Four individuals manage to upset a powerful wizard who happens to own a pet shop. They wake up as the newest animals in stock the next day.
The Pet Shop of Doom
By Calex The Neko
“Rise and shine, it’s morning and time to get up.” An ominous voice let out a laugh at that. “Well technically it’s actually almost sundown, but I don’t think being asleep that long is good for you.” The voice belonged to a dark charcoal gray furred wolf. He was dressed almost entirely in black, as well as a pair of gloves and bronze colored sunglasses. “Seriously… Wake up!”
The wolf who was known as Bowshi paced back and forth inside what seemed to mostly be a normal pet shop. Cages lined the walls with an assortment of animals contained within them. There were stands full of boxed treats, toys and other pet essentials. However, aside from Bowshi the place was currently empty of bipedal life forms. And it seemed that the wolf had pulled down the shades in the window to dim the lights within the store.
There were other civilized people in the store though. They just didn’t quite look civilized anymore. In the very center of the store across from the main counter there was a central display cage. Currently inside of it were four sleeping animals, each a different species. There was a black and white furred dog, specifically a border collie. Next to him was a small brown haired rabbit. Then curled up in the corner of the cage was a brown cat with a blonde furred rat asleep atop its back.
“I SAID WAKE UP!” Bowshi gave a shout as he slammed his hand against the top of the cage. The animals stirred to life from the shock and then began to scramble about inside the cage.
“Where… Where am I!?” The dog barked in confusion as he looked around.
“Am… am I a rabbit?” The bunny fell backwards onto his back as he stared at his forepaws. “This is a dream, right? This has to be a dream.”
“Ugggh… Why is everything so big?” The rat moaned as he slipeed off the back of the cat.
“Jake?” The cat’s eyes widened as he recognized the rat’s voice. “Why are you-“ He then paused as he looked down at himself. “Why am I!?”
“Good! You’re all awake now!” Bowshi smiled. “You might be wondering why the four of you look like that and are locked up in there.”
“Did you do this?” Jake demanded. He was starting to panic slightly both from waking up as a rat and being so small. “Change us back! Or! I’ll-“ He was trying to think of something to threaten the wolf with but failed.
“You don’t have any power here.” Bowshi smiled. “And don’t bother calling for help. No one can understand the barking or squeaking of normal common animals.”
“Wait… But then how are you talking to us?” The cat asked.
“It’s magic!” Bowshi threw up his hands in a dramatic fashion. “I don’t have to explain it to you! All you need to know is you four are here to learn!”
“Learn what exactly?” The dog approached the bars of the cage to get a better look at the wolf. “I question what possible lessons could be drawn from this situation.”
“Learn that your actions have consequences… Like you Princeton!” He pointed at the dog. “Ohhh, you remember what you did.”
It had happened just a day ago. Princeton had looked somewhat similar to how he did now… But as a proper civilized animal that wore clothes and walked on two legs. He had simply been approaching a crosswalk at a busy street when the sign changed from ‘Go’ to ‘Stop.’
“S-shoot!” Princeton had given a shout and then quickly burst into a sprint. He ran out into the crosswalk just as the sign changed completely. A car came tearing around the corner at that point and it’s breaks screeched as it barely stopped in time to avoid hitting the dog.
“Wait you did this to me because I jaywalked?” Princeton asked back in the pet shop. “Revenge is generally a fool’s game but that’s just dumb.”
“My revenge is entirely justified!” Bowshi shouted. “Do you know how bad it is for my brakes to stop so suddenly like that! Think of all the other people’s vehicles you’ve damaged in your thoughtlessness! It’s obvious someone needs to put you on a leash!” With that the wolf turned his attention to the rabbit. “And you Zeelo…”
Zeelo’s incident had also occurred a day earlier. At the time he was an average human looking fellow with brown hair and wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and glasses. He had been standing in a grocery store when he noticed one of the workers beckoning to him.
“Huh?” Zeelo approached the worker who was standing before a round table.
“Would you like to try a free sample?” The store clerk asked. “It’s Monterey Jack Cheese!”
“Sure!” Zeelo flashed a smile before grabbing a piece of cheese off the plate and devouring it in one bite.
“Wait… What’d I do wrong?” Zeelo asked now a rabbit back in the pet shop.
“That was the piece I had picked out!” Bowshi slammed his fist on the counter near the cage. “I was walking towards the table before you! And you stepped right in front of me! Then took the cheese I had my eyes on!”
