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But For The Grace of...
by Charles M. Bonanno
Charles M. Bonanno -- all rights reserved
dedicated to Captain Webster

Location: Mercy Medical Hospital Year : 2020 Private room : #2-23

The argument (screaming) had been going on for over an hour…

"Get the hell out of here you incompetent idiot!" a shrill female voice screams out, "And go get me a doctor who’ll do what he’s told!"

"Madame, please…" Doctor Lars, a human norm, replies, "what you want is impossible. There isn’t a surgeon in this city who’ll even think about doing what you’re asking."

"Do you have any idea who I am?" the woman asks from under the hospital bed sheets.

"Yes, Mrs. Peters," he replies in the voice of someone who has heard the same speech one too many times, "you’re Tammy Peters, star of screen and stage. Oscar winner for 2015 for best actress in a dramatic role, and the wife of California Congressmen Harold Peters.

But that doesn’t change a thing, you’re still a scab!"

"Don’t call me that! I’m not a damned scab! Go get me a #^$&ing plastic surgeon!"

"Forget it Mrs. Peters. I didn’t spend three hours this morning pumping sleeping pills out of your stomach to have some quack carve you up! Just try to relax, your husband should be here sometime this evening. He’d be here sooner but his plane was delayed by bad weather on the west coast."

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHH! Aren’t you listening!? I don’t want Harold to see me like this! That damned flu bug is turning me into a fuzzy freak!"

"Mrs. Peters, your condition is far from being that bad."

"Don’t try to lie to me! I saw the sign when you wheeled me up here, I’m going to turn into a mindless creature! This is the extreme morphic ward!"

"Mrs. Peters! How many time do I have to tell you this?! Maintenance is painting most of the fourth floor, that’s the only reason you’re in this ward instead of upstairs with the milder cases."

"You saw me! I’ve turned into an animal!"

"Madame, please, you’re hardly that bad off! You have no reason to hide in this room. Why don’t you let me turn on the lights and open the curtains?"

"Are you out of your mind!? I can’t let anyone see me like this! If a paparazzi takes my picture I’ll be the laughing stock of Hollywood! Even my poor dog Poopsie is scared of me! I don’t want to spend the rest of my life knocking trash cans over!"

"Mrs. Peters, as I’ve told you a million times already, that… will…NOT… happen! Our tests show that the disease has completely run its course. Your physical condition will not progress beyond its present light degree level, and the cat scans show absolutely no brain modifications beyond that needed to control your new spinal enhancement."

"SPINAL ENHANCEMENT?!?! Why don’t you just come out and say it?! I’ve got a tail almost as big as I am!" she screams while lowering the bed sheet just long enough to throw a pillow in the doctor’s direction.

Easily stepping out of the way, Dr. Lars continues to talk in the direction of the quivering mound of bed sheets.

"As I was saying, Mrs. Peters, animalistic instincts will not be a problem. After a short period of physical readjustment you should be able to resume your normal life…"

He sidesteps to the left as a bed pan misses his groin by inches. "My normal life!? You moron! You insensitive bastard! My normal life is over!" she screams from under the sheets. "How can I show my face in public!? I look like a furry plush sex toy!"

"Mrs. Peters! What do want me to say? There’s atleast twelve women on this floor who’d kill to be as low degree as you." Dr. Lars thinks to himself.

"Except for, how shall I say this… certain exotic additions … you’re practically unchanged."

He crouches down to avoid the telephone flying towards his head. "PRACTICALLY UNCHANGED!!!! Get out before I tear you to pieces! "Exotic alterations my… OUCH! I’m getting that pain again! AAAUUUUUHHHHH, IT BURNS!!!"

"Please, Mrs. Peters… just relax." Dr. Lars exclaims while backing away from the hospital bed with both hands raised in a gesture of supplication. "Let’s not have another accident. They’re still deodorizing the emergency room since you… sprayed Dr. Carter and half of the nurses down there. .

"Don’t you laugh at me, I’ll have your license for this! I’ll sue!"

