirt and just a general discomfort. The events of the day before popped back in my head as I pulled on my glasses and shut the radio off. My glasses didn’t fit as well as they had the night before, why should I expect sleep to slow down what ever was happening to me. I tossed back the blanket with a heavy sigh and sat up. I slid off the bed, my bare feet hit the carpet; something didn’t feel right about how the skin of my feet slid along it. I dreaded looking down, but I was going to have to sometime anyway. The skin of my feet was dry, brittle, and gray, my toes seemed long too, and the smallest two seemed to be reseeding. I flexed my toes and turned my feet a bit at the angle, everything was working right. The nails had changed too, they where thick and black, curling over the tips of my toes. Firmly planted on the floor, I stood. Everything seemed to be working right, so far.

I walked over and pulled open my sock drawer to retrieve a pair. It isn’t until something is different about you that you really notice what you are doing, but when you see that difference it tends to shake you up. I saw my hands; they looked a lot like my feet had. I was a bit more shaken up over it; I watched the crackled gray skin and clawed hands reach in for a white pair of balled socks. I tried to shake it off, but it was just freaky. I slumped over a bit and pulled the socks over my strange feet, feeling the toe nails stick on the elastic fabric. Socks were added to the list of things I would likely not need soon, even if I did need them it’s not like I could use them. I pulled down my sleeping shorts, at least my legs seemed mostly normal. But the shorts did seem to stick on something on my rear; I had a pretty good idea of what was there. I ran my hand over my rear, feeling the growing bulge of a tail, its growing quills poking through the fabric. Pants and underwear were definitely going to need some changes in the near future. My jeans were next; at least they went on without any problem. I looked into my closet; there was no way I was going to attempt changing shirts so I just decided to pull on a flannel over my t-shirt. It was then that I noticed the t-shirt that I had put on the night before. It was a Jimmy Buffett shirt, and like many of his shirts, it featured anthropomorphic parrots. I did sort of laugh to myself, since I certainly seemed like I was on my way to looking like one of them. Finally, I put on my shoes; thankfully, they easily slid onto my feet, at least that was one normal thing.

Next on the agenda, breakfast, which was, and still is, my usual glass of orange juice. As I sipped it, I headed for the bathroom, not really wanting to think about what I might find in there. Much to my surprise, the first thing was a trashcan full of brown hair. I didn’t even want to think about what that might mean. Shrugging that off, I looked at my face in the mirror, it seemed different, but I couldn’t really put my finger on how. Another sip of OJ and I opened my mouth to take a look, the dark gray masses that had once been my teeth seemed to have moved around a bit, getting ready to grow out. The upper and lower masses seemed to have a tip to them. Next, time for my contacts, I set my glasses aside and popped them in without thinking. Which was dangerous, I nearly poked out my right eye with a growing talon. I ran a brush though my hair, which seemed to pick up a lot more loose hair than usual and I finished off my orange juice and rinsed out the cup in the sink.

As I walked back out through the kitchen, I replaced my cup to its usual position. I flopped down in my chair to watch television and kill some time before class. I cringed, feeling my new tail a bit crushed under me. Now, not having to take shows or not being able to wear socks didn’t bug me at all, but not being able to sit, that was not going to fly with me, not like I really had any choice in the matter though. I tried leaning back, but whatever was on my back had gotten larger and more painful so I leaned forward, which I was at least used to doing. More of the same old crap on the morning shows so I shut it off and checked my usual web comics; another check mark for normality. I made sure my stuff was ready for class and pulled on my jacket. Having a normal routine, or a backpack, doesn’t help when you have feathers or stuff growing out of your back. With a bit of a painful crunch, I pulled on my backpack. It was bearable, but I could tell I wasn’t going to be using it much longer.

