A young woman is humbled after making rude comments in front of a supernatural creature.
Part 1 of 2. I know this because I’m only about 1,000 words away from finishing part 2. Second part should be out in 2 or 3 days!
Julia held the door for her friend. “Why not a cat?” she asked. “Cats are quiet, clean and small. They’re perfect little pets.”
“I know. I like cats. It’s just,” Pamela paused. “I need an animal to help keep me active and get me out there. And, well, it’d be nice to have a happy face to come home to. Cats are too aloof.”
A low murmur of adult voices mixed with the loud, excited voices of small children as the two women entered the animal shelter. Kittens played behind glass in small, sectioned off cubes to their left. Young pre-teen girls squealed as the kittens fumbled and pounced in their areas. A small room to their right, labeled “Exotic Animals” held less than exotic bunnies and parakeets. Julia wrinkled her nose at the faint antiseptic smell permeating the room.
“Or, you could get back out there and start dating again,” Julia said. They made their way to the counter to wait behind an older couple. “Steven would go out with you in a heartbeat.”
“No. No way. I’m not ready yet.”
“Pam,” Julia sighed. “Josh was two months ago.”
“And I’m still not ready,” Pamela answered. “Besides, I’ve always wanted a dog. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I’m ready. I’ve got a little yard for it and I even took the shelter’s training course. Did you know that if a dog’s tail wags more to one side or the other, you can tell whether it’s happy or not?”
“Are you sure? I-” Julia stopped as they approached the counter.
“We’d like to see the dogs, please.” Pamela told the older woman behind the counter.
“Of course, hun,” the employee said, smiling. She was in her fifties and her smile was gentle. “Just go through those doors behind you and then take a left. If you see one you like, just let one of the volunteers know and we’ll get a room ready so you can spend some time saying hello.”
“Thank you,” Pamela replied. The tall, pretty blond pulled at her shorter friend. “Come on, Julia. Help me pick.”
“Easy. Look at that black kitten. It’s trying to eat its own tail. Done. We’re done here. You’ve found your animal.”
Pamela sighed. “Yes, it’s very cute but I’m not getting a cat. What’s wrong with dogs? Why are you so against me getting one?”
“Because,” Julia answered, gagging. “They smell bad.”
The two stood inside the dog pen. Julia pinched her nose closed as her eyes watered. Beside her, Pamela grunted quietly.
“It’s just the cages. They can’t help it,” Pamela said, her eyes scanning the large room. “Come on, we’ll start over here.”
“And they poop everywhere, Pam,” Julia said. “Everywhere. My neighbor got a dog a couple months ago and I’ve had to watch my step every since. Cats use a box; why can’t dogs?”
The two women wandered past cages. Pam cooed at small yapping dogs while gently reassuring larger, angrier dogs. As they walked, Julia could feel a headache beginning to bloom behind her eyes. The sounds of dogs barking, crying, whining and growling mixed with the combined smells of industrial strength cleaning solutions and dozens of caged dogs.
“Ohhh, you poor thing,” Pamela said quietly, crouching in front of a corner cage.
“Pam… I think that one’s dead,” Julia whispered.
“No, I can see it breathing.” An old golden retriever lay on its side in the corner. Its fur was coarse and mottled with a fair amount of gray.
“You can’t get that one, Pam,” Julia said. “The little sign says it’s … she’s twelve years old and has medical issues.”
“But, Jules, look. It’s so sad. Nobody is going to take her home. She’ll die here. Hey. Hey, pretty girl. Its okay.”
“Pam, seriously, no. It’s… she’s… come on. She’s got growths on her or something. She’s kinda gross.”
“Julia! That’s a horrible thing to say!”
Unseen to both, a small winged creature shimmered just under the dog’s muzzle. It blinked almond shaped eyes as it stretched and stood on tiny feet. The dog whimpered in its sleep but settled quietly when the creature gently touched its cheek. Angry little eyes focused on Julia.
