It Started As A Vacation...
I had it all planned out, the perfect vacation to celebrate the end of my first year in college. I was going to fly into California, then rent a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and spend two weeks on a trip through the national parks of central California. Everything was going wonderfully, I arrived okay, and the airlines even managed to not loose any of my luggage. I got to the rental company by late afternoon, and was cruising down the highway a short time later.
It was great, being the broke college student that I was, I had never had the opportunity to ride such a nice machine as the Harley. The bike handled wonderfully, its response was incredible: you twist the throttle just a little bit and the low purr of the engine turns to a full throated roar, as the powerful machine surges forward, attentive to your every request. As it got later into the afternoon, there were less and less cars, until eventually I had the road all to myself. The scenery was beautiful too, mountains and forest, with an occasional creek or lake flashing by along the side of the road.
I had wanted to make it to my campsite before dark, but as the shadows lengthened, it became more and more obvious that it wasn't going to happen. Since I didn't want to pitch camp in the dark, as the afternoon faded into dusk, my journey quickly became a race with the sun, while I hoped to salvage the last bits of light. The Harley was a heavy motorcycle, and a lot more stable than the little Honda I drove around Texas on weekends, and consequently I had become much more daring than I would usually be. Meaning I was going a hell of a lot faster than I should have been with the sun going down. I must have been doing close to ninety-five miles an hour when I saw the dog. He must have been in a hurry to get somewhere too, or maybe he just felt like chasing something. Either way, the dog had decided that it was a good idea to try to cross the road ahead of me.
I remember swerving to avoid hitting him, then the next thing I know, the bike is starting to slide out, and suddenly I'm flying through the air, as if in slow motion. Flying towards a stand of trees off the edge of the road. I remember thinking "Oh shit, this is going to hurt" then there was this fantastic pain, and everything went black. When I woke up, it was dark. The first thing I noticed was that the faceplate of my helmet was shattered, spiderwebbing outwards in a mesh of fine lines. "That's odd," I thought as I struggled to force myself to stand up. Then the pain hit.
Forcing myself to look around, I realized that I had gone off the road and down an embankment into the woods. The Harley was totaled, and I wasn't much better off. I was bleeding badly from three or four deep gashes along my chest and legs, my ankle was noticeably starting to swell (probably broken…), and it hurt to breathe. I must have broken ribs at some point. To make matters worse, my right arm was hanging at an odd angle from my shoulder, it must have been dislocated when I hit something in the crash. Everything hurts so much that I can't see straight. Rising shakily, I try to orient myself. "If I can't find the road and get help soon, I'm going to bleed to death" I thought to myself. With a great effort, I forced myself to get up, and began stumbling towards where I thought the road should be. Being too disoriented to find my way in the darkness, I ended up wandering away from the road and deeper into the woods. As time passed, I became more and more panicky as the realization that I must have gone the wrong way began to sink in. Finally, after concluding that I had gotten thoroughly lost and was probably going to die, I completely lost it and began to run through the woods, looking for the road. But in my state of shock and panic, I didn't see a large tree root until it was too late. The ground loomed up towards me, and then everything went black again.
"Hey guy, can you hear me?" Someone was shaking me. "Go 'way, 'I'm tired." I groaned, attempting to focus on the speaker. It wasn't working so well for some reason, so I quit trying. "He's alive! We need to get him to a doctor quickly." The voice was saying to someone else. "Listen, try to stay with us, okay? We'll get you help" It must have been the other person, it sounded like a woman's voice. Then everything faded out again.
"…found him in the woods. We brought him here as quickly as we could." It was the woman again. Except that I was somewhere different. Instead of a cold dark blur it was a bright warm one. "Right, nurse, let's get what's left of that helmet off of him." Said a new voice. "Nurse?" I thought. "I must be in a hospital. Maybe I'll live through this after all." I felt someone unbuckling the straps, then the helmet was pulled away, and I could see the people in the room. "Shit, I died."
