|The Good Life
by Equestrian HorseWrangler
© Equestrian HorseWrangler -- all rights reserved
Jon couldn't stand it anymore. He couldn't stand the sight of his own kind. He couldn't stand the smell of their noisy machines. He couldn't stand to hear their selfish demands. And he couldn't stand to be in this air-conditioned prison anymore.
Jon stormed out of his house, into the fresh air and away from his gizmos and trinkets. The toys that human beings use to convince themselves of their own superiority over the world. He marched away from his suburban home, surrounded by the other foul members of his species who have long since sold away their freedom in exchange for mindless conformity.
Mankind was horrible, of that Jon was completely convinced. He engaged in war, he polluted the globe, he callously wiped out species, and he wallowed in his own crapulence. Mankind was a disease that had spoiled the Earth, and Jon wanted no part of it.
Somewhere, someplace, there had to be something better than man. There had to be.
Nature. It was such a beautiful thing. The smell. The sight. The very texture of it, punctuated with flora and fauna. It was a symphony of life. Jon basked in every ounce of it.
It was so much simpler out here, Jon observed, walking off the beaten path and towards the woods near his neighborhood. Nature was such a perfectly evolved system. Plants and animals lived in a set order. There was none of the insanity of rules and civilization to ruin what occurs naturally. Jon had decided long ago that simplicity is superior to complexity.
The air had a crisp feel to it. The wind played with his hair and brought with it the scent of pine. The forest intoxicated him, luring him like a siren. Away from civilization and what the Earth once was - pure.
His feet traversed a carpet of green vegetation as he walked a hall of trees. The sound of birds singing and other woodland creatures foraging for nourishment were a symphony to his ears. Nature in its splendor was an orchestra, with the highest oaks composing a melody for the whole world to hear. Only the daftest could not hear this music, and Jon had long realized that his whole race had become deaf to it.
There was no right or wrong out here. No rules or conformity. Only simplicity. As a child, he had watched "Bambi" countless times. How he so yearned for the lives of those animals. Creatures living in peace and harmony with each other. No hatred, at least not until mankind showed up. Man's presence ruined the primitive peace that nature has allowed.
Jon wrung his hands together as he continued on his way. His boss had yelled at him earlier that day, after a customer had complained about his lack of help. Working at an electronics store only goaded him more. Customers throwing a little hissy fit because he couldn't help them find some nonsense piece of crap. Do human beings really need an RL adaptor for their television to survive? Why must people always pretend like their worthless little toys are their lifeblood?
Jon came across a fork in the pathway. The main trail seemed to dead end in front of an old tree, with one pathway, obviously with the more defined dirt path being the more popular one, heading toward the right and off toward exit. Turning his head, he saw the left path, with only the rudimentary hints of a trail, overgrown with vegetation. It seemed to lead deeper into the woods. It was a road to a mystery that most people did not seem very interested in.
Jon decided to take the road less traveled.
The journey into the forest was fascinating. Every now and then he would catch sight of an animal, but it would quickly dart from his view. How he so wished that animals were not afraid of him. He would never dream of harming one. But then, what else could he expect? He was a human, and animals had every right to be afraid of his kind.
He kicked at the dirt. How he wished he had been born an animal. To be one of them. To not be clouded by selfishness and other human desires. To be able to live in perfect harmony with other animals. How he so wished that.
It was getting late in the afternoon. Jon had worked all morning and well past noon, dealing with customers, the boss and other work related nonsense. He was finding it hard to keep his eyes open. The woods seemed to have a hypnotizing effect on him. He didn't know if it was the hard work earlier or just the allure of the forest, but he was feeling quite tired.
Normally he would never even consider what he was about to do, but then, this seemed like just as good a place as any to take a nap. The air felt very low pressure, making it the type of lazy day that just want to lounge around doing nothing. It was getting harder and harder to concentrate.
Jon stumbled into a clearing, not very charming but still a peaceful enough place. There was a fairly large tree toward the end of the small grove, and Jon ambled toward it. Sliding down the side of the tree, he sat with his legs stretched out in front of him.
