Flash Fiction Challenge – Seven Days of Fang (Two Stories For The Price of One)

So, the latest fic challenge is here, and I randomly got the title Seven Days of Fang. I actually had two ideas for this. One which I thought was obvious, the other which was really weird, but I ran out of room to explore. So here’s both. Pick your favorite if you have one.

    Seven Days of Fang – Story 1

Ultimately, no one was sure how it happened. There were lots of theories, from genetically modified crops to terrorist action to global warming, but there’s no answers as of yet.

What happened was every human in the world woke up one day turned into animals. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the changes. The President woke up a hamster, while the Vice President woke up a musk ox. Families all became different animals entirely, including some that were prey for the others. The one constant was that people fell asleep human and woke up something else.

I was a tiger, which was kind of awesome, after the general shock of not being a human anymore wore off. But then I considered that I was an endangered species now, and that kind of sucked. Except I eventually realized that we weren’t since I was hardly the only person to turn into a tiger, so we weren’t exactly endangered anymore. And could you be endangered if there were no longer humans to kill you? Questions within questions.

Of course, had this happened to everyone? I was skeptical at first, and thought maybe I had just had some kind of weird psychotic break. The world couldn’t have had a major Gregor Samsa moment, could it? That was just crazy. But looking out my window, I saw a couple of weird things.

The Changs next door, to my knowledge, never owned any kind of pet, not to mentions a monkey. But currently there was a macaque trying to open their kitchen window. Also, pacing nervously in and out of the sill, was a thing that could have been a feret, or maybe a weasel. A thing of that ilk.

And across the street, near Mrs. Heranndez’s place, a coyote decided to try a wolverine out as a snack. Despite the size difference, this turned out to be the worst decision the coyote could have made, because, before I realized what had happened, blood was spraying from the coyote’s neck like a garden hose on full blast. While I had heard of the phenomenon of “urban coyotes”, did they come here? Certainly wolverines didn’t. And despite my size and being generally a lot more lethal than a coyote, I decided I was never going to bother a wolverine, no matter how hungry I got. I wasn’t even sure how it had killed it; it was quick and nasty. Also, I though the wolverine might be Mrs. Hernandez, protecting her turf. If there was any justice in the world, the coyote was that annoying Breckin kid from down the street.

Both hunger, and the thought that this could actually be happening to everyone drove me outside. I had no hands to open the door, but I jumped through the back window, assuming my tiger mass would make it easy, although I prepared to bounce off the glass a couple of times before succeeding. As it turned out, the shitty condition of my cheap place paid off, and it broke on the first try. I didn’t seem to be hurt either.

In human form, I wasn’t exactly a small gal, and now, in tiger form, I was sleek but fucking huge. I scared other animals just by showing up, which was as it should have been. Tigers were apex predators, right? Big assholes of the animal kingdom. We could eat you, your friends, and your children, even if you were in human form.

Once outside, though, it really started sinking in: humanity was gone. The quiet was eerie. There were no cars on the road, no planes in the sky, no phones ringing. It was post apocalyptic, except all the buildings and the cars were still standing.

Animals were everywhere. On my walk into the city – which I must admit was super easy in tiger form, much easier than as a bipedal human – I saw a zoo’s worth of wildlife. Gazelles and oxen and squirrels and aardvarks. You name it,I probably saw it, although they all gave me a wide berth. In fact, I watched a surprising stampede involving a moose,an orangutan, and a capybara, and while I braced for maybe a wolf pack or a pride of lions, they all seemed to be running from a single, confused skunk. Which was fair enough, because even though it wasn’t spraying, it still smelled vaguely of a tire fire at the body odor factory.

Eventually I came to the twenty four hour supermarket and its automatic doors, which let me inside. I was not the first animal there, although there weren’t as many as I expected. All cleared away from me as I walked down the aisles, making for the meat section.

There were already a couple of carnivores there, but they all scattered when I approached, save for a polar bear. It was big, and it would have been an interesting fight between us, but it was more interested in ransacking the fish section. Since she wasn’t looking to fight, I went ahead and attacked the beef section, eating probably two or three cows worth. And it had been almost a year since I had eaten meat. But tigers weren’t exactly vegetarians.

