Your Collar

Your collar's transforming you. Mature.

It's so heavy, so thick, and so large that it's more a belt than a collar. The studded strap is tall enough to reach from the bottom of your ear to your shoulder, and long enough to hang down to your chest. If you could, you'd be able to slip the collar off easily.

But you can't. It's already started.

It's indistinguishable from your own embarrassment at first. Heat on your cheeks, sweat that makes every motion come with a chill, and your stomach curling up into a ball. Your heart beats faster and your breath grows shallow. You can't tell what's your own anxiety and what's the change. You can't wait any longer. You don't want this, but drawing this out forever is even worse.

Your joints lock first. You fall to the ground on your knees, your toes curled back against the ground and your fingers bending inward. You hold onto the collar itself for support and try to straighten your fingers, but the tendons along your arm sear with pain. With a cry of pain, you drop your hand to the floor.

The heat across your body rises. You break out in a fresh sweat, but your chest is dry. Your chest is prickling. You fight with the collar for an easy way to scratch that bristling feeling. It's like a hair brush against your bare skin. You shove your curled fingers under the collar and start scratching, but it barely helps. You're still sweating.

Then a pulse goes through you. It starts between your shoulders and rolls down over your spine, jumping from bone to bone, to the tips of your fingers and toes. The first creak of bone makes you shudder. As your spine is pulled from both ends, it stretches muscle and pulls skin tight. But at the same time, it's a small release. Your joints crack as they settle into their new shape. You curl your back. As each joint pops, the pain of growing bone diffuses into your skin.

It's not just your spine. Your calves creak and your feet throb with new growth. Bones thrust out, pushing your limbs into elongated shapes. Your hands stretch longer. Your thumbs recede along your palms. Your ribs groan in chorus, then snap forward, shoving your chest out in front of you. The sudden shift forces air down your throat and into your lungs to fill up the new space.

The prickling spreads along your chest, wrapping around its thickened width, and spills over your shoulders. It pushes up past the neckline of your shirt: white fur in a thin, bristly coat. Where it blankets your chest, your skin is on fire. It's begging for cool air and you can't stop scratching. Every few breaths, you have to open your mouth to let out a sweltering gasp and take in a sharp breath of cold air.

As your bones creak and shudder outward, your muscles throb in strain. They're sore, as if you've been exercising for hours without rest. The ache builds and builds until it overflows in one big burst. You twist back on your knees and let out a sharp grunt. Every joint locks and every muscle in your body groans outward. Strength surges into your arms and legs and swells out around your neck and thick chest. Your neck muscles squeeze against your gasping breaths and your rolling chest is taut and tender.

You lift your hands as their skin swells outward. It’s like the bulging feeling of a blister, being able to touch skin in a place it shouldn't be. Except it's not a blister, but leathery flesh. Rounded pads stick out of your curled fingers, squeezed against the singular pad on your palm. Your toes, still curled back and planted on the floor, rise up on their own swollen pads like little cushions.

Your fur is getting worse. It spreads along the tops of your arms and prickles up onto your face. It tickles your cheeks and only makes your blush even hotter. Your bare forehead is damp with sweat, but where you've grown fur, you can't sweat. The heat stays in your body, churning around until you breathe it out. A tuft of white fur hangs from your chin. Your ears rise into points, hot to the touch and rimmed with sparse dark gray fur.

You shudder as your spine cracks again. As the bones re-settle, they stretch and curl your torso. Your neck pushes your head a few inches further from your chest. The straight line from the back of your neck to your spine bends; your head pulled back, your chest thrust forward. Another creak thrusts your chest out thicker still and forces another gasp of air through your throat. It fills your barrel-chested ribcage, stretching your shirt tight. Your center of gravity drags your whole body forward as your proportions and posture change.

The collar sits atop your chest, wrapped around the base of your taller, thicker neck. It's not snug, but it's a much better fit already. You're not just changing shape, you're getting larger and larger.

Your nails bend and curl into claws, each a little pinprick on the tip of your fingers and toes. You hear your socks tearing open behind you and feel the pads of your toes popping free through the new holes. As you scratch at your chest, there's another loud rip. Your claws dig straight through your shirt, tearing open a slash across the chest. Thickening white fur spills out.

Your heels are already raised in the air, but now they creak out higher, lengthening your feet. At the same time, the bones in your legs shorten. The proportions hover between human and canine.

You try to brace yourself as your muscles begin to bristle and tremble. You don't shout this time; instead, you grit your teeth and try to fight it. You lock and bare your larger teeth in a snarl. New sinew and muscle surge down your arms and your legs and shove out into your chest and neck. Your limbs flex involuntarily, tightening your thighs and biceps against your clothes. Your shirt begins to tear around your arms and your pants split their seams. The firm swelling of your chest rips the tear open wider, freeing more white fur.

