Furry on the Outside by Cashew Lou
Summary: A simple player's fantasy.
My humble thanks to the following players for allowing
me to use their characters in this story, listed below alphabetically by
Bel Inconnu RF Heynis
Berios Jamal Hannah
BigBlueFox Karsten Auchter
Huskee Bob Drake
Jedd Al Jones
T'Chall Dave Wilson
Woulfe Chris Tom
Connecting to furry.org...
Connected, waiting for response from FurryMUCK...
"Come on, come on..."
When the issue at hand was logging onto FurryMuck, Cashew Lou's player
not possess patience as a virtue. To save the writer hundreds of
keystrokes and countless migraines, we shall from this point forward refer
to Lou's player as Marty--for that is his name, and changing it to
the innocent would truly be an exercise in futility.
Welcome to FurryMUCK...
"Finally!" he exclaimed, blowing the hair out of his eyes for the
thousandth time that day. He reached for a hairbrush, checked his watchfor
list, and started typing...
Cashew Lou awakened, and in a motion that was more reflex than anything
else, reached behind him and snatched his toque from his headboard. From
the toque he pulled his Hunter green scarf, and with a flourish, wrapped it
around his neck, draping it over his furry white chest. He pulled the
snow-white toque firmly onto his head, making sure the bright red Canadian
maple leaf faced forward. Sure, he could have cut slits into it to allow
his ears to poke through, but that would defeat the purpose of a toque, now
wouldn't it? His ears would still be cold!
Now fully attired, Lou swung his legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing
the sleep out of his eyes. He slid open a panel on the headboard and
pulled out a half-full oilcan of Foster's lager. He took a long swig of
the lukewarm, mostly flat beer.
"Breakfast of champions, eh!" he muttered to himself, grinning. He
stifled a small belch and placed the distinctive blue can back in the
compartment of the headboard. There was still some left-no sense wasting
Thus prepared, the shaggy grey wolf padded his way out of the room, to see
who was out and about.
His first stop was Jedd's place; this was nearly always Lou's first
since Jedd's was directly outside Lou's door. Hmmm, he thought. Nobody
here, not even any sleepers.
A similar scenario awaited him at his next stop. He wandered into Annwn,
the home of his fellow wolf, Bel Inconnu. Bel was there, but he was fast
asleep. This wasn't much of a surprise to Lou; Bel's player was a
student who always seemed in a frantic scramble to finish his Master's
degree. As a result, Bel was rarely awake. Lou gently scritched Bel
between his scarlet-tipped ears and then padded out quietly, leaving his
friend's slumber undisturbed.
He quickly stepped through Jedd's again, the hub of Lou's known
universe. Much like ancient Rome, most roads led here. Lou breezed
through swiftly, momentarily noting the place was still empty. No matter;
he was just passing through this time--he had a pretty good idea where the
action was. On to the Doghouse!
Marty leaned back from his keyboard for a moment, limbering up his
fingers. Entering the Doghouse this time of day--early evening, Furry
time--always called for some quick typing. He typed "D" and hit the enter
The second he entered, Cashew Lou was inundated by a friendly assault of
hugs. He returned the kindness to every fur in the room--in no certain
order, Jedd, Huskee, BigBlueFox, Berios and T'Chall were all there.
Muttering under his breath, Lou's player noticed just a little too
that he had typed "hgu T'Chall" instead of "hug
T'Chall." He hit enter a
split second before he could correct it, and his computer screen admonished
him with "Huh? (Type "help" for help.)" Apparently user-friendly in this
case meant smart-alecky as well.
He chuckled at the irony--he could type T'Chall's name with no problem,
but then he'd screw up a simple word like "hug." Ah, well; it
a thousand times before, and most certainly would happen again. He shook
his head, hair falling into his eyes once again, and typed the command
"Well, you've got to sort through a lot of rocks before you find
Huskee's comment made it clear to Lou that he had jumped in on the
of a conversation already in progress--a fairly common occurrence on Furry.
He slowly released his embrace with T'Chall and asked, "So what's
topic of discussion tonight?"
BigBlueFox, well suited to the name in his one hundred foot-tall form,
turned to Lou and said, "Jedd has been sorting out artists applying to
Berios smiled. "And he's been turning most of them
Jedd hopped over to Berios and poked him.
"Not all of them...I don't set all the standards, you know."
"Well," Lou said, rubbing the back of his neck with his paw,
probably easier to recognize those standards when you're a good
T'Chall nodded in agreement.
"And some of the best artists are in this room."
Jedd ran towards Lou and jumped into his arms, Lou deftly catching him in
midair. Jedd gave him a snug as only a pine marten can. "You know," Jedd
said, "turning artists away is the hardest thing I have to do sometimes."
Huskee nodded, scratching his belly. "But if you don't, SCFA
like a lot of the other furry artist networks...."
"How's that?" T'Chall asked.
Huskee sighed and rolled his eyes. "Nothing but stick figures and anime
Lou shuddered at the thought. "No, thanks!"
"Besides that, Jedd," Berios said, "were there any promising prospects?"
BigBlueFox began bouncing excitedly. Berios' question to Jedd went
unnoticed, unfortunately; a one hundred foot-tall fox (a blue one, yet)
bouncing with excitement can tend to distract one's attention.
Jedd--I almost forgot! Give Lou the thing!"
"Hey, yeah--the thing!" Huskee and T'Chall exclaimed,
almost in unison.
"Thing...?" Lou said, blinking. He turned to Berios. "What thing?"
"Don't look at me," Berios shrugged. "First I've
Lou looked around the room, scanning the faces of his friends. Huskee,
BigBlueFox and T'Chall looked at him with goofy grins. Berios shook his
head and shrugged again. Lou looked down at Jedd, still cradled in his
arms. "All right, Jedd, let's see 'the thing.'"
Jedd put his paws together and brought them up to his eye level. Even
though they were empty, he peeked into his paws as if they concealed
something of immeasurable value. He snickered and peeked into them again.
Lou craned his head down for a closer look.
"Hey, now!" Jedd said, playfully closing his paws tightly. He swiveled
his head around and his gaze met Huskee's. "Do you think he's
"Is anyone ever ready for anything?" was Huskee's cryptic
him the thing, Jedd."
All the other furs were now surrounding Lou and Jedd, crowding in a tight
circle. All save one, that is; BigBlueFox scooped up the entire group in
his paws and placed them on his chest.
Jedd opened his paws. "Ta daaah!"
There was nothing there. Everyone else exhaled, their bodies relaxing at
the sight of Jedd's anticlimactic revelation.
