by Michael Bard
1 2 3 4
5 6 7
8 9 10
Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they will help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, since I at least try to write, I've tried to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
Oh, and (of course) names and places of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that.
#6 -- the world on my hooves
Jan 26, 8:45am
No. I successfully disbelieve.
BZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Usually forced disbelief works for an absurd event, but not this time.
I stumbled upwards and yawned and stretched, arching my back and my tail so that they touched.
I'm going to rip the stupid thing out of the wall if this keeps up.
BZZZZZZZZ! BZZZ! BZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
I backed up, slipping on the cushions, rotated around when I had room, and walked over and pressed the talk button: "Yes!?"
Ok, so I probably should have been a bit more polite. I wasn't all the way awake yet.
Pressed listen: "Mr. Bard, I'm sorry..."
Pressed talk: "Can't it be later? Centaurs do have to sleep."
Pressed listen: "I'm Thomas Extansor from the Globe, we met on the TTC yesterday." He sounded desperate.
TTC? Was he the person who helped me get on? I turned on the entrance hall (well, more of a cubicle) light and stared into it for about fifteen seconds to try and wake up a bit before I twisted back to face the panel. Pressed talk: "Sorry, I'm not at the best in the morning. Do you just want to ask some..." I yawned. "Sorry. Oh, and thank you for yesterday."
Pressed listen: "I really need to talk to you -- it seems, well, I wrote up an article about your problems with the TTC and it made the front page of this morning's Metro and the back page of the first section of the Globe, and there has been reaction."
Pressed talk: "Good or bad."
Pressed listen: "Lots."
A pause. Then I pressed talk: "Lots?"
Pressed listen: "I dropped by after the first reactions started pouring in to talk to you. I think you're going to need some encouragement."
Pressed talk: "Ooookaaay. You're alone, right?"
Pressed listen: "Just me. No cameras, no interview, just a talk."
Pressed talk: "Ok, I'll let you in, but it'll be a few minutes before I'm ready -- I just want to put something on."
Pressed listen:"I'll be up there momentarily and waiting."
Pressed talk: "Ok." Then I pressed the button to let him in.
After backing into the living room, I rotated around and made my way into the washroom. I skipped shaving and combing my hair, but I did use mouthwash. Then I backed out, rotated, and squeezed into my bedroom, or former bedroom, and grabbed my other sweater (which was an off-tan colour and would probably go better with my cream hide). Then I grabbed my glasses and put them on and then I squeezed back into the living room and walked to the door, making a quick check to make sure I'd thrown the other sweater in the hamper, since it had certainly needed it, and it looked like I had.
A quick check through the peephole, and it was indeed the person from yesterday, and then a couple of steps back so that I could open the door. "Come in, Mr..."
"Extansor, Thomas Extansor. And thank you."
"Unfortunately, I can't hold the door for you if I want to make room for you to get in." As he just nodded, I backed up into the living room and he followed, letting the door thud shut behind him. When I felt my hind legs step on one of the couch cushions, I stopped. "Would you like to sit down?" I pointed at the chair. "I apologize for the little bit of mess, but I'm still trying to adjust things."
"Not a problem. Thanks." And he sat down. "Can you sit, or..."
"I consider it as laying down." I stepped backward until I was on the far side of the cushions, and then I leaned down and straightened them before stepping back forward and letting myself collapse downward. "Thank you." I wiggled a bit to get comfortable, forcing my tail to remain still, and then asked, "So why did you want to see me?"
He sighed, moved around a little, and than began, "I thought that I should at least warn you of what was coming. After I ran into you yesterday, I wrote up what you'd gone through with the TTC for the Column -- you know what I mean?"
"Yes. Please go on." For those of you who aren't in Toronto, 'The Column' is a section in the Metro where various people spout out about various things. Some serious, some humourous. Usually it's the most interesting bit of the paper. But I digress...
