Read the Instructions!
Sean's place was always a mess. Today was no exception. Lewis stepped gingerly from opening to opening, trying to keep his paws from making contact with any of the miscellaneous items on the floor. Most of it looked benign enough—socks and underwear and other soft things, but Sean was not known for “normal” ways of thinking.
“Come on come on come on!” Sean bounced on his toes, his tail wagging furiously. He'd never seen the boxer-clad black wolf this excited. “You've got to see this!”
The puma stepped over another small pile of debris and grimaced. “Do I need to hire you a cleaning service? This is ridiculous, man! You should be ashamed to invite anyone over!”
The smile never left his face. “Well, it's just you, and I knew you wouldn't mind.” He disappeared inside his bedroom. Lewis shook his head. At this rate, he wouldn't get in there for another couple minutes at least. Had the wolf reverted to primal instincts of wanting to bury things? It sounded like he needed to see a psychologist.
Or maybe just go outside more often. Since when had it become acceptable to answer your door in boxers? It was a good thing they were really close friends, or Lewis would have refused to come indoors until he learned common decency.
Well, the masquerade was tomorrow night. At least he could get him out of the house for that. Hadn't taken too much convincing, either.
Surely somewhere in this mess he had something he could make a costume from.
Finally, he stepped across the last of the hazards in this domestic minefield and slapped his paw against the door frame. The light was off. With his black fur, his friend blended in perfectly in this windowless room. Lewis' tail flicked in agitation. “Seriously, Sean.”
“Yeah, you told me already! Now look!” With a flash, the bedroom was flooded with light.
And there stood Sean in all his boxerless glory.
“Aaach!” Lewis squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head so hard he lost balance, tumbling to the floor. “Ow! Sean! Are you nuts? No one wants to see that! Put on some clothes.” This had better not be what the dog wanted to show him. He had half a mind to… No, that was too mean. And creepy.
“C'mon, man. It's nothing you haven't seen in the locker room. Besides, I have to do this. You'll see.”
Lewis struggled to his feet, still with a paw over his eyes. “I think I'm done seeing for today.” He sighed, uncovered his eyes, but pointedly stared at the floor. “Why are you naked?”
“It's for my masquerade costume!” Sean's tail wagged so hard, it created a breeze against Lewis' pants.
“You are not going as a nudist.” Lewis uncovered his eyes but kept his gaze pointedly at the floor. He'd never have known it from the catastrophe outside this room, but Sean had carpet. It wasn't too bad, really, looked like it might have stepped from the 70s. It was a neutral green shade, sort of like… Hmm. Come to think of it, Lewis would hide moldy carpet too. “Are you decent yet?”
“You'll love it! You just need to have an open mind, that's all I ask.”
So he was just going to ignore him, then. All right then, that was how it had to be. “I think I'm happy with my closed mind, thank you very much.”
Sean sighed. “Okay, I know it's weird. But it'll make sense when you see it, I promise.”
“Do you, like, need me to watch you put it on or something?” He felt brave enough to look up, but he skipped right past the wolf's midsection and watched the fan spin. This counted as looking at him, didn't it? At least he saw Sean's face, with its pinned-back ears and sad eyes. Were all canines so bad at hiding their emotions? It was almost enough to make him feel guilty. But not quite.
“In a manner of speaking… it's a two-person costume.” Sean gulped. “C-can you take off your shirt and get on all fours?”
“Please, just humor me. I promise it'll make sense. Just keep an open mind, like I said.”
Lewis shook his head. He couldn't believe he was agreeing to this. But Sean looked so sad and he didn't want to keep seeing that pathetic mournful expression. “All right. But I am not taking off my pants. You can forget it.”
“I'm not asking for you to, just your shirt.”
He couldn't take any more. Lewis shrugged out of his shirt, threw it toward the bed, and got on all fours. “There, you happy?”
“That's great!” Sean's tail wagged up a storm again, right into Lewis' nose.
“Ow! Watch where you put that thing!”
“Sorry!” Sean jumped to the bed and grabbed a modest-size box that had been sitting on top of it. “Instructions say it takes about five minutes to put on. They said it's kind of complicated.”
“Well, let's get it over with then. Let's try it on.”
Suddenly a cold, wet sensation pricked his back and ran down the side of his arms. “What did you just do?” Lewis asked. Some sort of greenish liquid that smelled of spearmint saturated his fur and cleared his nostrils. “This stuff is strong! What are we, a peppermint factory?”
“Nope!” And just like that, Sean sat on him.
“The hell?!” Lewis pivoted his shoulders as hard as he could, but that dog held a tight grip. “Is this some sort of sick joke? You get any closer and you'll regret it!”
“It's part of it, just hold on!” Sean pressed his seat firmly between Lewis' shoulders and locked his legs tight against the puma's arms. “I feel like I'm in a messed up cowboy film.”
