"The Usual"

By: Socks
© 2005 Socks Furrotica Press

"The usual".  Walt nodded to the man behind the counter.

"Ahh!" the man said.  "I have it ready for you!"  Walt smiled, he knew the old man behind the counter was probably faking the Chinese accent; nobody really spoke with one that thick outside of bad 50's movies.  But it's been that way for as long as he knew the old man, so why should it be different?  "You always like ah vegetables!"

"I'm vegan." Walt said, pulling out his wallet.

"You know I put buttah in?" the old man asked with a skeptical eye.

"I'm vegan, not militant.  A little dairy won't kill me." Walt said.  "And a coke, please."

"I give you mall discount." The old man said with a smile.  "Sometime you bring a date, yes?"

Walt handed over his money, and shook his head with slight recoil of his shoulders and a tensing of his lips.  "You really think anyone would date me?"

"You good looking guy!" the old man said with a wry smile.  Walt smiled weakly, took some chopsticks out of the bin, and took his change.  The old man watched Walt walk away looking slightly unhappy.  He felt bad for the young man, because he always ate alone.  Even when he had a night off from work, he'd be in the food court, alone.  But, he had other customers to help, and he couldn't stop for this moment.

Walt ate his dinner quietly, thinking about what the old man said.  He shook his head a little, trying to get rid of old memories.  He knew nobody wanted to go out with a guy like him.  After getting shot down for prom in high school, he just gave up on the whole dating idea.  Besides, he had a good job at the video store and college was gearing up to look good for him.  He swirled his food around and ate around the one thing he liked the most, the bamboo shoots.  He always saved those for last.  He savored them, escaped into an idea he knew he could never have.

As he was throwing the plate away, the old man waved him back over.  "So solly if I disgraced you." He said, with a slight bow.

"No, no." Walt said quietly.  "It's ok, you didn't know."

"I make it up to you tomorrow." The old man said.  Walt shook his head.  "I dishonor you; I ask to make it better."

Walt sighed.  "If you feel you must, ok."  The old man smiled, bowed slightly, and went on to the next customer.  Walt went about his day normally, and went home after work as he always did.  He tossed his work clothing on his bed, and slid online to play some "Second Life".  He fired up his character, an animalistic panda, and let himself escape reality.  It was much better than the life he had now, anyway.

The next day, Walt walked into the food court.  When he got to the food court, the old man's eyes lit up.  "I have something for you!" he said.  "You like it now, or after you work?"

Walt shook his head with a smile.  "You didn't have to, but thank you.  I could take it now."

"You wait?"  The old man asked as he disappeared behind the main door, and Walt heard him talking in Chinese to someone in the back room in an excited way.  Finally, the old man came back with a small box.  "Please, take with my humblest apologies for yesterday."

Walt took it, and looked at the box.  The old man encouraged him, so Walt opened it.  Inside, he found a thin jade pendant on a black silk cord.  There was a bead on the back to cinch it tight, as there was a lot of cord.  The pendant was a disk, with the outline of a panda cut in relief with a few characters in Chinese beside it.  Walt smiled, and looked at the old man.  "I can't accept this, it had to cost a lot and..."

"No no!  You take it!" The old man said.  "I get plenty more!  My cousin works Hong Kong import!  You say you like pandas, I give you one."

Walt smiled, and closed the box.  It did come up some time ago, talking about culture and animals on one of his breaks.  He figured the old man's memory was better than first thought.  Walt pocketed the box.  "Thank you."  The old man smiled, and handed him a plate of mixed vegetables.  Walt tried to pay for it; the old man would have nothing of that.  When Walt finally got to eating it, he noticed a few more bamboo shoots in it, as well as a lot more greens.  He felt a little better as he ate.

The old man watched Walt go back to work, and smiled to himself.  Very soon, he would help the young one be happier than he ever had been before.  But it was up to the young one now, if he truly wanted it.

Walt felt work just float by, thinking of the pendant and the nice old guy.  He kept it in his pocket the whole day, and didn't take it back out until he got home.  Once there, he held it to the light and looked it over for a long time.  He smiled, and put it around his neck.  The cord was huge, and he cinched it to where it was comfortably close to his throat.  It felt comfortable, and didn't look bad on him.

For a week he wore it constantly, feeling better than he did for a long time.  He showed the old man, and they both shared a smile and a story about pandas.  In that week, Walt stopped at other stores in the mall before work, and bought a few things for himself.  He bought black sweatpants, a black sweatshirt, and a white shirt.  When he got home he used all the sewing he knew to make into a crude panda costume.  He wasn't sure what struck him to make it, but the pendant looked a lot better on black than on his own pale chest.  He'd go home and lose himself in the fantasy every night, if only it could be real.

