User:Slyfordtrabbit/As For Sly...
As For Sly...
I'm a pretty nice squirrel, keeping my site on the 'net alive and kicking. I am a writer and programmer, and my work is often posted here. Thinking my life is interesting enough for people to see, I’ve published my daily journal on the Internet. As for Sly…
I was always a nice boy in school, good reputation and all. People loved me around the grounds, and I had few enemies to contend with. In fact, everyone I saw at school always put on a smile and a hello as I walked by. All my friends could count on me for a laugh, and often came to me with their troubles. That would all change soon enough.
I was my first year of high school. Scientists made a bold discovery in the field of genetics; they finally unraveled the mystery of human DNA. In a way, they had a catalogue of every human trait and how to change them. Ideas and prophecies of implementations of the discovery were abound, and new ground was broken every day.
Like everyone else, I didn't put much thought to the mapping of the human genome. What did it matter to me - rambunctious teenager just getting out of high school, ready to take life by the horns? I passed it off; said it wouldn't matter to me at all.
Boy, was I wrong.
Time passed, and I started into college and poured over my studies. I bought an apartment just outside of Bloomington, right beside my college. My final project took the shape of working with my cohorts on the "thinking robot of the future." I loved the consuming work, and the new system kept me busy all the time..
As I said, the work on the machine was involving, and I completely missed the national announcement about bioterrorism in the states. From what I understand now, terrorists wanted the world to know the dangers of genetic mutations. XLRS1 is truly a nasty bug. Only a select few had the proper organization for the ghastly mutation to take its toll, myself in the select few.
It’s really strange, this XLRS1 bug. Instead of releasing the virus into the air, these radicals put the virus in imported gasoline. Using this devious strategy, they managed to contaminate a few tanks. The authorities grabbed hold of the terrorists before they could contaminate the entire nation. What remained was enough to do an immense amount of damage.
The first few months really took their toll on me. In fact, I can still remember the first day I spotted the change. My day at the lab went as planned. We took our robot to the gym to teach him to play racquetball. Unfortunately, that also entailed us playing hours of the demanding game. After many tries, the robot managed to hold its own against a complete stranger we pulled from the crowd. Exhausted, we retired to the showers.
I didn’t notice the signs of change. As the water poured over me, my friend Joe pointed it out to me. A small patch of brown hair looked really out of place. Thinking it unsightly, I shaved it off with my razor. We laughed about it as we took the robot back.
My panic didn’t start until I woke up the next day. Everything was just fine, except for when I looked into the mirror. The hair didn’t go away; it spread halfway down my back. Of course, I freaked out and took a razor to it again. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and went on with my life like nothing was wrong.
The next day, the hair was back in full force. Thinking something must be wrong, I took the day off to see my doctor. My trip to the doctor revealed nothing wrong, and I was given pills to take. He said it must be abnormal hair due to testosterone overloads from the extreme exercise. It relieved me to have a reason for the strange phenomenon, and to have something concrete to do about it. A million pills couldn’t prepare me for what I saw next.
Two days of pill-popping followed, while the hair continued over my body. After the first embarrassing day at the lab (think Wolfman), I took another sick leave. The second day consisted of me convulsing on the bed with fear. On the third day, I woke up to see a strange, half-human half-rodentine face in my mirror. It looked like that of a rat, melted over my human visage. Hair (or, as I started to refer to it, fur) thinly covered my face in a dark brown fluff. My nerves completely crashed at that moment, and I passed out onto the floor. My neighbor called the hospital when he heard my subconscious screaming.
I woke up in the hospital tied down to my bed, heavily sedated, and completely alone. The third was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and sent me into a screaming fit. A nurse heard the noise, walked in, shook her hands in anxiety, and yelled for the doctor. He came running in and held my shoulder tightly. I couldn’t stop yelling until he called for the nurse to sedate me again.
Only when I was partially conscious could he begin his incredulous diagnosis. With a heavy sigh, he calmly explained that I was becoming a squirrel. This evoked a reaction of shock from me, since I still thought it absurd. He then pointed out the XLRS1 scare, and suddenly I understood.
My heart sank. I knew what would happen soon enough. They wanted me for observation, but I refused. Camping media members flocked me with offers, but I pushed them away. I wanted to change in peace. More precisely, I wanted to be alone and away from those bodies I’ll grow to envy.
The doctor said he couldn't be sure how far the transformation would go. Unfortunately, there is no documentation on XLRS1. We were flying blind; there was nothing we knew for sure. He didn't secure my memory, and wasn't sure how my transformed brain would think and react to very human function. Flatly, he told me I could cease to be anything even remotely resembling a human. Daggers to my heart.
The trip home was a long one; I had to refrain from tearing the neck off the annoying kid beside me. "What's wrong, misther?" he said with a lisp, "You look tho furry!" Everyone stared at me in distaste, but never said a word. When I got up from my seat, everyone doubled back in fear.
I ran from the bus stop straight to my apartment, and from the door straight to my computer. Tears flowed from my eyes as I furiously wrote down every detail of my life into the computer. If my mind were to go, I wanted the knowledge to survive somewhere. The most draining document I’ve ever written closely followed – my will. After I finished it, I collapsed on the keyboard and cried my eyes out.
The next few days were a fury of calls to everyone I knew. I told work I was taking sick leave, and told my parents the outright truth. We cried together by wire for the longest time, until I had the strength to hang up. As for my friends, I told them I had the gene, but didn't tell them the possibilities and predicted apex.
Once my last call was placed, the real transformation began almost as if on cue. My tail grew in explosively, ripping my best pair of pants right in two. Lacking something else to do, I worked on learning the dexterity of my tail until the next slew began. It felt weird, as the new sensations seemed to come from thin air. I had to look at the tail every few seconds, since I still didn’t believe it existed. I sat on it once to see if it was a dream, and the pain gave a simple answer pointing to reality. A few hours passed until the final phase began.
By now, I was absolutely terrified. I knew what the doctor said; the final phase was where the mind went, if it did at all. There wasn't much time to pray to the deities; the transformation was instantaneous.
Changing felt beautiful and absolutely unbearable at once. The pain was so vivid, yet so pulchritudinous. Bones cracked as they met with their new form, hands and feet were deformed into the ingenious paws of the graceful species. When the improved senses kicked in, the sensory information made me begin to black out. I cursed myself; if I lost my mind, I wanted to see it go...
Colors crossed my view, dizzying and calming all at once. I felt like I was flying, free of all troubles in my life. It scared me at first, but eventually soothed me into giving myself to the flying formations. A warmth welled up inside of me as a true life change came over my body.
My headache was the only thing apparent when I first awoke. The improved vision made my head spin for a minute, but I was able to hold down the nausea until it passed. I could smell some sort of food in the room with me, along with bare whispers surging through a crowd. They cheered when I crawled over to the now gigantic dinner table.
"You made it," My friend of many years spoke. I recognized him! My mind was intact!
"How did you guys know?" I asked. As he spoke, I looked around the room. Things looked so monstrous now…
"Well, squirrels are pretty good at voicing distress," my friend jeered, "and you were no exception. That scream was enough to wake the dead!"
"I don't remember screaming..." I paused, remembering how the doc had warned me about the effects of instinct. "So, how do I look?"
"Well, I called the doc over immediately, and he says you're going to be fine. Walking is out of the question, though, and I suggest getting some sort of stepladder for around the house..." Embarrassed, I look around to see I have shrank. Laughing, I see my forepaw has an out-of-place opposable thumb.
“What is this?" I sit up in a squirrel-like squat. "Opposable thumbs?"
"Yeah, I know. It's odd that those survived... At least you can keep your job now. Arrangements are already being made."
"Great. This isn't so bad after all..." A smile crosses my face; this may not be as bad as I made it out to be! A silence followed, and I looked down at my new form. I tried to take a few steps, but failed as I stumbled onto my forepaws. In almost every facet I was a squirrel tried and true. My fur’s deep red color stopped only at my chest, where it lightened to a tan color. A muzzle protruded from my face, occupying the lower part of my vision. The joints of my legs transmuted, and were set so I couldn’t walk upright. The best I could manage is a halfway standing slouch.
“I have to get your picture,” he pulled out a camera without warning and snapped a photo. The flash triggered a comical reaction out of me, sending me into a flat run for the nearest chair. I nuzzled myself under the recliner, shivering in fear. He apologized for spooking me, but the damage was already done. Here I was, transformed from a loud, outgoing man into a cowering, fearing squirrel.
And so my new life began. For better or worse, I was along for the ride.
Today marked the first day of my new life. I would have to say I could get to loathe my new form. I only did one good thing today, but the rest was only bearable because of necessity. Perhaps I should explain my “day from hell.”
It all started in the morning. I couldn’t sleep at all last night, until I set up a rope gym of sorts to sleep in. I couldn’t stand laying down on such a wide bed in plain sight! The position made me paranoid. Once the gym was erected, I settled down to an extremely light sleep inches below the ceiling.
Flash forward to morning. My alarm goes off, and I spastically tumble out of my rope gym right onto the hard floor. The impact bruised me pretty well, but the trouble didn’t stop there. From the floor, I rolled into a flat run right into a cubbyhole below my bed. It took ten minutes of coaxing to pull me out of that hole!
The next puzzle approached me as I stumbled out from under the bed. My closet’s doorknob was about three feet out of reach. I sprinted about the house, collecting all sorts of stepping stools to reach that prestigious doorknob. With a sense of accomplishment, I reached over to the doorknob, worked the latch, and jumped onto it to swing the door open.
When the closet door opened, I realized what a fool I was. None of my clothes would fit me! I looked down at my body, racking my brain in a futile attempt to concoct a solution. Suddenly, I realized I had fur to cover my body. It would be a large change, but with time I would get aquatinted to it.
The clock flashed 7:30. I was 30 minutes late already, and I haven’t even begun to start breakfast. The matter was further complicated with the fact that I still couldn’t reach the cabinets. I settled with a bagel that was stored in the very bottom drawer. As I started into it, I realized I didn’t need as much food in this form. Satisfied with half a bagel, I ran outside to see the bus trail off.
No problem, right? I thought I’d just call a cab. That turned out to be harder than I thought it ever could be. Every cab that motored by missed my call, since I was too small for them to see. Eventually, I caught one at a stoplight. Knowing that this was my opportunity, I flew up the light pole and down onto his hood. After I explained myself, he graciously gave me a ride for half-fare. I think he felt sympathy for me.
I’m now two hours late to the lab. The doors at the university offered their own problems. I didn’t have the strength to open the damn things! I’ve always prided myself on my strength. My wrestling in high school gave me the discipline to keep in good condition. In disgust, I called for a secretary to help me into the lab.
Everyone stared, suddenly forgetting all the transformation chaos I caused. Every last one of the people in that room were there when I transformed, and suddenly they stared at me like they never saw this squirrel before. They refused to believe, like it may have been a dream. Believe me, I tried to deny the reality myself.
“Oh, it’s Sylvester,” Joe spoke up, pausing to conjure a polite thing to say, “how are you… feeling?”
“Not quite myself,” I reply, laughing weakly.
“Don’t worry, it will all be better soon enough. Maybe you need a name change! Maybe the space will make you feel a little better, you know, help you let go.” He words were cold, but true.
I sat for a second, coming to a standing stance to ponder the thought. “How about Sly?” Everyone approved.
“So it’s decided. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sly Squirrel!” I felt a little better, but still like an animal on display. The thought passed through my mind quickly, and I ignored it as work began.
They set up a computer for me, and I took to it immediately. In reality, only the keyboard took a size cut. I still sat in front a screen fully twice my height, and that scared me. Though the experience was unnerving, I continued in routine fashion.
The robot was working puzzles today. Even he was towering over me; I went to reset the tests and it stared down at me with its remote camera. He doesn’t have the luxury of human understanding, so I’m still foreign to him. This Sly isn’t the Sylvester imbedded deep in his silicon memory, and I tend to agree with him.
As work picked up, I forgot about all the new sensory information coming in from around the lab. In fact, the epiphany only hit me when I left the building. Joe offered me a ride home, which I graciously accepted. He didn’t talk much, and I initiated conversation when I told him to stop at the park across the street from my apartment. He complied, and I sent him off with a friendly good-bye.
I thought that if I was a squirrel, I might as well enjoy the form to the fullest extent. With an instinctual leap, I started into the first tree I saw. I had never climbed a tree before, until my claws dug into the sweet bark of that birch. From there, I forgot who I was and let my body take over.
Sylvester didn’t exist out in that forest; it was all Sly’s doing. My feet picked out the exact landing spots for every step, and I leaped from tree to tree with deadly accuracy. It was exhilarating; I’ve never gone that fast in my life! With remorse I left the park, turning my back to the setting sun.
And finally came this very entry. I ordered a computer made especially for me with the emergency money I packed away for college. Until then, I’m stuck squatting on the counter by the keyboard and picking the words out key by key. Every key is a sharp reminder of my new form.
My classes are all over; all that’s left is accepting the diploma. I plan to avoid the large ceremony; it’s embarrassing enough to be this squirrel I am now, and having my name bumbled at the ceremony would compound matters. It’s ironic; I came into this college Sylvester Stone, and I’m leaving Sly Squirrel. I feel like a new man.
I’m staying with the project. Since we own rights to the robot, my cohorts and I are taking the profit from the selling of our work. The grant has been extended, so we still have access to the lab. I can’t wait to get recognition for this wonderful product!
I can’t get over it. A few days ago, I was the man of the hour. Everyone knew me, and I could walk up to any person on the street and make their day. They knew me before I walked up: I was human, and they shared a common link in that way. Suddenly, I have the strangest label on my head: outcast.
So, what is it like to be an outcast? Emotionally, it's tough. Everyone looks away when they see me, and those those who do look glare with discontent. Children shy away, like I'm a monster. It's hard to get a job or a loan when you're so furry people won't take you seriously. Overall, the experience is bearable.
Now, I did have one ugly experience... There was this little skirmish I had one fine day, one that made me more careful than ever. Let's start out with this simple fact: squirrels have powerful flight reflexes, and want to get altitude when they feel in danger. My friend thought it would be fun to take me out for a surprise on April Fool's Day. I should have known better...
I was led into the convention center, sure it was a Science Fiction convention or some other tasteful venue. They had me blindfolded, and my ears plugged. Something was going on, but I was too polite to stop them. I let them have their way, and they took me where they would. When they took off the hinderments to my senses, though, I freaked out.
They took me to a dog show. There sat hundreds of dogs, baying like hounds before The Hunt. Canines of all kinds dropped their petty showmanship to stare at the hart that just walked in. They drooled with delight, ready for a good chase and maybe a meal. I knew that face; my dog had it one time when he saw his first rabbit.
I remember all too well. My dog just ran out through the forest, barking up a storm. The rabbit never had a chance, really. The canine grabbed the poor lapin's neck and snapped it in two. That experience was ironically twisted here; suddenly I was to be the prey.
My conscious thought froze; I had no control over my body. My limbs were like lead, unmoving and useless. I stood like a deer in the headlights, staring at these lethal killers running straight for my feeble body. Everyone gasped around me, as my friends screamed at me to get out of the way.
That’s when the voice of instinct took control, “Run, you idiot!” Instinct took over, and I sprinted up the nearest girder. My friends were already gaping; they didn't expect this to happen! It was there I stayed for hours, frozen in the fetal position.
The entire place had to be evacuated and myself sedated before the commotion was finished. My human friends apologized; they weren't aware of how full the transformation really was. I don't blame them. They can't understand how twisted a mind can be when survival is concerned. I only hope they never know.
I went shopping today only out of necessity. The excursion served a double purpose: my supplies were running low and I needed to get back into human company. Since the transformation, I tried to keep away from people. For some reason, I just can’t take the attention. When I was human, I would have loved it.
When I was human… it sounds like it was years ago. So much I wish I could accept that, somehow falsely accept that my human life was only a dream. It would be much easier that way; then I could come to terms with being a squirrel. That way, I could simply believe I’ve always been this way. Unfortunately, that’s all rubbish.
But why can’t I make my own dream world? I would feel so much better that way. Maybe I could shun away the world, living my fantasy alone and in peace. It’s too bad that I can’t accept such a false premise; my mind is far too logical.
It’s a nightmare. Wait, it’s worse than a nightmare; I can’t wake up. Here I am, suddenly wishing an antisocial life of seclusion. Everything I cherished is gone, especially all of my pride. I was proud to be a easygoing man. I was proud to have friends that loved me, cared for me, and shared a common trait with me. Most of all, I was proud to be human.
Humanity: suddenly the concept stretches its bounds. In the beginning it was quite simple; one was either human or they weren’t. Now, different bands and shades of humanity spark up helter-skelter. I’m no longer human – at least not in full.
But back to the shopping trip. Getting to the strip mall wasn’t a problem. Over the last few days, I’ve learned that punctuality leads to a easy commute. The bus may be a little nerve-wrecking, but it’s far better than the extreme measures I take to get a taxi!
Take a bus sometime; it’s an experience you’ll never forget. It’s like a Creole calabash: you name it, it’s probably on the bus at one time or another. A small, shrewd businessman sat in the back corner staring nervously at documents. Loud music poured over the ramshackle bus, emanating from a hardcore punk rocker in back. Two small kids talked loudly in front of the bus, earning sneers from those in close vicinity.
And then there was me. Everyone stopped to look at what came into the bus, though they didn’t see much. The driver, who knew me from a previous trip, looked down and said hello. I stood up on my hind legs and handed my fare to him between my teeth. Scattered gasps let me know that the bus knew of my presence.
I hate people who are afraid of what they don’t know. As I scampered down the aisle, everyone squeezed outwards to indicate “seat taken.” Eventually, I found my way beside the aggressive punk rocker in the back. The loud, boisterous bus started up again, suddenly deathly silent. The kids were whispering up front in a tone so low I may not have heard it without my enhanced squirrel hearing.
“What’s with the rodent?” the smaller one asked, “is he trained or something?
“I’ve heard of them,” the other replied, “they’re human, but not.”
“Like some sort of sideshow attraction?”
“Yeah. We should play freak show sometime…” they went on planning their carnival show, with the idea centering around a “rabid rodent king” whom I assumed would be a libel of me. It hurt to hear such innocent children playing their childish and naïve games around my misfortune. I wiped the tears from my eye in rhythm with the pulsing beat of the rocker’s stereo.
The bus stopped, and nearly everyone filed out into the strip mall. The two kids said goodbye to the “squirrel freak,” and ran off to the park to live out their sideshow fantasy. With their annoying presence finally gone, I continued on towards the grocer.
My first embarrassing moment happened at the door. Sadly enough, my miniscule girth was not enough to trigger the automatic door. In fact, I had to wait for another customer to step on to trigger the door. If that wasn’t enough, the next act of indiscretion really set me off.
A greeter sat by the door, handing out coupon sheets to incoming customers. He missed me, of course, so I had to pull on his pant leg to get his attention. Imagine his surprise when a squirrel asked him for a coupon sheet! As I walked on, I turned to hear him say “My mind must be going.”
A harsh realization overcame me as I started shopping. I had no means for getting the foodstuffs, let alone transporting them home! The bus and old man brushed over me, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I screamed in anguish, loud and high-pitched like the squirrel I was. That brought another emotion: hopelessness.
“Damn this infernal curse!” I screamed aloud, “Damn this store! Damn this food! Damn this squirrel form! Damn… Damn…” I collapsed on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably from the emotional pain. It felt like a burning deep in the mind, afterward rubbed with rock salt and isopropyl alcohol. The pain wouldn’t leave my mind alone; I curled into the fetal position, covering my ears to block out the world. Why wouldn’t it all go away?
“Are you… okay?” a large hand picked me up off the hard, cold linoleum. It pulled me closer to its body, and the body heat calmed me enough to look up. With a deep breath, I turned and faced the largest rabbit I had ever seen.
I gasped in surprise. For a rabbit, she was very well-to-do. In all reality, her looks were primarily human. All of her skeletal structure retained its human look. She wore a casual white T-shirt and pants, though the T-shirt blended in with her lovely white fur. The back of her jeans had a hole for her puffy tail to poke through. She smiled at me with her very human lips, which connected to her prominent muzzle. One ear flopped down over her face, and she brushed it out of her eyes. The sight reminded me of a child going out on Halloween in a decently put together costume.
“You’re… a rabbit!” I exclaimed. She had to be five feet tall, though from my angle everyone is monstrous.
“Yeah, silly, aren’t you a squirrel?” she replied, chucking softly. She sobered and looked me right in the eye. “What’s eating you? You sound a little distressed.” The understatement broke a little of the ice; she made me comfortable somehow.
“Well, you couldn’t say I’m altogether happy,” I start in with my own understatement, “There’s so much I can’t do. Look at me; I can’t even do something as simple as buy groceries!” Her brow furrowed, then suddenly lifted with an idea.
“All you need to fix that is a shopping buddy!” she said simply, “If you want, I’d help you.”
“Just like that?” I couldn’t believe it. “You don’t even know my name and you’d be willing to commit to a daily job just like that?”
“Trust me, you need it. Besides, we won’t be strangers for long. I’m Kate Ponduro,” She did her best to shake my hand; the gesture was enough to warm my soul, “Shall we shop? I guess you need some goods, and I’ll be happy to help… what is your name?”
But a frigid block of ice still laid heavy on my heart. “The name’s Sly, and thanks for trying to help. It’s not enough, though. Look at me; I’m a squirrel!” I pointed out items without heart; I didn’t think about the shopping at all for she had all of my attention.
“Ah, so that’s it?” she drew a conclusion suddenly, pulling down a few cans of corn.
“Come again?” I thought I’d bite; might as well take her advice; she’s given me no reason to disbelieve her so far. Before she answered, she patted her shoulder.
“Why don’t you come up here? When you’re down there I’m afraid that someone will stomp on you,” she smiled a little as I stood pat, “Namely, I don’t want to step on you.” Her laughing made my will collapse and I stepped onto her shoulder.
“That’s what I mean,” I started in my own self-pity, “At any time someone could step on me and I’ll be dead!” The trek continued onto the fresh foods aisle.
“That’s easy to fix. You just have to travel with people.” She started eyeing produce, namely a batch of celery.
“It’s just that I love… or loved being independent,” She looked at me and frowned.
“I know it’s an adjustment. You’re just not comfortable with your new form yet.” She threw the celery in the air, catching it with a swiping motion and throwing it in the cart. “In a way, you can’t take everyone looking at you so funny.”
“Why shouldn’t I care about those staring faces?” My voice picks up in volume; she picked a ripe tomato from the table and fingered it gingerly.
“Because they don’t understand. Live your life the way you want to. It’s the only way you’ll get used to the form.” She put the tomato in the cart as I desperately searched for a retort. I opened my mouth to send another argument her way, but she stopped me cold. “Wait, I know just the thing. We’re taking a trip.” Immediately, she paid for the groceries and left for her car.
Not knowing how to react, I silently and solemnly stepped into her car. Its engine flared up with demonic but calming power. Kate put the vehicle into drive and started off in silence. I didn’t dare ask where she was taking me, though I oddly trusted her.
I still don’t know why I even got in that car with her. Maybe it was the fact she was a rabbit. Maybe I thought her facade made her trustworthy and noble. Whatever triggered my trust was completely correct, for she never put anything on me against my will.
“I’m going to show you something you may not appreciate now,” she said solemnly, “but someday you’ll look back upon it and realize what may have happened to you. Here we are!”
She stopped in front of the asylum. “Are you crazy?” I got out of the car, dumbfounded.
“No, but these guys are,” She laughed softly. “Come on, the tour is just beginning.” Orderlies opened the doors for us, and Kate whispered something in one’s ear. He nodded, then led us down a hallway.
At this point, I didn’t know what to expect. She looked down and furrowed her brow. “Are you ready?”
“I guess so.” The man opened the door into a dark room. We stepped into the darkness and the door was shut behind us. My mind reeled; I didn’t like being in such a vulnerable position, more so since my squirrel instincts started into full force.
Kate didn’t let the suspense last long. “Hit the lights,” she spoke to the air. A small void of absolute no-thought followed, until finally the lights snapped on with a large thud and buzz. That’s when I saw what Kate was aiming for.
Hundreds of furry blobs immediately sprinted for the corners, shivering with fear. They were different sizes and shapes, mixing human and lapin forms in strange ways. I stared blankly at the shivering masses, but Kate only sighed and reached out to a few. The few she came in contact with relaxed the slightest bit and started towards me.
“These are all the Jims and Joes that couldn’t take the pressure,” Kate started into what seemed a pre-planned soliloquy, “They fell to instinct and depression.” One of the smaller ones sniffed at my arm; I reached over and he sprinted away. “They’re so scared that they’ve lost their human minds. You are only a few steps away.”
A long pause followed as the epiphany hit me. “Really? I never thought anything serious could happen to me. It always happens to someone else.”
“Every ‘somebody’ affected by something has to be just that: somebody. It’s simple probability; you have the same chances of catching something as the guy next door.”
“So, I could have very well gone insane?” I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Worse. At least insanity lets you keep your human thought patterns.” Kate’s voice fell over me like ice rain.
“I’ve seen enough. Let’s go, please.” I walked towards the door as an orderly switched off the lights and opened my escape route. Kate silently shadowed me out to the car. She started back out onto the road, letting the distance calm my nerves.
“So, what have we learned?” her voice changed from hard to warm and caring.
“I know I’ll get used to this sometime,” my reply was oddly wholehearted. I knew that I would adapt. The will to survive welled up within me and my mind rose to the challenge. I led her down the street down to my apartment.
“Hey, take this,” she pulled out a book from the glove compartment and absentmindedly signed it. “It’s my book. I’m an author, you know,” she was so calm about the fact, though I was enamored with the fact.
“Wow! I write, but what I write is all crap,” I reply, “third door on the left.”
“Nothing is crap if it comes from the heart,” she affirmed my desires, “just some people don’t take to it as easily.”
“Thanks. You don’t realize how much that means to me.” She smiled and stopped in front of my house.
“Anytime I can make someone’s day I make it my mission to do so. Hey, I’ll make you another little promise. Why don’t you come with me to the Furs-Only tomorrow?” I almost dropped the small bag I had balanced on my back.
“It’s a furry bar where everyone there acts like you and I do. I put the directions in the book for you.” She set down my bag and started to put the food away in the lower cabinets.
“Wow! Sounds good,” my heart sank, “but I’ll never get a ride. As you can see, I really don’t have a car at the time.”
She frowned, but suddenly perked up. “Tell you what; tomorrow at five I’ll pick you up,” she said, “don’t worry about dressing up; the more casual the better.”
“Wonderful. I could use some casual company.”
“Okay, then, goodbye!” And she was gone.
It was like a dream. As she walked towards her car and drove off, I didn’t know if she was real or not. Her entire being may have very well saved my life. The willingness to help really took me by surprise. Who knew people like that existed anymore?
Nonetheless, I’m still glad she found me at the right time. Without her, I may have been in the looney bin right now.
My first tavern experience turned out to be the best time of my life. Unfortunately, my day wasn’t all fun and games. It started out wonderfully, sent me into the gutter, and shot me back into cloud nine by the time I came home. In this way the day was very invigorating; the constant changes made for an interesting experience.