[beep… Dr. Lars please report to extreme predator morph ward, STAT. Larry’s loose again… beep.]

[beep… Dr. Lars please report to extreme predator morph ward, STAT. Larry’s loose again… beep.]

"Damn! I locked him in that cage myself! How’d the hell does he keep getting out?!" Dr. Lars mumbles loudly to himself as he deactivates his belt pager and steps through the door.

"Look… I’ve got to go. Take my word for it…you’ll be just fine. That mild tranquilizer I gave you downstairs will be kicking in soon and it’ll help you relax. If you need anything just press that button by the bed."


"They’ll be serving food soon. How about you try to get some sleep till them?"


"Okay, I’ll see you before I go off duty." he says as he turns around and starts to walk away leaving the door ajar.



[sound of door being slammed shut]

With a heart felt scream of "Good riddance!" the bed is suddenly vacated. An ebony and silver silhouette leaps across the darkened room and races into the bathroom. A shrill female screech of outrage erupts as the door closes and the overhead light automatically turns on.

"I’m a skunk! I’m a skunk. I’m a skunk!" she screams into the full length mirror mounted behind the closed bathroom door. The image screaming back at her hadn’t change one iota since her awakening this morning.

"Good God! I look like a damn cartoon!" she yells back at her image as she covers her furred face with both paw-like hands. Peeking through her clawed fingers she takes yet another mental inventory of the changes.

<Face… lightly muzzled and whiskered. Ears… long and pointed. Teeth… sharp and too damned many. Feet… plantigrade with tiny black claws.. Torso… sensually curved with an hour- glass waist. Legs… long and gently arced. Breasts… two , ‘oh-my- god-they’re-huge!’ Tail… drag-on-the ground enormous and bushy! Fur on top, more fur in the middle and yet more fur on the bottom! I’ve got black and white fur covering everything!>

"Why me?!" she screams pointing her muzzle up at the ceiling. "I look like a friggin’ bimbo… correction, a friggin’ skunk bimbo!"

Shivering in shock the tears start to flow around her petite muzzle.

"Good heavens, I’m a plushie! All I need is a #$#@ing zipper down my back and a stomach full of cotton padding!"

In anger she starts pounding on the mirrored surface. Blow after blow falls onto the glass-like material with little result. Bending and flexing her image simply distorts momentarily with each impact. Frustrated by the flexible silvered plastic she searches through all the cabinets for anything sharp.

"I’ll show them! I’d rather die than look like this! If they won’t help me I’ll cut this stuff off myself!"

Within minutes the entire hospital suite is examined from top to bottom. Every cabinet, closet and container is searched for something… anything… sharp to no avail. Even the sealed windows seemed to be made of some thick unbreakable plastic.

Finally, in total frustration, she climbs atop the bed and starts to scream out loud, "Someone get me a @*()@!ing knife!"

<I don’t believe this!> she thinks to herself , <There isn’t a piece of metal or glass in this entire damned room! How in hell am I to get this tail off me?! I know… I’ll pull it out by the roots!>

Spinning around and around she tries to grab the furry appendage which, with a mind of its own, seems to know exactly how to escape her grasp.

Finally, after several dizzying minutes, exhausted and nauseous she collapses face down upon the mattress. Her rapid panting begins to slow as the tranquilizer in her system begins to take effect.

With a final, "I’ll get you later!", she fall asleep with her muzzle jammed between the sideboard safety bars. In seeming triumph the black and white tail stays ramrod straight, the end flickering slightly with every beat of her heart.

<an hour later>


"Hello." A sexy female voice calls out.


[knock, knock]

"Hello… food services! I’ve brought your supper!"


"Okay, honey! Ready or not… here I come!"

Pushing a metal cart a diminutive upper mid-degree vixen morph enters the room. The thin layer of incandescent red and white fur covering her entire body practically glows despite the darkness. With dainty steps the child size fox-morph walks across the floor on silent padded paws. Her only clothing a white apron around her waist and a starched white cap pinned between her long ears. "You awake, dear?" she asks as she approaches the bed side. Hearing no response she climbs atop a chair and examines the sleeping figure.

