A New Life 01

This story was originally conceived to be a stand alone tale, but it fit Dorothy's M.Y.T.H. universe without too much modification. It starts about a year before Help! My girlfriend is a Unicorn!

Woods

My life changed when I was taking my evening hike through the back forty. I just didn't realize it at the time.

I heard some rustling over in the bushes next to the woods. I looked and saw a large black shape.

While bears aren't commonly seen around here, they do exist. And mother bears can be quite protective. I wasn't particularly worried, but I don't take chances. You don't make it back from 'Nam by taking chances. It might have been decades since I served, but old habits die hard. We grizzled old vets take pride in our old habits.

So I released the strap on my holster and turned toward the indistinct black shape, hoping that it would wander away -- after giving me the opportunity to get a few good pictures.

I heard a gravelly voice. "You don't think that gun's gonna hurt me, do you?"

I was startled but, again, panicking is not a good way to stay alive. I forced myself to remain calm.

"I hope I don't have to find out," I replied to the trespasser. False bravado or not, I was going to politely point out that the national forest starts just north of our property. Then, of course, I would invite him in for a cup of coffee. Good fences make good neighbors.

He came out of the brush and into the waist high grass and weeds of the old fallow field.

I was wondering about the intelligence of someone who would walk around the woods in a fur coat. Then, I did a double take. That was no fur coat. I had one of those WTF moments. The Michigan Dogman? Really? Who expects to see a creature of legend in their own back yard -- or anywhere, for that matter?

Yeah, go ahead and look it up. Google on Michigan Dogman. There is a song, two movies, and dozens of tales going back over a century and a quarter, along with legends from the Odawa tribes that lived around the Manistee River.

But werewolves don't exist, do they? If they did, someone would surely have seen them!

On the other hand, the Department of Natural Resources claims that there are no more cougars or wolves in the lower peninsula of Michigan. Until photos from field cameras started showing up. They recently, grudgingly, admitted that some of the cougar sightings had been confirmed.

If the cougars and wolves can avoid people so effectively for so long, why not something more intelligent?

We stood there looking at each other. After my heart slowed down to a rate more befitting a man of my age, I started to ponder the mythical creature standing before me.

Why would someone who has done such a good job of staying out of the public eye intentionally talk to me, then walk out in full view?

It occurred to me that there would be few witnesses if most encounters were fatal. On the other hand, there aren't oodles and scads of mysterious disappearances. If there were fatal encounters, there were few enough that they didn't stand out. Also, while most of the reported encounters were scary, I don't recall any stories where the dogman was particularly aggressive. Yeah, the lumberjacks ran away and never returned, but they had been harassing the poor critter.

Finally, I decided to ask him why he decided to show himself.

"Because you are aware. Or rather, you need to be aware," he answered with a more normal voice.

"Aware of what?" I asked.

"Not aware. A Were." He pronounced the last two words carefully, making sure that he paused in between them.

I looked at him quizzically.

"You have were blood, but you have never activated. It's surprising that you have lived as long as you have. Most unactivated weres die of depression long before they reach middle age."

"I'm not that easy to kill," I snorted.

"Obviously not."

"So, do you want to come to the house and have a cup of coffee? I never had a werewolf over for for coffee."

"how about tomorrow? You'll be well on your way to being a were then. We will have much to talk about."

"I'm gonna be a werewolf? How is that going to happen? I've wandered the night under many a full moon, and never felt the urge to howl at it."

"Not necessarily a wolf. We'll know in a few minutes what your were form will be."

Faster than I could react, or even follow, he ran up to me, snatched my handgun out of its holster, bit me on the left shoulder, and dashed back to where he was.

I cursed vilely, but stood my ground. "What the hell did you do that for?"

"Because you needed it."

He expertly popped the cylinder, ejected the rounds, and tossed them aside. "Smith & Wesson 500 with magnum bullets and dual lasers. You don't fuck around, do you?"

I just growled at him.

"That hand cannon of yours might not kill me, but it would sure sting! I don't feel like taking a bullet or five."

