The door creaks in a long, pained whine, like a wailing cat, or some other pitiful creature. It hardly opens enough for you to step through before the hinges lock up altogether - seemingly caked in rust - and you have to squeeze yourself into the gap sideways.
Once beyond, the smell hits you. Not entirely unpleasant, but noticeable nonetheless; damp, dust, and old paper. This room has clearly been left unmaintained for some time, and from the thick layers of dust upon the floor beneath your feet, it was fair to think that no-one had even been in here during that period. Squinting into the foggy space, unlit except for the dingy illumination from the door behind you, you frown. Perhaps you've explored a little too far into the building here... Maybe it's time for you to turn back, and go back outside to the sun, instead of down here among the dust and old, discarded things.
Deciding that there was nothing to see, you reach back around to let yourself out, with a mind on peeking about elsewhere. Just as you make to do so, however, something in the corner catches your eye, and your brown furrows in confusion at what you see. Just on the other side of the door, next to where you squeezed in, there is a metal rack, and upon it is something that perplexes you in a moment, and brights a halt to your step. Lengths of brightly coloured material, draped over the old iron spines in perfectly symmetrical rows. Looking closer, you can see much to your surprise that each and every one of them has arms and legs. Costumes of some kind? Mascots? What were these things? And, most importantly, what were they doing here?
Approaching slowly, you extend a hand and touch the nearest one – orange and tan - and find it enticingly soft to the touch. They seem surprisingly comfortable, not like something awkward or ungainly that a stage performer would wear. Glancing around, you wonder who they belonged to, and what they were worn for. Strangely, at that thought, you found the idea of someone wearing this... beautiful thing very appealing. Surely, it was a shame that cloth of such quality was wasting away back here. Perhaps you should try it on. After all, why not? What would be the harm? It’s not as if anyone could possibly follow you in without you hearing, or like anyone would know if you had just one quick try.
With curiosity only growing stronger and stronger with each unanswered question, interest finally gets the better of you. Taking the one that had caught your gaze first, you unhook it form the rack, and feel it's weight drop into your hand. It is surprisingly heavy, but you manage to find an opening in the center of what would appear to be where the chest goes, and raise your leg up and into the opening without much consideration for the clothes you're already wearing. The inside is much, much softer than you had expected. Silky, pleasant to the touch, and surprisingly natural feeling, not like it was something synthetic and false. It feels as though your limb is being sheathed in long warm, snug, and cosy socks, and when you wriggle your toes you can hardly feel any fabric about your toes.
For a moment, pulling the garment up around your other leg, you repress the urge to tear your hand back. This wasn't... real fur, was it? Staring at the thing for a long moment, you remain quite unsure. There doesn't appear to be any stitches or seams holding the thing together, but at the same time the patterns over the whole garnment were entirely consistent... surely this was not possible if it were actual fur.
Running your hands up the neck of the thing, your grip stops as it comes across a small plastic tag – square, grey, with a small light in the center. Strange. It must have been a microphone or some kind of device like that, back in the day when these things were used, assumedly. Perhaps this thing was a stage prop after all, though you could hardly believe it if it was.
Moving on, and fitting your hands and arms in next, you find yourself inexplicably drawn to do up the zipper and complete your outfit. After all, you’ve come this far already, why stop now?
Gripping at the label, your now gloved fingers take it up and up from the low of your stomach to higher up your chest, slowly enveloping more and more of your body in the cloth-padded softness. As you continued, however, and as the metal grew closer to your neck, where the entire thing threatened to close over your head as a whole, you began to feel... strange. The sensation that spread across your chest and face wasn’t so much… pain… as something completely else and unidentifiable. It wasn’t exactly pleasurable, but he familiar pang of hurt wasn’t there either. However, regardless to it’s lack of lack of classification, this feeling spread further and faster across your entire form - soon covering every inch of you, head to toe, as indeed you completed your now blind, unthinking aim, and secured the zipper at it's highest point. The ground beneath your feet seems to sway, almost as though it were moving, and the rack before you seems to blur...
And then you lose consciousness.
What feels like a long, long time later, your senses come back to you. You feel yourself laying flat on your back upon a hard, cold surface that is very much definitely not the wooden floor of the room you had been in earlier.
