A Father’s Perspective by Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon aka HawlSera
June 3rd, 2007 - Silver City, North Carolina.
William Verne was on his way to the house of the parents of his ex-wife to pick up his sons Cale Vinole and Calvin Verne for their bi-yearly visit with him up in Virginia. Something all three looked forward to each year, every summer and Christmas his boys would spend time with him and he got to feel like a father again. Especially to such wonderful boys, unlike most fathers the three mostly shared the same interests in cheesy movies, video games, and super heroes. The family never ran out of fun things to do. It worked out nicely, especially since neither of them held any ill-will towards their step-mother, something they could not say about the man their mother had married and divorced not shortly enough after their younger sister was born. This year was more important, not only was the whole family going on a trip to Disney World before this started, but Cale had kept a secret from him for many years and only recently was he able to figure out what it was. William had not yet spoken to Cale about it, but once he got to be alone with him, there would be time for a discussion.
Cale’s father pulled into the driveway of the Nicole Masnion where his ex-wife’s parents lived and swallowed a lump in his throat. Here is where he would meet them. Cale and Calvin’s mother had insisted upon him meeting his kids here as her house was usually very messy and she hated being forced to show it off to anyone. He pulled into the back as that’s where the garage was to be able to park and once he stepped out of his car he breathed in deeply. He was afraid of the conversation and he knew that once Cale was in his presence, it’s all he’d be able to think about.
“Cale I do believe a vehicle has pulled up. Your male paternal figure I assume?” Spoke a voice with a deep british accent, Cale’s lumbee native american friend Gabriel Locke. Well definitely british, William much like his eldest son often watched British Comedies such as Red Dwarf, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Are You Being Served. Both could recognize a british voice anywhere. Of course why a Lumbee Indian would have this accent was beyond him, but Cale insisted he had one and apparently he did. The voice came in from the fenced off pool area so he assumed that’s where they were.
The assumption was correct as the two came out, both wet and with towels wrapped around them. He looked to the ground for the telltale sign, hoping he wouldn’t see it, it would deconfirm what he believed he found out if he didn’t. But no, it was left. Paw prints from both boys, Gabriel left rodent like ones, Cale left feline ones. Of course both smelled like wet dog, which was an even bigger one. “You two did shake the water out of your fur right?” William asked, playing it off mostly as a joke. Being a radio personality he could sound confident no matter how nervous he actually was. It was a necessary skill for his workplace survival.
“Saw the paw prints did you?” Gabriel asked, shivering a little. Coming out of the water was cold, worse so when you had fur. “But you’re not afraid or surprised, I take it you know what we are…and you know before you arrived.” the youth sounded very disappointed and yet his facial expression displayed curiosity. Cale next to him just stared at his eyes wide open as if he’d seen a ghost.
“It’s something Cale and I are going to have to talk about. You’re a... a mouse I’m guessing?” William asked, he only got a brief look at the pawprints and they looked like talons but he knew Changed could not be birds.
“Albino Fancy Rat. Most people assume the eyes are contacts or that I’m just really high.” Gabriel said, extending a paw to Cale’s father who shook it. “Gabriel Zedimouse Locke, at your service my good man.”
“I’m Will, Cale’s dad.” William said, noting that Gabe’s handshake wasn’t very strong. Though that could be because he was covered in wet fur and only half-focused on the man himself.
“I gathered, an honor to meet you nonetheless. If you excuse me, my garment lies within the confines of the Nicole abode. Ordinarily I don’t mind robing and disrobing in front of people, but Cale is an exception.” He said before heading into the mansion in a slight hurry.
Cale and William were now alone with one another looking each other in the eyes in a silence that lasted for hours in their minds, but seconds in reality. Eventually Cale broke it. “I was scared to tell you… Mom doesn’t know and neither does Calvin. And the clawmarks left on D’wayne..” Cale was referring to her former stepfather. “were definitely me… I was just… afraid. I’m so different than how I used to be, and yet, more myself than I’ve ever been.. and to be honest…” The tigress looked down for a second, but then looked up and smiled really wide. “I wouldn’t go back even if I could. I just didn’t think you’d understand.”
William smiled a little, glad that his son was able to fight back against that drunk driving, wife-beating, son of a bitch that his ex married. He gave him a hug on the spot to help comfort him. “Son… people change, things happen to us that we don’t expect. What you’re going through is no different. No matter what happens, you’re always going to be my son. You can always tell me anything.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure…” Cale said in his whisper volume that anyone who wasn’t Changed had a hard time picking up, as he rolled his eyes downward to look over what her father couldn’t see. Iris’, not Cale’s, gorgeous striped and curvaceous female body. “Dad.. I…” Cale hugged her back and fought back a tear. “There are things I can’t… I mean I… Well… I’m, that is to say…” The tigress’ muzzle could not form the words no matter how hard she tried, no matter how much easier her father knowing could make this easier for herself. But without a context William could only look and see a young confused male teenager.
“I have returned.” Gabriel stated in jean shorts and a simple black “Hello Cthulhu” t-shirt, a Lovecraftian spoof of Hello Kitty. “Cale dress yourself, I know your father can’t see why, but I can...”
“Right… uhh dad, can you give me a second?” Iris/Cale said, walking back in the pool area to dress herself. It was rather fortunate that she remembered to discard her bra before coming out to the pool area. She began using second hand ones from her friend Thana. Many of them became too small for her after her change into a Panda, and even before she was much bustier than Cale’s mother who she had been previously borrowing bras from. Actually the two had compared chests, Thana had Iris beat.
William looked over Gabriel again, thinking his words strange and just thinking about the veil was driving him nuts. A real anomaly was going on, even more strange than anything he’d ever heard of, even in fiction. William knew the world wasn’t what it appeared to be. Many odd things happen that defy explanation daily, normally they were small things. But here, a rat was standing right before him, and this rat knew more than he did about his own son, this rat who looked exactly like a human being but wasn’t actually. What was here that he still couldn’t see? He knew there was something to it, but what that was exactly he couldn’t put his finger on.
