User:Hawl/An Albino's Breakdown

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Paradise Perspectives 3:An Albino’s Breakdown

Author: Hawl
Paradise story universe

August 20th 2006

Author's Comments

Author’s Notes:This story is the penultimate one taking place in 2006, afterwards stories will span months instead of one day. The next will cover 2006 from August 25th to February of the next year. After that I am planning something very unique involving Tall Tales, hopefully involving one MatthiasRat, but we’re still working it out. I hope this story accomplishes its goal of breathing some life into Paradise. Though don’t hold your breath for the next one. I will be doing a quite of bit of work on Metamor Keep, Gabriel And Xhyz In Space (A Paradise Webcomic my friend is working on, still on the concept art phase. The name is admittedly very silly, but it DOES take place on Earth between the Normal Canon and the “Future” version of the setting, a non-canon bridging together), Mayan Eye - An exciting E-Book series by me and MatthiasRat that I’ll talk more about when its first volume “Cat And Mouse” is done, and an afterlife setting called the Gaia Planes! Between this and future entries in FreeRIDErs I’m going to be a very busy Tigress.

-People may have noticed the new "Brand New Past" Section. This is intended for stories that take place in a TG-Changed's past after it has been retconned for their new sex. Of course the Changed themself has no memory of this past.

PS:Anyone whose a fan of “The Future Is Paradise” will want to see what have I planned as far as Paradise’s, well, future, And without further distractions. It is my privilege to present

“A Perspective Into An Albino’s Breakdown”

Author: Hawl Tygarus Enroygall

It was another unusual day for Gabriel Zedimouse Locke. Of course, when you had to remind yourself that you were really a five foot tall, albino, humanoid rat, every day was a little unusual. He had been this way for a few days now, starting on the shock of realizing that his closest friend was not only a large cat from bengal but a female large cat from bengal.

This had not quite struck the young man; he thought it was yet another silly thing in his life that would fade with time, just a silly teenage phase one goes through and looks back on with a smile in later years. Well he didn’t actively think that; he had heard from his friend who had been of an altered shape for five years running that there wasn’t a way to go back. There were tons of people viewing it is a horrible curse, a wonderful blessing, a gift from God, a giant cross to bear, or in the most grim of circumstances, the horrible thing that lead them to take their own lives, but Gabe and Cale always had these fun little games. They weren’t quite this intrusive into their personal affairs, but they were present. The duo had done many things together over the year they had known one another, most of it was online shenanigans, or a new video game craze sweeping the nation and sometimes it took to reality but the point was they usually palled and joked around. So even though that rats would always play a vital point in his life it just didn’t seem to matter. Gabriel and Iris were the only two changed the other knew aside from Hugh who he had not really exchanged more than a sentence with. So the albino fancy rat couldn’t help but to see this, at least subconsciously, as just another one of his eccentric friend’s little games. Gabriel often tried to tell himself “Of course he is only pretending to be female, Cale has always been a little on the gay side.” Gabe had a feeling that this was all going to blow over before he knew it.

This all had made coping for the rodent very simple. He had a mental breakdown upon first getting a good look at his reflection but he was over it now. His fear of mirrors was not a new trend but a pre-existing condition dating back to his childhood when he feared that the mirror was an evil version of himself trying to tear out his soul and take over his life. Though now thanks to Cale snapping him out of it he can take his usual passing glance at a mirror and think. “Oh hi Gabriel, looking good, you’re very handsome today, as always.”, well after jumping and going “What the- a rat!?!”. Despite this however he still tried to evade them.

However, he was finding one new facet of his life rather difficult, his recently developed need to chew. He was in an english class and working on an assignment when the urge to gnaw came up. Looking around the small classroom covered in posters devoid of imagination about the brilliance of history, the blue and red carpeting which smelled standard for an office, oh god the smells, that was another thing Gabriel was getting used to. As he continued looking around through various students and an empty desk next to him that at present was most vacant, but in the past was used by several students most of them male, but the scent of one female student, the unmistakable smell that isn’t sweet per-say, but is far easier on the nose then the musky masculine scent. Normally a larger young lady named Thana Verde sat next to him but she had not showed up on Change Day and apparently not today either. Gabriel had always suspected that she rather fancied him but he never returned these feelings to her. Though it did make the one female scent make sense. Hoping to find something to silence the screaming in his mouth he gazed around and sniffed. It was not long before he smelled something strange, an odd mixture of bear and human woman, further combined with the scent of fear and uneasiness. Gabriel looked into the direction these scents as they were the most out of place and the most recent, and what he saw drove his mind for a boggle. If he could hear his subconscious it would be saying things like “But Cale isn’t here, we’re not playing right now” and “Not good, not good, that bear shouldn’t be here!” as a large black and white panda showed up. She seemed nervous and covered her muzzle shut as she saw Gabriel. She swallowed the lump in her throat as the teacher, like her grandparents and the doctor’s office she had recently been to, saw nothing of her recent condition.

“Oh, hey Thana, please begin working on this worksheet at your usual seat. We’ve missed you,” the teacher said with a smile and a hint of joy to her voice. Half of it was actual concern for her pupil the other was a programmed generic response from years of teaching history to teenagers, just one of the lines on the script. Thana nodded with a visible frown as she took the assignment.

“Th-thanks, Mrs. Jones.” she said nervously, before breathing heavily. She didn’t know why she was a panda, she didn’t want this. She wanted to be skinny, but now, she was fatter than ever before! Not only had she not a clue as to her current condition but she had less of an idea why she was about to sit next to a rat! A RAT, where that handsome Gabriel used to sit too. The only explanation for this that Thana could conceive was that she was going absolutely nuts. Gabriel was probably in his seat just fine for all she knew, rodents probably the furthest thing from his mind. That was it! Thana was going delirious. The poor girl assumed the bear represented how ugly she was on the outside as she knew it and the inside as her grandfather always told her. The old fart loved to prattle on that no one would ever love her. Therefore she thought the rat represented death, the fact that the rat was acting like the boy she had a crush on was likely a sign of her desire to die and how she and Death wished to be bedfellows in this fucked up teenage life of hers.

The rat turned to Thana, the rat that was Gabriel, and spoke. Thana braced herself as Gabe’s muzzle began to open wondering in terror what was going to come out. “Calm yourself Ms. Verde, see me after class and be glad for this fact. You are not a man. Unless you wanted to be one, in which case I am deeply apologetic and you have a small portion of my condolences,” he said.

Thana blinked, that was definitely Gabriel. Being far more formal than anyone else at this deadbeat school, Use of last name when speaking to the opposite sex, big words for no real reason, british accent despite being Native American. This wasn’t a metaphor rat, this was really Gabriel. Thana nodded and began to work on the assignment given to her when she entered the room. She smiled, rat or human, he was still hunkalicious.

Gabriel sighed, he didn’t want to have to do this, but he took out his tail and began chewing on the tip of it. He winced, nearly breaking the skin of his invisible tail. This had been a stupid idea, and it would have been difficult to explain to the school nurse if it had been bleeding. “Yes I’m trailing blood because my large rodential teeth stupidly chewed through this tail I have and, oh don’t give me that look, it’s merely all invisible. May I have a bandage please?” Thana laughed, her spirits already being lifted by her favorite male specimen.

Eventually class ended and Gabriel was just a bite-a-bite-biting on his teeth, his chattering teeth trying desperately to get their master to BITE something. Bite and let loose with chomping like he had never done before, neither in his short time as a rodent or his 17 years of being a primate. His teeth were going like a wind up toy as he beckoned Thana follow him to a quieter part of the school. They knew they’d be late for class, but this seemed to be a priority. “First off Ms. Verde, please tell me you have some gum or maybe some bamboo.... I, fucking hell!” he rubbed his incisor as he thrashed his tail on the ground in pain. He had been emailed a link to some forums for people like him by his friend Cale just the other day and had taken the advice to cut a hole in the back of his pants. Humans don’t see it when his tail is through it, and as long as he does his own laundry his grandmother won’t question it. He was rather worried though that she’d just end up throwing them out. Cale had explained to him that she managed to convince her own family that it was the latest style amongst boys her age. Gabe considered, but thought it to be a wasted effort as his grandmother had a knack for not being able to pay attention to anything he said at a given time.

After giggling at the thrashing for a bit Thana opened her purse up and got out a stick to hand to Gabe. She had two of them in there. She blushed, although Gabriel didn’t see it through the fur. “When, this, started my nose went a little nuts and I just had these cravings. I went for a walk, following this wonderful scent and I found a small bamboo forest." Thana closed her eye, reliving her first post-human snack, the crunch of the bamboo, the flavor that would have seemed bland to anyone else but was like the greatest dessert to her. “Well it was delicious and I’ve been trying to learn how to make Bamboo Shoots. Maybe you can come over and I’ll make you one with beef, rats like those right?”

Gabriel eyed the bamboo stick with a chuckle of his own and began to chew. He began to see what she was talking about. Although it wasn’t tongue euphoric to him as it was to her he could taste some of the appeal and his teeth were singing his praises for this precious gift. “Indeed we do, you know, when I asked you for Bamboo I was merely telling a bit of a racist joke. I thought I smelt some but figured it was a placebo upon seeing a giant panda or maybe you had been near the Japanese Culture Club or a Herbology Group. Anyway thank you, thank you, Thana you beautiful creature you for this. Anyway before we run out of time, as I really do need to head on to ROTC fairly soon. In short, you’re a Giant Panda, like a furry, actually we are furries. You do know what a furry is right?” Gabe asked, as he tried pawing back the bamboo stick to Thana who had him keep it as she nodded. “Great you do, the only catch is that only furries can tell who is and isn’t a furry. Sometimes the transformation process loses track of one’s chromosomal alignment during the switch, happened to a friend of mine, he, she now, but I still call him he. Especially since only us, Changed, as we’re apparently called. Dumb name I know, I didn’t pick it. Can tell he isn’t a man.”

Thana nodded some more, but looked confused. “Chromo.... huh? Are you trying to say that it can swap your sex around... Does my voice sound deeper to you?”

Gabriel held up his claws, putting his thumb and index finger together. “A little now that you mention it, but I think that’s associated with being a bear. If you were going to sprout male genitals you would have done so already. My voice pitch has changed a little as well, actually more in tone than in pitch. But yes, it could have made you a man or me a woman with no way to reverse the process. Unless Cale was lying about that as well, yes I could quite picture that easily. He had tried coming onto me before this.”

“Cale’s your girlfriend?” Thana asked attentively, having big panda bear eyes, thinking she finally understood what “Chromosomal Alignment” means.

Gabriel put a very disturbed look on his face and gagged. “Don’t talk such rot, please, don’t do it. I’m definitely going to be late now. See me during lunch Thana, I’ll introduce you to Cale. Thank you for the bamboo stick, I need this so badly. I find that I need to chew now or my gums will give me a hell that quite comparable to crucifixion.” he slid the stick into his book bag after taking one more nibble off of it and thought to himself he’d definitely need to stop by and try a Bamboo Shoot, whatever that was, this thing was quite appetizing.

Thana had a lot to think about. She had an art class next which was a perfect place to think, but she admittedly did not know much about pandas. She knew that 99% of their diet was bamboo, but she didn’t have that much bamboo or know where to find it so reliably. She had eaten things that weren’t bamboo since becoming a bear, but tried not to as she both desperately wanted to lose weight, even more so now that she had practically doubled in size. She had been looking down at Gabriel, DOWN at him! She used to be slightly shorter than him. What man wants to date a woman taller than him? True he was a rat now and thus had shrunk, but still! As she took her seat in class she let her mind drift. In her vision of Paradise he was the bear and she was the rat! Many people didn’t like rats but Thana always found them so adorable! She wished she could keep some, but her grandfather thought they carried diseases. She had a cousin with some rats and a ferret and she would tickle their precious little rat tummies. If Thana were to repeat this act she may want to consider trimming her claws first.

In her class she decided to paint and paint she did letting her mind drift on how she believed reality should have aligned. Thana, the slim and trim, perky little ratgirl and Gabriel the big strong, but still quite cuddly, panda man! With a purple background, with stars and a full moon above Rat-Thana being embraced into Panda-Gabe’s arms, with a small bamboo forest surrounding them. She swooned as she daydreamed, allowing the paint to dry as she envisioned small cute eyes at her big strong man as they danced at the prom all eyes on the two of them. Thana’s pink scaly tail wrapped around her mate as they ballroom danced slowly. A good dream and one that would last the entire period.

Meanwhile Gabriel had just hauled ass across the catwalk which divided the AJROTC and the rest of the school. It went over a road which had a large fence dividing the streets to encourage students to use the catwalk, which was so named for Silver City High’s Mascot, the Wild Cat, ironically Gabe’s friend Cale who was a literal wild cat loathed the school and nearly tore her ears off after hearing the bland half-hearted cheer of “Let’s Go Wild Cats, Let’s Go!”.at the most recent pep rally. Though she did like the cheerleader formations, uniforms, and knew that her feline body would be perfect, but there was that everyone sees her as a guy problem. Before the change he had not been much of a runner, but being remade into this shape had done wonders for his ability to travel on foot. It was like being an average joe and then suddenly being hit with a bolt of lightning that made him one with the speed force. The running was anyway, the rest of it he was still getting a feel for. It paid off as he made it in seconds before the bell rang, panting thusly, the door closed on his tail. It didn’t slam, just propped it open. He turned around to look thinking about how it might seem odd to the humans, but pulled his tail loose in the process. The Colonel looked down at him with a frown.

“I didn’t say anything the other day now jungle juice, but you know we don’t allow hair dye. You’ll be getting a zero if you don’t have it fixed by the end of the week.” The large older man in the military uniform told Gabriel, who rubbed his headfur and looked up in its direction curiously. He breathed outward in a sigh.

“Yes Sir, Colonel Chaffins Sir, it was a bit of a prank of a friend gone wrong. I shall have it corrected ASAP.” Gabriel took a seat near the front. He was on staff and would go into the back office to attend to his duties soon and sniffed about for a few seconds. “Raccoon? Definitely a raccoon.” he said to himself and nodded and kept an eye out, it was likely someone in the backroom where the staff worked, outside of the smell coming from the vicinity that was definitely the infamous Alyssa, this one that wasn’t hers was definitely male, musky. No scent of any lingering feminine smells or girlish perfumes or make up. Which told him it likely wasn’t a de-crowning of one of daddy’s little princesses.

It was the same old, same old, no new announcements, or at least an announcement that Gabriel hadn’t already known about and he was quickly admitted to do as he would in the staff room where he saw the raccoon, another member of staff as he thought. Given a guess from the Star Of David dangling around his neck he determined it was Dave, the token jewish member and company commander. Going out on a limb he made a guess at it being him. “Dave we need to talk, there’s no reason to be concerned with the pile up of transmogrifications to the norm set forth by Gods and Devils unknown.... ” he looked around for another staff member and seeing only Alyssa who seemed to ignore him, Gabe wasn’t sure if she didn’t understand him or didn’t care, but figured it was a combination of both. “You have no reason to fear me or yourself for that matter.”

