Chapter seventeen: Out and about

Chapter seventeen: Out and about

A Chapter by Thatonedawg
"

Issac, Urving, Kolm, and Riot go to the zoo!

"

-17- Out and about

 

It was dark and the street lights weren’t on. Odd, everything else seems to have power... Cold crept over me, as I walked home from a friends house, late on this chilly Saturday. A sound at my back caused me to jump and look back only to find a wall of fog. Continuing on, I could see my street up ahead, just a few blocks. Turning back again I froze with fear... The fog had grown closer and within it a shadowy figure crept forth. In the pale moonlight, I could barely make out a set of piercing emerald eyes. Before I could continue walking, this figure leapt to life and sprinted from the dense fog directly toward me! I let out a small yelp and began to run, lack of traction causing me to slip at first. The faster I ran, the louder the pounding steps behind me seemed! My own breathing, frightened and frantic, was now being overpowered by growling heaves of my pursuer. As I reached my street, the growls overtook me and sounds of collision were all my ears heard after. Someone... something... just tackled me! Unfirgiving asphalt battered my body, as a heavy being used me to break their fall. I turned over, blood rolling down my face from where I hit the concrete, but was pinned flat against the ground.


My eyes became pinpoints, seized by terror and unable to blink. Staring deep into the acidic green portals of pure malice and hatred, I trembled and try to push myself away with quivering hands. His eyes glowed like neon fire and as he raised his head pearly fangs shone in the moonlight. Before I could plead forgiveness, Dalton latched his fangs onto my throat and began choking the life out of me! My hands flailed, I gagged meekly, clawed at him, but was still forced to exhale a small stream of blood. His growls only grew more intense, as his bite force intensified and I heard popping in my neck. I swung as hard as I could, but he simply caught and pinned my arm. My vision was getting hazy, I kicked and even tried to bite him back, but to no avail. Suddenly he clawed me, the paw that pinned my arm flew across my face as he ripped some of neck skin free and consumed it eagerly.


“What’s wrong? Cant kill me without a knife?” He pinned me by the shoulders, his eyes searing into me, as my blood dripped from his maw back into my wounds.


Using this opportunity, I lifted my legs and tensed my arms just enough to throw him off of me. Dalton rolled and landed on all fours, a low snarling growl spitting from him as he approached. His muzzle was peeled, revealing his fangs and the gums encasing them, all stained with my blood and bits of flesh. The fur around his neck and back stood on end, quivering with each movement, as he crawled closer like a feral animal. I scooted away, unable to breath properly or look away from the unblinking, impaling stare of Dalton Grain. His eyes seemed to vibrate with each growl, the intensity of his murderous stare straining his peeled eyelids.

 

I tried to run and he leapt upward, cutting out the moonlight for split seconds. I was facedown this time, but he didn't care. His curved fangs sunk into the back of my skull, sporadic and chaotically, certainly just as painful for him! This went on for what felt like hours, each contact he made would rip hair, scalp, and eventually raw flesh free, all while spraying blood like a burst hose. Soon this ended and Dalton’s claws gripped my skull, one of them ripping into my ear, as his grip tightened. With a loud and carnal grunt he lifted and slammed my skull into the concrete below. It was unreal... The pain was so agonizing, I couldn't hear anything beyond the scream of my devastated body. Another pound left fragments of calcium behind, my teeth reduced to powder. Another slam and my nose completely collapsed, where it only broke upon first impact. Blood, cartilidge, and saliva leaked from my lips as they began to shred into nothing. My teeth were ahhnialated, shrapneled pieces jutting from my gums all I could feel. After three more slams against the pavement, I felt my left eye loosening from its socket, though I lost sight in it several minutes ago. With a particularly high lift of my head, he threw my destroyed face flat against the asphalt, ripping my ear open as his claw tore free. It felt flat, like his brutal effort removed the ugly features that make me an individual. I cant imagine the fleshy pulp, the frayed skin, and the blood strewn mess that my face had been forcefully formed into.


Hearing his laughter, I began crawling away, but was kicked in the side and I collapsed. Before I could register my own drive to live, my desire for escape, my skull was stomped. It wasn't a solid sound, a wet squelch came from my crushed face crashing against crimson concrete. Why can’t I die? Please let this end... I’m so sorry... Opening my good eye, which was still fairly swolled, I caught a glimpse of Dalton, wiping drool away as he enjoyed my agony. Walking closer, slowly, I was flipped onto my back with another kick, just as violent and hateful. Kneeling over me, he got really close, his nose where mine once portruded. He whispered something, which I didn't catch right away, for my vision was fading and I was hoping I’d die...

“Maybe we could be friends...” Dalton produced a knife... my knife, then grinned. “Could’ve... been... friends...” Moonlit reflections on the blade sprinted down the edge, as it was lifted overhead.


A paw landed on my chest, halting the quivers my body could still acheive. His drool began to run again and a malevolently baleful grin slowly formed. He began to breath heavily. Each long, snarling, carnal growl, producing more elation, as Dalton took aim. Tears formed, but had no time to flow, as the knife sunk into my chest, with an airy squish... A gasp hit me, but no air seemed to actually reach my lungs, as I saw blood fountain from my wound. Gagging, kicking, and bucking my body were all I coud think to do. This is it... This is what I deserve... Each attempted breath caused more blood to spew forth, all my fighting did was force the knife to twist, sink, or slice further. My vision began to fade, the pain was more than I have ever had to bear. Yet it wouldn't stop... It only grew, more and more agony was piled atop this already life ending wound.


Slowly, I reached a hand up and tried to touch Dalton. A quivering and slow ordeal, which he watched with disgust, as if I should’ve died already. Once I was within range, he whipped the knife from my chest and cut two of my fingers clean off. Wailing with added horror and suffering, he simply snickered, entertained by my miserable cries. Clucthing my gushing hand, the other palm became slippery with blood and I slowly lifted it toward him, begging for mercy. I felt the knife press against my throat and his eyes illuminated with the purity of true desire. Lifting it back he snarled, his eyes flared, a small drop of blood fell, and the knife followed like a flash of lightning. He repeated this, his stabs becoming more and more brutal, eventually requiring two paws to maintain accuracy. Each impact, the devastating force and unfathomable pain, it brought me that much closer to willing suicide. The snapping sound of skin being torn and the suction of the knife tearing free were all I could focus on. Eventually, this stabbing became too much effort and the knife was left in place, leaving Dalton to resort to his teeth once again.


With my skinned neck in his jaws, I just pleaded. It was all I could do to defend myself, use words, which I knew didn't matter. My voice was practically drowned under torrents of blood, which flowed freely from virtually every inch of my face. Dalton thrashed his head around, with me in his jaws. A playful laughter was all my begging got me, as he dropped my partially scalped skull against the pavement. His smile was so pleased, as if this had been a plan, years in the making. My death was orchestrated by him, he wanted, longed for this. His face was bordering on fond, like the sight of my near corpse was a good friend, he hasn't seen enough.


“Pl-please...” My voice barely carried, the splattering of my blood was louder. “P-pl-please... mercy...” It was all I could muster.


Dalton stared into me with disgust. He spit some of my skin out and sneered at my struggling. My half destroyed hand scraped the ground, just as my unwounded one did, desperate to escape, or cause my death quicker. If I struggled enough, maybe my blood would drain quicker, perhaps it will save me from the suffering. With one more solid bite, I gagged, feeling strips of muscle break free, opening my throat’s more vulnerable portions to his unyielding fangs. Our eyes locked as he purposely twisted his head, to cut off my already torn windpipe. The pain I still felt within my neck intensified slowly, as his jaws arched into a smile, splitting more flesh once it reached a full grin. Tearing his head back, I saw the sky then the ground, then the sky again. My head rolled to a stop, just in time to see my own body flailing, as he feast on my flesh, deservedly.

 

“AGHHHH! AGHHHHHH! OH GOD NOOO!” I flailed in bed, clutching my cleaved hand and swatting it defensively.

 

My blankets had worked over my head, so when I tried to sit up, I felt trapped and fought with all my strength to rip them free. Not realizing where I was, my feet kicked holes into my sheets and I almost tore the blanket open in my dazed ferocity. Tumbling from bed, the sunlight burned my eyes and I panicked, flailing to fight illusory enemies, which my mind had created. Realizing where I was, what had happened, and how I reacted... Tears were all my frenzied mindset could produce. I crumbled... Nothing left of Issac, just a sack of sins, awaiting judgement. My god... I can... my chest hurts... Where the phantom knife had impaled me, it ached so greatly... God...

“Issac? Iza, you alright?” Urving knocked, then opened the door in alarm. “Buddy, what happened?” He practically powerslid up to me, his knees hitting the floor like hydrogen bombs.


“I... I... I...” Weeping, I rocked myself, uncomforted by his presence. “Nightmare... I had a...” My voice faltered and I couldn't speak any further.


“Calm down bud, your fine. Everything’s fine.” Urving put a paw over me, trying to collect my twitchy hands with the other.


“NO IT F*****G ISN’T!”


Swatting at him, Urving’s eyes widened with shock, then collapsed into potent misery. I don't care if it hurt him, my life is worthless, I should be dead! Life isn’t worth living, my mind is corrupt and my past is shredded! Nothing will ever be normal for me... I’m not a person anymore... I couldn't unclench my hands, like my brain wanted them to be claws instead. My eyes darted from image to image, a wasted second could cost me my life! Without realizing I had moved to my closet, to use it as cover, the unwavering eyes I wore didn't dare leave Urving. His frown sculpted a gloomy stare of pure woe. Tears formed, as Urving stared at me indifferent, but terrified. Repeatedly asking me what was wrong, I couldn’t register words to form an answer. Every inch he shuffled closer, produced a scream of unequitted fear. Urving was bawling now, a paw locked on his mouth, to try and prevent this, as he bowed his head. Sliding against the inside wall of my closet, I shuddered grimly, crying more and more with each passing moment.

 

For a time that’s all my moring was. Let’s say, an hour, of today was dedicated to the two of us surrending tears to superior emotions. He didn't even understand why I was this terrified, but the display of mistrust effected him none the less. Urving hadn’t been crying for several minutes and a part of me thought he had left, but I knew I’d hear him and occasionally I did. His voice spoke out, he asked something without warning.


“Was... was it about Earth?” Urving’s voice was hardly a mouses squeak.

 

It took all I had to force words instead of tears. “Yes...”

 

Urving made a confirming noise, then stuttered a few times as he tried to continue. Words seemed to escape him and I sighed, still unable to remove the deep ache in my chest. This isn’t real... I know that was a nightmare, brought on by repressed memories, but this pain is persistent. My heart is literally wounded from that demented, visceral, and ruthless visage, given grisly life. I hope I am never relieved of this pain... Suffering is my only attonement! I do not deserve happiness, that was decided long ago, that nightmare is the only reality my useless soul should ever experience.


“Is it about... what happened?” Urving asked suddenly, my own thoughts fell out from beneath me like a mental trapdoor.


I was silent, a whimper all that came from my throat at first. “Y-yes...”

 

All of my emotional transmutations equaled nothing. I am nothing, less than nothing... I deserve absolute suffering, the cruelest and most unusal ways to kill someone! Nothing about me is redeemable, all that I am is shrouded in the blood of another being. His death was preventable, I deserve to die instead! Life is not improved by my existence, only foiled...

 

Urving had been crying again, his steady sobbing breaths were practically the only noise in the room, for it dwarfed mine into nonexistence. Peeking out, I saw he had his muzzle in one paw, his mouth hanging open as he gasped regularly on his pain. This isn’t right... Not only am I a useless waste of everything, but now I inflict emotional damage on the closest thing I have to a friend anymore! I’m not worth anything, my life is practically over already, for I lost my soul.


“Issac... I don’t think... You need to know...” Urving began trying to gather his words, but only fragments emerged. “I don’t judge you or blame you... What you did wasn't your fault. You were defending yourself...” He tried to use logic and reason to reach me.

 

“I’m a monster... I can’t go on living...” My words were hollow, true defeat was acceptance of death and I have reached that.

 

“NO! STOP IT!” Urving shouted and I practically threw myself to the back of the closet with alarm. “Does a rabbit running away make him a coward? No! Does a snake using it’s venom make him a cheater? No! Does a human fighting to survive make them a monster?” Urving was silent, save heavy sobbing, his words unable to pierce the veil of sorrow. “No...” He whispered before breaking down into loud, uncontrolled tremors of emotion.


My heart was in pieces, which I had been offering to the pitch black fire that replaced my soul. Deep down, within the immense darkness, there was still a tiny golden spark. Urving produced this, not with these words specifically, it was there for a while now... I cannot explain how I can tangibly feel it, but there is a specific echo in me that only sounds to Urving’s attention. What is the use though... My stained past is never going to release me from the inescapable, ineradicable, and indescribable horrors I have commited. There is no hope for me, I gave up my freedom when I killed Dalton, a fact that will never change, like the agonizingly detailed memory...


“Please come out Issac, ju-just talk with me...” Urving’s voice was harshly strained, like a chain was tightening around his throat.


“I... I can’t even... I can’t look you in the eye sometimes...” Peeking my head out, I stood, causing my body to half emerge from the closet.


“Why? Issac... I don't juge you, promise! It wasn’t something you wanted! I know you kid!” Urving’s entire muzzle was dripping with tears, his normally rounded fur, strait and hanging.


“You don’t... you cant understand...” Balling up my fists, I bit my tongue to avoid tears, which crashed through my defenses like tidal waves over sandcastle walls. “I-I think I shouldn't be alive. I don't understand why you’ve been so nice... I don't understand why you care about me...”


