The Transformation Story Archive Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...

The Bystander

by Jack deMule

We sat watching as the calf died. There isn't enough water, so there's no milk, and the heat, oh yeah, the heat really helps. I've always been good at not getting involved with the events taking place around me. Now you could say it's a profession. Not long ago it was just a habit.

I was walking to work, as I did every morning. I passed the park entrance, I heard someone shouting. "You could have saved him." I heard, but kept on walking. "Hey you! I want to know why you didn't help!" He isn't going to go away, I thought, I may as well get it over with. I wheeled and confronted a husky man in his forties. His eyes were red, and he chewed on his lip. I though he was ready to cry. "Look," I began, "I just didn't want to get involved, and it wouldn't have helped anyway." The same excuses I've heard so many times before cascaded easily from my lips. "No! It wasn't right! You should have helped, together you could have helped!" He screamed at me, his face livid.

With a detached curiosity I watched a little vein throbbing on his temple, wondering If he was going to hit me. "I'm sorry, really I am. I know that won't bring your son back. I just didn't want to take the risk. I mean, anyone that would beat up a young boy like that in front of everyone in the park, well I just didn't want him to turn on me. If I called the cops, who knows, he could be set free on bail and I'd be next." He suddenly seemed quite calm, gathered his composure and held out his hand. "Of course, why should you stick out your neck for a total stranger? I won't bother you any more I just had to see what you'd say." I shook his hand, "I really am sorry, I know that's not worth much but it's the truth." I cursed myself for letting the news cameras broadcast my picture along with that of the dozen or so other witnesses to the beating.

His grip was quite strong, like the hands of a farmer or laborer of some kind. I was surprised. Didn't I read in obituary that he worked at A.D.L or some other nearby research lab? I can't recall. I felt something prick the back of my hand, startled I yanked my hand from his clasp. He smiled, a sad, half smile. It made my skin crawl. "You don't have to worry about being involved anymore." What the hell did he mean by that, I wondered.

Later that day I left work. I didn't feel well and decided to go home, shower and get some rest. "What the, damn there's a lot of hair in the drain!" I was feeling worse by the minute, but the thought of loosing my hair distracted me. I went to the mirror and began examining my scalp.

Large patches of hair had fallen out. I grabbed a tuff of hair, that looked like a paint brush bristle sticking out of my head, and pulled it out. My complexion flushed and my face seemed swollen and mottled.

Then the gut wrenching pain began. I doubled over and lay on the floor of the bathroom in a fetal position. The coolness of the ceramic tile helped ease the pain. I stared at the doorway to the bathroom and into the room beyond, while trying to concentrate on thinking the pain away. Curiously, my vision seemed more acute. Everything seemed brighter, almost crystalline. I must be delirious, I thought.

My feet and legs began to ache. I watched as they shrank and withered, and the skin became scaly. I heard a loud crunch. I felt I was being kicked in the ribs. This is what it must have been like, I thought, as a vision of the boy being beaten in the park appeared before me. Then I passed out.

When I regained my senses it was dark. Several hours must have passed. I got my feet under me and stood up. My head only reached a few inches above the sink. The lurid glow from a street light, just outside the bathroom window, illumanated the room. I could see all too clearly the ugly bald head, it's covering of warty, wrinkled skin, beady eyes and hooked beak, of a buzzard.

"Hey you!" I was jerked from my daydream by a shout. "Have you been listening to a word I've been saying?" I smiled. "Oh, I'm sorry, what were you saying?" and I hated myself for not telling him to shut up.

"Anyway, It took me a while to fly to Texas, when hurricane season comes round I plan on traveling Florida. Once you get used to it, it's not a bad life. Really, you just have to give it a chance."

"I admit I was a bit it lonely until you showed up." My new companion ruffled his feathers and sighed. "Hey, who knows, he may get everyone that was on the news broadcast. Let's go rip into that calf. It looks ready to me."

The Bystander copyright 1996 by Jack deMule.

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