Blackshirtboy's birthday present is a free trip to Egypt Times, complete with a new catgirl princess persona. Mature.
Just as you settle down at your desk with some tea, your computer chimes with a new message:
You pause and double-check to make sure you’re not a panther, or a dragon, or a dog. You’re not. As far as you can tell, all your parts are still in their usual configuration. So you tell Kotep no, and wait for a minute or two to see if they’re going to send you something. When nothing comes right away, you shrug and grab your tablet pen so you can get to work.
A couple minutes into drawing, a warm draft ruffles the back of your shirt. You glance up at the window, which is wide open to the outside, with only a pair of linen curtains to soften the breeze. It’s not getting hot and sticky again, is it? Summer should be over by now. But the fresh air is light enough to soothe rather than stifle, and it carries the dry green smell of date palm blossoms into your room.
You narrow your eyes suspiciously at the window. It’s off, but you’re not sure how. You’re definitely not getting up to stick your head through, that’s for sure.
You turn back to your tablet and keep drawing.
The window stretches taller and taller and its panes disappear completely. Columns rise quietly from the receding walls, growing white and tapering until they blossom into wide lotus-petal capitals, painted red and green and gold. They meet the ceiling, then slowly and steadily push it higher and higher. Your small room isn’t so small any more.
You’re not paying attention to that, though. Your fingertips have turned black.
Black fur, smooth and short, sweeps over your hands. It ripples beneath your skin as it moves and reshapes your fingers, leaving them light and nimble. You barely have time to sit up in surprise before it moves up along your arms, like a pair of velvet gloves being tugged up past your elbows. The sleeves of your shirt cleave away from the rest, fall down your arms, and grip your arms as they re-form into gold armbands inlaid with blue lapis.
September 18, 2020
Hello My Name Is...
A customer at Katie's diner is messing with words, and Katie—or whatever her name is now—has got to stop it. Mature.
Katie kept her name tag pinned above the left breast of her pink button-down blouse. It was part of the outfit she had to wear: the blouse, the matching skirt, and the apron she kept her pen and order pad stuffed into. At the start of every shift, she dug her name tag out of the bowl in the back next to the shift schedule, and pinned it to her chest. It was the one part of the dumb, outdated outfit that she had no problem with.
At least, not until today.
Two other name tags were missing from the bowl when Katie clocked in. The first belonged to Liz, who was making herself busy in the late-afternoon lull by tidying up around the register. Her shift would be over in an hour and change, and Katie knew she was just counting down the minutes, because that's what she did herself when she had the eleven o'clock shift.
The other was Benny's. He was just the busboy, but he was six-foot-something and had once tackled someone who'd tried to leave without paying. Katie had never talked to him much, but she gathered he'd played football while he was in school. She was jealous of him, because he didn't have to wear pink.
As far as Katie could tell, it was a normal, slow day at the diner. She'd gone around to each booth and pulled down the blinds, so the sun wouldn't be glaring in through the windows, and had checked to make sure the table of college-aged guys didn't need anything. They were no one she knew, thankfully.
June 27, 2019
A late Halloween story: Morgan pieces together a last-minute costume and really gets into the role. Mature.
It was one in the afternoon on Halloween. Costumes were splayed on the ground, hanging off the hooks, and half-stuffed back into their bags. Morgan wasn't the only person in the store, but the clutter and high shelves left him feeling alone as he searched for a suitable costume. Maybe he shouldn't have waited until the last minute, but he hadn't known that Faye was going to be at the costume party.
All of the good costumes were gone by now. What were left were the things no one wanted to end up in-character as. A cheap gorilla suit listed to one side on its hanger; he'd have a hard time flirting as a literal ape. An angel costume with halo was slowly shedding its foil stars onto the floor; good if he wanted to be a total goody two-shoes. If he was going to be stuck in-character for the night, he wasn't going to settle for a gorilla or an angel or a cop.
Morgan rounded the corner of the aisle and stopped in front of a tall barrel, big enough that he could have sat inside it. A hand-written posterboard sign was taped up behind it. 'Grab Bin!!' it exclaimed, 'Build a unique look from these assorted accessories. Pick out three for $10!'
Maybe he could piece together something Faye would like. Morgan leaned forward over the thick rim and tried to peer into the barrel. He stuck his hand in, grabbed the first thing he felt, and lifted out a pair of shiny black pumps. The shoes had slim heels and chunky soles and a cheap, plasticky-gloss surface. He was not getting stuck in-character as a girl for the night. He tossed the shoes off to the side and bent over to keep searching through the assortment..
Up on his tiptoes with his head in the barrel, Morgan couldn't see the black heels moving. They quivered, then inched across the floor. Once they were close enough, the black shoes reared back onto their heels, lifting their toes into the air right behind Morgan's feet. In unison, they stomped down on the back of his sneakers. His shoes popped right off his feet and the black plastic heels wriggled their straps up around his black socks.
