A mother working at a lab is exposed to panda DNA..
April had been working at the lab for at least six months and even she wasn’t 100% sure what they actually did here at this point. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand her actual job here. It mostly consisted of testing different compounds with DNA samples (which was a fancy way of saying clumps of hair or skin) and recording the reaction. The thing was, that April wasn’t aware what the actual purpose was. She wasn’t even 100% sure what the compounds she was working with were. But as long as she turned in the rest results she got paid. It didn’t stop her from finding it strange. It didn’t take a doctorate in chemistry to understand what she witnessed daily simply should have been possible… But she had the doctorate and could verify things didn’t make sense.
Today for example… She had been working with a skin graft that had come from an alligator. Why? She couldn’t say… She didn’t get much in the way of explanations for anything she did. Just instructions for the experiment. It was simple. She had a new compound that she was supposed to apply to the graft and then report if there were any results. What was the elemental makeup of the compound? None of her business. What was the purpose of the experiment? Apparently, that was on a need to know basis. Sometimes April worried she was secretly working for a real life supervillain or something… But she needed the money, so did the work.
The compound in question was a clear liquid that came in a petri dish. April had carefully opened the dish, dipped a swab into the chemical and then rubbed it on the graft. That was all there was to it. The only thing left to do was wait and see what happens. Sometimes it could take hours, sometimes days, and sometimes nothing at all happened.
Today… She noticed the changes right before leaving for the day. The skin graft had white hairs growing on it. White hairs on an alligator? What was the purpose of that? Part of her wondered if maybe it was meant to be some kind of hair restoration tonic and they were just testing it here first… But what kind of chemical would trigger growth in a graft of skin. The sample wasn’t even alive! Heck, it had been in the freezer for months before the experiment. Maybe it wasn’t hair, but some kind of mold that was growing? That would be more logical… But after examining the graft under a microscope April could confirm that it was in fact hair covering the skin now. She had no idea how that was happening… Or what practical results it would serve… But she went ahead and recorded her observations in the system before clocking out for the day. Whatever the purpose of the experiment, it was now out of her mind… At least up until she tried to walk out the lobby door.
“Hey… You got something on your coat.” Dana was younger than April, still being a college student in her twenties. She was working at the lab as part of an internship that was required to maintain her scholarship. She had signed on, hoping for real experience in the field, but the mousy haired girl had instead wound up sitting behind the front desk all day just buzzing people in and out. April didn’t feel too bad for her… Sure, in practice she didn’t get the lab experience she wanted… But she’d still be able to list it on her resume after graduating.
“I do?” April looked down at herself. She was dressed in a simple pantsuit that she normally wore her lab coat over. Looking down at the white coat it took her almost a full minute to see what Dana was referencing. There was a long thin white hair stuck to it. “How did you even see that?” It blended in against the white fabric with ease. Dana quickly pulled the hair off with her hand.
“Just got good eyes I guess. Like a hawk.” Dana shrugged. “Were you working with lab rats today or something?”
“Nope.” April shook her head. “We don’t work with live animals here. April paused as she tried to figure out where the hair must have come from. Then she remembered the skin graft that had started changing and growing hairs. “Oh… Eu… I applied a chemical to a skin graft today and it sprouted white hairs… One of them must have gotten on my coat. Oh, that’s gross. Eu… Eu…” She quickly flailed her hand about over a trash until she managed to dislodge it. “Ohhh, I hope I don’t get a disease from that or something. I don’t even know what the compound we were testing on that thing.”
“Relax April… It’s just a hair.” Dana giggled, clearly thinking that Dana was overreacting.
“You’re… Probably right.” April sighed. “See you on Monday.” With that she excited the lobby and proceeded home.
Something started to bug her on the drive home… She kept feeling this weird itching under her skin. She suspected she was just still grossed out by finding the hair on her. As soon as she was home she’d shower and feel better. At least that was the plan…
But when she got home she found the smell of smoke flooding through her house.
“Oh no…” April leaped from her car slamming the door behind her as she ran inside the house. Her kid might still be in there! As she got inside… She saw the smoke was coming from the kitchen… And as she rushed into the room both relief and annoyance overtook her at the same time. There was no fire… Instead, her eight year old daughter Ashley was standing atop a chair pulled up next to the stove poking at a panfull of blackened… Well blacked something, with a smile on her face.