Standing in front of me, holding the remains of my helmet was a rabbit. Except that it…she was also about six feet tall and anthropomorphic, like the characters in the stories that I wrote in my free time. Glancing around the room, I saw that there was also a wolf and a fox. The wolf and rabbit were wearing what looked like medical scrubs, they must be the doctor and nurse, and the fox must have been one of the two that brought me in from the woods.
"Well, this is wonderful," even my thoughts sounded sarcastic at this point "I must have a concussion or something. So now not only am I lying in a ditch dying somewhere, but I'm hallucinating too. Some vacation."
"He's conscious" said the nurse, noticing that I was starting to try to sit up. She then proceeded to try to jab an IV into my arm. "Hey, quit it." I said, pulling it back out, somewhat annoyed at the liberties being taken by a figment of my imagination.
"We're here to help you." said the wolf in response. Sighing, I began to explain "You can't help me, because you're not really here. When I hit my head in the crash, I suffered what is called a cerebral hemorrhage. That means that the victim's brain is bleeding, and the blood is putting pressure on the nerves, causing him to experience vivid hallucinations, in this case you." "Look around you" the doctor pleaded "you're in a hospital. It's real, and you should let us help you." "I'm not in a hospital, I'm lying in a ditch along some nameless stretch of freeway, slowly bleeding to death. God, I wonder if other people's hallucinations are so damned argumentative, or if I just lucked out…"
"Listen," the doctor said, beginning to grow annoyed "you lost a lot of blood, and it's making you somewhat irrational, now lie down and hold still!" "Please let the doctor help you" said the fox, coming over and taking my hand. She seemed genuinely concerned for my well being, which surprised me for a moment. Relenting, I laid back down and the nurse injected me with something. As they began working on me (or more probably because whatever they injected me with started taking the pain away) I slowly began to relax. "My name is Jennifer" said the fox, gently stroking my hand. "My husband and I found you and brought you to the hospital. Everything is going to be okay, we'll take care of you now." While she kept quietly talking to me I closed my eyes, and soon drifted off to sleep, still holding her paw.
I woke up in a hospital room. "I'm beginning to get the impression that this isn't a hallucination" I muttered to myself as I looked around the room. "Oh! You're up." said a voice from the other end of the room. Turning my head, I saw a nurse standing in the doorway (a squirrel this time), making notes on a clipboard. "We didn't expect you to be up so soon. Can I get you anything?" When I stopped and thought about it, I was incredibly thirsty. "Um, could I have some water?" I asked plaintively. "Certainly" the nurse said, pouring a glass of water from a pitcher she took from a table in the corner, and bringing it over to me.
I reached out and took the glass, only to notice something odd. For some reason, instead of my hand, I now had a paw covered in reddish orange fur. "What in the…" looking down, I discovered that I was covered in the orange fur, except for a patch of white running down my chest. I slowly raised a hand…paw to my face to discover that it had changed too. Somehow while I was asleep I had grown a muzzle. "Do you have a mirror around here somewhere?" I asked the nurse in a very shaky voice. Without saying anything, she reached into the pocket of her coat and pulled out one of those little makeup cases and handed me the mirror in the lid. Hesitantly, almost afraid to look, I took the mirror. Staring back at me was the reflection of a young fox. "Just what the hell did you do to me?" I yelled, jumping up from the bed, only to take two shaky steps and then fall down with an audible 'crack' and a shooting pain in a body part I didn't have a couple of hours ago.
The squirrel rushed over and helped me up and back onto the bed. Any notion I had of walking out of there was completely shot. Looking behind me, I discovered that I had also grown a tail while I was sleeping. Examining the offending piece of anatomy, the nurse said "Well, I think that it's fractured." "Putting that aside for a second," I interjected, "where did it come from? I didn't have a tail when I came in here." "Well, that's a bit complicated," replied the nurse. "Whenever someone crosses into our world, after a while they change like you did. Jennifer and Matthew will explain that better later. You shouldn't try to get up and walk, it will take you a while to get used to your new form."
