Lovers in Flux
by Bill Kieffer

So, in looking at the picture, I saw a tiger-woman whose humanity was not far
below the surface... and I went with that.

Five years to the day Maria Scolari had come home to die, she had to
grudgingly admit that she was more or less happy. In lieu of speaking to the
others about this, she celebrated life and hope with a visit, alone, to a
waterfall near the research center they had reclaimed.

With the surefootedness of a jungle cat, she climbed to a mossy tree branch
that overlooked the misty waterfall. With what passed for a smile these
days, she threw herself into the pool of water twenty feet or so below.

Cold mountain water instantly claimed the heat and the dust when it caught
her. The ever present sounds of the jungle vanished to be replaced for a
moment by the echo of her impact, but even that fell away. Silence filled
her ears and that struck her as odd, for reasons she could not place.

When she surfaced, Mike was there, sitting on the lip of the pool watching
her. He wore only a grey smock that was several sizes too big for him, but
it had his name embroidered over the left shirt pocket and he refused to give
it up. A pang of guilt went through when she found herself considering
pretending she hadn't seen him there. Yes, he had hurt her, but the world
had been coming to an end at the time. They had all gone a little crazy back

She owed the man that he used to be so much. The Flux had touched her early
and quickly. Where once she was considered, in the United States, to be an
exotic beauty with her swarthy appearance, her body took on an even more
exotic look. Her lips went black and her nipples became pale numb stubs on
her breasts over the course of a week. News reports spoke of the Flux, of
course, but in those first weeks there was no explanations of what was
happening to people.

They tried to lock down things, of course, to prevent the spread of this
disease, not knowing it was too late. People with Flux were not allowed to
fly in jets at first and then, shortly thereafter, they could not cross state
lines nor be allowed near children.

Mike had, of course, realized they were watching not just a crippling,
dehumanizing disease spread, but the fall of civilization as they knew it
before she had. She had been too busy mourning her lost beauty to fully
appreciate the madness that was being kindled around them. People were
becoming animals and New York City was barely a safe place to be when things
were going well.

Although they were both biologists, they were not afraid of guns nor breaking
laws to save themselves. Long before anyone thought to blow up the Lincoln
and Holland Tunnels, Mike was driving their Land Rover forcibly and
aggressively south with one single goal: to get Maria home before her mind
was lost to him.

Along the way, there where bribes and gunfire, but the infrastructure that
might have kept them penned in America was failing. It took them almost a
month to drive to Maria's home village in Brazil. By then all attempts at
containment had been abandoned by most world governments. Fully half the
people of the world had the Flux by then and the world at large was not
adjusting well. It wasn't just the looting and lynch mobs. Literally,
hundreds of thousands miscarriages and suicides added to the general misery
of the world.

The world was coming to an end and the trip had been like a journey through
Hell. Mike had killed several times over and Maria had almost been raped
twice. The Flux continued to disfigure their bodies and making them seem
more bestial than they were. Zoomorphic, the ever dwindling medical reports
called the transformation victims. The rest of the world just called them

When Maria finally did set foot on the doorstep of her childhood home, the
bottom of that foot was black and calloused, with white fur hugging the pads
her sole had become. Her legs were covered with orange and white fur with
random black stripes. Her hips were wider and she had put on 75 pounds, all
of it muscle. She stood three inches taller and her gums bled painfully as a
new set of teeth was too busy to be nice about pushing out her flat human
teeth. For all the world, she looked like a tiger that had been forced into
ill fitting clothing and taught to walk on its hind legs.

Mike had stayed in the car. He had begun to shrink noticeable two weeks
prior and his nerves were finally becoming undone. He was three inches
shorter and his eyes had become darker since they had started out, but
otherwise, he still looked human. Inside his head, however, the Flux was
starting to muddy his mind. He was afraid of Maria now, because of the way
she looked and smelled. He was afraid of what she might do if faced with the
scene that was being played out around the world, a house full of dead and
twisted things that could not handle their apparent loss of humanity. Now
that their quest was over, the insane terror of it all was beginning to eat
at the fringes of his mind the Flux hadn't yet touched.

So he had stayed in the car, listening to a radio that was nothing but

When Maria screamed in misery but not surprise, Mike had become so frightened
he had leapt from the car and ran mindlessly into the woods past the
seemingly abandoned houses that had not been so much abandoned but
transformed into makeshift crypts. From that point forward, the man he used
to be was effectively dead.

By the time Mike had gotten hold of himself, days later, it was obvious he
was becoming one of the victims they called the Mouse People. Whereas
Maria's disfigurement still allowed her some sort of dignity, his simply did
not. He was small, tiny and childlike in statue, if not mentally... not that
he hadn't lost some of his mental dexterity. He was almost the same person
beneath the brown fur, he was just now easily frightened and very eager to
please. The others had begun to treat him like a slave or a well trained
lab specimen these last two years. Maria had given up defending her husband;
the Flux had left him a perpetual victim and there was nothing she could do
about it.

