This page's URL is Do not reprint or repost elsewhere. You may link to it freely.

This is a Tomorrowlands universe story; they are listed at

© 2001, Cattywampus.



	Kenneth leaned back into the only chair he owned, and the
comfortable black leather chair rocked slightly against his weight. He
closed his eyes and sighed wearily, trying to let himself disappear from
the whole of the world outside his window.
	A pair of eyes pricked the back of his neck.
	He found the energy to turn his head to see who the voyeur was,
and was greeted by thin slivers of pupils set in green eyes, surrounded
altogether with a lot of orange and white fur. His cat danced its weight
around from one leg to the next and looked expectantly at him again.
	Then, somewhere inside his mind, he heard -- or felt, he never
could quite discern which -- the plea. "C'mon. Pleeeeeeeease. You're the
warmest spot in the place!"
	Kenneth smiled despite himself and patted his leg. The cat wiggled
a little and jumped, and Kenneth's lap disappeared under some 25 pounds of
house cat. The cat hadn't always been that large, but, apparently, the
recent madness in the world didn't apply only to its people.
	Kenneth's eyes swept over the room, deliberately avoiding the
television set resting cattywampus in the corner, the way it had been
since it was kicked to the floor. He started to relax again, and let his
mind escape into some kind of absentness where all was still.
	Suddenly, he felt a tremendous tug on his heart; it was a nearly
unfathomable yearning, pulling at once at the core of his body and
shuddering through every fiber of his being.
	Kenneth closed his eyes tight and resisted it. "No," he thought,
"you can't make me."
	The sensation grinned and pulled again.
	Kenneth clenched his teeth and pushed it away until he was
thinking again of soaring mountains, deeply wooded hills, and crisp air
giving way to warm days. He slept.


	Kenneth awoke with a start and shot his glance around the room,
trying to find what had awoken him. His senses reeled, and the very first
emotion he experienced was one of nearly overwhelming ... wrongness. The
cat was gone out of his lap already; he spotted it craning its neck around
a corner, peering at the door.
	The knocking sounded again.
	Kenneth frowned, and as he got up from the door and hollered at
it, he reached out with his mind. He intuited a handful of people, mostly
harmless, and couldn't reconcile that with his instinctive edginess.
	He opened the door to a man with a leather face, flanked on his
right by a woman holding a baby in a blanket. Behind him was a kid
probably in his mid-teens, and on his left was another woman whose face
spelled a practiced look of concern and worry.
	"Hi there, neighbor. Fine day, isn't it? My name's Jim," the lead
fellow drawled, "and we're carrying a petition about those man-beasts." He
thrust his clipboard at Kenneth, who stared absently at it for a few beats
of a second, before taking it into his hand to read the paper it held.
	As he read, Jim continued his oration. "We're part of the Human
Welfare Committee; our job is to keep this fine city safe for every
full-blooded person."
	Kenneth glanced at him.
	Jim cleared his throat. "Right. Well, we want every one of them
theris to voluntarily --" Jim glanced away from Kenneth as he emphasized
that word, and Kenneth knew that it wouldn't be voluntary, or ethical.
"... sign themselves up into a database. After all, what if your neighbor
turned into a tiger or somethin', and took to hunting your baby?"
	Nearly on cue, the baby that the woman on his right was holding
let out a short wail. "So," Jim continued, "this way, see, we'll know
about it."
	Kenneth looked up at Jim impassively. "And then what?"
	"Whaddaya mean, then what?"
	"What would you do once you knew?"
	"Well," Jim drawled, "I'd put up a 'lectric fence, or somethin'."
	On a whim, Kenneth opened a door to part of his mind, and
immediately shut it. The sense of revulsion he was flooded with nearly
started him physically shaking. He fought back the feeling, putting it
away until later, and pushed the clipboard back to Jim.
	Jim stared at Kenneth, and opened his mouth, but no sounds came
out. Then his face tightened and he narrowed his eyes at Kenneth. "You
ain't one of them ... animal lovers" -- he nearly spit it out like an
epithet -- "are you?"
	Kenneth grinned, and let the grin play openly across his lips.
"Good day, Jim. Good luck with those signatures." (The first open line on
the petition was already at 394.)
	Jim shot his hand out and stopped the door, nearly knocking
Kenneth back in the process.
	"Neighbor, I really think you oughtta sign. It's for everyone's
safety, y'know. Didn't you hear about that gal, mother of four little
kids, who's still in a coma because of that New Year's Massacre? What if
that was one of your kids in the crowd?"
	Kenneth left some part of his mind looking at Jim, set his jaw,
and reluctantly opened the rest of his mind again. He fought through
intense whirls of revulsion until he reached the minds of those four
people, and, gently, he suggested that it was getting cold outside and
they were hungry.
	Kenneth mentally retreated from their presence and shut his mind's
doors again, focusing on an apathetic attitude to the world at large. "I
think you should go now."
	Jim started to argue, and the teenage kid behind him started
forward. Kenneth closed the door to them, and this time, they didn't
resist. They left, and, a few yards out, Kenneth barely heard, "Brrrr. It
got real cold all of a sudden, didn't it? How about going in for some
	Kenneth went in to nap again, to retreat from the world and every
part of it that he could sense at some level. This time, though, he had
nightmares reeling around fighting, darkness and oppression, and being
chased by some creature that he could never quite see.
	When he woke, he didn't remember any of his dreams, but he felt
unnerved and sought out one of his cats for some quality petting anyway.


