|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
Passenger Pigeon 13
As I lie here, comptemplating my future, I can't help but think of my past, and the history of those events which led to today and all the tomorrows I have yet to face. My own participation in them is spotty, but prominent in their own way. I want to review the past, understand my place in it, before I begin to study the future.
On the first of September, 2014, Dr. Damon Devakis, head of a research team of seven working for Biogenix, released into the wild twelve passenger pigeons, six male, six female, on the one-hundredth anniversary of their original extinction. He then presented the San Diego Zoo with a thirteeth specimen and requested its best zoologists, biologists and geneticists to find any excuse they could to call his presentation a hoax. At the time, Devakis' comments met with healthy skepticism from the scientific community and only the briefest mention from the press. Even the forward-thinking publication for which I worked until recently refused to comment beyond a short synopsis of the event and the commentary that Devakis was known to many as a "brilliant man, but a crackpot." Oh, how backward we were then!
On October 19, 2014, the research team at the San Diego Zoo announced that Passenger Pigeon Thirteen was not a hoax. Devakis had, apparently, recreated the species from beyond the grave. Devakis became the man of the hour, as I'm sure many of you remember. To a standing-room-only press conference that night, he announced the patent of a technology that permitted the transformation of higher-order living beings into new species which could breed true, which the press quickly labelled "morphing" to save themselves writing time. While he refused to disclose details of the morphing process, he did stated that its cost was far below what anyone might estimate. The passenger pigeon, he declared, was but the first of what he dreamed were a long line of animals that could be brought back from the dead. The thylacine, the Eastern elk, the Oahu thrush and countless others could all be ressurected. He went on to explain some of the limits of morphing. Size, it seemed, was a factor only downwards; creatures that lost over half their mass suffered from disorders resulting from loss of nerve tissue, but mass could be added apparently without limit provided the internal structure was built to handle the weight. Even original species didn't seem to be much of a limit. While Devakis conceded that the closer to the desired form the original was, the cheaper the procedure became, he also claimed with pride that Passenger Pigeon 13 had originally been something other than a bird. In fact, all thirteen birds had been born male.
If Dr. Devakis had left the stage at that point, one wonders how history might have unfolded differently. Had morphing remained known as a means of reviving extinct species and protecting endangered animals, or even as a toy of the rich and famous for making new breeds of dogs to show, perhaps the storm of controversy that was to follow might have been avoided until it was too late to try to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Instead, though, the good doctor opened the floor to questions. After a few inoccuous queries involving the time, the cost and the success rate (twelve to sixteen hours with an outside recovery time of four weeks, from $25,000 and $50,000 depending on the severity of change, and hovering at 94% with only one death in over a hundred trial runs), one reporter -- yours truly -- made a painful mistake. She asked if this technology could be used on humans.
You see, I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, a devout follower of what has been dubbed by the popular media as the "furry subculture." Call me a deviant if you will, but I have never been truly happy with my appearance as a full-blooded human being. I always thought I was missing something. Several somethings, actually, like fur, a tail, an elongated muzzle, sharper teeth, and digitigrade legs. Specifically, those features which would be at home on a black panther. Don't ask me to explain why; I probably couldn't even if I tried. All I know is that that's what I see when asked to picture myself in my mind, and that never seeing it in the mirror was a source of more than a little depression over the years.
So, eager as I was to see if my dreams had really come true, I asked Dr. Devakis if he had considered morphing humans. His face fell like a punctured souffle. For two minutes, he hemmed and hawed, struggled to speak in vague generalities and waved his hands about in the air drawing abstract designs to distract us from the quiet affirmation that it had, indeed, crossed his mind. The floor of the lecture hall erupted in protest and shouting; obviously I wasn't the only reporter present to want to ask that question, though I was probably the only one to ask for that reason. Then, as if to hastily downplay his desire to be labelled another Victor Frankenstein, he said that he had yet to actively test on a human volunteer. He then abandoned the stage, essentially fled the lecture hall, and returned to Biogenix.
On October 24th, 2014, both houses of Congress sat and, in just five hours and seventeen minutes, hammered out and passed a bill outlawing the use of morphing technology on human beings. I suppose that at the time, it was an inevitable reaction. Small minds often fear that science is overstepping the boundaries that separate mere mortals from the so-called divine. They said it of abortion. They said it of voluntary euthanasia. They said it of cloning. They said it of reparative in utero gene therapy. And they said it here, proclaiming "an indefinite moratorium" on morphing human beings.
