|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
John looked around in his closet and picked out a pastel blue shirt with a dark crimson tie. Positioned next to his suitcase was his favorite pair of gray slacks. The bathroom mirror was still steamy from the morning's shower, and he adjusted his perfect Windsor knot. His light brown hair was trimmed to a short length close to a buzz cut, but was just at an unkempt quarter inch longer. John's dimpled smile was large and his mother's blue eyes had to squint slightly to fit it all on his thin face. With wingtips, John was one step short of perfection. He needed his mask.
Sitting on top of the dresser were five masks on white plastic stands, their hollow eye sockets staring cold and empty at him. The first mask was his favorite and possibly the only one he liked. It was of a gray mouse with large tan ears that were leathery to the touch. Next to that one were his business masks; he was a market analyst and he couldn't run operations without his bull and bear masks. The mask to the left of those two wasn't really a mask at all but a green curly wig. Under this stand was a glossy red clown nose in a clear plastic box and grease paint, his bumming around gear. The orange tabby cat mask was barely used. John never liked cats, but it came on special with the mask of the mouse. Number six was John's least favorite, but many thought he pulled off the pig mask very nicely, and he couldn't afford to be fashion-blind when it came to masks, even if he wanted to burn the whole pile.
As he reached for the gray eye makeup, John kept reminding himself of the mythology of it all. Saint Thomas Equinas the ninth, had started it all, when as pope he had decreed that the human image is sinful and leads to vanity, lust, and other immoral acts, and as such must be covered to protect the human race from it's own horrible image, the less human the better. He coined the phrase 'The eyes are the windows to the soul, and they should be the only things man can see.' The re-interpretation of the Bible that God made man in a lesser image than the animals that roamed the Earth solidified the law in religious minds. Looking in the mirror, doing the best he could not to apply the gray greasepaint into his eyes, John couldn't see how the human face could be sinful, but with the gray circles around his eyes he looked more like a monster than anything else. Using a paintbrush of soft sable hair, he painted white accents that added fur textures around his eyes. He lined his eyes and brought them out, making them appear bigger than they are, large like the eyes of an animal. He powdered the makeup dry and with that, the mask itself was next.
Lining certain spots of the inner mask was Neuroglue gel. It was designed to add more facial reactions to any normal latex mask. Specifically, the eyebrows, corners of the mouth, and cheeks were lined with this blue glue. Carefully, John placed his custom made head on and pushed the Neuroglue to his own facial features. He closed his eyes and began to manipulate the mouse's face. He smiled, frowned, and opened his eyes to watch the whole process over again. Hidden under all the fur, latex, and makeup were a pair of blue eyes and they were crying. Another 'Casual Friday' with tears.
John walked down to the bus stop that was right in front of his aging brownstone. He stood with a rhino-faced man and a woman with a look for feathers. Standing with the woman was a child in a mask much like John's. He stooped down and looked into the child's eyes. They were filled innocence and joy. John used to remember when he was like that. The peacock in a pink business suit tugged the child closer to her and he waved goodbye. Looking up, John cursed and yet admired the man with the rhino mask at the same time. He cursed the barbaric tradition of hiding faces and in the same thought he was astonished at how the man produced such a cumbersome mask and yet look fashionably comfortable. Was this vanity or jealousy? John asked himself, as the sound of air brakes broke his concentration.
Blue Bus #9 pulled up to the stop and the woman with kin was first. Tossing his two bits with the eagle headed Washington's on them; he looked at the bear on the controls. The driver was large and almost seemed bear-like as he tugged at his fur mask, the escaping heat was beginning to run his makeup, the bear was going to have to powder again soon. Finding an empty space near the front, John sat down and rested his false chin on his hand. He watched the hidden world pass by at a speed of forty miles an hour, and, in between blinks of an eye, the mousy man watched the world play, dancing with the others in an ignorant daze.
"How could they be so happy when God is oppressing them?"
John's muttering was too loud and in the next moment a man of the cloth and wolven head rested next to him.
"You seem troubled, my son." The priest said, not from under the mask but with it.
"Father, if God intended man took look the way it does why then are we forced to wear masks?" John said, in a gentle rebellion.
"God works in mysterious ways. When Saint Thomas, wearing his wooden horse helm, came to the podium to proclaim his Accords the audience saw him become struck by lightning, but he didn't die. That was God's sign that Saint Thomas was right. It is a labor, but it is a labor for God."
"Father, it just doesn't seem right. Everything inside me says this is wrong."
"Then don't wear your mask." The Priest said like he was asking him to go buy a liter of milk.
"Then the cops will bust my butt for indecent exposure. I just, I want."
"You want what?"