“Mom you’re home!” Ashley turned to her with a big smile. She had her mother’s curly brown hair… As well as freckles that April was never sure where she had got them from. “I made dinner since I knew both you and dad would be home late!”
“Ashley… Where’s Jen?” April sighed. Jen was the name of the sitter that had been hired.
“She had to go. Said it was an important study date, but that you’d be home soon so I should be fine!” Ashley replied happily.
“I’ll bet the date part was accurate…” April shook her head. It looked like it was going to be time to find a new sitter. She had thought the girl was a little… flighty, but didn’t think she’d leave her daughter home alone.
“But it’s okay! I can take care of myself! And I made dinner! It’s macaroni and cheese!” Ashley was beaming proudly as she gestured towards the contents of her pan. So… That’s what it was supposed to be… From the looks of things, Ashley had just thrown raw noodles into the pan and turned the heat on. All that was left was a blacked burnt crisp and a heavy smell of smoke..
“Honey… That’s not quite how it’s done…” April reached over Ashley to turn the stove off.
“But I worked really hard on this! I’ve been cooking for an hour!” This statement nearly made April faint. She had left the stuff there on a stove for an hour!?
“And I appreciate the effort, but this isn’t quite going to work.” April did her best to smile. “But… I can tell you’re working really hard… So how about we try restarting the recipe. You can cook tonight, and I’ll just be your helper.”
“Really!?” Ashley’s eyes lit up. She had the same shining blue eyes as her father.
“Really.” April nodded with a smile. It would seem the shower would wait. “First… Let’s clean this up, then wash our hands really good… Then for macaroni and cheese, you’re going to want a pot first, as you need to boil water…” The panic from seeing the smoke had faded… April supposed there were far worst ways to spend the evening than bonding with her daughter.
Macaroni and cheese was not exactly a complex recipe. It wasn’t going to take long to get the food ready. Yet, April found herself feely oddly distracted and irritable as she tried to guide her daughter. She just kept getting a strange itching sensation on random parts of her body and it was taking all of her willpower not to scratch. Most likely, just her mind being hyper conscious of the fact she hadn’t gotten to take that shower yet. The worst was her feet for some reason. After Ashley had managed to get a pot of water boiling without burning anything, April excused herself from the kitchen momentarily to kick her shoes off and drop them off in the foyer. The relief was immediate. The itching wasn’t exactly gone, but it was at least less dire around her feet. She could at least concentrate on supervising Ashley now.
It wasn’t the most glamorous dinner, but it was edible under April’s guidance, and ready just minutes before her husband Tom got home. He paused as he passed the kitchen seeing the macaroni, clearly less than pleased that it was to be the entire meal… But the discomfort only lasted half a second before he saw his daughter wearing an apron and holding a wooden spoon.
“So… Ashley cooked for us tonight?” Tom asked.
“Made it al myself!” Ashley beamed. “Well… Mom helped.”
“You helped me plenty of times, was only fair.” Even if it wasn’t a feast… April was proud of her daughter for making the effort. “Now sit at the table.”
“Sure!” Ashley ran to the wooden table they had most of the meals while April set out the plates. As she sat she stared at April, as if unsure of something. After a few minutes she spoke. “I love what you did with your hair mom!”
“My hair?” April wasn’t sure what she meant. “I didn’t do anything.”
“But the white patches in it!” Ashley replied happily.
“… What?” April nearly dropped the plate she was carrying.
“Ashley…. Maybe go ahead and drop that…” Tom slowly spoke.
“Wait is there actually something wrong with my hair?” April was confused.
“Nothing!” Tom assured her. “I mean… I guess you’re going to see it in the morning… But at our age a few gray hairs are normal, nothing to worry about.”
“I… See…” So that was what Ashley had meant. April gave a heavy sigh. There was nothing she could do about getting older… And Ashley was just too innocent to realize why pointing it out would be insensitive… Still she had never noticed it before… She tried not to think about it. It wasn’t hard… That itching sensation hadn’t stopped… Luckily, it was Tom’s night to do the dishes so she was able to dismiss herself from the table to take a shower right away.
