The Worst Muse ( https://twitter.com/worstmuse – HIGHLY recommended reading, by the way) posted an entry ( https://twitter.com/WorstMuse/status/486180374242811906 ) regarding were-corgis. I couldn’t help myself. I had to try writing something. I mean, when the hook is: “Corgis are hot these days, right? What about, like, werecorgis? Edgy, urban werecorgis looking for love in all the wrong places.” then what else can you do?
Below is my attempt :)
Credit goes to the lovely, Ms. Payne for pushing me to write this story so all thanks and kudos and awards and Nobel Prizes should go to her. I just came up with everything else and spent the time writing it. *She* was the one that said, “Hey, asshole, write a story about that.” So, I did. I had the easy part. Okay, okay, she did help with some of the concepts. I guess. *goes away in an overdramatic writer’s huff*
The cool, crisp morning air still held the weight of the storm from the night before. Steven pedaled idly, his mind wandering over old poetry. Her smile was as the morning sun, he thought to himself. Lazy and slow and, as it dawned, it set her cheeks aglow. He smiled to himself, lips pursing slightly at the corners. Oh. That’s good. I need to remember that one. It even rhymes. But, like, in the same sentence.
“Hey, asshole! Get the fuck off the street!” screamed a driver behind him. The single lane road wound through the heart of the city. Fourteen cars crawled slowly behind Steven. Occasionally a driver would threaten or plead with Steven to move to the side but the young man barely noticed.
What’s another word for cheeks? It sounds so pedestrian, Steven mused. The swell of her… face? No. That’s worse. The constant clatter of the hard plastic case attached to the side of his fixed gear bike kept beat with the horns blaring from angry drivers.
Finally, Steven swerved his little bicycle to the side, ignoring the creative death threats from passing cars. His feet bumped over the cobblestones showing through the ill-repaired pavement. He had no brakes on his bicycle and so his feet slowed him down. The road secretly pleased him. He often thought of it as the deconstruction of society. Cracks showing through humanity, exposing the inner, true behavior.
Steven leaned his bicycle against a small, nondescript gray building. The store was sandwiched between an old bookstore and a small café. Unhooking the hard case at the side of his bicycle, he hefted it with a grunt and walked inside. A young, thin man stood behind a low counter. Steven lurched to the counter and waited, silently. He knew the other man’s name because he’d once overheard another patron use it and explain it to a friend: Cherry, only the ‘ch’ was a hard ‘k’ sound. Steven had been incredibly jealous and ashamed of his own name after that. He’d occasionally thought of changing his name but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually, the other man looked up at Steven.
“Coffee. Black,” Cherry (with the hard ‘k’ sound) said. You didn’t order your own coffee here. Cherry (with the hard ‘k’) looked into you, judging your appearance, mental and emotional states and told you what you needed. Only, sometimes, Steven wished he’d needed a cappuccino instead of the coffee he was given every single time. Cherry (with a ‘k’) vanished into the back room, returning with a small paper cup. Steven passed the man a five dollar bill and received no change in return. No prices were ever listed or mentioned.
Coffee cup in one hand, hard case in another, Steven made his way to one of three small tables. The case, placed in the center of the table, unlatched to reveal an old style typewriter. Sleek black lines and gold lettered keys gleamed dully in the morning sun. Steven lowered himself into the large stuffed chair facing the table. He rested his arms on the chair and sipped at his coffee while mentally preparing himself for the morning. He felt cheered when he barely winced at the predictably bitter coffee. Cherry (‘k’, not ‘ch’) closed his store the last two weeks of each month to fly down to South America to pick his own beans. The bitterness was authentic.
Steven fed a piece of paper carefully into the typewriter. The paper was the color of dirty cream, all handmade valleys and ridges rather than the smooth pure white of commercially produced paper. He’d traded ten sheets of it for a jar of orange juice he’d squeezed himself.
