Late September 707
Start with an empty sheet
… And load it with words. That should be my approach in writing down what happened, he advised me. Well, let’s go.
I had no idea, where I was or how I came there.
It took me almost no time to realize that I knew almost nothing. Not about this strange place, which was different from the one I’d fallen asleep at (somehow I was sure about that), nor about the time before I awakened. Or about myself, even my name.
I had become a blank slate.
And I wasn’t afraid. It’s hard to remember now, if I felt anything at all, besides a slight curiosity for my situation. I guess the shock locked out confusion and fear for a time.
Looking down at myself I noticed that I was naked.
No, this word felt wrong. I rummaged in the corners of my brain for a better suiting description. You know, “naked” is a rather relative concept if your entire body is covered in thick, lush fur. Heh, even the naughty bits were now wrapped in pelt.
Well, that was different! And finally there was a little morsel of information left in my mind. When I thought about my person, I connected it immediately with the word “human”. Humans have no fur. Or four-toed, digitigrade feet… or a tail!
Several times I tried to catch this formerly unknown appendage, which dodged my grasp whenever I turned around to get it. I circled round and round like a humming top and must have looked like a kitten. Shortly after, my folly became clear to me and I had to laugh out loud, as I must right now, writing these lines.
My voice startled me. It was deep and husky and noisy. I’ve never been that loud, have I? More like the tone of a bully, a kind of guy I surely was not! So I decided to keep silent for a while.
More important to me at that moment was the swishing tail, annoying in its elusiveness. I reached behind me and managed to grab it. The next moment a sharp pain made me yowl and let it go, quickly.
With astonishment I gazed at my hands. Oh, how in the world could I overlook the fact that they were hands no more? They were paws! Covered in fur like the rest of me, except for pink pads on the fingertips and the palms.
“A fist full of thumbs”, was my first impression. Like my thumb each finger (still counting five with the thumb, unlike my toes) had only two phalanxes. The third one was missing. And as a kind of compensation, every tip was crowned with a needle-sharp, curved claw.
Just a moment ago I’d learned that it was quite painful to get hit by them. Now they were retreating back into the folds on my fingertips, which hid them.
It took me some minutes to bring them back. Obviously my body knew how to let them emerge. As obvious as I did not.
Like with my tail, there were muscles and tendons I certainly never used in my life before. My body seemed not to care about it. He used them without trouble whenever I paid not attention.
Clearly he had a big advantage over my still human self.
I wasn’t human anymore. But what was I? Some kind of animal? A two-legged animal?
Such a creature was unheard of in my memory, although I could not even remember someone calling my name. In this case my mind was not the best expert to consult. Tail and clawed paws said “feline”, but I had to know for sure.
I took a look around, examining my surroundings a little better than I did with my first glance.
I stood in a clearing. It was shortly after sunrise, but the air was already warm. It felt like late summer or early autumn and the leaves on the trees told me the same. On my right side, some steps away from me was a pond, the surface untroubled for there was not the slightest breeze.
Water, the oldest mirror in history. Suddenly I got reluctant. This would be the moment of truth. Now I’ve been afraid. Would I like what I was about to see?
My mouth was dry; I had to gulp twice to re-moisten it. My tail twitched in sympathy with my mood and my ears, too high on my head than I’d been used to, had flattened themselves against my skull.
Then I straightened myself as good as I was able to. The view of the water had made me thirsty, very, the decision not really mine. Again, my body showed me who was in charge yet.
I kneeled down on the shore and with both paws; I cupped the crystal-clear, cool liquid and swallowed it greedy. For a moment I’d been overcome with the urge to lap it up with my tongue, but I resisted this primal drive and drank the human way, although I spilled most of the water.
Again I was not used to the changes on me. If a simple act like drinking turned out that difficult, how would it be to actually eat something with my new mouth, no, my new muzzle?
Scooping something to drink had broken the smooth surface of the pond with dozens of diminutive ripples. I’d gotten myself some moments of delay. But now the water turned back to its old, mirroring self.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I bent a little closer down to my mirror and eventually stared into the face of my new self.
A cat stared back. He was adorned with silvery-grey fur, speckled with black spots. Almost his entire body looked like this, excluding an area, starting from his chin, running over his cheeks, then down on the front of his neck, over his chest, the stomach, crotch and ending on the insides of his thighs. Which was creamy-white. (Of course I didn’t seen all of this in the water. My reflection contained little more than my face and upper chest. The rest I knew of already.)
It looked soft and fluffy, but somewhat monochrome. The only safe havens for colour were a triangular pink nose and yellow-brown eyes, which carried a look of wonder.
It was the face of a leopard, a snow-leopard, to be precise. Where I did knew this from? Well, I still knew the sun was called sun. I had not forgotten everything.
A movement on top of his head caught my attention. His ears, as I could see now, who were triangular with round tips, raised from the ground, mirroring my equally rising state of mood.
His black lips twisted into an awkward expression, remotely resembling a smile. His whiskers twitched in embarrassment. Human impulses collided with a feline face, not made to express emotions in a human way. He gave up his fruitless efforts for it’s been obvious that he smiled in a feline way. The position of his ears told this to everyone who could understand it.
Then he opened his mouth. “Could be worse”, he said with this booming voice, which now sounded a lot more pleasant in my ears. “To be honest, I think you’re a good looking one.”
Hearing this, I had to laugh. Well, if he said so.
