Becca and Jane are two friends on their spring break who decide to visit a retreat out in the country side in an attempt to get away from it all for a bit… And then they’re given the option to take it a step further and see the world through the eye’s of an animal.
It had been a long drive out to the countryside and when the car finally pulled up to the cottage they’d be staying in Becca was glad to get the chance to get out and stretch her legs. Even someone as short of her couldn’t help but feel cramped after being in the car for six hours.
“I can’t believe you talked me into coming out here with you.” Becca sighed as brushed her brown hair off her shoulders as she got out of the car. “We could be spending our spring break on the beach.”
“Oh yes because that’d be fun.” A second girl, Jane, got out from the driver’s side. She was considerably taller than Becca and had longer red colored hair. “Unable to relax for five minutes without a drunken frat boy hitting on you. At least we’ll be able to get some peace and quiet out here.”
“I suppose…” Becca conceded the point as she looked around the area. Other than the stone cottage they were staying in there wasn’t a whole lot. They had come in on an old country road and the closest neighbor was at least a mile down the road. It was nothing but grassy fields in most directions with woodlands behind the house. “Just doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot to do for entertainment.”
“Ah come on! It’s like camping but nicer!” Jane insisted as she walked towards the house. “And if we get too bored the drive back into town isn’t that long.”
“I suppose…” Becca seemed less than convinced as she followed her up the front steps of the cottage. The old gray structure looked old and had a white painted front door with a doggy door cut into the bottom. A wooden sign hung above the door. It was mostly faded, but the words ‘Pawpad Retreat’ were just barely visible on the sign. Jane had apparently found the place online when looking for vacation packages. It had glowing reviews. Five stars across the board, people saying you wouldn’t believe how wonderful it was till you try it. But… It was just a house near the woods. So far Jane wasn’t impressed. But… They had already paid in advance, she might as well try to enjoy herself. She reached out a hand to knock on the door-
And had the door swing open just inches before she touched it.
“Ah! I thought I heard a car coming up the robe!” An elderly woman stood on the other side of the door. She stood hunched over a cane with a black sundress that seemed two sizes too big draped over her bony body. “You must be the tenants for the week… Come in, come in!” The old woman stepped back from the door.
“That’d be us!” Jane smiled as she headed in first. Becca followed second. The inside of the house was about what Becca expected after seeing it. It was cramped for starters. There was only one bedroom, a bathroom, a living room and a small kitchen. Most of the furniture looked to be old hand carved wooden items, and the cream colored couch looked like it had been there since the 50’s.
“I won’t stay long, I’m sure you two are eager to begin your vacation.” The woman moved past the couch and into the kitchen. “The keys are on the dresser in bedroom and the place is stocked with food. I know you’re on vacation, but I don’t recommend sleeping in each day. The sunrise from the back porch is breathtaking.”
“Uh… Sure… Thanks…” Becca replied looking around.
“I know the place doesn’t look like much.” The woman continued from the kitchen. “But people come out here to get away from it all! And so we try to accommodate that! Make it feel like you’re really living as part of nature.”
“And that sounds exactly like what we’re looking for.” Jane smiled. “A nice relaxing vacation away from civilization for a bit.”
“That’s what everyone comes out here for.” The woman laughed. A few moments later she appeared in the living room holding a tray with a pot of tea and two cups. “That’s why a few years ago we started offering a new service. And it’s proven to be quite popular.”
“Oh no, we’re not interested in buying any add-ons for our vacation.” Becca interrupted sensing a sales-pitch.
“Oh it’s already included in the base price, won’t cost you anything extra.” The woman replied. “But, if you really want to get in touch with nature while you’re here, I really recommend giving it a try. After all, you may never have another chance to see the world through an animal’s eyes.”
“Excuse me?” Becca sat down on the couch across from the tea set. “That… What does that even mean?”
“It means exactly what I said.” The woman smiled. “Why not try spending your vacation as an animal? Personally, I recommend a dog. I’ve never met an unhappy dog.” At this both girls burst into fits of nervous laughter. After a few seconds they stopped when they realized the woman appeared to be taking this seriously.
“You’re… Not joking.” Becca replied.
“It’s an earnest offer.” The woman replied.
“That’s weird.” Jane shook her head. “Really weird. I mean, sure it’s not like the idea of being a dog doesn’t have some level of appeal. Pretty sure everyone wonders what it’s like to be an animal at some point in their life. But it’s not like such a thing is possible.”
“Oh, I forget how close minded today’s youth can be sometimes…” The woman tsked sadly. “But… If you decide you want to try it, I’ve already made the tea. It’ll only last a week.”