John turned his eyes back to the window and sighed, "I don't know, maybe I'm just having a bad morning and I'm making it worse."
John watched as the man in the wolf's mask placed a hand on his shoulder. Warmly, the gray and black figure looked in his eyes and saw the pain; the saint had at least one thing right.
"I will pray for you."
John nodded and the father's stop came up in front of a large stone cathedral, the Saint Equinas Cathedral.
"Christ, I need a drink before I even get to the office."
The final stop for the bus was three blocks away from the financial center and the fact that he and the bus driver were the only ones on the bus was a bit shocking. John looked around once and stepped forward.
"Hey, Mr. Mouse."
John looked over at the person in the driver's seat. "Yes?"
"Shit happens, guy."
"Yeah, I know." He said with a nod. "You know, I have been riding your bus for a month and I don't know your name."
The bear bellowed, "It's Gary."
"Gary, powder your makeup. It's starting to run." John said as he handed him a container of crystal powder.
It was only eight thirty and usually the traffic from the morning rush would be murder, but for some obscure reason people were semi-happy and didn't leave a mess of road rage to screw with John's day. John took a breather at the bench and looked to his right. The financial district was just one block down, and three blocks down was the firm he worked for, Ferret Fox Mongoose, the fifth largest investment firm and dead last in small business investment. John was head number five in a five-head totem pole of the small business department, not a very good sign.
"Hey mister. What does JSM mean?" a man in usual suit and tie of the business world asked as he scratched an itch on his fly mask. John looked down, looking for the JSM he was talking about.
"I meant your monogram, what does JSM mean?"
"Oh! John Samuel Mouse."
The large green eyes rose up in a nod, "Ah, I see. Not many people would give their name out like that in this city."
"I trust people." John said with a smile.
"It's a good quality to have, if you are a good judge of people."
John didn't understand the comment but went with the flow, "I guess it's my business, I judge what small businesses are worth investing in."
"Here's my card Mr. Mouse. I'm an excellent judge of personalities, and I like what I see in you," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Watson." John took a double take at the name on the card, "I never heard of an animal named Watson."
He lifted up his coat and spoke as he walked away, "There isn't."
Watching Mr. Watson hop on the next bus, John twirled the card in his fingers twice. He told himself what a weird guy, but the truth was he thought everyone in a mask was weird, even himself. John reached in under his collar and loosened the grip the soft fur ends of his mask had on his throat. He could feel the heat leave and enter the warm May air.
The day was boring, repetitious, and in the end, too long. The only highlight to his day was approving the funds for a large Latino family to support their growing Bodega. It would most likely get him fired but the way his life was going getting fired would be the blessing he would need, at least he wouldn't have to go out in public in another damned mask. But also he had the call to make to Mr. Watson. Six o'clock, and John followed his usual route of bus with Gary, up the stoop, up four flights of stairs, around the corner, and into his house where he ripped off his mask and threw it onto the couch. Some nights when it's cold, you could see steam coming off of his head when he removed his false head. His leather recliner called his name like a woman calling her husband who has been in jail for far too long. A click to the remote and sports were on.
"Damn, I thought the Braves would beat the Red Sox."
John pulled out the now bent paper and dialed the number.
Two rings later Mr. Watson answered, his voice was more pleasant then the voice under the ugly mask he wore out on the street.
"Well Mr. Mouse, you are more of a man than I thought. Are you alone in your flat?"
"Yes, I am. Why? Are you going to scream so loud that someone in the room can hear?"
There was a laugh in his voice as a slight southern accent returned John's reply, "No, but if my whispers ever came out to the light of day it would rock the world like a cannon."
"What's your message? The world is coming to a end?"
"No, but I know your secret, I read your eyes. You dream of the day that your face meets the air without having to go through the latex of your mask. You wish to rid yourself of all your masks on your dresser. I bet right now you are dying to find others like yourself, am I wrong?"
Fear ran cold and hard through his veins. If he could put his heart to his chest the beating might have broken his hand. Lifting the receiver to his ear, he answered.
"Good, meet me in an hour at 4th and Columbus, third floor, apartment 13."
The dial tone was the end of it. John felt like he was in the middle of a bad spy movie with a fox face hero waiting in the shadows to take out the criminal element. Laws were laws, if you are caught outside of your home without a mask on, you go to jail. Indecent exposure. He had heard about the free parties, they were modern day Roman orgies. Women and men in scantly clothing, no masks, pure sin. The main example used by Saint Thomas why man should cover their face. The sin of human flesh. But it was free and John wanted so badly to be free. He grabbed his mask from the chair and quickly put it on. He looked like a mess, the collar of his face was hanging out, the eyes looked uneven, his muzzle was bent a bit, but the look on the faces of the others was welcoming. The doorman had a cheap, near-clear plastic mask on, almost illegal. The man also had the body of a bouncer.
