by Chris Dean
She was lithe, with bright green eyes, and she called herself Kat. They all called themselves Kat and even Susan knew it was some kind of a joke. Her real name was Brandi, she confided later. She said it softly, curving her thin pink lips into a smile as if it were a special secret. Wary of allowing things to go too far, Susan reminded her, “I’m just waiting. For someone.”
Brandi giggled at that, sloshing her Mai Tai. Leaning her body close, she said, “It looks as though she may have missed out.” A soft inviting purr sounded in her throat.
It was at that moment, when she squeaked the bar stool around just a smidgen so she could peer down the front of Brandi’s red dress, that Susan realized she’d made a terrible mistake. Her eyes followed the soft blue fur that covered Brandi’s body. It didn’t stop. She was covered everywhere. Susan’s mouth went dry as she imagined what it would be like to see Brandi totally naked. To pet her. To pull her tail! Susan sagged, knowing that coming into the morph bar had been a mistake. Because now that she was across the threshold and she felt these primitive urges pounding through her, she knew that she would never want to leave.
Brandi stood so close that Susan could feel the heat of her furry body. “I’m a lost little kitten,” she whispered, her sharp teeth nipping playfully at Susan’s earlobe. “Won’t you take me home?”
Susan felt desperate. The cat woman was extraordinarily tantalizing and she knew she was being seduced. Susan longed to give in and revel in her newfound desires. Her eyes twitched around the room searching for an escape.
But the morph bar was filled with forbidden treasures and Susan knew she was lost. Frog girls and Sally salamanders slithered and hopped in the pool, their shiny skins undulating beneath the pale lights. Tall black spider women spun silvery webs along the bar. Her eyes rested on the elegant crow ladies preening their shoulder feathers in a booth across from her and Susan yearned to touch their dark shiny feathers. Even the bartender, a stout pig girl, had a cute curly tail hidden somewhere that Susan longed to see.
What had started as a private joke had become something much, much more. Susan was going to have one drink, laugh at the freaks, and get the hell out of the morph bar. But Brandi had changed all that. Her whiskers twitched over Susan’s cheeks now, leaving tiny electric shocks. Their noses touched and Susan gasped and closed her eyes. A beautiful furry tail tickled her throat and she nearly died!
Susan struggled to find her voice. “It’s going to get cold out tonight.” Wonderful claws brushed delicately over her neck and a shiver shot up her spine. “I wouldn’t want you out there.” She stared into Brandi’s beautiful green eyes. “I’m going to take you home with me.”
The three months Brandi lived with her were wonderful. They were both a little shy at first but Brandi’s constant need for affection helped overcome all that. For hours they’d watch TV on the couch and Susan would pet her soft fur and play with her tail. Brandi filled the air with a sweet satisfied purr that Susan loved to hear. Each night when they went to bed Brandi curled up around her feet and after a while Susan knew she could never get to sleep without that warm body at the foot of her bed.
They went to the river on the weekends sometimes. Brandi liked to chase the bugs and cavort in the grass. She didn’t like water though and one time when she got wet Susan had to take her home right away. But Susan dried her off and gave her a nice bowl of warm milk and everything was fine. When Susan heard the wonderful purring coming from the kitchen she hugged herself and sighed. How had she ever gotten along without Brandi?
It seemed that everything was just perfect, but then one Saturday Brandi wanted to go back to the morph bar to see her old friends. Susan was reluctant. She remembered the strange feelings that she’d had, surrounded by all of the exotic morphs. She didn’t want to be tempted. But Brandi pouted and sighed until Susan had to give in.
It was Brandi who actually started the fuss. They were both a little high from the drinks, but everything was going fine when the cat woman suddenly hissed something. Susan was talking with the fox girl waitress and didn’t even hear what it was. After the waitress left, Brandi complained, “I saw that. You were looking at her tail, weren’t you?”
Startled, Susan glanced at the waitress. “No.” She had paid for the drinks and she hadn’t even noticed the girl’s tail. Which was very fluffy and cute, she noted.
“You just looked at her tail again!” Brandi was nearly shouting. “I saw you.”
Susan took a sip of her gimlet. “I did not.” She turned and stared at some crow ladies in the corner.
“And now you’re looking at those birds.” Brandi’s slammed her drink on the table. “I don’t believe this.”
“I am not—” One of the crow ladies ran a hand over a patch of shiny blue-black feathers and Susan’s heart beat faster. “—looking at her. At them.”
“You want to pet them. I know you do. Well, go ahead. I don’t care!”
Susan was torn by guilt and something else, something terrible inside her. She wanted her kitty to be happy but the desire to pet crow ladies and pull fluffy tails and feed juicy bugs to frog girls, and to twirl that bartender’s curly little tail, the urges that echoed through her were undeniable. She wanted to take all of them home.
But she wanted Brandi too. If Brandi wasn’t there then her feet would get cold at night and there’d be no teasy tail tickling her nose in the morning. Susan suddenly felt terrible and she reached across the table.
“Don’t pet me!” Brandi pulled back in a huff.
“Please,” Susan begged. “I’m sorry.”
Brandi sniffed. “I know you want to. You want to pet other morphs and I know it.” She sobbed.
“Brandi, please. It’s only natural. I’m sorry, but yes, sometimes maybe I do.” As she spoke, Susan saw a beaver babe wearing a yellow skirt at the bar. Susan stared, transfixed by her huge pearly white teeth. They were the biggest teeth in the world! She forced herself to look away.
“Why don’t you?” Brandi was furious. “Just go ahead!” She grabbed hold of a lizard lady who was standing nearby and pushed her orange arm into Susan’s hand.