"Thanks, Jedd, but I've already got one of those!" Lou
Jedd closed his eyes, concentrated for a moment, and produced the thing
from thin air! All the furs regarded it in respectful silence.
"Okay, I'll bite..."Lou began.
Jedd errfed and jumped in shock, not wanting to be bitten.
"That is to say," Lou started again, rolling his eyes,
"I'll be the one to
ask the obvious. What is it?"
Berios picked the thing from Jedd's paw and examined it. "It
looks like a
marble to me." He returned the thing to Jedd. "No big deal."
Huskee nodded. "It would appear that way, wouldn't it?"
T'Chall picked the thing up and held it right in front of Lou's eyes.
"That's exactly what it looks like, isn't it?" he said with a
grin, returning the marble to Jedd.
BigBlueFox's body quaked beneath them as he laughed. "No big
Lou set Jedd down at his feet. He then turned and extended his right paw
to Berios. "Glad to meetcha--shall we carpool to the Clueless Anonymous
The big polar wolf chuckled, shook Lou's paw, and hugged him.
Jedd held the marble out in his paw. "It's yours if you want
Lou regarded the marble, his eyebrows lowered in slight confusion. "So is
this marble to imply I have a few missing...?"
Huskee chuckled. "I think I speak for all present by pleading the fifth
Lou shot Huskee a quick glance--although he smiled as he did so. "Okay,
fair enough. But seriously, what's with the marble?"
"It's magic, to make a long story short," Jedd replied, and
all the other
furs--save Berios--nodded at his statement. "Although I'm not so
want it." He grinned.
Berios' eyes lit up as if something profound had just dawned on him.
"Okay...I think I've heard something about that marble." He
then paused and shook his head in negation. "I'm not too sure that
really want it either, Lou."
Being told how much he shouldn't want it of course made him want it
the more. Lou reached down and plucked the marble from Jedd's paw. He
held it up to the light, studying the swirling patterns in its interior.
"So what kind of magic? What's it do?"
T'Chall mumbled something like, "reality check," and just
"What was that?"
"Oh, nothing really, Lou. I think you'll enjoy it."
Huskee and BigBlueFox looked as though they weren't really sure they
agreed with this, but they remained silent.
"All right," Jedd said, "it's easy enough to make work.
Just grip it
firmly in your paw...."
Lou did so.
All the furs staggered to regain their balance when BigBlueFox's body
shifted beneath them. "Umm, Jedd, maybe this should be done on the floor,
don't you think?"
Jedd rolled his eyes at his own absentmindedness. "Of course! Thanks for
reminding me. If you would do the honors, BBF..."
BigBlueFox once again gathered the furs into his paws and deposited them
safely on the floor.
Lou's eyes squeezed shut as he concentrated on the potential
his paw. "Now what, Jedd? Do I chant? Draw a circle on the floor? Light
Jedd, seeing Lou's eyes were closed, looked at all the other furs
surrounding him, his eyes silently asking them a question. Although there
was some hesitation, they all eventually nodded. Jedd returned their nods
and turned to Lou again.
"There's nothing fancy to it. Just have your player type a
command, that's it...."
"And that would be what?"
Jedd let out a small sigh. "Okay, here it is. Type gohome, slash,
gohome, all as one word, with no spaces."
As if by hidden signal, as soon as Jedd finished speaking, all the smaller
furs took two paces back from Cashew Lou.
Marty typed the command and hit the enter key. The lag timer on his
screen counted to four seconds and then stopped. Nothing appeared on his
screen to indicate that the command had actually done anything; then again,
no error message had popped up, either. He leaned back in his chair and
sighed, sweeping a tuft of hair out of his eyes.
Lou's eyes opened, and he saw that nothing had changed. He laughed
opened his paw, rolling the marble back and forth. "Okay, guys, really
funny, hardy har har...."
All the other furs gasped, their eyes widening in horror. "Don't
marble!" Jedd yelled with a sense of extreme urgency. "Not NOW!"
Lou blinked as if he had been slapped, and his paw wrapped back around the
Barely audible crackling sounds began to fill the Doghouse.
Marty's computer screen starting glowing a sickly radium green.
Instinctively, he raised his right arm to shield his eyes; a smart move, as
the glow intensified and paled to a blinding white. The light pulsed from
his screen with the intensity of a thousand photocopier bulbs, casting his
silhouette diffusely on the bookcases behind him. He braced himself for
whatever was to happen next, his heart triphammering in his chest.
Lou's body seemed to be surrounded by a swirling firestorm of
A cacophony of noise swelled, assaulting the walls and the inhabitants of
the Doghouse with what sounded like popcorn being popped at the 200-decibel
level. The wolf's tense body was stiff as a telephone pole, and he was
scared half to death.
For a miniscule period of time, impossible to measure with modern
instruments, both Cashew Lou and his player, for all intents and purposes,
ceased to exist.
It took Lou a few moments to gather up the courage to open his eyes; when
he finally did, he found himself seated in a green high backed chair in
front of a computer screen. The chair was still warm, having been occupied
by another body just seconds before. He shifted around in the chair,
taking in his surroundings. Bookcases, animation art and posters of wolves
filled every available inch of space in the room. A nametag taped to the
cramped and crowded computer desk heralded its owner's name--Marty
Lou's lower jaw dropped open.
Lou's player, too, returned to consciousness at more or less the same
instant. He shook his head, as if to clear it; he felt disoriented and
light-headed, as if he had been drugged. He had landed on his back on a
hard floor, and his tailbone sang a song of pain to him. As his bleary
eyes cleared, they widened at what they saw. He had an audience observing
him from above--a red fox, a chubby Siberian Husky, a towering white wolf
and what appeared to be a weasel of some sort. His muddled and disjointed
mind did not recognize the friends he had known for quite a while, and it
immediately decided it was dreaming.
His gaze continued to scan the room, and it happened upon (for how could
it NOT?) a one hundred foot-tall blue fox.
Marty uttered a choked whimpering sound at this incredible sight, and his
eyes rolled back into his head. He slumped into a prostrate unconscious
Although Lou was flabbergasted, he was having a much easier time dealing
with his new surroundings than his player was. After all, Lou had the
advantage of having lived in the more surreal environment of FurryMuck. He
turned in the chair, surveying the room around him. So this is Real Life!
He thought. He swiveled about, nodding. Yup. This is Real Life.
"Now what?" He said, to no one in particular.
Although the exposure to a completely new plane of existence had its
charm, something in the back of his mind told him the visit should only be
a temporary one. He tucked the marble into the front fold of his toque and
turned to the keyboard, hoping to ask Jedd what the duration of his stay
should be, and how we was to return.