While leaving the store, I crossed into the produce aisle, and discovered it had hardly been touched. Some of the smaller herbavores might not be heavy enough to set off the automatic doors, and also might have been scared of all the buigger animals.I decided to play good Samaritan, and got my big tiger teeth around displayed cases of fruits and vegetables, and began dragging them out of the store. A bit clumsy at first, and always shedding produce along the way, I still managed to pull five boxes out front, beside the store, and when I was pulling out the fifth, I caused some small mammals to scatter. If we stayed animals, it was all going to go bad anyway, so why not let some of the little critters have a shot? Nobody was responsible for the animal they turned into. Or at least I didn’t think so.

Otherwise, why did I turn into a tiger? I was an overweight, asexual I.T. tech who mainly worked from home. Crowds gave me a panic attack, and I wasn’t good with actual humans. Sure, I played games, but I preferred RPGs where I didn’t have to interact with anyone. Humans, in general, weren’t my jam. I was about as threatening as a three legged mouse. So how did I end up king of the fucking jungle?

(I know that’s lions. But I couldn’t think of what they called tigers.)

I started to wonder if this was just localized, some weirdness that just happened to us, so I started walking again, following the road to the freeway, and beyond. Walking was so much easier as a tiger. Maybe it was having four legs, evenly distributed weight, no clothes or shoes, who knows, but it didn’t seem to bother me at all. I was aware of the heat of the asphalt under my paws, the warmth of the sun on my fur, but it didn’t bother me.

I wasn’t the only animal to think of this. I saw others on the road, but again, they avoided me. That was probably for the best. The longer the day went on, the more I started to get what I’d call tiger urges, thoughts that really weren’t my own. I didn’t like that, but somehow it seemed inevitable. I hoped they were psychosomatic.

I crossed through several towns by nightfall, and I hadn’t seen one human, one working car, one machine in the sky. Wind whistled through the buildings, and when the sun went down, the cranes stilled beside half-built apartments almost looked like trees.

I kept time by the rising and falling of the sun, but it was much harder to gauge how far I traveled. I started losing my ability to read, even though my eyesight was better than it had ever been.

I cannot stress enough how quiet it was. Sure, there was the noise of animals fighting or getting aggressive with one another, war cries and death throes echoing through the concrete canyons, but even so, the lack of mechanical noise and electronic thrums was startling. You live with it every day, and you never realize it’s there until it simply isn’t.

Somewhere between day two and three, I not only lost track of time, but also of my human self.

I’m not saying it was paradise, because it wasn’t, and it must have been terrifying for those turned into small prey creatures without much in the way of defense, such as rabbits and guinea pigs. I’m not going to lie. I got lucky, and had it easy. Not even the bears dared attack me. I stayed away from wolverines and skunks, because that seemed like a good idea.

When I woke up in the woods in a place that turned out to be Northern California, back to human, I had lived seven days as a tiger. There was no more reason why I’d turned back to human than why I had become tiger. I wasn’t alone either. Everybody that survived that long turned back.

Once the dust settled, it was calculated that an entire third of the world’s population had died in that week. A third! That was a staggering amount. It wasn’t just people killing other people in animal forms. There were accidents, from animals getting trapped or falling down various urban hazards, from accidental fires and flood caused by man made objects and machines failing catastrophically. Automated systems kept running until something made them stop, and the end result wasn’t always good. And then there were the waves of suicides afterward.

What turned the world into Animal Farm? A lot of people like Gods for this – take your pick of which one – and people seem to have become more religiously unstable than ever. It was done to punish man for our hubris/remind us we’re all God’s children, some say, while others like Satan for it. Others tried to look at this as a “quantum event”, some kind of reality/dimensional slip, or blamed aliens for it. Some others still took it as proof magic was a thing that existed. I lean towards quantum, but I don’t know. No one knows. All I know is the world is more precarious than ever, and what should have been a unifying event seemed to wedge humanity even farther apart.

No, that’s not completely true. I know I’m hoping it happens again, and soon, before us stupid ass humans blow everything up.

Because I really miss being a tiger, and I can’t be the only one.

**

    Seven Days of Fang – Story 2

Imminent death is a great galvanizer.

I’d heard rumors of this sort of thing, that immortality was actually possible – not medically, but otherwise – although most of those people were dismissed as crazy. But as soon as I was diagnosed with an inoperable and fatal brain tumor, I figured now was the time to follow the crazy train and see where it led.