Dave the raccoon seemed not confused or freaked out, upset or worried, but instead actually quite pleased as he greeted the rodent with a smile. “Well hello to you too Gabe, Have a Happy Change Day?”

Gabriel raised an eyebrow confused by this turn of events “I’m now completely lost... How are you doing that.... How long has... What the hell is going on?... How did you recognize me..?”

Dave seemed like he had his tongue in his cheek, almost laughing as he mulled it over, after looking around and seeing that the humans outside the main office, where it was just the two furries and the human Alyssa, weren’t really paying attention, he used a quieter voice to talk Gabriel to ensure only their kind’s hearing could kick in.. Making absolutely sure. “Well I’m assuming either the bear, but more likely the tiger has already explained how the Change works, so now might be as good a time as any to talk about your accent.”

“How’d you know about Cale? Why do you want to find him? Also yes, he is, rather ridiculous that one.....” Gabriel responded, very confused, this seemed a little backwards. Also seen? What other way could he know about her.

“Cale?” Dave asked then he frowned for a second. “I am so sorry about your friend. They’re supposed to be quite rare. Never seen one in person. It’s wild, I mean could you imagine a long time friend suddenly turning into a girl? Crazy thing this change is huh? I just hope she’s coping well...... Nevertheless I’m glad you’re one of us now Gabriel. It’s a little weird at first, but unless the change completely screws you over it’s nothing you won’t get used to. It’ll be nice to have another fuzzy face back here. Wait till you get used to smelling things, when you master it it’s like a library of information that only we can access. I love tripping the skin monkeys up with it.”

“Yes, yes I can. I knew Cale back when she was a, I mean, when I thought she was a he” Gabriel was beginning to get a mild headache as he rubbed his head and began staffing work upon the computer. “And don’t worry, he’s coping just fine. Actually if either of us feel bad about his gender re-arrangement it is I.”

“Hehehe, what’s wrong? Wanna ask her out?I hear the TG’s get quite a nice look to them, a little gift from the ol’ Random Omnipotent Being to accommodate for the not being their old sex.” Dave joked, nudging his elbow into the rat as he began reviewing a clipboard. “Tell me, is it true?”

“I would never give him the satisfaction. Cale is still Cale, regardless of what he looks like now. You can tell him that yourself... but yes, his breasts are obscene in size, and he is only 15, so he’s not done growing them” Gabriel bursted out “His bra budget will have to be quite high, I’d imagine there isn’t a soul who would want that level of droopage.” The rat recoiled his face into a grimace as the disturbing image of Iris as an old woman filled his head.

“I smelled the tigress around here back in 05, you just became a rat a few days ago. You’re the one who transformed, not her, she’s been that way. If she’s cool with it and into you, I’d give her a shot. Soon we’ll all be Changed, if she’s as used to it as you claim she’s either very strong or very nuts. It can sound silly, but I’ve read the forums. There is a real scary element to the TG. When you change species it can be scary at first, then refreshing, but you’re still you when the hoopla is over, but when you change gender, it’s like an entire you just went missing and a new one will be leading you around the rest of your life. One with a different set of problem and worldviews you were never ready for.” Raccoon Dave explained himself seeming serious about this. “It’s why I’m glad I’m not a DS. There’s a lot of misery involved. But hey this one’s not all depressed and shit, and besides, if she used to have a dick then she definitely knows how one works.”

“You look more like a PSP than a DS to me,” Gabriel commented “That’s not a good thing; your battery life and UMD Format shall doom thy to a life of mediocrity and low sales!”

“Eh they’re alright. I mean where else besides a Dreamcast can you play Power Stone?” Dave asked.

“If you insist, your observation seems a little backwards to me, you’d think, 'Oh my god I’m a freak who isn’t even human,' would take priority over “I have breasts now!” political correctness is getting to a bit a tad unbalanced. I bet several try to take advantage of the tipped scale into the pink. In the more fur filled areas I mean.” Gabriel pondered “I suppose though that it would be considerably difficult for the opposite, a woman in a man’s world, especially with the way we just want to hand women everything because they’re chicks and can’t be assed to get it themselves, because they know they can just flash their tits and get it,” Gabe pondered “Well they are changing gender AND species, so, I’d imagine having nothing familiar to fall back on could be an issue.”

“Misogynist as always, Alyssa is going to hate that,” Dave commented with a laugh.

“Alyssa hates that men even exist,” Gabriel pointed out “Wait she’s Changed?” looking towards her vicinity “But she looks so human...... Long night shaving? Tail Dismemberment? Find a cure?”

“She should look that way, she is a human! I told her everything. I just had to tell someone my secret, it was getting kind of lonely with just me and she’s basically my assistant anyway, so why not?” He shrugged “If there’s some medical emergency she could be of assistance, well her and this” Dave flashed his wrist to reveal a silver bracelet much like Iris’ that read “Sleeping Sickness:Ivory Coast Variant, Requires Specialist”

“Cale has one of those too, his says “Venusian TiGer Variant, with the T and G both capitalized. Told me I should look into getting one, I have no insurance nor idea where to get one. Even if Cale hadn’t asked me not to go the doctor when this-” Gabriel paused and gestured around his whole body as his large tail thumped onto the ground all occurring when he said the word this, “happened. My grandparents would have just told me to sleep it off.”

“Interesting, I really should have known that a friend of yours was the cat I’ve been smelling. I feel so stupid for not realizing the tigress was a friend of yours. Yeah, Venusian TiGer, I have never heard of an SS Bracelet that had that..” Dave, recoiled slightly at his choice of words. “I think they all say Ivory Coast.... But yeah I’d get one anyway. You never know what’ll happen, you may pass out and the paramedics might think it was something you ate and may try to induce vomiting to wake you up.”

“I’ll ask him about it during lunch,” Gabriel stated “as I can see how that would be helpful.” referring to the fact that rodents are known for their inability to throw up, among other things.

“Can’t get heartburn either, benefits Gabriel, focus on the benefits. You’ll be much happier if you do. Now what do you say we go to lunch together. I usually have it here, but given the circumstances I may want to go with you.”

Eventually the block was over and their lunch period began Gabriel walked to the cafeteria with his feminist friend Alyssa and the raccoon Dave. Where he hoped to meet with a few other friends. Gabriel winced as he got near the cafeteria as the scent of poorly cooked meals, some of which having expired ingredients, if rats could throw up, he would. Dave found this amusing. “Nasal problems? You’ll get used to it newbie. This thing is like a sixth sense when you hone it.”

A young woman walked up slightly chubby, but very busty blonde with glasses, she had blue eyes and a denim jacket outfit with matching jeans, it was the human Alyssa. “Oh? Gabe changed? I thought he looked different. What is he... or she?”

“I’m a rat, Ms. Brown. To be precise an albino, fancy rat. Still a male fortunately. I am not a carrier for the Cooties Virus nor the Kitchen Stayitis.” Gabriel responded in snide as he held his nose to protect himself from the horrendous scents.

“Grow up Gabe! I guess you aren’t Changed, you’re just as much of a rat as before!” Alyssa chastised as she folded her arms. “Well make sure the The Colonel doesn’t know though, we figured it would make an incident.”

Dave was reminded of something “Speaking of the Colonel, Gabriel I really would dye your head fur back to normal. ROB’s pretty good at taking care of us, if you try to edit your ghost image he’ll normally see what you’re trying to and adjust it. Within reason of course.”

Gabe nodded and debated wondering whether or not Cale needed to know, but ultimately decided he did not. “Don’t let Cale know please, I think it would be bad for her if she tried to make herself look more female on the outside.”

Dave nodded, with an uncertain look on his face.

The three cadets entered the cafeteria and heard a sound from behind them. “Hey Alyssa, Gabe, and whoever you are Coon-Boy. You can call me Iris cutie pie.” a familiar voice called out as a paw finger curled down Dave’s chest, who smiled. Some of the more darker colored students turned to find out if anyone was calling them coon-boy. Gabe looked uneasy as he noticed this.

“I thought that cat I smelled was a girl, but I didn’t know she was a woman! Hehe, well aren’t you friendly? Sorry doll, but no touching, I’m an officer in ROTC, so snuggling a boy, no matter how delicious he appeared to be, isn’t exactly in my best interests. But damn are you hot.” Dave flirted, or what Iris took for a flirt, as she purred in delight before taking her seat next to Gabriel.

“Are you a complete skank?” Gabriel said to Iris “Or are you trying to make Alyssa start another Femi-Nazi Speech?”

“When no one notices you have tits, you wanna jump anyone’s bone who does.” Iris argued

“Cale’s a girl? No.... I REFUSE TO ALLOW IT! Cale is not allowed to be a girl!” Alyssa protested “Turn back into a man this instant! An idiot like you doesn’t belong in my gender.”

“You know?!? Huh, well I only state that I’m a sexy tiger girl every time you try to have lunch. If you knew, I mean, my hair is flippin’ orange with black stripes! If you knew, why the hell did you think that was? An addiction to hair dye?” Iris asked some very valid questions. “Also I can’t love too well at least for certain weeks of the month. Being a chick is actually pretty cool, even when no one notices that you are one. It just feels.... right? Ya know?”

“Alyssa I specifically told you that I was looking for someone who smells like a tigress, acted like a tigress, or most important claims to be a tigress.” Dave shook his head, normally eating his lunch at the office, but deciding to eat it at the cafeteria for an alteration.

“My nose doesn’t work like that! How the heck do I know what a tiger smells like?” Alyssa defended, as Dave gave her a disappointed and annoyed looking face.. “Anyway, Cale’s an idiot, he doesn’t deserve to be a woman. Gabriel, tell Cale to stop it.”

“She” Iris corrected “I’ll stop being a girl when you stop being a femi-nazi.” knowing full well that both were equally impossible without some kind of breakthrough discovery that defied all odds and probabilities.

“...If you knew invisible violations of biology and zoology existed within our particular Paradigm, this really should not be even the slightest bit of a surprise to you, Cale isn’t even slightly subtle about anything. Also sure, I’ll turn Cale back into a guy, while I’m at it why don’t I just become a giant elephant and march in a parade for all the boys and girls of Silver City!” Gabriel replied.

“That’s very noble of you Gabriel to defend the honor of a true female from idiots like him, but aren’t you invisible? That would be a very boring parade.” Alyssa asked.

“No I’m not invisible, rattus sapiens and homo sapiens just happen to be completely identical. What kind of question is that? Of course I’m invisible, I’m also not a god damn Shape Shifter. Suck it up, you and Cale will use the same restrooms one day.... Unless what happened to him happened to you. Which is still very much on the table,” Gabriel insulted.

“You don’t have to be such an asshat about it,” Alyssa replied “Now get this bitch out of my sex and back where HE belongs!”

“Well to be most fair Ms. Brown, that is amongst one of the dumber requests you’ve had. I mean, don’t you find masculinity to be a blight on reality anyway. Maybe you should congratulate Iris over here on her success in self-improvement,” Gabriel jested as he got nothing from the school lunch, nothing smelt right, not even for a rat. He was beginning to better grasp why Cale usually just sat and talked.

“Why do I hang out with you two?” Alyssa asked as Iris leaned forward with a smile. “Get away from me!” she screamed.

“Because you loooooooooooove us?” Iris asked as Alyssa just hit her, which she laughed at. “I haven’t even started messing with you yet.”

Dave laughed as he began to stuff his face with the pizza he had bought from the Ala Carte which the more richer students paid for lunch from. “Iris was it? Anyone who bugs Alyssa is fine by me. Name’s Dave by the way, changed in 04. Big school huh. Strange that we haven’t noticed each other. I smelt you around, as creepy as that sounds.”

“DO NOT ENCOURAGE HIM!” Alyssa yelled “He’s just a troublemaker poking around in the wrong sex!”

“I’m female, and without a cock that seems like the right sex to me.... Also you don’t even see me as a girl, so, I don’t see why you’re so offended, just pretend I’m a boy. Gabe does and he can see me fully.. It’s a pity you can’t see me.. I really am a far different creature this way, I’d love to shed my skin for you Alyssa, it’s... breathtaking..” Iris corrected and purred in delight as she focused on her form, a paw on her chest, as she closed her eyes and breathed deeply then continued as Gabriel looked at her with what was supposed to have been concern, but with his eyes as they were she didn’t see that. “Have been since I was 10, back in 2001. You know Dave I did smell a raccoon, but I mistook you for an actual raccoon..... I guess a tiger is a little harder to mistake for a feral.”

“WHATEVER!” Alyssa exclaimed as she began taking a calm tone. “So Gabriel, what’s it like being a rat? Are you feeling okay?”

“That explains the sanity.” Dave replied to Iris “Most of the TG I’ve read about online are a little psychotic. No offense. Your gender seems to be a nice fit for you. I’m glad you like it. Yeah, a little bit harder than a raccoon.”

“None taken! Like I said, it feels surprisingly right. Like I was meant to be this way.” Iris answered “My friend CM is one too this year, but she hates not being a guy, though she’s one of those flip-flop. Kind of wish we all did though.”

“I’m aware, who DOESN’T know CM? Neat that you’re friends with her” Dave replied “Bear this year. Hmm.... would help those other TG’d, reading the TG Section on some of the forums is no cakewalk, could you imagining clinging to your lover, because she had in her eyes the final piece of your manhood left over, being afraid to leave her, but knowing that one August she would figure it out. Being able to change back would help them a bit and would be quite interesting for society, a lack of gender roles, a mixing of Geburah and Netzach, it would aid in the opening of the Binah for all mankind. Oh my....” Dave closed his eyes and began a short prayer, whilst Iris blinked at him.

“Was that in english?” Iris pondered

“I study the Kabbalah, Please let me finish.” Dave stated as he continued his prayer, Gabriel wanted to say something, but waited for his Battalion Commander to be done.

“In response to what you said, you are sadly mistaken David, he doesn’t have any sanity,” Gabriel responded when he finally did, “As for you Alyssa, I suppose so. I mean first it was a little weird, I ran into Cale here in the washroom and his shape gave me quite the fright as it was quite incompatible with my own, but things were quite alright. I guess it doesn’t really make that big of a difference. I’m shorter which kind of sucks. I could do without that.”

“I’ll say tiny!” Iris laughed and rubbed the top of Gabe’s head. “Look how short he is.”

“He doesn’t seem that short to me.” Alyssa said, wondering what she was supposed to be looking at. “In fact, you’re both the same height.”

“Veil’s in the way then, I’m twice his size now!” Iris giggled “I guess that makes you half the man you used to be Gabriel.... You STILL smell delicious by the way,” she said, sniffing the rat.