“Because I do! That’s all, does it need anything deeper? Your past is nothing, if anything it makes me want to help you more!” Urving’s eyes mined my face, moving constantly to take in my every emotional change.


I stared in disbelief, my stunted mouth unable to speak, only sob and quiver. The unfathomed despondancy of facing Urving with this ultimate crime, had me convulsing like a madman, unable to control the anguish life put me under. I collapsed weeping, barely managing to fall to my knees, before I slumped to the ground crying. I skirled for death, not understanding or trying to perceive why Urving would treat me with such grace and mercy. Not a soul in my world would’ve shown any compassion, I’d of been locked away for life or executed promptly! Urving’s claws gently scooped up my toppling form, as I surged my body aimlessly, fueled by the ever spreading despair I was filled with.

“Please stop crying Issac. Please. Oh gods please...” Urving held me to his shoulder, both arms locked around me tactfully, taking treasure like care to not hurt me. “You don't have to be afraid anymore...”

 

Urving’s voice was desperate, barely audible over my sobbing, as he attempted to coddle away my crimes. His own tears were felt and heard, as heaving breaths released a flood of mental dismay. His voice cracked and warbled, like this was a situation of fatalistic proportions. Our crying synchronized for a while, leaving the household to be enveloped in true, absolutely inescapable sadness. Nothing about life is ever going to be the same again... It’s out there, Urving now has my unforgivable actions on his mind. How can he pretend to forgive me and to love me? I hate myself, that’s the way everyone else should treat me...

“I’m here Issac... I’ll always protect you buddy...” Hopelessness filtered out the strength Urving tried to use. “No matter what anyone else says, I’ll be here...”


“W-why?” I asked spiteful of his furthered efforts.


“I know you...” Urving took a small moment to lean me back and stare into my eyes. “You aren’t dangerous... you were frightened... You just needed help.” Urving’s voice broke, his words extended with a seethe of emotion and he was left wallowing, choking on misery. “I chose to take care of you, because I care about you like a son...” Tears fell again, with greater force.


Silence could never fully form, my wispy breathing or Urving’s explosive tears an erratic constant. Memories of being told to “shut up”, “be quiet”, and “grow a pair” flew through my mind as I watched tears drip into the obscuring carpet below. On earth, during the resistance, it was never alright to cry... People would be captured, killed, or left behind to only a moment of silence. Tears are a symbol of weakness, but it feels... good... It felt alright to cry now... Though recently shed, these tears have been inside me for years, stewing and decaying into this unyielding sorrow, guilt, and regret.


It was like the mental cork caused by earths invasion, had began leaking the delicate wine, which was raw and unprocessed emotions. This cuddled crying quickly became comforting, as my memory replayed the callousness of my corades. When my parents were taken, my life stopped... Sand stood still in the hourglass and the sun halted in the sky... Emotions couldn't articulate properly and I felt like everything inside of me disintegrated in one moment. No one showed concern either, not one human soul comforted me when my only source of sanity was taken... At that moment, I actually mattered far less. Without my fathers strength and my mothers knowledge, the child tailing them was useless. That’s why I changed so greatly, became a... killer... I needed something to replace the semblance of family, even if it was a twisted simulacrum of obedience, not welcoming acceptance. The stray militant brotherhood that I lived in was not a worthy replacement for a family. I know that now, but it felt necessary back then...

 

“Im so sorry Issac. I wish I could’ve been there... I wish I could’ve talked with you...” His desires struck chords in my heart, which reverberated to my brain.

The notion of being confronted with Urving instead of Dalton, both terrified and soothed me. This stems from my understanding of Urving’s personality and wants. Knowing now what being “captured” would entail, I wasn’t as afraid of the idea. So much would be different... For one, I certainly wouldn't have been able to kill Urving... Those horrid atrocities would not have ever happened. Dalton would get to live, that’s the most important thing overall.

 

“I’m s-so-sorry... ” Shakily and during a long howl of sadness, I managed to express myself, if only a little.

 

“You didn't do anything wrong. We couldn't communicate and you didn't known...” Urving leaned me back, his tensed gaze still streaming with tears, as he fought to stare into my eyes. “It was war for you guys... You were just defending yourself.”

 

“Th-tha-thank you... Pl-please... please don't...” Urving’s awaiting face showed shock at my words. “I don't want anything... to change. I feel... I’m alright here, with you...” My stuttered, delayed, and tear strewn words ended abruptly, Urving’s voice overpowering it.


“You are alright! You’re safe and I am never going to judge you! I’ll pretend like it never happened, alright?” Urving’s face lifted and became a smidge hopeful, the fact I was cracking open gave him a chance to provide support.


“No... I... I cant hide.” Urving’s eyes lost the sparks, his stare was weakened momentarily. “You... you’ve been so understanding and... you’ve treated me as an equal. I’ll never be able to repay you for that...” The amount of shed tears, it led to an inevitable dry spell and I was able to speak clearer.


“I’ll never ask you to. I just hope you know that I’m here... I care Iza. You’ll never be anything less than my best friend from earth.” Urving’s eyes slowly illuminated as he saw me reacting positively.


“Th-thank you Urving...” My voice quivered along with my lips, as another waterfall began at each eye. “Thank you!” I wept, throwing my arms around as much of him as I could.


Meek growls of tenderness cut from Urving upon impact of my assumedly weightless body. We both cried a bit longer, he rubbed my back, as I spat out despair, which had been growing for years. Little by little, I could feel myself lighten of the misery currently gripping me. At it’s entirety I felt no better, yet something about knowing Urving was there, keeping this burden alongside me... It made it feel alright to keep trying. If he was willing to look past my unforgiveable actions, to see the real me, than I had to be willing to present myself. Even with disconsolation in my heart and forlorn hope in my head, I still think my life can change. If I try hard enough... things wont get better, but... they wont be as bad. That doesn't fill me with hope, but I cannot pretend to accept the alternative... If I killed myself, everything I have begun building here would burn to nothing. Even if trying fails, I don't lose anything and life can still be cut short. Why not... try... Things may get better...


“Ur-Urving... C-can I have a minute alone?” I had to gather myself if I was going to try and move on so quickly.

 

“Of course... Di-did I do something wrong?” His face was barely able to contain the fragments of sorrow he was still struggling with.

 

“No, I just... I need a little time alone.” I smiled at him, void of any real feeling, but it was enough to make him want to try.

 

Watching the defeat reoccupy his eyes and a desperate frown affix to his face, my heart sank. The clacking of my door closing brought a long, grim sigh. Falling flat on the floor, I wept silently for a few more minutes, before my eyes stung so badly I feared blindness. Every tenthousand tears I shed, one drop of Dalton’s blood is repayed. Urving may not see it like this, but I need to think in these terms... I can never equalize the help Urving has offered, by simply ignoring my crimes so diligently. Urving is... he’s the greatest friend in the world... both worlds...

 

Time’s harsh progression became noticeable after a few seconds. This cant be how I spend my life... I cannot collapse and lose an entire day to emotional shackles, everytime I think about what happened. Rising from the fetal position, I took a deep breath, allowing as much of myself to open as I could. Though my eyes still held the redness and dullness of tears, I had stopped crying. Sniffling back spare mucus, I blew my nose, then searched the house for Urving. I found him in his room on the phone, but he was quickly alerted to my presence.


“Hold on a sec sis. Hey bud, ya... ya alright?” Urving’s voice didn't match his face, a cheery tone projected from stone like sadness.


“I... I will be... Could I have a cigarette?” I asked and he nodded, flicking the pack into his paw, then lobbing it to my outstretched hand.


“I’ll be out in a little while, ok?” Urving’s question made it seem like he was asking permission, so I nodded before departing.

 

Stepping out back, I lit my smoke, then tossed the lighter onto the table before shutting the door. Feeling the heat of morning, I filled my lungs with ash tainted air, and my ears with the world awaking in the distance. It was enlightening, steeping myself in reality... It put the dream into a painfully obvious prospective. Though vivid enough to make me think I was back on earth, it was just an apparition brought on by years of repressed guilt. If nothing else, it was at least a reminded to never forget him... Never forget what I did...

 

Taking the six or seven minutes required for a cigarette, I allowed my mind to careful dissect and decrypt what I experienced. It would seem, my subconscious thinks Dalton is vengeful or at least violent... What I gathered from Ferris’s memory-sharing would say otherwise. It hurts to think about, my eyes sear with the heat of crying at the thought, but I “remember” Dalton being shy... Ferris helped me “remember” he was compassionate and honest... I remember how innocent he was... Unlike my dream, which was false, Ferris memories are real. Dalton was a good man.

 

Entering, I was stopped by Urving who was standing by the door. Concern filled his eyes, but an endearing smile graced his face as I looked up at him. Taking a knee, he trembled a moment, lifting a paw toward me, as if to ask my allowance. Stepping forward with my head bowed, to hide my damp eyes, I allowed Urving to hug me again. A small growl of affection escaped him as I whimpered, struggling not to cry. Without warning, his paws pushed me back and he looked deep into my eyes, the glint in his gaze returning ever so slightly.


“I will always be on your side Issac. You will never be alone.” Urving’s reassurance made me misty eyed, but I couldn’t produce any tears.

 

“Thank you Urving... I couldn't... I couldn't have started over if it weren’t for you. Thank you...” My emotional words caused sniffles, but I could see a smile growing instead.


“I’m here for ya kid. I hope you know you can always talk to me. You can... you can always count on me.” Urving looked away a second, his nose and mouth trembling, but I saw a loving resolve bring him back stronger than before.


“I’m so sorry... For putting this extra burden on you...” I didn't get time to finish.


“A problem shared, is a problem halved.” Urving’s motivation was uplifting and I tried to ride that feeling, but failed. “I chose you for a reason Issac. You’re the one I wanted to help. I didn't... I didn't think any of the others needed me. Something told me you did...” Wow... oh god, what a touching thing to say...


“Thank you. I really... I do need your help.” Looking at the floor, I nodded to myself and sighed.


Urving hugged me again, not in a desperate attempt to feel affection, but as a sign of his acceptance and love. Burning deep inside me was the desire to show an equal amount of understanding and friendship. It is always overshadowed by my fear, anger, or sadness, but it is there. Maybe that’s all it takes... Knowing that it is there. Maybe one day, it will be the only thing there, the only force that powers my happiness...


“You want some breakfast bud? I bet you’re hungry.” Urving offered and I couldn't avoid chuckling.


“Yeah... my stomach hurts from last night.” We both chuckled a little, falsifying emotion was easy for me.


“Told ya it was strong stuff!” Urving patted my shoulder, seeing that I was smiling under all my ambient gloom. “I was gonna make an omelette, want one?” His voice was still brittle and it made me shiver saddly, knowing the pain I’ve caused him.

 

“Yeah. Sounds great, thanks.” We both smiled and though mine was lacking, it felt good to try.

 

Watching the day turn toward normality, a grieving sigh of relief came from me softly. Though just as real in the moment, that was a dream... A mental illusion, which mankind does not fully understand yet! So long as I keep reminding myself of Dalton and how he really was, this horrific visage should stay buried. I cannot say this with absolution... Nothing is certain anymore... Life has become a game with rules I struggle to understand, on a board I don’t recognize. Yes, I have a caring teammate to follow and learn from, but you cannot learn how to live again. Not after something so horrible, I don't deserve that chance...


The chipping and pinging of eggs being cracked against a glass bowl filled the kitchen, but was overtaken by the stovetop. Urving hummed softly, a slow and simple melody. I enjoyed it... When put together with the other ambient sounds of the kitchen, including his drumming fingers, a simple song formed. Without consent, my toes flitted to the rhythm of the ovens repetitive surging, which Urving matched with a clink of a knife against the countertop. Seeing my minor amusement, lit Urving’s face like a roadflare. Not knowing what else to do in the spotlight that was his stare, I began sliding a coaster, which created a unique squeal that brought a smile to both our faces.


Urving’s face suddenly shifted to panick, as he saw the first omelette was starting to burn. The shoddy musical melody returned to simple abstract sounds, though if I listened hard some flow could be established. With a small smirk, I hopped off the stool and headed to my room. Urving noticed, I think, but he was busy cooking. With a little phantom practice, I prepared my fingers to play the sounds Urving just made. It wasn't easy and at first I faltered, but within seconds I was sliding into the kitchen with the melody perfectly replicated. It was a simple four part melody. One chiming high note, the second fell to lower mid range, then a low note, followed by the humming it all produced.

Urving’s eyes softened, illuminating like a small sun rose behind them. It wasn't hard to lose myself in the sounds and effort required to play them, though closing my eyes still garnered flashes of this mornings hellish ordeal. So instead, I kept my eyes trained on Urving, who radiated pure, empowering, unfathomably strong happiness. His mouth hung open, his eyes sparkled with intrigue, and a single paw delicately lifted toward me. Finishing what I had heard him humming, I smiled up at him, my mind overjoyed that he was happy. It wasn't much, but I feel like I owe him for the bullshit this morning...


“Yo-you could just... do that? You just heard me and you... Damn dude, you’re amazing!” Urving swept me up into his paws for a hug.

 

“It wasn't that hard, that’s a real simple melody.” I hummed part of it afterward, but he exploded with joy.


“It’s also one of my favorite songs!” Urving lifted me gingerly, then held me away from him so my legs dangled and my body hung by my armpits. “Please don’t ever talk bad about yourself! You’re so talented buddy!” Urving hugged me once more and I faked laughter, to avoid sniffling on tears.


“Thanks man...” I responded, but my emotional mindset didn't get very far.


Smoke rose from the pan and Urving released a small yelp of confusion. Of course a yelp for him is like a miniature roar, but it was still funny seeing his alarm. Scrambling over to the burning mass of eggs and cheese, he fumbled for a bit, looked over the situation, looked down at me, tried to empty the pan with one paw, then set me down, and proceeded to fix the problem. Scraping a dark brown, crispy mass out of the pan, he sighed a bit.


