Zoo

byAndrew_J_Talon©

I groggily pad my way into the bathroom, noting that the little mirror medicine compartment thing over the sink is open. I frown, and shut it. I stare into my face, blinking my large, green eyes. I press my ears down against the top of my head, and flap them up and down a few times, stretching them. I wriggling my nose, before sticking a finger in my mouth and pulling up my lips.

I lean back slightly and look over my teeth, the odd but familiar mix of razor-sharp fangs and grinding molars looking pearly white. I let go of my lips and stare at myself in the mirror. I hold out my hand, and run it over my furry face, tracing the orange and black stripes running through my hair like some weird dye job. The white fur around my mouth, nose and eyes. It's all softer than silk, this fur. I hold up my hand again, noting the pattern of the white, orange and black fur. I extend my claws, each rendering my otherwise normal, nimble human fingers deadly weapons.

I flex my hand, my eyes running over my claws. I retract them, and look into the mirror again. I flash a sardonic smile at my reflection.

"What's new, pussycat?"

***

I sigh, and brush the feathers from my pillow. I glare, knowing that it can't reach my "hair", but it makes me feel better anyway.

I flap out my wings, and stretch my arms up in the air with them. I close my eyes, relishing the feeling and the pops of the joints. I lower all four of my appendages, and tilt my head back and forth. I then turn and walk to the window of my bedroom. I open the window, and breathe deeply of the fresh morning air. My nipples harden against the soft silk of my nightgown, and I blush slightly. Still, the air carries with it the promise of wonderful thermals and clear blue skies. I turn from the window, and sigh again.

"Stupid feathers..." I brush them off my bed, white, gold and black fluttering to the floor.

***

"Well everyone, it's time for our group again," the psychologist, Dr. Smith, announces with a soft smile. I shift in the plastic chair, and am relieved that this one has a hole in it so I don't sit on my tail. Dr. Smith turns to me, her blue eyes twinkling in a slightly annoying fashion. She has no right to be so cheerful in the morning...

"So, Andrew, why don't you start off by telling us how your week was?" I turn my head and look at the other members of this chapter of the Hybrids Support Group. Emily Fletcher, looking perfectly angelic even before she acquired her wings and feathery hair. She sits calmly, but with a nervous twitter that's so birdlike I have to remind myself she was like that before her transformation. Next to her sits my brother, Benjamin, his cheap plastic chair creaking warningly under his huge girth. He looks at me with a sneer, his thick brown fur somewhat ruing the effect. It can't be helped, he looks like a huge teddy bear. His meathook-like claws do keep him from being teased. On occasion.

Next to him, Annie Majors stands, twiddling her thumbs. She used to be confined to a wheelchair due to a genetic condition. Now, she's a perfectly normal and healthy teenaged girl with chestnut hair and pretty blue eyes... From the waist up. The media types call her and others who 'mutated' like her centaurs for a reason. Her tail, not quite horse-like but nowhere near human, flicks uncomfortably behind her. Her brown coat is neatly brushed, and she has a red ribbon in her hair.

Edging next to her, sneaking obvious glances, is Dakota Lanyard. He's become a faun, horns and all, with a ruddy red hue of fur to match his hair. Thankfully he's wearing a shirt, over his bare chest. The last time I saw him he was trying to be a "traditionalist". A traditionalist what?

And finally, there's me. Andrew Stewart. Tiger-boy. I prop my large, feline-feet up on an unused chair in the high school classroom we've all decided to meet in and waste a perfectly good Saturday morning.

"I'm swell. The media finally backed off the lawn. I tried roaring at them again but it just brought them back." I shake my head and sigh. "Just because I was the first doesn't make me the main attraction."

"They seem to think you're the first patient," Dr. Smith surmised. I look at her with a mix of incredulity and black humor. Really? I couldn't tell...

"It's not like you caused it, Andrew," Emily speaks up. She shrugs both her shoulders and her wings. "The doctors have concluded that much."

"But not why this happened... Or how to reverse it," Annie spoke quietly. She sighs. Dakota edges a bit closer in his chair. I shoot him a glare, and he backs off.

"I've managed to keep my protective and... other instincts under control," I continue. I shrug. "I haven't killed any of the neighbor's pets for a while."

"Very good, Andrew. Now, Benjamin?" My bear-hybrid brother raises a bushy eyebrow.

"I got on the high school football team. I got the ACLU to back me up," he stated proudly. I roll my eyes. No wonder those animal's rights groups have doubled their efforts to hire us.

"Ah. What position?"

"Running back," Benjamin grinned, his teeth bared in delight. "Nobody can stop me... Except maybe that dragon-kid from Englewood."

"Emily? Anything you'd like to talk about?" Smith moved on. Emily shuddered.

