Learning Curve 3

I sank down on the couch, watching the orange stripes spreading up my arms. There was no sensation at all; it was only the colour that was changing. That didn’t mean it wasn’t surreal to watch. When it reached my shoulders, I peeled off my t-shirt so I could still see it. The stripes ran around my arms, but turned into complex swirls down my sides. It moved up, too, where I couldn’t see it without going in search of a mirror. When it got down to my waist, I stripped off the rest of my clothes.

Anyone who had ever seen a ginger tabby would have recognized the pattern, although it appeared to be marbled tabby rather than mackerel.

I leaned back to rub an itch on my upper spine against the back of the couch, but the itch spread rapidly in all directions, always ahead of me no matter how much I squirmed in an attempt to defeat it. It flowed up over my shoulders and around my sides, and I switched to scratching at it with both hands.

I froze when I felt fur under my fingertips, and looked down.

It was short and sleek, but growing thicker and longer in the wake of the leading edge, which was racing across my entire body. It met in the centre of my chest and flooded downwards. About the only good thing was that the itch was fading along my spine and that blessed relief was following the same path.

Okay, so… I had acquired a layer of all-over ginger marbled-tabby fur, too fluffy to lie flat. I doubted it was going to stop there, but so far, this wasn’t so bad.

I felt pressure on my lower spine; I’d fallen once and banged my coccyx, and this felt like the same place but without the eye-watering pain. Since the coccyx was what remained of an ancient tail, it seemed rather obvious what that was. I shifted my weight to one hip, and reached back to explore with one hand.

There was definitely something growing back there, and while it was currently covered only in very short downy fur and not very long, that was changing rapidly.

I got distracted by how odd my hands felt, though. I discovered that I no longer had fingernails under the dense fur, but there were bare pink pads on my fingertips and if I pressed on them the right way, the pointed tips of claws peeked out just above them.

Okay, that was strange, but I still had fingers and thumbs so it wasn’t too bad. I experimented with that, and figured out how to flex the muscles in my fingers the right way to make rather fearsome claws extend fully.

My ears prickled and itched, and I reached up quickly.

They were… well, honestly, gone. There was nothing on the sides of my head beneath the fur. But I could still hear and my body insisted I still had ears. I reached up higher, through thick wavy hair that was the dark orange of my stripes and stopped at about the line of my jaw, and found them—considerably higher than I was used to them being, and they were emphatically feline. Touching them sent peculiar messages to my brain, and they twitched under my fingers.

Okay. Cat fur, ears, claws, and tail… and that was now down to my ankles and still getting longer. I could cope with this. Hell, for some people, this would be a dream come true.

My boyfriend Ben adored animals—he had a gorgeous and exuberantly-friendly rescue dog, a Rottweiler/border-collie cross with sensationally long soft fur, who sometimes stayed with Ben’s sister when life got busy. I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about this, though. Not that I was going to get the chance to find out.

Then basically everything from the waist down went utterly, chaotically mad, with things pulling and flexing and relaxing into different configurations, stretching and contracting and just… everything at once, too overwhelming for me to be able to track anything in particular. That wasn’t entirely true: something was happening in my groin, for sure, and I tried to track that one. I rather liked that particular bit of anatomy, since it was fun in bed regardless of whether a lover had the same basic model or a different one.

Everything still seemed to be there but, weirdly, my balls were tucked up closer to my body, and my penis was sort of hidden away in a furry sheath against my pelvis.

Then I tried to assess what was going on below that, and that was seriously bizarre: my legs had changed. I traced out the lines of the bones of one leg: femur there, but it was startlingly short, putting my knee at a level that would have been mid-thigh normally. My lower leg was shorter than it had been, too. What should have been my ankle was nearly where my knee should have been, and I didn’t have a heel, just a narrow joint that was clearly an animal-like hock. And down at the bottom was a broad furry paw even wider than my foot normally was.

Warily, I stood up, testing this out.

I discovered instantly that my tail was huge, much longer than ankle-length and incredibly fluffy. It took a few tries to find the right controls for it, so that I could keep it up off the floor.

I took a cautious step, then another.

It felt different, unsurprisingly, but I could feel that difference all the way up in my hips and lower back. My tail seemed to curve to one side or the other on its own to help my balance, and I was grateful for that. There’d been Hallowe’ens and other events that had led to Tavi helping me dress as a girl, so I had worn high heels now and then; this didn’t really feel like that, other than all my weight being down on my toes. It felt like I should have been shaky and off-balance, but somehow I wasn’t.

With increasing confidence, I walked around the living room. In a way, it felt good, all this smooth controlled power. I really didn’t think I could put my clothes back on over all this fur, though, and my tail and altered legs would make that impossible rather than uncomfortable.

What else was feline? The room looked different, now that I was thinking about it. I doubted that real cat eyes worked like human eyes but with better night vision, since they needed to see different things than humans did, but currently everything just looked a little bright, so if I had feline eyes, that was mostly cosmetic. I ran my tongue over my teeth, and found that they were all smaller except four large sharp canines—and, for that matter, my tongue felt different. My jaw still felt like it was the same shape—my face as a whole, actually, despite the short plushy fur covering it.

Nothing else seemed to be changing.

So what now? Tavi was asleep. I could read or watch a video, but neither appealed to me currently. I’d eaten already and wasn’t hungry. I could play a game on my laptop.

It had been a long day, though. Sleep sounded like the best use of my time.

I switched off all the lights and checked that the door was locked, then went to Tavi’s room. Quietly, I pushed the door open enough that I could slip through.

I definitely did not need to be under any blankets, and I wasn’t sure that would feel good.

I circled around to the far side of the bed and, with great care for my tail, sat on the edge, then pulled my feet up and curled up. Clearly my spine was more flexible, because I was able to curl myself into a ridiculously tight ball when I tried.

“Sky?” Tavi mumbled, rolling over with what was obviously a lot of effort.

“Mmhmm.” I could see her groping around blindly; she’d have been unable to see much even if she’d had her eyes open. “Still me.” The words felt strange and might have come out a little distorted, but I figured they were recognizable.

Her questing hand found my arm, and stroked it inquisitively. “Soft,” she mumbled.

The sensation of that touch was extraordinary, and I wanted her to keep doing that. I rearranged myself quickly so that she could reach more of me. Instinctively, when she was up around my shoulder, I twisted in a way that should have been impossible, but it let me get my head under her hand.

“Mmm… kitty…” she said drowsily.

The vibration that started down in my lower throat, rumbling through my chest and tingling through my entirely body, wasn’t something I expected but it felt so completely natural that I didn’t think twice about it. I was far more interested in squirming around to encourage her to keep petting me.

She couldn’t keep up that amazing scritching for very long, which was frustrating. I was certain that I could never get enough of it. Her hand slowed, then stopped entirely.

So I snuggled up tight against her, trying to maximize contact, and purred myself to sleep with happy thoughts of Tavi waking up with lots of energy to resume petting me.

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