On October 25th, 2014, President Andrews signed the Protection of the Human Race Act into law.
On November 3rd, 2014, Dr. Devakis left the United States for Australia. He was quoted as saying, en route to the plane, "America looks too much to its past for inspiration. Australia looks to its future."
On December 19th, 2014, the Australian Parliament passed the Personal Rights Act; which established, among other things, the right to self-determination, the right to die, the right to deny health care to oneself, and the right to bodily self-expression. Australia then became the first country to directly establish morphing as legal, instead of merely not yet banned. Members of the Unified Australia Party, born of the ashes of One Nation and Fred Nile's Christian Democrats, vehemently opposed the Personal Rights Act, saying it would lead to a "perversion of everything for which Australia stands." Dr. Devakis gave a press conference lauding the Australian government's wisdom and declared the beginning of "not just a new chapter in human evolution, but an entirely new book." Rumours abound that Devakis cut a deal with the Australian Medical Association, receiving their support in exchange for the information necessary to duplicate his results, but to this day nobody at the AMA has come forward to support or deny those claims.
On December 20th, 2014, Graeme Taylor became the first patient registered with the recently-registered Biogenix Australia for morphing. The applicant list grew to over three hundred names by the close of the first day, and three thousand by the end of the first week. Seventy percent of those on the list were, like me, people who saw themselves as something other than human. The rest saw themselves as right species, wrong gender. A scattered handful fit both. Applications came in from across the globe
On January 8th, 2015, Graeme Taylor left the hospital a fully-functional female and changed her name to Jessica. When asked if the operation was a success, she cried on-camera and declared, "I feel reborn in the body that I should've had from the beginning."
On January 9th, 2015, John Osborne became the first American patient to be morphed. Warned by legal experts of possible challenges to his rights as a human being once back in the United States, Osborne shrugged and said only, "To become who I truly am is worth any legal battle. I've fought in court before, and I'll do it again."
On February 23rd, 2015, The Australian Medical Association announced its ability to duplicate Devakis' results. Devakis made an appearance at the press conference and said he would be "only too happy" to aid the AMA in instructing its members in the morphing procedure.
On March 16th, 2015, Charles Stevenson became the first patient to die as a direct result of the morphing procedure. Devakis refused to comment, but the AMA went on record, saying, "Everyone who undergoes a medical procedure knows there are inherent risks." Stevenson's remains were shipped home to America for burial.
On March 20th, 2015, Nicholas and Julia Stevenson, Charles' parents, sought extradition orders for Damon Devakis, claiming that as a US citizen, he was subject to US laws and that he violated the Protection of the Human Race Act of 2014. They also filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming $50 million in damages.
On March 22nd, 2015, Damon Devakis formally renounced his United States citizenship. The Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs granted Devakis residency until he could establish full citizenship.
At this point, I re-entered the picture.
When Devakis abandoned America, I was working on the Science column at the Banner. Dr. Devakis had, in the six-and-a-half months since his name became a front-pager, never given a personal interview. As the reporter who perhaps got him into much of his legal troubles, I thought perhaps I could help him out again with an interview. The boost it would have on my career wouldn't hurt either, I figured. And, if he wouldn't see me directly, I hoped I could at least get enough material for a story on the technology itself.
So, after some wheedling and finagling with my boss, I arranged to take six weeks of vacation for a trip to Perth, Western Australia, where the good doctor had taken up residence. At this point, I truly can't say what my motives was. I want to believe that, in spite of my personal desires, I still retained some measure of objectivity. This was not a mission to meet the man who brought my dreams to life.
Finding Dr. Devakis took less time than I'd expected it would. For someone who'd avoided giving an interview as long as he had, I had expected him to be sequestered away better than he was. A quick review of employee records gave the address. The secretary at Biogenix Australia seemed almost pleased to see a reporter looking for a positive story. I suspected they didn't get much supportive press from the locals.
The first impression I got when I met Devakis in person was that he seemed genuinely surprised to see me. I could check my dictaphone tapes if I really wanted the exact statement, but he said something like, "I'd've thought America was as eager to forget me as I was to forget it." It seemed a good invitation into the interview and, after establishing that it was ok to record the conversation and take a few photographs, he invited me inside and we sat down in earnest.