"The stalkers have been... Dissuaded," she spoke, smiling for a split second at me. I nod marginally at her. She's like my little sister, always has been, since my mother died when I was eight. Ben tends to ignore her for some reason, but I'm always there when she asks me to be.

Plus, ripping those guy's clothes off and throwing them into a pile of manure was fun.

"By whom?" Smith asked, shooting a suspicious look at me. I shrug innocently.

"The police," Emily replied, which was true. Sort of. Smith turned to Dakota and shook her head at him.

"Dakota, your parents have expressed concerns over your visits to the zoo. As have the zoo keepers themselves. Would you like to talk about it?" Dakota flushed, and I grimaced. Even if he was a lecherous hump, it technically wasn't his fault.

"The hormones... I try not to... I really do, but..." He stamped his hooves in helplessness. Smith sighed.

"I think one of the doctors on the case can give you more hormone suppression shots. Annie? Anything you'd like to share?"

"I don't have to go to the bathroom outside anymore," she said with a slightly embarrassed smile. Ben snorts while Dakota looks interested. I shoot him another deathglare and growl low enough so that only he can hear it, and he looks away. I then smack the back of my head. Quit the protecting the females crap!

"Wonderful. Now then... We're going to fill out our group journals again this week, so everyone, find a pen..." I stifle a growl of despair.

***

I don't think I've ever flown out of small group so quickly before. I flip and barrel roll, laughing as merrily as a baby with a cardboard box. I flap my wings slightly, maintaining my altitude, and look down at the rolling hills below me.

Colorado is a beautiful place, especially with the Rocky Mountains looking out over the plains, but I don't think I've ever truly appreciated it until I got my wings.

It's strange how it happened. And stranger still that it started with Andrew. He's been a normal, if a bit bookish, kind of person. Our families grew up next door to each other. His little brother, Benjamin, was always off reading in the extreme, while Andrew and myself went exploring. Of course, when we entered high school there was talk of us being a couple and all that other nonsense.

He's like my brother. And dating your brother is just disturbing.

Oh! I'm off track. Sorry about that. It sometimes happens...

Anyway. He was seventeen, I was fifteen. He went to bed one night during senior year, and when he woke up, all his teeth were popping out. He went to the dentist-They couldn't explain it. Nor why his blunt, human teeth were being replaced with sharp, strong ones.

The fur and tail came next. And the ears. It was hilarious seeing little kids chasing him around in the hospital waiting room, all wanting to play with "the big kitty". Once again, they couldn't explain it, and they kept him overnight.

And then, one night, I felt a terrible pain in my chest. A pain that expanded and stretched into my shoulders, and between my shoulder blades. My mom and dad rushed me to the hospital. The X-rays showed some kind of bizarre muscle expansion. I don't remember much of that time, because of the constant pain I was in. I know that now, I will definitely never have children, because my wings coming out of my back was probably worse than giving birth.

The feathers of my wings had emerged right along from my back. They matched my hair-A dirty-blonde style mix. It wasn't until I had been resting for five hours after my "labor" that we noticed my hair had become short and feathery as well.

More than just those changes... My hearing, eyesight, and sense of touch all improved dramatically. Unfortunately, my senses of smell and taste are almost completely gone.

But I count my blessings that my transformation wasn't as extreme as other teenagers and children.

It had started with just Andrew, myself, and his brother. Then new cases popped up in our school. Then in our county. Then little reports happening in New York, Virginia, California... Some kids became fish-hybrids, and now have to either live in water or wear special "aquasuits" to get around. Others became spider hybrids, which was utterly disgusting. Most of those kids killed themselves or were killed, out of the sheer horror at what they had become.

The majority of the transformations were like mine: Taking on a few aspects of a certain animal, say about 10 or 20 percent. The wings, the fangs, your hair becoming fur or feathers, and so on. Transformations like Andrew's and Ben's are the second most common. They're about 50 percent animal, though keep their human thoughts and memories. Their strength, speed, and agility are usually increased by an order of magnitude or more, and their senses are also enhanced, but usually not at the expense of one or two. Mercifully, the rarest are the 70 percent or higher transformations: The spider-kids, or fish kids. There's even a squid-girl in Hawaii. Go figure.

I loop around, my eyes taking in the brown, tan and green patchwork of fields and farms beneath me. I look back up and notice a hawk sailing slightly above me. He seems to regard me as just another raptor, out on the prowl. And I smile at being able to know I'm not.

Not exactly, anyway.

***

Just a funky idea I had-What if there were mutants similar to X-Men, but instead of becoming superheroes/villains, they just tried to live normally?

That's the premise, anyway. Please review with thoughts and comments!

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