"Not biting me would have worked," I growled.

"Oh, quit complaining. Like I said, you needed it. You'll be fine in a minute or two."

I started to feel a bit faint, but refused to show it. The pain in my shoulder started to go away. He tossed me a bag, which I automatically caught with my right hand.

"You should be about healed by now. You need some energy."

I just looked at it.

"I'm not going to poison you," he said. "If I wanted you dead, I would have done more than give you a little love nip on the shoulder."

Certainly, he could have shot me with my own handgun if he wanted me dead. Or bit my arm clean off. And I was getting really hungry. I chowed down the quarter pound or so of jerky, finished it with a ration bar, and washed it all down with a long drink from my canteen.

"Go ahead and look at your shoulder, foxy."

"Foxy?"

"Sadly," he sighed, "You won't be receiving the same fine canine form that I enjoy. But hey, foxes are canids, so that's almost as good."

Sure enough, the pain was completely gone. I pushed my t-shirt aside and rubbed off the drying blood. There was no trace of a wound. In fact, the skin there was clear and hairless and didn't have the aged texture that it had before.

I thought of what he said about the fox. I couldn't help but smile, since foxes had always been special to me. I really wanted to get one of those Siberian domestic foxes as a pet, but could never afford one.

The werewolf gave a toothy grin. "So, it's starting to sink in already. That's got to be the first smile I have ever seen on your face. Welcome to the pack, girly face. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Girly face?" I asked, puzzled.

But he was bounding away. Soon, he was lost in the shadowy forest.

I walked over and retrieved my cartridges and handgun. I reloaded it, gave the cylinder a spin, and reholstered it.

I realized, as I was walking back to my house, that I felt better than I have in years.

After I got home, I stripped and headed for the shower. I carefully inspected my shoulder, noting that there wasn't even a scar. Also, the skin looked baby-new and there was no hair. The clear patch, which had covered the area immediately surrounding the wound, was now half way to my elbow, and had spread an equal amount in every direction. It was weird that there was no hair. I would have expected to get hairier. Instead, even my armpit hair was gone.

I know that I couldn't have been imagining things. The shoulder of my tee shirt was bloody and had several holes in it. That is, it had holes that weren't there before. It wasn't by any means one of my better pieces of clothing.

I goofed with my computer for a bit, petted my cats, then went to bed.

~~~~~~

I woke up under a pile of cats, which was not a new experience. I woke up refreshed, which was a new experience. At least, it wasn't something that I had experienced for decades.

I felt like I had a mouth full of sharp pieces of ceramic or something. I spit them all out. I ended up with a tissue full of crowns and fillings.

I reached for my trifocals and put them on. The world got blurrier. I took them off and noted that I could see perfectly.

I couldn't help but grin as I hopped out of the bed without the usual creaks and groans and aches and pains.

The hairless patch had spread. In fact, the only part of my body that was unaffected was the bottom half of my right leg. Even my pubic hair was gone.

But there was no hair in my bed. The hair hadn't fallen out. It had disappeared.

Magic?

I'm not one to believe in magic without really good evidence, but neither am I one to let my preconceived notions get in the way of my observations.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. If it isn't technology that was developed by humanity or aliens or something, what else can you call it?

If there were no butterflies on Earth, but then we found a some caterpillars turning to butterflies at some remote location, would we call the process of metamorphosis magic?

I took my morning leak and noticed that I was pissing like a garden hose. The stream had been thinning for years because of my prostate. I hadn't noticed at first, but it was impossible to ignore when I started to have trouble completely emptying my bladder. Apparently, getting bit by a werewolf fixes stuff.

I checked myself out in the mirror. My beard was gone. My hair had grown in. My skin looked like a kid's, hairless except for my head, brows, and lashes. My spare tire was gone. It looked like I lost some muscle mass.

Damn it.

I walked to my workout area and picked up some weights. It wasn't more difficult than I was used to. In fact, if anything, it was easier.

By the time I had done my chores, taken my morning shower, and had breakfast, the rest of my right leg was as smooth as a baby's bottom. Also, my clothes were loose.

And I was smiling.