A young couple walked by the store, pausing to look in before continuing their walk. Steven watched them go before pushing at his glasses in righteous indignation. A faint blush crept up his cheeks as he realized he wasn’t wearing his glasses yet. Stealing a glance at Cherry (not pronounced with a ‘ch’ sound), he pulled a pair of glasses and a small book from the threadbare inner pocket of his jacket. Settling the glasses on his nose and the book open on the side of the table, he began slowly typing.
Halfway through typing out Anne Waldman’s ‘Matriot Acts, Act I [History of Mankind]’ an irregularity caught his eye. Looking down, he noticed a small black notebook wedged between the leg of the chair and the wall. The notebook fell open to a quick circular sketch that covered half of a page. Handwritten notes filled the rest of the page.
“So it looks like the circle needs to be big enough to just contain the person. Couldn’t really see anything else that matched the whole ‘three and three and three again’ rule. I think just the author sticking by the whole ‘three’ thing again. Simple, otherwise. Salt for the circle, skin of the animal and the incantation. Naked, naturally, except for the skin. Where the fuck am I going to find an animal skin? eBay? Pinterest, maybe. Should check the thrift stores first. Jesus, this coffee is the worst. Next time I walk to Starbucks.”
Further down, two simple sentences were carefully scrawled in what Steven thought must be Latin. The young man continued reading, finally understanding that what the other person was describing was a spell. A spell used to merge the animal’s spirit from the skin and fur into the person casting the spell. That thought tickled Steven’s imagination. How amazing would that be? He thought. Part animal. Free of the materialistic needs of man. And women. Any gender. Just the ritual itself would be cleansing. A way to reconnect with nature.
Steven closed the notebook, finished his coffee and put away his typewriter. Nodding minutely to Cherry (‘k’), who didn’t look up from the book he was reading, Steven hooked the typewriter’s case to his bike and pedaled off. The local thrift store was nearby and he had time to stop in before going to work.
The old woman that ran the second-hand store smiled as Steven entered. “You’re in early, sweetie. I won’t get anything in until tomorrow afternoon.”
“Actually,” Steven replied. “I’m looking for fur this time. Like, animal fur? Something perhaps from a local farm where the animal wasn’t killed or mistreated for its fur? Something like that?”
Hester, the old lady that ran the store, looked dubious. “Well, I don’t know, honey. You know I don’t like fur. It’s just not right for- Oh! How could I have forgotten? Silly me. Someone else came in for the same thing. They brought it back yesterday, even. Is it for an event? A protest? I have a fur coat this woman brought in years and years back. You can imagine I gave her all kinds of fuss over it but she said it was handmade from leftover fur. She swore it wasn’t from some poor caged animal. It was her mother’s, she’d said. Or her grandmother’s coat. They kept passing it down but the poor woman couldn’t bear to wear it or keep handing it down. She was such a sweet gal. What was her name?”
“You still have it?” Steven asked.
“Oh, yes,” Hester answered. “I haven’t even put it away yet after it was brought back. That’s it right there.” The old woman pointed at a rack of clothes near her register. “That brown long coat on the end.”
Steven looked at the coat. It was a light, golden brown with a few small white spots scattered throughout. Unlike the rest of the clothes he bought from Hester, there was a faint hint of sweet perfume clinging to the coat. He picked it up and noted the weight of it. The lining was dark brown and cool to the touch. The sleeves were too short and it was tight in the shoulders but otherwise perfect. The fur itself was pleasant to touch.
“It’s perfect, Hester.”
Steven left the store with the store’s bag slung over his shoulder. The small graphic design firm he worked at was six blocks away so the young man walked his bike along the sidewalk. She wore her hair like fur, he composed mentally. Beast-like, snarling. Stalking. Free of the paternalistic yoke of the shepherd. Saddened by the bleats of her fellow women. He frowned. Maybe not ‘women’. Too gender specific. Maybe-
He lost himself in thought as he walked through the doors to his building. The day passed quickly while Steven worked and his thoughts strayed to the notebook. Finally, he excused himself and left for the day.