I’ll start with the labor around the house. For most of the morning, I set about rigging my house for a new life. My creative and mechanical talents came into play as I accommodated for my unorthodox existence. My first task involved making a list of materials. Most of the things I used are pretty cheap: partially brought about by my poverty, but otherwise by my inability to work with wood with any positive result. As we all know, small bodies can’t operate hand drills all too well.
My materials consisted mainly of supple mesh, pulleys, and string. With these ingredients, I went about to every door and cupboard and set up opening mechanisms. A ladder usually reserved for toy dolls served the purpose of scaffolding for me. Starting with the problem of access, I created ladders and bridges of mesh to reach everything I needed to get to. It’s the most efficient use of space anyone could ever hope to achieve.
Since I had some extra mesh left, I made a highway close to the ceiling to play in. As the project progressed, I added ramps to get on every counter in my house. Running around on a nearly-translucent surface over the ground made me feel better about my form. Yeah, I turned my house into the ultimate play gym. When you’re this small, the cost of appropriately-sized equipment isn’t so bad.
With that gym I sailed through the air and rolled down a ramp to the phone. I thought I’d call my parents and let them know I was doing all right. The phone clicked over to their answering machine, and I started to leave a message. Their voices only came over the wire when I started to hang up. I heard in the background the faint echo of “better talk to the squirrel.”
My mom sounded very nonchalant. “Hello, Sylvester,” she called over the phone.
“I changed my name. It’s Sly now,” I reply, trying not to sound snappy. I’m sure I came across that way though; I’m tired of telling everyone I knew that my name is Sly!
“Fine by me, Sly,” she replied, “so how’s life treating you?”
“Well, it’s getting better,” I tried to sound happy, “I’m still getting over the change. It’s a little disorientating.”
“I could see that,” she chimed in emphatically.
“But things are looking up. I think I’ll have everything squared away just in time to visit for Christmas.” A pause surged through the wire. It pierced my ear with what was almost pain.
“Son, I think we’ll hold off on Christmas this year,” she said quietly.
“What? But isn’t it tradition?” I didn’t understand where the conversation was going, though probably I should have seen it sooner.
“That XLRS1 that you caught… we’re not sure if it’s contagious, and we don’t want to get it..” She coughed politely on the other end.
“Mom, that’s a lie. We know for fact XLRS1 isn’t contagious.” I heard her shuffle in her seat on the other end.
“Honey, it’s your father,” her voice quieted down immensely, like she was withholding a secret.
“What’s the deal? Is he paranoid or something?” I was so dumb. Why didn’t I see it?
My mom made sure I understood. “He can’t come to terms with you becoming a squirrel,” she confessed, “He thinks you did it on purpose.”
I heard him in the background, adding his two cents. “That damned rodent can just go to hell for all I care!” My dad didn’t usually swear; it took something very unsettling to dislodge such foul words. “Why are you even talking to him?”
“Don’t be too hard on him, dear,” she pleaded, “He’s still getting used to the premise of human animals.”
“That’s fine, mom,” I reply emptily, “I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.” The phone found the receiver without even waiting for her reply. For a second I just sat deathly still. I didn’t want to believe what I just heard on the phone.
My father just disowned me. He just passed judgement on me, his own son. It made me think; if my dad didn’t accept me, who would? The only person I’ve seen so far who would possibly relate to me is that Kate woman. She was one person in this world of countless millions. How many Kates could possibly populate this world, after all?
I could almost feel my heart sink. The feeling is getting awfully familiar to me; it’s kind of like sliding down a greased pole – once it starts, there’s no stopping until you hit bottom. Of course, the bottom isn’t the worst part. Anytime I feel like I’m getting close to starting my climb back, something trips me up and knocks me back to the bottom. The action repeats and all I get is winded.
The pounding door gave me the strength to lumber over and pull the contraption open. Kate stood over me, smiling warmly. Her demeanor spilled over onto me, warming my broken soul the slightest bit. She leaned over to look me in the eyes, paused, and asked what happened. I just told her I had a little disagreement with my parents. If this place was as good as she said it was, then maybe she would find out eventually.
She turned on soft contemporary music as we got into the warmed car. Old Man Winter already wrapped the air with a cold chill, and the warm car welcomed us with salvation. “I see you redecorated?” she asked as she pulled out of my driveway. The headlights cut through the darkness and lit up only the small portion of road directly in front of us.
“Well, yes. I had some extra material from where I made my house accessible,” I reply smugly, “You like it?”
“It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed, “I wish I could run around in it! It’s not fair; you get to act like a kid again, and this time you have the coolest play gym anybody could ask for.”
“Thanks,” I reply nonchalantly, “So, what should I expect at this ‘Furs-Only’?”
“Love and caring,” her voice turned warm and candid, “Just expect what you would from good friends.”
“Sounds good. But is there some etiquette I need to know about furs? You know, like some sort of cultural taboos or something?” She laughed in reply.
“If there was anything you needed to learn, all our work would be for naught,” she spoke triumphantly, “We pride ourselves on keeping a casual home. Everyone is taken at face value,” her face lit up, and she pointed at a small cove. “Right there, there it is!”
“That little cove? That’s it?” Where were the lights? Where was the neon sign?
“Sure is. That’s the beauty of it,” her tone of pride was prominent. As she drove into the arc of trees, I realized where her pride came from.
I’ve said this about a precious few things in my life, but that building was one of the most beautiful sights these eyes have passed over. The dark trees pointed to the quaint building that grew from the center of the clearing. Spots of light poked through the log exterior, held in by wood and glass. Shadows danced upon the exiting light, animating the clearing in formless shapes of soft light. The car sputtered off and the door ajar tone rang through the car, pulling me out of the vehicle almost as if on cue.
The grass below me chilled my belly, but the texture of the soft sod felt good on my fur. Dew played on each blade, transferring itself onto me at every step. Night was in the air, both in feel and in smell. Aromas of pine and birch assaulted my sinus cavities, reminding me of happy nights of hide and seek out in the woods. Crickets filled the air with their sweet serenade of the moon. Without the car to hinder my vision, the thin slice of moon above opened my eyes to the subtle beauty of the clearing.
But the sounds emanating from the bar completely intoxicated me. People in that bar were screaming, laughing, and carrying on like they didn’t care what people thought. A jukebox played a loud and rambunctious honky-tonk song. Ironically, the most comforting part was the animal cries coming from inside. Suddenly, I knew they would accept me.
That one moment time I shall remember forever. In that one moment, I realized that someone accepts me. No matter how many people loathe my entire existence with blind hatred, somebody will think I’m one of the greatest people they’ve ever met. I smiled, for I knew just then that I would have companions, cohorts, and most importantly friends.
Maybe that’s why Kate took interest in me. Maybe she realized my pain of loneliness. Maybe she just wants everyone to be happy. I care, but it’s not altogether important at the time. All that matters is that I owe my sanity and my happiness to her intervention. I’ll ask sometime later.
“Are you ready to go in?” she asked. I shook off my ponderous thoughts and turned to the door.
“I think I’ve been ready for this moment all my life,” I reply, scampering up to the door and waiting for her to open it for me. She didn’t waste any time, and opened the door to the homeliest sight I’ve seen in my life.
“Hey, it’s Kate!” A large bear looked up from a pool table in the corner. Counting him, only five people occupied the place.
“Yeah, I brought Sly along today. You know, the one I was telling you guys about?” Everyone looked down at me, smiled, and waved me over to the hearth.
The inside of the Furs-Only completely contradicted the simple exterior. Every wall radiated with soft yellow light, brought out with the leaded-glass shades on the lamps above. Space was no problem, though the main room wasn’t so big it terrified me. In fact, it was cozy while remaining spacious. The walls kept the natural look of log and grout, making the place feel like a cozy log cabin.
When I walked in, the beautiful bar pulled my attention. Taking up an entire wall, it reminded me of some cheery corner shop. The stools reminded me of a soda fountain, formed of shiny aluminum and capped in a deep red upholstery. Dark, rich varnished wood added flavor and personality to the bar itself, on top of the meticulous design on the countertop. A mirror lined the entire wall, but it was frosted over with different floral designs at the corners and sides. Glasses hung above the serving counter, neatly kept with wooden rails. Liquors of every kind lined the mirror, almost like a one-sided pyramid of bottles.
Perpendicular to the bar was the stage. A karaoke machine creaked on the small platform, worn ragged from overuse. A singular mike stand took center stage and that was it. Raw entertainment, yes, but effective. The pool table beside the stage housed a bear and ferret at the time, playing pool like nothing was strange about walking and talking human/animal mixes playing billiards. The light above the table cast odd shadows on the pair, making them look intimidating.
The dining area in the near corner dimly reflected the bright lights from the other parts of the room. A thin layer of dust covered the tables, revealing to me that I missed the crowd by a few days or more. Standard fare of restaurants filled this corner: tables and chairs, salt shakers and napkins, and silverware. It reminded me of a mom-and-pop diner – low quality yet homely.
On the wall opposite the bar was the hearth. It’s masonry accented the wall, the shale extending beyond the ceiling and extruding from the wall by a few feet. The fire popped cheerily, warming heart and soul. A hunter green throw rug laid the backdrop for a fireside chat, with throw pillows to sit upon. Two females rested beside the fire on the cushions. The fox and cheetah women chattered idly amongst themselves..
I still can’t get over the sight of humans with animal characteristics. They walk around like humans, and at first glance can be easily passed as a normal human being. Only their fur, tail, and face reveal the fact that they’re rabbits or cheetahs or whatever they happen to be. I’m almost glad that I’m not a “mixed breed”; at least I have a pre-defined identity!
“So, does he talk?” The fox-woman rose from her position and ambled over to me. She smiled and led me over to the fire, her tail swaying in rhythm to her steps. Cheetah-woman pulled out a pillow from under her body and laid it down for me to sit on. The guys from the pool table joined the group by the fire, pulling their pillows from the fox. She slapped them playfully, laughed, and turned to me.
“Anyway, we were just about to have you say something. How about it?” Her tone of sarcasm wasn’t hurtful; in fact it was rather pleasurable. The group, though a little intimidating, attracted my fancy right from the start. Everyone had a smile on their face, like friends in good company should…
“Well, I guess the fitting thing to say is hello,” my words stumbled out in a jumble, but they found their place as I went on, “You can call me Sly. Sly Squirrel.”
“What a wonderful name!” The fox-woman perked up, sending a smug grin to Kate. “My name is Caitlin. That’s Beth, Bo, Josh, and you know Kate already,” she pointed to the cheetah, bear, and ferret in order, and each waved in response. “So, what’s your story?” her stare returned to my face. Those blue globes pierced my soul; suddenly I felt incredibly transparent.
“What, my story?” I replied incredulously, “I’m sure it’s not that interesting.”
“Try me.” Beth said, purring a little under her breath. That cheetah almost scared me; her eyes, though blue, retained their feline construction. Those hunter eyes sent my instincts of prey running circles.
“Well, it all started at work one day…” My story started with reservation. In the beginning, I withheld details that I thought were a little personal. Their empathy was strong, and it led me to disclose every gruesome detail, to the last hair.
“That’s terrible! How could someone live like that?” the cheetah Beth jumped in. I smiled weakly for reasons unknown. Her sympathy made me happy for it meant she cared about me in some way.
“Today, on top of it all, I called my parents,” I didn’t think about what I was saying; the crowd was pulling it out of me. “My dad disowned me over the phone.” Everyone gasped, but nothing was said.
I took the time to look around at the people around the fire. Note I use people loosely. My attention glanced over Kate; I already had her visage etched deep within my mind. Darkness controlled the outdoors, and so the fire ruled over the dimmed indoor lighting. The flames played on everyone’s eyes, playing out a drama of gigantic miniscule proportions.
The ferret to my side smiled a little as he caught my stare. As he smiled, I remembered his name: Josh. He was like the rest: mostly human, with prominent characteristics of the animal he closely resembles. His fur interlaced patterns of black, burnt sienna, and cream. Stripes of these colors lanced through spots of darker shades of fur. His face reminded me of an ambitious child. I don’t think he ever stopped moving while I was there.
My gaze moved on as Josh’s spastic movements started to tire me out. The cheetah Beth locked her view with the fire. She didn’t notice everyone around her. Her tail swirled about her, almost giving her a look of impatience. But when I looked to her face – that soft, loving, caring face – I knew she loved every second of this companionship. Her eyes were blue, though the color looked out of place on a pair of cat-eyes. Her patterns of yellow, orange, and black further threw the blue eyes out of place.
A flailing tail pulled my attention from Beth. Caitlin smiled at me, obviously indulging in the same observational behavior I was. Our eyes locked, and I stared into her brown eyes like one stares at a puppy. Her entire body was extremely sleek – fitting since she was a fox. Once again, she also kept her human traits. Her coloring resembles mine; tan chest fur bordered by a darker brown, with all shades in between thrown in for flavor. The tail behind her had a life all its own, wagging about without rhyme or reason.
Her tail pointed me towards Bo. He sat silently in the corner, trying to look omnipotent. I kind of giggled at that; only a carnivore would do such a thing. Beyond that, his mouth turned into a wry smile. His fur was completely black, though that didn’t make him look evil. He was also like all the rest, retaining his human skeletal structure. Apparently, I’m a rare case.
Josh jumped in as my observations started to wane. “Things will work out eventually. I’m sure of it. That happened to me.”
“Really? And how did that go?” He pulled my attention, making me realize that everyone in this tavern has gone through the same transition as I.
“Yeah. About a month ago my father…”
I stopped him after I heard the mention of month. “A month? I’ve only been a squirrel for a week. How is it that you guys transformed before me?”
“Simple,” Caitlin leaned forward to signify her taking the floor. “the contamination hit different places at different times. Also, in some people XLRS1 took effect in only a few hours. Your infection probably remained dormant for a few weeks before everything came crashing down.” I nodded in silent reply, but Josh stopped me from saying anything.
“As I was saying, my father called me and gave me a serious dressing-down. He said I was a ferret by choice, and he refused to associate with such a wretch. In the beginning, I was heartbroken. How could he be so cold to the kid he loved so much? I let him simmer for a month, before calling him back. When he got on the phone, he immediately apologized. Now we’re closer than ever.”
“So you’re telling me to take it in stride?”
“Believe me,” Bo jumped into the conversation with a grave tone, “if you plan to live a happy life in this form, you have to let things slide every once in a while. If nothing makes you angry, then nothing gets under your skin. Therefore, you can still live life to the fullest.”
“Interesting philosophy,” a pause followed, giving the advice time to sink in.
Beth’s stare still fixated on my size. “How does it feel to be so small?” she asked, completely ignorant of how rude it sounded. Instead of offending me, though, it made me comfortable. Only between friends can one let their guard down, and that meant she considered me a sort of comrade.
“Well, it sucks,” I replied, laughing a little, “Every time I try to get help in a store the clerks can’t see me. When I walk on the street, I have to be constantly aware of the people around me. Most don’t look down and I get a foot in my tail,” everyone winced; apparently my experience wasn’t foreign to them. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its perks. I can climb trees at blazingly fast speeds, and perform some breathtaking acrobatics with little trouble. I guess it’s worth the trouble.”
“I’d say!” Beth replied, obviously a little envious. I watched her eyes bulge more and more as I explained what being a tiny person is like, and a sparkle crossed her cat-iris as I explained the experience of climbing trees. “All I can do is run fast. It’s pretty fun, but I’m not all to good at climbing trees,” she smiled evilly, “Of course, if there’s a plump squirrel on a branch, then I guess I could get out on that branch with not much of a problem,” I jumped a little as she flashed a claw at me, and she laughed.
“God, don’t do that!” I screamed, turning from my fetal position to look at her, “My nerves are really frayed.”
“Sorry about that, I couldn’t resist,” she laughed and put her hand on my back. The touch relaxed my twisted mind and pulled me from my fear and back into good company. My mind still churned, even though I was absolutely sure no harm would come onto me. It turned nonetheless, preparing for an invisible enemy. I guess that’s instinct for you.
Things went on in that vein for the longest time, and I started to honestly enjoy myself when I realized I had to go. Kate already predicted I would forget, and dropped a hint to get the ball rolling. With regret, I told my new friends goodbye. Amazingly enough, they seemed anxious to see me again.
I couldn’t get over that. I’ve felt this way before, but just not as powerfully as what just hit me now. They candidly wanted me to be in their presence. And I wanted to be with them. It put a smile on my face; finally I had true friends.
Kate drove me home, asking random questions about how the night went. I told her nothing could be better, and she didn’t question it. I’m sure she saw my smile when I said goodbye. Without many words I bade goodbye and headed for my home.
In my rope cradle my mind reeled. It all happened so fast. First, I get the biggest social shock of my life. And I can every day of my new existence up with the following:
Yesterday was terrible. Today was good. Tomorrow is looking better.
It's been months since I've updated this. It's summer. People have been and gone, some to better lives, some to much worse situations. We've seen out share of good times and bad times. The place is just starting to bounce into the summer mood.
Today wasn't a great day. Everyone was lazing in the setting room, everyone being Bo, Caitlin, Kate, and Beth. Josh had an aerobics class to tend to. The day was clear, but not warm enough to be unbearable and uncomfortable. Apathy was the name of the game, and everyone was deadly silent. Only the jukebox played a solemn tune.
"I'm bored. Is there anything to do?" Beth was getting impatient.
"Anything new in town?" I ask. Beth lit up.
"Well, there is that new entertainment center in town, Sly. Who's ready for a little fun?" Everyone agreed, and Bo walked behind the bar to get the truck keys.
"In the truck! Time for a day out." Bo led us out the door, and into his old red truck. It was going to be a good day.
Fundamaton was new in all aspects. Screaming kids milled around the arcade, wasting their money on the redemption games. A large miniature golf course was located in a secluded forest. Nobody would see players when they were on that course. Go-karts laced the parking lot, diving and bounding over the spaces. It was like a dreamland, I guess.
Blues merged into pinks, into neon greens, merged back into blue to make the cycle complete. It was all beautiful, but all so humanized. Why can't people stick to the earthen-tones of beauty when designing an outdoor recreation center? I'll never understand it.
People of all types were going about their recreational business, playing and paying and ignoring everyone else. Not surprisingly, furs were completely absent from the scene. Most morphs don't go to these places; the ridicule makes the experience unbearable. It didn't seem that people minded the furred guests to the center, today.
We started with miniature golf. I've been over the disadvantage of being one foot tall, and here is no exception. As always, the clerk serving up clubs and balls was astounded to see an adult squirrel request a small club! I made do with a club fully four times my height, choking down on the shaft. Of course, I lost. The game was not honorable or dignitarious; I did a little espionage on everyone, knocking balls off course, making a nuisance of myself, and so forth. No longer do I care about competition; I usually lose.
The arcade offered its own challenges. Beth was kind enough to lift me onto the table where the controls lay. From there, I played with my feet on the buttons and hands on the joystick. The sight drew a crowd, of course. I always make a comical scene at the video arcade!
If there's one thing I miss about being human, it's pinball. I simply can't reach both flippers at once while watching the table! Eventually, I hope to rig up some sort of control device to allow me to play. Until then, I'm more than happy to criticize and poke fun at Beth's less-than-perfect game.
Bo and Caitlin played air hockey; they don't care much for video games. They were making quite a racket, and attracting a crowd with their crazy antics and fairly well played game. I even made it over for a few rounds, suddenly envious of their large bodies. I had to laugh at Kate's precarious position, though.
Kate played skee-ball, though she had a little hassle and mistaken identity at her side. Kate's about human size, and it seemed that she resembled the guy usually in the arcade wearing a rabbit suit. Little children clung to her, wanting candy or hugs. Kate, of course, freaked out when the kids mirrored her every move. Thankfully, a sympathetic worker calmly explained to the students that Kate "Wasn't floppy. She is just a rabbit-morph." The kids were heartbroken, and repulsed that they had associated with a furry. Ironically, Kate was distrot when her flunkies departed with "she's a FURRY?" and "eeeew! Furry Cooties!" I hate that trait among people.
It's hard to avoid. Mass media, television, radio and all portray our population as slobs or monsters. Why can't they just see what we really are: humans with slighted viewpoints and bodies? Even children's programming gives a bad name to the furry life. In these monstrosities, we are eternally polite and nice or deadly and mutogenic. Most furries have boycotted mass media, me being among the majority.
The go-karts were a let down. Even after attempting to coax the operator, they wouldn't let me ride. I was too small. I'm the only small one in the group, usually, no matter whom I associate with. Everyone rode anyway, only after I insisted they go ahead. The kids were all taller than me, and they thought I would like a petting. Yet another disadvantage of being furred in a human world. It took some explaining to convince the children that I was not on display, and they kept their distance from then on. The day was waning, and we were heading for the truck. It wasn't a clean getaway.
"And where do you think you're going?" The teenager in front of us laughed, followed by a chorus of jeers from his peanut gallery. Wolves always travel in packs; then they don't have to be strong.
"Home, if you're wondering." Bo replied, walking towards his truck, "if you'd like to join us, just hop in." The bear smiled sarcastically. The ringleader slammed his hand across the driver's side door.
"I'm fine, thank you. As for you freaks, I'm not so sure…" he stared directly at me, his cohorts practically over the man's shoulder. "Who's the runt?"
I pushed my fury down. "The name's Sly. Let's be civilized, here, we don't need a fight. We're here for the same reasons as you; to have a good time. There's nothing wrong with that is there? We have rights, too." I knew that wouldn't work, and probably would fuel his anger. He backed up, laughing.
"Well, you freaks are on human turf. You don't belong here."
"We don't have to take this…" Beth confessed, "Let's go get security." Everyone backed away from the truck, obviously avoiding the fight. Something rose up in me, a feeling long forgotten. Justice and the need for dominance arose in me for the first time since I was human. I scrambled onto the truck hood, so I could look down on the teenage bully.
"You think we wanted this life?" I was angered, and my words had a life of their own. "You think its easy to live life like this?" I grabbed my tail, waving it in his face. "I didn't want this, but I'm making do. One day, you," and I pointed between his eyes for added effect, "may be in the same situation I am right now. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, or the next year for that matter, but one day it may happen. And when you walk into a furry bar, people will know how you feel, and sympathize with you."
The boy moved to speak, but I cut him off. "But the irony will be thick. Instead of embracing their love and care, you'll puch it away. You'll know you don't deserve the care they're giving to you. You'll know that your hobby was heckling what you became. You'll know some of the same furries that will confide in you, only because you wrecked their public life." A crowd had gathered, humored by the concept of a squirrel giving a dressing-down. I paused, looking onto the crowd for effect. "There is one question I must ask," I directed to the audience, "What is joyous about heckling the furred?"
All I heard was "I've had enough of this." I felt him grab on to my tail, heard Bo's scream of anger, and the punishing blow to my miniscule cranium. The crowd screamed as I got the beating of my life.
I regained consciousness at the Furs-Only. They told me about the visit to the hospital, and how they didn't find any serious injury. The punks who hassled us were arrested, withheld by the overwhelming crowd at the scene. Bo got in my revenge in my absence, pounding my assailant to a bloody pulp. He was in the hospital nursing his broken bones. Caitlin, in a lighthearted mood, embarrassed Beth by telling me how she never left my side. I told her I was happy she never left me, completely ruining Caitlin’s attempt at embarrassing Beth. It was funny to watch her scream with frustration.
So, that was our first outing of the summer. It's always a new experience at the Furs-Only. Variety is a weak word, but apt to describe it. Yesiree, never a dull moment...
A new and strange experience was bestowed upon me today. I never saw a mob before this, and hope I never again have to look down upon one. It’s amazing how such a large group of feeble minds can have so much movement and persuasion. But as for the story…
It all started late at night at the Furs-Only. Everyone was lounging about, lazily listening to music on the radio and staring at the ceiling. I was discovering new paths through the upper levels of the bar, pawing about in yet non-traversed areas. Beth, Kate, and Caitlin sat in a cluster of pillows, gossiping softly. Josh and Bo were playing pool, whittling the hours away. It was one of those slow nights, one best spent with friends.
A knock came at the door, and we invited the visitor in vocally. Instead of complying, though, the knock intensified into a pounding. It spread from the door across the wall, eventually becoming one constant bang on the frame of the bar. When the screaming started, everyone stomped to the door to see what was the matter.
After seeing the screaming fanatics I wish we would have let them pound all night.
The angry mob flowed all in our field, tearing up the dirt and hacking up the trees with rage still without a reason. Torches wavered amongst the crowd, laying down points of light helter-skelter. Screams pulsed through the mob, pushing their point onto us. The random yells grew into a singularity, a single phrase pounding in the night, “Down with the furred freaks! Down with the furred freaks!”
One man walked confidently up to the door, and the crowd died down without command. The mentality of the mob held everyone to conformity. The tall man glowered at us in the dim torchlight, the fire playing on his dark blue eyes. After a long silence, he spoke,
“Brothers, sisters, friends. These… things in front of us do not belong in the same town as we. We must take action and drive them from the city. Who’s with me?” Screams laced the crowd, piercing my ears with its shattering volume. Unrest aroused the crowd, and the back ranks started to push the front closer to our proximity.
I had to do something. These people were insane with the pack mentality. There was no doubt that they would carry out the dirty task as long as the mob stayed solid and uniform. Bo screamed out, trying to outdo the crowd for attention. Thinking intelligently, I went back inside and cranked up the karaoke machine. From there, I screamed in my highest squirrel chirp I could manage.
The crowd sat in silence, suddenly deafened by the high pitch coming from the bar. I took the chance to clamber up a tree at the center of attention. From there, I managed my most commanding voice and started.
“What are you doing?” my voice squeaked, partly from nervousness, partly from the strain on my tiny vocal chords. “Do you realize what you’re doing? Put yourselves in our skin,” I flew down the trunk of the tree and onto a mob member’s shoulder. “Here’s one: you had a wonderful life going for you until you became a squirrel. Suddenly, your boss dislikes your ideas, your wife hates you, and, to add insult to injury, your friends refuse to associate with you.”
I took my time, cantering from shoulder to shoulder and fabricating sap stories to illustrate my point. Finally, I ended up on the leader’s shoulder. “You are a monster,” I said coldly, “We’re doing nothing wrong here. All we want is a little compassion, and you people sure-as-hell won’t give us the time of day, let alone compassion. The only thing we’ve done with these bodies is adapt to your society. Don’t you understand?”
In silent response, the mob started to scatter. Even the leader, suddenly humbled, turned tail and ran. I turned to my friends and laughed at their gaping jaws. “So, can we get back to lazing around the bar?” I calmly walked back into the Furs-Only, shortly followed by everyone else.
“Can you believe that? That mob wanted us gone for good!” Josh said, suddenly perturbed at the group.
“That’s the way it’s been for years,” Kate interjected, “We did it to the blacks in the early 20th century, the Germans did it to the Jews in World War II, and the Catholics did it to the Pagans during the Crusades. It’s just the cycle starting over again.”
“Isn’t it funny?” I giggle, “Humans never learn.”
“And we call ourselves an advanced race!” Beth joined in my laughter, eventually pulling everyone into fits. When the laughing and human bashing wore off, everyone parted ways for the night. That was it. Tomorrow, Bo will go out and plant new grass seed to replace the tousled turf. Everything will return to normal.
It’s just another thing to adapt to, after all.
Squirrel life sucks. I'll tell you that flat out. It has its high points, of course, those I can't begin to list here. It's the severity of the bad points that drives me to hate. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if humans weren't so downright self-centered...