“Ugh. Okay, but, seriously, you wanted a dog to keep you active. This old thing would just lie around all day. And, I’m sorry, but do you smell that? She smells the worst out of all of them.”
Pamela frowned at her friend. “You’re being terrible, Julia. Really mean.”
“Fine,” Julia sighed. “I’m sorry. But, really, you wanted a dog that would get out and jump around and be all energetic and happy and this one won’t.”
“I know,” Pamela sighed, standing with a last wiggle of her fingers at the old, sleeping dog. “Okay. We’ll keep looking but, I still like the terrier the most.”
The small winged creature glowed brightly for a brief moment before fading away.
Plates clattered as Julia stacked her rinsed dinner dishes. She stretched, yawning widely and then scratched at her stomach slowly while making her way to her small office. The young woman woke and unlocked her computer.
“Let’s see what’s happening in the world,” she told herself quietly. Lightly kicking her small toes through the thick, soft carpet, she logged into her Facebook account. Immediately, Julia groaned, rolling her eyes. Numerous posts about the movie Fifty Shades of Grey filled her feed and she was disheartened to see how many of her old friends gushed about the movie. She’d never dared to read the book but she was aware of it and what it talked about.
Clucking her tongue, she responded to a friend’s wall post:
Anne, I’m sad to see you watched this movie. I know we haven’t talked in a while but I remember the bright young woman that used to sit with me in Bible study. It’s unpopular in this day and age but we both took the abstinence pledge in school and I really hope you’re still staying strong. If you ever want to talk, I’m here. Still (I hope) your friend in Christ.
The rest of her news feed seemed depressingly full of baby photos or pregnancy photos. Julia frowned but wrote encouraging and happy posts to her friends. She was twenty-six years old and it seemed nearly all of her female friends had kids. Most of them weren’t married. The young woman tucked a stray brown hair behind her right ear. She scratched idly behind her ear while browsing through her feed.
A quiet ‘ding’ from her computer’s speakers and the resulting small notification window made her grin. Julia opened her email client to read the email that’d just come through. She’d started talking to a young man several weeks ago through a Christian Dating site and she looked forward to the nearly daily emails.
Julia’s grin turned to a happy smiled as she read the email. Charles, the young man in question, seemed genuinely nice and honest. Once finished, she took her hand away from her lower belly, where she’d been gently rubbing at her smooth skin, and typed a reply. She told him about her trip to the animal shelter and how happy her friend had been when she’d been able to adopt a young, excitable terrier. Pamela had also asked about the older golden retriever. She’d planned to talk to her landlord to see if he’d forego an additional pet deposit if she took the elderly dog in. She also spoke about the alarming number of posts on Facebook over that disgusting new movie and how glad she was that Charles understood the importance of saving himself for marriage.
Tucking an imaginary string of hair behind her left ear, Julia scratched deeply for a moment before ending her email.
I think, she wrote, that I’m ready to meet with you. I’ll be busy at work all week but, if you’re not busy Friday night, I’d love to have dinner with you. Let me know what you think!
The young woman sent her email and then locked her computer. She made her way through her apartment, putting things in order for bedtime: arranging her mail for the next day, collecting stray water glasses and reshelving magazines. With everything put away, she stopped in front of her thermostat.
The end of winter was finally bringing some sharply cold night but she felt unusually warm, despite her thermostat being set for 64 degrees. Julia rubbed at her cheeks and ears, feeling an uncharacteristic heat flushing through her body. With a tap, she turned her heater off and made her way to her bathroom.
Julia examined herself in the mirror, noting how her small ears looked reddened. A hint of red touched her narrow cheeks but her forehead seemed clammy and white.
“I cannot be sick the week of my date. I refuse. You hear me, Julia Farnsworth? I refuse.” Digging through her medicine cabinet, she found a jar of Nyquil and took a swallow, gagging through the taste of it. She brushed carefully and then grabbed a spool of floss. She secretly prided herself on her flossing. She hadn’t had any cavities since she was a child and her teeth were flawless without ever having felt the touch of braces.
