|A day shy of a week ago Robotech Master was out on his e-bike when an SUV struck him and drove off. According to the most recent news available, he passed away from his injuries at around 2:00 this morning. I have kept some news up on his user page and, at this point, ask that anyone wishing to leave messages or tributes do so on either his talk page or another page that can be used for such things. His account here and all of the stories he has gifted the Shifti community with will be preserved in memoriam, as we also did for Morgan.|
User:Michael Bard/Diary of a Centaur in a Human's World
Diary of a Centaur in a Human's World
Jan 24, 7:00am
Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they well help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, since I at least try to write, I've tried to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
Oh, and (of course) names and places of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that.
I was suddenly awake as adrenaline entered my veins.
Rubbing my eyes I looked down to see what I'd stepped on. Down my chest and down my furry legs to my hoofed feet.
Now I was really awake and flicked my tail in panic.
I spun around a full 180 degrees with my waist and head and looked back across my second back and at my hind legs and my tail.
My tail which waved back and forth laughing.
Behind my laughing appendage, which I could easily feel moving back and forth, there was a big emptiness surrounded by the frame of my bed.
Aha! A dream! Finally a second lucid dream to have fun in. Well, just to make sure first, I reached behind and pinched the base of my tail.
At least I didn't pinch too hard.
Thus this wasn't a dream. The last time I'd known I was dreaming the pinch hadn't hurt - so in my case anyway there was truth to that little bit of wisdom.
But if it wasn't a dream...?
A more urgent need suddenly took over my consciousness. I needed to get to the bathroom, normally an easy task. Twisting back around I looked ahead at the narrow 120 degree corner I would have to negotiate to get to the washroom. I took a step and then paused.
At least I knew how to walk which was convenient but that wasn't why I'd paused. The washroom in my apartment is about six feet wide and 12 feet long which could be managed. Unfortunately the toilet was along the long wall just beside the door - there was no way I could use it.
And then more panic struck - if I knew how.
Taking advantage of the amazing flexibility of my waist, I leaned down and looked between my legs. Yup, there it was, pointing forwards. Or at least its sheath although I could see and feel it poking out in its need to relieve itself.
The toilet wasn't going to work.
And I REALLY had to go.
Then I remembered a contingency plan I'd used when a kidney stone had blocked the exit of my, well my old one. It was a bit messy but I was rapidly running out of time to choose.
Carefully I stepped forward to the entrance to my bedroom. Ow! Unfortunately I forgot the lintel above the doorway. With my new height I shoved my forward straight into it. I stopped for a moment, distracted from my need and ducked, rubbing my forehead. But quickly the pain subsided and my need reasserted itself. A closet was ahead, the bathroom was to the left and the living room was to the right. And, of course, the wall of the bedroom was also to the right.
My tail started bumping against the dresser. There was no way I was going to make the left turn.
And boy, did I have to go.
I took a step forward and squeezed to the right. It was still tight, and I scraped my left hindquarters against the bookshelf, and had to push the living room chair forward a bit, but I was able to squeeze out into the living room.
Step one done.
I clomped out further into the living room until I had room and then maneuvered my body completely around. It was tight - there was just enough room between the entertainment center, couch and chair to manage. The chair would have to go but not now.
I REALLY REALLY had to go.
I slowly rotated my entire bulk around and clomped back through the narrow hallway and shoved my head straight into the lintel about the entrance into the narrow hallway. Damn it all!. Breathing deeply I stepped back and ducked and then made my way through the hallway and squeezed through the door into the washroom, clicking the light switch that was outside the washroom to on.
By the way, does anybody know WHY somebody would put the light switch to the washroom on the wall OUTSIDE of the washroom? I've always wondered. Now back to our story.
I stepped carefully across the tiled floor and then stopped before the bathtub. Of course it was oriented lengthwise along the far wall so it would be really tight but I was running out of time. Being careful to duck my head (there was yet ANOTHER lintel separating the short bathtub from the rest of the washroom), I carefully I lifted one foreleg and stepped over the side, and then the other. Then, with my fore hooves sliding a bit on the slick surface I took small steps forward until my upper chest was against the opposite wall. That was as far as I could go. I fumbled around and turned on the water a little - hot first and then cold. I could hear it dribbling out.
Normally I would test it, but I couldn't wait any longer.
I reached up and felt around until I grasped the showerhead and then moved it so that it pointed towards the wall and sharply downwards. Turning my head a bit so that I could see at least a bit of what I was doing I pushed the knob that transferred the water from the nozzle to the showerhead.
The water was COLD! At least the lower angle kept most of it from my body.
And I had to GO!
I reached up and twisted the shower nozzle upward a bit until the cold water was streaming between my fore and hind legs.
And then I went. AHHHHHHHH.
I could feel some water from the shower splashing onto my forelegs and pattering on the bottom of my lower chest.
By the time the stream stopped the shower water had gone from warm to hot. Holding the towel rod for balance I backed out step by step. First left hind leg, then right hind leg, then left foreleg up and over the lip and then right foreleg up and over. And all this as I leaned my upper body down to keep my balancing grip on the towel rod.
Which meant that the now near-scalding shower hit my upper back.
I yelped and jerked upward, fortunately my lower body was far enough back that I missed the lintel, back to what I would guess was my neutral position. Then I grabbed a towel from the rack and stepped backward until my hind quarters were out of the washroom and then toweled the bottom of my lower chest, my forelegs, and my upper chest dry. The shower was still running in the background. And, even though most of me was barely damp, that little bit was enough for the towel.
Then I looked over to see how successful my attempt had been. It wasn't too bad - I wiped up the little bit that hadn't made it into the bathtub and then, holding the towel over the tub in one hand so it wouldn't drip on the floor, twisted to the right and leaned down and reduced the hot water flow until the shower could be survived by mortals. Then I twisted back to facing forward, wiped some water off the far wall, and held the towel in the flowing water for a few minutes to rinse it out.
First task achieved. It wasn't sanitary, but it was better then any of the other options.
I turned off the shower and put the wet towel on the towel rack - another silly construction engineer had placed it over the tub along the far wall (although it had finally come in useful) to dry. Then I grabbed the second towel (it was hanging to dry from swimming last night) and wiped off the last of the water, remembering to be careful as I leaned backward to my neutral position so as not to bang my head.
I finished off the rest of my morning tasks while I was still in the washroom. At least my chin wasn't any hairier and I didn't have a mane. I debated using underarm deodorant on my other limbs and tail but after a second decided not to. After returning everything to their places I carefully backed out and into the living room where I had some room to maneuver - at least I wasn't the size of a draft horse! And I felt much better then yesterday - I'd thought I'd caught some kind of flu or something about 2:00pm Tuesday afternoon.
What had happened?
I rotated myself around and turned on the lamp and took a first look at myself. It seemed that my upper body was about the same, although without the fat I had been unable to lose it was shorter and squatter. I looked and could see that my upper chest was not moving. Placing my palm where my heart used to be I could feel nothing. Guess there's nothing up here. I leaned over and looked down.
My pale naked flesh blended smoothly into fuzzy and scraggly looking cream fur that flowed down my legs changing to black tips just before my cream-coloured hooves. I could see a few strands of hair growing from my fetlocks. Moving my upper torso back up and then twisting it and my neck around I looked over my back. My lower chest was narrow and I could see ribs sticking out the sides as I saw my chest move in and out with my breathing. I guess my lungs and other stuff were down there. My hair was the same cream colour as on my legs but with a ragged black line along my lower spine that blossomed into the thick black hair of my tail. My hind legs were coloured similarly to my forelegs and had their own black points.
Ok, so I was a centaur. How and why?
How? I didn't have a clue. Why? I didn't have a clue about that either. I couldn't see this coming from any kind of disease in just one night, and no other likely explanations occurred to me. Maybe somebody else knew something. I rotated myself around and turned on the radio, and since I wasn't sure where an all-news station was I just let the classical music play - they were in the middle of Finlandia. For once I regretted not having cable so I couldn't check any of the news channels. With the music in the background I clomped over to my computer and turned it on, reaching for my watch and strapping it to my wrist. What the hell was I going to do?
And then I saw the time.
I was late. Could I call in sick? No, I'd left early yesterday after guaranteeing that I would be in on time today. The budget HAD to be done at all costs. Shit, shit, shit! I had to go. That's it - go and work.
Twisting at my waist, I started fumbling through the pile of programming books looking for the mapbook I kept handy, while the computer went through its five minute bootup (oh the joys of Windows and firewalls!). I couldn't take the TTC as usual due to size limitations (maybe I could use the disabled service later - nah). I didn't want to go down main streets since I could see Toronto drivers running me over first, and noticing what I was second. There were no parks or paths that could easily be used. That meant side streets. So if I went down Cheritan and then Duplex, across Lawrence and down to Old Yonge and then across... It could be done - it'd be messy though.
I twisted back and typed in my password. Then I put the mapbook down, rotated, and went back towards my bedroom to get dressed.
And then stopped.
What would I wear? I twisted my waist and neck and looked over my lower back. Most of me was fine, it was just the top half. I grabbed my coat and checked its length against my upper chest which proved to be noticeably shorter than it had been. A shirt and tie wouldn't work. Shit. What then? Aha - a sweater. A good sweater would cover up the embarrassing parts. It wasn't really acceptable at work but I was running out of time and choices.
Quickly, remembering to duck, I squeezed back into my bedroom - I would have to move that bookcase but I had no idea where I'd put it - and made it to the hole where the mattress on my bed used to be. Maybe the change had to steal mass from that? Would it be enough though? Who knew? I ripped open the closet and grabbed a good sweater and shrugged it on.
Then I realized that my glasses hadn't gotten caught. And that meant that they weren't on.
I rotated my waist and found them on the dresser and put them on - and everything became clearer. My eyesight isn't that bad, only bad for seeing clear details at a distance.
Then, carefully stepping over the frame of my bed, I gradually rotated myself around and squeezed myself back into my living room (not remembering to duck until it was just a little too late and getting another light tap as a future reminder) and made my way over to the computer. As the high-speed connection was ready I started Outlook and then stared as messages started downloading. Hundreds of messages.
Then I noticed that they were all going into the TSA-list in-box.
Somebody else must have changed.
I was so out of my mind I almost laughed.
Then the download was done so I typed up my e-mail to work.
I'm running a bit late today - and for a reason. You won't believe it until you see it so I'll show it to you when I arrive. Anyway it's about 8:30 now so I should be there between 9:30 and 10:00 depending on traffic and other events.
I signed and sent it. Then I went to the TSA-list box and opened the first new message. Somebody had turned into a lizard? How universal was the change then? How stable was it? How...?
The heck with it. I was late and had to get going so I selected all the new messages and forwarded them to work - I'd check them there while I was waiting for the conversion programs I'd written to crunch numbers. Turning the monitor off (shutting down the system would take too long), I backed up and rotated around, and grabbed my coat from the coat rack. Fortunately the buttons were placed such that I could button it snugly and let the rest hang loose around my waist.
And then I suddenly had trouble breathing.
What? I had just put my coat on and...
I unbuttoned and took my coat off and could breath easily again. Why? I remembered how I'd built a centaur for fiction and felt around my neck. Yep. Breathing slits - I could feel my breath moving in and out through them. They were behind my ears and tight against the back of my head although somehow I new I could stretch them slightly. Still, I had to get going so I put my coat back on but this time left the collar loose. This was going to be COLD!
If I was going to be transformed, why couldn't it happen in the summer?
Oh well. I grabbed my hat and shoulder bag, put my mapbook, wallet and keys in the bag, pulled open the door, turned off the light at a separate switch, ducked and squeezed myself out into the hallway, and pulled the door shut behind me.
Ah.shit. I fumbled around in the shoulder bag for the keys, rotated around (at least the hallway was wide enough) and locked the door, and then tossed the keys back in the bag. Then I rotated myself back around to the door to the staircase that was almost opposite the door to my apartment.
Oh God, a narrow staircase. Well, I was only on the second floor although I went down to the basement to get out and I wasn't going to trust the elevator. Pushing the door open and ducking I walked into the stairwell and started going down the stairs.
And it wasn't too bad. I started going slowly, and although I almost lost it when the door slammed into my rear I managed to keep my balance. I had to go slowly and carefully, but I could manage the weight and four legs kept me stable.
Or at least it was easy until I came to the switchback at the bottom of the first flight. Gripping the railing, I slowly walked across the landing and to the right. It was just wide enough that I could fit on to it, although I had to squeeze my side painfully against the railing as I rotated around.
And then down the next flight. And to a landing to the first floor. And down a flight. And to a landing. And down a flight.
Almost ten minutes later I reached the door which was 90 degrees off from the stairs. Ah hell. More careful rotating, scraping, squeezing, and I was finally at the bottom of the stairs and opening the door.
Which faced a short and narrow walkway which rotated 90 degrees again to finally reach the driveway.
Another bang on the head before I remembered to duck, and then another two minutes of squeezing and scraping (this time against bricks) and then I could finally make my way onto the driveway.
Then I remembered - Cheritan was south of the building which meant that I was on the wrong side. Normally this was not a problem as the subway was north, but now... I remembered the wonderful narrow hallway and multiple doors I'd have had to have gone through to reach the south entrance.
Maybe this choice wasn't so bad after all.
But now I had to go. Into the world where people would see me.
But... Ah hell, it was probably better to just jump right in.
I turned and cantered up the driveway and spun right to proceed south along Yonge. The two pedestrians that were on the sidewalk stopped and stared, and I heard the squealing of brakes of at least one car. But then I reached Cheritan and turned west and left the crowds behind.
As I proceeded up Cheritan I found that the clatter and rattle of my hooves on pavement intermixed with the occasional crunch as I crushed bits of snow along with the inhale and exhale of breath to match the stretching of my leg muscles relaxing and actually invigorating. The breath from my breathing vents was hot on my cheeks and I could feel the chill air passing down through my upper torso and into my lungs before being squeezed back out.
Of course, blowing hot moist air onto my glasses quickly caused them to fog. I stopped, took them off, folded them, and put them in a pocket of my coat.
If only it wasn't so damn cold! It figures I would be transformed during a panic work day in winter rather than during a weekend in the summer.
I started trotting and continued until I reached Duplex. Unfortunately Duplex runs parallel to Yonge and is used by way too many people as a way to skip the traffic on Yonge. Fortunately, since I was so late, rush hour was pretty well over so it wasn't too busy.
Still, as I turned north I accelerated into a gallop and started making my way down the hill to Lawrence. I only saw one car which was heading south and I heard it squeal to a stop as I passed it.
Yup. The cell phones were certainly ringing now. I'd have to hurry if I wanted to stay ahead of the crowds so that I could get to work.
And then, just ahead of me at Lawrence, the light turned yellow. Ah, shit! I clattered to a stop and waited, the warm mist from my breathing slits and mouth clouding the air around my head. Traffic on Lawrence didn't seem to notice, although I saw a couple people staring from the #52 bus as it went by.
And then the light changed and I was off.
The trip north to Old Yonge was quiet and I caught the light while crossing over York Mills. As I wasn't as familiar with the backstreets north of that I stopped and reached into my shoulder bag and pulled out my mapbook. A quick consultation and I continued on. Luckily I noticed a patch of broken glass and circled around it instead of trotting right overtop of it. At Sheppard I had to wait for the light, and this time somebody who apparently had time on their hands noticed me and turned to follow me as I proceeded north. Even as I started taking side streets westward to reach Allen, he turned and followed and I could see him talking on a cell phone.
I quickened my pace into a gallop and started to gasp for breath but that didn't help as he was easily keeping abreast of me. How to get rid of him? If I could just last until Finch I could cut through the park around the reservoir.
I slowed down to a fast canter to catch my breath. At least I could see well enough to get around without my glasses.
Finally I reached Finch. I turned west and proceeded along the sidewalk a ways, ignoring the honking and brake squealing of cars, and made my way to the crosswalk across from the reservoir. As I traveled I twisted around to check on my tail (the car that was following me, not MY tail) ,I saw that he was still with me - he must have somehow inserted himself into the traffic on Finch. Well, soon he wouldn't be able to follow.
By the time I reached the crosswalk, traffic on Finch was at a standstill in both directions. And the stopped traffic blocked the crosswalk. Just my luck. Ahead of me I heard a loud bang and looked up to see a collision and a damaged car being pushed towards me.
Enough of this. I turned and galloped further along Finch towards Dufferin. Nobody would block that intersection unless they had a deathwish. Still, at least the traffic jam had trapped the car that was following me. Finally I reached Dufferin - and chaos.
I guess that somebody behind me had guessed which way I was headed. Not only had a few gawkers snarled traffic, but I could hear a siren in the distance and maybe a helicopter approaching. Ah shit.
After stopping and checking - I'm not suicidal - I made my way across Finch and then across Dufferin. Then I made my way onto the sidewalk and at a brisk gallop it wasn't long until I reached my turn north. Westbound Finch was nearly empty, probably due to the traffic snarl at Dufferin. Smiling to myself as I turned north, I almost pitied those trapped, but I had to get to work. It wasn't much further.
Of course the non-main streets here in the distant north where the car ruled as king didn't have sidewalks so I had to stay on the road. And, as this was a heavy truck traffic area I thought that speed was the better part of valour - in any kind of disagreement a truck would definitely win. Finally, if the helicopter was seeking me, the sooner I got to work, the sooner I would be where it couldn't see me. I'd already caused enough trouble and wanted more time to figure out what the blank was going on.
The final leg was quick. It used to take about half an hour when I had just two feet, but now I did it in about five minutes. By the end I was breathing hard, but not gasping, and had seen only large trucks which I carefully avoided but otherwise ignored. I'd already been seen and they couldn't maneuver fast enough to keep up with me.
And then, finally, I arrived. At the door I clattered to a stop and then calmly walked to the entrance checking my watch - nine forty-five. Hmm. I must have been averaging about 20 miles an hour. Finally remembering to duck, I opened the door and passed the secretary on the phone. She just stopped and stared.
I turned and smiled at her as I walked by. "If anybody asks, you didn't see anything."
She was just silent.
A few more steps, and then I stopped and cursed to myself. More stairs. At least these stairs, although curved, were wide, and with all my practice they weren't that difficult. Once upstairs the carpet in the hallways kept my hooves from making too much noise and I said a good morning to the people I knew and listened to their off hand responses.
Somehow I'd always known that most people just responded out of habit, rather than actually paying attention.
Only one, the payroll chief stopped her greeting half way through. At least someone had noticed. Still walking I responded to her silence, "I don't know either. Sorry." She just stared.
Finally I reached my office. I felt around in my bag and pulled out the keys and went in and started the computer and then searched and pulled out and put on my glasses. Whilst waiting I hung up my coat, moved my chair, and pushed my desk back a bit so that I could lay on the floor comfortably. At least I guessed it was laying. Then, twisting my waist 90 degrees so I faced the computer, I logged onto the database server and started the PKZIP batch file, piping the output into a text log. That went by quickly. I checked the text log for warnings and found none - thank God, nobody had logged onto the database server yet.
"Mr. Bard, I..."
It was my manager. She wasn't angry as she always called me that. But then she usually didn't stop in the middle of a sentence. I twisted my waist to look at her and then stood up and slowly backed out.
She just stared.
"You must admit, this is a good excuse for tardiness. And, I might have been in earlier but I had to hoof it."
What can I say, I couldn't resist.
Jan 24, 10:00am
It was Wednesday the 24, the day after the EVENT although I'd slept through it and changed late for some reason. So I'd awakened in the morning, realized that I was now a centaur, and in a panicked gallop (although not always) made my way to work.
Somehow it seemed appropriate that the 24th was the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
My manager just stared as I walked out from behind my desk and showed her the true grace of my new form. What can I say, I was, at least currently, happy with it. She just stared for a few seconds before she finally was able to close her mouth and continue.
"You hoofed it all the way here?"
She shook her head. "Well, how goes the latest import."
I guess she was trying to use routine to keep sane just like I currently was. "The zipping is done and I managed to complete it before anybody logged on. We've really got to figure out a way to automate it."
"Well then, talk to Mr Galmar."
"He's tried, I've tried. For whatever reason... But, I've thought of another approach."
"The import is running through the conversions and cross checking now and I should be able to start printing in about an hour."
"Good. Maybe we'll finally get the budget finished."
She turned to leave.
She stopped and turned back.
"Assuming I get the budget done and copied today, may I have Thursday and Friday off? It is short notice but, well, I've got to figure out some things."
She nodded and then frowned. "Do you want to take sick leave, or vacation?"
"Well it could be considered sickness - I don't even know what I can eat yet."
"Sick leave it is then. You'll be back Monday then, as long as you're not catching. None of the others are."
Others? Well I knew of at least one from my quick glance at the TSA list, and from the volume of messages there were probably more. But how many. And... "I'll do my best."
She turned and left.
Others. And why me? Was it permanent or would I eventually collapse into a pile of goo. Could I be infectious, could...? I stopped and shook my head and stomped my left forefoot. One thing at a time. First, my own care. I was still hot from my trip, and thirsty, not to mention starving, so I walked down to the kitchen squeezing around corners. At least here the door to my office was high enough that I didn't have to duck but that meant that the door to the kitchen got me. At least this time it wasn't too hard as I almost remembered in time. Rubbing my head yet again I turned and grabbed a paper cup and went to the cooler.
I filled the cup and swallowed. And filled another, and then another, and another, until I reached nine. At that point I forced myself to stop, even though I was still thirsty, based on memories of horses and others gorging themselves on water and running into problems. Still, nine cups and wanting more suggested other potential problems with intake quantities.
The first immediate problem solved I went to the cupboard and picked up an entire bag of oatmeal cookies from the small stack of provided snacks. Normally I wouldn't take anywhere near that much, but I was desperate, and I figured that oatmeal shouldn't cause any problems to either my old body, or hopefully this one. Of course the cooking fat...
Enough. I had to eat and the oatmeal was my best safest guess.
Carrying the entire bag, and mentally promising to replace it on my way in next week, I rotated myself around and made my way to the washroom to take care of another pressing problem. No, it wasn't the call of nature - either one - (although I was dreading the second when it came) but instead the sweat and dampness on my lower body, particularly the rear. I knew with my limited base of knowledge that it should be wiped off or brushed or something. After maneuvering around the narrow corner (god I was starting to hate corners, and stairs, and doors, and...) I got through the entrance (remembering to duck) and rotated around until I faced the paper towel dispenser. I put the bag of cookies down on the counter and starting pulling paper off of the roll. After a couple of metres I glanced at my hind legs and then pulled off a lot more. Then I started giving myself a quick rubdown.
For practice I started with my forequarters and found that brushing down helped. The damp towels were discarded and I kept on. My chest was next, and then, turning as much as I could at my waist I got as much of my left hindquarter as I could, and then twisted around the other way to get at my right hindquarter. I couldn't get the lower portions, but the rubbing took off most of the chill and felt good. Done, or at least as done as I could be, I stepped forward and rotated and washed and dried my hands with the last of the paper towel. Then I rotated around some more (refusing to stop when I saw the washroom stalls and felt a cold dread go down my spine which was much longer than it use to be) and then made my way out, ducking this time, forced the cleaning lady to backstep before me as there was no way to pass (and I did apologize) and finally made my way back.
The conversion was still going and I would normally have done some other work, but there was nothing else job related that was immediately time critical so I turned my attention to more personal things. Whilst gorging my way through the bag of cookies, I first called the secretary at the door. There had been a couple of people but she'd denied seeing anything which had worked so far. I thanked her and suggested she try that, or if they got persistent she could have them call on my line. Next I called Bell and arranged to make my number unlisted. They said it would take two or three hours and I hoped that nobody would track me down before that. Next was a quick call to my parents to let them know that I was fine but had - well - changed and that I would call when I knew more.
I didn't know what else to say and barely managed to get that out.
And by then the entire bag of cookies was then gone. Worse, it hadn't even taken the edge off my hunger. I crumpled up the empty bag and tossed it into the waste basket - and missed. Sighing, I started to back out to pick it up but then decided the hell with it. I'd do that later. Twisting around at my waist I turned to the computer and started Outlook. I had to do something to either lower me or raise up the damn desk! First I wrote up a quick little note to friends (I had told my parents SO many times to get e-mail) explaining that I had changed and was fine and would give more information later. Then I checked the time on the computer - it was after 11:00am. Well, a pizza place might be open now so...
Twisting my waist I grabbed the phone and started dialing through the numbers I knew. The third place I tried was open. I placed an order for eight large vegetarian pizzas (like I said, I was STARVING and pizza should keep for a couple of days if that was too much and vegetarian should be safe) and prepared to charge it...