After some time, your eyes blink open groggily, feeling caked with sleep and almost stuck together. Gross. However, at first all is still dark, and you question whether you had actually opened your eyes at all. After a few seconds there comes a tinkling crackle, and with it a row of sparking light arcs across the ceiling in long, thick rows - fluorescent lights of some kind.
Shielding your face momentarily from the suddenly intense glare, you squint tightly, propping yourself up from what you can only assume to be the ground with one arm, and feeling a surge of nausea at even this slight movement. By the time you muster the strength to open your eyes fully, a few minutes pass, and you aren't feeling any better – regarding your surroundings with a blurry, weak gaze.
The floors are a dark, deep, and glossy black that connected seamlessly with walls of pearlescent white to either side of you. Behind where you had been laying, there seems to be a corridor of the same material that leads on indefinitely, and on the other end before you there stood a greyish panelled door that seemed something like the roller on a garage. What is this place? How did I get here?
Slowly, squeezing your lids shut once more, you struggle to your feet, swaying to balance upon legs that feel strangely unfamiliar. There, beside the door, there is a panel, and above it a blinking red light. Staggering forward, you raise your hand out, hoping perhaps that it will switch the painful lights off, so that you may recover in peace. However, before you can even touch the panel, vision still too blurry to make out much, you nonetheless notice something very, very unusal, that causes you to stagger back with some violence, sending your head into another set of aching spins. Those… aren’t human…
These things attached to your body, covered in fur and strangely joined, somehow weren’t as agile as your usual fingers… or perhaps you simply just didn’t know how to use them yet. As you glance at them, however, something odd becomes very clear. At the termination of each pad, there lay there slightest indent, and when you clenched your fist, there they were. Claws. For a moment, your mouth drops open, and your mind flounders uselessly. What has happened to me?Is this all just a bad dream?
Before you can sink any deeper into terror and shock, however, there comes a loud noise from just in front of you - dark, loud, and metallic. The door appears to be shifting, and the light next to it has gone a bright green, as if announcing that it will soon be opening. A new level of adrenaline pumps into your brain, and your feet tingle with the instinct to flee, knowing that if caught like this in a body you do not understand, you will likely not be able to defend yourself at all.
Body beyond rational command, and motion completely at the call of your never alone, as the space beneath the rising door grows larger and larger, you…
- Stay still
Seized by an instinct that isn't entirely yours, your legs launch into sudden action like two coiled springs, and you bolt away from the door so fast as your unfamiliar body can take you - stumbling, tripping, and almost falling over with each step. You turn back and run into the corridor behind you, paying not a single glance over your shoulder as to what might have caused the door to open.
It seems that the way winds on forever - endless, seamless panel after seamless panel, until your dizziness isn't entirely to do with your earlier condition. Yet, still, you press on, until it seems that more than a minute has passed in fleeing desperation. Just as your breath begins to burn in your chest, and you are feeling weaker and more disorientated than ever before, your eyes latch upon another door with a panel not unlike the first one to the side of the way.
Frantically, and not paying mind to your foreign hands any longer, you skid to a halt and slam your palm against the panel in the hope that it opens. For a long, long moment, nothing happened, and then there comes the noise of moving metal, as the thing began to rise, and you let out a held breath – stooping to squeeze beneath the opening so soon as it reaches a height that you can manage. You spin around to slap an identical interface on the other side, before sinking against the door with your chest huffing furiously as it closes once more, bringing the space into weakly lit darkness.
Pulse racing, and pace of breath struggling to slow down, you eventually manage to take yourself from the wall, and turn around to look behind you. Though dim, there is just enough illumination for you to see on into a space that is perhaps five meters across and reasonably high, made from the same panels as the corridor outside, by filled with stacks and stacks of completely plain cardboard boxes, standing tall from floor to ceiling. However, most of them seem to have their lids open and be completely empty – almost as if what had been stored within had already been put to use, and this was just the resulting trash afterwards.
Walking forward, still eyeing the door behind you with fear and caution, you feel your forehead grow incredibly damp with sweat from a mixture of stress and tentative relief. Raising a hand automatically, your fraught nerves jump as instead of simply brushing moisture from your skin, your strange new hands impact against something protruding in it's way - resulting in a jolt of pain that shoots through your face. Ouch.