“Um… Sure. Thank you.” Becca replied flatly as she stared at the tea.
“Well you two are probably wanting to get settled in. So I’ll leave you be.” The woman stared for the door. “I do hope you’ll decide to give it a try. And the tea itself tastes pretty good too.” With that the old woman hobbled out the door and disappeared.
“So it’s not just me. That was weird. Right?” Becca asked.
“That was very weird.” Jane nodded as she walked over to the coffee table and picked up one of the cups of tea. She sniffed at it. “Smells like normal tea though.”
“You’re not honestly thinking about drinking that are you?” Becca asked. “After she acted like that! Who knows what she put in it!”
“I doubt our host is going to try to poison us.” Jane replied. “Certainly was an odd joke though. Maybe she just likes her tall tales.” With that Jane took a sip of the tea.
“I can’t believe you just drank that.” Becca growled. Then she looked slightly concerned. “Do you feel alright?”
“I’m fiiiine!” Jane replied, then suddenly her eyes widened and she gripped at her heart with one hand. “ARRRRRRRRRRRGH!”
“Jane!? JANE!?” Becca jumped up and ran over to her. “What’s happening!? Do I need to call 911!?”
“I… I…” Jane shambled a few steps from where she was standing. “I’m just messing with you.” She suddenly stood up straight and smiled.
“You’re such a jerk!” Becca grabbed a throw pillow from the couch and threw it at her friend. “I thought you had been poisoned!”
“No such luck I’m afraid. You’re stuck with me for the week.” Jane took another sip from the tea. “And I’m pretty sure this is Earl Grey. With possibly way too much sugar in it.”
“You can never have too much sugar in tea.” Becca grabbed the other cup defiantly and drank it. She then paused and looked down at the cup. “Okay, wow, sometimes you can have too much sugar in tea.”
“I know right?” Jane laughed as she sat down on the couch.
“So now what?” Becca asked as she joined her.
“Now we relax! Enjoy the sounds of nature!” Jane smiled.
And then they sat there in silence for awhile, before Becca broke it.
“Okay, it’s been an hour, I’m bored.” Becca stood up. She began to scratch idly at an itch on her arm. She really hoped that the couch hadn’t had bugs or something.
“It’s been ten minutes.” Jane rolled her eyes. She was also idly scratching part of her upper arm.
“Either way I need to do something! Not just sit here!” Becca began to pace. “And for some reason my feet are killing me. It’s like… They just suddenly-”
“Suddenly itch really bad for no reason?” Jane asked.
“Y… yeah…” Becca paused as they looked at each other. Both of them quickly pulled off their shoes and socks. Becca was amazed at the feeling of instant relief… But alarmed when she saw her feet. There were small golden hairs growing over parts of it… And the bottom of her foot had some kind of thick pad on it. “My… My feet weren’t this calloused this morning.”
“And I’ve never had foot hair in my life…” Jane was in a similar state. She took a few steps across the wooden floor and paused. “Huh.”
“It’s just… It feels kind of nice being barefoot now.” Jane shrugged. “Almost like I have better support than my shoes gave me.”
“Be serious! This is weird!” Becca snapped. “Why do our feet look like this!?” Yet as she walked around without her shoes she had to admit that Jane had a point. Whatever those pads were on the bottom of her feet, they offered her just as much, if not more support than her shoes had.
“We’re out in the boonies… The forest is right there…” Jane thought for a few seconds. “Maybe it’s just some kind of foot fungus?”
“That’s disgusting!” Becca cried and quickly stormed into the bathroom. She ran the bath and quickly pulled her jean legs up. Once the water was about halfway she shoved her feet into the bath and tried to scrub them hoping the yellow hairs and pad would come off. She scrubbed for several minutes, but the problem only seemed to get worse. Now her toenails had changed color, becoming completely black! The yellow hair was thicker, looking like a coat of golden fur that went all the way up to her ankle! And pad on the bottom of her foot was now a dark black, split into separate pads between the base of her foot and on her toes. To top it all off… All the bath had done was get the yellow hair wet and made her feet smell like… Like…
Like wet dog…
“You have got to be kidding me.” Becca pulled her feet out of the tub and stormed back into the living room. “Jane! We’ve got a problem!” To make it worse… She now had that itching feeling all over her body. As she exited the bathroom she just caught the image of herself in the mirror. There was light yellow hair growing on her face!
“Yeah I noticed.” Jane was standing in the living room. Just like Becca her feet were completely fur covered. They didn’t even look like feet anymore, at least not human feet! It looked stretched out, and both girls were now forced to stand on their toes like many animals.