“But they were all the same!” Zeelo protested. “And how was I even to know?” But Bowshi ignored him. Instead he had moved on to his next target.
“And you Matt!” He pointed a finger at the cat. “Ohhhh, you are a truly irredeemable criminal.”
On the previous day Matt had been outside the same grocery store Zeelo had visited. He had been a brown haired human with a reddish beard. He had simply been trying to buy a snack from the vending machine outside when he dropped one of his quarters.
“Dang it…” Matt muttered as he grasped for the coin even as it landed on the cement floor and rolled underneath the machine. He got down on his hands and knees and groped beneath the machine trying to grab it. He could just barely touch the tip of the coin with his fingers. And then he grabbed something else by mistake… And when he tried to pull his hand out managed to tip the entire vending machine over onto its side.
“I admit that was kind of bad…” Matt the cat replied in the real world. “But it was just an accident.”
“I will hear no excuses!” Bowshi continued. “None whatsoever! And finally… That brings us to you Jack!” He looked down at the rat. “Truly… You are the most vicious, vile, inhuman person I have ever met! Your new form is almost too good for you!”
There was a cell phone store right next to the grocery store Zeelo and Matt had been to on the previous day. Jack was a blonde haired human who worked in that store and often wore an exasperated expression on his face. There was another boy working in the store, a civilized sloth named Bob. The store didn’t see many customers and the two got bored pretty easily. As a result both perked up when an old lady had walked in the door. Customers could be a pain, but it was better than boredom.
“Welcome! How can I help you!” Jack had reacted first upon seeing the customer.
“Wait… What?” In the pet shop the rat stared at the wolf in disbelief. “What’d I do? All I did was my job! The thing I was literally being paid to do!”
“Did you ever consider how your fellow employees felt with you hogging all the customers!?” Bowshi questioned. “No one likes a show off!”
“Oh my gosh you’ve been talking to Chad.” Jake was forced to plant his face into his paw in frustration.
“So as you can see, all of you have committed horrible crimes and that’s why you’re here in this state now! So you’ll learn.” Bowshi folded his hands behind his back and smiled down at the new animals.
“L-learn?” Zeelo stammered. The bunny wasn’t even sure if he believed this was real yet. “How is this supposed to teach us anything!?”
“These aren’t exactly Aesop’s fables huh? Princeton muttered.
“Well… I’m sure once I adopt you out to the right families it will all make sense.” Bowshi nodded sagely.
“Um… How?” Jake demanded. The tiny rat was clearly not convinced. “You just turn us into animals and sell us to someone! That doesn’t teach any moral lessons!”
“Um well the reason is…” Bowshi hesitated. “You see it’s all very ironic and…” He paused. “Well the thing is…”
“I… I don’t think he knows.” Matt spoke up.
“I don’t think he knows what ‘ironic’ means.” Princeton chided.
“I do too know!” Bowshi stamped his foot on the ground. “I just… Don’t have to explain myself to you! Just… Wait till tomorrow! Then you’ll see when I assign you to your new owners!”
“I almost hate to ask, but why tomorrow?” Jack interrupted.
“Two reasons.” Bowshi held up a finger. “First, because it takes time to contact the right people who will be a good fit.” Then he held up his second. “As for the second… It’s dinner time and I’m hungry! You can’t expect a wolf to work on an empty stomach!” With that he turned away from the cage and strode towards the door. “I’ll be seeing you again each tomorrow. But for now we must part… Because it’s dinner time! AHHHHHH HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAA!” Bowshi released a maniacal laugh as he exited through the pet shop door and slammed it behind him. He could still be laughing even after he had gotten several blocks away.
“Uggggh…” Zeelo twitched nervously inside the cage. He gets twisting his ears back and forth. “This isn’t real… This isn’t real…” He tried to chant to himself.
“Magic isn’t real… There’s always a logical explanation.” Princeton insisted to himself. “It’s gotta be some kind of trick. An optical illusion? Maybe we’ve been drugged?” He laid down flat on his belly and closed his eyes. He opened them a few seconds later, hoping this would all have just been a dream but saw he was still a four legged dog.
“How… How did this happen?” Jack was likewise freaked out.
“It’s not too bad…” One member of the newly transformed animals was noticeably more relaxed than the others. Matt lifted his paws in front of his face and stared at them almost as if mesmerized.
“Not too bad!?” Jack demanded. “Look at us!”