Futz! My wallet which would normally be in my pocket was in my bag. And my bag was sitting on the floor at the end of my desk. Sighing I asked the person on the phone to wait a minute, backed out, grabbed the bag and walked back in. This time, trying to think of how to make things easier in the future, I dug out my wallet and put the bag on my desk at the near end, and then finished the order.
After hanging up I twisted back to face the computer. Finally having time to go through the e-mail and news sources, I could try to figure out what was going on. And, of course, the conversion program completed at that time. Sighing through my slits, I minimized Outlook and launched a front end that I'd created to automate mass report creation. First I ran the complete report as a final test of the validity of what had better be the final version of the budget. Then I backed out, rotated, made it to my door, waited for one of the junior payroll people to walk towards my door, stop, stare, stumble backwards, and then scurry off, and then made my way out and down to the big printer. The print out was there and it looked good and the numbers...
Ah hell - I'd forgotten to bring the reference copy I and my manager had made up after the last run. Closing my eyes I breathed deeply a couple of times and forced calm. When I opened my eyes I saw a couple of people standing and watching - I think they were entry clerks from downstairs so I decided to just ignore them. Ok, what was the most efficient solution. Let's assume the print out is fine. That would mean that I would need to cram the printer full of paper before I started the output. Let's do that then. I moved my head and looked down, way down, at the big box of paper beside the printer on the opposite side of where the paper went in. Starting to lean forward to be able to reach it I stopped and wondered what lifting a heavy weight would do to my new waist. Probably nothing good. Okay...how?
I tried to gracefully kneel down and collapse my legs under me and it worked fine until I started thinking about it. Then I gracelessly collapsed, crushing my left fore and hind legs and hooves into my chest. And, of course, breathing became much harder. Still, I had to...
"Would you like some help?"
"NO!" I paused, shocked by the loudness of my voice. Then, much quieter I turned and looked at the person who'd backed away. "Sorry, but I have to figure out how to do it myself and I'm not in the best of moods right now."
He sort of nodded and then turned and fled. A couple doors nearby clicked shut. Closing my eyes I clenched my fists and forced myself to calm down. Then, at least a little bit more relaxed, I opened my eyes. It was still a bit of effort to breathe but nothing that couldn't be managed. Turning my attention to the box, I first thought about dragging it but then realized that I had no idea how I could crawl. Instead I pulled out five packs of paper and staggered to my feet. I didn't worry about how but instead just concentrated on rising. A quick rotation, a few steps, and a kneel that wasn't quite as bad although I paid too much attention to and fumbled the last portion of the landing, and then a few minutes to fill the hopper with paper. I probably should have brought one more pack but I almost instantly decided that it wasn't worth it. A quick stagger to my feet - I realized that there was no way I could really help myself up with my hands or by partial stages as I used to - and then I turned and stalked back to my office, my tail waving briskly behind me.
Nobody was in the hallway and I couldn't really blame them at this point.
I soon arrived and squeezed back in through the door (remembering to duck - maybe I was finally getting the hang of it) and then stopped and looked at the desk. Yes, I'd moved it but I still had to back in and out. Not any more! Putting the printout down on the desk I leaned down and pushed it 90 degrees around so that it was against the far wall leaving me room to stand in front of the table that held the computer. That way the phone as still near me, although I would have to rotate my waist and neck all the way around to get at it, but I could now comfortably lay down in front of the computer where I did almost all my work. Leaning down I picked up the empty cookie bag and tossed it in the garbage and then picked up the print out and lay down in front of the computer.
It wasn't completely comfortable, but MUCH better than twisting around and looking down. Much more ergonomic. Twisting a little I shuffled through the pile of papers until I found the scribbled on print out from the last run and compared the adjusted numbers with the newly printed numbers. The first two matched, and then...
Slowly I put both papers down. I would not scream, I would not...
BUZZ. "Michael Bard to the Front Desk"
It was the intercom on the phone. I guessed that my lunch had arrived. Standing up I rotated around, made my way to the entrance, stopped, backed my way back in and got my wallet, ducked, walked out, carefully squeezed past one of the braver souls who didn't flee away from me (and greeted them kindly) and made my way to the stairs.
Oh right, stairs. Sigh.
Grasping the railing tightly I slowly clattered my way down to the lobby where the pizza-delivery person was waiting with a big pile of boxes. He just stared so I pulled out my credit card and held it before him. He just stood there.
"I'm just a figment of your imagination." I couldn't resist.
After another thirty seconds or so he pulled out the card machine, took the card and slid the lever back and fourth and then I signed the slip.
I gave him a big tip.
Then, as he fled out the door, I carefully picked up the boxes, rotated around, and then made my way back up the damn stairs - very carefully since I had no hands to grip the railing - and squeezed through to the lunch room. It was still early, at least for this place, so I had the kitchen to myself as I consumed six pizzas and half of a seventh, along with another five cups of water. Finally the edge was off my hunger. I put the remainder into the fridge.
I made my way back to my office and then puzzled over what had gone wrong. Four and a half hours later I'd figured it out, had started reprocessing the branch that had the typing error in the information that others had provided to me, when what I had dreaded all day occurred.
Something inside my lower chest gurgled and rumbled and then I knew I had to use the washroom.
Use it the OTHER way.
Swallowing, I made my way through doors and around the corners and through the hallways - with less pain and difficulty - and into the washroom.
Which the cleaning woman was cleaning. It figured.
Apologizing, I started to back out, but she, also apologizing, scurried out the other entrance to the shower.
The gurgling became much more insistent.
OK. First I looked in one of the mirrors where I could see my behind - yes the hole did seem to be at my back just below my tail. Then I opened the door to one of the stalls, and walked in and pulled the seat up.
My need was starting to become quite urgent. But, at least I DID have bowel control.
Then I backed out, rotated around 180 degrees and backed in. I could almost hear the idiot alarm of a truck backing up beeping in my head. Looking over my shoulder I carefully paced back until I could feel the bowel of the toilet on the insides of my hind legs. Then, lifting my tail, I slowly bent my hind legs until I could feel the rim of the toilet against my, you know. Finally I took a step forward to make sure I wouldn't overshoot and let it go.
I squeezed and clenched and then heard it plop into the water.
There, done. That wasn't so bad.
Keeping my tail raised I stepped out of the stall and then rotated around to check my aim. It actually hadn't been too bad. I stepped in and...
Ewww! Oh well, at least it was in the washroom.
Breathing in through my mouth I flushed the toilet, praying the quantity wouldn't clog it, and then wiped the back where some crap had splashed onto. The toilet did flush and then I dropped the paper in and grabbed some more to wipe my...
Oh oh. I twisted my waist as far as I could until it was painful, raised my tail, and stretched my arms, but I couldn't reach.
The only solution that popped into my head was asking somebody to, well, you know. But no, there was no way I would do that. Besides, if a centaur asked you, would you?
Why had nobody else ever thought of this? I'd read fiction on the internet by others who had supposedly been changed into centaurs - or at least wrote the stories as though they had - and none of them ever mentioned this. The one story that I'd written that might involve this had a doctor caring for the invalid centaur while he learned muscle by muscle how to move his body so that didn't help either.
What the hell was I going to do?!
I refused to go out like this - I could smell and feel remnants. And then when I lay down in front of my computer the shit would...
Now normally when confronted by a problem I would pace around in a circle to help think, but there wasn't room to do that here, or probably anywhere. Based on the relaxation I felt as I trotted to work running might help but there was no way I was going out now. Still, in an attempt to think, I started to slowly rotate in a circle with my hand on my forehead. Could I wash it off? How...?
Then I remembered. There were showers through the door the cleaning woman had used. I had no idea if they worked and as far as I knew they'd been installed in preparation for the exercise room that hadn't been started upon yet. If the showers worked...
I almost galloped through the door and to the edge of the shower stall. Skidding to a stopped I turned the water on. There was a gurgling sound, and then, water!
It worked, it worked!
And, of course, there wasn't room to turn around. Sighing I adjusted the shower and then backed out into the actual washroom, rotated around, leaned and twisted and rotated until I could get the door open, backed into the shower room, turned around the corner, and backed into the shower, carefully keeping my tail raised and my head ducked the whole time.
I could feel the water washing the crap away - this was going to work! Unfortunately the water still got my tail.
After letting the water run for about five minutes I stepped out of the shall, tried to shake my rear dry as best I could (not very well), walked dripping back into the washroom, rotated around, walked back into the shower area and turned the water off. Then I backed out again, rotated around, wiggled and twisted and pulled the door open, backed in to the stall, and shook some more whilst waving my tail as hard as I could until I finally stopped dripping.
The, finally I went back to work. A little damp, but at least clean. I'd have to bring a bunch of towels in or something. Maybe put them on a pole? Oh well.
I went back to work.
Fortunately, finally, the import batch run was complete and I printed out another overall summary as a (hopefully) final check. Grabbing the reference sheet this time, I went to the printer and...it matched!
Yes, yes, yes!
I would have galloped back if there'd been room, and once I arrived I almost slid to a stop, then lay down and started printing the reports. The actual printing via software was quick and took about half an hour, but I would have to wait another couple of hours for the printer to catch up before I could sort the printouts, copy them, and sort them for binding by somebody else tomorrow. I had to copy and sort etc. in case any other problems cropped up so that I could quickly fix them.
It was now almost 6:00pm and most of the other's had gone home. Now I could check the e-mail and the news and figure out what the hell was happening, and take care of other problems.
Maybe this was going to work out after all.
Jan 24, 6:00pm
It's still Wednesday the 24th (what can I say - it was a big day for me) but now I finally had a chance to figure out what was going on elsewhere. And, it was time to think about the future. Yes, it may seem odd to some of you that I spent almost the entirety of my first day working, but that routine probably helped keep me sane and gave a chance for the truth of what had occurred to sink in.
Think about it.
Anyway, on with the diary entry...
The first thing I did was go into Outlook and start going though the stack of postings that I'd forwarded in the morning. God, but that seemed a long time ago.
As it was opening up, my stomach started to rumble and make its presence felt. Again? Dutifully I stumbled to my feet (it was so chaotic it was almost like collapsing to the ground, just in the opposite direction) and squeezed my way to the Kitchen. I grabbed a plate, took out the half pizza, put in on the plate, and tossed it into the microwave for a few minutes. While it was cooking I grabbed a plate and downed more cups of water, and then...
I turned and made my way back into the washroom, opened the stall and stepped in, partially levered my fore half over the toilet and then went. It wasn't too bad and I wiped up the bit that missed and then washed my hands.
There. I'm not going to discuss those functions anymore unless something noteworthy occurs - just assume that I take breaks and perform them as required just like anybody else. You can go back to the diary now.
The pizza was at least warm when I got back to the kitchen and I took it and the plate (warm to the touch) and walked back to my office and lay down in front of the computer to finally read through the e-mail.
Yes, the e-mail showed that I was not the only one.
Sure, I'd gathered that in the morning, but the enormity was just starting to hit me. It seemed lots of people on the TSA list had transformed in one way or another. There were lizardmen, dragons, centaurs, catpeople, wolfpeople, deertaurs, cattaurs, merpeople, sex changed persons, and even a few other centaurs. Some had changed fully into animals.
Most of the changes had taken place in the US, but then that was where most of the TSA list members resided.
I was not alone, not even in race.
I took about half an hour to go through the postings. It was so quick because most of them were in the form of "I'm turning into 'x'". A few others were more practical comments discussing what to do, but not too many. And there were no real conclusions. A few postings stated that the poster was going to go public, but most of the other posts like that contained expressions of shock and panic, and statements about fleeing and hiding.
I shook my head at the fears caused by the US government.
The one other important thing I noticed was that I seemed to be the only transformee on the list in Toronto. There was one in Waterloo at the university, but that was pretty well it for the entire province. Were there any others nearby? I had no way of knowing.
Finally I tossed in my two cents about joining the centaur crowd and put in a request for practical survival suggestions, and offers to help for those who were having problems. I sure could have used some help earlier.
Next I started searching through some of the news pages on the web - MSNBC, CNN, etc. There was information on the changes and some interviews. The main one, and the one that was most widely distributed was from a lizardman who named himself Blueknight.
I remembered him from the list - he was the one who had the weirdo belief that this life was simply fiction in somebody's brain. Well, that could not be disproven, and currently it was as good an explanation as any, although some of the more scientific experts that were interviews suggested the idea of some kind of quantum event. Biological causes had pretty well been ruled out.
And, it seemed that each person who was transformed, had transformed into an idealized version of their dream self. Well, I guess that centaur won over merperson for me.
By this time the pizza was done and the print cue showed that all the print jobs were completed. I stumbled to my feet, stretched, yawned, took the plate to the kitchen, went to the printer, and pulled out the stack of printouts and carried them back to my office. Placing them on the desk, I lay down and started checking and sorting, although my mind wasn't completely on my work.
Mentally I made a list of what I had to look into. I had to get farrier information - after all I now had hooves and probably needed to be shoed in someway. Unfortunately I knew very little about that. I needed to contact at least some of the press in Toronto and get my name and face out so that I could travel without too much harassment by the curious and the dangerous.
Finally, with the sorting done and the pages checked, I stumbled up, rotated, and lay back down at the computer. First things first. I went to Yahoo and searched for 'farrier'. There were a lot of matches, too many. Ok. I tried 'farrier' and 'Toronto'. Still nothing of any use.
Wait, the police had to get it done. I went to the Bell on-line yellow pages and looked up the information number for the Toronto Police. Then I twisted around and picked up the phone and dialed, waited through the annoying 'you must enter 416...' message (Toronto is switching to 10 digit dialing in March and from January to that date every call you made without the local area code got a really annoying recorded message), and then waited while the phone rang.
After wading through the voicemail I finally got to somebody who supposedly could provide information. "Hello, Metro Toronto Police. How may I help you?" It was a female voice.
"I'm looking for some information."
"Where do you get the police horses shod?"
"Shoed. You know, horseshoes nailed to their..."
"I don't have that information."
"Aren't you supposed to supply information?"
"Yes sir." A pause. "I'll try and find out." There was a click and then music.
I sighed. I'd done phone technical support and I was willing to bet that he'd just put me on hold for a bit before coming back to tell me that that information was not available. Of course, she could actually be checking, but I was cynical.
A moment later, "I'm sorry sir, but we can't provide that information. But if you have a definite need then maybe..."
Need? Oh, I had need. Well, let's listen to the reaction. Taking a deep breath I responded, "I would like to know because I changed into a centaur yesterday and have not had any luck finding a farrier in..."
Well, at least it wasn't disbelief and skepticism like it would have been a couple of days ago. "Yes."
For a moment there was silence, and then some sounds of movement, and then a different voice. "Were you in the Finch-Dufferin area this morning?"
"That was me."
"Would you wait a minute - we'd like to check some things out..."
That sounded strange - the voice sounded almost threatening. Now I generally trust the police, but I also have a deep and subtle fear - anybody who has authority and can pull out a pistol and shoot me dead should be feared at least a little. Could I be in trouble?
"Sir, are you there?"
I needed time to think so I hung up. I didn't know what they were doing - likely they weren't actually going to kidnap or torture me or anything like that, but then maybe they would. Was it worth the chance? Could I take the chance? Had they been starting to trace the call?
Sighing, I remembered a series of fiction that I'd read on the internet a few months ago about a mysteriously transformed centaur that had been kidnapped and tortured by the FBI in the US. She'd gotten away (at least in the story) but had always had FBI agents with her so that she was always trapped, just more subtly.
Still, I didn't want to be tortured. Who would? Time for a change of plan.
And no, in case you're wondering, I wasn't in the midst of paranoid delusions. It was simply a cost-benefit analysis. I knew that I was not going to be imprisoned, tortured, etc. But, that occurrence was not completely impossible - it had to be admitted. Then it was a question of comparing actions and risk. I could call the police back and almost certainly they would help and I'd be fine. Or they wouldn't and I would not be fine. Easy task, slight risk of REALLY bad result. Alternately, I could just call news agencies right now and get them here. Once I was on TV then 'vanishing' became a lot less likely. Of course, the police would be slightly annoyed, and that might cause problems later on. Plus there would be more work to get needed services, such as a farrier. Thus slightly more difficult task, extremely low possibility of not very bad result.
Hence I chose the later. Not because of any paranoia, but simply because I was being cautious and taking steps to prevent major problems. The same kind of idea that makes people look both ways before crossing a street in the middle of a night. Almost certainly there are no cars, but the result of death is so bad compared to the task of taking a quick look that most people take a quick look anyway. I didn't sit down and analyze the situation for hours on paper, I just hung up, played around with possibilities in my mind for about a minute, and then reached a conclusion. Back to the diary.
I twisted back to face the computer and then looked up the number of Citypulse on the internet as they could get here fastest. Or tried to. Trying some obvious www addresses yielded completely unrelated links. Searching on Yahoo got me the pages (and the 24 hour page had as one of the stories a centaur sighted in Toronto), but there was no 'news contact' number. Ok. I went to the Bell on-line yellow pages and found a single number to call. Leaving the screen up, I twisted and lifted the entire phone over and dialed the number.
Of course I forgot the area code and got the message again, but then the call was put through and I heard ringing.
"City TV." It was a man.
"Ah, I'd like to report a news story. Who do I talk to?"
"What kind of story, sir?"
"It's in relation to the centaur sighting in Toronto."
I heard a sigh and then a mumbling that sounded something like, "Another one." Then the voice continued. "I'll transfer you sir, bit there might be a wait - you're not the only one."
Not the only - oh the only one calling about this. Ok. Time for a different approach. "I'm the centaur."
A moment of silence and then the voice stated, "You're the centaur sir?"
I sighed. "Let me guess, others have claimed that?"
"There have been a few others, all fake."
I snickered. "Well I'm not."
"How can I convince you then."
"We already have a news crew on scene."
"Yes sir. Nice try..."
"Would you wait just a..."
"Sorry, but there are others waiting. Thank you for calling." Click.
He hung up on me. But...
Ok. He said that a news crew was on site. But I hadn't heard anything... Oh, shit. When I get involved in a problem I become oblivious to the world as I concentrate on it. Although I do listen for certain keywords such as my name, I hadn't heard any of them after the pizza arrived. I've actually worked through minor earthquakes (there was one in Ontario about 15 years ago), police and fire sirens, etc. And it doesn't help that I have the message buzz turned way down. Twisting I looked closely at the phone.
Fifteen messages waiting.
I picked up the headset and entered the code and password and then listened to the first message.
"Sorry to bother you, but this is Global calling to see if you've heard anything about a centaur in that..."
I deleted it.
The next six messages were similar. But the seventh wasn't. "We've been told that you have been turned into a centaur, would..." Cancelling the playback, I checked the receive time - 7:21pm - which meant that it was fairly recent.
I deleted that and quickly went through the beginnings of the rest before deleting them. They were mostly the same, although a few were still asking general questions about sightings. I guessed that somebody must have supplied information after they left for the day. Oh well, I couldn't really blame them, and it might have even been accidental. Fortunately the place I work is quite flexible and understanding, and knew how important the budget was. Besides, everybody liked me.
Stretching, I stood up and squeezed through the hallways towards the front of the building so that I could look through the windows. There are offices along the street side of the building on the second floor and they were dark, but they had glass walls on the inside wall also. Thus I could see through reasonably well and see a Global news van parked on the street. Then, faintly, I heard the door buzzer - I guessed that I was the only one still here.
Well, this is what I wanted.
Ok. First things first. I walked back and went back into the computer and sent a message to the TSA list asking if anybody knew of a farrier in Toronto and asked them to send it to my home e-mail address. I might get an answer, or I might not, but it was worth a try. Then I took the neatly stacked and sorted papers in their folders and put them inside the door of my managers office and then closed and locked it - she'd left the door open for that purpose. Then I returned, shut down the computer, neatened up my desks, put on my coat and shoulder bag, walked to the door, turned off the light, squeezed through, and shut and locked the door. Then I turned and walked down the hallway, across the upper lobby that held the big printer, and stopped at the top of the stairs. Remembering a line from Mask of the Phantasm (Well, here goes...) I slowly walked down the stairs to the lobby and then trotted to the front door. Somebody had been there and had just turned away so they didn't notice my presence immediately. I had just enough time to punch in the alarm code, and then trot out the door into the waiting press.
There wasn't much of them. The Global van had just left so all that was left was a City TV car with two people. Guess I wasn't important enough for the rest so City wins.
The lady walking away must have heard me, as she was staring at me as I closed the door and motioning for the camera man with her hand.
I'm not going to go into the details of the interview as the City TV site has it on line. Later I'll probably transcribe it. Suffice it to say that she was quite nice and asked mostly intelligent questions. Do I know what happened? No. Is there any reason you think it happened to you? No idea. Are you glad it happened to you? I think so - I'm still working out the logistics of my own body. There were other questions about my new form and you can see the answers for yourself above. Finally, the important question saved for last. It was so important to me, I'm going to repeat it in full, along with my answer. And it was such an innocent little question too.
"So what are you going to do now?"
I sighed. "I'm going to get on with my life."
"No new plans, no..."
"No. I don't know why this happened, or how, or anything else. Maybe somebody will figure it out, or maybe not. But it's happened and I've changed. But..."
And at this point my wandering thoughts and fears from throughout the day finally coalesced and I knew that my answer was the truth.
"...I going to go on with my life. I have to adapt to the change, obviously, but I'm not going to let it control me. I'm not going to change what I do just because I'm different. To put it simply, I'm just another sentient being who was to live and enjoy the world. Different, but not too different."
And that was pretty well it for the interview. I turned and started walking home through the chill evening air. It wasn't too cold and my greater volume compared to surface helped on that account. The vaan followed me filming - I guessed they wanted to use the image for a closing or something.
But I didn't really notice - I was planning what to do next. What to find out, and what it all meant. If anything.
Jan 24, 11:00pm
I got home late because I walked slowly to relax. Most of the way I was alone and I think I needed the time to think. To really let my new life sink in. I detoured as much as possible and walked through quiet parks. It probably would have been nicer if there was still fresh snow but there hadn't been any in weeks. About all that was left was the battered survivors of the January thaw. At least walking didn't cause me to breathe heavily enough to need my slits and hence my glasses didn't fog up.
I arrived home and went in through the main front door and checked the mail. Nothing. Of course, that would probably change soon as what I was filtered around. Then the offers, and probably the hate, would start. Fortunately I wasn't in the US south. Again I decided not to use the elevator as I hadn't trusted them before the change, and wasn't about to trust them now with my extra mass. The stairs were a pain, but I was getting better. Finally made it to my apartment and went in and realized that I'd left the bathroom light on. Sighing, I walked over and turned it off.
Then it was over to the computer, a collapse to lay down, and then a wait as it started up, and then a wait until Outlook started. After deleting the messages I'd forwarded, I found that there weren't many more, and that there were very few people actually posting anymore. I wondered if any of them had gone into hiding. Well, if they had, then maybe my stand would help them came out. I'd decided a long time ago that I liked the modern world, and the modern conveniences, and that I wouldn't want to give them up.
Next I started searching for information on farriers, hooves, and hoofcare. There was a lot of it. Good god, was there a lot! There was discussion of oils and other substances that could be brushed onto a horse's hooves to improve their appearance and strengthen them (although some discussion warned that if used in excess the hoof would be weakened), different kinds of shoes for different environments (rubber shoes, sneakers that could be custom fit and laced on as required), and a whole debate as to whether shoeing a horse was really a necessary, or just a remnant of requirements to keep horses mobile during medieval sieges when they would have to spend months standing and walking through the mud and urine of the army encampment. One site went through a comparison of the hoof structure of wild horses compared to the hoof structure of domesticated horses - supposedly wild horses had harder, wider hooves; whilst domestic horses had softer, narrower hooves.
And there were warnings and safety tips. All kinds of things about trimming hooves. About cutting off enough but not too much. About being careful to prevent cracks and chips by keeping the hoof dry, but not too dry, and properly trimmed. Using special staples to hold cracks together so that the hoof could regrow and heal. Horses that had their shoes finally removed and then being 'ouchie' as their tender feet slowly got use to walking naked on the ground. The dangers of snow and water and the need to remove snow that could collect inside the hoof (the hoof base is actually a horseshoe shaped ring with a hollow in the middle). Medical notes about how the hoof compressed and expanded as it was pressed against the ground acting as both a suction cup for traction, and as a pump as it moved bones in the lower leg in such a way as to help bloodflow.
Simply tying on a pair of running shoes suddenly seemed much easier.
Well. First things first. I stumbled to my feet and stepped backwards and then leaned down and lifted up first my left fore hoof and then my right fore hoof. They looked wide to me, but I had no basis of comparison. Examining their base revealed scratches and signs of wear, but no cracks, and maybe one or two minor chips. So, no more galloping or trotting on pavement until I got some kind of protection. Then I leaned down and to the right and lifted my right rear hoof and moved it as far forward as possible, and then did the same for the left rear hoof. No signs of any major problems. Then I straightened out and rotated around and made my way over to the washroom and grabbed the towel that was hanging over the bathtub from the morning. I backed out and then carefully wiped off each of my fore hooves and then each of my hind hooves.