No matter what he did, Lou couldn't get a response from the computer.
hit every key, first individually, then in countless combinations-he even
tried hitting them all at once. Not having a computer himself, he was
pretty much at a loss as to what to do. He tried scooting the mouse
around, which of course did nothing. He sat back and let out a sigh of
As he drummed his pawfingers on the mouse pad, trying to reason what to do
next, his player's address book caught his eye. He thumbed through it,
idea brewing in his mind.
Lou knew for a fact that Bel Inconnu's player lived in the same town
his. Sure enough, there was the address, listed under the H's. He
down the address on a post-it note and tucked it in his toque, next to the
marble. He pawed through the local phone directory, tearing the city map
out of it neatly. Map in paw, he found his way out of the room, up the
basement stairs and out the back door. His lupine instincts helped him
quickly get his bearings in this strange place, and he headed in a
Little did the unsuspecting citizens of Ames, Iowa realize that a furry
was in their midst. A good many of them would soon find out exactly what
it was like.
Out of consideration for Lou's player, BigBlueFox morphed himself into
six-foot form; none of the furs wanted for the mind-scrambled hyooman to
regain consciousness, only to pass out again from way too much visual
input. They all gathered around him--Jedd hopped onto his chest; Huskee
knelt and placed a paw on his forehead; T'Chall fanned him.
Marty finally came to, his eyes slowly focusing on the black fox paw
waving in his face. As he blinked, trying to clear his head, Jedd leaned
in, nose to nose with the groggy player.
"Hi there!" he said, a big ol' pine marteny grin on his
"Um...hi," Marty said, staring into Jedd's eyes.
"You're Jedd, right?"
He propped himself up on one elbow, indicating each individual fur as he
spoke. "And you're T'Chall...Huskee...Berios...and BigBlueFox,
not quite so big now."
The furs nodded and smiled as he identified them.
"And your being here can only mean one of two things: one, I'm
T'Chall reached down and pinched his side.
Huskee chuckled. "You're not dreaming."
"Okay, strike theory number one. That means I'm in Furry, even
that, so far as I used to know, is impossible." He picked up Jedd, placing
him on the ground, and stood up. "And that raises about a zillion
"Forget the questions," BigBlueFox said, "enjoy your visit!"
T'Chall said, "Well, the questions could be part of his
Berios walked up to him, offering an oil can of Foster's. "Have
Marty took the oversized can from the polar wolf, not sure whether to open
it or not. "I dunno...I have work in the morning. I try to stay
clear-headed during the week...."
"Look at it this way," Berios said, putting a hand on the
shoulder. "You've just been transported to a parallel dimension.
warrants having a beer. I know if that was to happen to me, I'd have one
in a hurry." Producing another, apparently from nowhere, Berios opened his
own beer and took a swig.
Staring down dumbly at the beer can in his hand, Marty muttered, "I
dunno...what with work in the morning, and all..." He sniffed for a
moment, his nose wrinkling. "Why does it smell like feet in here...?"
Huskee, enjoying a beer of his own, chimed in. "That would be my sock
collection." He indicated it with a wave of his paw. Sure enough, there
was a scattered pile of socks, next to a makeshift bed of tattered
blankets. There were dress socks, sport socks, socks of nearly every color
and description, socks in various states of disintegration, a few of them
tied in knots.
As he scanned the sock pile, Marty nodded. "So, the question I have in
mind right now is probably one of those I should forget, like BBF said...?"
"Probably." Huskee shrugged. "I'm into socks. It's
His stared into space, with a dreamlike glazed look in his eyes.
During this conversation, Jedd had taken several paces back. With a glint
in his eye, he charged toward the unsuspecting human. About three feet
away from him, Jedd leaped.
Marty dropped his can of beer as Jedd bounced off his stomach, falling to
the ground with a thump. Jedd looked up at him, shaking his head. "Huh!
"What? What'd I do?" The player reached down and patted
"Are you all right?"
"He's fine," T'Chall said, shaking his head and laughing.
"But I'm pretty
sure he thought you were going to catch him. Lou always does."
Jedd backed up again. "That's right, I'm fine. Just be ready
He charged once more, and as he jumped, Marty caught Jedd easily, pulling
the fur in close to his body. Jedd smiled and snugged his human friend.
"There! Much better!"
As if on cue, all the other furs closed in. T'Chall padded over and
wrapped his arms around Lou's player, cuddling himself tightly against
Marty and Jedd. Huskee and BigBlueFox approached from either side, joining
the warm hug. Berios approached from behind, lightly scritching the
player's head with his big paw.
As they wrapped him in warmth, Berios' scritching making his body tingle,
Marty all of a sudden couldn't have cared less that he had to work in the
One thought nagged at the back of his mind, though: T'Chall had
Lou earlier--just where was he?
The first thing Lou noticed once he was outdoors was the absolute
onslaught of smells that invaded his sensitive nostrils. Since there were
far fewer vehicles on Furry, the bitter scent generated by internal
combustion engines was the first to catch his attention. He couldn't put
name to it, but he knew he didn't care for it much. Beneath the chemical
smell, he detected far more pleasant aromas--a whiff of a fellow canine
here, a hint of pine there--even the snow blanketing the ground had a
sharp, clean smell to it.
He padded eastward down 24th Street, heading for Grand Avenue, one of
Ames' busiest thoroughfares. He strolled at a leisurely pace, his paws
clasped behind him, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells he possibly
could--although at the same time, he was essentially oblivious to
everything going in around him.
Needless to say, a six foot, five inch anthropomorphic wolf walking down
the sidewalk in a peaceful Iowa town attracted no small amount of
attention. Tires screeched as distracted drivers scrambled to avoid
collisions; curious residents pressed their noses to their living room
windows, their startled gasps fogging the panes of glass. As Lou turned
the corner, heading south down Grand Avenue, a patron of the 24th and Grand
Kwik Shop stood with his mouth agape as 90 Octane Unleaded gushed out of
his car's overfull gas tank, spattering and destroying his new
Several blocks later, Lou was still totally unaware of the stares and
double takes aimed in his direction as he passed. Reality was about to hit
home, though, as a woman walking her dog turned from 14th Street onto
Grand, suddenly finding herself face to muzzle with the (unbeknownst to
her) friendly Canadian wolf.
Lou, studying the map of Ames as he walked, was momentarily distracted by
the sound of a barking dog. Looking up, he saw the woman, about fifteen
feet away. The color drained from her face as his gaze met hers. Frozen
in place, she was obviously scared half to death. Lou turned to look
behind him, to see what could possibly be inspiring such a reaction.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary there, he spun to face the woman again.
