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The Buck Stops Here
by Jon Sleeper
Jon Sleeper -- all rights reserved
 

Are you comfortable?

Yes, thank you.

Good. So where do we start?

At the beginning, I guess. At least as much as I can remember. But I don't have much time to tell it. You're very late.

My last clear memory of being completely human is of camping in the woods. I don't remember my reason for going exactly. But it had something to do with observing wildlife. Waitaminute. Now that I think of it... I'd gone on a roadtrip to visit all my internet friends, and was on my way up to up the east coast to see a friend of mine. I decided to camp out in the woods one night. I was hoping to see one of my favorite animals that I'd never seen before.

And what was that?

Do I have to spell it out?

Sorry.

It's OK. But like I said, I'd never seen one before. I knew they were very reclusive and nervous, so wanted to get as deep into the woods as I could. Bad choice, it turned out. If I'd stayed closer to civilization than the next couple years might of turned out differently for me.

I vaguely remember falling sick in the forest, and in my delirium I saw them in the mists of the early morning. They appeared like magic. One buck, and three does. They were looking at me strangely... intently sniffing the air as if uncertain of what to make of me. It is then that I remember changing...

The next thing I knew, I felt my body stretching and flexing in ways that Nature had never intended. I was suddenly on all fours, my senses telling me things they never had before. (you have no idea) In confusion, I looked at myself with my newly flexible neck. What I saw was the body of a whitetail buck. Then the wind shifted. And the last thing I remember is the scent of a doe in heat, and fighting the other buck.

That must of been exciting.

I really could not tell you. I don't know if I won or lost. Just my luck to get SCABS during the rut. But I have no memory of the next two or so years. Just impressions of seasons; of deep snow, newly green and succulent leaves, summer heat, and fall's passions. And I only remember it happening twice, which is why I think it was only two years.

But you're not sure.

No. My next clear memory is an impression of being hunted. I know I'd had those before... But it was different this time. The creature hunting was wearing something brightly colored, and had made a sorry attempt to cover it's scent. Something about this hunter tripped a memory. The next thing I knew I was in great pain, and bleeding profusely from my left shoulder.

And that's what that scar is?

Yes. Imagine the hunter's surprise when the deer she'd been hunting emits a very human scream. I had an arrow sticking out of that shoulder, she was a terrible shot. The pain had forced me from a normal deer shape to a partial morph, maybe 20% human. Just enough to talk. The hunter was actually very compassionate. She nursed me back to health out of guilt. The arrow had brought my human mind baaa... ahem. Baaaahk... Wanterer? Couldth you?

Sure. Boys?

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

What?! Why'd they do that?

Huh? What?! Oh. S-sorry. Um. Th-the Boys did that because of what my 'talent', if you can call it that. Is--

Buck? Donnie told me to tell you that that was your one howl for tonight. There are too many customers this evening.

I understand, Edwina. Th-thanks.

Your name. Is there another one I can use?

I'm afraid not. Because frankly, I don't remember my old one. Other than the events immediately before my SCABS took effect, I have no memories of my previous life. Not my friends, not my family. Nothing.

You must feel terrible...

No. Not really. It's hard to feel bad about something you cannot remember. And since deer usually don't have memories anyway, I can deal with it. That does not mean I'm not curious, though. But I've had no luck at all finding any family. Anywhere.

You were saying about your "talent"?

Yes. I'm what's called a "semi-voluntary full morph." I can change myself, but it takes a huge effort to maintain it. Otherwise I'm stuck in the full form deer's shape. Strong emotions (fear, especially) seem to act as a catalyst, making it easier for me to maintain a morphic shape. That's why the Boys howled like that. That howl... It's hard to describe. I was so close to bolting out the door. You have no idea. When I start to relax again I start to change back, that's why I started to lisp like that. In full form I've got no upper incisors.

What happened after the hunter fixed you up?

I spent the next couple months with her. It was she who gave me my name. It makes sense, I suppose. What brought me here to the city was kind of interesting. One day I was out sulking over my predicament, (I'd found that I could not lose myself again, though I'd tried several times) I had to cross a road, which I hate doing. I was almost run over by an antelope on a strange bicycle.

That would be Zach?

Yes. I jumped right over him, yelling "watch it, would ya!" The fear shapechange taking effect, and discovered I was not alone. And it was then I discovered that I'd lost the ability to comprehend most of what human society was. Hell, even the meanings of some of the words I'm using now escapes me. Dr. Bob, before he disappeared, told me that it's sort of a reflex action. My human side is very strong, but between it and the animal side there's a kind of communication block. And most of me is on the animal side. It's quite distressing. Whatever that means.

Anyway, I came back to the city with Zach. I wanted to try to rediscover my human side. I've been here almost a year now, and according to Spots I'm making progress. Though the actions of those around me is just... Confusing to say the least. But I'm under part-time employment with ZB. Employed enough to live there, though I rarely get jobs they keep me around. Zach and I are great friends. Though I've had to relearn that "friend" is not equal to "rival". Which is important, because the rut will start up soon, you can see I've just lost my velvet. I'm thinking of going back into the woods for it. I don't think others would want to be around me when it happens.

You know your hand just...

I know, I know. My thime is almothed up. I'm athraid I'm going to have to cuth this intherview thort. Outh! Oooohhff! Uuunnngggnh...

Are you OK? Yes? Let me help you with that vodor...

Yes. Thank you. I'm OK. It's just the longer I stay in a morphic shape the faster and more painful I change back. Listen, I think I'd better head back to ZB.

One more question. How did you find the Blind Pig?

A couple months ago Zach realized that if I wanted to get back into society, I'd need to interact with others. I went looking for a place, I tried the local SCABS shelter, but that did not work out too well. People tend to think of me as just an animal, an intelligent one, but just an animal. Even with the vodor. At the shelter I heard of the Blind Pig, so decided to try it out. I can now hold the morphic shape for two hours. Before I could only do a half hour. I've come here often enough to do that. Look. I really need to go. The scent of those wolf morphs is quite... distressing.

I understand, I think. Can I walk you back to ZB?

I think I'd like that.

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