With that, I went out into the world, or at least the hallway. Out there, it seemed just like normal, or at least what normal had been. Waiting for the elevator, worrying about the strange sounds it made. Not that it was unusual, but I seemed to be the only person leaving the building at the time. I walked to class along 10 Mile Road as normal, but the traffic seemed a bit light; it was far easier to j-walk than normal to get across the five lanes. Even for nine in the morning on a commuter campus, it seemed dead. There were still a few of those birds hanging around and a few dogs. Now that was a different, dogs on campus, or things that looked like dogs, they just sort of watched me walk by. Once in the science building, I climbed the stairs to the second floor for my first class of the day.

I bend down to sit in my normal seat, it definitely seemed more empty than usual, and then my butt hit the chair. I shuddered, just then remembering what was under the seat of my pants, feeling feathers and flesh crushed under my weight. This is going to be a pain in the ass. I let myself down the rest of the way, wiggling a bit before getting comfortable enough to sit there, at least of the time being. I pulled out my notebook and pencil. This was going to be as normal a day as I could possibly make it. I glanced around the room, four, maybe five people. At least one of my classmates seemed to be a bit uncomfortable, sweating a good bit, even though the room wasn’t all that warm. The teacher arrived right on time as always, she was a bit surprised at how empty the room was, she made some comment, though I didn’t pay much attention, nor care. She took roll, which was unusual, but she had done it before on low attendance days. The lesson went forward though. I found myself trying to find a more comfortable possession every five minutes. It made the class seem like an eternity. That and most of my body, that hadn’t already had confirmed feather sightings began to itch. Finally, it ended, I got up and left, glad to know I only had one more class that day, and it was just down the hall.

A small crowd waited outside, the next class inside would soon be over and then it would be time to try and sit again. A few of the people waiting looked sort of off, only how I could imagine myself looking at the moment. Not too comfortable in their clothes or at least trying to hide something. The class let out, fewer people than usual, for that one as well. This thing really was affecting quite a few people, or they were at least scared off by what was going on the day before. Those of us who where waiting for class filed in and took out seats. I just sat on the edge of the chair, it was more comfortable that. I stared at my notes, and then glanced at my watch. Shouldn’t have class started by now. Those of us who where there started looking around, and each other. The teacher obviously wasn’t coming, we all agreed on that and left.

I decided to get something to eat from the cafeteria again; man was I starving. Fortunately, it was open and I got a two grilled chicken sandwiches and fries. I grabbed a bunch of mayo packet and to drink, I got pink lemonade. I was surprised by the choice myself; I usually got Mt. Dew or Pepsi, but it just sounded good to me. I carried it back to my apartment, just as the day before, but with far less trouble.

Back at home; I ate my lunch while watching "The Price is Right.” I was getting more used to sitting on my new tail. The concept of having it was still quite foreign to me though. The feeling of tightness in my shirt started to increase, but since it was now the weekend, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about appearances, there was no way I was going to go out unless I had to. Thankfully weekends where always dead times, I’d normally be alone most of the time anyway, so I wouldn’t have to wear certain clothing items unless I had to.

After I finished eating I went to the bathroom, I supposed I’d have to face that sooner or later anyway. It would be a good idea to take stock on what was going on anyway. Thankfully I was the only one home at the moment, so I would be able to take as long as I liked. Having already taken off my shoes when I got back, I first pulled off my socks. It was fare easier to get them off than it was to get them on earlier that day. What was inside was quite different. Three large toes, each tipped with the thick claw and covered in over lapping gray scales, each with a slight dull sheen. The back of my foot looked like it was ready to burst open, it was amazing that I couldn’t feel the claws that were threatening to push out of my heels. My shoes and socks would never be worn again, it’s not like I could even wear them if I had wanted to.

Next, I undid my belt and pants, sliding them, along with my underwear, down my legs. I pulled them off over my feet, and inspected myself. Still relatively unchanged, though my legs were covered in bumps and growing quills, soft and downy feathers surrounded my crotch, which it seemed relatively untouched. At least that was something. But as I looked back at my tail, I had to wonder exactly how I was going to be able to keep my modesty with that thing sticking out of my rear. I ran my hands down the smooth feathers, it felt oddly good, better than just skin. I looked down as I stroked the feathers, for the first time noticing just how much my hands had changed. I was left with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, the same color gray scales and claws were almost complete as with my feet. I wondered exactly how I could have missed such a dramatic change in my hands. Maybe I didn’t want to see it, or maybe it just happened so subtly that everything seemed so natural. Fast enough so you don’t linger on how your body is being pulled, stretched, and reshaped, but slow enough so you can get used to it. I wiggled my fingers, inter-laced the clawed fingers, it all seemed so natural. Loosing a finger on each hand didn’t seem to make that much of a difference, so far. Everything moved like it should, I didn’t even feel like I was missing anything, to my brain, I wasn’t.

