Some people go through life never knowing who they really are. The luckiest know who they are from the beginning, and they use that knowledge to get ahead and succeed. The really tragic people find out who they are, but not until they're old and tired and it's too late. And then there's me...I think, in some way, I always knew who I was, but I never accepted it. Until now. Until I was given no choice...how can I explain? Let me tell you from the beginning... I didn't realize it at the time, but the start of this whole thing came shortly after my 15th birthday, at the doctor...everything seemed normal enough, at first. I went for a standard checkup, and my doctor went through the usual routine; he took my pulse, checked my tongue, and I took my shirt off for him to feel my heartbeat...It always felt like I was giving him some kind of bizarre striptease. I've heard that some doctors will cup your crotch and ask you to cough when they examine you...mine never did. He just gave me a lollipop, which I was far too old for anyway. But this time was different. After the usual routine, I got up and started to put my shirt back on, thinking it was all over, but he stopped me. Before I knew what was happening, he'd picked up a syringe...I've never liked needles. Well, who does? He must have seen the look on my face, because he was very quick to reassure me. "I just need to take a small blood sample," he said, in his detached, soothing baritone. "Perfectly normal at your age. You'll barely feel anything". All the same, I noticed he wouldn't meet my eye. I guess what he said was half-true. It didn't hurt as much as I was expecting, and I know now that every 15-year-old has the same treatment...but 'perfectly normal'? That was a lie. A year passed, and I forgot all about the mysterious test. I never heard what my results were, and I didn't really care. I figured if they found anything wrong, they'd tell me. Life soon pushed any thoughts I had about it after my mind, a year passed and my 16th birthday came around...I don't know exactly how long ago that was, but it seems a lifetime ago, now. It all changed on that one day...that one day when I woke up and went off to do my normal routine it all changed. It started when I was walking to school. I had gotten ready for school, given my parents a good bye wave and then set off, just like every day. But this time...there were people, two people following me. I could see them out of the corner of my eye - I sped up, hoping to lose them, almost wanting to run. It wasn't working. They were definitely following me, and could easily keep up with my speed. At this point I started to panic. There was something strange about these people...the way they walked was odd...I couldn't quite put my finger on it. They wore sinister, loose-fitting dark robes which hid their figures and as they walked, they almost seemed like they were trying to hide something behind their back. But that is all I can remember of them, I never got a close look. I managed to lose them down an alley near to the school, and I decided to finish my school day, hoping I'd seen the last of them. To my supprise most of my class mates were missing. This was odd; people don't often miss school, and never this many at once...the teacher would only say they had been 'transferred', and the ones that remained...Well, let's just say that I had never felt normal around them. The ones that were missing, they made me feel normal. I wasn't the only one who felt this way; the class was always split between the two groups. It was a strange feeling, both of being different to and almost...better than the others. I felt far more comfortable around the absent pupils. It was them who gave me my nickname - Bubbles. I can't remember how it started, but by this time that was what everyone called me - even the teacher and my parents. All through the day, I had to deal with a feeling of intense loneliness, which almost pushed the mysterious robed strangers from my mind. But as I walked out of the school, there they were, just as I feared...in their long black robes covering them from head to toe, hoods pulled down over their faces. I wished I'd stayed together with the rest of my class, even though they were practically strangers to me. The robed figures began to advance on me, slowly. I had nowhere to retreat to except back inside the school, but as I backed away I bumped into the teacher, blocking my only escape. "It's okay, Bubbles." she said. Her voice was calm, but not at all soothing. It seemed cold, distant...it did nothing to ease my fear. "Go with them". One of the robed figures laid a hand on my shoulder. His hood was pulled down so far that I couldn't see his face, even from this distance, but I could smell a strange scent coming from him...not unpleasant, but deep, musky and potent. It made my head swim, very slightly. His grip was gentle and firm, but I thought he must have very long fingernails, because something was digging into my skin from beneath his gloved hand. I knew then that I had no choice, but I couldn't just give in. I wrenched my shoulder loose and bolted as fast as I could, trying to get past his companions, but they were too fast. Faster than I even thought possible. One tackled me to the ground with a deep, throaty, animal-like growl, and my world went black. I awoke to a gentle rumbling and the sound of two men chatting. Taking a look around, it seemed I was in the back of some kind of small transit van. I knew it was only a matter of time before they took me to wherever we were going. I over heard the voices