“Okay back.” Cale said, now wearing a shirt with a Gamecube Controller on it that read “I Have Control Issues” with jeans, they looked fine on her ghost image, but Gabriel knew that they were actually a little tight on her. Especially the jeans, Cale having much wider hips than her mother who bought the clothing believed she had. “Calvin’s still asleep, but we’re mostly packed. We’ll be ready to leave tonight, Gabriel will be spending the night though. I hope that’s not a problem. He’s actually been excited to meet you.”
“I get a good vibe off of hearing tales of your character Mr. Verne, though I must ask. If you’re Mr. Verne, than why I inquestion is your son Mr. Vinole?” Gabriel pondered aloud.
“Oh that’s easy, mom and dad had me out of wedlock, so they combined their last names Verne and Nicole to make Vinole.” Iris answered, wanting something to talk about other than the potential of discussing what sex she happened to be. “I could have told you that Gabe.”
“Yeah that… Nicole-Verne was an idea, but we thought that would cause confusion with people mistaking the first half of that name for his middle.” William added onto the explanation.
“I was trying to make conversation with the man responsible for the procreation of my closest friend. I swear Cale, sometimes you just don’t grasp subtlety.” Gabriel said shaking his head. “I’m going to let you two catch up while I alert your brother.” He sighed, the wind was usually out of his sails when he had to correct Cale on something, which was too often for his tastes.
William and his “son” went inside, Cale just couldn’t wait to show him the working Atari 2600 she had found in the attic, the one that once belonged to her mother. The two played with it for a bit, getting into the middle of a game of Spider-Man in which Iris failed the second she got near the top of the building, as she always does. William’s former in-laws were currently away, the mother shopping for a cookie cake to go along with supper, the father at work, Mr. Nicole refused to retire even at his old age. So now seemed like the perfect time for William to ask one question about the rodent.
“So how long have you and her been dating?” William asked, taking his turn to scale up the building while waiting for his pseudo-son to answer.
“Excuse me!?!?!” Iris sounded like she was about to spit water all over the floor in shock. “Me and who?”
“Gabriel, I know Changed can sometimes be a little weird. Her comments seemed a little off and she actually does have a bit of a girly face.” William said. Under this statement Cale tried remembering what Gabriel’s ghost image looked like. It actually did appear to be kind of androgynous, or would have been without the beard.
“...So close, yet so far away..” Iris said to herself in a whisper before quickly shifting her tone to a regular speaking voice. “Gabriel’s far more of a man than I’ll ever be. It’s very interesting that you’d think that though. I must admit he would be much cuter as a girl. Purrrrr!”
“Huh, that’s a pretty realistic noise you just made there… So.. wait you two are gay then? Nothing wrong with that, I just thought you were a little homophobic is all.” William said, jumping to another conclusion. He tried to be two steps ahead of people, he had seen very little proof that Cale was anything but straight, but there was no doubting the purr. “You always refer to things you don’t like as being gay and you use the word fag a lot.”
“I’m bi, he’s straight…” The striped son corrected. “and.. I don’t know any young person who doesn’t do both of those things you just said.” She really didn’t and didn’t see herself stopping anytime soon. “Mom says you are too, bi I mean, but she said a lot of things about you during the divorce… Many I don’t want to repeat.” she said, calming now, putting on the brave face she learned to do whenever her mother insisted she stopped crying back when she did frequently as she missed her father and pondered if she, he at the time, would ever see him again. This false calm always occurred whenever she thought back on it. Really she just wanted to maul something when she remembered.
“That part is true.” Cale’s father admitted while in his mind cursing his ex-wife and pondering just what these other things were, though he didn’t want to. He felt no shame about it. He liked women and men, that was the end of the discussion. “I’m… amazed that you feel no shame in admitting that though. Proud too, I don’t want you to ever feel like you need to hide something from me.”
“Then you see why I’m into Gabe. And he’s even cuter as a rat! Oh if I only I had been born female instead of…” Quickly the tigress got off that topic before finishing the sentence, she wasn’t ready for that yet. “Though I have to confess something… I always thought you were gay.” Iris chuckled.
“Why’s that?” William asked, he wasn’t expecting that accusation at all.
The tigress looked towards her father’s sandaled feet and said plainly. “Your toenails are painted.” and indeed they were, as green as the feline’s eyes.
Father and not-son laughed about that and continued playing their vintage games until Gabriel, Calvin, and eventually Dolores, Cale and Calvin’s grandmother, returned and greeted him with a hug. For awhile the two had hated each other, but since the issues with Iris’ step-father she had began to see that William wasn’t so bad after all. He may have been limited in what he could do for Cale’s mother, but he definitely cared about his kids enough to make them happy instead of beating them for asking for money, which her second husband Dwayne had gotten from either stealing from their mother and from their game collection more often than not. He was buying a 12 packs of budweiser with that money more often than Cale ate a dinner that consisted of anything more than a single bag of chips. As though somehow they were less important than ensuring he had the ability to get drunk on cheap American horsepiss that passed for beer that night without having to do the unthinkable and find a job. It was horrible, eventually Cale attacked Dwayne after overhearing him talking to one of his drinking buddies about having sold her Nintendo DS and several games to a pawnshop after yelling at her all day about how she needed to “Take better care of her things” so they wouldn’t go missing.
