Story and Images by Mertail
Part 4: Reactions
Betty Kowalski was working in the computer server area. She was helping on of the technicians thread a new fiberoptic bundle through the already crowded collection of cables that already filled the cable bay.
“There should be an easier way,” she muttered.
“Not without breaking the containment seal on the other side of the wall,” the technician responded.
“Are we that close to …”
“Level 2 is on the other side. We’re just running an line to the virus lab. Good thing. They’d kill us all if we had to shut down level 2 like we did last time. Seems even a few days is more than they want to give up.”
“We’re not in any danger?”
“No. The virus side’s been virtually shutdown for months. Nothing hazardous in there any more.”
“Oh. Was there? Before?”
“Don’t know. All I know is we had to work in the damned hazmat suits ten months ago when we recalled the building.”
A jet of silvery mist caught Betty in the face. Unconsciously she inhaled, lost consciousness and fell from the ladder she was standing on. Her partner, hearing the crash, quickly came to her aid. She was barely breathing but a quick first aid assessment showed no apparent broken bones.
He signaled the “Man Down” emergency and waited until the first responders arrived. He wasn’t too surprised to find they were company people in hazmat suits. This close to any level of containment, normal ambulance and firemen would be more of a hazard than a help. Likely they were going to get her out and into an ambulance and then to a hospital.
He was completely surprised when they indicated he needed to follow them. They didn’t, as he expected, turn towards the main lobby. Instead they went into a lower level lab. Both he and Betty were quickly locked in isolation. ‘Ah shit!’ he snarled to himself. He had a date in six hours and now he was trapped here.
Betty remained on the hospital bed where she’d been deposited by the company emergency team. It was clear no one knew what was happening but having a containment problem reported on the other side of a wall and then having someone knocked out by something coming down a shared cable bay might be something they couldn’t afford to chance. Betty wasn’t quite alone, though. Before they left, they hooked her up to all kinds of sensors and set up a ceiling camera so she could be monitored at all times. They were taking no chances. Betty remained unconscious for nearly 36 hours. She twitched occasionally beneath her blanket but, aside from minor movements, was completely insensate as far as her observers could determine.
Betty, at the end of the second day, slowly awoke. The room seemed to spin and smelled strongly of disinfectant. Whatever had hit her in the cable bay must have been pretty extreme. She turned her head to one side looking at the clock on one of the monitors. She couldn’t believe what it was telling her. She couldn’t have been out that long. Her stomach, though, told her otherwise.
“Hello,” she called. “A little help here.”
A voice came on the intercom. “Good to see you awake, Ms. Kowalski. We’ll be right down to get you something. You had use very worried for a while.”
“Uh, thanks,” she responded.
She lifted her head and looked at her reflection in the side of a metal instrument cabinet. It wasn’t the best mirror but she saw something strange. Her cheeks and neck were oddly white and there were two brownish lumps at the sides of her head. She frowned and then shook her head. She felt something flap at the sides of her head. Quickly reaching up, she attempted to touch what she’d feel flap at the sides of her head.
She screamed. Her hand! It wasn’t a hand. It was a white furry paw. A dog’s paw! She continued to scream until she heard someone enter the room. Quickly she rolled onto her stomach and watched as the covers slid off onto the floor.
“Oh my god,” was all the nurse said before she dropped food tray.
Betty, meanwhile pushed herself up. Onto four legs. Four dog’s legs. It didn’t take long to realize other changes. She had teats - pairs of them all down her belly. Like her son’s mutt. A tail hung from her hips. She jumped from the table towards the still partially open door and past the nurse. It didn’t take her long to find a washroom and a mirror. Her distorted form was completely apparent. Mostly a dog now, all that remained human was her face. And not even that was completely human. Her tongue, longer than it had ever been, now curved downward over a pair of sharp fangs.
Not knowing what else to do, she fainted. That’s where they found her. It wouldn’t be until a few days later that they let her awaken again. By then, her changes were complete and irreversible. She shrieked so much and threatened to break equipment or hurt herself that her medical team had to sedate her again. It would be weeks before they figured out how to bring her around without a complete emotional breakdown.
Cindy’s experience was somewhat different than the others in the lab. Her day had started with her favorite activity: grooming her pet poodle. She spent hours at it because she and Kierie were going to be in a very important show that very weekend. Kierie just had to look his best, of course, if he was to win more than just Best of Breed.