Nasty habit number one: I'm really tired in the winter. Many nights, I just sit in one spot chewing on a nut in my instinctual hoarde. People see me as a slob, and move to prejudice. All because of a little instinct.
Nasty habit number two: I'm really high strung. When I say high-strung, I really mean downright twitchy. A camera flash is enough to send me into a flat run, for Pete's sake! Don't even put a dog in front of me; I had to sell mine because it turned on me. My best friend suddenly decided I was to be his next meal, how deliciously ironic! Life's full of irony.
Thing people hate about me: I climb objects. I've been asked to leave stores simply because I clambered up a shelf to retrieve a product or attention! I'm more comfortable in high places, and my choices reflect that. Of course, my choices don't exactly blend with those of the general public...
Yet another thing that doesn't blend: my tail. It wrecks the nerves of people I talk to. It's always moving, and stops when I'm pondering a point. When I pad along, my tail sways naturally. It's habit for me, but unsettling for others.
Thing I hate about socitey: the kids see me as fair play. It never fails: everywhere I go, some kid says "what a cute squirrel" and proceeds to stroke my fur. It was moderately tolerable for a while, but the hands of kids freak me out. Call it instinct, for I'm sure that is the culprit.
Consequentally, the same fact that attracts children to my meniscule girth is the reason people don't take me seriously. Surprisingly, I don't take myself seriously. Perhaps that's another thing I hate about my form: I'm never assertive. Don't get me wrong, now. I love the complacency I have, and everyone enjoys my new laid-back personality. Sometimes, I would kill for the instinct of dominance, though...
My friends ditched me. They saw how my form was bringing their stature down, so they weaned their poor lives off of me. Most of those I knew did the same thing; soon enough my old life was left behind. Only at work do I see my old lineage. The furs at Furs-Only are now all of my social life. I'm not complaining.
Conclusion: human life is only good when you're, well, human. Their standards don't hold well to mine, and I suffer for it. Maybe if everyone was like me, things would be different.
Of course, I have the single best stress reliever in the world to help me along... Nature could never be this exhilerating to a human. There is no other feeling like darting up one tree, then jumping to another brance effortlessly. The feeling of flying without wings is great. The pine branches beneath my feet release their aroma as I claw into them. It's pure nature.
<this part: kind of a show on CNN showing a march onscreen>
You know what I hate? I despise activists who pick up the fight for furry equality. They dawn fursuits, lead peace marches down lanes, and picket in front of hospitals. It's a wonderfully humorous parade, if you catch them in the act.
I wouldn't mind, if they were furred themselves. The battle they fight is purely chivalrous, only to please themselves. The fursuits I find offensive, almost like a mocking of our culture. It's like fighting a war for the country who doesn't care, I guess.
Curious, I asked one why they took up our fight. The boy I spoke to simply replied, "I fight a fight that the weak are incapable of." When I explained that I was competant enough to fight my own battles, he replied, "But no one takes you seriously. Let us fight with our weighted voices." I was furious! Never had I been so embarrassed.
Conclusion: activists are stupid people who fight battles that sound good. They feel better because of it, like they're making a difference. In reality, they cast a shadow of general unreliability over the entire movement they fight for. Yet another hapless irony in socitey.
Things are looking up. I got a deal on a new apartment! It's unconventional, and the rent is cheap. Nobody wants the space, and I'm pretty sure why. The best part is that it's made to fit the squirrel fancy. It's an amazing find, to say the least.
The conceptual abode begins in a large oak tree. The house is built around the aromatic wood, integrated with the architecture. The rooms aren't much: an entry, a kitchen/den in one room, bathroom separated from the living area, and a bedroom through a tunnel snaking up the tree. Power and water are fed through the tree itself, with my water heater and such required appliances hidden in a basement under the roots of the tree, accessible through a storm door.
The bathroom has the basic amenities, shower and all. It's dressed in a soft yellow, with all appliances lined in a soft white. The shower faces out to the world: one feature I think people should look into. The room faces the rising sun, so mornings are practically breathtaking in the space. I put a table in the room, oddly enough. It lets me watch the sun rise while I prepare for the day.
The kitchen has all the basic amenities. There's the pantry (which, fittingly enough, is built into the flesh of the tree) and my basic cooking tools. The room is windowless; most of my meals are taken in the den and bathroom. I'm an odd soul, I know. Brown is the soft tone for this room.
The living room is perhaps my favorite room. It's the first room I approach from my entry, and rightfully so. It's clad in a light tan, with a couch and television off to one corner. A large bay window takes up the western wall, and lets the sunset into my room. The squirrel before me was intelligent enough to build the house on a hill facing west to take in the sunset! My computer and life is set into a cabinet off in a far corner. The kitchen is opened up to the den.
My bedroom is just a cozy pallet for sleep. My cozy bed takes up most of the room, a cozy pallet of down. A light and bookcase serve reading purposes on nights of insomnia. The window in this room faces the rising sun, getting my lazy self out of bed each morning. It's the perfect bedroom, I think. The area isn't large and foreboding, and my new instinct likes that.
Best part of living in a forest home: the forest! My entry opens out onto another tree's branch, so I can easily begin a traverse of the forest with a single hop and jump. When I'm done, I can just return the way I came. No hunting is allowed in the forest, thank god. I was paranoid when I saw orange vests and shotguns on the lawn of my neighbors! They seem friendly enough, and told me not to worry. Finally, someone who thinks I'm all right!
Now, the humorous part. This house only houses me because I'm the only person I know who can fit into the abode! I told you a squirrel built the house; he built a mansion by modest squirrel terms. The only hospitality I can offer guests is a nice sitting area at the base of the tree. I have a grill down there, human-sized of course. A few lawn chairs dot the area, good for my human-sized visitors. I love this place!
Why did I move to such a small place? I'm a foot-tall squirrel, remember? Vaulted ceilings and towering waist-level countertops give me the creeps. My old apartment was a mess of stepladders and homemade tools for reaching now out-of-reach places. Never did I think I could find a home so suited to my body.
I still need a ride. I've been walking from here to there, without much of a complaint. Suddenly, a car is a required commodity. Unfortunately, they won't give me a license since my transformation. They assume I've lost information in my transformation, and want me to take a class. Besides, the idea of a car has been offset by my lack of cash up to now, and the modifications I would require wouldn't come cheap.
So I guess you're wondering how I got the cash. The thinking robot project finally sold, and for a hefty sum. My three co-workers and I share the royalties, which will last for a very long time. I'm financially secure for a while. How I got the cash for such an expensive abode, well, that will have to wait for another story.
Seems I got your attention on the expensive abode. Well, it starts innocently enough, of course, with the bar at the epicenter. It was another slow day. Bo and Caitlin were cleaning up after the wild party last night. A large group of wolves plowed through, and took no prisoners. Furs are good tippers, so the pair didn't mind the mess. Most of the bar was already clean, and the regular group now inhabited the ghostly place.
We just finished a light dinner. The conversation never got off the ground. Everyone started on "fish" stories, and Josh laid a thick story about his years as an "expert bowler." The entire bar erupted in laughter, though the effect was lost in the enormity of the place compared to six weak voices.
The taunts flew, and before we knew it we piled into Bo's truck for a night at the alley. It was Cosmic Bowling night at the local lanes, and virgin drinks were free. Thinking something was better than nothing, we planned on a night of bowling and reminiscing of the good times. The alley brings back memories…
The crowd I stayed around in school always bowled. We'd go out at five only to return at six, the eight hours in between lost in bowling. Many of my best first time ever stories take place in a bowling alley, in fact. My first kiss came to me in an alley, strangely enough.
Furs have to keep ties in society, to keep some shred of humanity existing in our bodies. It’s hard when everyone thinks you’re so different, but without connecting with our past, we lose what makes us acceptable. For me, mingling with closed-minded humans can sometimes be a headache. Bowling allies are a great way to get out of the Furs-Only and into a crowd of fanatics out for a good time.
The alley was relatively big: one large room that accommodated for fifty lanes, and an arcade to boot. The walls were all painted in a periwinkle that only a bowling alley would dare display. Entering the brick building, the bar presented itself. It wasn't all that inviting, and not nearly up to the standards of Bo's barkeep. In fact, Bo laid down a cynical comment on the horrible manners of the bartender, sending our crowd into fits of laughter.
As always, we were stared at immediately following our entrance. The world stopped for a second to stare at the strange creatures, then the place would buzz back to life. It was like we were judged, almost passing a test of our worthiness. I don't mind it too much anymore, only because I have encountered it so much.
The lane was bought, and the final smack laid down before the lights dimmed and the music started. The noise was played so loud, one could lose themselves in the pulsating beat. It was the perfect ailment for emotional troubles: no thought, no worry. That's how it goes.
I think a bowling swing tells a lot about someone, so I'll explain everyone's swing here:
Beth has a simplistic windup, just stepping forward and throwing the ball. When she scored a strike, she was ecstatic. When she went in the gutter, her face was worth a thousand words. It's a joy to watch the cheetah play.
Josh had a power swing. He had some technique, but it amounted to throwing the ball as fast as possible. He was even better to watch than Beth, dancing in the lanes whenever he hit a single pin. We all afforded a few laughs at his expense.
Bo was a bowling technician. He carefully measured off his strides, making sure his ball flew parallel. Not surprisingly, he blew us all away. In retort, we all called him a party pooper. That'll be the joke for years to come.
Caitlin had a style vaguely similar to Bo's, later revealing that Bo taught her all she knew. She wasn't nearly as good as Bo, but still beat the living daylights out of Josh and I. She played dirty, of course, like the rest of us.
Of course, I had to use a light ball. My strategy was simple: push the ball any way possible down the lane. I hadn't bowled since the transformation, and was disappointingly sad at the game. I scored a few strikes, but not nearly as much as the rest. My strategy, as always, involved espionage. My personal favorite is hanging off the shoulder of the bowler and yelling in their ear. It's a guaranteed gutterball.
Furs always have a good time. No matter where we go, we always draw a crowd. It's like performing, unfortunately. People don't see odd animals perform crazy antics every day! Besides that, we're usually a loud bunch. Perhaps, that's a bad explanation; we yell in an odd fashion, much like the animals we've become. It's always a scene.
The night went on without a hitch, until the alcohol got to the heads of the patrons. We also were talking a little freer than usual, but alcohol isn't that much of a concern to us. Wouldn't you know it that a group of five young teenagers would swagger our way, breath smelling heavily of gin? They smiled a drunken smirk and jeered, "and what's with the little animals?"
This would make twice in the month I've been in this dilemma, and the alcohol was pushing my bravery further than ever. "Not much, just bowling," I said calmly.
"I'm the mayor's son, and I want you out of here!" It was a statement only a drunk could make: devoid of logic and completely irrelevant. I felt no fury this time around, this time it was the urge to run and hide. The alcohol had a different effect on Bo, Caitlin, and Beth, and they towered over the mob.
"Look, kid. I've paid my money, and I'm going to bowl. If you want me gone, you'll have to get me out yourself." He turned to me, smiling proudly. "It's your turn, is it not?"
Getting the message, Josh pulled my ball off the rack and set it down for me to roll. I didn't have the chance, for one of the ignorant boys grabbed me by the tail. I thrashed about, only a token fight compared to his girth. He eyed me evilly, as the boys huddled around me.
"Watcha got there, Jack?" They were poking me, pulling and pinching my fur. Everyone remained calm, breathing deeply to avoid jumping into a fight.
Bo started right up. "He's no different than you. One time, he was exactly like you were. If you would put him down, please…"
"Shut up, bear!" The leader yelled, turning his attention back to me. "Let's teach this rodent not to visit here again!" He pulled a long knife from his pocket, eyeing the sheen with the eyes of a madman. Bedlam was about to break out.
With an evil smile, he started into my rear flank. It's odd, really. Have you ever been in so much pain it doesn't hurt? This was one of those odd times. I was calm, somehow. I knew what was going on, but I didn't care too much.
When the knife entered me, I didn't feel much other than the ice of steel enter and exit me. I think I screamed, but I can't be sure. The entire alley was watching the scene unfold, and some were privy to my abuse. When my crew say the knife slice my flank, they jumped to action. I don't believe I remained consciousness for long…
It was funny listening to the three bragging about the fight. Bo claimed to take three at once, while Caitlin told me how she wrestled the knife from my torturer, while Beth told me how she pulled me to safety.
The hospital cleaned out my wound, but kept me for observation. The small amount of blood I lost was an insane percentage of my total blood count, and they made absolutely sure I was alright. Everyone stayed overnight at my room, or so they told me. Yet another evening ruined by a fight.
I was tired of fighting for my rights. That day in the hospital, I called a lawyer. I knew the mayor was living fat off of levied taxes (isn't politics great?) so I knew he'd be willing to put a huge sum towards fixing me up. The lawyers guaranteed victory, so I left the case to them as I recovered.
I don't like law, anyway. It’s all so chaotic and bureaucratic, and things never happen. Innocents are put to death every day for misdemeanors they didn’t know existed, while born killers get away with anything when they play the right cards. The sad part is that this terrible system is required to maintain order.
The lawyers made good on their promise, leaving me with $200,000 for my suffering. That's where the money came for the new house, of course. The boys came in the next day to apologize, though I knew the apology wasn't meant. The mayor then went on a Crusade for the "elimination of anthropomorphic oppression." The title was funny, but the cause serious.
As for me, I'm in the limelight, interviewed on every news show known. People actually look down now, and watch their feet when they step. Kids keep their distance (thank heavens) and I don't worry about being accepted anywhere. Things are finally looking up…
Just when things are at their best, suddenly the bottom drops out. People now love me too much, and make an effort to space themselves from me. Granted, that means less tail stompings, but I am beginning to miss that magical human element...
Even the little children keep their distance. The brave who continue are chastised by their mothers for "molesting that poor guy." I'm beginning to miss the things I held dear: cynicism and sarcasm. They're almost nonexistent.
All stars fade eventually, thank god. My fifteen minutes in the limelight will end soon, and I will return to my normal life. Maybe now I can avoid all those brutish encounters with bullies, with new laws in place.
It will never happen. Furs and humans cannot ever treat each other like brothers, only neighbors over a very high fence. Prejudice runs deep in the blood of people, and I will surely have more stories for my devout followers to read. Life goes on, after all...
I went to the mall today. Beth and I usually visit this place bimonthly, mainly becaue I need help when shopping. No use in reiterating the troubles in shopping, but for those who just happen to not know doors and carrying things poses a problem for a non-bipedal foot-tall squirrel. She insists she doesn't mind, but I sure do feel silly asking for help with such a simple task.
"How is that wound healing, Sly?" She pointed to my knife wound inflicted by that damned kid. I know he still hates me, more now because I got him in trouble. His apology was faux and only done because he was told to. The wound itself was still shaved from the doctors, and the skin provided stark contrast to the dark brown fur covering my body. A long black scar laced the wound and brought attention upon itself. I couldn't cover it because clothes hurt. It sure catches the attention and sympathy of the crowds, though.
I always try to travel on someone's shoulder if possible. It's so much better than getting stomped below! Besides, it gives me a better view of the world around me. Beth is more than happy to give me a lift on her furred shoulder. I appreciate someone giving me this much help! And so we went, with me speaking silently in her ear.
But back to the mall. "The wound is doing fine. I think the painkillers are doing the job well." A wall presented itself, and I couldn't resist leaping to it to traverse it. Beth saw me wince when I put pressure on the leg.
"Oh, come now! You're in pain. We can always put this off..." I cut her off, but not angrily.
"Please, no. I want out of the house. I've been cooped up too long."
"I see, but what about the pain?"
I smile. "No pain, no gain."
She laughed. "Okay, tough guy. have it your way." The trip continued without deviation.
Life had returned to normal for me, wherever that is. People no longer treat me as a deity, and some actually talk to me! Thankfully, people have returned to not looking to their feet. I know, that sounds odd. I kind of enjoy being understated. The Furs-Only hasn't had much resistance when travelling abroad, the only instances occuring with drunks which didn't last long.
So, we went about our business. Our mall is large, in mall terms. It's dressed in a classic mall fashion, with vaulted ceilings accenting the marbled tile. The place was brightly lit, and natural light was peeking through every creep and crevace. Fake plastic trees lined the area, attempting to give a little natural feel to the place but failing. Storefronts opened their doors cordially to their guests, welcoming them with impulse buys and great deals. Most of the places were clothing stores and had no appeal to me (guess why). Beth stopped at a few, though, and I suffered through them all in stride.
My shopping consisted of only a few stops. I went to the hardware store for materials for a new renovation on my home. More on that later. Using some of the money I had left over from the mayor's settlement, I bought a video game system. It will barely fit in the door, but I plan to build a seperate room for it so I can move it from place to place. There was a single shirt I had to buy for Caitlin; it had a picture of a cartoonish vulpine waiter clumsily answering a call of "foxy lady!" I couldn't resist such a good gag gift. I don't buy much at the mall other than food because most of the stuff doesn't fit in my home.
The food court was a welcome surprise. The whole furry equality deal must have sparked some creative ind; there was a furry cafe! They had confections for any fancy, be it herbivore or carnivore or whatever. Their appeal was to both furry and human, and they had a good mix. I had this wonderful greens combination topped with fresh pecans, and Beth had a meat platter of which its name escapes me. We ate our unique confections with great delight. The Furs-Only has a new group restraunt now!
Beth walked into another clothing store. I moaned, "Another one? It's just like the last one!"
She slapped me playfully. "Not at all! You need some fashion sense, squirrel boy!"
"Hey, I don't need it," I say, laughing, "I don't wear much at all. You human-sized people look so funny in your shirts and shoes!"
She chuckled sarcstically. The store was funny, past the clothing and all. It was called Tellor's. They played Tellor radio over the loudspeaker, offering 50% off their overpriced merchandise. Their clothing was like that of any other store, but it had a small emblem in the corner denoting its origin. That emblem tacked on an additional 30 dollars to the price!
"I hope you don't plan on buying this," I jeer.
"Well, yes." she replies with sass.
"What a ripoff!" She picked out a few outfits, and headed for the dressing rooms, tail bouncing happily. I knew that it would be a long sit for me.
Perhaps you have been in this situation, male readers. You're with a woman shopping for outfits, and given the same situation you would be in and out. Women are different. They prance around the place like a kid in a candy store, picking outfits gaily. Imagine the humor in seeing an adult cheetah prancing on her paws like she has just been graced with the greatest honor on Earth? The next hour wasn't exciting for me, though I did get a few good blows on Beth's rpide.
She tramped out of the dressing room in a bright red shirt and cute overalls. The overalls were unbuttoned, and down past her hips. Though it sounds inappropriate, this is how furs shop. It's simple anatomy: the tail has to go somewhere. Not surprisingly, most furs know how to sew.
"So, how do I look?" she asked excitedly.
"Well, just like you did a second ago, with a red shirt instead of a pink one." I reply sarcastically.
"That's no help!" the cheetah made a comical gesture, accenting the dumbfounded tone to her words. "Which is better?" I got out a coin and flipped it. Laughing, I told her to take red.
"I got your number," she said threateningly.
"You say that all the time," I reply matter-of-factly. She was getting frustrated; I was on a roll! She deliberated a while more, then decided on the red outfit. I take my place on her shoulder after she steps out of the dressing room, walks up to the clerk, and hands the clothing over.
"I still don't believe youre going to pay that!" I exclaim.
"Shut up, Sly," the cheetah replied playfully, extending a claw, "remember: you're prey and I'm predator. I am supposed to have the upper hand." I made a terrified face mockingly, and we laughed. Strangely, the two laughing tones were soured by an off-key sobbing. We looked around to see what was the matter.
I didn't really look at the clerk at first, but she was sobbing uncontrollably. Her tears fell onto Beth's outfit, staining the denim and cloth without shame. She was past the point of coherent thought or even continuing her job. Her face was hidden from view, but she seemed awfully familiar...
"You're..." she forced between sobs, "you're Sly... Sly... Squirrel?"
Unknowing of where she was going with it, I thought it couldn't hurt. "Yes, that's me." I worked my way off Beth's shoulder and onto the counter.
"Sylvester?" She knew my real name! But how?
"That's right. How did you know?"
"I'm so sorry!" She broke down onto me, holding me close and caressing my fur. It's hard for a squirrel to be a strong shoulder to cry on, but I tried my best. Instinct took over, though I still had no idea why she cried or what was going on. After minutes of crying, she finally sobered up enough to speak.
“I left you, after you changed. I’m so sorry.” I knew her and what she did, but what was her name?
"So, what's your story, gorgeous?" a twinge of Casablanca entered my voice. I rather enjoyed it.
"I didn't understand what you were becoming, so I just forgot about you. How could I know you would be so alone?" her angle suddenly became clear.
"I was never alone. Perhaps it's good you left."
"What?" the guilt subsided, leaving only the underlying anger to throb. "You didn't want me around?"
"No, that's not the case at all," I frantically backed out of my comment, "I would never have found my new identity. If you remained, I woudl have clung to my human life and family and never would have distovered the true joys of fur and claws! It would have depressed me to suicide if I didn't find furry friends to relate to!" I was pleased with my recovery, and it seemed to work well.
"It was that bad?" I nodded solemnly. "But, I could never know!"
"Nobody could ever know," I tactfully reply.
She seemed much better now. "So, who is this?"
"This is Beth," I indicate my companion. "She's here to help me shop."
"Nice to meet you," Beth squinted at the name tag, "Serena."
She sat in a moment of silent contemplation. "I never thought such a simple task could be so difficult..."
"No one knows, and I like it that way. I hate sympathy; it's so degrading on my manly persona..." I struck a comical pose, and the three of us laughed. Her eye then caught my wound, and she gasped.
"What happened, Sly? You look like you've been cut open!"
"I was," Beth and I chuckled, but Serena didn't see the humor in the afterthought.
"I was mugged, and the court settlement has plentifully reimbursed me. It looks real bad, but that's because they had to shave me to clean the wound. It's a real drag on my image." I smiled.
"How can you not take that seriously?" she said in disbelief.
"I've learned to laugh at everything, since I've become one of the laughed at," I cryptically reply. She passed right over it.
"We need to get the old gang together! I'm sure they're dying to see how you've turned out," she exclaimed. Elation was apparent in her body; her hands were in constant motion.
"Sounds good. You still have their numbers?" She waved a black book in front of me.
"Always keep my best friends close at hand," she smirked. "How's tomorrow?"
"You can plan something that quickly?" I was surprised at her urgency. "I guess so. Give me your pen." She handed over the pen in wordless reply. I scribbled down my address and number onto the paper. "Surprise me here."
"We sure will," a long pause followed, "but right now I have to work! See you tomorrow, Sly." I waved goodbye, and Beth and I were off.
"Who was she?" Beth asked, out of the range of human hearing. We could still hear Serena chattering away on the phone, suddenly invigorated by the new task.
“She was one of my friends long ago," I reply. The wall was close at hand, and I couldn't resist strolling down it. Those who were sitting on the wall made room for me, much to my surprise. I usually have to stop and pardon myself through. Today, they were exceptionally polite.
"Sounds a little off her rocker," the cheetah spoke humorously.
"We're all off our rocker in one respect or another," I catch myself in the terrible cliche. "I've been using too many proverbs lately. What do you think?"
"I like them. They make you sound so vouge," she struck a pose that sent us into fits of laughter. Sobering up, she asked, "So what are you going to do with your old friends?"
"I don't know. Perhaps I'll show them the house, reminice on old times, take them to the bar, and whatever comes up. I don't make plans for friendly get-togethers."
"Makes sense," the cheetah agreed, "So I get to see all your old friends?"
"Maybe, if you happen to be in the bar."
"I can't miss an opportunity like this! You know I'll be there." She shone an evil smile to my direction, and I cringed mockingly. We continued out the door and into Beth's car. We talked about the weather as she drove home. For once, a day went by without serious incident. I'm amazed.
The past few days have been a fury of preparation. I’ve been staying in quite a bit, and the place is a mess! Granted, they won’t be coming inside, but it’s still a good excuse to clean up. My taped tour of the house will suffice.
I set up a television on the lower level. It’s set into the tree, protected by a weatherproof shutter. The outside pane of the door is painted in a natural texture as to not take from the rugged beauty of my home. Everyone thinks the idea is great, though I don’t entertain many visitors.
Oh, this will be fun! I’ll get to catch up on old times, and talk with my old friends, and take them to the Furs-Only, and get on friendly terms with those I’ve lost, and… Oh, I’m just so excited! I need to calm down; squirrels are very easy to excite. I don’t want to look mildly psychotic in their eyes!
Well, they’re arriving now. I’ll finish this later.
What a night! Everyone arrived with friendly faces and cordial personalities. They commented on my house, and I showed them the video tour. They said it was a wonderful building. We shared stories, and most of them were working in another computer company. I told them the full story of my ordeal, and they cringed. The wound still bore witness to my torment, and of course their sympathy attempted to pour over to me. I refused it, as always.
Three of my old friends showed up; three couldn’t make it because of plans. My guess is they decided to not come at all. Oh, well. I’m not going to force anyone to be my ally or not. Those who align themselves with me, therefore, are true companions.
Serena, of course, organized the whole thing. She’s a tall woman, maybe six foot one or so. Her long brown hair extends past her shoulders, and is always waving this way or that. Her smile is enchanting, but her voice is whiny and annoying. I don’t mind listening to mousey voices, if they have something to say, and Serena is an excellent talker. Her job is already apparent: She works at the clothing store to supplement her husband’s cash flow.
Chris is a normal guy. He stands six feet tall, and has a head of blonde hair. He has a job at the most prestigious hospital in the state. His arms and legs are sinewy and thin, but is surprisingly strong. His head is styled in a short crew cut, usually covered by a hat of some sort. Today, he had on a ski hood. It’s truly a comical sight.
Joe is a squat man, husky and broad in the shoulders. He’s a full head shorter than Chris, but he’s twice as thick in the chest area. You can always see him wearing t-shirts and jeans. He isn’t very stylish, but makes up for it in personality. He’s a fun guy to be around because he has lightning fast wits. He always gets the last word in somehow. He’s the first one who saw my transformation, if you remember.
Finally, we were all in the same place! We drove to the Furs-Only to make introductions and pick up passengers for our night on the town. They were amazed the place existed; they always thought the forest was unoccupied. Their eyes bulged and jaws dropped when they entered the tavern to see such a nostalgic scene!
Everyone was introduced to everyone, and everyone decided to join in the fun. Beth, Kate, Bo, and Caitlin joined our party. Josh had things to do, so he wasn’t at the bar. It was too bad, too. All the furs piled into the truck, but I remained in my car. I didn’t think my human friends were quite acclimated with my furry lifestyle yet.
Isn’t that strange? Furries are so outgoing, and that makes our lifestyle very different. When humans try to mingle with us, they are nervous or bashful. We try to loosen them up, but they just wind tighter like a tuned guitar string. I guess they just don’t like to have a good time.
So, we went out for a late night movie. The theater was empty, so we owned the place. After deliberation and a close vote, we decided on the new action flick Chaingun Pete. I was against the choice, but what do I know?
The Ritz was an old-style theater. There was one screen, and a refreshment stand out front. That’s it. No multi-screen confusion, no arcade, just the movies. The actual theater was decked in curtains, and the chairs were worn thin with use. We love this theater simply because it reeks with history and a soul. It’s hard to emulate this feeling in multi-screen abominations.