The fur envelops your face. By now, it covers your cheeks and mouth. As it spreads, the bones of your skull shift. Sharper teeth shove up from your darkening gums, growing to fill the space in your lengthening snout. Your face is so sensitive that you can feel every tiny shift; each jolt that pulls the bridge of your nose forward, each crack as your jaw grows outward. Your nose darkens as it puffs out bigger and rounder and broader. As you breathe in, every smell at once slams into your brain. Your lower lip is a thin black line against the white of your face. You close your eyes. You don't want to watch the gray fur filling in along the top of your snout.

Husky, you think. Knowing what's coming doesn't make this any better.

Your shoulders tighten and thrust your chest out. A pressure wells up within your chest, not inside your ribs, but on top of them. It presses outward against your fur, spreading out over your thick-muscled chest. It's tight and warm, but it's...good. That worries you. Nothing about this has felt good yet.

Then the pressure surges forward again. Your chest begins to bulge out of your ripped shirt, overflowing the fabric that tries to keep it in. Again, it pushes forward, spreads laterally, puffs out with more tight mass. You can't tell if it's just a chest, or pectorals, or breasts, or something else entirely. You tell yourself you don't want to know.

But your hand reaches for your chest anyway. It's covered in fur along the back, swelling with paw pads along the front. Those pads press against your thick chest. The fur there has had the longest time to grow, and it's soft and smooth beneath the pads of your fingers. You press against the plushness of your chest, and an involuntary hot sigh pushes from your lungs. Yes, good, says a deep instinct in your body. You keep stroking your chest.

You have to put one hand on the ground as your spine cracks again. The jolts go all the way past the base of your spine, down your tailbone, and out into the air. The sound of growing joints travels through your bones, clear and wet in your ears. A shudder runs through you as your small tail lifts up. The new skin is so tender you feel each movement and brush against your backside. The invisible force shaping you pulls your head further back. You roll your neck as it lengthens again, lifting your head higher off your shoulders.

Your hand is still pressed to the ground as its paw pads swell. They squeeze against each other, and force your fingers to spread, and drive your short claws out longer, thicker, darker. The more you lean on that arm, the more your weight shifts on top of it. Your thumb disappears beneath the thickening white fur pouring out along your arm. Your back feet, with their own claws and pads, split through your socks as they grow.

Your fur slides down your belly and creeps over your head. Your hair shrinks back and shortens; your scalp is subsumed into your growing pelt. The fur prickles out further, inching down beneath the scraps of your pants, but also thickens along your chest and arms and cheeks where it's already grown. Where it's thickest, your fur flows and sways when you move, following your motions and cushioning you.

You don't even notice that it's not the fur, it's your fur now.

As you stroke your chest, you can feel the rising pressure still under your skin. It's taut, but soft, pushing out in pulses that ripple through you. Each swell makes you tremble and draws a whine from your throat. Your chest isn't quite a set of breasts, but you can feel a cleft down the middle, a centerline between the two thick swells of on either side. Your try to wrap your hand around just one side of your chest, but you can't. It's too big, even for your enlarged hand and big pads, to grip completely.

You suck in air to cool yourself off and your black nostrils flare atop your growing snout. The rush of smells isn't as overwhelming now; your mind's adjusted, devoting more resources to processing scent. As you let out a hot pant, your jaw falls open, letting your tongue hang along the bottom of your mouth. Your ears, now coated in dark gray fur on the outside, cup and perk higher as white fluff fills them on the inside. They swivel, focusing on the different sounds around you, crisper and clearer. Before you take in another gasp of cool air, you lap at your nose to wet it, then lap again over your small-but-plush black lower lip.

Your knees rise from the floor. You've been on your knees since you feel, but now your feet are supporting your weight. The pads beneath each toe swell thicker, forming a cushion beneath you. Your rear rises into the air as you straighten your canine legs. Without your knees beneath you, you put more weight on your front leg. The paw you're propping yourself up with grows thicker and more plush.

You feel the fur pouring down your legs and over your tail. It's a relief, strange enough. It means the prickling feeling of spreading fur is done, and it means more soft, silky fur soon, and no more sticky sweat. Panting is second nature to you now. Your mouth hangs open, tongue rolling against your teeth. You breathe in cool air and pant out the hot.

You groan and flex your paws as you feel your muscles tightening again. They grow tense like rubber bands and then in one firm snap you can feel the strength surging out into your front legs, rippling down your back legs, and running across your shoulders and neck. You curl your back and stretch the new, thicker bulk of your limbs. The swell of muscle into your chest rips apart more of your shirt, reducing it to a band of fabric clinging to your waist. As you stretch your powerful, tapering neck, your tongue flops out and hangs from the side of your muzzle.

While your skull still creaks and snaps from time to time, the brunt of the growth is finished. Your thick, fluffy cheeks and long snout, your sharp canines, your big black nose, have all found their proper canine shape.

You can't pull your paw off your chest. You've been thinking of them as paws now for a little while. You're not wrong. You can't move your claws like fingers; the pads are far too big and puffy to do any work. At best, you can half-grip something by flexing your paws—like your chest. You flex to tighten your paw pads. Your chest slowly overflows your grasp as you try to heft it. Another burst of pressure swells up in your chest. You whine and wag your tail and stiffen your hindquarters. The thick fur of your chest squeezes between your front legs and spills out proudly in front of you.