~~~~~~

There was a knock on the door just as I was finishing breakfast.

"Hi Jim! What brings you here?"

Jim chuckled. "You invited me over for coffee yesterday."

I thought for a second, then I glared at him. I tried, anyhow.

"I'm sure you have questions," he said.

"Yeah. like why did you bite me?"

"I'm a werewolf. That's what we do."

"Oh? What are ya gonna do next? Sniff my ass?"

He tried to look offended, snorted, then started laughing.

I looked at him, then chuckled. "The last thing I ever expected to find in my back yard was the Michigan Dogman."

"Nobody expects the Michigan Dogman," he replied.

"But even fewer will expect the Michigan Foxman," I countered.

"Or the Michigan Foxwoman," he snickered.

"That reminds me. What was that girly face comment?" I asked.

He took a sip of his coffee. "OK. I know you have questions. Let me give you the obvious information, and then you can ask about anything I missed. That ought to make things go faster."

At my nod, he started ticking points off on his fingers.

"First of all, you carry the were gene. Or maybe it's epigenetics. We don't have our own laboratories, and we can hardly send a bunch of samples to a regular lab and ask for a genetic analysis."

I nodded, then asked, "We?"

"The were community, essentially. I'll get to that later."

"Anyhow, we weres have a better sense of smell than baseline humans, though it isn't as sharp in our human forms. That's how we found out that you are a were. It took a long time because there are so many weres at church that it was a while before we started to realize that we could catch the faint spoor of your were nature even when there weren't any others around. We had a meeting and I was elected to go on a mission of mercy and bring out your were nature."

"So I smell like a fox? Or... That's right, you couldn't tell me what I would be until you bit me."

"Yeah. The scent is light, you hadn't shifted yet, and we were all in our human forms at church. But I detected your nature as soon as I activated it."

"OK, so what's gonna happen?" I asked.

"Well, I'm sure that you noticed that you are now in perfect health. You look like a thirty-something human male without body hair. It will stay that way until the new moon -- a bit over a week. Then, you will slowly, over the span of a few days, change to your new base human form."

"New base human form?" I asked.

"Most weres shift for the first time on the first full moon after, at the oldest, the age of fifteen. Some with stronger blood shift earlier. You didn't get that opportunity, so you will end up looking fifteen again. But don't worry, you will eventually be able to shift to look older."

"So I can be my grumpy old fart self when I want?"

"Briefly at first, but with practice, you will be able to shift for longer periods of time. Still, you'll be most comfortable as a fox, as a teenager, or any form in between. As you get older, you will be comfortable in older forms."

He stood up. I watched as he appeared to get younger -- from his normal thirty-something to a teen. Then, he stripped right in the middle of my kitchen and grew and changed to the black creature that I saw yesterday.

"Nudity is an occupational hazard for shape shifters," he commented.

He shifted back to his normal self and put his clothes back on.

"One thing you need to know is that a small percentage of weres shift to the opposite gender. It's not unsurprising, considering there are so many normal humans that feel that they were born in the wrong body. It's more common for us to shift physical genders, but we think that that is because there are lots of baseline trans people who never report their feelings, and therefore never end up in the statistics."

"Girly face?" I asked.

He nodded. "If it's any consolation, few regret the change, and I have yet to see anyone who isn't delighted with it after the fact."

"I.. Umm..." I blushed, then I shrugged. "I'm so used to hiding it, but there is no sense in denying it. I slowly came to the realization that I would rather be female than male, but I was never desperate enough to try transitioning. I would have been an ugly woman, anyhow."

"You are going to be a very cute teenybopper. There are no ugly weres. Not in human form, anyhow. Whether or not you find a were warthog cute is a matter of taste."

I chuckled, then smiled. "I'm happy to be a fox. I'm even happier to be a foxy fox."

He smiled. "That's the spirit!"

I frowned a bit. "There are some practical considerations..." I started to say.