Should I do it in the bedroom? Steven wondered. The living room? Better lighting in there? Oh, whoa, Steven. Natural. Outside. Just follow the ritual and relax in the outdoors and be at peace with the Earth.
Once home, Steven relaxed. He had a little house away from almost everyone else. There were chores to be done and he started with his garden. Nearly all of his food came from the various planters around his house. He’d turned nearly his entire backyard into rows and rows of vegetables and fruits. This year his organic heirloom tomatoes were doing especially well.
The sun began to set as Steven finished weeding and watering his plants. He carried an armful of vegetables for his dinner – salad with homemade vinaigrette. Chopin played quietly on a record player in the corner while Steven ate. He read poetry, whisperin the passages as he read, listening to the rhythm and the way the words flowed.
With dinner finished and the dishes cleaned and put away, Steven pulled out the coat he bought earlier. He’d placed the notebook he’d found inside the large pocket on the outside of the coat and he pulled it out again now.
“All that’s left,” he said out loud. “Is the salt.” Steven opened a small cupboard to the left of his stove. An array of salts lined the bottom shelf. He pursed his lips as he considered them. “Coarse salt? Fleur de Sel? Hawaiian sea salt? Ah, grey salt.”
Steven grabbed three large jars of grey salt along with the notebook, coat, and a lighter before making his way outside. The air was warm and humid and light breezes tickled the fine blond hairs along his arms as he made his way to the corner of his garden. The moon was full and bright but remote, far away in the sky.
The young man placed the coat and notebook on the ground next to him. With all three bottles of salt opened, he made a rough circle over dirt and tufts of grass. Facets of the large salt glinted in the moonlight. Looking around shyly, Steven undressed himself, folding his clothes into a meticulous pile. He’d never been completely naked outside and, while a small part of him worried someone would walk by and look through his fence, the rest of him felt free. He wriggled his toes in the loose, riche dark earth.
The coat was as heavy as he’d expected but the smooth lining felt comfortable against his skin. He closed it around his spare frame and looked down at himself, smiling. He thought he did feel more animalistic as he looked, his body covered in the fur of the coat. Smiling, Steven stepped into the circle and picked up the book. The young man flicked his lighter and found the appropriate page.
Steven took a deep breath of the cool night air, emptying his thoughts while letting his body relax.
And then, he spoke the words.
Laying down the book and lighter, Steven again focused on breathing deeply, in and out. He’d wanted to enjoy the ritual for the formality in bringing himself closer to Mother Earth and he was pleased to find it working. Outside, under the moonlight, dressed in nothing but a fur coat, he felt a bit of energy cycle through his body. A feeling of being alive and connected to the enormous amount of energy circling the globe.
He just wished the coat didn’t itch so much.
Steven rolled his shoulders and then reached back to itch about his right shoulder blades. He had to move his arm around to reach and then grew frustrated as he found the spot eluding him. With the moment lost, Steven sighed and shrugged out of the coat. The itch, however, increased, spreading down to his lower back.
Unseen to the young man, small brown and white hairs were sprouting through his skin, pushing out until a line of fur ran from his right shoulder blade to the base of his spine. Not being able to scratch the itch was maddening. Steven grunted, shifting his position on the ground as the itch spread up to his right shoulder. The young man turned his head and lifted his shoulder to bite into the skin while he uselessly reached for his back. Bones in his jaw cracked as his canine teeth lengthened, pushing at the surrounding teeth. He worried at his shoulder and the relief was overwhelming.
The fur growing from Steven’s back continued up to his shoulder and it tickled his lips and nose, causing him to turn away and sneeze sloppily. His tongue rolled out of his mouth between four long, sharp canine teeth and he stared at the ground in happiness. Despite the itch, he felt so good. Everything was warm and happy and smelled good.
The skin along Steven’s nose faded from dark pink to a black pebbled texture. He scratched at it and then stopped. His arms were shorter. Noticeably shorter. His long fingers, so used to holding a stylus for his art, were stubby little things how.
