IMPORTANT
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User:Michael Bard/Quiet World, The

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The Quiet World

Author: Michael Bard
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No further updates are expected.

Chapter 1: Not Quite Alone

"Ow!"

Blinking my eyes I lifted my face off the table, and scattered plastic pieces. I could feel one stuck inside a nostril. What the hell had happened? Looking around, the lights were still on, the game was still there, but it was strangely silent. I blinked, something was between my eyes sticking out from my face. I could feel something pinching behind me. My slippers were loose on my feet, and my pants were stretched tight against my legs.

In front was still the Twilight Imperium game board -- we'd bee playing it, still trying to learn the rules. And across from me-- was-- um--

It's easy for you to figure it out now, but for me then, it was beyond belief.

Across from me, breathing heavily, and then groaning, was a horse's head. And neck. And said horse was wearing a t-shirt. And--

And, otherwise there was nobody here.

Yes, it was still the basement. Same overheads I'd installed. Piles of terrain and figures. I could scent the slight smell of paint, of chemicals, the slight rot of carpet. I wasn't surprised by that -- there was water seeping in somewhere, but I'd never smelled it before. And, I could see it, all of it, at once.

Just as I could see that my roommate, and his son, were gone. Their chairs were still there. Their glasses of coke were still there. But they-- weren't.

And, to get back to my initial sight, across from me was a horse. A horse with a bigger head, wearing a t-shirt, with arms. And hands. He was covered in a splotched-gray hide, with black mane, a white strip along his muzzle, and black points over his hands beneath the dense white feathering. For the uninitiated amongst you, that means that his fur trended towards black as you went down his arms and to his hands, and there was a thick dusting, or feathering of hair bursting from his wrist. His left hand had a white stocking, no, not literally, but white fur, from his wrist up to his elbow.

What else I was seeing, close by, clicked in. I could see my arms on the table, covered in black fur, no markings. My three-fingered hands had dark black nails, and I could see a black furred muzzle stretching out between my eyes. I felt something twitch as the base of my spine, felt something move on the top of my head, brushing aside hair to focus on the sounds from the creature in front of me.

It couldn't be. It couldn't.

But, what did I have to lose?

So I asked. "Pak? Is that you?" My voice was different, not deeper, but more-- nasal. Vowels stretched more, consonants were softer, more slurred than normal.

He, Pak, snorted, the sound loud in the silence and I could see his dark eyes blinking as his nostrils flared. "Mike?"

"Umm-- Do you see what I think you see that I'm seeing?"

"If you mean am I looking at a horse, then yup."

I blinked. "Either this is a dream, or something weird is going on. Do you remember anything?"

"Umm-- Feeling a bit faint, the world spun a bit, blurred, I felt myself falling, and then your voice." He inhaled deeply. "You smell nice."

"If you stand up, be careful. You know how short it is down here." I pushed my seat back a bit, it was a wheeled computer chair, and tried moving a leg. It was weird, yet similar. For a couple of years now I had played around with creating hoof stilts for my human body. A way to mechanically simulate digitgrade motion. So I half knew what to expect. But, it was -- different. Instead of just a heavy weight at the end of each foot, I could fell what had been my foot, what was now my pastern, resting against the other. The base of it, what had been the front of my foot, I could feel pressing against the roughness of the carpet, or at least I could with my left one. My left foot-- hoof was resting on its back on the carpet. My right was bent a bit so that the base, the frog, of my hoof was on the floor. It was-- weird. I could feel my slipper hanging off it, the sock tugging against the fur, but I could also feel the sock tight against what felt like the bottom of my toe. My one toe. My hoof.

I would have looked up at Pak, but I didn't have too. I could see him, I could see almost everywhere. He was running one hand along his muzzle, feeling his lips. His mouth was slightly open and I could see teeth glinting. I realized that he was much much bigger than I was. But then he'd always liked draft horses -- I'd preferred the smaller, sleeker model.

"I'm digitigrade, you probably are too. Be really careful of that beam when you stand up." His ears turned towards me, but he was too involved in examining his new self to answer.