<Will you look at all that fur! Beautiful! Gorgeous! So thick and full! She’s going to spend the rest of her life with a brush in her paw!> the anthropomorphic female fox thinks to herself with a bit of envy.

"And what’s that?" she whispers in awe as the tail’s rhythmic movements attract her attention.

Mesmerized her eyes and long muzzle begin to follow the tail’s oscillating movements. Her mission forgotten, the vixen morph concentrates solely on the tail waving tantalizingly before her. Suddenly barely controlled vulpine instincts demand release and assume control: "SKUNK" "PREY" "PLAY!" "POUNCE!" "CATCH!"

Each black furred paw in turn begins to gently bat the tail from side to side. Hesitantly at first, and then with growing frequency, the black and white furred tail is knocked from side to side as the tiny scab begins to jump up and down in glee. The room echoes with little yaps of canine ecstasy as the tail swing further with each strike.

Finally, while still growling happily, she yields completely to instinctual commands and bites down hard on the very end.

"OUCH! Stop that! What the HELL do you think your doing?!" a groggy voice calls out.

With a loud canine "YIPE!" the vixen morph jumps off the chair and runs back to the food cart. Grabbing a covered tray at random she tosses it atop the bedside table and pushes the cart out of the room. Her yapping human/vulpine laughter fades slowly with the growing distance.

With a large yawn and a "What was that all about?" Mrs. Peters returns to her drugged sleep.

Several minutes later the door is pushed open once again. The room fills with the scent of rotting leather as an elongated shape crawls up to the bed and laboriously climbs part way up the side; its large claws tearing both the mattress and the sheets in the process.

With an electronic hum, a toneless computer generated voice breaks the silence.

"You… Dead?"

Jolted awake by the loud ‘voice’ Mrs. Peters turns around just in time to have a long moist object dragged across her face. With another blast of rank breath the question is repeated.

"You… Dead?"

"Yuck! Who the heck’s bothering me now? I told those jerks I didn’t want any visitors." she asks as she sits up and covers herself with the bed sheets.

"Larry! Me… Larry! Larry… not ‘visitor’. Larry… lizard!"

"I don’t care what you call yourself! GO AWAY!" she screams at the dark outline hanging onto the metal bars.

While rubbing the slime off her face she reaches out and activates the bedside reading lamp. The scream she emits upon seeing her latest visitor would’ve earned her a second Oscar.


A huge saurian head turns slowly from side to side as it ignores the loud scream. After each eye examines her in turn the rasping electronic voice calls out again.

"You… Dead?"

"NO, I"M NOT DEAD!" she screams at the huge Komodo Dragon draped over her hospital bed, "SOMEONE HELP ME!"

"Larry… not understand." A long pink tongue tastes the air as the confused reptile begins to speak again through the voder strapped to its back.

"Larry hear white coats… Larry hear white coats say you take poison. Larry hear white coats say you kill yourself soon. Larry hungry."

The bed rocks as the Komodo dragon releases its claws and falls to the floor. It immense body stretches from the bed to the closed door over ten feet away.

"Go away! Someone help me!" she screams.

"White coats not come," the immense reptile replies as it crawls around the room with its tongue flickering madly, "Larry not go down to smelly food place again. Larry make white coats hunt for Larry below stone mountain. Larry… smart! Larry hide… Larry stay up here to hunt!"

"Fine! You just stay here and hunt while I leave." Mrs. Peter replies as she tries to step over the huge tail.

"NO GO!" the electronic voice orders as the reptile swings its tail violently towards her legs.

"Larry… wait. Larry… hungry. White coats say you die soon…"


"Larry… not eat live meat! Larry do as white coats tell Larry. Larry make sure meat dead. Larry not bite when white coats feed Larry. Larry… go to special place after eating… white coats not like when Larry make mess on ground. Larry listen to white coats. Larry… smart."

"GO AWAY!" she screams as stands up upon the bed.

"Larry… stay! Larry smell…," the tongue flickers even faster, "food… Larry find food here."

