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Caity's World by phantom-inker by dominusexmachina

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November 17, 2007
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Three years later, the world had changed, but not as much as it would in the succeeding year.  The precedent-setting Henderson v. Linsky trial was about to be overturned in the Appellate Courts, where the judges would rule two-to-one that the ghostly visage of poor Joanna Henderson was not, in fact, enough of a person to qualify for equal protection under the Constitution, as the poor girl wasn’t even visible for half the trial, and during the other half, her existence hadn’t been proven by any scientific tests.  The Million Monster March down the streets of New York City wouldn’t happen for another two months.  There had been student demonstrations, of course, but the Cedar Rapids Riot — or the Kirkwood Massacre, depending on who told the story — wouldn’t happen for another five months.  The Supreme Court wouldn’t rule on Henderson for another year, and the Americans with Changes Act seemed an impossible pipe dream.  Changed people were appearing slowly, everywhere, and everyone else was running scared.

It was in this charged atmosphere that Caitlyn Camberley got her first job after college.  She’d hoped to take a job as a secretary for only a few weeks while continuing her search for a good job in illustration, but the economy was sagging, tensions were high, and, to her chagrin, “only a few weeks” soon went from “only a few months” to “well, it pays the rent.”  “Temporary” can become “permanent temporary” all too easily.

When she got the job, she’d never met another Changed person up close, and felt a little nervous around them.  The strange goat woman — what had she called herself, a sat — a satyr? — who worked in Accounts Payable scared her a little, even if they were in the same secretaries’ pool and the woman seemed friendly enough when they interacted.  But her nerves didn’t have to worry much about the Changed, because she rarely ever saw them, and they were easy to avoid.  She had her life, they had theirs, and as long as the two didn’t cross in any important way, she was okay with it.  It wasn’t that she was prejudiced — she liked to think of herself as somewhat progressive — but the thought of being near somebody with claws and fangs, well, the airlines were right in keeping the werewolves off their planes, weren’t they?  It was a safety thing, and nothing more.

Martin agreed.  She’d met him shortly after college, and he seemed like a decent-enough guy, clean-cut, attractive, a reasonably hard worker even if he was a little aimless and goalless at times.  He’d met her at a speed-dating event that her old roommate Melissa had taken her to, and they’d hit it off, not in a big way, but well enough that they were still together after a year.  They were each other’s respective arm candy, and even if the relationship wasn’t likely to go anywhere long-term, a weak relationship was better than no relationship.  Martin was a bit ambivalent about the Change, and usually didn’t care much about any political subject that didn’t directly affect him.  The whole thing with the werewolves and airplanes, or the mermaids being required to have ground-floor apartments in case they flooded, well, that was all just common sense, wasn’t it?

On a pretty, warm spring afternoon in mid-April three years after the Change, Caitlyn was walking from work back to her apartment, and reflecting on her day.  She’d gotten up the gumption to beg her boss for a fifty-cent raise, and to her surprise, he’d accepted it, saying that she was one of the fastest typists he’d ever seen, a dedicated worker, and a valuable member of his staff.  She’d celebrated with lunch at a nice Italian restaurant, and an attractive man had sidled over from the bar and bought her dessert.  And now she was headed home, across Central Park, for a relaxing evening of drawing and sketching to the happy sounds of old Star Trek reruns on TV.

She couldn’t remember afterwards what the kid looked like, but from out of nowhere, a kite had whirled out of the sky and slammed into her head, knocking her to the ground.  It had left a bruise, but thankfully no gash, and the kite’s owner had apologized profusely, saying something about wind gusts, and had run off before she had a chance to come to her senses.  She had stumbled home, closed the door, and spent the rest of the evening just laying miserably on the couch, downing Tylenol like candy, letting her movie player run Star Trek on endless loop.  She didn’t remember dozing off.

She awakened a little after six in the morning as she felt her body uncontrollably sliding off the couch.  And this was how Caitlyn first learned of her own Change:  Being awakened by striking the floor with a sickening thud while Spock boomed, “Fascinating, Captain.”

She never did watch Star Trek again.
*  *  *

It’s a strange thing to wake up one day and realize that your reality has changed in its entirety.  Caitlyn’s first reaction was that her legs had just fallen asleep, but upon realizing that she’d suddenly joined the ranks of the oddities and weirdos of the world, she’d let out a piercing scream that could be heard a mile away.

The Change had its own bizarre rules, and one of those rules was that any creature resulting from it was still fully-functional no matter how odd it might look or how improbable its design might be.  The laws of science were generally asked to politely look the other way around anything that had been Changed, which explained why there could be a five-mile-diameter chunk of Iowa floating three thousand feet in the air, or why merfolk were able to breathe underwater despite lacking anything even remotely resembling gills, or why Caitlyn was able to immediately stand up, brush herself off, walk down the hallway, and take a look at herself in the mirror, despite having suddenly grown twice as many legs.

She saw, of course, the same thing she’d see in the mirror every day afterward:  A pretty brown-haired, brown-eyed twenty-something girl — glued at the waist to a random lump of fur-covered body parts that strongly resembled a small brown horse.  Her first reaction was to try to detach herself from the horse by pushing on it with her hands, and when that failed, she punched it hard, and ended up doing little more than giving her new body a few bruises.  The profanities that escaped her lips that morning were easily the least lady-like things she’d ever say in her life.