Well, that was it for this towel. Backing up, I carefully dropped it in the hamper. Next project was a rubdown. I couldn't see any sweat on my hide, but it was probably there. After thinking for a moment I rotated around and squeezed into the kitchen, realized I couldn't reach the closet without turning around somehow, proceeded forward into the sunroom (a little room that I use for some storage and to hold my bike - another no longer useful piece of equipment), rotated around, squeezed back to the kitchen, opened the kitchen closet, and pulled out the mop. Then I walked and squeezed back around and into the living room and then started rubbing down my lower chest, lower shoulders, fore and hind legs with the end of the mop.
It actually worked not too badly and it didn't feel too bad. Probably not as good as a brush, and I was NOT going to try a rake, but not too bad. It was awkward but especially relaxing around my rear which I hadn't gotten to earlier. Finally done I rotated around again, made my way back into the kitchen, put some water in the kitchen sink, rinsed out and cleaned the mop, let the water out of the sink, and backed up and put the mop back away. Then I got out a two-litre bottle of coke and a couple of apples and made my way back to the computer. A lay down on the increasingly hard (or at least it felt so) wooden floor and then back to work. There was more e-mail so I sat down to read while I sipped and nibbled. The apples didn't last very long.
A quick check showed that most were from other mailing lists and I read those first to get back a sense of normality. It's nice to read about creating an Eldar army for a Grand Tournament and being asked others for criticisms and comments. No mention of transformations, no questions, no accusations. Just normality.
I posted a couple of comments back and then went to my personal mailbox. There was one entry (all the mailing list items are sent to boxes although CCd ones tend to confuse the system) and it was from Wanderer. Now, I remembered Wanderer from the TSA list and he had mentioned that he'd become a wolf of some kind. But this mail item was actually to me personally - and it revealed that he had found a farrier in the Toronto area.
Now how about that!
First I sent back a thank-you reply (maybe I should send a little gift later - what do you send a wolf though? A hairbrush? A rawhide bone?) and then clicked on the handy provided link.
Unfortunately the place wasn't actually in Toronto, but up by Milton which is actually a fair distance away. They were also more of a complete service stables providing stabling for horses, care, exercise, horse and rider training (maybe I could take a course in more elegant form of trotting and walking...), and farrier services from a licensed farrier.
Hmph. So there was actually a licensing organization in Ontario for farriers.
And, glory be, the farrier would travel to other locations and shoe horses there. Wonderful. There was a link to a list of what should be gotten ready and how the horse should behave - so I clicked and looked through the list. There were common sense things like the owner had to be there at the appointed time, and then more amusing things, at least in my case. Things like the horse had to not mind having his hooves handled and they had to be quiet and well behaved.
As long as it didn't hurt, I would be sure to stay quiet and well behaved.
And then, uncontrollably, I yawned and stretched. What time was it? Three am?! Time for bed - I'd have to contact this place and arrange an appointment at a reasonable hour of the morning. Hopefully I could arrange something on an emergency basis since I really needed to get it done before Monday although they suggested a few weeks as a requirement of the horse owner. If I'd know a few weeks ago this was going to happen, then I would have been much more prepared..
I stumbled upward, backed up and rotated around, used the washroom as I had this morning, took the sweater off, folded it, and put it on the chair, and then went to bed.
Unfortunately there was a problem. Just so you know, I wake up very slowly and very regretfully in the morning. Thus, my first conscious memory of today was of standing by the alarm clock. I knew I'd gotten out of bed, but I couldn't actually remember doing so.
And, this was a problem because the mattress was gone, along with a really nice blanket with horses on it. All that was left was a frame and the floor beneath it.
How the hell had I been sleeping?
I walked over and looked down and then twisted and looked back at myself. I guess I could collapse on my side on the floor inside the frame. The hooves would be hanging overtop of the frame, but I didn't think my head and upper torso would actually fit anywhere. And how would I get back up again?
But, I'd been sleeping there!
Had I been standing up?
I'd read somewhere that horses slept standing up, and that they could suffocate if they slept laying on their side, but I had no idea as to the truth of either statement. My internet searches had found a grave lack in certain basic information I needed. Things such as how long a horse could gallop on pavement before having hoof problems.
And how a horse slept.
I closed my eyes and tried to remember. I clearly remembered looking down and seeing my fore hooves. I think I remembered turning the alarm off. And I remember something about getting out of bed, but all I could picture was sitting up and rolling off the mattress which made no sense at all given my current form.
I yawned again and opened my eyes.
This was ridiculous! I had to go to bed and I didn't know how!
It had to be standing up - nothing else was physically possible given the room and furnishings available.
I rotated around, turned on the lamp on the dresser, walked back and turned off the overhead light, rotated and walked back to just beside the frame, twisted and reached and turned off the desk lamp, stepped over the frame with some success (yes, a horse's pastern - that's the bit just above the hoof - hurts when you bump it against metal), and was finally standing in the middle of the frame.
I let my arms hang loosely at my side and closed my eyes.
Sleep. It would be nice to sleep.
I wonder what it'll be like having shoes nailed to my hooves?
Stop. Just relax. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in...
This isn't going to work. I opened my eyes and then stepped a little closer to the corner and then leaned my upper torso against the wall.
It was cold. Cold and hard. Closing my eyes, I tried again.
I yawned and banged my head and opened my eyes.
No. Calm. Relax.
My eyes slid shut.
Breathe in, breathe out. Relax. One sheep over the centaur, two sheep over the centaur, three sheep...
My arm started going numb.
Opening my eyes I sighed. This wasn't working. Ok, on to plan B.
Slowly I stepped sideways and managed to get over the bed frame without really hurting anything. Then, through the dimness (there was some light from the building's courtyard that came through the blinds) I squeezed my way around the dresser and the shelves and into the living room. There I turned on the halogen light, pulled the cushions off of the couch and placed them on the chair, and then unfolded the spare bed out of the couch.
Hopefully this would work.
With very little room to move, I backed up, twisted, turned off the light, moved a little forward and then stumbled and fell down on my side onto the bed, at least trying to control the fall.
Crunch. Groan (the bed, not me).
Not only did the bed not sound too happy, but it was not the most comfortable thing I'd ever done. Wiggling, I slid over, trying to ignore the protests of the guest bed's frame (and the springs which dug slightly into my chest), until my hooves were no longer hanging over the edge. Fortunately I was on my side so that most of my weight was distributed or worse things probably would have happened with the spring mattress. Trying to get comfortable, I twisted my waist a bit so that my arm wasn't pressed straight into the mattress and then lay down on the side of my upper body and closed my eyes again.
At least the bed hadn't collapsed entirely.
Calm. Relax. Breathe in. It's cold. Be calm. Calm. Now breathe out. Breathe in.
Was it harder to breathe? No, it wasn't. Now relax.
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in...
It is so harder!
My eyes popped open. This wasn't working either.
Then another possible position hit me. I wiggled around trying to ignore the ominous creakings of the bed until I was laying down like I did in front of the computer.
Interesting. The mattress made it much more comfortable (except for the springs - I'd have to get a foam mattress of some kind for the computer and for work). I wiggled back a bit and then leant forward so that my head was laying on my crossed arms which were sitting on the back of the couch.
I closed my eyes and tried to get to sleep.
Breathe in, breathe out. Ignore the coolness on my upper body. Calm. Relax. Breath in. Breath out (whistle). Breath in. Breath out (whistle).
It seems that most of my breathing was passing through my breathing slits and for some reason there was a faint whistle each time I exhaled. Occasionally that used to happen when breathing through my nose and I would have to snort and clear it, but that wouldn't work here.
Or would it?
Closing my mouth and pinching my nose, I took a deep breath in, and then exhaled forcefully through my breathing slits. That felt like something. I tried again. Definitely something. Were the breathing slits structured internally like my nostrils?
A couple more snorts and I could definitely feel something move. Then I closed my eyes and cradled my head and snuggled down. Breathe in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Nothing. Good. I wiggled about to get a bit more comfortable - this might actually work.
Fuck! The bed was suddenly leaning downwards away from the couch at an angle towards one corner. Leaning back and twisting my waist and neck I looked. Yup, one of the legs had collapsed. But at least one of the...
I sighed. Or not. And, to make it worse, one of the springs was digging deeply into my chest, feeling like it was drawing blood.
Trying to not break anything else I wiggled and crawled off the bed, dragging spring edge along my lower chest, and stumbled to my feet beside the bed. Fortunately I lived above the entrance to the apartment building so there was nobody below me to complain about the noise. Backing up a bit, I twisted around and turned the halogen light back on and leaned down and checked my lower chest. Good, no blood. I leaned up, rotated, and tried to fold the frame back into the couch.
The frame was bent so of course it wouldn't go in.
I was now too frustrated and tired for that to work.
I forced the legs of the spare bed to fold by brute strength and then forced the bed, which creaked and protested the whole time, back into the couch. At least only the end legs had broke and the frame wasn't too badly bent. The springs caught in each other as the mattress folded, but I didn't really care at that point and just shoved the godforsaken thing back in. Snap, TWANG! It was in. Backing up I took the cushions from off the chair, tossed them onto the floor in front of the couch, turned the light off, stepped forward, leaned down and straightened the cushions, and then walked partially onto them and lay down. Wiggling a little I was able to lean my torso against one arm of the couch but had no where to really put my arms.
This wasn't going to work either.
Shuffling around I wiggled backwards and leaned forwards until I could finally lay my upper chest and head on my arms on the end of the couch.
I was finally comfortable again.
Sighing with relief I closed my eyes. Calm. Relax. Breath in. Breathe out. Breath in.
Boy the air was cold on my upper back.
I jerked up opening my eyes and clenched my fists in frustration. I'd found in the past that I really couldn't sleep without some kind of cover and even though I had not had one when I woke up it seemed that I needed one now.
Staggering to my feet, I rotated around, turned the light on, squeezed through the hallway, banged my head, swore, ducked and continued on into the bedroom, rotated around, walked back out, opened the hallway closet (since the door opened so that it blocked the entrance into the living room), rooted around and finally found another blanket which I pulled out.
Then I stepped back, closed the door, stepped forward, ducked and squeezed back into the living room, turned the light out, walked back onto the cushions, grumbled, stood up and backed off, leaned down and straightened them, carefully walked back onto them, wrapped the blanket around my upper chest, shuffled it around a bit to free my breathing slits, collapsed down, and then wiggled, leaned forward, and fiddled with the blanket until I was finally comfortable. The blanket was draped over my upper back and fell down onto the floor and side of the couch so that there was no opening.
Finally I got to sleep.
Various programs copyright their owners, particularly Microsoft. No claim or infringement is made on any copyrights or trademarks legally held.
There, that takes care of the legal stuff.
Jan 25, 8:20am
Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they well help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at email@example.com
And, since I at least try to write, I've tried both to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
Oh, and (of course) places and names of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that. So let's get started and complete an entire day! See, things are going faster (although this is about twice as long as the earlier entries. Oh well).
It was the door buzzer and the phone.
Yes, I know I said that I could sleep and work through almost anything, but then I also said that I have certain key sounds and phrases that, I guess, my subconscious keeps an eye on and lets me know if they occur. The smoke detector beeping was one. The phone was not - that's why I have an answering machine. But the door buzzer was.
BZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
I stumbled to my feet scattering the cushions and blanket, staggered backward, bumped my rear thigh (although I think that anatomically my rear legs had the thighs and hips and my fore legs the arms and shoulders but those might not be the best terms anymore) on the chair, stopped and rubbed my eyes and then stretched.
BZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
At least mostly conscious, I backed up, rotated around, and made my way to the speaker and reached to press the talk button and then stopped.
Who would be buzzing me now? And what time was it?
I backed up and leaned down and checked the clock on the VCR. Eight twenty-three.
Eight twenty-three?! In the morning?!!!
Angrily I spun back and clomped back to the speaker and twisted until I faced it. My friends know better than to call on me in the morning. And, anyway, they would think I was on my way to work.
BZZZ! BZZZ! BZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Instead of pressing the talk button, I pressed the listen button. At least it cut off the buzzing.
"Nobody's seen him leave so he must be. And I'm going to interview him."
Futz. I took a deep breath to try and keep some kind of calmness in my voice and then pressed the talk button. "Yes?" Somehow I managed to make my voice almost sound sweet.
"Mr. Bard, we..."
"Do you know what time of the morning it is?"
"...CFMT news and..."
I released the button. Reporters. Well, some other stations I would have just screamed at, but CFMT did pick up the last season of Babylon 5 so... I pressed talk again. "Can you come back later?" And then I pressed listen and waited.
"He just said something."
I sighed through my breathing slits - it seemed that I'd picked up a new habit. -and then I pressed the talk button again. "I'm trying to be polite - can you come back later?"
Pressed listen: "But it's after eight in the morning. I'd just like to talk to you."
Oh God, morning people. I shuddered. Pressed talk: "I was awake until 5am this morning and am extremely tired. I would like to sleep some more."
Pressed listen: "But I want something for the noon news and I need to get it in by ten."
Leaning my forehead against the wall (which was a bit uncomfortable when combined with the almost 90 degree twist at my waist) I sighed through the vents. They weren't going to let me go back to sleep. Then I straightened up and, after pressing talk: "Ok. Give me half an hour to get ready."
Pressed listen: "But you're a centaur, what do you have to get ready for?"
I released the button. God, why me? I thought reporters were only this stupid in Winds of Change stories. Sigh. Patience was good. It was only the second day. Pressed talk: "I will not go on camera nude and messed up. Half an hour."
Pressed listen: "Ok. Half and hour." And then the sound of the door opening and another voice: "Steve, are you..." Then a shout. "I'm from Global - we want to talk to you!"
More. Pressed talk: "In half an hour."
Pressed listen: "I'll pay you $50 for an exclusive." Another voice. "$100" I released the button.
This had possibilities. Normally I'm not too greedy, but converting to a centaur lifestyle wasn't going to be cheap. I'd spent over $100 on food yesterday, and based on the information I'd seen last night I was looking at something approaching $400 a month just to be shoed. If I went with the 'sneakers' (rubber soled shoes you put on a horse as required) they would probably last longer, but it was going to cost over $500 (US) to get the mold and then get one set of shoes made.
Pressed talk: "Stop."
Pressed listen: silence.
Pressed talk: "I'll make a deal. There's just the two groups there right now, right?"
Pressed listen: "Err...three." It was a new voice.
Pressed talk: "I'll let you all ask questions but it'll be $200 a station. Except for CFMT - they can do it for only $100. After all they put the last season of Babylon 5 on."
Pressed listen: "What?!" "Outrageous!" "Well, we were first." "$700 for exclusive." "You're mad."
Bidding was getting hot but I didn't want it to get out of hand. Pressed talk: "One hundred and two hundred are my only offer, and it will apply to all. And you can all pitch in together to buy me some breakfast down at the Coffee Time. Any group that doesn't pay won't have any questions answered. I'll be ready in half an hour."
Releasing the button, I backed up and rotated around and then made my way into the bedroom for my glasses, and then into the washroom. Behind me the buzzer started going but eventually it stopped. Meanwhile I relieved myself, and washed up. I was too big to take a complete shower but I did at least clean my hair in the sink (which was really uncomfortable as I had to twist and bend). Then I dried and combed my hair, shaved, brushed my teeth, and did all the other stuff. Finally I backed out, took off my glasses, put on the sweater which was still mostly on the chair, grumbled, put on my glasses, and went back and combed my hair again.
Smiling not that I was finally finished, I backed out into the living room and then rotated around and walked to the speaker which had been silent for a while, and pressed talk: "Hello?"
Pressed listen: Silence.
What? Did they all leave? Had I charged too...
Hold it. Probably somebody went out and they all slipped in. I twisted around and leaned down and looked out the peephole in the door.
Yup, there were a bunch out there. Oh well, here we go.
Putting on my coat, I grabbed my shoulder bag, tossed in my wallet, placed the shoulder bag over my left upper shoulder (I REALLY need better terminology) and grabbed the keys. Then, I took a step back, pulled open the door, ducked, shoved my way into the crowd, "Excuse me," and let the door slam behind me pressing my tail against my you know.
"In a couple of minutes. I need to lock up first." Then I rotated around, gently pushing some people out of the way (there were ten total), and locked the door. Then, rotating back around until I faced the stairs and gently pushing people out of the way, I continued. "Shall we go for coffee and doughnuts then?"
"I will answer no questions until we are in the coffee shop and have some room, and until my fee is paid." I smiled. "You might as well start paying now."
And pay they did, a total of $350 which would help cover my food expenses for at least a couple of days. They did grumble about the doughnuts though, although they did take pictures, as I went through half a dozen DOZEN doughnuts (that's seventy-two for you calculator cripples). I stuck with plain because I wasn't sure about how my stomach would handle chocolate. It was nice not to worry about calories for a change - since I could still see my lower ribs I knew I needed additional food.
And then it was time for more questions although was nothing that special about most of them. You know, questions like what do I eat, do I know what happened, do I know anybody else who changed (I knew OF but didn't really know them as persons), what was I going to do now, how did I like the change (I'm not sure, I'm still working out exactly what I can do and what I can't), is the government going to help me adapt to my new body (not that I know of, but an interesting thing to look into), and things like that. A couple questions asked about friends, where I worked, etc., but those I refused to answer. The one slightly disturbing question was asked by a young lady from the CBC.
"Did you ever imagine being a centaur before this event occurred?"
I frowned. Well, I guess I had, I'd at least written about it. And yes, I'd wondered, and thought of what it would be like. In fact I'd been working out some details of a story sequel on the Tuesday before this started. I'd been depressed about work and about life in general (January and February tend to do that to me) and I'd daydreamed about how much better it would be. Yea, right. Finally I answered, "A little. I fiddle with writing and was working out a story involving a centaur just before this. Why?"
"Well, it seems that a lot of the others claimed that they'd always dreamed of the form they turned into."
"One, I believe a horse man of some kind in the states, said that his new form was a perfect amalgamation of all the things he'd ever dreamed of."
Anyway, there was one other question of note which was interesting because of the way it was worded. Someone from CFMT asked, "How does it feel to be a Centaur in a Man's world?" You've already read my answer, which I paraphrased, but the wording stuck in my memory. It was a great title, for something anyway.
By then, it was almost 10:00 and they turned and left after thanking me, so I turned and trotted back to my apartment. I made my way up the various staircases and squeezed back into my apartment. First I grabbed another two-litre from the fridge (it wasn't really coke, just a no-name substitute that cost a quarter the cost of the real thing) and backed up and made my way into the living room. Having learned from this morning I leaned down and moved the cushions from in front of the couch over to in front of the computer, straightened them, and lay down. Then I turned on the computer and while waiting for it to boot picked up the phone.
I entered the code (forgetting the 416 and getting the stupid voice again) and started going through the messages. First though, I was warned that the message box was full. Then I started on the messages. Stranger, delete. Stranger, delete. I didn't even listen to them. They were all like that until the fifteenth or so, and that was from my mother. She asked if I was all right and what had happened. After another seven messages she'd called again and stated that she had seen the news - was that really me?
After checking and deleting the last two messages after my mother's second message, I called back home. Everybody was at work so I stated that yes I was a centaur, yes I was fine and doing all right, and that she better tell whoever was hosting Easter dinner to have a BIG meal ready.
By then the computer was up.
First I went back to the book-marked site for the stables and called the number. I had to wait a bit for the farrier, but then she came on and I talked a bit and explained my problem.
"I don't believe you," she said.
I sighed. Ok. "Can you take credit cards over the phone?"
"Fine. I'll give you my card and you can take $200 out. If I am not what I say I am, then you will still make money."
A pause. "Ok."
And then we worked out the details. We talked for over an hour, first agreeing to meet at the park behind the North Toronto Metro Community Centre so that she would have lots of room to work and park (apparently she traveled with a portable propane fueled forge) and then I asked some basic personal questions. Important things like how much walking was safe on pavement (as little as possible given my record so far), some things to look out for (make sure to dry the hooves and remove any snow from within them) and general things to think about such as health and future plans. She asked if she could take pictures and I said sure, why not. Then, just before the end, I also asked her to bring whatever other basic horse care stuff that she could spare as I had nothing. She was surprised by that until I reminded her that I didn't really plan this transformation.
On to the next task. I looked up Medic Alert on the internet, and found out that I could register either by an internet form, or over the phone. I figured that with my unique case I should call. The idea for this was from the farrier and the reason she gave was that if I was ever injured, it would probably be useful for the hospital or paramedics to be able to see what kind of blood I needed (human, horse or other), where critical organs were (such as my heart), etc.
Apparently my case was a little unusual, but as they only provided a database they weren't fanatics about double checking the validity of the information (after all you paid the administration costs, and they simply recorded the data you supplied - if you lied, than that was between you and the emergency services). I did pay extra to get the bracelet couriered to me tomorrow. I also set up the basics so that my doctor could call and provide the information.
The next call was to my doctor to arrange a general check up. It was too late today, but since I claimed it was an emergency (well it was, sort of. I would really like to know what I could eat safely...) I managed to get booked in tomorrow afternoon. Of course, I did tell the secretary the real cause but she didn't believe me - apparently she hadn't seen it on the news - but she wrote down 'centaur' as the reason anyway. Well, at the very least tomorrow I could tell my doctor that I did warn him.
Finally, out of curiosity, I went to YAHOO and searched for CANADA and DISABILITY. I did find the applicable government pages, but the only information I could find was temporary disability compensation for those injured at work. Figuring that there should be some kind of financial support for requirements for those permanently disfigured (such as wheelchairs, or special shoes) I sent off some queries (not specifying too much information) to see if such support did exist. If I could get the government to pay my farrier costs, that would go a long way towards solving my sudden expenditure increase.
Finally I checked the e-mail and the on-line news sites. There wasn't much more. Apparently some people had returned to the list as they had been having problems since they turned almost fully into animals (one person, an eye doctor, changed into a raccoon with a slightly larger head whilst examining a patient). The news didn't have any other new information, and didn't even mention me, but did mention a large dragon had appeared and became the mascot for one of the universities in the states.
At that I could only shake my head.
Finally, I sent an e-mail to my friends who were a part of the modern age and described that I was a centaur, that I was the one on the news, and that I would like to change my roleplaying character race in the D&D campaign we were starting.
By then it was three o'clock and I knew I needed a break. And I knew what I wanted to do.
Every Thursday the GW store in the Eaton's Centre has a 'Veteran's Night' where you can come in and play 40K with others. I'd been working on finishing some special projects to go this week, and had finished them on the weekend and, by God, I WAS GOING.
The question was how?
Remembering what the farrier had mentioned, walking downtown didn't seem to be a smart idea. A taxi simply wasn't physically possible, and I didn't think I could fit in the Yonge bus. But there was the Yonge subway. Remembering the recently widened doors I was certain that I could fit in, and as I would be going south instead of north I would avoid the northbound rush hour sardine can.
I would do it.
It took about half an hour to print out the army list, pack up the figures I'd need, pack the dice, pack the measuring tape, pack the templates, and then, finally, the rulebook (the store used to supply most of the other stuff until some putzes had started stealing and breaking them), and then I was ready. Everything fit into my shoulder bag except for the actual figures which were all in a foam-lined carrying case. Then, after using the washroom, I tossed the two empty two-litre bottles into a spare grocery bag, grabbed the rest of my supplies along with my coat, and squeezed out the door and locked it behind me. Making my way down the stairs I got out on the driveway, turned left and walked down and tossed the bottles into the recycle bin, and then rotated and made my way back up to Yonge St. Once there, ignoring the pedestrians who stared and commented, and the odd honk of a horn, I walked north (I felt like trotting but I'd been warned against it as unneeded extra stress on my hooves), waited for the light at Lawrence, crossed, and then entered the Lawrence subway station. Making my way down the long staircase, I walked up to the ticket agent.
Ignoring the people staring and whispering, I put down the figure case, fumbled in my shoulder bag for my wallet, found it, opened it, and pulled out my Metropass (the pass for the TTC system) and held it towards the attendant. "I'm just going to use the gate to get in. Is that ok?"
To keep the time that the attendant kept staring at me from getting boring, let me explain to you what I mean by gate. All of the main entrances to the TTC subway stations have two portions (of the fence that stops people from entering without paying) that can be opened up by just pulling up a latch and swinging two gates open Some of the busier stations have them open during rush hour with an attendant, but here I'd only seen them used by travelers with heavy bags coming from Union station or the airport.