The string snapped when she tried to floss between her canine teeth. She frowned and leaned in closer. Wrapping another length of string around her fingers, she slowly worked the floss between her incisor and canine. The thin string tugged to a stop without slipping between the teeth. Julia sawed the string back and forth gently but, again, the string snapped. When it happened a third time, she decided to skip the top canines. The string almost snapped when she reached her lower canines but she was able to carefully work it out.
Finished in the bathroom, the young woman made her way to her bedroom. She regretted dressing herself in her favorite cotton pajamas as the heat in her head began to travel down through her core. She knelt at her bedside and bowed, speaking the same simple prayer that she’d said since childhood.
Finally, ready for bed, she slipped beneath her thick comforter. After a bit of tossing and turning, she wondered if she should slip out of her top but old habits and indoctrinated thoughts prevailed and she blushed at the idea. Julia’s jaw cracked and her ears popped as she yawned widely. Sleep took her while she went through her plans for the coming week.
Julia’s eyes cracked open. Her mind was a jumbled confusion but she groaned as she glanced at her bedside clock. Light blue digits glowed, telling her it was nearly midnight. She rolled to her side and closed her eyes. Her neighbor’s dog barked and howled and she knew now why she was awake.
“Come on, seriously?” she moaned. She tucked her head under her pillow. Several times, she found herself nearly falling asleep but the dog would start barking again and she’d feel it slip away from her. When she did sleep, it was sporadic and she found herself awake and unable to fall back asleep well before her alarm went off at 6:30 am.
Groaning, the young woman sat up. She didn’t feel as warm as she had the night before but her jaw ached. From grinding my teeth at that stupid dog, I bet. Her comforter lay on the floor next to the bed and, looking down, she found her top was completely unbuttoned and her bra was somehow missing. The young woman blushed as she buttoned her top closed. She found her bra on the floor under the comforter.
She moved slowly through the morning. Her body ached from the poor sleep and her mind was a dull buzz. Gray, cold light seeped from under her curtains. She showered unenthusiastically, washing and rubbing and scratching along her legs and belly and chest until she was clean. Only when she was dressing herself did she begin to wake up.
Julia stood in front of her closet’s mirror, turning left and right. She’d chosen a dark gray long skirt with a plain, white button-down shirt and a light gray suit jacket. Her shoulder-length curly brown hair hung loose around above the slightly open collar of her shirt.
Along the nape of her neck, light reddish-brown hair sprouted from under her hairline. Sparse, short and nearly invisible, the light hair grew down the back of her neck, stopping at her shoulders. Julia frowned and pulled at the soft tag of her shirt. She shivered at the sudden itchiness along her neck and wondered if she should cut the tag off. Glancing at the clock, she sighed and finished getting ready. She scratched along her neck, short clear fingernails tracing through the new reddish-brown hairs.
With a final glance around the house, the young woman nodded, satisfied that she hadn’t forgotten anything. She grabbed her keys and left, locking the door behind her.
Standing at the bus stop, Julia shifted from one foot to another. The heel and arch of her foot ached slightly in her flats. She made a mental note to wear different shoes next time or to look for insoles for the shoes she was wearing. Insoles, she thought. These are my favorite shoes.
A small black dot appeared on the inside of the young woman’s bottom lip. It was an irregular spot that grew, stretching into a line as the pink flesh darkened. It stopped, leaving a mix of pink and black that crept up up slightly to leave a thin black line in the middle of the top of her lip. Julia ground her teeth together subconsciously, the ache fading slightly as she did.
The sound of a closing door made her look around. Her neighbor was leaving for work. Julia walked over to his yard.
“James. Excuse me, James?” She said, her voice firm.