Her eyes widened once more--it then dawned on Lou that she was scared of
He opened his muzzle, preparing to explain that he meant no harm, when he
noticed her dog, a little wisp of a thing, snarling and barking at the end
of its leash. A fellow canine, reacting to him in this manner, was just a
little too much for him. His heart sank as he realized that he obviously
didn't belong here. He hung his head and shuffled on, giving the woman
her dog a wide berth.
Bad soon turned to worse. He dragged his hindpaws, the map in his paw
flapping in the breeze. Paying little attention to where he was going, he
crossed 13th Street against the light. A burgundy pickup with the right of
way barreled down 13th Street, its driver honking and gesturing wildly.
Lou slowly looked up to see the truck closing in on him.
In a brief moment of confusion and panic, Lou transformed, and the mayhem
began in earnest.
For the first time in a long time, Marty felt completely relaxed, melting
at the sensation of the warm embrace. He closed his eyes and smiled,
murmuring in a low voice, "Mmmm...I could stay here forever."
All the furs surrounding him murred softly in agreement.
He opened his eyes. "No, really, I mean it. Not just the hug, although
this is really nice. Really, really, unbelievably nice, about the nicest
sensation I think I've felt...well, ever. But I mean more than just
I'm talking lock, stock and barrel here. Chucking the whole 'reality'
thing and settling in here. Whaddaya think...?"
"It's not the first time we've heard something like that, is
BigBlueFox asked his fellow furs.
Huskee nodded. "Some are hesitant to leave, that's for
"Kicking and screaming, they go!" BigBlueFox added. "But they do go,
that's the rule."
Berios considered this. "But do some, well...react not so well to coming
"Oh, yeah," T'Chall said, scritching Jedd's head as he
snuggled up to
Lou's player. "Some kick and scream trying to get out of
"Well, since that's 'the rule,' as you say, when do I have to
Marty looked down at Jedd. He wasn't sure why, but something told him
was the fur with the answers in this case. Heaven knows he had had the
answers in the past! "Not that I'm in any hurry, you
Jedd shrugged. "That's pretty much up to Lou, and when he wants
"No offense, Marty," T'Chall said, nuzzling the player's
neck, "but I miss
A shocked look of realization swept across Marty's face, and he
backward. The other furs loosened their embrace, backing up a bit, and
Berios caught Lou's player as his knees buckled. Jedd hopped from the
human's arms to the ground. In an almost breathless whisper, Marty said,
"You mean he's...?"
Jedd cleared his throat and started to explain the marble.
The driver of the burgundy pickup, in the wrong place at the wrong time,
stared in slack-jawed amazement as he watched the anthropomorphic wolf
directly in front of him (an incredible sight in its own right) simply
Well, no, that wasn't entirely the case. The space previously
the wolf was now empty, but a whole lot of space in the surrounding area
was now quite full. He stomped on the brakes and leaned forward, craning
his neck so he could look up through the windshield.
Towering almost directly above the pickup truck was Cashew Lou, now one
hundred feet tall--at the moment, practically the tallest object in the
entire city of Ames. Lou had seen what appeared to be an oncoming fatal
injury; his knee-jerk reaction had been to grow--and fast.
Just before the pickup driver hyperventilated and collapsed to his right
into the passenger side of the truck cab, his gibbering mind registered one
thought: His clothing grew, too! That scarf has got to be fifty feet
long! Then his circuits, having had enough, mercifully shut him down.
Lou stepped out of the way of traffic as best he could; however, his doing
so made little difference. The fair citizens of Ames are funny that way:
Plunk a one hundred-foot carnivore into their midst, and they just fall
apart. Silly humans!
He once again considered explaining himself, and to express that he meant
no harm. It didn't take long to deduce that since it didn't work at his
normal size, it sure as heck wasn't going to work when he was huge. Why
was he making such a mess of this? Just when did a harmless stroll turn
into a disaster? One thing was certain: He didn't belong here. As this
thought hit home, the downhearted wolf would have given his tail for a
friendly face. He sighed, resolving to make things right as soon as
He discovered one advantage of his current size: He could cover one heck
of a lot of ground a whole lot more quickly. Lou made his way down Grand
Avenue toward the east side of town. Bel Inconnu's player was in the
shower, having no clue what was headed his way.
The following day's Ames Tribune reported that the thirty-eight-car
at the corner of 13th and Grand was the largest in Ames' history.
there were no serious injuries.
"...so all he needs is the marble and the same command you used to switch
things around the first time." There was a moment of silence after Jedd
finished his explanation. He pulled a pawful of PineCone Bites (tm) from
thin air and ate one.
Marty nodded, a lot of things falling into place in his mind. "What if
Lou were to lose the marble?" He glanced around the room, noticing a hint
of apprehension in the air. None of the furs would look him in the eye;
they either became suddenly interested in a spot on the wall, or they bowed
their heads. "Well?" he asked again. "What would happen?"
T'Chall turned his head, meeting the human's gaze. "He won't
"Well, just supposing...?"
Jedd shook his head. "It's not going to happen, so let's not
Berios stroked his chin with his paw, mulling the question over.
guessing it can't be anything good."
No one said anything.
Marty decided it was in his best interest to drop the subject, as it was
obviously making everyone in the room uncomfortable. "Think I'll go
Lou's room," he said, finally.
"I'll come with you," T'Chall said.
As the two of them left the doghouse, Marty whispered to T'Chall,
was that all about?"
"I'm not sure exactly how it works," T'Chall said, in a
hushed tone, "but
I have a feeling you'd get your wish, about wanting to stay here.
"Well, that's no so horrible..."
The two of them came to the door to Lou's place. T'Chall turned the
and swung it open. "You may think that now, but it would probably knock
things out of balance. Things would be out of whack here and in your
reality. That's the best way I can put it. But don't worry--like Jedd
said, it's best not to think about it. Lou's a good fur--I'm sure
won't be any problems." He gestured toward the room's interior
paw. "After you."
Marty knew the place was big beforehand--after all, he helped put it
together--but man alive! You could land the Concorde in here! He walked
across the deep Hunter green shag carpet, thinking to himself how wonderful
it would feel against his bare feet. He stopped for a moment and hastily
removed his tennis shoes and socks. He noted with a little disgust that
one of the socks had a hole in it. Oh well, a little something for
Huskee's collection. He stood again, scrunching his toes into the
It felt better than he had imagined.