He took a few minutes to take his surroundings into account. The wood had a sort of ethereal beauty to it. Sunlight rained down between the holes in the foliage, and a nice soft breeze whistled past him every so often. He could hear a sparrow whistling in the distance, and the sound of crickets chirping. The forest was almost speaking to him, singing its own personal lullaby to sedate him. His eyes became heavy, and he slowly lost his inhibition to remain conscious. Sleep finally descended on him.
Laughter. That's the first thing he heard. Jon's eyes slowly creaked open, the surrounding forest a haze. The world felt strange, not exactly wrong but not exactly right, either. A twisted, funhouse version itself. Jon slowly climbed to his feet, running his hand over his face a few times to remove the groggy feeling.
"Greetings," an otherworldly voice stated. It was feminine, and had a playful air to it.
Jon finally gathered his wits, and then looked about the meadow. Then he saw her, but at the same time, he didn't see her. She was standing in front of him wearing a white robe, but he could see through her.
Startled, he took a step back, his rear crashing into the tree. Rubbing his head from where he had bonked it, he took another look. Sure enough, she was translucent. He could make out her shape, but at the same time, he could see the woods behind her as well. Was she a ghost?
She seemed to almost glide across the ground, a playful smile on her face. Jon rubbed his eyes to make sure he was awake. This defied all logic, but it was real and happening right in front of him.
The ghost lady came to a stop mere feet in front of Jon. She gave him a pleasant smile, and bowed her head slightly. He just stared at the specter in a stupor. What was going on?!
"Hello," she said. "My name is Ambrosia. I am the spirit of this forest. You have entered into my domain with a desire that is of interest to me."
"Huh?" Jon offered. Desire? What desire?
"You are not pleased with your own kind," she said. "You wish that you were not human."
Shock and confusion ran through Jon. "What? How did you know..."
The spirit just raised her hand. "You have been projected this feeling ever since you entered my home. Your misanthropic attitude has been drowning out the beauty of my domain. I seek to rectify that."
Jon exhaled, still not completely believing what was occurring. It certainly seemed real, and he knew he wasn't crazy. But if it was just a hallucination, there was no reason he couldn't have some fun with it. "Y-Yes. That's right. I'm not a big fan of mankind."
Ambrosia smiled. "Very well. I offer you a rare opportunity. I will allow you to leave your old life and start again in the body of another creature, one more suitable for this environment. Does this proposal interest you?"
Jon couldn't believe it. An offer to become an animal? It was his dream! "Yes!" he bleated out anxiously. "I would very much like to change forms!"
Ambrosia nodded. "No reservations? Is there nothing you can do as a human to be just as happy?"
Crossing his arms, Jon took a defiant stance. "Absolutely not! All mankind does is thoughtlessly poison the Earth. I want to be an animal, something that has a simple, good life! I want to live out in nature, where things are better!"
The spirit smiled. "Then so be it. I shall transform you into one of the animals that inhabit my home. Do you have preference?"
Jon's heart skipped! He had been prepared to accept whatever form she offered, but to be given a chance to pick his new species? It was just too much to ask for! "Yes! Yes, I do have a preference. I've always liked deer. 'Bambi' is one of my favorite movies!"
"Movie?" she asked. "Oh, yes, a form of human entertainment. As you can tell, I don't get out very much. Very well. If a deer is what you want, then a deer is what you shall be!"
She pointed at him, and all of a sudden Jon felt drowsy again. His body went limp and he crashed to the ground.
Jon's eyes fired open. Lifting his head up, he looked around the glade. No sight of Ambrosia. He was alone. Sighing, he figured that it had been a dream after all. He twitched his ears and decided to head home.
His eyes crossed. Twitched his ears? Jon's jaw dropped slightly, and he closed his eyes for a moment. Clearing his head, and he reopened them and swiveled his neck around to get a look at his body.
It couldn't be true. No matter how much he had wished it, no matter how real the event he had just experienced, what he saw could not actually be so. The furry mound in front of him had to be some illusion, some trick his mind was playing on him. He leaned forward with his muzzle...