"It seems that the heads liked it so much that they moved it to the front page and even placed it on the back page of the Globe and Mail. I had to add a little bit, but that wasn't hard."
"Hmm. What did you say?"
"No, no, nothing bad about you. Just a brief description of what happened, and then a bit about what this means to Toronto and to civilization. You're a person, and the TTC eventually recognized that, and I stated that it was important that everybody recognized it."
"Do you have a copy?"
He opened his coat and pulled a neatly folded Metro from the inner pocket and handed it to me. "The Globe and Mail is identical, although the picture is black and white instead of colour."
I nodded as I unfolded it and then just stared in shocked silence. There I was, or at least a picture of myself in glorious printed colour, gracing the front page. Apparently somebody had taken a picture of my discussion with the TTC attendant and the picture showed me from behind with my right fore hoof on the booth and my one hand raised to make a point.
I hadn't even realized I was moving my hand -- I'd been having too much fun.
Then a sudden fear struck me and I looked more carefully at the picture. Thank God, my tail had covered certain embarrassing parts.
Finally I read through the article. The first half of the article was a paraphrased version of the debate that was essentially correct. Had I really said that much?
From the chair I heard a shuffling of feet and then, "I had a mini tape recorder with me."
And the rest was also as he'd said, a general note about what being a person means, and a comment that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms didn't define a person as human anyway, but did specify that any individual regardless of race had rights. For your information I've included the appropriate bit that he quoted from the Equality Rights section:
"15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."
Note: For those interested in a complete copy of this document, go to: http://www.laurentia.com/ccrf/ccrf.htm. Now back to the diary.
When I was finished, I lowered the paper and looked back at him. "I don't see anything wrong with this."
"Look at the letters section."
Lifting the paper back up I went to inside the back page (the back page is always an ad). The first thing I noticed wasn't the letters but the comics. There aren't many, but there is always a one panel piece of transit humour. This time it showed a street car with the usual driver. Behind the driver I could see that the street car was full of centaurs, and the caption (said by the driver) stated, 'I thought horse carriages went out years ago.' I snickered.
"You read the Transit Tickler?"
I looked up and nodded.
"I'm glad you find it funny, because others won't"
"What do you mean?"
"Others may make the connection that you'll be kicking them off the system because of the room you need."
"You'd think. Read the letters."
I turned back to the paper. Usually there are just three letters, but this time the entire previous page was full of them. I started reading them. A lot were from university students supporting me, but a few were openly hostile. I frowned.
"And those were from last night. With the country-wide exposure it's just going to get worse. Almost all of the rest of those who've changed have been keeping a low profile. You haven't."
I looked up at him as he continued.
"Most of the US papers have already asked permission to run this, and we didn't say no. Tomorrow it'll be all over the continent."
"Good? You haven't seen the letters that have been coming in this morning. True, most of them support you, and that seemed to be a positive sign, until one of the secretaries pointed out the general source of the negative letters."
"Some background first. Most letters are written by the educated middle class. University students, teachers, professionals, etc. That's because they have the skills, the time, and the intellectual environment to express their opinions. But almost all of the negative letters were written by what could be called the wage earners. Truck drivers, fast food restaurant servers, taxi drivers, that kind of thing. Now it isn't an absolute dichotomy, and this is a bit of a generalization, but there is a large bias for the intellectuals to support you, and for the wage earners not to."
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion."
"And that's going to be the problem. Yes, legally you have your rights. You are a citizen. You have birth records, you have voted, you've paid taxes. This means that you have a legal paper trail. But, almost all of law is based upon the unwritten assumption that it applies to humans, not animals. Until this week that wasn't a problem. There has been debate about dolphins, for example, but never any argument over whether they were humans or animals. They were animals. And now there are those who have changed like you."
"So, what's the problem?"
"Nobody's really gotten into this debate yet, but it's going to start. It has to, now that there are a group of people who are trapped halfway between. And that's going to bring the extremists out. You might be in danger."