“Okay, I know this is going to sound crazy…” Becca started. “But I think that old lady put something in the tea and it might be turning us into dogs!”
“That’s not even possible!” Jane protested, but there weren’t to many other possible answers… And the woman had acted like this would happen. “Maybe… She just spiked the tea with a drug! This is just a hallucination!” As she spoke the fur was creeping up their ankles to their lower legs. Meanwhile she could feel the start of smaller hairs growing beneath her sweater sleeves.
“It feels pretty real to me! And what are the odds we’d hallucinate the exact same thing!?” Becca couldn’t figure out what to do. The tea had come from the kitchen right? She quickly ran in and opened all the cabinets hoping to find some clue. Whatever that old lady used… There’d have to be some kind of antidote right? But for the most part it was just normal food… Even the box of tea itself when she found it appeared to be normal Earl Grey.
The old lady must have hada whatever did this on her person! There was nothing here that would help!
“UGGGGGGGGGGH!” Becca let out a loud grunt as she walked back into the living room and fell face first onto the couch. By now the fur had gotten up to her knees. “This suuuucks. I don’t want to be a dog!”
“What do dogs even do!?” Jane asked as she collapsed into a chair.
“I don’t know…” Becca replied in an absolutely defeated voice. “I guess they mostly just sleep, eat, or play.”
“Huh…” Jane paused.
“When you phrase it like that it almost sounds kind of nice.” Jane stared at the ceiling as her fur line slowly moved over her knees.
“Yeah but we’d be dogs! Our lives would be over! Our lives are over!” Becca threw her hands up.
“Yeeeeeah. I guess this kind of sucks…” Jane had no hope left in her voice. “I mean it wouldn’t be so bad if it lasted a little while and…” Jane sat up. “Wait! The lady! She said a thing! An important thing! What was it?”
“What!? Did you remember something, can we change back?” Becca wasn’t sure if she dared hope.
“She said.. It was… What was it…” Jane crossed her arms. “That was right! It was something like ‘it will only last a week!’
“A week!?” Becca slowly sat up on the couch. If that was true… Then in a week everything would go back to normal! But… To be stuck as a dog for a whole week! It was so much. “There’s gotta be a way to change back faster!”
“We could try driving into town…” Jane looked down at her legs. “But… If the changes continue like this driving might prove an issue.”
“So we’re just stuck?” Becca sighed. At least, it was hopefully just for a week. “As if this trip wasn’t a letdown enough. What are we even supposed to do all week.”
“Well… what were the choices you gave earlier?” Jane looked thoughtful. “Play, sleep, and eat? Which one you feel up to first”
“You’re gonna just try to enjoy this?” Becca fixed Jane with a stare.
“Well it’s that or sit here and about it all week.” Jane grinned.
“You just can’t stand letting me sit here and be angry, huh?” Becca sighed. “Fine… Let’s… Go outside and look around the woods or something. I guess anything is better than doing nothing.” Becca reached a hand under her own shirt and scratched fiercely as the transformation continued.
“You know… There’s no one else here…” Jane suddenly had an idea. “We could just ditch our clothes. Not like dogs wears them, and at least this hair wouldn’t itch as bad.”
“I am not getting naked.” Becca replied through gritted teeth before heading for the front door.
“Maybe for now, but this is really not comfortable.” Jane followed after her.
Walking proved to be slightly awkward for the two as they headed out the door. Their legs weren’t just growing fur, but twisting in shape. Becca felt as if her entire center of gravity had been thrown off and that she was hobbling slightly as she went outside. It didn’t help that the fur growing in was starting to itch underneath her jeans. By now she could feel that the itching sensation had gotten all the way up to her thighs. She was almost half dog at this point.
“So… What do we do now?” Becca asked as she walked around the cabin and towards the forest. Her ears twitched slightly as she moved forward. She was suddenly aware of all the noise coming from the woods. Birds singing, bugs buzzing, the rustling of grass and trees. It was as if someone had suddenly turned the volume up on the world. It wasn’t hard to figure out what was happening. She looked back at Jane just in time to see her ears stretch out into long floppy golden furred straps that drooped down the side of her head. Becca reached up a hand and touched her own ears, confirming the same thing had just happened to her. That was why everything was louder.
“Whoa…” Jane paused as she adjusted to her new level of hearing. “Everything is just so loud. No wonder dogs are excited all the time… I can hear everything!”
“Yeah I guess…” Becca would admit to herself it was kind of cool. Not that she was going to say she was enjoying it or anything.
