|CREATED||12 MAR 2000|
|NOTES||I am experimenting with different narration voices in this story. It starts out choppy and repetative but its for a good reason. Hang with me, and PLEASE send me an e-mail and let me know if you think it works. - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|UNIVERSE||The Blind Pig|
|This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.|
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|Previous Story: Witch Trial - Jake's Quest - Part 2|
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I set my mind to it. I am at the academy now. There are lots of other cadets too. They line us up in a straight line. We have to look forward. The man is talking to us. He says that he is going to figure out which of us is good enough to be policemen. I know I am! He has us do all sorts of tests. He has us run around and around. I am good at running. He has us run in tires and jump over things. I am good at that, too. I even climb over the wall faster than everybody else.
When we are all done we all take showers. Then we eat a good lunch. We all have to talk to the doctor man. He has lots of papers about me. He is worried. He says I didn't do good in elementary school. I tell him I did not know how to set my mind to it back then. He is still pretty worried. He says policemen have to learn stuff real fast so they can catch the bad guys. I tell him I can do it. I will set my mind to it.
He takes me to see the big important guy at the academy. I do not know his name. I tell him I can be a policeman. He does not believe me either. When he says I cannot be a policeman, I cry.
I move back home. College is all done now. I do not know what to do. I am pretty confused. I put my mind to it at school for as long as I can remember. They say I cannot do it. Mom says that if I cannot be a policeman, then maybe I can help them out. So I do. I go down to the big field behind the big police station. They train the big police dogs there. My uncle works there sometimes, so he lets me in. Mostly I just hold the dog. Or maybe I get water for the dog. Sometimes they have me wear the sleeve. It lets the dog bite my arm without hurting me. I am not a policeman, but at least I am helping. Mommy says she likes having me at home.
One morning I do not feel good when I wake up. I go to the police station anyway. I said I would. It is important to do what you say. There is a new dog. His name is King. He is lots of fun and friendly. They tell me to run around and around with him to tire him out. It is tiring me out more than him! Then they have me wear the sleeve. The hot sun makes me feel bad. I feel all hot. I am dizzy. King is a good dog. He stays still with my uncle just like he is supposed to. Then they say "Attack!" King runs at me again. I feel real dizzy. Then the ground jumps up. It hits me right in the head.
I wake up in the hospital, as if from a deep sleep. The first thing I notice is my thoughts. Instead of tumbling through my head in a roar of chaos, making it hard to pick words out, everything is quiet. Thoughts slide through cleanly, easily. All I need to do is think, and comprehension is there. I can see what had been wrong now. And it is gone.
I smile, and open my eyes. The first things I see are the bandages on my right arm. They wrap all the way around. Some tender probing finds it sore on both the top and the bottom. I probably have been injured pretty badly. I remember wearing the bite sleeve on my left arm, so it obviously wouldn't have helped. Just a dog bite. I look around for the call switch. It is hooked on the railing by my hand. I pick it up and press the button. My arm feels like I haven't moved it in days. My press triggers a distant chime. While I wait, I test my muscles gingerly. Everything still seems to work. All my parts appear to be intact, though there are a couple annoying tubes attached to me. Within few minutes, a SCAB nurse bustles in. She picks up a clipboard from its hook at the foot of the bed, peering at me through her glasses nearsightedly. She is mostly human, with some rodential features thrown in. Her face has a short muzzle with larger, prominent front teeth. Her ears are larger than normal, round like a mouse's. Perched atop her head is a traditional white nurse's cap. Her head and arms are covered with short grey fur.
I blink. I've never seen a SCAB nurse before.
"Ah, Chris, you're awake." she glances at her watch, "Ten fifteen, August 16th."
It had been the 9th last I remembered. An entire week.
"I didn't know they had SCAB nurses." I tell her.
The nurse nodded, her husky voice easily filling the room. "Well, they do in martian flu wards. Which is what you had, by the way. Count your fortunes, honey. I've seen too many die. Some end up changed." She indicated her body and shook her head sadly. "But hey, you don't have SCABS! Do you need anything deary? Juice, some milk?"
"Um, no. I guess not." I respond slowly, my mind sliding over the information.
"Alrighty then. I'll be along to change your bandage in a while. See you later." She replaces the clipboard and hurries out, the chime of another patient calling for her attention.
I fell to the pillows and sighed. Martian Flu. It had been around ever since they accidentally released the microbes from mars. It sometimes developed into SCABS. If you got it, you changed into something else. Anything fromn cars and teddy bears to furry animals and insects. Some even changed genders. The full name came from somewhere in my brain, Stein's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome. So that's why I didn't feel good at the field. Wouldn't you know I get the martian flu? As if things aren't bad enough already! At least its not SCABS yet. Maybe I am just lucky and I won't get the complication. I find a book laying on the bedside table with a note. I read it easily. I don't remember reading anything easily before.