The tigress had known that night that if pushed too far she could become a force far more dangerous than anything else her stepfather could face. Going to bed bruised and hungry was one thing, not being able to stay awake playing Super Mario 64 DS to try and forget it all in lieu of actually sleeping, no that’s another matter altogether. She threw off the covers to run into the next room to pounce on him, scratching and biting. Making very deep incisions into him. This was the last straw, she was going to kill him if no one stopped her. All the beatings, all the insults, all the abuse, all the times he put her life in danger by driving drunk, all the times he beat her for trying to tell the police who pulled him over that he was drunk driving, and now, her main escape from this turmoil. Her video games, fantasy worlds of code and pixels she could escape to to forget her life was this terrible, one by one they vanished, just as quickly as she got them, and Dwayne told her each time to take better care of her things. Now this asshole confesses and she realized that he was trying to make her as miserable as possible and try her purely within that misery. Because he felt intimidated by his wife having given birth to children that weren’t his. No this ended.
Oh back on that night, when he had said the magic words “Cale will never figure out I took his DS, that boy’s an idiot.” Iris crawled out of her bed, her eyes ablaze with a jade colored flame of righteous anger. It was going to happen. She was finally going to set her, her mother, and her brother free. “I heard every word Alan!” she said, referring to him by his real name.
“Go back to bed, you aint heard shit, and nothing you can’t prove to yo mama!” Dwayne denied and admitted simultaneously. “Go on get, before I slap you upside the head.”
Iris growled and extended all five claws on a single hand. “I haven’t been biting my nails lately. I just hated you so much that I’ve really thought about this a long, long time You know. I was going to object to your wedding, but I was blackmailed out of it. A shame really, you don’t deserve her, but you do deserve this.” She said looking at her claws with anticipation. “You really deserve what I’m about to do to you.”
Dwayne began marching toward his step-daughter with rage in his face. “Boy what have I told you? You respect me, I’ll respect you. Don’t you dare ever threaten me again!” he said, getting his fist ready.
Iris grinned showing off her fangs, not that Dwanye could see them, as she clawed right through his torso dashing forward. “Alan… Do you understand that video games are what keep me in my little fantasy world? Do you realize that without them I have to face reality?” she said, glaring at him as he looked at his wounds in shock, having no idea what happened. “A reality your drunk high school dropout mind can’t begin to understand?” she asked.
“What the hell are you saying?” Dwayne said holding his hand to his scratch marks, unable to make sense of the tigress’ words.
“You taught an animal to hate you, and then you let her out of her cage.” She said as she growled more, before straight up roaring in his face. He heard it, his mother didn’t, he was on tipping point of the veil. “Hate, by the way, starts with THIS LETTER!” She screamed, scratching downward with both paws making a crude H on his chest.
“How the fuck are you doing that?” Dwayne begged to know, entering a rage and swinging on Iris, but her feline agility allowed her to dodge. Ordinarily this made him angrier and hit harder so she didn’t do this often, but now, now she was determined to kill him outright. She sweeped his leg to get him on his drunken ass, this must have triggered something because he became even more afraid than ever.
“You’re a… you’re a fucking freak!” He called out as he bled. “You’ve got titties too….”
“Yes, and you have a life insurance policy!” Iris countered, placing her claws to her step-father’s neck. “Good for all the money you stole from my family! Any last words Al...” Suddenly the tigress’ ear twitched as she heard her mother’s door open, and thus decided to help him up instead, but not before sinking her teeth into his arm. “Oh God Dwayne, you look terrible.. but don’t worry I just got that cougar out of the house.. you should be fine.…”
“The fuck are you…” Dwayne was about to object to Cale’s story and retaliate as best as he could. Pain didn’t matter much to a mad man used to bar fights and unneeded confrontation.
“Alan, Alan honey, Oh God what happened to you.” Cale’s mother gasped in horror as she saw blood dripping from her husband, and cuts so deep he would have been in agony if he wasn’t too drunk to feel it.
“Your son attacked me, starting scratching and biting at me cause he lost his games…” Dwayne tried to explain. “As soon as I’m better I’m gonna whoop his ass!”
“Cale didn’t do this… you’re just delirious…” She responded, seeing right through this obvious lie, no matter how true it was. “Cale couldn’t have done this, come with me sweetie I’ll take you to a hospital.”
“Oh God… Mom watch out, the cougar that attack him might still be out there… Is… is Dwayne gonna make it?” Iris asked, feigning innocence. Hoping with every ounce of her being that he would perish before a doctor saw him. Yes her mother would be sad, but it was for her own good. The man had endangered both of their lives too often with his constant insistence on drunk driving.
“Yes, please, go back to bed, I’ll be home to get you and your brother up for school in the morning.” She ordered in a soft voice to her son as she took her husband out to the golden van they had at the time, Iris insisting on keeping an eye on that cougar, and giving Dwayne a dirty look, a fine drop dead one.
Justice was served, this night lead up to the events leading to their divorce, once Dwayne kept trying to convince people that the pre-teen Vinole was trying to kill him, and Cale was never happier. Especially since once she thought back on it had her mother not arrived in time, she’d have to worry about having blood on her hands, and police asking a few questions about her if they happened to know about Changed and noticed the claw and bite marks were too clean and too big to have been a mere cougar.
Meanwhile in the present though, Dolores had just sat out plates for everyone and proceeded to let them get Turkey and side dishes that she had prepared just for the arrival of her former son in law. Everyone ate to their heart’s content. Though many asked questions about the odd teeth marks Gabriel left in the food and the odd chittering way he ate. Though he passed it off as being an old lumbee tradition. No one at the table really knew much about the tribe, so they accepted this explanation without question.
Iris was sitting next to her biological father, the dad of hers she loved dearly, one who would never raise a hand towards her, her brother, or her mother. One who, humorously, showed more signs of why the tigress believed her dad to have been gay as he commented on how his soda had more carbs in it than he had liked. A note that Gabriel and herself made fun of all night long.
It got late, Calvin and William slept upstairs, while Iris and Gabriel slept in the living room downstairs. Though they didn’t sleep so much as lay peacefully, they didn’t sleep during the night as often as they used to, and even they did that often forced themselves to do so. So they took this as an opportunity to speak to one another.
