I’m on vacation but enjoy this story!
I was a pile of goo on the sidewalk, and it wasn’t because of a cute boy or girl. I was literally a pile of goo. The first thing I remember was oozing – yeah that’s the sexy description – towards a green lawn. Everything is a little fuzzy but I think I was running away from something.
I oozed under a white picket fence and felt the need to change my shape. When I’m around people I can sense what they’re expecting me to look like. My first shape was a golden retriever puppy. Exactly what Jessie Heaney wanted for this fifth birthday. I’m extremely grateful I didn’t show up the next year when he was into dinosaurs.
The only problem with the need to transform is the lack of information. Jessie knew what a puppy looked like and had a general idea what they should act like but no specifics. I did what I was expected to do and that was jump around and yip happily.
The early morning sun was warm on my new coat but the dew on the grass was refreshing. I didn’t mind running around. It was better than oozing.
When his parents saw him hugging me, I felt their sadness at the idea of hurting him. They said he could keep me if I was a stray and not someone’s pet. Jessie insisted that we go ask all the neighbours.
As they walked further out of their neighbourhood, Jessie asked, “What if someone owns the puppy?”
“If someone owns the puppy we’ll go to the pound and get you another puppy,” Jessie’s mother said.
He promptly burst into tears. Between gasps of breath he said, “But I don’t want another puppy! I want Goldie.” He’d given me a name. Names are odd, they’re abstract representations of the concept of self but it has a sort of power.
“I think he’s named the mutt,” Jessie’s father chuckled as he spoke.
His laughter was drowned out by the low growl from a black lab. It towered over me – everything towered over me – five or six times my size. My first instinct was to make myself small and curl into a ball.
When I did I heard a woman’s voice shout, “Calm down Ebony!” I risked a look up at the other dog and it moved slowly towards me sniffing me. I must have smelled wrong. A little boys mind doesn’t contain dog smells.
Ebony must have assumed I had rolled in something strange because she came up to me and licked my head. A shock ran through my entire being. Everything Ebony knew about being a dog and physically being Ebony was contained in her saliva.
It might be considered a gross way of getting information but it works. Any bodily fluid I come in contact with gives me all the physical information I need to imitate that being or species. It’s limited by what the other being knows genetically. In this case Ebony was a female black lab and that’s what I got as information.
It gave me the information to create animal genitals and basic behaviour, but the vet and dog experts would often mention that my behaviour and temperament was that of a lab not a golden retriever.
My life with Jessie and his Parents was simple and beautiful. I played, ate, and was loved. My days were spent lazing in the back yard, my evenings playing with Jessie and my nights exploring the city.
I learned a lot about the world from listening to Jessie’s homework sessions.
“It’s interesting,” Jessie’s father said, “I’d swear she knows what we’re saying.”
“Oh don’t be silly,” Jessie’s mother replied before asking her son another question, “Where do you live?”
“1227 Shatner Ave. Ottawa, Algonquin. Capital of the North American Federation.”
“Good job, and when was the NAF founded?”
“July 17th, two-thousand and thirty three.”
“Good Job, Champ!” Jessie’s father would say the same every time Jessie gave a right answer.
One thing I liked doing with Jessie was watch his father’s old movies. They were all on clunky round disks instead of data chips and they had to be watched on an old flat imaged television in the basement.
My favorites were mysteries from the late twentieth century. Not knowing what was happening was my default state but these movies gave clues and the men, they were always men, were confident and brash. By the end the bad guy was caught through hard work and intelligence.
Jessie however liked the movies that had monsters in them. His father wouldn’t let him watch any of those that were in colour without a parent watching with him.
After watching a movie where a rabbit had been made large with lion DNA Jessie wasn’t able to sleep. I had found the rabbits laughable. I’d licked one once and there was nothing violent or dangerous about them.
After waking up crying, Jessie asked his father, “Daddy, are there any real monsters?”
“I wish I could say no. There are no giant rabbit monsters and there are no monsters in Ottawa.” His father gave a big sigh and continued, “However, there are monsters out there. Both creatures and people with unholy powers. That’s why we have the Norns.”
“Aren’t they police?”
“Yes but they also protect us from monsters. And you have Goldie to protect you.”
I gave a soft woof of agreement and he gave me a furrowed look.
The conversation intrigued me and my nighttime explorations went from learning all I could about the wildlife around the house to exploring further and further out. I learnt a lot more about humans and dogs than any other animals.
Human’s leave their bodily fluids everywhere. I learnt from cigarette butts, half chewed gum, pieces of garbage, random spit on the ground, and humans that marked their territory. The older the sample the less I get from it but I learnt a lot of the cruelty of humans in those nights.
The hardest part of walking around at night is avoiding people’s expectations. In daylight they feel safe and expect other people or dogs. It’s a vague tugging on me making me want to mold to their expectations. At night, people expect their nightmares and fears. It’s a sharp and almost painful feeling. If I give in to it I’m tugged from one nightmare to the other. If I fight it, it’s like trying to keep water in a shape. It means I move slowly and must concentrate on my shape.
Eventually I reached the border between city and wilderness; it was marked by an electric fence. The fence was easily five metres high and made of hard thick metal. Underground it only reached a metre and was nothing for a gopher. (They were fun to chase even if I didn’t need to learn about them).
The wilderness around Ottawa is filled with wild, nearly random, tropical plants; nothing like the well curated plants of the city. The mists of the jungle clung to the plants in a way that I’d only seen in the movies with Dracula, Swamp Thing, or Frankenstein.