Thana had recently showed up having been caught up in the lunch line and she felt her heart sink as a striped bimbo sat down next to the man she loved. Sniffing him with a very pleased look on her face. She grabbed her tray of food and immediately sat down with a thunderous crash. “GET OFF OF HIM! RAAAAAAWWWWWWR!” she literally roared in Iris’ direction as Gabriel covered his ears.

“Thana, that is directly within the vicinity of my ears.” Gabriel told her in a pained and angered voice as he closed his eyes. His ears were ringing loudly and it was a few seconds before he could hear noises.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I could roar,” Thana stated as she looked down a little sad and apologetic, “You forgive me right?”

“It’s fine Thana, we are both within the confines of an adjustment period..... By Yog-Sothoth.. that was loud,” Gabriel exclaimed as he rubbed the ears atop his head.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Alyssa pointed out and looking very confused, looking around for the source of any loud noise. She gave up before looking Thana over “You look great today Thana, you grew out your hair! And did you lose weight?”

“coughlesbiancough” Iris joked.

Dave perked his eyebrow up “A Panda? And a Tiger? Aren’t we supposed to be based on animals in the area?”

“Thana’s Changed too! When’s my turn? I hope to become a beautiful butterfly, flying and caring only for the sheer basics of survival.....” Alyssa said as her tone shifted from a spectrum surprise, slight anger, and wonderment.

“There are at least four things wrong with what you just said.” Iris stated “The first is that you are already a dog.”

Gabriel and Dave both laughed, Gabe nudging Iris as if to say, “Good One Cale!” Alyssa stared for a second not getting it, glaring at Iris when she finally did.

“Oh David my comrade, were you not aware of the tiger and panda epidemic of 1998? Honestly I don’t know how we manage to survive in the aftermath of those trying Tiger-Panda times,” Gabriel stated sarcastically, earned a chuckle from Thana who looked him over, giving the evil eye to Iris who returned the gaze. Gabriel looked at Iris, and then at Thana, “Calm down both of you. Cale this is a friend from my history class and Thana this is my friend Cale, he happens to look like a girl, but I don’t really pay that much mind.”

“I am a girl!” Iris chipped up.

“Shut up Cale,” Gabriel said softly as Thana asked him if she could pet him, to which Gabriel responded with an, “As you wish Ms. Verde, pet away.”

Gabriel suspected that Thana fancied him, and by that he meant it was downright obvious. He hoped that Iris’ Affections and Thana’s Affections wouldn’t get competitive, he had hoped that Dave and her would have a one night stand and just get it out of her system. Iris clearly had more lust than love in her anyway. Especially given her reaction to just meeting Dave. Iris was a man to that rat regardless of what his eyes and ears revealed, and nothing was ever going to change that. Gabriel closed his eyes and gave into Thana’s petting, being somewhat envious of Cale’s ability to purr, he really had to admit her claws felt really good scratching softly behind his ears, “Marvelous.... Simply Marvelous...”

“Hey fatty, that’s my rodent you’re petting!” Iris stated as she brandished her claws “Get your own!”

Gabriel smiled as he opened one eye and looked towards his protective friend. “Cale, you really didn’t want to have done that,” he said as he closed that eye and hummed to himself as he and Alyssa enjoyed Thana punching Iris right in the face. Iris got up with a growl.

“You want a cat fight, you’ve got a cat fight!” Iris shouted as her fist flew towards Thana’s stomach which didn’t seem to hurt her at all, just angered her as she looked down at Iris and growled, but several students cried out in horror as all eyes were on Iris, no, all eyes were on Cale.

“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?! You can’t hit a chick!” a random male student called out.

“Seriously?!?! Violence against women, in public! What the fuck is this world coming too!?” a female student called out.

“Why would you even think that was cool?!?” Alyssa called up “This is why men are disgusting!”

“She’s a girl Alyssa.....” Dave stated “But, yeah all things considered, that was still rather stupid of her.”

Several students booed and berated her, some throwing their lunch at her which got her fur all messy. One guy even came up and tried punching Iris right in the face.

“Let’s see how you like it, stripey haired freak!” he called out as his fist tried to connect with Iris, who flinched. She remembered what happened last time her claws met human flesh, but the human’s fist never met tiger fur, instead it found itself entrapped in a pink rat claw, not that he could tell.

Gabriel clenched down on his wrist which began to draw a little blood from the human’s wrist, “Friend, I am most frightened as to inform you that I cannot allow you to do that. Thana is not even wounded in the slightest or most loose definitions of the concept, besides, as dumb as he is Cale is still a friend of mine and I cannot allow him to be placed within the hold of legitimate danger.”

“How the hell are you doing that?!?!” he screamed out in pain, looked a little scared as the crimson fluid poured from his hand.

Gabriel starred at him coldly, finally grinning and saying, “That would be my little secret, if you want to learn my other one that allows me to render your body asunder with ease, you greasy haired cretin, I suggest you leave him and the rest of my friends alone.”

Dave clapped slowly “I’m going to admit Gabe, that was pretty awesome. Ha, I like the new you, lunch and a show!”

“Our strength is not for hurting! You can’t let people hit girls, that’s just not cool!” he cried out as he tried to attack Gabriel with his other fist, but the swift spry young one of altered shape just caught that one too.

“Quoting a poster here in the cafeteria instead of coming up with your own words is just not cool. I am physically in every way your better, if you want me to prove this further, please continue. I can knock you onto your ass without even touching you, and I do believe you have a nurse’s office to visit.” Gabriel gestured toward the blood dripping out of the human, who nodded and ran freaked out and panicked as he left a trail of red. Iris hugged Gabe immediately afterward, who just brushed her off. “Cale.... you’re a tiger, I care not what happened between you and Jason, but know that my instincts as a gentleman who cannot stand to see a woman harmed got the better of me this time. Fight your own battles from now on, sir.”

“Changed is so not the right word for you. You think women can’t handle themselves?” Alyssa asked “If we can endure the pain of childbirth.....”

In unison both Thana and Gabriel told her “Shut Up Alyssa!”, the two then starred at each other with a smile.

“I thought you said I was a boy Alyssa, and didn’t deserve to be a girl, what happened with that?” Iris asked, giving Alyssa a look that made her uncomfortable

“.....Leave me alone Cale.” Alyssa said coldly, forgetting the point she was trying to make.

Shortly after a sheriff walked up and turned Iris around, locking her paws in cuffs. “You’re going to the principal’s office. I don’t know what was running through your head boy! But you’re in it deep!”

Gabriel whispered to Thana, who nodded, reluctantly. “Actually Officer, it was a misunderstanding, she, I mean he, was just joking around. He didn’t actually hit me.”

Iris seemed panicked at first, but then quite relieved. As she could move her paws again. “Thanks Thana, no hard feelings right? Gabe, that was the most badass thing I’ve ever seen. Are you a Sondeckis?”

“A what-now?” Gabe asked, tilting his head in confusion. “Is there more to these recent developments of mine that I should be aware of?”

“I’ve never heard of a, Son-whatever-the-hell-she-said.” Dave replied “If it’s a Changed Thing, it’s as new as you rookie.”

“A Fairy Tale, they don’t exist.” Iris stated, pausing a bit thinking she should be more clear, “No really, they’re just something CM made up. She’s a bit of a writer.” She heard the bell ring and her heart both rose and sank at once. She’d get to see Hugh again, but at the same time she’d be forced to put up with Mizzo again. “I’ll see you after school or online Gabe. Thanks again for the save.” As she left, Thana followed soon after leaning in, thinking about giving him a kiss, but chickened out.

The Sherrif turned to Gabriel “Alright, well what about the boy who left with the blood coming out of him. I’m going to have to ask you to hand over any weapons you have.”

“Oh not this again” Gabriel thought, but was far too wise to say that outloud, fortunately his fellow ROTC Staff Member was here to say the day.

“Actually. There were no weapons, what this cafeteria has seen is a display of the martial arts mastery that Cadet Captain Locke of the SCHS AJROTC has within his behind. We’re all ROTC here, you attack one of us, you better be ready to deal with this kind of thing.” Dave lied, the sheriff seemed to buy it and wished them all a good day.

Gabriel was relieved “We’re just saving each other’s tails left and right on this warm August Day. Most appreciated Dave.”

“We’re the Tomorrow People Gabe, we have to watch out for each other. I don’t think he’d be taking us too kindly if he could see what we really are. His response to your attack would have been, 'I knew you mutants would only cause trouble' humans fear change Gabriel. You are literally the end result of that which they choose to turn a blind eye to. They can’t see us because they don’t want to even know we’re here,” Dave told him, seeming the most serious he had been all day. “Part of the reason I told Alyssa is because despite her feminism and dumb blonde moments she is a loyal assistant and very much a valued and trusted friend. We must keep all of our friends close as they are literally the only reason we can hold onto our sanity.”

Gabriel sat back down, they were both high-ranking ROTC and thus had more leeway with things, still Gabe tried not to push it when he didn’t have to, but this sounded a little important, his enhanced speed would have to save him again. “Dave, I am a rat, you are a raccoon. We both know that outside of a few oddities like my massive tail or the bone in your pecker, we’re the same people we used to be. This does not really do anything to our minds. It’s just business as usual. In the end it’ll happen to everyone, society will make minor adjustments, no one will care by the time this all over. I guess it sucks for the TG because they’re just going to lose themselves more and more.... But as for us, we’re fine.”

“That’s true, but that’s only because of our friends. When this happened to me I went nearly insane, became scared of my own shadow, the stability of the world became questionable, and I hid my body from the world not knowing that was already being taken care of. Who was David now? What was he now? My mothers had both suggested that I be placed in AJROTC hoping it would whip me into shape. I climbed the ranks, my new body had quite the boost to my physical abilities, as it has yours. You caught both fists of Iris’ attacker, you have enhanced speed and agility in this state, just as I do, you’ve seen me lead Physical Training a few times. The humans can’t keep up.”

“Quite true,” The rat interrupted with an observant chuckle, “In fact, the other student’s inability to keep up with your stamina and agility is why Colonel Chaffins almost never has you lead PT.”

“Hehehe well it’s not my fault they can’t keep up with Nature’s Ninja! If anything I hope the Change gets people outside more. People are just lazy, I’m not a super soldier or anything,” Dave chuckled as he continued, “Volunteer work for the Corp helped get my mind back in order, the friendships with the humans here made me feel like I was David again. A Super Powered David, but that’s actually really cool and nothing worth complaining about. I had told Alyssa in my sophomore year because I had to have SOMEONE know, and she was also on staff. Plus no one really listens to her anyway, she’s a hard worker, but not very well liked. Thus I have returned to humanity, not quite, but close enough. You mentioned being terrified of Iris when you first saw her as she really is and then being calm when she explained everything. No one explained anything to me Gabriel and I almost lost it, if Iris hadn’t met you in that bathroom could you focus on anything else for the rest of the day? If you met Iris later, you would run from her and be quite late in realizing that she was in fact your friend Cale, but by that time the image of the monster trying to kill you would be stuck in your head and your relationship with her, forever tarnished. You got lucky Gabriel and had friends who cared, that is why you are still sane.” David’s voice only got more serious. “You were both incredibly lucky, Iris was there to act as a net for your sanity and accepts herself as female even though you don’t. If that had happened to us we wouldn’t be Gabriel or Dave anymore. You know how crazy hormones can make you, you know how much our society hangs up on Gender Roles, and the LBGT do not have the best union, and you know that every year, more and more people are able to see us for who we are.”

Gabriel mulled this over, thinking his friend actually had some good points. “I admit Dave, you were rather mopey two years ago, isolated from other people, keeping to yourself, but you have turned things quite around. You’re both quite loved by many in ROTC and an even higher rank than I am and we started in the same year.”

“I was, and you never have to go through that. Keep your friends close Gabriel, humanity has 14 years left according to the experts, which were only called in 3 years ago, I’m amazed that they were able to find the correct type of experts for something like this, all of us being Changed on August 17th 2020. That’s not a lot of time for a species, but it’s an eternity for a single man. In this time, think not about what’s going to happen to humanity, think about what’s going to happen to Gabriel Zedimouse Locke, and with that I wish you well, oh and word of advice stay away from asprin or tylenol, it has traces of rat poison and will kill you. You make a swell rat Gabe, I’m glad you’re one of us now and among people who care.” Dave got up and went to his next class, quickly replacing his smile and thinking happy thoughts.

“You know I don’t use that pussy stuff anyway...” Gabriel replied “Very moving, but a giant waste of time. I didn’t know he had a sappy side,” he told himself as he sprinted onward to his discreet math class. “I’m a rat, big fucking deal. Lots of people are rats, apparently.... I shall not fall prey to this Us Vs Them Mentality.” He sprinted quickly with destination in mind.

“Watch where you’re going rat!” a golden retriever girl called out shaking her fist at him. “Wait, rat? There’s others like me?”

Gabriel stopped and looked back for a second before continuing onward to his discreet math class. “Tons miss, tons, you were a miss before this right?”

“Yes, why? Were you a miss before this?” The dog woman looked at Gabriel as if he were crazy.

“No, but I’m beginning to wonder what’s amiss now, don’t worry you’re not crazy,” Gabriel called out to her. “I might be though......” he said under his breath as he sniffed the air and smelt the particular smell of horse. “By the gods, there was a sub the other day. This scent better not mean what I think it does.” He closed his eyes and stepped into the room seeing a brown mare sitting at a desk, trying to work a calculator, but failing due to her hooves.

“Gabriel? Is that you?” she asked, “It’s me, your teacher, Mrs. Abrams. Do you know what’s going on with.... uhh.. all this.”

“Yes, I’m having quite the marvelous day at the zoo, and it’s me, I think.” He looked towards the desks and saw a nerdy, but quite pretty squirrel girl in glasses and a nanny goat talking to a buck both dressed like gang members outside of the door, just passing by. Gabe heard part of their conversation.

“I woke up with this shit on my head and so far nobody’s said a damn thing.”

“Yeah I don’t get it either.... Is that rat in there talking to a horse?”

“Yeah we’re trippin’ these shrooms again, How long does this high last again?”

“Should already have... This is some primo stuff, it even feels hotter in here... and I swear these jugs feel fucking real, and I can’t piss standing up neither!”

“Haha! The shrooms only made you a chick cause you’re a fucking fag.”

“Man shut the fuck up! At least I look good!”

Gabriel blinked at that, twitching, “Or you can go with that theory from the gentleman and former gentleman outside. What did the squirrel in the back come up with when you asked her, or him?”

“Actually Erika says she doesn’t know and has been like that and I just never noticed apparently.” The very confused mare stated “Not like anyone else has noticed me, what about you?”

Gabriel shrugged, “Only a striped buffoon, a panda, a dog, and a raccoon. Only two Changed in Silver City High my ears...., no humans though.”

One of those still human in the class raised his hand and asked, “Mrs. Abrams, what are you and blondie even talking about? Also I totally dig the brunette thing!”