“Well I suppose you can yell at me now!” He laughed opening the ceiling vent, to allow the loose black smoke to escape. “I’ll make ya a good one, don't worry!” He laughed, whisking more eggs into a soupy texture.


Just a soft laugh, that’s all I could produce, I didn't know what I could’ve said... A cup of coffee was presented to me and within no time, I had a freshly cooked omelette full of cheese, tomatos, ham, and some kind of spicy sauce. Urving ate the burned one as he prepared himself another, but gagged and practically threw up what he had barely chewed. One eye bulged wide, while the other squinted up and teared, all the while he slapped the crunchy, flakey, powdery substance from his tongue. Knowing how fluffy eggs should be, that must’ve been just plain awful! I asked if he was ok, but he just gave a thumbs up and kept coughing, then took a long drink of coffee.

 

“Didn't think it’d be that bad!” He exclaimed, spitting once more, his saliva dark brown. “Blegh...” He made one final disgusted noise, as he returned to cooking.

 

I couldn't avoid smirking at him, because I was certain he did that just to entertain me. I wouldn't doubt it, but wasn't really sure. Regardless of his intentions, I appreciated smiling with him again, like things were normal, though we both know they aren’t. Why does he just ignore it? Does that make it easier on him? There was no way to ask without completely ruining the mood, so I focused on breakfast. Eggs aren’t exactly filling for me, so I finished quickly, regardless of this being three times larger than an earth omelette. Urving offered me another, but I insisted he eat first.

 

Finishing my coffee, I perused the newspaper, hoping to keep my mind occupied and my attention honed. Within a few articles, another filled plate was slid in front of me and Urving tapped the back of the paper gently. Thanking and smiling at him, I folded the enormous sheets of paper and rolled them closed as best I could. Urving was finished cooking so we chit-chat while finishing breakfast, he inevitably also took my leftovers. This morning smoothed over the sinister start, though the thoughts are still staining my mind. Urving cleared his throat and a moment of defenselessness hit his face before he began speaking.

 

“So I know you probably aren’t feeling up to it, but... Kolm and Riot invited us to go to the zoo today!” Nearly dropping my mug, I stared mid-sip with apprehension filling my eyes. “No problem if you don't wanna buddy, I understand. Just thought it could turn your day around.” Urving’s claw made little circles on the counter top, I could tell he had been really excited.

“Urv... I don't know...” I muttered sighing and looking away from his defeated glance. “C-can I ride on your shoulder?”

 

His face shone with an unflinching combination of excitement, admiration, and yearning. My own mouth fought against the unstoppable grin this brought, yet trepidation was still consuming me from within. The very idea of going to a public place frightens me, but at the same time, I wanted to make this up to Urving. I can’t make up what I did, but I can be a good person now. That has to say something... It has to amount to some kind of apology...


“OF COURSE, but... are you sure kid? I don't want you to feel forced, it’s up to you.” Urving caught himself before he roared, holding his paws to his chin.

“I... I know I’m safe with you. Yeah, let’s go.” I was sentimental at first, but then I smiled up at him.


My response caused an avalanche of positive emotions. Experiencing such friendly antics and understanding affection made my statement hold that much more validity. I really do feel safe with Urving, he has shown time and time again that he cares about me. It is only fair we test this effort when given the opportunity. He deserves me to try, just as hard as he has. Given what I’ve put him through, the decisions and choices he has made because of me, I am going to make this work. I am going to work... Life will work if I try.


“AWESOME!” Urving tossed me toward the ceiling a few times, but always caught me handily. “I’ll call Kolm and see how they wanna meet up. Thanks buddy, promise you wont regret this!” He set me back in my stool and pat my shoulders in a drumming tempo.

 

“Thank’s, I’m sure I wont! This sounds fun!” I called back, getting him to duck around the corner and smile.

 

I need to remember how safe I really am. Urving is enormous and at the very mention of me being harmed, he threatened to kill Genevide. All I need to do is remain calm and today should be fine! Or maybe my dreams were trying to tell me today is the day I die... No, that’s nonsense! Don't be a fool Issac! Keep in mind you will have two anthronians there to defend you! Not to mention having Melvin, for moral support. This should be easy! Nothing bad is going to happen today, I can feel it! Ok, so it’s a strong hope... I’m still trying to remain excited.


Going through my wardrobe, I tried to pick out an appropriate outfit from my clean clothes. I am still unsure how Urving washes clothes and I hope to find out sometime soon. Wearing one of my suits seemed a bit rediculous for this occasion, so a simple collared shirt and some slacks will do nicely. It felt more like a tennis shoe kind of place, the zoo, right? It felt odd not having a wallet, ID, or keys, but replacing this with my phone and translator felt appropriate. When I have been here longer, I will probably have all sorts of things that I need to bring with me.

 

Exiting my room, I gathered my clothes in the bathroom and ran the water. Giving it time to heat up, I shaved, though it wasn't entirely necessary. After a peaceful shower, where I tried to erase the painfully vivid memories from my head, I dressed myself then found Urving waiting in the living room. The sight of me groomed and dressed caused a smirk to grown, his face struggled to contain a smile. His eyes gave a temporary luster, but he actively restrained it to a candles glow.

 

“Kolm and Riot said they’re ready whenever. So let me get my key’s and we’ll go, k?” Urving popped up at the sight of me, his impact with the ground shaking my knees.


“Alright, sounds good.” Hinting at my nervousness, Urving was either oblivious or just too excited.


It’s been almost a whole week since I have left this house, save the backyard. Going to such a vast public place, let alone the car is giving me anxiety. Curiousity, atonement, and recompense kept my will strong enough to require only standard human caution. Nothing could really be done about how I am feeling... I already agreed to go and it would crush both of us if I took that back. No, today would be the day I face the outside world, not entirely fearless, but with a new force to compel my effort.

 

It wouldn’t be easy to ignore survivals impulse, especially when surrounded by possible threats. Though it was rediculous, I began pretending Urving’s shoulder was a type of fortress or sanctuary. A place where violence could never reach and pain holds no power. Shutting my eyes I tried to envision a true bastion of stone and steel instead of flesh and fur. Regardless of how unlogical this was of me, it provided a momentary focused comfort. Opening my eyes my guardian stood before me with a confused grin, but I just smirked at him and he returned it.

 

“Ready kid?” Urving lifted his muzzle as he asked this.

 

“Yeah, lets go!” I lifted a shoulder, half pointing at the door.

 

“No need to worry bud, really!” Urving was insistant, a more serious mood taking hold of him.

 

A simple nod got an accepting grin from him, as he opened the door and I stepped outside. As I expected, it was nothing special and in no way threatening. Our minds can trick us into believing almost anything, yet I knew my fear was very genuine, regardless of this underwhelming emergence. Walking to Urvings crazy land craft, I was taken back to the day he brought me home. A few moments in time meshed together and I felt the searing parking lot asphalt underfoot. It was like I was approaching this bizarre vehicle for the first time all over again, but with an entirely different mindset. Understanding and wanting to grow, not flee, it makes all the difference...

 

“All set? Sorry it’s so cramped.” Urving groaned lightly, his hulking form confined to such a small car.


“Yeah, no problem. Why’s your car so small though?” I asked with a little grin, as to not tease him.


“It was cheap. Got it for a steal!” He laughed, but it faded quickly. “God I hope Barkley sells his truck soon...” Urving let out a big sigh, then started the car and backed up.


“Why would he sell such a big car if he’s gonna have pups soon?” I questioned with a tilt of my head.


“It’s not as safe as the one he wants to get. Plus Delia always hated how loud it is.” Urving seemed a little startled with my question, like he didn't expect my asking.


“Oh, I see.” I nodded and panned my gaze out the window.


“Wanna cigarette?” Again Urving reminded me of my first day with him.

 

“Sure, thanks...” It was surreal for a moment, until I realized how regular an occurance this is.


Turn after turn soon smoothed into long straight aways, as we entered the outter suburbs, toward the city. Odd how serene things can be in a car. Outside all mannerism’s of life were happening, but yet I felt such a disconnect. Smoking a stoke, listening to some music, and cruising through the densely clustered city opened my mind to the possibilities. Thinking about all the new stuff I’ll see is one thing, but to actually experience it will be life changing. If I keep myself steeped in fear, then the light of discovery will never find me... The scattered fifty or so humans I saw during this drive all seemed to be fitting in fine. A few of them even appeared happy, though most held the standard drol day to day life deserves. It’s crazy how I long for that simple and bland feeling...

 

Making a wide arching turn between some squat buildings, we hit light traffic, but were soon rolling along. The car slowed and we drove atop a small dais to park behind several other cars, if they could even be called that. The row was slow moving and I quickly realized this to be a gas station or... fuel depot. All the cars preceeded beneath a wide, glowing, series of arches. Within this arch, tiny metal arms would unfold and scan the car in small segments. This process seemed to not only recharge the glowing cells behind the vehicles tires, but repair and clean each panel too! Wow, body work, carwash, and gas all in one! Urving soon was next and I was given a first hand display of these refueling archways. Within the indented portions, each metal rod folded flat, barely providing proof they were inside. Once extended, each segment unfolding a foot or so, they unfolded to form a type of minautre solarpanel. This radiated a thin red light, which seemed solid once it fully projected against the car. Urving opened the car and blocked my view of the machine as he interacted with it, hitting a few buttons and inserting a sparkly silver tab of metal. This is some kind of mechanical currency for them, these tabs of assumedly precious metal.


“I’mma get a soda, want one?” Urving asked, his huge frame filling most of the doorway when he leaned down.


“Sure!” I replied cheerily, but gratefully.

“W-wanna come in with me?” Urving asked, looking past the other two sets of arches, toward the minimart.

 

“Is it alright if I wait here?” I asked and he nodded, with a beaten smirk. “Sorry...” I added, but I don't think he heard me.


Wow... all he wanted was for me to go into the store with him. A more impulsive me would’ve run after Urving and go inside, but there is no way in hell I am going out there alone. Urving is the greatest defense I can imagine, so without him, I am helpless. Even if he was still within sight, fear rooted me like a tree. All around the vehicle, tiny lense shot beam after beam of light, only to sweep over the vehicle, leaving it prestine. I’m unsure what exactly was happening, but I know the car reacted slightly. Electronic lights fluxuated, then seemed brighter than before. Perhaps this is a way of transmitting power? Little electrical strands flew along these projected cones of light energy, so maybe I’m right on some level...

 

Watching the lines dispurse behind me, I caught a glimpse of Urving leaving, two bottles in his paw. He got in the car, squeezing himself into a compacted ball, then dropped the bottles into my grasp. They each featured a reptilian eye, but it was crying. One was called “Snake tears” and it was lime flavored, the other was called “Dragon tears”, which was a spicy beverage. I was given choice and picked the green bottle. Appologizing again, Urving made nothing of it, his demeanor unchanged what so ever.


Rolling between buildings of unparalleled design, alien architecture began to take it’s own place in my mind and eyes. Certain design choices and constructive parameters met with the overall asthetic of the other buildings, but yet each one seemed so new and fresh from the rest. From the tiny, humble, stone structures, to tall imposing monoliths of glass and steel, each of these buildings stood out from the rest in one way or another. Metal, I’m unsure if it could be called steel, seems to have a blue hue on Al Ur En. I will have to learn what materials go into construction, this is important common knowledge! It’s funny to think about, but did Urving’s people have to learn to use wood and stone first? For how long? Did they learn to work metals quicker than us as a species?

Speaking of metal and it’s uses, they have a vast variety of land transportation! Vehicles ranged in color, shape, speed, body type, and tire pattern! Some vehicles looked like heavy artillery transports! Nothing about the “automobile” seemed to fall in line with earth standards, though I was happy it didn't. It’s nice having similarities to my home world, but come on, how lame would it be if they were still driving Ford’s and Honda’s? This is just a guess, but it would seem each vehicle is designed for a specific species or at least to fit the drastic size differences amongst the culture. Some of them are long and low, for families of smaller creatures, where some are ridiculously tall and box shaped, like a personal bus!

 

The car bounced as we drove over the lip of a bridge and soon I found us passing over a wide river. Personal watercrafts cruised the water below, a few were even able to submerge, as I saw it before my very eyes! Pressing against the window to see more, my vision was obscured by blurs and moving masses. A train passed in the opposite direction, hanging from the top of the bridge. Metal arms bent and twisted to provide a smooth ride, for the rapidly moving anthronians within. Each car was a link of three sideways diamond shaped metal capsules, which seemed to hold three to four anthronians. It passed so fast I was barely able to take in any detail, but the whirring and whoosh it made echoed in my awe struck mind. Looking back at the bridge we passed over, I smiled as I barely made out a vast ocean on the distant horizon.

 

Urving sang some of the songs on the radio, his grunts and growls coming out as words some of the time. Other times a type of static, blaring, or stuttered silence would simply mask words he said. There was never enough to put a lot together, but from the sound of the song and what I gathered, it was arena rock. Squealing guitars, driving drums, and lyrics mentioning “the show”, “the band”, and “getting tail” sort of gave it away. Trying to hum or sing along in my head, I found the cathchy rhythm intriguing to say the least. It was over soon with a crash of symbals and a wail of assumedly broken guitars.