"Damn it, where’s that stupid phone! Ah…shit, it’s still over there by the door where I threw it. How’d the hell am I suppose get it now?"

"Larry find… Larry catch." the reptile replies as it confuses her outspoken comments with a command.

With a whip like motion the long body turns and near instantly crosses the room. With sight blurring speed the reptile lunges for the phone and grabs it up in its jaws. A loud ‘crack’ echoes around the room as the phone crumbles into pieces.

"Larry… catch! Larry… good hunter! Larry… hungry!" the voder exclaims as the saliva dripping jaws drop the pieces near the bed.

Raising its head once again it examines the occupant for several seconds before speaking again.

"You feed Larry? Larry catch phone. Larry… smart. White coats always feed Larry when Larry do what they say."

"But I don’t have any…" she begins to reply but stops as she spots the food tray. Removing the cover she finds a large piece of meat loaf and assorted vegetables. Thinking quickly she formulates a plan of escape.

"Good Larry. Larry good Lizard. Tammy has food for Larry."

Climbing slowly off the bed she places the tray on the ground. "Now you eat this while I go get you some more, okay?" Backing up slowly she walks toward the door that separates her hospital room from the one beside it.

The huge reptile ignores her movements and crawls over to the tray. A two foot long tongue flickers over the plate repeatedly as a single eye examines the contents. Once again the voder crackles into life as the lizard begins to speak to the tray.

"You… Dead?"


"Larry ask… you dead?


Hearing no response the jaws descend. In less than a heartbeat the meat vanishes from the tray. Both the unwanted vegetables and the metal tray are crushed flat under a heavy clawed foot as the reptile turns around. Dripping gravy and saliva he crawls up behind her and watches with interest as she tries to open the locked door.

"Door… not open. White coats not want prey to get out."

With a little gasp of surprise Tammy jumps back atop the bed. In a shaking voice she asks, "Prey?"

"Yes! Big prey. Smell delicious! Prey too big for Larry. Prey step on Larry. Tail hurt for many lights and darks. White coats tell Larry keep away."

Curiosity wins over fear as she asks, "What’s in that room that you’re afraid of Larry?"

"LARRY NOT AFRAID!" the reptile replies in anger as it lashes its tail rapidly from side to side.

"Okay… I’m sorry. Larry not afraid! Larry not afraid!" she repeats herself trying to calm the agitated creature.

Still upset he crawls up to the door and scratches it with one his front paws.

"Prey too big for Larry. Larry hunt alone. Stone cave too small, Larry have no room to bite and run away. Prey strong! Prey hurt Larry."

"What was the ‘prey’ Larry?" she asks wondering what could possible hurt this reptilian monster.

"Prey… big! Smell delicious. Prey have four long legs. Have hard paws. Prey make loud noise. Not have word box like Larry." he shrugs his shoulders to indicate the voder. "Larry… smart. Prey…not smart. White coats tell Larry that prey not need word box anymore."

"Do you mean that ‘prey’ used to be a person?"

"Yes! Person is prey. Prey not person! Larry is lizard! Larry hunt prey! White coats call prey… white coats call prey…COW! Larry smart… Larry remember word. COW! COW! COW!"

Its anger forgotten, a large talon is scrapped across the tiles as the word is repeated endlessly in self-congratulation.

Tammy sits down hard on the bed as her knees weaken with the shock. The screams within her mind shake her very soul,

"Cow… <scrape>, Cow… <scrape>, Cow…<scrape>…"

"Larry! Stop doing that!"

In mid-word the reptile stops and crawls away from the side door. After a single glance at her it turns around and lays its massive skull upon the floor. The sprawling body grows still as the eyes close and the voder begins to speak again.

"Larry do bad thing. White coats get mad when Larry do bad thing. You get mad at Larry… you white coat."

<I don’t believe this! I’ve just offended a big lizard! NOW what do I do?> she thinks to herself.

"I’m sorry, Larry. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I’m not a doctor, sorry…a white coat. I’m not even human anymore."