We propagated refreshments, and sat down to the movie. I guess we were lucky to be in there alone; furs tend to get excited when in large numbers. I’m sure we’ll embarrass Serena, Chris, and Joe. They’ll just get used to it and maybe get into the act, or at least I hope.
The movie itself was a terrible testosterone representation of the classic “one man kills them all” epic. An impossibly built vulpine ran around, mowing down assorted persons with his limitless MP5. It contained a horrendous plot, toned down so more killing could be added. Bo seemed to like it, sitting with Chris and Joe talking like guys do at testosterone movies. I would join in, if the movie didn’t stink like last year’s soured milk.
I was bored out of my mind. Our theater’s walls are clothed, and I thought I would have some fun. I worked my way up the wall, until I was directly above Beth, Caitlin, and Serena. I could hear them talking amongst themselves about the guys to their left. Serena seemed to be blending very well; she had no reservation when it came to gossip and such!
“So, who’s the cutest?” asked Serena. Thank god for enhanced squirrel hearing!
“I don’t know… I’d say Joe,” said Caitlin. “He’s like a puppy dog!” I cringed. Who would have thought Joe could possibly be compared to a puppy dog?
“No! I’d definitely go with Chris,” replied Beth, then added with a smile, “but I prefer mine with a little more fur on the chest.”
“Chris? Why him? Give me Joe’s rugged look any time!” Kate finally entered the conversation.
“Joe? He’s little stocky for my tastes,” deliberated Beth.
“But what about Bo and Josh?” asked Serena.
“They’re just boys. Boys will be boys.” Kate said sassily, sending the trio into laughter. The males looked over, but didn’t get an answer as to what sent the girls to laughter.
Kate started the boy talk again. “You know who’s really neat? Sly.” They were talking about me! All right, premium knowledge…
“Where did he go off to?” Beth asked the obvious, and I hid behind a rafter. They all looked around, but then continued on.
“He’s like a doll or something,” said Caitlin, “fragile, but cool.” I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. I’m just a fragile doll. How am I supposed to get women looking like a fine china masterpiece, easy to break? This is ludicrous! Detested, I clamber back down the curtains and join my masculine brethren for the horrific movie. They talked women and cars, but I didn’t listen. I’d just reply with a yes or no here and there.
The movie ended, and we all headed out to our respective vehicles. The drive home was nearly silent, until Chris spoke up. “Hey Sly, I bet you’d be interested in what I’m involved with in the hospital.”
I bit for the lead. “Go on.”
“Well, my team is working on an XLRS1 antidote. We’re looking for test subjects for the treatment. It’s as safe as it will get before we test it on people.
“Is it at no charge?” I couldn’t believe what was happening! The answer to my problems could be right here in my face.
“Yes, all you have to do is sign a few forms and stay at the hospital for observation.”
“I’ll consider it.” I dropped off everyone, and headed to my own. My sleep was laced with dreams of finally becoming human. Maybe it would be a good idea, maybe it wouldn’t. I’m sure everyone will be talking about it at the Furs-Only tomorrow. I know I will.
I can’t sleep. Dreams haunt me, dreams of what may be and what once was. I saw all my old friends, and how they look upon me now. Women led me on, only to laugh and pet my cute little skull. People were too high to talk to, and they looked down at me asking why I was so silent. This is the last straw. I can’t take this torture anymore! It’s high time I take some action.
I woke up this morning and made the call to arrange an appointment for tomorrow. Today would be my last day as a squirrel. Joy mixes with sadness, making the day seem more than it should be. I decide to try to get a full helping of all that squirrel life offers today.
It’s snowing outside. I love snow, especially when it’s new-fallen and pure. Immediately after waking up, I dove into a drift just outside my tree. For the next hour I did nothing but frolic in the white crystals. Drying off, I hopped into my car and drove to the Furs-Only.
True to my prophecy, the gang was talking about Chris’s procedure. They only took a moment to greet me before continuing on with their conversation. I took a soft pillow in the sitting area where everyone else was. The snow continued outside, dancing around the homely bar. It seemed like there was no intention of making time to go outdoors today, much to my dismay.
“You think it’s worth the trouble, Sly?” Beth was talking about the procedure.
“Yeah, in some cases,” I reply softly, still dreaming about the snowball fight I wanted so badly.
“I would never give up these claws!” Caitlin exclaimed.
“But if it made you normal?” Bo spoke with reason.
“I rather enjoy being out-of-the-ordinary!” Caitlin retorted, emotion flooding every word.
“I’ll second that movement!” said Josh, out of character.
“You should watch yourself with those words, ‘cause you might hurt yourself!” I sarcastically comment.
“Yeah, you aren’t used to using those terms,” Caitlin added with a smirk, “Hey! Maybe Josh will start to act intelligently!”
“Hush! I can be smart when I want to!” Josh fought off the blows, but to no avail. Kate broke the silence that followed.
“Granted, a few days in a regular human body wouldn’t be too bad,” said Kate, “but I wouldn’t want to return permanently. Look at what we have here: a comradely unmatched in regular society. What could humanity possibly offer to dissuade our way of life?”
“I’m going to try it,” I say defiantly, amidst stares from everyone, “in fact, today is the last day of Sly as we know him.”
“But you can’t!” Beth jumped in, “Why don’t you want to stay?”
“Look at me,” I indicate my miniscule body, “I’m about a foot tall! It’s time for a change, time to be a regular person for once!”
“That’s what makes you who you really are!” she replied passionately.
“That makes me a target, Beth. I’m tired of being roused up without being able to fight back. It’s for the better, I guarantee. Besides, just because I’m human doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving you guys in the dust!” they smile, and I indicate the door. “It’s snowing outside! What are we doing in here?” I run out the door, closely followed be everyone in one laughing mass.
A winter day isn’t complete without a snowball fight, and today was no different. Yelps of different amplitude and varying pitch were emitted from the clearing that day, muffled by flying snow and playful grappling. Everyone was a dirty snowball fighter, with me being no exception. Not being able to manifest a gigantic snowball, I usually shake snow-laden branches onto unsuspecting heads. The scream I get in reply is worth the effort of finding a target and luring them in.
Everyone really gets into a snowball fight around these parts. Bo went right out into the clearing, flinging all the snow he could find lying around. Caitlin was a bit craftier, choosing her targets carefully between bits of cover. Beth was a mess, and didn’t have a plan of attack at all. She did a lot of screaming. Josh and Kate chased each other in the snow, eventually catching one another and rolling in the white cover. It’s truly a sight to behold.
All good things come to an end, though, and this was no exception. With the sun waning and the snow supply running out, the party begrudgingly returned indoors. A small dinner was served up haphazardly: steamed vegetables and hot dogs. I took in my vegetables at a leisurely pace; there was no rush through my last meal as Sly.
The philosophy transcended unto everyone else, and the Last Supper was filled with small talk abound. Caitlin talked about how her fur mats up, and we all related. Kate raved about her new novel, and even spun a synopsis on the fly. It’s quite entertaining to watch the lapin pitch an idea; the body language is enough to send even the most steely-facade to fits of laughter. Josh acted like himself, only jumping in to relate to what had been said. Beth stepped in with her “new outfit” routine, one I was quite familiar with from months of shopping with her.
Bo stayed deathly silent. His intent and focus on the food in front of him was scary and unnerving. Finally succumbing to my curiosity, I asked what could possibly be wrong. “It’s nothing, really.” Of course nobody believed him, and hounded the bear until he broke.
“It’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now, just that I seem to take it differently,” said the bear somberly, “Sly Squirrel will be gone tomorrow. Isn’t that reason enough to be sad and reclusive?”
“No, I’m not going anywhere,” I say in anger incited by Bo’s incessant moping, “I’m just changing forms, that’s all. The body is a vessel for the soul, after all. Because I change physically, does that mean I change in personality?”
Bo really had me shook up, and I pointed out his hypocrisy. “Remember the alley, Bo? Remember the kids, the jeers, the knife? Remember how angry we got at them? Why were we enraged? They thought we were different, when actually we were the same people we once resembled. We are all the same, Bo, and that is why we are here talking right now. We know everyone is equal, and try to show that common courtesy to our fellows. Have you forgotten so soon?” A pause filled the room, as I inhaled in heaves from the exertion both physical and mental.
“You’re right. I’m sorry about that, Sly.” Bo said, obviously taken by surprise by the revelation.
“Let’s just let bygones be bygones,” I happily reply, “and just enjoy the moment.” The meal pushed aside, a daring young ferret approached the karaoke stand. Of course, it was terrible, but nobody expects a stellar performance from anyone on stage. Fitting the situation, Kate turned on “Friends in Low Places” and we shattered glass with the wail-a-long heartbreak tune. Truly getting in the mood, we waste the night away on different songs; some upbeat, some down and blue, and some simply out-of-the-ordinary. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
As all good things go, they must come to an end. This was no exception, and there was no shortage of tears to go around. Bo and Josh refused to cry, but the womenfolk were wailing with regret and loss. I soothed their tears as best as possible, after shaking hands with the men. They gave encouragement and good luck, while the girls seemed to give their life lessons to me in thirty seconds or less. I tried to reason with them that I would be back tomorrow, but they would hear none of it. Partially satisfied, I walk out the door and onward to my home.
So, the last hours of my squirrel life wind down. Knowing it would be my last time, I take one more go-round in the trees. It had to last, so I did the most daring feats I’ve ever tried. The brisk wind ruffled my face as I flew threw through the treetops. Pine crinkled below me, releasing its powerful aroma. The wind blew in my ears, howling its song of the forbidden night. Running free without restriction is the greatest thing in the world; perhaps one of the most natural movements ever created. After perhaps an hour of sprinting from tree to tree, I return home to a warm house. Its ambience shines like a beacon in the bleak darkness, inviting yet disappointingly climatic.
The house is so quiet. Only the creaking of the sub-floor can be heard over the soft sounds of the forest. A cricket chirps in the distance, augmented by the occasional hooting of an owl. Trees rustle in the soft wind, giving their soothing rhythm to the home. In a fit of disgust, I turn on the radio. Smooth music only augments the pure beauty of the moment.
Why should I be sad? Tomorrow is the first day of my old life.
Avalon Hospital is a large and foreboding place, especially for someone as small as I. The entire building is clad in a stark white, at the least appalling to the eye. Everyone was friendly in the lobby, with a player piano playing the ragtime tune “Hello My Baby.” Carpet lines all the halls in this gargantuan room, with the walls paneled in white marble. Chairs are every which way, yielding magazines and other forms of entertainment. Chris was waiting at the door for me, and greeted me heartily as I came through the revolving door.
“Hey there Sly!” he spoke in a friendly tone like that which is used on a little kid, “How are you today?”
“Ready for this to begin,” I said with resolve, “You can cut the act. I know you don’t do that to everyone that walks in the door.” The coldness took him aback, until he realized what this operation meant to me. Just know he realized that this would change my life forever.
“Right. Actually, I do greet everyone like that when I’m in these scrubs,” he chuckled, “Shall we go down to the lab?” I followed him down the carpeted halls, until he turned off into a nondescript hallway. It was tiled in pure white, with all walls retaining the stark color of the tiled floor. He made enough lefts and rights to get me lost; I couldn’t imagine how someone could keep their bearings in here! Finally, he opened a hallway door and motioned me in.
“If you’ll have a seat on the table…” he looked at me, then at the high table, and frowned. “Let me give you help up,” he said as he pulled me onto the table.
“Since you came to this hospital for XLRS1 immediately after the transformations started, your name was at the top of our lists for reversal. We’ve painstakingly worked out this specialized solution to change your genes,” Chris pulled a vial from the drawer at the side of the room.
“And you’ve done that much work for lil’ ol’ me?” We laughed, but Chris sobered.
“Honestly, we could make you anything now by just telling the computer what to do,” he said evilly.
“Watch yourself there,” I jump on the joke.
“Don’t worry about it,” Chris said calmly, “I have morals, you know.”
“I know,” I say jokingly, “We’re not sure what kind yet.”
“Hush,” he stopped the verbal fencing dead. The needle approached my skin, penetrating and releasing its elixir into my blood. “This should do you fine. We’ll keep you here for observation,” he smiled, “Besides, your home will be a little small now, right?”
I laughed. “Finally, it will be.”
He opened the door to the room, “Shall I show you to your quarters?” He made a majestic bow, and I followed suit. We went down more stark white hallways, not without me losing what was left of my orientation. After what seemed like miles of monotonous hallway, Chris opened a nondescript door for me. “This will be where you rest your head for the next few days. I think you’ll find the furnishings self-explanatory.”
“Thanks. What do you guys do to people ‘under observation?’”
“Well, you’ll be under video surveillance all the time. You’re free to move around as you please, but I don’t suggest it in the next two hours. Those will be the most intense reversal hours.” I wanted to ask why, but I was afraid to inquire.
“Works for me,” I say with a smile, “Do I get charged for phone calls?”
“No, just as long as they aren’t long distance.”
“Good. I have some housing issues to take care of, mainly a getting a place fit for my new body,” I smiled, and he followed suit.
“I can see that being a problem in the future. Dial away! Just be pre-warned that you may not talk much in these first two hours!” These seemed to be hellacious! “Well, I’ll leave you be. I’ll be back in a while to check your progress. Enjoy!” He shut the door behind him, as I sat down on the bed in the room.
This wasn’t a normal hospital room. It was homelier, and a bit larger. The bed was a simple model, without the adjustable qualities of orthodox hospital beds. A large television sat on the floor, right next to a makeshift kitchen. The refrigerator was stocked with an odd combination of my favorite squirrel and human food. Someone was expecting me…
Still thinking about the next “two hours,” I sat down to watch television. The TV is such a funny thing. It never really settles onto one topic, rather jumps in a chaotic pattern to keep the attention of viewers. Wonderful concepts are hacked to pieces and fed with flashy décor to the patrons, who lap it up like a kitten does milk. It’s not brain food, per say, but rather a drug that does nothing but pass time. I hate television.
Even worse is television news. They cover things nobody would know or care about, if it wasn’t human interest. Yes, humans enjoy having their heartstring plucked. The media plays that note repetitively, knocking the string out of tune. If it jerks tears, it’s news. Informative entertainment is what newscasts have become.
The TV clicks off in my disgust. I lay on the bed, imagining what it will be like to be human again. Daydreaming, I imagine women all over me. It’s been five long years since I’ve had a girl in my midst… this form is anything but a woman magnet. Sure, I get wonderful pity from women, but never mutual love and respect. It’s finally going to change.
That’s when the transformation began. It hurt when my tail came back into my body, kind of like setting a broken bone. The process took its time, seeming to savor my pain. I yelled out loudly, but never asked for help. I knew this had to be done on my own. Never did I close my eyes, and I noticed my height double during the de-tailing. For the first time in years, I was able to reach cabinets!
The next phase was excruciating. In the next thirty seconds, my face was reconfigured. My face felt like ground hamburger as the bones popped and rubbed against each other. Thankfully, the process was lightning fast. The full-body mirror in the room revealed that I was a two feet tall human covered in fur. Even with the covering, I jumped for joy.
Chris walked in at about the same time. “So, the first stage is over with?”
I turned to him giddily. “I think so. Look, I can reach cabinets!”
“That’s great. You’ll lose the fur in your sleep, and probably shoot up another foot or two. The process was made to be moderately quick, and we’ll only keep you cooped up in this place for about a week for further observation.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I smiled. Things were looking up, finally.
“Well, it’s about five o’ clock anyway, so I’ll just leave you to get some rest.” Five? Did that much time really pass by?
“All right.” He left, and I snuggled into my bed. I could take a week of this treatment…
The days passed by quickly, with the transformation only taking two days to complete. I wore my first outfit in a long time on the third day, and had my first cut of meat (a wonderful prime rib – I never thought meat could taste so sweet) on the fourth. The call to my realtor got me a home that would last for years on end, so I relaxed as much as I could possibly do under the situation.
The period of observation ended, and I was released to go home. Of course, I had to dump all the instruments out of my car, and reveled in the freedom of movement I was suddenly given. For the first time in ages, I was able to function as a normal person without special implements. With a yelp of joy, I drove out of the hospital parking lot.
Thinking it appropriate, I drove down to the Furs-Only to let everyone know the good news. They all stared at the human who walked so casually in their bar, and inquired as to who he was. I simply said, “It’s me, Sly,” and they jumped to disbelief.
“You make a fine human,” Bo said approvingly.
“I guess so,” Beth begrudgingly chimed in. She wasn’t happy that I went through with this.
“I wouldn’t have done it,” said Kate.
“Why not?” I ask with curiosity. Who wouldn’t want out of a life of torment?
“You’ll see, Sly, that you had a great setup going on here. We understood you, and still do. I’m happy for you, and we’ll always be right behind you in all your endeavors.” If there was one thing Kate is good at, it has to be words.
Bo would have nothing to do with a guilt trip. “So, what did they do?” he asked.
“The way they explained it was confusing, but I’ll try my best. The formula is a chemical mix that reconfigures genetic material in the blood. When activated, it forces the body into another growth spurt. It’s the second puberty that creates the new body.” Bo seemed satisfied.
“Is it reversible?” asked Beth. She may have been hoping I would still reconsider.
“From what I got, yes. I’ll just keep that in mind.”
“Good, then there’s still a chance you’ll go back.” I let the silence linger for a split second.
“Thank you guys. I’ll still be a regular here; I will never forget my roots! Right now, I’m going to live a night of human life!”
“Tell us if you find anything worth our while,” Beth said sarcastically.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” I say with a smile. We parted, and I took my first outing on the town in ages.
Tonight didn’t turn out like I hoped it would. I did go to a wonderful nightclub in town, one that Chris himself recommended to me. It was a large room, crossed with platforms and colored lights. A fog stood over the area, mostly cigarette smoke from the stringent smokers in the place. The dance area was alive with dancing lights and diving lasers. A rainbow of colored ambience played around the rhythmic motion of the whole. Black lights bathed the room in neon ambience.
I tried to talk to some of the women in the bar, but to no avail. Every last one I talked to had one thing on their mind: sex. They were ditzy and dumb, their only talent seeming to be innuendoes. It made me sick to think people could be that overpowered by lust! It may have been comical, if it weren’t for the women’s “friends.”
Yes, they had their own dominators. They were muscle-bound people, standing about seven feet tall and probably had double my muscle. They pushed me around for sport, harassing me for responding to their chicks. It was about to turn ugly, but thankfully the management for the bar sent in their own orderlies to avert the impending situation. Confused and a little disappointed, I headed towards the bar.
The burning of whiskey down my throat pulls my thoughts into perspective. Perhaps this was what Kate was talking about, how I would realize what a wonderful life I was leaving behind? People are stupid. Maybe I’m only dealing with the mass of the populace, and a few are orthodox and polite. More likely is that this is what human life is: pleasure without consequence.
We live day to day, dominance ruling our lives. People must be able to say they reign supreme. Wars break out over beliefs and territory. Yet we call ourselves an “advanced race.” Liquor burns my throat again, as my edge of my vision blurs. The thought process brings me to the conclusion.
Now I understand. I paid for my friends at the Furs-Only in my own pride, and that’s why they are the best companions one could wish for. We were all in the same boat, sharing a common experience. Humans with shared tragedy usually stay tight, but otherwise live in their own world.
Maybe it was the animal instincts working on me. Squirrels are kind and passive by nature. Maybe that’s why I’m appalled at these new predatory instincts. What scares me the most is that I yearn to do what the muscleheads do. It’s sad, isn’t it?
“You look like you’re troubled. Want a sympathetic ear?” the bartender stood at eye level with me, smiling and polishing a glass. I looked up at her, and gave a weak smile.
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Now, you know I don’t believe that one for a second,” she replied tactfully, “What’s on your mind?” The swirling lights played on her face, adding an air of mysterious origin to her facade.
Thinking I could be cryptic, I spoke mysteriously, “I left behind my identity a long time ago. When I came back to reclaim it, I found I didn’t want it anymore.” A dance track started in the background, loud enough to break eardrums.
“That sounds mystic,” she said, “but at least you aren’t one of those furry folks,” she looked down into her shiny glass, pretending to look for spots.
“Huh? And why is that?” my interests sparked up; now I could get the other side of the story!
“They get no respect! I’ve seen them kicked around a lot; one came into this club and was chased out! Called himself Josh. Craziest ferret I’ve ever seen,” she stated matter-of-factly. I could see Josh doing something like that… she put another glass in front of me, and I downed it without complaint. The mulling effect of the alcohol was truly getting to me now.
She lit up, like an inspiration came to mind. “Hey, I know something that’ll put it in perspective! Remember that one squirrel, Sly?” I hid my look of surprise, for she would never know whom she was talking to.
“Go on,” I say, hiding a smirk.
“Yeah, he was cut up at a bowling alley just because he was there. They just picked him up by the tail and took a knife to his flank. I couldn’t imagine how malicious someone would have to be to do that!”
“I know what you mean,” a long pause followed. I wanted to tell her, but I refrained in fear of inciting uproar. “I can imagine what it would feel like.” She poured another glass for me, and I took obvious action.
“I wouldn’t mind being in their shoes for a day. They say it’s a close-knit group, because they all share their experiences in the real world. Besides, their bravery would have to be unparalleled to survive in such trying conditions!” The irony dribbled from her mouth, unbeknownst to her.
“One could never comprehend their joy or sorrow,” I ironically cry out.
“Ain’t it the truth.” Feeling her work was done, she walked off to help another torn soul. The music softened as the DJ stepped off the platform.
I miss being a squirrel. I miss my tail. I miss my old face and the extra senses. I miss how warm my fur made me. I miss the freedom of my form. I miss the Furs-Only. I miss all the great times I had with the gang.
So, here I am again. Instead of yearning for normalcy, I dream of going to back to what I wanted to escape long ago! Depression overwhelms me. Suicide has never been an option for me; it’s too easy. Instead, I press on through the good and bad. There is no greater irony than yearning for what I once loathed.
I was an individual. My face and personality were something unforgettable. People I talked to would remember me long after I would forget, and kids would just adore my antics and powerful words. Here I am, without my wonderful uniqueness. Nobody will remember me when I walk out of this bar. They won’t say, “Remember that one squirrel?” to their friends on the trip home.
I’ve become one of the crowd. Yes, I have achieved my ultimate “dream.” I’m just like everyone else, just another face. I’m like the next guy, who’s like the next guy beside him, who’s like everyone else. Humanity, for all its diversity, converges on a singularity. I was never part of that, and now I’m living the dream. The grass is always greener on the other side of the lawn.
Isn’t life wonderful? We always want what we don’t have, but hate it once it’s within our grasp. Perhaps that’s how we’re destined to act, to throw what we hold dear away for the arbitrary and unknown. Thrill, adventure, and fulfillment of infatuation pull us to do the unthinkable. And here I am, wishing upon myself a disease that caused me so much torment.
Paying the tab, I walk out of the noisy place and into my car. Driving home, I optimistically reason that tomorrow is another day, filled with new meaning and a new lust for life.
Tomorrow, though, never comes.
My new apartment is wonderful. It doesn’t have much in the room department, but I’ve found myself fond of tight places since my transformation. It consists of three rooms, set in an odd fashion by myself. Most who enter the home are taken aback by the unorthodox fashion laid out.
The kitchen leads to the bathroom, right beside the bedroom. It’s not a bedroom, per say, but rather a futon and entertainment center. It’s on shag carpet, my favorite type of rug. The futon is framed in black, with a charcoal cover on the pallet. Blankets are stored above, on a cherry wood shelf. A soft tone of yellow lines the room, leading into the kitchen.
The kitchen is a simple place, consisting of a refrigerator, microwave, and stove. The fridge is nostalgic, with its design originating from the early seventies. The stove follows suit, though slightly more modern. The microwave is top-of-the-line, since that’s what I usually use. Cheap linoleum-topped particle board plays the counter. It’s a kitchen, just not a nice one.
The living room is where I spend the most time. It opens up into a large forest, thanks to a nice bay window (it’s what got me hooked on the abode; otherwise this place would be a dump). The room itself is carpeted in a soft black covering, accenting the bright couch and television. My computer hangs in a corner, happy after its upgrade from “Sly-size,” as the manufacturer dubbed my special order. The bay window is where I lay as I scribe this entry.
Rain pelts the windows of my darkened abode in sheets. The soft legato of drizzle is intertwined with the sharp, loud staccato of a storm’s furious pelting downpour. Its rhythms and beats pound upon my abode, making their own music. Percussional as it may be, it soothes the nerves with its warring tones. Rain soothes nerves in unrest and upheaval.
The lightning laces the air, unfolding in its theatrical drama right outside my bay window. It appears suddenly, writhing in the air in a spectacular display of light and movement. Flickering brightly, it flashes away almost as quickly as it came. The warring clouds launch their bolts upon the Earth, shattering the silence with all the fury of Zeus. It plays in with the patter or rain, accenting measures with a sobering overtone.
To extract maximum enjoyment, all the lights in my house are off. I sit in my bay window, propped up by pillows of soft avian down. The windows collect moisture, creating patterns identifiable and obscure in the rain splatters. I see a small rodent off to the side for a moment, washed away the next second by a wall of water. The actors manifest and disperse, creating an everlasting cycle of life and death. When the rain leaves, the circle goes also. So fragile it is.
And so my mind wanders. What is humanity? It was like an impossible dream all these years, but suddenly it has fallen out with force unknown. Living as a human is not all its cracked up to be, as I have said before. When you look over the fence, it all looks so ravishing and enticing. Living from outside made me yearn for the form out of my reach.
Now, I have what I’ve always wanted. Here I am, human as my next-door neighbor. People don’t stare at me, and I can talk to somebody without them shying away. Shouldn’t I be happy?
Isn’t this what I wanted? Isn’t this what I fought for all along?
Granted, it’s all great and glorious, but I’m still not happy. I looked over all the results, checked all my angles and all my true feelings, yet I’m still not happy. Shouldn’t I be jumping for joy that people like me? What’s missing from my life?
Why didn’t I think of this before? I miss Sly Squirrel. I miss the guy who was always surprising people. I miss the fur coat. I miss my muzzle, ears, and elongated nose. I miss my swirling tail. I miss having claws. I miss not climbing in trees.
I miss my friends most of all. We really had something there, some sort of deep-seeded connection. We were all in the same boat, loving our forms for what they were truly worth. There, I understood them and they understood me. So my quest for humanity was in vain.
Nobody has given me comfort in this form. People are worried about themselves, about procreating. People don’t care about loving Sly; they care about the love Sly can give. They won’t hold me when I’m crying. They only care about how they can get their loving.
Beth was somebody that gave me comfort. She cared about Sly. She loved Sly. She would hold Sly when he cried and sooth his tears with gentle support. And I would do the same for her.
I wish I were more like Kate. She never really cared what people thought of her at first glance. She worked hard to make her image speak for itself after the first meeting. People would hold her when she cried, and she would do the same for them. Maybe I should call her; she could work me out of this deep blue funk…
The phone rings, almost answering my call for companionship. I answer the call tentatively, almost in dismay of losing the moment of meditation. The voice on the other end was Beth, not Kate as I wished, but nonetheless still someone I knew well. Emotion flowed through my veins, and I wanted to tell her what I was thinking. She wasn’t her normal self, though.
