Ted Obermeyer had left the hotel early, not caring about the meeting he was supposed to have with Will. Oh he left a note for him of course, telling him of his plans, and a map so that he could find him if need be. He would show them that he was right, oh yes he would, and boy would they be sorry they mocked his idea. He had no fear of the note he'd left on the table at the hotel being disturbed, as Mrs. Brumfield was in no way capable of that any more, stuck as a miniature poodle for the time being.
He lacked a shovel, but there was nothing he could do about it. He would simply have to dig with his hands, not hard really, considering the lack of compactness in the dirt in this area. Anyway, he'd been doing that to collect all of his samples, and then he'd worn gloves, making it harder.
He was sure that he could pull this off, after all most of the streets in Barken were dead as everybody was staying inside. There probably wouldn't be anybody out there to see him on Red Grove Hill, and he would be free to dig, and show that they were indeed an Indian Burial Ground.
It took him nearly an half-hour to get there, but once he did he looked about for a suitable spot to dig. Wandering over the hill for a bit he decided to start digging in the pretty much the centre of the hill which over looked the plain. Putting his rifle to the side where he could easily reach it if necessary, he got on his hands and knees and started to scoop away the dirt.
He wasn't sure how long it took him, but he was moving a lot of dirt. Periodically he would look to see the pile he had created, and each time it got larger and larger. However, the hole he was producing was revealing nothing but more and more dirt. Frustrated, he began to dig more frantically, pulling at the loose clumps of dirt and tossing them behind him with a relative gracefulness that he had developed over time. He lost his mind in his work, not stopping to consider what he was moving, just waiting to find those bones. Even when he felt that tingling sensation all over him, he continued to dig, and indeed, it seemed to be going faster, though his clothes were getting in the way, so he wriggled out of them, and continued digging.
It wasn't until he felt tired, his tongue hanging out of his mouth that things began to dawn on him. Looking up into the sky, he saw that the sky was darkening, and that he had dog a very deep hole. Looking from side to side he saw that the sides of the hole he'd dog were really not that stable, and a fear began to creep into his heart, because he was at the bottom of this hole, and the entrance was towering above him. He tried to climb up the incline, but as he did so, stepping on his pants, he noticed that they seemed unusually large.
It then struck him that he was naked, and turned to look down at himself. He nearly fainted as he did, for his body was that of a dog. He couldn't tell what breed by looking at himself, probably a mutt. Ted kept looking at himself not believing it, but it was all too real, and there wasn't much he could do about it. He cooled his mind down, trying to remain logical. If he had turned into a dog, he should be able to change back. He thought of himself as a human, and tried to figure out some way that he could shift back. There was nothing. He felt nothing, no matter what he tried to do, he felt nothing happening.
He was finally distracted by his thoughts when his bladder began to empty itself. Ted felt a bit embarrassed that he had just pissed on his pants, but he most certainly couldn't fit in them now. It then dawned on him that his attempts had been all for naught, and he then remembered that Jason had been stuck as a dog, as was Mrs. Brumfield. In horror, it occurred to him that he might be a dog forever. He frantically tried to climb up the slope, scraping at the sides as he did so, his canine voice whining in fear and sorrow. His repeated attempts to climb had only one effect however, and that was to cause one of the sides to become unstable, and start falling down upon him. This in turn brought the entire hole to collapse in on itself, and Ted was the one who would bear the brunt of the punishment, being buried alive.
Just before he blacked out, he realized it was not a good idea to desecrate Indian Burial grounds.
The trio of scientists led Jason and Bill Budd out to the second quarter, where Mullins had been testing his solution. It had been the only one of the three that had not destroyed the population of the prokaryote that Olympia thought was vital to the transformation of a dog into human form. If this was the case then by simply having Jason lie in the dirt for at least an hour, by which time the prokaryotes would have emigrated from the sand into his body, and then taken up residence there, he would be able to change back to his human form. Night was falling on them as they strode the fifty yards necessary for them to be securely within the quarter. They could see the laboratory quite well, having left the front lights on, and as they each sat down in the dirt in a circle, a sudden silence feel upon them.
