Aurum attempts to go to the store to get his phone repaired, but a Reality Shift makes things a lot more confusing and eventful than he expected.
Tales From Switch City
Switch City, that strange place that just happened to be built on a nexus point between all worlds. The walls between realities and timelines were so thin, it was easy to accidentally wander into another reality without even noticing it. Due to the fact there were an infinite number of timelines and realities, many of them were very similar. When one went through a Reality Shift, it often wasn’t noticeable at all. They might simply have stepped into a world where the grocery store didn’t carry their favorite cereal anymore. Or, they might step into a world ruled by different creatures than their own species or one where the rules of magic and technology were vastly different from their own world. The biggest shock was always going from a world without magic to one where it was everywhere. But sometimes, magic didn’t take the form of wizards swinging around staves and conjuring fire. Sometimes, the magic was more subtle, interfacing conveniently with technology. In such a case, one might go several hours without noticing anything had changed. Not until they accidentally stumbled across something that didn’t exist in their own world.
Aurum was the current victim of a Reality Shift. He was a young adult tiger with white fur and gold stripes. In terms of clothing, he wore almost nothing at all. He had a pair of fingerless gloves, a green bandanna worn around his neck, a beaded anklet on his left leg, and a small barely visible belt that had a cell phone case attached to it. Though the cell phone was currently in his paws instead of the case. If he hadn’t been so intent on staring at the cell phone he might have noticed the Reality Shift right when it happened.
He was at the local mall. And it in fact stayed a mall. But several stores changed, some to different types of stores, and others just suddenly had different brand names or logos. As Aurum walked into the cell phone repair center his eyes were glued on the screen that was frozen on an error message. As a result, he didn’t notice when the fruit-shaped logo above the door suddenly changed shape and became a pineapple.
Much to Aurum’s surprise and pleasure, there was no line, he was able to walk right up to the cash register so he could talk to them. There was a bored raccoon woman behind the counter. She wore glasses but no clothing. However, she wore a lanyard with an ID tag on it to identify her as an employee in place of a uniform. She looked to still be in her teens and was at least two heads shorter than Aurum.
“Excuse me miss…” Aurum spoke up. “I just needed some help. My phone has been frozen on this screen since last night.”
“Have you tried turning it off and back on?” The raccoon girl asked in a bored tone.
“Eh?” Aurum’s ears flopped to the left. “I just said it wouldn’t power down.”
“Have you tried taking the battery out?” The raccoon asked next.
“No, this model… Like all the new models.” There was a bitter sigh in Aurum’s words. “Doesn’t have a removable battery. At least not one I can get to without specialized tools and voiding the warranty.”
“Fine… Let me see how busy we are and if we can get you in today.” The raccoon stared at the computer screen down in front of her.
“What?” Aurum looked around the store. Aside from him and the raccoon, there wasn’t a single soul here. “But there’s no one-“
“Someone could have an appointment.” The raccoon had a dismissive tone that was all too familiar. Some thought it was the tone of someone who didn’t care about other people and chose to be rude on purpose. In actuality, it was the tone of someone who didn’t get paid nearly enough for what they had to do and put up with on their job and had were so drained from it they had long since lost the energy to care.
“Well?” Aurum asked.
“The system is slow, I need a minute.” The raccoon’s eyes seemed to glaze over as they stared at their computer screen. An awkward silence overtook the store. After five whole minutes, it was finally broken. “Alright, I can see you now. What’s the problem?”
“It doesn’t turn on.” The tip of Aurum’s tail twitched somewhat irritated.
“Okay… Let me see it.” The raccoon held out a paw. As soon as Aurum held the phone forward, she snatched it. “Huh? Is this some kind of joke? This must be some kind of bootleg product?”
“What?” This caught Aurum off guard. “Bootleg? How would that even be possible? This is the same store I bought it from!”
“Really, you bought this phone from this store?” The raccoon sounded unconvinced. “From an actual sales rep here, and not some guy hanging out outside the store right?”
“Yes! Why would you think I’d do something like that?” Aurum thrashed his tail. He couldn’t understand what was going on.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. This is a bootleg. Look, it doesn’t even have the right logo.” The raccoon spun the phone around and pointed at the fruit-shaped logo on the phone.
“What’s wrong with it?” Aurum, not knowing he was in a different timeline had no possible way to know there was a different phone brand.”
“Does that look like a pineapple?” The raccoon asked.
“No… Why should it? It looks just like-“ Aurum stopped. He was about to gesture to one of the phones on display to show the matching icons. But, where he should have seen one fruit logo on it, he instead saw a pineapple. “What?” He glanced around the store. All the phones had pineapples on them. And there was even a pineapple on the door he had come in through. How had he not noticed that? “Is this some kind of weird joke? Or a prank show?”
