|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
Breath coming in great white plumes. The bitter cold of winter, confusing scent of snow and pine.
Dim memories, no name
[canis lupis arcticus]
and no history.
Far from the others, who keep together for safety. Hunting in packs, nature's murderers. Living in bloodthirsty subsistence, sanctioned by life's own decrees. Air heavy with scent of fear and blood. Howls in the distance, thundering of hooves.
The wolves have found a herd of caribou. Scent of wolfpack obscured by snow. Nostrils full of thick canine smell, acrid with the sting of urine and the sweetness of blood.
Powerful back legs churning up snow. Crest the white-draped rise. Nature's criminals run amok in the wilderness. Stealing life from the defenseless herd.
Criminals like himself.
[it is the opinion of this court that you have been found]
White puffs of breath trailing behind, down the slope. Tongue lolling over yellowed teeth. Loose drift of snow piled up to the haunches. Chittering of birdcalls through the silence, could be close by.
[guilty on all counts of murder without
Unmistakable aroma of large omnivore. Just at the edge of the drift, a thick track through the deep snow. Scent of sweat, of heavy
breathing. Unknown animal, surely too large for one alone to tackle.
[murder most foul]
Skirt the edge of the track. Heading for deeper woods, slinking low, tail close to the ground. Avoid the unidentified omnivore, too large to defend against. Seek the rest, lost in the white blindness of the snow.
Scent of wolf is strong, lining the edge of the stream.
Not the one sought; this is another. Many wolves, too many to fight. Scent distinct, on enemy territory. Close to the border.
Calls coming through the woods, not a bird, and not a wolf. Something unknown, large. Strange, gobbling call, babbling strangeness
[i think he went this way]
which is not familiar.
[well check the beacon he must around here somewhere]
Cringing, not daring to whine. On the edge of enemy wolf territory, death to cross over. Hunted by huge unknown beasts.
[there i see his track it goes into that cluster of trees]
Sounds of calls are louder. Unable to wait, start off downstream at a lope.
[i see it]
Ducking under a low-hanging branch laden with snow
[wait did you hear that]
and finding a thicket. Barren of leaves but heavy with snow and fallen branches. Good cover. Crouch down low in the dim light, ears attuned to any sounds.
[over this way]
[is he in range]
[who knows try it]
A small click as of a snapping branch. Yelp in sudden pain and shock. Belly on fire, back legs now cold and numb. Scrabble with front paws, try to stand up.
[well what do you know he was]
[come on help me find him]
Licking fur of belly to quell the pain. Helpless without use of legs. Hearing sounds of large footsteps, ever nearer. Scent of an unusual omnivore approaching, one that
[a woman wearing perfume]
can't be identified.
Snap of a branch, close by. Turn from licking belly to face the sound. A huge beast with gold fur. Something in its paws
[a metal box with an antenna]
which smells dimly of fire. Another beast coming nearer,
[another human, a male]
holding a long grey branch that crackles like thunder and flames in the sky.
[here you are you little devil]
From the female, coming nearer, kneeling. Bare teeth, growl, menace.
[do you think he recognizes us]
[i doubt it]
[we should probably sedate him now]
Female still kneeling, reaching out one paw. No scent of hostility or fear.
[this will only take a minute then you can come home with us]
Everything going dark, numb.
Cold, hungry, tired, blind, deaf.
Lying on a flat piece of
in a room with strange smells. Cold. Dim smells, dull and indistinct. A pervading strange- ness which doesn't go away. Instinct is to run, to flee.
I am cold.
Startling awareness of self. Awareness or recognition? Strange and familiar.
I am hungry. And I'm tired.
Strange sounds in the room seem now less alien. A low-pitched call from close by that repeats regularly
[it sounds like a heart monitor]
recalls old, forgotten memories.
Who am I?
[humans] entering the room, chattering
themselves. Talking. Communicating. Words which somehow are just beyond the grasp of recognition.
[it looks like our subject is awake at last] I'm scared.
[we should probably begin the implants now] [get the computer ready]
A flood of memories crashing in. Sights, sounds, smells, all invading the brain and making themselves permanent residents. Words. Faces. Names. Nouns, verbs. Places.
My name is
Tongue not ready to speak yet, a syllable blurts out lamely, a grunt.
[it looks like
it's progressing fairly well, Doctor."
"That's good. Make sure you monitor his
responses to additional neural stimuli for a few days. We want to make sure he re-integrates into society without any brain damage to hold him back."