Freezing in place between two tall towers of boxes, you halt and reach up to your face in abject horror, growing both increasingly more shocked, and yet also more utterly resigned at what you feel. Fur. A long, pointed muzzle, finishing in a wet nose. You glance down at your body, and behind the black tracksuit which was most certainly not what you had been wearing before putting on this costume, you swallow upon a dry throat as you catch the dark sight of something swirling behind you in no particular rhythm. A tail. Had something been done to you, in this strange, futuristic place, or was this something to do with what had happened, what you had felt back in that dusty old room?
Shaking your head – now newly discovered to be topped with sensitive, twitchy, fur-covered ears - perhaps the reason that the sound of your footsteps had given you a pounding headache – you push on, refusing to delay and panic with someone or something possibly on your tail. The stacks of boxes proved hard to navigate, moving on, but you gently shove your way through nonetheless, being very careful as to not knock any over and make a noise that could be audible through the door as you do so.
After about half a minute of doing so, you come to the other side of the space, and through the last mountains of cardboard. Much as you had expected, there appears to be nothing more than the plain and unadorned wall marking the end of the room here, however in one corner there lies a vent cover, seemingly concealing a passage about as tall as one of the boxes stacked beside it. A possible escape, then, but it was a difficult decision, even so. Perhaps the hatch leads nowhere, but there was only one other way out, and it was back out into the corridor where you had run from.
- Investigate the hatch
- Try to see if the coast is clear
INVESTIGATE THE HATCH
Darking a deep breath and swallowing once more to steady your shaking form, you kneel down by the hatch, and examine it closely. It was only loosely attached, clearly designed to be removed and reapplied for maintenance or something of the sort, but the metal clips that were holding it on were touch ones, and after a few tries, even your strange new hands and their claws could do very little, despite the fact that your arms seemed surprisingly strong for how thin and scrawny they were, beneath the fur that had sprung up there – still a shock to see, in the dark lighting. You would have to find something to pry it open with.
Hoping in desperation that none of the boxes were empty, you spun around, and opened the lid of the nearest one. Nothing, but the empty floor inside. Going through box after box, heart-rate accelerating once more as the fear of the door to the room opening unexpectedly drives you more and more paranoid, you scramble for several minutes, before your hands finally blindly hit upon something hard in the bottom of one of the boxes, and pull out to reveal a strange triangle-shaped piece of metal, about the length of your forearm. Grinning in victory despite yourself, you kneel down with your newfound tool, and wedge the corner of the thing between the cover and the wall. With one tug, the whole thing comes of and clatters with some noise to the floor, causing your momentary joy to be lost in a flutter of new rushed heartbeats, while you freeze and look over your shoulder at the door.
After a long breathless moment, no noise came, and you continued to examine the opening. It was just large enough for you to fit through, if you curled your knees up and went face first. Discarding the piece of metal, you bend your head, and get on all fours – pulling yourself into the vent with both arms, finding the space even more of a tight fit than you had reckoned. Inside, you can see that the surfaces are made by a more generic, earthly metal – seemingly aluminium or some such – and leading off into the distance for about ten feet, where a dim light can be seen from a far source. You clench your muscles, and begin attempting to move forward. The process is hard, and very uncomfortable, but eventually you find a reliable means by which to make progress down the tube – squirming in opposing direction until your body weight shoves you onward, accompanied by occasional kicks of your feel and floundering motions with your hands.
Determination fuelled only by fear, you push through your earlier exhaustion and nausea with gritted inhuman teeth. Inch by inch, you make progress, until you are moving forward several lengths at a time. This success is short-lived, however, as you soon come to a place where the tubes split into two directions – one seeming to be the source of light, and the other appearing more dark, and longer in a straight direction. With no way to turn around, you are going to have to choose one to go down.
You remain frozen – body feeling physically incapable of movement as you lock your joints, and stare on in horror as the door raises with torturous slowness. The space beyond is shrouded in darkness – a corridor not unlike that which you are right now - but, as the threshold reaches half open, you see it nonetheless.
Standing perfectly in the centre, almost so still as you feel yourself remaining, skin pale, and dressed in plain black jumpsuit. Tall, slim, and showing no outward signs of gender, the figure was something that could possibly be seen as resembling human, yet in another way it is the least human thing you have ever seen. There is a strange way in which it holds itself that gives no question to the fact that it is not something of this planet... if you even are on a planet any longer.