Then one morning Walt woke up feeling ill.  Something in his stomach wouldn't settle and he felt dizzy.  He called his work, and got the day off.  He sat in his apartment the whole day, not feeling well enough to leave to get the mail outside his door.  He put on the crude panda suit, and he felt a little better.  But he couldn't even get the energy to find food in the kitchen.

He lay down in bed, and felt the world spin.  He closed his eyes, eventually falling asleep.  He woke up after nightfall.  He still felt queasy, and hungry.  Very hungry.  The silk cord felt tight around his neck, and without thinking he loosened it up.  He walked to the kitchen, and found some dry cereal he could eat.  He put his brain on automatic as he plowed through the whole box in one extended sitting.

When he was working on his second box, he started to feel warm.  "Good, the fever's breaking." He said to himself.  He took off the sweatshirt top, leaving the black pants on.  He kept on eating, only listening to the kitchen hum.  When he finished the second box of cereal, he stopped.  Something was wrong.  The pendant felt tight around his neck again.  He loosened the cord, and idly scratched the back of his head.

His ear twitched.  He stopped moving, and wondered what he just felt.  It was natural, but odd, to feel his ear twitch like it did.  Plus, it twitched on top of his head, not the sides.  He put down the cereal bowl, and put his hands on top of his head.  He could feel two rounded mounds of flesh on top of his head, as natural as the nose on his face.  He wrinkled his nose, not sure what to make of it.  And he stopped again, as his nose didn't feel right either.

Walt slowly got up, and went to his bathroom.  He looked in the mirror, and stared completely dumbfounded at what looked back at him.  He saw his nose was pure black, and wedging over his mouth like a smudge mark.  His eyes were also alien to him, no longer the green he grew up with but dark brown, almost totally black.  He opened his mouth, and saw that it had pulled out into a stubby snout.  As he stared at it, he saw and felt it push forward into a full muzzle.

He stood, watching the change happen.  He felt his pants tent out, but he stared in fascination at his eyes.  He saw patches of black fuzz form around his eyes, then cover the space around them and obscuring them totally in black.  His new rounded ears also became covered in black fuzz, and twitched in anticipation.  He smiled, a strange smile with his new face.

White fur formed around his chin and cheeks, and rapidly covered his entire head.  Walt laughed aloud at the sensations he felt.   He was probably delirious and had a fever so high he was hallucinating, but he was going to enjoy this hallucination for as long as he could!  He watched his head hair vanish, and be replaced with white fur.  He laughed to himself, enjoying this little sick induced dream.

The medallion felt tight again, and Walt loosened the cord again without a second thought.  He saw the white fur grow to his neck line, then be replaced with black fur down his chest to about the bottom of his ribs.  He giggled as it happened; amazed it didn't hurt or burn or itch.  He left the bathroom to watch the rest of his body change in his living room mirror.  "I should get some medication or something" he said to himself as he walked slowly.  "I'm probably really sick if I'm watching this!"  

He looked for his car keys, to get himself to an Emergency Room.  He stopped, however, looking over his body.  He laughed to himself as he watched the black fur rise through his arms and hands.  He held his hands up to see the paw pads form on his palms, then claws on the end of each finger.  He looked through the room, and saw the shades were drawn.  With a shrug, he took off his pants to let the whole change happen before his eyes.

"Woah!" he said, looking at the obvious excitement between his legs.  It was long, and definitely not human.  "Yeah, I'm gonna need some serious meds here." He said with a laugh.  "Probably therapy too."  He laughed to himself, wondering how long he'd be padlocked in the rubber room for this.  "What do I say?" he asked himself aloud.  "Hi, I'm a panda with a fever.  Can you help me?"  He laughed at the thought, and looked over himself.

Thick white fur grew through his skin under his rib cage, and all the way down his hips.  He shivered and giggled when he watched the remaining flesh of his manhood pull into his body and form a thick furred sheath between his legs.  When the black fur formed down his legs, he danced gently around his apartment, feeling the air move past the fur as he moved.  His feet became thick, and he could feel the paw pads form under his weight to support himself.

Claws formed at the end of his toes to replace his human nails, and then the change stopped as suddenly as it began.  Walt looked over his body, and grinned to himself.  "Well, I'm a walking panda." He said with some amusement.  "Who do I tell?"  He admired himself, and tried to flick his new stubby tail, when he heard a knock at the door.  "Yes?" he said, amused at the thought of a panda opening the front door wearing nothing but a pendant and a grin.