[the voice of the woman in the woods]
I try to hold back the invasion of my mind from the thoughts and memories which are gushing back into me. Soon I discover that it is simply impossible to resist the
of new data, and I cringe and whimper on the examination table, plucking at my blind- fold with clumsy fingers.
Soon the flood becomes a slow trickle, and it is impossible to tell when it ceases, lost as it is under the sloshing sea of memory which now fills my mind.
Hands, strong and feminine, untie the blind- fold behind my head, recalling a dexterity which I had long since forgotten. Light streams into my unprotected eyes, and a dizzying sensation of depth assaults my brain. Bright, foreign shades
dance madly in stereoscopic vision before me, and the gut-wrenching vertigo of distance and dimension threatens my thin grasp on nausea.
"It looks like you're over the worst of it now," the woman tells me. "You'll have to wait for the rest of your adjustments to come naturally, in time."
I manage to hold on for a few moments
longer, and the vertigo subsides.
"You've spent the last ten years of your life as an Arctic wolf," the woman says. "You're bound to notice a few small changes in your perception of the world. We find that the vertigo of having depth perception is the most difficult to adjust to."
I look foggily in her direction and notice that she was no longer clad in golden fur. It must have been a trick of the light before, for now I recognized that only her hair, a long, honey- flaxen blonde, was of that color.
"You'll also probably notice soon a change in your time perception," she explained. "As a wolf, you lived very much in the present mo- ment, but that will change with time."
She was clad in a pale blue-grey jumpsuit, and something was inscribed upon one breast pocket which I couldn't quite wrap my head around.
She noticed my interested stare and blushed ever so slightly. "My name is Doctor Mauer," she explained to me in a firm contralto. "But you may call me Elke."
Again I grunted. This time I had the presence of mind
to be embarrassed. I felt my cheeks turn red and hot, and I looked away from her.
"Don't try to speak just yet," Dr. Mauer cautioned me coolly. "You haven't rebuilt the muscular coordination yet for speech, or, in fact, for even walking and feeding yourself."
I nodded clumsily in response, not trusting myself for much else.
"You will spend a few months in physical therapy before you're released," she smiled. "I will be in charge of your rehabilitation. Or at least this phase of it, anyway."
My question must have shown out on my
face, because she responded, "You've already completed ten years of your rehabilitation, you know. You might not remember it yet. We're just getting you fit to re-introduce you to the rest of society."
Her eyes narrowed, and she lowered her
voice. "Do you remember what it was that happened before you were a wolf?"
I shook my head.
[it is the opinion of this court that you have been found guilty on all counts of murder without remorse, murder]
"You were found guilty of five counts of first-degree murder," Dr. Mauer told me. "Your sentence was to
[most foul, and are hereby sentenced to
spend ten natural years on the surface in a form appropriate to your crime]
spend ten years of your life as a wolf. Up on the surface."
With that, she cast her eyes down and left the room without another word.
Rehabilitation took months.
At first I wasn't agile or coordinated enough to even sit up on my own. After the change of form, I was granted a body, Dr. Mauer told me, much like the one I had previously had; at least the genetic material was taken directly from samples of my previous body. I was healthy, well-built, and, seemingly, fairly young--which was a consequence of genetic alteration.
Dr. Mauer, and the lab technician whom I had seen her with out in the forests, so long ago, oversaw my gradual development. I spent a great deal of time in the main laboratory area, concentrating on simple muscle movements-- arms, hands, fingers--and speech.
It was halting at first, painfully slow, and I felt keenly the passing of time. In the endless artificial night after the lights timed out, I lay in my appointed bed, wanting more than anything to be working on my motor control, though I knew I could only accomplish so much in the course of a single day.
Every day stretched out in a similar manner, and as I trained my errant, long-unused tongue in the arts of speech, I was at last able to ask her the questions that would fill the huge, dark gaps in my memory.
"Where is this exactly?" I asked one after- noon. Four hours of speech therapy left my entire face feeling tired and rubbery, but my natural curiosity was not to be quelled.
Elke didn't look up from her work. She was hooking a few small electrodes to my right thigh. "We're in the Alaskan colony."
"Alas--Alaskan colony? Where's that?"
"In the West Pylon, Deep Two," she replied, and got to her feet. "Are you ready for a little test?"
I nodded tiredly. "Where is that?"
Elke paused at her computer console, a maze of lights, input controls, and screens. It was the primary device we had been using to exercise the muscle motor pathways; now it was preparing to exercise my legs. "Where?" she asked me slowly. "You mean where in Alaska?"
"No," I said. "Where is Alaska?"