He crossed the vast expanse of carpet, scanning the impressive collection
of furry art on the walls. As he reached Lou's writing desk on the far
side of the room, he felt a blush rise to his cheeks. Lou had a framed
picture of him on the desk, right next to his thesaurus.
He had to back up a ways from the desk to take in all of Lou's other
framed photograph--bolted to the wall above the desk was an immense
portrait of John Steinbeck, twenty feet high by sixteen feet wide. He
recognized the photo from a compilation of Steinbeck's work he had, the
author wearing his characteristic half-scowl, half-grin expression.
T'Chall strolled across the room to join him. He stood at Marty's
leaning back and studying the portrait with him. "Lou says having the
greatest writer who ever lived looking down on him like that inspires him
to do his best."
Still staring at the portrait, Marty said, "I agree that he's an
inspiration, but I'd be afraid I'd wake up in the middle of the night
be sacred witless!"
T'Chall laughed and gave Lou's player a hug. Still laughing, he
sputtered, "Just between you and me, I've had that happen! But you
used to it."
Entranced by the huge image, Marty wasn't so sure. He loved
writing, but he thought having that much Steinbeck staring down at him
would be daunting, at the very least. Yeeeeeeeesh!
Marty shuddered at the thought and walked over to Lou's bookcases.
were several shelves full of animation reference books, much like his own
setup back home. He noticed with some amusement, and no small amount of
envy, that Lou had several invaluable out-of-print tomes that his player
had been unable to track down. He pulled one from its shelf and scanned
its contents. It was a study of Tex Avery's work at MGM, in
had been unable to find anything but a French edition. He walked over to
the bed, book in hand, and began reading the introduction, understanding it
fully for the first time.
T'Chall pulled a book from the shelf, too, this one from the Steinbeck
section. He padded over to the bed and sat next to Lou's player. The
mischievous fox had a sly smile on his face. "If you like that,
love this!" He traded books with Lou's player, setting the Avery
Marty felt the rough texture of the book's surface. It looked as
had weathered several years without the benefit of a paper jacket, if it
had had one at all. Down its spine, it read, "Steinbeck East of
Eden." He chuckled. "Only one, huh? I've got four copies of
"You don't say!" T'Chall grinned and opened the book's
Marty gasped. The sucker was signed! He ran his fingers, very carefully,
over the ink that flowed from a pen once held by the great John Steinbeck.
His throat made a little whimpering sound as he did so. He closed the book
and hugged it to his chest.
"Needless to say," T'Chall said, "that's his pride and
Reluctantly handing the book back to T'Chall, Marty said, "Here,
better put it back. I'd feel horrible if something happened to it while
was in my hands."
"I knew you'd enjoy seeing it, though." He padded back to
bookshelves, carefully returning the precious tome to its place of honor,
first in the row of the Steinbeck novels. He then turned, his ears
twitching slightly. "I think we're about to have a
Marty's less perceptive human ears took a few seconds to detect
out of the ordinary, but then there it was: a muted thumping sound, slowly
getting louder. The south wall seemed to shudder almost imperceptibly; the
doorknob jiggled, making a small metallic rattling sound. Marty got up off
the bed and took a few steps toward the door. He stopped dead in his
tracks when he saw the entire south wall begin to open outward.
T'Chall's tail wagged happily, and he waved, looking way up above
Cashew Lou thundered through east Ames, doing his best to navigate using
side streets where he would create less panic. He winced at the sound of
wailing sirens behind him; not because their high-pitched whine his lupine
ears, but because it hurt to know he had created the chaos that made the
sirens necessary. He glanced above him repeatedly, feeling certain that
attack helicopters would soon be dispatched to bring him down, just like in
some grainy old black and white RKO horror movie.
As he approached the apartment complex where Bel Inconnu's player
Lou started shrinking to normal size. Two blocks later, he was six foot
five again and considerably less conspicuous. His pace slowed and his
shoulders slumped as he surveyed the cluster of gray buildings, each one
identical to the other. He reached into the fold of his toque and pulled
out the post-it note--checking to be sure the marble was still there--and
sighed when he saw the address contained no building number. This could
take forever! he thought, groaning.
He steeled his resolve and began the search.
Meanwhile, Bel Inconnu's player, whom we shall call RF since that is
name, yaddah yaddah yaddah, had finished his shower and was reading a
complex socio-linguistics assignment. He scratched his head, wishing for
an excuse to ditch the whole thing for a while. The Red Hot Chili Peppers
screamed something about musical aeroplanes from his stereo.
Even though he had just that moment been wishing for an escape, he
grumbled when there was a knock at the door. It seemed to him nearly all
the people he knew dropped in without any forward notice and stayed and
stayed and stayed--and like it or not, he did need to study.
RF walked to the door and peeked through the eyehole. All he could see
was a brown eye, distorted slightly by the fisheye lens, staring back at
him. He stood back and crossed his arms. "What do you want, and exactly
why should I care?"
Expecting a sarcastic response, RF was somewhat taken aback when a soft,
almost meek, voice replied, "Please. I need your help."
RF barely got the door open before Lou squeezed himself through,
immediately slamming and deadbolting it behind him. He faced Bel's
grabbing his hands, his eyes pleading. "Please tell me your computer is
RF, who adamantly refused to be fazed by anything the world had to present
to him, took it totally in stride that an anthropomorphic wolf was standing
in his entryway. "First thing's first," he said, "you
must be Cashew Lou.
I recognize you from your description."
Lou nodded, nervously wringing his paws.
"Okay, next thing, or things, I should say: I won't ask how you
here--that doesn't matter now. What I will ask is how I can help. I
also ask if you brought one of those famous hugs of yours."
Lou smiled, relieved to finally find a human who wasn't mortified by
existence. He wrapped his arms around RF and hugged him tightly.
just say I now know how curiosity killed the cat, right? I need to get
back to Furry, and fast."
Feeling Lou's body trembling against his, RF patted the shaggy wolf's
back, trying to comfort him. "Well, whatever's happened, I'm sure
be undone. I have a feeling we can't do it here, though...."
Slowly releasing RF from his embrace, Lou cocked his head to one side.
"Just a guess, but you're wanting me to log on as you,
Lou nodded, his right paw fiddling with the fringe of his scarf.
RF shook his head. "Can't do it. I don't know Marty's login
Disappointed in himself yet again, Lou looked down at the floor.
even have an idea," he murmured.