His muzzle? Sure enough, his nose was jutting out several inches from the rest of his face! Panicking, he sloppily got to his feet, which wobbled awkwardly before finally buckling and dropping him back to the ground.
Trying to grasp his sanity, he closed his eyes and cleared his head. I have to calm down! he told himself. Inhaling and exhaling deeply, he let out one last gasp before slowly opening his eyes to take stock of his situation.
Four feet, each with a cloven hoof at the end, extended from his body. He was covered completely in brown fur, and he felt bloated, much larger then he should be. There was only one explanation.
He was a deer.
Jon's face lit up. "It was real!" he squealed with delight. "It really happened! I'm a deer!"
Earlier, he tried to stand up like a biped and his body rejected his actions, so instead he just concentrated and slowly got up, his front half first followed by his rear half. It felt incredible how much power he possessed! Jon merrily bleated out in his cervine tongue as he began to trot around the length of the clearing.
These new instincts were amazing. It was a little strange having four feet and no arms, but what really was the shock was the new structure of his body. Having his head stick out the front of his body with his torso running parallel to the ground was a completely alien sensation to him. And yet this composition afforded him so many more luxuries that his normal body didn't.
He decided to give his body a real test, then galloping out of the clearing and into the forest. The trees flew by him in a blur, the woods becoming his own playground. Jon shot around bushes and hopped over creeks without even missing a step. This was what it meant to have power, he thought to himself. To wield it so effortlessly. To challenge the very Earth itself to try and constrain you.
He tore through the woods until all of a sudden his head caught on something. His lower body continued moving forward while his head remained still, his neck screaming in pain his legs swung underneath him and he crashed onto the ground on his back. Shaking his head, he looked up a realized that he had antlers. They must have caught on the tree branch directly over his head.
He got up, shaking off his injuries and began to trot away, a little more cautious about his surroundings. He was having trouble with his depth perception for some reason, probably because of the location of his eyes on his head. However, not only was he having problems with visualizing distance, but something else was bothering him as well.
All the leaves on the ground looked to be about the same color. Since it was late autumn, Jon knew that couldn't be right. They should be vibrant colors of yellow, red and orange, but instead, everything looked like either a dull green or brown. He could detect some differences, particularly a few yellows stood out, but they all looked blunt and lifeless. He stamped his hoof angrily, thinking that this couldn't be right. Then, it hit him.
Jon shrieked. "I'm colorblind!" He looked frantically around, really paying attention to the world around him. The grass seemed to be okay, and the sky was definitely blue though it had more of a purple tint than usual, but he was seeing too much green and brown. He cried out, his normal vision robbed from him. It was like someone had painted the forest and didn't have all the right colors, so they just kept using the same ones over and over again.
The forest that he loved so much seemed so boring now. Where was the life? The beautiful, multicolored paradise he enjoyed on so many occasions? What sort of foul trick was this?
He paced back and forth, slowly coming to terms with this condition. He was just going to have to learn to deal with it. His eyes still worked after all, and he definitely had a wider field of vision then normal, even if he was having trouble focusing on anything in particular. The world looked like one large two-dimensional picture to him.
But it was just as well. It seemed that his nose and ears were going to be his most valuable organs anyway. He took a deep breath, smelling the forest around him. As a human he could only catch brief traces of scents, but as a deer he was surrounded with a buffet of odors. The grass, the acorns, the bushes - each had its own wonderful, delightful smell.
He flicked his ears around in each direction, catching sounds of life in the forest. Other animals were foraging, and leaves rustling from what seemed to be several hundred feet away. Suddenly, he felt the urge to leave. A strange, uncomfortable vibe was running through his body. He had to get away from the sound.
He trotted through the woods for a good ten minutes or, so, surveying the lay of the land. It was dusk now, and his eyesight had improved considerably. Jon had heard that deer are usually most active in the twilight hours, and this improved vision must be the reason why.
When he finally found a quiet enough spot, he came to a halt. He looked back and forth for a few moments, flicking his ears and sniffing at the air. No sign of other life. Calmness finally flowed back into him. Tranquility.
It didn't last for very long. Suddenly, his stomach growled. Jon groaned, realizing that it had been several hours since the last time he ate. Tentatively, Jon sniffed at the air, and caught wind of something pleasant. He walked over to a patch of mushrooms.