After staring at my hands, for god knows how long, I finally and carefully, pealed off my shirt. As I drew it over my head, I felt feathers jam and stick painfully to the fabric. Whatever was growing out of my back didn’t make it any easier, though eventually, everything seemed to calm itself down, and I got the shirt off. In the mirror, my chest seemed to stick out more, covered with a solid layer of bright white feathers. I turned sideways to get a better look; overall, it looked like I was leaning forward a bit, my green back feathers glinting in the light. Now that I had a better look at them, the bumps seemed more like arms, and with some concentration, I could move them. They too were covered in green feathers; some white or grayish feathers lined the bottoms. After a little while, I could move them quite easily, though there movement seemed somewhat restricted. I was able to fold them up, somehow, along my back. They seemed to just want to sit that way. It was eerily comfortable. I looked myself over a bit more. The feathers were to my elbow, but it didn’t seem like they were going any farther. Instead, my lower arms where dry and cracked, like my hands had been the day before; all the hair stripped from the surface.

For the first time, I looked straight into my own eyes in the reflection. I was still in there, wasn’t I? My eyes seemed be a bit bigger and farther apart, the color of my irises the same grayish blue they had always been, with the same glint. I studied my face some more, leaning over the sink. My face was covered with what looked like stubble, but was only the start of the feathers what would eventually cover it. My nose definitely seemed smaller, my lips thinner and pushed out a bit by what was behind them. I tilted my head, there was quite a bit of hair missing, but in contrast, a few green feathers stuck up through it. Inside my mouth, still poised to exit, were the makings of a beak. It was odd though; parts seemed thick and wide, like molars almost. Inside the beak was a soft pink tongue that seemed to be coming from deep within my mouth. I lifted my tongue; beneath it was solid beak, smooth and bony. Before I readied myself to get dressed again, at least as much as I was going to be able to dress myself anyway, I noticed a patch of bright rosy red feathers on my thought. I shook my head and resolved to try and figure out just what kind of bird I was turning into.

Shirtless, I walked into my bedroom and traded in my t-shirt for a bowling shirt, at least I could leave it up buttoned and it wouldn’t be so obvious that something was happening to me. Plus, it would be quite a bit more comfortable and less restrictive for my growing wings. That was what I had finally decided my new limbs where. Besides, what else could they have been? I also went with shorts instead of pants, less for growing feathers to bind up on. I retired to my chair, carefully sitting on my tail, something I wasn’t going to be able to keep doing. I sat there, shoe and sock less in front of my laptop, which rested on it’s rolling cart.

It’s almost always a pain to try and find information on the Internet, even when it’s as broad as lists of kinds of birds. Today, it seemed to be overly generous that day. I easily found a site that showed species of birds with names and pictures. I scrolled through the pages. Sparrows, no, owls, no, hawks and eagles, no. Maybe parrots, though none of them seemed to have the same color feathers, at least not ones that were so bright. I looked through a little more, there was one more category: humming birds. I was taken a bit aback, but there it was, right at the top, a male ruby-throated humming bird. It definitely seemed to have the right colors. Only time would tell if the look was the same, but so far, it was pretty close.

So I was turning into a giant, six-limbed humming bird, I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. I just sat there and stared at the picture. At least I wasn’t turning into something ugly. I really hoped I wasn’t going to shrink too much or be really jumpy; I just couldn’t picture myself fluttering all over the place.

