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A Mugwump Afterword
by Bill Hart
Bill Hart -- all rights reserved

I stood outside the chapel on the day the town of Paradise held the services for old Jake Milton. I had hoped, but had had no real expectation, to be allowed inside to pay my final respects.

But they don't let my kind into the chapel. They never had; they probably never would. All I could do that day was stand outside, suitably out of sight, and watch.

I was surprised when one of them actually entered the chapel. He was the only one of them inside, aside from the minister and old Jake's mortal remains. I couldn't imagine one of the haughty hoity-toity lowering himself to come to a funeral of someone so obviously beneath his own kind. He'd probably thrown the first stone, not that any of them were without sin.

In case you've been wondering, 'they' and 'them' refer to the centaurs of Paradise. They're not really centaurs, of course, although none of them would ever tell you that, that is, if they'd deem it necessary to even speak to you at all.

They really think they are centaurs.

But what they really are, are victims.

Just like Jake.

Just like me.

Just like the hundreds of others like us in Paradise, although none of them will even admit that any of us still live here in their town.

All of us were once common everyday average humans, but that was before we were felled and transformed by SCABS, which, in case you been lost in space for the past several years, is an insidious viral disease of extraterrestrial origin brought back from the planet Mars.

But something most strange occurred here in Paradise. It had never happened before and it hasn't happened anywhere else since. Better than half of those infected and transformed here in Paradise became centaurs, that is a blending of human and horse attributes. They remained fully human from their human waist up, although some of them did have funny looking ears. But they became fully equine from their equine shoulders down.

It's no wonder everyone called them centaurs, they looked just like all the drawings of the centaurs from the old myths and legends. And how many times have I heard from the norms since then, if it looks like a centaur, it must be a centaur.

But Jake's lower body was that of a mule.

Just as mine was that of a burro.

There were hundreds of others with a vast variety of different centauroid bodies, but they never let us forget who the real centaurs were. Although the norms, whenever they wandered through our town, couldn't tell the difference between one of them and one of us. In their minds, I suppose we all looked the same. I guess it made it easier for the norms to categorize us as all the same. Too bad, it couldn't be true.

Someone walked by the chapel carrying a sign. It was too far away and I couldn't read what it said, but I could guess. Just as I could who carried it.

The death of old Jake, whether they wanted to admit it or not, was the direct consequence of a small, but quickly growing, radical group called Centauri Prima. The world would be better off without them. They were the centaur equivalent, and just as bad, of the Humans First movement. They both remind me a lot of something called the Klan, who were a strange group of humans I'd read about in my history book before my transformation and subsequent exile to Paradise.

Did I tell you I don't go to school anymore?

I'm not allowed. School is only for true centaurs.

It was fun at first, but who would have ever guessed I actually would miss going to school.

The things you think about sometimes can be strange. And they can often trigger other memories you'd rather not remember.

But thinking about school makes me remember Tommy Edwards. Once, he was my best friend, but that was before we were sent here. Tommy had been really scared when he'd been first diagnosed with SCABS, just as I had been. His family quickly disowned him and went so far as to disavow any knowledge of his existence. Tommy was devastated, but I, rather selfishly I now realize, had been quite happy that I'd not be going through this horrifying traumatic experience alone.

The doctors must have run thousands of tests on each one of us. I really have no idea what, if anything, they learned, because they'd seldom even bothered to say anything to us. But they kept doing tests until after our transformations completed. I was surprised I'd even survived the testing at all - I'd never known I had that much blood.

But after we thought our transformations had ended, we were both happy when they informed us we were both being sent to Paradise together. We knew that was where centaurs lived. The description fit Tommy and his golden palomino body perfectly, but even I knew that my burro lower half was better described as centauroid, although, like most of the norms, I didn't think it would matter once we arrived in Paradise.

I still wonder if there is some unique centauroid term to express my burro-hood.

Not that it really matters. Sometimes I just wonder about things that are not overly important.

After telling us it would take three or four days to reach Paradise, the doctors had Tommy and me put in the back of a truck for transport. For some reason, a couple of the younger male doctors kept jabbing each other and making weird remarks to both of us.

I thought they were both crazy.

And so did Tommy.

But then, they closed the back of the truck.

And Tommy, for no apparent reason, started crying.

He told me he felt peculiar and was afraid the doctors had missed something. Thinking he might still be changing, he wanted me to look him over to see if I could find anything out of the ordinary.

I told him I would.

And what I found I didn't want to believe. But, knowing enough about horses and having had a full year of biology in school, I knew I didn't have to believe what I saw for it to be so obviously true.

Tommy's golden palomino body wasn't male.

All of the doctors must have known before we'd been shipped out. And it almost made some sense of the actions and remarks that those young doctors had been directed at us earlier. I no longer considered them crazy, but if either of those demented perverts had been with us in the back of the truck, I would have found some way to put one of my hooves through each of their genitals.

I wondered if losing their manhood would be as funny to them as Tommy losing his. I had no doubt their transition would be more painful.

But Tommy's human torso was also changing.

And to make a long story short, by the time the truck arrived in Paradise, Tommy's human torso wasn't male either. He had smooth skin, long golden hair that matched his palomino body, and the biggest tits I'd ever seen in my life. With Tommy looking the way he looked, had both of us still been fully human, I'd have been over her like maple syrup covers pancakes.

But Tommy still thought like Tommy. And his altered form and gender disturbed him greatly.

But as I tried to comfort him, the back of the truck opened.

One of the centaurs screamed at me. "Get away from her, burro-butt."

I moved back, but they must have seen the question in my eyes. They all smiled as one of them explained to me that she was a centaur and equal, while I was inconsequential burro-butt and, therefore, scum.

I was told to wait in the truck, someone would come for me soon. But even I could see they were leering at Tommy as they led my scared and nervous friend away from the truck - just where I couldn't see.

With nothing else to do, I waited.

For how long, I didn't know.

And when someone finally arrived, I was taken completely by surprise.

Tommy was with them.

But something about him, I didn't know what, was different. Just by looking at him, I could tell. And the words he spoke to me are forever burned into my memory.

"What are you looking at, burro-butt?" he said contempuously.

It was as if I were suddenly struck dumb. All the others standing around him smiled. I knew they had done something to him.

One of them asked him, "Would the Lady Tamara be pleased to own this insignificant filth?"

"Whatever for?" she, for I surmised whatever had been done had killed all that had been Tommy, replied in their haughty tone. "What would I do with a burro-butt?"

And then they led her away.

I've never seen her again. But what would it matter. She is not Tommy, my friend. She is Tamara, one of them.

It's strange how some memories make you angry.

Old Jake would never show his anger towards them - he'd always told me that letting them get under my skin made them feel even more superior. The superior plan was to demonstrate our equality in ways not one of them could hope to dispute.

Jake had told me once that we might lose someone along the way, but, in the end, what was right for all must ultimately prevail.

And now, we've lost Old Jake.

I am angry that I have not been allowed to mourn his passing with the dignity he deserves.

I will miss my friend Old Jake.

And now I want to do something to them for him that will show them once and for all ...

But wait.

The one of them who had gone inside the chapel is coming out again.

Can it be?

There appear to be tears in his eyes.

Perhaps all of them are not the same.

Perhaps some of them care for those other than themselves after all.

Or perhaps not.

I will need to speak with this one and find out what he thinks. If there is one of them, perhaps there might be two, or even more, of them.

Jake was right.

We must show them we are equal by being equal, neither better nor worse then them.

Perhaps, in time, Jake's dream will be fulfilled.

Just as I can only wish Jake could have lived long enough to see his dream realized, I can only hope I live long enough.

Only time will tell.

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