Lai gripped the bat tightly to her, as if worried it might run away. Her furry paws dimpled the toy's smooth black hide, and her muzzle buried itself under one of those large wings as it helpfully wrapped around her. She swallowed a scream and shuddered, overwhelmed with emotions coiled inside her like a spring. Hidden in the dark the fox tried to empty her mind, but it was too late; she could only sprawl uselessly on her bed and wait for the anxiety to pass.
When had it taken her over so completely? Lai the grey fox had almost forgotten what it was like to feel normal, no longer sure what it was like to have a personality that stretched beyond her worries. So much effort sunk into her stresses that they were practically living things, so vibrant and full of soul that they smothered her gentle demeanour and put her to shame.
Just today at work while at the water fountain, she'd seen the cute white fennec Shane passing by. He'd ignored her when she called out, and for the rest of the day it had quietly turned in Lai's head, quiet thoughts clinging to any shred of self-doubt. Suddenly in her mind his snub was deliberate, because she was unimportant and not really worth the time. When the fennec stopped by her office at three o'clock she found herself flustered, mouth running by itself, apologising for all manner of triviality her mind had dragged up from months ago. Shane had calmed her down, and said it was OK and she should try not to worry so much about the little things.
Lai relived her embarrassment and drew in a big sigh. Shane was lovely, but while she was being such a basket case he'd never ask her out, and she'd never work up the nerve to socialise either. It saddened her, though she had used up all the tears she could spare for herself. Her stomach was tight as a familiar cold guilt descended on her, chiding her for her behaviour. She was still not yet thirty, young and smart, living alone in the city but doing well for herself; she didn't have real problems.
At this point the bat toy acted on its own, lifting her head and pressing its face against hers. The soft muzzle squeaked and gave, and Lai was easily distracted from her vicious circle of thought by the sensation. The fox had bought the living toy earlier this week, and it was quite a curious thing; soft black rubber filled with a soft gel. It had no shape to begin with, but by her request the shopkeeper had kneaded and worked it into a bat as she waited and watched. In place of arms it had long thin wings, and all its features were rounded and approximated; feet without toes, tall rounded ears, and a face without eyes or nose. Bats gave the best hugs, everyone knew that.
By design all living toys looked and felt harmless, which made their unique feature more palatable; they could move and act by themselves. Lai had resisted buying one for some time, as the toys had quickly inherited negative social and sexual connotations, but their purpose was really for anxiety and stress relief and she didn't regret her choice at all. Eye-wateringly expensive, but deeply relaxing.
"You do make me feel better," she said out loud to the toy, once her thoughts moved on and she felt her negative urges pass. Although it was a featureless toy, it was hard not to personify it a little, but she wouldn't go so far as to give it a name.
"Even if it's just for a while. But you're so mysterious, I don't even know how you work. It's all latex and rubber in there," said Lai, raising her paws to knead at the bat's head. "But you move so naturally. And- eep, you really do give the best hugs," she admitted, as those wings tightened. "And so soft. Haha, listen to me, I sound like a schoolgirl. Maybe I should write your adverts," she said, bashfully.
Her stomach growled and complained, and the fox looked over at the wall clock. It was nearly nine in the evening, and she had been so caught up in herself that she hadn't eaten. Still, her stress toy had done its job once again, and she wriggled free and stood up off the bed. Without her support the bat shape toppled back, tangled in its own wings and looking a bit silly as Lai giggled. Wow, she was even laughing. Would this be a milestone day, could she concentrate enough to sort her own dinner tonight and not order out? With her energies renewed, her thoughts turned to modest plans of food. One foot followed the other, and she would see where it led.
She woke up screaming, dimly lit by the nightlight by her bed. Her tail was sore from being twisted up under her, and her fur was beaded with sweat, and her face stung with tears. In her dream Lai wandered through empty forest, rotten and darkened; her paws brushed over trees which turned to dust, her feet stepped through a stream which changed to smoke. The fox stood at the edge of the world, footprints crumbling the ground away behind her. She looked at her hands, seeing the cracks form, feeling herself begin to fall apart, and then she was suddenly awake.
Lai panted, and hugged her legs, and looked at the wall clock; its bright analogue hands claimed it to be beyond three o'clock in the morning. She had been doing so well, for dinner she had found rabbits and vegetables and made a simple meal, and continued her good book, and fell asleep soundly. Now the night was terrible and her fears ruled supreme, and she could not imagine sleep finding her again tonight. Panic gripped her, and her breathing became shallow, and despair cut into her like hot knives. Why was she so helpless from just a bad dream, she wondered? She certainly wasn't the first to suffer existential dread, and she wouldn't be the last, but everyone else seemed to get by; what gave her the luxury to feel anxious? What made her so special?
Soft footsteps squeaked nearby, as the toy bat stirred and walked closer. It had pushed its way out of the closet, where Lai tended to put it when it was not in use. She hadn't heard it until those wings were upon her, that refreshing smoothness against her wet fur, her ragged breathing punctuated by sobs. Innocently, those wings surrounded and enclosed her, in the ways it would normally do. For the anxious fox, the absence of light was just too much to bear, and frantic paws shoved her toy off onto the floor, where it sat quiet and motionless.
The air was still, and Lai let out a squeak; movement suddenly returned to her as the fox threw away her blanket, scurrying to the toy bat and hugging the latex as tight as she dared. "Sorry, I'm sorry," she mumbled, over and over, as though it was listening; as though it needed to hear. Those wings moved to comfort her again, and this time she kept her head above them and settled down, resting upon the soft bat, it squashing tightly around her and against her weight. Her nose found the edge of its ear, pushing against it to feel what had become a familiar sensation.
