I woke up in darkness. I registered the slight glow of artificial light outside amid the blizzard, still thundering away. I'd been so caught up in all of it... all of the crap happening to me, that I hadn't thought about how intense this storm was. It was probably one of the biggest blizzards I'd ever seen.
I groggily sat up, feeling a slight twinge of discomfort. My tail. I kept forgetting it was there. I was not keen on having to learn to be more cautious about it.
I glanced at my watch, the time flashing on the screen. 9:46 pm. I examined myself, afraid that I was going to find more changes. None. My tail had perhaps gotten longer. Maybe I just hadn't wanted to acknowledge it earlier. It was now more than a foot long, covered in golden fluffy fur. I timidly reached down and slightly tugged on the base of it.
Yes, it was part of my body - and I could feel through it, feel my hand touching it. I ran my gripped hand down its length, feeling the fur flow against my fingers. It was just... so surreal. I reached out with my mind... and it moved. It moved in a way I didn't even have to think about, just like I would move my arms or legs. It was part of me. I could feel the soft movement of warm air in the room, blowing through the fur. It felt extremely, extremely bizarre, but I was no longer in the stage of freaking out about it.
I breathed deep, and willed my tail to curl against me, out of the way. I pushed aside the disturbing sight of watching it obey, and I laid down again. I looked up at the ceiling, staring at the tiles there.
I didn't know what to think anymore. I had no idea what lay ahead, and neither did Mom or Dad. Even if I was cured, if I could put this all behind me... it was just so unsettling to have experienced this. I now knew that it was possible for humans to be altered in such a way. I didn't like the idea of a world like this. What if someone didn't like you, stabbed you with a syringe, and you turned into a deformed half-human half-slug creature? Would soldiers in war throw grenades of some transformation gas, turning their enemies into cockroaches?
I shuddered. I didn't like this.... but being more like a dog was far more preferable to some disgusting bug. Dogs I had always felt a bit impartial to. As a kid dogs had scared me a bit. They had been very friendly and wanted to jump on me. I wondered if somehow they had known - if they had known that there was canine DNA inside me.
I wondered how other people would react to this - how someone like Ted would react if he'd been told that he was going to transform into a dog. Probably take in stride, like he did with everything. It was strange to me to think that there were some people in the world who would actually want this. I knew there were furries, and all sorts of other people out in the world, that would think this was cool. How many people would intentionally seek to be infected?
It was a sickening thought - that anyone would want these bizarre changes. But thinking of the innocent people out there was even more troubling. I got out my tablet, stretching it to a wider size, and looked at the news. Nothing that mentioned this. It was a quiet world right before a storm. I glanced outside. A storm that had already begun to rage in my life.
The door unlocked to my room and I let out a small yelp in surprise to see a woman - late twenties, early thirties maybe - in medical scrubs.
"Oh gosh," the woman said, "didn't mean to startle you. You weren't looking at anything dirty on there were you?"
I shivered, turning my tablet off. "No ma'am. I just... I just feel a bit... on edge."
I suddenly remembered my facial mutation, and reached up and covered my wet nose.
"Oh don't mind that," the woman said, "I am well aware of what's going on. You don't have to hide anything from me. I'm Melina, and I'm going to be doing basic checks on you to see how you're doing."
She used the room's dimmer switch to slowly turn up the room's lighting, thankfully leaving it not too bright. She pulled a chair up next to my bed, and pulled some stuff out of a bag. I sat patiently as she wrapped a band around my arm for testing blood pressure. As she finished that test and some others, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. Not even my parents had been willing to look at what had happened to me.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the half of it. When she finished she began a more thorough examination of looking at my face - and then at my tail. She seemed to notice my discomfort.
"Just relax, I'm just taking a look."
"Hard to relax," I said, "when that look is at mutated parts of my body."
"Mutation is a strong word," she said, "I think I prefer 'canine-esque.' 'Mutation' makes it sound like part of your body touched cartoonishly green nuclear waste and now your flesh can melt into a puddle and reform."
"Gross but okay I guess."
"What does it feel like?"
"What does what feel like? I dunno. Crappy. Degrading. Makes me feel subhuman."
"Oh you're no fun," she chided. "have you... wagged it?"
"Have I... wagged my tail?"
"Why on Earth would I wag my tail?"
"I guess not," she shrugged, "you probably aren't feeling very happy right now."
