Jason woke up the next morning to the sun shining in his face. He realized he had forgotten to close the drapes, and stubbornly rolled over in bed, shutting his eyes again. After lying there for a few minutes, he felt a sense of awkwardness coming over him. He couldn't identify its origin, but he certainly didn't feel any different, there was nothing wrong with him that he knew. It wasn't uncomfortable, just a peculiar sense of wrongness, something just wasn't right.
Reluctantly, he stepped out of bad, and was amazed when he saw that he still had two feet and two hands, nothing different. It was strange, because he felt different, felt as if he shouldn't be standing here at all, felt as if he should be... well, he didn't really know quite what he felt like he should be doing. Walking into the bathroom, he stared at himself, examining every feature of his face. It was the same old long, thin, pimpled face that he'd had before. Slightly disappointed, he'd hoped for something, especially the way he was feeling.
The sensation subsided though, and he felt normal again, and his mind instantly began rationalizing the experience as that 'morning feeling'. Jason had never been an early riser, and so obviously, his awkwardness was derived from his getting up too early. It only took minutes for the rationalization to completely wipe out any thoughts of the supernatural from his mind.
Upon returning to the room, he saw Greg getting up. He looked completely wasted, as if he hadn't gotten a good night's sleep at all.
"Rise and shine," Jason intoned, now getting dressed.
Greg sighed, as if some great weight had been lifted off his chest. Jason wondered about that, Greg was usually quite chipper in the morning.
"Is something wrong?" Jason asked.
"Oh, no," Greg replied, his eyes darting across the room till they settled on Jason, "Not any more."
"So something was wrong?" Jason asked, really hating it when people beat about the bush.
"Just some bad dreams, that's all," Greg replied. Indeed, Greg was telling the truth, for in his dreams that night he kept seeing the dogs, and her. She invited him with a half-hand half-paw to join in her revelries, to run through the streets with her. She invited him to get on all fours and relinquish all sense of his manhood. To Greg's horror, on several occasions he did so, and the ensuing romps hung like a spectre over his consciousness. However, they were just dreams, and so was she, he had never really seen her, she had just been a dream as well. Or so Greg told himself.
Breakfast was delicious again, this time eggs and sausages, and over their meal they decided to walk the town some, do whatever interested them at the time. There was pretty much unanimous support for this idea, though Greg was the last to sign on, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Jason.
The rather small mall was next to the motel, and was their first stop. There were maybe fifteen stores there, owned and operated by some of the townsfolk. Aside from the customary seven clothes stores, there was a pets supply store, a video store, two book shops, a pharmacy, an electronics store, and an appliance store. They made it their goal to visit each shop, as they really had nothing better to do.
While turning a corner, John saw something odd. He stared for a moment until he was interrupted by Nathan, at a bench in the middle of the mall, where sat an older man in his fifties, who was holding box of milk bones, and a Springer Spaniel. What was most odd about the situation was that the man was feeding the milk bones not just to the dog, but to himself as well. John stared for a moment before Nathan said, "Whatcha looking at?"
"Well, I'll be; that man over there is eating milk bones," John nodded with his head.
"Well, whatever floats you boat I guess," Nathan said, before returning his attention to the others.
John stared for a few more moments before he himself shrugged, and walked back into the store. It was a book store, and of course each went to their own special place in the book store, Brandemas to the religion section, Allison and Emily to the mystery, John and Nathan hit the non-fiction, and Jason and Greg where at the science fiction. Jason found this quite odd, since the last time Greg had been over at the science fiction section, it was to denounce the material that Jason liked to read as satanic.
"Fancy meeting you here," Jason remarked offhandedly to Greg, who seemed to be quite anxious about something. He kept looking over the aisles back towards the register, but trying to stay out of view. Jason peered over there himself, and saw that there was a girl manning the register, nothing unusual about that. Turning back to look at Greg he could see that he was quite distracted by her.
"Go say hi to her," Jason said again, goading Greg.
"She's demon spawn!", Greg spat suddenly.
"Really?" Jason looked back over at her, she was helping another customer out at the moment. Jason took a good look at her, and to him she seemed like every other girl he'd ever met.
Turning back to Greg he remarked, "I didn't see any horns, or a spiked tail, or cloven hooves for that matter. She looks perfectly human to me."