"You can take your mask off now, Mr. Mouse. We are expecting you." The bouncer said as he removed his own.
For the first time outside his home, John took the mask off and looked at the bead curtain hanging from the dark doorway. Soft party sounds were in the red tinted air. A woman's perfume or incense eased its way from the room to the right.
"I'll take that."
The bouncer took the mouse mask and placed it in a coat rack area. John could see video cameras of the hallway were in the little cubby where the bouncer housed himself.
"You can't be too careful." Said the large man with a shrug.
Losing society's cage was scary, but an adrenaline rush filled him and he could feel his heart galloping. Walking towards the curtain, he kept asking himself, was this wrong? Or was the world wrong? As he turned the corner, he saw the celebrants. They weren't oversexed demons with only sin and corruption on their mind but a bunch of suits sipping Champagne and nibbling on caviar and oysters. If John didn't know better, he would think this was your average third quarter earnings celebration with brass of the firm.
The voice was that of Mr. Newman. He was an odd sight. His white moustache was curled into a pair of handlebars, his pure white hair was perfectly combed, and his thin arms were spread out wide.
"Johnny boy, clean that makeup up with this."
He handed John a box of tissue and a bottle of baby oil. Grateful, John took them and started to wipe away at the gray eye sockets. He was pointed into the direction of the bathroom. The one drawback of using baby oil instead of makeup remover is that when it gets into your eyes, the mess blurs your vision. When he looked up from his seat from the toilet, he saw a woman's fuzzy figure. All that he could see was that she had a red dress the flowed like the oil in his hand and her blonde hair was down to her shoulders.
"Let me help you with that." She said with a seductive voice.
He said nothing as she pulled a fresh tissue from the box in his right hand and gently tapped her hand on his closed eyes. Her touch was seductive, not just on his face but also with her hand which rested on his thigh.
"My name is Miss. Watterman. You can call me Jeanne. Everyone gets a new last name when they enter, it's more tradition than anything else. Not many come in full makeup."
With his eyes still closed, he replied, "I'm new here."
"Well then, let me welcome you."
He felt another tissue pulled out of the box and Jeanne wiped his cheeks free of the oil. Overriding the scent of baby powder was her tropical scent.
"I love your perfume."
"It's called 'Scent of the Wild', I hate the name but I love the smell."
He nodded, "Mmmm."
"You must like it a lot more than I do, I'm done and you still haven't opened your eyes."
He looked up and yet the curtain of oil still coated his eyes. He found the sink and flushed out the runny gray mess. When he saw the woman in red holding the box in her hands he was a bit shocked. Jeanne's face was flawless, no blackheads around the eyes, no little imperfections from makeup or heavy masks stinking of sweat. What he saw in her was a rare beauty that should never be hidden under wraps.
"How did you find our little group?" She asked, seemingly not realizing how instantly enamored he was.
"Actually, Mr. Watson found me. I guess he can read minds."
"Not really. Will usually investigates us before he finds people he can trust. I bet you are the first person he caught with his little toy. He bought an Internet Tracker off the black market. Naughty little boy, looking up illegal naked faces sites."
Regaining his mental composure, John let loose a sly little smile, "I bet you are in one of them."
She came closer to him and smiled herself, "Of course."
"How much of a naughty boy would I be if I was to kiss you on your naked lips?"
His arms went around her waist and his bravado was mild considering he could have just kissed her without permission. Jeanne's unpainted warm mouth lightly brushed his small nose as she gently nipped at its tip.
"You know, unlike what people believe, sex and sin aren't on our minds." Her finger wrapped around his red tie once. "But I would gladly make an exception with you."
"Oh, we are going to Hell for this, Miss. Watterman."
Her eyebrow cocked and a soft smirk raised the corner of her mouth, "So?"
As wonderful as the moment had been, Hell was knocking at the door. An explosion filled the room and a loud yell of 'Police' overwhelmed the sounds of the party. Jeanne rushed out of the bathroom safely, but as John went to escape, a fist met his face and the back of his head hit the toilet. He faded out. The last sensation he felt was the cold metal of handcuffs on his wrists.
The long darkness ended with a dream of an angel in red walking down from the clouds. Her soft cheeks, the full lips, her dark ebony eyes looked down at him. She gently rose above him, her feet anchored on nothing but ether. Nothing more than a cloud covered the angel's body as she floated back to the bright blue sky, the sunny day in his mind. When the dream ended, the nightmare began.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Mouse. I trust your sleep wasn't disturbed by my, well, entrance."