Jason had been told to lie down, and to stay lied down for the duration of the hour. He felt that it would be a good time to sleep, and so tried to drift off. However, he was too anxious about this plan to work to sleep; It was hard enough for him to sit still! However he simply let his mind absorb what Bill was telling them, and he found the news quite disturbing, and quite frightening. This plan had better work, or they might all be stuck as dogs, for he knew that sooner or later, the three scientists would succumb to the spirit of Barken, unless they left, but all three seemed pretty dedicated to solving this problem. Actually Nelson had been more worried about his own personal safety, until Olympia chewed his ear off for insensitivity.
As they sat, Bill talked, trying to let them know that he too was scared. "So everybody in Barken has always been able to turn into a dog, and turn back into a human. Until today. Even as I speak, more of them are being locked in their dog form, unable to escape"
"Told you I was right." Olympia pointed at Nelson, who simply smiled weakly.
"However our problems are compounded. Just thirty miles up the road is the town of Cherry. They aren't affected by the Spirit of Barken, but I think they could all use a good dose of it, might make 'em more friendly. They're a bunch of fundamentalists who think that we're the children of demons or some such shit. The only thing that has kept us safe from their attacks is our sentries. They patrol the outskirts of town, and if they catch any hooligans from Cherry, they send 'em packing. Occasionally, we kill them, but only after they've attacked us. However, when everybody in town is a dog, and can't do anything about it, we're vulnerable. Our best sentry is already stuck, and there ain't much we can do about it."
"So what breed are you?" Olympia asked, a look of genuine curiosity on her face.
"Huh? Oh, I'm a Golden Retriever."
"Does genetics play any part in what type of dog you are?" Karpan asked.
"What do you mean exactly?"
"Well, if that parents of one breed, will the children be of that breed as well?" Karpan explained himself.
Bill scratched his chin for a moment. Then he shrugged, "Can't say I really know. Most of the married couples here in town aren't of the same breed anyway. Their children usually also are of a pure breed, so I don't think it has much to do with genetics, but more with some aspect of that person determines in a way what breed they'll become."
"Do you have litters, or single births?" Nelson asked, now curiously smiling.
"I really don't know. I'm not married myself, and I try to keep my nose out of other people's business. I don't think anybody's had any litters though, at least not to my memory."
"Do you sniff each other's butts?" Nelson asked, to which Olympia nearly smacked the big man for asking such a question.
"When we're dogs." Bill shrugged it off. "It's all part of the greeting ritual. It's much like shaking a person's hand, only you know what a dog's butt has been doing, you don't know where a person's hand has been."
Nelson considered that one for a minute, while Karpan smiled, shaking his head. Olympia laughed, while Jason chuckled lightly to himself.
The hour proceeded slowly, but it had to come to an end like all things it must. It was dark now, the stars of the night sky out, and the moon a full disc shining as it rose. It had gotten cold, Jason thought it was much nicer at night, but his coat of fur made him a bit biased. Olympia had not brought anything to wear, so Bill gave her his jacket, and she clutched it around her tightly. Her teeth had still been chattering, and so Bill wrapped his arm around her, to lend the warmth of his body into hers. She smiled and was soon quite comfortable again. Karpan and Nelson simply exchanged knowing glances, each smiling.
Bill had felt even as he was sitting out here in the field a sense of urgency leave him. The near panic he had been in before coming here about him turning into a dog and never being able to change back had settled down now, and he felt a lot better, able to talk with the scientists about any sort of topic. Time flies by much faster when parties are talking, and before the realized it the hour was up.
"Jason, I think you should try to change back to human form." Olympia told him.
Jason was startled to find that he had been addressed directly. During the entire exchange, they had ignored him completely, as if he were a real dog. It dawned on him that he was indeed a real dog at the moment, and he would continue to be a real dog until he changed back. Now with the queue that they wanted him to try, he stood up from where he laid down. The dirt had smudged his nice clean fur coat up, but that was not his primary concern. He thought of hands, of two feet, of a face, and of himself. He focused on this, keeping it foremost in his thoughts. He grew frantic, and almost gave up when he could feel that wall still there, but the other four urged him to try harder, and so he did.