"I doubt I would ever feel like... augh, wagging my tail."
"Would you... try it?"
I gave her a stare.
"Oh c'mon this is a very scientific test, I totally promise."
I rolled my eyes. I willed it to move. It felt so... foreign. So unlike moving any other part of my body. But I moved it back... and forth. Then faster. Then I was wagging it back and forth repeatedly.
"Ha ha," she clapped her hands, "brilliant."
"Please tell me how that pertains to science... or at least what sick thrill you get out of making fun of me?"
Her demeanor toned down, but I could tell a smile remained beneath her mask. "Oh it's just a bit of fun. You're going through a lot right now, and being a bit silly helps to lighten the mood."
She zipped up her bag and stood up from her chair. "But yes, I've got everything I needed Matt. I don't know whether you'll find this comforting or distressing, but other than your fever, which has crept down to a much better temperature, you seem to be pretty healthy."
"That is not comforting."
Melina simply shrugged, and made to go out the door.
"How did you come right when I happened to wake up? Are there... are there cameras in here?"
Melina burst out laughing. I was not amused. "Paranoid are we? No, your watch was tracking your sleeping."
"So you're looking at my watch?"
"The one that your dad gave us access to, yes."
She glanced out the window. "I think Matt, that perhaps you should follow the weather's example, and chill a little bit."
"Ha ha," I stared her down, "very kind to a person who is turning into an animal."
"The world is covered in trash Matt. Doesn't mean you need to sit down in a pile of it."
Melina was interrupted by two people coming up to my door.
"We were told to come to this room," an older woman, maybe 40s said. She looked... familiar.
"Ah," Melina said, "the bed over here."
She led them into the room. And I locked eyes with the girl with her.
I shook in absolute horror. No. Not this. I felt so ashamed, but not here. Not in front of the girl I liked. Why on Earth was she...?
She pulled down her mask.
A canine snout stared back at me - just like mine.
"I... I thought... I thought something was weird about you when we were playing that game," she said with teary eyes. "And... and when I saw your nose."
I was dead silent.
"And... and I guess I found out... why... why I've had such a strong sense of smell."
Her words rang hollow, no trace of light-heartedness in them. It seemed rather, that as she spoke, more life drained from her eyes, and more spirit from her voice.
I didn't respond, and her mom directed her past the divider to the other bed. Melina left us in the room. I heard Jackie's mom whispering some words of reassurance to her. I couldn't hear Jackie's reponse. Then Jackie's mom left too. I averted my gaze as she walked past me. I still... I still couldn't bear to let anyone see me.
I sat there in the silent room, the blizzard swirling outside. My mind reeled trying to comprehend what was happening. Dad had told me that many other people my age had needed the treatment... but... I hadn't considered... hadn't thought anyone I knew... I remembered then some stray words Jackie had said once. I'd mentioned where my dad worked, and she'd said her mom had worked at Generation too when she was younger. When she was younger. Right when it all happened. When they had tested it on us.
Something broke me from the unpleasant thoughts running through my mind; Jackie quietly crying. She had always seemed like a very no nonsense, in control girl. Somehow hearing her cry was just as startling as seeing what had happened to her.
This just... my life had become such a mess. Now a further wrinkle had come - the girl I liked was undergoing this mutation - oh, sorry Melina - caninification - as well. I fought the urge to start crying myself. They might be able to stop this from getting more serious - but I could be stuck with a nose and a tail for the rest of my life.
Would a girl be able to love me if I looked so disturbing? Would I... would I have any desire to date Jackie if she looked like this?
The conclusion I reached was that I couldn't. I felt.. I felt so shallow. It was depressing to me to think of being stuck with these things, and being alone my whole life - but I hypocritically could not stand the thought of loving someone with such an abnormal appearance.
I pulled the thin, synthetic covers of the bed back over me, hoping my sleep would be free of nightmares. It was so hard to not feel like I was the victim of some horrible curse - that I had somehow offended God, or the universe, or some sorcerer from another dimension. I knew I was hardly a perfect high school kid... but this just... felt so unfair.
This was all stupid. I knew enough about history to know that sometimes, horrible, unfair things happened. They always would. And someone would always be the one to be caught in the crossfire.
And out of all the billions in the world, fate had chosen me.
A golden retriever that knows how to use a computer
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