It didn’t really help… But catching her reflection in the mirror was enough to distract her from that. She didn’t have a few gray hairs… Large patches of her hair were just white! That… That wasn’t possible, right? People didn’t have their entire hair just change color in one day! Unless… Could it be stress? But it’s not like work had been that bad or…
“Wait…” April peered into the mirror noticing something else. The hair on her head wasn’t the only thing graying… So were the hairs on her arm… And…. Why did she have hairs on her arm? Staring at her reflection, she touched the back of her left shoulder with her right arm, feeling the small prickles of hairs their beneath her fingers. She had arm hair now? How long had that been there?
“It really doesn’t look that bad…” Tom’s voice alerted April to the fact he had entered the room. “It makes you look mature! In an attractive way!”
“Flatterer.” April scoffed. “And I think you’re a tad biased… But I appreciate it.” Despite Tom’s efforts… April couldn’t help but feel unsure about herself. Until now she had never noticed how tight her pajamas were on her. She must have been putting on weight too. Looking down at herself, her belly was a lot more round than she pictured it in her head. She supposed… That was also part of getting older.
“If it really bothers you, can always look into dyeing it. Tom placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed lightly to comfort her. “If you want, we can do it at home so that no one knows.”
“I’ll think about it…” April was fairly certain her hair suddenly changing color would alert most people… Who knew when it had started? While she was at work? Some of her coworkers must have noticed… But there was nothing to be done about it now. At least she had the weekend to relax and take things slow for now.
The next morning April awoke to the smell of bread. She got out of bed and started downstairs to check out what was going on. The soles of her feet tingled, as if her feet were still asleep. She growled, lifting up one foot to look down at it. Wow, her feet were calloused. She really needed to consider a spa day or some kind of self-care day.
As she headed out to the kitchen it didn’t take long to find out why… Ashley had been cooking again. When it came to breakfast there wasn’t a whole lot she knew how to do. Cereal or toast, and she knew her parents didn’t eat cereal. So… She made up for her lack of variety with sheer numbers. There were three plates on the table with stacks of toast just piled high.
“… Ashley is cooking again?” Tom asked as he followed April into the room.
“Apparently…” April laughed. “We’ll appreciate this hobby of hers when she’s a little older and knows a few more recipes.”
“Sure… Sure…” Tom grabbed a piece of toast off one of the pieces and began to nibble at it. “So… You must have gotten up early this morning. You already dyed your hair? Going to be honest, not sure I like the skunk style.”
“E…. excuse me?” April was taken aback.
“Just with the black and white spots I mean.” Tom replied. “I’m guessing it took all morning since you haven’t shaven yet. And well… I’m not really sure what’s going on with your toes. But… You know if you wanted help I would have aided you, right?”
April didn’t say another word. Instead, she simply marched back to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror. Her hair had indeed changed color overnight. All the brown from her hair was gone completely… Instead, it was now a combination of black and white patches. Then… He had said she hadn’t shaved? But… She had done so just a day again and… April lifted up the edge of her bathroom to look down at her legs. There were small hairs poking out all over them… That wouldn’t have been too weird on its own… But looking over them they appeared to be a combination of black and white hairs. And… They didn’t stop at her legs. There were growing in all over random patches all over her body! She opened up her robe to examine herself… Finding the hairs on her arms, her stomach…. Even on her face! They were everywhere… And… That was what the nonstop itching she had been feeling was… It had been these hairs growing in, poking at her clothes.
April quickly locked the bathroom door and let her robe fall off completely. Standing naked, she at least felt some relief from the itching but she didn’t understand what was happening. Gray hairs… Unshaven legs. Those were normal things to deal with but… This was just something else! And… Something else was wrong. A loud snapping sound came from her feet. She looked down at them, the hairs covering them were thicker than anywhere else on her body. These ones were completely black… And there was something else wrong. Actually… Several things wrong.
Her toenails had become a dark black color… And looked more pointed. Then… The bottom of her feet looked rather rough. She sat down on the floor to try to get a look at them. They looked like they had become extremely calloused, as if she had been walking around barefoot her entire life… And yet right before her eyes as they just kept getting darker and thicker. She poked one, expecting to feel a hard surface but was surprised to feel something rather soft… Like a pad.