She regained her composure, and formed a simple plan to deal with it.  So she spent the rest of the morning in front of the mirror, carefully and analytically studying every square inch of her new body, figuring out where all the muscles and bones were with her hands.  She learned first-hand how insensitive hooves really were, at first hitting hers with her fist, and then actually pounding on them with a hammer until her knees got tired of being struck.  She examined her hindquarters, and discovered that a horse’s tail has more substance to it than just hair.  She also learned that she was, in fact, anatomically-correct, although she had little intention of ever using any of those body parts if she could avoid them.  And then she learned that she couldn’t avoid their needs any more than she could avoid any previous calls of nature, and she learned that human-sized bathroom appliances were really not designed for use by a horse.

While she was cleaning the bathroom, Martin dropped by to see what she was doing that day.  And within ten minutes, Martin had walked back out, and she never saw him again.  He wouldn’t be the first to avoid her:  Friends have a way of showing their true colors during adversity, and several of hers disappeared all too quickly over the next few days.

Happily, she was able to keep her job:  Her boss had worked with Changed people before, and, if anything, in his opinion, they tended to be significantly more productive than regular humans.  It wasn’t until some years later that Caitlyn learned his wife had six arms.

The worst day of her life ended with her crawling into bed and having the bed’s legs crash out from underneath her just as she settled down to relax.  As she lay on her crumpled bed trying to fall asleep, only two thoughts circled endlessly through her mind:  First, that she was permanently stuck like this, and second, that she would never, ever, ever accept it.
Caity's World, Part 9. Part 8 gave us some explanations about what happened five years ago, and part 9 covers a bit of what happened two years ago.

The main story will resume shortly. Will Caitlyn and Wils end up together? What's going on with Kat? What happened to Caitlyn's father? Stay tuned, same 'taur-time, same 'taur-channel, and you just might find out ;)

As always, if you like the story, please comment, ask a question, pose a theory, whatever, anything: The comments keep this going, and without reader feedback, it's hard for me to keep finding incentive to continue this. What can I say? I'm a sucker for fan mail.

Part 8 is here. Part 10 is here. The introduction and author's notes are here.

I don't think Part 9 is one of my strongest pieces of writing, but it's necessary to get this background stuff out of the way, so hopefully I'll get back up to regular speed once the main story picks up again.
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:iconmadjackaldelta:
MadJackalDelta Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2009  Student Writer
And this was how Caitlyn first learned of her own Change: Being awakened by striking the floor with a sickening thud while Spock boomed, “Fascinating, Captain.”

She never did watch Star Trek again.


I laughed so hard at that. I love how you manage to mix comedy and drama so well without one making the other seem forced.
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:iconcalyptra:
Calyptra Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
I am thoroughly enjoying this :)
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:iconuncle-ben:
Uncle-Ben Featured By Owner May 11, 2009
RRrrrrrr!

I want to ask you so many questions that are probably answered in the other chapters ... and what's more I don't really want to know the answers because I'm enjoying the ride so much.
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:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner May 11, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Eeyep, probably ^_^
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:icondoomboy911:
doomboy911 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2009  Student General Artist
I think part nine is one of my favorites. It lets me know what's happening how caitlyn was before to show the real change in her life.
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:iconbetherfly:
betherfly Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, there's something else to think about next time I catch Star Trek reruns. I like that little sidestory! Also the intro paragraph was great, I love the little tidbits you're letting us see!

It's also kind of interesting that the Changed have such a wide variety. I was kind of expecting them to be all anthropomorphic, so having ghosts and headless people wandering around gives it an extra depth!
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:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, I'm trying hard to make sure it's really a big world out there, as big and as real as I can make it.

...and anthros definitely aren't the only critters wandering in it. But this should raise for you a very specific succeeding question: How far does that go? What other things are out there, and how is that going to affect anything?
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:iconkenthayle:
Kenthayle Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2007
The background stuff is fascinating ... captain. *snicker*

But yes, I really do like this. It sets the world quite nicely and lets you know that "yes, some of this stuff should be impossible, but it's there anyway and they dunno any more than you ... yet."

Poor Caity. Turning half-goat I could stand ... at least I'd still be able to fit in all the same places I used to. I wouldn't even be able to fit in my tiny little bedroom as half a horse. I take it she hasn't figured out she can shapeshift back and forth yet.

Good stuff. Keep her going ;)
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:iconphantom-inker:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
"...it's there anyway and they dunno any more than you ... yet."

Yep. More will be explained in due course. For now, you'll just have to accept things being the way they are, just like the characters do.

Yes, poor Caitlyn didn't figure out the whole shapeshifting thing for some time afterwards, unfortunately, which considerably accentuated her already dour attitude. We're going to jump back into the main storyline next, and the fact that Caitlyn learned that technique somewhat after first changing (like most Changed did) isn't terribly relevant to the plot, so I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that now. We have, as they say, bigger fish to fry...
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:iconrogue7:
Rogue7 Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2007
It's all the kite's fault ;)

Nicely written, I'm glad you coverd the how

:cookie: for using 'gumption' in the story, a oft forgotten word
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