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"Okay rabbit, crawl for your life."
The rabbitmorph whimpered as she crawled toward the door. Her left leg looked like it had been chewed off at the knee, and as she turned her head, I could see blood on her snout. "P-p-please don't eat me, miz Fox, I just wanted one carrot."
I grinned, my canines gleaming, and said, "You know the price for stealing and getting caught in my trap. First, I eat the leg you didn't chew off. Then I eat the flesh off your arms. Then I save the rest for tomorrow. The way I do it, it'll take you a very long time to die." A pleased chrrr made its way up my throat as I imagined her young blood, salty on my tongue, overflowing my mouth, running down my body.
I pounced on top of her fur-covered form, and whispered in her ear, "But first, a little fun."
Twenty minutes later, she was lying back on a pillow, a silly grin on her face, one "bloody chewed-off" fake-blood-matted fur-covered limb-sock on each leg-stump. That was one of the things I loved about Beth. She was always up for a little predator-prey action when the Con rolled around.
Con-Tainment Leek was the sci-fi con that met in our city every year. Since the advent of SCABS a couple of decades ago, furry fandom had grown until it could be ignored no longer, and even the "hard-science" fans knew of our existance. The con had hired morphers for the last seven years, to transform con-goers temporarily. Five years ago, Beth and I took a weekend off to come here, and we'd been coming ever since. So to speak.
Caryn Jones, I mused, wasn't even my real name. It was the name I used online, even before I met Luke, and it was the name most fans knew me by. I was in the first commercially sold werefox porn video, and most of these people had a tape stashed somewhere. And of course, if they didn't, I was happy to sell them an autographed copy.
The high production values made it a favorite among the fans. It was filmed on real film, by our husband the shapechanging pervert, edited perfectly, and had an interesting plot that didn't interfere with the purpose of the film.
The morphing of con guests, however, was a legally tricky business. We had to have a Waiver of Instincts from anyone wanting to be changed, saying they would take full responsibility for their actions while morphed, and that was just the start of the paperwork. We could grow ears and tails with only a few waivers, but many "characters" were complex enough to need to return the entire stack of paperwork before the con even started. A psychological exam and a next of kin form were both needed, along with dozens of other things, before someone could be transformed into a full fox or rabbit, or skunk. We weren't the only morphers, which took some of the load off us, but fox and rabbit were two of the top three forms people wanted.
The next day, we were down on the floor of the convention hall, the walled-off half dedicated to furry fans, taking a break from morphing. We were eating near the high-priced food counter, Beth her salad, and me my chicken sandwich, when a skunk tapped me on the shoulder. I could smell him four feet away, even though I could tell he used Skunk-Nix, a musk mask from one of our competitors, and an inferior product.
I turned around. He was large, and I mean Marlon Brando large. It was always a shame to see such young people looking like walruses, no offense to walruses. I said, "Hello, what can I do for you?"
He looked down, bashful, and asked, "Miz Jones, would you, um, would you sign my video?"
After putting my trademarked signature on the tape case, with a flower for an 'o', I said, "Prints are available at our booth."
He stammered, "Y-yeah. Thanks a whole bunch!"
"You're welcome," I said, and turned back to my meal. Beth looked stoic until he had left the food court, grinned and giggled. "How do you put up with them? You know all they're thinking about is what's under your fur."
I picked up my chicken sandwich, and replied, "It's hard to find out you're worth something to someone, and even harder to be gracious about it. Fans are a consequence of being good at something, at anything. Were we ever that young?" I took a bite.
While she mused, and I chewed, I thought about the video. Back before the accident in that lab, I was able to transform from fully human to fully fox. Now, I could never have a human nose again. That didn't bother me too much, but sometimes I remembered not having a tail, and sometimes I remembered having those curly, folded, oval ears humans had. And now, I had to remind myself on a constant basis that I was as "human" as anyone else.
I swallowed, took a sip of the overpriced soda, breathed in deeply, and sighed. Beth looked at me.
Every once in a while, one of us would look into the other's eyes, and see something. She was doing that right now, her green eyes peering into mine. Maybe she saw the pain of the years, or maybe she saw my love for her. She seemed so fragile, but sometimes she would come up with the most hardened, cynical thoughts, and sometimes she would spring forth with poetic prose. I could remember being that young, but I was a different person then. I wondered what she was seeing?
Innocence. A thought ran back, about our mouse. Natalie.
Once, before Shelley and Beth's accident, we took a whole afternoon for roleplaying, all five of us. Nat and Beth were wearing their most sensitive, most functional, most realistic-looking legs, which took more than thirty minutes to get set up. They, and Shelley, were wearing khaki shorts, shirts, and hats, pretending to be explorers in a forest in an alternate universe. They had followed the map, and had just found the treasure when Luke and I blocked the cave.
He was in his best pseudo-cougarmorph form, having taken an hour to make fur and eyes. To make his reactions more realistic, he only "saw" light from inside his eyes, and "heard" sound from his ears. We were both high-degree cougarmorphs, with emphasized bendy legs, standing on our toes, digitigrade. We were dressed in pseudo-tribal outfits, with fur-paints and spears, and gold hoops through the skin of our tails.
We put our ears back, curled our lips, and cougar-growled at them. They started to explain, but we shouted at them in unintelligible gibberish, and chased them. Beth hopped out of the cave as fast as her long feet and short legs could carry her, and Luke followed, but Nat and Shel went farther back into the cavern. The forest around our home was amazing, a cave, lots of trees, and nobody for miles around. The tiny cameras sending picture and sound back to our home computer made for some interesting video later.