“Oh, hey… uhh… Julia, right?” James answered. He was older than her by perhaps ten years. Some gray was starting to show in his auburn hair and he perpetually had a 5 o’clock shadow but he was dressed sharply and always seemed polite.
“James, your dog kept me up all night last night. I really-”
“Oh, geez, I’m so sorry Julia. I really don’t know what was going on. He’s never done that. Usually he’s really relaxed and only barks when people ring the doorbell. I’m really, really sorry for last night.”
“Well, thank you but, I slept horribly. I’ll have to ask you to keep a tighter leash on him if he keeps it up.”
James nodded. “Absolutely. I’m really sorry. I’ll figure something out but, really, he’s such a great dog. Hey, I have to run but, don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on him tonight. Sorry again!”
Julia watched the man leave before turning to make her way to the bus stop again. The sun peeked weakly through haze and early morning clouds.
Without checking the time, she turned to look down the street. Her left ear twitched and the electric bus silently rounded the corner to come into view. The young woman shrugged within her suit jacket, rolling her shoulders and reaching up again to scratch against the nearly invisible hairs along the back of her neck. She considered, briefly, taking the coat off. She felt warm again despite the chill wind.
The bus hissed and kneeled in front of her. Julia automatically smiled at the driver but made her way to the back. As usual, the bus was mostly empty. Toward the front, Jerry, an older mentally disabled man, clipped his nails as he did every day. Behind him were Sara and Joan. Joan owned a ‘faerie store’ and her friend Sara worked with her. They periodically invited Julia to come visit their store but, after her first and only visit, she hadn’t planned to go back. In the middle sat Belle. The young black woman was a college student and she wore her headphones as always. Sometimes the bus would pick up a few high school students and random adults but the ride was quiet.
Julia held her large purse in her lap. She looked up, wondering if anyone would complain if she opened the large window. The thought of the cool air on her face was tempting. She licked her lips, glanced around the bus and then reached for the window.
She stopped as her reflection stared back at her.
Her mouth was open and, thinking back, she realized she’d been breathing with her mouth open for quite a while. Julia blushed. The young woman huddled into small ball over her purse while casting quick looks at the other passengers. Both of her small ears twitched in embarrassment. With her mouth closed, Julia breathed deeply through her nose, assuming she’d been stuffed up and just naturally mouth breathing to compensate.
Gasoline and perfume assaulted her nose, making her gag quietly. She wrinkled her nose, looking over at the two old women in the middle. Covering her nose, she leaned against the window, relishing the feel of the cold glass on her temple. Just ten more minutes, she told herself.
Beneath her skirt and panties, tiny white hairs sprouted from her skin amidst her curly brown pubic hair. The pure white hairs were tiny but thick and Julia unconsciously reached a hand down to scratch at herself slowly. The white mixed with the small patch of her brown hair and then spread out slowly past her bush, spreading more and more thin until her pelvis was covered with a light dusting of white. Julia stopped scratching when the bus pulled to the curb.
The stench of perfume filled the entire bus. Julia rushed to the front and then out into the open air. She breathed deeply and her stomach rumbled. The smell of baking bread and meats and other scents replaced the perfume. Her small pink tongue made a quick circuit of her lips but she ignored her stomach and made her way to work.
“Good morning, Julia,” the receptionist said as the young woman opened the glass doors to her work place. She was as an inside sales representative at a large lumber company. It wasn’t glamorous but she liked her coworkers and her boss was a prominent member of her church.
Her cubicle was simple. The only personal item was a small picture of Jesus with the Lord’s Prayer written in the background. Julia set her purse down and then frowned at her desk. Something seemed off but, she couldn’t tell. The young woman stepped to one side, pushing around a few notepads. Stepping to another side she re-aligned a small stack of work orders that needed review. Turning, she pushed her chair a little, moving it to center it at her desk. And then, pushed it a little more. Satisfied, she sat and smiled. Just right, she thought.