Left you this book to read while you're in the hospital. I know it's bigger than you're used to, but you have plenty of time to read it while you recover. I'll come visit soon as I get back from San Francisco. (shh, I'm under cover)
It is a novel. The cover shows a blue uniformed officer behind the business end of a glock pistol. I smile, and start reading.
The physical therapy went quickly and I was soon free of the antiseptic walls of the institution. They, of course, told me SCABS might develop later, that they would check back regularly in the next few weeks to make sure everything stays okay. Give them a call if I get any symptoms. I don't think I'll need them. Lucky me.
The bite healed nicely. All you can see now is a little scar. You can hardly tell my arm was half chewed by that dog. I've been feeling better about myself, for some reason. I think it's from doing stuff. When I arrived back home, I could hardly breathe indoors. I never realized that mom's house was so stuffy.
So, partly for lack of anything better to do, I've been cleaning up my mom's house. You'd be surprized how many things she has that are pointless. It took me ages to cart it all to the dump. And she never puts things where they're supposed to be. I'm always picking up her stuff. I had to practically remodel the place to make it livable. I took up the ratty rugs, that'd been there as long as I could remember. The floor underneath is actually kind of nice. I borrowed a sander and some floor finish from a contractor building a house nearby. I painted, I cleaned. The place looks pretty good. It makes a big difference to mom too. She actually has some friends over for the first time in years. Yesterday the social worker actually hugged me when she heard I had done it. I don't think she's ever smiled so widely.
I got a haircut, close and neat like my Uncle Joe. I had to throw out half my clothes, too. Stripes and corduroy. What was I thinking? I don't know how I wore them. I found some great deals at the thrift store on some much better clothes. I've heard that in a week there was another qualification exam at the academy, and I'm sure I can pass it. I talked to the commandant personally the other day, and he said he was impressed. None of the tests they have show any learning deficit disorder any more.
So, I'm sitting in the bleachers, watching the latest class of cadets sweat as they run around the track. There are two SCABS at the back of the pack. A fox and what appears to be some sort of strange looking rodent. They are both human enough to run on two feet, though. Cadet SCABS. What's next. I know they didn't let them in before.
I wander down to the bottom where the sargent was watching the runners critically.
"Hey Sarge." I call, leaning over the railing.
He glances up at me and waves.
"Hey Chris. Hear you're gonna try again, huh?"
"You betcha!" I nod, looking at the runners as they jog by.
Coach was writing on his clipboard.
"Hey, I thought they didn't let SCABS become cadets?" I ask.
The man shrugs.
"There was some lawsuit, a SCAB said he was qualified and turned down for the academy. They removed SCABS from the list of disqualifying prior conditions." he explains, glancing at his stopwatch.
I sit down on the bleachers at this point, rubbing at my fingers. My fingernails are itching in the most annoying way. I scratch at them, frowning, holding them up and looking at them. My fingernails are turning black, narrowing and lengthening. Like a claw. My stomach drops. SCABS! This can't be happening. Not now. I start to panic, trying to push the claws back into my fingers. Naturally, it doesn't do any good. I watch incredulously as my fingers slowly shorten.
The strangest sensation spreads up my arms. It was like goosebumps, tingling, almost hurting. I brush my changing hand up my arm, feeling short fur for the first time. The tingling sensation meets at my neck and rushes down my torso. I collapse onto my side, shuddering. The bones in my chest pop and shift. Breathing is impossible, I gasp for breath futilely, gagging as my throat seems to swell, followed by my nose. I am going to die! My whole body is covered with the tingling. It intensifies into a burning, hurting as it covers my whole body. I gurgle helplessly, unable to scream. Then, suddenly it is gone. I gasp deeply, able to breath again. I lay there panting. My nose works.
I can smell, well, everything. The damp earth below the bleachers. The scent of humans worn into the boards. The stench of the locker room nearby. The dust kicked up by the runners, and their scents too as they jog by.
My ears catch each crunch on the gravel, each ragged breath. A car drives by on the road. A train horn far in the distance is answered by its echoes. In the distance an ambulance siren warbles through an intersection.
I sit up, opening my eyes. I am obviously a SCAB now. I can see a big nose in front of my eyes. White fur to a black nose. I reach up to my ears. They are large ears. My mouth contains blunt teeth, like a dog. I look at my hands. They are shortened, tipped with black claws. But I still have a thumb. I look at it, still in shock. Words swirl through my head.