“Your father appears to be quite the benevolent individual.” Gabriel Locke observed, laying on his stomach. His tail making laying on his back impossible without a fair degree of discomfort. If only he had been a bear, then the rat could both lay on his back and feel something more than inadequacy with his body. “I admit a small amount of jealousy Cale. I can not say the same of my father.”
Iris had been around Gabe’s father, but not gotten to know him too too well. As such she looked over Gabriel with skepticism that his father could truly be all that bad. From what little she had seen of him he was a bald old man constantly joking around, laughing, and having a good time. He did drink a little, perhaps he was like Dwayne and drank a little too much sometimes. This required some questioning. “Why not? Your dad seems great. Mine’s not all that cool. I mean he buys me games and stuff, but sometimes he gets all up into my personal life and asking me questions about what I’m going to do when I grow up. Like I have any idea what to do after high school. Get a job, move out, pay bills… what else is there even to do? I mean go to college, but that’s just more school… It’s suffocating!”
“Cale… Your anger is understandable but misdirected.” Gabriel said rolling over onto his back, ignoring the discomfort as he breathed inward and focused his thoughts. “For it sounds like he merely has concerns about your future, ones that I share. You’re obsessed only with being a frantic feline female. It is the only thing ever on your mind. You have the body, but do you have any plans to do anything with it Cale? And I swear to god if you attempt any humor about prostitution….”
“What? Do you have any idea for tomorrow Mr. High And Mighty Pellet Muncher!?!” Iris snapped at her friend. This is exactly why she hated speaking with her father, put on trial every time.
“...No I don’t, I’m actually very afraid Cale..…” Gabriel admitted, he could feel his astral self shivering and struggling, banging on his ribcages and desiring freedom. At all moments without end, this is what he felt, begging for his flesh to be a fit for it again. “...Cale… What I’m going to admit to you is just for tonight. I don’t want to hear mention of it ever again. Are we in mutual agreement?”
Iris look up at Gabriel as though he had gone mad, only for a few seconds though, this confusion quickly turned to curiosity. “We are.” She spoke quickly and softly.
Gabriel looked at a paw and sighed. “I thought I could learn to enjoy being a rodent. I truly did. I mean it sounds like fun doesn’t it? Being a dark creature of the night, a ferocious vicious plague spreading crawler with a whip-like tail. The strength and agility, the warm fur, a lack of a gag reflex, the sheer badassery! I mean that all sounds like it should be fun right? Especially when I’m part of a worldwide conspiracy to keep beings like me secret. Truly it would make for wonderful television, or at the very least a decent Furry TF story on the internet. I’m not even into that sort of thing and I’d read it.”
“But you really want to be human again. I know. The whole furry thing doesn’t really suit you…” Iris rolled her eyes, she had thought this was going to be a big reveal. Not a rehash of what she already knew to be true. “What’s your point?”
Gabriel continued to speak. “I confess, I hate myself. I’ve actually given some thought to ending my life. I’ll never be human again, no Changed has EVER reverted back to what they used to be and you know what I think of that? It’s not fucking fair! That’s what I think of that. Do you think my grandparents can afford to send me to college? Yours can obviously, just look at this estate. Just look at it! There are more bathrooms here than my house has rooms. I mean look there’s an upstairs with three bedrooms and a study for Nyarlathotep’s sake!”
“Smallest mansion I’ve ever seen…” Iris countered before realizing the first part of Gabriel’s words. “Wait… what was that about taking your own life?” she asked mortified..
“IT’S STILL A BLOODY MANSION!!” Gabriel shrieked, noting that Iris was clearly missing the point, though in a few ways so is Gabriel. “This is your biggest problem, you don’t know how much potential you have. No homo, but Cale… Iris…” The tigress purred upon hearing her preferred name. “You are a gorgeous healthy woman with a pulse and a fully functional uterus, that alone can get you far in life. But you also have a good hand. Not only are you going to get into any college you desire Cale, but you have something I took for granted. Something I realize now is truly a precious gift. You have flesh that feels comfortable to the soul.”
“Gabe… I thought we weren’t doing this again. Playing the ‘I Hate Being A Rat’ card. It only makes you crazy when you dig up that old wound.” Iris warned, but Gabriel didn’t appear to be listening.
Instead the rat closed his eyes and began straining really hard as though he was literally willing the world to change. Sadly it didn’t appear to be working as all Iris could see was a single rat-man shaking in place, thinking he was grabbing hold of the heavens themselves when in reality he was not even a tiny speck in the giant cosmic salad that is the universe. “I’m always crazy, I just have to hold back. It’s not easy being male. I mean I’m not saying I want to be a girl, outside of exploiting Thana’s bisexuality, I see little enjoyment in such a thing. But, I’m always holding feelings in. I have too, otherwise people will think I’m gay or something like that.”
“I don’t think it’s working. Dad asked me if you and I were a thing.” Iris had done a poor job of withholding a powerful chuckle fit before clarifying her meaning. “Get this, he thought you were a girl. Said you looked like you might be one.”
“Oh not this shit again!” Gabriel pouted in an expo of rampage and disgruntlement. It wasn’t unusual for him, though it didn’t happen as often as it used to, for someone to tell him that his human form looked gay or girly. It was what had caused so many bullying troubles for him in middle school. His rat form being adorable as many people who no longer looked the basic idea of a person had put it, some predators even going to say he smelled delicious, there was just no escaping embarrassing observations. “We’re done talking Cale…”
“Oh come on Gabe, isn’t it funny how he thought you were a girl when his own son…” Iris said, still laughing at it.
“Good night Vinole!” Gabriel screeched and immediately turned back onto his stomach then shut his eyes.
“Gabe…” Iris tried saying, but, there was no answer. “Good night, Locke.” she said sarcastically repeating Gabriel’s panic.