	Kenneth retrieved January 6's paper from the sidewalk and paused
for a few minutes to admire the bright, chilly morning. As he walked back
in to the warmth of his home, he unfolded the paper to the headline,
"Nonhumans Must Report To Relocation Camps". Kenneth stared at it in
disbelief, and fleetingly, the notion crossed his mind that he was still
	The article spanned nearly half the page, detailing which local
places nonhumans were supposed to report to, as well as the provisions
available at the centers. Inside were two op-ed pieces, one arguing that
the President's executive order was for everyone's own safety and
well-being (which reminded him of last night's encounter with Jim), and
the other arguing that the order was a glaring reminder of some of the
darker chapters of America's history.
	Inside pages had pictures of protests for human rights, protests
for nonhuman rights, and even one protest against the protests. Even the
comic page wasn't an escape; that day's "Garfield" strip had Jon drawn as
an overgrown version of Garfield, and complaining that he was shedding all
over his breakfast.
	Kenneth's smaller cat jumped up onto the counter, wiggled her tail
at him, and proceeded to lie down on the paper. She looked at him and
slowly blinked; in his mind, Kenneth heard, "You didn't wanna read that
	Kenneth smiled despite himself, grabbed his hot chocolate, and put
on some Simon and Garfunkel. He was in the middle of a morning stretch
when he felt a twinge in the middle of his back, and then the grasping,
tugging sensation at his heart again. This time, though, it was strong
enough to cause him to cry out, and he doubled over with his jaw clenched
against it. Every time he tried to close his mind, to stop being
overwhelmed by every emotion surrounding him, another part of his mind
opened itself to him, flooding him.
	He growled the words out. "I don't WANT to Change."
	In the background, Simon and Garfunkel played "Silent Night".


	He was afraid, scared nearly to death. His heart pounded its way
through the sides of his head, and something punched him in the stomach.
He looked up and saw a cat's smiling visage, and then something large
threw him into the middle of a street fight. Somewhere in the distance the
cat laughed, and on either side of him humans were battling creatures
that, weeks before, hadn't existed since mythology's day. A fist appeared
out of nowhere and soundly clocked him. Now he was angry, insanely
furious, and he stood to face his attacker, only to be met by a void. He
felt claws on his flesh, and looked down. He wasn't bleeding, but now he
was the battle; one half of his body assumed fractal images of humans in
his flesh, and they were tearing at and battling disparate images of
beasts and tangles of fur and scale on the other half. He screamed. A
disembodied eye glared at him, while a relentless grin mouthed the words,
"What are you?"
	The last thing he remembered as he woke were the words, "I don't