By about now the attendant finally relaxed enough to speak. "I'm sorry, but, ah, you can't use the, ah, system."
"Can't use the subway? Why?" Now I was annoyed. Not angry, but annoyed. I was in the right, and when I know that I'm in the right I can get very, very stubborn.
"Well let's go through the bylaws then, shall we? Do I have a legal pass?"
"Err, yes." His voice changed into a whisper.
"Is it all filled out correctly?"
"Does the picture of my face on the pass match my actual face?"
"It only shows my face and that is the only thing that we are concerned about here. Does the picture match?"
By now a crowd had gathered to watch.
"Am I smoking?" Smoking anywhere on the TTC is illegal.
"Am I trying to bring on a pet or large baggage?" Riders are not allowed to bring on pets or large bags during rush hour for obvious reasons, although seeing-eye dogs and other such things are exempt. I wondered if seeing-eye horses were.
I lifted my shoulder bag up in my hand so that it hung between us. "Is this a large bag?"
I let the bag thud back against my upper side and then held up a figure case (it's about 3" thick and about 14"x8"). "Is this a large bag?"
"I've taken both of these things together on the subway hundreds of times without any problems. Have your bylaws changed?"
"No." I put the figure case down.
Somebody in the crowd snickered.
"Well I give up, I can't think of any other reasons."
"It's, err, it's you."
Now I was getting angry. "Are you saying that I can't use the system because I'm a centaur?"
Now I had him. "So, the TTC does practice racial discrimination."
"Give me a break." I stepped up until I my face was about a foot away from the glass of the booth and I glared at him as I continued. "You are a human, a member of the human RACE. I am a centaur, a member of the centaur RACE. You just told me that I couldn't use the system because I was a centaur. A different RACE then you. Thus RACIAL discrimination. Q.E.D." I took too way many math courses in university - especially calculus which is a wonderful and fascinating subject.
"Well, err, no. It's not because you're a centaur."
"It's because you're too big."
"Are you saying I'm fat?" I heard a guffaw behind me.
"No, err, well..."
"Are you saying that if an overweight HUMAN tried to use the system, you would prevent him from boarding? That you would discriminate against him because he was overweight?"
"No, well, err..."
"Then that puts us back to RACIAL discrimination, doesn't it?"
He was finally speechless. Behind me I heard somebody dialing a cell phone. Good. Hopefully this was being passed on to some of those annoying reporters from this morning. They would have loved this.
After a minute I asked, "Well?"
He squeaked, "Just a minute please," and then turned away and picked up a phone. He dialed and then I could see he was whispering. Another minute passed and I started tapping my right fore hoof.
It was almost another minute before he finally hung up, swallowed, and then said, "I can't let you on because you're not properly clothed."
"You are not properly clothed."
Was he referring to the good old 'no shoes, no shirt, no service'? I could sort of remember that being in the bylaws. The shoe point could be a problem since I technically didn't have any shoes on. I unbuttoned my coat and pinched a piece of my sweater between my fingers and pulled it a little towards him. "Is this sweater close enough to a shirt, or are you going to say that people wearing sweaters can't use the system."
I let go my sweater and then raised my right fore hoof and clomped it against the side of the booth, just below the glass.
I may have done it a little harder than necessary.
"This is a hoof." Behind me somebody laughed. "The legally correct footgear for a hoof is a horseshoe, generally quite appropriately named." The crowd was getting quite large. "When a horseshoe is nailed to a hoof, the hoof still looks like, well, a hoof."
"You're still not properly clad."
I wondered how much pressure the management had put on him, or maybe it was just that he was stubborn. "In what way am I not properly clad?"
"You're not wearing pants."
I carefully and slowly looked down past my sweater to my forelegs. "By God, you're right. No pants."
"Are some people allowed to wear turbans on the TTC?"
This took him aback. "Yes, of course."
"And wasn't there a decision on the Bill of Rights about two years ago that forced organizations such as the police and RCMP to allow people to wear headgear, such as turbans, if their religion required it?"
"So the TTC does support religions clothing freedom."
"Well yes, of course, as long..."
"If a pregnant woman came on wearing a loose fitting pregnancy dress, would you allow her on?"
"So the TTC does support special medical clothing needs."
"Yes, or no?"
"Can you imagine a horse wearing a pair of pants?"
"And would I not look silly wearing a pair of pants?"
"Well, I guess so."
"In fact, wouldn't I have trouble walking, and be likely injure myself if I tried to put on a pair of pants and walk anywhere? Wouldn't I risk tripping, falling, and breaking a leg?"
Hmm, now what. Ah ha. "People with casts don't have to wear pants over top of their cast, correct?"
"And can they use the subway?"
"But as you've clarified they would have to wear pants to use the subway. Now, couldn't wearing pants cause them to trip, or fall, or maybe delay their leg healing?"
"I guess so."
"No room for guesses here. Yes or no."
From behind, "I'm a doctor, and tight pants could delay or even harm the healing process."
Twisting around, I called out, "Thank you," and then twisted back to face my victim. "And the TTC does not require those in casts to wear pants on their legs, or shoes on their feet for this reason, correct?"
"Of course we don't."
"So, since we agree that my wearing pants could and likely would injure myself, then, "I paused, "why do I have to be wearing pants."
At this point I noticed some TTC security coming up off the escalator. My victim must have called them but I beat him to the punch. Turning to them I called out, "Oh good, I'm glad you're here. This person won't let me enter the system even though I do have a valid pass and am correctly attired."
"Well...," one began.
I didn't let him continue. "Let me sum the situation up for you. I've established with this gentleman," I pointed to the booth, "that the TTC does not practice RACIAL discrimination, so I cannot be prevented from using the system because of the fact that my RACE is centaur. We've also agreed that the TTC does not practice SIZE discrimination in that they would not prevent an overweight or pregnant HUMAN from entering, and hence my SIZE cannot be a problem; we've agreed that my bags are not too large for rush hours; we've also agreed that I am properly attired, because the TTC does NOT discriminate against the wounded who do not wear shoes over their foot in a cast since such an action would prevent the foot healing properly. Are you with me so far?"
"And we've gone through the rest of the bylaws. I have a valid pass and photoID. I'm not smoking and I am not trying to bring a pet on board. Now," I smiled, "I'm not a vindictive PERSON so I'm not going to press any charges against this gentleman," again pointing to the poor ticket taker, "or the TTC in general for DISCRIMINATING against a PERSON such as myself."
"But I would like to use the TTC, so can I take my VALID pass and USE the subway?"
Somebody walked up beside me. "I'm with the Globe and Mail and I'm sure a lot of our readers would be interested in any kind of discrimination."
Ah, an ally from the press, and about time too. "So can I use the subway?"
One of the security officers quickly shuffled over and opened the gate so I picked up my miniature case, rotated, and stepped through. "Thank you."
Behind me I could hear clapping from the crowd.
After that the rest was easy. I skipped the escalator (I knew they wouldn't fail given the number of people they carry but I wasn't sure enough of myself to trust my balance) and made my way down the stairs, across the lower bus platform, and down to the subway platform. Fortunately the exit from the Queen station that I wanted was at the same end of the platform as the main Lawrence exit (there was NO way I could fit through the comparatively tiny turn-styles in the other entrance) and so I waited. A few minutes later the train came.
I stepped across the gap and in. The TTC had recently widened the doors so I had no trouble getting through and the passageway between the seats was wide enough so that I didn't have any trouble turning to the left and standing in front of one of the seats along the side. The bench that I had carefully chosen was one of those that could be folded up to make room for a wheelchair, so I dutifully skimmed the instructions, leaned down, folded it up, and sidled into the open space left behind. I had to duck to get under the hand bar near the roof, but the car was just high enough for me to stand with the hair on the top of my head just brushing the room.
The door slid shut and the train started south.
Note: If you want to hear the three notes that the subway plays when the doors close, then go to http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/ttc/index.htm and the three tones play as the web page opens up. Personally, I thought it was a little TOO cute the first time I went to their web site. Only the first tone is played when the doors open. Back to the diary.
As the train moved I found that having four legs made keeping balance much easier than when I had only two. I reached down and grabbed one of the free subway papers somebody had left behind (today's Metro) and started reading it. Hmph. I didn't make the front page although I did make the second. Then at St. Clair, a mother and her daughter got on and the daughter ran over to me.
"Look mommy, a horse!"
"Get away from..."
I lowered the paper and offered the girl my hand. I first called to the mother, "Don't worry, I won't hurt her," and then I looked down at the little girl, "I'm not really a horse, I'm a centaur.'
"Cent, like in a penny, and or."
"Ohhh." Her eyes were wide.
She remained silent for about a minute as the mother looked increasingly nervous until the train reached Summerville. There the mother grabbed her daughter's arm and pulled her daughter off the train.
I watched the daughter wave good-bye as she was dragged away.
Sigh. Through the slits again.
Nothing else happened before I got off at Queen, and I made sure to pull the bench back down before the train stopped. I got out without problems and made my way through the gate, nodding to the attendant there.
He didn't look impressed.
Ignoring him, I walked out, my hooves loud in the silence that seemed to be spreading through the station, and went to the up escalator. I figured I'd have to see if I could handle it sometime, and up would certainly be easier than down.
It wasn't bad at all.
Then it was a turn right, a short walk through the entrance to the lowest level of the Eaton's Center, and then I was at the GW store. Checking my watch showed that it was 4:33pm so I turned and walked in and made my way to the front counter (fortunately near the entrance.
"Is the sign-up sheet ready yet?"
"Mich...?" The manager, who knew me by name, started looking up and then stopped speaking, although he kept looking further and further up.
"Yes, it's me. I want to sign up for a game tonight."
I sighed through my slits. "Oh come on, I'm here, ready to play, with everything needed. You know me."
"Well, you sound a little different."
Different? My voice didn't sound different to me, but then recordings of my voice had sounded different to me compared to the way my voice sounded to me when I was speaking. Did my voice change? "But you do recognize me?"
"Well, most of you."
He slid over the sign up sheet.
"Which table is by the entrance this time, one or two."
I signed up and checked my opponent. Futz, Chaos. I hate Chaos.
Anyway, the rest of the evening went not too bad, although it was depressing at first. Usually I only get one game in, and the first game against the Chaos player was not fun at all. Not only was he one of the younger players (which isn't necessarily a problem), he didn't know the rules that well (which isn't usually a problem either), AND he had one of those win at all costs mentalities. As an example, his greater demon fought my command squad and I lost (no surprise) but my morale held. The next turn, when I asked him to check something else before I finished moving, we discovered that if a unit loses a combat against a greater demon, then they automatically fall back from the combat. If my command squad had fallen back then I could have shot at the greater demon with ranged weapons. So I asked if we could go back and do that since it would probably have a large affect on the game and was easy to fix. But nope. Last turn was done, too late now.
So he won. I hope he's happy.
After the first game was finished I stayed a bit to talk to some other others there that I knew. The store was less crowded than usual with players, although there was a larger than normal crowd outside the store, and I could see flashes going off. Thus there was space and I was invited for a second game which ended up being a really fun game against a Space Wolf player. And fun is the important part after all.
In hindsight, I probably got the second game because I was attracting a crowd and the store wanted to take advantage of it, which was fine with me. I could here the manager explaining the game to the crowd while I played.
Finally the game ended though, and at about 8:30 I left. I had no trouble getting on to the subway this time (although I had to go down a narrow stairs, under the tracks, up another narrow stairs, and then rotate around to get the northbound train) and was home by 9:00. Making my way out of the station, I turned and went home. Once there I put my baggage down and away, straightened the cushions, started the computer, ordered some more vegetarian pizza (at least I knew that was safe for me to eat), pulled my last two-litre pop out of the fridge, and once the computer had booted checked my e-mail.
Again there wasn't much, and the TSA list was almost suspiciously quiet. I did get a reply from my friends about Friday night regarding food so I sent back that anything vegetarian was probably fine, and warned them to make sure there was LOTS of it. Fortunately two of them are vegetarians so we always just order or cook vegetarian food to keep life simple.
When I was finished this time I kept the empty bottle and filled it up with water, half from the Brita jug I have, and half from the tap to top it off, and left put it in the fridge to stay cool. Then it was a last trip to the washroom, glasses off by the CD player, moving the cushions so that they were in front of the couch and straightening them out, turning off the light, wrapping the blanket around my upper torso, laying down, and finally going to sleep.
And I did get to sleep fairly quickly - even though I kept getting flashes of fear about tomorrow.
For tomorrow nails were going to be driven into me feet, er hooves.
Jan 26, 8:45am
Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they well help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And, since I at least try to write, I've tried both to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
Oh, and (of course) places and names of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that. So let's get started and complete an entire day! Unfortunately, things aren't really going faster as this day is slightly longer than the previous day...
No. I successfully disbelieve.
BZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Usually forced disbelief works for an absurd event, but not this time.
I stumbled upwards and yawned and stretched, arching my back and my tail so that they touched.
I'm going to rip the stupid thing out of the wall if this keeps up.
BZZZZZZZZ! BZZZ! BZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
I backed up, slipping on the cushions, rotated around when I had room, and walked over and pressed the talk button: "Yes!?"
Ok, so I probably should have been a bit more polite. I wasn't all the way awake yet.
Pressed listen: "Mr. Bard, I'm sorry..."
Pressed talk: "Can't it be later? Centaurs do have to sleep."
Pressed listen: "I'm Thomas Extansor from the Globe, we met on the TTC yesterday." He sounded desperate.
TTC? Was he the person who helped me get on. I turned on the entrance hall (well, more of a cubicle) light and stared into it for about fifteen seconds to try and wake up a bit before I twisted back to face the panel. Pressed talk: "Sorry, I'm not at the best in the morning. Do you just want to ask some..." I yawned. "Sorry. Oh, and Thank you for yesterday."
Pressed listen: "I really need to talk to you - it seems, well I wrote up an article about your problems with the TTC and it made the front page of this morning's Metro and the back page of the first section of the Globe, and there has been reaction."
Pressed talk: "Good or bad."
Pressed listen: "Lots."
A pause. Then I pressed talk: "Lots?"
Pressed listen: "I dropped by after the first reactions started pouring in to talk to you. I think you're going to need some encouragement."
Pressed talk: "Ooookaaay. You're alone, right?"
Pressed listen: "Just me. No cameras, no interview, just a talk."
Pressed talk: "Ok, I'll let you in, but it'll be a few minutes before I'm ready - I just want to put something on."
Pressed listen:"I'll be up there momentarily and waiting."
Pressed talk: "Ok." Then I pressed the button to let him in.
After backing into the living room, I rotated around and made my way into the washroom. I skipped shaving and combing my hair, but I did use mouthwash. Then I backed out, rotated, and squeezed into my bedroom, or former bedroom, and grabbed my other sweater (which was an off tan colour and would probably go better with my cream hide). Then I grabbed my glasses and put them on and then I squeezed back into the living room and walked to the door, making a quick check to make sure I'd thrown the other sweater in the hamper since it had certainly needed it, and it looked like I had.
A quick check through the peephole, and it was indeed the person from yesterday, and then a couple of steps back so that I could open the door. "Come in, Mr..."
"Extansor, Thomas Extansor. And thank you."
"Unfortunately I can't hold the door for you if I want to make room for you to get in." As he just nodded, I backed up into the living room and he followed, letting the door thud shut behind him. When I felt my hind legs step on one of the couch cushions, I stopped. "Would you like to sit down?" I pointed at the chair. "I apologize for the little bit of mess, but I'm still trying to adjust things."
"Not a problem, Thanks." And he sat down. "Can you sit, or..."
"I consider it as laying down." I stepped backward until I was on the far side of the cushions and then I leaned down and straightened them before stepping back forward and letting myself collapse downward. "Thank you." I wiggled a bit to get comfortable, forcing my tail to remain still, and then asked, "So why did you want to see me?"
He sighed, moved around a little, and than began, "I thought that I should at least warn you of what was coming. After I ran into you yesterday, I wrote up what you'd gone through with the TTC for the Column - you know what I mean?"
"Yes. Please go on." For those of you who aren't in Toronto, 'The Column' is a section in the Metro where various people spout out about various things. Some serious, some humourous. Usually it's the most interesting bit of the paper. But I digress...
"It seems that the heads liked it so much that they moved it to the front page and even placed it on the back page of the Globe and Mail. I had to add a little bit, but that wasn't hard."
"Hmm. What did you say?"
"No, no, nothing bad about you. Just a brief description of what happened, and then a bit about what this means to Toronto and to civilization. You're a person, and the TTC eventually recognized that, and I stated that it was important that everybody recognized it."
"Do you have a copy?"
He opened his coat and pulled a neatly folded Metro from the inner pocket and handed it to me. "The Globe and Mail is identical, although the picture is black and white instead of colour."
I nodded as I unfolded it and then just stared in shocked silence. There I was, or at least a picture of myself in glorious printed colour, gracing the front page. Apparently somebody had taken a picture of my discussion with the TTC attendant and the picture showed me from behind with my right fore hoof on the booth and my one hand raised to make a point.
I hadn't even realized I was moving my hand - I'd been having too much fun.
Then a sudden fear struck me and I looked more carefully at the picture. Thank God, my tail had covered certain embarrassing parts.
Finally I read through the article. The first half of the article was a paraphrased version of the debate that was essentially correct. Had I really said that much?
From the chair I heard a shuffling of feet and then, "I had a mini tape recorder with me."
And the rest was also as he'd said, a general note about what being a person means, and a comment that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms didn't define a person as human in anyway, but did specify that any individual regardless of race had rights. For your information I've included the appropriate bit that he quoted from the Equality Rights section:
"15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."
Note: For those interested in a complete copy of this document, go to: http://www.laurentia.com/ccrf/ccrf.htm. Now back to the diary.
When I was finished I lowered the paper and looked back at him. "I don't see anything wrong with this."
"Look at the letters section."
Lifting the paper back up I went to inside the back page (the back page is always an ad). The first thing I noticed wasn't the letters but the comics. There aren't many, but there is always a one panel piece of transit humour. This time it showed a street car with the usual driver. Behind the driver I could see that the street care was full of centaurs, and the caption (said by the driver) stated, 'I thought horse carriages went out years ago' I snickered.
"You read the Transit Tickler?"
I looked up and nodded.
"I'm glad you find it funny, because other's won't"
"What do you mean?"
"Other's may make the connection that you'll be kicking them off the system because of the room you need."
"You'd think. Read the letters."
I turned back to the paper. Usually there are just three letters, but this time the entire previous page was full of them. I started reading them. A lot were from university students supporting me, but a few were openly hostile. I frowned.
"And those were from last night. With the country-wide exposure it's just going to get worst. Almost all of the rest of those who've changed have been keeping a low profile. You haven't."
I looked up at him as he continued.
"Most of the US papers have already asked permission to run this and we didn't say no. Tomorrow it'll be all over the continent."
"Good? You haven't seen the letters that have been coming in this morning. True, most of them support you, and that seemed to be a positive sign, until one of the secretaries pointed out the general source negative letters."
"Some background first. Most letters are written by the educated middle class. University students, teachers, professionals, etc. That's because they have the skills, the time, and the intellectual environment to express their opinions. But almost all of the negative letters were written by what could be called the wage earners. Truck drivers, fast food restaurant servers, taxi drivers, that kind of thing. Now it isn't an absolute dichotomy, and this is a bit of a generalization, but there is a large bias for the intellectuals to support you, and for the wager earners no to."
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion."
"And that's going to be the problem. Yes, legally you have your rights. You are a citizen. You have birth records, you have voted, you've paid taxes. This means that you have a legal paper trail. But, almost all of law is based upon the unwritten assumption that it applies to humans, not animals. Until this week that wasn't a problem. There has been debate about dolphins, for example, but never any argument over whether they were humans or animals. They were animals. And now there are those who have changed like you."
"So, what's the problem?"
"Nobody's really gotten into this debate yet, but it's going to start. It has to now that there are a group of people who are trapped halfway between. And that's going to bring the extremists out. You might be in danger."
"Danger? Why would anybody want to hurt me? This is Canada, not the US. We're civilized..."
He smiled. "But you have become a center. All the others that were changed have stayed low. Most are in hiding, a few are known but they have surrounded themselves with supporters and stayed out of the public at large. As an example, there's a dragon that has become the official mascot for a university in the US. He's known about, but it isn't walking the streets of New York figuratively rubbing people's noses in his existence. You are." He sighed. "I think you should go into hiding for a while."
"Just until it cools down a little and people have more time to get use to your existence. Right now it's too new, too sudden. People are afraid..."
"Why. It's been proven that we're not catching..."
"Not in three days. Sure, there is no biological agent that could do this, and it has been stated as such, but nobody has had enough time to scientifically prove anything."
"And they never will. You can't prove a negative."
"But you can prove it to a reasonable point, and that will take time. And until that happens, public opinion is going to become more and more polarized."
I sighed through my slits. "I'm not going to hide."
"The first day I experienced this new form I resolved that I would not let it control me. That I would keep doing what I wanted to do as much as I could. I refuse to flee and hide just because I'm different."
"It would only be temporary."
"Like income taxes?" Note that in Canada (at least) income taxes were introduced as a temporary measure to help fund World War I.
He smiled. "Not that long." Then his face straightened. "But I am serious. Consider this - you've heard about the fight that woman had to make to get the right to vote?"
I started to nod and then stopped.
I was starting to realize what he was getting at.
"You've realized it, haven't you?"
"It's not going to be easy is it?"
"And this is just the beginning. I don't know who's realized this yet, but if your kind are accepted as 'humans' under the law, then the animal activists are going to start bringing dolphins, whales, gorillas, and who knows what else into it. Eventually either there will be slavery, or an entire new definition for legal purposes of sentience."
"And that has it's own meaning."
He nodded. "I almost wonder if some kind of alien race did this to force us to grow as a civilization and come to grips with this before they introduce themselves."
I didn't smile as I asked, "Do you really believe that?"
"I don't know. Nobody knows, so it's as good an explanation as any." He smiled for a bit, then frowned and leaned back, embarrassed. "I do, sort of, have an apology and a request to make to and of you."
He pulled out a miniature tape recorder. "I've been recording this..."
"Wait and let me finish, please."
"I recorded our conversation in case you did decide to stay. I would like to transcribe it and publish it as an interview."
"I think it will be helpful if you're going to continue on. I didn't want to mention it at first because I didn't want to force you into the course you're taking. I don't think I could do it. But, you convinced me earlier, and confirmed it now - I bet the pool at the office that you would."
"A pool at the office, eh?"
"Ok, then yes you can use it..."
"A couple of things. First, I don't want anything put in about how you approached me, or how I reacted. Just the points we talked about describing what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. Yes, you can repeat the last bit when you made me realize what I was getting into verbatim. I think it might sound better from you."
"Anything else then?"
"A couple things you might find useful. About fifteen years ago while I was in university I worked at cleaning an RCMP office over the summer. I think it was in '85. Anyway, they had to run a security check and everything, and my fingerprints were on file because of that and probably still are. That might be useful as more official documentation for the proper side."
"Good thought. You had the same name."
"Anything else then?"
"Not for now. However, I want you to know that I truly admire you for what you are about to do."
I didn't know what to say so I just let him continue.
"And I have this for you." He pulled out a cell phone.
I hate the stupid things. I had one for a while and then I got rid of it. In fact I still wince whenever the stupid things ring on the bus or the subway, and I guess my reaction must have shown.
"No, nothing like that. It's not a gift, it's more like insurance. I've keyed in a direct line to my cell, to the Globe's answering desk (with the number I keyed in you'll be put right through) and 911 just in case."
My voice changed to a whisper. "Just in case."
"I want you to keep it just in case the worse happens."
All I could do was nod as he stood up and handed me the cell phone.
"Mr. Bard, I'm honoured to have known you."
I stumbled to my feet and shook his hand, and then watched as he turned and left, unable to speak or move as he opened the door and let it thud close behind him.
Then I just stood there staring at the closed door. I'm not sure how long I stood there, or even how I managed to keep standing, before I finally, carefully, put the cell phone down on the couch and then collapsed onto the cushions. Of course I'd heard about the fight for emancipation, for the vote, but it had always been abstract. Most of the knowledge was from Saturday morning TV bits (Schoolhouse Rock and all that). The Canadian education establishment had never been that big on Canadian history.
And now I was in the middle of it.
What the hell was I going to do? I couldn't do this!
But then what would I do? Hide?
How could I do this?
Then I stopped, and breathed in through my mouth and out through my slits to calm down.
I remembered Wednesday. That morning I'd felt the same thing. Overwhelming panic and a million things to think about. But then I just went and did things one at a time.
And that was what I had to do now. One thing at a time.