"Good. You show no fear." The thing speaks, its mouth hardly moving, and leaving you guessing whether it has teeth behind it's thin, colourless lips. It's voice is strange and high, but it has no accent at all – almost a strange lack of such. "It is good to see that the results have improved."
Your jaw drops, and you gape, watching as it walks forward slowly and looks you up and down slowly. It seems almost fascinated by your appearance in some morbid, perplexed way - a curiosity that you share with frightened urgency. What do I look like? What has happened to me? You can't remember a single thing as to how you got here. The last thing you recall was putting on the costume, and then absolutely nothing.
"Come, child." The thing speaks once more, and gestures forward toward the corridor leading on behind you, and in front of itself. “And do be obedient.” It reached down to the region of it's midsection, and produced a sleek black length of tapered metal with a handle that looked something like a pistol - failing to even meet you in the eye as it began moving forward at a brisk pace.
You turn and began to pace after through the featureless passage, not daring to speak a word, and not daring to lag a step behind – the device at the figure's hip a constant reminder of the danger you have found yourself in. From behind, the strange thing's movements seemed even less human than it's appearance had first made it seem – long, loping, and almost entirely identical between each stride. But, if your hands were any tell, you weren't exactly entirely human yourself anymore.
On and on both of you make, passing only a few doors to either side – smaller than the one through which the thing had come - until the passage terminated into a larger archway. The door here slid open with the same noise as the first had, and beyond was revealed a small, well lit room of the same materials as the corridor, where a white and steel circle table took up centre place, and arrayed about it were the only other pieces of furniture in the room – a set of two chairs formed from some unidentifiable black metal.
“This is where you'll be staying.” The creature stepped inside, and gestured once more for you to do the same. You follow, and tilt your head to the side to see a side of the room that you hadn't seen before. At first, you think it to be simply a wall made out of black, but then you notice tiny pinpoints of light sparkling back out at you from the mass of oblivion, and you soon realise what you're looking at. That must mean... Your jaw drops slightly. We're in space.
The creature seems hardly interested by your hesitancy and surprise, however, and spins on its heel to make back toward the door, giving you little time more to ponder on your surroundings. “You needn't remain here long. I will return, and we shall begin.”
Before you can speak or move, the door is sliding closed, leaving you blinking and struggling still to stay upright in the centre of the room, staring after. Once alone completely, however, and when the echoing footsteps of the thing disappeared into the distance behind the metal, your eyes wander back to the window, and you approach – taken out of even your fear and confusion by the depthless sea of black presented before you, truly beautiful in a vaguely terrifying way.
The closer you get, however, the more clear the shifting fragments of your reflection start to show in the glass, and it isn't long before your mind forgets about the space beyond, and freezes once more at what it sees. Your body is clad in a black tracksuit, but the parts outside it – much to your shock – appear more like an animal than human. Long chiselled features, fur extending from your blurrily visible cheeks, everything.
Beginning to panic, you begin reaching to touch parts of your body, half in disbelief that your reflection would follow. However, logic followed suite, and the imagine of yourself kept suit - meeting you with the same undeniable results as your own hand – coming into contact with fur, muzzle, and tall, soft ears no matter where they reach. You feel a deep, heavy sensation settling in your stomach, and you stagger back half-voluntarily, watching as a long, white-tipped tail sways behind you with the abrupt motion. What have I become?
Your panicked eyes glance to the door through which you had come through, then to the black window and the space beyond. You must decide what to do, and now. Any minute now, the man – or whatever it was – could return, and if when he had said 'we' had been implying what you thought it had been, he wouldn't be alone this time. Attempting to leave such a seamless, sealed space isn't going to be easy, but if it was worth trying is entirely up to you.
- Look for an escape
Sighing, you step backwards, and slump into one of the chairs – having to be careful not to sit on your newfound tail. What mess have I gotten myself into. The seat was cold, but sitting helped your head stop spinning enough for you to set your jaw and make a decision. There didn't seem to be a reason for you to believe that there was anything wrong going on here, and it wasn't as if trying to escape would improve the chances of the creature, person - whatever it was – remaining in a friendly state for now.