“If it is, I’m not getting paid enough for it.” The raccoon sighed. “Look, I’ll take the phone in the back, see if I can get it open and do anything. But, I doubt you can even register this thing on our network. I don’t know how you had it working previously at all. If you want my advice. Buy a new phone, a real one this time. We have plenty out on demo. Take a look, see what’s in your price range… In the meantime, I’ll see if I can do anything with this… Thing.” The raccoon girl opened a door leading to a backroom and quickly turned around. “But I’m not making any promises!” With that, she shut the door and Aurum was on his own.
“Pineapple phones? What the heck is going on?” As far as Aurum knew, Pineapple was never a brand that existed. There had been a completely different store here. Well not completely different. It had looked exactly the same except it had a completely different fruit printed on each of the phones and doors. He felt dumbstruck, having no idea what to make of this. Had the company gotten bought out or something… But if that was the case, why would she think it was a bootleg instead of just the other company? It was like this Pineapple had somehow mysteriously replaced his phone manufacturer.
Well, whatever was going on there didn’t seem to be a lot he could do now. If Pineapple was the only brand selling phones, then even if he never heard of them he supposed he’d have to buy a pineapple phone. So he started to browse the different phones that were out on display.
He recognized almost every single one of them. He had seen them on commercials, and various promotion emails trying to get him to upgrade early or add another line. They were the exact same phones. The only thing that had changed was the fruit logo! He even found his current phone model among the displays. He picked it up intending to show it to the raccoon but paused for a brief moment as his eyes glanced over the screen.
The phone had lit up when he picked it up, and it turned out there was one other difference in the phones aside from the logo. The apps. There were a few on the main page, Aurum didn’t recognize a single one of them. He pulled up all apps hoping to find something that looks familiar. Nothing. But, there was something else that caught his eye. An app labeled
‘Profession Dragon Training App’
The app’s icon was a picture of a dragon’s head winking that Aurum would probably describe as more handsome than fierce. Still, dragons were cool. And the raccoon hadn’t come back so he didn’t have anything to do right now.
He launched the app. The screen turned black except for a loading bar and the same winking dragon icon, now displayed in the center. After a few minutes, the screen changed to a green gridlock with a red button in the center. It was labeled ‘Initialize.’
Aurum was not the type of person to not press a big red button. Even if it was just one on a phone. There was zero hesitation. The screen changed again and instead showed what looked like a height chart. There were various buttons on the right but they were all grayed out. But, something was happening in front of the height chart. There was a small colorful ball that was spinning two rings spinning around it, one horizontally and the other vertically helping to make the ball look three-dimensional.
Then, the rings disappeared, and the colorful ball expanded into a humanoid shape. The phone’s flash suddenly went off. This caught Aurum by surprise and he dropped the phone onto the floor where it slid somewhere underneath the stand.
“Did it just take a picture of me?” Aurum asked. He looked around in confusion trying to see where the phone had gone. He groaned when he realized it was under the stand. It was narrow, barely enough room for the phone to even get under there. He could maybe get his fingers under it if he got down on the floor. Hopefully it hadn’t slid far. He imagined he’d get an earful from the raccoon if he had gotten one of their phones stuck under the display case.
The crack was too narrow for him to easily see. He stuck as much of his paw as would fit in the crack and felt around, trying to find the phone. He felt his fingertips pass over the phone screen. That was it! But as he tried to pull the phone out, he somehow pushed it further in. He also became aware of a scratching noise coming from his feet paws.
“Huh?” Aurum looked backward. His tiger claws, normally kept hidden, were out and noticeably bigger than they should have been. And apparently sharper. While he was crouching on the floor he managed to leave a long deep scratch where his feet were. Aurum hesitated for a brief moment, then pulled his hand paws out from under the stand and looked at them. Once more, his claws were clearly visible instead of hidden away, and were longer and sharper. Wait… Did the cell phone get pushed further under because his claws had suddenly gotten bigger? But why had his claws gotten bigger? Were pineapples somehow to blame? Because so far that fruit seemed to be the source of his problems. Maybe some pineapple god in the sky was screwing with him.
That would be stupid.
… Which didn’t rule it out.
Aurum realized his new longer claws did give him more reach. They may have been big, but they were still more slender than his fingers. He carefully slid a hand under the stand again where he remembered the cell phone being. He found it again and tried to very, VERY carefully drag the phone out with his claw. The last thing he needed was to scratch the screen up and get in trouble for that in addition to… Whatever was happening.