“I know but…” Matt raised his hind-side and stretched out. “You know… I don’t think I mind being a cat…” He paused and tried sticking his paw through the bars. “Though I could do without the cage.”
“You’re just okay with this?” Princeton fixed the cat with an unsteady stare.
“I don’t know if I’d go that far…” Matt licked his paws and rubbed his ears. “But being like this feels strangely natural. I mean… Jack and I have sort of had fantasies about this kind of scenario.”
“But those were fantasies! Not real!” The rat snapped at the cat. “That doesn’t mean I wanted to be turned into a rat in real life!” Then he paused and added barely under his breath. “Besides I always saw myself more in charge and changing others than the victim…” Everyone stared at him as he said that. It took him a moment to realize that everyone had much better hearing in these animal forms.
“Well…” Zeelo broke the silence. “This got awkward.”
“I…” Princeton looked between the cat and rat before trying to change the subject. “Look I just want to get out of this! And back to normal.”
“Well then I guess the first thing we should do is get out of here.” Matt stood up onto all fours and stretched.
“Escape? Just like that?” Zeelo asked.
“Well why not?” Matt asked. “Sure we’re animals locked in a cage… But we’ve still got our human minds right? Shouldn’t be too hard to figure a way out.”
“And do you have a plan to get out?” Princetone’s ears perked up slightly. The situation was strange and felt hopeless… But just the idea of escape being possible helped lift his spirits. “These paws are lack the dexterity of proper hands but… You’re right. We still have our minds. If we’re smart we can figure this out.”
“Sure!” Matt responded. It was a lie. He had no plan. Instead he stared at the bars on the cage. He could just see the latch on the far corner. “Just gotta open this up first!” Trying his best to act like he knew what he was doing Matt stuck his paw out from the cage and began to reach for the latch. He had to stand up on his hind legs trying to grasp at it. The tips of his toes just barely managed to touch the edge of it.
“I don’t think he knows what he’s doing…” Zeelo muttered.
“No, it’s fine! I got this!” Matt insisted. Yet no matter how he stretched he couldn’t quite get the latch.
“Oh for crying out loud…” Jack sighed and stood up himself. The rat shoved his head between the bars and then began to wriggle his body. It was a tight squeeze… But he slowly managed to push his entire body through before flopping down onto the counter that held the cage. He took a moment to get his bearing as he looked around.
It was at this point Jack realized just how small he was. Inside the cage he really only had the other animals to compare things too… But now the rat could make out the entire store. Looking over the edge of the counter was like looking over the edge of a cliff. The tile floor that awaited at the bottom felt like it would be unpleasant to crash against if he fell. He felt his body stiffen as he backed away from the edge and back against the cage’s surface.
“Are you okay?” Princeton asked with concern. He was the first to notice Jack had slipped out while Matt was busy.
“Just fine…” Jack muttered through gritted teeth.
“Don’t worry to much.” Princeton tried to soothe the rat. “You don’t weigh much. If you fall it’ll barely hurt at all.”
“Lovely I’ll try to remem at that.” Jack hissed. He looked up at the latch that Matt was pawing at. He had to climb up there. He tried grabbing the bars… His paws were surprisingly flexible, and almost seemed to stick to the side of the cage. He started up slowly at first, holding on tightly with four sets of paws, even wrapping his tail around a bar to give himself extra leverage. However as he worked his way up further he realized it was a surprisingly easy task. As he grew more confident he picked up speed, scaling the side of the cage and easily unhooking the latch.
“Oh good job!” Matt shouted as he pushed the cage door open. “You looked good doing that! Though also delicious. Is that weird to say?”
“Very weird.” Zeelo rolled his eyes as he hopped out of the cage and down onto the floor.
“Why would you even say that?” Princeton asked as he jumped down.
“It was meant to be a joke!” Matt insisted. “Because I’m a cat! He’s a rat! Come on it was meant to be funny!” The cat looked dejected that no one else seemed to share his humor.
“Let’s just… Get out of here…” Jack muttered as he dropped down onto Matt’s head before the cat leaped off the table.
“So what now?” Zeelo asked. “We’re still animals, and still stuck in the shop”
“One step at a time!” Matt insisted. “Come on door’s right there! Let’s go!” Matt got a running start as he headed for the door. He then jumped up grasping at the door handle with his paws. He caught it… And proceeded to just hang off the edge of it scratching at the door with his hind claws.