I sighed, a long nasal sigh, and pushed around a bit on the chair until my legs weren't under the table anymore. I could see my fee-- hooves, the slippers and socks hanging off them. Good thing I hadn't put my running shoes one! God knows what would have happened when they were laced up snugly. Leaning down, bending my legs in a weird, yet graceful manner, I pulled off the slippers and the socks, revealing my dull dark-gray hooves. My legs were both covered in night black hair, with black feathering, thin and fine, billowing off the pastern, what had been my foot. I wiggled each hoof a bit to get used to the motion. It felt natural, yet weird. My foot felt stretched downward, but I was used to that from the hoof stilts. Except this time there was no counter force pulling at my heel -- the hoof stilts had bungee cords joining my heal to my thigh to help with my balance. And, the joint with the hoof, what had once been a toe, that was almost completely new. Scrunching my legs, my-- hooves under me -- the chair was really short as it made painting miniatures easier on my back -- so I had to struggle against the table to stand up. Even trying not to, I banged my head on the ceiling tiles, which were at least somewhat soft. If felt the roughness press against my ears, squashing them down, tugging and catching in my mane, and then shoving into the top of my skull.

Pak snorted and then snickered. I just glared at him out of one eye.

I crouched down, still gripping the table, and managed to stand, the fuzziness of the carpet tickling each of my frogs, the soft flesh on the inside base of my hooves.

"Wait until you try, you--!"

Still holding the table in a death grip, trying to keep from messing up the game board, I slowly moved sideways, ducking even lower to get under the vent.

With a woosh the burner in the furnace clicked on and I jerked upward, slamming my poor head into the thin aluminum vent/pipe overhead with a loud bang.

"Frak!"

I felt some pain where I'd never felt it before, and yanked my tail tight against my legs as the furnace heated up.

"Double Frak!"

"Do you need a hand Mike?"

"It might be safer for you to crawl--"

"I should be fine.” With that he crouched down, or stood up, standing neatly on all fours. Pak was-- big. Huge. Monstrous. Even standing he had to bow his head to keep from scraping the ceiling. And, it wasn't just in size, it was-- well, he was fat. Okay, to put it politely, he was plump. Very plump.

"Umm… Better let me go upstairs first. I'll try and find Pete." I wasn't in a hurry, I was more afraid that the stairs wouldn't take his mass. And, if this wasn't a dream, a possibility I certainly wasn't discarding at this point, then I had no clue how he'd get out if the stairs gave out. At least with me up first I could get help. A crane or something--

"I'm in no hurry."

I could see him nibbling at the thick flesh where his left foreleg joined his body. Scratching an itch? I wasn't going to ask. Crouching down, tail brushing between my legs, or so I assumed since I couldn't feel it through the jeans I was wearing. Cocking my head and twisting my body I looked behind me and -- maybe -- could make out that my tail went through my pants. It had to be through a hole or something-- Wiggling it around, I could feel resistance in all directions so it had to be a hole. Didn't matter, really. I'd look at it later. One thing at a time.

Squeezing by Pak, my body pressing against his, I could feel his flesh rolling and squeezing. Moving his head he looked at me, and I looked away in embarrassment. His pants had shattered, scraps were still down around his hind hooves, but I could see that his forehooves were-- different. They were almost cloven-- Squinting a little I could see how they could split apart to make a-- hand.

And--

Something I did-- or he did-- his aroma billowed through my nostrils and I could smell the richness of his life, the sleek cleanliness of his hide, the solidness of his horsey nature.

I couldn't remember scenting anything in a dream--

Shaking my head I tried to clear it; I could feel my hair-- mane brushing against the back of my neck, against my ears. It partially covered one eye and I shook my head more to get it out of the way. I'd need a twist tie or something, maybe an elastic?

"Excuse me Pak."

I squeezed by him, grabbed the bag of elastics off the casting table, and made my way upstairs. The linoleum stairs creaked under me, and my hooves slid a bit on the linoleum. If there was a railing I'd have grabbed onto it, but there wasn't so I leaned against the wall. I could feel my body shivering, skin moving slightly as waves of displeasure made themselves known down my back and flanks. My scalp, my neck, they both tingled, and I could feel a bit of pull as my skin stiffened, pulling the thick black hairs of my mane straight out. A half-nicker escaped through my lips and I could feel my ears flick around and around as a bitterness filled my nostrils.

