Halloween 2017 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Uncanny Valley” Day 23

[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]

“Sure, I’ll come in,” Tam said, trying not to seem too eager as he stepped past Sahil to try to get a closer peek at that dog bed. It was really small, actually, only a bit bigger than a cat bed would be. “I mean, a lot of today is going to be a waiting game between appointments, so… it’s a good chance to catch a breather.”

“Well, I’m glad to help you with that,” Sahil said, sounding strangely shy as he padded past Tam and to the left, heading toward the kitchen. “Feel free to make yourself comfortable. The coffee’ll take a few moments—how do you like yours?”

“Milk or cream, please.” Tam waited until Sahil was in the kitchen, then scooted closer to the dog bed, desperate to investigate. There was a mix of differently colored fur in it, tan and black.

“No problem,” Sahil called back.

Tam didn’t go so far as to take any toys out of the basket, but he did crouch to look at them, noticing that most of them were on the smaller side. The tennis ball sitting on the top looked more like it had been gnawed at from the side, too, rather than chewed on directly with strong jaws.

There was no doubt, Sahil was some kind of small dog with long fur. But what kind?

“Do you want—” Sahil cut himself off as he took in the scene.

Tam jumped up, then tried to act casual, even as he knew he was super obvious. It took him two tries to hook his thumbs in his pocket. “Uh?”

“I have some muffins,” Sahil said, something between laughter and embarrassment in his voice. “Do you want one? I know we’re having lunch soon, but I’m going to expire before we get there if I don’t have a little something now.”

“No, I, uh, ate before I came.” Tam gave him a wincing smile as he turned. “Sorry for prying…. I’ve just super been trying to guess about, well. Everything?”

“I can see that,” Sahil said. He took a bite out of the muffin in his hand. “You probably shouldn’t do that to Lena later.”

“That’s different,” Tam said. “Just, I know you, so I know you have to be super cute, but I don’t know what kinda pup to imagine, so the whole thing is a big question mark in my mind, and you don’t have to tell me, it’s your business, but I can’t keep myself from wondering! Sorry. Sorry.”

Sahil wavered another moment, then settled on amused. “You’re making way too big a deal of it,” he said. “Pomeranian. Not the most elegant or fearsome of beasts, I’m afraid.”

“Oh my God,” Tam said. “Black and tan?”

“With lil tan eyebrows. Yeah,” Sahil said. The coffee made a horrific sound, and he shrugged a shoulder shyly. “The beast calls. I’ll be right out.”

“Thanks.” Tam forced himself to move away from the dog bed and sit on the couch. He tried very hard not to imagine Sahil, whose personality was already basically the cutest, padding around on the tiniest, fluffiest paws.

There was silence from the kitchen—and then his vision became a reality as a miniature brown-and-black bundle of fur with the smallest pointy face came tumbling out of the kitchen, galloping over to him. Sahil let out a little bark and a tiny hop, rearing up and putting his front paws on Tam’s knees.  

The noise that came out of Tam’s chest wasn’t even human, some sort of weird bird-like trill-screech. He carefully put hands down on Sahil’s sides—this was still a person, not a puppy, he reminded himself with a desperate show of control to keep from petting him frantically—and sank his fingers into what felt like three miles of fur.

Sahil barked again, and held up one paw. It stayed there, and after a confused moment of thinking he was trying to shake, Tam realized what he was being offered.  

“You are the best,” he wheezed softly and squeezed that little paw pad gently.

The giant puff of fur at Sahil’s backside that was his tail gave a little waggle. He tugged his paw away gently a moment later, then trotted back into the kitchen.

Tam sat and tried not to transcend to a higher plane of reality while Sahil transformed back and redressed out there. He came trotting back in a few moments later in his human form, grinning madly.

“Blessed,” Tam wheezed. “I’ve been blessed by a soft angel.”

Soft angel,” Sahil repeated with an incredulous laugh. He handed Tam his coffee mug, then sat with him on the sofa, listing toward him a little. “So tell me what you’ve been up to.”

Tam sipped the coffee to try to pull himself together, then caught Sahil up on things. He went over the basics of both the meeting with Antoine and with Lithway—though he skipped the specifics of the more personal matters, since that didn’t seem relevant to the situation with Ash. And, of course, he didn’t share Lithway’s secret, though he did mention that Lithway had sworn him to secrecy about something they could do to help, and that he was considering getting geased to protect that.

“Hmm,” Sahil said, when Tam was done. “Didn’t the contract say you were under some kind of protection magic? Would a geas even work?”

Tam frowned. “I didn’t think of that,” he admitted. “I’ll ask Antoine when I see him to be sure it doesn’t have any nasty backlash. Did you sense anything on me when you were transformed?”

“Not at all,” Sahil said. “But I wasn’t trying to bite you, so maybe that’s why.”

“Speaking of which,” Tam said, “I figure I should ask you some questions before we go to meet your leader after lunch. You said originally that you couldn’t do anything at night because you’d have to be transformed, but you also said you didn’t go berserk or anything. Does the full moon have any other effect, or if I planned around help in dog form, would that be fine?”

Sahil shook his head. “It’s no good,” he said. “We don’t go berserk, but dog instincts overwhelm us entirely. It’s not like a normal transformation where we choose what to do. Any other night will be fine, but since this is during the full moon, you’ll have to make use of us during the day.”

“All right—good to know going into it,” Tam said.

“Anything else you want to know? At least, that you don’t want to bring up when we’re having lunch in public, and all that?” Sahil asked.

[Please suggest an action in the Comments.]

[Completed Parts: Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 29 | Day 30 | Epilogue | Author’s Notes]

2 Comments

  • dranachronisms

    Hmm. Probably there’s not too much else you absolutely need to know about weredogs in the general minutiae sense — as a reader I am DYING TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT WEREDOGS TBQH but if you keep pressing him on species details that aren’t actually relevant right now that feels weird and invasive.

    Some things off the top of my head:
    – It may be a good idea to check if Sahil knows any alternatives to the geas for secret-keeping offhand, in case the protection bounces it back.
    – What’s the best way to approach Lena, anyway?
    – A quick check on just how far apart/in what ways vampires need to be separated from weredogs IS a detail that will help you formulate a plan more clearly; using the weredogs during the day and the vampires at night is common sense, but like, does vampire scent and sign make weredogs lose it somehow or vice versa? Do you have to have them working different areas altogether?

  • Vikarmic

    All of the above sound like good ideas! In addition, it might not be a bad idea to run over what you have of a plan with Sahil; outside eyes never hurt.

    Also, important detail: do you have an exit strategy? If Bella Istem comes after you and Ash, where do you go? That might be something the vampires could provide, if need be, at least until Lithway’s lawyers can go to work. (I wouldn’t recommend trying to hole up with Lithway, pleasant as the thought may be — there are an awful lot of civilians around the theater and Bella Istem doesn’t seem like the type to care about casualties if she’s really angry.) A day or two of sanctuary seems like something concrete to bargain for, too, since your contacts on the vampire side aren’t as good (or as cute, gosh!)

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