“You didn’t think this through…” Jack sighed and clung to Matt’s head fur to avoid being tossed off. “Hey! You! Dog! What was your name again?”
“Me?” The border collie looked confused. “It’s Princeton.”
“Can you give Matt a hand?” Jack asked. “Or a foot or a paw… Or whatever. You’re the only one big enough to reach the handle and keep two feet on the floor.”
“Uh sure…” Princeton muttered. He waited for Matt to fall off the side of the door as he slowly approached. It was so strange walking on all fours. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was what it had been like for his ancestors. He shook those thoughts from his head as he jumped up on his hind legs and pushed his paws against the door knob. It didn’t turn. “It’s locked!”
“Can you unlock it?” Zeelo asked.
“Not without a key…” Princeton muttered as he stared at the lock. There wasn’t a latch or knob or anything like that. It appeared to be one of those really old locks that you needed a key regardless of which side you were on it.
“Who has a door that locks from the inside!?” Zeelo demanded. “What is even the point!?”
“Probably to keep people from escaping.” It was a new playful voice that spoke. Its owner didn’t take long to appear. He was a foxhound, but one with rather strange colorations. The brown and white parts of his fur were normal, but the black patches were a very fox-like orange. “Now… What are you four doing out of your cage and wondering around?”
“… Us four?” Princeton dropped down from the door and stared at the foxhound. “You’re not in a cage either.” He narrowed his eyes. If this animal was allowed to run loose he was likely that wolf’s ally.
“Well naturally.” The other dog nodded. “Cages are ever so boring, so I just can’t be bothered to stick around. Besides, they haven’t build one yet that can contain me…” He paused for a moment before adding, “at least not one that doesn’t involve a bowl of petunias.”
“Why petunias?” Matt slowly swished his tail and asked.
“Doesn’t seem like it’d make any sense does it?” The foxhound let his mouth hang open in a smile. “Which is part of what makes it so effectual. But… I answered your question! Fair’s fair! What are you doing?”
“What does it look like we’re doing!?” Jack shouted from atop Matt’s head. Something about this new dog rubbed him the wrong way. “We’re getting out of this crazy place?”
“Now why would you do that?” The foxhound looked taken aback. “Why… This place is practically a paradise! Oh… Sure the owner has a bit of a temper. Did not take well to a little joke I played on him when we first met… But ever since moving in here he’s provided be with an unlimited supply of nutritious rodents for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I’ve got a great thing going here!”
“… You eat rodents?” Jack felt himself cower back a bit retreating down to Matt’s back.
“Relax, I’m not going to eat you, regardless of how delicious you look.” The foxhound smiled wider. It had the side effect of showing off his teeth.
“WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP SAYING I’M DELICIOUS!?” Jack demanded.
“Well I mean you do look appetizing.” Matt teased. “He’s not wrong there.”
“Look I am not okay with people ten times my size constantly talking about eating me!” Jack ranted.
“No one is going to eat you.” Princeton slowly stepped between Matt and Jack and the new foxhound. If it came down to a fight he realized he was the only one big enough to take on the strange dog.
“I mean I wasn’t planning on it.” The foxhound replied. “I mean, eating normal mice is all fine and dandy. But I can’t eat clever talking mice. That’d just be rude.”
“Who even are you?” Zeelo felt a little on edge. As a small rabbit he was dealing with certain new instincts; and those instincts were currently yelling at him to run away from the dog clearly meant for hunting.
“Have I not introduced myself yet?” The foxhound seemed sheepish at that. “The name’s Kickaha! And technically it’s my job to make sure you don’t escape from this little shop.”
“You plan to stop us?” Princeton growled. He felt the fur stand up on his back as he prepared to defend the others. He was hoping he could intimidate the foxhound into backing down.
“There’s no reason to be so hostile.” Kickaha backed away slightly. “We have opposite goals; doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun! Just think of it as a game! You want to get out of here, I have to stop you. If you win, you’re home free. If you lose, you can just try again another night.”
“From what the owner said I don’t think we’re getting another night!” Jack protested.
“Well then I very much suggest you win tonight!” Kickaha barked out a laugh, spun in place and then took off running to the back of the shop.
“Well that was weird…” Matt muttered.
“Just ignore him.” Princeton relaxed now that the other dog was out. “We should just stay focused on a way to get that door open. I don’t think he’s dumb enough to start a fight with all of us.”