I knew something was wrong from the first moment of conversation. She was withdrawn, sobbing softly and trying to hide it. Instead of focusing the conversation on me, I asked what was wrong. The answer from the other end was terrifying and earth-shattering. The phone hit the floor as the words flowed to my ears.
“She’s dead, Sly… Kate is dead.”
The mortuary was more homely and inviting than I ever imagined. Lovely collages of earthen burn sienna and soft yellow bathe in the soft halogen glow. The ceilings are done in plaster, dabbled with a brush to get a texture effect. The wall has a floral pattern trimming a two-tone dark to light pattern of yellow. It’s so peaceful and inviting, yet disgustingly overdone and sympathetic.
A kitchen resided in a side room, where people with forethought brought lunchmeat and chips to snack on. They knew it would be a long stay in this forsaken place, and prepared for the worst. Children roamed the area, filling the desolate and morning halls with joyful chatter. The joy foiled the sadness perfectly, setting a tone of confusion and irony. The commotion was carried outside after a chastising by the parents. I didn’t feel like going in to see Kate yet, so I followed the children. They would be better for my grief, anyway.
Summer had performed the transition into fall, and the temperature remained ambient for the time being. The slight chill felt wonderful on my bare skin. A fog settled over the gathering, but the children wouldn’t let that get in the way. They still found a way to seek joy in the grass and forest outside.
The children themselves were quite different from what was usually found in life. With the exception of three human brothers, the majority of the children were a jambalaya of different animal forms. two rabbits chased each other ragged outside, with a small fox siting patiently in mock hunt. A female kitten-like human groomed herself, talking dreamily to a male dog of similar age.
They were all so happy. Some were Kate’s favorite children in the world, and they loved her ardently. It wasn’t that they didn’t care; it was youth that kept the tears away. People are funny that way, losing their innocence to a much deeper and useless emotion. Their happiness made me yearn to be young again. Their carefree attitude made me yearn for my old form again.
The cure I helped to pioneer was being administered to many more subjects now, and many of the children showed their changes. In fact, most were showing signs of fur loss here or there. Only the fox remained completely in animal form, much to my surprise.
In curiosity, I waltzed over to him and said hello. He identified me immediately as Sly; his Aunt Caitlin told him stories about how “Sly became a human with dark brown hair and bulging muscle.” I smile at that comment, and make a modest gesture. The dark vulpine eyes scan over me, taking in my visage into account. After his scan, I ask why he isn’t transforming.
“I don’t want it,” he said, “I like the way I am.” Of course, I ask why, to which he replies, “I just feel comfortable. I beat everyone in foot races, and I have senses my human friends don’t. People treat me differently, yes, but I love the struggle. Life constantly throws curves, after all.” I was amazed at how the small child fielded the question, obviously wise beyond his years. Of course, one has to be that intelligent when fending for themselves. Staggered, I politely take my leave. The showing should begin soon.
The parlor doors creak open for me, the smell of polyurethane emanating from the treated wood. I walk down the carpeted hall, letting the neutral scent fill and neutralize my soul. This sad place still ironically could be mistaken for a beautiful household, in the artist’s eye. The walls were bare, with the exception of a few paintings here and there.
Kate Ponduro was placed on the door, nothing more than a piece of plastic slid into a metal clip. The thought of reusability enraged my emotional side, but appealed to the logic in me. I sit silently in the hall for a second, debating on whether this is truly worth the pain. An usher comes along, though, and persuades me to go in with gentle courtesy. He opens the doors for me, and I enter into a chaotic scene.
It was an interesting gathering, to say the least. Specks of humans mix in among the sea of furs filling the hall. People of all shapes, sizes, and species flow in a never-ending sea of grief intertwined with happiness. Some were taking the proceedings quite well, while others were crying uncontrollably. Others still were babbling to drown out the pain and sorrow. Their grief would be released in private, where nobody could see them cry.
Generic organ music blared over a small boom box in the corner. The CD probably cost five dollars, and the sound system twenty. Here we were, honoring a dead loved one with cheap organ arrangements played on a system not meant for a room this size. Our society shows its true colors.
I myself think I handled the situation quite well. I talked with old friends, as most people I knew were there to pay their dues. Chris, Serena, and Joe were there, and I took the time to stop by.
“Hey there, Sylvester!” Joe honored the transformation by using my old name, but I didn’t much care for politeness.
“Just call me Sly, Joe. I didn’t change personality, and I want to stay the way I was,” I say coldly, only afterward truly realizing how terrible I sounded. “I’m sorry. Kate meant so much to me…”
“It’s fine, Sly. We all take it our own way,” Chris had some experience with the subject; his parents died in a devastating accident when he was only a teenager. I remember that vividly. He was so crushed, but we pulled through no worse for the wear. Here he was, doing the same for me. That’s what friends are truly for, I guess.
“So, how does the turnout look to you?” Serena tried to make small talk, even in this terrible atmosphere. Truthfully, so was everyone else. Everyone seemed to repel from the casket, mimicking my own emotion. They were having similar conversations, trying to forget the dead body lying dormant in the front of the room.
“Sure is the liveliest funeral I’ve ever seen,” The furs talked somewhat merrily, though this discrepancy in their mood was only obvious to me because I was once one of them. A familiar pain ached at what once was the base of my tail, and a twinge of envy comes over me. I look to my friends, and their smiling faces masking the little sorrow they had.
“I have to go see her,” I say, “it’s about time I pay my respects.”
“By all means,” said Serena. I pushed through them, and onward to the casket. It was bathed in flowers of bright green and light pastel pigments, creating its own utopic garden. I snicker cynically at the preposterous idea of Kate as fertilizer, but stifle it when I realize how terrible it sounds. The casket seems to open before me, revealing its white satin insides and its payload.
Kate looked like she could jump up at any time and join the party. She was smiling, her lapin face forming a warm grin. The ears were folded perfectly over themselves, putting her in a position that was casual yet not disrespectful. Her body was robed in a light satin, though her fur was still mostly visible through the thin sheet. She left instructions to be buried that way.
At this time I still didn’t know why she died. If I did, then perhaps I would have broken down and cried beside her casket. Nobody would tell me about her death, understandably so. Her obituary said nothing more than a “terrible accident.” Still dazed and confused, I sit beside the old gang from the Furs-Only to watch the services.
Everyone gave cordial welcome to me as the pastor calmed down the congregation. He hit the button on the jukebox, knocking the horrendous organ music out cold. I gave a silent cheer as he cleared his throat, but silenced as he began. Beth sat beside me, and I held her for my comfort more than hers.
“Dearly beloved, we are here to honor the soul of Kate Ponduro.” Honestly, I couldn’t concentrate beyond that. He said some nice things about how God makes things perfect in the end or so, but I could only concentrate on the casket. Its beauty was swallowing Kate. I imagined it chasing a living rabbit across the plains of a graveyard, among gently swaying tombstones. It was holding Kate back! She was trying to get out! The vision continued on for the majority of the eulogy.
“Is there anyone who would like to enlighten us with their experiences with Kate?” the pastor asked. The casket wasn’t out to get Kate. She was dead, and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t fair! She had so much to live for. Why couldn’t it be someone else’s number? My melancholy was cut short by the leaving warmth of Beth. Caitlin and she walked solemnly to the podium, subduing their tears as they approached the microphone. It squealed in protest as Caitlin stepped up.
Mike squeals were intertwined with polite coughs from Caitlin. The noise subsided, and Caitlin began. “We all loved Kate. When she crashed her automobile, we were crushed. Who would have guessed such an untimely ending would come upon such a kind soul? Here is where I… I mean we,” she indicated the gang around me, and they nodded, “must apologize to a certain Sylvester. We knew he was in a transitional phase at the time, and we thought he didn’t need the traumatic information just yet. We withheld it from him, trying to let him fix his problems before we would tell him. We were wrong, Sly. I’m sorry.” She walked away, a tear slowly trickling down her face. The vixen’s tail was deathly still, a testament to her foul mood. Her tail never stopped moving unless she was extremely distressed.
Beth took her cue, approaching the stand with resolve and intent. “Kate was always there to help everyone out. She went out of her way to assist anyone in need, no matter what it meant to her reputation. She was the kindest soul I’ve ever known. And that’s the other thing Sly needs to know about,” she paused, holding back her own tears. “Sly, Kate was involved in a car accident trying to get to your house. She wanted to comfort you. We told her the ice was pretty bad, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted to see how you were; you were holed up for quite a long time. So there it is; the truth of her death finally revealed. I’m sorry, Sly.” With that, she marched out of the room much like Caitlin before her.
The pastor returned to his stand, asking for the last words. I felt it appropriate to frequent the stand, and the crowd went silent. They knew who I was, and how Kate died. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect.
There are just some times when words seem to come naturally. Somehow the words find the phrases at just the right time, flowing beautifully like water down the stream. This was one of those times. I stood proud, pulled the mike to my mouth and spoke, “It has suddenly come to my attention that Kate’s death was brought about by her never-ending love for her friends. I commend her for that, and with I had half as much passion as she did. I stand in front of you now, a changed man from what she once knew me as. I’m reminded of how she condoned my ‘humanizing’ action, and now agree with her. This was me at one point. Some time ago, I was a human like you. Suddenly, it has dawned upon me that this isn’t for me. I’m not meant to be a human just like everyone else. Kate realized that before I did. I’ll never forget you, old friend,” I walked over to Kate’s body, held her hand for a second, and cursed quietly. “And I never got the chance to ask why you saved me…” I ran out like Beth and Caitlin did seconds ago.
I hate funeral parlors. They’re so contradictory. Not wanting to break down, I took a trip to the forest. Beth saw me as I disappeared, and caught up to me to join the walk. We walked silently, the sounds of the birds around drowning out the pain and suffrage. After an extended period of time, I asked Beth a question that would change my life.
“How do you plan on dealing with Kate?” I ask sanguinely.
“Everyone at the Furs-Only will do what we’ve always done. We’ll pull through together; close friends do that. You’re welcome anytime, you know.”
“Oh,” I say, words suddenly leaving my limp body. My body went numb with coldness, as I realized the consequences of my actions. I’ve given up the thing that made me what I am now. Because of Sly Squirrel, I’ve learned to stand up for what I believe in. People loved me, and I loved them. The form was a wonderful thing to behold, and even better to fly around in the forest in. I collapsed on the path, crying and convulsing uncontrollably.
Beth hit her knees beside me, crying silently also. She wouldn’t let me know, though, trying to be a strong shoulder to cry on. My salty tears, soon growing cold with the autumn chill, soaked her fur. She purred softly into my ear, the effect soothing yet depressing. She could do all that animal-like stuff; why couldn’t I?
I’ve never cried that much in a single session in my life. Just when I thought the tears were over, she would look at me with those cat eyes and send me into fits again. It’s hard for males to cry. In fact, usually it takes a serious change to affect our manly visage.
“So, what’s on your mind?” Beth kept a humorous tone, even in such bleak circumstances.
“You already know, I miss Sly Squirrel.”
“I guess you have the answer?” Of course! Chris can fix me up, can’t he?
“I’ve already got my answer,” I reply, knowing what I must do. As I guessed, she already knew what I was talking about and silently rose to her feet. She helped me up, and we went to Kate’s burial service.
It was rather anticlimactic, Kate’s burial. The hard, cold rain that hammered down cut the proceedings short. Her casket was brought to the cemetery, and lowered into the grave. The pastor said a beautiful phrase, and everyone left. There was no ceremony, just a final goodbye.
I pulled her book that she drew a map upon for me, and tossed it into her grave. “Here,” I say symbolically, “Just in case you want to stop by sometime.”
Sometime soon, a gravedigger would come by and pour dirt over the rabbit. He’d get his pay soon enough, and go home to feed his kids. Tomorrow someone else would be in the grave, and he’d go through the exact same motions. There isn’t anything ceremonial about it; efficiency makes more money for the digger. His life is made on the death of others.
And somewhere in my twisted and mildly demented mind I knew Kate would have wanted it that way.
This is for all I’ve lost. This is for my friends. This is for Kate.
It was tough, convincing Chris that I truly wanted what I requested. He was understandably doubtful at first, seeing how hard I pushed for the treatment in the first place. My passionate manner was enough to convince him, and we sat around a table speaking of what was to happen.
So now I am in a holding room as he converses with a team of doctors behind closed doors. They were going over my file, probably choosing the best method to proceed. Of course, this left me sitting all alone, eagerly awaiting a decision. A computer was oddly handy, so I thought I would write.
Well, I’ll just write about the room. Hospitals have the most drab and dreadful decoration, and this room is no different. The walls creep with an ugly cream color, seamlessly flowing into every creep and crevice. The tile creates a sea of never-ending melancholy. A small, hard-rubber trim plays as a levy between the Sea of Wall and the Sea of Tile. This pattern continues through the entire room, never deviating from its chosen pattern.
Furniture is drab, also. The articles in this room do not extend past a desk, bed, computer, and chair. Hard fluorescent light distorts the horrendous picture even more. They all clash with each other, of course. Nobody cares about style when they’re dying.
The chair is low on padding, and reminds me of old Deco style. Its metal supports glimmer in the hard, bluish-white light. It reclines only slightly, offering little comfort to the sitter. The hunter green cushions hurt my bare back with their harsh cotton material.
That chair tucks into a modernized desk. It is also made of metal, but this piece’s cold exterior is blasted with textured white paint. It does nothing in the light, though, providing dull contrast to the shiny chair. Together, the two make a horrendous sight.
I’ve never seen a computer this old before. The outside frame reeks of neglect and overuse, showing its age with numerous coffee satins. The keyboard’s “s” key has some unknown substance on it that causes my finger to stick every time. It has an internet connection, and it types, so I’ll just quit complaining and write.
The bed was an average bed, surprisingly. The ironic twist was that the normal bed was completely out of place in the room. It was made of textured plastic, like other hospital beds, but felt warmer and more inviting. The matress was made of some sort of hypo-allergenic down, which was rather uncomfortable. Overall, the appearance didn’t fit the room at all.
And so the room has been explained, therefore I can return to my own fleeting thoughts.
It has taken me some deliberation to come to this decision. It seemed so brash and passionate at first, but suddenly it makes sense to me. Some will think me mad when they see me after this stunt. That’s great. I don’t care what it takes, just as long as I’m happy.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I’ve heard that all my life, yet never quite believed it until now. The fence doesn’t exist. What you see is what you get. I’ve made a terrible error. So it goes.
Chris is here. I’ll finish this when I’m done with the treatment.
As well as I can remember, Chris came back in, with two syringes. He instructed me to lie upon the soft bed, and poked me with one of the needles. The pain was non-existent, mainly because of adrenaline and anticipation. He explained the first stick as a sleep instigator, but I was not conscious to hear the full explanation.
When I came to, I realized that there was no turning back. I felt a tingling in my body, like something was about to happen. It was weird, like a premonition almost. Somehow, my body knew something was going on. I knew it wouldn’t happen yet, or at least that was what Chris told me.
As Chris explained to me, a special “igniter” had to be set off before anything would happen. That “igniter” would only be administered after a final conference and confirmation. That’s Chris’s cue to take me away, of course.
Chris took me to the room, and we talked about what was going to happen. I made sure to tell him how I wanted to retain my height, and how I was to remain an omnivore. We went over cosmetic details, until finally he administered the “igniter.” When all was said and done, he let me back into the horrendous room mentioned before.
And so here I am, wasting away the two hours before this begins. The time is about up, so I’ll cut this short.
Wow! I sit here, proudly staring at my squirrel body in the mirror. My paws (yes, paws) type eagerly as a smile burns into my muzzle. My tail twitches with happiness. It’s all so wonderful…
Hmm. I seemed to forget to mention what was going on. You see I took a chance. I wasn’t happy with my humanity, so I went back. People didn’t like me, and I didn’t like myself. One taste of squirrel life makes an addict, you know.
I still fixed my problems, though. Just because I wanted to be a squirrel again doesn’t mean I have to suffer through being a dwarf. Presently, I stand just below five feet. It’s relatively small, but the tradeoff is the ability to climb through trees like I did long ago. My palate had been modified to allow me to feed on normal human food, so I can eat normal food once again. This is what I’ve always wanted.
The mirror strikes disbelief deep within me. The chimera before me twitches its dark tail, eyeing me with dark blue eyes that seem to go on forever. Its chest fur contrasts with everything in its light tan splendor. The muzzle is tipped with a small black nose, amidst swirling facial patterns of the two fur colors. They clash upon the face, completing the facade.
Chris was skeptical at first, offering the same reaction I plan to hear from everyone. When I explained the emotional attachment to the life I once had, he bayed to my command. Perhaps he thought it was an emotional spurt. I get that a lot nowadays. Being a squirrel has made me passionate for some reason.
They handed me a set of clothing, donated by the same Tellor’s Beth and I visited only days ago. Chris had the forethought to provide a tailor to fit my clothing to accommodate for the tail, which I tipped heartily as she made the necessary adjustments. These pants fit perfectly, much to my surprise, and I can’t say they’re uncomfortable. All those years of being a foot tall made me cynical relating to clothing.
They release me from this room finally, asking if I need anything. I happily decline. For the first time in a long time, everything is right.
My how good it felt to have the wind whip into my fur once again! I took a stroll down the same lane I traversed as a human, and it was much more enjoyable as a squirrel. I hopped along, randomly chittering as people stared. A clump of trees sent me spiraling into their branches, happily leaping from one verdant pole to another. It was bliss.
After some time I calmed down and cantered back to my car. The radio and I composed a new song, giving new meaning to the term “discordant.” We created new chords that may never be heard again. It was in this manner I traveled to the Furs-Only in pride and anticipation.
My tail proved to be a menace when driving. In my happiness and anxiety, it twirled all around my body. This obstructed my view of the road, forcing me to seatbelt it down to the seat beside me. As much of a hassle as it may have seemed, the simple thought of a tail brought a tear of joy to my eyes.
Driving is such a fickle thing. Maybe it’s a quick and hassle-free way to get from place to place, but otherwise it’s a terrible way to appreciate the world. Everything blurs as you go by, making swirls of unidentifiable blues and grays and every other hue known to man. I vow to walk more from here on. This auto wasn’t made for short-distance driving.
Maybe I’ll start taking public transportation. The bus and subway may seem horrible, but actually show themselves to be a mirror of what we are. People of all shapes and sized clump together on the same vehicle, and one can talk with new and interesting people. Sure, it has its downsides, but overall it’s a unique experience.
People are so interesting. They resemble animals, you know, in one way or another. Some (example: me) take on profound characteristics of certain species, while others have a subdued influence. People say they hate furries, but in reality they are all one in some way or another. Simply finding the influences behind someone’s facade makes public transportation bearable.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned to do, it’s to appreciate every new day with ardent confidence and anticipation. Every new sunrise presents a million opportunities for the taking. Living day to day makes every waking moment an adventure. I try new things as much as possible, experience new sensations periodically. To simply exist without appreciation makes for a rather boring lifestyle, as I see it.
Once off the main road, I slow down a little bit. Small, bundled-up children make their artistic snow creations, stopping to wave hello to the strange character driving slowly in his car. I wave back, and smile. Contact: it makes the world a better place. Even if it’s only to say hello, a wave and a smile can make the difference in someone’s day. I try to do it daily.
The small county road turns off onto a dirt track, which I follow eagerly. It’s immediately engulfed in a flurry of trees, leaving what once was bright day as a subdued tone of its intense ambience. An arch seems to form of trees, leading the way to my friends and my old life. Here I was, traversing the path that will change my life once again. As I entered the clearing the place looked just a little more majestic than usual.
A snowball fight broke out recently, which raged out of control as I stepped onto the clearing. It was a beautiful day, and they wouldn’t let it go to waste. Thinking I’d surprise them, I jumped right into the fray. The snow seemed to fall immediately from the air as I flung the first wad of snow. The clearing fell silent.
A stick cracked in the distance, sending a small bird chirping into the air. It screeched a beautiful melody, even in flight. The chill wind picked up and laced its way through my clothing, depositing small bits of snow here and there. Everyone stared at the newcomer, and marveled at how calm and at ease he was. I never told them I was going to do this; now was the time to give them the surprise.
“Hey, guys!” I calmly greet each in turn, making sure to say their names for added effect. By the end of the hellos, the group was dead silent. They stood still, like ice statues painted with deep oil paints. The squirrel facing them now was one they had never seen before, and they were apprehensive.
Beth finally spoke up, breaking the quiet of the clearing. “Who are you? Are you one of those hoodlums that dress up as Sly? Get away from here!” I back up a few paces in an attempt to communicate my innocence.
“Not the case at all. I’ve been here before.”
“When were you here? Maybe it was a in-town convention or something.” Caitlin spoke up this time, trying to piece together who I was. I chuckled only a little before replying.
“No, my dear, I’m a pathetic regular.”
“So, you’ve been here a lot, and yet we don’t know you,” Josh said logically, “So who could you be?”
“Take a guess,” I challenge the crowd.
“You’re playing with our minds!” Bo was understandably confused, but I didn’t want to end the charade.
“Am I? Or are you doing it to yourself? You were always a gullible bear, Bo.” Bo shook with anger.
“You ignorant wretch!” You’re… You’re…” he struggled for a retort, but Caitlin jumped in.
“You’re Sly! Nobody else would make fun of Bo like that,”
“Cest moi!” I dramatically reply, throwing my arms up in a theatrical pose. They rushed over to me, taking a closer look.
“You can’t be Sly. He’s human now,” Bo still didn’t believe.
“Like the new look? I couldn’t stand the human life, so I came back. I’m not tiny anymore, because this transformation was voluntary. Chris and I deliberated over the perfect form, and I took it as my own. I really like the contrast of the cream underbelly fur with the dark brown overcoat. The tail is prehensile, too,” I will my tail to wrap around Beth, and it obeys. She tackles me as I pull away, sending me rolling in the cold snow.
“It’s really you! You’re back, Sly!” She laid for a second, pinning me down to the cold ground. She leaned over just above my ear and whispered, “For a rodent, you look drop dead gorgeous.”
As she released the embrace I jokingly reply, “I’m not sure whether to thank you or smack you.” She laughed and pulled me to my feet, only to meet with another hug from Caitlin. She didn’t catch me off guard, but still nearly bowled me over. Bo and Josh were a bit more courteous, and limited their welcome back gesture to a good handshake.
The snow on my shirt was starting to melt, so I offered to take the expiation inside. Since furs have their natural coverings, we removed our clothing to put in the dryer in the back room. Bo and Caitlin are always prepared, it seems. After settling in, we all sat down beside the fire to chat. Still obsessed with the new form, I laid down and brought my tail to my head. I stared at that appendage while everyone begged for the scoop.
Fire plays with forms that sit around it. Beams of soft, red light dance in the eyes of everyone, making patterns that appear and disappear in an instant. The fire itself puts on a wonderful show of explosive quality, throwing itself onto the ceiling of the hearth. Everyone looks softer in the dim firelight, and that makes the experience all the more magical.
“You see, after becoming human again, I started to miss the simple joys of being a squirrel. When Kate died, I felt I could wait no longer.” A silence filled the room, and I felt obligated to continue through the rough spot. “I called Chris up and arranged the appointment on an emergency basis. That’s why it happened so suddenly. Truth is I’ve been thinking about reversing the process ever since the beginning.”
“But how did they fix you?” Josh spoke up after
“The ‘fixing’ was simple, really. The technique to humanize a fur is amazingly simple by concept: get the fur’s DNA pattern and fix it. Once they figured out the key to my pattern, they could do anything to it. I could have been anything I wanted.”
“And you chose squirrel, even with the choice?” Bo warmed up to me really being Sly, and accepted me for his friend.
“Yep, for me there’s nothing better. The day I stop running around like a hyper rodent is the day I die! I feel so agile and sleek as a squirrel. Humans are just so burly and clumsy; I can’t stand the body build.”
“I agree with Sly; I’ll never get tired of being a fox!” Caitlin jumped in, surprising me.
“Here’s to that!” I got up and fixed a drink for everyone. Once the liquid was long gone, I retreated to my car to get my video game system. It’s called the Visage. It supports four players at once, and sports a blazingly powerful processing unit. The graphics are nearly lifelike, and that scares me.
The game I brought was called “Dance of the Dead.” Simplistic first-person shooter is the name of the game, and the pressure never lets up. Wave after wave of evil hordes swarm the player as he attempts to blast his way free of the tyranny. The gun design and general look of the game are horrific and incredibly lifelike.
The simplistic “blow stuff up” game I had hooked up would support four at once, of which all four spots were taken nearly immediately. We played for hours, blasting each other to smithereens in friendly deathmatch competition. One was left out to shout insults and otherwise get on the nerves of the leader. The handicap led to some very close matches, some decided by who could wrestle the controller away from the leader first.
Aren’t these simple video games good, clean fun? They may involve violent deaths, but nothing brings a group together like playing such a bloody game. People can work out their emotions and live out suppressed fantasies before they become harsh reality. It doesn’t promote violence, much to the surprise of the general public. Rather, it suppresses violence in the best way: keep the fire for rage happy.
Hours passed, and the fading daylight gave way to dim half moonlight. The time trudged on, until I noticed the time was three hours past midnight. When they noticed I was getting up, they started to take apart the system for me to take home. I told them to leave it alone; we should just keep it here. There was no point of having a home system when you couldn’t share the joy of playing with good friends, you see. It’s the bar’s Visage now.
Everyone but me seemed to have infinite energy, but that’s because they didn’t go through a full body change in the same day. Exhausted, I walked to may car, stopped suddenly by the sound of footsteps in the snow. Beth was rushing to catch me, and I turned to see what was the matter. True to her species, she was blindingly fast. As she stopped, she leaped over my car and into the passenger seat. “You mind giving me a ride? I left my car at home, and I don’t want to stay until Josh tires out.”
“Josh? Tire? Never,” I chuckle, “I guess so, since you’re already in my car. Isn’t that rude in some cultures?”
“Maybe… I’ll have to check,” she replied sarcastically. The old car started with a certain amount of hesitation, and I knew something would go wrong. My fuel gauge was on empty as the car buzzed to life, and I knew something would go awry just as I was taking her home. I knew I should have fueled up!
There was no choice but to go on, for the nearest gas station was about five miles away. With a jolt, the car started down the dirt road and into the tree arch. Beth sat in silent contemplation, filling the air with a deafening silence. The road below cracked with shifting pebbles. I could hear the engine as it sputtered. My hand had a fur mat right on top, as I noticed when the silence pushed me to do anything to fill it’s emptiness.
After what seemed like forever, she finally spoke up. “It’s a nice night, isn’t it?”
“Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It’s ironic that we are driving such a wasteful vehicle through this serene and natural environment,” she stared directly at me, in disbelief.
“Sly! I didn’t know you thought about things that way! I’m proud!” Beth exclaimed.
“Yeah, after running through the trees for so many years, you learn to appreciate your surroundings,” I reply, feeling warm with pride inside. She was taking to me!
And that’s when the engine decided it would go no further. Before the car was beyond hope, I managed to pull it off to the side of the road. There it broke, sleeping just when it was most needed. In disgust, I get out and kick the tire. “Stupid car! I knew I needed a fill up, but I was too busy with telling you guys the good news.”
“Don’t worry,” said the cool Beth, “Josh is on the way. He has to some this way, since he has a fitness appointment tomorrow at seven. We’ll just wait him out.”