Jon gritted his teeth. "Do I really want to eat wild fungus?" The smell was invigorating, and soon instinct overpowered socialization. Jon dipped his head down and chomped into the mushroom.
Delicious. Jon's eyes widened as he savored the taste, and immediately lowered his head to get another mouthful. When he finished up the mushrooms, he moved on to some acorns. He had to be careful - while they tasted good, they also contained a toxin called tannin that could be dangerous in small portions. He made sure he only at a few before moving on to some safer plant shoots.
He realized just how content he was searching for food. How tranquil an experience it was. It was actually pretty enjoyable getting such a feeling of satisfaction for doing something so simple. Back when he was human, he'd have to drown himself in all sorts of meaningless ventures just to get the same natural high he got off of feasting on plants.
This truly was a blessed experience.
After he got his fill, he decided to hunt down some other animals in the forest. Jon wanted some forest companionship, to communicate with other creatures. He followed his ears, heading in the direction of some scrounging.
Flee! Run away! His body became tense for a second. Fear rush through his body. Angry at his instincts, Jon defiantly continued toward the noise. He finally stumbled on the source, a rabbit that was digging a hole. He walked over to get a look, and the rabbit spun around to see him. It looked at him for a few moments, frightened, and the slowly turned back around and continued digging.
"No need to be afraid," Jon said in his most reassuring voice. "I just want to watch you." He stepped over to get a better look, but the rabbit bolted. Jon sighed, digging at the dirt slightly with his hoof before walking away.
It was getting late, and he was getting sleepy. Jon eventually stumbled on a pond, and figured it was as good a place as any to remain in the vicinity of, since he was going to need to drink eventually. Walking into a relatively secluded place behind some trees, Jon dropped down to the ground, curling up into a ball. Tomorrow would be a better day, he told himself. He would seek out some of his own kind.
Itching! That's what Jon woke up to. A horrible, uncomfortable feeling ran all over his body. Rubbing himself against a tree, he tried to relieve the awful sensation. Fiberglass under his skin! That's what he envisioned as he grinding up against the bark. In desperation Jon launched away, running towards the small lake. He leapt headfirst into the water, submerging himself with a loud splash.
Relief! Sweet, wonderful relief! Jon's eyes crossed with satisfaction. As the itching began to die down, he considered what might have caused the irritation. He hadn't laid down in poison ivy, and he didn't remember rubbing up against anything. It wasn't too long after that that he felt something crawling on his face.
Shocked, Jon took a deep breath and dunked his head under water. The nasty, persistent little buggers were instinctively trying to the dry parts of his body, but Jon offered them no such exit. After about 30 seconds, his head surfaced again, and he panted heavily. He swam across the pond, his deer legs thankfully graceful in the water. He ascended out of the water once he got the other side, shaking himself off to remove any of the stragglers still clinging to his fur.
It was early still, so Jon just trotted around the area, trying to dry off. It felt strange to have wet hair all over his body. Before he sort of noticed the fur, but now that it was soaked in water, it was glued tightly to his flesh. It wasn't really uncomfortable, just unnerving.
Once his fur was dry enough to his satisfaction, he trotted away, back into the woods. He took some more time to listen to the sounds coming from the trees, particularly some birds calling in the distance. A beautiful symphony, just for him. Human beings rarely appreciate the music, but now, as an animal, he had the opportunity to really listen.
Jon suddenly felt a tingling feeling on his antlers. He walked over to a trick oak tree and began to scratch them against the bark. He didn't know why, but it seemed to make him feet better. The scraping sound was a little annoying, but still, he couldn't deny the sense of relief it gave him. Eventually the tingling stopped, Jon stepped back from the try, trying to think why he just did what he did. Then he remembered -- he was removing the velvet from his antlers. It was probably the beginning of mating season, and he wanted to look nice and presentable for the ladies.
An aroma soon permeated the air. It was unlike anything he had ever smelled before. The smell of some delicious, unknown nectar blanketed his thoughts, and he slowly followed the emanation. His ears flattened to his head as he walked on, his tongue draped out the side of his mouth.