Your eyes water for a moment. You squint and blink the tears away. When you open your eyes again, they are sharp, icy blue. Colors aren't as vibrant any more, and shadows don't seem so dark.

Your bones creak, but the fur insulates you from the worst of the shudders. You keep stroking your chest with your paw, stoking the soothing sensation it gives you. Your back legs stand straight in their new positions. Your tail curls back on itself as it grows longer and fills out in soft fur. Your quadrupedal posture with your head raised high becomes more natural as your spine creaks and curls.

Your fur muffles everything. The collar floats behind your growing chest, squeezed around the fur of your neck. As your tail sways from side to side, its fluff grows thicker, sticking out in a thick curl behind you. Your pelt is snowy white, aside from the dark gray along your back and flanks, rising up all the way to the top of your head, and ending in a stripe from your forehead to your wet, black nose. You're a husky. A huge, puffy-chested husky.

Your fur wraps you up like a blanket, hiding the taut muscle packed around your body. You're so warm you're dizzy, so you pant harder to relieve that heat. Your tongue drags back and forth along your plush, plump black lip. You lap at it lightly, and it feels soft like the rest of you. Soft is good. Your lip is good.

Your paws are soft, too. Their pads are packed so tight they're almost glossy, jutting out your claws in an overstuffed display. But very, very soft. You feel as if you're floating above the ground and when you press your paw to your chest, your silky fur rolls between the pads like warm water. You pant and you wag your tail.

You barely even feel your bones shift and joints slip this time. Your back legs push into a wider stance, lowering your hindquarters. Your front legs are pulled straight. The tendons in your arm sting; you can't keep stroking your chest any more. The paw on your chest slips off and falls to the ground. In moments, it's just as big as your other front paw. Your body adjusts to a fully quadrupedal stance, standing on your hyper-plush paw pads.

Even with your mind sunk deep into your own fluff, something feels wrong to you. Your heart thumps away heavily inside your chest. Another surge of pressure hits you right in your chest but it doesn't dissipate. It keeps pushing. Your paws clench and you lean forward, thrusting out your thickly-furred, thickly-padded chest. It swells in all directions, pushing down, out, up. Your chest fur obscures the collar and sinks your upper forelegs into its thick plushness. Your paws are easily the size of your head each, but even if you could move them, you couldn't wrap them around your chest. There's too much there. Your chest, fluffy fur and all, is just broader than the furthest reach of your shoulders and reaches nearly from your chin to your knees.

Elsewhere, your fur is filling in, though not quite as thickly as on your chest. Heavy fur makes your powerful legs look even sturdier. Your curly tail is fluffing out thicker behind you, becoming a wagging white plume above your rear. On all fours, you're as tall as you used to be when standing. Your neck is thick enough that your collar sits snug around the base. It finally fits.

Your collar. Your tail wags faster.

Your chest shouldn't be growing this fast. That sense of wrongness drags you from the warm embrace of the fur. You're thinking uphill, pushing against every instinct your body. You push off the ground with your front paws to stand up. You rear up a couple inches, paws raised, but fall back to all fours with a heavy flump.

You turn and pad around in a circle. First, you're trying to get a look at your legs, but soon you're chasing the plush puff of your tail. You feel the weighty swish of your chest as you're pacing and stop. Your eyes drift down to the massive, plush padding in front of you and you recoil in shock. Your chest sticks out further than your snout and if you leaned down, you could bury your head in your own fur.

You try lifting your paws again, but it doesn't work. You'll shout for help, you think. You lap your nose and lips to get ready.

You bark.

You paw at the ground beneath you and try to think the words onto your tongue as hard as you can. You bark twice. You thump the ground with your pillowy pawpads and lean back. You bark a few times and end with a howl, neck cocked back and tail held high.

Howling feels better than it should. You're not going to try it again, you tell yourself. You plant your two front paws together and rear back in a loud, whining howl. The sound rolls back from your tongue down into your throat and your tail starts to wag again.

Once you realize what you're doing, you close your mouth and your cheeks flush beneath your fur. You start to pant again. You need to lie down and rest and collect yourself.

You slump down, forelegs folded underneath you, hind legs sticking out to the side. Your chest presses tight against the floor and squeezes out in front of you, spreading its thick fur like a giant pillow. You're so soft that any way you lie, it's like sleeping on a soft mattress, but nestled into your chest is an extra level of luxury.

Your eyes drift shut as you lounge on your personal pillow. Your thoughts wander as you breathe in your own scent, the scent of a husky. You think how nice it would be to have someone to rub your chest and stroke your fur. Your tail starts to wag again. And you want a rubber bone to chew on. It'd have to be a big one to match your size. You lap at your lips as your mouth starts to water. Your tail whaps back and forth, shaking its fluffy fur.

Your own happy whimpering is what snaps you out of it. You slowly force your thoughts away from your domesticated urges. With a resigned growl, you paw at your collar. Stupid thing, you think.

But you still call it your collar.

2 June, 2016