"The most disadvantaged SCABS are disabled due to a very simple matter: the lack of a thumb. Some undergo surgery to correct this, while others simply must deal with it for the rest of their lives..."
Some professor back in college, SCAB sensitivity or some boring class like that. The backs of my hands and my arms are covered with white fur. I am evidently a dog. But what kind? A pomeranian or something? A long white tail is sticking out over the back of my jeans. I mean, thick and long. I can feel it brushing the bleacher behind me. My legs are shorter too. I can't quite reach the floor from the bench. I look around, suddenly feeling out of place. Nobody is staring at me. It seems as if the whole world is carrying on, completely oblivious to my change. Why should they care? They're not the SCAB. The runners keep running. The bleachers are still empty except for me.
I hold my pants close around my waist as I slowly walk home. My belt can't tighten enough around my now far slimmer waist. I leave my shoes behind. They are far too big for my new paw-feet. I ignore the SCAB haters barking from a passing car. I avoid looking at anybody.
Walking is different. I keep stepping on my pant legs. My legs are so much shorter! I feel like a kid in his daddy's clothes. When I get home mom isn't home from work yet. I walk into the bathroom and stand before the big full length mirror. I rub some messy water spots off it with a towel as I look at myself.
God, I am a german sheperd. A white one. I drop the towel and my sagging pants, easily tugging off my oversized shirt.
Looking at me in the mirror is a beautiful morph. And I'm not the sort of pervert that calls SCABS beautiful either. Usually. I have large stand-up ears, which are swiveled towards me. A black nose glistens with moisture. I watch myself lick it without even thinking. The muzzle is white and slender on the front of my face. My chest is different; narrower, but still more like a human's than a dog's. My eyes drop to my groin, my once human genetalia now replaced by a furry sheath and a velvety dark scrotum. Panic wells in me and I stroke myself. Can I even have sex? The sudden surge of sensation catches me off guard and I actually spray on the mirror with a yelp. I am obviously still operational. I hastily wipe the mirror off, ears twitching to listen for my mother. My legs are shorter, shaped more like a dog's, but I at least walk and stand on my heel. I've seen some of the digitigrade SCABS. They always seem to have trouble balancing on two feet. Behind me I can see the long tail waving gently. And I can feel it too. The fur ruffles as it waves through the air.
Since mom still hasn't arrived home I make a call. On the wall by the phone I have posted the number of the hotline at the hospital.
"Hello, Saint Hamot's, SCABS hotline." came the voice, clear into my ear.
"Wuff, grrwuff." I say. I frown. That didn't come out right.
"Relax. Everything's going to be okay." says the confident voice. I feel better.
"Wuff." I respond.
"It sounds like you're probably having trouble talking right now. Tap the phone once for no, twice for yes. Do you feel you need an ambulance at this time?"
I tap the phone once with a claw.
"I understand you do not need an ambulance." she says, "Did you get Hamot's hotline number after a recent martian flu illness?"
I tap the phone twice with a claw.
"Okay. Do you have the ID number they gave you?"
I tapped the phone twice with a claw. It was on the note by the phone too.
"tap the phone the number of times of the first digit."
I tap twice.
"Two. Is this correct? Once for no, two for yes."
I tap twice.
"The next digit?" she requests.
I tap eight times.
"Eight. Is this correct? Once for..."
I tap twice.
"Good, you're catching on. The next digit?"
I tap seven times.
"Seven. Is this correct?"
I tap twice. I hear the clicking of computer keys over the line, and she continues.
"Are you Chris Shalock?"
I tap twice.
"Do you wish to make an appointment to talk to a SCABS therapist?" she asks.
I tap twice again.
"How is tomorrow morning at ten o'clock?" she asks.
I tap twice.
"Thank you Chris. I wish you good luck. You'll get through this." she encourages.
"Wuff." I told her, and hung up the phone.
It's good they have people like that to call. Maybe having government health care isn't so bad after all.
I get a large piece of construction paper from the cabinet and write "I AM CHRIS YOUR SON" on it in thick black marker. I think she'll be able to read it from across the room.
My mom arrives home, carrying two armloads of groceries. I hear her coming and am standing in the corner of the living room when she enters. She doesn't see me on her way to the kitchen. I feel my ears rotate as I listen to her set the bags down on the counter.
"Wuff?" I bark softly.
"What the hell?" she mutters as she peers into the room.
There I am, holding up the sign, trying to do my best to look non-threatening. I don't want to kill my mother from a heart attack. She jumps back into the kitchen, then peers out again. She reads the sign and blinks. Then she comes out with her hand on her hip.