"She's demon spawn!" Greg reiterated more forcefully this time. "She invaded my dreams last night, and made me do carnal things."
"Greg, chill out," Jason told him candidly. "You're getting way too psyched out."
"I'm telling you the truth," Greg snapped back.
"Then if she is demon spawn, go cast her out in the name of Jesus, or don't you think he gave you power over demons?" Jason hit Greg where he knew it would hurt.
Greg shook his head, "No, I can't. I don't know why, I just.. I can't."
"Then I'll do it," Jason stood up, but Greg grabbed him by the shoulder and restrained him against the bookcase.
"Don't do it," Greg told him, trying to keep himself from shaking.
Jason considered Greg for a minute. Something more than just a dream had to have occurred to make Greg go nuts like this. He'd never before seen Greg like this, this upset, usually he was a take charge kind of guy, who was unstoppable. Something has stopped him now. It was embodied in that girl manning the cashier's counter.
"Something happened that wasn't a dream," Jason told him. "I want to know now."
Greg let go of Jason's shirt, and turned away. He then whispered beneath his breath, "She turned into a dog."
Greg brought his face up against Jason's and then whispered quite frantically into his ear, "She turned into a dog!"
Jason stepped away from Greg for a second, and then looked back over at the girl. She was helping Emily and Allison at the moment, and she seemed quite friendly. Jason looked for any tell-tale signs, but he couldn't see anything unusual in her physique. She noticed him staring at her then, and winked at him. Jason blushed, and turned back around.
"Greg, I really think you need to cool off, and get this insane notion out of your head."
Greg stayed silent, starring at the bookcase, but not actually looking at the books. Jason turned to see if there was anything he wanted to get, but as usual found nothing.
Nobody bought anything except Allison and Emily, and like before, they left that store and moved on to the next one. John looked to see if his old man was still sitting on the bench. He wasn't, but there was an old woman now and a dachshund, both of whom were eating milk bones from what looked to be the very same box the man had been using. John did a double-take, staring at the scene for a moment, not believing his eyes, but wrenched himself away, trying to blame the whole scene on sheer coincidence.
It then dawned on him that there were dogs in the mall. He'd never seen a dog in a mall before, what was it with this town and dogs! They were everywhere. It wasn't until later in the day, after they had finished up with the mall, rented a few Disney movies, and walked the town some, that another realization came upon him. He shared his thoughts with Nathan.
"Don't you think it's weird that there are dogs everywhere, a pets supplies store, a vet, but no pet store where you can actually buy a dog?"
Nathan stared for a second, "That is odd."
"This whole town seems odd if you ask me," John added.
"It does, more dogs than I thought existed," Nathan added, smirking a bit.
That night, while watching one of the Disney movies together over their dinner, which they had brought up to Brandemas's room, Jason excused himself for a moment. Entering the bathroom, he stared at his face in the mirror. Thinking of everything that had happened since coming here to Barken, he tried to fit the pieces together. Lots of dogs, girl who freaks Greg out, claims she turned into a dog, the scriptural message the night before dealing with dogs. Too many things hinted at something, something deeper, something that he didn't understand, yet.
On a sudden impulse, he began to remove his clothes, until he was completely naked. He locked the bathroom door so nobody would accidentally stumble in upon him. He then leaned on the sink, and stared into his eyes. He visualized his face growing a muzzle, his hands becoming paws, his skin growing fur, his ears becoming pointed, and himself growing a tail. He tried with every fibre of his being to make it happen, and he felt in himself a wellspring opening up, pouring out upon him, and he felt himself shaking in anticipation. His body began to spasm uncontrollably, and he thought he saw his eyes darken, the whites disappearing amidst the overflowing irises. He then collapsed.
When he came to moments later, his first reaction was to look at himself. He was as he was before, a human, nothing different, nothing had changed. Disappointed, he thought about what he had felt, he had felt something going on, something occurring, something trying to get out. He looked over his body, it was still the paragon of maladroitness that it had always been.
Suddenly a knock came to the door and Allison's voice could be heard. "Jason, are you all right in there?"
His mind returned from its wanderings and he hastily replied, "Yeah, I'll be out in just a second."
He pulled his clothes back on, and then flushed the toilet. His mind returned to his predicament. What had he just tried to do? He'd just tried to turn himself into a dog, and he didn't even know what exactly possessed him to try.