He stood a little under two foot tall and he was probably still shrinking,
Maria thought, but he had refused to be measured any longer. She would have
hoped it was a sign that he was finally getting some of his macho pride back,
if the refusals hadn't taken the form of crying while curled up in a ball.

His black eyes watched her swim towards him and she could see that Mike was
almost no longer afraid of her. That made her feel better. Sometimes, she
still longed for Mike to look at her the way she used to, but would she
recognize that look on his face now, twisted as it was into muzzled parody of

As with most Flux victims, the transformation had not robbed her of her
facilities, although for a short time, it had driven her mad. She was still
human in every way that counted. She had thumbs and walked on her hind
legs. She had gotten used to the tail. You could get used to anything, she

"Hi Mike," she said softly when she reached the lip of the boulder. Her
voice was rough, but there was still a feminine flavour to her husky voice.
"You coming in?" she asked in Portugese, trying to disguise the fact that she
suspected why he had come here rather than speak to her in the center.

He shook his head, NO, and scratched at his crotch nervously.

Maria stood in the water, her fur covered breasts just below the surface, and
waited. Her DNA hadn't been altered so much that it resembled a feline's,
but it did seem she'd inherited a tiger's love of totally drenched fur. Not
many of the other researchers handled the feel of a sodden coat of fur
clinging to their bodies very well. With the pesticides having run out, she
assumed they'd have to learn to either shower or swim on a daily basis.
Mike, like quite a few of them, had gotten used to the fleas, instead.

Mike sighed with a squeak. It would have been a comical sound if there had
been anything funny about the situation. "Maria, Xara ix pregnant," he said
finally in English, his misshapen mouth crushing the "s" sounds so that
Sarah's name sounded like an alien word. "My baby ix pregnant."

Maria closed her eyes for a moment. This was a tragedy and a travesty, but
the ham radio reports suggested this scene was being repeated all around the
world. "I know," she said, her heart breaking for him.

"Maria," Mike wailed, not understanding any of this. In a way, that might be
considered a kindness, except she knew he's eventually come to understand all
too well. "Xheex jux'da baby! Xara jux'da a baby!"

"Mike, she's fully mature," Maria began but she was cut short by his unholy
screech of pain and immeasurably suffering.

"Xhe ix THREE!" He cried, pulling at his shirt. "Xhe ix only three yearx
old, Maria. Why Maria? Xhe jux'da baby!"

Maria flinched. Mike was still smart enough to fool himself, otherwise he
would have accepted his offsprings' condition years ago. "It's the Flux,
Mike Honey. The Flux."

Mike nodded. "They wanted bay-bexe." Babies, she translated to herself.
When Mike had gotten Lygia pregnant, the two Mouse People had become heroes
to the research center. Either a cure or viable offspring had been their
mandate from the local and world communities and, for a moment in time, it
looked like the little people were going to save the human race. Except the
first... litter, for lack of a better word, was hardly human, even by the new

After the second and third litters, it become obvious that the genetic
changes in the Mouse People were more severe than in any other group of
victims. Like Maria's ample but non-functional breasts, intelligence was
just a lingering trait of the Mouse People's humanity. Both were vanishing
slowly over time as their bodies absorbed what was left over from the initial
changes. To call the second generation Mouse People retarded or mentally
impaired was to deny reality. They were quite simply animals, and somewhat
testy animals at that.

"Who ix the father," Mike asked after his sobbing fit passed. "Do we know
who the Father ix? Do we know who raped my little girl?" There was a bit of
steel in his voice, almost as if the ghost of the man he used to be was ready
to return. Maria debated telling him, but he could see it in her face.
"Tell me!" He pleaded, pounding on his fur covered legs.

She told him, although she knew it would shatter him completely. She owed
the man he used to be that much and more. "Mikey," she said. "We think it
was Mikey."

Mike blinked and made little fists that twisted his reclaimed work shirt.
"Mikey? Little Mikey?" He started to shake with distress. "Her brother?
No, no, you're wrong."

Maria wanted to look away from her husband. When she had first discovered
that he'd slept with Lygia, she wished all sorts of evil things on him. Even
after their research had proven that Lygia had gone into estrus and Mike had
been compelled to rut with the rat like woman because of their Fluxed bodies,
she still had blamed and cursed him. It hadn't helped that the whole
mountain side had cheered him, either. Now her wishes had born fruit and she
regretted her anger. "We're not certain, but he's the only one that can undo
his harness. He's the smartest one..."

Mike snorted. "Darwinixm..." He shoved his fists into his cheeks and then
pulled on his ears as if he refused to hear the words coming out of his
mouth. "Three year olx are getting each udder pregnant and you're quoting
Darwin." He screamed again, a screech that sounded both inhuman and all too
human all at once and collapsed in tears.