When he saw her, his heart melted. A beautiful doe was standing in a meadow, looking at Jon with curious eyes. He walked over to her, trying his best to remain respectful. He lowered his head, taking what he thought would be a gesture of modesty.
"Hello!" he said. "I'm pleased to meet you."
The doe seemed shocked by this outburst. She cocked her head sideways, trying to size up Jon. He was a deer, but why did he make these weird noises?
Jon seemed to realize her confusion, and instead just smiled at her. She seemed pretty nice. Wonder how long it would take him to get her running through the meadow with him. He tried to rub his cheek against hers, but she kept venturing over toward his private regions. Jon was a little shocked by the suddenness of this, and moved his body around so that she was facing him. He wanted to get to know her, see what she was like before getting into that area.
A foul smelling musk soon entered the glen, and Jon suddenly felt very uncomfortable. He turned his head to see another buck heading his way. He didn't know why, but this smell made him very angry. Not wishing to be a slave to his emotions though, he fought his discomfort and walked headed over to the other male deer. He had taken no more that a few steps before the other buck lowered his head and charged at him.
If he had had more time to think, Jon might have pissed himself. But all he could do was lower his own head just in time to be blasted directly in the skull, sending him a back five feet.
The pain vibrated down his antlers into his head! Jon panted nervously, deducing what had happened. The other buck was challenging him for the doe! "I just wanted to say hi!" Jon blurted, digging angrily at the ground. "You stupid animal!"
He lowered his head and charged back, slamming headfirst into the buck and sending him backward this time. He turned his head to catch sight of the doe, which seemed to be watching the spectacle rather passively. She didn't even care that this other deer was attacking him!
Infuriated, Jon focused all his rage on his challenger. They locked eyes, and suddenly the other buck charged again. Jon hesitated for a moment, but soon rushed at his adversary as well. There was a loud CRACK as the two collided, but for some reason the force of their impact didn't break them apart. Jon's eyes rolled up and he saw that their antlers were entangled.
The other buck began twisting his head around violently trying to unhook himself, which in turn was yanking Jon's head around as well. His neck was pulled in all sorts of uncomfortable directions, and the buck lashed out with his front hooves, kicking at Jon to in a desperate attempt to pull apart from him.
Jon saw into the other deer's eyes and saw a crazed determination. This buck was insane! "Hey!" Jon screamed. "You want her, you can have her!" He pulled away, and their antlers unlocked. Jon immediately backed away, making sure not to let the buck out of his sight, but still keeping wary of any other attacks. Once he was far enough away, he bolted.
Stupid animals! Jon burned with anger as he ran away. All he wanted to do was hang out with them. See how they lived. But they didn't care about him - not as a special being, anyway. That doe was only interested in him for breeding, and once a bigger, better deal came along, she immediately forgot about him. And the buck didn't even consider him worthy of respect. He immediately attacked him, without hesitation.
Slowing down once he got a considerable distance away, he continued to angrily muse about the situation. He finally decided to just let it pass, and set forth to eating again. He reached up and grabbed some green leaves off of a tree. At least, they looked green to him. They could be fiery orange for all he knew. Sulking, he let the sweet taste finally put to ease his anger.
The leaves were too bad. They didn't taste absolutely great, but he could live on them. He turned his attention downward, looking for some more tasty mushrooms. There were none to be found here, just acorns. He reached down and because to eat a few. They didn't taste as good as they did yesterday. They didn't taste bad, really, just plain.
He decided to get a drink of water to wash down his meal, and headed back toward the lake he had taken his bath in earlier. A lot of different things ran through his mind. Things sure were different then he expected. No one seemed to be willing to just stand around with him. The other animals just seemed to either ignore him or run away when he got too close. That really hurt his feelings. He hoped that as a fellow animal, they would accept him. But even his own kind seemed almost indifferent to his very existence.
When he got to the water, he lowered his head and lapped at the liquid. It was certainly refreshing. He lifted his head up and looked at his reflection in the water. He looked like a noble beast, certainly one that was worthy of respect. He just couldn't picture what he was doing wrong.