We left buildings and began down a road biset by trees and foliage. Endless exapnses of nature caused shudders, as I imagined running though them blind with terror. If I had left Urving, ran away, this is probably were I would be. Here or dead... I gotta keep my head clear, I cant ruin today, I just cant... Birds fluttered away from our speeding vehicle, lifting in a mass only to scatter, then regroup. This freeway ramp seemed to levitate above the near perfect nature, but that's when I noticed... The poles and support structures were made to look like trees themselves! It wasn't perfect, the metal gleamed in the daylight, but if one didn't pay attention they may be fooled! A small gasp became an excited noise, fueled by amasement. Broad laughter cut from Urving and he turned the radio down a bit to observe my intrigue.


“This is forest top freeway. A buncha artists remodled it, like, twelve years ago!” Urving informed, when he saw the questions in my eyes. “It’s a pretty popular tourist attraction! Some of these metal trees even have roots!”


“That’s really unique, messed with my eyes a second.” We laughed and Urving turned the radio back up.

 

Ahead there were signs, which I translated as directions to zoo parking! Oh wow, we’re here! Yeah, awesome! Wow, did I really get that excited? It’s an alien zoo, of course I did! This is gonna be so cool! I can learn all sorts of stuff about this planet and all the other lifeforms they’ve found in the galaxy. Hopefully the animals are lively today, that used to suck as a child, lazy lions and unmoving elephants would ruin the whole trip. Hopefully that wouldn't be the case.


“Alright... let’s try to find Kolm...” Urving began scanning the parking lot, going slowly down each row of parking.

 

Varying vehicles of all forms, from tall cubes to pyramids on wheels had been driven, then deposited on this massive slab of asphalt. Watching any face I saw a moment, I hoped to find one of them, a skunk or a nerdy guy. Neither popped out at me and the search went on. With a second pass around the lot, Urving found a place to park and decided to call Kolm directly. Awaiting the line to connect, I heard ringing for a few seconds, but then a quick series of beeps, which I’ve come to know as someone picking up the line.

 

“Yo, sup. Where you guys at?” Urving asked his phone and a muffled voice returned a jumbled phrase. “Alright, cool, good timing. Lemme pay and we’ll meet you by the gate.” Urving responded as he opened his door.

 

Hopping out, my impact with the ground caused a small tremor to rock through my body, settling on my mind where it bred fear. Urving’s appearance above the large landcraft set my mind at ease. Being invited to be carried on his shoulder solidified my shoddy assurance. Approaching the main gate, they were covered in mosaic like tiles, which depicted bountiful landscapes and harmonious nature. Between pillars of marble were wall mounted machines, similar to ticket booths. We approached the one with the shortest line and awaited out turn. Beyond these automated ticket stands, there was a segmented wall of metal rods, which allowed one to only see through tiny squares. When a ticket was presented, this retaining wall would slide open, allowing the patron to step through. It had a small timer, though thirteen seconds is liberal, this is an odd thing to have such high security over.

 

With out tickets in hand, we went to the gate and inserted the small paper slips. Urving had me do it for him, since his paws were so enormous. Finely detailed motor control must be difficult for Urving... His claws alone are as thick as my fingers, if not bigger. How he performs minute tasks is beyond me. As the gates parted and we marched inside, Urving popped open his pager and tapped it a bit. We had entered a type of welcoming court. Maps lined walls, security stood awaiting trouble, some storage and refreshments also graced this little courtyard. It had been constructed to look like a natural landscape. Stray rocks and wild looking trees lined the ground randomly, but a clearly defined path easily traversed this staged wildlife. At the far end of this courtyard was an enormous set of double doors, like something guarding a castle! Metal rivets the size of car doors held wood together, forming an imposing gate, blocking the animals from view.

 

It was constructed from high stone walls, with pointed corners and a jagged lip. Every ten to twenty feet, a statue of a different anthronian stood with exaggerate legs, to reach the ceiling. One or two, such as the rabbit and the mouse, had arms stretched upward, to match the height of the larger sculptures. The open ceiling allowed birds to fly in and out freely, thought they were a common type, I’ve seen all over, nothing spectacular. Surrounding each stand, booth, and even the bathrooms, were tall patches of grass. This gave the effect of wading through the jungle whenever you entered or exited civilized structures. It was a fun idea, but I wouldn't be trying it if I had my way. I want to remain on Urving’s shoulder this whole trip.


“Hey you two! So glad you could join us!” The familiar lulling voice called out, a sharper one following.

“Good to see ya out and about Issac!” Mel said right behind Kolm.


“Hey guys!” We called back in separated unison. “Thanks for inviting us out today!” Urving added after.

“I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see alien animals, aside from these guys of course!” I joked with my only human collegue about our planetary predicament.

“You’ll get to see all sorts of cool things today!” Riot exclaimed with a gleaming grin.


“We oughta get in line, the next tour should be starting soon!” Urving hopped with excitement, as Kolm prepared to follow.

 

We got in another line, this one more excited than the last. Rows of anthronians, their young, and sparce humans lightly chattered about the event to come. Like Melvin, the other humans seemed to be comfortable, one even seemed to be acting as security! Everyone showed excitement and intrigue over what was to come! Some kids bragged about having been here before, but I tuned them out. Not knowing what to expect my mind drifted to old sci-fi movies, where rubber monsters could capture the under developed imagination wholely. Discussing this with Mel, I learned this is only his second trip to an alien zoo, but he assured me it was nothing like on earth. From the cocophony of odd sounds, scents, and partial sights, I believed him. This is going to be amazing...

“Gentlemale’s and Ladyfem’s, the next tour will begin in ten minutes. Thank you for your patience.” A rising ping got the crowds attention, then a soft voice announced our wait time.


The line shifted after this. Elderly anthro’s went to sit down and some departed for restrooms. Excited murmurs rose from the group, a few children complained, and others debated over drinks for the wait. I felt prepared taking a swig of my half full drink. Despite this I felt underdressed. Kolm and Mel had safari hats, sunglasses, personal water bottles, and comfortable clothes. They’ve done this before, when we come back, we’ll be that ready. A new feeling roused my excitement and I couldn't sit still. Despite the mornings dread, I’m really excited. It feels good to be outside and I am glad I will be a part of something social today! I really need it...

 

“Ooh, look, the other tours letting out!” Mel said loudly, pointing at the departing figures at the far corner of the enclosure.

 

“Shouldn't be too long now.” Kolm replied, not looking away from his phone. “Good eye son.” A moment of guilt struck his face before he said this.


“Ya excited Issac?” Urving asked, bouncing me on his shoulder.


“Hell yeah! Are you kidding?” Ignoring the weights of apprehension, I showed absolute enthusiasm.

 

The three of them laughed and I just smiled, unable to expend the fully required emotions. Once all the people had left, their murmurs giving away undetailed information about the park, the gates began opening. Putting on my monocle, I read that the sign didn't say zoo at all! This sign read, “The Grand Managerie”, which is a zoo now that I think about it... A mechanical rumble was followed by clinking chains, than a thunderous boom, as stone began grinding against itself. Light split from between the opening gate and clammering rumbles, cut from beyond it without pause. Once opened sufficiently, a small group of park workers awaited, with bright smiles and eager eyes. All sorts of species were acting as tour guides, offering to take patrons on fully inclusive tours of the zoo.

 

We strolled passed the surely tip hungry tourguides, responding with a polite “no” to the offer. Some of them made eye contact with me, but I just smiled or waved. We didn't need them apparently. We’ll find our own way around, techinically Mel and Kolm are our guides because they've been here before. The shaded waiting yard gave way to sunblasted landscapes, varying nature and climates were glimpsed in the distance. The scent of animal waste, food, and diverse nature mingled in the air making that one of a kind stench that is a zoo. Because of this, Kolm’s natural foulness was hardly noticeable! Maybe it was being out in the open, not standing directly next to him in the kitchen...

 

Vegetation had been strategically grown around each enclosure, which took the form of a large pit in the ground. Each of these personalized chasm’s were tailored and made to look like the habitat the inhabitant would best be suited in. The park itself was essentially one massive, enclosed hallway of carefully grown plants. To my left and right, the real world, this world at least, was blocked off by enormous trees. They were probably chosen just for height, as they didn't fit in with the parks asthetic and clashed with nearby paddocks designs. Gravel paths led to each enclosure in a variety of twisting walkways, all lined with manicured flowers and shrubberies. A map graced the right of the immediate entrance, but we ignored it, not wanting to wait for the crowd to dispurse.

 

Up front, by the entrance, common animals were on display. A small run for dogs and a pen for cats flanked the entry way, causing a small cocophony of barking, meowing, rustling, and other animalistic noises. Panning my eyes over the larger than normal dogs and cats, I found that purple fur was a typical color for some creatures on this planet. It was rare from what I see, only one cat and two dogs had this lavender to deep violet coat color. This alone had me in awe for a moment, but there was so much to see, I couldn't let my mind dawdle. Several buildings stood in the distance, cut apart by the abundancy of trees and other natural life. As we made our way toward the center of the park, signs could be read occasionaly, if the monocle had enough time to catch up.


“Hiya! Howdy! Welcome!” A cheery male called out to the zoo’s patrons as they passed. “How are ya? Good to see you! Have fun!” A female followed, less enthused however, she sounded tired.


These voices were soon given bodies and faces. As we approached the next enclosure, which was raised and semi-open, I saw the enhabitants were human beings. A man and a woman lounged on a sundrenched platform, with soft looking grass to lay upon and a big shady tree for comfort. Shock stampeded through my fragile heart and I fought to withhold my limitless questions. Instead, once our eyes met, I waved to the two fully grown adults. Urving and Kolm shared a heartfelt laugh, as they spied my curiousity. Though a storm of questions and inquiries flew around my skull, I hardly managed to whisper my words.

 

“Wh-why are you in a zoo?” I asked the man, but my eyes cut between the two of them collectively.


“We work here!” The male laughed at my stunned face.

 

“Yeah, we arent trapped, see?” The woman strode forward and opened the wooden fence, which surrounded them.


The raven haired beauty walked to Urving and looked up at me with a big grin. Urving knelt down so I was closer, his rumbling laughter restrained, but growing. Reaching upward, she shook my hand and giggled at my amazement, yet aversion to the growing crowds. I could tell she understood and within her eyes, a field of empathy was projected.


“We’re the park greeters! It’s a pretty sweet gig too!” The man leaned on the fence, casually exchanging words with gathering anthronians.


“Yeah and this is a fun place, so smile gosh darn it!” The grown woman surely was a mother, her attitude was just to precise.


“Thanks... I will!” I called down as Urving returned to his full height, above the crowd and began walking off.

 

“So where ya wanna look at first Issac? Ya wanna see some bugs? Birds? Big animals? Small animals? Aquatic life? Plants? Reptiles?” Riot suddenly bombarded me with questions, once my attention was returned to my surroundings.


“Uhh... I... Should we...” Still shaken by how many people were around me, I was unable to think properly.


“Relax Riot, dont be pushy.” Kolm smirked, patting his humans leg.


“Wanna avoid the crowds kid?” Urving asked, as he began to walk, but my nod got him to continue. “Then we’ll go to the things with less people, no problem!” His understanding resonated within me and I couldn't avoid thanking him.

Heading toward the back of the park, we tried to out maneuver the dispursing allotment of guests. Where a typical earth zoo would seek maximum profits by cramming as many people into the park as possible, a more uniform policy was in place here. Though this place could surely hold more, less than fifty families were allowed in at a time. The tour guides had claimed many victims, which meant a lot were stuck at the beginning attractions, clustered into small groups, listening to a single person speak. Even if I had a group of humans, I would rather discuss these fascinating beings with Urving and the others. It’s nice to be wanted... have friends...

 

“Wow! Look at that thing!” I exclaimed at a large, peculiar beast. “Sorry...” My volume was uncalled for.


“Don’t apologize, please. That was great to hear Issac!” Urving was consoling, though his own excitemed outshined this.

 

My excalamatory response was due to a large mammal, which resembled an elephant or rhino. A squat bulky body was graced with a long, brontosauraus like neck, with thick, triangular scales randomly scattered about. The eyes were beady black dots, pitted into the skull, and the wide head was similar to a whales, but graced with a pair of long floppy ears, which were also scaled. Bristly teeth gnashed up leaves from a nearby tree as the beast lumbered about on stocky, stump like legs. A nubby tail graced the rear of the creature, which held the only fur, save the tips of the ears. It’s skin was lizard like, but only scaled on the neck, yet still slick and slimy looking. It was an enormous creature too! The long serpentine neck, could have easily reached out of the enclosure, but it seemed content with maiming the trees in its pen.


“The attarox is a herbivore, which uses it’s lengthy neck to forage through tall trees for food. Often times they are assaulted by small primates, but the thick, rubbery skin of this beast protects it thoroughly. Often times entire trees will be stripped bare, leaving exposed familes of monkeys for predators. The attarox have an acidic based blood system, so even when wounded, an attacking predator will think twice about biting again. Because of this odd biological development, an attarox will bleed a soft blue color.” Urving read it aloud, fixing his glasses as he began recanting what the stone placard said.


“Weird...” I whispered breathily, my own face reflecting in the beasts blank eyes.


“That’s exactly what I said!” Riot laughed, trying to shove me, but was unable to reach far enough.


“They are mostly native to En, the hot climate is better suited for cold blooded creatures.” Kolm added after Riot had finished jarring him.

 

“Wait, how can a creature so big survive being cold blooded? How does it stay warm?" Turning to Kolm and Mel, I didn't take my eyes off the sluggish beast.


“Good question, you’re very observant Issac!” Kolm’s level of excitement showed me briefly, how Melvin can be so comfortable.


“Told ya he was sharp!” Urving bragged, getting a quick grin from Kolm.