Noon was soon upon her and she decided to visit her husband at the lab. They often had a quick lunch before he had to go back to work. It was pleasant enough and ended all too soon. Before she left, she decided to visit the washroom. It was while she was in there that she noticed a strange mist coming from an overhead vent. Puzzled, she reached up to touch it. It vanished as soon as it touched her skin. Curious, she returned to her husband and asked about it. He’d never heard of anything even remotely like it. Probably just an overactive humidifier or something was his assessment. He excused himself and returned to work. She returned a second time to the washroom. That was no humidifier mist. She was sure of that. She soon found traces of the strange substance on any cold porcelain surface. As soon as it was warmed by her touch, though, it vanished almost as if it had been absorbed by her skin.
Unsatisfied by what she’d found, she left to complete her preparations for the Dog Show. As she drove back home, she noticed the car getting increasingly warm. The temperature gauge said all was well but she was feeling horribly hot. She turned the air conditioner up a few more notches and was comfortable for a while. By the time she was nearly home, she had to turn it up again. She couldn’t get sick not with the Dog Show only a few days away!
She was determined to ride out any problem and began her packing. Her legs felt strange and, when she looked down at them through her nylons, discovered she was unbelievably hairy. She knew she’d shaved just that morning. What was happening? It didn’t take long to find that the strange fur covered her from the middle of her back to her toes. She couldn’t be sure but it was growing longer and denser even as she watched!
Soon it was too dense for her shaver and she became worried. It wasn’t her normal color. It was a cream white. Just like Kierie. Just as fluffy as Kierie’s was just after a shower. But that was impossible. Then she remembered the strange mist.
She fumbled the autodialing of her cellphone twice before she managed to connect with her husband. She described her symptoms. She insisted it had been the mist at the lab. Her husband hadn’t heard anything definite but he admitted that the lab was in a lockdown but couldn’t or wouldn’t give her details. He said he’d send someone to help her though.
Cindy wasn’t sure what help the lab’s people would be but she knew what to do about this unwanted hair. She grabbed Kierie’s sterilized electric razor and began to shave the unwanted fur from her body. It was hard to get to the portions on her back and, in the end, she had to leave it. No one would notice if she wore something that covered her back.
It took the lab crew nearly two hour to arrives. Most of that was, of course, because their house was deep in the suburbs 45 minutes away from the lab under the best of traffic conditions. Rush hour is never the best of traffic conditions. They knocked at the door and finally had to let themselves in. They found Cindy, half naked, trapped up against the wall by Kierie who seemed unusually insistent about her. Cindy was busy pushing him away and keeping her back to the wall. The four attendants couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. Cindy had completely regrown the fur on her lower body and now sported a tail as long as Kierie’s. It was the tail that Kierie was unusually interested in.
One offered to get her shoes before noticing that her feet were no long shaped in any way to be able to wear shoes. Halfway between a dog’s feet and human feet, they had long dark claws and white fur. They covered her with a hospital gown that they wrapped about her long body and helped her to an ambulance gurney.
By the time they reached the lab, more changes had taken place. The horrid fur was now covering everything from her breasts to her increasingly dog-like lower body. She was increasingly agitated by this turn of events and tried to get off the gurney while they were still entering the TransRepo lab area. They supported her from the ambulance into a waiting decontamination tunnel and then into a quarantine room. They all left, save a single nurse who took her entire medical history. She quickly left and locked the door behind her.
Cindy felt decidedly strange and uncomfortable and pulled herself off the bed. She felt she had to walk somewhere, anywhere. It was hard. Her body was longer than it had been and decidedly ungainly. The fur was back as thick as it had been before she’d cut it back home. It looked terrible, it needed clipped. It couldn’t stay that way, it was simply unthinkable. But there was nothing in the room she could use to shave the unwelcome covering.
She stumbled about the room for several minutes before noticing that two small knobs had developed about halfway between her hips and the base of her ribcage. She stroked them. The felt familiar, somehow, but she couldn’t tell where she’d felt something similar. It was amazing how fast they changed though. By midnight, they were 30 centimeters long and looked like Kierie’s had when he was a puppy. She didn’t dare sleep. She didn’t want to be a dog. It was all that damned mist.
By morning, her changes were finished. She definitely had four legs. She also definitely needed grooming. She wished she had her dog clippers. She’d never be able to enter the Dog Show this way. Then she remembered. She dropped them into her purse when the team had arrived from the lab. Her purse! It only took a few moments to find them and a few minutes more to find a plug in.
That’s where they found her. She was carefully grooming herself, making sure every hair was in place.
“Cindy?” asked her husband. “What are you doing?”
“There’s a Dog Show in three days. I have to look my best for the show, you know,” she answered as she carefully groomed and brushed her lovely furry body. He knew better than to get in her way while she was prepping a pet for a show … even if that pet was herself!