"Great, as if I'm not screwed up enough from laying that bike down, I've grown new parts just to make sure that I don't run out of things to break!" I muttered darkly. "What's going to happen to me now anyway?" "Well," said the nurse, beginning to wrap my tail "We're gong to keep you here for observation for another couple of hours, then the doctor will release you to Jennifer and Matthew in the morning. They've agreed to take care of you for the time being." After finishing with my tail, she got up to leave. Stopping in the doorway, she turned and said gently "Now try to get some rest, you've had a hard day." before turning out the lights and quietly leaving me alone to ponder my situation.
"Well," I thought "I'm not dead, so this is certainly better than the alternative. And Jennifer seemed really nice. Maybe being here won't be so bad after all." I stared at the ceiling for a while, and then lacking anything better to do, drifted off to sleep again.
"Rise and shine sleepyhead!" Looking to the doorway, I saw that it was Jennifer and a wolf I hadn't seen before. I smiled a little at that, it was good to see someone familiar. "My name is Matthew," said the wolf, extending a paw "and you are?" "Huh? Oh, my name is Nick, it's nice to meet you." "Well," said Jennifer cheerfully "let's gather up your stuff and get you checked out." "My stuff?" I said, confused "I don't have any stuff." Reaching into the little modular closet on the wall, Jennifer pulled out a box with what was left of my clothing. "They threw out your helmet" she commented, handing me the box "There wasn't much left of it anyway" I took the box and ducked into the bathroom to change. The shirt was a complete write off, but the pants only had one large rip in them, and at least they were better than the hospital gown that I had found myself wearing. My shoes had managed to escape basically unscathed. Deciding to wear the pants, I began to pull them on, only to discover that whoever designed them hadn't anticipated the wearer having a tail. "Hmm…" I thought "This presents a bit of a problem." Rooting through my pockets, I turned up a handful of change, a business card from the Harley rental place, my lighter, and finally as I was just beginning to give up hope, the pocketknife that I usually carried. After cutting a tail hole, I put the jeans on (though getting your tail through the tail hole is a lot tougher than it sounds…) and emerged from the bathroom, ready to go.
After stopping at the front desk to fill out a small mountain of paperwork (all in a kind of writing I had never seen before) Matthew brought their car around, and we left the hospital. The countryside we drove through was beautiful, old growth forest, with the road seeming to have been added as an afterthought. That's when it really began to sink in, I don't know where I was now, but it sure as hell wasn't the world I had grown up in. After a half-hour or so of driving, we arrived at a good sized house set back into the woods. "Well, here we are. Your new home." Said Matthew as we went inside.
The house was much bigger inside than it had looked from outside, and it had everything. Jennifer and Matthew gave me the grand tour of the place, then they directed me into the living room. "We need to talk about some things" Said Jennifer. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions, and we'll do our best to try to answer them." "Yeah, there are a few things I'd like to know. To begin with, I've been wondering since I got here how is it determined what species someone becomes? I mean, why did I become a fox, instead of a wolf or an otter or something else?" "When someone changes, their inner self manifests itself." Replied Jennifer "I'll bet that you were curious and got into a lot of mischief in your former life, didn't you?" "Well…" I replied, looking a little sheepish. "I thought so." she said, smiling.
"How do you like being a fox by the way?" Jennifer asked me. "All in all I think I like it a lot. The fur isn't nearly as hot as I thought it would be, I've grown really fond of having a tail, and I've even gotten used to having the longer canine teeth. When I first got here, I had trouble with accidentally biting my tongue, but it hasn't been much of a problem lately." I replied
"Another thing I noticed is that it seems like there aren't a whole lot of cars around here. Do you people build hot rods or ride motorcycles or anything like that?" I asked curiously. "People here don't use cars much" answered Matthew "things are usually pretty close by each other, so mostly we walk. There really isn't much interest in cars." "Motorcycles are very rare in our world too" Jennifer added "Most people here consider them too dangerous." "Great, no hot rods and no motorcycles. You people sure have some…interesting tendencies" I complained, annoyed that one of my major hobbies had essentially ceased to exist "What next," I added jokingly "am I going to go into the bathroom and find three seashells on a little shelf instead of a roll of toilet paper?" Jennifer raised an eyebrow a bit quizzically "Excuse me?" "Never mind," I sighed, shaking my head "I should have guessed that you wouldn't have seen that movie."
