Havak’s New Collar
There was a thunderstorm raging outside the lab’s windows. Regi, a hybridized ferret/otter/whatever, swooped over the lab’s floor with welding equipment in hand. The latest experiment was nearly finished; a prototype machine of such power and cuteness that it had the possibility to be his greatest invention ever. Just a few more wires to tie in, and a final weld.
Regi was well known for his good intentioned but dangerous mad science. Anyone only needed to spend a few minutes in the hybrid’s presence to understand Regi was a little mad. When he wasn’t playing with time machines, or swapping bodies with friends, he could be found swooping through the lab with reality altering technology.
“MUAHAHAHAHA,” the hybrid squeaked, as he pulled the steampunk welding goggles off his eyes. “My next feat of engineering is completed.” Sitting on the workbench was a simple blue collar. On the surface there didn’t appear to be anything out of place; it was completely ordinary. But that was what made it so amazing. Regi had managed to fit the same quantum alteration and time tech into a tiny collar that would usually require huge, bulky, boxy machines to handle. He’d somehow turned a cute collar into a reality alteration device, capable of listening to a wearer’s desires and changing things around him.
There was just one problem: how could he test the prototype? All new inventions needed a first test, but none of his friends would be willing to try something this crazy again. They were all still recovering from the effects of his plushification potion. The party was fun, but spiking the drinks like that wouldn’t be an option next time; everyone would expect it. The hybrid scientist crossed his arms and huffed. He’d have to get creative to find someone gullible enough to try-
“Oooohhh, whose collar is that?” asked a peppy voice from the lab’s entrance.
Regi whipped around to face the familiar voice. A Labrador retriever in jeans and a green military cap peeked into the lab, tongue lulling out the side of his mouth. This was Havak, another of Regi’s sometimes-friend-sometimes-lab-assistants. Honestly, he had so many assistants it was hard to keep them all straight in his head. But Havak was memorable for his happy-go-lucky demeanor and near infinite curiosity for testing dangerous experiments. That made him the perfect subject for this collar. Regi could barely suppress the happy wiggle in his tail.
“Havaaaaaaaaaak, chap, please come here! I have a new collar for you to try on.”
As soon as Regi uttered the words Havak bounded across the laboratory at full speed, colliding with the scientist abandoning all pretense of safety. “A new collar? Awww you didn’t have to do that,” Havak said in between smothering Regi’s face with licks. The yellow tail on his backside swished back and forth like an out-of-control metronome.
The hybrid giggled as he pushed back against the silly canine. “Ack, calm down Havak, I don’t need a tongue bath. All you need to know is that this is a very special collar. You’ll need to try a few… tests for me if you put it on.”
But Havak was clearly not listening. The Labrador had good intentions, but not much in the way of brains. He just stared at the collar before plucking it up and snapping it in place on his neck. “Perfect fit!” the dog said, tail still wagging up a storm. Regi was in full-swing with his explanation of the technical details of atomic rearrangements and alternate universes. Absolutely none of it was sticking in the canine’s mind. There was something about watching his thoughts, and reality changes being tricky. Emotions should be kept in check at all times. Yadda yadda… Havak’s attention strayed toward the TV behind Regi instead of Regi himself. On the screen two tennis players volleyed back and forth, a dalmatian on one side and a rooster on the other. A tennis ball flew from one side to the other and Havak was completely transfixed. That tennis ball was a million times more interesting than the scientific mumbo jumbo Regi was currently telling him that was ‘of the utmost importance’ regarding a reset button.
“Oh that looks fun!” Havak said, mind focusing on the tennis ball. “Wish I had one of those.”
Regi saw the air vibrate around him, as if he’d been caught in a mirage of shimmering hot air. “Wuh oh-” the hybrid mumbled just before a cloud of smoke puffed into the air around him. By the time the smoke cleared Regi was gone. Left on the floor, bouncing lightly up and down after appearing in mid-air, was a tennis ball. It slowly came to a stop and rolled along the floor. The ferret hybrid could feel himself rolling, getting dizzy as he did, but was completely baffled about where these feelings came from. How could he be rolling on the floor? And why didn’t he seem to have any legs or arms to stop himself? He felt surprisingly empty, as if he were just a rounded ball made of leather and felt. Wait… a ball? It was just then that everything clicked for Regi. He looked up in horror as a huge, yellow dog’s mouth opened wide and bit down to claim the tennis ball.
Havak hadn’t noticed the smoke. He looked around the room, perplexed when Regi was nowhere to be seen. “Regi? Regi, where did you go?” the Labrador asked. He was just about to begin whining when something on the ground caught his eyes. It appeared to be a tennis ball; how lucky! Havak bent down in order to pick up the ball with his mouth. There was plenty of odd things about this tennis ball. Perhaps the most obvious change was its color pallet. The Labrador had chased after plenty of tennis balls in his time but this was the first with a brown cover. The blue and red highlights did bring a nice pop of color to the ball.