"Danger? Why would anybody want to hurt me? This is Canada, not the US. We're civilized..."
He smiled. "But you have become a centre. All the others that were changed have stayed low. Most are in hiding, a few are known but they have surrounded themselves with supporters and stayed out of the public at large. As an example, there's a dragon that has become the official mascot for a university in the US. It's known about, but it isn't walking the streets of New York figuratively rubbing people's noses in his existence. You are." He sighed. "I think you should go into hiding for a while."
"Just until it cools down a little, and people have more time to get used to your existence. Right now it's too new, too sudden. People are afraid --"
"Why? It's been proven that we're not catching..."
"Not in three days. Sure, there is no biological agent that could do this, and it has been stated as such, but nobody has had enough time to scientifically prove anything."
"And they never will. You can't prove a negative."
"But you can prove it to a reasonable point, and that will take time. And until that happens, public opinion is going to become more and more polarized."
I sighed through my slits. "I'm not going to hide."
"The first day I experienced this new form, I resolved that I would not let it control me. That I would keep doing what I wanted to do as much as I could. I refuse to flee and hide just because I'm different."
"It would only be temporary."
"Like income taxes?" Note that in Canada (at least) income taxes were introduced as a temporary measure to help fund World War I.
He smiled. "Not that long." Then his face straightened. "But I am serious. Consider this -- you've heard about the fight that women had to make to get the right to vote?"
I started to nod and then stopped.
I was starting to realize what he was getting at.
"You've realized it, haven't you?"
"It's not going to be easy, is it?"
"And this is just the beginning. I don't know who's realized this yet, but if your kind are accepted as 'humans' under the law, then the animal activists are going to start bringing dolphins, whales, gorillas, and who knows what else into it. Eventually, either there will be slavery, or an entire new definition for legal purposes of sentience."
"And that has its own meaning."
He nodded. "I almost wonder if some kind of alien race did this, to force us to grow as a civilization and come to grips with this before they introduce themselves."
I didn't smile as I asked, "Do you really believe that?"
"I don't know. Nobody knows, so it's as good an explanation as any." He smiled for a bit, then frowned and leaned back, embarrassed. "I do, sort of, have an apology and a request to make to and of you."
He pulled out a miniature tape recorder. "I've been recording this..."
"Wait and let me finish, please."
"I recorded our conversation in case you did decide to stay. I would like to transcribe it and publish it as an interview."
"I think it will be helpful if you're going to continue on. I didn't want to mention it at first, because I didn't want to force you into the course you're taking. I don't think I could do it. But, you convinced me earlier, and confirmed it now -- I bet the pool at the office that you would."
"A pool at the office, eh?"
"Ok, then yes you can use it..."
"A couple of things. First, I don't want anything put in about how you approached me, or how I reacted. Just the points we talked about, describing what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. Yes, you can repeat the last bit, when you made me realize what I was getting into, verbatim. I think it might sound better from you."
"Anything else then?"
"A couple things you might find useful. About fifteen years ago while I was in university, I worked at cleaning an RCMP office over the summer. I think it was in '85. Anyway, they had to run a security check and everything, and my fingerprints were on file because of that and probably still are. That might be useful as more official documentation for the proper side."
"Good thought. You had the same name."
"Anything else then?"
"Not for now. However, I want you to know that I truly admire you for what you are about to do."
I didn't know what to say, so I just let him continue.
"And I have this for you." He pulled out a cell phone.
I hate the stupid things. I had one for a while and then I got rid of it. In fact, I still wince whenever the stupid things ring on the bus or the subway, and I guess my reaction must have shown.
"No, nothing like that. It's not a gift, it's more like insurance. I've keyed in a direct line to my cell, to the Globe's answering desk (with the number I keyed in you'll be put right through) and 911 just in case."
My voice changed to a whisper. "Just in case."
"I want you to keep it, just in case the worst happens."
All I could do was nod as he stood up and handed me the cell phone.