"There is something important that we have to discuss with you." said Matthew seriously. "When someone comes to our world like you did, they are given a choice. Either you can chose to be returned to your home, or you can chose to stay here in our world. If you stay here, Jennifer and I will take care of you until you are old enough to set out on your own. I know it's a big decision to be making, especially considering you just got out of the hospital, but you have to make up your mind before this evening." Nodding silently, I went outside and sat on the porch swing to think. This was probably the most important decision I have ever had to make in my life. On the one hand (or paw, as it were…), this world is a lot more interesting than the one I had left, and Jennifer and Matthew seemed to genuinely care about me, which was a new and not altogether unpleasant change from my previous life. On the other hand, It's hard to give up everything you've ever known. The day passed quickly.
Going back inside, we all sat back down in the living room. "I've thought about this carefully," I said quietly "and I've decided to go back home." "Really?" said Jennifer, looking like she was about to cry. "No, not really." I said laughing "This is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me, and I wouldn't give it up for anything." Then in a more solemn tone, "So, if you and Matthew were serious about wanting me, I'd like to stay here with you." At that, Jennifer did start to cry, then running over to me and wrapped me in a huge hug. "It almost seems like a waste" I mused "Here I spent all that money on tuition and books at the university, when I would end up staying here…" Deciding that I needed my rest, I soon went up to my new room and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning sore all over and feeling a warm dampness around me. Looking down, I saw that there was a large wet spot in the middle of the comforter. My first thought was "Oh crap, I pulled a stitch while I was asleep and started bleeding again" After realizing what had really happened, I almost wished that I had. I had wet the bed.
"Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap" I stuttered, feeling panicky. "I can't believe I did that. I've never done that. They're going to be furious." Jumping out of bed, I started looking around for a place to hide the wet sheets, but all the while a little part of my mind was insisting "There's no way that will work." "Slow down" I thought to myself "First things first, get dressed" Only then did I notice that I was much much smaller than I had been the previous evening. There was no way that my pants were going to fit me, they were just too damn BIG. Then, to make matters worse, I heard someone coming down the hallway towards my door. That was the last straw, my desperation and panic got the better of me, and I just sat down in the middle of the floor and started to sob quietly.
Coming into the room, Jennifer saw Nick sitting in the middle of the floor looking miserable. The large wet spot in the middle of the bed and the ridiculously oversized pants that he was sitting in told the rest of the story. Coming inside, she sat down on the floor next to him and asked "What's the matter little one?"
"It's not fair. I'm confused, what's happening to me? I've shrunk, I hurt all over, and now I wet the bed and you're going to be mad at me." I sniffled, beginning to cry again. "I'm scared Jennifer" "Oh honey," she replied, sitting me on her lap and scratching me behind the ears "It’s going to be all right. You've had a tough couple of days, but we'll take care of you now."
"We forgot to tell you yesterday, whenever someone chooses to stay here in our world, they regress in age and size to a much younger state. Your accident was probably just a result of you not being used to your new body. Now come on, let's get you cleaned up for breakfast." With that, she picked me up and set me on a table along side the wall. "Now wait right there, I'll be back in a minute" she said, leaving the room. While she was gone, I occupied myself playing with my tail. After a little bit of practice, I had pretty good control of it too. I was so absorbed with this wondrous new toy that I didn't notice that Jennifer had come back in until she playfully grabbed my tail as I was swishing it around. "Gotcha!" she said, tickling my nose with the end of it.
