Our final tale of the year, ending it a bit early this year, but thank you so much to everyone who showed interest!
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco
“Whelp…” The kitten in a lab coat was laid back lazily on a couch as he let his gaze wonder around the room. “Looks like another year is almost over, and it’s time for our last tale of the year.”
“Though come to think of it…” Dr. Cutie Pup was on the couch next to Callyco. “Should we really still call the series Thirteen Tales if we only did eight this year?”
“I mean…” Dr. Callyco tilted his head from side to side in thought. “It’s still pretty much the name of the series, even if this year we had to do things a little short. Either way!” He stood up on the couch. “We want to extend a big thankyou to all the awesome people who showed up to read these! And the biggest and grandest of thankyous to those that participated! I know this year has been a bit odd, but both Cutie Pup and I are super happy you still wanted to participate.”
“Yup, again, thanks as always!” Dr. Cutie Pup stood up to do a bow as well.
“But, before we sign off for the year, we’ve got one last tale to give you.” Dr. Callyco smiled. “A tale that raises a lot of questions really.”
“Ah, like important philosophical questions about the nature of life?” Dr. Cutie Pup touched his chin as he looked pensive. “Or maybe about how can we determine the nature of our own morality?”
“Nope.” Dr. Callyco shook his head. “More like completely pointless and trivial questions!” He grinned wickedly. “Say something like: according to scientific studies at what age do most puppies reach peak cuteness?”
“Wait, is that a thing that was actually studied?” Dr. Cutie Pup eyed the kitten suspiciously.
“Yup! And it’s between six and eight weeks.” Dr. Callyco gave the wolf pup a meaningful look.
“Why do I suddenly worry for my future?” Dr. Cutie Pup’s tone and face both seemed more amused than frightened.
“Heeeee.” Dr. Callyco giggled. “And let’s go ahead and introduce tonight’s guest! A human girl by the name of Mara. Or at least I should say, she appears human at first glance. And tonight, Mara will have a lot of questions she needs answers for… And is about to see things from several new perspectives. I bring you our eighth and final tale of the year. The Tale of Trivia Night.”
Thirteen Tales From Dr. Callyco
The Tale of Trivia Night
Mara blinked in surprise as she stepped through the front door of Maury’s Bar and Grill. The place was absolutely packed. The dimly lit interior had the walls covered in tacky posters and road signs, the booths were built into the walls, though for some reason had curtains that could be pulled over them, and the waiters and waitresses were plainly dressed polo shirts and slacks with an apron over them. By all accounts it was just a normal bar and grill, and yet there were so many people. Was the food just that good? Mara wasn’t sure. She had just been looking for a place to get dinner, this place was open, so she had come in.
Looking around, she saw surprisingly few of the other patrons at the restaurant were human. This was not something that exactly surprised Mara. With her hazel eyes and honey colored hair, dressed in a simple jeans and shirt she certainly resembled a normal human girl. But it might be more accurate to call her human shaped at the moment than a normal human. As a result, it was not surprising to her to see a number of animalistic individuals around the restaurant of various shapes and sizes.
“Good evening miss!” A tiny voice squeaked from the ground near Mara’s feet. Looking down, she saw a tiny squirrel dressed in much the same manner as the other waiters. “Welcome to Maury’s! Will you be dining with us alone or with friends today?”
“Uh, just me.” Mara replied staring down at the squirrel.
“Okay, wonderful, and do you want a trivia pad for tonight’s event?” The squirrel asked.
”What event?” Mara looked around the restaurant. Whatever was happening, it must have been the reason the place was so crowded.
“Oh? Is this your first time?” The squirrel squeaked cheerfully. “It’s Trivia Night. Quite a popular event since it’s the only authentic magical experience in town. Brings everyone in! It’s free to participate with purchase of a regular entrée.”
“Uh… sure… why not.” Mara shrugged. It wasn’t something she had planned to do, but if it was going to be free anyway, why turn down the opportunity.
“Great, we’ll bring a trivia pad out to your table.” The squirrel squeaked. “Follow me, we have a booth available in the bar area.” The tiny squirrel led Mara through the crowded restaurant before showing her to a small booth built into the side of the wall. “Your waiter will bring along a menu and trivia pad later. There’s a curtain you can draw around the booth if you want some privacy. A lot of people use it on their first night.”
“Of a trivia contest?” Mara tilted her head. That was strange Were people that paranoid that others might be looking over their shoulder for answers or something? Maybe there was a really good prize. She didn’t especially care herself. Not knowing what was going on, there was no reason to be that invested in it. She’d just try to answer a few questions for fun if she could while she enjoyed her meal.