"Walter?"   The old man's voice flowed from the other side.  "May I come in?"

"Why not?" Walt said.  "If you can handle a naked me."  He figured he was delirious anyway, so if the old man was really here he might be able to take him to the hospital.

"I've seen worse!" the old man said.  Walt opened the door, and there was the old man.  "You weren't at work today, I was worried.  But I see I didn't need to be concerned.  May I enter?"

"Come on in!" Walt said.  "And don't mind me; I think I'm so sick I'm seeing things."

The old man closed the door behind him.  "You're not.  You are part panda.  Or you can be a full panda, if you choose to be."

"How did you know I was a panda?" Walt asked, cocking his head a little and being somewhat amused at the old man's comment.  "And for that matter, how did you find my place?"

"Radio transmitter in the bead on your pendant." The old man said with a grin.  "Old magic, new technology."

Walt blinked, trying to soak in all the old man was saying to him.  "Wait, you mean I'm really a panda?   Look, I'm sick so I'm willing to believe anything but being a fuzzy walking and talking panda?   Come on, that's not possible."

"Then how do you explain that you not only understand Chinese, but you're speaking it back to me."

Walt stopped, and straightened his neck.  "I'm speaking Chinese?"  He then put his paw on his muzzle.  "I'm speaking Chinese!"  The old man nodded.  "I'm a panda that speaks Chinese?"

The old man smiled.  "Yes, as long as you choose to be."

"Choose to be?" Walt asked.  Suddenly, the situation dawned on him and he felt very confused.  He wandered into the kitchen in somewhat of a mental fog, and the old man followed him.

"Yes." The old man pulled out a chair and sat at the kitchen table.  He looked over the empty cereal containers.  "Two boxes?"  Walt shrugged.  "At least you're eating, which is good for the transformation.  I saw how miserable you are every day, I have to watch many lives be unhappy but you...  you're different.  You took the time to get to know others, and I tried to know you as you did me."

Walt shook his head, feeling confused.  The old man continued.  "I noticed what you ate, and our talks about my home country?  I learned your heart more than you may know your heart.  And I wanted to offer you a chance to be happy as your true self.  If you like, I can help you through the rest of your change.  You would be a Giant Panda, you would live at my home, and you would have a long and happy life as a panda if you want it."  Walt opened his muzzle, the old man stopped him.  "If not, I will need the pendant back.  It is how you change.  If I take it home with me tonight, you'll go back to your human form tomorrow morning.  You'll barely remember this night and think it was all in your mind, and you'll go back to the way things have been."

There was a moment of silence, the old man nodded a little.  "I need you to tell me now.  Do you want a new life, or do you want to go back to the way things have always been?"

There was a moment of silence, and Walt looked at the ground.  "I need to decide now?"  The old man nodded his head.  "Wow.  Hard decision to make, the rest of my life decided in one night?"

"Is there any greater plan of your life now?" The old man asked.  "Work at the mall the rest of your life?  Stay alone here for the rest of your life?  Or at college?  Do you have a direction you must take there?  Or even in a new city?"

Walt knelt on the floor of his kitchen, looking down.  "How do I know your option is better?"

"What does your heart say?"

Walt closed his eyes, taking a few minutes to think.  He took in a deep breath.  "Ok." He said.  "Just promise me you won't kill me and use me for some weird folk medicine?"

The old man laughed.  "I can't do that." He said with a wide smile.  "My family protects pandas.  It's my duty to make sure those in my care are happy!"

"Good." Walt said.  "I don't want to be...  Wait there's more than me?"

The old man smiled.  "I can take you home now."  Walt just nodded.  Quickly he and the old man cleaned up the apartment, removing food that would spoil and putting it in bags.  Walt had one final look at his old life, deciding if he made the best decision.  He took in a last breath, and then turned out the lights as he walked away from who he had been.

The old man looked cautiously up and down the block, it was late enough that nobody was watching.  He waived Walt over, and quietly opened the back of his enclosed truck.  Walt got in, and settled on the floor comfortably.  "We'll be driving a while, please eat if you can.  It will make it much easier for you if you can.  I'll leave a light on over you, so you can see what you're doing.  I promise to drive carefully."  Walt nodded, and began to snack on the vegetables from his apartment.  

As the miles went by, Walt ate all the food he had with him.  He watched as his belly got larger, as he could feel muscles and bones changing to form his body in new ways.  His neck continued to get thicker, and eventually he took the bead off the cord because it was useless now.  His hands got larger, as did his feet.  With every noticeable change, he smiled to himself.  Even the act of smiling made him happy, as he could feel his muzzle changing every time he did.  They drove for a long time.  The old man drove without saying a word.  He had been right about the young man, and he hoped that he could indeed make him happy in his new home.