-June 4th 2007-
Iris and Calvin had packed their clothes two days ago. Now they just needed to gather their video games, a small task that took no time at all. Gabe joined them for a quick and simple breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, though Iris’ grandmother made eggs over easy in lieu of scrambled for her as she just didn’t care for scrambled eggs except as a topping on a breakfast burrito. “Cale, Commit to memory that which was the topic of discussion for the previous night.” The rat advised in a quiet voice, the kind of voice Changed tended to use when they only wanted to be heard by other Changed. Humans couldn’t make it out, but those with augmented animalistic hearing had it bright as day.
“Oh I will, dad always gives me the same lecture. Only change the pronouns and translate the Gabespeak to english.”
“Gabespeak? Oh you have a compellation for my preferred method of articulation. Gabespeak? Isn’t that not a tad upon the snout?” Gabriel asked, unsure of the term Gabespeak. “Gabespeak… Gabespeak… Mmm I guess I can get used to it..”
“Whisper whisper!” William said to his daughter and her friend in a joking manner. “What are you two being so secretive about.”
“Nothing dad.” Iris responded with a nervous tick, she had forgotten how observant her father was. “Just animal stuffs.”
“Oh, uh okay then.” William accepted this answer, he didn’t know much about Changed, but he had been able to guess some basic things. He grasped the fact of not being human anymore would probably wear down on someone after a while and figured that discussion between Changed alone was likely a good remedy, strength in numbers and all that jazz. It made him think more about what Cale could have been going through. Did he feel alone? Different? Possibly, especially with so few people able to understand his condition, Cale probably didn’t fully understand it himself. He made a mental note, he would need to have a long hard talk with his child to see if he was okay. The feline had appeared alright and seemed to carry herself just fine, but a concerned father’s work is never done. After breakfast Iris, Gabriel, and William all played Mortal Kombat 2 on Iris’, actually her father’s, old Super Nintendo while making small talk up until it was time to leave for Florida.
“Be well Cale..” Gabriel said to Iris as she walked with him out to his van.
“Don’t let Jimmy drag you into any of his nonsense, at least, not when he’s drunk.” Iris responded in turn, refering to Gabriel’s thug younger brother.”
Iris’ good byes were short, but sweet. Her mother and grandparents were coming with her to Disney World, and after that she’d be with her father up in Virginia until the summer was over. The former was a tradition the Nicole Family did once every five years and since this year it was aligning perfectly with Cale’s birthday it was working out fine, the latter was something William did every year. The divorce papers were clear, although he still paid child support while he watched them, which seemed kind of odd to both him and his kin. The children were his for the summer and Christmas Holidays, it was something he looked forward to each year as did they, for his sons loved him and were loved by him. And that is why although many cars were taken as they went down to Orlando Florida, Cale and Calvin were very quick to jump into William’s green car. Satisfied with the knowledge that they were with their beloved father, truthfully they were more excited for that than the Disney theme parks.
Once the good byes were said and everyone was all packed, it was a long car ride to Florida full of singing along to the songs in Will’s CD Collection which included a lot of Bare Naked Ladies, Weird Al, and Jonasay, in addition to conversation, and merriment. Due to Calvin’s presence not much was said about Iris’ changed status, but occasionally father and daughter would look at one another and start to say something only to wind up saying nothing at all. It was like this all the way until Georgia where they checked into a Motel 6 to rest for the night and continue the drive at dawn.
For a half hour Calvin went into the shower and finally the two were alone once more. “Cale, I don’t want to keep harping on this, but. You know I’m worried about you.” William said once again bringing up his concerns.
“Why?” Iris raised an eyebrow. The tigress was as dangerous as she was beautiful, so the idea that someone who worry for her safety was laughable. “I have very sharp claws, especially now that I’m trying to stop biting them. I mean since one got lodged in my gums… That was hard to explain to the dentist… and got me in the guinness book of world records… I’m serious… it was ‘Largest Animal Claw stuck in Gum’, Cale Vinole. Look it up.”
“Oh god…” William cringed at that answer. “See, that’s the thing. You don’t have anyone to teach you how to be… you. I mean it’s bad enough that you’re a slacker, you goof off a lot, and I know that’s tough for you not to. I was the same way at your age.”
“You were a tiger girrrrrr… rrrrr… Being a cat makes it very easy to roll my r’s.” Iris forced herself to say, nearly admitting what she never wanted her father to know.
“Yeah I can see how that would help with that… and no I wasn’t. I don’t know how about the change you know, quite frankly I was hoping you could answer some questions. I mean this is the first time I’ve seen you where I knew, and I know you’ve been looking forward to see me, so I didn’t want to just jump on you about this all at once. But… it’s not something I can let go untalked about.” William had rehearsed and entire spiel dozens of times, and wound up using very little of it as what came off the top of his head was all he used. “So let’s just… start simple what do you know about it?”
“Well…” Iris’ ears lowered as she started thinking really hard about the question. “I know that the Change happens every August 17th, humans cannot see what we’ve become except in very unusual circumstances, and sometimes we change gender as well as species. That’s about it really...” The tigress exhaled, the desire to tell her father that she was his daughter was so heavily resting on the tip of her tongue. when a sudden burst of positive energy came to help loosen the burden of a tied tongue. “OH!”, but it didn’t last. “We all…. become mammals..”
“Alright that’s as far as I know myself. I was hoping you’d have something to add to that. Well I guess what I’m worried about is. Are you okay? Do you have people you can talk too? I mean you’ve got Gabriel I can see, but any stronger network? Cause I know one or two Changed, there’s a guy I work with at the radio station who turned into a mongoose last year.” William stopped for a second and rubbed his head. “I’m going have to get used to saying stuff like that.”
“It’ll be even weirder when you too have a tail.” Iris spoke forth, her voice sounding very unclear as she tried way too hard to hold back her laughter.
“Yeah….” Iris’ father looked over the room then at himself. “That’s just something I’m gonna have to deal with when it happens… One thing I want to know is. Well he said something that’s alerting alarming. You have all the instincts of a tiger right?”