Old Mike would have gotten a gun, once upon a time, she thought. He would
have run off and shot up the research center, suspecting, as she did that
Mikey's hadn't slipped from his room all by himself. They all existed by
grace of the paramilitary that had sprung up in lieu of a real government and
they demanded results in one form or another. Even bad news counted as
results when the fate of the world was at stake and they were all a bit
desperate even without the threat of being starved out of the compound.
Somebody must have succumbed to the pressure and decided to try a little

If she had the courage to review the video logs, she'd probably discover a
few less than wholesome experiments with the three 2nd generation females,
but she was not that brave. If she saw anything like that, she'd have
trouble believing that humanity was worth saving. And that was the only
thing that had kept her going these past five years.

Once upon a time, Mike would have shot his own children, possibly, rather
than to suffer them to live as trained monkey-rats. He'd at least consider
the possibility. Not now, though. Now he was capable of little more than
balling his eyes out until someone told him what to do and it ate at Maria's
heart to see her husband reduced to this. A retarded freak, Mike would have
said, once upon a time.

She stepped closer and reached out for her husband. He resisted for a moment
and then cried harder as he was lifted like a child to her chest. He knew he
couldn't fight her; the Flux had made her much stronger than a normal man her
size would be. She made shushing sounds as she stroked the long hairs
between his odd pink ears. His fur was hot, unsurprisingly, for it was a
very hot day to begin with. She moved deeper into the water until the
waterline lapped at his shoulders.

For five minutes, hot tears and snot trickled down her chest. She cupped
water in her still human shaped right hand and poured several trickles upon
his furry face so sh could pretend neither of them had tears left to cry.
Michael Scoleri had always been a proud man; a macho man who had good reasons
to be proud and not that false North American arrogance that many from the
state suffered. Before the Flux, she'd never seen him cry.

Mike began to shiver from the coolness of the water, although he was pressed
against her body tightly.

Fate was such a twisted thing; they had had such plans. She was supposed to
have his children, not some Puta he found wandering near a village, eating
out of dumpsters. Maria would likely never have children of her own now.
The Flux had sterilized much of the males and there was no telling what her
offspring would be like. The ham radio spread rumors of normal births here
and there, but only the Mouse People bred regularly with any success... if
you could call the resultant offspring success.

And as far as she knew, the rumors of normal births just might be that...

She felt Mike stir and look up at her expectantly. The look pleaded with her
to make it all right, to tell her it was all a joke. Without conscious
thought, she had moved deeper into the water, until the waterline had reached
the base of his tiny furry skull. Mike shivered from the cold in her arms,
but not from fear.

She owed it to the man he used to be. Just one or two more steps and she
would hold his head against her chest until... Maria pushed his head down
against her chest, she was so afraid of meeting his eyes. She knew the
pleading expression that would be on his rat like face and she would hesitate
because his face almost always had that cast about it. They had talked about
this years ago, in the Land Rover, when it looked like they'd never make it
out of North Carolina alive. He had made her promise.

Just one or two steps more and it would be over. The burden of insanity that
the future had become would be off his shoulders. Mike would never have to
discover that they had scheduled a vote on whether or not he should be forced
to undergo a vasectomy. Their mandate was to isolate and encourage breeding
of human offspring and the issue was hotly debated on both sides, with Mike's
opinion on the matter not even remotely a consideration. His offspring could
not be called human by any thinking person.

Mike had always wanted children. At least six, but there had never seemed a
good time for Maria to actually get pregnant. Now, of course, it was too
late. Maria had been graded "viable," but Mike, because of his deep rooted
fear of the tiger she appeared to be, could no longer touch her sexually and
his deposits of Flux-tainted sperm in a test tube seemed to ignore her human
eggs. The Flux had effectively created two separate species of humanity and
that gap between them had become a chasm.

She took a step forward and found herself shivering with Mike. She tried to
take a second step, because she knew she had to be the strong one. Mike no
longer had the options he once would have demanded. She knew without a doubt
that he would have wanted her to take that last step, and even now he clung
to her chest, his muzzle poking above the water, almost calmly waiting for
her to carry him that final mile to the end of his journey. She listened for
his breathing against the sounds of the waterfall, but she couldn't hear it.
Instead, she could feel his lungs inflate and deflate and his heart
fluttering within his chest.

Then she broke and cried herself. She spun around and stepped towards the
edge of the pool. She might have owed the man he once was the dignity of
death, but the man he was now, she owed something to, too.

She didn't know what exactly what it was or how she would make good on it,
but in the moment before her last step towards the center of the pool, when
she felt his heart beating against her white furred chest, she felt her own
heart beating.

God help her, their hearts had beat together as one.


Copyright 2002 by Bill Kieffer. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.

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