Late at night, the truck stopped and the old man opened the back.  Walt strode out cautiously, and the old man smiled at him.  "You look very nice."

"...han... yer."  Walt tried to talk, but his tongue fumbled over the words.

The old man patted him on the side of his large neck.  "You're losing your voice.  It means the change is going well."  Walt sniffed around, and his eyes lit up.  The old man nodded with a smile of his own.  "She's been here a while, and she's lonely too.  Once you're used to your new form I'll introduce you two." Walt nodded happily.  "But for now, you must complete your journey."

He led Walt to a holding pen.  Walt tried to walk upright, but couldn't maintain his balance.  He gently dropped to his four paws and walked comfortably.  He kept looking around in the dark, but couldn't see much.  He smelled the greens, the smells of a forest of some kind and the dirt under his claws.  Once in, the old man led him to and enclosed space.  

Walt could easily see the bedding for him to rest on, a trough of gently running water, and a table with bamboo, apples, carrots, and other vegetables on it.  He heard the bamboo chimes rattling softly on the corner of the shelter, as well as the soft lighting illuminating it.  Everything here had a purpose, and Walt sensed it.  In this place, he felt a peace as he had never felt before.  "This is for you." The old man said to Walt, pointing at the table of food.  "Eat your fill; it will help to complete your new form.  You need food to fuel the change, help you grow strong."  Walt nodded, approached the table and sat on his rear.  Without hesitation, he grabbed some bamboo, and started chewing on it with his muzzle.

The old man smiled, and checked the silk cord around the panda's neck.  At its full length, it would still fit comfortably.  He patted Walt on the flank.  Walt turned slightly and nodded in appreciation but kept eating.  He felt hungry, so hungry, and this new food was just perfect.  It was helping him feel whole.  The old man left Walt alone, and closed the gate gently.

"I see him!" the old man said to the police officer a few days later.  "I go to his home, but he not there!  I drive food to him before.  He's my best customah!  I worry about him."  The police asked the old man a few more questions, but decided the lead had gone cold and tried to find other explanations for Walt's disappearance.

The old man walked through his property that night, brushing his hands along the foliage gently.  He stopped, and closed his eyes to concentrate.  He smiled, and walked to the panda he was looking for.  "You need to calm yourself Jiao." He said.  The male panda looked to the old man, and nodded.  He pawed the jade pendant around his neck and looked to the female a few hundred feet away, then back to the old man.  "I do not think you need to worry.  Binahua does like you.  She's playing hard to get.  Sometimes, women do that.  It's a lesson you will learn, in time."  The old man smiled warmly.

Jiao nodded, and then shook his head sadly.  He looked at the sky briefly, then the ground, a tear rolling down his black patch of his eye.  The old man put his hands under Jiao's muzzle, and spoke softly.  "Some do miss you, yes." The old man said.  He put a hand on the male panda's cheek, reassuring him.  "But they will move on with their lives.  What is important in the here and now is your happiness and your own peace.  You're life is before you, there's nothing to be gained in misery over decisions you made.  Especially when you know the decision was what your heart wanted, and what is best."  Jiao rubbed his muzzle into the old man's hand, and nodded in agreement.  "You're welcome, my friend."

(Notes: bianhua (pien-hua): Transformation; the underlying principle of change within the world / Jiao (chiao): Daoist ritual of renewal; the main ritual performed by Daoist priests today.)


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Curator: Socks the Catt / E-mail: <sockscatt@gmail.com>
DISCLAIMER : All stories in this archive are Copyright 2000 - 2005 Socks Furrotica Press. Distribution is permitted in electronic format, as long as 1) the entire text (including this disclaimer) remains intact and 2) My e-mail address remains on the work (sockscatt@gmail.com) Permission is also given to print this text out for personal use. If you wish to include this story in a web site or for publication, e-mail myself (sockscatt@gmail.com) and we'll talk it over... 
This is (unfortunately) a work of fiction. It depicts sex. Lots of quite graphic sex between several genders and arguably a few species. Af any of this offends you, or anything vaguely pornographic bothers you, don't read this, and don't send me your nasty e-mail (I may enjoy it, you know...) Being a work of fiction, none of the characters herin are based on a real person (Save the narrator and one other person...) And similarity to any person alive, dead, undead or unalive is coincidental, totally. However, if you see yourself or someone you know in a character be honored. You've been immortalised.