A "Winds of Change" Story
By Jon Sleeper
The run had been good. Two and a half hours of exercise can do that. But I was rather exhausted, and when I got into the apartment I went into the kitchen, got a large bowl and filled it with duckweed from the greenhouse (sprinkled with a few bacon bits) and sat down in front of the TV, dipping my muzzle in hungrily. Then as an afterthought, went back into the greenhouse and dropped my communicator in.
"You know you've got some bark in your antlers?" Brian said from his perch. Briefly I saw something descend his throat, he'd grabbed a steelhead from the tank. I glanced upward.
"Oops! I do, don't I?" There were several shreds between the tines. "Guess I did a bit more damage to those trees than I thought..." He looked at me questioningly. "During this time of year bucks mark territory, and take out a few frustrations, by rubbing antlers on inoffensive trees. I'm afraid there are several eucalyptus saplings that'll have to regrow a branch or two." I blinked a few times to clear the fluid from my preorbital scent glands from my eyes. They'd just started to do that, and my neck was so swelled I looked like a linebacker.
"Are you sure you're OK?"
I wiped my face with a kleenex. "Never better, Brian. I think I can manage myself a little better now. On my run I sort of let the animal take control for a while. We came to an agreement. Twenty miles will do that. I must of ran to Del Mar and back!" I decided not to mention it, but I'd met Grace on that run. She'd apologized for her stupidity, and we parted company as we should have the night before. I'm glad I met her on the run. She was with her friend Maxine at the time. Maxine is a caribou-morph. She and I had hit it off immediately, and her scent did not do quite the same thing to me that Grace's perfume had. Strangely, my thoughts were much clearer around her. My only possible explanation was that caribou pheromones had a different effect on another species. "I did meet someone, though."
He looked at me for a second, "Oh really?" He seemed worried for a moment. Then I told him the scent effects. He seemed dubious, but almost embarrassed.
Then I put two and two together. Kim-scent was exuding from his feathers. So I told him about Maxine. "She's great. I spent about an hour just talking to her. She can't form-shift, but she does have a strange Power to induce it in others. So you could even try out a normal eagle if you want." He appeared to muse it over for a minute.
"Maybe. But will anything... unexpected happen tonight that I should know about?"
"No. Though we've decided to go out for dinner tomorrow night." I decided to take a chance. "You and Kim can join us if you want."
"Sorry Brian. But her scent is all over your feathers." I smirked. "I'm happy for you. Everybody needs somebody, after all. And we can't deny the animal within us anyway... I'm just in love with a slightly different species than I am." She even has antlers... Long, slender, beautiful antlers.
Then it was Brain's turn to smirk (I hoped), "Love, huh? Are you sure?"
"Um, I, well... I don't know. I've never had that feeling before." I decided a change in subject was in order. "Let's see what's on TV, huh?"
That turned out to be a mistake. It was about five o'clock and time for the news. The riot was the top story on all three channels, but the only one where Brian and I shared top billing was Channel 8. Thank God he and I were not the only "heroes" of the riot... Not to mention there were relatively few questions as to my conduct compared to some other officers. Diver was getting investigated for excessive brutality, seems he got a little TOO enthusiastic about stopping a rabbit-morph from shooting another officer. He'd even started to eat the person before he realized what had happened. That detracted from my actions against the leopard.
They had edited down a lot of the interview, enough so Brian and I were shown answering equal numbers of questions. Kim had done a very good job with editing, and her... feelings for Brian almost showed through for a moment. When she talked about meeting him her face went a little red around her cere, and her voice got kind of embarrassed. "Mr. Sleeper and Mr. Coe are just two of the heroes of the Carlsbad Riot. And I am pleased to know the both of them. Brian, if you're watching this, thank you." She seemed to of forgotten for a moment that I had been involved too, but I had no complaints. He looked at me.
"Um, you know that feeling you were talking about? Well, um..." he gestured at Kim, who had continued to spotlight the other officers like Steve and especially Captain Nightsky. Then it was his turn to blush around the cere. A few minutes later the phone rang. "Hello?" I answered. It was Kim, so I handed it to him.
"Yes, I saw it. You did a good job... Uh huh, yeah sure, I'm game. Um, when did you want to uh... Tomorrow night? Sure, mind if we double date? Great! See you tomorrow night, Kim." And he hung up. He put his taloned hand against his chest for a moment, his beak hanging open in an eagle-grin. "I hope you don't mind, Jon."
"No no! That's fine Brian. I was sort of hoping that anyway." I got up and started to inspect my plants. Not being home for a couple days had taken it's toll on most of the sick ones. The drip irrigators had kept them watered, but I was going to have to replant or mulch most of them. It looked like I was going to have to use my new car sooner than I thought... For a moment I considered horticulture as a major, but physics still had a much greater appeal. "I've gotta go to Nurseryland for a few things, you want to come with? There's a fish farm off the lagoon, too. And there aren't too many steelhead left."
"Come to think of it, I *am* getting bored of those... sure, let's go." He eagle-grinned and we were off.
Nurseryland had been expanded greatly since the Change. It was practically a supermarket now for so-called "specialized" foods for herbivores. Careful not to buy too much to crowd Brian out, I got a few plants like a dwarf mulberry, blackberry, and other kinds. I filled much of the space in the back with seedlings of lots of other plants. They'd not be able to be harvested for a while so I'd be stuck going to a store, but when they were grown they'd be really tasty. I'd discovered that many of the plants tasted *better* when they came up for rechewing. Wish chocolate did that...
We stopped at the fish farm and got two more varieties of fish for Brian, including some young salmon. I swear I could almost feel his hunger. And for a moment he made me nervous. He'd told me he had few predatory urges, but in the presence of all these fish... We moved out of their fast, the delivery truck behind us.
The driver had not seen the news, and no one had recognized us out in public. Thank God! I really did not want to deal with that right now. I might make a remark that I'd regret.
It was almost eight by the time we got back. I turned on the TV again after we put the stuff away. I plopped myself onto a beanbag soft enough not to hurt my tail, and channel surfed a bit.
Unfortunately most of the new sitcoms (except "Kevin and Kell") were dumb. VERY dumb. I never liked sitcoms much anyway, and instead flipped to the Discovery Channel. Brian and I were in luck. They were doing a special "American Animals" week, and the two programs they were going to show were "Alaskan Bald Eagles" and "Whitetail Country".
We sat and watched in interest, often alternating between hope and alarm as things we both never knew before flashed on the screen. Then suddenly, at about ten at night...
Copyright 1997, Jon Sleeper
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