“Oh my god!” he slurred, his long tongue thick and awkward. “The spell was real!” Steven scrambled for the book and lighter, flicking the light on in order to see if something was written on how to stop or reverse the spell. It took five tries for him to ignite the lighter. As he reached for the book, he cried out in pain.
His right arm cracked.
The lighter touched the coat.
Steven scrambled away from the sudden furious fire; he’d never seen something burn so quickly in his life. The young man stood, his mind hazy, dull and confused. Only when the flames licked at the notebook did he realize the danger. He lunged forward and fell as his shins shortened mid-stride. The bones of his thighs broke and reformed, half their original length.
The small notebook was surrounded by an aura of flames. Steven howled in anger and fear as he watched the little book blacken and curl. Pain shot through his spine as bones and nerves reconnected in his tail bone. The skin at the base of his spine pushed away from his body. Light brown fur spread along his waist and down to his thighs while his tail grew into place. Short and stubby, he could feel it moving as it grew.
He’d hoped, prayed, that that pain was the worse he’d feel but then his ribs cracked. Steven barked out a bloody cough as his ribcage shrunk before his body could adjust. He writhed on the ground, kicking his stubby legs as his body shrunk around him. Fur grew from his back to both shoulders and then up his neck and face. Steven grimaced, growling against the pain of it. His skull cracked and reformed, pushing away into a muzzle. Sharp teeth cut through the gaps in his gums until his jaw was lined with fangs.
The skin along Steven’s palms darkened, cracking as it puffed out into proper pads. His arms and legs continued to pull back against his body. Around him, the world loomed. The fence surrounding his back yard appeared to be twelve feet tall while the single apple tree looked like a gigantic, malevolent leafy monster in a horror film. Steven felt sharp pain between his fingers and toes (now barely more than stubs) as the skin broke to admit little black claws. He tried to turn to look at his hands but his body refused to listen to him.
Steven lay on his side, mouth open with his tongue nearly to the ground. He panted from exertion, as if he’d run for miles. He felt warm and tired but with that same curious energy coursing through his body. There were so many interesting smells and- Steven whined as deep spikes of pain lanced through his ears. The ridges and bumps along the inside of his ears smoothed out, as if a sculptor worked at his flesh. He temporarily lost his hearing as his ears shifted along his scalp, moving while changing. The tips of his ears became more rounded and they stretched, fur growing up to cover the ears that now sat atop his head. Steven’s hearing returned with an explosion of sound and his ears swiveled to track everything. Cars roared in the distance while small animals rushed through the trees and bushes outside his property.
Oh my gosh, what was that?! Steven thought. He stood and lurched, unfamiliar with his new body. The large prickly bush just outside his fence rustled again and Steven’s ears swiveled forward. It’s a … a… thing! A thing! Right there! But, the… argh… the… what is it called? The … I can’t get out!
Running on short, stubby legs, Steven reached the fence and pressed his muzzle under the gap at the bottom. Whining in frustration, he dug at the soft dirt and yipped when he made a hole. He arched his back and dug, throwing dirt and bits of grass everywhere. Soon, his light brown and white fur coat was covered in rich, black dirt and compost (which he thought smelled amazing right now) and he’d made a hole big enough to wriggle through.
Coming! I’m… ugh… Steven compressed himself down, squirming until he fit himself through the hole he’d made. I’m coming thing! Thing! Stay! Stay, thing!
Once through the hole, Steven was off, chasing squirrels and barking after a few night birds. The world was huge and new and he didn’t want to stop running.
And, then, she appeared.
Three blocks from his house, Steven stopped, raising his muzzle while his ears stood at attention. He smelled her before he saw her. She stepped out from between two houses as he watched. Beautiful. Brown with black spots. The little stump of his tail wagged frantically back and forth. Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh, he thought, mind buzzing with excitement.
Hi! Hi! Hi! Steven barked. Unable to contain himself, he ran to her, slowing when he came near. They circled each other, sniffing in greeting. She smelled incredible – earthy with a hint of sweetness. Steven’s heart soared when he saw her tail wriggle in response to him. Hey! Hey! He barked. Come here! There’s a thing over there! It smells neat and it moves and we can chase it! Hey! I think it’s a mouse!
