by Usagi Anami (兎あなみ)
He was a Siberian husky, purebred and very expensive, although he did not know it. When he saw his reflection, he could not see that his eyes were blue. When the storeowner fed him or changed his water or tried to pitch him to a potential customer he would simply call the dog “the Siberian”.
The Siberian was a very special kind of pet to have, a novelty and a fine conversation piece, if you could afford him. He was born from a small line of fauna subjected to an ancient magic that transformed dumb beasts into something between them and men. Called “therians” by arcane experts and “manimals” by lay men, they possessed the arms and legs and hands of men, as well as their sentient mind.
This was more of a burden than a benefit, as magic tends to be where one attempts anything amazing with it. Familiars talked back to their masters and farm animals plotted revolutions. And once magic is done it is notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to undo. The spell was labeled forbidden by those in power to decide such things, stricken from arcane records, and its practitioners prosecuted. The manimals that had not shown any rebellious tendencies were allowed to live, but their children and their children’s children would be raised as the dumb beasts they were before. It was reasoned that a mind that could learn but did not was no different from a mind that knew nothing.
The Siberian spent his days behind the front window of Murphy’s Pet Emporium, studying the world beyond the glass and wetting the window with his nose. Cars, with their shells and curious spinning feet, fascinated him. Fat pigeons and seagulls taunted him as they waddled across the street. The murmur of the traffic and birds heralded the beginning and end of his day. But what held his attention above all as else as it was paraded across his vision was the multitude of people. He loved the expressions their furless faces made and their loose, shifting skins.
The little ones were his favorite. Many times they had run up and pressed their sticky hands against the window, shouting and smiling at him. His paws would move up the glass to mirror them, the thin invisible wall keeping them from touching. Sometimes they would even press their own noses against the glass, mock panting, before being dragged away by their mothers.
He watched the sky pale and darken, watched the moon melt and swell up like a pale fruit. He watched to the sidewalk crack with frost or boil with heat. He watched the people that shuffled by change too, their hair and skin shifting hues. He spent his days alone, a mostly unobserved observer, until the day Jonathan arrived.
Jonathan’s skins the Siberian knew; the strip that hung from neck like a flattened snake, the thick outer coat that opened to reveal the lighter skin beneath. His hair hung a little past his ears, dark and straight, and stubble peppered his jaw. He did not smile when he looked down at the Siberian. There was a detached interest in his eyes that seemed to look not at the Siberian, but inside of him. The man’s stiff gait and expressionless face frightened him, but he could not bring himself to turn away from his gaze.
A moment later the bells tied to top of the store door were clanging. The store owner, who normally sat at the register and thumbed through magazines until a customer wanted to buy something, was up to greet the man in an instant. The man nodded or shook his head in reply to the owner’s cheerful banter, his face empty. The minutes passed slowly, until the man raised his arm and pointed a finger at the Siberian.
The Siberian’s tail shot up as the two of them walked over to his cage. The store owner droned and the man nodded now and then, his pale eyes fixed on the Siberian’s. When the screen that kept him in was lowered he bounded out tail furiously wagging and ears perked. The man reached over and rested his hand firmly on the back of The Siberian’s neck. His tail froze mid-thump when those fingers went through his fur. Led to the register he watched the man and the store owner exchange words and small thin rectangles.
Soon a collar was wrapped snugly around his throat. To that collar, a leash was attached, and to that leash the man was attached. The man tugged on it, pulling him towards the door. The bells clanged again as the door opened. A wave of warm air washed over him, a myriad of tempting smells pricked his nose, and his paws touched the pavement. He was outside.
He was not given opportunity to take in the warmth of the sun on his back or investigate any strong aromas, however. His new owner was insistent about pulling him to a car parked along the sidewalk. The concrete was rough on his knees as he obediently crawled after his new owner. He sniffed at the wheels, but was pulled away before he could give one an experimental lick.
His owner opened up the car door, and said, “Up”.
Blinking, he was tugged towards the opening. A hesitant paw touched the soft interior, and turning back he saw the man was nodding. When he climbed inside he was grabbed by the shoulder and pushed upright. Something was pulled over his chest, strapping him in place. The bond was tight but not uncomfortable. The Siberian occupied himself with the smell of leather on his seat while the car began to vibrate and growl.
Outside the car window the street and all that was familiar was rapidly pulling away. A hint of regret fell over him and his home became smaller and smaller. He panted heavily and whined when it at least vanished from view.
Once again he was the watcher, except he was in motion and the world was stationary. It felt much the same as behind the glass at Murphy’s. The chief difference was that the time he was given to study his surrounding was woefully inadequate.
The man drove him to a small white house and led him inside. The Siberian began to examine everything with his nose and paws soon as the man took off his leash. He sniffed and prodded for some time until the man placed a bowl of tiny circles in front of him. The smell of it made his stomach rumble and he remembered his hunger.
After he had finished eating, the man pointed to the Siberian.
“David. Your name is David”
He repeated this several times, the Siberian staring at him mutely. When he was younger Murphy punished him when he tired to make the same sounds as him. It took him a good deal of time to realize what the man wanted from him.
The words came slowly out of the Siberian’s mouth. The man nodded and pointed at him again. He was no longer the Siberian, the name given to him by the pet store owner. He was David. The thought of it made his head light.
