|It's a Blue Night Tonight
© BlueNight -- all rights reserved
The normal stuff was happening in the bar that evening. Many of the Lupine Boys were there, discussing a recent event of interest to canines, as well as Drs. Stein and Derksen, sharing notes on a tough case. Copernicus sat at a table away from the air conditioner vent, and Jack was playing random tunes to fill the air. As always, Donnie listened and poured, a constant in a changing world. Several other patrons were scattered about, thinking about that day and the next.
The door opened, and in stepped another person with SCABS, one they had probably never seen before. Maybe one of them had walked past him on the streets, or seen him on a bus, but nobody would remember him if they just passed by without saying anything.
Wearing a t-shirt and brown slacks made from Stretch-O Shape-O (invented by a norm married to a shapeshifting SCAB), he stood five feet, ten and a half inches tall. His skin was finely scaled and shiny, and was at the moment a mostly Caucasian-pink with nearly invisible highlights of green. His body and head were shaped like an unaffected human's, but he had no ears, and his rear end was shaped just oddly enough to notice, as if a not-quite-right approximation of a human butt were hidden beneath the fabric.
Jack looked up, and started playing "Welcome to Town, Stranger". The newcomer didn't notice, as he had never heard it before, and went over to the bar. Picking a stool with empty spaces on either side, he sat down and looked at the impressive, immobile, and immense slab of beef behind the counter. He looked a bit nervous. "I've never been to a bar before," he said, "and I don't drink alcohol. Do you have good cocoa here?" Donnie nodded and moved swiftly in a way that made him appear to be standing still at the same time. Wherever he was, it seemed that he should have been there since time immemorial. While the stranger was pondering this, the large bull-morph came back from the machine with a tall glass of thick brown liquid.
The newcomer looked at it, then looked back up. Donnie stood there with a questioning expression and a jar of marshmallows, but the stranger just stared. A voder-produced voice behind him stated, "He's asking how many. So what's your name?" He turned around and saw a non-morphic buck. After three seconds of silence, it registered that he should say something. "Er, Luke," he turned back, "Two, please." The deer held up a foreleg. "I'd shake your hand, ErLuke, but as you can see..."
"It's just Luke," said the now-named stranger. A new tune rescued Jon from having to say anything else. With a grin from ear to ear (and if you've ever seen Jack's ears, you know just how wide that is), the theme from Star Wars came from the piano. The grin spread around the room like wildfire, and a few patrons chuckled.
So I won't be accused of plagarism, here's an accurate attributed quote from "The Magician's Nephew" by C.S. Lewis: "Then his face went the wrong sort of shape as it does if you're trying to keep back your tears." Only not quite as bad as that.
The shared grin faded, as did the music. Silence filled the room. Copernicus looked around, then got up and sat next to him, after nonchalantly shifting to a non-threatening geckomorph. "Listen, Luke, we do that to everyone. We don't mean anything by it, it's just the way of things. Lighthearted joking."
Nobody had noticed it until now, but Luke's face had been pushing into a snout, the lump in the back of his pants had pushed into a longer tail, and his color was slowly turning from pink to green.
He didn't cry, and looked around at all the faces. "I'm sorry, I can't really tell the difference. I was teased all the way through school." Several patrons nodded and mumbled in agreement. He looked around the bar. "Of course, since I don't know anyone's names, I couldn't reciprocate with a lighthearted jest if I wanted to."
The other lizard held out his hand, shook Luke's, and said, "Everyone here calls me Copernicus, and I'm herpamorphic." Luke nodded, indicating his understanding of the term. The joker at the piano said, "My name's Jack DeMule. No, really, that's my name." Dr. Stein introduced himself, and Luke mentioned the S in SCABS. The Lupine Boys interrupted each other in their eagerness to say their names, then took turns going around the table. A giant cockroach seemed to come from nowhere to introduce himself, and Luke wondered how something so big could move so quickly and silently, which reminded him of Donnie.
He asked Copernicus, "And who's tall, dark, and silent over there?" "That's Donnie, he owns this cheap little gin joint," said the other lizard with a grin, "His change left him without vocal chords, but you'll understand his intentions most of the time. He only uses sign language for complex communication, and he does have a voder somewhere." "Actually, I have a real problem with understanding body language," Luke said, "I've got something called Asperger's Disorder."
Dr. Derksen pulled up a specially-designed stool. "I've heard of that, but I haven't had the opportunity to work with anyone diagnosed with it. Isn't it related to autism?" Luke sighed and said, "It does not impede cognitive functions, which means I'm as smart as anyone, actually smarter than many as I've tested genius. I don't blank out everything, like people with autism, they're just both related neurological disorders. Basically, it means I've got a narrower attention span and focus, I can be distracted easily if I'm bored, I can't be distracted easily if I'm really intent on doing something. I've got little common sense, and I don't pay attention to body language automatically. There is a tiny bit of physical clumsiness involved, but since my parents got me into a rehabilitation program early on, that is reduced to a near-normal level. Also, I really like to keep emotional distance, but I have no problem discussing things like this because I like to explain myself for some odd reason. And I forget parts of complicated tasks every once in a while."