 

“The attarox displays characteristics of both flora and fauna. The scales lining this creatures neck and ears can actually perform photosynthesis. All attarox have a special sack in its stomach for absorbing and storing chlorophyll, which it can use during cold days or when food is scarce. These thick scales produce a faint green color when the creature is absorbing sunlight. Many scientist believe this is responsible for the highly corrosive blood, though it remains an unsolved mystery.” Melvin read the other half of the placard with an instructors tone on his lips.

 

Something caught my eye, Melvin didn't have a translator of any kind! “Y-you know what it says? You can read this nonsense?”

 

“Yeah, learned a few years ago.” The casuality in his voice led me to assume it was either easy or he was being smug.

 

“No way! Was it hard? Did it take a long time?” Astounded, my head was swimming in the future possibilities.


“Maybe six, seven months.” Mel’s response was paired with a polish of his finger nails.


“He was a natural!” With this, Kolm scooped Riot into a cuddle hug and rubbed their foreheads together.


“I’ll teach you bud! Or Kolm can, he taught Riot after all.” Urving added, looking up at me with a lift of his muzzle, only one eye meeting mine.

“Really? Thanks! Thank you both!” Excitement snared me like a net, every inch of my body effected by this foresight.


“Not a problem Issac. I love sharing knowledge with others!” Kolm nodded, his vivid green eyes shutting into obscurity as he smiled.


“Let’s go, plenty of park to see!” Urving pat my leg, then nudged Kolm with the back of his paw.

 

Riot waved goodbye to the large herbivore that is also a plant itself... What a bizzare life form! What else am I going to get to see? What’s next? Passing the next few pens, I found some had tunnels, which gave certain creatures several chambers to move about in. These enclosures in the ground are, I don't know... let’s say fifty feet across and only slightly larger length wise. It was surrounded by bushes and tall grass, like everything else, but each had an actual railing, surrounding the sheer drop into the pit. Funny, the animals live below the foot traffic, instead of in orchestrated cages like on earth. Large glass tiles along each walkway allowed light to enter the inbetween portions of each enclosure, but also gave park goers further glimpses of the animals.

 

“Hey, check this out Issac!” Melvin waved me over toward a pit, with a large rocky outcropping above it.


“Whoa! Cool!” I exclaimed, feeling the energy of his excitement. “It’s like a turtle!”

 

Watching the shelled creature stamp slowly through the shaded brush, I overlooked it’s differing compound. A small stream flowed across this paddock and large rocks provided minimal shade. The creature itself was rather plain. A massive turtle with a tall, mossy shell, and a longer than normal tail, which fanned at the tip. My eyes and mouth dropped open as this creature showed its alien nature... It had multiple heads! Two other heads emerged on slightly longer neck stalks. One lulled out slowly to snap at a low hanging flower, while the other darted out and scanned the habitat intently.

 

The pyramid shaped shell was a deep tan color, beneath the blanket of thick moss. Each head, which emerged from the same hole, was a varying shade of yellow. Unlike a typical turtle, these heads were snake like, triangular, and bore a single hooked barb on the lower jaw. Two thin antennae sprouted from the top of the central head, which seemed to be unable to retract, due to it being larger than the others. All the heads appeared to move individually and act without consent of the others. This was proven as two heads attempted to eat the same flower and it resulted in a small fight. It was impossible to contain my reactions, but this was encouraged by the others, Urving especially.

 

“This is called a tetzuzit. Each head has a little personal brain. The actual “brain” is in its spine, they share it.” Melvin began explaining, patting his back for reference.

 

“Whoa... cool...” My words were stretched by fascination.

 

“Though it doesn't seem it, the tetzuzit actually has the highest possible brain capacity of any land creature known to exist. It was originally discovered on planetoid 8472, where it lived in small lagoons and lakes, usually fearing no predators, due to size and shell density. When encountered with a challenge, all three heads attempt to find different solutions to said problem. Eventually, a solution will be discovered or all of the creatures heads will give up in their own time. A typical tetzuzit has between three to five heads, but only requires one to survive. Some biologists have even suggested that prehistoric versions of this creature, could regenerate lost heads with ease! Behavioral studies have witnessed the tetzuzit mourn the loss of one of its heads, usually taking on the joint task of burying it. This bizarre alien life form proves three to five heads are better than one!” Kolm read about this slow moving oddity, as it foraged three different bushes at once.


Imagining the turtle over compensating for a lost head, formed a macabe mental image. That is so freakish, how each head acts differently, though they are one being! Watching the three sluggish faces forage freely, no words came to mind, so I just released noises of intrigue and excitement. This got to Urving far more excited than I’d of anticipated, though it’s to be expected from him. These unrefined sounds of curiousity and interest were enough to get me a small hug. Urving lifted me from his shoulders with one paw, then looped it around me and scrunched me close for a moment.


Without any signal, Kolm began continuing on his way and Urving followed shortly after. Well alright, this has been awesome so far! The next cage was empty, or the critter was hiding. Moving on, we parted more tall grass with simple walking, the feel of it a very bristly tickle against my dangling legs. Inside the next enclosure was a large canine like beast, which had it’s back to us. The hairless tail made me think it was a giant rat, but when it turned I gasped with fear. In each eye socket a cluster of six, beady red eyes scanned the world above, locking onto us in an instance. This creature was horrifying... It was some sickening cross between a spider and a rat... or... Good god... It had eight hairless pawed legs, in perfect rows beneath it’s long slender body. This centipede like movement was disturbingly unnatural and unpleasant to watch. Hissing up at us, the creature revealed it had Jagged yellow teeth lining the fiends maw, but the two front fangs were jet black, hooked, and dripped with surely venomous substances. It had deep gray, almost black fur, with lighter streaks on it’s underbelly. Speedily slinking away with an unnatural flurry of limbs, the hairless tail whipped into darkness and all I saw were those tight groups of crimson hate. It’s rampant hissing was low at first, but grew to a whining pitch, as it became more angered by our presence.


“My god... Wh-what is that thing?” I asked with a small shudder of disgust and fear.

 

“They’re called wormat’s and they’re not dangerous buddy. Just scary looking.” Urving assured me, as I watched the vicious cretin slink about.

“Yeah Issac, they run away from almost everything.” Melving laughed as his loud words forced the creature to retreat again.


“Good... Freaky little monster.” I scowled at it, as it cowered angrily in a shaded corner.


“Originally discovered on planetoid 9519, the wormat was a common sighting, often gathering in the dozens to feast on decaying corpses. Being a carrion eater, the wormat is unphased by almost all bacteria and viruses, allowing them to consume any decaying matter. This is also the species perfered way of hunting, when it is required of them. The toxins in the incisors of this creature are quite unique, as they show symbiotic properties. When studied, researches found that a wormat’s toxins actually strengthen already existing bacteria, thus causing the preys easier demise and eventual consumption. Wormat’s are very territorial and have even been known to cannibalize for survival. Despite these vicious facts, they are relatively harmless and do not often attack anthro’s.” Urving read it this time, he purposely used a darker tone to provoke my response.


“I see one of those nightmares it’s getting the frying pan!” I declared firmly.


“Don’t worry buddy, that's not gonna happen!” Urving’s voice held hints of pride, yet he was trying to be calming.


“Yeah, that’d be as rare as finding a random human wandering around your house!” Melvin laughed, but I didn't get it at first.


“Oh cuz we’re both aliens! Oh!” I laughed a little understanding what he meant, though it wasn't really funny, more punny.


Though I insisted I understood, Riot explained further, sullying the moment. That mattered little as we moved on and saw lots of other bizzare and fascinating creatures. The crowds were starting to dispurse and tour guides were limiting our paths, so I was forced to view some animals with unacquainted company. It wasn't so bad, much better than being in one of those huge tour groups... Still at one point someone talked to Urving offhand and I shrunk from fear, not seeing the buck until his horns were within goring range.


After exchanging a few words with Urving, he parted with his pair of fawns, but I was left a bit shaken. Urving gently grabbed a hold of my leg and let out a soft growl, which I took to be a soothing gesture. Watching the stranger leave, I returned my attention to the animal before us. This cage was swarmed with what I can only describe as a tree octopus. Using the many limbs to grapple and swing on branches like a primate, these pudgy little oddities were actually incredibly dexterous! Instead of a slick body, the topside of this creature was rough and rocky looking, while the underside was more like a slug, slimy and sticky. There were dozens and dozens to be seen, flooping about from branch to branch. They were peculiar to look at and comical to watch, but a crowd was developing quickly so we had to move on, or at least they were willing to oblige. I wouldn't be learning about the “spiny tree star” as it was called. Maybe I can look it up in a book!

 

The next pit we came upon had a type of force field enveloping the top, but I soon saw why. Whatever was in this cell, was extremely violent. It moved with blinding speed, belting out guttural roars and placating screeches. My eyes were unable to trace such a swift moving creature, until I noticed the true nature of what I viewed. The big cat, similar to a panther, was not actually moving! It seemed to project, clones... images of itself, in random directions! What the hell... Two, three, sometimes four clones were displaced from this furious creature, as it rushed about the enclosure, hunting a few unlucky rabbits. Anomolous movements would lead to the real creatures pounces, like decoys of thought, given flesh through biology. It was almost like it cast additional shadows, extra light broke over the creature in an uncanny way, producing additional figures, that it could... bring to life...

 

It held the same body shape as a large cat and was absolute black like a typical panther, but that’s pretty much it for similarities. This creature had squid like tendrils surrounding its circular mouth, lined with perfectly triangular teeth. Each paw was elongated and had hooked talons, similar to a large bird. Poised on these talons, the creatures paws never actually touched the ground, giving it a delicate stance despite it being grisly in appearance. The tail split at the end, a transparent thin membrane separating the three tail nubs. The eyes consisted of three lifeless beads lining each side of the skull, which would contract and expand as it tracked prey. Watching it grabbled it’s still partially screaming kill with the tendrils, those horrible eyes unblinking, I looked away and shuddered. With a wet crunch the screaming stopped in a sudden forced wheeze...


“This is called a qwozilnin. It’s an apex predator from another planet.” Kolm began reading, but I couldn't contain myself.


“Cant wait to hear this...” I was slack jawed, my voice was frank and dumbfounded.


“Known as the moving nightmare, a qwozilnin is actually a marvel of evolution! It is able to symbiotically secrete an agent, which scienctist still study to this day. The material it projects from virtually every pore is able to refract, absorb, and invert light. Using psionic/psychosynaptic stimulation this creature is able to project it’s thoughts into the shadowy solution it has effectively marked most of it’s territory with. Without warning a prey can be ambushed by the very shadow they cast! Seasoned qwozilnin are able to create differing shapes with each clone, but are usually limited to about five active copies at a time. Our own “Razor” is a younger enhabitant and can hardly control his cloning capabilities. As he ages, we will surely see a distinguishing transformation!” Kolm seemed very happy, like reading to me was playing video games for Urving.


“You have got to be joking...” I said to Urving, well to his head, but then looked to Mel astonished.

“You’re seeing it aren’t ya?” Riot laughed brightly, slapping his knee.


“How does it... How far can... Does it... What do the... Can the clones...” All my questions felt futile, as we were already heading away from the monster.


“I’ll find you my old text books, we can read about anything you see here, tonight! Don’tcha worry bub!” Urving looked up at me, his sudden motion casuing balance to become a concern.

“Thanks, I’ll probably have loads of questions after today!” I laughed and he did too.


“Feel free to ask any that you can actually spit out.” Kolm’s tone of voice was friendly and his smile made me just nod.

“Anyone hungry? I was gonna grab a snack.” Urving pointed at a small cart, which was further away but devoid of people.


“Sure! You hungry Riot?” Kolm asked, as we headed toward the downtrodden moose, who manned the pushcart.


“I could eat, sure.” He nodded, but I was simply trying to remain calm.

“Hi, what can I get you?” The attendants voice was bland, he didn't even look away from his pager right away.


“What’d ya want kid?” Urving bounced me for reference.


“Uhhh... Ummm...” The eyes of the attendee and Urving burned through me. “Go ahead, gimme a sec...” Being put on the spot scrambled my already disarrayed thoughts.


“Can I have two corndogs and a large soda. Ooh and a box of choco-chews!” Kolm and Riot both seemed to enjoy these.


“Can I have some popcorn?” I asked softly, more to Urving, but the cashier began ringing it up.


“Make it a large and lemme get a soda too.” Urving added scanning the variety of treats. “Wanna share an icecream bud?” Urving asked, poking at the wrapped up cone.


“Sure!” I pointed at the one Barkley had bought me the day I was brought home. “Can we-.”

“Add a polar bar, caramel please.” Urving spoke over me, quickly apologizing though.

 

“That’ll be twentytwo fifty please.” The moose read the total, his eyes lazily drifting back to Kolm.

“I got it.” Kolm said opening his wallet.


“You sure, I brought plenty?” Urving offered, fetching his own metal tin out.

 

Instead of a typical leather wallet, the anthronian masses carried around money in thin metal cases, similar to a cigar holder. Within they had several slots to slide the strange metal chips, which somehow held currency. Urving’s identification, some gift cards, and a few photos also graced this object. Urving’s was metal silver, but Kolm’s was matte red. Watching Kolm surrender money for our sustenance, I couldn't hold my tongue.


“Thank you Kolm, very much. Thanks for inviting me today!” Accepting the popcorn felt tainted until proper gratitude was shown.


“No problemo! I’m just glad you get to see how fun it can be!” Melvin’s encouragement was easily accepted, being we’re both human.


“Well put Riot.” Urving quipped before Kolm answered.


“You are very most welcome! I didn't get to come over this week and wanted to make up for it. Didn’t want you to think I don't like you!” Kolm’s face broke with actual concern, a small vulnerability in his voice.


“Come on man! Of course not! No, no, really!” Urving, Melvin and I all responded in debatable unison.