He put that thought away. Right now, he’d found the perfect toy. Now he just needed someone to play with. And that was how Havak was allowed to walk out of Regi’s lab with an extremely unstable, untested, reality-alteration collar. Everyone outside that lab was now in danger even if they hadn’t realized it yet.
Regi whined mentally, unable to do anything as a tennis ball except watch in horror.
“Wanna play fetch?” Havak said from around the edges of the tennis ball held fast within his powerful jaws.
Geo’s face perked up, attention diverted from the computer screen and doodles for just a moment. The raccoon smiled sincerely, while his tail nervously stood straight out. Usually it could be seen swishing away without fear. So to see the ringtail with enough nervous energy that his tail was fluffed up like a startled cat meant something very bad could be coming. Geo knew that mischief was afoot with Havak around. Even if the Labrador didn’t realize it, he was practically a magnet for crazy transformations. Geo was half excited and half ready to run for the hills.
If the scent of Geo’s fear was in the air, Havak didn’t seem to notice it. “Just found this really sweet tennis ball a second ago. Appeared out of nowhere. It’s my favorite thing ever now.” He chewed on the ball, squeaking it in his mouth with each bite. Neither of them heard the light whimper of a ferret stuck as the tennis ball, or noticed the pattern of brown fur and Regi’s clothes on the surface of the toy.
Geo giggled and patted the dopey dog on his head, scratching behind an ear. “I thought your favorite thing ever was your box of Milkbones?”
“That was yesterday. Right now, this ball is my favorite thing ever,” Havak said without a trace of sarcasm, or even recognition of the silliness of what he’d said. He dropped the tennis ball to the ground and patiently waited to play fetch. “But Milkbones… That sounds tasty.”
The raccoon chucked the ball across the house, into a hallway, and watched as Havak scrambled after it. That gave Geo just enough time to turn around and begin working on his sketches again. Havak’s excited barking and claws clacking on the wood floor quieted for a moment, then came crashing back into the living room. Havak bounded into Geo’s lap and knocked the both of them to the floor. Havak didn’t seem to mind though. He set the ball on Geo’s lap and wagged quickly enough to kick up a slight breeze in the room.
A cold nose pressed into the raccoon’s fur, and a few well-placed licks across his face was enough to get Geo to ignore the drawing for another throw. He pushed back against Havak’s face before picking the tennis ball up. Unlike Regi, Geo had no idea what reality warping fields would look like. So when waves of shimmering, hot air manifested all over his body, he wasn’t sure what to do about it or what to think. He shrugged and tossed the tennis ball. Just as Havak bounded away, a puff of smoke surrounded his playmate and filled the room with the scent of spring rain and cut grass.
Dropping to the floor as a box of Milkbones, Geo tried to focus his vision past the smoke but found it couldn’t really move. He could feel something… shaking inside his box. That word in particular made Geo twitch: ‘box’. He wasn’t sure why that felt accurate, but no other word readily popped to mind. In fact, he could tell somehow that the things inside him were dog treats. It was a very odd sensation to be simultaneously so sure of what he’d turned into, and want so badly for it to not be true.
The ground beneath the box of Milkbones rumbled softly, in time with the panting approach of a dopey canine. Havak’s foot thudded next to the box, and knocked it open. The dog treats tumbled out from inside. Havak hadn’t noticed yet; he was too busy looking around for Geo so their game of fetch could continue.
The Labrador whined. “Geeeooooo, where are you? I found the ball again so it’s your turn to throw it now!” His tail tucked between his legs. That was two friends gone missing in a single day! Something weird was going on- wait. That smelled like Milkbones. Havak’s big snout started sniffing along the ground before his eyes locked on with the open box. Geo went cold when he saw Havak approach.
No, no, no, Havak. Please help me get back to normal! Geo tried to speak but as a box, there was no mouth for him to move. Instead the box just shuddered slightly. Havak bent down and picked up Geo, licking his chops. No self-respecting dog could resist Milkbones. Even if it would spoil his dinner, the Labrador spent the next 30 minutes munching away at the box’s contents. It never seemed to empty out. He could always reach in for another bone or three.
Geo was glad it didn’t hurt, and that nothing bad was happening from having his contents emptied out into a dog’s muzzle. But he was equally unnerved by the fact that he could feel each bone as Havak munched away. He could feel the teeth and tongue and swallow and it felt kinda good. Geo worried that it might not be the best to think about how good it felt.