She laughed, a merry tinkling sound, and her eyes shone with bright good humor. "I forgot. You haven't been reacquainted with local geo- graphy yet. Alaska is...well, it's something like a huge icy wilderness. Sort of a rounded penin- sula, I suppose. The colony is deep in the interior of the territory, away from the coast. Some- thing about seismic activity, I believe."
Most of that was sheer nonsense, and I had to ignore it, but at least I had some picture of my present location. "And we're underground?"
She nodded and smiled. "Very good. Human- kind moved underground about five centuries ago to allow the Earth's ecology to restore it- self. A period of rest, one might say."
I struggled with the numbers of humanity that seemed dimly familiar. "But...there isn't enough room for the entire--"
"Population?" she prompted the word I was grasping for.
"--yes--to live underground, is there? I mean, aren't there millions of people?"
"There were billions," she said in a voice of infinite sadness, "until the plagues hit us."
I sat in shocked silence.
"One plague after another," she said with a melancholy sigh. "Immune deficiency viruses, keratonin viruses, collaganophages--it was just one after the other until humankind was just a breath away from extinction.
"Those of us left moved underground."
"I--" I halted. "I don't remember this." "Of course not," she said. "This was five centuries ago. I imagine that there are about a million of us, all told, around the world. Most of us are in North America and Western Europe... those names won't mean anything to you. We lost contact with the Oceania colonies fifty years ago. We live in underground colonies, and we hope that, given enough time, Earth can renew itself."
"I didn't know," I said in a small voice. "One of the viruses--the most deadly--was a form of xeroderma pigmentosa. That's a genetic disorder which prohibits the body's cells from being able to absorb ultraviolet radiation, and it usually results in people literally being sunburned to death, even under fluourescent lights like these. The skin--"
Elke trailed off, and I could see something in her eye. She wiped her face with her strong, slender fingers, brushing away the wet streaks, and did her best to give me a sunny smile.
"Why don't we talk about something else?" she asked me. Although her voice was close to breaking, the smile never left her face, or her eyes.
"All right," I agreed, and glanced down at the wires trailing from my thigh. "How about if we see what we can do to get me up and walking again?"
Our conversation after that turned to a more relaxed, informal discussion of the physical ther- apy involved, and Elke's bedside manner was once again the cool and confident physician.
Then, as she was beginning to disconnect the bundles of thin colored wires from my leg, I had another question for her.
"It sounded as if, a while ago, when you were talking about that--that virus," I said hesitantly, "that you knew somebody that once was..."
"I did," she said, and I saw her make a distinct effort to shoulder that memory aside. "It was a long time ago."
"But I thought you said it was five centuries," I said carefully, not wishing to upset her.
"It was," Elke repeated, "a long time ago." I goggled at her.
"You certainly don't look that old," was the first thing I said.
"It's true," she said sadly. "The genetic shift is sufficient to keep us young, if applied in a judicious manner. I've lived about fourteen lives in the past five hundred years. We use samples of genetic material to regrow new bodies for ourselves, and our population increases slowly. We can only grow as fast as we can expand the underground complex, even though we have plenty of fertile couples."
She looked so uneasy at the last sentence, I had to ask, "And you aren't? Is that what bothers you?"
"No, I'm quite fertile," she said with an ironic laugh. "We took the genetic base for the woman I now am from our emergency supply of blood, which we had stored in case of medical emer- gencies. Oh, no," she added with another, more cynical laugh, "I'm fertile all right."
"Then what's wrong?" I asked her bluntly. "I've lived fourteen lives," she said in her usual crisp voice. "But this is the first time I've lived as a woman.
"Now let's get you back in bed."
I could only stare at her.
After that, my progress was rapid. Simply being capable of standing on my own was an incentive enough to continue working on my recuperation, even beyond that of the required daily regimen. As I was exercising my various muscle groups, more for the easy coordination that repetition brought than for the strength, I noted that many of the young men and women whom had been with me at the beginning, at one time or another, had since drifted away, and new faces began to appear slowly.
Elke had not mentioned anything further to me about her own recent transformation to the body she was presently inhabiting, so I had not found the courage to approach that subject with her again. It was my guess, however, based on what she had told me, that the men and women who were re-building their muscular coordin- ation were also recent transformees. I simply kept my eyes open and watched for any oppor- tunity to renew the conversation.
The opportunity occurred as we were in the physical therapy pool--a large enclosed area of pale blue tiles, filled chest-high with purified warm water. It was in the water that most of my walking movements were carefully gauged; the buoyancy of the water helped keep me up- right and slowed any potential falls.