“The birds have to be the loudest…” Jane replied. “We should… We should…” She paused for a brief moment and made a face as if she was in a slight amount of pain. She reached down to her waist and pulled the back of her jeans down slightly. As soon as she did a long golden tail spread outward. As soon as the tail was free it began to wag back and forth rapidly. “We should hunt down some of those birds!”
“Hunt them down?” Becca winced as she spoke. Her teeth were getting longer and sharper and she nearly pricked her own tongue. On top of that she could feel the pain of her own tail growing in. The tail growth itself didn’t hurt. It was the fact it was pushing against the denim of her jeans. Her tail could feel things, and right now it was squished. “I guess we can look for them but…” She stopped walking and grimaced. She couldn’t take this anymore! Between the pain from her tail being squished to the itchiness of the fur pants were just more trouble than they were worth! Without further comment or question she unbuttoned her her jeans, quickly pulled them down and stepped out of them. She felt a sense of relief immediately as the itchiness and pain ceased. At this point the fur had reached her waistline and was growing over her stomach and back so she didn’t even feel cold without them.
“Wow… Didn’t expect you to change your mind so fast.” Jane mused. “Thought you were set on not getting naked.”
“Does it really count as naked when you’re covered in fur?” Becca asked.
“Hmmm, I suppose it doesn’t.” Jane quickly ditched her own jeans as well before breaking into a brisk trot. “Now come on let’s go find those birds!”
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” Becca shrugged, acting if she wasn’t that interested. At least she tried. Unfortunately, hew newest limb had a mind of its own and tended to betray her emotions. The darn thing just wouldn’t stop wagging!
The woods behind the cabin weren’t exceptionally thick. There were plenty of gaps in the tree canopy for the light to come through making it easy to see where they were going and explore. The atmosphere was intoxicating. There was so much life in every direction. Becca couldn’t stop her ears from twitching at every new sound. Rather it was a twig snapping as an animal walked over it, the running water of a nearby stream or the rustling of a bush where some unseen animal lurked she could perceive it all.
Then she became aware of a new sense. Well… It wasn’t new, just not one she was used to paying attention except for very strong scents. Becca felt her nose become cold and wet… And as she did she could smell the scents of the forest. There was the grass and the trees of course! But there were also so many animals! She was focussed on these new sensations that she hadn’t even noticed the fur had spread all the way up to her chest and was starting to cover her shoulders and upper arms. It was almost as if she was in a zen-like trance just taking in the universe.
And then that sense of serenity was broken.
“That tree has birds in it!” Jane shouted at the top of her lungs alerting Becca to her surroundings. Jane then ran up to the trees loudly clapping her hands together making as much noise as she could. The birds clearly didn’t appreciate this. Several angry squawks came from the top of the tree as multiple black feathered birds flew out of the tree and off further into the woods. “Come back here! I’m just playing!” Jane started to run after the birds.
“You’re having fun huh?” Becca flashed Jane a wry smile.
“Awww come on!” Jane came to a stop and turned to face her friend. “If we’re going through this, we might as well have a little fun! I’m just acting like a dog would.” She fell back onto her bottom and without thinking stretched up her leg and scratched at her ear. She froze in the middle of the motion. “Wait what am I doing?”
“Your leg…” Becca just stared for a moment. If their legs could reach like that now… Odds are they wouldn’t be able to walk on two legs much longer.
“It… Doesn’t feel bad actually…” Jane resumed scratching her ear. “You should try just letting your body do what comes naturally!”
“I suppose it’s easier for you.” Becca’s face returned to a wide grin. “You always were a little more childish when-” Suddenly every hair on Becca’s body stood on end as she sensed something. She slowly turned around and looked behind her. There on the forest ground was a small critter digging through the leaves that had fallen to the ground. “Squirrel!”
Becca gave in to her instincts. She took off running as fast as she could when she saw the squirrel. The squirrel looked and scrambled into a panicked run. It quickly leaped onto a tree and started to run straight up it.
“Ha! Think you can get away?” Becca could hear her voice get raspier. It was as if words themselves were getting harder… But that wasn’t important right now. “Guess what, you’re looking at the world’s first climbing dog!” By now the fur had reached her hands, but they were still hands. She grabbed onto a low branch and began to pull herself up the tree. She got about halfway up to the branch before her grip started to slip. “Ah, no, come on not now! I almost got it!”
It was no good, Becca lost her grip and slid down the tree trunk to the ground. She looked down at her hands and could see the physically change. Must like her feet, black pads were growing in on her hands and were broken up between one big pad on her palm and several smaller pads on her fingers. Her fingers grew shorter and lost their dexterity as her fingernails became hard black claws. They were no more capable than normal dog paws this time.