"Now, you're probably not going to be happy with this" she commented, pulling a box of diapers and a tube of diaper cream from behind her back. "You're right" I said, trying to jump off the table and make a break for the door, but getting caught before reaching the floor. "Oh come on," Jennifer said, somewhat exasperated by my squirming "It's not as bad as all that, and I can't have you ruining my furniture." Sensing that she wasn't going to relent on this (and also because I felt really bad about wetting her bed) I gave up on the escape attempts and submitted to the diapering. Jennifer quickly wiped off my diaper area with a baby wipe, added powder, threaded my tail through the back of the diaper, and that was that. "There, that wasn't so bad, now was it?" She stated. "Now we just need to find something for you to wear, It seems that your pants are a bit too big for you now…" Digging around in the dresser for a while, she pulled out a green footed sleeper. "You've got to be kidding" I said, shaking my head emphatically. "Well, your old clothes are too big, not to mention dirty and ripped up, and Matthew's clothes won't fit you either, so that leaves…This!" She said cheerfully, holding up the sleeper. "I am absolutely positively not going to wear that." I said pouting. "Well, you need to wear something to breakfast, and besides, I think it will look really cute on you." She countered. "Fine, but this had better be the best damned breakfast I've ever had."
On the way to the kitchen, Jennifer asked me "What do you usually eat for breakfast?" "Cold pizza and beer, typically" I responded. "Young kits don't get to drink alcohol here, I guess you'll just have to settle for cinnamon rolls and orange juice." "If I must." Sitting down to breakfast, I noticed that I hadn't seen Matthew yet today. "Hey Jennifer, where's Matthew?" "Oh, he's at work already. He won't be back until this evening." Breakfast was great, cinnamon rolls have always been one of my favorites. Eating without making a mess proved to be harder than I thought it would be. I guess that I wasn't quite used to my new body yet, and I somehow managed to get the cinnamon roll icing all over my muzzle and down my chest fur. Jennifer sat across from me, smiling and just watching me eat. Being watched like that made me somewhat nervous "What?" "I've always wanted to have children, and you're such a cute little kit" she replied as I finished eating. "Of course now you're going to need a bath…" Jennifer pointed out while clearing the table. My ears perked up at that, this was beginning to sound like another little surprise. But she did have an undeniable point, so I chose not to protest, which wouldn't have done any good anyway.
After finishing with the dishes, Jennifer took my hand and led me upstairs to the bathroom. I hopped up on the countertop by the sink and watched as Jennifer started the water running in the tub. "The people at the hospital said that you would have to be careful bathing so you don't accidentally hurt yourself or irritate your stitches." Jennifer instructed while unwrapping my various bandages. Looking in the mirror, I saw that things looked to be healing up fairly well, though you could see where a few spots had bled a little, and it had dried and matted my fur. After finishing with the bandages, Jennifer told me to hop on into the tub. The warm water was soothing, and I could feel myself starting to loosen up and relax for the first time since I arrived. As I closed my eyes and began to settle in for a good long soak, I felt Jennifer begin to wash my headfur. I started to tell her that I could bathe myself, but thought better of it, it was too nice just to lie there and soak in the warm water. After altogether too short a time, she was done, and I found myself grudgingly getting out of the bath.
"Now hold still while I dry you off." She said, vigorously drying my fur, working around my various injuries, then gently blotting them dry. After Jennifer finished, she got a box of gauze out of the cabinet, and began re-wrapping my collection of cuts and gashes. "Let me know if any of these hurt…" After finishing up with the bandages, Jennifer led me back to my room for a new diaper and the now familiar green footed sleeper. "You know, I think that we're going to have to go to the mall this afternoon and pick up some more stuff for you" Jennifer mused, as we walked to the living room.
Sitting me down on the couch, Jennifer said "I've got some things to do before we go, so why don't you watch a movie. By the time it's over I'll be done and we can go. How's that sound?" "Great" I responded happily "What movies do you have?" "Let's see" she replied as we sat down together in front of the TV cabinet and began sorting through tapes, eventually selecting Disney's Robin Hood, which had always been one of my favorites when I was little.