"Be careful, Jonathan," she called from the edge of the pool. "Keep your hand on the rail. You don't know how to swim yet."
"Yes, mother," I called back to her jokingly. The pool was equipped with row upon row of aluminum railings running lengthwise in aisles; it was in one of these that I was practicing my walking.
My confidence in my own ability had perhaps grown too much, and I felt inclined to show off a bit. I removed both of my hands from the rails and held them up for her inspection. "Look. See, I don't need the rails any more."
It was that moment that my feet chose to step on the grate for one of the water outflow ports, and the rush of bubbling water caused my footing to slip. The next thing I knew I was plunging toward the water, and Elke's concerned face suddenly flashed in alarm. "Jonath--"
Then her voice was cut off, and I was thrash- ing around in the oppressive silence below the surface, listening to the thundering of bubbles as my flailing arms sought the reassuring rails. Jerked my head up, hoping to find the surface. Clean air close by, must find the rails. Taste of water and
on the tongue. Raise head, must find air. Bright airburst of pain, left temple. Hollow underwater ringing of a long metal rail. Stunned for a moment. Instinct is to paddle furiously, escape the water.
But everything growing dark.
Feel an insistent tugging, jerking. One arm being pulled, shake it off. Enemies trying to take advantage of weakness.
Fight off as long as you can.
When I awoke, I was lying on my side, and coughing reflexively. There was a comforting warm weight above me, and through the sting of chemicals in my eyes I saw that it was Elke, leaning over me, her long blonde hair hanging in wet tangles over her beautiful, moon-like face. Below me I could feel the smooth tiles and the rough grouts of the edge of the pool. My waterlogged ears could dimly make out the echo and splash of water.
"Jonathan, are you all right?"
I coughed weakly in reply. "I'm going to keep --keep my hands on--the rail next time."
She gave a little cry of sheer relief and caught my face between her strong, slender hands. It was difficult to tell, but it almost appeared as if a tear from her eye were adding to the overall wetness of her face.
"You great big idiot, don't you ever do any- thing like that again, do you hear me?" she said. She was trying to retain her cool and collected bedside manner, but her eyes were saying other- wise. "You almost got yourself drowned. I had to give you mouth-to-mouth."
I grinned tiredly. The beginnings of one hell of a migraine headache were just beginning to form on the edge of my consciousness. "And I missed it?"
She colored slightly. "You big idiot," she said, more gently this time. "I was trying to save your life."
"Why?" I asked. "I'm a criminal. What does it matter?"
"You're a human life," she said with fierce passion. "If it truly didn't matter, you probably would have been executed instead of being trans- formed. Our race doesn't have enough people yet where we can afford a death penalty. Every life is precious--every single one! That's why I--"
She stopped suddenly, a look of horror on her face, and I was too weak to pursue the question. Fortunately, however, she continued on her own.
"That's why I was made a woman this time," she answered slowly. "Even though we have the resources to change a woman into a younger version of herself, the process can't replenish the supply of eggs a woman is born with. After she has been genetically re-born a dozen times or so, her supply of eggs is depleted and she can't have children any longer. When a man is made into a woman, however, he is granted a fresh supply to start. That's why," she added, half to herself. "That's why."
"What about men?"
"Men produce sperm in their bodies from the time they hit puberty until the day they die, if they're lucky," she sighed. "Unfortunately, we never had to use genetic restructuring for a survival technique, so we didn't know about the limitation on fertile ovulation. It's only been a relatively recent discovery. And since then, it's been the law that any unmarried woman is now required to take any man as her lover that asks her--we simply must take advantage of the fertility of the women while it lasts."
"Any unmarried woman?" I asked, a faint
ghost of my old grin returning.
She gave me a sad look, shaking her head. "It is a survival necessity," she said. "I don't entirely approve of it, even though I voted for it. It's the only thing we can do to carry on the race."
"What if a criminal were to ask?"
Elke was shaken momentarily out of her grim reverie into a tinkling, musical laugh. "If a crim- -inal were to ask, I'd have to agree. But, you see, I'm not an unmarried woman."
She showed me her left hand and on it, I saw a tiny tattooed mark, not unlike a wedding band made of purple ink, around her fourth finger.
"We haven't used gold for rings for many years," she explained. "It's far too precious a resource for use in circuitry. Tattooing the band on suffices for our needs, and the organic inks are much more plentiful."
"So who is the lucky man?" I asked.