"Mr. Bard, I'm honoured to have known you."
I stumbled to my feet and shook his hand, and then watched as he turned and left, unable to speak or move as he opened the door and let it thud close behind him.
Then I just stood there staring at the closed door. I'm not sure how long I stood there, or even how I managed to keep standing, before I finally, carefully, put the cell phone down on the couch and then collapsed onto the cushions. Of course I'd heard about the fight for emancipation, for the vote, but it had always been abstract. Most of the knowledge was from Saturday morning TV bits (Schoolhouse Rock and all that). The Canadian education establishment had never been that big on Canadian history.
And now I was in the middle of it.
What the hell was I going to do? I couldn't do this!
But then what would I do? Hide?
How could I do this?
Then I stopped, and breathed in through my mouth and out through my slits to calm down.
I remembered Wednesday. That morning I'd felt the same thing. Overwhelming panic and a million things to think about. But then I just went and did things one at a time.
And that was what I had to do now. One thing at a time.
I stood up with new resolve. I would just keep doing what I was doing. What I wanted to do, and what I needed to do to work and earn a living. And I would deal with things as they came up, one at a time.
Looking at the VCR I checked the time. Just before 9:30. Well, lots of time before I had to meet the farrier, so I pulled off the sweater and went through my morning ritual properly, including using the washroom (both ways this time -- the second was unpleasant -- I ended up using a big mixing bowl in the bathtub, rubber gloves, and lots of after cleaning). That took until 10:40. Then I started the computer and did a quick search for the Bill of Rights and did find a copy. A word search revealed that the word "human" was nowhere within it. I was about to start looking for a copy of the US Constitution out of curiosity when someone buzzed, so I backed up and answered and found, with relief, that it was the courier package from Medic Alert. I let the delivery person up and signed where indicated while he just stared. The bracelet fit on fine and was simply labelled -- 'centaur' and a number. Closing the door I got back to my computer and continued my search, eventually finding a copy on one of the Gutenberg Project sites (go to http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/ -- lots of stuff there) and it apparently used 'person' and 'citizen' but it also did not have 'human' anywhere. Of course, the copy I checked didn't have the amendments, so the anti-slavery amendment might have dangerous wording.
I started to look for a more complete copy and then checked the time. It was almost 11:30 -- nearly time for shoeing!
Knowing my schedule, I shutdown the computer, grabbed my shoulder bag and tossed in my roleplaying books and dice, dressed warmly, tossed my wallet in and, after a momentary pause while I held and looked at it, tossed in the cell phone. Then it was a matter of squeezing around to open the door and then out and into the hallway, a rotation, and then I locked the door behind me. Then it was down the stairwell and out, and then a quick trip north to the Coffee Time and another two dozen doughnuts (I wanted more but I had no way to carry them). I really had to eat better, but I hadn't had time to try and figure out some kind of affordable diet. Then it was back south down Yonge St, west on Cheritan, than south on Duplex. Other than a few car horns on Yonge, and a few cars on Duplex who slowed to gawk, I didn't run into anybody or have any problems.
Then I was at the park. I walked over to the field by one of the baseball diamonds and waited whilst nibbling on doughnuts. The farrier arrived at, by my watch, 12:03. Note that I'm not finicky about time, I just had nothing else to do while waiting.
The van she drove up in was white, with the symbol of the stables she worked at cleanly stencilled on the side. As she was stopping I finished off the last of the doughnuts and walked over to her, coming to a stop beside the van just as she finished walking around it.
"Now where..." She stopped when she saw me.
"Good day. I told you I needed your help."
She looked me up and down, forwards and back. "I guess you do. Well, follow me around to the back, and let's get started."
I followed behind her, my hooves crunching in the snow, and waited while she opened up the back. There was a forge there, but it was back out of the way. Instead, at the very back of the van where it could be reached easily, was a device that looked like some kind of metal anvil and consisted of three short metal posts in a triangle on a heavy stand.