"You all right Mike? You smell nervous."

How the hell did he know? Who knew? Even though we were both fascinated by horses, I just wanted certain attributes. Didn't know why then, don't know why now. But, I definitely wanted to keep my hands, my mind. Pak-- I guess those weren't so important to him. He seemed to still have his mind, and maybe hands, though how good who knew? As to mind-- at least he could still talk. Maybe he was-- closer? to horsedom?

"It's just the staircase -- I can't get a grip. You should be fine as you have four points to stand on."

"Take your time."

I had to get upstairs. The kitchen was going to be a bitch as it was linoleum too. Luckily, the rubber horseshoes I'd ordered for my hoof stilts had come. If they fit--

I'd what? Nail them on?

It's one thing to nail a horse shoe onto a piece of wood. It's wood. You can nail it anywhere. And, no nerves, no pain, no mind. Horse's hooves on the other hand are amazingly complex objects. The hard part, the nail or hoof, was only around the outside. If nails missed it, or the shoe was too small, then said nails would go into the soft tender sensitive nerve-filled fleshy bits of my foot.

Breathing heavily through my nostrils, muscles twisting in my neck, I hurried up the stairs, my hooves clopping with a sharp clear sound that I'd tried so hard to emulate. Gratefully I stood up to a normal height, my knees still bent so that my body was centred over my hooves. It was easier to balance the rest of the way up.

"Pete?! Reid?!"

My voice was loud in my new ears, the sound echoing and changing from tinny to a deep full bass as my ears moved to pull in the sound.

No answer.

"Pak, wait downstairs!"

I stepped into the kitchen, snorted involuntarily at the cascade of smells. The dressing I'd tried to make was still in the slow cooker. Before the smell had been pretty good, now it made my stomach tremble as it tickled against my nostrils. With that, the smell of the sloppy joes we'd cooked. And, more bitterness from the ground beef bits left in the frying pan. I probably would have picked them out later if there hadn't been so much else to get used to.

Actually, it was probably a good thing whatever had happened hadn't happened when we were eating. My stomach clenched painfully at the thought and I could hear and fell my heart pounding.

"Pete?!"

I checked in the living room; it was empty. Nobody in the kitchen. No need to open the fridge so I went up stairs to the top floor, the steps creaking under my hooves. At least these were wooden, and there was a railing to grab on. Up to the top, to look in first one room, and then the other. Each time I flicked the light on, the sudden brightness burning into my eyes so that I blinked and shook my head at the shock.

"Pete?"

Nothing.

"Reid?"

What the hell? Both were empty.

I sniffed, smelling the sweetsour scents of sweat and clothes and-- humans I guessed. Bits of stale food, crumbs most likely. A mouse in the wall. There was something else in the front room, a flickering at he window. Bright orange and yellow. A cold stench, cold and wet and sour. Gasoline, but far stronger than I'd ever smelt it before. And the scent of burning rubber and plastic.

I ran to the window, hooves clopping loudly, and pushed the blinds up and looked outside.

It was raining, a cold driving rain. I could hear the hiss of water, the rumble of engines. No buses, no rattle of streetcars. No horns, no tires in water. Looking out at the intersection, a busy one, I saw cars neatly parked one way, and a tangled mess the other. The other. There hadn't been that much traffic, but a car had ran through the intersection north, probably trying to beat the light, lost control, and slammed into the one building. It was an eatery, some kind of barbeque place, and I could see flames licking around the hood and in the restaurant.

"FUCK!"

I clattered down the stairs, grabbing the railing to maintain my balance.

"Pak! Get up here! Stay on all fours, try to stay on the edges of the stairs. Get up to the phone and call 911. There's been some kind of accident. Don't know why noone's gawking or helping -- I'm going to go out and see what I can do. Be careful! If you thing the stairs going to give, go back down!"

"Working on it." Unlike my voice he wasn't yelling or anything. Instead he was just quietly calm. I remembered reading somewhere that larger animals were much harder to get angry, like their size made them supremely confident. Was that going on here?