“Would’ve been great to have you guys over!” My stand alone comment affirmed my appreciation.


“Really? You think so?” Kolm cocked an eyebrow, rolling his tail a few times as if in reference.


Urving bellowed and I was at a loss for words, so I joined him. Riot only smirked, obviously having heard all these jokes and quips before. It felt awkward as we were basically mocking him, but the joke ended there and wasn't referenced again. Growing up with such a socially awkward bodily function must’ve given Kolm a great sense of humor. Or skin as thick as steel... Oh god, what’s his house smell like?


Munching popcorn and icecream, we entered the “terran” animal display, as this section was labled. This essentially meant it housed animals from earth, which was startling to see. It was so mind bending, that split second I expected them to stand up. Those brief few moments that the normal animals felt wrong or incomplete when compared to their anthronian counterparts. Lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and indeed all types of animals one would expect to find were housed in specific habitats. Though we didn't dawdle here, as a lot of people were strewn about this section, I managed to snap a photo from Kolm’s shoulder of Urving pretending to talk with a normal brown bear. It was hilarious to me, seeing the empty eyes of his distant animal relative scanning Urving’s friendly face in confusion.

 

We moved on to a humid area, enclosed by thick shrubs and guided vines. It wasn't large, but many, many displays could be seen. Vertical glass cases, created varying climates, which could be felt as you moved close to the unique plants within. It was a greenhouse or something of the likeness! Within this capsule of grown greenery, we found descriptions of all sorts of plant life. It wasn't super fascinating to be honest, but a few were beautiful and incredibly rare. One flower in particular caught my eye, as it was developing one! Within the petals center, a small pupil gazed back with stressed tensity, occasionally obscured by a blinking green film. Thick green veins carried nutrients toward the center, which caused small bulges to form. Another large plant had a case around it and there was good reason for that. Upon our approach it released a salvo of needles from its sunflower shaped heads. These quills stuck into the reverse side of the glass a second, then fell free into a large pile below. As the large flat flowers reopened, a new set of needles were slowly pushed free by the effort. Melvin laughed and waved his hand, getting a crude, but impressive tracing of it in slung spines.

 

These were cool and all, but seeing shadow cats and three headed turtles was way more interesting. Leaving the small leafy house, the heat was lessened, but the sunlight intensified. Taking a long swig of soda, Urving holding the popcorn depleated it’s reserve quickly. Sharing drinks with Urving hasn't bothered me once. You need to understand when I was living on the run, I shared canteens with ten, twenty, sometimes even more people. Never got sick from it either. It just doesn't even cross my mind.


We continued on, strolling passed some already observed areas, to check the other exhibits. Some of the creatures were interesting, but we had clearly seen the allstars of this section. A few other oddities were availale to be seen, but the insect exhibit was loosening up, so we decided to head that way. A small concern grew in me, I had to pee. How am I going to do this and still feel safe? I didn't think about that... Guess I’ll just have to man up! Urving set me down, so I could examine each display up close, but he never strayed further than a foot from me... Dedication...


This area was displayed differently and it was much smaller than I’d of imagined. A large wall had been divided into segmented cubes of glass, hollow in construction, and used to house an insect. Some of them had painted scenery, some of them had larger cubes then others, but all had necessary ground covering to help that insect thrive. One that immediately caught my eyes, was an electric blue spider. It appeared to be able to spin webs out of ice or frost! Just being near it’s cubicle, I could feel a distinct change in temperature! Below it was a large square filled with a flying insect, which just looked like tiny wings to me. When I looked closer, they swarmed and formed an impressive replicate of a human face. It was incredible how tightly they could fit together and the level of cooperation used to form the image! Near the bottom was a large centipede, with four pincers instead of two and a scorpions stinger on the tail end! That squirming discomfort feeling took hold of me and I was all giddy with excitement to see more. One cube contained a praying mantis that would require a weapon to shoo from your home! It was the size of a freaking housecat. Dead-still, it’s eyes barely moving to blink as I approached it. Slowly, with mechanical precision, it lifted both scythe like claws and those eerie needle point eyes locked onto mine, like we were going to duel. Spines as long as long as playing cards faced me, but clinked off the glass when it struck. The sheer speed and motion still made me flinch and Urving laughed.

 

Unfortunately I only got through a few more displays before my tightening bladder was too much on me. “Heya, Urv.” I got his attention, though he was right next to me. “Where would I find a bathroom?” Looking up at him from the ground made me feel like a child.


“By the front, c’mon.” Urving waved me to follow and I did so closely, he offered to carry me.


Declining I knew it would feel extremely awkward, having to pee while on his shoulder. Following him past the variety of animals, half of which I have viewed in detail, a small apprehension rose at the thought of using a public toilet. Man I’m pathetic now... To my relief, I found a rather typical bathroom, comprised of enclosed stalls the size of studio apartments. Though I was nervous to enter alone, I dare not ask that much of Urving... How childish would that be? What was truly immature is that I was legitimately afraid to be by myself! Once alone, this semi lit, sterile white, tiled room was sort of creepy. I chose the one closest to the door, so I could hopefully escape more easily, if anything happened. Someone else entered as I was finishing up and the sound of their approach had me sprinting out the door.


“Hey Iza, come look at this! C’mere!” Urving was a short distance away, the passing strangers preventing my immediate movement. “Hold this stuff ok? Don't worry bud, I’ll be right here.” Urving nodded reassuringly, as I was unwilling to stand in front of the growing line of four people.


Shaking with discomfort, I tried to listen in on the conversations behind me, as Urving prepared to use this odd machine, which was set up near the human habitat. None of the voices behind me sounded immediately threatening, but some talk of humans was in the air, though I couldn't be sure they meant me. Removing his glasses, Urving squeezed into the enclosed chamber and began comfortably arranging himself. I would have translated it’s lable, but I feared obscuring my own focus. A wide glass door slid closed in front of him and he jumped from the sudden rush of motion, but I cringed seeing my protection sealed away. Looking around apprehensively, I found the other zoo goers were simply watching the machine and paid me little mind. A certain anticipation was firmly affixed to the faces of each anthronian, so I turned my eyes back quickly.

 

An unnatural light filled the pod behind Urving and soon only his minor details could be seen. This cylindrical canister was huge, but still he managed to fill it’s metal confines entirely. A small rumble of cybernetics, gears, and motors accompanied the light changing color from gold to green. Mechanically induced radiance spilled forth, cutting into the confined square shape of the pod doors window. Electricity arced across the top of the machine, much to everyone’s excitement! I shook with fright as this occurred a half a dozen more times... What’s going on? The artificial roars of the engines and systems didn't stop for several seconds and even when it did, the light didn't fade immediately. Once it had waned and the capsule opened, my heart stopped dead. Urving didn't emerge... someone else did!


“Hiya buddy!” Urving stepped out, not as a bear... but as a human being...

 

First sight of him held my breath hostage and I didn't exhale until the crowd behind me released a restrained, yet entertained cheer. Urving didn't care about them and he awaited my response, stepping toward me. Shuffling backward as he advanced, I dropped the nearly empty popcorn and soda, but couldn't look away. Blinking an uncountable amount of times, I still didn't believe what I was seeing, but then realized, it was a hologram! The ghostly glowing aura veiled across his entire form was similar to the way my collar made me look! This cybernetic cloak he wore gave him the appearance of a giant person! Fear filled me for a fraction of a second, but that was swiftly replaced with an exhillirated confusion.


"Relax Issac, it’s still me. I’m the same Urving!” His pudgy hands and chubby arms were much less threatening than his enormous clawed paws.


“Oh my god...” I crept closer examining his human form. “Th-this is so cool!” I rushed to his side, getting a big hug on arrival.


It was a overwhelming shock to the senses seeing him this way and being lifted by a man, not an animal. Though I was certain thick fur still existed, I felt skin, pliable, and elastic... Fur was masked by flesh, only patterned with coarse hair. The broad head, with jutting circular ears, had somehow been compressed into a normal human face, though hints of his muzzle presented in the form of a big nose and chubby cheeks. Instead of shaggy semi-shapeless forms of fur, his arms and legs were now bulging ovals of both muscle and fat. Instead of thudding steps, pudgy bare feet slapped the ground when he moved. Having a belly laugh at my reaction, I found that his voice fit perfectly with both forms. Though still giant in stature, he wasn't nearly as imposing as a human!

 

The bright smile he wore, which normally contained elongated fangs, had become blunted square teeth. Human Urving had deep ebony skin, which caused his gold eyes to stand out far more than normal, as well as the pink palms and toes. The small afro atop his head had the zigzag pattern of his fur lining it and the bushy beard covering the lower half of his face accentuated his grin greatly. Fluffy fur had transformed to bristly arm hairs and claws had been reduced to finger nails. Urving appeared thinner without fur, but the lack of obscuring fluff also caused him to look rounder in some places, like his shoulders and legs. Lifting me as he would’ve any other time, I couldn't stop laughing, though it was heavily restrained and semi-uncomfortable in origin. This is just too weird... Such a system shock to take this all in at once! He’s unrecognizeable! I would probably get him confused with a total stranger!

 

We went over to a small park bench and he sat down, placing me next to him gently. No words came into my head, so I just stared into his waiting face, which glowed ever so softly with the holograms presence. Urving’s own laughter only grew in magnitude, as his unwavering stare continued to invite me to speak, but my intently focused face remained silent. All I managed was a simple “wow”, but he ate it up and his smile turned into growls of admiration. Hearing him growl when he looks like a human was just priceless... Had Urving been a few feet shorter, he could easily fit in back on earth! My already abundant trust would be bolstered by this memory. This must be what everyone else felt like when they saw me as an anthronian for the first time. Well, Urving at least...


“So what’d ya think?” He jumped up and waved his arms outward, no moving fur, just the wobble of loose fat.

 

“I don't even know what to say...” I said softly, standing up and following him without willfully doing so. “Didn't think this was possible!” I laughed as he pat my shoulder, his hand just as heavy as his paw.


“It’s the same technology that’s used in true nature wear, except powerful enough to effect someone as big as me!” He explained, poking a thumb into his chest, the shirt he wore was baggier without his fur.

“That’s incredible! I couldn't have imagined what you’d look like as a human!” My voice grew more excited, as he leaned closer, listening intently before responding.


“And I'd never of imagined you’d be canine!” Urving’s frivolous laughing brought me into the fold. “Getting to see you that way was so special, like, I was meeting you all over again. I hoped that this would feel the same way for you!” All of his expressions are different this way, yet small details reminded me it was his normal face.


“Oh my god, yeah dude!” I practically leapt up, but more just bounced in place. “Today has been great and this is going to be the most memorable part!” The level of liveliness I displayed, made Urving choke up with emotion laden excitement.

 

“That’s so awesome to hear! I’m glad you’re alright buddy. Ya scared me this morning...” Having human Urving say this to me effected my fragile emotions ten times as hard.


“I’m sorry man, I really didn't mean to...” I sighed softly trying to keep it together under his immensely heavy gaze.

 

“It’s all good bud, everythings fine. I was just glad I could be there for you...” Urving’s plump cheeks lifting into a rosy smile, gave me a reminder of what he actually looks like.


“Thank you Urving. You’re a really great friend...” I said looking down at the stone floor beneath me. “You also make a great human!” I exclaimed brightly, shifting my attitude away from depressed.


A tightening smile grabbed hold of his face and he looked away sharply. This almost uncontrollable grin broke for a single sturdy exhaling laugh, which crackled with the sparks of emotional weight. I’ve learned over the time I’ve spent with Urving and indeed all anthronians, they are far more emotional than human beings. Just being Urving’s roommate wouldn’t have been enough to rebuild my life. I need a good friend, be him human or bear. Seeing him this way had me more open minded about being adopted by Urving, whom I could now see was much older than myself. The sight of him as a human contacts a hidden level of understanding within my heart and banishes prejudices I wasn't aware jaded me...


Urving’s face contracted with thought, he looked at me a moment, then down at his palm. “Human” Urving’s facial expressions felt exaggerated, as the entirety of his face conveyed what he was feeling. By comparison, humans are so much easier to read than anthronians, but that makes sense. Comparing the two forms in my head, I could parallel and assume something was bothering him. Instead of a pouting muzzle and vacant eyes, he seemed more alert and his face tightened with sadness, not sagged. Nudging him, he seemed to remember my presense and shoot his stare to me, blinking rapidly.


“What’s up?” I asked innocently, not wanting to pry.


He looked worried, then looked away, at the crowd gathering for the human making machine. “We don't... we aren’t the same color... I’ve read that’s a problem for humans.” Urving’s voice wanted to ask a question, but it was as if he was stating fact and that hurt.

 

“Not for me it isn’t! No sir!” Shock led me to be loud, but conviction fueled the passion. “You’re supposed to judge a person by who they are, that’s how I was brought up! I’ve never been racist! It sickens me! What matters is that we’re friends! You’ve been such a good friend to me!” I was going on a tyrade over race, but then I remembered... he’s a giant bear!


“Thank you buddy, that worried me for a second there...” Urving was relieved quickly, for I assume he doesn't understand the gravity of what he was delving into.


“You have nothing to worry about, really! This makes me feel more connected to you! What you look like doesn't matter at all!” His response to this was a slow forming, but unstoppable smile.

 

“Thank you Issac. I’m so glad you’re alright. That’s all that matters...” Urving took a few moments to give me a sideways hug, holding me under his weighty arm. “This has made you act so different, It’s encouraging! I’m really proud of you kid!” He squeezed tighter, his voice peaking with a rumble.

 

“Oh man, please don't mention it. It’s the least I can do.” I was trying to be nonchalant, but that comment opened my mask like a book. “I... I’m gonna try harder... I promise.” He didn't let me finish, but I guess I sort of was.