At least my style of speaking and laughing remained human. A really comforting thought. I waved the cat in the water good bye and stood up.
So far, so… weird. I was a snow cat, in the middle of a summery wood.
I definitely couldn’t stay in the clearing. Although there was good water, I couldn’t see anything to eat or a shelter from not so friendly weather. And beside that, I had to find help.
Help to change back to my real, my human identity, to get back my lost memories and not furthermost, to get some clothes.
Don’t get me wrong, in my current state I didn’t felt nude but, as strange as it may sound, also not modest! A cloth to wrap it around my waist would have done the job.
I had to get back to civilization.
Where should I go to, which direction?
The visible part of the sky refused to give me any hints. No trails of smoke, no sign of a sentient being.
Rather helpless I circled the borders of the clearing and finally found a narrow path, descending into the undergrowth, probably only used by game, heading for the pond. But it was better than nothing. So I let it lead the way.
I had followed the path between the trees for about half an hour, as something moved into the thicket and another something in me took over. Within a heartbeat I crossed the ten foot distance between my position and the moving object and pounced.
My target, which was, as I could see now, a mouse, avoided my paw by a hairs breath and vanished into its hole.
I crouched down and breathed hard. Not because of the sudden movement, it’s been the stimulation that coursed through my veins, the excitement of hunting.
It was that moment I discovered the supple, powerful muscles beneath my fur. And the simple joy of using them. Man, I felt great at this moment! I had to use them more.
The next few hours were a haze. I ceased thinking, I plainly did. I run, I climbed trees, stalked small animals, jumped and tumbled around and did plenty of silly things I’m slightly embarrassed, now thinking about it. I tested the boundaries of the beast that’s been currently me.
Eventually I slowed down. Reason returned from its unexpected vacation and took its place on the bridge back.
I breathed long and deep, savouring the plethora of fragrant odours. Unquestionably I would miss my heightened sense of smell when I’d gotten my humanity back again. With a childlike sparkle in my eyes I took a picture of the environment. It seemed like I was in a deeper part of the forest now. And…
Utterly and completely lost.
On second thought, I’d been lost beforehand and I was it now. No change in my situation. Excluding the pond.
I felt parched again. And tired and hungry. My undertakings in hunting weren’t crowned with success by now. Besides, the mere thought of raw, bloody meat wasn’t a very appealing one. –At least until now.
Suddenly I felt very lonely. You could say I fell into an emotional hole. Questions beset me, the sorts of I’d been able to avoid since my awakening.
What in the world could possibly happen to me? Why was I alone and in my birthday suit in the middle of a forest?
What if someone brought me to that clearing and left me there? You abandon someone you don’t want so see again. Let him die out there, where you not have to witness the miserable part.
I had not much trouble to come up with a reason. A glance to my paws proved to be enough. My condition wasn’t natural, it practically reeked of magic and curses and all kinds of evil doings. Probably I was lucky to still being alive.
And what if I did it myself?
Either as a refugee, running for my life or, and that was the really frightening consideration, I’d came to this place to end my cursed existence by my own hands.
What if, what if, what if…
So absorbed in my thoughts I’d been that I paid no attention where my feet carried me. I didn’t even take notice of the stranger I passed, merely 3 steps away from me.
I believe I baffled him a lot with my ignorance. Imagining the scene from his view, it must have looked like some weird dream.
Then the stranger let loose a sharp whistle, bringing me back to reality, and cried: “Attention, dreamer!”
I whirled around to face him, and could do nothing but stare, dumbfounded.
My unexpected company, whom I gave a facial expression of the blankest sort, was a fennec!
Like me, he stood straight on two legs, had paw-like hands, a tail and walked on his toes. He was about my size, maybe a little shorter (later I measured myself with five feet and eight inches). Rather slim built, compared to me there wasn’t much of him. I had about one and a half of his weight. Nevertheless, something told me, this little guy could shred me to pieces without breaking a sweat.
His face was dominated by big, watchfully brown eyes and huge ears. And his fur, as far as I could see it, had the colour of sand.
As far as I could see, yes. There had been that vast difference between us: I was only in my fur and he not.
He was clad in a sleeve-less tunic and shorts, both garments had a dark green colour. A woven leather belt around his waist held several little bags, a knife and a short sword, his right paw not far away from the hilt. A quiver full of yellow-feathered arrows was strapped on his back and the appertaining bow, a remarkable weapon, as tall as its owner, leaned on a tree near him. And of course no footwear, not with such feet.
Seconds of silence went by. I could not move, nor speak or think. The mechanisms of my mind were jammed. That’s been too much.
After some time, in which I could see his growing confusion, he asked me: “Do you understand me?” And after the passing of a couple more moments, he repeated the question in another language I knew and two I did not.
Somehow I was capable to break free from my stupor. I shook my head and murmured: “Y-yeah, yes, I understand you.” Then, after a gulp of air and with a tad more power, I added: “Who are you?” And bit my lip to avoid the mandatory: “What are you?”
It showed now, that the stranger’s vulpine face was better suited to convey human emotions. He smiled with his lips. It was mostly amused, but with a hint of forbearingness. I was seen through.
“My name is Hiram. I’m a part-time hunter, full-time fox-morph and inhabitant of Metamor Keep. And may I learn your name?”
Oh boy, there was it, the dreaded question. I shrugged. “Call me Dreamer.”