“Honey are you okay in there?” Tom was knocking on the door. “You ran off pretty quickly.”
“Don’t come in!” April shouted in a panicked voice. Right now she couldn’t figure out if she wanted his help or didn’t want him to see. Her mind was racing a mile a minute trying to figure out what was happening to her.
There was another popping noise this time coming from the base of her spine. April yelped and grasped back there… Only to find she had a new body part that didn’t belong… Something short and fluffy was extending from her backside… It was like she had… A tiny little tail.
“Seriously, what’s going on?” There was a nervous edge to Tom’s voice. April knew she should let him in, try to get help but she was full blown panic mode. Still, she should say something.
“Tom it’s just… Brooooawwwr!” A strange animalistic noise came out from April’s mouth preventing her from finishing her sentence. As she did there were more popping noises as her face began to stretch outward.
“That’s it I’m coming in!” Tom shouted as he slammed against the door. The lock on the bathroom door wasn’t exactly made of sturdy stuff… The door swung open with ease allowing Tom to see the now half-beast version of his wife sitting on the floor. “APRIL!” He shouted and moved towards her.
“No! Staaay brauuuwk!” April tried to talk, but as the changes continued it only got harder. The hair now covered her entire body, like a coat of black and white fur. Or not like… That’s what it was! Tom seemed to catch her meaning as he paused before actually reaching her.
“What’s happening to you!?” His eyes were full of worry and fear.
“Brooooawwwwr!’ April couldn’t get a single word out anymore. She tried to stand up, and for a brief moment towered over Tom before she lost her balance and fell forward landing on all fours. This felt… Strangely natural… And looking down at her hands she saw they had undergone a similar change to her feet… Thick pads forming where her palms had been, and her nails now resembling sharp black claws. There were a few more popping noises… These sounded way louder… Due to being on her head as she felt something was wrong with her ears… And then she began to twitch them…. Something she had never been able to do herself. She turned to face herself in the mirror and saw why. He ears were now round and large and sitting atop her head.
Looking in the mirror… April didn’t see anything of herself in her reflection anymore. Instead… She saw an animal… And one she could identify now. She had turned into a panda… But… How was that possible except… Wait… The hairs growing in on her… It was just like the white hairs that had grown on the skin graft. The hair she had gotten on her… Touched with her own hand. That had to be what caused it!
“Brooawr!” April pushed past Tom as she realized what had caused this. Her backside got stuck as she tried to progress through the bathroom door and she had to squeeze and push to get out. Once in the bedroom she quickly ran around the bed to find the laundry hamper and opened it up with her claws.
“What are you doing!?” Tom asked. “What do I do! Is there someone I call!?”
“Groooawrl!” April found what she was looking for… Her lab coat. She quickly threw it onto the bed. Then she propped herself up on her hind-paws against the bed as she tried to gesture at the coat with her head.
“Your… coat?” Tom seemed confused. April quickly nosed the front pocket of the coat. Tom reached for it and found her lab ID card inside it. “Your card and…” He looked at it for a moment, as he realized there was a number for the lab on the card. “Call the lab?”
“GROOOAWRL!” April nodded.
“R-right!” Tom quickly ran out of the room to find a phone. Bless his heart… He was just as panicked as April, but was trying to help. For now… Left alone in the room April crawled up onto the bed completely and curled up not sure what to do.
“Mommy?” She didn’t get to consider it long before she heard Ashley’s voice coming from the door.
“G…groawrl?” April looked up to see her daughter staring at her with wide eyes. She was confused how she had even been recognized.
“I heard daddy on the phone, screaming about you being a panda and… Is that really you?” Ashley’s eyes were as wide as dinnerplates as she slowly walked forward.
“Groawwwrl…” Whatever may have been going on… April had no desire to frighten her daughter. She did her best to nod and to not make sudden movements as Ashley crawled up onto the bed.
“Can… Can I pet you?” Ashley asked.