"I am such a mess," she admitted. "Look, twice in one day I'm talking to you. Don't try to be friends with it, they said at the shop. Don't be attached. It's a stress toy, it's not a lover. But that's rubbish, isn't it, because of course I'm going to talk to you, when it's three in the morning and I'm having…"
Lai didn't finish that sentence, because she feared doing so would make it real. No nervous breakdown for her, this was just a moment and soon she would be fine. Here, safe in her room and filling with endorphins, she could gather her wits.
"So much in my head," murmured the fox, her tail in agitation, shuffling in those toy wings and pressing her nose against the bat's face, the rounded muzzle where its nose would be if it had one. "Should give myself nice long break. Maybe a couple of weeks off work. I should tell Shane I like him. I should exercise more. I should do half the things I say I should do. I-"
The bat pulled close and tight, as Lai started to say things that would upset her again. Her speech was muffled against the bat's head, and her arms wiggled tightly against her sides. Her tail went still there, and slowly she started to relax and unwind.
Latex around her feet gave way to soft, sticky gel that pooled between her toes and over her paws. The grey fox sunk deeper and deeper, her body falling into the toy's latex. Feet first, and then legs and hips; it was like sinking into soft, warm sand. Those wings smothered her arms, and Lai could only look with confusion at what was taking place. A gentle fear began in her mind, but it was displaced by warm, comfortable sensations. When she lifted her leg, the toy bat moved as well; it was so snug, like a close-fitting suit.
"No, don't do it, I'm not supposed to feel attached, get it?" she said, jokingly. Though surprising, it didn't feel scary; she trusted the comfort her toy provided. Cuddled there, lit by her dim nightlight, she felt more curious than anything else. Her naked furry body was tightly pulled into the bat, sinking through the latex like it was made of water; she found a comfortable place nestled within the kneadable gel inside. Her arms had been subsumed, and lifting one brought up that long, slim wing. Could she really be a toy bat, even if only for a little while?
It was all hers to move, except for the head which nuzzled her hair, softly wiggling itself forward until their muzzles overlapped and all Lai could see was light. Her nose and throat filled with soft, malleable warmth; she was stuck! By rights it should have been stressful to the easily worried Lai, but something had changed inside her; she couldn't feel it. They were together, bat and fox. She felt soft and warm all over like she was melting, and filled with a gentle contentment, and like that sleep came; Lai soon drifted away.
An alarm sounded from nearby. It was one that a toy had sensed many times, a sign to stand up and be ready as the owner might need some help before the day began. Today, something was different. The alarm would ring until it stopped by itself, for there would be nobody to stop it today.
At least, that was what was expected. What actually happened was the waking sounds of the owner, her murmurs and ministrations, followed by the sound of paw on button. The sounds of feet on floor, of footsteps across to bathroom, of needful activities that owners do in bathrooms with toilets and showers. It may have perplexed a toy bat, if it knew such a feeling.
A short time later, there were footsteps, and then the damp warmth of an owner very close by. She sounded happy, but a toy pulled wings around her anyway, because this would be helpful. She spoke, as she had recently done quite a lot;
"Sorry, this might be a bit weird for you, it certainly is for me. But you can't feel worry or stress or fear or any of that just at the moment. You're a toy! I can show immodesty so I'll say you look pretty damn cute. And I'm- Huh. I guess I have a name for a bit. That's neat. I won't use it around you though."
The sense grew that something had changed. Somehow, last night had not stopped there from being both a toy and an owner.
"Well, you won't be afraid now, but in future you might look back on this as a memory and feel nervous. I hope not. So I'll say it anyway: I'm not a force of evil, we won't be swapped forever, but you were really suffering out here and so I did what seemed right. So now everything is cool. Isn't it?"
There were no issues with the temperature of the room. Beyond that the bat didn't do much, its smooth face giving nothing away, although it did seem to be listening.
"But, um, you can't just be a toy for a while and have life stop and wait for you. I mean, I guess you could! But I think you will feel better if it does not. And so here we are, and I'm you and you're me. I hope that's cool."
The room was still a good temperature, but the owner's face was warmer than before. This prompted it to give soft hugs, with wings and with legs. Gently the toy was pulled up from the floor and onto the bed, its gel giving way under those warm fox paws.
"And, er, I won't ask Shane out. I think that sort of thing might be important to leave for later. But if he asks me, well I wouldn't say no, so…"
The fox shuffled out of the toy bat's embrace and then footsteps moved across the floor, towards one corner of the room. She got dressed, taking a bit of time in front of the mirror.
"I- sorry if this sounds a bit weird maybe, but I think a toy likes me. Possibly that's because I've also said a lot of nice things to a toy over these past few days. Could- could we be friends?"
She had looked back at the toy now and then while getting dressed, that familiar shiny black latex somehow both familiar and new at the same time. It was quiet throughout, as it never made a sound other than casual squeaking as it walked. A sudden thought crept upon her, which she said out loud;
"Maybe, when later comes, I should think about giving you a name. If that's okay. I'm- I'm not sure that it can really matter to a toy. But it might matter to an owner?"
She pulled on her coat, the woman who wasn't quite Lai, pausing nervously at the door with her paw on the handle. No, even with the changes of the night it still felt hard to meet the day, with all its potential for harm and misunderstanding and embarrassment and failure.
Yet there were wings, and there were hugs, as a toy gave what help it could, and a fox opened the door as she knew she must.
This was going to be a quickie transformation, but turned into a story about anxiety and foxes and toy bats and friendship instead. Hopefully you find it a good read. :)
(Also posted on FA: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/20879607/ )