“Just be happy. After all that’s happened, you need a lot of time to mend.” Urving stared across the park, his eyes sharp with thought. “You gotta relax. Don't try so hard for a while, alright?” Urving tilted his face toward me, the smirk he wore was endearing and understanding.


I nearly fell to tears... The pit of emptiness that is my soul is filling ever so slowly. My endless mortal woe may be inescapable, but it is manageable. It is something you can conquer if given the proper tools. My only necessary resource is the nine foot tall man sitting next to me. The whites of his eyes are less yellow as a human, giving his stare a crisp gold color, but that could be the holograms shimmer. Since I was silent, Urving took it as a sign of me understanding and gave me another hug. Unavoidable emotions were wrestled into submission, as I hid them beneath Urving’s heavy arm. Knowing how supportive and understanding he chooses to be is amplified greatly when I see him this way. Knowing how judgemental humanity is about these things, my past... I doubt anyone would understand as admirably as Urving. He would be an outstanding human being!

 

Being cuddled in public actually made me a little embarrassed... What was weird is that it stemmed from him being human. Something about him being a man and not a bear made me think in earthern standards. Then again, I haven’t been in such a vast public place in a very long time, so maybe that’s effecting how I’m feeling. Since he is technically my parent and/or guardian now, I felt unstoppable sheepishness surge forth at every pair of eyes that saw this moment of bonding. Urving seemed to want the complete opposite, he invited anyone who glanced our way, a full view of how happy he was to have me. Though none payed me too close attention, I was red faced at his over the top, cartoonish affection. It was impossible to ignore how much he cares and what that does to me emotionally. I never thought I would need this feeling again... He’s as protective as my father, just as caring as my mother, and even though he could never replace them, he’s doing his damndest to replicate a nurturing environment. He’s done everything he can to make us a family...


“C’mon bud!” Urving stood up with me on one arm, but set me down. “Let’s go find Kolm and Riot.”


As he turned to look down at me, the air shimmered and distorted around Urving. A moment held in time, but then blurred quickly into a fog of displaced reality. The bubble of falsity he wore burst, leaving his true form to stand before me. Fur fluffed free of invisible binds and his face elongated, as pellucid air was buffeted away from him. The shell that was his humanoid self lost cohesion and fell apart into semi-solid waves of light. Watching that harmounious mix of mechanical reality and imaginations magic, I let out a small laugh, my grinning mouth forced the release of this sound. He was wide eyed a moment, looking down at himself, but then shot his eyes to me with a surprised face that tightened into a bright smirk. The looks we exchanged grew and grew, until Urving and I had a laugh together. A small exclaim came out of my mouth against my will and he burst with excitement upon hearing it.

 

With a somewhat rough grapple, he slung me upward and caught me in a hug, growling happily, as I returned the love. Being in Urving’s fluffy arms again was bizzare, considering a human had been carrying me only moments ago. Knowing what he looked like was enlightening, but something about it was too divergent. I’m growing attached to him for his acceptance, understanding, and generousity, not a familiar falsity. He marched with heavy steps and a humming rhythm, as we strode through the park in search of Mel and Kolm. We found them within no time, still at the insect exhibit, examining and discussing a giant, golden, glowing moth. Feeling how I do right now, the level of acceptance I am experiencing, I understand the relationship Kolm and Melvin have built. I feel dramatic attachment to Urving and it has only been a week or so! Mel has lived with Kolm for close to five years now, no wonder they’re so close!

 

“There ya are! Jeez, what took ya so long?” Riot responded to our approach first, a little flail of his arms matching his spiking voice.


“Big line?” Kolm asked once we reached them.


“Nah, I showed him the human holo-imager on our way back.” Urving’s words caused varied responses. 

 

“Oh nice, it wasn't on when we got here! Was hoping you’d get to show him.” Kolm almost sounded relieved about it, which felt nice.


“A’ww man! Should’ve told me! The look on your face must’ve been hilarious!” Riot sounded really disappointed at first, but then made a joke as if to explain it.


“Riot, don't you remember how emotional that made you?” Kolm asked, stopping Melvin cold with a stunned face.


“Well you looked like my dad! How in the hell was I supposed to prepare for that?” Riot exclaimed, his words leaving me astounded for a moment.

 

“That’s beside the point, don't tease Issac over it.” Though giving a command, Kolm still smiled.


“Yes sir.” Melvin responded, nodding along. “You get off this time bub!” He shot a silly grin my way.

 

“C’mon, plenty of park left to see!” Urving’s voice spiked and he offered me a ride on his shoulder.

 

Climbing aboard, flash images of human Urving formed in my head. It was impossible to not try and envision him that way! With my head still in the holographic clouds that machine had created, we walked around the semi-crowded exhibits. Looking for ones we haven’t seen, I soon had to face small crowds of Anthronians, in order to continue. Though nerves fluxuated at the arrival of every patron, I was able to keep my cool and enjoy the oddities of nature.

 

We began exploring the aquatic life section, which we had only lightly perused earlier. In one of the waterlogged paddocks was an enormous, slow moving figure. It resembled a jellyfish, but was pyramid shaped, and had fins lining the bottom instead of tendrils. Within the semi-transparent body of this floating colossus, was another, slightly smaller version of itself! Dozens and dozens of copies lined the interior of this faceless, gelatinous being! It was like a Russian nesting doll, but cut open at the bottom so a few inches of each doll could hang free. Using expansions and contractions of all of these slimy layers, the figure achieve locomotion. Atop the triangular shaped behemoth of gooey skin, was a large orb, which held a single eye, surrounded in gills. Being the size of some earth whales, it’s water buffeting motions displaced smaller fish, which swam around it’s cell with it.


Kolm and Urving began reading at once, leaving Riot to jump in and take over. “Properties and scientific studies indicate that a typical vruulon can live anywhere between five hundred to possibly thousands of years! They have no known maximum growth size and are usually only limited by the bodies of water contatining them. Each layer of the vruulon’s body is actually an exact copy as the one before it, but form fit to a specific size. Regardless of the size, each layer of the creatures body is a powerful muscle and is armed with an array of spines, to impale prey with. As they grow, more and more copies are generated, with no known limit. The vruulon is one of the largest creatures known to swim the oceans of Al Ur En. Because of it’s lengthy life cycle, scientists are studying the creature for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Given how long it lives and it’s ever empowering body, biologists believe this is creature is the descendant of a prehistoric super power! When dissected, which takes months, sometimes plants, animals, and other digested matter can reach back twenty, thirty, even forty years! Unfortunately due to an influx of poachers during the early 26th century, this magnificent, nearly immortal being has been hunted into endangerment.”

“It doesn't say it here for some reason, but they also use incredibly effective camoflauge in the wild. Especially for something this size!” Kolm added, getting a nod from Urving.


“Cool! They... can they really live forever?” The very idea had me slack jawed, but a small sorrow grew at the knowledge of it being hunted without mercy.

 

“Theoretically yes. Each new layer it grows, feeds and refreshes the others. Every ten or so layers, it makes itself a new brain and heart! Spooky right?” Kolm chuckled at my face, gnarled with confusion and disbelief.


“Yeah, that’s trippy...” I said softly, watching the foggy eyeball strain out more flesh matter, which began forming the newest layer.

 

“When I first came here this thing was so much smaller!” Riot laughed brightly, staring at me to try and get me to join, but only Kolm did.


“That was almost two years ago bud, it’s had time to grow.” They both had a softer laugh with one another.


“When we come back next time, they’ll probably have built a new enclosure!” Urving’s words made me smile, thinking about the future feels good right now...

 

Knowing that this creature is endangered, I was enthralled by it and appreciated the fact I got to see one. Who knows how many are left alive in the wild? Is it still legal to hunt and kill them? How can that be allowed here? Careless and callous hunters, being allowed to end the lives of wild animals for their own selfish gain! No one should want to kill, ever... A shiver stampeded through me and quickly became loathing, as I imagined humans as game. Back on earth, we were the prey... During the invasion we were being hunted down and captured like animals, by animals... I actively had to clutch my own face to avoid crying in that moment. It took a lot out of me to ignore these feelings and move on with the day.


Despite a bit of seriousness and depression, the day had still gone great! We saw a bounty of crazy creations! A virtual safari for the imagination! Ever seen a bull with wings instead of horns? Didn't think so! One cage contained a swarm of bat like animals, but with tentacles instead of legs! They used these to defly snatch bugs out of mid-air, as well as to perch and hang with ease! I saw bizarre hybrids, like a giraffe, which moved like a kangaroo or the hippopotamus with a frogs head and tongue! So many unearthly beings were presented to me, that I began to get a small headache from listening, reading, and overall absorbing information. It was the most minor relief when the parks PA system announced the next tour groups turn. Not that I wanted to go, I assure you, was just getting tired.


“Thank you guys so much, that was a lot of fun! I feel like I learned so much!” I exclaimed brightly, as we followed the crowd of moving bodies toward the exit gates.


“Oh no, thank you for joining us! I’m glad to hear it was fun!” Kolm responded eagerly, the levity in his voice was enjoyable.


“See, not so scary huh?” Melvin poked fun at my original nervousness. “Glad ya came out today kid! Was good seeing ya!” He added.


“Yeah, thanks buddy. I’m really proud of you.” Urving swatted my knee, which dangled near his chest.

 

Unable to gather the proper appreciation I wanted, words came out before thought manicured them. “Thanks you guys. This has been great!”


“Well don't worry! We’ll do something again sometime soon!” Kolm added, once we reached the gate and were let out by waving tour guides.


“Who’s hungry? Wanna grab a bite to eat before ya head home?” Urving asked the two of them, his glance shooting to me as well.

 

“Unfortunately I have a showing tomorrow, so I have to get some sleep.” Kolm replied, much to Riot’s disappointment.


“A showing...” I thought a moment as they went on. “Are you a realtor?” I asked Kolm with a snap of my fingers.

“Yes I am Issac! We call the position a “hearth broker” though.” His response showed esteem for my quick comprehension.


“Maybe he can come with us one day? You can show him how buying a home works on this planet!” Melvin added with a small uproar of excitement.


“Only if he wanted to. That could be pretty scary Riot.” Kolm’s consideration for my well being was appreciated greatly.


“Oh come on, how bad could that be? He just needs to buck up, right?” Riot was trying to get support from Urving, but they just frowned back.

“I’ll get there, don't push me! This is still a freaking alien planet to me, it’s home to you.” I responded sharply, as the two of them began delicately choosing flowery words.


“I hear ya.” Mel added with a slightly teasing scoff.

 

“This is a good first step though! You made great progress today Issac!” Kolm caught onto my discomfort quickly and turned the conversation around.

 

“Yeah, next time surely wont be so hard.” I replied, my vision darting between the two faces.

 

“That’s awesome to hear buddy!” Urving’s voice cracked a bit with the sudden excitement in it.


“Well see ya guys! Thanks again for coming out!” Kolm announced, checking his pager shortly after.


“Thanks for the invite! Not sure what Issac and I would’ve ended up doing today, but I doubt it would have been this fun!” Urving replied bouncing me from his shoulder and into his grasp, something I was not prepared for.


“Bye kid! Keep your chin up!” Riot called back as we went our separate ways.


Waving from Urving’s grasp felt childish, since Melvin walked alongside Kolm, but I was too enlightened to feel embarrassed. Still an unavoidable instance of insecurity swept over me as he looked back and waved in the fading light. It was dark out now, or at least getting close to it. The sky was a dull orange, which faded to red, then purple as it met the horizon. Hardly visible was the sun, as it lazily floated on the horizon, inching with each minute into obscurity. The excitement and energy displayed by the crowd had dissolved into a joyful fatigue. Youths slept in the arms of their parents and many once bright faces were weary, but not Urving. The same energetic glow he walked in with persisted as we crossed the parking lot.

 

“So what’cha wanna do when we get home?” A solarflare was the only way to explain his enthusiasm, so bright and explosive. “Ooh, I can try and find my biology book! If ya wanted!”


“Yeah, sounds good. I’m a little beat, so forgive me if I don't stay up so late.” My response halted his enthusiasm a second.


“That’s ok buddy! We have tomorrow!” Reassuring me with a nod, I returned the gesture. “Thank you again for being so brave Issac.” He set me down by the passenger door.


“Don't thank me for stuff like that alright? I’m just doing my best, this doesn't make me brave...” I said with a softening voice, like the fading sunlight.


“In my opinion it does! So at least accept my compliment!” Urving took on a half persuasive, half emphatic face, to match his friendly cojoling tone.

 

“If you say so...” I repeated the semi-mocking voice back at him.

 

Urving just gave a reaffirming smirk and unlocked the door for me. Bravery shouldn't be measured by what you’re willing to do, but by what you strive to do. My courage presents itself in the form of trying to live in general, not from frivolous activities where I leave my comfort zone. I’m unsure why, but something about that comment stuck with me wholely. Urving was just trying to be nice, but knowing what I’ve done, how can he call me brave? I’m the biggest coward...


Driving home was an entirely different experience than going to the zoo. Each monolithic construct now brimmed with artificial radiance. Untraceable patterns of illuminated windows lined the face of each building. Light leapt forth from evey home and every business, showing life was still happening within the stoic confines. Street lights on Al Ur En, sprout from the ground and only emerge when it is night time. They each consist of a slanted pole, which emerges at an angle with a small spherical light attached to the tip. It was fun watching them spring forth in rows, as the sun finally set and night was upon us. At night the sky turned a deep violet instead of earths pitch blackness, giving each tiny white sparkle that much more detail.