About half way through the movie, I began to get a funny feeling, and before I knew what was happening, I began to wet my diaper. I couldn't help it, it just kind of happened. It made me feel ashamed, wetting the bed was one thing, I was asleep, and didn't even know it, but having an accident during the daytime felt different, like I should have been able to do something about it. I figured that it would probably be better if I went and told Jennifer rather than having her discover on her own, so I started looking for her, eventually finding her in the dining room going through the mail. "Uh, Jennifer? I kind of had an accident." To my surprise, she wasn't even annoyed. "I thought you would. That's why you're in the diapers, remember? Now lets go get you changed." As we went back to my room, I discovered that the diaper had gotten quite a bit heavier, and was making walking more difficult. "Hop up on the table little guy…"
"Let's see, We'll need to get more diapers to begin with, more powder and diaper cream, and some new clothes" Jennifer said, talking to herself while changing me. "Do you think maybe we could find something with pockets?" I queried. "We can always look, but I'm not sure whither they put pockets in clothes in your size." Replied Jennifer. "There, all done. Now how about some lunch?" We proceeded to the kitchen, where Jennifer began to look through the refrigerator. "What do you want for lunch? I know, how about a nice garden salad?" "Vegetables aren't food, Vegetables are what food eats." I commented "Do you have hamburgers?" "Well, aren't we the unrepentant little carnivore?" Jennifer quipped, laughing. "Do you like macaroni and cheese?" "Sure," I replied "That would be great."
Being very careful, I managed to eat lunch without making as big a mess as breakfast, but I still got just about as much macaroni on my fur as I did in my mouth. Jennifer had opted to have a salad for lunch, sitting across from me and daintily eating, while smiling good naturedly all the while at my continued mishaps with the macaroni. "You know, we might consider picking up a bib at the mall to, for just until you get used to your new body a little better. Otherwise I'll end up having to bathe you after every meal."
"That reminds me Jennifer, where is the mall anyway? I don't remember seeing it when we drove out here yesterday." "You actually slept through most of the car ride, so I wouldn't be surprised if you don't remember seeing it." She replied. "Think of it as an adventure." Jennifer proceeded to clear the table, then wiped the cheese sauce off my muzzle. Then, walking me over to the sink, she instructed me to wash my hands. "Okay, I think that's everything. Ready to go?" "Uh huh."
The ride into town was fun. Jennifer put on a classical music station, which got old pretty quickly, but she more than made up for it with a constant stream of commentary about whatever came to mind. Soon enough we arrived at the mall, which looked much like its human counterparts, except that it was landscaped a lot nicer than most human malls. "Hold onto my hand" Jennifer instructed while walking through the doors "You could get lost in here pretty easily." I could see why: the mall was filled with every age and species imaginable. A pair of teenage cats coming out of a record store, a middle aged bear walking into an electronics store, I hadn't thought of it before, but there are a LOT of different species…
We walked along until Jennifer found a children's store. Going inside, we were greeted by a grandmotherly raccoon. "Good afternoon, can I help you find anything?" She asked Jennifer. "Yes, this little guy needs some new clothes…" It went downhill from there. After about ten minutes of "What about this? Oh, that would look simply adorable…" I got bored, tuned them out and started wandering around the store. After picking out a number of different things, Jennifer had me try them on, leading to a whole new round of "Isn't he cute?" which I resignedly ignored. After checking out and leaving with a considerable pile of new stuff, Jennifer decided that we were done, and we started heading back to the car.
On the way out, we were passing a toy store, when something caught my eye. Scrambling over to the window, I saw a little red and white stuffed fox in the display. Now I never really had any use for stuffed animals, but for some reason I fell in love with the little guy. I had to have him. Jennifer, who was watching me stand there with my nose pressed up against the glass told me to wait outside for a minute, then, with a sparkle in her eyes disappeared into the store, to emerge with a new bag. "Shopping can be a little boring, but since you were such a good little kit, I got you a present!" Jennifer whispered conspiratorially. Reaching into the bag, she pulled out the little fox. Taking the fox, I gave her a huge hug, burying my face in her fur. "I take it you like him?" Jennifer said, rhetorically. "Let's go home, I have to start getting dinner ready before Matthew gets home…"
I spent most of the ride home absorbed in playing with the fox, who I decided to name Jack. For some reason, it seemed to fit the little guy. Jennifer listened to me indulgently as I narrated Jack's adventures in the mysterious realm of the back seat. After getting back home, I picked up where I left off watching Robin Hood while Jennifer bustled around getting dinner on to cook. After she was through, Jennifer sat down with me to watch the rest of the movie. At first I was a little self-conscious sitting on the opposite side of the couch. "Come over here and sit next to me silly" Jennifer said, smiling at my formalness. Moving over, I quickly forgot my hesitancy and soon ended up snuggled up in her lap, absorbed in the movie. It must have been because of our outing, but for some reason I was pretty tired, and spent most of the end of the movie half-asleep in Jennifer's lap, hugging Jack.