Her calls began mid-morning, after she’d finished some lingering paperwork. Julia felt restless but, surprisingly not as tired as she thought she should be. She found herself watching the windows between calls and feeling more energetic as the morning haze burned away. The young woman ran her nails through her hair, letting them drag down behind her ears and along her neck. She smiled and sighed and then bent back to her computer system.
“Hey Trish,” Julia said suddenly, her eyes focused on a line in a spreadsheet.
“Well, uhh, hey you,” her coworker said. “You have a mirror hidden over there now?”
“What? Oh, no. I just, uhh, heard you coming,” Julia replied. The young woman closed her mouth, licking her lips before glancing up at her friend.
“Well, damn. I guess I need to go on a diet after all. I wonder if Sea World would loan me one of their tanks and trainers.”
Julia smiled. Trish was barely five feet tall and maybe ninety-five pounds. The woman did triathlons and half-marathons and was working up to a full marathon in the summer. Julia’s small nose flared briefly. She always liked the light scent her friend wore. “Is it time for lunch already?”
“Yup. Wanna head over to Johnny’s?”
“Sure,” Julia said. Standing, the woman stretched and then grimaced as her feet complained.
Trish led the way while Julia blinked and followed. She rubbed her eyes, frowning at the light headache at her temples. Blinking more, Julia looked around.
“Hey, you okay?” Trish asked.
“Yeah,” Julia said, frowning. “Yeah. Just… I think I was staring at the computer for too long.” Everything looked washed out to her. A little like a faded photograph. Julia ground her teeth loudly while walking behind her friend. “I guess I needed a break after all.”
The two women walked together down the street. Julia found herself looking around more to relax her eyes. But, she also found herself just glad to be outside. The air was fresh and tasted wonderfully to her.
Small reddish hairs sprouted along her shoulders as she walked. The hairs were as sparse and light as the hairs on her neck. She scratched and rolled her shoulders as the hairs connected to the ones on her neck.
“What’s that smell?” Julia asked suddenly.
“Uhh… Katrina’s Bakery? We just passed it,” Trish said.
“No, wait. That’s not it. Hold on a second.”
A cloying scent pulled at the young woman. Julia sniffed. A line of black appeared behind her upper lip, widening and growing until nearly the entire inside of her top lip was a dark black. She tried to pull apart the smells but, she couldn’t. She turned and walked until she reached the alley. The scent grew stronger and she followed until she blinked and found herself standing in front of a dumpster. Startled, she stepped back.
Trish stood at the entrance to the alley with the back of her hand against her nose. “I don’t feel like eating at Chez Dumpster today, Heathcliff. Can we go? It smells bad.”
“Yeah,” Julia said. “I’m sorry. I thought- I mean, obviously this wasn’t it. I thought I smelled something else.” With a near regretful backwards glance at the dumpster, the young woman stepped out of the alley.
“How was your weekend?” Trish asked between bites of her salad.
“Huh? Oh, good. I relaxed. And helped Pam pick out a dog at the shelter.”
“Ohhh,” Trish cooed. “What kind? I’ve been thinking about getting one but I live in an apartment and it wouldn’t work well.”
“A terrier,” Julia said. The young woman took a large bite of her BLT. The bacon was thick and overly cooked and she loved the way it felt when she chewed on it. Her canine teeth had thickened slightly, pressing against her other teeth as they slowly grew. While she chewed, they lengthened nearly imperceptibly, the tips growing to sharper points that scraped against the surrounding teeth in her small jaw.
“Ah, I’m a big dog person myself or else I’d get a chihuahua for my place.”
Julia nodded and then changed the subject. “I think I need to schedule a massage. I should’ve done it over the weekend. I just feel sore all over and my feet are really bothering me.”
“You aren’t getting sick, are you?” Trish asked. She eyed her friend. “You are looking a little… I dunno. A little feverish?”