“Could we even do it?” Zeelo asked. “The owner would have had to have the key to lock the door when he left? Doesn’t that mean it’s gone.”
“Maybe Jack could use his tail to pick the lock!” Matt suggested.
“I… Don’t think that’s how tails or locks work.” Jack growled. He sat up on his hind legs as he tried to think. “Maybe there’s a window we can reach… or a backdoor. Possibly a spare key kept in an office somewhere?”
“It wouldn’t be unheard of for a small store to have a spare key in the owner’s office.” Princeton added.
“That’s a lot of ifs…” Zeelo seemed discouraged.
“It’s not as if we have better options.” Jack retorted thrashing his tail angrily. “The best we can do right now is look around for something until we have a better plan.”
“I guess…” Zeelo sighed. “Just wonder around and hope we think of something isn’t a plan that inspires a whole ton of confidence.” The bunny sagged in defeat. Then suddenly he stood on edge again as he heard a barking noise and the foxhound came running back into view.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice you were still back here doing nothing.” Kickaha whined as he arrived again. “Come on, don’t you know the game is afoot? Let’s get this going!”
“No one has any intention of playing with you.” Princeton barked.
“Oh come on, do I have to spell it out for you?” Kickaha swung his head to the side. As he did something tied around his neck by a thin string glinted in the light. “How am I keeping you from escaping unless I -HAVE- something you need to do just that?”
“The key!” Zeelo shouted.
“GET HIM!” Jack squeaked eagerly.
“Now you’re getting it!” Kickaha wagged his tail. “But don’t think I’m going to make it easy!” And with that he took off running.
“Get back here!” Princeton was the first to act. He ran after the other dog, running around the corner of a counter only to find Kickaha standing with his paws pressed against a giant bin full of tennis balls. “Don’t you dare do what you’re thinking about doing.”
“Now what would I be thinking of?” Kickaha asked as he applied a little pressure to the bin. It slowly began to tilt.
“That! Right there! Pushing that bin over!” Princeton barked.
“You mean push this bin over?” Kickaha asked.
“Yes!” Princeton realized his mistake a second too late. “Wait I mean-“
“If you insist.” Kickaha pressed against the bin and the entire thing fell over. A mountain of tennis balls fell out of the side and became a flurry of bouncing balls of rubber between the foxhound and the border collie.
“Are you kidding me!?” Princeton growled and tried to advance. His reward was a tennis ball smacking him atop the noggin. It started way more than it should have.
“Yip yip!” Kickaha stuck out his tongue and took off running while Princeton tried to advance through the balls. They somehow kept bouncing right onto his head or his snoot slowing his progress. It gave time for the others to catch up.
“Whoa what happened here?” Zeelo asked.
“He doesn’t play fair is what.” Princeton growled. He was watching the mess of balls to see if there was a gap in them. He hated letting Kickaha get ahead but this store was small. There was no reason to wear himself out getting assaulted by tennis balls.
“Come on guys! There’s four of us and one of him!” Jack squeaked angrily. “It shouldn’t be this hard to catch him! Zeelo and Princeton you two chase him from the ground!”
“Where does that imply we’re chasing him from?” Matt asked.
“You’re a cat.” Jack rolled his eyes.
“Yes and?” Matt licked one of his paws and wiped the front of his muzzle.
“Jump up on the counter! Follow him from above!” Jack screamed.
“Got it! Operation Death From Above is a go!” Matt flashed a Cheshire grin as he leaped up atop one of the counter displays. Jack barely had time to dig his claws into the cat’s fur to avoid being thrown off.
“This pet shop isn’t that big.” Zeelo muttered. “So it’s not like he has far to run!” Zeelo studied the bouncing balls for a second and then sprinted through them. He was quite a bit smaller Princeton. It was harder to say who was physically faster… But Zeelo was more agile, able to change directions easier as he worked his way through the tennis balls ahead of Princeton.
It took the rabbit no time at all to catch up with Kickaha. This time the foxhound was standing in front of a wall of display of collars and leashes.
“Gotcha cornered.” Zeelo approached the foxhound. As he did he again couldn’t help but feel his new instincts telling him to run away.
“So it would seem.” Kickaha’s tone suggested defeat, but the wagging of his tail betrayed his true intentions. “You know… I’m very much aware of the dangers of playing the size card… But now that I’m cornered. What are you going to do? I am quite a bit bigger than you.” His tail wagged even faster as he stared at the bunny.”