The trivia pad, when it arrived at her table, was a pretty basic looking tablet. It was a touch screen displaying a prompt asking her to enter her name. The only odd thing about it was that the tablet was inside an exceptionally thick rubber casing. It was so thick Mara was fairly certain she could throw the thing as hard as she could against the wall and the tablet would be unharmed. Then again… There were kids, or heck, even adults that could be clumsy. If the tablets got dropped it’d probably be rather expensive to replace them. Plus, the casing likely made it really hard to sneak one of these things out the front door.
“Alright everyone! It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for!” Mara recognized the voice of the squirrel that had seated her. He climbed up atop one of the bars and was speaking into a microphone as loud as him. “It’s time for Trivia Night! And looks like a full house here! Not surprising, the first one of the month is always Animal Night, and that’s by far the most popular!” He paused as there was a roar of approval from the other people in the restaurant. Mara didn’t have any idea why. “As always, I’m your host Chip, and the rules are pretty basic! Answer a question right you get a point! Answer it wrong, you get a penalty! Don’t answer at all, penalty! Getting right answers can help to slowly recover from some penalties! Is everyone ready?”
Mara looked down at the tablet where it was still requesting her name to sign in. She quickly typed it in before the game started. From the rules, it sounded like this was just a pretty basic trivia game.
“Alright, first question!” Chip shouted. “Which of the following animals uses echolocation to find its way around?”
The possible answers popped up on Mara’s screen.
- Fruit Bats
- Long-Tailed Shrew
- Eurasian Beaver
Well this one was easy! Mara smiled to herself. Everyone knew bats used echolocation. She quickly tapped A.
“And the answer is…” Chip paused as the last few people submitted their answers. “Oilbirds! Heh heh, that was a mean one. Bet a lot of you thought all bats relied on echolocation. And now comes the penalty.”
Mara was surprised to say the least, but it couldn’t be helped. She’d do better on the next question. But the question was the last thing on her mind after what happened next. Suddenly, she felt a shiver run down her spine and she felt very odd. She began to shrink into her own clothes. It took her nearly a minute to realize it was actually happening. Everything around her was getting bigger! Meanwhile she could feel her ears stretching out at the top of her head.
“What the heck!?” Mara let out a small shriek as her shirt fell down around her and she lost her grip on the trivia pad. It bounced somewhere down to under the table, but that wasn’t important to her right now. She was a bit distracted by the light brown fur growing in over her entire body. Then, there was something else… A thin black membrane that began to stretch out from her arms. It extended all the way from her wrists and then went down to most of her body making it look like she had wings like a bat.
No, not look like… That’s what it was! As her face pushed out into a muzzle, her hands shrank into almost nothing and her feet became tiny little clawed things she realized what had happened. She was just a normal tiny little bat now!? How had that happened? She tried to call out for help from others, but all that came out was a squeaking noise. Meanwhile, the trivia night continued on despite her panic.
“Next question,” Chip’s voice sounded out across the room. “In certain folklore, this animal can take on the shape of a human! But one thing that betrays their true nature is their fear of dogs.”
Mara wasn’t paying attention. She was a little busy freaking out right now. And yet, no one else seemed to notice. She looked around the room in panic, but as she did noticed she was far from the only bat in the room. In fact, some of the booths were now occupied by bats, shrews and beavers. All the wrong answers. And none of them seemed to care. They were all still happily playing the game.
“And that’s time! The answer was foxes!” Chip shouted as another round ended.
Mara began to change again. This time, she started to grow larger, as the membrane forming her wings shrank away. A tiny tail, one she hadn’t even noticed she had, grew longer and erupted into puffy brown and white fur. Her hands and feet grew larger and took on the shape of traditional paws. She had turned into a fox this time.
She understood now. When she gave an incorrect answer she had transformed into the animal she chose. When she didn’t pick an answer at all she changed into the correct choice. Then… What would happen if she got it right? The squirrel had mentioned something about that… He might had said the penalty could be reversed?
“Moving on, which of these animals is the closest living relative to the ancient tyrannosaurus rex?” Chip happily chittered away.
Mara’s heart began to race. She had to try to figure this one out. Where was her tablet? She had dropped it… Under the table! She quickly leaped down from the booth beneath the table. The pad was there with four possible answers lit up.
- Komodo Dragon
Mara knew this one! Or at least, she knew that dinosaurs were closer related to birds than lizards. And only one of those birds actually walked on the ground instead of flying. She quickly hit C with her paw.
“Chicken is the correct answer!” Chip called out shortly after.