“And all the strengths and weaknesses!” Iris grinned showing off her claws. A gesture that seemed impressive to other Changed, but to her father it seemed like she was showing off her finger nails. He had gotten the point she was trying to make just fine though.
“See, that scares me. Especially hearing that you were the one who attacked Dwayne. I’m wondering if you have control of yourself. I mean I know I didn’t at my age and I wasn’t a…forgive me if this is a slur… a furry.” Will said with clear worry. Though Iris thought Will was stressing over nothing anyone could see he made a good point. What if it was your child who suddenly become a half-animal abomination of nature, and the only thing protecting her was her ability to focus and the continuing presence of the veil. Yet you have no faith in either and for good reason.
“Dad, I’m perfectly in control of myself.. You’re worrying over nothing..” Iris laughed to herself, but truthfully she knew there was some truth to this. In reality it was nothing but sheer dumb luck that prevented people from knowing. She was afterall the same person who ran around her school proudly announcing that she was a sexy tiger girl no matter how weird the reaction to her behavior was. What her denial was about was purely because she hated to see her dad worry, once he started worrying about something he rarely stopped bringing it up. One of many traits the two had in common.
William took a laser pointer out of his pocket and did the obvious with it. “Really? Then I guess you won’t mind if I did this.”
This made things uneasy for Iris, as now a red light was on the wall, dancing about as her father twirled it. The tigress could feel every muscle in her body tensing up as she fought all sensations and instructions her body was giving her. Every molecule of every single strand of fur on the feral maiden’s body said that this light was valuable, mysterious, and she wanted it. “Dad… I’m Changed, not a cartoon character… there’s.. no way I’m gonna…”
William wasn’t convinced, he was a poker player in his free time and he knew the face of someone who really should have folded when they had the chance like the back of his own hand. The human waved the light a little closer to his feline daughter and made it dance about all tantalizing. It was driving the poor girl insane with overwhelming desire, like an itch she knew she couldn’t scratch, but she had to, it just wouldn’t stop. Finally she had no choice.
“MINE!” She screamed cupping a paw over the laser pointer light. Yet when she checked where she grabbed there was no light. Where did the light go? The human part of her mind knew where, the tiger part was more dazed and confused than high schoolers in the 1970’s.
William believed his point had not yet been made, so he used his laser pointer to guide this transmogrified daughter across the room. She was now determined to chase it and ignore the outside world. Nothing mattered to her more than that glimmering crimson prize. Though Iris Vinole put up a good fight, leaving various claw marks in the wall. It was just light and thus the hunt was ultimately futile. Though this was all about the chase, not the prize.
Once Calvin came out of the shower he was mostly unsurprised to see his brother acting catlike and chasing a laser pointer. This was actually a normal sight for the younger brother. He didn’t even have anything to say to it, he just watched in amusement at his sibling’s antics.
William was dissapointed, it was as he feared. His child was more cat than man and he had the feeling that this kitten of a young man had no problem with that or any concerns about how that comes off to people. "Look I'll drop it, but are you going to be able to handle your happy ass when we're at Disney World where there's people everyone and light shows and shot?"
The vibe became suddenly tense and suffocating, Iris' throat closed and she became unable to answer her dear father. Suddenly she seemed on trial when previously they were just having a good time. All she could do was nod her head.
"I can't hear your head rattle." William responded.
"Yes sir..." The tigress clarified.
"Take your shower." Will answered, Iris doing so.
"What was that about?" Calvin asked.
"Cale will tell you when you're ready." And that was the last word on the subject for days. Aside from a few jokes about it during the Animal Kingdom portion of the park visit when they saw the tigers.
Disney World went on without a hitch, William had even gotten Iris onto the various rides including every roller coaster which the tigress was normally scared to death of. She thought she would be screaming, mrrowling, and rawring throughout the whole ride. Yet the truth wasn't quite as humorously cartoonish. At worst during some of the slower parts of the bigger coasters she hyperventilated during the slower parts as they built up to the main event. One you couldn't accurately predict as many of the coasters hid the tracks or used tricks to make you think they went up higher than they did. Yet once it sped up Iris found herself cheering in delight. It was just as her father told her. It is never as bad as it seems.
Iris began to see the coasters as being a metaphor for the change itself. The whole world slows down and you feel the boney hand of the reaper grip your heart as tight as he can until suddenly everything goes boom and the balls if still present are to the wall! You can't think, everything is moving so fast the world is lost to you. Then you step off the ride and suddenly the world returns to normal, yet a very real part of you wishes it hadn't. Except for Gabriel, but he's a butt. Then again it could have been in Iris’ head as it seems everything in her life revolved around the change whether or not in did in actuality. Her inability to shut up about it was always a problem for her and a big reason Gabriel was always mad at her. That could be saved for another day though as she had rides to ride, expensive gifts to buy, and overpriced fair food to get small portions of as this place was crazy enough to charge ten dollars for a plain hamburger with nothing on it.
The small food portions were the main bad thing about Disney World. As already stated food in the park was scarce mostly because everything was marked up quite a bit and since each of the four parks was pretty much on its own island there was a lot of walking to build up hunger and thirst. By law there were plenty of water fountains to prevent dehydration, something very easy to come down with when you have a thick coat of tiger fur while walking for various miles in the hot summer sun,. The hot summer sun that is specifically shining on Florida which is infamous for being one of the hottest states in the union alongside Texas and California. What really didn’t help the small food portions though, even moreso than the heavy amounts of walking was that Iris’ sense of smell was so grand that she could smell everything that everyone else was eating and it just made her hungrier.