"But you look like white coats. Have two legs. Have two arms. Smell like white coats. No need word box. Can go outside anytime. White coats not lock you in box. Know all the things that Larry forget from before…"

The voder goes silent, the only sound remaining is the slow rhythm of reptilian breathing amplified by the electronic device.

"From before when, Larry?" she asks.


"Larry? From before when…?" she asks again.


Larry? Don’t you remember?"

"Larry is lizard. Larry not white coat anymore. Mate not visit Larry anymore. White coat hatchlings not visit anymore. Larry stay in stone mountain forever… alone. Larry not want to go to island with other lizards."

"What island Larry?"

"White coats want to send Larry away. White coats say Larry getting… not smart. White coats want to send Larry to always- warm-place with other lizards. White coats say Larry can go to Komodo island and make more lizards. White coats say Larry still changing. White coats say that Larry soon be able to help endangered lizards make more lizards."

After a few seconds the voder starts again at ear splitting volume.


In a sudden blur of motion he crawls headfirst under the bed and freezes motionlessly. The room goes silent as she bends over the bed and pecks underneath.



"Larry? Can I leave now?"


"Larry, will you stay there if I start walking to the door?"

Turning his head slightly a single eye returns her questioning glaze.

"Go away… leave Larry alone. Larry always alone. You white coat. You no look like Larry. You no look like cow. You no look like snake over there." he points his muzzle at the other interconnecting door. "You lucky. You people. You no die making loud noises in this stone cave last dark."

She stands up and backs away from the hospital bed.



"Larry? Did someone die in here last night?



With a volume just barely above a whisper he replies.

"Larry not see. Larry hear white coats talking. White coats no think Larry can understand. White coats say disease hunt and catch man. White coats say man changing into rabbit. White coats say rabbit cut throat with pocket knife before rabbit become… not smart. White coat get angry because other white coat not take away knife."

Oblivious to the reptile sulking under the bed, Tammy climbs back on and lays down. Her thoughts are anything but tranquil.

<Sweet Geezuz, thank you. How stupid and self-centered I’ve been. That could’ve been… all of these people could’ve been me! I’m just covered in a bit of dumb hair. Forget the stupid tail and muzzle. I’m still… me! I’m the luckiest woman in the world!>

"Thank you dear Lord."

[Knock, Knock]

"Hello, Mrs. Peters. Are you awake?

[Knock, Knock]

"Hello, Mrs. Peters, it’s doctor Lars. Can I come in?" [Knock, Knock]

"Mrs. Peters, are you planning to throw something if I come in?"

"NO!" a female voice replies while giggling madly.

"Okay, here I come." he says as he opens the door slowly. "

"Well, Mrs. Peters. From the sound you’re making its obvious you feeling better…" he begins to say as he clicks on the lights.

"Larry!" He yells as he spots the long tail pocking out from under the bed. "Is this where you’ve been all this time!? We’ve been looking for you all afternoon. You had everyone worried sick. We looked everywhere for you downstairs. What’s the matter, don’t you like the cafeteria’s trash anymore?"

He bends down and attaches a leash and collar around the scaly neck.

"Come on, Larry. You must be tired by now, lets get you back to where you belong and I’ll get you some food. There’s still a lot of meat loaf left in the kitchen. You don’t want to be hungry for your long plane ride tomorrow do you?"

Lightly tugging on the leash he gets the large reptile to slowly crawl across the floor and through the doorway.

"Thank you for visiting me." she calls out to the departing Komodo morph.

Turning slightly around he stares at her with a single emotionless eye. After several seconds of silent inspection the voder replies.

"You… Dead?"

"No, Larry. I’m not dead. I’m not dead anymore. I’m going to live for a long time. A long happy time. Goodbye, Larry."

"Not dead… good! Goodbye!"

"Doctor Lars!?"

"Yes, Mrs. Peters?" he asks while closing the door.

"Please do me a favor and get me the biggest hair brush you can find. I want to look my best when Harold gets here."

"Off course, Mrs. Peters. I’ll be right back." [sound of closing door]

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