Julia rolled her shoulders. “I guess I feel a little warm but that’s it.”
The skin at the base of Julia’s left big toe bulged slightly. The young woman scrunched her toe against the sudden pain. A small bead of blood welled and was quickly absorbed by the fabric of her shoe. The skin of her right big toe and the one next to it swelled just as her left toe had. She rubbed at her left foot with her right and then ignored it. Slowly, and much less painfully, every other toe formed a tiny bump just at the base of her toe’s cuticles.
“Well,” Trish said. “Keep an eye on it. Echinacea and garlic and vitamin C. That’s what I always do. I- Oh, well, look at you, mister.” Trish nodded her head behind Julia.
Julia’s nose flared and she smelled cologne and old leather. Turning, she spotted a finely dressed young man entering the restaurant. The man flashed a smile at the maitre d and spoke quietly. Julia heard him tell the young hostess that he was waiting for his friends. She watched him sit at the bench near the front door.
“Very nice,” Trish said, her eyes sparkling.
Julia found herself feeling oddly angry suddenly but she choked it back. She was scratching at her stomach and frowning at her friend while lifting her head and scenting the air around her. She felt herself blush and she hid it by taking a bite of her sandwich. It’s almost like I’m jealous of Trish. That makes no sense at all, she told herself. It’s just a man. I don’t care.
Still, the old leather scent stayed with her during lunch. The skin inside her nose slowly darkened, the black matching the inside of her lips. Light, invisible red hairs grew down from her shoulders to her upper arms. Around her belly button, tiny white hairs sprouted to trace a lazy line to her white and brown pubic hairs. Her heart began to beat slightly faster and a gentle ache settled into her core.
“So, catch me up on Charles,” Trish said smiling at her friend.
The two women chatted while they finished their meal. Julia worked to shake off her sudden mood and, slowly, it began to lift. She was almost feeling back to her normal self when they finally left.
Once outside, Julia shaded her eyes. Her headache was gone but her eyes were still worn out. Colors seemed blended and muted no matter how many times she blinked and rubbed her eyes. Shaking her head, she started walking while Trish caught up. The air invigorated her and the idea of being stuck back at her desk made her uneasy.
“What’s the rush, lady?” Trish asked. The shorter woman stretched her legs and hurried to keep up.
Julia found herself trying to stay a step ahead of her friend. Her unease was building into frustration and anger again. The ache along her core had steadily grown and was becoming terribly distracting. Not painful but she couldn’t seem to ignore it. Julia wrinkled her nose, grinding her canine teeth together and enjoying the way it made her jaw felt. Her four canine teeth lengthened further, drawing blood from her gums. She licked at it without thought. Her small tongue widened slightly in her mouth and she caught herself breathing with her mouth open again.
A scent stopped her. Carried on a sudden wind, she felt something loosen deep within and the ache began to burn. Swallowing, Julia turned and sniffed deeply. A handsome young man walked along on the other side of the street. He was grinning and his hair was slightly disheveled. She could smell something musky on him. Something familiar yet not quite. Two distinct yet mixed scents. It smelled fresh and indescribable and it pulled deep at her stomach. A breeze flowed around her and she shivered as her suddenly sensitive body broke into goosebumps.
“What are- oh. Oh, yeah. He’s nice, too. I-”
“No!” Julia snarled, staring at her friend.
“Whoa, you okay? Do you know him? Oh, god, tell me I’m not mentally hitting on an ex-boyfriend?”
Julia forced her eyes away from her friend. It was a struggle for some reason. She wanted to loom over her small friend. To push at her. Instead, she turned away and watched the young man go.
“No,” Julia gasped. Heat flooded into her stomach. “No. I’m… I’m sorry. I thought I knew him. My mistake. Hey, I’m gonna go on ahead. I need to rush back. I’m sorry. I’ll catch up with you later?”
“Yeah. Maybe you should go… home?” Trish said to Julia’s back.