Gabriel took his seat as he stated in jest, “I agree, maybe you should have it done up in a ponytail.... And already I sound like Cale.”

“Wait I think that’s Gabriel. Do they let you dye your hair in ROTC now?” someone called out.

The Squirrel shook her head and buried her face in a book, “I swear this happens every single time I move to a new town. No one notices either of you two, now please get on with the lesson, your former lives are over, but school sure isn’t. Oh and hi Gabriel, glad you could finally make it, and welcome to The Changed, you and Mrs. Abrams.... I guess,” she yawned and didn’t seem to notice or care that everyone, including the teacher, was staring at her. “What’s a Changed?” a student asked.

“I think it’s a new gang,” one student answered.

“I had heard Gabe cut someone up during lunch! Maybe it was an initiation. I don’t get the name though. Changed? Changed into what? Is that some kind of Metaphor for some new age crap?” one student called out.

Gabriel decided to sit far away from the squirrel hoping to detract stares from him. “I just don’t care anymore... I really don’t......” he muttered under his breath.

Meanwhile in a different fourth period, Iris walked into Mizzo’s class. “Howdy Mizzo, Howdy Losers, Howdy Hugh.”

Hugh smiled and let out a “Yeehaw, Howdy Cale! How’s creepy crawly been?”

“Creepy Crawly?” Iris asked

“Gabriel, he’s a rat right? That’s what I heard from this raccoon guy on the way over here.” Hugh stated.

Iris blinked “Mizzo I think Hugh’s gone senile, also I just want to state for the record that I have no idea what he’s jabbering about.”

“Actually I thought I heard some people talking about turning into animals in my last class,” Minole stated in his normally grating voice.

Iris looked around the room unsure what to think or say. “Yeah I’m just gonna go......” as she slowly tried backing out of the classroom when she heard two voices, the first made her speed up.

Justin began opening his mouth too. “Is that why I saw you and Hugh as werewloves?”

Mizzo sighed, “Minole, Williamson, Phileas, I thought I mentioned several times not to talk about video games in my classroom.”

All three spoke out at once “BUT!”

Mizzo yelled this time “I SAID STOP IT!.... Okay? Cale get in your seat before I call the sheriff. Word travels fast in this school. I’d hate for you to have another run in with him. Also shame on you, you should know to treat women nicely! We’ll have to work on that apparent sexism of yours. I’m very disappointed in you.”

Iris buried her face in her desk “.......And the Changed Conspiracy is now officially dead, and hopefully soon so shall I..... Why am I talking like Gabriel?”

Hugh spoke out “But Ms. Mizzo, Cale IS a girl!”

Iris pondered whether to dignify that with a response, bang her head on the desk, or jump out the window. She should have realized a bunch of idiotic teenagers in a run-down school in the ghetto could never keep a secret. She cursed CM’s name for his/her correct calculations. The Tigress had been smelling them all day. There had been a Teenage Changed Boom in Silver City.

Mizzo just stared at Hugh like he was an idiot before carrying on with her lesson plan and Iris pretended to care, she would have caused one of her usual outbursts about how her teacher’s lesson plans were stupid and were more befitting of kindergartners whilst the most advanced case of Autism here had the mentality of a 3rd Grader at worst, but didn’t want to do anything that would cause Mizzo any trouble as she wasn’t entirely sure if she was keeping anything she had heard about the Change a secret.

During free time Iris grabbed Hugh and walked to a private corner of the room. “Hugh, I thought I made this clear. Mizzo and the school cannot know about what we really are or they will try to hurt us. I am transgendered, so they think I’m a boy. Now hopefully this will turn out to be a really bad dream. I’m going to be target A! I practically told everyone I ran into that I’m a 'Sexy Tiger Girl' I thought that they thought that I was kidding. It was my own little personal joke. and I forgot to tell Gabriel about the Changed Boom, oh well maybe Dave told him. I hope. So I want you to be very careful and tell no one that you’re a snow leopard or that I am a tigress. I’ll start wearing a hat or something.”

Hugh just sat there looking completely lost. “Cale, I have no idea what you just said. Are you doing the bleeding thing again? Dad says girls go crazy when that happens.”

Iris twitched her eye “I fail to see how you could have known Rob or CM for any period of time if you know this little about our situation.... Okay, we’re supposed to keep it a secret that we’re animals because humans would find our appearances frightening and it certainly wouldn’t help for them to know that some of us are trannies. There are countless teenagers here actively talking about how they’re animals, they must have thought the Change Day Change was a hallucination and stayed home, and now they won’t shut up about it. I was going to tell Gabe about this so he’d watch his tracks, things sort of went out of control, something involving a panda bear. I’m still not sure it feels like a blur right now..... AND WHO TOLD THAT NITWIT Alyssa!?!”

“Mr. Hallman told me that we only turn into animals based around where we live,” Hugh said, in reference to the Panda. Iris was positive that that was the only word he had paid any attention to.

“Oh yes I forgot about all the tigers and snow leopards that roam the forests of Silver City and Blackburg,” Iris said, repeating the joke she heard from Gabriel.

“Really? That’s awesome, I’ve never seen a snow leopard that wasn’t me,” Hugh stated

“That was a joke Hugh,” Iris stated, annoyed, frustrated, and fearful for the future. “I thought Gabriel’s Change was the only thing I’d have to worry about. Why does CM always have to be right about everything!?!?! Almost everything anyway....”

“Almost everything?” Hugh pondered.

“She seems to think being turned into a girl is a terrible terrible thing. You don’t hear me whining about it,” Iris joked.

“Doesn’t he turn back into a man anyway? He was a boy-rat, kinda like Gabriel, but brown when I met him,” Hugh asked

Iris shrugged “Well he’s a Mama Bear right now.”

Hugh didn’t really get why Iris was worried, he didn’t understand what could be bad about people not laughing at him when he claims he’s a snow leopard. So he began talking about Power Rangers whilst playing Connect Four with her, this seemed to cheer her up as she was a closet fan of the series.

At the bus stop Iris ran into Gabriel and hugged him deeply, the height difference burying his face into her over plumped bosom. Gabriel shoved her. “You’re a man and everyone else here thinks so too, do not give me random attacks from Marshmallow Hell! They are NOT appreciated, I’m seeing Thana now anyway.”

“But she’s a big fat Panda, and I’m a sexy tiger girl with the bust of a pornstar,” Cale manually bounced her tits as she said that with her paws, then turned around, lifted her tail and smacked herself on the rump. “The ass of a black babe,” proceeded to make a murring sound. “The purr of a kitten,” finally lifting her shirt up to the bottom of an ill-fitting bra that she snuck out of her mom’s room, “and the waist of a supermodel. How could you possibly pick her over me? I’m a dream girl!” Iris asked, so ticked off that she had once again forgotten that she had something important to tell her bestest friend in the whole wide world.

“Well for starters, I actually happen to like bigger girls,” Gabriel stated as Iris purred a second time.

“So do I!” she said in immediate response, her mind drifting somewhere else.

“Charming, go see if you, Alyssa, and Dave can wrangle yourself up a three way then..... I know you have a crush on her anyway. And she knows now that you’re missing a penis, her favorite kind of man!” Gabriel was joking, he knew Alyssa hated Iris for her sense of humor and the fact that it was not really a secret that she fancied her and Alyssa was at least as far as he knew heterosexual as the two had gone out back when Gabriel was a human, but had his suspicions about her. He loved keeping her around because he liked making sexist jokes at the expense of her status as a feminist, and admittedly would find it funny if she did become a man. Alyssa usually hung out with Gabriel during lunch if she wasn’t busy with her duties at ROTC, even though it was usually a sure thing Iris would be there. Gabriel loved seeing those two get into it. Iris mainly joked around in a misplaced bit of affection, her pitching woo needed some help for both of the sexes she seemed to be interested in. Gabriel and Alyssa were in ROTC as elite ranking staff members, and both were in the Japanese Culture Club, so they usually saw each other then. Gabe admitted that he wasn’t quite sure why Alyssa considered him a friend given that he was both male and not usually kind to her, Iris actually being so all the time when she wasn’t clowning around with her. He just assumed that she had some kind of fetish or abuse or just enjoyed seeing a familiar face, though to be fair, Gabriel’s taunts never exceeded boyish pranks and never involved causing any part of her harm except for her ego.

“If I put on a few pounds would you go out with me?” Iris asked “I mean, I am your best friend! Also an endangered species, I think you’re violating some wildlife protection law by dating her instead.”

“No, although I admit that is a clever excuse, doesn’t work here however because Bengal Tigers are less endangered than Giant Pandas, also I’m a Fancy Rat, can we even breed?.” Iris was about to say something, but Gabriel continued to speak as he didn’t exactly care about the answer. “And that’s another reason, probably the biggest, no it IS the biggest one. I like having you for a friend Cale regardless of what your flesh is molded into, true you are an incredibly dashing woman and far easier on the eyes like this than you were before and any chick would kill for your body like yours... re-tailored to fit their species of course... no homo of course. I’d hate it for a bitter break-up to drive us apart, plus I do dig the idea of being able to go out with my girlfriend without those still normal mistaking me for a homosexual, because of that alone, even if I hadn’t known you prior to all this.”

Iris interrupted “You can breed with any variety of Changed Woman and the child would either be a rat, or whatever the mom is. No hybrids, which sucks because I think a Skunk-Tiger Hybrid like Zig-Zag from Sabrina Online would be awesome! You can’t however get a human pregnant, which is why you prefer Changed to Humans now. Which is why I’m confused for why you don’t want to tame me like the half-beast I am. I mean I just want you to....”

Gabriel looked away and stopped listening in an attempt to drown the obscene actions Cale was describing out of his very being, he didn’t want to admit that he did actually find Cale far more attractive physically, but only physically, than he did many of the girls in their school, though he had to admit that Golden Retriever and Squirrel chicks had quite a bit going on, the goat was eh to him, although the “Consolation Prize” effect as some called it did make TG’d women far more curvaceous and well-rounded than an ordinary Changed Woman and did the same thing to TG’d Men turning them into beefcakes, was working well on the goat girl, who looked far better going than coming. She had quite the booty on her! The rat liked fur on a girl, at least now he did, but felt that a beard was a bit too much of a deal breaker. And explained why he had a sudden fondness for Furry Artwork. Though it did explain why he found Thana so ravishing now, when he wasn’t really that interested when they were humans, though the fact that a lot of her stomach went into other parts of her body did not hurt this.

Eventually he turned back to Iris, needing a minute to clear his thoughts. “The idea that you and I have the ability to produce a child makes me feel rather unclean and I will require a shower when I get home.” Truthfully, he was now half-tempted to get a vasectomy. “That and several dozen gallons of shampoo, unless soap works like the shoe thing. How the hell does that even work?” he said in reference to the mystical force that made any and all shoes fit on a changed body, by displaying them on their ghost images, leaving their true selves quite barefoot. It was a mixed blessing, like many aspects of the Change.

“Let me tell you about this magic invention created ages ago called a condom, some say that it was created by mysterious beings that can’t smell or climb trees worth a damn called a Human or a Homo Sapien. Some say they were created by God himself in his image to name the beasts of the Earth. Personally I like to think that they evolved, just like we did, from another strange creature called a Homo Erectus, which evolved from various strange creatures, only that process didn’t take three days, but millions of years, and yet still managed to give them the most useless excuse for claws I have ever seen, also seriously, that trick you did with that guy’s wrists, that was awesome. Anyway This condom the ancient scriptures tell us about is worn on the male, such as yourself, and collects deposits of semen. Get this, the collection of the semen prevents any of it from touching an egg, which prevents females, such as myself, from getting pregnant! Surely these humans were way ahead of their time and could foresee the disastrous results of a Locke-Vinole baby and the havoc that the tiger or rat would have upon the innocent people of Silver City!” Iris said jokingly, pulling one from her back pocket and handing it to Gabriel while making fake ghost noises in an attempt to be funny “Wooooo! Woooooo!.... Okay seriously can you drive me home, we do need to talk.”

“Hilarious..... but I agree, please come with me. Your attraction to me has not gone unnoticed and we do need to get that right out of the park immediately....” Gabriel said rolling his eyes as Iris followed him “Cale, I don’t want to sleep with you, date you, kiss you, or even touch you. I want a woman that I can be with, be seen in public with, can marry without families and friends asking so many questions, have a child with that isn’t a freak of nature, at least not so in comparison to the one you’d produce. You are not that woman, I only want to be friends with you. You can have that, but nothing more. Please take it, I’d hate to lose you as a friend. I’ve come to truly enjoy your company over this year.”

“.....Who are you and what have you done with Gabriel?” Iris asked with a hint of concern in her voice “What happened to the Gabriel I know that goes around banging girls all the time?”

“I’ve never gone around banging girls all the time,” Gabriel stated “Actually I still have my V-Card, admittedly not through lack of trying.”

“Aren’t you not supposed to tell your friends that?” Iris said as she got into Gabe’s van which they had recently arrived at.

“Yeah, because other men make fun of you, you’re supposed to lie about it. But you don’t really have any friends who aren’t me that even know what sex is, and honestly I no longer feel threatened at all by your potential sexual prowess,” Gabriel stated “You’re a virgin too... Unless you were a really kinky 10 year old.”

“Prove it” Iris crossed her arms, this time waiting to do so until AFTER she buckled her seatbelt, some left over masculinity in her still apparent even after five years. “I could have slept with half the school for all you know.”

“Okay, given that this is high school and we live in a homophobic era at a school that does not allow homosexuals to attend prom if they’re on a known gay list, tell me about all the men you’ve slept with lining up to get a piece of that ass.” Gabriel challenged.

“....................” Iris opened her mouth, but closed it, she thought about lying and making up a Changed One, but her friend would know that’s a lie as Iris had already told him that he was the first one other than herself and Hugh who has the mentality of someone 8-10. “Well what about that Miranda friend of Alyssa’s. I go both ways, so....... Who said it had to be a guy?”

“Okay, with what?” Gabriel asked, planning to call the bluff. “How did you possible accomplish that given your anatomical structure. I am most positive Miranda, who is human, like most women, would be quite turned off by the idea of a man using a strap-on.”

“My tail?” Iris asked, but sounded unsure “It’s long and kind of phallic.”

“Why are you asking me that? I wasn’t there..... and neither were you.” Gabriel deduced correctly.

“How did you know that I hadn’t actually been over to her house. You just admitted you weren’t there either?” Iris asked.

“....Do you ever think before speaking? You literally just told me, Fox Boy,” the rat said as he stopped for a red light and gave Iris a sharp look that said “I can’t believe you’re really this stupid.” with only his eyes.... or might have if he had pupils.

“Your eyes are still creepy.” Iris looking very uncomfortable as she looked into the red soulless looking eyes. “You can look back to the road now.”