"You've met him, though if you remember
him at all, you probably don't have any good feelings toward him. He's the one who hobbled you, up there on the surface. You tried to bite him on the trip back down, in the elevator, as he was injecting you again with sedative. His name is Dr. Ben Sommers."
I heaved a sigh and lay my head down on the tiles.
"I'll call for some orderlies, and we'll get you back to your rooms," Elke told me. Her voice grew far away as she stood up and headed for an intercom. "Just wait right there."
I sighed again. This new life wasn't turning out exactly as I might have wished it to.
The day after my accident in the therapy pool, I lay sluggishly in bed, trying to avoid eye contact with Dr. Mauer. It was not so much the blow to the head that bothered me; medicine in this day and age was incredible, even though I still couldn't bring my old recollections of it back to hand.
Nor had it been her revelation of marriage which, considering the constraints of the society and the importance of procreation and fertility, I should have seen coming. Why, indeed, would anyone with such obvious attractions remain celibate until the return of a single convicted criminal?
And, I had to admit to myself, as I replayed the scene in my mind, that her obvious attrac- tions were certainly fetching in her skintight suit that afternoon, as she crouched over me, wet clear through. The fabric of her jumper clung to her body as if it were a second skin, even more sheer, and in places translucent, than the most erotic vision of beauty I could recall.
Which, granted, after having spent ten years as a wolf, wasn't much; but it did not diminish her beauty or attraction one iota.
No, it had been the brief period, just after the first pain of contact in my skull, that was worrying me.
It had been terrifying at first, of course, and I had felt immediately the iron grip of panic and urgency that such an emergency brings about. But my responses were less rational, and more instinctive, than I cared to admit, and I tried for hours to convince myself that it was after the blow on the head that my thoughts began to revert back to those of the close, crowded lupine skull which a few short months ago had been my own.
Yet I knew, in my heart of hearts, that the blow had had nothing to do with it.
Nothing about the marriage was said between Dr. Mauer and myself again for some time, but it was obvious to me that things were not going well for her. Her husband, Ben, was one of the obstetricians in Deep Two, and rather naturally, the question of reproduction and fertility for this wing of the colony fell to his attention.
Since she never spoke to me about it, my clues were more indirect. Other patients, more familiar with her personal life--or lives--were heard to ask rather pointed questions about her husband, and, with a furtive glance in my dir- ection, she responded to them in whispers too low for me to hear.
Occasionally her husband called upon her at the physical therapy center, although he didn't enter any rooms where I was known to be. It was her attitude as she went to greet him that told me volumes about her emotions that, I liked to think, my fellow patients were not sensitive enough to have noticed. My past as a wolf had, I believed, taught me to be more aware, and to react more swiftly, than the others.
Elke Mauer was unhappy with her husband.
I learned, through casual conversation with other patients, that her marriage to Ben had now been about six years, and every year had been a childless one. It was unknown if they had ever found the occasion to consummate their mar- riage, although I suspected they had not.
Most of the patients who were in attendance were recuperating from transformations, as I was doing, although their therapy time was far less strenuous, and less intensive, than my own. They were gender transformations, for the most part: the lab was transforming the sex of every colonist in Deep Two in a desperate attempt to revive the flagging fertility.
Nearly all of the male patients I had spoken to were formerly women. All of them seemed optimistic about their new lives, and to have once again the opportunity to create new lives for the betterment of the Alaskan colony. Curious, and a little suspicious, of the completeness of their changes, I inquired if they were aware of any alteration in their sexual status: did they really think and act like men?
The answer was somewhat vague; although
extensive psychological testing had been done, the sexual profiles were ambiguous. Each of them believed himself to be a fully functioning male, and certainly responded adequately in the appropriate circumstances to erotic stimulation, but in myriads of other ways retained the same basic personalities as before.
This, the doctors had informed them, was perfectly natural--the medico's fallback position when no other explanation adequately covers the facts.
The male patients, however, were garrulous and eager to communicate to me the eagerness with which they anticipated being in bed with their husbands, many of whom were themselves in this very recovery room.
I spoke next to the female patients. Having always been male, at least as long as I could re- member, I was a little repulsed by the very idea of losing my masculinity to become a rounded, soft, helpless sperm receptacle and baby factory. My views, I was quickly told, were antiquated in the extreme; women were as perfectly capable as men in performing any of the necessary and vital tasks of the complex; it was their inherent value as life-givers that prevented them from doing anything dangerous or difficult.
To myself, I muttered that this same tired old argument had been handed down to the women of the world since the beginning of the world. It would only be a matter of time, I thought, until Deep Two was engaging in prostitution and wife-swapping.