The female barked in return and they ran, toes scrabbling on the sidewalk. The night was glorious. Steven and his companion ran, chasing after small animals while avoiding larger, chained dogs. A furious game of chase happened in the local park with Steven sometimes running after the female and her chasing him. It felt like hours and he still wanted to play. They dug at plants until they were nearly as dark as the night, covered in dirt and planting soil.
Finally, as morning approached, he found himself growing weary. Not tired, exactly, but a general sense of heaviness settled into his bones. The female perked up beside him, eyes wide with her ears focused. With a quick, almost sad look at Steven, she ran off. Steven stood on trembling legs to try to follow after her but couldn’t and he collapsed in the soil. Sleep took him.
“… I didn’t pee on it!” Steven shouted, jerking awake. The young man groaned. His entire body ached and his mouth tasted like he’d licked the bottom of an old gym locker and then ate one of the left over socks.
Groaning, he sat up. The sun was bright and warm above the horizon. He smiled up at it, wriggling where he sat until he realized what he was doing.
And then the events of the night crashed down upon him. Fragments. Changing. Chasing rats. Digging. The other dog. “Oh Jesus. What did-”
Half of Steven’s garden was destroyed. Bits and pieces of his plants were strewn about the yard. It looked like a miniature war had taken place behind his house. His clothes were in disarray and he swore he saw bite marks on them. And, yes, wrinkling his nose, he was pretty sure someone had peed on his shoes. Someone. He closed his eyes with a sigh when he saw the blackened earth in the corner of his yard. The coat and the notebook, he remembered. Is that it? Am I stuck like this now? What if-
Steven stood, swaying on shaky legs. With barely a pause, he made his way into the house to get dressed, ignoring the dirt covering him. A small part of his brain enjoyed the smell of the dirt but he ignored that, too. He pulled his bike down from the wall and was off.
The first car that honked at Steven almost gave him a heart attack. He looked back at it fearfully. It was so loud and huge and angrylooking. Steven pulled to the side and stopped to let the cars pass. His heart hammered in his chest.
“I’ll just walk. That’s fine. I like walking. Walking is good. In the sun,” he reassured himself. As he walked his bike, he found himself looking at everything around him. The shops, the people, the other animals, everything seemed different in some way. And they all smelled. He growled when he caught himself walking to a lamp post – someone (a dog, he corrected, not someone) had marked it and the mixture of scents was fascinating. I’m not a dog, dammit!
Steven sped up as he approached the thrift store. He entered with a fast walk and then stopped.
“No, honey,” Hester was saying. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the coat any more. I sold it yesterday.”
A young woman dressed in black pants and a black t-shirt was wringing her hands in front of Hester. She had shoulder length black hair and the oversized clothes hid her shape. Her eyes were dark but not from makeup; she looked like she’d slept poorly or not at all. Traces of dirt lined her cheeks.
She had a light, sweet scent and now Steven knew it wasn’t perfume. It was just her. He wanted to wag a tail that was no longer there. He wanted to race over to her and hug her and run with her and…
“Are you sure? Can you tell me who? It’s really, really important I get that back. I-” She stopped. Slowly, she turned to look at Steven. “You. You’re. You.”
Steven’s mind stumbled, desperately trying to come up with a few lines of appropriate poetry.
“Hi,” he told her.
“Hey,” she replied. The young woman looked down nervously and then back up again.
“I, hey, I know this great park a little ways away. Would you? Do you?” Steven fidgeted awkwardly.
“Yeah. Yeah, I think I would.”
They met in the middle of the store. The young woman wrapped her arms around Steven, hugging him fiercely.
“I’m-” Steven started.
The young woman laughed and ran for the door. “Race you!”
“Hey!” Steven barked. But, he was smiling and chasing after her before he realized it.
The world was huge and new and there was so much to explore.