Daydreams. Each human step reminds you that you aren't on all fours, that your nose isn't as good as it should be. You manage now, like you do each day.
Suddenly, from the trees, a furry creature drops itself on your shoulders. It's hard to identify if you don't know what it is, from tall catlike ears with the big tufts and those long white whiskers, to that broad bear-like shape. Huge paws. Long, wide, strong tail. Big, black and furry. Small enough to carry, but large enough that you don't want to for too long.
Ah, you remember: it's a binturong. It seems comfortable. You don't want to wait for it to go away of its own accord. To be honest, being so close to it is quite exciting in your current state of mind. At home in the forest, as you should be. You resume walking, and you resume daydreaming.
"Badger," says a voice. That word brings a tingle to your spine, just above the tail you can almost feel and nobody else can see. A tickle to your ears. You're blushing. You look around, but there's nobody here. Except for the binturong, anyway. You keep walking. Possibly just a trick of your mind.
"Badger," it says again. Definitely the binturong. Its warm breath teases your ear, as its tail squeezes your waist and paws hold onto your shoulders. How can it know what you were thinking? Or maybe it can tell just by being near you? By what magic is it speaking to you?
The binturong hops onto the floor, and you feel lighter. You feel strange. It holds something, thin and shiny and like thread. The thread seems to lead from its paws to your body, where a little tuft of black fur shows through. Your heart beats. The bearcat tugs on the thread, and you feel yourself spin. It pulls more, starting to unravel your human self. Black fur starts to peek out from beneath.
It's too intense and you call out to wait, but it doesn't. It pulls more, faster, and you spin on the spot; your fur touches the air, you feel yourself shrinking. The human shroud over your thoughts starts to clear.
"I'm not going to wait, I'm not going to stop," says the binturong, in his strange delicate voice. "Once we do this, there's no going back. I'll pull and pull, you'll spin and unravel until there's nothing but badger. Nothing but you. Don't worry."
And it pulls, and around and around you go, cartoonishly and excitedly, nervous but exhilarated. Your arms are revealed, little stubby limbs with big digger claws. Your little tail, and your big snout, both freed from their disguise. Each moment strips you of worry and confusion and leaves you in less and less doubt. Spinning, and shrinking, from hind paw to hind paw, until the thread comes free and vanishes as you drop to all fours, complete.
A fine badger. A bit dizzy, but refreshed. The binturong walks over, now much larger than you. Your nose detects his odd scent, and he rolls over and scoops you up in his arms. Chrrr. Squeak. Feral noises of comfort and calm. And, the one word that sticks in your thoughts, that makes your ears perk no matter what language it is. Badger. If there was any hesitation, it's gone now.
His popcorn scents mix with your earthy ones, the mixture lingering on his body and yours. Eyes meet yours, as he lets you down to the floor, paws meeting the soil. The scents and sounds of the woods lay ahead, all ready for a badger to make her home.
I see you there, on your two legs. It's amusing. Who are you trying to fool? The humans might not notice you sneaking among them, playing the part, but I do.
And the day turns to evening, turns to night. It's our time, you and me; we love the evening and the twilight and the dusk. And I know deep inside, my scent is in your nose, tickling senses you wouldn't have if you were actually one of them. But you aren't, and you sleep and you wake bleary-eyed and you wonder why.
I see you quiet, caught in thought. Appealing to your inner self, desiring the feel of paws and fur, claws and musk. I might say your scent grows, your spirit deepens, your stripes show through. I might say that.
And the days turn to weeks, and you think that each little tidbit of sensation makes you more whole. You might be right. But, oh, there's so much more. You tease and you urge and you scratch the surface; that's your nose, your face, your ears - but it leaves as quickly as it began. Breathless, I huff and I grump and I make myself scarce, for now.
I see you turn under blanket, over sheet, your very essence wishing you away to a fine burrow of warmth, earth, and memories. You don't always remember your dreams each night but you are always there, back on all fours where you yearn to be.
And every single time I want to find the way through, drag you back through that invisible wall you can't quite seem to breach. Pull you out of those silly rags, and fill your belly with a wild and honest meal. Smell the fresh evening air, cut grass and low berries and the pitter-patter of mouse feet. Make our lives with our own paws.
I see you and I'm in a frenzy. It has to be now. As you lay down for another misspent evening I'm suddenly there; a weight on your chest, my long snout against your nose, my eyes peering into yours. It's a surprise, but I don't waste time and I don't let you move. Scents in your nose, breath on your lips, heart beating with yours. I'd shake you if I had the dexterity. I'd claw you if I thought it might be of use, if it was just so easy as to dig my way through to your inner badger. I have all sorts of words for you, but all you hear is chittering nonsense. I just want to help.
But this time, it's enough. Those black and white stripes are a lovely sight. I'm counting the claws, three, four, five. Ten. Huge paws pressed against mine. Long snout poking my nose. Badger, you say in our tongue, your eyes clear and bright. From the tips of your ears, down the growing softness of your belly and back, to your short padded hind feet, that's you. It's sudden and new, but also familiar. Comfortable. Exciting. I see your joy, I feel your heart beating fast, I smell natural scents, and I feel fur and paws eager to find their first taste of a burrow. Emotions and instincts race through you. It's all I can do to keep you in place, as you're not yet finished. You're too big, for a start, but limbs and body are all coming down to size; shorter, stockier, safe. The bed looms larger around you until my feet rest on your feet, and stubby tails shuffle together, and nobody can mistake you for human again.
I see you for you. You're a badger.
I lost track of time as we changed. It felt amazing, it quickens my breath just thinking about it. I'm sucked back into memories. The magic lifted spirits, heightened senses; it told me that anything was possible. I felt it, and I knew it, and nothing would ever be quite the same again. As a badger I feel completely different, every moment is new and strange and exciting. It's tiring, but I love it so much. Sometimes I want to scream with joy, but it isn't our way. Even if I did, nobody would understand. Except you, anyway.
Because you also know. You can't think of these paws as just fuzzier hands. Being on all fours isn't being on hands and knees. Seeing with our paws. Speaking with our scents. It's so hard to describe how senses combine to create this pure sense of understanding, of knowing the forest and being part of that great world. We're strong and sufficient, simple but satisfied. It's fantastic every night I curl up with you, in the sett we created with our own paws. And you're such a gorgeous creature, look at you.
It's okay, you don't need to wake up. I'm just awake late again. Warm, comfortable, but with a little tremble. Don't worry though. I'm fine. A lot of thoughts have just happened.
I'm thinking that I've lost track of how many days it has been. That, however strange the sensations have been, a certain sense of normality is starting to creep into each day. It occurred to me before that we might never be changed back, but only now has that truly sunk in. This great and terrible idea that I'm not just a visitor to this life, but that it's actually mine. I don't have to fear that I might wake up from whatever dream this is, or that the sorcery might be undone. I just get to be me; we just get to be us.
We're not yet old badgers, but I have this new sense of wisdom. The gentle worry slips out of my fur, and I feel content. Awake, I nibble a late snack from our stash. My paws are restless again, and I find myself idly digging.
Except, I come to a realisation. No badger instinct is by accident. We will need the extra room for kits.
Three short chapters of feral badger transformation, focused on discovery, transformation, companionship and life after change.