“I hadn’t noticed, I guess the old 'Cale-Is-An-Idiot' stare is still in operation.” Gabe said, leaning closer “Don’t you want to stare into my crimson optical tissue lovingly and declare your love for me!” his voice becoming, not angry, but scary.

“You can look away now!” Iris said in vain putting on a more uncomfortable face and leaning back a bit. After looking back to the traffic light she screamed “THE LIGHT IS GREEN!”

“So it is,” Gabriel continued driving, shaking his head disapprovingly “You’re literally a cat scared of a mouse.. You ARE aware of this? I am not speaking metaphorically... You, the Tiger, are scared of a rat staring at you.... You would have never survived as a man. Dave was right, you are lucky. Oh and you wouldn’t be able to look me in the eye whilst we made”.... Gabriel felt uncomfortable saying the world and could not believe he actually said “Made Love” and “You” in the same sentence when “You” referred to Iris/Cale.

“How are you a virgin? You were seeing all those girls during my freshman year.” Iris asked seeming very confuzzled, “There were like five of them!”

“I had been dating and courting them, that’s very different from sleeping with them.” Gabriel pointed out.

Iris scratched her head fur and shook her head “I don’t understand the difference.”

“I am quite aware of your ignorance in that mannerism, and that is yet another reason why we are not seeing each other romantically. You have no idea what the difference between lusting after someone and being in love with someone. The only reason you want to have relations is because I’m the only bloke who can find your damn clitoris. Any relationship with you would have no romance whatsoever. You don’t want to be the woman who falls in my arms as you dream of me. You’re just an unnoticeable high school handjob queen, whom all of the jocks would use like an old towel were they able to see this version of you. With a libido like yours you’re lucky no one is interested in taking advantage of you” Gabriel had explained.

“Don’t you mean Pawjob Queen?” Iris insisted. “Also advantage of? I have claws, sharp teeth, and am a tad stronger than most boys my age, a lot damn more agile too. You saw me at the trestle!”

“I will drop you off, right here on the side of the street.” Gabe stated with a hint of annoyance to his voice. “Also I saw how well you can work with your claws in the cafeteria today. Very nice, I especially liked the part where you flinched and accepted your fate of getting punched in the face leaving me to have to stop you from being black, orange, and blue.... I blame you for my recent animal puns by the by. And no, I’m not fighting a battle for you again.” Gabriel meanwhile knew in his heart that he could not let a woman get hurt or attacked by a man under any circumstances, unless they absolutely called for it. Like say for instance if she had a gun to your face. Though Iris had no gun to anyone’s face, especially not after Thana sent her to the floor so easily. Thana was very tough for a girl, tougher even than some of the local ruffians and stories were told of this all across the school. The other girls believed Thana to be a freak because of it, she seldom got along with them.

The rodent and the bear were mere acquaintances when they were human and merely saw each other around the school She showed affections for them and he never returned them. Though he had to admit, pandas were adorable! And even though he wasn’t a member of the Furry Fandom he had liked looking at pictures of them, his one guilty furry based privilege. As such he was jumping at the chance to date one, especially since she might be the only one in the continental US if Dave wasn’t talking out of his ass. Her rarity however was not as precious as it being the perfect excuse for Cale to stop trying to sleep with him. Gabriel and Thana could really use one another, of the Changed the two knew personally only they had actually changed. Iris and Dave had been in their new bodies for a good while and were very used to the strange double life it presented. Gabriel and Thana are just now beginning to piece together what this could possibly mean. This whole being Changed the whole time aspect to Cale and Dave was throwing him off. But still it just went against his personal code of honor to not defend a female friend in trouble, his brain on the other hand was repeating, “Cale is not a woman, Cale is not a woman, Cale is not a woman...”

“Sorry, but what are the odds that anything like this would ever happen? The whole world is turning furry, and I am in the Furry Fandom, so that makes the puns fun, fun-puns! Learn to laugh at them you rat bastard!” Iris apologized.

“....That is precisely the ordeal that threatens my mental facilities and their continued function, can you imagine the Earth if EVERYONE was a god damn furry. I can hear them now 'Hey Gabriel, I’ve got some cheese for you', 'Bright eyed and scaley tailed Mr. Locke?' 'I smell a rat!' 'You dirty rat!' 'Oh Rats! It’s Gabriel!' 'Nice Eyes, been getting stoned lately?' honestly I can’t imagine why Dave didn’t use that one on me. Especially since he knows I smoke,” Gabe stated.

“Hey they’re not so bad, there’s plenty on the forums.” Iris said “A lot of them are great and I can’t wait to use them in public.”

“They will get stale so fast, The Discreet Math Teacher is a horse! A MARE! When everyone is Changed, there won’t be any way for her to enter a bar, imagine it! Every time she goes in there “'Hey pretty lady, why the long face?' or 'How can I go about getting a ride from you?' or 'Feeling Horse? What’s wrong? Hoof In Mouth Disease?' And what about you, you’re a cat there’s like 500 jokes one can make about that, and a tranny! I should start using those on you so you don’t blow your brains out when you’re 29 and a former member of an extinct species. 'Man up you pussy with a pussy!' 'Hey, what smells like fish, your groin or your stomach?' I’ve got a million of them!” Gabriel ranted

“You seem very cross about this, it’s not that big of a deal, sides they’d likely become social taboos like Black Jokes or Jew Jokes today. Also I love fish! Actually I used to really hate it, but dietary changes happened. Have I told you about those?” Iris asked.

“I’m not entirely sure, you might have, but I guessed that when Thana showed up this morning eating bamboo. I hope she realizes that Pandas ARE just as carnivorous as actual bears.” Gabriel replied. “Fortantely, I’m just as omnivorous as ever and can devour what I please.”

“Not Rat Poison though. Awww Poor CM..... I just realized that not only can she not eat meat on fridays, she can’t eat meat for 1 year out of every four. That must be terrible!” Iris commented

“That guy who keeps Changing? Probably not, his taste buds likely change when he can’t eat meat..... and did you just try warning me 'Don’t Eat Rat Poison'..... Do you REALLY need to tell someone not to eat Rat Poison? Okay were you dropped on your head as a baby or does being turned into a girl just make you an airhead?” Gabriel asked sarcastically in a bitter tone.

“Don’t you mean dropped on my head as a kitten? Also what’s with you today? Are YOU having piano recitals now?”

“No I don’t mean that at all, please stop making animal puns.... Oh God! AND NO, I DON’T MEAN OH ROB! My dad is never going to let me hear the end of it.” Gabriel banged his head on the steering wheel as he passed his driveway to take Cale home. “It’s on Blue Clay Road correct? Which house?”

“Does your dad hate rats or something? Wait I thought you lived with your grandparents,” Iris asked with a small hint of concern in her voice as she suddenly remembered what she had to tell Gabe.

“He lives in the second trailer and no honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as one himself, he just loves puns and he would never stop talking, every time I interacted with him he’d try offering me pellets, petting me, and start calling me 'Rat Bastard' or offer to play games with me just to call me a 'Dirty Cheating Rat'... EACH AND EVERY TIME!” Gabriel rubbed his head as he started to get a migraine. “Clearly whoever is responsible for the Change is history’s greatest monster.... They’re evil enough to turn you into a tiger girl just to fuck with me I bet!”

“What’s this really about? Is it the other Changed? Did they make fun of you or something?” Iris asked “Also I’ve BEEN a girl, you remember that right?”

“It slips my mind at times, I mean you’ve always been off but part of me wants to keep thinking that we just happened to change at the same time. I’m a grown man, that is not it, I can take some insults... I guess seeing so many just made me realize that world is going to change and there is nothing we can do about it. At first it didn’t seem like my life was going to be that different, but it will be. I’m just a little worried, I’m a rat afterall.... a prey race and everyone else is something majestic for the most part. I got my ass kicked back in middle school, life was turning around for me. Respected in all my classes, High Ranking in AJROTC, and even Mizzo doesn’t fuck with me even though it’s blindingly obvious that she’s not the best person for the job. And now all the students are becoming cooler animals left and right, I’m worried about becoming an outcast again. That may sound silly to you, but....... I’m worried that the future will change everything and I won’t like it. I mean I have enhanced abilities sure, but soon everyone else will too. What if their instincts kick in Cale, I’m a chew toy.... What if the change gets worse and YOUR instincts kick in Cale.”

“I act like a girl, am emotional like a girl, and have the anatomical oddities of a girl and have I mentioned that my ghost image has striped hair as you’ve already seen, oh yeah I was popular back in middle school, especially since my RDF wasn’t very strong, it rarely is on kids, but mine beefed up after awhile, never fixed the hair, but still never look a gift horse in the mouth. So sometimes I looked more female at times, never completely a girl, just enough to be ridiculed. I didn’t mind the nicknames, I actually LIKE being a girl, so being called Lady Vinole, Stripes, Cale-ena, Kitty, Hello Kitty, Tigress, those things weren’t really insulting to me. I nearly got expelled for fighting back. And I LIKED fighting, I usually won and several times drew blood! It didn’t help that they thought I was gay which they didn’t openly discriminate against, but it didn’t win me any favors with the homophobic staff.. Telling my bullies 'You’re just jealous, because I’m a Sexy Tiger Girl!' after beating them up didn’t really help matters. Especially since in Elementary School I was in a Behavior Management Class for my Autism or ADHD as they claimed at the time....”

“You’re a cat, ADHD comes with the territory. I do believe there is most definitely something wrong with you. But Autism? Not so much.” Gabriel suggested “Also that’s not a traumatic middle school story. That’s an awesome Middle School Story because you got to beat people up.”

“Are you kidding? They thought I was nuts, after finally winning a losing battle against my nimrod of a psychiatrist, I was asked to see one and nearly put in fucking juvie! FOR DEFENDING MYSELF! My family fought really hard and played up the Autism Card to keep me out. Between that and nearly killing my old friend Jason, that’s why I didn’t fight back at lunch today. Anyway, after seeing the geniuses in Mizzo’s class and being told they’re my intellectual equals, I fully believe you!!! But, this was 1999, Changed Class of 2001!... So... No claws at the elementary school. I was autistic, so the school had me placed in a Behavior Management Class where guess who was the only white kid. Ironic given my current shape, after all aren’t tigers from Africa?

“Africa, Asia, and India...... You really don’t know that? I would have assumed that you’d have wanted to browse every single tome available to you to become the grandmaster of tiger knowledge after spontaneously becoming one for no explainable reason. I’ve been reading up on rats left and right. I actually like some of the abilities it comes with.”

“Anyway, Behavior Management Class, and I was the white boy! As you can imagine I was beaten up on a daily basis for all of fourth grade! I was transferred out and into a more caucasian friendly class, but that wasn’t until fifth grade. In SIXTH GRADE I didn’t really have any bully problems for the most part, so when I get my claws I was kind of thinking “Well gee, that would have been useful two years ago.” well actually it was more “Hey where did my thingy go? And why do these small bumps on my chest feel so tingly?”, it actually took me awhile to figure out that I wasn’t a boy anymore because I didn’t really know anything about anatomy at the time because like I said, I was ten, but I digress. I couldn’t get the teachers to really listen to me when I said that the other students were beating the ever loving crap out of me and calling me 'White Shit' and 'Slave Driver' and telling me how much of an evil person I was for daring to have white skin in a country where the majority of people have white skin. Oh sorry Shaquan, let me get right on fixing that! I’ll just go down to the free skintone store and get something in a nice manly blue! How’s that for you! The worst part is they practically brainwashed the few friends I did have, talking about slavery and civil rights, regardless of the fact that these happened before I was born and that they were completely betraying their ancestors by attacking someone who wishes them no harm based solely on the color of their skin! They didn’t join in on the fighting, but they stopped talking to me and refused to sit with me during lunch and kept acting like I wanted to hurt them. I tried fighting back, but ironically turning in my man card was probably the best thing to happen to my combat ability, that hadn’t occurred yet as I said earlier. So I was still a small frail little boy who was jumped every time the teachers turned their back. I tried telling them and my psychiatrist at the time, but the teachers didn’t care because they thought they would look racist for taking action against a black student for bullying a white kid, I hate double standards oh so much, but hey when the Veil Drops, whenever that is, I get to exploit them! WOOHOO! Anyway my psychiatrist told me I made the whole thing up for attention and to stop causing problems for the class, then she wrote my a prescription for Paxel, which children are NOT meant to have by the way, I found out that the hard way one blackout and dead hamster later. Years later.... one of the younger Reverse Klansmen met up with me in middle school and was apparently gay or mistook me for a girl.”

Iris thought about the large levels of irony of mistaking a girl for a girl and technically being wrong. Gabriel stared at her for a second having trouble grasping that too. “You mean your veil short-circuited and made you female to him?”

“Either that, or he was gay, as he tried molesting me on the bus, literally pulling my pants down and tried fitting his whole hand up my tailhole. Yeah, turns out it’s true that people change over time, maybe he should have too, fucking racist rapist. He barely disrupted a single hair on my rump when I ran him through. And to make a happy ending even sweeter I managed to find out how to get onto that 'Sleeping Sickness' program when I got around to seeing the new psychiatrist for my anger management, turns out his niece was changed and had taken my case under suspicion that I might be one. Spoilers, I was! The Sleeping Sickness cover-up was in its infancy at the time and that helped keep unneeded pills out of me,” Iris roared and swiped her claws at the end up that story, and purred a little. “I love the newer version of me, so so, much. I find it very.... liberating. Though he did tell me that it’d probably not be a good idea to use my claws again unless I was in danger.. Good advice, they’re still pretty good for climbing, cutting, and making me feel like a badass.”

“Cale that story still had a happy ending, did you not originally intend to tell it to show shared sympathy and not to suck your own metaphorical dick? Also, shedding, unbearable summer heat, and getting your tail stuck in doors must be the very essence of Freedom and Harmony. I was a fool for not realizing it sooner, being a rat is a divine right of passage into True Spiritual Enlightenment and I am now a very powerful man for it. I have seen the light, all hail the Change Gospel!” Gabriel criticized sarcastically. “Though I must admit I am a tad curious. I only asked about being a tiger, why do you like being a girl so much. At school today you had told Dave that it 'feels right', what precisely does that mean?”

“Well back when I wasn’t a girl, I had this feeling that something just wasn’t right about me. Like there was some mistake that needed to be corrected, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was or how exactly to do that. Sometime when I was 8 it was beginning to hit me, I wasn’t like other boys. I was too emotional in comparison to my friends from school, I was softer, found that I cried even after ages I should have stopped, and I couldn’t bring myself to hurt animals even when Jason did it.”

“Cale, boys aren’t supposed to hurt animals, no one is supposed to hurt animals..... You are aware of this right?” Gabriel asked, a little shaken by that last one.

Iris ignored Gabriel entirely and kept talking “I just didn’t have a knack for acting masculine, when I tried it just came out forced and that’s when they started making fun of me. In school I was ostracized for it. I wasn’t beaten up or anything like that, at least not until the fourth grade. Boys just thought I was lame and girls wanted to hang out with me during recess more than boys did. I didn’t play with dolls or anything like that, but. I don’t know I just felt that I was more of a girl than I was a boy. Started puberty a little earlier than most I had started having a very weird attraction to girls.”