Some of the women I spoke to, however,
seemed to realize this truth as well as I, and were simply too cowed by a thousand years of civility and politeness to admit it.
They were not as open or communicative as the men had been, and questions about sexual orientation were more often than not met with embarrassed blushes and too-bold denials than with calm acceptance. It was proof enough in my own mind: the truth of their change in sexuality was certain, and their helpless refusal to admit it bespoke the very lie they had been told about women's equality.
It also proved that the complex was dying. Even in the face of utter extinction, even in the light of their own dependence upon the ancient science of child-bearing, even under the looming shadow of death, these men refused to admit the reality that their bodies and minds were now transformed to female.
They knew it themselves with certainty-- even I could sense it. Their questions about my time as an animal, for example, were not asked about my running down a terrified caribou and pulling it into a bloody heap on the tundra with my claws and teeth. The women asked, with a certain morbid curiosity, about what it had been like to make love as an animal, wildly, in the wilderness, under the smell of the Douglas fir trees, for any to see. To fornicate without any passion; without a darkened budoir and a closed door; without any reason, or consequences, but blind animal lust.
But their eyes told me--as the eyes of Elke Mauer had told me by the pool--what they were really asking.
It was not my imagination that a woman's eyes grew dark and wet when she asked me if wolves felt love. My senses were not playing tricks on me when I saw another woman's
lids grow torpid and her breathing slow and heavy, as she questioned me about the way a male wolf attracted a mate to his side. And I could see the way the transformed husbands were singularly conspicuous about brushing up against me with their round soft bodies, claim- ing accident, or how they grew more and more accustomed to touching my arm with their small, delicate hands as we talked.
And yet, in the face of this, none would even come close to admitting that she was now a slave to her body's feminine lusts, little more than an animal herself, obedient to her newborn female passions.
Their refusal to admit came in the face of the warning by the laboratory that if no trans- formed woman showed any sign of eroticism to the proper stimuli, they would be heavily drugged with a powerful aphrodisiac which would destroy any remaining inhibitions which they might possess.
I think some of them looked upon the warn- ing as something of a relief--something on which to blame their female lusts, something out of their control, which would justify their refusal and protect whatever remained of their fragile male egos.
The complex was dying.
Though the beds in the therapy lab were
always full, the others nonetheless assured me that the rest of the complex was becoming more empty with each passing year. The need for children was critical.
I thought I knew a way I could help.
A few days later, I was allowed to leave the therapy facility.
They hadn't pronounced me entirely well, but that was of little concern to me. It was, to my mind, more important that this newfound freedom--if only for a few hours each day-- would permit me to execute my plan for aiding the colonists in their quest for fertility.
As the patients had warned me, the halls and corridors of Deep Two were empty, echoing tunnels of grim silence. Only a fraction of the population was housed here that the complex was capable of. The evidence was there that the need was urgent, there for all to see.
Since much of the colony was monitored by remote computers, it was no difficult matter to inquire casually at one of the control panels, in search of my destination. I could not yet read, but that seemed of little priority to the doctors attending my recovery. Happily, everything was controlled by voice, and I needed no literacy to learn what I needed to know.
It wasn't far.
When Elke Mauer opened the door to her
living quarters wearing a comfortably tattered bathrobe, I smiled as reassuringly as possible.
Her return look was questioning, even sus- picious. "Hello, Jonathan. What bring you out here today?"
I stepped inside her room before she had the presence of mind to block the door, still trying to maintain my calm and benevolent smile. "I just wanted to thank you for everything that you've done, Dr. Mauer," I said in a warm voice. "I must say I appreciate the attention you've given me. I wouldn't be here without you."
She smiled half-heartedly, backing away a few steps. "You're very welcome, Jonathan," was all she said. Her eyes were glittering warily, like a deer caught out in the open.
"I think that I can do something for you in return," I continued, still advancing.
"Oh?" she asked, barely audible. "What is that?"
"I know that the women of the complex
aren't happy with the new bodies the doctors have given them," I said, speaking low. "I know how much they are afraid of the changes in themselves."
She glanced away from me, her eyes flicking down at her bathrobe-clad form, then back to my own steady gaze. "Do you?"
"I know how much their bodies want to let them give in. And how much they're afraid to let themselves."
"Do you?" she repeated, huskily.
I took a sudden step forward and placed my hands on her shoulders, hands which had been exercising for five months at rigorous physical therapy. Young, strong hands, rebuilt from a perfect DNA pattern, like Elke's own hands.