After Robin Hood and Maid Marion rode off into the sunset, Jennifer gently shook me awake. "Huh? Wha…" "The movie's over. Why don't we go get you changed into something new for dinner?" Jennifer asked. "Okay." I said slowly, not quite awake. I noticed that I had been sucking my thumb, which surprised me a bit. Picking up Jack I followed her back to my room.
"Let's take a look at what we've got" Jennifer said, digging out the pile of clothes we had bought at the mall and spreading them out on the bed. We spent the next couple of minutes going through the clothes. "None of these have pockets" I sighed. "What am I supposed to do with my change or my lighter?" "Well, the change won't buy you anything here anyway, and kits shouldn't have lighters, so THAT you can give to me until you're older" Jennifer said, holding out her hand. The look on her face brooked no argument on the matter, so I went over to my old pants and dug it out. It was just a cheap disposable that I used for lighting my backpacking stove, so I didn't mind losing it. "I'll be right back" Jennifer said, taking the lighter and walking out in the direction of the kitchen.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, I quickly dug out my knife (a Linder switchblade a friend had brought me from Germany, which I would have minded losing…) and stuck it under the dresser. Sure enough, upon returning, the first thing Jennifer said was "Let's see what else you've got in your pockets…" And of course all she found was a collection of small change, gum wrappers and other pocket litter. Annoyingly, I had managed to lose my wallet in the crash, and hadn't been in any condition afterwards to think to get any of my stuff off of what was left of the motorcycle.
Satisfied that I didn't have anything else that posed a threat to life and limb, Jennifer and I resumed digging through the clothes, eventually settling on a pair of shorts, which, much to my chagrin, didn't do an adequate job of covering up the fact that I was wearing a diaper. Just as I was going to complain about this, we heard a door slam downstairs, and Matthew's voice yelling "Jennifer, Nick, I'm home!"
Heading back downstairs, we found Matthew in the front hall, hanging up his coat. "Dinner is just about ready, it will be out by the time you two get cleaned up." Jennifer said. "Okay" Matthew said to her, then "Come on little guy, let's go wash up" to me, walking with me to the bathroom. After washing his hands, Matthew watched with amusement as I stood on my tiptoes trying to reach the sink, then picked me up and held me by the sink so I could wash up too.
Sitting down at the table, Jennifer told us "We're having steak" as she set them out on the table. It looked delicious, and I quickly dug in. "Slow down, it's not going anywhere" Matthew laughed. As hungry as I was, I got full before I finished the whole thing. "May I be excused?" I asked Jennifer. "Is that it?" She replied, looking at the remaining steak. "I'm full." "Okay, you can be excused, but stay in the living room so I can call you for dissert." I went into the living room and lay down on the couch to play with Jake for a while, throwing him up in the air and catching him. After throwing him up particularly high, I stretched up to catch him, and felt an odd feeling in my fingertips. Looking at them, I tried it again, to see little pointed claws extend out of my fingertips. "I didn't know I had those…" I mused to myself, trying to retract and extend them again. Concentrating on playing with my newfound claws, I was surprised when a voice behind me said, "Would you like some dissert?" Startled, I jumped a little. "Sorry, I didn't mean to sneak up on you like that." Jennifer apologized. "Now why don't you come have some ice cream with us?"
Returning to the table, I found that the remains of my steak had been replaced by a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I wasn't all that hungry after having eaten such a large dinner, but you really can't say no to ice cream. It was really good, and before I knew it, the bowl was empty. Noticing that I had made a bit of a mess, Jennifer licked the back of her paw and proceeded to wipe off the ice cream that I had gotten on my face. "I did it again, didn't I?" I said sighing a little. "I guess I'm not quite used to the nose yet…" "That's all right" Jennifer replied "some people find it quite endearing. I know, why don't you go in the living room and show Matthew Jake?"