“That’s called arousal Cale, you show it every chance you get,” Gabriel commented.

“No it wasn’t like that, I.... noticed them developing and part of me wondered, why wasn’t I becoming shaped like they. It seemed, like a thing of art to me, I mean I’m attracted to women and it doesn’t feel like this did. When I see a girl I’m into I’m more like “Hey baby! Wanna snuggle and make out for a bit!!?!”, but this was different. This was more like a thing of beauty to me, honestly it came across more as Envy than Sexual Desire. When I changed I was in denial about the whole gender bender thing about it at first even though my mom took me to a doctor when she noticed my hair get longer and a different color, and he had told me when I described what I looked like from my perspective to him, fortunately he was a Known, that it sounded very much like I was female. I thought 'There’s no way I’m a girl! I like video games, and I watched Power Rangers from Mighty Morphin’ up to Lost Galaxy! I don’t wear dresses and watch My Little Pony!' but then I realized that it made me happy to have it; the gentler sex. Even if others were blind to it, I felt the empty feeling inside me go away and I just became filled with this pleasant euphoria and the ability to love myself unconditionally. I mean most people who get TG-Changed hate it! But, me, no it just.... felt like something that belonged, that fit like the missing piece to the puzzle that was me and was very welcome. I enjoyed and continue to do so for every bit of my female puberty, wishing somehow that I could share it with others! Well... almost every bit, you don’t bleed out of a penis every month, and I could use some support for these things! This morning I decided on borrowing bras from mom’s dresser, I don’t really know what my bra size is, but I know that it’s bigger than a C-Cup.... and they appear to be still growing.”

“What is Gender Dysphoria? Also, Power Rangers? Really? I despise that broadcast!” Gabriel had asked, they had been parked in Cale’s Yard, but Gabriel wanted Iris to finish talking, and the van seemed like a good place for private Change Related discussion.

“It’s this condition I read about online, shows up around 1 in 40,000 people in which the mind rejects the body’s physical sex. Basically they feel constantly mentally, physically, and spiritually taxed to the point of constant depression starting from childhood, severely worsening near the beginnings of puberty and lasting throughout their whole lives, most people get it either controlled by therapy, mental reinforcement, or outright cure it by undergoing a process known as Hormone Replacement Therapy and a second one called Sexual Reassignment Surgery in which the testosterone or estrogen is removed from the body and replaced with the opposite hormone and this c...”

Gabriel interrupted, taking a tone as he grew bored of this long winded explanation, “Cale, I know what a tranny is. This Gender Dysphoria nonsense just seems like a justification for a fetish.”

Iris seemed very offended. “I know how I felt then and how good it feels just to be alive right now. I’m pretty sure transsexualism is not a fetish. In the fourth grade I thought long and hard about whether or not to get a sex change when I grew up, never made a final decision, but ROB did and she picked the right one I think.”

Gabriel shrugged “Whatever helps you sleep at night. I am fairly certain what really happened is that you’re in the Furry Fandom, probably were back then. Woke up as a real furry, and thought “OMG THIS R SO AWESOME!”

Iris opened her mouth in anger, “This is serious business. My friend CM suffers from FTM Gender Dysphoria and having to live with it, but staying true to his wife, his anti-lesbianism vow, and his faith has made her a hero amongst our people!... Well that and finding out that humanity is going extinct using a very complicated method of..... Ah damn it! She literally just explained this to me last night..... Something about The Golden Ratio multiplied by Pi.. or something I’m going to level with you I have no idea what I’m talking about.....”

Gabriel blinked and just looked at his friend “I’m glad you admit it for once,” he laughed “Though, I’m pretty sure something sounds entirely hypocritical about that, though I cannot quite place it.”

Iris argued with him “Hey! Being something you’re truly not is a horrible fate to have to bear. Besides CM is like, made of awesome! Show her some respect.”

Gabriel blinked again “Yes I know, first off. I don’t give a damn about some asshole in Virginia that you have a crush on for some insane reason that. Take a chill pill and befriend other people. Second, CM probably actually DOES have a legitimate case of Gender Dysphoria given that he was male for most of his life. It’s completely different than a made up from birth sorrow made to justify mutilating yourself.”

“It’s not different at all!” Iris protested “If the Change never happened, who knows... that envy might have grown!” though she was interrupted again.

“No it’s COMPLETELY different! CM had an established life before becoming a woman, you did not.” Gabriel pointed out. “And for all we know, if it never happened you would have manned up, gone through with your life, and grown the hell up. Can I tell my story about Virgo now?”

“Wait you went to THAT death trap?” Iris screamed out in a mixture of shock, sorrow for Gabriel, and being slightly aggravated from the rat’s previous statement. “Thank ROB they have those Metal Detectors now. Mom used to tell me that brought knives and things there! They originally wanted to send me to Virgo, but they send to me Trask instead because of the things that happened to my aunt when she went there!”

Gabriel seemed agitated in a different manner, his rage turning into pure fear. “...They didn’t have those metal detectors when I went there. Gangs left and right, people being beaten in the halls. It was a madhouse in there.”

“Go on.” Iris sat down quietly and raised her ears attentively.

“That’s it, no reason for the beatings, no elaborate backstory. Just pure anarchy in a horrible delinquent school that no one cared about and I had to go there even though Trask was much closer because they didn’t meet a minority quota of 'Other' ethnicities. Inconveniencing me and brutalizing me with constant beatings, that I didn’t have tiger girl superpowers to fight back with unlike some people. They just kept beating me up, no reason for it, eventually I found out it’s because they thought I was gay because apparently I look gay. Or used to anyway... I’m not sure how one rates the sexuality of a goddamn rat face exactly.”

“You didn’t look gay to me,” Iris said “I mean, there was a little vibe there and here, but you seemed to like women enough for me to be convinced that you weren’t.”

“Thanks.... I think..” Gabriel said sounding unsure.

Iris smiled “They treated you like an animal, so that’s what you became.”

“I admit.. That one was pretty funny.” Gabriel began cheering up a little as the two got out of the van, Iris began jumping on the trampoline for a bit before calling out to Gabe who was seemed deep in thought.

“Wanna hang out for a bit?” She asked “Calm down and unwind a little.”

“Well you do have a trampoline.” Gabriel ran over to said trampoline proceeded to jump on it trying to keep his incredibly long tail away from his hindpaws.

A little girl of a darkened skin color, but still mostly white in appearance walked up to him and said “Hey! you need to take off your shoes Gabweil.”

Gabriel looked toward the girl and asked a simple question.“Child do I know you?”

Iris, who never jumped for too long as it made her breasts sore to do so, had jumped off the trampoline and began climbing up a nearby tree she was half way up it before she turned her head towards Gabe. “You remember my little half-sister Laura right? She was at Calvin’s Party, she had ran off to the arcade, you two really only said hi to one another....”

In truth Gabriel barely remember much about the party outside of learning how good Cici’s Pizza is when you’ve only yesterday turned into a creature with a large appetite for cheese and bread, so naturally a combination of the two had sent him into a blissful oblivion of sheer flavor that his human tongue would never have thought possible, but his rodent one was still thanking him for. “Rings a bell. Wait a tick, your younger brother is named Calvin..... and you....” he looked at the young child and figured that confusion at a school is one thing, but he likely didn’t want to ruin Iris’ cover. “Look like that?”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, I’m a tiger, my brother is named Calv.......CALVIN AND HOBBES! OH SNAP! I didn’t even realize that! Quick, Gabe, you go get a wagon, Laura, find Calvin, me I’m going to go find a steep hill to slide down while I ponder the many philosophies of life!” Iris jumped off of the tree and landed on all fours on the other side of the fence separating her yard from her grandparents’ yard and proceeded to look around for a steep hill.

Back in her own yard Laura just looked up the tree at the cat she thought was her brother “How does he do that? I tried it once and I can’t.”

Gabriel smiled and patted her on the head, “You’ll find out when you’re older,” and was already beginning to calm down as he looked around the small fenced in yard for a wagon after lapping around once he decided he’d go in and announce his presence and felt a little silly for not having done so earlier. “Greetings Mother of Cale, I brought your son home from school, he’s off to find a steep hill and asked me to find a wagon.” A few cats walked up to Gabriel and began mewing and sniffing at him wondering where they smelt the rat. To which Gabriel just stared down at them not knowing what to think.

A woman appearing to be in the younger part of her middle age with a small chest and chubby belly greeted him “Oh hey Gabe, thanks for that,” as she fished some dollar bills out of her purse. “Please, take some of this, Gas is expensive nowadays.”

The polite thing to do would have been to not taken the money and insist it was no problem, but his grandfather’s old gas guzzler was a drain on resources, he only began driving it around more in an attempt to learn how to better sit in the seats of a vehicle with having a tall that is longer than you are. “I shouldn’t take this, but thank you.”

“It’s no problem, I’m actually thrilled to see Cale making new friends. It’s been rather difficult for him ever since this incident with another one of his friends and the incidents in middle school,” she said to him.

“I’ve known him for a year, he informed me of Jason, but I guess we didn’t really start hanging out until a few days ago,” he said taking a walk around the living room, nearly tripping over one of the cats who kept following him and asking again for a wagon, “Have you seen a wagon around here, Cale kind of needs it for something.”

“Not really no, but my cats seem to like you. It’s weird, I’ve never seen them act this way around anyone. I think it’s because you smell a lot like a rat. Cale’s been talking about them lately, so I just got him one as a pet. Could you bring him here so I can show him?” Cale’s mom replied in a friendly tone, she sounded off as if her mind was elsewhere.

“More than I’d like them to....” Gabriel stated referring to both Iris and the housecats. “He’s in the neighbor’s yard, does he normally jump off of trees to go over there?”

“We’ve been trying to get him to stop doing that since he was ten. Oh and watch out, we’ve seen mountain lion tracks lately, but we can’t find the mountain lion, seems to go where Cale goes. Isn’t that strange?” Cale’s Mom had a tone of something in her voice, but Gabriel couldn’t quite pick up just want it meant. Though had assumed that she might be onto Iris.

Gabriel sniffed the air for Iris’ scent and followed it, making sure to keep his hindpaws out of patches of dirt. He had been hiding it well, barely understanding his situation and thus not wanting to have to explain to another. He also didn’t like what was in Cale’s Mom’s voice and decided not to leave evidence of an R.O.U.S. walking around. Eventually he found Iris hiding in some bushes. “Come on out Cale, your mother wants you show you something. Also... there’s a mountain lion in your yard tracking you. If my first hypothesis was incorrect anyway.”

“Damn! I was hoping to surprise you.” Iris said before jumping out of the bushes. “Good she’s buying it. Mom lets Laura get away with anything and everything. So I started getting my tracks all over the place to make mom keep her inside, told her that I keep seeing this mountain lion, mainly so she’ll quit playing in traffic. Laura’s only four, but still you’d think they’d close the gate or something!” Iris explained

“.....Here’s a better idea, instead of scaring your family half to death in a Scooby-Doo like scheme, another show I hate right there, you could close the fence yourself.” Gabriel suggested to which Iris just gestured to follow her, putting her clawed hand out, and raising all four of the digitigrade digits that were not her thumb in unison. Three times, like a sensei in an old martial arts film, challenging a foolish young student filled with the bravado that stupidity granted, one not worn down by age. Ironic as not only was she not into kung fu nor training anyway, but she was also a couple of years younger than the scaly tailed teenager she had been beckoning.

Iris walked Gabriel up to the fence in her front yard, and pointed to all the dirt surrounding the entrance into the prowling grounds for the Vinole Matriarch. “I usually climb the fence when I get off the bus, or try to avoid the dirt as best I can.”

Gabriel seemed confused “One would think that an easily erasable paw print in the dirt would be less conspicuous than jumping a fence, and then climbing a tree that has no obvious way up it.”

“I can’t help it, I’m a tiger, True Queen Of The Jungle, I need to climb,” Iris exclaimed as she threw her paws up and spun forward in delight. Giving forth one of her trademark playful giggles.

“Does that “Just Feel Right” too? Did you have Climbing Dysphoria as a child?” Gabriel joked, poking fun at an earlier comment. “If the change never happened, would you take climbing hormones to be happy again?”

“Do not even start that again!” Iris growled, feeling the gag to be in poor taste. Dreading how much complication the gender bender would bring as the veil continued to let humans in on it, not that they’d be human for very long once they were. Maybe it’d make things easier, why would her family care if she was a girl if they were too busy freaking out over having a tail? Many people would likely believe that was the more important thing.

“I’m just saying Cale, your life does not have to revolve around Iris,” Gabriel noted, “I just want you to be aware of this. Your mother wants us inside, she wants to show you...... something......”

“But being Iris makes me happy,” Iris responded “Can’t you be happy that I’m happy?”

“Don’t make that your only salvation. I know you can act like you have some sense, Cale can do that. I’m not convinced Iris can,” Gabriel stated.

“....Are you trying to say you want me to be a guy again? I was Iris before you were Gabriel,” she said angrily before baring her fangs.

“I’ve always been Gabriel, and if the change never happened I’d still be Gabriel, this is what I mean Cale. Ever since I changed it seems all we ever talk about is how much you love being you, CM, Walter Lundh, the history of the Changed, me being a rat, you being a tiger, animal puns... You didn’t used to do that, we’d talk about our problems, our goals, our dreams, video games, the things that drove us, but now that I can see that it is almost as if this side of you only cares that you are indeed Iris. But the Cale who was my friend, sure he acted like a buffoon, he sometimes pretended that was a sexy tiger girl to get amusement from others, and he was happy, unless Mizzo got to him, but that didn’t usually stick. He got right up on his feet and rebelled against her tactics. I haven’t seen a day pass in which you haven’t pointed out something I didn’t need you to point.. I’m looking at you right now, so you’re a tiger girl. This isn’t all you.”

“Yes it is! and I’m beautiful!” Iris protested “Why can’t you revel in yourself like I can myself. Feel the mania of the change surging through your beautiful new body, you gloomy little ratty.”

Gabriel shook his head. “No, this is what your body looks like to me now. But it isn’t you it is your appearance, and that is the final reason why I won’t date you. You only look like this, but you aren’t this, you are more than this I know for a fact that there are elements of you that don’t reference this. I haven’t an Earthly Idea whether or not as if you familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis,” he held his breath hoping that she wouldn’t make a reference to Gender Benders.

“Phantom Tollbooth, is one of my favorite books. Right up there with Redwall, What does he have to do with me?” Iris asked.