“Okay, if you say so,” I was going to snake my way up the nearest tree, but Beth may not have been able to follow nearly as well. I settled for a seat in the soft snow, with Beth cuddling beside me. A cold chill filled the clearing, and we shared heat to war away the frigid draft.
Even in the thick silence, we still remained optimistic and awe-struck by the natural beauty of the forest. Snow packed itself in the smallest places, casting preumbras of partially-covered trees and bushes. A small rabbit digs at the ground, desperately trying to find its food for the night. An owl hoots in the distance, warning of intruders. The chill remains ever-present, making a futile attempt to strike deep into the bones. We huddle together, one large mass of fur and clothing.
I couldn’t help it. My tail just came across the front of us. I knew it was a bold move, but it was freezing and something had to be done. Much to my surprise, Beth followed suit. Maybe her tail was as frozen as mine. She started to purr, though for what reason I wasn’t sure of yet.
“Sly, what is it like to be human?” she asked, after a long period of mutual meditation.
“Well, it was too much for me. People are too much alike, but want to strike out on their own tangent. When they try to, someone gets hurt. I just like myself for who I am, Sly Squirrel. If one good thing came out of my human experience, it would be my height change. I can actually function autonomously!” I was getting a little uncomfortable with Beth, since we were so close yet so far away.
Thoughts raced through my head as the pause lengthened. We sat directly beside each other, propped up against a wheel base of my broken down car. Our tails were laid across our legs, but other than that we were pretty far apart. That’s when I realized I had to make the move. My body froze. I couldn’t just reach over to her! I tried to count up to it. Numbers raced through my head, but nothing happened.
Finally, I just up and did what I was trying to put off; simply do without thinking. My arm slipped over her shoulder, and the reaction surprised me. She didn’t pull away! In fact, she leaned into me and stared at the moon. “It’s a play up there. The stars are the silent players, acting out a plot-less script filled with wonderful emotion. Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked dreamily.
“I’ve got all the beauty I need right beside me,” I said with suave. She started to purr, the vibration softly humming into my gut.
The next few minutes were a large blur. I only crisply remember my body leaning down over Beth, and my mind trying to tell it off. Logic argued with my passion, trying to get sense into my head. Passion won out in the end, though.
We locked lips in the moonlight, happy for each other’s company in such a romantic atmosphere. Hours passed in the next few minutes, as we pulled closer together. I never knew love could be so supple and sweet! I realized how much I loved her just then.
This moment was anticlimactically broken by the loud sound of Josh motoring by, leading his greeting with a boisterous catcall. “So, what’s the lovebirds’ problem?” He screamed out the window, as he came to a halt.
”We need some go juice,” I reply, “Don’t you keep a siphon?”
“Yep,” he says, reaching behind his seat to pull out the tube, “but you’re sucking. I hate sucking out that gasoline!” It didn’t take long, but my mouth still tastes like gas. I drove to Beth’s home, stopping at the door.
“I guess… we can go out on a date?” I stutter, unsure of the answer.
“If you didn’t ask, I was going to do the honors myself! How about Thursday?” Her complacency relaxed me; the feeling must be mutual!
“Alright. Works for me,” I leaned over and pecked her on the lips, and she laughed.
“You smell like gas, Sly!” She complained, pushing me away.
“That’s because I’m always on the go!” I reply smartly, as I drive off.
Thursday… at seven… I can’t wait!
For the first time in many years, I can return to my once high-priority weight training. In only a week I managed amazing spikes in my muscular mass and health. Everyone likes how I look, and I love how I feel.
Sweat and pain are beautiful. I know that sounds odd, but they truly are joyful things to behold. I myself enjoy a good workout, for it makes me feel some pain. Pain is a wonderful feeling; it reminds the body that things can always be worse. Instead of just staying away from anything dangerous, I slam into it without holding back. This is the only way to really live life, as I see it.
I distinctly remember wrestling at my high school. Those were the days, though probably the time of would not offer such a nice reminiscence. Every day, I would go into that blazingly hot room and work to exhaustion. Nights would be spent barely moving because of soreness and sheer fatigue. On the surface, it seemed insane.
The practices weren’t only about heat. The coaches push their grapplers to the absolute limit, never letting up on the psyche. Workout routines were made so the athletes could work without rest, forcing dicipline and sheer determination to form. From the outside, it seems like hell.
But something deeper was involved. I knew when I left that room that I broke my limits time and time again. The attempt to express the feeling I have when I realize that I can do more than I ever imagined brings up no words. Somewhere deep inside I knew that I had the endurance and sheer grit to prevail in any situation.
And here I am, just where I left off at high school. Josh helped me get a membership at his gym, thankfully. I go in with my old wrestling partner Joe every week to get a lift and a little wrestling on the mat provided at the club. It’s just like old times, I guess.
The club’s location is intimidating. It sits alone in a clearing, like a desolate island in a sea of verdant green. The isle is surrounded by a reef of gray parking space, littered with cars of varying shape and size. The single road that enters the area must first go over a large stream, further adding to the overall impregnable facade the fitness place takes on.
Fitness One’s outer face stared down upon me like a monolith in the setting sun. The shadows give the building a dark and foreboding appearance, almost warding off those who aren’t willing to work. A bright spot on the wall, indicating the entrance and showing a softer haven inside. As I walk up, the neon sign above flickers to life. The red ambience plays on the masonry, creating eerie shadows upon the flat yet porous surface.
The door opens without a sound, and I enter to Josh’s beaming ferret face. He plays the role of greeter and secretary tonight, much to his dismay. His forte is in direct contact with the guests. “Hey there, Josh,” I cordially greet him, “Where’s Joe?”
“He said he would be in the weight room. I wish I could be there with you,” he heaved a sigh.
“Maybe next week when you aren’t tied to the desk. So, how’s everyone treating you?” I started a petty conversation, curious as to what his life was bringing him.
“Beautifully! In fact, I have a prospect in my sights right now,” it didn’t take him more than a split second to be up and out of his chair. Apparently, something exciting was going on with this “prospect.”
“Her name is Vanessa. She’s beautiful, I tell you! I’m going out for lunch with her tomorrow.”
“What is Vanessa?” the question still seems odd, even after years of living in this messed up world.
“Well, she’s a nice wolf. She’s got a whole lot of energy, like me,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Wonderful. I’m going to get my workout in. Have fun at the desk!” I jeered.
“I should put you here and see how you like it,” he said in reply as I walked down the purple corridor leading to the weight room.
Gyms are abominations of interior design. The mirrors that flank the movements of the occupants also augment the abhorrent royal purple trim. The colorful and distasteful display shadows the pale blue tinted walls lining the bottom of the full body mirrors. Every machine in the place has two tones, white skeletons and black weight plates. The sight is horrible, but somehow fitting for such a room.
Only Joe and I are using the gym at the time. We usually come in really late, about five o’ clock. The moonlight hours are wonderful; we get the run of the house. Joe was already seated on an inclined bench, lifting a heavy bar over his head repeatedly. Loud punk music blares over the room’s large speakers, probably a selection created by Joe’s band.
“This the new cut?” I ask as I sit down on a leg curl machine.
“Yep,” he says, short of breath and between grunts. After a few more repetitions, he racks the bar. “You like it?”
It’s my turn to be short of breath, as the leg curls start to get to me. “Yeah. But then again I like punk music…”
“Just as long as I can keep some people happy,” he retorts with a smile. With my legs worked to jelly, I head over to the newest machine in the room. Its design appears odd to the passing eye, nothing more than a adjustable strap connected to a steel cable connected to a stack of weights. In fact, most people who go to this gym can’t even use the thing properly.
Like many times before, I strap my tail into the contraption. It’s a tail machine, made to improve the prehensile abilities of such an appendage. Once my tail is secure, I start twisting it in the air. The burn is odd, as it is mostly felt in the base of the hips. It took a few tries to get aquatinted to the feel of the exercise, but now I’m pretty good at the whole process. Jim worked on his immense arms, curling an insane amount of weight on dumbbells.
We stayed relatively silent during the workout, and for the next twenty minutes I sat thinking about my experiences. This train of thought wasn’t spontaneous, rather it’s been going through my mind ever since I went back into my journal and read about my past. It’s like opening a time capsule; I can almost go back to those moments I want or want not to revisit. My emotions become clearly apparent as I read the text on the paper.
I’m a fortunate person. People like me, and I like myself. Life couldn’t be more perfect. Look at me: I’m something unique, and I’ve made a name for myself. People walk by me on the street and know me, even though I’ve never seen them in my life. They say nice things, and have some ecstatic reactions when they see the fabled “Sly Squirrel.”
My last set of tail rolls finishes itself rather quickly, snapping my mind back into my body with a start. Joe was already at the door, holding it open into a completely different and completely ugly new hallway. Smiling, I unbuckle my tail and follow his lead into the locker room. We dressed out for a hard workout and headed into the wrestling room.
The mezzanine was, on the surface, appalling. Upon entering one con almost smell the dripping sweat of hundreds of trying sessions. The walls are an ugly cream color, lined at the bottom with black padding. The entire floor was covered with inch-thick mat, providing a surface to go to the edge of our body’s limits. A convenient heater sits beside the door, though the temperature gauge rarely goes below 90 degrees. The door slams behind us, and I know it’s time to prepare for the most excruciating and pressing half hour of my life.
Once in the room, we pull out our shoes and kneepads. Wrestling shoes aren’t known for their street-friendly nature, rather known to not last long. We sit on the mat, putting on our clothing in silence. My tail-hole is off center, so I take the time to secure it down in the correct position.
Learning to wrestle with a tail has proven a difficult proposition. When Joe and I started a week ago, I always caught my extra appendage under myself, keeping my girth planted on the mat. Practice has helped me get the hang of it, and some of my moves already have a variation so my tail doesn’t get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyway, Joe and I take a light mile run around the parameter, breaking a proficient sweat in the hot room. When I run, I don’t think about how long there is to go. It’s a beating rhythm, left foot, right foot, left, right, one, two, one, two, and so forth to the end. Time changes its frame of reference when working out, seeming to slow down immensely. After hours of running, we sat down to stretch.
All this time, a silence envelops the room. The soft sound of a working heater pounds and echoes in the head like it was amplified a thousand times over and played right into our ears. It’s steady rhythm of pounding and clanking set the pace for the hours to come. We rise, and approach the center of the sleek, jet black mat.
The next thirty minutes tax my brain. We circle each other, looking for an opening to attack. They’re very elusive, and seem to appear just as quickly as they disappear. Looking at Joe’s feet, I notice a pattern in his feet and arms. He leads with his foot again, and I pull his predictable arm out of the way to snatch up his leg. Feeling very inventive, I use my tail to trip his leg out from under him.
“Hey, that’s cheating!” Joe playfully protests, breaking the deafening silence with a joke.
“It’s just a part of my body,” I snap back with just as much playfulness, “If you had one you could use it too.”
“I’ll get right on that,” he replied sarcastically as he tried to come up to all fours. I knew what was coming next, and look forward to it with eagerness and full intent to come out on top. Wrestling happens in an instant, and the mind must be ready to react in a split second. I’ll try to emulate the experience in writing here, but I’m sure it can never compare.
He sat out, trying to get his hips away but I follow behind and hook an arm of which he pivots on to try to come out the back door but I dive for his legs to take him down as he sits out again and comes up to his feet and I come up behind him and grab his waist but he breaks the grip and I drop to the leg again and pull him down as his arm comes up and I put in a pinning combination and suddenly the action slows down again. This all happens in about five seconds.
Joe is dripping with sweat, but as we know squirrels are incapable of sweating from anywhere but the paws. My coat is still soaked from Joe’s profuse sweating. Fatigue is starting to settle in and play with our minds. I refuse to give in. When the action stops, we get to our feet and right back into the fray. Our muscles burn, and the mat loses its traction with a thin coat of liquid creating a frictionless surface.
A pattern and rhythm surfaced. We’d push our bodies for five seconds, and get up to do it again. Down, up, down, up, and down again. Each time it was a new and different mind game. The entire time was a concentrated space of not thinking while concentrating totally on what happened next. My mind was silent as I received the next move combination from Joe.
It’s odd, how the body can take on so much punishment. Halfway through the workout, I start to stumble around over my tail. No matter what happens, I never give up. No matter what, I’m going right to the end. When I went down hard, I just shook it off and came back for more.
One can forget the passage of time in a wrestling room. In fact, most rooms aren’t even equipped with clocks for that very reason. For a half-hour, I can forget about everything but what happened next. The ability to live without forethought is a wonderful concept.
The time came to a close, and I crawled out of the room. The thirty minutes exhausted my out-of-shape body, much to my disgust. The hot shower water poured over me, scalding and relaxing me. As I look to my left, a small group of exhausted basketball players trudge in after their thirty minute workout and I smile. I know that Joe and I went through hell, and I’m proud of the experience in contrast to their leisurely ball game.
I leave the reader with a famous saying: pain is temporary, pride is forever. I’ve learned this one the hard way; the meaning pounded into my head at every corner and every turn in my lifetime.
Today wasn’t all too exciting of a day. In fact, the main perk ended up being fielding the insane amount of phone calls I received. Some were simply high school kids that idolized me, whom I gave caring words of wisdom to. Others were far more interesting, though.
I got a new job at the Palo Alto center. Nanotechnology is the name of the game. My new purpose is to build a computer into clothing. Eventually, we hope to have a powerful PC in the coat pocket, strangely enough. That should keep me busy, at least I hope.
More importantly, I got five movie offers. Much to my surprise, they were interested in my life story. I didn’t think my life was all that interesting, but apparently someone takes some interest in me. Instead of taking one immediately, I wrote down all the offers and put them to one side. Later on, I chose a large studio to do my story. Of course, I kept the lines open for “favors.” You never know when a connection up high pays off…
I’m going for a run in the woods. This isn’t getting anywhere.
Tonight's the night; my first date with Beth! We're good friends, yes, but nothing can stifle the jitters one gets before a real "date." My place was ransacked with a whirl of clothing tossed aside in my desperate search for the best outfit. I'm not usually that way; in fact the first shirt I see is usually the one I wear. My thought process traveled the pattern of "it's too formal. What would she think if she wasn't dressed like this? Maybe I'll go casual. But then will she think that she doesn't matter to me?" And so it went.
Eventually, I decided on a semi casual collared shirt and snug jeans. The next phase of the panic involved me combing my fur to a nice sheen. This simple concept is further complicated by having a full body of fur to tend to. The combing takes about thirty minutes to complete, though I hurried through most of it.
The next stage entails my tail. Was it set right? Does it take attention away from my face? I fluffed it up, attempting to make it presentable, yet not overbearing. The process is trial and error; comb the thing up, swing it around a bit, and see if it looks appealing. The final test involves attempting to pick up my comb with the appendage. Just because my rear looks pretty doesn't mean it can't be practical. It takes a few tries, but finally I was happy with the look of the appendage.
Time was ticking down. Even though I spent over an hour preparing, I still had second guesses. There was no time, so I drove off to Beth's abode with steely determination to impress her. There was no end to the questions I asked myself as I approached, mainly about what we would talk about. Pathetically enough, I prepared a slip of conversation strands just in case I blank. Can't be too careful, you know...
That's when I realized how stupidly I was acting. Here I was, plotting exactly how the night would go. She's a friend, and I shouldn't have to work so hard at making her happy! Just being together should spark something. With that confidence, I walk up the path to Beth's small condominium.
She is a lot like me in the sense that she doesn't appreciate many large material possessions. Her home shines out in the dark, lit by a soft porch light she left on to let me know what address she was at. The outside of her home played with the light, scattering it in every which direction and casting shadows upon its own body. The intoxicating mixture of soft umbrae cast an enchanting spell on the small space belonging to the cheetah I knew so well. The yard showed signs of previous flowering plants, but a thin coating of snow stifled the once lively reds and oranges that spotted the verdant space. As I approached the door, I knew suddenly that everything would turn out just fine.
Beth must have been undergoing the same "panic" I did, for I heard a soft swear under the feline's breath augmented by random and comical stumbling. At length, she flung open the door with a smile on her face, lungs heaving with anxiety.
"So," I say, stifling a chuckle, "Shall we go?'
She paused, then laughed. "I guess I deserve the laugh. Come on, let's go." Being a gentleman, I opened the door for her with a small bow to which she followed suit with a chuckle. When I got in, though, the scariest moment of the date happened.
We were both suddenly shy. It was like we just met, and that was completely aggravating. Why couldn't I just talk to her, or her to me? Was this relationship a curse? I calmed down, took a deep breath, and plunged in head-first.
"So, what do you want to do tonight?" I say in a light tone, "We can do anything you want."
"Let's se... Well how about some city hopping? Downtown has that neat amusement park we can visit, and there is supposed to be a new ride there."
"Wonderful!" I say with added overtone, mainly out of anxiety, "I completely forgot about Park Square. Sounds good." And so I turned onto the exit ramp, heading towards the downtown area.
Highways make me feel stranded. It's like they swallow me in their desolation and ironically soft lighting. It goes on forever, continuing on out of sight into the horizon. Dusk settles in, further adding to the feeling of loneliness I get on the road. The lights click on, adding their false brightness to the fading sky.
The city is a nice place to go walking. City streets are lined with action and people, buzzing about at all hours of the day. Lights of every which color lace the sky with their combating brightness and eye-catching displays. There are so many noises; the screaming of a vendor, honking of horns, and the general buzz of life in the city truly adds the flavor of busy city living.
I couldn't live like this. It's just too much, like it's trying to swallow me whole in one gulp. Some thrive off this atmosphere, but I simply detest the idea. Give me the wide open space of the forest and rural areas! I guess it's good to visit once in a while, like a taste for exotic food or something.
Beth and I parked the car a long while away from Park Square, taking our time cantering down the lane. Doing this lets us people watch, perhaps one of the best things one can do on a busy night. It's like a calabash of souls, even more so since XLRS1 made people so diverse. Funny and unexpected couples amble down the road, making for a fun time.
"That one over there," Beth pointed out an animated man, "would make a nice mouse." He was really getting into the rhythm, dancing about with his circle of friends.
"Yeah, I guess so. Squirrels are the best rodent known to man, though." I say with purposefully overdone confidence.
"Squirrels are also prey," Beth replied, giggling.
"Yeah, that's why I run really fast and really high," I poke back.
"There's a group of felines, for sure," Beth pointed out a confident group of teenagers, ambling about without worry. They acted as if they were supreme.
"Yeah, felines are so egocentric," I joke.
"Watch yourself," she threatens mockingly, revealing a single claw.
"Okay, okay. Felines are okay." I yield to her, since I didn't want to be dinner.
"Much better! Now can we just have a normal night at the Square?" she said jokingly, slipping her arm down to mine. I take it without restriction, and we trot off towards the park.
Park Square isn't much to talk about; in reality it isn't very entertaining. The only real attraction is a roller coaster that darts through the entire two acres of the place. The other attractions have no true entertainment value, unless you count the shops, games, and arcades. Beth and I frolic from store to store, biding our time and taking in the atmosphere.
The best thing about Park Square is the theme. It's fantasy, and that means only furs work here. Everyone is welcome, but all the staff has a little animal blood coursing through their veins. Best of all, everything is made with we furry types in mind. Finally, we can go someplace without "special consideration," instead the humans have to adapt.
We just finished our overlook of stores on the main strip. As expected, Beth bought a shirt (which I laughed at, just like at Tellor's) and I bought a keepsake with our picture digitally printed onto it. The arcade lured our money into its coin slots, storing our time away in a swirl of light, color, and sound mashed into a whole experience. The coaster wasn't as good as advertised, which disgusted Beth and I both.
After getting off the disputable ride, the Eatery called our names. Its walls of soft blue attracted the visitors to its overpriced foodstuff. Different faces of the octagonal building offered different dining experiences. Yeah, everything in an amusement park is far too expensive. Beth and I got two small candied apples, and headed down into the lake area.
A large area of Park Square is known as "statue park." It's a large lake, laced with boardwalk pathways and quaint private clearings. Statues stare upon visitors the entire time, offering their looks of shame, pride, and reason to the visitors. This is where we ended up, staring at the moon along with the marble stargazer we took refuge under.
"So, how is the night going for you?" I ask tentatively, realizing how dumb it sounded only after it left my mouth.
"This is the best night of my life," she replied without resignation.
"As it is mine," the last word rolls off my tongue slowly, as we savor the moment. The stars make me melancholic, as I ask the question that burns at my throat. "What have we learned over the last five years, Beth?"
"Huh? What do you mean?" she says innocently.
"Look at us. I've gained a few years, years I've fought adversity and prejudice. You've been beside me, and together we've seen people come," I pause to remember Kate, "and go. What was it all for?"
"What haven't we learned?" she replies defiantly, "Take a look at what we've earned in this life. You've earned the respect of all those around you, and I've earned the trust of everyone. These two things take lifetimes to come to terms with, but we've managed in only five short years!"
"I guess your passion leads me to love you," I say romantically. She looks into my eyes, and her cold, stark yellow cat-eyes widen beyond the normal slit to reveal a passionate, soft stare.
"I know." We embraced lovingly, letting go only at length. With resolve, I got up and took her hand as we walked back towards the car.
The drive home was silent, but the silence was warm and filling. It's weird how this feeling of quiet can be so calming when it usually drives a man to kill! Her hand slips into mine like they were molded to fit together. She smiles and purrs softly, as I bask in the warmth of her existence. The highway wasn't so bad, as long as she was there.
As long as she was there. As long as that was the case, I would gladly endure any hardship. The feeling of her simply being next to me sends a warm tingle down my spine. I know she'll be there, at my side whenever I need her, and more filling that I'll do the same for her. She was there, with me in that very moment, the feelings and motions etched forever in the stone of memory.
Beth's house appeared over the horizon all too quickly. Begrudgingly, I drive up the lane and help her out of the vehicle. We stood in the soft halogen porch light, its hum making wonderful chords with chirping crickets and singing night birds. I stared into her eyes once again, delving deeper into her intuitive being. She leaned over, gave me a passionate kiss, and turned into her house. "See you tomorrow," I said, the only words to leave either of our mouths in those last two hours.
I still can't get over it. She's always been there, and I've just never seen how beautiful our relationship was. We've grown together, matured in ways never thought before possible. Suddenly, I see us growing old together, much in the same way as we started.
The thought of growing old with her seems very inviting, suddenly.
The most comical part of a date doesn’t even exist inside the time with the mate. Instead, it resides in the aftermath where everyone asks for the “dirt.” The Furs-Only was no exception today. Beth already had a crowd milling around her, but dissipated and reformed around me. Apparently, Beth wasn’t budging on how the date went, so they went to a different source.
A new face fell upon the crowd. Vanessa hung on Josh’s side, never leaving yet remaining individual. Her features were strikingly lupine, maintaining few features of humanity beyond body structure. On the surface, Vanessa looks very benign. The light gray fur covering varied in tone, sometimes a deep charcoal, sometimes a light ash. She smiled, showing a row of razor-sharp teeth in contrast to her delicate facade. Her deep ocean blue eyes invited onlookers to lose themselves in the fixating stare. Boy, did she talk!
“So, you’re Sly?” she called, wildly cantering over to my position, “I heard you and Beth had a time last night!”
“Yeah,” I reply, stopping in the door, “So you’re Vanessa.” She nodded, in affirmation and in a “go on” gesture. “So, Beth didn’t say anything you guys liked? I know nothing.” I shrug my shoulders and chuckle.
“Come on!” Caitlin started in, “We’re dying to know how it turned out.” She looked at me with longing.
“First thing: can I get in the door? You know, I come into a bar to sit down and relax. I’m not doing much relaxing standing here in the entry,” I sarcastically jeer. Caitlin smacks me with her paw and indicates the hearth. Josh left suddenly, though, walking towards the lonely Bo. I wanted to join, but I was sure that the womenfolk would drag me down if I even tried to escape.
“Now that everyone is comfortable, can we get down to business…?” I didn’t really hear what she said, mainly because I was looking over at Bo. He was sitting alone behind the bar, leaning over what looked like a ledger and a calculator. The face he made revealed his discontent, sending me to worry. Josh found his way over to him, and they now conferred in soft conversation.
“Sly? You there, Sly?” Caitlin pulled me back into the conversation. Shaking off the deep worry I had for Bo, my attention snapped back to the matter at hand. Beth found her way over, and sat down beside me at the fire. Her hand found mine once again, and we lazed by the fire.
“We just went to the Park and had a nice time. Nothing funny happened, which I’m sure makes you unhappy,” Caitlin and Vanessa’s faces dropped.
“Really? Not even a little kiss?” Vanessa continued to pry.
“I wouldn’t go that far…” Beth came into the conversation, “and we’ll leave it at that.” The two women squealed in laughter, finally appeased with their prying ability. The conversation speed increased suddenly, ascending past the male spectrum. I left around the time they started in on new purses.
Bo still leaned over his papers, while a deep line furrowed deeper into his brow. As I sat down, it suddenly became clear. The paper was the earnings for the bar, and they were poor. Apparently, nobody else realized it yet. He looked up at me solemnly, the same brow digging deeper into his monstrous grizzly brow. “It’s not looking good, Sly.” Bo knew just how to state the obvious.
Now that I notice it, the place has been really empty lately. Dust covers many untrodden parts of the bar, showing their neglect. Tables that once were full of laughing people are now desolate collectors of lint. Many bottles on the shelves remain unused, capped off to help retain freshness. Never has this place been so deserted.
“It’s because of that damn reversal procedure,” Josh spoke coldly, “they’re all biting at the bit to come back to the human world. Nobody’s coming around anymore, and that’s killing our attendance.”
“I’ll tell you now that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence,” I add with just as much acidity, “I’ve been there.”
“It may not be as good, but these numbers sure speak volumes,” Bo jumped in with hostility.
“Look, something has to be done. Maybe… Oh, it’s not fair!” This truly had me angered. Of all the things I held dear, this had to be at the top of my list.
The Furs-Only has been my haven for years. When I thought I could go no more, this place and its patrons brought me strength. Because of them, I am alive today. Without their assistance, the jerks at Fundamaton and the alley would probably have killed me. I’ve met my closest friends here, and their insights have led me to be a better person. We’ve laughed and cried together, taking life in stride.
Now it’s going to die. This whole establishment and its experiences will all go to waste. Things change, I guess. The sun rises and sets, but even that shall not last forever. Just as this plague wanes, the need for comfort isn’t needed nearly as much.
“We may have to close shop,” Bo sighed.
“In a pig’s eye!” I shout defiantly. The women turned suddenly, staring at the solemn group at the bar. “This place may change its ways or its patrons, but we will not die! I’m going home and calling up my connections. With all the media on my tail for a script, I see no end to the favors I can get!” Without waiting for a reply, I stomp out the door and into my car.
Once I’m home, the phone becomes a live wire to Garmond Films. Calling from their local sources, I demand an advertising campaign on the spot. They comply without complaint, much to my surprise. After only five minutes of telephone calls, the appointment is set for tomorrow.
I won’t let the Furs-Only die without a fight.
Hiyaz! This isn’t Sly; it’s Beth at the wheel. Caitlin and I are at Sly’s right now, preparing a surprise party for the nice squirrel. We thought he deserved it, since he’s going to all the trouble for Bo and Caitlin. When Sly left to converse with the TV people, he left us at his house alone. Maybe he’ll regret that by the time we’re through.
So, Caitlin is in the living room, decorating the room with red streamers and balloons. It’s a comical sight, seeing Sly isn’t much for decoration. His house is rather drab, and the party favors completely foil the look of the apartment.