Frak! I was too damn analytical at times. Clopping to the back door in the kitchen, I ripped it open and grabbed my coat. It wasn't outside, there was a long narrow storage room along the back of the house, and a door there that led outside. I could feel the cold coming through the outer door, and pulled my ears into my mane to keep them warm. Then I slammed the kitchen door and started shoving my hands into its arms as I clopped, and skid a little, across the kitchen. I really had to do something for traction!

The living room had wooden tile so it was better. By the time I reached the front door the coat was on, and I yanked my toque out of the one pocket and yanked it down over my ears which protested painfully. Didn't bother with the gloves. Behind me I could hear the stairs creaking as Pak made his way upstairs.

"Stay off the middle of the floor! Safest for you to go out the back -- wait till I get back in the house!"

I yanked the door open and went out onto the porch, yanked the porch open-- crap, forgot house keys. Fine, leave it unlocked for once. Double check to make sure, down the stairs and onto the sidewalk. The rain hissed into my mane, slipped icy tentacles down my ears and against my skull and down my neck. Drops pattered and splashed on my muzzle and I snorted as one tickled down a nostril.

Starting to run, or is that gallop, I then stopped, and looked.

It wasn't the car burning -- I'd seen that. It wasn't the cars waiting at the lights, or the rain.

There were no horns. No cars closing from the distance. No revving of engines.

No horns--

A part of me remembered the big black out, seeing a streetcar, forlorn and abandoned on Queen St. But even then cars had been moving.

With a growing sense of panic I ran down the sidewalk, hooves splashing and clacking on the cement. A part of me dreaded what could happen, what would happen if I cracked one. Most of me didn't care though. I could feel icy water on the frog of my hoof, feel irregularities. I reached the corner and galloped onto the street. I could see easily that nothing was moving either direction. The fire was louder now, an angry hungry crackling in my ears, and I could feel its heat as my coat billowed out behind me. I crossed the street, skipping over the streetcar tracks, until I slammed into the car parked at the intersection.

I can still see it. Silvery under the streetlights, rain pattering off it, the scent of exhaust thick in the air, the whirring of the engine as it idled, the faint scent of rubber and oil and gas. My fingernails, hooflets, clacked against the window of the driver's side. I peered in, eyes blinking as they tried to focus through the water-splattered glass on the dark padded seat.

The dark empty padded seat.

Sure, the driver could have left, but why? All kinds of reasons.

But, glittering in the streetlight overhead I could see the buckle of his seatbelt, still buckled.

The seatbelt was still on, both ends tight together, the straps hanging loose. All that was missing was the driver strapped safely in.

Who the hell leaves their car at an accident, and does the seat belt back up before they walk away?!

A cold chill swept down my spine.

There were no other cars nearby, I couldn't confirm, but, somehow a part of me knew.

Knew that the person, the human, the living breathing sentient, was gone. Vanished. Poof.

No more cars were coming because their occupants had all vanished too.

No burning meat, no small of blood, nothing in the burning car just a few feet away because it was empty too. In fact, it had been empty even before it slammed into the side of the building.

Gone. All gone.


Universe Rules:

1. This universe is Science-Fiction, not Fantasy. Therefore, it obeys physical laws. It is also a setting for stories, so we can bend physical laws in the interests of writing a good story; however, it is mandatory that we at least *try* to preserve the *appearance* of adhering to mundane physical Reality.

Once the Universe-arbiter makes a decision, that decision is FINAL. The universe-arbiter will of course listen to your arguments and rationales while he is in process of making his decision; once the decision is made, however, there is no appeal. Authors who write in this universe are expected to accept this.

1. On Jan 1, 2007, at 12:00am (i.e. midnight on New Years, when the ball drops and everything) you get "zapped" into your favourite furry/anthro/mythic/whateverform. You feel a bit sick/woozy about 5 minutes to, at midnight you loose consciousness falling down, and you wake up at 12:05am in your new form. 1a. This happens at 12:00am, time zone by time zone, started at Greenwich zero. however, as onmly the characters 'disappear' it's not earth shaking news. You might wonder why all the IRC rooms are going quiet the further west you go, but there won't be panicked news broadcasts everywhere.