Slowly, he drew the phone out, and half of the phone was soon out from beneath the stand. But Aurum was forced to briefly completely forget about that. Because suddenly a pair of wings sprouted from his back. They had a white lining and a golden membrane.
“Am… Am I turning into a dragon?” That was the best excuse Aurum could think of for the claws and the wings. And it wasn’t like such an experience would be entirely new to him. But why was it happening now? And again, why pineapples!?
At least the phone was out where he could grab it easily. Aurum immediately reached forward to grab the phone and…
“OW!” Aurum had hit his head on the stand! Except… He hadn’t… His head wasn’t close enough but he had somehow hit it and… Wait if he was a dragon now… He reached his hands up and felt along his head. He had a pair of horns. From the feel of it, they curved like a ram’s horns before extending backward. So he had bumped those by accident.
This time, being much more careful, Aurum grabbed the phone without bumping anything or sliding it back under the stand. He pulled it out and stood up. The phone was in his hand! He had done it! At least one problem was solved! He tried to set the phone back on top of the stand, wiping his entire palm across it as he did.
There were suddenly multiple changes. His wings were suddenly made from white feathers with gold tips. He also suddenly felt the ground come rushing up to meet him as he shrunk to about a third of the size he had been. He felt something shift on his head and felt his horns again. Now they were more simple horns that just curved forward.
Aurum had a sneaking suspicion the Dragon Training app might be responsible for these changes. Too bad he couldn’t confirm it. The phone was not on top of the stand which was way above his head! How was he supposed to get up there? Maybe these claws would be good at climbing? He could give that a try and-
Aurum gave himself a slight slap to the front of the face. Why was he being so silly? HE HAD WINGS! He didn’t need to climb. He could just fly up to the top of the stand. How had he almost missed something so obvious? Well, in fairness to him, today was very odd.
Not because of the dragon thing… That was something Aurum considered inside the normal realm of possibility. It was because of the pineapple thing. That was the strange thing.
Aurum flapped his wings a few times testing them and lifted a few inches off the ground. With no wind to provide lift, he had to flap them hard to get up into the air. At least, due to his new smaller size, he didn’t weigh a lot or this could have been much harder. He kept flapping till he rose above the stand’s surface then quickly lurched forward and landed on the stand.
A tiger was a cat, which meant he always landed on his feet. But, Aurum wasn’t quite used to flying and landing, having just gotten his wings two minutes ago, and wound up landing on his side and rolling across the stand. He was going to blame the dragon app for that. If he was still a full tiger he would have totally landed on his feet.
At least it was finally time to get some answers. He stood up, only to realize the surface beneath his feet was too smooth. And also, he was shrinking again!
It wasn’t as dramatic this time. But, his features were getting softer too, his body a little rounder. He was getting younger. He quickly stumbled backward away from the phone before falling onto his bottom. After a few moments, it stopped. Aurum felt energetic, like he could fly around the room a hundred times and do loop-de-loops. And while that would be fun. He should probably confirm his suspicions. Even though right now he just wanted to play and see what the new dragon form could do.
He crawled up to the phone, careful not to actually touch it. The height graph was still on the phone, but the sphere from earlier had been replaced with a picture by Aurum. A picture that currently had a set of horns, long claws, and a pair of feathered wings. The height charge on the screen had a line that pointed to the top of its head and a label that read 32 centimeters. Was that how tall he was? That made him like what… A foot tall? On the top right corner of the screen, there were labels. His name was listed, and underneath that was Age: 7.
He looked over his body. It did look like a seven-year-old cub’s body. He supposed after the initial shrinking and then getting seven smaller due to the age reduction somewhere around a foot tall was probably accurate. It seemed he was right, it was the app that was transforming him. There were all kinds of buttons and sliders around his body. He pressed an arrow key next to his wings. Suddenly, he had the gold-outlined wings with the white membranes again. He wondered what else he could change. There was a button at the top that looked like it had two settings. One appeared to be a patch of grass and the other a rock. Aurum decided to try hitting the button and changing it to the rock setting.
A shiver ran down his body. In an instant, all of his fur melted away as he was instead covered in white and gold scales. The switch wasn’t rock and grass, it was scales and fur! It seemed this app allowed him to make all kinds of customizations to his transformation.
And with that, the thoughts of getting his phone fixed and the strange pineapple thing were pushed out of his head. Now he just wanted to play with the app. He tried one slide and lowered it slightly. He began to shrink. As he did, the Aurum on the screen got smaller on the height line. When both he and the virtual Aurum stopped shrinking the label appeared again. This time it read 15 centimeters. So, he was somewhere around half a foot… So that controlled height. He could easily control what size he was… As soon as he figured out how fast height scaled. It’d be really bad if he tried to make himself bigger and got too big for the store. Aside from the fact he’d be held responsible for the damage, you couldn’t have fun if you were that big. For now, he’d stay a pocket-sized dragon until he figured out how everything worked. Then he could see about making more changes later. And definitely finding this app and downloading it to his own phone once he had it working.