Overall though she and her brother had a wonderful time, though an incredibly lengthy car ride in two parts. One from Florida to Goldsboro, North Carolina and a second from Goldsboro, to Aylett, Virginia. The Goldsboro portion made Iris feel rather uneasy as she had relatives here, relatives she didn’t see on a regular basis. No more than a few days a year at most as this was often used as the midway point for meeting her father, it just wasn’t this year because of the Disney World trip. The tigress had been having so much fun the fact that she forget about the Goldsboro Pit Stop and did her best to keep her cool while she was here. Though she suspected her father knew it was an act, he could always read her like a book. A children’s book with colorful pictures and large print words for ease of clarification and an overly simplistic plot with subtlely like a Category 5 hurricane.
Each year it was the same with this. Unlike her father who she spoke with online and over the phone often enough, her Goldsboro relatives she did not see outside of these intervals. It was possible that one or more of them could be Changed now and thus able to see her for what she was, female. This wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the fact that unlike her and her father, her Goldsboro relatives were very set in their ways so to speak. Would they hold it against her that she was now female? It wasn’t her fault, this was simply the way things were and they couldn’t be changed, and the only way Iris would want to change it was to make it so that everyone would see her as a woman and know that in a sense, perhaps that was always the truth. Iris couldn’t know for sure, but that’s what her heart was telling her in her very long look into it as the car pulled up to her great grandmother’s house. “Please… don’t judge what I can’t help…” the striped one muttered under her breathe.
Iris breathed in and out, panting heavily as they pulled up. Naturally her father was deeply concerned. “Cale are you okay? I haven’t seen you this tense since The Yeti Roller coaster back at the Animal Kingdom.”
“Just… peachy…” Iris lied, which was obvious to even the most naive of persons.
“Cale, it’s just your Granny, your Nana, and your Papa Coe. Your Uncle David and your Aunt Claire will be joining us for dinner. Everything will be fine.” William tried to calm his startled daughter.
“But what if they’ve become…” Iris stared into her father’s eyes and gestured to herself.
“Then I’m sure they’ll understand.” William said just before killing the ignition and stepping inside the place his grandmother had lived for even longer than his children were alive.
“...No they won’t.” The tigress said to herself quietly.
Once they got inside, Iris walking slowly and getting very strange looks from her father and brother before managing to get that far the tigress looked around sperodically before remembering in her panicked state that if there were other changed she could smell them. After taking a whiff she smelt the thick tobacco, which made sense as most of her relatives smoked, further scents were just the abundance of food her great grandmother had, being a southern woman naturally meant she loved to cook for guests, and finally the people who had been there recently. This however did not include her aunt and uncle. “Have David and Claire been here lately? I don’t smell them…”
“Shug, that’s a strange thing way to say hi to your Granny.” Spoke the voice of a short but round elderly woman breathing heavily from an oxygen tank, Iris’ great grandmother.
“Heh… Hi Granny, sorry. You know my mind, it runs a mile a minute.” Iris laughed nervously as she wrapped her arms around her great grandmother, making sure her claws were retracted before she did so as not to accidentally harm the equipment allowing her to breathe. “It’s really good to see you again.”
It truthfully had been, Granny had been a little girl during the Great Depression and had regularly been in and out of the hospital. Every year that had passed the Verne family dreadfully awaited the day that they would hear of her passing. no one anticipated it, but everyone knew it was going to happen eventually. It would truly be a day worthy of sadness of mourning as it was her ancient soul that kept the family together. There were those who claimed that she knew that and it was nothing but sheer willpower that kept her aged body from giving out on her. “It’s good to see you too sug.” The older woman said to her great granddaughter as she returned the hug.
Afterward Iris and Calvin did what they normally did, Calvin got out his DS and played video games while Iris browsed the computer to see if any of her friends were online like Mattiaz, Gabriel, Hugh, or perhaps one of her non Changed friends. Hugh had been on a lot lately as he had finally gotten permission to use the computer again after learning how to type without breaking the keyboard so she hadn’t been surprised to find she was the only of her friends online.
SnoperdThePhileas: *tacklepouncehug* Hey T-Girl!
MegaCat CV: *falls over, a large snow leopard ontop of her* Right back at ya like Kirby!
SnoperdThePhileas: Creepy Crawly told me you were going to be out of town… doing anything fun?
MegaCat CV: With my father… So yeah. My dad’s rather nice.
Iris began sweating a few bullets, metaphorically though as she couldn’t actually sweat as tigers were too sexy to perform such an action. Not that sweating in itself wasn’t sexy, just that tigers were far too sexy to do it specifically. Of course it also helped that mammals that weren’t humans with minor exception such as the hippopotamus and the platypus did not sweat. The two cats began to talk for awhile, Hugh not being much of a conversationalist they mostly spoke about video games this was fine with Iris as she wanted to get her mind off of the potential of one of her relatives giving away her true sex to the rest of her family.
The entire family would be eating at Golden Corral and then it was going to sleep to prepare a long car trip to Virginia. Iris continued talking to Hugh while giving casual answers to the attempts from her dad at striking up anything resembling a real conversation, trying to enter her own mind but not letting anyone present know that she is mentally barricading herself. If Iris’ father knew she was trying to stay inside her own mental plane he would ask her why, and Iris knew this. If William did ask Iris anything she didn’t want to answer she was would just freeze up and look away with William asking again just slowly and a more serious tone to his voice until the tigress finally got flustered and growled at him. Truly it was better for both of them if William just believed that Iris actually was being sociable, the fact that he knew she was diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome did help her get away with this act. So there she sat in her great grandmother’s ancient looking home, small with doorways intended for the smaller humans of yesteryear and with walls made of a material that Iris nor her brother Calvin could place. The texture of the walls was not felt by the two siblings anywhere else except in incredibly old and cheap motel that haven’t updated anything about them since the 1960’s with the exception of adding Cable Boxes.