RF snapped his fingers and nodded, his eyes brightening. He began to put
on his coat. "We may not need it, after all. It'll be programmed
"Yeah. It's...well, I can't really explain it, but it helps a
you log on to FurryMuck. If we go to his computer, we won't need his
password--it'll enter automatically. Besides, even if I did know his
password, this electronic paperweight of mine can't handle
Lou looked up. "I don't think I can go out there again. I'm
I'll exactly be all that popular, you know?"
Although he had no idea what had transpired outside, RF could easily
visualize how most people would have reacted to Lou. "I could disguise
"Wait a minute!" Lou climbed onto a table standing to the right of the
door. He stood, folding his arms across his chest. He looked down and
He wasn't the easiest human to impress, but RF watched in wonder as
shrunk himself, dwindling down to four inches in height in less than a
minute's time. The human picked up the tiny wolf and gently placed him
his breast pocket. "Are you okay in there?"
"Just fine, eh!" Lou squeaked.
That problem solved, the two of them went outside to RF's car, on
way to solve yet another.
Neither of them had noticed that as Lou was shrinking, his toque was, too;
the marble had retained its size and fallen out, quietly dropping to the
carpet and rolling out of sight.
To his credit, Marty had adjusted enough to the FurryMuck environment to
not pass out this time. Standing, looming, towering in front of him was
the largest, shaggiest wolf he had ever seen or hoped to see. His gaze
reached up, up and up again; it was literally impossible to take the
gigantic, muscular black wolf in all at once. In his mind, Marty
fervently hoped the mountainous wolf wasn't hungry.
T'Chall, his tail still wagging enthusiastically, ran over and hugged
Woulfe's ankle--at least the part of Woulfe's ankle his outstretched
could take in. "How are you, Woulfe? Long time, no see!"
Woulfe sat on the floor, T'Chall still clinging to his ankle.
I'd stop in and say heyas to Cashew. Is he around?" The friendly
reached down and extended a mighty paw to T'Chall, who hopped into it.
Woulfe's arm swung upward, placing T'Chall on his broad chest. The
fox burrowed into the thick chest fur, disappearing from sight.
Relieved to see that T'Chall had not become an hors d'oeuvre, Marty
able to find his breath. "Nine hundred feet of wolf is a heck of a lot
more impressive in person than just a description of it on a computer
Woulfe smiled. "At least you didn't run screaming from the room.
of furs have that reaction, before I can even tell 'em I wont hurt
He scratched his head, as in thought. "Come to think of it, no
ever stood his ground in front of me this long." He reached down and
extended a paw finger. "Hi. I'm Woulfe."
Unsure as to exactly what he should do, Marty hugged the huge paw finger.
He held on for dear life as Woulfe lifted him high into the air, depositing
the tiny human on his chest, directly in front of his muzzle--a muzzle that
could swallow an entire neighborhood without having to chew first. The
thick fur was incredibly warm and soft beneath Marty's feet; the carpet
nothing compared to this. "We don't see too many humans around
Woulfe said, his big black nose sniffing.
From deep within Woulfe's chest fur came T'Chall muffled voice.
Marty, Woulfe. He's Lou's player. He's one of the few and far-between
"Player, huh? On the muck? That's odd." He sniffed
again. "You smell
like a good guy, anyway. How'd you get here? Where's Cashew?"
Marty opened his mouth to speak, thought twice about it, and closed it
again. "I have no idea where to begin, and I only know half of the story."
T'Chall's head popped up through Woulfe's fur. He looked at Woulfe
explained, "Jedd helped Lou pull the old switcheroo."
Woulfe nodded. "The Cashew Lou switcheroo." He chuckled.
massive body shook beneath him, Marty pinwheeled his arms for balance. He
overbalanced anyway, and fell back into a sitting position. Woulfe's paw
finger reached down and rubbed his back. "One of these days, I've
get me one of those marbles." He gently pushed Lou's player into a
position, flexing his tremendous chest as he did so. "Dig on in, if
T'Chall grinned. "Oh, yeah, do! It's fun!" The fox's
into the thick lupine pelage once again.
Marty rolled onto his stomach, using his hands to part the dense fur. The
forest of black fur was several feet deep, and as he dug down, the pleasant
scent of Woulfe's musk surrounded him. He finally reached the giant's
skin, and spreading his arms wide, he scritched vigorously and deeply.
Woulfe murred in response, the deep bass of his voice rumbling through his
chest. Marty hugged himself tightly to his giant friend, listening to his
happy murring and the beating of his big heart.
Buried as he was beneath a blanket of black wolf fur, Marty felt a sheen of
sweat covering his body.
(The author would like to respectfully request that his readers abstain
from using, however tempting they might be, any references to Martin
Woulfe's paw stroked through his chest fur, rubbing his human and
friends, covering them with warmth and comfort. Marty could feel the
euphoric, lightheaded sensation of sleep coming on, a wide smile of
contentment on his face.
He was about to find out as it is in real life, so it is on the muck: You
can almost never get a good nap in when your body is ready for one.
Huskee walked in the door at just that moment. He couldn't walk much
farther, since the majority of open space in the place was currently filled
with Woulfe. "Hey, Woulfe," Huskee said with a wave.
"T'Chall and Marty
wouldn't be in there somewhere, would they?"
T'Chall made his way through the thick fur over to the nearly dozing
human. "Hey. Hey!"
Marty snapped wide-awake with a quick jerk. "What? What?!"
"I think Huskee wants to talk to us."
Marty made his way to the surface of Woulfe's chest fur, his hair all
tousled and fluffed. "Hey, Husk, come join us! Plenty of room!"
Huskee reached behind his back, first with one paw, then with the other,
trying in vain to scratch an unreachable itch. He arched his back and
growled in pleasure as Woulfe obliged him with a giant claw.
"Ahhhhhhhh--that hit the spot. Thanks, Woulfe!" He turned his attention to
Marty and T'Chall. "Actually, you two need to join me. We're
Lou's ready to come back. We're getting some action from his
Both T'Chall and Marty sighed resignedly, nodding.
"I should head out, anyway, "Woulfe said, plucking his two friends from
his fur and lowering them to the floor. As he stood, he continued, "my
player's about ready to fall asleep at his keyboard." Woulfe stood,
hulking ninety-story frame once gain rising above them in all its macro fur
glory. "Let Lou know I stopped by."
With a wave, the friendliest giant wolf on the muck opened the south wall
and stepped out, closing it behind him.
Marty ran his fingers through his hair, trying to neaten it a little bit.
It didn't help much.
"Let's go, guys!" Huskee said. The three of them
walked out the door,
making their way through Jedd's place and into the Doghouse.