"I can help," I assured her, and felt my grin slip. "I know how to help the women grow to like their new bodies."
"Jonathan," she said urgently, passionately. "This isn't the time, or the place, for this kind of--"
"Elke, you can't hide it," I told her roughly. "You try to keep it hidden from everyone, but I see the way you look at me. The way they all look at me. Don't tell me you don't want it."
"Jonathan!" she protested.
"You want it, Elke. Like I do," I hissed. "You and all of the others. You won't admit it, but I see how you are."
She started to struggle sweetly in my strong grasp, but she wasn't able to break free. She must not have been trying very hard to escape, secretly wanting to be caught.
"Jonathan, let go of me right now," she said coldly, with a tinge of
Or was it lust?
"Don't try to fight it, Elke," I urged her with as much sincerity as I could manage. My own breathing was getting difficult to control, as was hers. "You know that's only natural."
do this to yourself]
Sound from behind, hissing. Footsteps on a hard floor approaching. Turn quickly, letting go. Behind, a man, tall and muscular
[the one who had had the box in the woods] [benjamin help
me, he's gone crazy!"
striding in, look of thunder on his face. A trace smell of fear, dull but unmistakable. Act faster, grabbing a cold metal
and heaving it, muscles rippling.
A bright splash of crimson, a dull crash of bone and flesh, the thump of contact. Knocked to the floor, kicking wildly, brandishing the heavy shaft. Swinging, merciless, unrelenting.
[jonathan please forgive me
but I don't have any choice."
Woman standing close by, her face wet with tears. In her paws is a
[metal box with an antenna]
and her eyes bright and red.
A sudden pain in the belly, crippling, curling into fetal position. Numbness shooting through lower legs, paralysis. Agony. Whimper, helpless, woman sobbing softly. Trying to crawl away, pain too intense to try.
They came for me a few minutes later.
"Criminal Jonathan two-seven-seven-nine," the judge intoned, peering at me frostily over his glinting spectacles. "This court is most dis- pleased to find you again standing in the dock. Your previous period of rehabilitation for your most heinous crime has, sadly, proved insuf- ficient to adequately free you of your violent, anti-social tendencies.
"We find from the record, and the state- ments given by both the monitoring computer and the eyewitness on the scene, that there can be no room for doubt about your culpability for this crime.
"It is not the policy of the Alaskan colony, or of any other colony on the American continents, to permit a criminally violent or unstable indi- vidual to procreate and reproduce his dangerous mental imbalances in any offspring. It is for this reason that we do not utilize the sperm from your body prior to your sentencing, as we had previously, though you may not recall it.
"However, it is also not the policy of any colony known to this court to execute, for any reason, any member of the human race, even under circumstances such as you have clearly placed yourself, in this case.
"It is the opinion, therefore, of this court, since your guilt has been firmly established by computer record, that you be hereby taken from this place and sentenced to spend your next ten natural years on the surface in a form that is appropriate to your crime."
At this point, the judge cleared his throat. "There is, however, an alternative, given that the current shortage of viable and fertile men which this colony is facing is not merely urgent but critical." He fixed me with a glittering stare. "Your alternative, Criminal two-seven-seven- nine, is to have your body entirely redesigned with a female human DNA pattern. You would undergo a prefrontal lobotomy, and spent the rest of your life comatose, while your body bore children for the colony."
I shuddered at the alternative. "Do I get to choose?"
The judge nodded once to me, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Elke watching me with tears forming, welling up on her lower lashes.
"Then I will choose the surface," I said with finality. "A prefrontal lobotomy would be worse than death. At least on the surface, there is a chance."
"Then let it be known that it is the ruling of this court that Criminal Jonathan is to be taken forthwith to East Pylon, Deep One; changed; and released."
He struck the gavel on the platform.
Afterward, Elke approached me timidly, her eyes now full of tears. "Jonathan, why did you do it?"
"I'm sorry, Elke," I said, mindful of the two guards flanking me, watching me for any move I might make. "It was the heat of the moment, and I--"
"No," she interrupted, shaking her pretty head. "Why did you choose the surface? Up there, you're either eating, or you're food. You won't last three months up there."
I smiled roguishly. "Elke, I was up there for ten years as a wolf, remember? Chasing down my food every day, sleeping in the open, moving south with the herds when they went to graze."
She didn't say anything. She was biting her trembling lip to keep from bawling.
"I picked the surface, Elke," I said, "because I did it once, and I can do it again. You know me, Elke. I'm a survivor type."
Four hours later I was on my way to the
East Pylon, Deep One, with two other prisoners.