"Don't worry about it too much," he replied. "We have a system in place that will take care of all the paperwork. You'll have a birth certificate, school records, health records, and all that stuff before you finish transforming."

"What about my driver's license? My ham license? My degree? My PADI card?"

"PADI?"

"Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The card that lets me get my scuba tanks filled when I decide to go under the water and blow some bubbles."

He sighed. "First of all, you're too young to drive. I don't think it'll be too much of a hardship to take the online course and spend some time with a driving instructor. I'll have to check on the other stuff. As for your degree, you'll just have to attend college again. On the plus side, you'll be older and wiser and able to get better grades. And you'll have fun. It'll be free, too. We weres have had plenty of time to accumulate more of that filthy lucre stuff than we need."

I sighed, then thought about it. "I guess it's a small price to pay to get a new lease on life."

He smiled. "That's the spirit! I'm going to enjoy having you for a daughter."

"What?"

He chuckled. "So, to summarize, you will stay in your current form for a little more than a week, you will spend a few days changing to your new base form as a teenage girl, you will stay like that for a little over a week, then you will, at the midnight of the full moon, shift to a fox. You will shift back at sunrise, and will be able to shift back and forth at will after that."

"A full fox? Quadruped, color blind, no hands, and all that?"

"Yes. You will be stuck like that for maybe six hours. At sunrise, you will spontaneously shift to full human. Then, you will be able to shift any or all of your body anywhere between the extremes."

He pulled off his clothes and shifted to his teen form again. He grew a tail and his ears changed shape and moved up higher on his head until he looked like some kind of dog person out of furry fandom. He grew taller when his feet lengthened and he stood on his toes in a digitigrade stance. Hair sprouted on his body. His face grew a muzzle. His posture changed as he went from being a furry human to being a black bipedal wolf. Finally, he shifted to full wolf form.

He shifted back and pulled his clothes back on. "You didn't see it, but I kept my eyes human the whole time in order to retain my color vision. You can do the same thing, and even keep your color vision with slit pupils. And I also caught a slight whiff of cat when I was fully wolf, so I'm guessing that you will be able to take on cat features, or even be comfortable as a pure cat."

"Meow!" I said. "I'm soooo going out as an anime kitty girl this Halloween."

He shook his finger at me. "Behave yourself, young lady!"

"I might not look like it for much longer, but I'm still older than you are!"

"Wanna bet? We weres live for a long time, you know. We don't die of old age, and we're hard to kill." Then he snickered. "You heard about those lumberjacks that chased the dogman and poked at him with a stick? They were so annoying! I had to snap at them to get them to leave me alone."

I gaped at him. "But that was in..."

"1887. Yes, I know."

I thought about it for a second.

"I'm going to outlive everyone that I know."

"You have already outlived most of the people that were at your first birthday party. If we hadn't found you, you would have a funeral in a decade or three, and it's unlikely that there would be anyone there that was at your first birthday party."

I thought about that again.

"Instead, I'll be attending the funerals of my children. And my grandchildren. And my nieces and nephews."

"Maybe not," he replied. The norms have been working diligently on lengthening their lives. Meanwhile, we need to see if you have any relatives that are were. Do you know anyone that's depressed?"

My face fell. "My little sister. She killed herself a few months shy of her thirtieth birthday. I kept trying to convince her that things would get better, but she couldn't see it."

He shook his head. "That happens all too often."

"She saw that her dreams weren't coming true, and she felt that it was all downhill -- that if she hadn't gotten a good start by then, that there was nothing but another four or five decades of sadness and misery."

"And yet, you didn't fall into that trap."

I nodded. "I guess I'm an optimist -- a strange thing for someone who suffers from clinical depression. I figured that technology was getting better and better. When I saw a lot of my dreams passing me by, I reminded myself that there might be another chance. And I really enjoy the way that technology is advancing. And even if worse comes to worst, Heaven is waiting."

"But you lived with depression, just gritting your teeth and believing that things would get better."

I nodded.

"How do you feel now?" he asked. "Emotionally, I mean."