What do you ask your idol? If you had half an hour of his or her time, what questions could you possibly ask in that span that would give you what you wanted? I don't know either. I tried to remain objective, to remain impersonal. I don't think I succeeded, and I know he noticed. Halfway through my questions, he stopped, stood and asked me if I'd ever wondered what it would be like to live in another body.
I suppose in hindsight the question shouldn't've been unexpected, but I was still unprepared for it. I admitted my furry fandom to him, after a fashion. It was the first time I think I'd ever actually voiced it to someone I didn't already know. He then proposed to me a different story. In addition to the interview, he offered me a morph, free of charge. Biogenix would pick up the bill in the name of "public relations." He even suggested I write up the experience and present it to the Banner! Dr. Devakis was nothing if not perceptive. And I think it was here I lost my jouralistic integrity. I agreed.
The procedure itself was basically painless, though I thank my lucky stars that general anesthaesia was an option. I did wake with some residual soreness in areas I didn't think I was supposed to have areas. Like the base of my tail. I hurt all over, actually, but it was at the base of my tail where the pain seemed sharpest. Devakis was there when I opened my eyes.
"Success," was all he said to me. He then put a hand on my forehead and brushed at the fur. That was the last I saw of him.
I spent the next three weeks recovering. Even my fur hurt for the first forty-eight hours, but once the pain was gone I felt an overall well-being I had never known before, an odd peace at looking in the mirror and seeing the description I had so often imagined or played out on a furry virtual chatspace. I remember spending a lot of time in front of the mirror, studying my new reflection. Having multiple sets of breasts quickly led to a strong dislike of running anywhere. And it took me a week to learn to control the muscles that retracted my claws; I very nearly put out an eye on more than one occasion. But eventually, I did learn to use my new body, though I knew it would be months before I could say I was fully used to it.
As soon as I was pronounced healthy and fit to leave, I went to the US Embassy and had my passport photo fixed. There, I spent six hours trying to convince them who I was. I finally had to call the hospital and have the Consulate General speak to the charge nurse on my floor before anyone would accept that my face could change so drastically. And even then, I still met with a lot of opposition that thought I had somehow betrayed my country. But at least I did get it changed. I remember wondering at the time if I'd have the same opposition changing my driver's license and credit card photos. I did.
The flight back was... well, it was what I should have expected it to be. At first, there was some question as to if I could even board a plane where my fur might interfere with the air recyclers. Someone at the airline suggested, I hope jokingly, that I might have to ride in the hold with the other pets. But after some initial questioning, I was able to fly home. Of course, I spent the entire five hours from Perth to Sydney, then the seventeen hours from Sydney to Los Angeles, either sitting on my tail or turned half-sideways in my chair trying to avoid doing so. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable on the entire trip.
Immigration Control stateside proved to be the worst hurdle. The agent at the counter refused to believe my photo wasn't doctored, which meant that I got pulled aside into a little white cubible while they questioned me for four hours and tried to raise the Embassy in Perth on the phone. Finally, after confirming that they had indeed changed my passport, they let me go. I'd love to file harrassment charges, but I know they were only doing their job.
In fact, all of this I could've withstood stoically if, at the end of it all, my story had seen the light of day. I spent as much of the trip back as I could putting it together. The interview with Devakis, my experiences in the hospital, even my treatment by the airline. After catching a taxi home, I even added my experience with customs and immigration. I think I included every detail I could in telling the story of one person's struggle to be recognised for who and what she was inside.
My boss fired me the day I returned to the office.
I called him on the phone the night after I got in and said I'd be back on Monday. He said I sounded funny on the phone. I said it might be a bug I'd caught down there but I felt fine. He said he'd see me at 7:30am sharp to discuss the story. At 7:29, I walked into his office, eyes alight and tail curled. At 7:31, he fired me. In the two-minute interval between, he just stood there and stared.
He said I violated my journalistic integrity. He accused me of gift-taking in exchange for a positive story. And then he said I had no business calling myself a reporter if I was going to sink to that level. And then he had me escorted out of his office by two gentlemen in blue uniforms before I had the chance to even try and protest.
He didn't even read the article.
So now, here I sit. I've been asking myself for six hours now, whether he was right and I did the wrong thing, or whether he's biased and I got fired for becoming myself. I don't know whether I'll ever truly answer it. I only know my future in journalism is gone.
Maybe Biogenix is hiring.
Passenger Pigeon 13 copyright 1999 by Kristina Davis.
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