Sighing, he kicked a rock into the water and then turned away. It would just take some time to adjust to this new life.
That's a strange smell. Jon lifted his nose and swiveled his ear, picking up the faint sound of leaves cracking. The noise stopped for a brief second, and Jon's eyes shot wide open as his senses went into overdrive. What he smelled sent shivers down his spine, and his mind gave him only one command.
Jon tore away from the lake, his ears twisted backward as he traversed the sea of vegetation and into the woods. He only managed to catch glimpses of the cougar whenever he was brave enough to turn his head slightly, but then turned it right back around as he concentrated on the forest.
He wants to eat me! Jon whimpered as tears ran from his eyes. To be tracked down and slaughtered! His mind could think of no greater abomination. Jon ran through the forest as quickly as he could, leaping over bushes in a single bound and carefully avoiding any low-lying branches on which his antlers could get tangled. He fought to control his actions, to give reason to his flight.
Jon's mind raced in desperation. He's not as fast as me in the long run! He's can't run as long as I can! I can make it if I keep going! He kept repeating this commands again and again while his legs carried him down different paths and trails. The scent from the cougar was growing faint, but that did not appease Jon.
He ran. Jon ran as fast as his legs could carry him. His hooves ate at the dirt and his mouth bit at the air. He would be no one's meal.
By the time Jon eventually stopped, he figured he had run for almost five minutes. The cougar was probably half a mile or so back my now, long haven given up the chase. There were other animals in the woods that were not worth all the trouble of hunting down.
Jon collapsed on the ground, panting. His legs ached and his lungs burned. Tears still streamed from his eyes. He just couldn't grasp the enormity of it. Something had just tried to kill him. It would have murdered him in cold blood with no hesitation, and then feasted on his remains.
Damn it, where was the peacefulness of nature? Where was the harmony he had so much about? Where were the animals getting along like one big family? It seemed that no one gave a damn about his needs!
So far, every animal he has met has been selfish or stupid. They run away from him, attack him or only show an interest in him if it fits their personal desires. No one cared about him at all. He gathered his wits again as his breathing returned to normal, and rose from the ground.
He looked around the woods. Man, when he wasn't being attacked, this sure was a boring place to live. Nothing happens! Jon could only look at trees and bushes so long before it all got monotonous. He couldn't even watch what the other animals were doing because they always ran away from him when he got too close. At least when he was still human he could go to the mall and just look at other people.
None of the animals were really interesting. They only cared about seeking out their immediate primal needs. A sparrow in a tree above him began to sing out, and he tilted his head upwards. "Shut up!" he shouted, and the bird was quiet.
Going to the "bathroom" was certainly a strange experience. Sure, urination wasn't too unusual, and lifting his leg to mark a tree had an oddly satisfying effect, but "number 2" caught him off guard. He was used to his feces coming out in large clomps, but this was different. No sooner had he lifted his tail then it felt like little marbles falling out of his rectum. Curious, he turned around when he finished to see hundreds of little black spheres lining the ground. He had defecated pellets. It was very gross to look at.
He heard a crunching sound in the background. His fear was elevation, but the smell wasn't unpleasant. He could detect no aggression in the air. He wandered toward the sound, a familiar odor in the air. It smelled like... Deer!
He walked into the feeding ground, surrounded by different deer. They lifted their heads to acknowledge him, and then went about their business. Ecstatic, Jon walked into their midst with a big grin on his face. They seemed like normal deer, a few bucks and a few does. Either the mating drive hadn't kicked in with these ones yet, or they're energy was spent from earlier... activities. Whatever the case, they were all being quite civil with each other, and his presence didn't see to bother them.
He just scrounged for food with them, not out of hunger, but just being social. It felt good to be with them. Safety flowed through him, as did a sense of fraternity. He was with his own kind.
They seemed just a bit to passive for there own good, though. With a big smile on his face, Jon began to prance around the group, hoping a few of them might join him in some fun. He ran about the game trail, trying to get the others involved. They just stared at him like he was insane. Undiscouraged, Jon bleated at them, hoping they would play with him. He began to leap about, which caught several of them off guard. They were staring at him, but he could smell confusion in the air. They weren't sure if they could trust him.