Sheriff Pierre Davis stared in through the bars of the jail cell at the pathetic excuse fro Al Barclay. He had reverted to his dog form not too long ago, and the sad eyes that met his tore at his heart. The cocker spaniel that was Al, looked up at him from his low station, lying on the floor, his ridiculously large ears flopped over his forelegs, and his short tail lay motionless against the floor. He had stopped whining over an hour ago, it no longer being of any use to him. Davis wondered just how resigned the man was to the fact that his son was irrevocably dead.
Davis suddenly had another attack. He gripped the bars with his hands, forcing them to stay fixed around them, not letting his fingers slip away from each other. It was the third time this had happened to him, the first time had been four hours ago, the second only one hour ago. They were coming more frequently, and her did not like that idea at all. The attacks were nothing more than his body trying to against his will turn him into a dog. It seemed to be happening to everybody in Barken too. Jenny had reported having attacks earlier than Davis had. Also reports form the sentries reporting in on a regular basis told him that they too had been feeling the same thing.
However, these things were far from his mind at the moment, as he tried with all of his willpower to remain a human. It was getting harder each time. He could not let a single part of him change, because it would not stop once it started. If any part of him changed, he would be a dog, it would be useless to resist. He began to march with his legs, grip the bars with his hands, and he began singing a song that he'd really liked. He felt as if his pants were going to slip off of him, and in fright he sung louder, holding his head tightly against the bars, and stomping on the ground. He could feel the itch welling up in him, and he could feel himself trying to move towards his dog state, but he held onto his humanity with every fibre of his existence.
The battle soon ended. He had won, this time.
His breathing was shallow, and his arms were shaking from the experience. Each time it had gotten rougher, and harder to fight back. He wondered if next time he would be able to fight back. He wondered how long it would take before he had to fight back again. He walked away from the cell, and looked at Jenny who was positively frightened. She also seemed to be gripping her desk as if her life depended on it. It just may very well do, he thought.
"Are you all right?" she asked him, her own voice strained by a conscious effort to stay human.
"I'm still here." Davis said, casually looking into his office. Randy was looking at him, a scowl on his face. He licked his nose once, and then turned back away, staring at the computer screen on Davis's desk, holding a pencil in his mouth to type.
"You don't look so good yourself though." Davis pointed out.
Jenny stammered, "I have to struggle every minute just to hold it back. I feel like I'm stopping the Niagra Falls single handed!"
"Can you do any work, are you getting anything done?"
"I can't!" she was nearly crying. "I'm just focusing on remaining human!"
Davis gritted his teeth. He hated to say it, but he must, there really wasn't anything else he could do. Randy was in there working away at the computer perfectly fine, albeit he was a bit slow, but he was not burdened by clutching onto humanity. Jenny on the other hand could do nothing but clutch onto her humanity, and because of it, she was getting nothing done. "If your not getting anything done, then its no use for you to fight it any longer. You'll get more accomplished as a dog. Let the change occur, there's nothing else you can do."
Jenny looked at him, and was about to open her mouth, when it shot forward into a muzzle, and her clothes fell limp around her now canine body. She was a collie now, looking quite pathetic beneath the shirt. Randy dropped out of the chair and came to see what had happened. He barked to her once, the pencil falling from his mouth, and she wagged her tail at him, yipping in response. Davis smiled, "All right you two lovebirds, get back to work."
Randy refrained from nipping Davis gently, and instead picked the pencil back up with his tongue, and then held it firmly in his mouth, and returned to the computer screen. Jenny looked at her computer, and tried to pick up a pencil in her mouth as well. Davis returned to his office with Randy, thoughts flowing through his head. When it came time that he could do nothing but fight to retain his humanity, would he so willingly let his canine nature take over? He knew that he should, after all it would be for the best interest of the town that he be constantly working to keep them safe; anything that prevented him from doing so should be swept aside, even if it was his human form. However, the prospect of being an Alsatian for the rest of his life was not the most pleasant of thoughts, especially since it wouldn't just be him stuck as a dog, but the whole town.