I cornered Nat and Shel, chanted like a mage I played in an RPG, pointed my spear at Natalie, and pushed the button. The spear glowed green, then flashed. Nat's knees buckled, and she fell to the ground. A small EMP had fried the legs, which Luke would repair later, and it was supposed to look like magic. I took out some rope and tied Shelley to a stalagmite, then chased down the mouse, who was crawling away, crying. I ripped off her shirt with my claws, and ran them lightly down her breasts. She shivered, and pushed my hand-paws away.
She was a consummate actor. Maybe it was the years she had spent acting like a man, when she was a man, to keep from being beaten up. Whatever it was, she was the picture of youth and innocence. Her smiles, her frowns, all of them were in some way unaffected by the pain and agony present in the world around her. Whatever it was that day, she -was- an archeology student hunting treasure, caught by a native who didn't like her messing around with their treasure.
A bell sounded, and my memories disappeared into the back of my mind. It was time for a lecture on inanimorphia, presented by "Blue Tolophen", our husband in disguise. I took my sandwich with me in its container, across the floor of the convention hall, and into the room. I chose a seat near the front, and on the edge of the center aisle. Beth sat somewhere farther back.
A human child, made entirely of blue glass, and wearing a pink cotton skirt and pink schoolgirl shoes, walked to the front of the room. I grinned, and watched him write on the whiteboard touchpad. The word "Inanimorphia" appeared on the whiteboard behind him, in big letters. Technology is wonderful.
He spoke, in a little girl's voice. "A tiny percentage of the SCABS population is affected in some way by inanimorphia. Some are living stone. Some are living ice, glass, or water. Others are pencils and pianos, cars that don't need gas, or television sets that don't need plugs. I knew a rotting peach, once. But the most common inanimorphs are plush animals."
He paced the front of the room. "Some people think inanimorphs are all dead. In some respects, they are right. We are no longer complex cascading chemical reactions, eventually wearing down. I will be this way for eternity. But that brings up the question of what life is. Is life a form of energy? Is it simply complexity, to coin an oxymoron? Fire reacts to its environment, it reproduces, it dies. Is it alive? Or is it a chemical reaction not complex enough to be called alive?"
He stopped pacing, aligned with the center aisle. "Nobody knows where the flame goes when the fire stops burning. We are the flames that didn't go away when the fire died. We directly control our bodies, and many of us can see wavelengths from X-rays to TV broadcasts. Some of us have a pattern recognition ability, which lets us decode information, because our brains aren't brains anymore. I know thirty languages, thanks to this ability, and I can watch TV without a TV. Am I less than human? Am I more? Am I dead? Or am I just different?"
The lecture went on for ten minutes, discussing waste recycling by people unable to be poisoned, and other uses for inanimorphs in science and industry. He talked about differing senses, how some were unable to see, and could only hear electromagnetic static on all wavelengths all the time. It was followed by a question and answer segment. Finally, he let us go back to wandering the booths.
Beth and I discussed how far pattern sensing could go, but each time, our minds hit a wall. We could imagine the concept of body language as an actual language, but he proved it by convincingly playing an older woman who had been changed into a little girl made of glass, or playing a nonsentient male rabbit or cougar, or a wise old dragon. It was like he "spoke" a phrase of movements to make himself commanding or cowering.
Then we discussed rainbows, and how exactly he saw them. How far does refraction go? He said sick people often had a shade of infrared he called "glunk," but healthy people were more "nort." Everything has a name, but his world was full of things without names. Radio sources appeared as points of colored light in the distance, the stronger the station, the brighter the light. He could see magnetically, too, and often checked us for medical problems.
Just as we went through the partition separating the furry half of the convention from the more mundane things, we heard a gunshot. Many people fell to the ground, covering their heads, but others ran for the door. Beth was carried back through the gap by the crowd, and I was knocked against the partition by a rushing body. I was dazed for a moment, then I felt a hand on my arm. "Dirty animals!" he shouted, and I felt metal against my head. "My mother died because of one of you!"
I looked up slowly, and was startled to recognize the young man with the gun. He had been in the paper the last week, calling for the truth being covered up by the conspiracy. His mother had been killed by his father, a horse with a human's head, who had then killed himself, both victims of the uncaring inanimorph, Aphrodite. This was exactly the kind of thing she wanted to cause, but it was still an amazing coincidence.
My husband killed the woman who killed the parents of the young man holding a gun to my head. It seemed like a bad story, and for a moment, only a moment, I believed my husband's theories of metafiction.
Then, my eyes slammed shut, my throat felt like it was on fire, my nose itched like anything, and I felt the metal move from against my head. I knew what had happened, but I couldn't risk anyone else, so I grabbed the gun as soon as it jerked upward reflexively, and tossed the young man into the wall. Self defense class finally paid off.
I wiped my eyes, glad I was only at the edge of the blast. The young skunk who had come up to me earlier was next to me. "I... I just let it go," he said shakily, standing up, putting his tail down. The thought of his anti-odorant valiantly but futilely trying to mask the smell ran absurdly through my mind,
"You saved my life," I said, putting my foot in the weak point of the bad guy's back.
The little girl made of blue glass ran up, looked, then held the man's arms in the position where, if he moved them, his elbows would break. "I'll hold him until the police arrive."
I sighed, removed my foot from the bad guy's back, and gave the skunk a deep French kiss. He looked at me, surprised, then looked around. Fifty furryfans, many with ears and tails provided by us earlier in the day, had seen us kiss. "Thank you," I said.
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