talking about my other classmates. I heard something about how easy it was for them to be 'Turned'. at the time I did not know what this meant but now...it all seems so clear. I kept listening, hoping to hear some clue about what was happening or where we going, and they began to talk about me. They spoke of how I was being much more resistant than the other 'subjects' and that they needed to get me to the 'facility' fast if they were to Turn me. I did not know what this meant but I knew what had happened to my classmates. They had submitted to this 'Turning', whatever it was. I felt betrayed. It seemed everyone was working against me. I had to get out of the van. Before long, the voices stopped and I felt the van come to a halt. It seemed to have stalled...I didn't waste any time; I turned the handle for the back door, and jumping out I saw that we were on a dirt pathway in the middle of a huge woodland. The door swung shut behind me and the engine started up again. I lay on the ground as the van moved away, hoping that somehow, they wouldn't see me. It worked. The van drove away, around a corner and out of sight. But...something was strange. Even if they hadn't seen me, they should have heard me leave, or even felt the weight of the van change...but I had no time to think about that. I quickly removed this from my mind as I started to run down the dark mud path and as I did I could of sworn I could see animal like figures looking out at me running along with me in the darkness of the trees - somehow, it seemed they weren't just ordinary wild animals...it was like they knew who I was, and were deliberately running with me...or to catch me. I would soon find out how close to the truth this was. No matter how fast I ran, these figures kept pace with me, never showing themselves enough for me to get more than a fleeting glimpse of them. I dared not stop, but I couldn't leave the path - I was certain to run straight into one of these strange, wolf-like animals. All I could do was keep running, though my breath caught in my throat and my legs burned with the effort of running on and on, faster and faster. The creatures flanked me so effortlessly that even through my terror and fatigue, I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't simply overtake and attack me. Just then, I noticed that the shadow on the left seemed to have given up the chase - or so it seemed, for the briefest moment. A great, dark wolf-like figure crouched on the ground before me, and I was running straight towards it. Something about the way it sat didn't seem normal, didn't seem entirely like an animal, but I had no time to stop and look more closely. I wouldn't give up. I saw a small, rough track leading through the woods to my left, and I darted along it, acting on instinct. I had no other option. But it did me no good; I was already so tired that I soon began to flag. I could hear the strange creatures behind me, but I dared not look back. I could only carry on as my legs grew weak and my vision blurred. I stumbled to the ground, exhausted. And then I looked up, and I saw it. The facility. All too late, I realized...I had been allowed to escape the van. They had stopped deliberately so I would get off there. And the creatures...they hadn't been chasing me. They'd been herding me, making sure I was running in the right direction. I knew that it was only a matter of time now. I was panicking, panting, still trying to get away from these creatures. I could not contain my fear now as they surrounded me. All I could do was curl up in despair and start to cry. I felt the animals start to gather around me, looking down on me. Somehow, I could feel them, almost see them without even looking - like I had an instinctive connection to them. I slowly started to look up, fear mingling with curiosity, but before I could see anything a rag was clamped over my mouth, soaked in a chemical that knocked me out. As I slipped into unconsciousness once again, the last thing I felt was them lifting me gently...they were careful with me, almost as if I was one of their own, treating my body with respect and dignity. My last thought was an impression that they...felt sorry for me. My next few memories are still fuzzy...let me think...oh yes! I was in a room...chained to the floor by an old rusty chain and stripped down to my underpants. I felt bare and cold. I could hear distant screams of pain from somewhere above me and at times what sounded like moans of pleasure from below...I could not tell if they were human or not...it sounded like the screams from above were somehow between animal and human; human voices, but growling and roaring with the ferocity of animals. Below...the moans sounded more like pure animals, but I didn't know animals could sound so...lustful. There was a small window near the top of the wall, which my chain would just about stretch to let me look out of - I would always see a group of shadowy faces looking in at me. Sometimes, I would hear voices outside my cell...I decided they must be my guards. They mentioned other 'inmates', as they called them, and I heard them say that I was having much more interest taken in me. The faces would peer in at me day and night. some of them came and went, but they were always there, looking straight into my cell. I know there were other cells on either side of mine, but no-one ever looked into them. Always mine. I don't know how long I was left there, feeling naked, cold and alone. My only company was the strange faces peering at me and the screams from above and below. I thought of my old