I stood up with new resolve. I would just keep doing what I was doing. What I wanted to do, and what I needed to do to work and earn a living. And I would deal with things as they came up, one at a time.
Looking at the VCR I checked the time. Just before 9:30. Well, lots of time before I had to meet the farrier, so I pulled off the sweater and went through my morning ritual properly, including using the washroom (both ways this time - the second was unpleasant - I ended up using a big mixing bowel in the bath tub, rubber gloves, and lots of after cleaning). That took until 10:40. Then I started the computer and did a quick search for the Bill of Rights and did find a copy. A word search revealed that the word "human" was no where within it. I was about to start looking for a copy of the US Constitution out of curiosity when someone buzzed, so I backed up and answered and found, with relief, that it was a courier package from Medic Alert. I let the delivery person up and signed where indicated while he just stared. The bracelet fit on fine and was simply labeled - 'centaur' and a number. Closing the door I got back to my computer and continued my search, eventually finding a copy on one of the Gutenburg Project sites (go to http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/ - lots of stuff there) and it apparently used 'person' and 'citizen' but it also did not have 'human' anywhere. Of course, the copy I checked didn't have the amendments so the anti-slavery amendment might have dangerous wording.
I started to look for a more complete copy and then checked the time. It was almost 11:30 - nearly time for shoeing!
Knowing my schedule, I shutdown the computer, grabbed my shoulder bag and tossed in my roleplaying books and dice, dressed warmly, tossed my wallet in and, after a momentary pause while I held and looked at it, tossed in the cell phone. Then it was a matter of squeezing around to open the door and then out and into the hallway, a rotation, and then I locked the door behind me. Then it was down the stairwell and out, and then a quick trip north to the Coffee Time and another two dozen doughnuts (I wanted more but I had no way to carry them). I really had to eat better, but I hadn't had time to try and figure out some kind of affordable diet. Then it was back south down Yonge St, west on Cheritan, than south on Duplex. Other than a few car horns on Yonge, and a few cars on Duplex who slowed to gawk, I didn't run into anybody or have any problems.
Then I was at the park. I walked over to the field by one of the baseball diamonds and waited whilst nibbling on doughnuts. The farrier arrived at, by my watch, 12:03. Note that I'm not finicky about time, I just had nothing else to do while waiting.
The van she drove up in was white with the symbol of the stables she worked at cleanly stenciled on the side. As she was stopping I finished off the last of the doughnuts and walked over to her, coming to a stop beside the van just as she finished walking around it.
"Now where..." She stopped when she saw me.
"Good day. I told you I needed your help."
She looked me up and down, forwards and back. "I guess you do. Well, follow me around to the back and let's get started."
I followed behind her, my hooves crunching in the snow, and waited while she opened up the back. There was a forge there, but it was back out of the way. Instead at the very back of the van where it could be reached easily was a device that looked like some kind of metal anvil and consisted of three short metal posts in a triangle on a heavy stand.
"Do you mind if I put my bag in the back for now?" I held my shoulder bag and then placed it in as she nodded.
Then she turned and walked a short distance from the van and I followed.
I stopped and watched as she walked around to my rear.
"Well let's see here..." she mumbled to herself as she kneeled down and grabbed my right rear hoof.
I pulled it out of her grasp and stepped forward. "Hey!"
She looked up. "Oh my, I'm sorry. I'm just so use to shoeing, well, horses. Usually the owner just stands by while I do my work, unless the horse doesn't like having its hooves handled."
I smiled. "Don't worry, it's been a learning week for me to."
"Shall we start again?"
"Just ask and you shall receive."
And then she asked, and I let her raise my right rear hoof. "Let's see. No cracks. I see a chip here - been on the pavement I see - but nothing else. Doesn't need trimming either." Then she pulled a little camera out from her pocket and took a picture.
"I like to document my work on new horses so that if there are any problems we can trace back and try and figure it out."
"Can't argue with that. Maybe I should pass that on to the Medic Alert people."
"I'm getting that set up since I do have somewhat of a unique medical condition."
She shook her head and then started working her way around the rest of my hooves, taking a picture of each and mumbling the same kind of things. Fortunately there were no real problems. Finally she finished her examination and she turned for a second to look for somebody, then blushed, and turned to me.
"Well?" I asked.
"Like I said, everything's in fair shape. Your hooves are on the large side, even though you are small as a horse goes but very long legged. It's a good thing I brought a variety of sizes. Now, as per our discussion of yesterday, I brought primarily rubber horseshoes. Also, since you really couldn't plan this out, as you said, and it is an emergency, I'm not going to charge you anything for the short notice."
"That's a relief. I hadn't budgeted for owning a horse."
She laughed. "Well, let's get started then. I'll try and describe what I'm doing while I work. Feel free to ask questions, but if I ignore you then it's not that I'm being impolite, I'm just concentrating on something."
Then she turned and walked and jumped back into the van, fiddled around a bit, and then jumped out carrying three rubber shoes of differing sizes. "May I see you right rear hoof again please?"
I dutifully raised it up and twisted and watched as she first pulled out a hook and rubbed it against the inside of my hoof - I could feel it distantly - and then a brush which she brushed the base with. Only then did she hold the medium sized shoe against the base of the hoof, and then she tried the larger size. "Good, the larger one'll fit quite well."
I watched while she held it against my hoof and then moved it around a bit. It could feel it as a distant coolness, but I might also have been imagining the sensation. Finally she let go of my hoof and called, "You can put your hoof down now," and I dutifully obeyed. "And now comes the fun part. You should probably come and watch."
I rotated around, followed her back to the van, and watched while she clamped the horseshoe between the three posts and then winced from the scraping sound as she pulled out a two-foot metal rod which she put into a hole below one of the posts. "The problem with shoeing is that each horse, and centaur, are individuals. There are certain common hoof sizes, but always little differences. And if it wasn't for the little differences..." at that point she started pushing the bar which I saw was causing the one pole to move and hence bending the shoe, "...I wouldn't have a job."
"If it's rubber, why are you shaping it?"
Grunt, "Actually it's only a thick layer of rubber on a metal frame. It's the metal frame that I have to bend to make the shoe bend. Fortunately hooves are generally symmetrical so I only have to bend it inward or outward. Hoo!" She wiped her forehead. "That should do it."
I watched as she let go of the bar and unclamped the shoe and pulled it off. Then she reached back and got a hammer, a bunch of nails which she put in a pouch that was at her waist, and a portable stool. Then she turned towards me.
I stared. "You're going to hammer those nails into me?"
"Of course, but you won't feel a thing."
"How do you know that?"
"Well, nobody's every complained."
"Because the human owner just stands and watches."
She stopped right beside me. "You're right. Well, now you can let me know."
"You're welcome. Raise your right rear hoof please?"
I complied and then twisted to watcher her place the stood and then cradle my hoof between her knees. Then, again, she pulled out the little brush and scraped at the hoof.
"What are you brushing?"
"I'm just making sure nothing gets between the shoe and your hoof. Now shush and let me work. Note that I don't always hold the leg this way, but it does make it easier. Now don't move."
As I watched, trying to keep my tail still and to keep my body from shuddering, she held the shoe over my hoof. She fiddled with it a moment more and then pulled a nail out of the pouch and carefully placed it in a hole in the horseshoe.
I closed my eyes.
TAP. It felt like somebody had hit my foot with a piece of wood, but not hard. I could feel the shock distantly on the base of my foot, and could feel it bounce up the bones in my lower leg, but that was it.
"Did it hurt?"
I opened my eyes. "No. I could feel it though, but it wasn't painful."
And then she continued. TAP. TAP. TAP TAP.
"Done the first nail."
Then she went through the rest of the nails one by one.
"All done." She stood up and pulled the stool out of the way and I let my lower leg fall to the ground. "How does it feel?"
"It feels oddly heavy and unbalanced. Like I was wearing one shoe, while one shoe when I was still human, and had the other foot bare."
"Try tapping your leg."
I lifted it up and down and felt it thudding into the snow.
"Does it feel loose at all? Can you feel anything banging or hanging loosely?"
"No. Should I?"
"No. Raise it up and I'll double check." I did and she checked. "Looks fine."
"How would I know if it is loose?"
"Well, I don't know. Horses just, well, do. They tend to start favouring the leg. I would guess you would feel something out of balance or tapping against your foot as you walked."
"I'll try to remember that."
Then, with me watching, she worked her way through two more of my hoofs, following the same steps. For the last hoof, my right fore hoof, after brushing it she held the hammer out towards me and asked me to do it.
"You should learn. That way if you throw a shoe you can attach it yourself."
"It's simple. Each shoe has a kind of lip at the front which you rest against the front of the hoof. Then you center the shoe on the hoof, and tap a nail into each hole. The hard skill to learn is the shaping of the shoe with I've already done. I'll leave you a hammer and some nails and a spare shoe when I leave." Then she held the hammer, nails, and shoe out to me.
Gingerly I grasped them, and ended up holding most of the nails in my teeth (not having convenient pockets) and keeping two in my hand. Then I raised my right fore hoof as high as it could until it was against my right flank and about half way up. Leaning and twisting I managed to reach it and fiddle with the horseshoe.
"There you got it."
I carefully extracted a nail from my hand holding the shoe and held it in place, also holding the shoe, and then I tapped it in.
Tap. TAP. TAP TAP.
"That's good, now the next."
A few minutes later it was done and I handed the hammer and remaining nails back to her.
"I have one more thing for you. I brought them because I knew you'd be in snow a lot." Then she walked back to the van and brought out a cloth bag and pulled out what looked like a golfclub cover. "This is what is known as a popper."
A popper. I'd read about those. "You slip it over the leg and shoe, centering the ball in the middle so that it pops in and out so that snow doesn't get trapped inside the hallow of the hoof."
"You've been studying, haven't you?"
She handed one to me and I slid it on. It wasn't tight and there was a velcro strap at the top which I sealed.
She checked it. "A little tighter," and then she tightened it.
I put my foot down and lifted it and heard a faint pop as the ball bounced up forcing out any snow. The popping (of course) is what gave them their name. Then I put the other three on and just stood in place.
"How does it feel?"
"I can't even tell that either the shoes or the poppers are there."
"That's what we want. Try walking."
I took a step, hearing a faint pop as I lifted each foot. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
"How does it feel?"
"Then let's see you go faster. Work your way up to a gallop gradually and stop immediately if you feel anything wrong."
"Whatever you say."
I should mention here that one of the interesting thing's I've found about being a centaur is that unlike a human, I have distinct foot patterns for different speeds. Thus, instead of running I have to switch gears and change the way I move my legs. So, first I rotated and starting walking: pop pop pop pop. Then I sped up to a trot: poppop poppop. Next a canter: pop poppop pop. And finally I stretched into a slow gallop: poppop pop pop ...
"How is it?"
I decided to see how fast I could go so I started stretching myself. As I'd noticed earlier as I galloped, the movement of my legs acted as a bellows with my lungs, so that when my legs were stretched out to the front and back I would inhale, and as my legs almost met in the middle I would exhale. As I moved faster and faster I felt my breath come faster and faster to match my galloping, but I wasn't hard. But then, too soon, my glasses started to fog up so I shifted down to a canter and then to a trot and then to a walk and then, finally, I stopped.
I heard her voice in the distance behind me "What's wrong?!"
Twisting around so that I could see here, I shouted back, "Nothing! Just my glasses!"
She stopped and shook her head. Then, holding the glasses in my hand, I twisted back so that I was facing forward and then started walking, and then trotting, and then cantering, and then galloping. Then I keep speeding up, letting myself loose, until my breath was rapidly whoosing in and out through my gaping mouth, my nose, and my straining breathing slits. Oddly, I did not feel short of breath, it was just that I needed to breath in and out quickly.
But it was wonderful.
I could feel my whole body working together as one. My legs pounding up and down in synchronization and their movement helping my lungs billow in and out. My hooves pounding into the snow covered ground and sending the thud of impact up through my legs where bones and muscles flexed and helped pump my blood through my body. My upper torso leaning about 45 degrees downward and moving slightly to the right and left to keep balance as my hands moving slightly to help it out.
And as I rapidly sucked air in, I could begin to scent what was in it. At the back of my neck I could feel sweat, and smell its odour through my breathing slit. I could smell the dry brittleness of dead grass churned up from under the snow, the stinging scent of fresh rubber flexing, the cold crispness of old snow being thrown off behind me. Below it all I could hear a faint and almost continual popping as my hooves left the ground and for a second I flew.
The only thing wrong was the glasses in my hand and I almost threw those away to purify the joy.
Finally, regretfully, after only a minute or two, I swung around and pounded my way back to the street where she was waiting. I rapidly reached a gallop and after less than a minute I popped to a stop, shifting down from gait to gait, until I was standing in front of her. I could feel the sweat glistening on my flanks and I was taking in great gulps of air, but nothing like the speed I'd been breathing while I was in motion, and I did not feel the least out of breath.
In fact I wasn't even tired and felt like I could have kept going for hours.
"That was...amazing. How do you run so fast?" She started walking around me. "And what are those things on your neck?"
"They're breathing slits so that my face can look human."
"Breathing slits? You should be able to get enough through just your nostrils, though you might need your mouth occasionally."
"But don't horse's need lots of air?"
"Not that much. Generally they just breathe through their nostrils unless really winded." She paused. "Maybe that's it."
"When you were at your fastest, how were you breathing?"
"I was breathing in sync with my leg movement, through my nose, mouth, and breathing slits. The breaths were deep and rapid."
"That might be it. With the breathing slits you have an exceptionally large air refresh rate. Maybe with the extra capacity you can afford a higher oxygen circulation rate. A higher rate would increase your abilities and it would prevent an anabolic deficit in your muscles."
However, I wasn't really listening to her explanation, but instead just remembering the feeling. I tried to describe it to her, but my words then, like my words now, didn't do the sensation justice.
Finally, for almost the first time, I silently thanked God or whomever for my transformation.
After that the rest of the day went fairly quickly. I talked with her about other things as she brushed me down and I watched as she did it. It felt different from the mop, much better, and it helped relieve aches I didn't even know I had. Then she gave me a pair of brushes, a spare shoe roughly shaped (in case I threw one and couldn't find it), and a pat on the lower back. "Sorry, habit," she apologized. Then, with very little urging from her, I put my glasses in the van and galloped around the park about ten times as she took pictures. By the tenth time I was starting to feel winded so I did have limits, but it felt SOOO good. Finally, as she watched, I brushed myself and made note of her critiques, but I had to let her do my hind quarters. I explained about the mop handle I was going to screw to the brush and she nodded. She also suggested that I might want to wear a helmet of some kind, like riders wore, in case I stumbled so that my skull had extra protection. Also some kind of reflective symbol or vest so that I could be seen by cars wouldn't hurt. I agreed.
After all that, she finally packed up, thanked me for how nice I was, ran my credit card through, and gave me her business card with her cell number written on in ink in case I ever had an emergency. And she arranged to come back in a couple of weeks to show me how to trim my hooves since they didn't need it yet.
And then she was gone.
Well. As it was almost 3 I turned and raced through the park with my shoulder bag banging against my side, and then, regretfully slowed down to trot through the paths alongside of the recreation center. I passed some people and they stared, although I wasn't sure if it was because of me, or because of the popping sound I made as I trotted by. Then it was across Eglinton, south to Davisville, east back to Yonge, and then to my doctor's medical building. Well, not his, but where his office was.
I decided to avoid the revolving door and waited for the elevator in the lobby. I was NOT going to go up six floors worth of narrow stairs. There was whispering behind me, but no comments that I could make out, so I ignored the whisperings until the elevator came. Then it was up to the sixth floor and then a wait. I took off my poppers, shook them dry and put them on the boot rack, and then stood and waited.
The secretary was not amused, although I think more at the fact that I WAS a centaur, than at what I did. I did point out that I'd told her. A few minutes later (my doctor is actually usually on time) he came and I followed him into his examination room. There, for the next hour, we went through all the tests. He didn't comment much (after all, what WAS my blood pressure supposed to be?) but he did find my heart, measured my pulse (much slower and stronger than it used to be) and confirmed that there was indeed nothing but muscle in my upper chest. He also checked my breathing slits and confirmed that they appeared to be structured similarly to my nostrils. It also turned out that they joined my esophagus just below my neck. Finally he arranged blood and urine tests of various kinds for tomorrow, and stated that he would be sure to pass the information on to Medic Alert when he got it.
Of course the tests meant that I couldn't eat anything, and that I couldn't drink anything other than water after 7 tonight, but I'd just make sure to have a big supper. I also got him to promise to refer me to a veterinarian in the city in the near future, one who knew about horses. That left him shaking his head. Then I left.
Next I went to my friend's house. I'd be a little early, but it wasn't worth it to go home first. I really wanted to gallop across the Don Valley, but regretfully decided to be more sedate. I didn't take the subway since I knew I'd have problems trying to squeeze into an eastbound car to get to Broadview because all the cars would be packed from rush hour. Thus I went east down Davisville and then along Eglinton and across the valley at a steady popping trot, and arrived about 5:30.
The evening was fun, and my friends, although joking about my new appetite, didn't mention anything else about my appearance. There was a lively debate about whether I could change my race from dwarf to centaur, but after debating with them for a while, I finally decided to play a dwarf as planned. The reason was simple - I needed all the normalcy I could get, and playing a dwarf would get my mind off my being a centaur. Playing a centaur would definitely NOT achieve that aim.
And then, finally, it was home. This time I did take the subway and didn't have any problems, although the other people in the same car moved to the opposite end when I walked aboard. I could hear them whispering but didn't want to make anything of it. I had wanted to hoof it, but also wanted to keep my presence on the TTC to keep the ball rolling.
And then, finally after arriving home, I did one more thing before I went to bed. Using a screwdriver, rubber gloves, a pair of scissors, and electrical tape, I unscrewed the door buzzer panel, cut one of the wires that fed into the speaker, and then wrapped the end with electrical tape.
Now I WOULD sleep in.
Jan 27, 1:30pm
Finally, regretfully although I was fully refreshed, I woke up. It seemed that my modifications last night (well, early this morning) had their desired affect.
Of course, with no door buzzer, and the phone unplugged, nobody could reach me at all, but I figured it was better to lose the information than try to survive the very high noise to information ratio. I stumbled to my four hooves, my rubber shoes providing a much better grip, stretched so that my tail was over my eyes, walked over and turned the computer on, and then backed and rotated and went through the washroom necessities and cleanup, shrugged on a sweater, and put on my glasses. Once that was done I squeezed my way back, logged in, stepped back and moved the cushions back in front of the computer, walked to the fridge to get the two-litre bottle of water, and made it back to the computer in time to connect to Sympatico.
As it connected, I collapsed down and then waited until it was ready, closed Explorer, and started Outlook, and waited while the messages downloaded.
Now, having a high-speed connection, text messages download almost instantaneously. Sometimes, if I've been away for a weekend or something, it might take twenty or thirty seconds to go through the 200-400 messages generated from various mailing lists (I'd pruned that down long ago so a weekend only caused a backlog of between 100 and 200 messages). If there is a large attachment then it takes longer (and of course I open them IF AND ONLY IF they are expected and from someone I know). Sometimes there are delays, but it's never taken over a minute.
A minute had now passed and I brought the status bar to the top.
Over 400 messages had already been downloaded, and the status bar was barely visible.
What the hell?
It seems that my remaining means of communication was also being overloaded. As I'd decided already to not touch the phone any more unless I needed to call out, I tried going to my home page where my stories are archived for general interest - I wondered if people had been going there and upping the counter noticeably.
I couldn't load the page because I'd exceeded my transfer allowance for January.
Oh oh. I knew it wasn't going to case me difficulties, but it was a bad sign.
The message count was at 800 and the status bar was about 10 percent through.
Good god. Thank god I had a ten MB limit for e-mail and that text was cheap, although I was starting to wonder if I'd reached the limit.
Well, since it was going to take a while, I stumbled back up and made some breakfast. Usually I have a pair of English muffins, or a bowel of porridge (I actually LIKE porridge) and decided that porridge was the way to go today. Or at least I did until I remembered that I couldn't eat anything until after the tests.
My stomach was not impressed.
Squeezing out into the living room I checked - the computer was still going.
Ok. On to plan B. I'd put together a fair list of shopping needs (food, foam mats, reflector) and decided to go and take care of the tests, and then take care of my shopping errands. Thus I turned the monitor off but left the computer on (thank god for freeware home use firewalls), put on my coat, grabbed my shoulder bag, squeezed out, locked the door, and made my way down and out to the subway.
As it was a Saturday, there was not quite as much vehicle traffic, but much more pedestrian traffic, so I walked slower than I would have liked.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I was given lots of room.
At the corner of Lawrence I stopped to wait for the light and a couple of teenagers started poking fun at me, but I just ignored them. That had worked all the way through public and senior public (and a bit of high school) so I saw no need to change my tactics now. At least I wasn't worried anymore about physical threats as I could either just stand there immovably, or flee much faster than anybody could follow. As I was waiting, somebody in a car driving along Lawrence stopped and snapped a couple of pictures.
Oh well, I could live with pictures.
Finally the light changed and I made my way down into the station. I only had to go to Davisville, but decided to keep my hoof in the door so to speak. The more I used the TTC, the harder it would be for them to change their bylaws, or re-interpret them, to keep me off. I got on without trouble and made my way two stops south to Davisville. Some people had actually made it a point to sit near the end I was standing in - most of them looked like university students - but a few people had immediately gotten up and walked to the far end as I'd entered.
One even glared at me and then walked out just before the doors closed.
Finally I arrived and left, and made my way up the stairs, through the lobby above the tracks, back downstairs, and then out through the exit. I'd just closed the gate behind me when somebody in a TTC uniform walked up.
Let me just insert some background here so the next bit makes sense. Davisville station also contains the head offices of the TTC. Back to the diary.
"Is there a problem?"
"Would you come with me please?"
I looked at him and then asked, "Why?"
"Somebody would like to speak with you."
"I'd prefer to speak with him here." I hoped that I would still have public support in another debate.
"I'm sorry, but the CEO would like to see you in his office."
I glanced around. There were people standing, but I didn't see anybody I knew, and nobody really looked like a university student. Maybe speaking to him alone would be better after all. "Ok."
He turned and I followed him back to an elevator which we took up to the third floor. There he led me into a lounge and asked me to wait. The lounge was plain, although there were a few wooden chairs and I'd have preferred to sit to look relaxed but there was no way I could do that. I also didn't want to lay down as the wooden floor didn't look particularly comfortable. So I walked over to a table beside one of the chairs and browsed through the pamphlets and finally picked one up that discussed the Sheppard extension.
There's actually a bit of amusement about that. About five years ago, the Ontario government decided to fund both a Sheppard extension and an Eglinton extension. Two more lines. But then, about a year later and after construction had started, it was decided to terminate the Eglinton extension due to a lack of money (the Sheppard survived because the mayor or North York supported it). Don't worry, the humourous bit is still coming. After another a year it was decided to pay the penalties and cancel the Sheppard line, but the motion actually voted in didn't specify that building the tunnels would be cancelled. Thus, construction of stations was officially cancelled, but not of the tunnel and dutifully construction on the tunnel, and ONLY the tunnel, continued. At this point, the pro-subway proponents pointed out that a subway tunnel with no stations wasn't very useful and was a waste of money, so why don't we decide to build stations! Thus, at least as of January 2001, the line was still under construction.
Anyway, it probably didn't take as long as it took you to read my digression before the CEO came. "It's nice to meet you Mr. Bard. Would you like to sit down?"
I tried to smile. "Unfortunately I don't sit anymore." And unfortunately, my voice didn't sound exactly happy, and my smile looked forced - likely because it was
"Standing's fine too. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I asked to see you when you conveniently dropped by."
"Why would you like to see me then?"
"Straight to the point. Good. It's simple actually. On Thursday we had our first meeting of the year and you were brought up."
"Well, we didn't reach a decision. It seems that there is a strong disagreement as to what we should do. That's why I'm in today - we came to a decision last night and I've been trying to reach you.'
"Unfortunately you and way too many others."
"I figured that when you phone message box was full, and my e-mail bounced back as undeliverable because your mailbox was full."
So it had reached the limit. Oh, good. "Well, now I'm here."
"I need to ask you, how much do you plan to use the TTC?"
At least this I'd already figured that out. "I do need it for convenience and travel, but I do understand that I am a bit of a special case."
"You do know that we do not discriminate based on race, but..."
Good. That argument had been accepted. "I understand that, thus I have no plans to ever use the buses or streetcars - I don't think I could get on board - and I am going to try and stay off the busy lines during rush hour."
"We were hoping you would voluntarily stay off entirely during rush hour."
"Unfortunately I have to work too. Centaurs to have to pay bills."