	Kenneth decided that morning to forego the paper, and take a
stroll instead. He hadn't been outside since the Flyby, 6 days before. He
didn't know where he would go, or care really, as long as it was somewhere
else. He still felt strangely unsettled by his previous night's slumber
and couldn't puzzle out why.
	So, he pulled on an old T-shirt with a print of two cougars on it,
and soon found himself sitting in the sunlight at a nearby stream made
pregnant by the winter's rains. He pressed his hand against the trunk of a
tree beside him, and closed his eyes.
	Kenneth didn't consider himself a "New Ager," to the point of
finding it massively difficult to socialize with that crowd. Still,
though, when he closed his eyes and tried to see without them, what he saw
-- or, rather, felt -- was a deeply interwoven mesh of gently flowing
thoughts and sensations. Energy. It all had a kind of unique vibration,
the way the strands of a spider's web dance when some insect stumbles into
it. In the same way a spider would, Kenneth could sense what was happening
up or down the weave according to changes in vibrations or flow of
individual threads.
	The tree met his mind and told him stories in impressions, of
warm, free summers and desolate winters; of dangers from people and
marauding insects; of the feel of the soil as it stayed cooler than a warm
day and warmer than a cool day; and the odd sensation of moisture seeping
through the ground around it.
	After a few moments, he became aware of a perturbation tugging at
the back of his mind, unrelated to the tree; he refocused his attention to
it, and immediately noticed the shift in the area's background energy.
	Something was putting a tremendous drain on that energy, and each
time the weave tried to fill in the deficit, it was drained again.
Although it wasn't unusual for individual strands to be temporarily
drained, Kenneth hadn't before seen this sort of large-scale demand on the
area's resources. It was, to Kenneth, an alarming offense against the
ethos of low-impact magery.
	Kenneth searched for and found the source of the drain, a mage he
didn't recognize. He set his jaw and started focusing, gathering his will
together. A scant moment before he intended to appear before the unknown
mage, he sensed not one, but five different mages simultaneously circle
the attacker. Kenneth realized he wasn't the only one who had noticed the
drain, so he settled in to watch; he would likely be totally invisible to
everyone involved, unless they specifically looked for him, and he was
just as happy to observe as to participate.
	The attacking mage immediately drew up a bubble of varied energy
around itself and began thickening its hull. One of the five defending
mages -- who resembled something of a werewolf to Kenneth's mind -- made
its inexperience obvious when it lunged directly at the bubble. Kenneth
winced as the werewolf turned a bright hue of orange and was deflected
into one of the other mages' shields. It disappeared from the area,
probably to recuperate for a while.
	One of the remaining mages tried to bind the attacker from
accumulating any more energy, while two other mages each concentrated on
pouring so much random, disharmonic energy into the attacker that it would
be overwhelmed and suffer a magical burn-out. The other mage rained deadly
shards of energy on the attacker's shield. Alone, Kenneth thought they
might not have been much of a challenge, but their combined wills would
eventually overrun the attacking mage, powerful as it was.
	Kenneth watched quietly as the counter-attacks gradually increased
in strength. Swirls of energy parried blasts of wildly different energy;
for each trick of one mind, another mind conceived a new, more elaborate
	He was certain that the attacking mage would be defeated by the
mages' collective effort, but he had to return home soon, and didn't want
to leave until the matter was settled. Kenneth deliberated for a few
minutes, and ultimately decided to contribute to the defense, indirectly.
	His brow knitted visibly as his mind groped for the delicate wisps
of background energy and refocused them; effectively, he was transforming
himself into a convex lens, sharpening the focus of any energy that passed
through him from one direction, and diffusing energy from the opposite
direction. When Kenneth was sufficiently content with the effect, he moved
his mind -- and in a sense, himself -- between the attacking mage and the
four other mages that had dedicated themselves to the defense.
	It was a subtle and definite finishing blow.
	For a brief moment, every action made by a defending mage was
multiplied five times over, and every action made by the attacker seemed
to simply dissipate before ever reaching its opponents.
	Kenneth felt the attacker's scream of agony in his mind, and saw
the multicolored disco effect as the multiple attacks penetrated the
mage's shield and struck like pinpricks in its mind. Then it was over; the
attacker disappeared, vanishing into some other place, and before any of
the other four mages could begin looking for the source of the magnifying
effect, Kenneth withdrew into the background and then disappeared from
their individual senses entirely, returning to his body.
	He blinked at the suddenly harsh sunlight, the result of having
had his eyes closed for more the twenty minutes, and gradually a grin
crept across his face. In the world of minds and wills, he could actually
do something. Not like the world of muscle he usually lived in.