I tried not to act any differently, going through my usually routine of spending the rest of the day online, checking things from time to time. I was perhaps a bit lower key then usual though, I wasn’t sure how I would react to anything. As I web surfed, I decided to actually check some news websites. I often checked the Detroit Free Press’s website, but that was mostly for sports. Though, that day something on the front page caught my eye. “Unusually High Number of Animal Attacks Reported in Metro Area.” I blinked and clicked the link. All over southeastern Michigan there had been thousands of animal attacks from all manner of creature. All the people who had been attacked were showing signs of strange changes; all were growing feathers, fur, or scales. People farther and farther away were reporting the same thing. A massive effort was under way to capture the animals that were doing the attacking, but there was no way to tell them from any other pet or wild animal. No one knew what caused it or where it started; it just seemed to happen. I sat back to let it all sink in, before I was dragged back into reality when my growing wings hit the seat back. It’s hard to remember that a seat back is out of bounds.

I forgot about the computer for a second and sat there, leaning forward. My body was already feeling different than it had an hour before; it just changed so slowly I didn’t notice. I licked my lips; they were farther out than they should have been, the razor edge of a beak was just behind them. The door opened and I looked towards it. My least favorite roommate was there; he was obviously getting ready to leave for the weekend, though he looked quite a bit more nervous than usual. Moving some things from his room and out the door, gone as quickly as he came. From what I say, me moved differently and looked different, but it still was him. Maybe that trash can full of hair was his doing, shaving off his new fur in shame. I looked down at my feathered arms and scaled hands. There was no way to get rid of this, even if I wanted to. It seemed inevitable, I was going to be growing feathers sooner or later, cutting them off now would just make it worse for me later. Thankfully for me, he didn’t seem to care that I was there, he never did. He never seemed to notice that anyone else lived there. Maybe if he changed enough he’d leave. I certainly wouldn’t have minded that.

I watched the door for a while, no one else came or when for fifteen minutes, or something like that, I wasn’t paying any attention to the clock. I knew one thing though; I had to go to the bathroom, that’s what I get for drinking so much. I got up, noticing a bit of a forward lean to my stance, and I walked back to the bathroom. The door was still closed on the second bedroom. Mike must have still been asleep. Man, it was three o’clock and he was still in there. I proceeded into the bathroom. It seemed as though the trashcan was a bit more full, a second layer of hair in the trash can, only this seemed a bit different, a little thicker and shiny. I bent down and pick some out of it, just to see if it was more than just hair. It certainly didn’t feel like hair, I really did have more the consistency of thick fur. The slight sheen on it seemed to be from oil on it. I could only guess what that meant, but wasn’t going to.

I sighed and pulled down my short, worried about what I might find there. Fortunately, not much had really changed, and things were working normally. There might have been more feathers, but that was another thing I didn’t want to think about, of see for that matter. I flushed the toilet, pulled my shorts back on, and turned towards the mirror. Things there’s where only subtly different, though my stubble did have a greenish cast to it and I seemed to have less hair. I didn’t look long, it wasn’t really important to me. I looked down and washed my hands, avoiding looking into the mirror. The water did feel nice over the smooth scales of my hands, I watched and felt the water run over my hands, turning them over and studying them. I caught myself and shut off the water, dried them and left the bathroom, a little embarrassed with myself.

I just ran on autopilot for the rest of the day, not really paying attention to what anyone said. I’m sure someone mentioned the strange changes that where going on, maybe even some that they were going through. I didn’t notice, someone did ask me if I knew anything about it, being from Michigan, but I just shrugged it of with a lie. I had no desire to talk about, I couldn’t hide it forever, but I didn’t feel it necessary to mention anything about it to anyone. By eleven, I had had enough of that day and said my goodnights and went to bed without a shower, it wouldn’t have done me any good anyway.

Day 3

The weekend started at ten a.m., as it usually did for me. I looked over at the clock, lying there on my belly. I blinked a bit; I could actually read it’s blue numbers. My eyes had been so bad I couldn’t read the think from two feet away, now the numbers were crisp, even more so than when I had my contacts in. I wasn’t going to miss having glasses and contact lenses.