All of a sudden, the whole group ran away, darting off in different directions. Shocked, Jon sniffed at the air, afraid that maybe the cougar had come back. There was nothing dangerous floating in the breeze, leaving Jon to consider that it was he who scared them away. He turned his head around and saw that his tail was flicked up. Exhaling, he looked down at the ground.
His actions must have been some sort of signal that predators are around. He can't even have fun with his own kind! He slowly began to accept that fun isn't really an adult thing in the animal kingdom anyway. Anything that was considered fun was for children, and most of the time playing was meant to teach young ones basic fighting and survival skills. There was no real casual form of amusement among the creatures of the forest.
Mumbling, Jon head off himself. Being a wild animal sure was as fun as they always made it out to be. Everyone was constantly on edge, himself included. Ever since his cougar encounter earlier, every snap and crack from the distance has made him jumpy. He checks the air every few moments to pick up scents, sounds or sights that might bring trouble.
He never was this high-strung as a human. Why wouldn't he just enjoy this life?
"Because," he answered himself out loud, "There's isn't too much to enjoy. If only I had someone to talk to!"
But there was no one. It seemed that complex communication skills were unique to human beings alone. He figured that animals must have had their own systems, and indeed they did on some level, but nothing more that growls, squawks and barks to represent the most basic of commands.
Grimacing, Jon slowly trotted to find some shade. Man, was it hot! He hadn't even thought about what being covered in fur would do to him when the heat started to get unbearable. He opened his mouth and panted, sweat dripping steadily from his nose. The forest was like an oven, and he was being cooked well done.
He sat on a tree, coughing and spitting. He figured it was probably heat stroke. Maybe he had been too active too long. He didn't know what deer did to relieve themselves during this unrelenting heat, but he figured he had better tone his activities down.
The heat really brought out the odors of the forest. He could smell the pine trees and leaves, and blood...
Blood?! Panicking, he looked down and saw a few bloody scabs on his underside. He had been so hot, he thought it was just sweat before. His animal instincts screamed for him to run and seek safety, but he fought them off and just examined his wounds.
Had he cut himself while running from the cougar? No, that couldn't be it. He didn't remember ever touching anything sharp, but then again, his mind wasn't exactly in the sanest of states during that experience. Besides, these wounds looked pretty infected by now.
He leaned down and started to lick his wounds. Ugghh! It tasted awful! Still, he continued his attentions, stopping every few seconds to spit out the vile fluid.
Dear lord, what would happen to him next? Jon began to mentally kick himself, wondering just whatever possessed him to become this creature in the first place.
He awoke that evening feeling miserable. There were more bloody spots in his body, and damn it, he could feel more fleas on him! Getting to his feet even took an effort, since he had sores up and down his legs.
"What's happening to me?" Jon cried, examining his injuries. Did he have some sort of disease? Did he touch or eat something poisonous? With tears in his eyes, he walked into the woods, trying to focus on something other than the pain.
He kept an extra vigil in all directions. This heat was going to carry the scent of his blood much easier then usual. Making his way back to the lack, he looked around nervously, afraid the cougar or some other carnivore might be there for a drink, too. The coast seemed to be clear, so he timidly walked out into the open and approached the lake.
Bending down to lap at the water, he caught sight of his face. He had the beginnings of a few sores there as well. Angry, he kicked his left hoof at the water, turning away from the reflection. Tears began to run down his eyes. He couldn't stand it anymore.
He began to run. His body fighting him every step of the way, but Jon didn't care. Charging through the forest, he felt the blood trailing down his body. He coughed and sputtered, unable to gallop at full speed, so he just trotted as quickly as he could.
This forest was a green and brown prison to him. He fought hard to get to his destination, tears still running down his eyes. Every step burned inside of him, and his lungs felt like they were being pressed together. He died a little every second he moved.
Jon finally arrived at his destination, tears of desperation rolling out of his eyes. He looked around the familiar clearing, lowering his ears in submission. The tree, oh the wonderful tree that he once slept under! He hoped that she was listening.