The man then pointed to himself and said, “Jonathan”
David did not need any time to grasp the concept.
“Good boy”. Jonathan reached over and rubbed the back of David’s neck. His tail thumped against the floor happily.
“We’ve got a long way to go”, Jonathan sighed.
“Waytogo”. David licked his hand.
David slept in a bed for the first time that night. Jonathan’s face was tranquil as he slept, so different than his waking hours. David listened to him breathe for a long time before finally succumbing to sleep himself.
The days that followed were an alternation of the loneliness of Jonathan’s agonizingly long disappearances and the excitement of his return. The first hour of his return he was distant, barely touching David or acknowledging him except to tend to his needs. As the afternoon wore on his tie would loosen and his skins would wrinkle. When he went into his room, David would follow and took great interest in watching Jonathan change his skins.
People were strange. David never imagined they could take their skins off. He had always thought they had shed them and grew new ones like he did with his own fur. When Jonathan took off his skins, he looked tender and vulnerable, like a turtle that had stepped out of its shell. David never grew tired of studying the dark patches of fur under Jonathan’s arms and beneath his belly button on his otherwise nearly hairless body, the curve of his back, or the bulge of his calves. People were strange, but that was what made them so interesting.
Jonathan would take him out around town or at the park after donning shorter pants and a t-shirt. David looked forward to one of Jonathan’s smiles or laugh as much as the chance to explore or chase ducks. When they returned home Jonathan began showing David how to walk, another thing he had been trained not to attempt. He found it much easier to do than expected. However, he was also taught only to walk inside the house. Outside, he had to move around on his paws and knees as he had done before.
Although the evening lessons confused him, he learned them quickly. He learned the words of things, “food”, “leash”, “table”, but also learned not to speak outside of the house. He learned how to get food by himself, how to open unlocked doors, and other things essential for taking care of himself while Jonathan was away.
Not that he did much in Jonathan’s absence. His appetite and curiosity waned and he spent most of his day waiting at the front door, pacing, and whining. Jonathan had chosen him and brought him to the world outside the store window, but the world didn’t seem like much to him now without Jonathan in it.
One morning David decided he would not let Jonathan leave.
He wrapped his arms around Jonathan he work up and pulled him back down onto the bed when he tried to get up.
“David, I have to go to work”, Jonathan groaned, wriggling in his grip. Struggling against him, Jonathan’s body pressed up closer to David’s.
“No”, David countered, licking the back of Jonathan’s neck and tightened his grip around his torso.
“David, bad boy!”
The rebuke made David whimper. Jonathan hands gripped his paws, pulling them apart. David moved quicker than Jonathan, however, pouncing on top of him before he could get out of bed. There was an odd scent and something was stretching of Jonathan’s boxers when he pinned him to the bed.
David let go of Jonathan’s wrists, sliding to the edge of the bed and dropping to his knees. A dozen odors tickled his senses when David pressed his nose against Jonathan’s flat stomach. Many scents clung to his body, soap and food and people, but one that came from his own body was heavy and persistent. As the scent grew stronger it roused something in David, and his stomach clenched as his length came out of hiding.
He nuzzled the crotch of Jonathan’s boxers, lapping at the bulge through the thin fabric. David hooked his fingers underneath elastic rim and pulled down remembering how Jonathan removed his clothes. The smell of him was even more pungent now, the aroma his nose and throat blotting out everything else. Jonathan groaned when David began lapping at his exposed member.
“I gu-guess I can always call in sick”, Jonathan muttered, reaching up and scratching the back of David’s ear. His tongue moved faster from the encouragement. Jonathan’s hand slid past his ear, gripping the back of his head. His other hand reached over and pulled open the nightstand drawer, pulling something out.
David was pulled to his feet. Jonathan was lying on his back, legs dangling off the mattress, toes wriggling above the carpet. His hand ran down David’s back and he shivered when strong fingers touched the base of his tail. The other hand was creeping up David’s thigh, fingertips running through his fur.
Although Jonathan’s hand was slick and cold, the jolt of pleasure that went though him when he touched him there made him yelp. Jonathan drew his knees up towards his chest while he pulled David toward him with one hand and guided him into him with the other. Unable to keep his balance, David fell forward, holding himself by his paws on the mattress at Jonathan’s sides.
Jonathan’s face was changing. The blankness of his expression was melting way, flushing with blood and beading with moisture. His brow furrowed and his eyes fluttered open and closed. The contortions in his face at first seemed to David a sign of pain, but something in Jonathan’s eyes convinced him otherwise.
David was growing again as his body trembled with new sensation. In this second growth he was widening, as if to fill the empty space of Jonathan’s body. Beneath him Jonathan was writhing, face twisted with surprise and pain. David scrambled to pull way but found himself unable to move, held in place by his still-swelling organ.
They stayed this way for some time, entangled and unable or unwilling to move. David leaned down and licked and Jonathan’s face. Jonathan stroked the back of his head murmuring, “It’s all right, that’s a good boy, it’s all right”. David had a number of things he wanted to say as well. He didn’t know how to say, “Thank you for giving me a world outside the glass” or “I love you”, so he used what words he knew.
“Jonathan good boy, good boy.”