life, my friends and my family...the memory seemed so far away, like a half-forgotten dream. Had any of that been real? Had I been chained here my whole life, not knowing where I was or why I was there...or even who I was? Between the effects of the drugged cloth, my fatigue and my despair, I found myself drifting in and out of consciousness. After some time - it felt like it could have been hours, or it could have been weeks - I heard my cell door open, and another of the robed people entered, their feet making strange clicking sounds on the hard floor. "Bubbles...?" it said. The voice was masculine, but soft and gentle. It was the first time someone had spoken to me with anything other than cold disinterest since I had gone to school. "I'm so sorry...we've had to put you through so much, Bubbles," he continued, in almost a whisper. "I wish I could explain completely, but for now...all I can tell you is that you're going through a change. Lots of people change like this, but...your body is resisting it, for some reason. We're going to give you something to help, but there are some strong side effects...that's why we've had to chain you here". He reached out a hand, caressing my shoulder. "Don't worry...it won't last forever. When it's over, you'll understand and be happy". However gentle he was, I was scared. I pulled away, hiding in the corner of the room, trying to get away from him. I could not even look at him, I was so afraid. My head was spinning as I pulled at my chain, trying to get into the corner of the room, but it was too short and too strong for me to get away. I crouched down and started to cry as I heard the person come close again. I could feel him looking over me, almost seeing him, the same way as I had felt the presence of the creatures that had chased me. I felt him shake his head almost in pity. I knew in my heart that I had to fight till the end. I could never give in to them, whatever they had in store for me. The stranger knelt before me, holding something. As my eyes filled with tears, I turned my head away, not wanting them to see my helplessness. "This won't hurt..." they said, and I realized what they were about to do. Despite how powerless I felt, I brought my arms up with all my strength, shoving at the hooded stranger. I must have taken him by surprise, as he staggered and fell backwards, the hood falling from his head. I gasped, as I finally saw why these people hid their faces. Although this man talked and stood on two legs, he was...an animal. I don't know how else to describe him. His face looked like a typical husky, with large eyes, one brown and one blue, that gave me a surprised, slightly hurt look. I was too surprised to press my advantage. As the...man, or dog, or whatever he was stood up, I could only stare in shock. He pulled a small device from somewhere in his robe and spoke into it. "Subject resisting, I need some help". He didn't sound angry, just...disappointed, somehow. Almost immediately, my cell-door burst open again, and two more robed figures entered. I tried to throw a punch at one of them, but he caught my arm deftly and the two of them held me helpless between them. The husky approached again, and this time I was powerless to stop him. I felt my face go pale as I watched whatever was inside that syringe disappear into my veins. Immediately, I started to feel light-headed, my body going limp and whatever strength I had left deserting me. "It'll start soon," the husky muttered to the figure on my left. "Get him upstairs". "So much for your gentle approach," said the other figure, in a sarcastic hiss as they half-led, half-carried me away. I could feel my body start to wake up again. The sedative took me out for quite some time, allowing me to dream of what was happening around me. As I looked around the room I could see disturbing devices and restraints, and I realized where I was. They said they were taking me upstairs...where those screams of pain had come from. I jolted upright - at least, I tried to. I was strapped down to some kind of table, diodes and conduits pressed against my bare skin. I could just barely see the huskey-human looking down upon me with sadness in his face as I struggled and tried to break free. He was joined by two newcomers, who entered the room talking quietly...I couldn't hear much of what they said, but I caught the words 'recently turned,' 'brothers and sisters,' 'teach them the ways...' When they moved into view, I could see that the newcomers were not wearing the dark robes of the rest of these...creatures. They were wearing white laboratory gear, which hugged their figures snugly, revealing their animal-like feet and legs and allowing their tails to swish about freely. One of them, a female fox-person, walked up to the husky and spoke to him. "You're not supposed to be here, Willow". "I know, it's just..." he replied, looking sorrowfully at me. "He's suffered so much already...I can't bear to think of what he has to go through now". "Then you'll only torment yourself more by watching," said the fox-woman. She spoke firmly to him, but with patience and even a little affection. "This has to be done...you can't help him". The Huskey who is named ‘Willow’ looked down at me for the last time with tearful eyes as he was led out of the room by the female fox as she held his paw and tried to comfort him. He was alone now, with the two figures which had given him the injection. “You think that he could of gotten away without having to go through this?” One of the creatures in the white lap coat remarked to the other still not