"But, I will go the other direction during rush hour, since I'm going that direction anyway and I do understand your problems."
"Could you expand on that a bit please?"
"It's simple. In the morning I need to go north on the Yonge line. The vast majority go south."
"And, of course, the opposite in the evening."
"And what about the Bloor/Danforth line?"
"Well, unfortunately the times I do need it, the directions coincide with the rush hour crowd. Thus I've been avoiding it completely during rush hour."
"Good. I'm impressed at how understanding you are, I was afraid..."
"I'm a very reasonable person, and I am willing to make reasonable compromises."
"Good then. But may I make a couple of more points."
"Can you avoid Union station entirely during rush hour, along with the SRT?"
"I can see your point about Union and that won't be a problem. I hadn't really thought about the SRT as I rarely need it, but I don't think I could really fit in it anyway. So I'll voluntarily stay off it."
"Good, then I think we have a plan that we both can live with. I, and the TTC, thank you."
"You're welcome. I couldn't live without it."
He shook my hand and led me towards the door, but then I had a thought. "Could I ask a favour of you?"
"Come spring, could you put a good word in with the ferry commission? I wouldn't mind taking a walk around the islands occasionally."
Just so you the reader know, Toronto harbour is shielded by a group of islands called, naturally enough, the Toronto Islands. The city runs a ferry system to carry tourists back and forth to and from the various parks and attractions thereon.
"I'll see what I can do. It's been a pleasure meeting you Mr. Bard."
"And the same to you."
And then the person who'd invited me in led me out. Good, that was one problem more or less solved. On to the doctor!
It was fairly crowded at the corner of Yonge and Davisville, but once again I had room, although not as much. I did feel people bump and shove against me, but that was normal. Although I tried to keep my tail flat against my, you know, half away across somebody yanked it and I had to yank it back. Twisting around showed nobody grasping it - they'd probably let go and hid in the crowd.
Something I could never do again.
Finally though I made it into the medical building and waited at the elevator to go down to the labs.
"This isn't a stables."
I twisted around.
"This is a human building."
"No. This is a person's building. My doctor PERSON is here, and the lab test that I need as a PERSON are also..." DING. The elevator arrived and the door slid open and I shuffled over to let the others out while continuing, "...done here."
"They shouldn't let your kind here?"
"My kind?" Calm. Relax. I walked towards the elevator.
And then he kicked me in the hock of my left hind foot. Automatically, maybe instinctively, I kicked out. I managed to keep my full strength out of the kick so he just stumbled and then fell forward. I managed to rotate and twist enough to grasp his shoulders and help him to his feet.
"Are you all right?"
"Get away from me, you animal!"
I let my hands fall to my side and then watched as he turned and limped out. A few people were watching, but they remained silent and looked at me for a second before turning away.
Behind me the elevator doors closed.
I wasn't sure what to do. I couldn't believe somebody could be like that, but there he was.
I started to lift a hoof to follow him, to apologize for whatever I'd done, but then I forced myself to lower my hoof back to the floor.
What he'd done was his choice. I didn't think it was right, but it was his choice.
But it was I...
No. He kicked and I tried my hardest to stop my reaction. I had.
Finally, after about a minute I just sighed through my breathing slits and rotated back around and again pressed the button for the elevator. Nobody else bothered me until it came and then I went in and down. The lab technicians there had been expecting me and, although there were some questions and jokes about where to stick things (to which I always replied that they should just ignore my bottom half and treat my top half as they would anybody's), it went not too badly. The only embarrassing part was the urine sample. Embarrassing not because I couldn't create any, but because I had to convince someone else to hold the container for me. But it was done.
After the tests were done I left and made my way up Yonge to a Pizza Pizza. Not the best pizza, but they were close and I was STARVING. First I ordered a couple of slices of vegetarian, and then I ordered two large vegetarian pizzas while I was eating the slices. It all went down well.
The rest of the day was spent going downtown and wandering through various stores. First I went to various 'outdoor adventurer' supply stores (there's a whole bunch of them down on King and Queen) and picked up useful things. First, and the hardest to find, was a pack for a mule or horse - I finally find one in the back of an army surplus place. The person there was even kind enough to help me get it on, although I made sure that I could do it myself. Next I found three separate roll up foam mats that I packed away. Finally I found various types of well insulated sweaters and bought three of them. I needed to arrange to get my shirts tailored and I made a mental note to do that next week some time. Next was a place to sleep. I went through four futon stores before I finally found I futon mattress that was the right size for me to sleep on. The final thing I picked up was a reflective vest from a bicycle store. As all that was enough to load me up, I then made my way over to Spadina and Chinatown and picked up a huge bag of rice and grabbed some supper. There's a really nice place at Spadina and Dundas which is a Chinese food court. You buy food from any of the food places and then pick up your chopsticks from a central dispenser. Then it was home - first north to the Bloor line and east to Yonge, and then north up the Yonge line. I did pick up a Globe and Mail on my way to read, and the 'interview' from yesterday was in the first section, as was a growing selection of letters to the editor and other comments. There was support, hatred, and neutrality, along with speculation as to the cause, and what should be done. All the writers sounded civil enough, but the letters were, of course, selected.
Unfortunately the day wasn't free of distractions. Whilst downtown I overheard a number of comments, and had my tail yanked so many times that I lost count. Fortunately, most of the times it was by curious children and in those cases I would stop and let them examine me as long as the parent allowed. Sometimes they wouldn't at all, but a couple of times I walked with the parent a short distance and talked about my experiences. Chinatown was even nicer as there was none of the comments (unless they were in Chinese). At one point I heard a car stop and saw heard somebody call out "Look, it's the Canadian centaur."
I shook my head as that couple took pictures.
I finally made it home at about seven and, after unpacking and using the washroom, I set about taking apart the frame of my old bed and getting it out of the way. My plan had been to set up the futon mattress where my bed had been and to start sleeping there, but at the last minute remembered that I needed the end of the couch to lean against. I'd have to try and find something else. Because of that I left the futon mattress on the couch (after putting the original cushions back) and moved the computer chair and the living room chair into a back corner of the sun room. Probably I'd eventually get rid of the couch and keep the living room chair, but for now moving the couch would be too much hassle. Then I got to the computer and turned the monitor on.
There were over 1200 messages.
Well. First I sorted them by sender and pulled out those from people I knew and dropped them into a folder I created for that purpose. Then I tossed the remaining (almost all) into another new folder. There, I searched for all items that contained the word "hate" and deleted them. That took care of almost three quarters of them. Yes, I know that I may have deleted e-mail with phrases such as 'don't hate', but I had no other way to easily prune the messages to something manageable. The remaining 200 or so I skimmed. Most were postings of support which game me some comfort, but there were still some threats. Eventually I saved the support letters and dumped the rest.
Then it was the real e-mail. That from friends I replied to as appropriate. One was from the farrier and stated that she had placed some pictures of me on the web page for her stables. I clicked the link and looked, and indeed there were a whole bunch. She'd also added the caption "The choice of centaurs" to all the pages.
I shook my head.
There was also an e-mail from Thomas Extansor which basically asked how I was doing. I sent back that I was managing. After all, if I could survive years of being the class nerd, I could survive this. I also told him that I'd read the latest article he'd written and thanked him for his job.
Finally it was on to TSA talk. Again it was quiet, although there were a few notes from newcomers. Nobody I knew of had posted anything. Then I checked some of the news sites. I found another mention of the dragon mascot and I honestly hoped he would do well. Unfortunately I feared that as he lived and grew, and time passed and people around him aged and grew old, those same people would start to take steps - eventually unpleasant steps from the dragon's point of view - so that they wouldn't keep aging.
By then it was just before nine, so I fiddled with my antenna and watched Andromeda (a repeat, but not a bad one) and then I finally went to bed at 10. It had been a long day.
Jan 28, 12:40pm
On Sunday I decided to just take the day off. I cooked up rice and spaghetti for lunch, and latter supper, and spent most of the day finishing off the ISC campaign for the Kzinti (er Mirak) in Star Fleet Command. I tried writing in the evening, and then, suddenly, decided that I should write down my experiences.
If I was going to be a movement leader, than anything I wrote could become an important document - and that had possibilities.
Most important things that I'd read were always boring, factual. Always full of themselves and full of, The Cause. Well, now I had a chance to change that. So I started writing what you're reading now. The title, as you've probably figured out, I took from the one question on Thursday about being a centaur in a human's world.
By late Sunday night I'd finally finished the first day and put it up on my web site, and sent it to TSA-talk. Oh well, I'd catch up. Really I would - and this time I meant it.
I finished off the two-litre bottle of water, refilled it and put it in the fridge, and went to bed.
Jan 29, 7:00am
BEEP BEEP BEEP...
Oh God, Monday.
I staggered up and made my way into the bedroom and hit the snooze button on the clock. Then I clomped back and collapsed down and napped for seven more minutes.
BEEP BEEP BEEP...
Up again, yawn, stretch, walk over, switch the alarm off.
Note: Last Wednesday I did not really smash the alarm clock into tiny bits. I think I tried to, but I'm not that strong. It did add to the humour of the situation though, didn't it? Anyway, back to the diary.
Then it was washroom, sweater, a BIG bowl of porridge for breakfast (like I said, I do like porridge, and although I normally use just one of the instant pouches, this time I used six). Then everything I needed went into my shoulder bag (including a scrunched down spare mat), on went the coat, the reflective vest over the coat, the bicycle helmet, and then I grabbed the dirty sweaters out of the hamper and placed them over my arm, and finally out the door.
To find out that it was raining.
Now, one of the e-mails that I had read late Sunday night after posting the beginning of my diary, wondered what would happen with my breathing slits, which pointed up, when it was raining. Fortunately I'd imagined them perversely as tubes that stretched out, not too long, and hence tubes they were which could stretch. As the rain hit them I felt them pulled downwards so that they kinked and were facing backwards. I could still breathe through them, just not as well.
And, somehow, I also knew that I could pinch them shut like the nostril of a dolphin, or the nostrils of a seal.
Well, that took care of that. Whoever or whatever had done this had certainly worked out solutions to some interesting problems that I'd never thought of.
Then it was a short trip down the street in quiet - I think people were more worried about the cold rain than about me - and then a drop in to the drycleaner to drop of the sweaters, and then a quick pause to grab a Metro from a box, and then into the Lawrence station. I walked down the stairs and across the upper lobby without difficulty, showed my pass, walked through and down to the bus lobby. Now, I used to take the 52 bus over to Lawrence West, and then the Subway north from there, but now I planned to simply go north to Finch and hoof it.
As I passed the bus lobby and continued downward, a TTC security officer walked over and followed me. Once I reached the bottom I took a few steps to make room and then twisted and looked at him.
"Good morning," he said. "I'm here to keep an eye on you in case you need help."
And probably to make sure I don't go where I said I wouldn't. I shrugged my shoulders and walked about a third of the way along the platform and then stopped and waited. I could hear the man following me.
And I decided to ignore him.
If the TTC didn't trust me, then that was their business. But, unfortunately, given the way things were developing, it probably was wise to keep someone nearby in case trouble occurred because of my presence.
I opened the Metro I'd grabbed and started to read while I waited. Yup, more about me. Letters, pictures...
How the hell?!
There it was, a black and white picture of me kicking the man Saturday.
But I hadn't heard or seen a camera.
Then I sighed. If there hadn't been a flash, and it had been one of the digital ones that used flash memory, then I probably wouldn't have noticed anything.
Of course, then I heard the train coming. Folding the paper I waited, the doors opened (DING), and I walked aboard. As usual it wasn't very busy and I walked over to one side and then went back to my reading. The security man followed and sat down nearby. And, nicely, nobody got up and left. DING DANG DONG.
Then I went back to the paper. Well, below the picture was an article that discussed the situation and went through the man's complaint. According to him, he'd just been walking by when I had walked into him, and then kicked him to get him out of the way. Fortunately a witness described something closer to the truth, and did mention that the man had kicked me first.
There were letters that believed both stories. Great.
Other than that, there wasn't much other than the usual. There was a little something about a raccoon in the US that was trying to get at his bank account that he had had when he'd been a human eye doctor, but it was just a little note put in for human interest. I was able to skim the rest of the paper before the train reached Finch.
Oh yes, Finch station. Unfortunately the TTC has had to add elevators as a later enhancement to their stations, and thus many of them are not well configured due to architectural limitations. Finch is the worst. You can take one elevator from the subway level to the next level. You then have to walk about 40 feet to take another elevator from that level up to the next level. You then have to walk yet another 60 feet or so, partially through narrow winding hallways, and take yet ANOTHER elevator up to the street. I knew this because I ran my bike through this maze once.
I stuck with the stairs, stuffing the paper into one of the recycle bins as I passed.
Another problem with Finch is that because it is the end of the line, and also includes a GO (Government of Ontario inter-city transit) station, it is much busier than the somewhat empty subway would suggest. Mostly it's used by university students on their way to York. This meant that for the first time I was in a literal sea of people. There was not room for people to avoid me, and all I could do was move along with them. Fortunately because most of them were university students, there were no problems other than the occasional bump and excuse me, and thus I reached the street level and exited without a problem.
Then, ignoring the cold rain as best I could, I made my way through the people on the sidewalk to Finch, crossed Yonge, and than began trotting down the north sidewalk of Finch. There weren't many people, except in clumps in front of the schools, and in those cases I simply slowed down and detoured around. The trip was reasonably peaceful, except for the rain, and I made it to work in good time. There I hurried to the washroom, cursed as I realized that I'd forgotten to bring a towel, did the best I could with paper towels, and then went to my office, unrolled the mat, and went to work.
Yes, there was a back log of critical things that had to be done RIGHT NOW. Thus it wasn't until almost 7 that I was able to go home. The trot to Finch station was reasonably trouble free as the rain had stopped. Or at least it was until Bathurst.
I came to a stop and twisted around. It was an egg on the sidewalk.
I looked up and saw a car slowly driving by and somebody leaning out with another egg.
Shit! I took off as best I could, but I couldn't accelerate fast enough and I felt something splat into my side and then start to drip down.
Then I stopped my panic and slowed back down to a trot.
I wouldn't give them any excitement. I would just trot along and ignore them.
I refused to give them any satisfaction.
I'd forgotten how hard it was to do nothing.
By the end of it I got hit with two more eggs, both on my chest before, they drove off, laughing.
And that was it for the rest of the way to the subway. There I ignored the glances and simply answered, "Somebody threw these at me," when a lady asked what had happened. When somebody saw my side and laughed I almost lost it, but I managed to keep the tears from showing and made my way home in some form of dignity.
Once home I just clomped into the washroom, grabbed the bowl I had started keeping there, filled it with warm water, and then just dumped it over my side. Then I filled it and dumped it again. And again and again until the eggs were gone.
Yes, the water went all over the floor, but I didn't care.
I didn't care as I backed out, dried off my hooves and hide, and then grabbed a mop and mopped up the water. Instead I just remembered the joy of galloping, and kept that joy firm in my mind.
It wasn't enough. My memory just wasn't enough.
So, sighing, I took my glasses off, put my coat back on, and made my way back outside. It was about 8:30. Trotting, I made my way north on Yonge and then west on Lawrence almost all of the way to Avenue Road (you've got to admire that name) where there was a high school and its track.
Then I turned and for an hour galloped around and around the track I could barely see in the snow and partially frozen slush.
Once I'd swam when I was depressed, enjoying the sensation of flying through the water. Now I couldn't do that. Yes, I could probably swim. And yes, I could probably get into a pool.
But how the hell would I get back out?
But now I'd found a substitute. Galloping was almost the same. With swimming I would drift through the water, free to move and turn wherever I wanted. While galloping I kept leaping through the air, spending more time free of the earth than touching it. But even the little touch was too much and I galloped harder and harder, faster and faster, until I finally skidded off when I tried to turn, but managed to keep my legs safe as I fell to my side and slid to a stop, gasping for breath.
Still, dirty, cold, and wet, it had been worth it. I felt much better.
Then I went home and spent a good hour drying and brushing myself. I wrote some more of the diary, posted it, and went to bed.
Jan 30, 7:00am
Once again the alarm went off, and I went through the morning ritual. This time I tried a couple of hot toasted English muffins drenched in molten margarine to go with slightly less porridge, and it worked quite well with apple juice and a pair of apples. Then it was packing things up, and this timeremembered a towel, and then I left.
It was raining again.
Well, back into the rain, down the street, grab a Metro, and then into Lawrence Station. Another security officer greeted me and I just nodded as I made my way to the subway level and opened the paper.
There I was in all my glory, with egg splattered on my side.
I almost lost the paper in shock as the wind pushed in front of the train as it came into the station tried to yank the paper away. I would have missed the train entirely if the security officer hadn't tapped me on my flank and reminded me.
I hurried in and almost got my tail caught by the door.
Here was a difference. In public school my humiliation hadn't been plastered in glorious technicolour for the entire city, and probably the entire bloody planet, to see.
"You should read it," whispered the security officer.
Fine. Let's read it and get the whole humiliation and hatred into my skull. Maybe then I'd learn to hide in my shell like I was supposed to.
But the article wasn't like that. Sure, I'd looked silly, but then wouldn't anybody else who had eggs thrown at them? And then it went into a discussion of what was proper a proper response.
I was almost happy until I reached the letters page which had been expanded from three letters to three pages.
I skimmed one, hate, than another, hate, and then another, hate, and then glanced from heading to heading (from hate to hate) as the scale of it sank into my brain. Then I just threw the paper on the seat and walked up to the next door.
Now, you have to understand something. I always recycle the paper properly. Always. Always had until that day.
I remained silent and ignored the world until Finch. Then I got out and made my way up the stairs. I think I was a bit pushy, I remember some annoyed comments, but I wasn't really thinking about what I was doing. Then it was up to the street and then down Finch to work.
Interestingly, the trotting helped. In fact, it helped so much that I switched to a canter after I passed Bathurst and kept it up all the way to work. My breathing was hard because of the rain, but it helped me relax. There would eventually be some good from the event. People would see the eggs and eventually think about the eggs on them.
But did I want pity?
I didn't know.
I still didn't know by the time I made it to work.
Then I sat down, booted up the computer, and started finishing up the last of the backlog of my work.
It was my manger.
I stood up and rotated around until I faced her. "Good morning. What report do they want this time?" The last was said in fun. Half of my job is taking the critical and ultimate priority requests by the investors for economic reports. Every day, almost, they want a new report, or a report reformatted, or whatever.
She sighed. "Nothing like that for a change." She didn't sound like herself. "It's, well, something else."
"Well, I'm almost caught up, so what is it, and how fast do you need it."
She swallowed and then sat down on the extra chair I'd left behind for visitors. She spoke quickly: "We'd like you to work from home for the next while."
"Ok, I'll bite. Why?"
"A couple of clients have threatened to leave us if we keep you on."
I was speechless.
"I'm being fired??"
"Err, not exactly. We would still like to keep you on, just not so, well, publicly."
"I've been told to say that we will keep you on."
My voice turned dry. "For now." I could see what was going to happen. I'd be away and out of sight. They'd need some administration for the database to be done here, even though I could do some remotely from home. And then the reports would not be done as fast, and then...
"I've been told to ask you to leave as soon as you can."
I swallowed. "I need to get some things zipped to e-mail to myself..."
Her voice became a whisper, "No, we'll take care of that later."
Then I knew. "It won't happen, will it."
She didn't say a word.
"And this is just because of a couple of clients?"
"No." Her voice was almost too low to hear. "The investors in Boston have requested us to get you to leave."
"The investors... Why?"
"They didn't say."
I sighed. "You know that I'm going to have to take legal action over this. It is illegal to fire me because of my race."
"I know, and we're all going to be behind you. But, for now I have no choice."
"I wish I didn't have to take it to the courts, but I must." I must to force the fact that I was a person under the law into the light and rub everybody's noses in it.
"We know." Then she turned and left.
Numbly I stumbled upward and then reached down and rolled up the mat and squeezed it into my shoulder bag. Dutifully I logged off the computer and shut it down once NT had finished closing. Carefully I removed the various keys for the office from my ring. Slowly I walked out, turning off the light and closing the door behind me.
Yes, it was going to be hard.
Then I left and went home. I didn't take the TTC as I really needed to walk. It was about 10am and I didn't run into anybody, or at least I don't remember doing so. Instead I slowly wound my way south through the side streets, gradually making my way back to my apartment by just after noon. Once there I dutifully put my bag down, dutifully took off my poppers and cleaned and dried my hooves, and dutifully went to my computer and started it up and attempted to connect to the database server at work.
Yes, my passwords had been cancelled. I wasn't surprised.
A part of me remembered reading that being fired was one of the most traumatic things that could happen.
I connected my phone and listened to the warning that stated that my mailbox was full and then listened to the messages. Hate. Hate. Hate. Bill. Hate. Hate...
The voices all ran together. Maybe they were the same person. I didn't know.
Then I dutifully went and checked the e-mail and watched as the download started. And then I skimmed the mail as more was still coming in. Hate. Hate. Hate. A note from the farrier that she was taking my pictures from her web page as it apparently wasn't working out. Hate. Hate. Hate.
Of course, most of the mail had likely been spawned by the same few people using software to flood my box.
I checked the diary I'd posted. Well, at least Bell had been nice and reset my transfer allowance. Of course the page had been hacked and replaced with more hate.
I carefully reached up and turned off the monitor. Then I picked up the phone, carefully unplugged it, and threw it against the wall.
It was about 2 in the afternoon.
I carefully stood up and took off my glasses and carefully put them down by the VCR. Then I got on my coat, put on my vest, put on my helmet, put my wallet in the coat's pocket, and went out. I have no idea if I locked the door or not. Then it was downstairs and outside, north on Yonge and west on Lawrence to the highschool and the track. It had stopped raining again, and it was getting colder. I didn't care.
All I cared about, all I needed, was to run. So I did. I realized that I hadn't put on my poppers, and distantly I realized that I couldn't remember if I'd even brought them home. But, gradually, I felt better as I leapt from step to step, my hooves pounding on the snow and slush.
Maybe it was good that this was coming to a head.
PoundPound Pound Pound
Let's get it out into the open and clarify everything. Get my employment compensation for an unwarranted termination.
PoundPound Pound Pound
Then try and live off my settlement and look for another job. Oh fun, happy happy joy joy.
PoundPound Pound Pound
Slowing down, I twisted around and saw a bunch of kids with eggs.
SPLAT on my side.
SPLAT on my lower tail.
SPLAT on my left fore leg.
I needed to just ignore them
I couldn't do it.
I turned and fled their eggs and their laughter and went south and west to wander.
I made my way out of the highschool and through the grounds of the senior public school just south of it. And then I was on the back streets. I kept to a quick trot as I wound my way among them, heading south and west.
All I could think about was the e-mail, the web page, the eggs, the laughter.
Why couldn't they let me be!
This wasn't a Blind Pig story. There wasn't the prejudice, the fear of infection...
But there was.
And this time there was not going to be a happy ending. This was reality, not a parable of caring and hope.
I crossed Avenue Road and kept winding south and west. Some cars honked and I knew the eggs would come next so I accelerated to a gallop and lost myself in the side streets.
I slowed down again to a trot as I reached Eglinton and then galloped across the yellow light, ignoring the honking of horns.
After all, they all had eggs.
It was getting dark and the street lights came on, but I just kept trotting.
What was I going to do? I couldn't do this.
The eggs had dried on my hide.
I kept remembering the hate, the laughter. The kicks, the prejudice.
It wasn't fair!
I reached Dufferin and had at least enough mind left to wait until the light changed to cross.
Then I turned west and made my way down Rogers Rd.
No, it wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair, but it was all I had.
I could either deal with it, or quit.
Could I actually quit? Actually kill myself?
That's it. I'd kill myself and become a martyr, give my life to help the others.
What the hell was I thinking?! I didn't want to die.
Tears started to flow.
The transformation had started as the answer to a dream. Sure it'd been tough, but the speed, the power, the joy of my body working as it was designed, my belief in hope, all had made up for it.
I screamed it over and over again as my voice echoed off the buildings.
Was it a gift or a curse?
I didn't know, but I needed to deal with it. It was all that I had.
I could kill myself. End it. Take the coward's way out.
That's right, the coward's way.
I would take it one step at a time.
First I had to get clean. I could shower at the University of Toronto. I still had an athletic membership there. I could use the showers in the changeroom. Lots of room for a change.
I started trotting westward.
Lots of room and maybe a little respect.
I reached Caledonia and crossed to the west side and turned south.
I accelerated to a canter. I needed to feel better, I really did.
Maybe my running was a drug. But could a natural thing be a drug?
I didn't know.
I sped the canter up.
Behind me I heard a car coming towards me, heading south.