Carrying his snack box and his tennis ball, Havak’s tail wagged. He was still completely unaware of how the experimental collar at his neck changed the world around him. All that registered with his derpy mind was just how well the day was going. A box of treats that never ran out, and a brand-new tennis ball? That would be enough to make any dog’s day! To celebrate he spent the next several hours in the backyard dropping the ball into a tennis ball launcher, chasing it down, and rewarding himself with a milkbone for each successful chase. Life was good.
He yawned, and the wagging of his tail slowed down. This was quite the crazy day so far. After finding a brand-new favorite thing AND getting to play fetch, Havak was content to just find a bed and collapse for a few hours. But there was nothing useful nearby to use as a bed. Oh, the things he would give up right now to get a bed…
In a room nearby, Ronts floated on his back in midair, reading a comic book. This wasn’t all that unusual for the grey-furred beardog. Hiding away in his bedroom to avoid the craziness of his roommates was his most frequent activity. He idly turned a page on the latest issue of Krypto the Superdog, but paused when the pages didn’t fit in between his fingers. Something was wrong with his hand; inspecting it closer, Ronts realized that his mitt had turned from fingers and fur into felt and stuffing. It looked strangely like a stuffed animal’s hand.
Ronts grumbled, “This better not be more of Geo’s mischief. The comic was just getting to the good part-”
But the beardog fell victim to the same reality alteration as Regi and Geo. This time reality warped around Havak’s unintentional need for a very comfortable dog bed. As the Labrador walked in from his long play session, his eyes were affixed to the dog bed almost immediately. The tennis ball and box of treats fell from his hands unceremoniously, forgotten nearly as quickly as he’d proclaimed them to be his favorite things. He asked for a place to rest, and now one had appeared in the house. This must be his lucky day!
Havak collapsed in a pile atop the grey dog bed, paying no attention to the way it vibrated underneath him. Ronts had no way to show his annoyance beyond that vibrating action, apparently coming from a battery pack inside his stuffed bed-body. To Havak that just made the bed even better; he didn’t know that massaging dog beds were even a thing! The canine picked up Ronts’s comic book and started reading, totally oblivious to the frustrated beardog beneath him. It took a few minutes of reading for the drowsiness to finally take control of the Labrador as he gently drifted to sleep.
Ronts sighed internally. He wasn’t sure what to expect after being turned into a dog bed, but he was fairly sure that the smell of dog breath from Havak’s snoring would never come out of his pelt. Assuming he got back to normal that is.
With a huge yawn, Havak stretched out in his comfy bed. That was easily the best nap he’d had in a long time. Beneath him, Ronts might have disagreed if he had a mouth to do so.
A van pulled up in front of the driveway, and Havak rushed to the window to watch within a heartbeat. He recognized the sound of that van anywhere: that was the postman. Outside the house, a white van with the postal service logo emblazoned across the side opened up to let a squirrel step out. He was short, barely taller than 4 feet, with a postman’s uniform and a heavy bag of mail slung over his shoulder.
He was also Havak’s nemesis, even if he didn’t realize it.
The front door crashed open as a blur of yellow fur rushed through, barking and panting and filled with enough energy to power a small home. That poor postman, completely blindsided by the oncoming attack, thrust the mail into the box and jumped back into the van. Putting the pedal to the metal, the van screeched away down the street at breakneck speed. It sped off just barely ahead of Havak, leaving the Labrador with nothing but the smell of burning rubber and a drooping tail.
“Dangit. Wish I could go a little faster… Need to be able to keep up with that van,” Havak mused aloud.
By now, it should come as no surprise that the collar began to work its magic. As another car drove past, Havak forgot all about the postman and began to chase his new quarry. He didn’t notice when the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough to handle his paws. Nor did he notice when electrical wires snapped at his knees. The car bounced up and down lightly with each step Havak took, intensity of quakes seeming to increase with each instant. The collar took some creative liberty with the canine test subject’s request; instead of speeding up Havak, it just made him larger. Much larger. The effect was that his increased stride made it easier to catch any cars in the road. It did technically meet the terms of the reality alteration request.
Finally, after a long stretch of chasing after cars and leaving potholes in the street large enough to smother an entire person, Havak skidded to a halt. His feet tore up a wide swath of pavement, sewer lines, sidewalks, and anything else that happened to be unlucky enough to be in his path. The sounds of yelling people and cars skidding away tipped off the Labrador that there might be something to worry about. The wagging in his tail stopped, ending the dust storm he’d been accidentally creating within the debris of his chase.
“Something’s wrong here,” he said with furrowed brows. It wasn’t immediately obvious to the dopey dog exactly WHAT was wrong. He took a seat atop a bus and tried to think through his predicament. A tiny bird landed at the end of his muzzle, little claws tapping at the leathery, cold surface of his nose. Havak crossed his eyes to get a better look at the bird, a pigeon by the look of it. Wait… pigeons weren’t usually that small. Maybe this was a runt pigeon? That would be something totally new. He’d never heard of ANY bird this tiny…
“Oh! I’m big,” he cried, finally putting two and two together. “Well I can’t stay big for good. How will I play fetch with that tennis ball?”