“You feel like it? How do you think I feel, you—guh!” Something was not right. The wolf had been applying pressure to his arms, so naturally he had exerted pressure back, but suddenly he didn't notice it anymore. His arms felt stiff, and oddly thick. And the wolf's leg merged into his paw. “Sean! What's happening!”
“Wow, that's… weird.” The wolf made a strange sound. Lewis' arm moved against his will, at a nauseating angle he was sure would break it. Instead, on the way back down, it popped back into place. His paw, mottled tan and black now, puffed out as his fingers shortened and his thumb slid up his wrist.
“Get off get off get off!” Lewis tried to throw him off again, but a sharp pain stopped him. Both puma and wolf howled simultaneously.
“You'll throw my leg out of joint! Stop!”
“Your leg? That's my arm!” But the more he looked at it, the less it looked like an arm at all and instead resembled a canine leg with puma paws. “Sean, what did you do?”
“I told you! We're trying out my costume!”
“No, you creep! What is it?”
Sean tapped his chin. “Well, there could be some side effects… I didn't read all of the instructions. Just kind of skimmed them, you know?” He shrugged.
“I'm going to kill you!”
Just then he lurched as his rear legs buckled and straightened, lifting him a foot or so off the floor. His… whatever they were in the front lengthened along with it, so he stood level. “What's happening?” Lewis tried to turn his head, but it felt oddly stiff, and he couldn't see back there. And then something shifted and his pants ripped.
“Uh...” Sean turned around. “That is the weirdest tail I have ever seen.”
“Is that all you have to say? Seriously?! Do you know how much those pants cost?” Lewis took a deep breath, the deepest he'd ever taken. Maybe it was because of the stress of whatever was happening, but his lung capacity felt… bigger. “Sean, why didn't you read the instructions?”
“I thought I did… enough.”
Lewis shook his head. Or tried to. It wouldn't move. He couldn't feel a neck anymore, and Sean's body felt awfully close. “Sean! You idiot! If I get out of this, I'm gonna—” He couldn't finish. With a gasp, his air supply was cut off, and his voice box crushed into the monstrous torso he was becoming.
“Just trust me, okay? I promise it'll...” Sean's voice grew more and more muffled, like someone was turning his volume down with a knob until not only the wolf but everything else was muted. Instead, a rushing filled his skull, a thousand times more intense than picking up a shell at the beach and holding it to your ear, and easily twice as relaxing. His body continued to shift and pop, increasing in size as their masses converged into one form, but the steady rush of blood and rhythmic breathing of Sean above and within him was so relaxing.
But not entirely. Panic competed with the mind-numbing sensation as the changes progressed. He twisted his face into a snarl as his brain, and finally his eyes and nose, were pushed into their new body.
Sean rubbed his paws over where his friend's face had been a moment before. There was nothing, just thick and smooth tan fur from below Sean's chest, down between his front legs and, presumably, on his belly. It contrasted nicely with the black fur of his back, which gave way to a long yet bushy tail. “Um, Lewis? You there?” There was no mouth with which to answer, so no reply came. “Maybe I should have read the instructions...”
You think?! Lewis' voice came like an echo in the back of his mind. What did you do to me, you idiot! I swear I'm gonna kill you if we ever get out of this!
“I'm so sorry, Lewis. I didn't think this would happen!”
Sean's puma-like foreleg rose against his will, and his tail twitched involuntarily. Well, think next time! And in the meantime, get us out of this!
Sean forced his leg back down against the protestations of Lewis and took an unsteady step forward. Walking was weird. It kind of felt like walking on all fours, but at the same time as though he had two legs like normal but with some awkward ambulatory weight attached to his rear. “Uh, a little help here?”
Forget it! I'm not helping you until we get out of this mess!
“But the antidote is in another box in the closet! Come on, you've got to help me out. Besides, you're kind of stuck here too.”
Fine. But you'll owe me big.
“Yay!” Sean pumped his arm. He had full control over that, he noted happily. At least he could reach for things. “I'll count off steps. One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four.”
With their haphazard march, they made it to the closet, but not without a couple near-falls. Yeah, it was more like having a weird thing attached to your back than anything else. But this addition had another mind in charge of it.
He rooted around in the closet for the antidote, and then it dawned on him. He leaned back and tried to will his body back toward the center of the room.
What? Do you have it yet? I can't see anything.
“Uh, you're going to hate me for this, but...”
“I, uh, might have had the antidote shipped to Craig's house. He's giving it to me after the masquerade.” He patted his back. “I guess that means you're stuck with me until then! It'll be fun!”
But oh, he was sure he'd regret changing him back.
Hmm, maybe there was a way not to. Well, he had a day to think about it. Meanwhile… “Let's get practicing!”
A puma comes over to see his friend's new costume and gets more than he bargained for! But what did he expect? Wolves are silly and don't read.