I had a year to find out.

I maxed out every credit card I had, including ones I got just for this occasion, then took the cash and ran. I had long ago lost touch with what remnants of family I had, and I had few non internet friends, so there wasn’t much to leave behind.

The dark net proved invaluable in my search, and two months of following hoaxes, false leads, and dead ends led me to a club in New York. Not a nightclub, or anything like that. A secret one, a sex club for wealthy wheeler dealers who wanted something a little different, and were willing to pay for it. This was where those maxed out credit cards came in handy.

He was an escort who went by the cheesy nom de whore Fang. You didn’t get to just “meet” him. You were informed to get a room at one of the finest – expensive – hotels in New York, under the name Brian Winderen, and wait. That was it. I did it, aware it could be some kind of elaborate and weird scam, but when you’re dying, might as well try.

At some point I fell asleep, waiting for Fang to show up. I woke up to the big screen television showing some kind of animal documentary, and I was so dazzled by the bright explosions of colorful birds in flight that it took me a while to notice there was someone standing beside the bed.

I jolted upright, my heart slamming against my ribcage, as I finally saw the man. He was tall and lean, with bronze skin and long black hair like a midnight waterfall, gathered loosely behind his neck. He wore dark jeans and a leather jacket over a t-shirt depicting a cartoon Cthulhu. He could have been any hipster rock star wannabe, right down to the sunglasses he wore in my dark suite. “You’re dying,” he said. His voice had an ancient quality, like crumbling parchment.

“Am I?”

He nodded. “I can smell it on you. Is that why you want this?”

“What other reason could I have?”

“You’d be surprised. They think immortality is something to be sought out, like a trophy wife or a sports car. They don’t understand what it really is.”

“What is it?” He smelled faintly of snow, of old books, and just a hint of corruption. He stood perfectly still, like a statue, and that too made him eerie.

“It’s a curse.” He moved finally, removed his glasses, and I saw his eyes. It almost seemed like a joke. His eyes were slit pupiled, and somehow green, black, and brown all at once, like a kaleidoscope of decay. They were kind of fascinating in their inhuman beauty.

“Is that what you tell the tourists to scare them away?”

He smirked, but it was a cold thing. My mind kept coming back to cold with him. “It also has the inconvenient fact of being the truth. What’s your name?”

“Jason Milford.”

“Jason. Understand what you’re really asking for here. Immortality is a disease. Not everyone can catch it. It isn’t as simple as a bite. It is a process that takes an entire week, and you may not get it. Most die in the attempt. It is arduous, and painful, and if you do get lucky enough to catch it and survive, there’s no living in normal society again. Even if they’re not sure why – and they’re never sure why – normal people will be instinctively unnerved and scared by you. You will be a freak even before your eyes change. There will also be times when you wish for death, and it will never come. It is maddening, and you will be so bored, you will even do things like this from time to time, just to kill it. Do you understand?”

I didn’t doubt him. Even those loony tunes who insisted vampirism was a real thing were adamant it was a disease, and basically not as fun as movies and books would have you believe it was. But a symptom of the disease was supposedly immortality. It was rare, but it existed. “Are you trying to scare me off?”

He shook his head, and his hair barely moved. “Just being honest with you. Here’s how it’ll happen, if it happens at all. I’ll take you back to my place, and you’ll have to drink some of my blood, and I’ll bite you. This will be repeated every day for seven days. You can’t go anywhere else, can’t eat anything, can’t go out in the sun. If it starts to take, your body will start undergoing changes so painful and drastic I’ll probably have to tie you down. If, after a week, you’re not dead, I’ll teach you how you’ll survive. But you can’t be you anymore. Jason Milford will no longer exist. You cannot come in contact with anyone from your past. You’ll be dead to them.”

I shrugged. “I’m dead to them already.”

His eyes glittered, like the world’s most corrupted jewels. “You’re not afraid.”

“I’m dead no matter how this shakes out. So why not give it a shot, right?”

He smiled, and his two ivory fangs were revealed to me. At least his cheesy nickname was appropriate. “You may regret that.”

I shut off the TV, plunging the room into darkness. I could still make out his eyes, glimmering like broken glass at the bottom of a dirty pond. “I should live so long.”

His smile grew wider, and I knew right then that might be the last thing I ever saw. Or just the beginning.

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