"Do you mind if I put my bag in the back for now?" I held my shoulder bag and then placed it in as she nodded.
Then she turned and walked a short distance from the van and I followed.
I stopped and watched as she walked around to my rear.
"Well let's see here..." she mumbled to herself as she kneeled down and grabbed my right rear hoof.
I pulled it out of her grasp and stepped forward. "Hey!"
She looked up. "Oh my, I'm sorry. I'm just so used to shoeing, well, horses. Usually the owner just stands by while I do my work, unless the horse doesn't like having its hooves handled."
I smiled. "Don't worry, it's been a learning week for me, too."
"Shall we start again?"
"Just ask and you shall receive."
And then she asked, and I let her raise my right rear hoof. "Let's see. No cracks. I see a chip here -- been on the pavement I see -- but nothing else. Doesn't need trimming, either." Then she pulled a little camera out from her pocket and took a picture.
"I like to document my work on new horses so that if there are any problems, we can trace back and try and figure it out."
"Can't argue with that. Maybe I should pass that on to the Medic Alert people."
"I'm getting that set up, since I do have somewhat of a unique medical condition."
She shook her head and then started working her way around the rest of my hooves, taking a picture of each and mumbling the same kind of things. Fortunately there were no real problems. Finally she finished her examination and she turned for a second to look for somebody, then blushed, and turned to me.
"Well?" I asked.
"Like I said, everything's in fair shape. Your hooves are on the large side, even though you are small as a horse goes but very long legged. It's a good thing I brought a variety of sizes. Now, as per our discussion of yesterday, I brought primarily rubber horseshoes. Also, since you really couldn't plan this out, as you said, and it is an emergency, I'm not going to charge you anything for the short notice."
"That's a relief. I hadn't budgeted for owning a horse."
She laughed. "Well, let's get started then. I'll try and describe what I'm doing while I work. Feel free to ask questions, but if I ignore you then it's not that I'm being impolite, I'm just concentrating on something."
Then she turned and walked and jumped back into the van, fiddled around a bit, and then jumped out carrying three rubber shoes of differing sizes. "May I see your right rear hoof again please?"
I dutifully raised it up and twisted and watched as she first pulled out a hook and rubbed it against the inside of my hoof -- I could feel it distantly -- and then a brush which she brushed the base with. Only then did she hold the medium sized shoe against the base of the hoof, and then she tried the larger size. "Good, the larger one'll fit quite well."
I watched while she held it against my hoof and then moved it around a bit. It could feel it as a distant coolness, but I might also have been imagining the sensation. Finally she let go of my hoof and called, "You can put your hoof down now," and I dutifully obeyed. "And now comes the fun part. You should probably come and watch."
I rotated around, followed her back to the van, and watched while she clamped the horseshoe between the three posts and then winced from the scraping sound as she pulled out a two-foot metal rod which she put into a hole below one of the posts. "The problem with shoeing is that each horse, and centaur, are individuals. There are certain common hoof sizes, but always little differences. And if it wasn't for the little differences..." at that point she started pushing the bar which I saw was causing the one pole to move and hence bending the shoe, "... I wouldn't have a job."
"If it's rubber, why are you shaping it?"
Grunt, "Actually, it's only a thick layer of rubber on a metal frame. It's the metal frame that I have to bend to make the shoe bend. Fortunately, hooves are generally symmetrical, so I only have to bend it inward or outward. Hoo!" She wiped her forehead. "That should do it."
I watched as she let go of the bar and unclamped the shoe and pulled it off. Then she reached back and got a hammer, a bunch of nails which she put in a pouch that was at her waist, and a portable stool. Then she turned towards me.
I stared. "You're going to hammer those nails into me?"
"Of course, but you won't feel a thing."
"How do you know that?"
"Well, nobody's ever complained."
"Because the human owner just stands and watches."
She stopped right beside me. "You're right. Well, now you can let me know."