How fast could I run? The general speed limit is about thirty miles an hour. Could I do that?
I accelerated to a gallop as the car approached.
Let's see what I had.
I'd been gifted, or cursed, but by God I was going to get what enjoyment I could.
The car was still closing so I sped up.
My breath was now coming fast, the bones in my legs helping my blood pump. The muscles as I galloped helping my lungs breathe. My breathing slits helping the whole thing work together and make something wonderful.
The car was still closing so I strained myself a little more. I was starting to feel the beginnings of exhaustion, of oxygen debt, in my system.
Ahead I could see a crosswalk and I saw the crossing sign flash.
Ah well. I started to slow down. I felt much better.
The car started to slip pass me.
I pushed myself back into a fast gallop and began to close the distance.
Why wasn't the car slowing? Didn't the driver see the crosswalk?
I was beginning to have to force my muscles to work.
Why wasn't the driver slowing.
I strained my eyes to look forward.
There was a girl, maybe eight, crossing the street. Her mother was looking on.
The driver would see her. The driver had to. The driver would slow down.
Glancing behind I could see that the driver was a he, and he wasn't.
What was he doing?!
I couldn't see clearly but it looked like he was holding a cell phone.
A cell phone?!
I wanted to scream, but now I was deep into oxygen debt and couldn't spare the breath to speak. The crosswalk was maybe a hundred feet away.
Somehow I galloped faster.
I heard the mother starting to scream and saw the girl start to turn.
Still no squealing of brakes.
He had to see her.
He had to.
I couldn't glance to check, and I hadn't heard any sounds of a car braking.
I was almost at the crosswalk. The girl had stopped and was turning to face her mother. The crossing sign was still flashing.
I turned a little to cut in front of the car. I could see that he hadn't slowed down.
Ahead of me was a pile of snow, maybe four feet high.
Not stopping, I leapt.
The car didn't stop.
My lungs struggled to breathe no longer being aided by the muscles in my legs.
My heart pumped harder no longer aided by the pounding of my hooves.
The mother started falling to her knees.
The girl took a step forward.
My forehooves hit the pavement.
The car started to brake.
I exhaled as my legs moving together compressed my lungs.
The car stated to skid.
I leaned down and grabbed the girl and started to leap forward in the next step of my gallop.
The car slammed into my side and I went flying.
I clasped the girl tight to my upper chest and squeezed my legs against my body.
My right hind leg wouldn't bend.
I could feel pain starting.
My legs hit the pavement and I fell onto my side, sliding across the surface.
I felt my skin being torn off as I slid to a stop.
I heard the car's brakes squealing.
Pain. Lots and lots of pain. Burning, agonizing, screaming pain. Some amused part of me remembered the scene from 'Devil in the Dark' when Spock first mind melds with the Horta and all he can say is PAIN.
I forced my arms to open and let the girl go.
Standing up she ran towards her mother.
And then everything went black.
Feb 16, Day
It was almost a dream but somehow I knew that I wasn't dead. Maybe it was the dreamy detachment, but I think it was actually the strong and deep ache all along my side. And my leg itched. I tried to move my tail and I think it moved but I wasn't sure. Slowly opening my eyes I looked around trying to ignore the deep ache in my left side.
I was in a dark room, and I could see lights and hear the beeping of monitors. I could feel tubes coming from various private parts and could feel some kind of mask on my lower face and tubes blowing cold air over my breathing slits.
I wondered how they'd figured that one out.
Then, slowly, I realized that I wasn't standing, but was instead hanging in some kind of sling. One strap ran below my chest just behind my forelegs; the other strap ran below my chest but just in front of my hind legs. There was even some kind of harness under my shoulders that I guessed was holding my upper body upright.
So where was I?
It couldn't be heaven/hell/purgatory or whatever, because in any of those cases why would the straps be needed? It likely wasn't a dream or a delusion because I was restrained and had never dreamed of that. Of course, there was always a first time. Maybe it had all been a dream.
Did I want it all to be a dream, a delusion? It might make an interesting story, although probably depressing. But then wasn't all Canadian fiction supposed to be like that? (read Survival by Margaret Attwood - her thesis is that all Canadian literature ends up with either nature or the animal winning and the POV character getting killed, frozen, or whatever). Of course usually the POV character didn't die doing something heroic, although I hadn't saved the girl for that reason.
Gradually my mind started coming more awake. I decided to assume (knowing what that means) that my memories of the past week hadn't been a dream since it either wasn't a dream, or I was still within it. Oddly though, my memories felt like memories and not like watching or reading a story which is what most of my dreams seem to have become in the last few years.
My mind started to clear.
Ok, assume that I'm in a hospital. That means that I survived the accident, but at what cost. A cold chill rolled down my spine - was I paralyzed? Is that why I felt so detached? But then I could feel my right-hind leg itching and now I could feel something pressing on it. I tried to twist around but could only move my head, and even that took all of my concentration. Slowly I moved it just enough to see some kind of cast...
"Mr. Bard - don't move!"
I stopped, not twisting back. I wondered why - I could move, and twisting my neck hadn't caused any additional pain. And why was my mind so slow? It was like the last time when I'd been put completely under when they'd had to pull out a caught stone with a pair of tweezers...
Had I been put under?
"Turn your head slowly back."
After a while I slowly complied as the room gradually grew brighter. Eventually I was facing forward and could dimly make out a blurred white figure. Where were my glasses? I felt liquid flowing from my bladder. Was I making a mess?
"How are you feeling?"
"Feeeelllllliiiinnnnnnggggggg.......?" I could barely speak and my voice was a muffled whisper behind the mask. I wondered if they had more than one IV feeding me. In fact I could hardly hear my voice as the rasp of my breathing in the mask was so loud.
"You've been unconscious for just over two weeks to give you body time to heal. It'll take a while for the drugs to fully clear from your system."
Drugs? Oh, the gas. "Aaaaaa liiiitttttlllllleeee paaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn." I found it was easier to whisper.
"Do you need something for the pain?"
"Aaaaaaa liiiiiitttttttttllllllleeeee?" I wondered what would happen if I had to use the washroom the other way.
I think I saw her injecting something into the IV. "You're healing fine. Right now you leg is in a cast, and the scrapes on your side are healing."
"Thhhaaannnkkks." My mind was finally starting to clear, a little anyway. It seemed to be getting lighter and I could make out splotches of colour behind where the nurse or doctor was.
"Just rest. There's a button taped to your right hand - buzz if you need anything." And then the person turned and left.
Button? I thought I could feel something in my hand like a wand. The pain was fading away. Probably the button was on the end of it.
Breathing loudly I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep as the pain faded away.
Feb 17, Late Morning.
I awoke some time later and my mind was much clearer. The dull ache was back in my side and it felt cold and chilled. I felt myself urinated again but didn't hill any dribble of liquid. In fact I thought that I could feel a tube sticking out so I must be in a hospital. It was day and I could recognize that the coloured blotches were flowers. I recognized roses, but there were also others although I could scent nothing. Looking around there seemed to be an awful lot of flowers. Remembering the person from earlier, I carefully and slowly turned my head first to the left. My side wasn't bandaged but it seemed to have some kind of artificial thin sheet pressed onto it. A portable heater was nearby and I could tell that it was on. There looked to be some kind of bloody redness beneath the thin sheet and I could see it stretching a little bit as I breathed. I decided to take shallow breaths. Then I slowly turned to face my right side.
My right side looked a lot healthier as my fur was still there. My right hind leg was in a cast from my, I guess, thigh down to just above the knee. At least they'd left a slit so that my tail was free to move. The fur was noticeably shorter around the cast and had probably been shaven when the cast was put on. Just to make sure about my spine I tried to move my tail a little bit and saw it swish the little bit that I wanted. Thank God.
Slowly turning my head back, I pressed the button and waited, trying to breathe shallowly. At least if they were feeding my oxygen that would be doable. Then I waited. A few minutes later a nurse came.
"Mr. Bard, did you call."
"Yes." I kept my voice quiet to be safe and then motioned her closer with my right arm and then tried again. This time she understood.
"What do you need?"
"What happened and what should I not do and what should I be careful about?"
"I can't say what happened in detail, but I have been instructed to ask you to minimize your movement as much as you can."
I nodded. "Can I see a doctor? Nothing against you but just so I can find out what happened."
"Dr. Mills will be here in a minute."
I slowly nodded.
"Would you like me to contact your family and let them know you're awake?"
I nodded. "Do you have the number?"
"Yes." She turned and left.
I started to say something, but then decided to wait. I would rather be over cautious then rip something open or damage something.
A few minutes later another woman arrived and walked over to me. "How are you feeling today Mr. Bard, and please speak softly."
"A bit sore. Are you...?"
"I'm your doctor. Now just relax and minimize your movements as much as possible and I'll explain what happened."
I slowly nodded.
"You were brought to us with two major injuries. The first, and comparatively minor one was that you right hip at your rear was broken in two places. The second, and by far the major injury, was on your left side. As you slid on the pavement you scraped away your hide almost completely until only a thin layer of tissue was left. When they moved you onto a stretcher they almost lost you when the tissue burst but fortunately they recognized what was going on and kept anything from spilling out."
"What about the little girl?"
"She was fine - just some scrapes. The driver was fine also - his airbag prevented any major injury although he did have whiplash. He was charged with dangerous driving." He smiled. "His car was totaled, so at least you won there."
I smiled back a little bit. "What now?"
"Well, the hip is healing as well as can be expected, and we immobilized the leg to give it time. The problem with a broken leg in a horse is that the horse won't keep it still. I trust that you will?"
"I do have one other question for you, of critical importance. Think carefully and calmly before you answer."
I swallowed and nodded.
"As far as we can tell your spine has suffered no injuries, but we can't be sure. The fact that you felt pain is a good sign. Can you feel your lower...rear body?"
I almost laughed as I slowly and gently waved my tail back and fourth. "I already checked. I can also feel my legs and the cast was causing an itching sensation. It's fine now."
"Good. You're going to be with us for a while, and the worst is past, but there are some instructions that you must follow. First, don't move your leg or any part of your chest. New skin is growing and we have an artificial skin to add protection but the layer is thin. I know you have to breathe but keep it as shallow as possible. Fortunately your lungs are in the lower portions of your lower body and the severest part of the injury was fairly close to your spine. Still, try to breath as shallowly as you can. Don't take deep breaths and don't laugh. Normally we'd put you in an oxygen tent but we didn't have much luck due to your unique respiratory system. For now we need you to keep the mask on."
"We also want to keep you off of solid foods, in fact off of any kind of solid or liquid intake, to give the skin as much time to grow as possible. We are giving you plenty of liquids through the IV and as much nutrition as you need. If you need to use the washroom, either way, then just relax and let it flow. Don't worry about any kind of mess and don't try and force it. We want to minimize any chance of movement in your chest as much as we can."
I nodded. "How well do you think I will recover?"
"How well? Well, the worst is over. Your hip is healing well although there will be some bruising on the bone. You chest is also healing - it just needs time."
"Well I be able to gallop?"
"Gallop? I think so, but I'm not sure. All we can do is wait. I'm sure you'll at least be able to walk."
Closing my eyes I forced myself to calm down. My one remaining joy couldn't be gone - I refused to believe it. Whatever it took, I would learn to gallop again. "How long?"
"Well, the cast should come off in another 2-3 weeks. As to your side...we're not sure. It'll be at least another month before we can do anything, probably 2-3 months before there is even a chance of it being healed well enough to let you loose. We would much rather be cautious than risk damage."
I closed my eyes for a moment. So I'd lived. But, I might never be able to run again; I was probably going to evicted at the end of the month; and somebody was probably getting ready to sneak in some night and kick my chest in. "Do I have any kind of protection?"
"For when the hate mongers come in to kill me."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Those persons who threw eggs at me, kicked me, sent me hate e-mail, and all that kind of thing. Right now a few eggs would probably pop me like a water balloon."
"That won't happen. You're a hero."
I forced myself to keep my voice to a whisper. "A what?"
"A hero." He motioned with his arm, "Look at all the flowers, and this is only a fraction of all that have been sent. We've been turning away well wishers for the last two weeks."
"We've saved some papers for you and as long as you promise to move your arms gently you can read them. We'll bring in a table for you to use."
All I could do was nod as he turned and left.
A hero. Could I be a hero? Of course, saving the life of a little girl was one of the clichéd ways, but the fact that saving her could make me a hero had never entered my mind. I simply did it because it was the right thing to do. But I guess that others would consider me to be a hero because of it. Was that why I had been changed into a centaur? But then why all the others?
I heard a soft rattle and rustle of wheels and looked up and watched the doctor wheel in a table whose top was raised and tilted which contained a copy of the Globe and Mail. It sort of looked like a drafting table. On the front page was a large colour picture of me being lugged into an ambulance by four people while a woman and daughter looked on. Someone had cleverly made sure that the blood and gore on the road could be seen in the corner of the photo. The headline read: "TORONTO CENTAUR SAVES GIRL" and below it in smaller print, "Human driver talking on cell phone charged."
Maybe things had changed. After all, apparently I was a hero.
And that felt good.
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Being in a hospital on intensive care does have its advantages. Most of the time you just end up sleeping. However they did bring me a TV and I was able to see some Star Trek that I hadn't seen in almost a decade, but, unfortunately only in the afternoons. With all of my bodily functions automatically dealt with it did provide relief from the nagging problem of 'hold it until the commercial' though I wouldn't recommend it.
Anyway, enough rambling.
The first visitors I finally got to see, other than interested medical practitioners (I've heard rumours of veterinary students examining me while I was knocked out - if they have been, then I DON'T want to know) were my parents. Apparently they'd been in earlier, but I hadn't been in any condition to notice. For their own protection I'm not going to go into details.
What we did was just talk. At first they showed disbelief but after a couple of leading questions the last remnants were cleared up. Other than that it was the usual questions of how do I feel; will you be home for Easter; and my return questions asking how are various cousins, nephews, and nieces doing; can I have the projection TV yet; etc. As to Easter I couldn't answer but they told me that the doctors had told them that I would likely be out by then, but they weren't sure.
Yes, there was a lot more, but I'm not going to put it here. I'm never going to have a private life ever again, but I'm going to try and keep the same thing from happening to others.
Fortunately there was one other bonus from this meeting - I arranged for them to transfer rent money from my account to the building owner of my apartment so at least I would have a place to go back to.
I seemed to have learned a new skill - sleeping the correct way. It seems that the enforced practice sleeping standing up over the last few days has taught me how to do it. It's actually amazingly relaxing, and for all you others who ended up with four hooves I highly recommend it. Besides, think about what you'll save on beds and bedding.
There was another important, or possibly disturbing, thing I learned quickly enough. The rule is that if you have tubes stuck into certain private organs for urine disposal - don't get excited. The excited part is fine, it's the relaxing part that is, shall we say, less than pleasant. I had the same problem when I was human but now the greater length made it, let's just say, worse. The disturbing part was WHAT got me excited - no it was NOT dirty channels - it was watching a nature show depicting horses mating. I'd hoped my forced loneliness wouldn't be a problem, but who could know? I've never felt a need in the past, but now that I had different hormones I might no longer have a choice. Hopefully it could be managed - it would have to be. Anyway, back to the Diary.
My visitor today was totally unexpected - it was my manager from work. I noticed her when I woke up from my most common state - sleep - and saw her sitting and calmly waiting. What the blank was she doing here?
"Mr. Bard, how are you feeling?"
Was it just to see me? "Ah, better than yesterday anyway. Not as good as in January though."
She smiled. "I just thought I'd stop by and say hello, see how you're doing..."
"I'm doing FINE thank you very much. I don't need..."
"Stop that right now."
"I apologize for the misunderstanding when you left. We didn't fire you, we had, and have, no intention of every letting you..."
"Then why did you lock me out?"
"If an employee leaves in an emotionally disturbed state, it is just sensible to take precautions. It was obvious that YOU thought we were firing you, and it is possible in your state that you might take actions that both of us would have regretted."
Could it be? No, I'd already had my dose of good things for the year. "Why should I believe you?"
She shook her head. "Mr. Bard, Michael, just listen to the truth for once. Yes, you were distraught and I can't say that I blame you. I can see your position and it was mentioned but Mr. Taylor..."
He's the CEO.
"...was quick to squash it. You fulfill a needed position well and efficiently, and nobody has any complaints about you. If any of our contractors want to leave because of you, then that is their choice and we will look into legal action."
I could feel warmness flow through me and had to concentrate to keep my breathing shallow.
"Are you all right."
"Sorry, I almost lost it there - I have to keep calm to give my..." I pointed to my side, "...time to heal."
"As I was saying Mr. Bard, I'm here for a number of reasons. First your job is still yours as long as you still want it. Secondly, it is nearly the time for the January month end and we need you to either run the reports, or show somebody how to do it."
"That could be a problem."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Well, I can do it, a bit anyway as long as I can stay awake, but I doubt they'll let me bring anything electronic in here. Maybe in a month or so, but not now. I guess I could dictate what to do though."
"That's what we need."
For a second I frowned - yes, I could tell them, but then they would no longer need me and then what kind of job would I have? Quickly I quashed that thought as I am not, and refuse to become, that kind of person. If they wanted to dump me, then they would. If not, then they wouldn't. "Do you have paper?"
"I would have brought a microrecorder, but they wouldn't let me."
I started dictating. "You know that I may miss something."
"Then I'll have to come back, won't I Mr. Bard?"
I had that wonderful warm feeling again.
After she left I had time to wonder before I nodded off. Was what she'd said the truth, or were they simply trying to capitalize on my notoriety or recognition for saving that girl? But then, did it matter? In either case they would keep me around. I hoped it was the truth that I'd been told, but I knew that there was no way I would ever know for absolute sure.
I was feeling better today, and I managed to let the doctors and nurses hovering over me let some friends in for an extended period (yes, the same ones I mentioned before my accident). I needed a break and stomping around as a dwarf seemed the best way.
They did bring one interesting thing which I looked at before we started - an issue of Newsweek from Feb 5th with an article by a Quentin G. Long about how he viewed the humanity of Changelings as we TSAers seem to be called now.
It was interesting, and a little frightening. Yes, I did recognize the satirical intent - like J Swift's 'A Modest Proposal'. What worried me was that there were probably kooks in the US who would take it literally, and that would mean annoying things that Mr. Long didn't mention such as the fact that it is not illegal to shoot an animal dead - or at least it is not anywhere near as bad as murder.
All I can say is, thank God I live in a civilized country.
After that we sat down and gamed and relaxed. I had to keep my excitement down for health purposes, but I did enjoy myself which was the important thing. Of course, poison needles in my dwarf's fingers made me envy the magical healing available, but that's the price for living in a challenging reality.
My last three weeks in intensive care continued about the same. I spent probably 80% of my time asleep, and the rest watching some TV, or relaxing with friends. It was a time for healing.
They finally let me out! Well, not out of the hospital, but unstrapped, cast removed, and out into a private room. No more critical care, and no longer more electronics than the shuttle has. Of course I've still got tubes, but no more monitors so the worst is past. Now I just need to rest, heal, and exercise after a month of immobility.
No, I was not steady on my hooves. Each step was a concerted effort requiring all of my mind to force one hoof to lift up (a little anyway), scrape across the floor, and then settle down. Fortunately they had two large orderlies beside me just to be safe and to prevent any unpleasantness. I had a lot of work to do to get back up to the point the Event had left me originally.
My new room has a nice view, and they've moved the bed out of the way since I told them that I prefer to sleep standing up. It seems that even with my loss of musculature I'm not in great danger of toppling over, although they have put some straps around loosely just in case. I can't really argue. They also finally gave me some solid food which felt really odd going done, not to mention highly labourious to eat. It seems that while I was out, some tests were done and my digestive system is almost entirely human (although larger). Thus I can eat whatever I used to eat, but grazing is completely out.
WARNING: For those of you reading it, DON'T ASSUME YOUR CASE IS THE SAME AS MINE. Horses have symbiotic bacteria in their stomachs to aid them in digesting grass, and these bacteria can be killed if meat is eaten. Each of us Changelings are individuals, and even if we look the same, biologically we may be completely different species. Be careful and check into this for your own unique case! Back to the diary.
I was able to relax alone through the afternoon but in the evening they finally let the reporters in. Fortunately after all this time there weren't many, but those present asked the usual questions about Changelings and about why and how I'd saved the girl. Had I done it as a callous effort to gain public support? That one almost made me collapse in disbelief. I told them, and for you readers I will repeat: I DID not do it for any special cause, goal, or agenda. I did it because it was the RIGHT thing to do. Life is precious, especially intelligent life. This was true for me before the Event, and is still true. Neither human, centaur, or other, makes any difference. I already caught a little girl who stumbled on an escalator when I was human, and I am only happy that the Event allowed me to save somebody else.
The other interesting question was about the lizardman Bluenight. It seemed that Michael Jackson (yes, the famous one) had also been on the TSA list and had also been changed. He'd joined up with Bluenight and now they were trying to gather all of the Changelings on Michael's ranch for their protection.
I couldn't believe it.
I thought that it was a monumentally stupid idea then, and still think so now. Isolating a problem does not make it go away, it just makes both sides imagine more and more horrible things.
Once again I was glad that I lived in a civilized country.
I'm feeling much better now and haven't fallen yet. In fact I've been pacing around my room when I can - it's a tight squeeze but I need to get started somewhere. The nurses have been encouraging this and tell me that I'll be starting more intensive therapy in about a week. More worrisome though is that my right hind leg is still stiff. There is also scarring on my right flank, but then that was expected. At least I'm growing hair back over it so although it will be noticeable, the bare skin will be protected from ultraviolet radiation.
My manager came back today and brought a new laptop with all of my work stored on it. No, it may not be the nicest thing, but I did thank her as I needed something to keep occupied. Walking doesn't do it, and there's nothing but crap on TV almost all the time. That's why I got rid of it at home in the first place.
Anyway, once she left I got on-line and checked my e-mail of which there was lots, both hate (which I killed be searching for the word as before) but also a surprising amount of support. The TSA list was effectively dead with the only posts being newcomers who keep asking if anything was happening to anybody else yet. I didn't post because I figured that the governments have so many guys watching the list that I might as well shout it off the rooftops. Checking my website, including this one, I found out that yes, they had all been destroyed. Fortunately an easy thing to fix. I called a friend and arranged for him to stop at my apartment and copy my original web source onto a zip disk and bring the drive; then I'll just restore the whole thing from here. He was coming today anyway as it's Wednesday and we've been roleplaying every Wednesday since February.
Oh yes, and Mr. Bluenight called me today. I'm not sure how he got the number of my room in the hospital, but he likely has sources through Mr. Jackson. Anyway, after listening to his speel about my needing to come there for 'my own protection', and that any medical bills would be paid for, I told him a number of things. NOTE: I'm not going to transcribe this word for word as not only do I think Bluenight is dangerous, some of the language I unfortunately used was not what I probably should have chosen.
The first thing I told him was that since I live in civilization, not only do I NOT need protection, my medical bills are automatically paid for. Secondly, I stated that I thought he was an idiot. Ignoring the fact that putting all Changelings in one place just makes it easy for some terrorist to blow us all up, it will only make the situation worse because if we're out of sight, then any ugly rumours will be easy to create as the hatemongers will be able to say whatever they want without any physical evidence to contradict them. Bluenight might want to start a war between Changelings and humans - which was the only reason that I could conceive of for his actions - but I didn't want to. I was taking the proper course, so far more or less successfully.
He then brought up the injury and the hate. Well, I told him, there is that. But, as I am still here, and as I have not reacted, the majority who are undecided see me as the civilized being that has shown restraint and maturity, and the hate mongers as children looking for attention. That means that in the long run I will be accepted and help make all Changelings accepted.
And then he stated that he felt a need to protect all of us. Protect all of us? At that point I became, unfortunately, a bit less than civil. I pointed out that as the majority of list membership was younger than I was, likely he was too, and that I was quite capable of taking care of myself in my civilized country in a successful and mature adult fashion.
Next he pointed out that most of the Changelings in the US had, or still were, being 'taken care of' by the US Centre for Disease Control. Fortunately I'd avoided incarceration over fears of a virus, but that may not have been the best choice - I personally had decided that it wasn't a disease and acted accordingly. What if I'd been wrong? Fortunately, it seems that I wasn't, but it was a sobering though.
As a final attempt he pointed out that there were others, some that might be fully animal, elsewhere in Canada, and that I was doing nothing to find or save them. That it was my responsibility to help them, and to help him help them. My responsibility? My responsibility to go out and chase around after a group of strangers, breaking into their lives and tearing them away from their families?! After taking a second to calm down, I pointed out that I didn't know of any in Canada other than out west, and that I unfortunately was not in the best of positions to help anybody out on a physical level. If he wanted to provide an isolated home for those who choose to go there, then that was fine with me, but I choose not to go.