	The day was giving way to night, so Kenneth stopped wandering
around and reluctantly headed for home. He had strolled about a mile, and
was partway across a grassy field, when the hair on the back of his neck
stood stiffly up.
	Kenneth froze.
	"Hey man, where ya headed?"
	Kenneth turned his head to the voice.
	"Say, got any cigarettes, man?"
	Kenneth's eyes found the source of the second voice. "Nope, none,
sorry," was all he finally managed.
	"Aww, that's a shame." A third voice.
	Kenneth put his feet together, realizing he still stood in
midstride, and tuned out the sound of his beating heart.
	"Can we borrow some money then, man? We'll give it back next time
we see you," from the second voice. The two other people chuckled at their
	Kenneth turned to face them, and paused. He recognized one of them
as the teenage kid that had been at his door with Jim, collecting
signatures the day before. He suddenly wished he wasn't wearing that
cougar T-shirt.
	"Heeey, I know you. You're that dude that wouldn't sign our
petition. Check his shirt, guys."
	They moved in closer to Kenneth; all three were high-school age.
	"Yeah, what's with the shirt? I mean, it ain't very cool to start
with, and you know the other day my little sister was chased by a dog that
ran on two legs?"
	The center boy reached for Kenneth's shirt, and Kenneth flinched;
he shot his hand out to slap off the boy's hand, and the rest of his body
froze, terrified.
	The boy to the left pushed Kenneth's shoulder. "What's up, huh?"
	Kenneth panicked; his previous experience in street fights was
limited to a playground tumble in kindergarten. The center boy howled as
Kenneth's knee found a home between the boy's legs, and Kenneth rushed the
kid on the left. He swung wild, barely clipping the kid's jaw, and pulled
his fist back for a second try when the third teenager buried his fist
into Kenneth's ribs.
	Kenneth stumbled sideways onto the soft dirt, and swung up hard
with his left fist into the third kid's stomach. By now, though, the first
teenager was on his feet, and Kenneth knew he was out of options. His
heart beat its way through the sides of his head and, in the midst of the
brawl, something snapped.
	It wasn't a bone, or any other part of Kenneth's body.
	Kenneth was back in his nightmares, seeing them for the first
time. He felt something well up from within him and then was riding an
intense wave of deeply buried emotions. For just one split second, the
tiniest fraction of time, Kenneth lost control of Kenneth.
	He exploded.
	Not figuratively.
	His three attackers found themselves on their backs, still blinded
by an intensely bright light. They felt hot from the inside out, and felt
loose cinders of dirt under their fingers.
	Kenneth's psyche was fractured into a handful of different
sensations and thoughts. Disbelief, and anger. Pity.
	Kenneth put his hand on the ground as he stood up. Most of his
mind noticed that he was densely covered with fine fur, and that it glowed
a gentle light green. Hues of crimson confused Kenneth until he moved his
eyes and realized that everywhere he looked, the edges of his sight
remained red.
	The teenage boys, as a one, found their sight and stared at
	What they saw was six feet of green-glowing tawny feline wearing a
T-shirt and jeans. With red eyes. And it was clearly angry.
	Their feet started running, and it took a moment for the rest of
their bodies to catch up. They stumbled into each other in their haste,
and Kenneth was nearly certain that one of them had swallowed his
	The red tinge suddenly disappeared from Kenneth's sight, and he
was able to think in one thought at a time again. Instinctively, he
glanced around, and decided it wouldn't be a good idea to keep walking
home. It took a good deal of effort, but he finally managed to melt into
the ground where he stood and, sliding alongside tree roots and the
burrows of small animals, appear at his doorstep.


	Kenneth spent hours trying to get back into a human form again. He
knew, instinctively, that he should be able to. But for whatever reason,
he couldn't seem to make it happen; his fear had been realized, and it
would be his struggle for some time to come.
	He also spent a lot of time trying to sit in his favorite chair.
The presence of a tail made that a painfully dubious experiment, and with
a disheartened sigh he finally gave up and found a footstool to sit on.
	The look on the face of his housecats was nothing short of
classic. Whenever he needed a laugh, Kenneth just remembered their
	Showering went from being a blissful retreat from the world to
being a prelude to hours of miserable dampness (not to mention the
overpowering wet-cat odor).
	His fingertips itched, and it took a while for the impulse to use
the housecats' scratching post to overcome him. They looked indignant as
it was nearly shredded.
	An odd whining sound from a corner of the room caught his
attention; he found a spider there and released it outside.
	Kenneth finally started to feel overwhelmed, so he sat down in the
middle of the room, took a few minutes to adjust to the feeling of fur
brushing against the carpet pile, and closed his eyes.
	With so many things on his mind already, he never paused to
consider what would happen when the kid that attacked him in the street
got home to Jim.

Please let the writer know what you thought of this story! Leave feedback in the Tomorrowlands forums.

Up to story list

TOMORROWLANDS.ORG Home * Contact * Copyright Notice * About Us
Please report errors or broken links via the Contact page.
Page last updated Apr 06, 2001. Design (c) 2001 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.