The patrons stared at him. He looked around. "You don't have to mention anything, just know that I have no common sense and can't read body language." He crossed his eyes at his snout. "Oh, that's what you're staring at." By now, his snout was medium-length, hardly the human mask he had come in with, his skin was a medium forest green, and his tail had pushed through the flexible tailhole in his pants, revealing a large blue patch that reached from midway down his tail to the very tip. "See, I can't read expressions. That's Asperger's."
"So you're polymorphic or something?" asked one of the younger Lupine Boys. "I'm chameleonic," replied Luke. "I soak up the forms of everyone in the area, but if they are different enough, the mechanism shuts down and I revert to my natural form, the form I take if nobody is around, I guess. You all are different enough, so you get to see what I'm really like. When I came in, I was mostly human. Oh, I can control my color scheme pretty well, it's just my form I have less control over. That blue splotch on my tail is the only place I can't color-change. Basically, I can control my color scheme or let it be controlled automatically. My proportions are what I have no control over when others are around. I have some control, but if I was around a bunch of snakes, my limbs would start dwindling to tiny stubs, for example. Anyway."
He turned back around and took a drink from his now-perfect-temperature cocoa. Nobody said anything, but he didn't notice the silence. Finally, halting conversation started up again, after the abrupt pause.
Nearly five minutes later, a large plush porcupine walked up and introduced herself as Pascal, and asked, "So, how'd you find out about this place?" "Oh, I was directed here by a lion while I was adjusting to being animorphish," said Luke. "Cool color scheme, by the way." The plushie thanked him, and asked what his species was. "New Mexico Whiptail. Can you guess what's so odd about that?" "Well, unless you're a gendermorph too, that particular species is made up completely of females." Luke grinned, and replied, "Yep. I'm an extinct member of a prolific non-endangered species. Unusual to say the least." He looked at Pascal. "Or not."
Copernicus quietly headed into the restroom. Nobody cared, nobody noticed, except the plushie whose back was to the door.
Quickly, Pascal asked Luke how his control of color was. Luke responded by imitating Pascal perfectly, except for the bottom half of his tail, which remained blue. "Wow, that's good. Now, how much control do you have over your form?" Luke thought a moment. "I don't know, my chameleonic sense hasn't overloaded before, so I haven't been able to test it. I can control my proportions pretty well when alone." He concentrated, and his snout became longer, his tail shorter. "Here," Pascal said, "Look at this." He was then shown pictures of "Coops" while body-dyed and frozen in place. He imitated it perfectly while the lizard with the cast was occupied.
When he came back, his eyes nearly bugged out. Sitting at the exact same table under the vent, with the exact same color scheme (except for the tail, which wasn't visible from the bathroom door), with the exact same expression on his face, was a duplicate of Copernicus. A camera caught his expression for posterity.
Luke's memories of that night blended together after that, except to say that he tried a few small portions of the less expensive alcoholic beverages, just enough for a slight buzz, and he somehow earned the nickname BlueNight. It had something to do with his tail being blue, someone making a joke about Bluke the Bloke, and something about Blu-k-night.
Nobody knew it, not even him, but he turned blue when he slept, the same shade as his tail.
Two nights later, BlueNight went again. This time he didn't drink anything, but observed and practiced forms. He sat at the Lupine Boys' booth and blocked out his view of the other patrons. He acquired a shorter tail and a canine snout, and his legs went digitigrade. His choice of color schemes was a steel-grey-blue wolf-fur-looking pattern.
"Hey Phil!" yelled one customer. A white rabbit had just entered, and Donnie was already filling a cup designed for his paws.
BlueNight went white with red splotches and started shaking, his eyes darting around at the wolves and the other predators.
Eventually, his story came out when he had been calmed down: "So because of the Asperger's that I had not been told about until far too late, I was suspended from college and didn't reapply. I got a job selling Cutco, but that didn't work well. I got a job at Subway, but was given no hours after about a month because I was slow with my hands, because of Asperger's. Finally, a local rehabilitation center got involved, the same one I had been taken to as a child for sensory integration therapy to combat my Asperger's. They got me a dishwashing job at the Air Force base's better dining hall. Two months into it, I came down with the Flu."
"So they fired you because it's a communicable disease?" "Of course. So you know who hired me? The local lapine shelter. After about a week, I figured out that the other "orderlys" were torturing some of the more timid rabbits. Another week passed, and I found out that the center was selling to pet stores and laboratories. I told the newspaper, who told the TV stations, who alerted agents of various agencies. The place was shut down, and I was out of work."
One of the patrons winced. "That's gotta suck, Blue." "Don't I know it. Anyway, two nights later, two of my fellow workers broke into my place while I was there, beat me up, and killed five rabbits in front of me. Have you heard a rabbit's death scream?" he asked one of the people standing around. "I read about it once," volunteered a Lupine Boy. "You have no idea, no matter how realistically and heart-rendingly it was described, it is a hundred times worse, and they held my hands at my sides and held my eyes open."
He shuddered at the memory. "After they did that, they hurt me some more. Finally it ended, when I fell unconcious in a pool rabbit-SCAB blood in my own apartment. When I woke up, I was inside myself. My own shed skin, with my ears come loose along with my human skin and hair. I acted like a rabbit, in shock under my bed, until my alarm went off. For a moment I thought it had been a dream and I was going to wake up, but it was all real, and got me moving again. I turned off the alarm and called 911, and was taken to a local hospital."
BlueNight was comforted by many sympathetic patrons, and several bought him drinks.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org