The tigress had a wave of both fear and relief was over her as soon as the news from her father came that they would now be heading out of the restaurant to eat. Specifically herself, her father, her brother, her great grandmother, while her grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and his wife would meet them at the restraunt likely appearing after the original party as they usually did. This brought relief because she was quite hungry and a buffet would really hit the spot, she was afterall a bottomless pit of a teenager in addition to being a ravenous carnivore. This brought fear as she would be introduced to more relatives of hers who could potentially be former humans that could see her for the young woman she was. Taking a deep inward breathe she got back into the car along with her brother, great grandmother, and of course her father who was driving. Though Iris’ nerves calmed once she was in the restaurant for awhile and was filling the first of many plates. When it came to buffets this cat had no organization skills whatsoever, there was shrimp in the mashed potatoes, gravy all over the chicken, and for whatever reason chocolate all over the steak.
William looked upon this plate of his daughter’s food and just made a face, this happened every time she went out to a buffet. Iris would make her food selection in such a way that would make far more sense if she happened to be pregnant, a state she has never been in her entire life. The maiden’s table manners left much to be desired, it was lucky for her that her stepmother was not present at the time to harp upon her for that or it else she would have found herself rather inconvenienced and irritated.
When one feasts and drinks in great plenty they naturally get full, and when one gets full their body produces waste, and when said body produces enough of it it has to be eliminated by some means. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” Iris said scooting out from the table her tail swishing as she head for the bathroom. Though a woman, her human ghost image being male meant that she had to just go into the men’s room and pretend she was taking a crap. As she came out she stopped to look at the sign on the women’s restroom door, the irony of her situation catching up with her even further given that she was trying hard to push it out of her mind, but the harder one tries at not paying attention to something the more one does. Iris was only pulled out of gazing back and forth between the two signs by a familiar voice.
“Cale? You’re one of us?”
The tigress turned around to find her Uncle, now a boar with sharp tusks. “Da… David?”
“Yeah it’s me… I’m a boar now, it’s not that bad. The pig cop jokes are going to get old pretty quick though.” Iris’s Uncle David spoke, referring to how he had been training to become a police officer when the change had hit him last august.
“.I.. I didn’t want.. you… to… t.. see me like this… You can’t tell Dad or anyone… I..” Iris began to hyperventilate. “I’m a… I’m… and I don’t feel ashamed of It I kind of like it.. I just…”
“Wow wow, look, what’s happened to you and what you think of it is your business okay. I’m not you, I’m not involved with this. This is all you okay?” Iris’ Uncle told her, prompting the tigress to smile relieved and hug him. After returning the hug Uncle David pushed her aside. “Now if you excuse me I need to use the restroom.”
“Is Claire Changed as well?” Iris swallowed, pondering if she was out of the woods yet.
“No, just you and me. Though I hear it doubles every year so… might not be that much longer.” Her uncle informed her, and that was that.
Iris returned to the table continuing to eat and though was still somewhat defense. She looked towards the rest of her family and tried to imagine what all of them would look like Changed. The tigress did enjoy that her uncle had become a boar, she liked boars and felt that it made him resemble her grandfather on her father’s side more. “Maybe it won’t be so bad… maybe..” she whispered to herself. The tigress didn’t see her uncle very often, so she feared greatly that this was just a fluke at best and a warning sign that her disguise would soon fade.
The rest of the summer when the family finally got to Virginia was eventful, but not memorable. It was the kind of summer that went past in a blur where you devote to having so much fun you can’t really recall what happened in that blaze of glory except that it was quite the ride. There were tense moments where Iris considered telling father everything, but she would always chicken out. Even when he gave her the usual dad speeches of how she could tell him anything and demanding to know what she planned to do with her life, all she could give was the same answers about not knowing or lies about not caring. Iris had tons of ideas for her future, but it all boiled down to how much of herself she could be. Though she had fun, she knew, she was still terrified, but hopefully that bridge could be crossed when she came to it. The life of a transgender in the closet is a ticking time bomb, especially when the door was as transparent as Iris’.
The closest the tigress ever came to telling her family that summer about what she was was one time when they were playing video games and Iris referred to her brother and father as being girls for picking female characters. Then in the next round she joined in and picked one herself. Her father asked “So, you picked a female, so what are you?”
Iris just purred and responded honestly. “I’m a girl!”, having a moment of telling the truth in plain sight that would be ignored.
William thought he knew the problem with his son, that he was a tiger, and on top of that too much like himself. In his current view of the world, there was no way he could have known that he only had one son, not two. Not unless a scared young woman hiding in the guise of a young man could find the courage to tell him, but it just wasn’t happening. Chances are, it wasn’t going to happen without something happening that completely through Iris’ world far more out of whack than it already was.
Things wound down when Iris and her brother Calvin returned to their home in Silver City just in time for school, Iris was somewhat happy to be out of her dad’s curiosity and to get her contact lenses back from her friend Gabriel. It seemed like everything had mostly returned to normal until August 15th when Calvin refused to go to school.
“What’s wrong? You know even if tomorrow’s your birthday you still have to go to school.” Iris said heading into her brother’s room pondering why he ignored their mother’s instructions to get up and get dressed for their classes.
Calvin looked over at his stripe-haired sibling with a runny nose and generally sickly complexion. “Tell mom I don’t feel so good..”
Iris blinked fearing this was the Changed Flu that had befell her once. “No… I mean…. you’re not too sick are you?” she put her paw to her muzzle hoping this was a coincidence.
“...Uhh… are they really gonna let you wear that tail to school? And since when can you do make up? That fur almost looks real… but I can tell it’s fake if I look hard enough… my head hurts worse now...”
“...Well… fuck… that… that is so not fair…” Iris stared at her brother for a few seconds and left the room. “MOM! I don’t think he’s gonna be going to school today… and I doubt he’s faking.”
The cataclysm for Iris was only beginning, it was August 2007, but luckily she had the Tall Tales Convention to look forward to for one more escape before she really had to deal with this. Then she would have her hands full with many explanations.