"You're welcome. Raise your right rear hoof please?"
I complied and then twisted to watch her place the shoe and then cradle my hoof between her knees. Then, again, she pulled out the little brush and scraped at the hoof.
"What are you brushing?"
"I'm just making sure nothing gets between the shoe and your hoof. Now shush and let me work. Note that I don't always hold the leg this way, but it does make it easier. Now, don't move."
As I watched, trying to keep my tail still and to keep my body from shuddering, she held the shoe over my hoof. She fiddled with it a moment more and then pulled a nail out of the pouch and carefully placed it in a hole in the horseshoe.
I closed my eyes.
TAP. It felt like somebody had hit my foot with a piece of wood, but not hard. I could feel the shock distantly on the base of my foot, and could feel it bounce up the bones in my lower leg, but that was it.
"Did it hurt?"
I opened my eyes. "No. I could feel it though, but it wasn't painful."
And then she continued. TAP. TAP. TAP TAP.
"Done the first nail."
Then she went through the rest of the nails one by one.
"All done." She stood up and pulled the stool out of the way and I let my lower leg fall to the ground. "How does it feel?"
"It feels oddly heavy and unbalanced. Like I was wearing one shoe, well, one shoe when I was still human, and had the other foot bare."
"Try tapping your leg."
I lifted it up and down and felt it thudding into the snow.
"Does it feel loose at all? Can you feel anything banging or hanging loosely?"
"No. Should I?"
"No. Raise it up and I'll double check." I did and she checked. "Looks fine."
"How would I know if it is loose?"
"Well, I don't know. Horses just, well, do. They tend to start favouring the leg. I would guess you would feel something out of balance or tapping against your foot as you walked."
"I'll try to remember that."
Then, with me watching, she worked her way through two more of my hoofs, following the same steps. For the last hoof, my right fore hoof, after brushing it she held the hammer out towards me and asked me to do it.
"You should learn. That way, if you throw a shoe you can attach it yourself."
"It's simple. Each shoe has a kind of lip at the front which you rest against the front of the hoof. Then you centre the shoe on the hoof, and tap a nail into each hole. The hard skill to learn is the shaping of the shoe, which I've already done. I'll leave you a hammer and some nails and a spare shoe when I leave." Then she held the hammer, nails, and shoe out to me.
Gingerly I grasped them, and ended up holding most of the nails in my teeth (not having convenient pockets) and keeping two in my hand. Then I raised my right fore hoof as high as it could until it was against my right flank and about half way up. Leaning and twisting, I managed to reach it and fiddle with the horseshoe.
"There you got it."
I carefully extracted a nail from the hand holding the shoe and held it in place, also holding the shoe, and then I tapped it in.
Tap. TAP. TAP TAP.
"That's good, now the next."
A few minutes later it was done, and I handed the hammer and remaining nails back to her.
"I have one more thing for you. I brought them because I knew you'd be in snow a lot." Then she walked back to the van and brought out a cloth bag and pulled out what looked like a golfclub cover. "This is what is known as a popper."
A popper. I'd read about those. "You slip it over the leg and shoe, centering the ball in the middle so that it pops in and out so that snow doesn't get trapped inside the hallow of the hoof."
"You've been studying, haven't you?"
She handed one to me and I slid it on. It wasn't tight, and there was a velcro strap at the top which I sealed.
She checked it. "A little tighter," and then she tightened it.
I put my foot down and lifted it and heard a faint pop as the ball bounced up forcing out any snow. The popping (of course) is what gave them their name. Then I put the other three on and just stood in place.
"How does it feel?"
"I can't even tell that either the shoes or the poppers are there."
"That's what we want. Try walking."
I took a step, hearing a faint pop as I lifted each foot. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
"How does it feel?"
"Then let's see you go faster. Work your way up to a gallop gradually and stop immediately if you feel anything wrong."
"Whatever you say."
