Dog/Master by Penny Barratt
(After “Swan/Princess” by Jane Yolen)
When the change came they were in the woods together on a fresh spring morning. He slipped the lead and watched him sniff the air, wag his tail and run. The man stopped still and, like every day, regretted that he couldn’t follow the dog through brambles and nettles into deep secret places instead of trudging well-trodden paths.
He looked down and noticed his nails first. Like a monster in a B movie, he stretched his fingers in front of him as they thickened and curved, his knuckles blackening under a sudden growth of hair. No, not hair, something sleeker, coarser. Fur, yes, fur.
Buttocks clenching, thighs curving, trousers splitting he tipped forward onto all fours into a pose of controlled readiness, one perfectly formed paw raised in anticipation. In that instant he felt a brief regret for his loss of height, the loss of power that comes from looking up not down on the world.
But then the sounds hit him, smells engulfed him. Was this really the same world, the same woods? What had he been missing? Tree resin bubbling, worms tunneling, squirrels quarreling, moss creeping, mushrooms sprouting, birds breathing. Rabbits.
Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits.
When the change comes he is in the vet’s surgery. He’s dreaming he’s down a badger’s sett and gets stuck. Scrabble, scrabble, earth fall, tongue lolling, can’t breath. Something smelling strong, strange, wrong, unnatural. Then a sharp pain between his back legs. Badger bite?
This is no dream. He notices his tail first, shrinking and disappearing into his body. Has he done something wrong master? His muscles slackening and softening, flabby belly returning, hairline receding, sounds and smells muffled as if he is permanently underwater,
The startled look of the vet recalls him to reality. Her look of horror as she scans his naked body. She is slender, blond, his type. The only thing he’s missed about being human, civilised interaction between man and woman rather than animal lust. He waits for the ancient stirrings.
The thrill of the chase.
Women, Women, Women, Women, Women.
No balls left.
Penny Barratt spent 20 years as a business journalist and publisher. Earlier this year she vowed to attend fewer writing classes, write more, get a lot of rejections and finish at a least one of her three novels. Three out of four achieved so far with particular success at number three. Her work has appeared online at Visual Verse and Writing Magazine and she is a regular contributor here at Sick Lit Magazine.