“Urk- well…” Zeelo hesitated. In a real fight between a hunting hound and a rabbit… The odds didn’t look good for the bunny. But… He was still a human mentally! And he was pretty sure this guy wasn’t a dog! He just had to think smart! All he needed was to get the key and get away. “I’m going… Going… To charge!”
“Seriously?” Kickaha hesitated clearly surprised by the answer.
“ANGRY BUNNY NOISES!” Zeelo gave a battle cry as he charged the foxhound head on. He acted as if he intended to headbutt the larger animal. But then at the last second, he twisted the ankle on his hind paws and sprung away from Kickaha at a 90 degree angle… But not before biting down on the shining key hanging from the foxhound’s neck.
“You’re seriously going to- urk!” Kickaha felt the string around his neck go taut before it snapped. “Hey give that back!” He didn’t give chase. Instead he bit down on one of the leashes on the wall. The entire display tilted over as leashes and collars rained down.
“Gaaah!” Zeelo gave a shriek as many of them landed on him. He tried to run but the ground was now a mess of leather and nylon leashes making it hard for him to move. His legs were getting tangled up! The foxhound on the other hand being larger had no issues wading through it.
Kickaha picked up a single red collar from the mess and slunk next to Zeelo before dropping the collar around his neck.
“What?” Zeelo asked in confusion. Asking the question opened his mouth though and the key began to slip. That was all the time Kickaha needed to bite down with it and run off.
“Hey!” Zeelo let out a shout. “Give that back!” Kickaha didn’t respond back… Largely because his mouth was full. But the smugness of his tail said everything.
“SURPRISE ATTACK!” Matt shouted as he suddenly dove off the top of the counter with four sets of claws ready. He landed on the foxhound’s back. Clinging with his hind claws he tried swiping for the key in his mouth.
“Grrrrr.” Kickaha growled playfully as he fell over onto his side taking Matt, and Jack by extension with him. Matt refused to let go even as Kickaha rolled over again and again.
“I’m not about to give up!” Matt yowled as he ignored the mess of collars and leashed he was dragged through.
“Matt no!” Jack tried to shout a warning. “Don’t you see what he’s doing the leash-“ But it was too late. One of the leashes had been wrapped around Matt’s belly. And as Kickaha rolled over one time it tightened to where he wouldn’t be able to slip out.
“Like that’s going to stop me!” Matt purred smugly. “I’ve still got you in my grips.”
Kickaha just gestured with his head to the other end of the leash. It was currently attached to the collar around Zeelo’s neck. With that Kickaha took off running. The leash went taut as it pulled on Zeelo and Matt was pulled off the dog’s body.
“Owww.” Zeelo whined.
The cat and the rabbit quickly climbed back to their feet and tried to resume the chase. The problem was for Matt this meant jumping back up on the counters. For Zeelo this meant running directly after him. The result was them going in different directions and both falling onto their backs as the leash tugged on them.
“This is getting ridiculous…” Jack muttered as he slid off of Jack and ran over to Zeelo. “Hang on let me figure out how to get the leash off.”
“Don’t tell me you guys gave up already?” Kickaha came back his tail wagging happily. “Come on that was a warm-up round.”
“You’re going to be in a lot of trouble when we get our hands on you!” Matt retorted.
“First off, you have paws not hands.” Kickaha clicked his tongue. “And second off! That’s -IF- you get your paws on me!” The foxhound turned around to walk away from the three smaller animals.
And found himself face to face with the border collie.
“Hi.” Princeton growled.
“Heeeeey, youuuu!” Kickaha smiled but his tail went between his legs. “You’re not still upset about that whole tennis ball thing? That was like… A whole two minutes ago! It’s something from the past to laugh about now! Right?” Princeton just let loose a low growl in response. “Meep!”
“I’m sorry! Really sorry!” Kickaha didn’t waste any time trying to run again. “Mostly for your lack of good humor! But still sorry!” He shouted as Princeton began to chase him all throughout the store.
“Give us that key!” Princeton barked loudly as he continued the chase. “There literally isn’t ant place for you to run to in here!”
“They’re just going in circles at this rate…” Jack observed the chase while he was tugging on the collar trying to remove it from Zeelo’s neck. Then he paused. “Wait I’ve got an idea. Zeelo! Matt! Run in opposite directions when I tell you too!”
“That’ll just get us hurt again!” Zeelo protested.