"Chris, why aren't you wearing any clothes?" she demands.
I shrug, walking halfway across the room. I look down at the shiny wooden floor. She comes over and puts her hands on my furry shoulders. At her touch I look up tentatively. I can feel my ears pressing back against my head.
"My darling Christopher," she says, looking into my eyes, "I love you no matter what you look like, you understand that?"
She then gives me a hug. When I try to kiss her I lick her on the cheek. I think we're going to get along just fine.
Mom took me shopping for some new clothes. My old ones don't fit any more. Turns out there's a whole strip of SCAB-owned businesses downtown. The proprietor of the casual clothing store was a canine too, some sort of wolf I think. I thought she was kind of scary, but I'm not sure why. She supplied me with the clothes I'm wearing now. Looks pretty good, huh? She modified the Levis herself, to make room for my tail. They actually feel pretty good, outside of the way my fur gets matted after wearing them for too long.
I'm a SCAB, so I'm at a disadvantage. My physical therapist is helping me figure out how to work with the changes in my body. First I learned to walk and run all over again. Having shorter limbs means you have to change your gait. My shorter fingers make it harder to grab onto the things humans do. Smaller things like brush handles aren't a problem, really. But I can't get my hand around whole-hand things, like a gun stock or a thick pipe.
It seemed to take ages before I stopped growling at myself in the mirror. I'd walk into the bathroom and see this strange dog look looking at me. My mind would scream "INVADER!" and I'd growl. I scared my mom a few times that way. Seems my growl is scarier than I realize.
My therapist told me most new SCABS have a hard time finding new friends. I never had friends much before, so I thought it was pretty cool that I had any. She introduced me to this rat guy, Maurice. He had the martian flu about the same time I did, but developed SCABS quicker. He can change from about half human to all rat. He likes to get on my shoulder and go out with me when I run. We chase after all the cats we see! It's alot of fun. He's been helping me with some wiring in the house, too. He's a good guy.
Having new body parts can be a problem too. If I had a dollar for every time I caught my tail in a door or sat on it wrong, I'd be rich for sure. Its somehow holding up though, I've not broken it yet. It was bruised for a few days though after a car door incident. Sheaths are interesting too. You don't want to know what happened the first few times I tried to urinate! At least the bathroom was sparkling after it was all said and done. I'm much better at it now, thanks.
I'm finding the most difficult thing for me to learn is to speak clearly. It's easy to bark or growl, much harder to speak english words. We're working it out though. I kind of like the way I sound now, sort of gruff and authoritative. Good for an officer.
Since many scabs can change their forms, my therapist and I have been trying to figure out if I can do that. We've tried shifting for days, using dozens of techniques, and even just meditating. I've never changed, not even a little bit. My therapist also knows one of those SCABS who can change other people. They're called polymorphs. One of her polymorph friends is coming over today. She can change people as long as they aren't morph-locked. My therapist introduces me. Without any more ado the polymorph holds my hands. Suddenly a tingle goes all through me. I gasp as I feel something change.
"Nope, he's morph-locked, for now at least" she said.
I open my eyes. She is smirking at me. She points down at my crotch.
"Not the transformation I had in mind." she teases. I blush, my ears feel real hot. She pats my shoulder. "Hey, it happens kid." She leaned close and whispered so my therapist couldn't hear. "Look me up sometime."
So, I'm officially morph-locked. Stuck as a dog morph, possibly forever. Since it doesn't seem like anything is going to change any time soon, I decide that even though I still feel like a klutz in this body, I'll try out for the academy again anyway.
I'm the only candidate here that is obviously a SCAB. The others assembling for the tests keep looking at me. If any of them are SCABS, they sure don't show it. They are "Normal" looking humans. But one could be a gender morpher. You never can tell. I sit straight in my chair and smile a bit, letting my tongue loll for cooling. I may as well make myself comfortable.
The Sargent leads us to the physical evaluation field. I strip to the waist with the rest of the cadets. Naturally I'm by far the furriest. I get all the more looks now. I'd better get used to it. I'm a SCAB.
Frankly, I do better than I expected. My smaller body is able to leap higher and dance lighter over the ropes, tires and fences than the heavier human frames. I arrive at the end of the course, panting heavily, but a full twenty seconds before any of the other candidates.
"Good job, Chris!" grins the Sargent, "I don't see why they won't let you in now!"
I laugh and high-five my friend.
"I passed this part last time too, remember?" I comment soberly.
The man presses his hand to my furred shoulder, looking me in the eye. "I know you can do it. I never used to think so, back before you got SCABS. But you're different now." He thumps my side.
I smile and nod. "Thanks Sarge."