You sat there sunk in your own thoughts and trying to gather your bearings for some minutes, hoping that the distraction would reduce the beating of your heart, and the stress of the bizarre, supernatural situation. In this way, it wasn't long at all until footsteps came again, and you stood to the door opening once more. There were two of them, this time, and though they were dressed in the same black jumpsuits and with the exception of a few differences in their relatively generic and less than noteworthy faces completely identically, you reckoned the one standing to the rightmost to be that which had originally come to you, and it was this creature that nodded his head in acknowledgement of your presence. “Come forth again.”
Already standing, you step forward as the two turn and lead you own, back down the corridor. This time, however, there is not much walking to be had, as before ten seconds pass, all the two creatures stop before one of the smaller, branching doors to the side of the passageway, and press the panel beside it to open the door beyond – entering without even turning to you, this time.
Following after, you soon see that this room is the most distinguishable from the rest of what you had seen in this strange place yet.
The surfaces were made of a different, darker material – more sheer black than those outside – and the walls were almost completely covered with monitors and screens of varying sizes, flashing between indistinguishable screens of data and diagrams you cannot hope to even grasp the purpose of. In the place of tables and chairs, this space contains only one seat – a long, black, laid-back one that reminds you of a dentists' chair – and no surfaces but for a white, metal desk upon wheels that shelved a few monitors of it's own, as well as tray after tray of what looked like medical equipment – giving your heart the greatest start yet, and freezing your feet there in the doorway.
Calmly – almost too calmly – one of the figures turns about, while the other continues to the desk. It seems to notice your hesitation, as it reaches promptly to it's side and produces the sleek black weapon that you had seen earlier, and brandishes it against its chest, threat clear, and insistence silent and gently forbidding. “Lay down.”
Your breath hitches in your throat, and for a long moment, you cannot move, even if you knew in which direction you wanted to – back out the door where you had come, to make a run for it, or to comply with the insistence of the creature before you instead, and get into the chair. The creature which had gone over to the computer seemed entirely engrossed with whatever it was causing the lights to flicker rapidly upon it's plain, pale face, which reasurred you by way of the fact that he had not gone to prepare any of the medical equipment. For now, at least.
Slowly, each step seeming to fight against your instinct to flee, you approach the chair, and settle yourself onto and then back into it with unsteady hands. Approaching thereafter, the creature – which you now recognised once more as the one whom had greeted you – returned its weapon to its hip, and produced another as your head met the black cushion on the back of the chair. It was more square and short than the large one, and had an end not at all that different from the mouth of a grocery market scanner. Nearing your side, it raises the instrument with a level of calm precision you had yet to see in a doctor. “This will not hurt. Remain still.”
Closing your eyes, and practically quaking in fear, you remain stationary as the creature approaches, and brushes the device up against the side of your head. The sensation causes you to blink... however, when your eyes open once more, everything has changed, and you find yourself glancing to and fro with confusion. What just happened? Have I blacked out again? Has everything changed, and do I have some other body?
Thankfully, as you frantically glance down and around, you find that at least outwardly your form seems to appear much like you first saw it – though it was among one of the only things that remained unaltered. The positions of everything about the room had changed – the medical-seeming table was much closer to the chair than it had been earlier, the first creature from earlier was nowhere to be seen, and, most prominently, the second was standing directly above you – glancing down with a complete lack of expression upon it's face. “Fortune smiles today. You are one of the stable ones.”
“Stable?” You rasp, looking straight up at it in shock, not realising before doing so that it was the first time that you had spoken or made a true noise since all this madness had begun. Your voice is strangely unfamiliar to your own ears, when it comes – sounding as though you hadn't spoken in days, if not longer.
The corner of the creature's lip quirks, almost as if were expressing the slightest of smiles. “Stable. You are a satisfactory specimen.”
Sitting up and standing from the chair, you glance over to the table with the computers, where a small operating mirror is facing outward - giving you an uncomfortably accurate view of your own beastly, foreign visage. This body... was completely alien to you. You had never seen anything like it, and you had never wanted to either. It felt so strange about you, so strange to use, and yet it was certainly your own flesh, there was no questioning the fact. “I... I don't understand. Why do I look like this?”
The door to the room shifted open once more, and the creature gestured over it's shoulder lightly, beckoning you to follow just as the first one had before. “Let me show you why we do this. Allow me to explain.”
- Follow Him