“Just do it!” The rat hissed. The bunny and cat both fell silent and just nodded. Meanwhile Jack climbed up a display onto one of the counters so he could see Princeton and Kickaha. He waited until he saw them coming in their direction again. “NOW!”
Matt and Zeelo moved in opposite directions just as Kickaha came around the corner. The leash that held them together lifted off the ground and went taut. Kickaha had just enough time to see it and realize what was happening. He didn’t have quite enough time to react though.
“Ohhh this might hurt…” The foxhound ran into the leash and tripped right over it before sprawling onto his back. This would have been bad enough… But Princeton was right behind him! And he was far enough back to have enough time to react.
“Clever thinking! Now I’ve got the scamp.” Princeton leaped over the leash and landed directly atop Kickaha. He pushed his forepaws down against the foxhound’s chest to make sure the other dog couldn’t move.
“Looks like we win.” Princeton let his tail wag just a tiny bit.
“Hey it worked! We got him!” Matt jumped in the air. “We can get the key!”
“So it would seem…” Jack gave a sigh of relief that it was finally over. He quickly climbed down the counter and went back to trying to remove the collar from Zeelo. After several tugs he even succeeded. Happy to be free Zeelo took a few hops around the store while Jack worked on untangling Matt.
“Now then… Give me the key!” Princeton was looking down at Kickaha’s chest trying to see where it was. But now the key was nowhere in sight. Had he dropped it? But he didn’t see it on the floor anywhere… Did that mean?
“Oh your friends tore it off. Only way to carry it now is in my mouth.” Kickaha wagged his tail weakly. “If I still had it on me now I wouldn’t be able to talk! I always knew you’d catch me eventually. Not a lot of places to run here. So I hid the key when I had the chance!”
“WHERE!?” Princeton barked. It couldn’t be far. He hasn’t been far behind the foxhound. There must have been a brief moment where the others lost sight. If he figured out where Kickaha was during that he’d at least know where to search.
“Relax I’m going to tell you.” Kickaha’s tail wagged faster. “But it wouldn’t be any fun if I told you directly. Instead… I have a little riddle for you! The key is hidden in a very specific place! So you’ll have to solve this riddle if you have any hope of-“
“FOUND IT!” Zeelo shouted. The rabbit came running around the corner.
“WHAT HOW!?” Kickaha was completely surprised.
“It’s already sticking into the lock!” Zeelo shrugged. “I saw it when I was hopping around.”
“But… But…” Kickaha whined. “I had this entire riddle about how the key to your escape being what locks you in! You can’t just ruin that!”
“Yeah I think we can.” Jack twitched his tail. “Come on Matt, let’s see if we can keep the door open while Princeton keeps our friend occupied.”
“I don’t suppose you’d let me up if I promised I’d be good and not cause anymore trouble?” Kickaha pleaded.
“Not a chance.” Princeton grinned. “You seem the type to cause problems simply because it’s your nature.” Princeton couldn’t help but remember a table with a certain scorpion as he studied the foxhound.
“It’s probably for the best honestly.” Kickaha sighed.
Meanwhile Matt and Jake worked their way to the door. Jake climbed up atop Matt’s head as the cat leaped up and grabbed the doorknob again. As he clung to the knob Jake was able to climb to the lock and turn the key. As soon as the lock was opened the door swung open.
“FREEEEEEDOM!” Matt shouted as he dropped down from the door and ran out onto the street outside.
“Yeah sure, but you’re still a cat.” Jack climbed down from the lock and went through.
“Guess this is really just the start of something else huh?” Zeelo hopped for the door next. “Escape from the shop, start life as a rabbit…”
“I guess… There are worse fates.” Princeton looked down at the foxhound. He slowly released the other dog from his paws and backed away as if unsure if Kickaha was going to try anything. After a few seconds he turned and ran out the door himself.
They had escaped. They were still stuck as animals… And perhaps always would be. But at least they were free to figure out their own fates from there.
Kickaha slowly stood up after they were out of the store and watched as they disappeared down the street. He gave a wistful sigh and then turned around and looked at the mess the shop was in.
“Rest in peace free lunch ticket.” Kickaha said sadly. There was no way he was keeping his job with this mess. In fact… It was probably best he left rather than stick around for the owner to return in the morning. Yeah, that seemed like a good idea. He quickly headed out the door. He didn’t want to be here when the owner came back.
After all. He imagined it was better to let the guy clean up that mess himself without anyone around to blame and throw curses at.