I thought for a few seconds, then smiled. "Happy! I feel happy! And it's not just because I've got a new lease on life. It's like a weight has been lifted from me -- a weight that I have always felt and just accepted as a normal part of life."

I grinned broadly as the realization came to me that a burden that had crushed me throughout life had been lifted.

"Yes! We have to check out my relatives! How can we do that?"

"The same way we found you," he grinned. "After you have changed, and can stay in your old form for a few hours at a time, you need to visit as many of your relatives as you can, so you can sniff out the weres."

"We have a family reunion in a couple of months -- the descendants of my grandparents."

"That'll make things easier. But we can discuss that later."

Jim pulled a tiny pouch from his pocket. He loosened the drawstring and spread the opening. It opened a whole lot wider than it ought to have been able to.

He started throwing the contents of his pockets into it. It should by no means have been able to hold even his wallet.

"It's a bag of holding," he said. "My bride made it for me when we were first dating. You'll be able to make dimensional pockets and the like, too."

I smiled. Apparently, there were some advantages to being a were fox, or North American Kitsune, as some call us.

Us. I like the sound of that.

He threw his shoes and socks into the bag. Then he stripped and put the rest of his clothes into the bag. He shifted to his bipedal wolf form -- his three quarter form, as he called it.

He pulled a strap out of the bag, pulled the bag shut so that it was smaller than the little pouches that gamers use to hold their dice, attached it to the band, and put it on his left wrist like a wristwatch.

"My cell phone won't work when it's in the dimensional pocket, but my wife knows to call you if she needs to talk to me."

-----

Never in a million years did I think that I would be chatting and casually strolling through my back forty with the Michigan Dogman.

As usual, I was 'fully dressed.' That is, I had my hand cannon in its holster. Similarly, my camera was easily available. I also had a small pack that I keep loaded with useful items -- an emergency survival kit, essentially. I don't expect to get lost in my own back yard, but it's better to keep emergency supplies handy at all times than it is to constantly try to figure out whether or not they might be necessary this time. The pack goes where I go.

As we walked through the woods, I noticed that I could smell the individual plants, fungi, and animals. Also, all of the life seemed to have a kind of aura. When I blinked, the auras remained. I closed my eyes and found that I could get through the forest just fine. I was seeing the auras, but not with my eyes. But then I stumbled over a rock. Jim chuckled as I cursed.

I could also see some burned areas at the old fence line. They looked like staples and nails inside the trees, and barbed wire on or under the ground, and inside the trees -- blackened areas that almost glowed with darkness. I kinda wanted to squint because it looked vaguely unnerving.

"What you're seeing is iron," Jim said. "We aren't true weres. We're more like the fey. Our ancestors were given fey and were characteristics years ago. It is said that a fey and a were fell in love and married."

"Does that mean that I have to avoid cold iron from now on? How about silver?"

"Not us. Our mixed nature means that we are immune to both. Also, since we are the fair folk, we don't have body hair in our human base forms."

I saw movement deep in the woods -- not with my eyes, but with my new senses.

It's interesting that I can see through everything. It's kinda like everything is transparent, but not really. The auras in front don't block my vision of the auras behind them, but the total effect is confusing -- kinda like if you have several pictures projected on the same screen.

But this image was easy to pick out. The bounding fox stood out clearly from the abundant plant life, the insects and other creepie-crawlies, the birds, and the small animals on the forest floor.

Also, for some reason, I felt a strong kinship with the animal. I was going to ask Jim about it when the fox bounded into the open and came at me in a dead run. I automatically caught it when it leapt at me. Her. She leapt into my arms. I don't know how I knew, but my new friend was a vixen.

Then, I was cuddling this fox, running my hands down her furry body, luxuriating in her soft fluffy tail -- much the same way that I cuddle my cats. She rubbed her face on mine.

I had never had a chance to pet a real fox before. Jim just stood there and smiled at the look of wonder on my face. "Say hello to your new sister," he said.

She hopped out of my arms and shifted. Standing in front of me was a furry anthro fox. Fully fox with a bipedal form. Three-quarter form, as Jim calls it. Somehow, I still recognized her as Jim's daughter Cindy.

