The Transformation Story Archive Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...

Life is but...

by Brian Eirik Coe

Bob dropped the wrench to the concrete floor, hearing it strike the grease soaked pavement with a metal clang. He frowned at his hands in the light of the flashlight. They felt odd. It was an unfamiliar feeling, though not painful. It was almost like a mild electrical jolt, but the old Dodge he was under didn't have an electrical line here. Besides, he'd pulled the battery out last week.

He was reaching for the flashlight when he heard a knock nearby. "Hello! Anyone home?"

"Under here." Bob said as he slid himself out from under the antique pickup. "How are you doing, Sid?" He asked, recognizing his elderly neighbors voice.

Sid walked around the side of the pickup. "I'm doing fine, but I wanted to see if I could borrow your back for a few minutes. The wife picked up some stuff at a flea market. Damned if I know why, but I can't move it all myself."

Bob nodded and pulled himself up, nearly toppling over as he did so. For just a moment, his body felt like his hands had a moment before. Sid looked at him, concerned. "You okay? You look a bit unsteady."

Bob shook his head. "Just a blood rush. Guess I'd been on my back longer than I'd realized." He said casually, even if the feeling was strangely disturbing.

Sid just nodded and started walking out of the garage. "It's not much, but it's a few heavy pieces. Jenny claims that it's all antique." Sid just shrugged.

Bob chuckled as he followed, but stopped at the end of his driveway. Something wasn't right, but he couldn't place what it was. He looked around his yard, the outside of his house, the street. Nothing seemed wrong. It all looked normal. Not idyllic, but familiar at the same time as it wasn't.

Sid's voice broke his thoughts. "Bob?" he asked loudly, and apparently not for the first time. "You okay?"

He looked around the street, not sure what he thought was so wrong with the scene. With a tiny shrug, he nodded. "Sure. Just thinking I should paint the house."

Sid looked at him oddly, then at the house, then at Bob. "You've got vinyl siding."

Bob winced. "Oh. Right. I guess I shouldn't paint." He said slowly. "What do you need moved?" He asked quickly, changing the subject.

Sid just walked over the a small minivan backed into his driveway and pulled open the back. "This stuff. Damned if I know what Jenny is going to do with it all."

Bob peered in, suddenly struck by the image of a life-size Tetris game. Furniture, pictures and odds and ends were jammed into the Caravan from floor to ceiling, from the back of the drivers seats to the open back door. "How did they get this in there?" he asked, bewildered.

Sid shrugged and started pulling a couple of ancient washtubs off the top of the stack. "Who knows? I'm more interested in what some of this is." He said picking up a few of the items piled into the tub. "What the hell is this stuff?"

Bob frowned. "Looks like stuff for grooming horses." He reached in and picked a couple of them up. They were well used brushes and combs, some still showing bits of dark hairs.

Sid shook his head and looked into the van. "Great. Trigger is probably buried in there somewhere." He grumbled.

"Oh, just shut up and unload." Came Jenny's clear, strong voice as she walked up. "I didn't complain when you brought home that drill press last month." She grinned and shifted gaze. "Hi Bob. Sid roped you into helping?"

Bob chuckled. "Seems to be my job to help him." He said, remembering helping to haul in the huge drill press the month before. "But I don't mind." He reached into the van and pulled out a medium box. It was light and the smell of well oiled leather wafted from it. "What's with all this stuff?" he asked..

Jenny smiled. "I saw it and had to have it. Besides, one of my granddaughters is taking riding lessons this summer. Thought she could use some of this." She slapped her forehead. "Oh! I almost forgot. Just a second."

As she walked around the side of the van, Bob pulled out a stack of musty blankets. He paused when he looked at the hunter green fabric. It was oddly familiar. Just as familiar as everything else seemed wrong. He looked around the street again, still not finding what didn't seem right. Then it hit him.

It didn't look real.

The colors didn't look right. They almost seemed comically bright and mismatched. The air had an unfamiliar acrid smell. The neatly manicured lawns and well kept houses all had a fake quality. The only things that seemed real were the blankets in his hands. With a start, he realized that even his hands didn't seem real.

His thoughts were interrupted by Jenny. "Here you go, Bob!" she said happily. "I found this at the market and knew you'd love it!" she said, proudly holding an old oil painting, an image of a plow horse at work under a bright sky blazed across the canvas.

Bob took the picture a little cautiously. It evoked an odd feeling. The picture looked real, much like the blankets, but not the frame or canvas. "Thanks." He said quietly.

Jenny looked at him concerned. "You okay, Bob? You looked a little green."

Even if he felt like he was going insane, he didn't want to worry Jenny. "Uh, sure. I'm okay. I'm just a little..." he stumbled, not sure what to say.

The older woman's face took on a familiar look: Grandmother. "You're not fine, young man. Go home and lie down. I'll stop by in a little while to check on you." Bob started to protest but Jenny cut him off. "You work yourself too hard. Go home and lay down." She pulled a short riding crop from the box and waved it in a comically menacing way. "You don't want to cross me." She said in a good natured, if stern, tone.

Bob knew when he was licked. "Okay, okay. But shouldn't I finish here?"

Sid started to say something, but Jenny cut him off. "No. Sid can just unload it himself. Right, Sid?"

Sid, too, knew when he was beaten. "Yes, dear."

Bob left the pair and walked slowly back to his house. The truth was that he was feeling stranger and stranger by the minute. Even as he stepped through his front door, he didn't feel like he was home. It was more like a movie set. Everything had the appearance of reality, but none of the substance.

By now, he was trembling slightly. He walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, but had a hard time drinking it. He looked around the room. The white walls looked unreal, threatening. He felt his heart begin to race, his breathing getting more shallow. Backing his way out of the kitchen, he stumbled over a chair.

Bob jolting at the sound as the glass in his hand shattered. In a panic, He only knew that he needed to be outside. Leaping with all his might, he sailed through the large picture window, feeling the glass tear at him as the ground seemed to telescope away from him...


He woke with a start, breathing heavily. He slowly looked around the dim room, almost afraid of what he'd find, but it was all familiar.

It all looked real.

With a grunt, he pulled himself up to his feet and shook the sleep from his head. The memories of the dream were already fading. He took in a deep breath and felt calm again.

A familiar face appeared in the doorway. "Well, you're looking better this morning." Said the old woman. She held out a carrot. "Hungry?"

Bob gratefully took the carrot from her hand as she patted him on the neck. "At least you've got an appetite again. Hopefully the fevers broke. You had us worried, Bob."

"He doing okay?" came another familiar voice.

Jenny nodded as Sid joined her. "Looks like it. Maybe we can turn him out today. He's been in here a while."

Sid rubbed a hand on Bob's muzzle. "A little work would do him good, actually."

Jenny stamped a foot. "You are not making him tow that wagon today."

"He's the only draft horse we..."

"Sid..." she said dangerously as she held out another carrot to Bob.

He sighed. "Yes, dear."

The horse, the nightmare forgotten, just pulled the offered carrot into his mouth and chewed contentedly.

Life is but... copyright 1998 by Brian Eirik Coe.

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