There was no way around it: he would just have to get small again. Havak tried to think hard about earlier that day, when he was still small. Back when he first tried out Regi’s experimental technology. The collar at his neck buzzed lightly, and a heady scent of ozone and summer rain filled the air around the giant Labrador.
If everything had simply stopped there, the world could have gone on normally. Unfortunately, at that very moment Havak’s attention was torn away from those thoughts by a cute female Labrador. She peeked around the corner of a building across the street just in time for Havak’s thoughts to shift slightly from ‘turn back to normal’ to ‘wow she’s a cute Labrador’.
And then the world went white as the collar activated.
Regi’s eyes opened wide, and he sat up in bed with a gasp. He placed his hands on his body, feeling around, ensuring he was himself again and not a tennis ball. So far, so good. He had arms and a body. Next he pulled the blankets off himself in bed, and rushed to his feet. Okay, legs as well. Off to an excellent start on undoing all the shenanigans that Labrador got into.
There was just one last test to pass. Regi threw a robe over his shoulders and slippers onto his feet, before he swooped off toward the bathroom. He hadn’t yet noticed the wagging tail behind him, or the canine shaped ears on top of his head. But once the scientist stood in front of a full body mirror, he knew something had gone wrong.
A Labrador looked back at Regi in the mirror. Or rather, he’d been turned into a Labrador somehow. The scientist reached behind himself to tug his tail, testing to confirm it wasn’t just an illusion. With a yelp of pain Regi whimpered and let go of the Labrador tail: HIS tail.
There was no denying the evidence in front of his face. Regi knew he’d become a Labrador, and he suspected that there would be one person at fault. He rushed out of the house, and toward his laboratory. Using canine energy that Regi barely knew how to contain, the scientist burst through the metal front door of his lab. He sniffed the air to find the familiar scent of a close friend, and once he found it Regi realized the tail wagging had already started. Very interesting how his tail seemed to have an energy of its own, moving unconsciously beneath his thoughts.
“Havak!” Regi barked. “Come out, I need your help!”
A yellow tail flagged above a pile of electronics, pointing in the direction of Regi’s call for help. Shortly after that Havak’s face burst up from inside the pile, grinning dopily at the newly arrived Labrador friend. Regi didn’t know how he’d learned the butt sniffing ritual that all dogs did with each other, but he was already part way through finishing the move before he second guessed it. He supposed that some canine instincts just come with the package deal.
“Hey Regi, welcome back. I’m so glad that you’re awake. Now we can get started on the super important day of science and chasing squirrels.” Havak smiled and licked across Regi’s muzz. Neither of them could help wagging their tails this time.
“No time to talk. Havak, what did you do with the collar? The reality altering collar you wore before. What did you ask for when we all went back to normal?”
Havak shrugged, but his tail never stopped wagging. “A collar? What are you talking about? I haven’t worn a collar for years. Not since I was a pup!”
Regi blinked in surprise. “What? But I just saw you using the collar moments ago, when I was still a tennis ball. You turned me into a tennis ball and I saw Geo get turned into a box of Milkbones-”
“Woah! Hang on. Relax Regi. Geo was here a second ago, he wanted to go outside and play fetch. He wasn’t a milkbone,” Havak said, tilting his head slightly.
“Oh, that sounds lovely actually. We can go play fetch- wait. No, not right now! I need to find that collar and turn myself back to normal,” Regi said, attempting to swoop toward the aisles of experiments. But his dog paws and body weren’t shaped for swooping anymore so he ended up just losing his balance, collapsing on the tiled floor. He looked up pathetically at Havak… and Geo? But Geo didn’t look quite the same anymore. In fact, Geo looked distinctly like a golden Labrador. The only way Regi was able to recognize his raccoonish friend was by the red cap and blue vest he wore. Aside from that, Geo looked like a dog from the tip of his tail to the top of his ears.
“H-Hey Geo… why are you a dog?”
Geo’s ears perked, and he canted his head to the side. “What do you mean, chap? We’ve all been dogs. Everyone is a dog, silly.” It was at that moment that Regi took a moment to look around the room. All the magazines in the house had Labradors on the front cover. Peeking out a window to the sidewalk, it was all Labradors walking around, going about their day. Could it really be true? Was everyone a dog now?
For the third time that morning, found himself thinking ‘uh oh.’ Fixing this problem might take a while.
Some inventions really should not be given to dopey Labradors. Especially not reality altering collars, triggered by thoughts. It's a recipe for disaster.
This Story Includes:
SO, another trade story with Geo. He always writes and draws such great ideas, I love trading with him. Thanks again Geo and I hope you like it! <3