2. The vast majority of humanity do not change, they just go "poof" never to be seen again. This happens for them at exactly midnight. Thus, at 11:59:59pm a person may be driving down the highway, at 12:00:00am, an empty car is hurtling down said highway.

3. Who changes? Well, those who are open minded enough to accept other forms of sentient life. Likely most furries, transformationalist (we need a better name for ourselves), science fiction and fantasy authors, and various others. For an estimate of numbers, consider an urban centre of 2 million ending up with roughly 50 transformed victims. So, out of a global population of ~6 billion, that would be roughly 150,000 worldwide. LIkely less as the third world countries would have far fewer surviving victims as they have less free time to imagine then first world nations.

Note: Given these conditions, there would be few maniacs/murderers/madmen TFed. A few might be driven mad, so it's not completely peaceful. Just remember that the world is not going to be brimming full of violence and hatred, just enough to make it interesting.

4. The event, or whatever it is, goes out of its way to keep people alive. Thus, if a person in Omaha, Newbraska wants to be a dolphin, he faints, and then wakes up in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere. If an individual is on an airplane flying over the Pacific, then enough of the flight crew to land said plane would be zapped to. They might not have the same qualities, but at least the intended victim would have a fighting chance. By the same logic, nuclear facilities don't leak or go critical (though smart characters will assume they do and take precautions), biohazardous material facilities don't spring leaks, Small Pox doesn't escape back into the environment, etc.

5. Power levels. Anything inside a form must be biologically powered, and must be of a type accepted by current biological science. No cybernetics, no magical powers, no psionics. Electrical shock ala electric eels, flame breath ala certain beetles by the release of gases that mix outside the face and burst into fire, flight by wings, etc. As a rough guide to toughness, if your form would beat a (manned) M1 Tank, then it's too powerful. Magical creatures such as Kitsune's have NONE of their suppossed powers. Sorry, that's life. Cope. NO further TFs, even if you can make a biological argument for it.

6. The electrical power grid will fail in roughly 2-3 days due to cascade failures when something overloads. Areas directly served by hydroelectic facilities will likely last longer. The phone system a few days after that. Water will last for months (assuming it comes from a water tower) due to the minimal usage made of it. Gas services at least a week. Servers (MUCKS, IRCs) will last until the power goes -- consider how stable modern servers are. If a particular MUCK/IRC is notorious for instability, feel free to have it collapse later.

7. Note that the world is *NOT* Earth. It looks like Earth. But there are differences, huge differences. There is NO MOON. Thus there are only solar tides. The stars are different -- the system is closer to the galactic core, so the sky has MANY more stars, and the odd colour can be seen. The sunlight it tinted slightly bluer than Sol (our sun). Travel will reveal that the Earth has been drastically shrunk. The Oceans are tiny -- you can cross the Atlantic in 12 hours or so by powerboat. However, note that urban centres are relatively unchanged, just the empty farmland/wasteland between them. Using North America as an example, the Eastern seaboard is almost unchanged, but the land shrinks more and more as you move further west. Don't worry about it too much, just have the character notice it if they travel. The whole planet is about half the size of Earth (so the surface area is 1/6th the size of ours). As to gravity, it is identical. Yea, wierd, ain't it. Even wierder, weather patterns aren't changed...

8. Have fun!

Time zones: All at once or when midnight is reached? Breeding: All species are recessive genes. Child race is random selection from those of parents. Implanted Knowledge: None (exception see below) Age: The TF result form can be of a different age from teh source individual -- older or younger. Persons who are significantly aged will gain basic information needed -- basic language/reading skills, dressing skills -- tieing a tie for example. This acquisition is VOLUNTARY. If, for character reasons you don't want it, then you don't have it.

Flyers: "If your form is a flying creature, it must at least make a nod in the direction of biological plausibility. One: *All* fliers have high metabolic rates and burn large numbers of calories. Two: Anything up to half the mass of an adult human is covered by the 'high metabolism' clause. Three: Anything of roughly human mass that can actually *fly* under its own power, has a built-in 'supercharger' in its wings, much like Anderson Four: Any form that is significantly greater than human mass, *cannot* acutally *fly*, but may be able to glide. Pets: Pets of TFed victims are moved other, other pets/imprisoned animals are not.