 

Driving over the same bridges, under the same overpasses, and along a generally matching route was an appreciated ease on my mind. If we had taken a different way back I’d be so inclined to examine every detail, that my already brimming brain would sure spill in the form of a headache. Passing cars in the early night caused momentary blinding flashes, followed by long trails of brilliant color, which hung then settled to the ground like fog. Urving didn't have the radio on, instead we discussed what we had seen and done! Every ounce of the zoo was recovered with words and memories! I could really tell this meant a lot to him, so I was hyperextending my limited energy reserves.

 

“You looked so stunned when the other heads popped out of the shell!” Urving had obviously enjoyed my reaction.

 

“That was nothing compared to the killer clone cat!” A big response came naturally, for that was truly a sight to behold.

 

"Yeah, that scared Riot when he first saw it too.” Urving snickered at me, but I scoffed him into silence.


“I wasn't scared, it just startled me!” Defensive words didn't help my case, for he just laughed through them.


“Well it scared me when I saw it! You must be braver than your letting on...” His unctuous tone led me to believe he planned that.

 

“Oh quiet!” I shot my voice back and he grinned. “Really, though, had no way of preparing for that! Nothing on earth can do anything like that!” This wasn't meant to be a joke, but it made us both crack up a second.


“Trust me, I know! At institute, I took terran studies and extraplanatary biology, hoping they’d be similar... How wrong I was!” His punchline was spoken louder than the rest of his joke, if one could call it that.


“So... you know a lot about earth?” I asked, feeling the strain of limitless emotions fighting for freedom.


“Pssh, no! I barely passed that class! Thank gods for Ferris.” His continued chuckling got to me and I joined. “You’ll have to fill me in!”


“Of course, but I’m more interested in your worlds animals!” Urving’s glance gleamed under the chalky colored streetlights. “You’ll have to show me all the ones I didn't get to see!” Excitement surged forth in my voice.


“You bet!” He was quick to respond, I could tell he still had a lot of energy. “There a whole bunch of critters in the galaxy we couldn't bring to our planet! Luckily, humans were able to migrate here easily!” His comment was paired with a nudge, that put a smile on my face and heart.

 

I was at a loss for words, so I just laughed louder than normal. “Thanks! I’m glad too!” Was all that came from me.


“Hope ya had fun today? I sure did!” Urving announced his question and personal answer after a he made a particularly wide turn.

 

“Course! Are you kidding? That was awesome! I’m so glad I went!” My hands balled into fists and I bounced uncontrollably in my seat.


“Me too! Glad to see you happy kid.” Urving shot me a smirk, but had to return his eyes to driving.

 

We were soon heading down the street, which led to Urving’s house. I’m unsure if I read it correctly in the low light, but I think our street is called “Ivory brook”. It was a discomforting feeling, not knowing where you live and relying on another person to take you there. Even though I wont be going anywhere on my own anytime soon, it would be nice to get the local lay of the land. At the very least, I would like to know how to get home if I get lost or worse...

 

Though my new lifestyle obviously corresponds to this, I feel like a child again... If the invasion had never happened, I would probably be living on my own or in college. I always looked at the future as furthering independence, but that isn’t the case for a dangerous domesticated human being. I must be monitored and reformed, then given freedom in allotments over the course of my life. A fair punishment, but not wholely just.

 

“Hungry kid? I was gonna make a pizza, want some?” Urivng asked, as we exited the vehicle and it’s doors sealed on their own.

 

“Oh man, that sounds great!” I exclaimed rushing inside once he opened the door, I was starving!


Eggs, popcorn, and some icecream isnt a good meal... My belly has felt a little queasy since we left the zoo. Using the bathroom alleviated me of this, but made me even hungrier. Stepping into the kitchen, I found Urving with a large circular box, holding it up to read the instructions closer. His face poked down at me and he nodded his head in an addressing way.

 

“What sort stuff you like on your pizza?” Urving asked, my heart swelling at the variety.

 


“Olives, pepperoni, sausage, peppers. The works!” I said this casually, though my heart was somewhat elated, I am a freaking child! Getting excited over pizza...


The box Urving held pinged, a small seal on it sprung free and it partially opened. A type of turn table lifted and ejected a frozen pizza... Of my exact specifications! Exclaiming with intrigue Urving responded with a spry growl He set the tempature, then slid the tray in the oven.

“It’s just like the wine bottle, Kolm gave us!” Urving cried happily, seeing my amazement.


“How does it work?” I asked, as he finished his moment.

 

“It usues a little device inside to pull spare matter out of the air and turns it into pizza!” His simple explanation was enough, as I doubt he understood the complexity.


“That is the greatest thing I have ever heard...” My eyes mustve lit, as Urving couldn't contain himself.

 

“Yeah, it’s gotta be in the top ten greatest inventions of all time.” We both kept laughing, as he slid the thin cylinder, like a film canister, back into the freezer.


“Pizza replicator, we never got that far on earth.” I smirked, but he looked confused, before shrugging and smirking.


“I’m sure ya would’ve! We saw how quickly you guys advanced!” Urving was more than reassuring.


A smirk graced my face and though he laughed, I didn't have the energy to join him. It has been a tiringly fully day of emotions, both good and bad. The smell of cooking pizza was filling the house quickly and it made my stomach rumble with anticipation. Urving had moved to the storage room and was looking for his text books. He left the oven alarm in charge of the pizza, so I joined him and we had a few beers, while looking through his belongings.

“Here we go! Now I’m finding books!” Urving read each cover, before setting some aside and depositing others into another box. “Ooh, this is a good one! Not sciency or anything, just a good book.” He explained, adding the thin paper back to the others.


“Awesome, I need to start some of the others you gave me too!” My excitement was dulled by fatigue and minor alcohol.


“No rush, I bet Dread bringer’s way more fun!” Urving made a funny face, a sort of pretending to read, which made me laugh. “Here we go!” Urving lifted a thick greenish brown book. “Biological studies, an abridged volume!” He chuckled at the full title, despite it being a weighty book.

 

We went to the living room, checking to find the pizza had ten or so more minutes. He cracked the dusty book after a small wiping, then began reading to himself. After a faint  “Aha, here we go”, Urving began reading in a quotational kind of voice, that reminded me of being back at the zoo. It was honestly a much more comfortable environment here! Cool, cushioned, and scented with delicious smelling food! Anyway, Urving started reading pretty quick.


“Many species are related in the way they behave and that can even be said for some species living on distant worlds!” Urving made a brightly exclamatory face. “Like us sort of!” He waved a paw between the two of us, but surely reference man kind and anthronians, not the two of us specifically.


“Yeah!”


“Many species, such as the nirrmal, grrlan, and konnifex are relatives due to ancient ancestors, we can now trace and properly characterize today! This books old though...” Urving’s phaux lambast roused a scoffing snicker from me.

 

“Get on with it!” I used my best Scottish accent to try and make him laugh.


“An atterox is thought to have devolved from a great ancient beast known as the proluferaxus.” Urving had to sound out say the other creatures name, but his face had gleamed upon saying the familiar creature to me. “The bones found of this prerecorded monster often had acidic scaring around major wounds. Scientists believe this served as both a deterent, but also a type of cauterization, killing bacteria and closing the wound quicker.” Urving’s detailed reading felt like a continuation of the zoo placards.

 

“Tell me about some other prehistoric animals!” A giddy voice spilled form me, as I danced in my seat a little.

 

“Ok, uhh, well the-“ As he took a breath to begin reading, the ping of the oven interrupted him. “Got a better idea, let’s watch a movie about it!” Flashes of hope filled his eyes and solidified when I nodded.


Rushing to get the pizza out of the oven, it’s salty goodness now unbearably present in the air, I got the television on, though that’s all. I’m unsure of what he planned to show me, or even how movies are formatted in this world! Everything seems to be digital, but I don't want to sound like an idiot, saying a word, which no longer pertains to anything... Roasted peppers and greasy sausage mingled atop a tarpit of melted cheese, with islands of pepperoni littering it. Man my mouth was watering at the sight of it! Urving handed me a plate, but didn't use his right away. Instead he just picked up and began eating a slice, while lining others on his plate. Once readied, Urving began punching in numbers and symbols on his tv’s holographic menu, something I rarely interact with.


“This movies such a classic, I feel silly having to order it!” Urving laughed as the screen darkened and the lights dimmed without any command.


“Thank you for doing so.” I responded quickly, appreciation feels so important now.

 

“Don't mention it! This movies great!” His response was typical, but full hearted all the same.


I was going to apologize, but I knew he meant well and his constant laughter is a good reminder of that. The opening scene showed rain falling onto the camera from above. It slowly panned downward to show blood running in a puddle of mud, only to be disrupted as several figures frantically ran through said puddle. Roars only ones imagination could decipher filled the speakers, as two men and one woman ran from some beastly thing. A large figure crushed through the bloodstained puddle after them, leaving an enormous three toed, clawprint behind. The roar this monstrous blur produced was unlike anything I had heard before and I would sound like an idiot if I tried to recreate it...

 

As I watched, I recognized this tale all too well. It was the story of a doctor, who studied prehistoric life with a passion. He was so well recognized that a group of scientist were put under his control and given the task of regenerating the DNA of longlost creatures. After traversing time and gathering genetic material, a paradox creating blunder we discussed briefly, the scientist employed a shady corporation to craft specialized incubation chambers. This was inevitably done for all the wrong reasons and this corporation even went as far as to send a spy to steal specimen!

 

All was fine at first, but you can imagine the nightmares this would cause... A typical “What has science done?” situation. Roughly thirty minutes into the movie, total chaos broke lose! It was obviously meant for children, or at least families, for most gore was kept off scenes. However a few rather choice moments were given full screen time, buckets of fake blood and endless fake screams accompanied first hand experience with prehistoric beings.

“They got this guy a little wrong, he has fins and gills and stuff.” Urving provided insight into the silver screen monsters actual forms, though they looked amazing.


This went for the whole movie, he would point out or describe the scientific incongruities that this movie failed to provide or extra details that I would have gotten otherwise. Overall I gathered it was made in the name of entertainment, not science. Shame... I was eager to actually learn about some of this stuff. It was still encouraging, seeing Urving enjoy my reaction to frightening jump scares and intriguing dialogue. One character deplored the prehistoric monsters, while his collegue found them fascinating and worthy of recreation. This became a chaos theory argument over who to blame, man kind or these ancient beasts. That lasted shortly as the naysayer to the dinosaurs was eaten without warning. Jaws crushed through the side of the trailer, like a hand breaking through water. Red mist and entrails all that remained of the high ranking official, who had just stood there arguing.

 

“Oh this guys cool! It grows an exoskeleton of bones, it’s like actual bodyarmor!” Urving reacted brightly to the huge creature, with a terrifying partially exposed skull.

 

From the spine of this standing reptile, several extra ribs jutted forth and coated the belly tightly, like double lining a garment.This same effect presented itself all over the body, forming a natural skeletal armor. Urving explained how this started when it was a tiny, crawling lizard, as a way to not be swallowed or ripped apart. When it evolved over the millenia, the creature became an unstoppable killing machine, a true force of raw destruction. Watching it eviscerate a poor cat in lower grade cgi than I’d expect, it was becoming hard to concentrate me eyes.


All that crying today certainly left a formidable strain on my vision. It would sear the backs of my eyes if I stared to long at anything. I would be forced to shut my eyes and move them rapidly to find relief. Urving took notice of this and informed me it wasn't too much longer, but insisted I go to sleep when I felt like it. With pizza grease on my face and an unfinished plate sliding from my lap, I began falling asleep against my will. Something about it being the weekend made me refuse to accept sleep early and I fought to reach the credits.


In the back of my barely conscious mind, I knew why I wanted to stay awake. I feared sleep. I was so petrified of that dream subconsciously, that I was fighting to stay awake. This may be an excuse and I may just be in disarray from all that today was, but... I am a little scared. Genuinely and wholely, I feel fear about going to bed... Something that even child me never had a problem with, a fear of the dark and nightmares and... monsters...


“Hey bud, you good?” My bleary eyes shot up to him as a paw landed near me.

“Ye-yeah... just tired...” I watched the names of actors and directors rolling on screen, I must’ve zoned out.

 

“Gonna head to bed?” Urving started up the game console with a paw flick.


“Yup. I’m just gonna crash here if that’s cool. I’m comfortable.” It was a lie, or an excuse, whatever you want to call it, he smiled and I didn't have to back my words up.


“Excellent! Glad you’re comfy! If you wanna play, feel free to jump in!” Urving invited as he got his controller ready.


“Nah, I’m really tired, wouldn't be too helpful.” We both smirked at this, the energy needed for laughter just not available.

It was funny seeing Urving play another game. It was racing or something of the likeness. Like a car obstacle course! Some parts of the course caused your car to fly, some crossed water, and others even drove you upside down! It looked like fun, but rather repetitive, where Dread bringer is new everytime! Still it was fun feel the entire couch shift, as he leaned with his steering of the racing rocket. That was the last thing I remember, like I was on a boat, the couches shifting and rocking simulated waves. Today turned out to be good and a new heir of hope surrounds the drive I displayed and what came from it. I grew a bit stronger today, more open. This is an empowering feeling and I am excited to-.



© 2018 Thatonedawg


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Added on August 12, 2017
Last Updated on January 10, 2018
Tags: Bear, Burdens, Anthro, Novel, A, Story, Thank, You, For, Reading, Help, Me, Get, Better, Hope, Change, Friendship, bare burdens of life, love, loss, betrayal, heartbreak, aliens, tragedy


Author

Thatonedawg
Thatonedawg

Sacramento, CA



About
I have been writing for a long time. My father was a writer and he always encouraged me to do so as well. Sadly he never read any of my work or even cared for that matter. I just need to know that som.. more..

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