realising that I could hear everything that was going on and in a way, see everything. “Of course Willow cares for his son and does not want him to go through what all of the others have to go through..” This voice was lighter and more remorseful than the other one. “Don’t feel sorry for him he’s caused more problems that all of the last ones that came in. He’s caused so much grief I think the people up top would be happy to see him get this over and done with.” The other voice continued. I could tell the other softer voice was just going along with what the other one was saying and was preparing to begin whatever they had in store for me. I kept calm trying to focus my heart beat and gather my strength, if I could get far enough as past the first doors I could barricade them..I searched the room using this animal like sense seeing if I could find anything which would be of use, I could tell of a metal pole which could be used to jam the door shut after I run through it. “Nearly ready?” The evil sounded voice said “Yes, yes..” said the soft one almost sounding like she was trying to get me more time. I felt the cruel-sounding creature go tense and jerk his head around. "You're still here," he said, coldly. "I just..." came Willow's voice, again. "I just think there must be a better way. This change was supposed to be something beautiful, and to have to do this...it just seems wrong". "It is beautiful, Willow," I heard the female fox answer. "Once it's over, we become strong, free and happy...it just needs some sacrifice". "Maple..." The husky began, voice choked with emotion. "Enough, enough!" interrupted the other worker. "We've got a job to do. I'll man the controls, if it's so distasteful to you. Go and prep him, and be quick about it". However much I strained against my bonds, I couldn't wriggle free. I could only wait in fear as the fox called Maple came over to me. "Are you awake...?" she asked me. I made no reply. No matter what, I wasn't going to play along with whatever sick plans these freaks might have. It made no difference, though, as she continued regardless. She began to adjust the machinery around me, making sure the diodes were secure against my skin. "This is going to hurt you," she said. Although she kept her voice dispassionate, I could sense her regret. "Your body is about to start changing. It's a hard, complicated process, and to stimulate your cells..." "No!" I yelled, realizing exactly what they wanted with me. "You're going to turn me into one of you...no, I don't want to be one of you, I want to go home"! Maple sighed, and shook her head. "You're already one of us," she said. "You just aren't showing it on the outside yet". "It's not true..." "You know it's true, Bubbles. You've felt it...the connection to us. You've gained a sixth sense, you can feel life around you. You can't go back..." I set my jaw, feeling tears rise in my throat again. "Get on with it!" snapped the other technician from across the room. Maple made a few final changes to the equipment. "We need to send an electric current through your body. It's the only thing that will give your cells enough energy to..." "He doesn't need to know all that," interrupted the other. "Come on, he's ready, stop standing there chatting to him". Maple left my sight, but I could still feel her nearby, as well as the cold, uncaring presence of her co-worker. Something strange happened. It felt like my bones were shifting beneath my skin, changing shape, ever so slowly. This part wasn't painful, but felt incredibly uncomfortable. It was a feeling like nothing I'd ever felt before, to feel my very bones slowly morph. I couldn't move my head enough to see, but before very long I felt the shifting stop. I had a moment's hope that it was all over, that I would be freed from this machine, but Maple called out some kind of code to the unseen technician. "Tibia halt, type 2". Instantly, I felt the force of the electric shock hammer through my body. The pain didn't come straight away - it was almost like the shock was too fast, and the pain needed a few moments to catch up. But when it did, it was terrible. I convulsed, straining against my bonds and screaming with all the power my lungs could muster. It lasted for an instant, and then passed, blinking away as if it had never come, leaving me panting and light-headed. As I gathered my wits, I felt the feeling in my bones return, changing my shape. At the same time, I felt my skin prickle and itch, as if I was rubbing against rough fabric. Soon, this ceased again. "Dermal and patella halt, type 2..." "No!" I pleaded. "Type 2"... This cycle of strange, body-changing feelings and agonizing shocks continued for some time. I remember every moment in vivid detail, but...I'd rather not dwell on it. Mostly, I was given 'type 2' shocks, but occasionally I got a 'type 3', which were little more than a sharp jolt - a merciful relief from the pain of type 2s. Just once, I received a 'type 1'. That left me in such agony that I blacked out, only to be awoken sharply by the next shock. I was silently praying for it to stop, hoping against hope that each new jolt would be the last. I soon gave up pleading with Maple and the other...whatever I said fell on deaf ears. Finally, in a daze, I felt the straps holding me to the table loosen and fall away. I tried to stand, but fell to my knees straight away - my feet had changed shape, and I couldn't walk on them. Bringing my hands in front of me to break my fall, I saw that they too had changed. They were covered in soft fur, white and grey like a husky - like Willow.