Then we said our good-byes and hung up.
And then my brain started working. Yes, there were likely others in Canada, possibly some nearby. I hadn't heard of any on the news but then I'd been out of it. Hopefully they would do well, but, unfortunately, as I didn't really know anybody else on the list, I didn't know what I could do. Sure, as a stranger, I could call to talk, but what help could I offer? I was posting my experiences as a learning aid and that was hopefully helping.
Maybe Bluenight had a useful idea after all, as long as he didn't take it too far.
After that it was a lot of water drunk, a lot of unsteady pacing, and finally a bit of writing to calm down.
That night, my friends arrived with the backup, and, as usual, with the roleplaying material, and I was able to at least partially forget my problems and just play. After they left I installed the drivers, connected the zip drive, copied the information, configured my FTP program, and then cleaned up and restored my websites (with a suitable apology). I even got some more added into the diary (not up to date, but at least I was working towards it) and got that posted too.
After that I was finally able to drift off into an uncomfortable sleep by three in the morning. Bluenight's call had started unsettling thoughts in my mind. Was any of this real, or just a nightmare?
Today I had another pleasant surprise. It seems that somebody from a book publishing company had found my website and arrived to talk to me. Apparently after the restoration they'd come across it and were very very impressed by my work.
Sure they were. Still, talking couldn't hurt.
As I was finishing lunch (I refuse to complain about the hospital food - they pasted me together so they deserve something) their agent arrived. "Glad to meet you finally Mr. Bard. I'm David Rasmussen and I'm from..."
"Yes, I've been expecting you. Would you like a chair?"
"Certainly, certainly. Anyway I have the contracts here ready for you to..."
Contracts? My but they were eager, and that worried me. "Contracts? Let's just slow down for a moment."
"Slow down? But you were eager..."
"On the phone this meeting was set up because you were interested in publishing some of my work, and I certainly have no complaints against coming to a reasonable agreement. But the fact that you already have contracts..."
"Mr. Bard, don't you worry! We've been so impressed by your work that we want to grab you right now before somebody else does. Now..."
"It's not my fiction is it."
"What? Mr. Bard, let me assure you..."
Shaking my head, I sighed. "Let's just stop with the falsehoods. You're here to sign me not because me work is so outstanding, but because you want me."
"But of course we do, a writer of your..."
"Sure. I believe my writing is at least competent - but, YOU want me because I'm me. Let me guess, you have some story requests?"
"Of course. We want stories about centaurs..."
"My stuff has been on the internet for years, and yet you've only picked now, after the Event, to come and recruit me. And now, oddly, you want stories about centaurs. Doesn't that strike you as just a little coincidental?"
"No, not at all. We just hadn't noticed your work until just recently..."
That was possible - I've always kept my site with a low profile to try to allow future publishing possibilities, but still... "So what did you like?"
"Well we think you have a gift, but we want you to start something new. Something that can take advantage of your situation."
"Something that you can capitalize to sell books."
I swallowed and looked at him. This was something I'd wanted, dreamed of, and now it was being dragged through the mud. Any joy, any sense of accomplishment that I might have gotten, was gone. They were doing it because they thought that my picture, my moment of fame, could help them make money. Well, they were right, it could. And, unfortunately, being published, I've both found and been told, is extremely difficult and often a matter of luck. So... "You really want me?"
"Of course we do, that's why we're here. We..."
"Just stop. We both know you want my image and my fame to make money off of. Well, that's fine with me..."
"...but there are certain conditions."
"You will publish what I've written, and what I will write, not pap designed to fill pages so you can plaster my pictures all over everything. You might not make as much money, but..."
"Wait a minute Mr. Bard..."
"You wait just a minute! You want me to write what you dictate to me. Well, I won't do it. You want my image, well I'll let you use it, but I will write what I want to write. If that is not good enough for you, then there will be no deal."
"Have you actually read anything from my website?"
"Well then, fortunately I have some samples here. I suggest starting out with a collection of my short fantasy stories and going from there. There's enough for you to reject some and still have a reasonable length book."
"Well, I'll see what I can do. If it's unpublishable..."
"Then it will remain unpublished. Fair?"
"I guess we can take a look at it."
"You can read a PC formatted ZIP disk with Word 2000 files?"
"Then I'll just copy them for you and you can look them over."
I turned and copied the files. "I look forward to hearing from you then."
I handed him the ZIP disk and he left.
Yes, yes yes! The publisher called back and the deal is a go. And they want me to finish 'Pricing Immortality'. At least they've read my stuff but unfortunately I'll never know now if I would have been good enough on my own, but I think it's best to take what I can get. And, with their planned campaign, I will be in the public eye which should help the whole Changeling situation. So I can't really complain. They also want all the stuff taken off my website since they're publishing it, and I can't argue with that either. I told them I'll take care of it tonight and tomorrow they'll send somebody around with the contracts which I'll look over and hopefully sign.
I should probably get an agent to handle this, but at this point it's more important to me to get my picture, my existence out there, to prevent what I fear Bluenight is going to cause with his scheme.
So why do I feel dirty?
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There, that takes care of the legal stuff.
There's one thing that never changes about hospitals - they're boring. Sure, I had some work to do, I had writing to work on, but I couldn't do it all the time. The last week has been particularly boring. Boring and dangerous.
Here I've been stuck in the hospital for two months healing from an act of kindness against a world that hated me. An act of kindness that would not have been possible for a human. Which meant that I wasn't human.
Yes, an odd thing to say, but the truth. Yes, I was a centaur. I knew I was a centaur -- I had eyes, nerves, and all the other requisite baggage. So why was I still finding it so surprising, and so frightening?
I would stay up late looking at the city lights through the window, feeling the muscles swish my tail, scraping a hoof along the linoleum, and KNOWING that it was I, a centaur, not a human, that was doing it.
And then I'd flip on the light, grab the laptop, and get back to writing until I was literally asleep on my feet.
Today they started concentrated therapy to help me heal and stretch. It wasn't what I'd expected as I was led to a physical therapy pool and then helped down a ramp into the warm water. It felt odd, I hadn't been in anything but a shower for months.
The therapy wasn't what I'd expected -- walking and trotting -- but instead simply stretching my right hind leg to help the muscle heal. It was relaxing at first, but after a few hours of the same repetitive motion, my mind started to wander. All I could feel was the warmth of the water, a slight tightness in breathing due to the submergence of my lungs, a slight ache at my waist, and the movement of the muscles in my leg. New muscles, foreign muscles, muscles that belonged on a horse and NOT on me.
And this time I couldn't run away.
All I could do was float there, my hooves just touching the bottom, feeling my new and inhuman muscles stretch and relax. Stretch and relax. Stretch and relax over and over again. My muscles that weren't my muscles stretching and relaxing.
What the hell had I become?
That first day became hell. Hell because I could no longer run as I'd been doing for months; hell because I had no work to throw myself into, no people to save, no hatred to flee, just time to think and experience myself. My new self. All of what I'd become, six limbs, four legs, and a tail!
What the hell could have done this? Think. I remembered the missing mattress, but there hadn't been enough mass there. That meant that the mass had been created from energy in an intelligent and carefully programmed manner. The energy in a fusion bomb comes from a number of ATOMS fusing -- I'd had kilograms added! And that wasn't even including the biological design. The pitiful genetic engineering that we're capable of is mostly hit and miss -- you think you know what a gene does, you insert it into an existing chain, and then see what happens.
Whatever had done this EVENT, this THING to me, had been able to create a completely viable complex lifeform from scratch. They'd examined it, figured out what bits were missing to make the whole work, created the genetic instructions, and then implemented their design. And they did this to around 800 people all at the same time! It boggled my mind. I would have disbelieved it, but I was living proof.
But why? Why??
It had to be something important, unless this act was trivially easy for whomever or whatever had done it.
Thank god the therapy only lasted for a few hours in the morning and ended before I started screaming. I was afraid, terrified. If something existed that could do this, transform all these people, then what couldn't they do?
But then I was pulled back into conscious realization of what I'd become for a student at the university had begun brushing me. Sure, I'd done it myself -- I had to -- but for whatever reason it was different when somebody else did it. Maybe because I didn't know where a stroke was going to be and thus had to react to it from surprise. Each stroke was thus an electric shock of startlement and exclamation, and each stroke was a nail telling me that I was no longer human.
I was a centaur who was turned on by horses. And I was a centaur who almost got high from somebody brushing me.
When the brushing was finally over, my entire body was tingling and had become a mass of quivering nerves and relaxed muscles. I could barely stand to walk back to my room and had to lean against an orderly for help.
And once I arrived I grabbed the laptop and flipped it on and wrote almost ten thousand words of escapist fiction.
Every morning they've dragged me to the pool, but I've found a solution! By staying up all night working I can fall asleep and dream my treasured human dreams and not have to think. It's only the brushing now. It leaves me quivering both in delight, and in terror, like a horse which I'm not. Slowly it wakes me up from my dreams and imaginings into a soft glow of sensation and relaxation. At least it's not sexual anymore - thank God for that.
Anyway, the publisher visited me today with some proofs for the collection -- everything looks good. They have some sketches for covers, one shows an elf standing on the conning tower of a submarine, but another, and the one I choose, shows a man dancing -- half human and half horse. That's the one I picked as I think it has the right feeling for the collection. They're also delighted with the volume of my work, but are still pressuring me for a centaur story. Maybe I'll give them one as I'm starting to run out of ideas.
I've also seen some disturbing things in the news. There were some statistics on us Changelings and it seems that almost 10% have either killed themselves, or gone insane and I think that I may soon be part of the later.
Why you ask? Well, I said I would be honest in this, and there's no sense in running away from it anymore. This morning, while I slept through therapy I dreamed and this time it wasn't a human dream. It was a centaur dream. I dreamed of running through the grass on all fours, splashing through a stream, and then seeking out a female centaur and mounting her and climaxing.
Sorry, I had to stop for a minute and recover. It was pleasurable. God, it was pleasurable, more so than what I remember it was as human. And I don't even know if it was real or not! I think it was at least partially real - the therapist had a smile when I jerked awake afterward, and I could feel my organ collapsing back into it's sheaf.
What have I become?!
They took me out to the track today and I was able to walk around without difficulty. It seems that I'm almost completely healed, although there are some concerns about the level of functionality that I'll regain. Amazingly there were some photographers there -- guess I'm still somewhat newsworthy. And unfortunately that suggests that I'll probably be newsworthy for the rest of my life, and unlike the famous, not have the money that usually goes along with it.
Walking around the track was, well, nice. Even in my sleepless state, a fast walk was enough to make my mind sharp; enough for me to feel the play of muscles and a hint of the hormonal high of the gallop. I'm not sure if it was fortunate or not that they wouldn't let me go any faster.
I haven't been sleeping well, or even consistently. I can't sleep at night and thus drive myself until I fall asleep, literally, on my hooves. Today a different doctor came to see me -- I think he was a psychiatrist. We had a brief talk and he asked me what was wrong. How the hell was I supposed to answer that? Should I say that I'm afraid of what I am, afraid of what I might become? Finally, all I said was that I was having trouble sleeping. I told him that it wasn't pain, or worry, I guessed that I just couldn't clear my mind to rest.
That's it - I had too much to think about. Too many worries about my future and my health.
He added some sleeping pills to my shrinking daily drug intake and then left. For some reason he seemed uncertain even though I'd told him the cause.
And, glory be, the drugs worked! One pill and I was out like a light into a dreamless sleep. Glorious, peaceful sleep!
I feel great! Well rested, peaceful, and on my way to healing. Not only did I finish Ilisri today, but they let me get up to a canter. It was wonderful -- I could have done it for hours but it's not as effortless as it was (probably because of my three months of forced bedrest). Still, they've given me permission to go out every day -- when it's not raining -- as long as I wear a jacket and have a nurse with me. And don't go any faster.
That's the one bad part. The limit. My body is ready; I can feel it. But the dire warnings they've given me not to push myself too hard are causing me to restrain myself. The remembered high is controlling the hormonal longing for now.
This does make one wonder though -- as a human was I this much of a slave to my body? Or am I becoming less than human?
Anyway, the rubdowns almost make all the pain of the last few months worth it. Doing it myself with inadequate equipment is no comparison. Sometimes I think that it would be nice to just be a horse and enjoy a brushing.
I had some trouble sleeping. I don't remember any dreams, but I must have had one as I had what is colloquially called a "wet" dream. And for a centaur, it is very wet indeed. The nurse who helped me clean up the fairly significant mess asked me what I was dreaming about.
What the hell was I dreaming about? I couldn't remember. Human. It had to be human. And that's what I told her, haltingly of course. It's not something that I'm comfortable with discussing.
Of course I couldn't completely drown out the thought that it was centaur, or even horse.
I'm forcing myself to write this because I said I would and the idea of keeping a promise is all I've got left.
I'd been allowed to a canter for the past four days and I knew that TODAY was the day. Today was the day that my hormonal needs would be satisfied, that I would once again experience the sensation of a body doing what it was designed to do; of biological systems working together in harmony so that the result is greater than any of them could achieve on their own. Today I KNEW I was going to gallop, regardless of what the doctors said.
When I reached the track in the morning, I was like a frisky colt. I kept taking little steps forwards and back; flicking my tail and then holding it still. The day was sunny but cool, with towering clouds casting intermittent shadows across the track. In the distance I could hear automotive traffic, and a flock of birds were twittering in a tree nearby.
I couldn't wait and as soon as I reached the field I leapt forward into a walk, a trot, a canter, and finally a gallop.
And it was there again! The feeling of muscles working in harmony; of blood flowing; of lungs stretching. A harmonic sum greater than any of the parts. One step, two...
AHHHHHHHHHHH! And then screaming, stabbing pain.
Helpless, I fell forward on my upper chest and scraped across the gravel to a stop.
The doctors were running across the field towards me but ignoring them I stumbled to my hooves and started forward again. I wanted this, needed this, my body was screaming for this. I stayed at a canter for about fifteen seconds before leaping forward into a slow gallop which worked for one step, then two, and then the pain. A tearing stabbing pain in my right hand leg.
I managed to stay on my hooves, I guess because I expected it, and stumbled back into a canter. By now I couldn't see through tears but I accelerated back into a gallop, waiting for the pain but denying its existence. And it came, burning, stabbing, tearing, and I kept up the pace, willing the pain to go away, to get better, but it didn't. It got worse.
By the time the doctors reached me I was sprawled in the grass, oblivious to the world, unable to see through the tears and the anger, and the burning, sobbing loss. I think the doctors sedated me, but I'm not sure.
The next few hours were a daze. I think I was at least partially conscious, as I have scattered memories of being led, and then memories of x-rays and ultra sounds and other tests being made, and finally making my way back to my room.
When I finally awoke it was night. I was again in the harness that I'd originally used, and was once again hooked up to an IV. Quietly I removed the harness and slowly, carefully, picked up the laptop and started it up and I started writing this entry.
I can no longer gallop.
I don't know how I got to sleep, I think that maybe I was crying on the laptop when one of the nurses came in and added something to the IV. My entire body was sore, there were scrapes on my four legs, and on my chest. My upper torso got off likely because it was clothed, but I can feel a swelling in my nose. Had it been bleeding? I didn't know.
I turned around and saw the doctor whose entrance had awakened me and he explained what the tests had found.
Apparently, when the paramedics had found me, they'd kept me from dying and set the bone as best they could. Not knowing how to fix a horse, they didn't do it perfectly. Upon my arrival it was checked and left, as it looked fine to the human doctors who'd treated me. But it wasn't. There were small saucers, kind of bruises on the bone, and tiny sharp edges where the two pieces of bone didn't quite meet. Their best guess was that when I stretched my hind legs in a gallop, then the muscles caught on those irregularities and that was the pain. If I galloped long enough, it was likely that the muscles would begin to tear.
Somehow I managed to keep from screaming and asked him to leave in a calm voice. I don't know if he did, and I didn't care. I turned and slowly walked over to the window and looked out at the world that I could no longer enjoy. The one thing that had kept me going through all the bad times, the one thing that had kept me sane was gone.
I was a human who'd become a centaur; a horse creature who could no longer gallop.
And I was a creature who hated life and just wanted to forget.
The week had been...unpleasant. The doctors wanted me to keep exercising but I didn't bother. Why should I? Instead I kept debating whether or not I should have saved the girl, and a small, frightening, part of me said that the price was too high. But the worse was that the dreams were coming back, even through the drugs. At first I didn't remember much of them, but by the 21st they were clear and very explicit. And messy in the real world too. And they were even more disturbing -- some involved centaurs, but most involved horses. I wasn't a horse! If I couldn't even gallop, then how the hell could I be a horse?? But then how could I be a centaur for the same reason? But I wasn't human anymore. What was I?
At least if I was a horse I wouldn't remember what I'd lost.
A large part of me wanted to just give up. Maybe if I wished hard enough I could just become a horse and then not have to worry about the pain and the frustration. I've done everything I can and now I have nothing. Most of me refuses to consider the other route available -- just too stubborn, or too much of a seeker of pain, I guess.
But then, why should I bother worrying about that either. And suicide would be too much work. Oh well.
Anyway, it seems that today I'm free to go. Happy, happy, joy, hoy. It's another nice day, as though it matters, and it seems that the company I work for has hired a van to take me to a surprise. I tried to smile when they came up and my manager walked me into the trailer, but I don't think it worked. The trip was a fair distance out of the city and then into the country and I must admit that it was an odd but interesting sensation standing in a horse trailer, bouncing and jostling, as I sped down the 401. Eventually we got off the main highway onto a road, and then off the road onto a dirt road (NOT pleasant) and finally we turned up and into a dirt driveway of some kind. And then we stopped.
As I couldn't turn around I had to wait until someone came around and opened the ramp at the back, and then I carefully made my way out and onto the ground.
I was on... well I guess you'd call it the ranch that belonged to the farrier (whose name was Rita Harrington - I don't think I've mentioned that). She was there. Most of my co-workers were there. My friends were there. My family was there. Most of my aunts and uncles and cousins were there. Even some of the doctors (including the psychiatrist). Above all was hanging a sign: "Congratulations on your recovery."
I wanted to just turn away and flee, but I couldn't flee, and it wasn't right for me to dampen their enthusiasm. So I smiled as best I could and tried to be happy. I don't know how well I hid my true feelings though, it was hard. Here I was, a human who looked like an animal, and an animal who couldn't gallop. And of course the gifts didn't help. Things like bags of horse meal (I could eat it and it would help my budget, but still!), bristle brushes, lotions and clippers for my hooves, a spare set of horseshoes...
Why where they doing this to me?? I wasn't a horse. I wasn't even like a horse as I couldn't even gallop! I had to be human -- my mind, my intelligence were the only things I had left. And they gave me horse supplies?!
Or were they trying to tell me something. Was I denying the truth? Would I be better off as a horse? No pain, no memory, no gut wrenching sense of loss.
As the gifts ended and with a smile (I hoped) still plastered on my face, I gave quiet thanks. I refused to give rides for now, even though a modified saddle and blanket had been among the articles, and just said that I needed some time alone. I did, but not for the reasons they probably thought. The psychiatrist started to follow, but I just accelerated to a canter and left him behind.
A few minutes later I reached a wooden fence and stopped under a tree, smelling the horses on the wind that blew from the far side. It was then that I let it all out and started sobbing. I wasn't a horse, I'd never been a horse, so why all these godforsaken gifts. Why remind me of what I'd lost?? Why remind me...
What was that? It was a scent, but it was so intoxicating, so sweet. It was like nothing I'd ever scented before.
I turned and trotted over to the fence to try and follow the scent.
What was wrong with me? I was not a horse...
Sniff. I accelerated to a canter and a few moments later I saw a fence, closed and latched. Automatically I opened it, trotted through, and closed it. What was I doing...?
Sniff. I turned and followed the intoxicating, wonderful scent. It was a melody, a perfume of love and sweetness, an intoxication that made my heart pump faster, and buried my sorrow and pain. It was a joy, a need. I could feel my centaurhood growing and burning as I trotted and entered the barn. I could hear and see the group in the distance, and saw Rita heading towards me at a fast walk -- as I opened the door to the barn she accelerated to a run.
The scent, that wonderful, all encompassing, heavenly, sweetness of impossible joy.
My hooves thudded loudly on the cement, echoing off the walls. The barn was empty except for one stall which contained a mare. She looked up and nickered and I realized that the scent was coming from her. I reached the stall and then screamed out loud, a scream more equine than human -- I couldn't reach her. I couldn't reach the scent of heaven wafting through my nostrils for she was in a narrow stall and I couldn't get around her. Screaming and rearing up I kicked, my fore-hooves pounding on the stall door and cracking the wood with a sound like a rifle.
It was a stall, a door, I could open it.
With my hands fumbling, I felt around and found the latch and opened it whilst I danced on my hooves. My horsehood was burning with need and urgency. The scent was there, all around me, filling my nostrils, my mind, driving away the pain. Slowly I led the mare out as she lipped my lower back and then there was room. Room to answer that glorious heavenly scent of joy and love and forgetfulness. Turning, I danced around her until I was in position and she raised...
What the HELL was I doing?? Somewhere behind me I heard a shouted "No!" but I took a hesitant step forward. My body was desperate, burning. I could feel sweat caking my sides, substance dribbling out of my horsehood. The mare was mine, and I was hers. Being a horse would be so much easier, not having to live with the pain.
But I was NOT a horse for I couldn't gallop. But if I was a horse, would I care? All my mind had given me was memories of pain and loss. Was that the price of being a man?
But I wasn't a man. How could a man be ready to mate with a horse? How could a man feel this burning need? This siren call of hormones and pheromones?
But a horse could gallop and I couldn't! Not anymore.
I felt a hand touching my burning flank; a voice saying something, but to me it was nonsense. All I could see was the mare, her tail up and inviting, her scent filling my head. I swallowed and stared and took a step forward and the mare nickered; I reared up and landed on her back, feeling her tail tickling my lower chest; feeling her inviting flesh on the tip of my...
I felt a hand on my back as I recognized the words - it was Rita.
I recognized the words -- I could think.
I stopped at the edge as the mare nickered and whinnied her own frustration, all four of my nostrils (nose and breathing vents) quivering, my legs shaking.
I could think. Somebody cared. As a horse would I know this?
And then I remembered something. It was something one might at first think odd given the situation, but it fit. A couple of years ago I'd found a website written by someone who had supposedly become a centaur -- before there were any Changelings of course. And on that site there was an essay about what a centaur was, about what I was.
A centaur wasn't a horse, and a centaur wasn't a man. A centaur was more a state of mind. A centaur was the best of both -- a horse in speed and grace and power, and a man in kindness, caring and self sacrifice.
And a centaur would NOT do what I was about to do.
And my head was completely clear. The mare was just a horse, a horse with a scent that, while interesting, was a dim echo of the scent I'd been looking for.
I was not a man, or a horse, but in a sense the best of both. I was a centaur.
Sure, you might think this is the corniest thing you've ever heard, and maybe it is. I like to think that I hadn't changed mentally, that I would have saved the girl if I hadn't become a Changeling, that I would have not struck back at those who tormented me if they had hunted me as a human for other reasons, but there is no way I can ever know for sure. But, at that point in my life I was losing it. I'd lost the one joy I'd gotten, and forgotten what it meant to think, to have friends, to be respected and liked, maybe even loved. I'd hidden in a shell while I claimed I was exposing myself to the world. But, I think that when confronted with the ultimate test, when shown the choice of beast or man; of forgetfulness or memory, I choose to be man yet keep what I'd been given. I choose to be myself, enjoy the gifts that I still had, and go on with life.
I choose to be a centaur.
NOTE: For those who are curious, the web page I'm referring to can be found at http://www.centaursite.com/CSOM.htm . It was still there last time I looked. Note that it doesn't completely contain what I described above but hints at it. It hints at some bits, and I filled in the rest myself. Back to the diary.
As I sort of hopped backwards off the mare, Rita asked me if I had been about to do what she feared I was going to do, and I answered truthfully. When asked why I hadn't, I basically told her that I'd chosen mind over animal. Together we put the disappointed mare away, and as we walked back together she told me what the gathering was really about. The psychiatrist had assumed that I was having problems adapting, which was true, and that I was trying to stay human. So the gifts were designed to force me to confront what I truly was. At that I laughed -- it had worked, just not the way he'd thought it would.
But in the end it worked, and that was what was important.
For I was a centaur. Neither human, nor horse. A centaur.
Wounded, scarred, but still alive. Still with my mind and kindness and hope.
And, ultimately, that is probably the most important thing.
There, that takes care of the legal stuff.