Once he had gotten to Marty's computer, and Lou had returned to his
size, RF made short work of rebooting the whole system and logging back on
to FurryMuck. Just as he had predicted, Marty's password to log on was
already in the MudSock program. No problem there.
RF addressed the furs in the Doghouse. "Lou is here, and Marty's
Time for a trade, don't you think?" he typed.
Jedd responded almost immediately, the lag notwithstanding. "All you have
to do is type 'gohome, slash, gohome,' all as one word. No, no, wait,
don't do that yet--Lou needs to be in front of the compute-r-have him do
it. And make sure he's holding on to the marble."
RF stood, turning the computer chair over to Lou. As Lou sat, his paw
reached into the front fold of his toque. All of a sudden the Canadian
wolf did not feel well at all.
"What do you mean, he lost it?"
These were the first words T'Chall, Huskee and Marty heard as they
the Doghouse. Jedd did not look pleased. "You've got to find
marten paced the floor, deep in thought. "He's got to find
"What happens if I get stuck here?" Marty asked. He felt as though all
the eyes in the room were on him, and felt a pang of guilt for no good
reason. "Look, I didn't really mean stuck here, I...I...." He
BigBlueFox interjected, "It's never happened before, so we have
No fur has ever lost the marble before."
Berios walked over and stood in front of the pacing marten. "Jedd, I
think I have an idea."
Jedd was still thinking out loud, in a low voice. "We've got to
the marble is gone forever--we don't have time to have them retrace their
steps. Maybe we could...? No..." Distracted in thought, he walked
directly into the polar wolf's legs. "Oop!" Jedd said,
"As I was saying," Berios said, bending down. He whispered at length into
Jedd's ear. Jedd's eyes brightened briefly, then his expression clouded
one of concern.
"I don't know..." he said.
Berios stood again. "I'm not so sure we may have a
Jedd nodded, and turned to holler at Lou at the keyboard. "Hold on a
minute! We may have a plan!" Turning to Berios, he said,
"it's your show
now. Would you care to enlighten the others?"
"Well, simply put, we can open a door between here and RL, for a few
seconds. It'll take the help of all of our players to pull this
glanced at Marty. "Present human company excluded, of course."
"How long will we be able to keep it open?" Huskee asked.
"However long the lag lasts. At last count, that was about three
Marty crossed his arms, shaking his head. "That's not nearly
"That's the tricky part," Jedd said quietly.
"Well," Berios explained, "we'll have to prop the door
something, something sizable."
"A chair, maybe?" BigBlueFox suggested.
"How about a sofa?" Marty asked, not really sure where to find one if it
"Not quite big enough." He looked at BigBlueFox. "Something really
big--something big enough to keep the door open and to withstand the
transfer of energy. And it would be better to have it be a someone, rather
than a something. A fur can react to any problems that could arise.
Furniture can't." His gaze remained locked on BigBlueFox.
"I see," BigBlueFox said, realizing the task at hand. "What do you need
me to do?"
Jedd, who had been conferring with his player, chimed in. "You should be
aware there is some risk involved, BBF. Possibly some serious risk."
Berios nodded gravely. "You may not come back."
"Well, like you said, we don't have a choice, do we?"
T'Chall could hold his silence no longer. He stepped in front of
BigBlueFox, waving his arms. "Okay, hold on. I'll do it."
"Ha!" Huskee laughed, almost instantly embarrassed at his
sorry, T'Chall. With all due respect, though, you're...um...a little
for the job."
T'Chall padded over to Huskee and hugged him. "No apology
Huskee, you know that. Besides, this sly fox just might have a trick or
two up his sleeve...." He said with a wink. "That is, if I wore sleeves.
"Besides, all of you are artists. I'm not. The muck needs your
Everyone in the room looked at T'Chall and said in unison,
"What does that have to do with anything?" Jedd asked, his hands on his
"It's not like that makes you expendable, T'Chall," Huskee
"Don't ever think that!"
"Okay, okay, point well taken," T'Chall said, glancing at
particular on the floor. He started pacing around the room, and as he
spoke, his gaze found the concerned eyes of his fellow furs. "Maybe that
whole artist thing was a slip of the tongue. And I don't feel
really, I've made a lot of close and dear friends here."
T'Chall padded over to Lou's player and put his paws on his
"Let's put it this way, then," he said, looking him straight in
with a smile, "I've got a lot more invested in this guy--and
Marty hugged T'Chall, completely at a loss for words. He tried to
back his tears, and did a pretty poor job of it. He let them come, and
T'Chall caressed and patted his back as he did so.
The other furs watched respectfully, occasionally shifting their weight
from one hindpaw to the other, fidgeting slightly. All of them knew an
important undertaking was about to take place, and needed to take place
soon; yet none of them wanted to be the one to interrupt the close
emotional exchange taking place between their vulpine and human friends.
As they hugged, T'Chall nuzzled Marty's neck, whispering to him,
it is I have to do, I'm proud to do it for you and my wolfy."
Marty sniffed and nodded, fresh tears running down his cheeks. He tried
to say something, but his voice had abandoned him for the moment. He
uttered a dry guttural croak. Giving up on speech for the time being, he
At long last, Berios cleared his throat. "As much as I hate to ruin the
moment, we really should get moving on this."
As they ended their embrace, T'Chall kissed his human friend lightly
the cheek. "You take care of wolfy for me, just in case..."
Marty stopped him short, shaking his head, pressing a finger to
muzzle. He had finally found his voice again. "Don't even say it,
nothing's gonna happen to you." He folded T'Chall's right paw
hands. "And I know you'll take better care of him than I ever
hands pressed against the fox's paw briefly, then released it.
T'Chall took five paces back and placed his paws on his hips. He
his eyes as transparent waves of distortion, like those created by heat
over a highway on a hot August afternoon, shimmered around his body. The
waves shifted from vertical to horizontal, swirling in a clockwise
direction, tiny flecks of light winking and glittering within the vortex.
This fox did indeed have a trick or two, sleeves or no sleeves.
The spinning of the vortex slowed, the lights within it blinking out one
by one. As the waves dissipated, T'Chall's body came into clear focus
again, with one major difference: the handsome red fox was now one hundred
ten feet tall.
He opened his eyes and looked down at his friends. "Let's get this
Jedd went from fur to fur, whispering commands. The furs, in turn,
hollered to their players. Keyboards the world over clacked away in
unison, opening an interdimensional door.
Cashew Lou, with RF peering over his shoulder, sat at his player's
keyboard, feeling helpless. "Am I supposed to be doing something?" he
RF shrugged. "I have no idea. Maybe you should ask Jedd...."
Just then, a blinding beam of light engulfed the both of them.