November 10, 2016
Woken from cryosleep, a cat must escape a post-apocalyptic training facility designed to turn him into a kangaroo supersoldier. Explicit.
In 2036, war began. Destructive, planet-wide, all-out war. Civilians, fleeing the encroaching devastation, sought out cryogenic stasis en masse. Governments pooled their resources with private companies in order to preserve their citizens, with the promise that, in five or ten years, they would be brought out of stasis and would return to the post-war world.
Sixty years later, war has changed. Gene-spliced soldiers fight a constant battle of attrition on the war-torn wastes. To fuel the never-ending conflict, warlords and military dictators search for stasis pods to replenish their bleeding ranks. With fresh pre-war blood, and genes ready for splicing, the civilians in the pods are the newest recruits in the endless war.
WARNING: HOMEOSTASIS BREACH. POD UNLOCK BEGIN.
He tumbled limp onto the floor. His lungs seared with chemicals as he coughed for breath. A computerized voice, back inside the pod, was saying something to him.
"You may be experiencing mild memory loss. This is normal. Please wait for a care counselor to come retrieve you."
No. This wasn't normal. His lungs were dying. His memories were a haze of feelings; anxiety, fear, wanting to curl up until the war went away. But who was he? It was a big blank in his mind. Brown fur, short claws, whiskers: cat, male, young. He spun the plastic tag around his wrist and read the name on it. 'Circutron.' Was that a name? Didn't sound like one, but it was all he had. 'Circ' was good enough.
He grimaced and clutched his chest. The sting in his lungs seeped into his veins. It spread into his body, some foreign thing that shouldn't be there.
The floor was littered with dust and flecks of concrete fallen from the ceiling. He leaned against the wall, cushioned by the tubes and hoses running between the pods. One hose had been ripped from the wall and connected to a rusted red canister with strips of duct tape. In yellow spray paint, the words 'RooD Jooz' ran down the middle of the tank. He coughed. Was that what he'd breathed in?
December 21, 2015
The Amazing Talia
A batty hyena magician kidnaps a feline superhero and turns him into her stage assistant. Mature.
As he walked through the lobby of the abandoned Verite Theater, Celsius was stopped by an usher.
"Can I see your ticket?" she asked.
Celsius was caught off guard, but the hyena girl in a red cap and jacket didn’t bat an eye at the ruined posters, or the splintered boards piled up near the concession stand, or the fact that chunks of the theater doors were missing. She didn't even notice that he didn't have a ticket.
"Right this way," she said.
With an arm behind Celsius's back, she swept him forward through the doors and into the ruined theater hall.
Celsius had been combing through unsolved, odd crimes for something to investigate. He had to put work into making a name for himself as a vigilante. 'Little brown cat with ice powers' was not a marketable superhero identity, so it came down to research and legwork. What he'd found was a number of thefts—cellophane, light bulbs, fabrics, a Halloween costume store, video equipment—that all had similar MOs. They'd all involved drivers who'd fallen asleep and had no memory of what happened afterwards.
The thefts were spread out over months; if you weren't looking for connections, you might not have pieced together that someone was stealing supplies for a stage show. And in Empire City, that meant it was time to go digging around in old theaters to figure out who was taking all this stuff, and what their plans were.
"Hey, I've got some questions for…you?" Celsius said. He whirled around, looking behind him, but the usher was gone.
Someone threw the breaker for the lights, and the theater lit up, pouring light down onto the right side of the stage. The whole stage had been repaired and re-finished. It stood out, almost unreal and pristine against the rest of the abandoned theater. The red velvet curtains on the right side ruffled.
"And now, for the very first time," boomed a woman's voice over the speaker system, "the amazing, the mysterious, the lovely, Talia Tsannarova!"
September 14, 2015
The Curse Deepens
Captured by the Lion Clan, a cursed adventurer struggles to keep his independence. Mature.
The misty forest hung heavy on Circ's whiskers. The droplets of dew weighed each whisker down. The weight of the drops became an unseen hand pushing his head down, telling him to stop, to turn back, or at the very least, to rest. If Circ knew anything about this land, that feeling meant this was the worst possible place to rest.
The young cat pushed on through the mist, clinging to his spear like it would draw him through the woods. His armor creaked softly as he moved, stretching around his slim form. Armor was little help if he was ambushed, though, and he was so slight that only light leather could give him enough mobility to defend himself. His best defense was the small shield buckled to his forearm, followed by the tip of his spear. If anything came at him, the best he could do was put it down quickly before it could get its claws into him.
Minutes crept by and trees emerged from and disappeared into the haze. He had no idea where he was going, but at the very least, he couldn't see any tracks ahead of him, so he wasn't circling around. Every sound of shifting leaves made him turn and squint into the mist. He was almost sure he saw a figure moving or a bit of fleeting motion behind a tree. When he looked again, there was nothing, just the mist playing with his eyes.