“Remember these words well Cale. You do not have a soul, you ARE a soul, what you have is a body. I am sorry I bursted out at you in the van, but I had been doing some serious thinking today. I ran into quite a number of Changed during the final hours of the school day and there were still a few empty desks in the classrooms meaning . There’s more than just you, Erika, and David now. It got me to realize that yes, you’re right, it’s a real thing and it will redefine us and how we live forever without our say so. I never asked to be a rat and you never asked to be a tiger, but we are not a rat and a tiger, that is only one facet of our identities, not the entire thing. We are Gabriel and Cale. and I’d like us to remain Gabriel and Cale! No I don’t mean humans, I don’t mean whatever genders ROB deals us. I mean Gabriel and Cale. You can be a tiger, and you can even be a woman, but do not lose Cale to the dance that the world is caught up in. I can’t stop it and to be honest, I never really liked furries back when they were fictional, so I’m not looking forward to them overhauling humans. But I’m trying not to think about that, in 14 years humanity will be no more, but that doesn’t concern us,” Gabriel stated, getting the culmination of his recent musings off of his chest “I can see why the Changed like to hide now, it’s good for us to stay who we are as it is not the same thing as what we are, and even if we could be accepted by humanity, they would just sensationalize us until only the animal remained, but it will be nothing more than a decoration that no one will look past anymore. They can see what matters right now, the only thing that matters. That we are whos, not whats.”

Iris nodded, “I think I get it, it doesn’t concern us, because...... Actually no why wouldn’t that concern us, we’re the next generation of man,” she looked over her physique with a smile, “Well, you are, and we will rule this realm!”

“No Cale, it doesn’t concern us because we won’t rule this realm, we’ll still just be in it. That is just the dance trying to overtake you. But you are stronger than that, and you are stronger than your own body, you were Cale with this body before I could see it. It doesn’t concern us because a better question than What Will Become Of Humanity in 14 years, but who are Gabriel Zedimouse Locke and Cale Wade Vinole in 14 years? What do they become, mere animals or what. Or better, who.”

“..That is a compelling argument.... I... uhh... don’t know how to respond to that....” Iris stood there scratching her headfur as she thought for a second, not reaching any conclusion. “...Mom had something she wanted to show me? Let’s just table anything relating to spontaneous mutation,” she said as she moved her eyes to the right, one paw on her hip, and another out in the open. Gabriel nodded as the two went into her house Iris hugged her mom and the two spoke as he receded into his own mind. Following Iris and her mother into Iris’ room.

Gabriel took a look around the room and saw old consoles in boxes, plain walls devoid of much decoration.

“Cale, they were on sale and you were talking about them lately, so I went ahead and got you a rat.” Iris’ mom said as she gestured over to a cage that Iris was already attempting to open.

“He looks just like me.....” Gabriel said aloud as he swallowed, beginning to lose control again. He closed his eyes and remembered Cale’s game, remembered the walk, remembered Dave’s speech, remembered that he was Gabriel Locke and quickly asserted his calmness.

Iris’ mom looked at him as Iris cuddled the rat up to her face, the rat seemed somewhat frightened. “How?”

“An inside joke with me and Cale.” Gabriel assured her as he watched Iris play with the little albino rat.

Iris’ Mother left the room with an “Okay.”

The tigress herself had jumped backwards onto the bed, Gabe flinched as she landed on her tail, the rat in her paws, being very careful to point the sharp bits away from the rodent. “Aww, whose a little cutie, WHOSE A little cutie. You are! Ya know Gabriel, he DOES look a lot like you.” she turned to him, holding the rat next to her perception of Gabriel for comparison. “I think I’m going to call you Charon.”

Gabe raised an eyebrow. “Charon?” he asked, his mind drifting as he saw the tiger play with her pet, “Why would you call him Charon?”

Iris looked into the beady red eyes of the rat and squeed before setting him down and allowing him to freely wander the smallish room. The cat flipping onto her stomach to watch him wander about. “Well Charon’s the Ferryman of Hades and the Archangel Gabriel is the angel of death and so I thought....”

“You named your pet after me?” Gabriel said, a hint of nervousness to his voice, Iris didn’t seem to pick up on it as she flicked her tail and continued watching her pet scamper about, she made a purr noise followed by an uhuh sound. Gabriel narrowed his eye. “Excuse me for a tick.” he said as he left the room.

“Okay...” Iris said as she turned to wave, but saw the rat was already gone. “...Gabriel...?” the tigress wasn’t that quick herself and she didn’t even hear him leave. Looking back to where Charon was she saw nothing. “I guess it’s a rat thing....” she said as she sniffed around for the tantalizing scent of rodent that almost made her mouth water, she quickly poked her head under the bed and saw the albino Charon. “I have got to get used to how you smell before I get hungry,” she said before she heard a growling of a different sort than the one she was prone to making, the growling of her stomach. “Speak of the Satan,” she told herself as she snatched her pet, sniffed him again, licked him, which frightened the rat a little. Whether he could see or smell what Iris was, could not be said, but regardless she saw him afraid and put little Charon back in his cage.

Iris left her room wanting to get something to eat, as she stepped out of her room she saw the bathroom door, one of the two bathrooms in her house this one right outside her bedroom door .She noticed it closed and the light on, she thought about knocking on the door and seeing if all was okay, but she decided against it and kept walking. Before too long the tigress was in her small kitchen with it’s yellow floors, looked down at the floor and pondered if there was a house with floors that were not either yellow or white. Truly it was an inconvenient house design as the kitchen doubled as a hallway between the living room and the three bedrooms belonging to her, her sister, and her brother. The tigress stepped into a door between a series of cabinets and pulled at the string activating the pantry light, she was annoyed very quickly as she saw cans of vegetables, old cereals, and an empty box of ramen. Nothing at all suitable for feline consumption. “There’s never anything good in here, and Calvin must have snagged the last ramen. Maybe I’ll go chase a squirrel or something,” she said to herself as she left disappointed and hungry. Then she got an idea and began to walk on the balls of her paws as to ensure purrfect stealth in her silent steps, just as she thought she saw her human mother on the computer browsing the internet.

The young tigress, jumped onto the couch from afar, the couch placed adjacently from the computer her mom was on, she had the perfect idea to obtain subsistence. “Hey Mom, thanks for Charon, he’s a real sweetie!”

Her mother responded in a sweet but curious tone. “Is that what you named your rat?” Iris nodded her head, “Yeah, but did you remember to buy any rat food for him?” she asked, already knowing the answer, or at least assuming it from the lack of any to be found.

“Shit!” she called out in a stress, “Is there something in the pantry he’ll eat?”

“I don’t know, but I do know there’s not really any human food either,” Iris complained, prompting her mother to get out her car keys and a twenty dollar bill.

“Have your friend take you to get rat food, and feed yourselves while you’re out.” Her mother said and went back to browsing the internet.

Iris gave a chuckle in response, “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” and then went to check on Gabriel, surely he was out of the bathroom by now. Though when she got back to the other side of the house to fetch him, she found to her shock that indeed he was still in there and so she called to him.

“Uhh.. Gabe, are you feeling okay?” she asked, leaning a raised ear up against the door.

Meanwhile on the other side of the bathroom door that the albino rat was laying up against. Gabriel was giving his paws a good look over and he thought to himself. His knees were raised against his chest, his long tail aside him and visible through the crack of the door. Damn it! He thought he had gotten over this, was his bravado earlier just false courage? He wasn’t supposed to care what he looked like, that was just not in his nature, he had just gotten done telling Cale and much earlier Dave as well, that he did not and now he was making himself out to be a hypocrite. “Why is this happening to me?” he said to himself, ignoring the tiger on the other side.

“I heard that, also I can see your tail against the crack of the door. Didn’t you just tell me that this didn’t matter?” Iris demanded to know, “Do we need to have another nature walk?”

“No! I’m fine! I just fell is all. Damn tail is too long for its own good,” Gabriel said, he knew his friend did not believe it, but what else could he say. He was thinking to himself, “Sorry that I hate being a rat? Sorry that what I just told you about it not mattering what the outside of the body is like is an absolute and utter lie? Not only would it invalidate my point, but it would also invalidate my very character. Worse still, it may put him on another spiel about how wonderful it is to have fur and a tail and get her to start talking about Gender Dysphoria again and how I should be more sensitive and blah blah blah. I must remain strong,” he said to himself in his head.

“Look, instead of a nature walk, let’s just go do human things and forget about this. I mean it’s like you said right. Who are Cale and Gabriel? Sides, I’ve got a chore for us to do and then we can eat. You haven’t had lunch either, so I know that sounds good to you too.” Iris told it like it was.

“What’s the chore?” Gabriel pondered as he got up and opened the door. Able to face the lady and the tiger again.

“Getting rat food!~” Iris playfully sang, curling her black lips up in a slightly menacing yet mostly innocent smile.

Gabriel closed his eyes half way and pondered slamming the door in Iris’ face, but ultimately he looked up at the much taller feline and asked, “No Conversations pertaining to the topic of Transhumanism unless it is relevant to the current scenario or does not pertain to furries?”

“No, Conversations pertaining to tranny humans unless it has something to do with people and robots and what-not who ain't furries and what-not, fish and chips and all that,” Iris half-repeated, in a fake and exaggerated british accent, though hers had more of a liverpool feel to it than Gabriel’s old fashioned victorian era jive. “Who even talks like that?”

“I do! I trust you’re paying for food and I’m paying for gas?” Gabriel asked.

“Actually the gas and food is on me, and you can thank my mom for that.” Iris said as she handed over the keys to Gabriel.

“Cool beans, I suppose I’m driving your mother’s horseless carriage then? Alright.” He asked.

“Since when do you say cool beans?” Iris pondered.

“Since fifteen seconds ago, things change, or were you not aware?” Gabriel stated with a smug tone in his voice.

Iris was taken aback by his sudden pun about the very thing he was complaining about, but thought that as long as he was in a good mood again she wouldn’t question him and with that they were off. Iris hugged her mother who had gotten up and started cleaning the living room. A task Iris thought to be in vain, wild animals live in her house after all. Much to their surprise, Gabriel had stopped to hug her as well. “I shall return with your son safely and by the morrow mum,” he said with a look of deep sincerity.

The two waltzed out the door as Iris’ mother beckoned them to stay safe.

“How hungry are you Cale?” Gabriel asked as he opened the car door to the driver’s seat and looked about it. It wasn’t as spacious as his van, so he pondered what to do about his tail. Iris was laying in the backseat facing the back of the seats as her tail dangled freely, Gabriel look dumbfounded at this. “What the hell are you doing??

“Usually if there’s only two people and my grandmother isn’t driving I lay like this so my tail has free reign.” Iris exclaimed. “I put my tail in my lap otherwise.”

“That’s all good and fun, but my tail is a lot bigger than yours, I suppose it will have to do though,” the rat said finally getting in his friend’s mother’s car, when Iris saw the tail she did a double take. Gabe looked like he had a giant pink snake on his lap. “Relocate yourself up to the front” he said “It is rude to lay like that, you are bad company that way.” Gabriel insisted.

Iris thought about complaining, but she didn’t think she’d get too much sympathy from someone who drives with a sleeping cobra on his lap.

“This is very uncomfortable,” Gabriel said stating what seemed to be obvious as the two hit the road. Gabriel kept both of his pupil devoid eyes on the road and asked a second time. “So where am I heading? Petco, Petsmart, or are we heading for food for us first?”

“It’s probably cheaper at Petco,” Iris suggested as they quickly drove to that location.

The two did not seem to talk much on the drive there, Iris didn’t think of any questions or things to discuss that did not involve the change and Gabriel was trying to get his mind off of it. She knew that if she said a word involving the cataclysmic events literally wiping the clear the identities of countless people across the globe and may one day cause a global crisis he would become annoyed and potentially disturbed as well.

Admittedly a pet store is probably not the best place to go to get away from the change, but Iris had to get food for little Charon. Unlike some other rats she knew, could not forage for his own food and was reliant solely on her for subsistence. The irony of a rat relying on a cat to feed him was humorous. The two entered and immediately reached for their noses as the scent of animal odor coming off of the various beasts for sale within the vendor would take a while to get used to.

They were greeted by a human woman who asked them if something was wrong. “Welcome to PetCo, is there anything we can help you with, you have these looks on your faces.... Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Animal Allergies,” Iris said, looking quickly to the right as she scratched some of the fur peaking out of the collar of her shirt.

Gabriel nodded in agreement “Quite,” he said, “We’ll just purchase a bag containing sustenance for those of the rodent race and me and my queer companion will be be on our merry way, of course... We could look at the snakes first,” he said and he let go of the end of his snout, taking a whiff of fresh air. The smell was overpowering, but he felt he could stomach the stench for awhile. After all, the world was going to smell like this one day right? Stepping forward Gabriel took the lead from his striped friend lead who followed behind. The reason for this action was simple, he did not want her to see the discomfort in his face as the two walked toward the rodent section towards the right of the entrance, easily viewable from even outside the store. The area was composed of five towers with four tanks on each for the particular types of small mammals for this area, the tanks differing based on size, gender, and the five following species; Mouse, Gerbil, Hamster, Guinea Pig, and.... Rat. In the middle there was a medium sized cage in which ferrets sat.

“I am not you, I do not belong in a cage, I am a man not a rat,” he said to himself. “I do not belong in a cage,” he repeated this in his head. From Iris’ perspective Gabriel just marched towards the rodents section without thinking. But in his head he knew the truth, the truth that not even his fellow Changed could see. In his march toward this part of the store he had to fight, because even coming here, by his existence in the same plane as these creatures. Part of his essence was admitting on behalf of the whole that he was nothing more than a rat, nothing more than a creature that you cage as a pet or destroy as a pest. Technically, Iris, one of his best friends in this world and the only companion who reached out to him when he Changed, should be eating him alive right now. The underlying knowledge of this, that if the world was to treat him like what he is, they’d be right. He was a rat, and that was far more apparent than anything else about him. In the future it would be the first detail they’d notice, in the school with the other animal people it would be the first thing. And what reason do the predators and graceful animals have. Whoever did this to them surely had a reason, and thus the only reason he was such a disgusting and hated animal was because he was unworthy. No! That would not be his destiny, and this short walk would be the start of proof towards the real truth, a step into rebellion against the forces that be. “Turn me into what you will ROB! I shall preserve I am Gabriel!” he screamed in his mind. He envisioned himself atop a mountain, raising a staff of gold to part clouds and summon the shine of the sun upon him. Though really he just walked a few steps to get rat food for a friend of his.

What seemed like eons to Gabriel was what it really was to Iris, merely a few seconds. Iris stared into the ferrets and thought to herself. “That horse knight story I’m working on.... Could use a ferret,” she also thought they were adorable and wanted one, although she did just get two great rats to take care of.

Gabriel was pulled away from the ferrets, his eyes stuck, face to face with all the rats. They called to him in his mind. “You’re one of us now! One of us! One of us! One of us!” Upon his face froze a look of terror, he even began to hyperventilate. How he wanted to scream and just let it all out, but no. He couldn’t make a scene, and he sure as hell could not let Cale think he was scared of himself. Why, she’d never shut up about how it’s all going to be okay and how wonderful it is to have a tail. Something he had just gotten her to do.