"Ambrosia!" he cried out, dropping to the ground in exhaustion. "Please! Tell me you can hear me! I need you! I need you so much!"
"I beg of you!" he cried, broken. "Please, I really need your help!"
A giggle. Jon's eyes widened. There was a sort of flicker, and then a familiar looking woman appeared in front of him, the light of the forest trailing through her.
He bowed his head. "Please! I need to know what's happening to me! Why am I bleeding like this?"
She seemed almost bemused by the question. "It's simple. You're dying."
The world crashed down on Jon. "Dying! How? Why?"
"You caught a disease," Ambrosia stated matter-of-factly. You were bit by a gnat when you slept, an he passed a virus into your system."
"A virus?" Jon exhaled loudly, trying to collect his thoughts.
"Yes," the forest spirit said. "Humans call it hemorrhagic disease. It's a common disease in deer. You should be dead with a few days."
Those words just bounced off Jon. "A gnat? A damn gnat is going to kill me?"
Ambrosia seemed to shrug. "It's the way of nature. Diseases such as this help to keep the population controlled. If not, there would be too many deer, and everyone would starve to death."
Crying, he looked up into Ambrosia's eyes. Pleading. "Please, can you fix me? Make me immune to such diseases?"
She shook her head. "I'm afraid not. In fact, I probably already went too far by allowing you to keep your human intelligence and your ability to speak. However, I'm sure that the four years you were to be alive would have been rough on you anyway, so it's only fitting that you end it now."
"Four years?" Jon stammered. "I was only going to be alive four years?"
"Certainly," the spirit said. "Deer don't live but a few years. You certainly didn't think you would live very long, did you?"
The realism of it all hit him pretty hard. He had never imagined that like in nature was like this. All those movies he watched, all those children's books - they were all full of crap!
Jon took a deep breath, and then looked to the ground again. Penitently, he spoke softly. "Please. I made a terrible mistake. I don't want to be a deer anymore."
Ambrosia giggled again. "You wish me to restore you to your normal human state? Even after all the terrible things you said about the race?"
Jon nodded his head. "Whatever shortcomings the human race has, it's nowhere near as bad as this. At least as a human, I'd have a more interesting and safer life."
"Very well," the spirit said. "I return you to your human form. Hopefully you've learned a thing or two." She pointed her finger at him, and he lost consciousness.
When he awoke, he was greeted with the most wonderful sight imaginable. Hands. His hands. He was human again. Jon leapt from the ground, quickly throwing back on his clothes, which were lying on the grass next to him.
He looked about the clearing. Colors! Beautiful, beautiful colors! Red! Orange! He looked up at the sky and saw the right shade of blue. How he missed seeing those shades!
He ran home, basking in the beauty of his sight, looking at the beautiful homes that dotted the path back to his house. He gazed at automobiles, streets, and stores -- all wonderful marvels of human accomplishment. He ran up his sidewalk and into his house, basking in the wonder of air-conditioning. The cold air, so alien in this late summer weather, was such a relief.
Mankind still had things to answer for, but Jon couldn't find fault with it at the moment. He was safe - there would be no animals hunting him down for his flesh. Diseases for the most part would be inconveniences, not population control. And he could live to be a ripe old age as well.
There were still no guarantees. Of course he could still catch a fatal disease, or be hit by a car walking across a street. This wasn't a perfect life, but it definitely was better! Whatever he lost in terms of advanced senses he made up for in just being human.
He turned on the television and saw that it was still the same day he had left the house. Ambrosia had been kind enough to let him wake up as though nothing had happened. But something had happened. He was different.
Tomorrow he would be back at work, and he just couldn't wait to meet the customers. Their insignificant problems would sound like music to his ears. Can't find the right adaptor? Great! It's better than not being able to find something to eat! Need help with your computer! I'm here for you, it's not like a cougar or something is chasing me!
He walked outside, breathing the fresh air. Appreciating it, as a human being. He looked to the distance at the woods. It was still beautiful, but beautiful because he could just venture into them and still venture out. It wasn't his home - this house was. The woods were a nice place to visit, but he certainly didn't want to live there.
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