Mara began to change again. She grew slightly larger and her posture changed. It was suddenly uncomfortable standing on four legs and she was forced to sit back on her bottom to still fit under the table. Meanwhile, she was now sporting thumbs and fingers on what had been her forepaws. She had hands again! The changes stopped there. She had moved slightly towards human, she was basically a humanoid fox. That meant, if she could answer more questions correctly she could change back to human again.
Mara grabbed the pad and climbed back up into her seat. She looked around the restaurant again. Everyone else appeared to be having a good time. She realized they had all signed up for this, knowing what it was. Only she had been caught off guard. Not a single other person looked worried.
It really was just a game…
“Alright here comes a new question!” Chip shouted. “We’re moving into a new year! In the Chinese Zodiac, what animal does the year 2020 belong to?”
This one… Mara wasn’t didn’t have a clue. She was familiar enough with the Chinese Zodiac sure, but she didn’t have the order and pattern memorized. She had no idea which of the four it might be… And considering that all of them were part of the zodiac she couldn’t eliminate any choices. That only left her with a 25% chance of becoming more human.
Though, there was another way to look at this. If she just picked the animal she liked the most there’d be a 75% chance of turning into a preferable form… And still a 25% chance of becoming more human. That seemed like the best way to do it. She quickly picked tiger.
“The answer was Rat!” Chip chittered after time was called. “You know, I’m a rodent myself making me rat adjacent. Just in case anyone wanted to get me anything for the new year.” There was a round of pity laughs for the attempt at humor from the customers still capable of laughing.
Mara meanwhile was changing again. She expected it this time and so wasn’t caught off guard as she was forced down onto all fours again. She was however, not ready for how big she would become. It would turn out, that a full-grown tiger was quite a bit larger than the booth could accommodate. And as a result, she wound up having her forepaws and head resting on the table while the entire rear side of her new striped body stuck out into the aisle.
Perhaps she should have gone with rabbit.
“And here we go! Final question of the night!” Chip squeaked excitedly into his microphone. “Your last chance to win the prize… Or intentionally blow it like so many of you do. “Now, what unusual pet did President Calvin Coolidge keep during his time in the White House?”
- Red Panda
Mara didn’t know this one at all. But, she could try to logic her way through it. Considering how long ago this had happened, it was unlikely to be something not native to the country. That meant red panda was out. She could easily see coyote happening, it wasn’t that different from dog. Then again, llamas were already domesticated, so would be easier to keep as a pet. Raccoon seemed odd at first, but they were extremely common and exceptionally clever animals. She could see one of those being trained as a pet.
She couldn’t eliminate any of the last three options. She was leaning towards raccoon, as she found it unlikely that a coyote would be a common sight in the capital city and llama would likely be referred to as livestock instead of a pet. But…
She could look at this again from the angle of which animal would be the most fun to turn into for a bit. If that was the case though, then it was the answer she had already eliminated. That also meant, she would know exactly what was about to happen to her.
Mara chuffed happily as she picked her answer. It was surprisingly hard to do. Her massive feline paws were almost bigger than the entire tablet. She finally managed to make her choice by extending her claws and poking the pad with them. Even that had been close. She didn’t have the dexterity to just extend one claw and point it like a finger. Her other claws had almost touched all the answers.
“And that’s time on the last question!” Chip shouted above everyone. “The answer was raccoon! He kept one as a pet named Rebecca. Fun fact about Rebecca; She was actually sent to the White House to be cooked for Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s a thing that happened then. But ol’ Silent Cal was quite taken with her and couldn’t bring himself to let her be eaten! So, gave her a collar instead and made her his official pet.”
That story was probably interesting, but Mara was a little more focused on something else right now. Her body began to shrink again, a fact she was most thankful for given her current predicament. Her long slender tail grew slightly shorter, becoming thicker and fluffier. The stripes faded from her fur while they became bright red over her back and black beneath her stomach. Her paws shrank, and though she still had claws they were smaller and no longer retractable. Finally, her muzzle became narrower and her ears slightly more pointed.
“Wah!” Mara gave a shout as she jumped up into her seat, happy she could fit here again. As a red panda she was smaller than she had been as a human… But she had learned it was far more preferable to being too big.
She curled into a ball, resting her head on her own fluffy tail. A part of her mind realized she hadn’t even ordered food here. She wondered what red pandas normally ate and if they served that, or if she would be changed back before she even got the chance to eat.
“And that’s that!” Chip bounced up and down where he stood. “Hope you all had fun tonight! Remember, next week’s is Time Night! As always, I want to thank you all for coming out here! And I also want to thank our friends at Lou’s Neighborhood Pet Shop for sponsoring this event each month and making sure that everyone who missed the answers tonight winds up in happy new homes!”
“Wah?” Mara suddenly snapped to attention at that. That was a joke? Right?
As it would turn out. It wasn’t.