"Yeah!" Eagerly grabbing Matthew's hand, I led him into the living room. "This is Jake, Jennifer got him for me at the mall. He's a fox too!" "Yes, he sure is!" Matthew exclaimed in a tone of wonder, laughing indulgently. "See, he's red and white, and he has a tail just like me" I went on rapidly "and he's got brown eyes. What color eyes do I have Matthew?" I questioned. "Let's see" Matthew commented, moving towards me, his muzzle almost touching mine. Then, eyes widening in mock surprise, he declared "Green!" pointing a finger in the air like it was the greatest scientific discovery of the era. This struck me as outrageously funny, and I began giggling. It must have been contagious, because Matthew started laughing too. "What's so funny in here?" Jennifer asked, poking her head through the doorway. "Nothing!" We both replied in unison, which brought on another fit of giggles. Rolling her eyes at us, Jennifer muttered "Honestly…" and then disappeared back into the dining room.
Finally calming down, a thought struck me. "Hey Matthew, where do you work?" "Hmm? Oh I'm a patent lawyer." "Really? That might be fun." I commented. "Actually it's pretty boring. I'll have to take you to my office sometime…" Matthew mused. "I'd like that."
Coming back to the living room, Jennifer declared "Bedtime for little Kits!" Then scooping me up carried me upstairs to my room. Sticking a finger under my diaper's elastic and discovering it to be dry, Jennifer began rummaging through the new clothes again, this time coming up with a blue pair of PJ's, decorated with fluffy little clouds. After changing me into them, Jennifer commented "I think that's everything. Goodnight little kit." Then, she patted my head and left, quietly closing the door behind her.
As I lay in the dark, snuggled up to Jake, I began thinking about the events of the day, and my situation in general. Sure, things were different, and even a little scary, but Jennifer and Matthew really seemed to care about me a lot, and after considering the matter for a while, I decided that I trusted them completely. I was sure that they would take care of me, so I really didn't have anything to worry about. "I think I'm going to like it here." I mumbled to myself quietly as I drifted off to sleep.
I was walking through the woods on a beautiful spring day. Everything was lush and green, the flowers were blooming, and there was a slight breeze blowing through the treetops. Coming upon a sapphire blue lake, I sat down along the banks, and watched the iridescent gems that were dragonflies flit across the placid water. Stretching out on the ground and feeling the moss beneath my paws, like a cool, velvet carpet, I thought to myself "It's so peaceful here. I wish Matthew and Jennifer were here to enjoy this with me…" Then, without warning, clouds began to roll in, the sky darkened, and the wind began to pick up. "It feels like rain," I said to myself, standing up to head back home. Walking back the way I came, I expected to come to the house quickly, but instead, the farther I went, the less and less familiar things got. A nagging thought began to form in the back of my mind: "This isn't the path, I'm going the wrong way." The sky had grown an ominous shade of black. Suddenly, there was a rumble of thunder, and a crack of lightning split the sky. Beginning to get worried, I began to run back towards the house, but suddenly the path disappeared completely beneath my feet. Panicking, I began to run blindly through the woods, trying to find the path, the house, Jennifer and Matthew, anything familiar and safe.
I woke to someone gently shaking me. "Wake up honey." It was Jennifer, and I had never been so glad to see someone in my life. "I had a bad dream" I sniffled. Sitting down next to me on the bed, Jennifer asked if I wanted to tell her about it. Nodding, I began to relate it to her.
"…And I was lost, and couldn't find my way home!" I finished slowly, beginning to become drowsy again. "It's okay Nick, you are home." Jennifer whispered lovingly, rubbing me behind the ears. "Here's Jake to be your watch fox. Now why don't you try to go back to sleep?" Jennifer suggested, taking my hand and sitting down by the side of my bed. "Good night little one."
"Good night mommy." I answered quietly, drifting off to sleep. The last thing I remember seeing as I fell asleep was her smile, and a single tear running down her cheek.
To be continued…