I was alone in the wilderness.
The cold air was like a vise around my rib cage, making it difficult to get enough air in my longs. My breath was coming out in great white plumes, drifting away through the trees. All around me, in the bitter cold of winter, were the confusing, intermingling scents of snow and pine.
My memories were growing dim, but this
time I had a name
[jonathan criminal two-seven-seven-nine] and a history.
They had released me alone, far from the two others I had been sent up with, who told me they were going to keep together for safety. It was only natural they wanted to be hunting in packs. They had been society's murderers, and now they plied their trade for nature. Having lived in coldblooded subsistence underground, sanctioned by mankind's own decrees of need and privation and preservation, they were now loose and at large, like I myself, in a snowy world where the air was heavy with the scent of fear and blood. There were triumphant howls in the vague distance, amplified by my preternatural animal hearing, and the thundering of panicked hooves across the tundra.
The wolves have found a herd of caribou. Somewhere close by I could detect the scent of a wolfpack, but it was obscured by falling snow and dead calm air. My nostrils were full of the thick, rank canine smell of wet fur. Scraggly brush, denuded of foliage, was acrid with the sting of urine, marking territorial boundaries, and with the sour-sweetness of old blood.
I trudged away through the snow, keeping the scent of the wolfpack on my right, and began to crest a white-draped rise above me, my powerful back legs churning up great drifts of powdery snow. In the distance, muffled by the gentle white blanket which hung over the entire world, I could hear the sound of nature's --and society's--criminals as they ran amok in the wilderness. Eagerly, excitedly chasing down any prey small enough or unwary enough to be caught. Eventually they would tire of rabbits and join the pack themselves and begin their murderous careers as criminals who steal life from the defenseless herd.
Criminals like myself.
[it is the opinion therefore of this court since your guilt has been firmly established by com- puter record]
I stood on the top of the snowy rise, trying to be very still, listening carefully to the language of the wild. White puffs of condensed breath were trailing behind me down the slope, mixing in with the obscuring snowfall. After my exer- tions of ascending the hillside, my breathing was labored, and my tongue was lolling over my new white teeth. It was, after all, a difficult climb. Even now, loose drifts of snow piled up to my haunches.
But there was nothing to ear except the
chittering of birdcalls through the silence. It was hard to tell, but it could be close by. Per- haps the birds were startled by the approach of some large predator.
[that you be hereby taken from this place and sentenced to spend your next ten natural years on the surface in a form that is appropriate to your crime]
A scent wafted in on a lethargic breath of air. It was the unmistakable aroma of a large omnivore. I could now make out, in a dim, color- less way, a thick track through the deep snow, just at the edge of the drift. I knew from my dim recollections that it might be a bear, al- though I could tell nothing from the smell. All I knew was that it was a large, unknown animal, and one surely too large for one such as myself to tackle alone.
I skirted the edge of the track, leaving my own behind me, heading for deeper woods. Whatever it was, I wanted to avoid the uniden- tified omnivore. What I needed was safety in numbers--I must seek the rest, lost somewhere in the white blindness of the snow.
As I reached the cover of the gray, shadowed forests, I picked up the sound of a babbling stream and made for it. It seemed strangely familiar, somehow, as if I had previously seen it during my other incarceration on the surface. On its banks, the scent of wolf is strong, lining the edge of the stream.
It was another wolfpack.
It was not the two others I had been brought up with; this is another, larger pack. Probably the same one I had heard tearing with wild, primitive joy, into the pack of caribou not far away. There were many wolves, to judge from the tracks and the smell: too many to fight. With the scent so distinct, there could be no doubt I was now on enemy territory or, if not, very close to the border.
My ears pricked up as I heard the sound of something coming through the woods. It was not a bird, and not a wolf. Something unknown, large, and reeking of stale rot and wet fur. It was a large omnivorous predator, but one I fervently hoped was one I could evade.
Cringing, tense as a bowstring, I stood at the edge of the stream, not daring to move or make a sound until I knew my opponent. I was on the edge of the territory of enemy wolves, and it was certain death to cross over. On all sides I was hunted by huge, savage beasts, both known and unknown.
The sounds of the approaching omnivore are louder now. Unable to wait any longer, I start off downstream, forcing myself to keep a gentle pace, conserving my ebbing strength.
I wondered if the wolves in the pack nearby were criminals, like myself, and wondered if the one which pulled me down had once been a man, a murderer in polite society, as I once had been.
And I wondered how long it would take for my antlers to grow in.
Survivor Type copyright 1998 by Anonymous.
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