Susan was shocked by the oily feel and the rough, yet not-rough surface. Her hand began moving, rubbing, petting. She closed her eyes and struggled to breathe. The lizard lady leaned closer, sighing with contentment. It was wonderful.
All hell broke loose. A tall woman appeared and began yelling. “You leave my Liz, alone!” She dragged the lizard lady away.
Susan looked at Brandi’s shocked, red face. There were tears everywhere. Susan tried to explain, “You made me pet her. I’m sorry.”
Brandi’s voice was a shrill rasp. “I saw how much you liked it! I saw you.” A fresh wave of tears burst out over her cheeks. “I hate you!”
“You go right ahead.” Brandi threw her drink in Susan’s face. “You can pet anyone you want, I don’t care. Because there are plenty of people who want to pet a pretty kitty like me!” She stormed away from the table, her tail twitching angrily.
Susan was stunned. And when she saw Brandi go right up to a redheaded woman at the bar and sit down she was absolutely devastated. Then Brandi was mincing and teasing and she let the woman touch her tail! Strangled sobs caught in Susan’s throat. Tears filled her eyes as she heard Brandi’s purrs of joy. The woman and Brandi left together. Susan collapsed over the table sobbing. Her kitty had run away!
After a while she pulled herself together. The fox girl waitress was there, with a dry towel and a sympathetic ear. “It’ll be okay. It happens to everyone.”
“I’m so embarrassed.”
“Don’t be. And don’t let one bad experience ruin you for life.” The girl flicked her tail invitingly. “You just have to find someone else to take home.”
Susan drew a sharp breath. The fox girl was right. The entire bar was filled with eager warm bodies just waiting to be petted. Her palms grew sweaty. She saw a tall woman feeding a bug to a Sally salamander and the Sally smiled and blew bubbles. Susan was jealous, she wanted Sally to blow bubbles for her too. She wanted them all to purr and croak and bristle their fur and sigh with contentment at the foot of her bed.
That night Susan went crazy. She had too much to drink and she petted nearly every morph in the bar. She caressed an ocean of feathers and soft fur and tantalizing oily skin. She fed bugs to frog girls and mice to wolf women. And all the morphs said her hands were so soft. It was the most wonderful night of her life.
But the next morning Susan woke up in pain. Her hands were chapped and bleeding. There were bite marks too and they were so sore that she didn’t think she’d ever want to pet another morph. The morphs just wanted to get petted and none of them really cared about her, she realized. None of them cared if she got hurt as long as they got what they wanted. She felt sad and cheap.
She’d taken a cab home the night before so she called for another taxi to go back to the morph bar to pick up her car. Susan was just going to drive away, but she hesitated. She certainly didn’t want to go back in the bar after what a fool she’d made of herself. But there was only one other car in the lot so she went inside. She wasn’t going to pet any morphs, she just went in for a drink. Because she was thirsty.
The bartender was the only one there. She stared at Susan and Susan wanted to just die. She slumped onto a stool, mumbling, “I know. I went a little crazy last night.”
The pig girl wrinkled her round nose dismissively. “It’s normal. You’re new to the morph scene. That kitten just left you and you don’t understand the limits yet.” She set a glass of white wine on the bar. “On the house.”
“Thank you.” Susan sipped her wine, watching the pig girl’s sympathetic brown eyes. “I think I ruined my hands.”
“I’m Billie, by the way.” The pig girl gently examined Susan’s hands. She took a bottle of hand lotion and squirted lotion onto the raw skin. “Rub that in.”
“That’s feels nice.”
“Aloe Vera. Remember that.”
“No, I-” Susan looked away, embarrassed. “I won’t ever be doing anything like that again. I had too much to drink last night. Way too much.”
“Good idea,” Billie agreed. “You go around petting that many morphs every weekend, you’ll have a lot more than sore hands to worry about.”
“What do you mean?”
“You just have to be a little careful is all. Some of the badger babes have mange and last summer we had a crow lady come in here that gave half the bar feather rust. And you keep feeding those wolf women like that and I guarantee you will get a case of rabies.” Billie gave Susan a stern look. “You catch rabies and you will not be petting anyone around here.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever want to pet another morph, really. They were all just using me. I am such a fool.”
“You are not a fool. I saw you last night. You scratch behind ears and if there’s a hairball, you stop and comb it out. You have a very gentle touch.”
“Why, thank you.”
“Look, I know I’m just a pig girl but I want you to know that—” Billie was blushing. “I would come home with you in a minute.”
Her fingers stretched forward and their tips touched Billie’s arm. It felt bristly. Thick, tough hairs bounced back and tickled her fingers.
“It’s not furry like some of them.” Billie pushed her arm forward. “But some people like it.”
Susan ran her hand over Billie’s arm. She believed that some people liked it. She knew she did.
Billie sighed. “That’s nice. Oh, you do have the touch.” She shifted so Susan could reach her shoulder.
Susan’s heart pounded faster as she petted Billie. The bristles were so hard and nice! And Billie’s smile was beautiful. Susan scratched behind her ears and Billie closed her eyes, grunting softly.
“And it’s not much.” Billie was panting with excitement now. “But do I have a tail.”
Susan craned her neck and saw the tiny pink tail curling up from Billie’s blue skirt. It was the cutest thing! She gave her new piggy a vigorous brush with her hand. “I think I’m taking you home with me.”
Shuddering with joy, Billie snorted softly, a satisfied smile spreading across her face.
Traveling throughout the American west, Chris Dean has worked as a delivery driver and a concert promoter. This writer’s work has appeared in such publications as Allegory and The Fifth Dimension. Currently Chris resides in the Des Moines area.
Photo credit: Gerwin Sturm via Flicker, All Creative Commons