What appeared to be a small square of blue light appeared in the Doghouse,
directly in front of T'Chall. It expanded in all directions with a sound
similar to the tines of a fork being scraped against a dinner plate. Marty
gritted his teeth at the sound, watching the panel of light grow to nearly
five hundred feet in height, the blue light fading to reveal a solid
Huh! he thought. It's literally a door!
The door slowly opened with the scraping sound of rusty steel hinges.
Everyone in the Doghouse watched in wonder as it revealed a crystal clear
view of Marty's bedroom, where Lou and RF were staring back, their faces
plastered with identical looks of awe.
The door was already beginning to swing shut. T'Chall blocked the
entrance with his gigantic body, spreading his arms and pressing his paws
against the jambs on either side of him.
Marty quickly walked from fur to fur, hugging his friends one last time:
Berios, the powerful polar wolf; the kind and carefree BigBlueFox; the
snuggly and resourceful Jedd; and the portly, fun-loving Huskee. He
embraced them all, sniffing and dabbing at his eyes with the sleeve of his
He stood beneath T'Chall's towering body and addressed the whole
"I'll miss you guys--take good care of Lou for me." The furs
sniffing a little themselves.
Marty walked over to T'Chall's ankle and hugged it tightly; he could
the gigantic fox's body trembling with effort. He looked up to T'Chall,
his eyes streaming tears. "Thank you foxy," was all he could manage.
T'Chall swung his huge white-tipped tail down, brushing it gently against
Marty's body. He gave it a quick squeeze, snuffling in the fox's
Cashew Lou's player turned and crossed the threshold, leaving the
What greeted him in so-called 'reality,' however, was just as
for he found himself standing nose-to-muzzle with what he had previously
considered a figment of his imagination. He felt a little faint; it had
been a pretty full day!
Cashew Lou extended his shaggy arms to his player.
Marty's legs buckled; he fell into Lou's arms, emotionally spent. He
pressed his face to Lou's chest, his body wracked with sobs.
"Hey, now," Lou said, patting his player's back and resting
his chin on
the top of his head. "Things aren't so bad."
RF, suddenly feeling like a fifth wheel, tiptoed out of the room and
closed the door. The small door, that is!
Marty tried to gather himself, his breath hitching as he did so. He
rubbed his right cheek against Lou's chest fur. "Your being
furs being real--changes everything. I don't even know where to
Lou took his player's chin in his paw and turned his face upward.
afraid there isn't much time. I don't want anything to happen to
As he gazed into Lou's deep brown eyes, Marty shook his head.
course not. But there's so much I want to say to you, to ask
"We'll have to start and end with this, at least for now,"
Lou said, "I've
always been part of you, and you are part of me. We're in separate
in separate dimensions, but we share the same heart. Ask just about any
fur, or any player. They'll tell you it's true." He glanced
doorway. "Poor foxy--I've really got to go now."
Marty nodded, his eyes growing misty yet again.
Cashew Lou gave his player one last warm hug, giving him a tender wolfkiss
on the cheek. "Take care of yourself. Without you, I'm nothing,
removed his scarf and draped it over Marty's shoulders.
As Lou turned to leave, his player ran his hand over the scarf, feeling
its texture. Its REAL texture. He smiled at his lupine friend. "I feel
the same way about you, Lou. You take care, too--and take care of
as well. He's pretty special, too."
Lou nodded. "He sure is." With a wave and a gentle look of friendship
and good will, the Canadian wolf strolled through the doorway into his own
The groan of hinges followed soon afterward, and Marty knew his future
contact with FurryMuck would be through the computer screen and the
creative eye of his imagination. Still, he had seen more than most
The immense mahogany door closed, reducing itself to a tiny square of
light within a matter of seconds. Moments after that, it was gone forever.
On the smaller door to Marty's bedroom came a soft knocking.
Marty walked over to the bed and sat down. "Yeah, you can come in, RF.
It's all over."
The door opened a few inches and RF peeked in. Seeing things were pretty
much back to normal, he opened the door the rest of the way and walked into
the room, scanning all around as he entered. "Okay, I see that it's
Exactly WHAT is over, I have no idea."
"Well, you were with Lou, so you know more than I do, from this side,
anyway." He stopped and sniffed the scarf, rich with Lou's scent.
what I know..."
Three and a half hours later, RF went home, his head spinning. He was
nearly a week late turning in his socio-linguistics report.
Lou padded back into the Doghouse, under the archway created by
legs. He reached out and caressed the giant fox's ankle, feeling his
friend's tremors of exertion. He took a few more paces and turned
looking up into T'Chall's strained face. "I'm back now, foxy,
You can let go now."
T'Chall stepped out of the doorway, panting heavily, his chest
Looking down, he said, "if you guys wouldn't mind, you might want to
back...." He staggered forward, his legs wobbling.
All the furs gave him room as he half-sat, half-stumbled onto the floor
of the Doghouse. He blinked groggily, as if having trouble bringing his
surroundings into focus. He coughed weakly; the cough had a scratchy
whistling quality to it his friends did not like at all. It didn't sound
terminal, but it didn't sound good, either.
T'Chall let out a short groan and collapsed onto his back,
The furs in the Doghouse barely paid attention to the immense mahogany
door as it started to screech shut on its ancient hinges. The base of the
door nudged T'Chall's tail, and Lou noticed with a gasp that a serous
injury was imminent unless he acted quickly.
Lou rushed over and brushed T'Chall's bushy tail out of harm's way.
glimpsed through the door and saw the questioning and concerned look on his
player's face. He tried to give him a reassuring smile; considering the
circumstances, he wasn't sure just how effective it was.
Just as the door closed, and everyone's attention was on T'Chall,
player slid something under the door. Seconds later, the five hundred
foot-high portal slammed shut, shaking the walls of the Doghouse. Its
appearance wavered and rippled, and moments later it was gone, leaving it
its stead the faint odor of ozone.
Lou scrambled onto T'Chall's chest, kneeling and stroking his muzzle.
was breathing, anyway--Lou could feel the warm breeze of his
exhalations--so that was something, at least. The other furs gathered
around, patting T'Chall's prone body, remaining reverently silent.
of heat radiated from the huge fox's body, enveloping the smaller furs.
Each of them in his own way tried to comprehend the unimaginable effort
their friend must have gone through to be laid low like this.
"Oh, foxy," Lou sniffed, "if I hadn't lost that marble,
none of this would
have happened to you. I'm so sorry, lover, I'm so sorry!" Lou
© 1998 Cashew Lou
All characters' copyrights are held by their