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by Kevin Brunt

    I'm submitting this as a gesture of encouragement, as I don't feel it's up to competition standard. It really ought to be classed as a quicky. It's got no plot, and I've not not spent as much time on it as it needs, (though I've missed the last train!) I've also not been able to come up with a title. I think "A Hard Day's Night" has already been used...

It was quarter to four in the morning of New Year's Eve. Matthew was sitting in the kitchen drinking a quick cup of coffee and silently cursing himself for forgetting (yet again) to override the timeswitch so that the heating stayed on overnight.

He finished his coffee and, sighing, got up and made his way back to his bedroom. The sound of snoring from the next bedroom showed that at any rate Matthew's elder brother Robert was getting a good night's sleep.

Matthew hung his dressing gown on the back of the door and placed his slippers beside the bed. He had already taken off his pyjamas and folded them neatly on his bed before the chill in the room had persuaded him to go downstairs for a coffee, so he now stood in the middle of the room completely naked apart from the chain around his neck. He realised that he was shivering and decided that he couldn't put it off any longer. He got down onto the floor and, balancing on his fingers and toes, he shut his eyes and drew in and released a long, deep breath, while he searched his memory for the key.

He had never quite found the right words to describe what he felt as the spell took hold. "Tingling like an electric shock" sort of fitted, though the cliche was entirely inadequate to convey the sense of expectancy.

The chain tightened up round his neck and reformed into a leather collar, and the gold medallion hanging from it, which bore his name, became an engraved aluminium disk.

This first phase of the transition was always the most uncomfortable. Muttley shook his head to clear it.

The transformation continued in its customary pattern. He had long since stopped bothering to watch himself in the mirror on the wardrobe door, and just kept track of the sensations caused by the process. The twisting of his vestigial human tail bones into a position from which they could grow into something more functional was one of the first events, as was the reshaping of his fingers and toes into paws. He felt his nails reshape into claws and pads form on the tips of his fingers. The sprouting of his fur always manifested itself as an intense itching, and it had taken him a long time to master the urge to scratch himself with limbs (all four of which he now thought of as legs) which were rapidly changing shape. The transformation of his genitals had never become routine; the frisson he experienced as his penis reshaped itself and a sheath grew forward around it never dulled. Somehow it marked the point at which he actually became a dog.

There was always a short pause before the final part of the transformation. He sat in front of the mirror - he was a black Labrador retriever with a human head, with the collar hiding the join.

The final change, as always, went in a rush. His ears reformed and his muzzle pushed out so quickly that he could never work out exactly what happened. His eyes changed, and his vision as well, but he knew that he would not be able to recollect bring to mind what it used to be for comparison.

He stood up and stretched. He was a dog, and would be for the next twelve hours. During that time he would be constrained to behave outwardly like a dog. At the moment he still thought as a human, (as far as he could tell,) but his mind was shut inside a dog's body. He could not read and had no understanding of human speech beyond the rudimentary recognition of sounds such as "Sit!". He still remembered that he used to have a "human" name, but he could not recall what it was, and would not respond to any name other than the one which had been imposed on him. Soon he would lose the concept that "two" follows "one" and he would no longer be able to count. During the course of the day the very concepts of reading and counting would fade, and by the end of the afternoon when he would be forced back to human form to complete the day's twelve "human hours" he knew that he would no longer think in words, and be unable handle abstract concepts.

He could change back voluntarily before the twelve hours were up, but he always found changing twice within two hours very tiring, and by the end of the morning he would no longer be able to form the concept of changing back, though he would respond to the command "Change!". However, he was intending to use up his "dog hours" for the day in one go, so that there was no risk of him turning into a dog during the New Year's Eve party he was planning to go to. When the new day (as well as the New Year) began at midnight, he would have another twelve "human hours" available, and could remain human until noon, but he would definitely be ready to revert to canine form long before he completed the full twenty hours.

He walked across to his basket, and after treading down the bedding he flopped down. He felt well. The spell imposed on him might have been designed as an extremely inconvenient curse, but in comparison to the purely mundane curse that he had inherited, it was trivial. Spending twelve hours a day as a dog is no hardship when the alternative is to spend those hours engaged in the tiring exercises needed to drain the lungs of the excess fluid that is a symptom of Cystic Fibrosis.

Copyright 1997: Kevin Brunt - Birkbeck College Central Computing Services <k.brunt@ccs.bbk.ac.uk> . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first.       Thank you.

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