He’s always been so nice, Sly that is. There’s always a smile on his face, and he would do anything for someone in need. Even in his trying times, he kept a good attitude. What’s not to love? Caitlin reads over these lines now, laughing mockingly. “It’s love, true love,” she exclaims with melodrama. She can have her fun, as I see it.
My, how he’s grown. Beyond the obvious physical spurt, his emotions and demeanor have changed since his transformation. I think it happens to all of us, as life goes on. It’s just that we have a much bigger influence on our personality, being part animals. He’s just become a benign person, much to my delight. My attitude of domination doesn’t seem to bother him, though I try to keep it in check.
Bo and Josh just arrived, adding more bodies to an already crowded room. Balloons, streamers, and we all fight for position in the stuffed place. Nonetheless, the effect of a sea of balloons remains. We’re going to surprise him when he opens the door to an avalanche of streamers and screams!
I’ll cut this short, since Sly should be getting here shortly. I can’t wait!
Thanks for the surprise, Beth. Who knew I would walk home from such a dirty act to such a wonderful party? The balloons spooked me at first, leaking onto the sidewalk beyond my quaint apartment. Curious, I stepped in to be taken down by tripping arms below. Once I was down, bodiless hands tickled me until I was blue in the face. After much balloon popping, the culprits revealed themselves.
“We thought you deserved a party, Sly,” said Beth ardently, “for what you’re doing, and what you’ve done already.”
“Thanks, I think,” I manage, “though I feel terrible.”
Everyone stared. “Why?” asked Josh, much to my surprise. He’s not usually the one to extract personal information.
“Movie people are sleazy. I had to use blackmail to get what I wanted,” I confess. They remain silent, awaiting explanation. And so, I lifted my head and began, “I played my bargaining chip. They want my life story, but they didn’t want to hassle with an ad campaign and keeping to the truth. When it came down to it, I played my ace. When I threatened to pull their movie rights, they begrudgingly complied with my demands. In return, I gave them the right to shift the story a little. How much they’ll take advantage of that, I can’t be sure. I hope they keep to the truth.”
“I see,” Bo spoke flatly, “and what’s the deal entail?”
“We’re going to do an image change, everyone,” I drop the bombshell, amidst looks of confusion. “Let’s face it, not many of the furs left really need comfort and a sympathetic ear. The ad campaign points to the Furs-Only as a ‘place to have a good time, no matter what skin you wear.’ It’s high time the Furs-Only truly opened its doors.” Everyone’s jaw dropped, and Bo’s arms flew into the air in disgust. He threw the arms out in a show of defiance.
“Never!” Bo protested with anger, “It’s tradition! We can’t just let humans in the door; then we aren’t unique!”
For once in my life, I truly got angry. Emotion fueled the fire of rage inside, and I knew I had to win the argument. “Bo, what are you talking about? The Furs-Only has been a place for people to let everything hang out for years. Remember what we’ve been pushing for all along: equality? Do you truly want an exclusive club, an anointed temple only we can frequent?”
“But that’s the way it was,” he replied, trying to add reason.
Caitlin tried to jump in. “Can we just talk about this later? I’m sure it can wait.”
I hush her with my hand. “You just stay quiet; I still have a point to get across. Is it pride, Bo? Does pride hold you to your ways? Is this pride really required? It will take you under, Bo. Besides, don’t we want to be integrated back with the human race?” I look into his eyes not with hate, but earnesty. “I’ve done all I can, all you have to do is take the line I’ve thrown you. Can we put your pride aside and get back to living again?” He sat in silence, folding his arms in discontent.
“If that’s the case, then you will die by this pride. It will wipe you out. Look, all you have to do is reach out.”
“Come on, let’s do it,” Caitlin walked to stand beside me, suddenly understanding my viewpoint. “I like the idea; we could make the Furs-Only the place it was meant to be to begin with. Let’s take this lead and run with it!”
Bo sat in discontent, showing his defeat in his stone-set expression. “I guess so. Let’s celebrate, friend.” The party jumped to life, going from hate to insanity in less than a second. Everyone started into a happy demeanor; even Bo jumped in on the fun! I felt a little disconsolate, though.
What did I just do? Is my humanity coming back? I just went off on Bo. The squirrel side of me would never have such an anger-driven argument with someone! Is this what I want? It is instinct, after all. I guess all I can do is let it come unto me.
The TV flared up, suddenly blasting out old videotapes from past memories. Trying not to embarrass only me, they pulled out films from everyone’s hope chest. My melancholy wore off as the party accelerated to warp speed. Laughter, playful gestures, and screaming filled the small dormitory as everyone lost their heads.
Caitlin, feeling that the night may last a while, dug into my refrigerator and fixed snacks. Note I say dig, since she whined and complained about most everything she found in my nearly empty icebox. In mock disgust, she drove off to the corner mart to get some supplies. “I can’t believe you don’t have anything in this fridge!”
I laughed. “That’s because I borrow from you; have you checked my tab lately?” She reached down onto the couch and pulled up a pillow to throw at me.
“Smart-ass,” she playfully called. Once Caitln put together a nice mini-meal of chips, dip, and sandwiches, the group found places to lounge in. Of course, I didn’t have sufficient seating for everyone, so most were sprawled about on the floor any which way. When everyone settled in, the first tape was put in and the voyage into the past began.
My tape was up first. The roll started with baby films, drawing plenty of cooing sounds from the crowd. Beth looked up at my face and wondered openly where my beauty left. I told her she blasted it out of me. The tape brought back wonderful memories of people and places, plastering a smile on my face. The baby in the film was so cute and so naïve, peacefully so.
The middle years didn’t show much. There were the funny moments, ones I wish I could forget. Lucky me the fur covers my blush as a younger me promenades on screen wearing my sister’s dress. In the midst of all the laughter, the screen flickers with static and switches fronts. A Halloween video in my first grade year pastes a comical picture on screen: cute boy dresses in cat suit, crawling around on all fours in a land of pretend. The camera walked on eggshells, since Sylvester was very camera-shy.
“Yeah, I got really good at that after a while,” I joke, pausing for the small laugh that followed, “I can’t believe I wanted to be a cat!”
“Watch it, buster,” Beth chided, “That’s thin ice you’re treading on.” She threw a pillow at me, which I caught and put under my head. I felt a pillow fight coming on, and prepared for war. There wasn’t time to take arms, as the window to the past motored along. High school bestows the viewer, highlighting a wrestling match from long ago.
I could tell you everything about the match, from the knots in the gym floor to the color of the referee’s eyes. The air in the room, in fact, had the smell of floor wax and popcorn. It was the District title on the line; my absolute favorite six minutes of high school. The video onscreen played that favorable match on the screen as well as in my mind.
The entire match wasn’t supposed to happen. An injury granted me that chance to compete for this respectable prize, though I wasn’t expected to go all too far. By some miracle, I managed to get to finals. I was riding an emotional high; the last match finished onscreen, and I felt my brain recall the raw and untamed emotion sensed that exact day.
An announcer blares over the microphone my name as my opponent and I approach the center circle. In this reminiscence, I look incredibly small. The gang stares at my eyes, since a madman’s stare fell over them as the match began. “Grappler for life,” Bo said matter-of-factly. I didn’t care what he said; the match had more prominence.
The match began, and my mind fell back into the thought process. Moves flew through my mind, as well as openings. It was like I was there again, just this time I couldn’t affect the outcome. There I sat, staring at myself getting and giving punishment for the first period. Second period showed the two grapplers onscreen tiring, despite their excruciating training. It was a struggle, to say the least.
“So, what happened to all that bulk?” Josh asked. He was right; as a teen I was very stocky. On the mat my muscled dripped with sweat. My brown hair glistened in the light, smoothing out the spiky look of the crew-cut. The comparison from there to now depressed me; nowadays I’m pretty wiry.
“Yeah, I lost a lot of muscle mass before the transformation. It freaked my friends out. The entire process happened three months later.” My mind snaps back into the match before me.
The second period ended, and the camera panned off. Though everyone else didn’t know it, I could hear the words said in my corner. Coach told me some technique, though I only truly remember the last line, “You only get one shot, so make it count. Go do what you do best.” And so the fabled third period began.
Ah, third period. My loins burned with sympathy pains as Sylvester stepped out on the mat for the final two minutes of the match two points behind. Refusing to give in to fatigue or the man across from him, he gets down into stance and starts to press his limits. The crowd cheered, offering encouragement to the tiring man. In those last two nail-biting minutes, Sylvester managed to regain the two points. Waves of joy passed over me as Sylvester raised his arms in triumph.
The end of the tape came rather anticlimactically, disappointing me alone. The vision continued in my head, I saw my coach shaking my hand after the match, the respect my opponent and I showed to each other, and finally collapsing from exertion on the bleachers. In the extreme expedition of energy, I found happiness. For everyone else, well, they just nagged me to put another tape in. I drifted off, and they were eager to see another film.
The description of the other tapes will not be nearly as clear and insightful, understandably so since I wasn’t actually there. In fact, this will be the first time I see my friends in human form. “Who’s next?” I ask maliciously. Beth still hounded me on the cat costume, so I picked up her tape with an evil smile and pop it into the VCR.
Beth’s tape started out much like mine, but quickly fired off in another direction. The cute baby metamorphosed into a mature young girl, singing and tap dancing in perfect rhythm. Her slim body pranced along onstage, filling the air with a beautiful pure tone. We stared in disbelief as our usually non-musical Beth composed herself onstage like a superstar. “Hey, what can I say?” she exclaimed modestly.
Beth is incredibly thin, then and now. Her full head of blonde hair played about her face, covering and unmasking parts of her face as she twirled onstage. With a face made of the purest and finest china, her visage enchanted the viewers in its constant state of elation. Her act flowed across the surface, filling every creep and crevice with its smooth feel.
The next part of the tape portrayed Beth’s older brother picking at her. He’s a lot like I was: stocky and short. Beth screamed as the older person pounded on her. “At least someone had the right idea,” I joke. The comment earned me a pillow to the face and a playfully angry Caitlin. Some more scenes flashed by, but I didn’t really soak them up through the goose down covering my face.
I’ll just get the film later, and blame her for blockading my viewing of her past. She’ll laugh, tell me not to use such big words, and all will be happy. I love this relationship; we poke fun at each other yet still maintain a close relationship. She’s so wonderful. But back to the videos.
Caitlin’s tape came next, beginning as Beth settled down. The same baby film came and went, amidst the standby cooing by the womenfolk. Her young age flew by, offering only a few minutes of comic relief. Among the highlights: Caitlin in drag, impersonating an annoying pop star and attempting to drive a small go-kart, the final act ending in hilarious disaster involving an expensive vehicle. “It took two years to pay that off,” she groaned.
Perhaps the best snippet of Caitlin’s life came out in her quartet performance. She walked on stage, brown hair shimmering in the spotlight. Her sequined outfit covered a small layer of fat, though she wasn’t chubby at all. The quartet’s performance was exceptional, proving their worth through the sweet female barbershop chords. Everyone joined in with the clapping tape, as Caitlin started into the part once again. I’d bet her mind pulled the same trick mine did as she relived the moment.
Immediately after the tape finished its interpretation of the song, Caitlin sprang up and removed the tape. We all welled up in protest, but she insisted the next part was extremely private. Though we tried, she wouldn’t budge from her stance. Beth leaned over into my ear and whispered, “I’ll show you in private. This is my collection, you know.” Stifling my chuckle, I pulled out Bo’s tape and put it in.
Bo’s tape completely skipped the baby stage; his parents didn’t purchase a camera for about five years after his birth. Instead, the tape jumped all the way to his middle school garage band. We covered our ears jokingly, with Bo not far behind. The band gave new meaning to terrible; the drummer was off-beat, the bassist’s guitar was out of tune, and Bo’s 80s style lead guitar left something to be desired. After a few pathetic songs (with commentary on why it blew by Bo) the tape changed again. This time, Bo sat on a stool beside his friend. Bo covered the harmonica in his mouth as the blues wailed from that very secluded spot.
“You should play for them,” said Caitlin, “I’ve heard you just playing around, and you’re really good!”
“Right, maybe later,” Bo brushed it off. The Bo onscreen completely offset Bo’s gigantic girth planted on the couch. The man onscreen was extremely skinny, with toothpick arms to boot. I laughed at his miniscule size, citing my awesome body mockingly. “Shut your yap. I started to gain weight before the transformation; it freaked me out.” The music wailed from the screen for an hour, before the tape fuzzed out into a haze of blue.
Josh’s tape found his way into the recorder, sending us into fits of laughter. Of course, Josh’s younger years were sprightly and vigorous. The video began with a young brown-haired boy hopping off the walls of a plain white room. “That was my playroom,” Josh reminisced, “I kept all my toys in the closet so I could run around without hitting stuff.”
“Somehow, I expected that,” I joked. Josh tried to voice a retort, but the tape flickered bringing up more cackling from the crowd. There stood the lanky teenager, attempting a comical act of impressions. They were terrible, and rather discrete. His face was priceless, though, as it contorted with the effort of holding laughter down. We poked fun as the terrible actor onscreen made an attempt to be funny. The screen, never staying in one place too long, transited to the next frame.
The only true glimpse of Josh came in his track meet. The first part of the endeavor portrayed a mature young Josh cracking jokes at the camera. His soft face accented his rugged yet skinny look, though his tree trunk legs offset his puny upper body. A small cropping of red hair set his head ablaze. Just as I started to look in more detail, the tape pulled away to the meet itself.
I hate watching sporting events. It makes me yearn to get into the action. Yeah, I lost my competitive nature with the transformation. When I made the switch, the old burning desire resurfacade inside of me and drove me with sanguine will. Any open contest I see pulls me in like the eternal and powerful force of magnetism. Josh won by a few lengths, blowing the rest of the poor competition away. That’s really all that mattered.
The next part of the tape showed Josh’s hidden talents. The fuzz faded, and there sat Josh and his close friend laying down a beatbox rhythm. “You know, if we put our talents together we could make a band,” I sarcastically lay over the pounding music, “It seems all too fitting.”
“And what would you do?” Caitlin jumped in.
“Make fun of you guys, what else?” I say, laughing. The beatbox rhythm faded as the tape’s life span faded out. In the silence following the blue screen on the TV, Josh started into an introspect, “Isn’t this grand? Here we sit, completely different from those people on the TV. It’s hard to believe we’re the same as those we see onscreen. It’s like a mirror for the maker of the memory, but a new view for anyone on the outside. Almost like some sort of crystal ball.”
“Wow, I’m impressed! Josh does philosophy? You going to be the next Confucius?” Everyone screamed in laughter, and in the midst of the noise I found a nondescript tape. “What’s this?” Nobody knew, so I popped it in the VCR. “Video surprise for the finale sound good?” The words lingered as the new entry flickered to life.
That “unmarked tape” came from our coffer of Furs-Only’s “productions.” The field showed up onscreen, flickering with verdant ambience. There was everyone, playing football like time never passed at all. I was still small, sneaking among the trees for an advantage. Then, she came onto camera. Kate stood in front of us again, smiling and waving like nothing was wrong. The powerful urge to call her welled up in me, leading a tear to my already moist eyes. Everyone seemed to feel the same emotion, for the laughter suddenly stopped up.
She was right there, looking right at us. This Kate didn’t know how she would die, or how the news would trip a series of wonderful and climatic events. Just as I got aquatinted with the thought of her in my room once again, she flickered out. The batteries on the recorder ran out, and I silently cursed its insolence. The silence lingered, until Caitlin jumped into action and popped in the Visage. In an ironic and unexpected response to the sadness, everyone decided to blow each other to smithereens in the virtual world.
The party went far into the night, flickering out in stages as each fur met their fatigue limit. Even I, with my extreme threshold, eventually met my demise. As morning laced my eyelids, everyone was packing up to go home. I saw them off, as this computer and this entry called my name.
Ah, the joy of nostalgia. Isn’t it grand to look into the past? The window may be one way, but still the memory remains crisp and clear. I’ve learned about my friends, and how they once lived. Things didn’t change much, though some interesting quirks and talents surfaced.
After all, knowledge comes from the experimentation of the future and the consideration of the past.
The movie is just about done. Garmond Films called me this morning to tell me that the story premieres in a month, and everyone at the Furs-Only gets VIP treatment. Garmond guarantees that we’ll all receive the very best, and get treated like kings. Everyone’s really excited about the movie, and the conversation at the Furs-Only always regresses to it
Oh yes, about the Furs-Only. The ad campaign keeps Caitlin and Bo barely over water. Only a few people have entered these doors, and soon left because of the lackluster crowd. They tip well, though, and that’s sustaining the pair just fine. I wish they could get more, though, and be well off for once in their lives.
My money issues are in the past. Thinking for the future, I handed over all the money Garmond Films paid out to an investor. He’s going to play the stock market for me, and I’ll live off the profits. In a way, I’m retired at 28. I couldn’t be happier.
I still felt bad about thrashing Bo during the party, so I decided to take the gang out to play paintball. Of course, this led to a scene at the Furs-Only. I stepped into the Furs-Only, a smirk on my face. Everyone stopped and turned to look at the wry look I sent back at them.
“Ok, I know that shit-eating grin when I see it,” said Caitlin, averting her gaze to the ceiling, “what’s on the crafty mind of Sly Squirrel this time?”
“Not much, just thought we’d do something today.”
“And that’s where the grin comes in, I guess?”: Vanessa spoke suddenly from the corner, as we mutually realized she missed the party. She switched gears and spun a reason on the spot. “I had to work, so I missed the action.”
“Sa’right,” I casually reply, “what else is going on?”
“Same thing, different day,” Bo snapped acidly, softening his tone as the phrase went on. I love it when someone backs out of an emotion; it reminds me of a bitter food’s sweet aftertaste. Bo, suddenly realizing what I was doing, turned back to me. “I know what you’re doing; you’re trying to skirt the grin you had. Let’s have it.”
“But that would take the fun out of it!” my smile broadens, “How about three guesses?”
“How about three swipes with my claws?” Beth jumped in, flashing her talons malignantly.
“Can’t argue with that logic. How about a game of paintball? My treat.” Everyone’s jaws dropped.
“Sly? Offering a game of violent origins? Are you feeling well?” Caitlin brought her hand to my head in a sarcastic attempt to feel for a fever. I swiped it away playfully.
“Hush. It’s just fun: pure, adrenaline-racked fun. The game’s in an hour. Who’s with me?”
“You’re paying?” Bo was doubtful.
“Sure. I have all that money and nowhere to burn it, so I thought I’d take my friends out for a good time.” Everyone accepted, amidst screams of elation. Josh almost jumped out of his chair, stumbling over a stray log by the mantle. He tried to come out with finesse, rolling right into the pool table. Rubbing his head, he shunned away our joking jabs.
After everyone settled down, we all piled into the truck for a game of strategic pursuit. It’s a comical sight; the predatory instincts of my carnivorous friends surface as the game dawns ever closer. They’re all screaming at each other, laying down how they’re going to blast each other to bits. Even the usually humanitarian Beth jumps on this bandwagon, explaining in detail how she’s going to blast me out of the sky.
Even I am not impervious to this maniacal streak. In only a few minutes, I’m right up with the best of the smack talkers. They all ignored me, and flashed claws and teeth. Oh well, I guess some instincts never die. The truck stops suddenly, and Duress lies in front of us.
Duress’s exterior façade didn’t show much, in fact it was downright disappointing. A ramshackle building sat in front of us, overlooking a great forest. This building was tended by a meager staff of three, a very casual three at that. They were to referee the mixed bag of competitors we had competing.
And what a mixed bag it was. A father-son pair sat in the corner, conversing amongst themselves about the next few hours. Teenagers in the corner tried to top each other with their insane acts of courage. One was going in shorts and a t-shirt, and I laughed. I may be furred, but at least I had the foresight to bring a few layers of clothing. The most foreboding group sat quietly in a corner, whispering strategies to each other. Their bright weapons showed off their experience.
The strangest thing we saw was another group of furs. There aren’t many around our town anymore, not since the vaccine was invented. They stood proud of their form, much like we did. Always the entrepreneur, Bo invited them to the Furs-Only. One even took interest in a job, much to my surprise. Maybe we will get some attendence after all…
But back to the game. As everyone calmed down, the referees started giving instruction. His talk took on a militaristic feel, bringing back memories of the competitive wrestling long ago. The rules were pretty simple: don’t take off the mask, don’t shoot anyone at point blank, and stop when the whistle blows. In just a few short minutes, he dispersed us to the supply crates.
The mask came first. In this category, the staff was prepared for our type. A special mask was handed out, one with an exaggerated protrusion on the front. It fit perfectly around my muzzle, along with everyone else. The mask transforms me as it comes over my face, and my mind begins to transmute. I know what’s coming, and I’m all to excited about it.
Finally, the gun found its way to my hands. I fumbled with the gun in my hands for a second, feeling the power surge through me. The bolt at the side calls my name, and I pull it back with melodrama. I couldn’t help it; the instinct had tight grips on me. The sound of the bolt brought sadistic pleasure as it fell into place with a soft click. I haven’t held a gun since I was little.
Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday. The reminiscence poured over me as I stood in full gear. My father bought me a shotgun when I was only eight, and I took to the weapon immediately. My father took me hunting one day, once he felt I knew my gun well enough. The forest swallowed us into its depths, allowing us access to our quarry.
My dad handed me a box of shells to put into my vest. “These are deer slugs, son. They’ll kill a dear with no trouble,” he told me matter-of-factly. I loaded my gun and continued on. We stalked for hours, staying deathly silent. My patience waned, until it showed up.
The buck stood in a clearing, grazing calmly. My dad looked down to me, and told me to take the shot. I took aim, and fired. The shot rang through the forest, announcing the death of the deer. Satisfied with my performance, my dad patted me on the back and helped me carry my trophy home. It was a true bonding moment.
When I was in my smaller state, I felt remorse for the act. The form warped my perception, and forced me to walk in that deer’s skin. My instincts were appalled at the act. Suddenly, I look back with joy at my first kill. It is nature, after all.
But back to Duress. We were led to the field, and I was surprised to see how small it was. The square of forest set off showed its wear with loose paintballs scattered about. Small barricades were constructed of deadfall, offering cover to participants. More stable bunkers were constructed of stumps, offering a stable defensive hold. Our team split off, making the trip to our flag station. The staff member assigned to watch us gave last minute pointers, and we decided who would run out.
“I’m running right out there to the center and getting into a firefight,” said Josh in a frenzy. I was sure I would straggle behind, playing a safe defense. Something came over me, and I stepped up.
“Right behind you,” I stated, walking right up to Josh.
“Wow, the squirrel wants some violence?” Josh said sarcastically, ”Works for me. Ready?”
“Anytime.” The referee counted down, bestowing silence on the competitors. The whistle blew, and my energy exploded outwards. I sprinted across the wooded span, ducking low to avoid the buzzing paintballs coming from the other side. The first barricade came into range, and I dove into it. Paintballs splattered against the wooded mass, accenting my close escape. I settled in, and froze.
It was like two voices were yelling for attention. My human side wanted me to pop up and lay down some paint, while my squirrel side wanted to cower and hide. There I laid, screaming at my body to move from its position and play.
Beth broke the vicious cycle, diving over the top and into my foxhole. “Hey Sly!” she said in gasps, “Give me some help here! Those guys are hot on my tail!” Sure enough, Beth had the flag clasped in her hands triumphantly. The peer pressure pulled me from my paralyzed state, and my gun found its way over the top of the barricade.
Beth’s tormenters didn’t expect backup, and uselessly tried to find some cover. I pegged both multiple times, staying up a little longer than I should have. Paint splattered just beside my hand, signaling me to get down. I turn to the panting Beth, suddenly feeling the elation of false combat. “Get that flag home, I’ll cover your backside. You shouldn’t take to long anyway, cheetah of mine.”
“That was almost too much, Sly,” she poked, “Here I go!” She ran, and I popped up into a firefight. We traded blows, until they ran. I stupidly gave chase, walking right into a trap. The paint splattered on my bare wrist, stinging through my fur. I stifled my scream as the pain subsided. When I made it back to the command center, the whistle blew. Beth made the run successfully. The other team plodded to the central base, as we stood triumphantly over them. It didn’t last long, as the next game began shortly after.
Things continued on in that vein for a long while, getting better all the time. My strategy remained: run to a barricade, give some cover, and win. One time I played hero, using my skills to my advantage. The flag was heavily defended, and I knew something had to be done. At my flag, I started up a tree. One human asked if I was crazy, to which I replied I am a squirrel.
The leaves covered my movements well, and in no time I stood over the enemy flag. One guard sat in the bunker, watching over his flag. I pegged him, laughing at the ironic ending he came to. Without a second thought, I stepped down, grabbed the flag, and scrambled back up the tree.
This time, everyone knew where I was. As I stepped across the first tree, paint whizzed through the air. I kept moving, the feeling and sound of splattering paint driving me on. In a true showing of squirrel acrobatics, I flew down the trunk of a tree into a full roll behind a barricade. My team came up to cover me as I captured the flag. It was bliss.
From there we went to the elimination game. The concept is simple; kill everyone before they kill you. The referee piled us all into the middle, giving a count of ten before the game began. Everyone scattered at he counted, and at ten the final battle began. Ammunition flew every which way, splattering on every surface imaginable.
My game didn’t last long, though. When I popped up to take a shot, I received a painful blow to the back of my head. The pain surges through my body, as dizziness takes over. I stumble through the woods and out of the arena, turning in my equipment in a daze. It wasn’t long before everyone else found their ends.
“Wow! What a rush!” Caitlin exclaimed in the truck.
“I never knew violence could be this fun,” Josh added.
“Neither did I,” I say dreamily. I found myself out there. I found a lost part of my humanity.
“Thanks, Sly. It was awesome,” Bo said candidly.
“As long as everyone had fun,” I reply modestly, “and I’m pretty sure everyone did.”
“You bet! When do we go again?” Vanessa screamed with joy.
“I’m sure we’ll go sometime,” I said. Everyone started swapping stories and experiences, telling of their best and worst moments on the field. My story of the tree flag capture took the cake, though. The Furs-Only loomed over the horizon, and I offered to take Beth home. She accepted, and we drove that way.
Beth wasn’t much in the mood for talking like sane people, as her conversation turned back to that paintball game. I followed along until we arrived. She stepped out, but took the key with her. “You’re going to stay for a while, aren’t you? I have some of your clothing from that laundry you gave me,” She waved the keys in front of her face.
“In that case, why not?” I confess as she opens her door for me. I really like Beth’s house; it’s a quaint establishment with a homely feel. The entry’s yellow paint prepares the visitor for the assorted shades that line the sunny house. Her living room contains a large TV facing a couch bracketed by endtables impaled by lamps. The endtables were adorned with assorted junk and magazines, the chaos hiding a beautiful walnut finish. The lamp’s black shaft continued up for another four feet before opening up to the ceiling. This light emulates the look of the place in the day, since the multiple windows let the natural light shine through.
She didn’t take me into her bedroom, tastefully so. The kitchen found me off the bat, though, attracting me with the aroma of delectable sweets. The small walnut table and chairs make up the only furniture crowding the bright linoleum floor. This room also benefits from natural light, opening its ceiling to the sky. Her cabinets of hunter green foil the bright appearance of the room, bringing out the stark white oven, refrigerator, and sink. She has no microwave, feeling it’s cheating to use one.