Jim reached into his bag of holding, pulled out a long t-shirt, and tossed it to her. "De-nekkidize yourself, girl!" he said with a smirk.

"But daaaaaaad! We're all weres here," she whined.

"John isn't used to casual nudity yet. Wait until he has gone foxy for the first time before flashing him. Her."

She stuck her tongue out at him and pulled the shirt over her head. I pretend to not be affected by how cute she looked.

She gave me a hug. "This is just, so kewwwl! Now I got a little sister that I can dress up and teach how to put on makeup and flirt with the boys..."

"Hold it right there, Missy!" I said as I ruffled her hair. "First of all, I'm too much of a grumpy old fart to be anyone's little sister. I got underwear older than you. And second, I'm a lesbian. The boys will have to concentrate on gaining your favor." I gave her a hug. "But I'll be happy to take girly lessons from you, sensei." I gave her an elaborate bow.

Jim chuckled. "I can see that you two are going to get along just fine. And heaven help the world!"

Cindy gave him a look of wide-eyed innocence and batted her eyes. "Whatever do you mean? The world is lucky to have two foxy chicks such as us."

I tried batting my eyes, too, but it didn't have quite the same effect.

Jim groaned and rolled his eyes. "Heaven help me! Two of them!

"Oh, Daddy! You'll be more than happy to have us wrap you around our little fingers!"

My cell phone rang. The Caller ID read "Linda Lupo."

"Knock, knock," she said when I answered it. "I'm pulling into your driveway. Where do you want me to meet you?"

"We're about a quarter south of you and heading back. You can wait for us in the house if you want."

"Make me a sandwich," Jim yelled to the phone.

Linda ignored him. "Would you like me to make some coffee or something?"

"Sure," I said. "The beans are in the freezer, and the filters are in the breadbox. Use six scoops."

As we were walking back, I again saw a vixen coming at a dead run. She jumped into my arms, gave me some fox cuddles, then jumped over to Jim. After giving him some cuddles that obviously spoke of a deep love, she jumped down and shifted to her three quarter form. Jim handed her a long t-shirt without speaking.

"Two beautiful vixens! What am I going to do when there are three?"

"Make us each a sandwich, then bask in our beauty," Linda said with a smirk.

We got back to the house just as the coffee finished gurgling through the artificial geyser that makes the modern coffee makers work.

I poured everyone a cup and put the rest into the dewar carafe. I use a dewar instead of cooking it to death on the coffee maker. I like double strength coffee, but I see no need to burn it.

Cindy took a sip and made a face.

"If you can stand a spoon in it, it's good coffee. If the spoon dissolves, it's great coffee," I remarked.

"C'mon, Cindy, it'll put hair on your chest," Jim said.

"I prefer having fur on my chest," Cindy replied with a smirk.

"I used to have hair on my chest," I commented. "Until someone bit me."

"Are you complaining?" Linda asked.

"You'll have a fuzzy chest soon enough," Cindy added.

While we were bantering, I put some raw sugar and cocoa powder into a double size coffee mug. I stirred them around so that the cocoa powder wouldn't clump, filled the cup half full of milk, added vanilla, and nuked it. I poured the rest of Cindy's coffee in it and handed it to her. "Here ya go, little sis. I used to make this for my kids when they were too little to handle real coffee."

She stuck her tongue out at me and took a sip of her mocha.

Linda went through a large folder that she had left on the table. "First things first: What do you want your new name to be?"

"Victoria Catalina. Call me Vicky," I said.

Linda rolled her eyes. "Oh, that's original."

I smirked. "It's not like the muggles are going to figure it out just based on my name."

"No, but the other weres might figure out that you're a sex change based on the fact that you chose your own name."

I shrugged.

She dutifully filled "Victoria Catalina Lupo" into the appropriate space, went through the rest of the information with me, stuffed the paperwork into an envelope, and sealed it up. Then, she gave me a hug. "Welcome to the family, Vicky!"



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