“Goooawr?” This caught April off guard… She had expected Ashley to be afraid or panicked like her and Tom… Instead her daughter seemed more curious than anything… After a few seconds of consideration April stretched her head out to let Ashley stroke it. This got a fit of giggles from her daughter who seemed delighted.
“Oh my gosh! Are you like a witch! Or maybe a mad scientist? How did you do it!” Ashley cuddled up close to April’s body… Apparently enjoying how warm her fur was. “And you’re so big… I bet I could ride on your back now!”
“Grooowl?” April stared at her daughter in disbelief… She was taking this… Surprisingly well. Perhaps, that was the advantage of youth. Impossible situations seemed more fanciful than horrific… It was almost contagious. April climbed down from the bed and crouched low against the ground next to it.
“Really?” Ashley smiled wide before jumping on her back. April couldn’t help but give her own small bark of laughter as she started to walk in circles around the room.
After several minutes of this, Tom returned to the room, looking somewhat defeated but calmer. He froze as he saw the spectacle of the panda carrying her human daughter around the room.
“Am… Am I the only one still terrified by this?” Tom asked.
“Grooawl?” April did her best to shrug.
“Finally talked to someone at your lab who knew what was going on.” Tom sighed. “Said you were doing an experiment with different animal DNA… Exposing it to others and seeing if they could cause physical mutations. They seemed…. Very excited by the possibility it could occur in humans. But… Did say they had an antidote that worked on their previous test cases, so should be able to change you back. They’ll be able to get it when the lab opens Monday… So… You’re stuck like this for the weekend.”
“So… Mommy can be like this to play with me for the entire weekend!?” Ashley really didn’t understand why this was a bad thing… But then again… Just her complete acceptance of the situation… And still seeing April as her mother. It was… In a lot of ways exactly what she needed.
“Broawr.” April nodded and then happily carried Ashley out of the bedroom so they could explore the much larger living room now.
“So everyone else is just ok with this now?” Tom seemed ready to collapse, and he could only watch in disbelief as his human daughter and panda shaped wife proceeded to enjoy themselves.
Monday morning came faster than expected. Spending the weekend as a panda had proven to be surprisingly less stressful than her normal weekend. The antidote had arrived and April had already taken it. She was currently sitting on the couch in the living room, partially restored to normal, but not quite all the way. A lot of her fur had fallen out, and she had gotten quite a bit smaller. She had human shaped hands again and her human hair had come back.
“Wow, you know you really got hair everywhere huh?” Tom was standing on the other side of the living room hooking up the vacuum. “The entire carpet is just black and white now.”
“Heeey, it wasn’t on purpose!” April spoke with a slight snarl, it wasn’t intentional… Her speaking abilities simply weren’t quite back to 100% yet… And so everything still sounded like an animalistic growl. “Besides… If I could use the vacuum right now I could…”
“I know I know…” Tom couldn’t help but chuckle. “Still, you don’t seem to traumatized after spending the weekend like that… And poor Ashley is going to be heart broken when she gets home from school and you’re back to normal.” It was true that Ashley had seemed to find the situation the most amusing. To their daughter… The transformation hadn’t been horrifying or shocking. Instead, it had been something magical.
April had to admit the attitude was a little contagious. Had she not spent the weekend giving her daughter rides around the house, and even up the trees in the yard she probably would have spent more time freaking out. Now the entire thing seemed charming.
“I’m out sick from work today.” April growled. “Figured turned into a panda was pretty valid excuse.”
“Yes, I think this is one of those situations they prefer you not to call in.” Tom began to vacuum up fur. “I’ll have to head in for a bit. You going to be fine on your own today?”
“It’s not a problem.” April smiled. What remained of her muzzle was sinking back into her face. “Another hour or so and I’ll be completely normal. Honestly… I’m kind of physically worn down after running around all weekend. Probably going to nap most of the day.” The weekend had been more physically active than April was used to. It was kind of funny to think about how turning into a giant fat bear might have gotten her into better shape. Still… She was relieved to be going back to normal. Still… It was strange, starting to feel human again. She was going to have to wear clothes again… And shoes. Those paw… Erm foot traps had to be the most uncomfortable things in existence now that she thought about it.
Well… She was off today… So no reason to get all the way back to normal immediately.