I should mention here that one of the interesting things I've found about being a centaur is that unlike a human, I have distinct foot patterns for different speeds. Thus, instead of running I have to switch gears and change the way I move my legs. So, first I rotated and starting walking: pop pop pop pop. Then I sped up to a trot: poppop poppop. Next a canter: pop poppop pop. And finally I stretched into a slow gallop: poppop pop pop ...
"How is it?"
I decided to see how fast I could go, so I started stretching myself. As I'd noticed earlier as I galloped, the movement of my legs acted as a bellows with my lungs, so that when my legs were stretched out to the front and back I would inhale, and as my legs almost met in the middle I would exhale. As I moved faster and faster I felt my breath come faster and faster to match my galloping, but I wasn't hard. But then, too soon, my glasses started to fog up so I shifted down to a canter and then to a trot and then to a walk and then, finally, I stopped.
I heard her voice in the distance behind me "What's wrong?!"
Twisting around so that I could see here, I shouted back, "Nothing! Just my glasses!"
She stopped and shook her head. Then, holding the glasses in my hand, I twisted back so that I was facing forward and then started walking, and then trotting, and then cantering, and then galloping. Then I kept speeding up, letting myself loose, until my breath was rapidly whoosing in and out through my gaping mouth, my nose, and my straining breathing slits. Oddly, I did not feel short of breath, it was just that I needed to breathe in and out quickly.
But it was wonderful.
I could feel my whole body working together as one. My legs pounding up and down in synchronization, and their movement helping my lungs billow in and out. My hooves pounding into the snow covered ground and sending the thud of impact up through my legs where bones and muscles flexed and helped pump my blood through my body. My upper torso leaning about 45 degrees downward and moving slightly to the right and left to keep balance as my hands moving slightly to help it out.
And as I rapidly sucked air in, I could begin to scent what was in it. At the back of my neck I could feel sweat, and smell its odour through my breathing slits. I could smell the dry brittleness of dead grass churned up from under the snow, the stinging scent of fresh rubber flexing, the cold crispness of old snow being thrown off behind me. Below it all, I could hear a faint and almost continual popping as my hooves left the ground and for a second I flew.
The only thing wrong was the glasses in my hand and I almost threw those away to purify the joy.
Finally, regretfully, after only a minute or two, I swung around and pounded my way back to the street where she was waiting. I rapidly reached a gallop and after less than a minute I popped to a stop, shifting down from gait to gait, until I was standing in front of her. I could feel the sweat glistening on my flanks and I was taking in great gulps of air, but nothing like the speed I'd been breathing while I was in motion, and I did not feel the least out of breath.
In fact I wasn't even tired and felt like I could have kept going for hours.
"That was... amazing. How do you run so fast?" She started walking around me. "And what are those things on your neck?"
"They're breathing slits so that my face can look human."
"Breathing slits? You should be able to get enough through just your nostrils, though you might need your mouth occasionally."
"But don't horses need lots of air?"
"Not that much. Generally they just breathe through their nostrils unless really winded." She paused. "Maybe that's it."
"When you were at your fastest, how were you breathing?"
"I was breathing in sync with my leg movement, through my nose, mouth, and breathing slits. The breaths were deep and rapid."
"That might be it. With the breathing slits you have an exceptionally large air refresh rate. Maybe with the extra capacity you can afford a higher oxygen circulation rate. A higher rate would increase your abilities, and it would prevent an anabolic deficit in your muscles."
However, I wasn't really listening to her explanation, but instead just remembering the feeling. I tried to describe it to her, but my words then, like my words now, didn't do the sensation justice.
Finally, for almost the first time, I silently thanked God or whomever for my transformation.