A rat came, in Gabriel’s mind it was a giant rat, pinning him down and roaring in his face. Most believe that rodents can’t growl, let alone roar, but Gabe could feel the rat king bearing down on him and forcing him to accept that the metamorphosis had made him a serf in his kingdom of the rat. The rat king was eyeing him, judging, large yellow incisors helping to turn his disapproving angry scowl into a frightening display of dominance. “I’m not one of you....” Gabriel said meekly, “I’ll never be a freak like you...”

The rodent responded silently with evil in his eyes, they were mono-colored like Gabriel’s, but he could tell the pure evil that lay within this foul creature. They were shaped differently, like rectangles and covered a wider range of emotions. Gabe had not yet noticed that he was hard to read himself. The rat king didn’t say anything, he just smiled as Gabe cowered in fear before the monstrosity, seeing himself shrink, continuing further and further until he was the size of a normal rat. He tried to talk in protest, but all he could do was squeak the demonic hell-screech of a rat..

“See anymore family members I should meet? Sorry couldn’t resist hehe...” asked a female voice, Iris’, Gabe found himself snapped back to reality, shaking a bit, his instincts wanting to pick this moment to finally activate as he scoot himself away from the feline.

“What the devil is going on?!?!” Gabriel exclaimed, flailing his arms for a second,

Iris tilted her head in confusion, “Is something bothering you?”

“I’m fine,” Gabriel said coldly, as he walked away from the rodent section.

Iris scratched her head, but ultimately shrugged and assumed it was nothing. She then proceeded to look at the rats that Gabriel had been looking at. “You’re all really cute, but sorry, I already have two,” she giggled to herself as she walked past the rat cages and towards the food, picking up the largest she could afford and then rejoining her friend and looking at the other animals the store had to offer.

The duo went around and enjoyed viewing tarantulas, snakes, and birds, mainly staying near the exotic stuff. Eventually Iris spoke up, “Anything you’d want as a pet? I could so see you with a snake.”

Gabriel shrugged “I think it’ll be awhile before I bring any more animals into my life,” he said with a hint of fear in his voice as the Rat King’s image appeared in his head again.

“I thought we weren’t talking about the Changed anymore?” Iris said, prompting Gabriel punch to her in the arm.

“Hold your tongue!” Suddenly getting defensive. “I was speaking in regards towards the kitten I am to be receiving from Alyssa,” He said to her suddenly.

“I didn’t know you were getting a kitten from Alyssa, sorry for saying the C-Word then,” she said, rubbing her arm. “Is this going to bruise? It really hurts.”

“Oh shut up Cale, I didn’t hit you that hard,” Gabriel complained. “I have had enough of this place and I have other tasks that must be completed before the day is over,” he said whilst looking over a bearded dragon, Iris couldn’t tell how he felt about that dragon. Gabriel’s recent lack of detail in his eyes made him a very hard person to read, but he appeared to be smiling, at least lightly.

Iris reluctantly agreed. “Oh, but I wanted to see the birds...” Gabe however was already heading to the checkout counter and waited for her. “Fine I’m starving anyway, can we get food first? Somewhere good, fast food isn’t going to cut it,” she said as she grabbed the top of her snout.

“If it’s anything like lunch during school, then we are most certainly within the confines of agreement my dear Cale,” Gabriel said as Iris took her pet’s food to the register and paid for it using the money she had received from her mother before they had departed for this pet store adventure.

Iris had to break her promise for something that made her feel a little weird, “You know after Saturday I kind of expected that the clerk would be a squirrel everywhere I went.”

“I have to admit, I kind of agree with you there...It would certainly be charming in a way,” Gabriel confessed. “Like animal crossing, but with squirrels.”

“Umm what?” The clerk woman asked, “What store has a squirrel clerk? That sounds adorable.”

“CVS Pharmacy was running a special promotion. You’ll see next year! Maybe...” Iris said to the human ominously in a cheerful sounding voice, whilst giving a large fangy smile. It would have looked creepy even if her teeth were normal, which to the clerk they were.

“So, they had a squirrel doing tricks and pretending to be a clerk? I don’t think I fully understand what exactly you’re talking about,” explained the off-put brunette clerk, “Um, didn’t you have a friend with you.”

Iris spun around on the ball of her hindpaw with her forepaw on her forehead. She then even sniffed around, but she did not find her friend. “How did he do that?”

“Isn’t that him?” The clerk said, “Never seen a man with Blonde Sideburns before. Kind of reminds me of a mouse. Maybe I’ve been working here too long,” pointing out the window towards what she saw as a blonde young man with yellowish skin, his ghost image wasn’t the same as his human form entirely. The albino state caused his skintone on the human image to become paler, there was still a tint to it, it just wasn’t as dark, his hair blonde, even his facial hair, which he had a lot of. Even before he had everything hair. He didn’t understand why, he didn’t even know it was the case. No one had said anything about it.

The tigress looked and saw the unmistakable rodent visage. “Yeah. He’s hard to miss. Thanks,” she said as she started to run out the door.

“Sir, wait!” The clerk called out “Your change!”

Iris stopped dead in her tracks, turning around, looking like she had seen a ghost. “What?”

“Your forgot your change” The clerk said as she handed some money to Iris.

Gabriel quickly turned out hearing Iris call out to him to stop, the sight of a large predator running at him triggered an instinct deep inside of him he just wasn’t to having large cats run at him. Though he quickly regained his posture as Iris stopped. “Why’d you run out on me?”

The rodent’s heart was pounding as he was still regaining himself. “Do you even know what a masquerade is?” he said calmly, Iris tilting her head for a second and nodding.

“It’s a party?” Iris asked, not being being completely certain, she had heard the term masquerade before, but had assumed it to be some sort of fancy ball where everyone wore creepy masks like rich nobles in old movies..

“Get in the car before you say something that gets us dissected.” Gabriel said in tone that showed more concern for his friend’s well being than worry for their own safety and continued existence without being studied in a lab. Wondering how the manimals tick, what in their brain allows them to give off this “psionic illusion” they claim they can’t control, where they even bloody came from to begin with.

Gabriel started up the car and they were off to Wal-Mart, Iris turned to him to ask, “Are you feeling okay? You seem a little grumpier than usual.”

“Never better, why?” Gabriel asked, sounding mad and insincere. “Just a little annoyed that I have to dye my hair in order to undye my hair. Makes PERFECT sense doesn’t it?”

“Is that it?” Iris asked as Gabriel parked the car, the Wal-Mart had not been that far away at all. They literally could have walked there.

“Yes! Stop asking!” Gabriel said in a raised voice as he slammed the door behind him, making damn sure his tail wasn’t caught in the door this time. He had injured the thing three times in just as many days. “Okay....” Iris said, and that is all that she said as the two entered yet another store. They spent far less time at the Wal-Mart, Gabe going straight to the cosmetics. It took him awhile to recall the exact color his hair used to be, but fortunately he had an old picture of himself on his phone.

“Hey while we’re here, wanna watch me try on girl clothes. I’ll let you see me in a tho-o-o-o-ong.” Iris offered, completing said offer by rubbing down her curves. This worked just as well as one could expect as Gabriel did not even humor the request until Iris offered a second time. “Gabriel..... think about it, super hot furry chick in a thong!”

The disturbed Gabriel having no real interest in seeing his best friend’s ass had turned around to face her after this comment as they were once again preparing to leave the store. “Are you trying to get me to hit you?” Iris folded her arms and pouted, deciding to shut up for awhile, not saying anything else until they got back in the car.

“20 bucks for hair dye? Just to have my normal hair color!” Gabriel complained as he ran his pink claws through his headfur, “This is bullshit! There’s no logical reason I should need to do this! Why does... ANYTHING work like this?”

“I thought we weren’t talking about Changed,” Iris said, a little annoyed at the hypocrisy, “I thought the whole reason for this outing was to pretend we were normal......”

Gabriel thought about saying something, but didn’t, opting to stop the car and change the subject entirely. “I thought the whole reason for this outing was to obtain nutrients.”

That made the tigress whose stomach kept rumbling all throughout Wal-Mart and the Pet Store forget all about her previous complaint. “Hot damn! It’s about time,” she purred with delight at the prospect of eating. “What took so long?”

Gabriel didn’t answer at all, opting to just drive to the nearest Andy’s. After ordering Iris thought for a second, stirring her Orange Ade with a straw. She looked at Gabriel who seemed annoyed to be here, tapping his claws on the table whilst lost in thought. Iris found that this odd, it was normal for him to be irritable, but not silent. She tried making small talk “So, today sure was eventful.....”

The rat just stayed in his thoughts. Ignoring the transgendered tiger entirely, who tried again “So I hear there’s gonna be a NiGHTS sequel....”

But again, the rat would not answer, prompting Iris to raise her voice slightly. “TALK TO ME!”

“Today has been a disaster....” He finally uttered, Iris taken aback by this comment. She didn’t think it had been that bad.

“Care to elaborate?” Iris asked, and when she got nothing, the question was asked a second time, this time in a mockery of Gabriel’s accent and love of big words. “Would you mind speaking more clearly upon these matters?”

This earned a little smile, “Cale, I don’t want to converse with you about it..... It has just not been a good day. Maybe tomorrow will be better.” He leaned downward placing his head on the desk and waited for the food to arrive.

Iris looked down at the transhuman attempting to sleep, and frowned herself. “You’ve never liked furries before you were one..... Of course you’re upset.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Gabriel repeated, shifting his red eyes towards the kitchen, which at Andy’s you could just see behind the counter “I’m just hungry and having a bad day.”

“You said you were fine earlier, what happened?” Iris asked, not wanting to drop the issue until she got somewhere with him.

“Stop giving foolish inquiries!” Gabriel said, banging his fist on the table, before getting up to go to the restroom. “Come get me when our food is ready. I want to be alone for an undisclosed interval of time.”

“Fine!” Iris exclaimed, throwing her arms up in defeat, finally giving up and continuing to nurse her orange ade. “Do whatever you want, jack off to your panda slut! I tried!”

“You’ll never have me Cale!” Gabriel warned, taking a strong degree of offense towards Thana being called a slut. “It doesn’t matter what you look like!” before running off to the men’s room to be alone like he said he wanted to be, but the feline genus is not so easily defeated as Iris got up and held an ear to the restroom door shortly after her friend retired to it.

On the inside of the bathroom, Gabriel stared into a mirror, recalling the other day when he freaked out over what he saw and had begun talking to himself, to the blonde red eyed rodent with sharp incisors that only a few days ago was a normal Lumbee native american teenager.. “I don’t get it! I was fine before..... Dave couldn’t have been right could he? No no, I AM Gabriel! This is foolishness. Animal Visage or no, I am Gabriel Zedimouse Locke! I am Gabriel Zedimouse Locke!... But.... why does it hurt? Why now?....You’re better than this!”

“But he WAS fine the other day!” The eaves dropping kitty cat said under her breathe, and then ran like hell when she remembered that Gabriel also had sensitive ears.

“CALE!” The voice from the other side screeched, prompting Iris’ return to their table, which conveniently enough now had food on it. Gabriel shortly followed looking madder than he had ever been seen by tiger kind. “It isn’t very ladylike to spy on people,” he chastised.

Iris ignored that and looked her friend over with a frown, she saw anger, but she knew it was pain. “Gabriel, answer honestly this time. Do you like being a rat?”

The rodent looked around the room. “I’m fine Cale, this is just.... Look I don’t know what’s going on. I thought I knew the world. It was easier when it was just us, but.... I don’t know I just need some time to sort myself out...”

“Let’s just eat and think about it later,” Iris said, chomping down on her burger. “I swore up and down I wasn’t a girl when this happened to me. You’ve changed, and you’re starting to learn it’s forever. For the rest of your life, you are a rat.”

“What happened to, 'it just feels right?' Are you making this shit up now?” Gabe asked

“Well at first I didn’t like it, then I realized it felt right,” Iris corrected before adding on, “Though sometimes I do wonder what it would be like if I was still a guy......” after which point she began scratching her chinfur and daydreaming about being a big muscular tiger man.

“Cale.... just shut up.... like I said I just need time to think,” Gabriel said softly, it being the most calm thing he had said all day, admittedly though, he was feeling a little better. He was still a little mad at the tigress though.

They made one more stop to drop Iris off at her house. “I thought you were going to be okay.” she said to him. “Look if there’s anything I can do to help....”

Gabriel sighed and informed Iris “You’ve done more than enough.....Seeya around...” Gabriel got out of Iris' mom's car and back into the ratmobile before driving off.

The striped one shrugged and seemed a little downtrodden, “Whatever’s going on with him I hope he straightens out soon. I miss the real Gabriel already.” She had yet another rat to care for, maybe if she played with Charon a little she’d feel better about her best friend apparently hating himself.

Gabriel returned home to his bedroom and had one more look at the mirror. “........I got over it....” he said one more time meekly before punching the damn thing. His brother Jimmy came in having heard the noise.

“Yo Gabriel, what the fuck was that?” Jimmy asked

“I’ve been stressed lately brother.... and I don’t know if I’m ever going to top.” Gabe said, looking at his hands. “And I don’t know why.”

“Bro that is the most emo shit I’ve ever heard,” Jimmy reassured in his own way. “I think you just need to smoke a blunt. Remember back in middle school when we’d go downtown and trip weed till we saw the werewolves and shit?” He asked as he was about to light up.

Instantly putting two and two together, the invisible rat grabbed for the blunt. “Smoking can be quite bad for you younger brother,” he taunted, but his brother kicked him before he could reach it.

“Dawg! You don’t grab weed out of my mouth!” Jimmy told his brother whilst giving him the weirdest look. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he asked as he took a massive hit, closing his eyes as he enjoyed his magical herbs, he was prepared to enjoy his illegal plant, but he wasn’t prepared for what he say when he opened his eyes. “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!” The younger brother repeated.

“Everything is falling apart and Cale thinks its one big joke....” Gabriel stated, not really explaining anything.

Jimmy just stared at the rat that used to be his brother, “What?”

Gabriel grumbled to himself, it seemed like the old him was vanishing more rapidly now, could that be why he was upset? “I’ll tell you later brother, long story short, this is the new me apparently. Right now I need to make some calls.” Jimmy stared in sheer oddity as Gabriel dialed a number on his phone.

“Hello?” Thana’s voice answered on the other end.

“This is Gabriel, I’m thinking I want to take you up on the offer of Bamboo Shoots, say this weekend?” Gabriel said, playing up his accent more so than usual to make himself sound more suave.

“It’s a date!” The excited panda cheered. “And I know just what to wear.”

Gabriel smiled “Wonderful.” If there was no turning back, he’d at least have a Panda girlfriend and try to make the best of it.