“Are you in the sweets again?” Beth called from her bedroom, “I swear I don’t know how you manage to be so thin!”
“Hey, you’re the one who has them! How do you keep your form?” I shoot back.
“It’s in the genes.”
“Yeah, sure.” With a handful of sweets, I flopped on the couch and turn on the TV. Beth walked in, saw me on her couch, and chided me. “You’re so dirty, Sly!” she yelled, “Get a shower now!”
“Yes ma’am,” I say sarcastically, “Do you have some clothing for me?”
“Yeah, I did a load yesterday,” she pulls out a set of clothing and throws it at me. Grabbing my coverings, I headed to the bathroom. Her bathroom even had windows, their frosty panes overlooking her backyard. The white walls give the room a washed look, but it’s rather pleasing in this setting. After setting my clothing on the toilet, I turned on the shower. It’s warm water washed over me, rinsing the paint of my fur. After getting out and dressed, I stepped out to Beth’s sinister joking.
“You look like a drowned rat!” she exclaimed, laughing.
“What do you think I am? Rodents always look like this after getting wet,” I reply, trying to no avail to smooth out the mats in my fur. “Besides, you’re next. I can’t wait to see how you come out,”
“Beautiful, as always,” she said sassily as the door shut. The TV was turned to Looney Tunes, so I kept it there as I took the brush to my body. The mats stung as they unfolded, but I continued nonetheless. Bugs Bunny looked over my shoulder as I brushed myself out. Beth didn’t take long, much to my surprise, startling me as she shut the door.
“Fur sure has its prices!” she complained, eyeing her own mats, “Wanna brush me out?”
“Why not?” I reply, starting into her back, “Even though you did make fun of me earlier.”
“Cats just look good wet,” she said, reaching for the pile of sweets I had laid out earlier.
“Oh, now I see! ‘I don’t see how you can keep your form!’ You shameless hypocrite,” I jeer.
“I know, it’s a habit I have to break,” she replied with sass. I pulled on a mat to accentuate my point. She yelped, then took the brush from me. “Your turn,” she said with an evil smile.
“Be merciful,” I playfully submit. Soon enough, Beth combed me from head to toe. That’s when she decided to get rough. In a playful fit, she grabbed for my head. “You should know better,” I taunt as I start into a wrestling hold. We go back and forth, laughing and screaming all the way. Things started to come to an end, as I held her down. Suddenly, she tossed me off the top of her and pinned me down. In a fit of dirty play, I leaned up and kissed her on the cheek. Her laughing settled instantly, as she stared into my eyes. Her blue eyes led me down into her soul. After what seemed like hours, she leaned down and returned the favor.
After the passion subsided a little, we found our way back onto the couch. We laid down, watching late night cartoons. She snuggled into my arms, bringing her tail across my backside. Mine came across the two of us, laying across our two bodies like a binding rope. Fatigue came over us, as we drifted off. Before I went off to dreamland, Beth leaned back into my ear and whispered “I love you.” I held her a little closer as I fell asleep.
We drifted back to consciousness in the early hours of dawn, the windows announcing the new day with an intense blast of light. Beth bounced up, eager to greet the new day. She pulled me from my comfortable position, forcing me into an early morning start. I didn’t complain, especially when she put in a group of cinnamon rolls into the oven.
As the rolls started up, she invited me on her morning walk. I graciously accepted, as we started out into the early dawn. The early morning dew still hanged in the air, collecting on glass panes and shiny green blades of grass. All the houses were still sleeping, with only a few lights and signs of life popping up here and there. Birds started into their sweet melody to add comfort and relaxation to the entire trip.
“Nobody has ever been on this walk with me before,” Beth said solemnly.
“It means a lot to me that I’m the first,” I return the emotion. She reached for my hand, and I took hers in mine. We stayed quiet, trying not to ruin the moment. After a few minutes of enchantment, we returned home.
The sweet smell of pastry assaulted us on entry. Beth pulled out the delectable rolls, and we dined like kings. After a meal in beautiful silence, Beth had to be on her way. She handed back my keys, hugged me, and gave me a sensuous kiss on the lips. We stayed like that for the longest time, savoring the closeness and true affections we shared.
The car feels amazingly empty without her in it. There is no doubt I love her. I’m always happy when she’s around, and she’s always smiling when I’m in the area. She understands my situation and my nuances. I can always count on her for a laugh. It’s a perfect relationship.
That is the most cherishable thing of all.
It’s the premiere day! I’m so excited. Who knew my life would touch so many? Suddenly, all my toil proves worthwhile. In the next few hours, I may make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe it will become a timeless classic. Maybe my life story will join the ranks of Hollywood failures. That’s yet to be seen.
And it’s only a bunch of pictures shown in succession to the viewer. Isn’t that ironic? These stills can infuse a blank screen with energy, with emotion deep and meaningful. The frames can make or break a director. The director, though on the surface seems to be completely responsible for the experience, only provides a backdrop for the true elation of a movie.
The pure joy of a movie happens in the mind of the viewer. In good film, the viewer can relate to the character onscreen. A patron empathizes with the onscreen actor, realizing that the hero onscreen has some very human and relatable characteristics. They can put themselves onto that screen in the exact situation the main character is in and feel at home. It’s in the mind’s eye that true quality film magic takes place.
The entire gang sat in the limousine, taking joy in its comfort and accommodation. In a fit of pure engineering genius, the entire design of the limo favors tails. Holes in the seating allowed the extra appendages to thread comfortably through the back of the chair. It’s such a relief that I don’t have to bundle my tail across the front of me!
“I still say we should have had the party at the Furs-Only,” Bo said, referencing the celebration after the viewing.
“Oh, you know it wouldn’t be prudent,” Caitlin said with adamant reasoning, “There’s hundreds of people coming to the premiere, and we couldn’t hope to house that number of people. Besides, I want to enjoy myself without tending to somebody else’s needs,” her reply set Bo straight, and he nodded in agreement.
Caitlin and Bo sat at one end of the moderately-sized limo. They sat separated from each other, trying to keep an air of professionalism about themselves. Josh and Vanessa were a different story, leaning over the seat to look out the window at passers-by on the street. Beth and I lazed on the back seat, leaning on each other and taking comfort in our togetherness.
“That’s almost sickening,” said Caitlin, “You look so perfect together!”
“Yeah, I know. A squirrel and his predator, who knew?” Beth slapped me playfully as the words left my mouth.
“You know I’m not like that! You’re just making fun of me,” she whined.
“Damn straight,” I reply comically, earning me another slap on the chest. Things settled down a little after that. Josh and Vanessa still pressed their muzzles to the window, attracting stares from the rapidly moving stationary people outside. Vanessa’s tail bounced rhythmically in the air, echoing her overt happiness and excitement.
“Look at that one!” squealed Vanessa suddenly, “roll down the window.” Josh complied, and the limo was suddenly drenched with the sound of sweet saxophone. We stopped for a red light, and our crew leaned out the window to shower the sax player in change. He waved a thank you as we continued on.
The signs of a large event were in the air. Scalpers sold fake tickets to unsuspecting people looking for a way into the premiere. Parking lots bulged with cars, and every restaurant in town had people hanging out the windows from overcrowding. In a way, I wish I was in that normal crowd, packed like sardines but still having a good time. Being the guest of honor obligates me to continue on the path I’m taking, though.
“Earth to Sly!” Beth yelled in my ear. Apparently my attention turned outside as my thoughts wandered, sending my nose to the glass window. I pulled away and left a wet spot on the window where my nose touched.
“Must have drifted away there for a second,” I reply dreamily, “What were we talking about?”
“Well, not much really,” Caitlin said matter-of-factly, “The last thing I remember is the sax player.”
“This is going to be so cool!” Vanessa exclaimed, “We’re going to be the guests of honor at a movie premiere!”
“We’ve come a long way,” I start into retrospect, “Just a few years ago we were the scum of the Earth. Suddenly, we’re being honored with a tribute of sorts. Two years ago, the same director may have rather spat on us than talk to us. Isn’t it an ironic turn of events?”
“That it is,” Bo spoke gravely. The spotlights of the theater appeared over the horizon. A bright yellow haze centered on the large building, showing off its halogen glory in a flashy way. Our white limo pulled up to the red carpet, and the crowd went nuts. Flash bulbs created a white-out as we stepped out of the car. I stumbled along, suddenly feeling seperated from my friends inches away. The door appeared over the horizon of white, and I trudged into it. Spots danced on my eyes as my friends entered the door.
“How can we enjoy a movie if we can’t see it?” Beth snapped, “Those cameras are insane!”
“It will pass,” Bo stated, “Just deal with it until it subsides.”
“But until then we’re as blind as bats,” Josh wasn’t all to happy, even with his cheery demeanor.
What I could see of the theater looked marvelous. The entire vaulted room was painted with a light yellow, laced with darker tones of marigold and yellow-orange. Wonderfully detailed masonry laced the supporting columns. The carpet’s deep purples and reds foiled the bright room, providing contrast with the bright room. Chandeliers above gave off soft refracted light. It reminded me of a church, in its own overdone way.
A man walked up to us, though I couldn’t identify any of his features through the sea of spots that danced on my eyes. “You must be Sly Squirrel,” he said cheerfully, grabbing my hand in an ardent handshake. He turned (I think) to everyone else and introduced himself. “I’m the director, Tobe Williams. It’s a pleasure to meet you for the first time. I wanted to speak with you before I made the movie, but my executives told me it couldn’t be arranged.”
“All you had to do is call and we would’ve been happy to help,” Beth spoke casually, “but that doesn’t matter now. No use crying over the past!”
“Yeah. I tried my best to capture what I knew of you in the film. Well, the movie is about to begin; shall we take a seat?” He led us down the golden hall into a darker room. The lights on the side walls dimmed, and a polite usher led us to a clump of seats near the middle. All the chairs were made of dark varnished wood, and the cushions had rich scarlet coverings. I fell into mine with bliss; movie chairs are always comfortable. These chairs were specially made for this modern society; the backs had a hole to thread tails through. Most places provide seats and amenities like these. I’m so glad it happens like that.
That’s when it hit me. When it all began, my furriness was a damper on my life. People hated me, and I hated myself. All that time, I had to adapt to a human environment. They didn’t care if I was a squirrel or dirt. Nowadays, I can go anywhere and they accommodate for me. Now, I can enjoy my form without the negative adaptation problems.
“This will be so awesome,” Vanessa squealed again, squirming in her seat uncontrollably. I pulled myself from melancholy, just in time to watch the lights to dim and the screen to come to life. Movie screens are such a wonderful thing; they come to life when certain light patterns hit them, affecting people in unexpected ways. When it’s all over, the screen is inanimate once again.
No previews preceded the movie, as the title screen flashed in small text. It was simple: Walking the Walk. The screen shifted again, apparently to my house. This must be my first stop at the Furs-Only! A car drove down a wooden path towards a large bar. The building was enormous and hopping with activity. The vehicle driving stopped, the door opened, and a human jumped out.
My train of thought raged in my head. Maybe it’s not me. Maybe that’s some sort of parable. A small woman jumped out of the hopping joint, and bounced up to the main character. “Hey Sly!” A human was playing my part! How in the world are they going to make this story work without furry discrimination? I watched in horror as my question was answered.
They didn’t. My character’s personality completely foiled my real life self. He walked around with a headstrong attitude, divvying out orders and making everyone work to his satisfaction. When they went to the entertainment center, the onscreen Sly fought with the bullies and won. At the alley, he knocked all four of the bullies out single-handedly. I was so angry.
I couldn’t relate to this character onscreen. He was not Sly Squirrel. I had nothing in common with this onscreen monster. Movies with magic make for wonderful revelations, and this movie’s sparkle never came.
The movie trudged on, and I looked to my friends to see the same horror reflected in their eyes. I was sure they were as appalled as me at that point. My curiosity got the best of me, and I leaned over into Beth’s ear.
“Is it just me or is this a terrible biography?” I asked in a light whisper.
“Biography? What biography? All I see is overdone Hollywood junk,” she replied mordantly.
“Well, we can’t just leave right now, though I want to. We’d lose the ad campaign. Our only choice is to make well and say it was really good.”
“Oh, how I hate lying!” Caitlin replied, “But it must be done. I’ll pass it down the line.” The operation stayed silent up to Bo, who yelped once in protest. Caitlin pinched him with her sharp claws, though, and he shut his mouth pretty quickly. She flashed a thumbs up, and I knew everyone would make nice with the director after the show.
Finally, the movie ended. We breathed a sigh of relief in tandem as we walked out into the hall again. Elaborate appetizers lined the table, attracting the eyes of our hungry crew. Once we had our drink and snack, we made our rounds to congratulate the staff on a nice movie. I personally shook the hand of the director, but as I turned to leave he pulled me off.
“Look, I had no choice,” he confessed, “the big heads of my studio rejected every other script I handed in. They were adamant on doing the casting themselves, saying ‘this movie needed an all-star cast.’ If it were my choice I would have gone for a more accurate representation.” I felt my anger coming to the surface again, until I put myself in his shoes.
He had no say in the matter. He had a job to withhold. He had people who guided his hand the entire way. He had no control over those factors. “I totally understand. If they want the whole story, they can just read it,” I casually forgive him, “no hard feelings here.”
“You don’t know how much that means to me,” he said gravely, “I feel like I’ve cheated you.”
“You didn’t, the company did,” I reply. He shook my hand again and was off. With a sigh of distaste, I return to my duties of keeping everyone happy.
They were all so snooty. Everybody I met up with hesitated to shake my hand, afraid my fur would dirty their hands or something. My tail swayed as always, and that seemed to intimidate everyone I met up with. I smiled nonetheless, and answered their questions before moving on to the next group.
Finally, everyone had their time with one of the “furs,” as they took to calling us. Exhausted, we made a discrete exit into our limousine. Everyone remained silent on the way home, overtaken with surprise at how the film onscreen was like watching someone else’s life. I kept quiet, until I finally could take it no more and told everyone about the pressures the director was under. Their anger only intensified, suddenly redirected at the executives. The rage stayed within themselves, though, keeping a silent air over the vehicle until we found our way back to the Furs-Only.
Everyone said their good-byes, and went their separate ways. I took Beth home, as always. My anger poured over my face, castrating it into a frown of disapproval. Beth, sensing my rage, put her hand over my shifting hand and squeezed it tightly. “I don’t care what the movie people think of you, you’ll always be my Sly Squirrel. I don’t need a movie to tell me what to remember of you.” She stepped out of the car, lightly kissing me on the cheek. That brought a smile to my face, and I drove home with a better demeanor than I’ve had for quite a while.
What a pickle Bo and Caitlin are in! I got a pleading call from Caitlin today, begging me to help the pair at the bar. Apparently, the movie had a profound effect on the public. Everyone wanted to visit the Furs-Only, some on a tourism basis, some wanting a new hang out. Reluctantly, I agreed to help. She thanked me many times before slamming the phone down to answer a call for waitress. I couldn’t help but laugh at her demeanor. She really was on the go!
I got up from my casual position and got some presentable clothing on. The entire day, I sat around the house loafing off. The only thing I did of value was clean the living room. Other than that, I spent my time sleeping or watching television. Suddenly invigorated with a task, I pulled myself from the futon and into the closet.
“Denim and T-shirt will have to do,” I say rhetorically to an imaginary Caitlin. With a sigh, I pulled on the jeans, carefully threading my tail through its pre-made hole. The shirt came over my head, and I was off to the races. You’ll note I didn’t include shoes. I don’t wear any shoes; try buying foot coverings for a strangely shaped squirrel paw! They’re leathery enough to support me anyway.
On arrival it dawned on me how large the situation was. Cars were piled haphazardly in the normally empty field. People straggled around the parameter, complaining about how packed it was inside. Humans, who knew we’d see humans at the Furs-Only? I giggled softly at the preposterous thought.
Pride welled within me then. The bar has come so far in these past years. Only a few years ago, we may see a customer every week. Today, though, more people flocked to the building than I think we’ve seen in many years. Bo and Caitlin finally made it big. Success now falls into their hands.
“Thank God you’re here!” Caitlin screamed across the clearing. She quickly dropped off her load to a group of patrons and ran over to me. “Everyone’s already here: Beth and Vanessa are bussing tables, Josh is manning the kitchen with Bo, and you’re going to man the bar,” Caitlin rattled it off so quickly I couldn’t take it all in. When she mentioned bartender, I instinctively took a step back.
“Whoa! I don’t know how to serve drinks!” I try to back out, suddenly realizing I’m over my head.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you a reference card. All you do is pick out the bottles and count,” Caitlin reassured me, somehow drawing on my emotional reserves and driving me into this new situation. I accepted, and Caitlin put me behind the bar. Bo pecked his head out of the kitchen door, saw me sitting behind the bar, and laughed.
“Sly Serving drinks? We’re all doomed!” he wailed. Laughing, he disappeared into the kitchen. I ignored him, while Caitlin started giving me a crash course.
“Okay, here’s what you do. Customer asks for drink, you look it up on the reference card. Find all the ingredients before mixing it, then follow the count system. Here, I’ll show you. How about a gin and tonic?” Caitlin grabbed the bottles blindly from the shelves behind, counting aloud as she poured. “Gin and tonic: two counts gin, one count tonic. Simple, no?”
“I guess,” I replied weakly as she slid the drink to me. Somebody screamed from across the way for a waiter, cueing Caitlin to take her leave.
“I have to go take orders. Give it a little time and you’ll catch on!” she said as she started into her task.
I had a little while before my first order, so I drank in the surroundings behind the bar with my gin and tonic. Bo took the time to refinish the bar, and I reveled in its mahogany majesty. The dark wood also finished a shoe mold around the bar edge, giving another form-factor to the wonderous bar. Stalagtites of wine glasses dangled from above. Behind me, a stack of bottles made a majestic backdrop. I looked in the mirror behind at my own face and smiled. Here I was, Sly the bartender.
And the Furs-Only was hopping. Everywhere I looked, something was going on. The karaoke stage was always occupied. Smiling groups of people and furries mingled, having a great time together. Every table was filled to capacity with laughing patrons. The talking, laughing, singing, and random silverware and glass merged to make a unique noise.
The constant noise was music to my ears. Finally, we had a real bar. People were having a good time; that thought alone brought a smile to my face. What’s more is the furries and humans mingling in perfect harmony. Those same humans may have been in mobs against those same furries years ago! I afforded myself a happy personal moment until I heard a polite cough from across the way.
My first customer called my attention, and I replied cheerfully. “How about a martini?” his confidence and laid-back attitude relaxed me, as I found the bottles off the shelf and poured the concoction for him. I fumbled with the bottles as I poured, but the man only smiled. “First-timer? I see.” I handed him the drink, and he said that it was wonderful. It brought a smile to my face.
But that smile wouldn’t last long. After the nice man was long gone, a group demanded instant service. Five wolves started yelling drink orders at me, some of which were not on the reference card. I fumbled with the glasses, trying to keep up with the screaming idiots. In a klutzy daze I finished the last drink, though they didn’t thank me.
Caitlin came back to check on me and put in a few drink orders. I told her about the wolf pack, and she laughed. “Who cares? You’re doing fine.” She gave me pointers as I poured the drinks. I started to remember where the bottles sat, and was fumbling around less as I went along. Caitlin only smiled approvingly and told me to keep up the good work.
When Caitlin left, Sarah arrived. She was a lonely human, loafing through the bar like a chastised dog. I waked over to her, put on my best smile, and started into my mentor talk. “So, what’ll be your pleasure?”
“Pleasure, I like that,” she said solemnly. “Better make it scotch and soda, and better make it strong.”
I made a tsking sound as I poured the drink. “Sounds like somebody isn’t all too well. What’s your story?”
“I feel so alien. People act strangely around me, like I’m growing an extra tentacle. It must be the stuff I learned as a mouse; I’m real skittish. I don’t know anymore…”
“What, you took the reversal process? What a strange coincidence! I did the same thing,” I state matter-of-factly. She whips up to see my face, then frowns.
“You’re pulling my leg. You’re still a squirrel, so how could you do the reversal process?” she moaned out of frustration.
“I was human for about a day. That’s when I realized I had to come back.” My voice took on a grave tone.
“You went back? Why?” she was obviously confused.
“Because I realized my entire life transmuted. I knew that my form would always be squirrel, even if my skin was human. I also felt uncomfortable in human form, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was a mask, and I was covering my soul.” I poured another drink for her. “This one’s on me. I hope I helped you with your troubles.”
“Believe me, you’ve made all the difference,” she smiled, grabbed the drink, and ran off. I couldn’t help smiling as I watched her hop into her car and speed off.
I made a difference. That one person’s life will change for the better because I reached out and gave her a helping hand. Because of me, she’ll be happier in her travels. Maybe she’ll come back, and want to talk to “that squirrel bartender” that changed her life so much. Pride welled within me, and sends tingles up and down my spine.
The day dragged on, and I got better at serving drinks at the bar. In fact, my tip bowl had to be emptied quite a few times during the day from all the heavy tippers. Caitlin was very impressed with how I handled myself, and thought I should come back and work for them. I graciously declined.
Day turned to night, and people started to disperse. At about two in the morning, we pushed the last stragglers out and closed our doors to the public.
Caitlin, Vanessa, and Beth collapsed on the pillows by the fire. They ran around all day, and they deserved the rest. “I’m absolutely drained!” Caitlin sighed with relief.
“Here too,” Beth jumped in, “I’ve never ran that much in my life!”
“Who knew taking orders could be so hard?” Vanessa laid back on the pillow, panting madly.
“Maybe it’s time to hire some help?” I interject, earning a priceless expression of “well duh!” from Caitlin. I didn’t wait for reply.
Bo and Josh appeared from the kitchen, also spent from the effort. “I’ve never cooked that much in my life!” Bo said.
“I’ve never cooked in my life!” Josh said comically. They joined the women on the pillows, just as beat.
“All I had to do is pour drinks all day,” I joked, “and give some therapeutic advice.”
“Isn’t that the best part of bartending?” Bo asked rhetorically, “So, who did you help?”
“Well, this woman named Sarah reversed her furriness and felt odd. After I told her my story, she found the resolve to go back.”
“Good for you!” Beth cheered, “It’s wonderful that you can help someone.”
“I know. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” Silence filled the once chaotic room, until I came out from behind the bar. “Well, there’s no point in trying to clean up now, since we’re all beat. How about we get some sleep and fix things up tomorrow?”
“Wait a second, Sly,” Bo spoke up, “Don’t worry about cleaning up tomorrow. We already have a staff picked out. Their first day starts tomorrow. What a first day that will be!” He smiled evilly.
“I know you’ll enjoy that,” I said wryly. And so, I left for home.
When I got home, I had a strange e-mail left on my computer. Apparently, the landlord wants me out of his complex because “I’ll attract the wrong attention with the movie modeled after me.” There’s nothing I can do about it; he owns the building and the decision of who stays and goes ends up in his hands.
In frustration, I called Beth. The phone rang for about a minute before she answered. “It’s going on three in the morning! What do you want?”
“Hey, its me,” my voice was low and strained in the effort to avoid screaming.
“Hey Sly sweetie,” her voice perked up, “what drove you to call at three? I’m sure it’s something big!”
I swallowed hard before I started. “Beth, I’m going to be out of an apartment in about a week. The landlord wants me gone because I’ll attract attention.”
“That’s absolutely terrible!” Beth replies, “So, you need someplace to stay? Why don’t you move in with me?”
“You read my mind. That would be wonderful,” I said with glee.
“So, how is tomorrow for you?” she was just going to drop everything for me.
“Delightful,” I reply happily. We said our good-byes and hung up. Tomorrow, I would be moving in with the one I love. Maybe this landlord issue will work out for the better.
“Sly, would you help with this chair?” Beth called me from my reminiscence, snapping me back to consciousness. I’ve been thinking lately, thinking about what we’ve become. I lifted the chair and moved it under Beth’s close supervision. When I was done, my mind turned back in upon itself.
Bo and Caitlin did get their staff up and running, and now they have a wonderful bar to run. Reviewers and critics say the bar is an interesting and unforgettable experience, though I could have told them that years ago. Their money problems are long forgotten, taking a large load of worry off of my chest.
“I know you’re thinking about something,” Beth walked up into my face, “Since you’re not listening too well.”
“Yeah. Look at us. We’ve come so far in only a few years. Doesn’t it make you feel lucky to be alive?”
She paused. “Come to think of it, yes. You’ve matured so much! I remember when you were this tall,” she jokingly put her hand to the ground, much like a grandma or aunt would.
“Ouch! Keep those blows above the belt!” I retort weakly, “But really. Look at Josh; he found Vanessa, and really settled down.”
“I know, it’s like a completely different person,” Beth laughed, “I almost miss that ferret bouncing off the walls!”
“Almost. And look at us,” I stepped closer to her, “I’ve learned to accept and adapt, and together we’ve taken on the challenge of living in a world made for somebody else.”
“You’re right,” she said, grabbing me in a tight embrace. I could get to love living with her…
Every time something bad happens in my life, I end up profiting from it. In example, the landlord threw me out, and I ended up smelling like a rose. When I was attacked at the alley, I earned enough money to keep me above water.
“Come on,” I suddenly whisper in Beth’s ear, “all this reminiscing makes me wonder. Let’s go for a ride,” she accepts, still not knowing what I was talking about. The trip didn’t take long; it was only five minutes before we reached my tree house.
It was empty. The paint on the siding already had chunks taken out, the chips falling to the ground below. All the windows were dark. I clambered up the tree to look in the windows. The place was truly empty. All the rooms I loved were empty, and the soft look of the place overtaken by dust and cobwebs. A tear came to my eye as I came back down.
I know that if Kate was there she would concoct a meaningful speech and sum things up. That thought alone started me back into fits, as I leaned on Beth’s shoulder. She cooed in my ear, and said everything would be all right.
“We’ve lost so much, but in the end it’s worth it,” she spoke softly, “The ends justify the means.” I cried my eyes out for an hour, finally afforded the time to properly mourn for all I’ve done and all I’ve seen go. When I was done, we went back to the car and Beth drove back home. I stared at the abode in the rear view mirror at the house until it blinked out of my visual range.
The house felt better with a upbeat CD in the player, and suddenly I felt that this day the planets aligned and all was well. I had my love, my love had me, and we had everything we’d ever need. We worked into the night, fixing up the rooms with new amenities from my home. We joked and worked with light hearts long into the night.
Finally, we found our way into the bedroom. I laid down my head to start into sleep, but not until Beth pounced on me. She held me down playfully for a second, until climbing in beside and whispering “I love you” in my ear. She was out like a light, but something held my attention.
A skylight let the stars shine down on us as we drifted off to sleep. I stared at the points of light above, tracing out the constellations with my paw. I sat staring at the sky, that exact same sky that looked down upon me with shame years ago. Ursa Major laughed at my small form, but I prevailed. Cassiopeia cackled at my human change, but I didn’t care.
Now, I suddenly knew all would be right. My life was set away; I had the money to live without working like a dog. All I had to do was live my life just like I like to live it. The only standard I had to live up to was my own – not a human’s, not an animal’s, just how I feel. With that thought putting a smile on my face, I drifted off to sleep.
After all, what better feeling is there than knowing that when you wake up your world will be perfect for one more day?