Aurum looked over the buttons that had been grayed out. There were so many of them and they didn’t have labels. He wasn’t sure what would cause what change. He tries one at random. Suddenly, he had a head of white hair over his reptilian head. As he pressed the button more, it changed hairstyles. His hair magically shifted, grew and shrunk to get into whatever style was displayed on the screen. At one point he had a ponytail. He quickly changed that. Didn’t want to steal one of his friend’s signature styles. After hitting the button a few more times it seemed he had exhausted all the options and was back to not having hair. He wasn’t sure if he wanted human-like hair or not. He hadn’t had it as a tiger. But, if he was going to have scales might be worth going to keep something fluffy. Or maybe, he’d be happier just to go full fluffy again. He pressed the fur and scales button, and in an instant, the scales melted away as all of his fur grew back in. He pressed another button, and suddenly his fur was longer, making him a lot fluffier. There was a fluffiness button! He pressed it again and it was back to normal.
For about a minute Aurum sat on his knees and mashed the button.
Fluffy. Super Fluffy! Fluffy. Super Fluffy! Fluffy. Super Fluffy!
It was so hard to choose! And what did the other buttons do? He hit another one, and this time the change of his foot paws changed. They became more like talons, stretched out with three claws at the front of each foot then one dewclaw on the back. He didn’t think it looked that great with fur… But he bet it’d look good with scales! He pressed the scales button again and once more his fur was replaced by scales. Now his feet looked like they matched his body!
What other options were there? Only one way to find out. Aurum wound up pressing a bunch of different buttons. His horns turned into little stubs, he got slightly older, but only by two years apparently as the screen read age 12. His tail split into three tails, and he had four sets of wings instead of two. It looked awkward for a moment before they changed back to the feathered wings with another button press and now they looked quite fitting. A white and old dragon with four wings. He was like some kind of holy beast! But he missed having the longer horns!
He also realized, he no longer had hands. They were simple paws with curved claws. He slowly bent over and realized that he felt more natural standing on four legs than two. He had turned himself into a quadruped somehow. What button had done that?
“Rawr? Roawr! Rawr!” Apparently, he couldn’t talk now! He wasn’t sure if it was because he was a quadruped dragon or if he had hit some other button that had taken away his voice. Well, the raccoon was probably not going to be amused by this when she came back out. Well, that was her fault for leaving him unattended. She should know better than to leave a dragon cub by himself. They were easily bored and would have to find a way to have fun somehow.
The fact he had been an adult tiger when she left was irrelevant.
Though, he did wonder if she might be mad. Maybe he should try to change everything back to normal. If they got his phone working he could download the app when he got home and play with it as much as he wanted. He was pretty sure he could remember ‘Dragon Training App’ to search for in the store.
He giggled as he had a sudden realization. When he first booted up the app he assumed it was some kind of game where you trained dragons. But obviously, it was an app meant to help train you to be a dragon! And design what kind of dragon you wanted to be. He had questions. Like how many types of dragons were in there. And could he use the app on friends? And could he do so without telling them first? Surprises were fun after all. But, right now he needed to find a way to get back to normal. He glanced around the screen and eventually saw what he needed. There was a button that read ‘Reset Training.’ That should do it. He quickly reached forward with both hands and booped the button. Then, a strange sensation came over him. He suddenly felt really sleepy, and the world seemed to be growing larger away from him. And then… He forgot what happened.
“Alright, I got the phone to boot up.” The raccoon reappeared from the back office. “But like I said it can’t connect to the network. This isn’t one of our phones and… Where are you? Tiger dude? Hello?” She looked around the store. After a few minutes, she spotted a phone that was out of its case and simply laying on top of the display instead. And there were some strange objects next to it. A green bandanna. A bead anklet and a glove. And… A small round object no bigger than a chicken egg. It was white with golden stripes. Her eyes wandered from the egg to the phone and she saw that Aurum had been playing on the Dragon Training app.
“Seriously?” She asked as she looked around. Her customer had turned into a tiny dragon egg. Nothing in the employee handbook covered what to do in that scenario. Still… He was an egg, she couldn’t leave him. He’d be helpless… And probably still helpless and need a lot of care after he hatched whenever that would be.
“Ugh.” The raccoon groaned. She grabbed the egg and gently slid it into her pocket. “I guess I have a pet dragon to take care of now. The things I put up with for this job.”