I won't say it went without a few bumps. They had all the same papers they had last time. I had to insist they retest me, that I had changed. I got angry, showed some teeth. I think that had a lot to do with them deciding I would be a good officer, as shallow as that sounds. You know, keep the mean guy on your side? They did retest me, and found me to be exceptionally bright. Like, Duh! I told'm I was.
When I officially got into the academy, Uncle Joe took me down to a gun shop in that SCAB-owned district. The raccoon-like machinist there measured my hand and showed me some possible designs that might work for me. I chose one modeled after the famous glock 9mm. The spacing around the cartridge was narrowed for my smaller hand. It turned out great. It's really nicely balanced. I've never had it jamb or misfire. It even has my name engraved on the hand grip along with a little engraven picture of a german shepherd. I owe Uncle Joe for it big time. I couldn't be an officer without it. He wouldn't tell me how much it cost, but I have the feeling he'll be paying for it for a long time.
They assigned me to the downtown precinct. All the non-SCABS officers got assigned to nicer areas. They said it was a special assignment that I was uniquely qualified for. Yeah, getting a shit job 'cause I'm a SCAB. Some qualification. Naturally, I approached the assignment with some apprehension. First I went to the captain's office.
"Chris Shalock reporting for duty, sir." I pronounce carefully.
The captain looks up, and blinks, half a sneer forming on his face. I guess he was surprized to see a white german shepherd morph SCAB standing in uniform in his office. He probably doesn't like SCABS either, I've seen that look before. He conceals his disgust with a nod and shuffles some papers on his desk. Opening a folder, he nods again.
"Ah, yes. You're here for that special project. Some sort of SCAB outreach program. Federal funds. Seems the city council thinks they detect a bit of a disconnect between the SCAB community and the local beat police. You'll be working with Officer Anderson." He looks up at this point and barks out, "ANDERSON! Get your tail in here!" An officer enters and salutes the captain, who speaks to me again. "This is Officer Anderson, your new partner. Anderson, Shalock. Shake paws, sniff butts whatever. I don't think much of this idea, but it's out of my hands. We don't have a car for you so you'll be on foot for now. See the Sargent for details on your territory. You're dismissed."
Officer Anderson is another canine, apparently part golden retriever. He looks out of place in the uniform, like a model pretending to be a policeman. His tail wags in a rather undignified way even as he's standing at attention. I gravely shake paws with him as instructed, and salute the captain before exiting behind my new partner. The captain doesn't salute back. My ears catch him grumbling something about SCABS under his breath. Anderson grins at me obliviously, leading the way to his desk.
"Welcome to the force, Shalock." he speaks cheerfully, "I can't wait to hit the streets with another SCAB. We'll be great together I know it!"
His enthusiasm is infectous. I find my tail wagging despite my misgivings. I follow him around the desk as he drops into a creaking wooden springback chair that has seen better days. His tail wags from between the wooden slats.
"We'll see what we can do. Is this my desk?" I ask, indicating an empty desk adjacent to Anderson's.
"Yup, gotcha some paper clips and pens. Hoard them, you never know when they'll order more. We have some time before the briefing, so why don't you tell me about you a bit then I'll tell you about me?"
I take a deep breath, leaning back against my desk, careful not to crush my tail. "Well, I've always wanted to be an officer. Ever since I was like, four or something. I didn't make the academy on the first try. They turned me down 'cause I was learning disabled. But SCABS seems to have fixed that. So, here I am!"
Anderson has leaned over and is inspecting the gun on my hip with great interest. "Say, that's a custom jobbie isn't it?"
I unholster it, open the chamber per procedure and hand it to him. "Custom machined for my paw, modeled after the Glock 9mm. Takes standard rounds and clips."
Anderson turns it over in his paw, testing its balance, and sights down the barrel. "This must have cost a fortune!" he exclaims, handing it back to me reverently. I reholster it, unable to resist a quick flashy spin first.
"Oh yeah, about me!" grins the golden, his chair creaking noisily as he sits back, "I've been a cop for 8 years. Was about to get a big promotion, too, when I got sick. Just think, Detective Anderson! Well, I was out for weeks, naturally. When I got back I was like you see me now. It's okay and all, but nobody takes me seriously any more. I don't think I'll ever get promoted. They keep sending me to do talks at schools." He shudders as he says talks.
I smirk, liking him already. "Probably 'cause you look like the family pooch!"
He growls, and I laugh. I notice the other officers congregating toward the briefing room. I stand and thump his shoulder.
"Come on, pooch, we got a briefing to attend." I tease, walking off with my tail wagging. I ignore his growl as he follows me.
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