The voice was familiar but his strength was very weak, so weak he couldn't even open his eyes. Everything was fuzzy, his senses, his thoughts, John passively went from consciousness to the safety of his mind.
His words were mumbled and then he felt his ears shift atop of his head. The foreign sensation was enough to get him the open his eyes. In front of his dimmed sight was a gray muzzle. At first he thought he still had oil in his eyes and he was in mask, but when he saw his pink nose move to catch a scent far too strong to be coming from a human nose, John panicked. In the background, heart rate monitors accelerated their beats. A man in black came towards him.
"Don't be afraid, my son. It is for your own good."
It was the priest from the bus and he smelled like a dog--a wolf, to be more precise. Fear built up in John's mind as he saw that the priest's hands were not human but a combination of canine and man.
"Scared? You should be. Your soul was almost lost to eternal damnation," he said, calmly.
"Wha' tha' hell ist happenin'?" John screamed as he looked down at his alien body, which was strapped into a hospital bed.
"You're not used to talking with a muzzle that is all, Mr. Mouse. You will get used to it."
The scent became even stronger as he walked towards John. He was crucified, back on the bed, arms stretched out and bound to the bedframe by lock leathers. His feet and tail were tied in a one grand knot at the end of the bed. When John felt his tail rocking at the base of his spine he cried.
"We have been watching you for a while. Most people who become dysphoric follow a strange pattern that can be followed and studied. We call it 'the highway to Hell'. My son, I can understand the burden of our labors to God can be stressing, but they must be done. When I first heard about the rehabilitation treatments first planned for criminals I became a 'test subject' of sorts. At first I thought the loss of humanity was a hideous idea, barbaric. But as I learned to live with it, my new face has become a blessing, not a curse."
He placed a clawed hand on John's shoulder. Looking one more time at his transformed body, John found he was naked.
"Tell me, what was the reason you hated masks, the burden or the process of the burden?"
"Tha' process." John struggled to say with his misshapen face.
"I see. That's what I learned about the rehabilitation, my son. It removes the burden and process. That is why I told the treatment centers that their miraculous transformations should not only help the poor tortured souls of criminals, but also the citizens of the world so that Saint Thomas' accords can go through and end the sins of the human face as we know it."
John began to cry and asked himself again 'why me?' A finger wiped away a tear that ran down his cheek.
"Don't cry, Jonathan. God forgives you and gives of you his blessing."
Even with the priest's still human eyes that were calm, John cried. It happened many times before and the priest knew it was going to take time.
"Whath isth ya' nam' Fatha'?" John asked.
"My name is Father Thomas Wolfe." As he walked out the door he turned to the patient. "I will tell the guards to release you. God bless, my son."
The burden of the masks might have been over but the process wasn't done. Another month passed of speech therapy and proprioception within his new appendages. A month passed and he returned to home, rent paid for by the church. His old job was kept secure. His firm was bought out by a larger company that had the largest small business payroll in the world, and they had an opening reserved for John. At the end everything was the same again, except for the immortal mask that was his face. The newest investment opportunity of Genetic Masks Inc. was John's first real big find and he became an investing golden boy. But every day he looked to his dresser and found nothing but a comb and other minor things. His assortment of masks went to the poor who couldn't pay the thousands for the gene therapy. The sad thing was that his morning routine was more painful. He still rode Blue Bus #9 to the financial district. John still said hello to the bear sitting at the wheel, now more comfortable in his full fur. But every once in a while he would see the priest in the back of the bus waiting for his cathedral to appear in the front window. During those times John would nod, not appreciating what the man did to him, but not ignoring the fact he was there. Every time the bus came to a stop at the cathedral, Father Wolfe passed by and said God bless. The fifth time this happened John replied.
"May God bless your soul, Father."
John earned his first promotion a month after coming back on the job. His corner office was light filled and his name was painted on the door, he was a high riser. Just outside of his office was a desk for a secretary, a secretary he did not have. Most of the applicants were qualified but John couldn't find the right one. The final applicant's scent came through the door before she did. His rodent head rose up as he smelled the perfume he had been looking for. She walked in and placed her resume on his desk. Her hands shook, and she looked nervously out at the window.
"I love your perfume. Is it 'Scent of the Wild'?" He asked, hoping she would turn her head to him.
"Yes, I love it but I hate the name."
It was all he needed to hear. Quickly he shut the door and hugged his fellow rehabilitated criminal. He sighed as her unnatural rodent scent mixed the perfume.
"I missed you Miss Watterman."
Indecent Exposure copyright 2000 by Jacob T. Fox.
|<< Horse Whispers||Lessons learned >>|