After that the rest of the day went fairly quickly. I talked with her about other things, as she brushed me down and I watched as she did it. It felt different from the mop, much better, and it helped relieve aches I didn't even know I had. Then she gave me a pair of brushes, a spare shoe roughly shaped (in case I threw one and couldn't find it), and a pat on the lower back. "Sorry, habit," she apologized. Then, with very little urging from her, I put my glasses in the van and galloped around the park about ten times as she took pictures. By the tenth time I was starting to feel winded so I did have limits, but it felt sooo good. Finally, as she watched, I brushed myself and made note of her critiques, but I had to let her do my hind quarters. I explained about the mop handle I was going to screw to the brush, and she nodded. She also suggested that I might want to wear a helmet of some kind, like riders wore, in case I stumbled so that my skull had extra protection. Also some kind of reflective symbol or vest so that I could be seen by cars wouldn't hurt. I agreed.
After all that, she finally packed up, thanked me for how nice I was, ran my credit card through, and gave me her business card with her cell number written on in ink in case I ever had an emergency. And she arranged to come back in a couple of weeks to show me how to trim my hooves, since they didn't need it yet.
And then she was gone.
Well. As it was almost 3, I turned and raced through the park with my shoulder bag banging against my side, and then, regretfully slowed down to trot through the paths alongside of the recreation centre. I passed some people and they stared, although I wasn't sure if it was because of me, or because of the popping sound I made as I trotted by. Then it was across Eglinton, south to Davisville, east back to Yonge, and then to my doctor's medical building. Well, not his, but where his office was.
I decided to avoid the revolving door and waited for the elevator in the lobby. I was not going to go up six floors worth of narrow stairs. There was whispering behind me, but no comments that I could make out, so I ignored the whisperings until the elevator came. Then it was up to the sixth floor and then a wait. I took off my poppers, shook them dry and put them on the boot rack, and then stood and waited.
The secretary was not amused, although I think more at the fact that I was a centaur, than at what I did. I did point out that I'd told her. My doctor came a few minutes later (he is actually usually on time), and I followed him into his examination room. There, for the next hour, we went through all the tests. He didn't comment much (after all, what was my blood pressure supposed to be?) but he did find my heart, measured my pulse (much slower and stronger than it used to be) and confirmed that there was indeed nothing but muscle in my upper chest. He also checked my breathing slits, and confirmed that they appeared to be structured similarly to my nostrils. It also turned out that they joined my larynx just below my neck. Finally he arranged blood and urine tests of various kinds for tomorrow, and stated that he would be sure to pass the information on to Medic Alert when he got it.
Of course the tests meant that after 7 tonight I couldn't eat anything, or drink anything other than water, but I'd just make sure to have a big supper. I also got him to promise to refer me to a veterinarian in the city in the near future, one who knew about horses. That left him shaking his head. Then I left.
Next I went to my friend's house. I'd be a little early, but it wasn't worth it to go home first. I really wanted to gallop across the Don Valley, but regretfully decided to be more sedate. I didn't take the subway since I knew I'd have problems trying to squeeze into an eastbound car to get to Broadview because all the cars would be packed from rush hour. Thus I went east down Davisville and then along Eglinton and across the valley at a steady popping trot, and arrived about 5:30.
The evening was fun, and my friends, although joking about my new appetite, didn't mention anything else about my appearance. There was a lively debate about whether I could change my race from dwarf to centaur, but after debating with them for a while, I finally decided to play a dwarf as planned. The reason was simple -- I needed all the normalcy I could get, and playing a dwarf would get my mind off my being a centaur. Playing a centaur would definitely not achieve that aim.
And then, finally, it was home. This time I did take the subway and didn't have any problems, although the other people in the same car moved to the opposite end when I walked aboard. I could hear them whispering but didn't want to make anything of it. I had wanted to hoof it, but also wanted to keep my presence on the TTC to keep the ball rolling.
And then, finally after arriving home, I did one more thing before I went to bed. Using a screwdriver, rubber gloves, a pair of scissors, and electrical tape, I unscrewed the door buzzer panel, cut one of the wires that fed into the speaker, and then wrapped the end with electrical tape.
Now I would sleep in.
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