“Youuu Urrrr! You got lucky punk!” Becca struggled to shout up at the tree. She tried to stand up, but her center of gravity was off even more than last time. She wobbled back and forth for a few seconds before falling over and landing on all fours.
“Squeeeeeeeeeeeeak!” The squirrel screamed angrily at her from up in the tree.
“Yeah!? Yeah!? That so!?” Becca asked. She backed out of her shirt leaving it on the ground and jumped up against the tree pawing at it with her forepaws. “Why don’t you come down here and say that punk!?”
“Yeah you tell him Becca.” Jane slowly approached Becca from behind. She too was now walking on four legs. Her body was completely fur covered, and the only trace of her humanity left was that her face still had some human characteristics… But that was already starting to change.
“Yes. I did show him.” Becca sat down down on her haunches and looked away from Jane haughtily. As she did her face began to stretch outward into a muzzle as her brown human hair grew shorter.
“Oh yeah really arrrrooo. He’s shaking in his nonexistent boots.” Jane was also starting to have trouble with words.
“Well actually he kind of is!” Becca stuck out her tongue. “And I got closer to him that you did to the birds! So that’s baaaark! Woooof!” It was at this exact moment her face finished stretching into a muzzle. She was now 100% dog.
“Woof?” Jane tilted her head and let her tongue hang out. Despite the lack of proper words, Becca could understand Jane’s barking as if it were plain English. Though even if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have missed that teasing tone.
“Arooooooooooo!” Becca gave a shout before jumping to her feet and running straight for Jane! The other dog didn’t hesitate to burst into a sprint further into the forest. The chase would last for a few hours… And multiple times they would forget who was chasing who and change roles.
By the time the two dogs were themselves out it the sun had set. They worked their way back to the cottage in a slow tired trot. Upon arriving home they realized neither one had grabbed the keys! But it didn’t matter. It wasn’t as if they had hands at this point to use them! Besides, there was a doggy door they could easily slip through. And so the two headed back to the bedroom, jumped up onto the bed and curled up next to each other to sleep.
From that point on… Time almost seemed to become meaningless. They would wake when they wanted, and run out to the woods to play all day. Anytime they got hungry or tired they would come back to the cottage. There was a large bowl in the kitchen that held more than enough food for both of them for two weeks. At this point there was nothing to worry about, nothing to arrange. It really was the most carefree vacation either of them had ever had.
And it was over before either of the knew it.
One morning, the two woke up to find themselves human again sprawled out on a rug in the living room. The old woman was standing over them with a knowing smile on her face.
“I see you decided to try the tea after all. I trust you had a good time.” She flashed a wide grin. “But the week is over, I believe you two have to get back to school. I’ll give you a few minutes to grab your things before you go.” The old lady started to walk back towards the cottage entrance and stopped. “Oh… And you’ll probably want to put some clothes on before you leave. Humans tend to get in trouble when they walk around like that.” With that the old lady was gone.
“Ugggh…” Becca groaned as she looked around. Her enhanced senses were gone and the world seemed so quiet and mundane. “That was… Quite a trip.”
“So… Should we stick to the beach next time?” Jane slowly stood up. She was unsteady on two legs for a moment as she got used to using them again.
“Oh heck no.” Emma shook her head as she crawled to her feet and looked around trying to remember where her suitcase of clothes was. “I’m booking this place for next time as soon as they open reservations.”
A few months later, Becca found herself avoiding schoolwork. Some of her sorority sisters had gone on a camping trip, but she was stuck working on a project. She had so hoped to be at the retreat with them… But for now she settled for talking to one of the sisters over video chat.
“Yeah we’re checked in.” The sister replied. “Owner was kind of weird. Made tea and left a while ago. Not sure what her problem is…”
“She’s nice once you get to know her.” Becca mused.
“Maybe, I don’t know… I’m not sure I like this place you recommended.” The sister asked. “I think there might be bugs or something in the furniture. I just can’t stop itching?”
“Is that so?” Becca smiled. She could see some of the other sisters in the background of the call slowly taking their shoes off. Their reactions once they saw what was starting was priceless to say the least.
“Why are my feet so calloused!?” One of the sisters in the background shouted.
“Becca something about this place isn’t right!” The sister on the call spoke. “I just took off my shoes, and my feet look really weird, like animal feet! I think that old woman did something to us.”
“You should just keep an open mind to what she offered! That place is about to be far more fun than it first looked.” She let out a giggle. “But I’ll let you go for now so you can enjoy the retreat.” Becca cut the call there. It wasn’t much fun missing out on the retreat herself… But sharing a truly magical and unexpected gift with her friends more than made up for it.