Looking at the numbers that kept coming in from people reporting who in their household was still a human, at least those with computers and modems, Davis felt a knot developing in his stomach. Less than a fourth of the Barken population were still human. The number of sentries still left as men was now down to fifteen, if he included Bill whom he had not heard from. By Dr. Shishido's estimates (thank goodness he was still human), everybody in Barken would be a dog by Sunday afternoon. Davis wondered if he would last even that long.
His thoughts were distracted when he heard a car pull up. Randy turned to look as Davis got up from his seat. Walking in the station was a man dressed in a hand-tailored suit, sunglasses tucked in his breast-coat pocket. He looked very professional, but he smiled warmly on seeing Davis.
"You're Sheriff Pierre Davis, I'm assuming?" the man extended a hand. "I'm Will Bryant, of the FBI."
"It's nice to meet you Mr. Bryant." Davis took the hand offered and gave it a good hard shake. "I'll say you've picked the wrong time to visit Barken though."
"Hardly, I've picked the best time. I've found the murderer incidentally." Bryant added, a little quirk in his smile.
Davis's eyes lit up a moment, "You know who killed Curtis Barclay?" At the sound of his words, they both could hear a very canine moan come from the direction of the holding cells. Will didn't even turn his head to look. Even the fact that the receptionist was a collie and was typing with a pencil in her mouth didn't seem to faze him.
"Who killed him?" Davis asked again.
"Can we head into your office, I have a lot of explaining to do. I think I know what's going on here in the town of Barken."
"For a stranger that would be a first." Davis remarked wryly, leading him into his office. Randy did not relinquish his chair, and Will was forced to grab another one. Sitting down, he pulled some folded up pieces of paper from his pocket. He unfolded the first one, and Davis saw the picture of a man, and a bit of statistical information about him.
"He is the murderer." Will said plainly.
Davis read the name aloud in shock, "He's one of the scientists!"
"That's right. He's originally from Cherry, I found that out from accessing their town records. On the day they arrived here, he bought a gun with a silencer from the army suppliers store in Cherry, and that's how he killed Curtis Barclay, and this other man." Will unfolded another sheet of paper showing another picture, and more statistics.
"He's also one of the scientists!" Davis exclaimed in shock. "How come we never found out about this?"
"Because they found the cadaver first, and haven't told anybody about it. The body was that of a dog trying to shape-shift. He'd obviously been shot during the change."
"So what else do you know?" Davis asked, amazed at how much this man had discovered.
"Well, I think I know why you all are unable to change back." Will said. This got both of their's attention immediately, Randy dropping the pencil to the floor as he turned to look at Will quite probingly. "Once again, this is the murderer's doing. On my flight to Houston I read everything the Bureau knew about Barken, and it was quite an extensive list. After seeing the cadaver, I recalled reading about a case where two similar cadaver's showed up at the federal morgue. I also found out that the head doctor there a man named Joey Vermiclin, you're familiar with him aren't you?"
"Yes he came here a few years back, haven't seen or heard from him since though." Davis nodded, recalling the incident with a little sardonic grin.
"Well, during the week-and-a-half that he was out of town, his lab was closed up, except for on a few nights when one of his interns let a man in there to examine the bodies of the deceased Barken residents. That man was our murderer. It only occurred to me to check into it when I found out that our murderer was fired from his teaching job at George Washington University because he happened to give a med student an A in a class where his work was clearly inferior. That student happened to be Mike Underland, one of Vermiclin's interns, and for the A, he had let our murderer investigate those bodies."
"So what are you getting at?" Davis rushed him along.
"Our murderer was able to diagnose those bodies and determine what caused that shape-shift. I'd wager he's spent the last few years of his life developing this plan, a plan that would leave every single one of you dogs for the rest of your lives. Now he's put it into action, and it's too late for me to do anything to stop it."
"I sent Bill Budd, my deputy, to go and check out to see if the scientists still alive could do anything, unfortunately he hasn't called back yet." Davis mentioned. "Maybe there's hope yet. It is reassuring to hear that the answer lies in science, and not in some mumbo jumbo that I can't comprehend."
Will laughed at that comment, but then a thought struck him. "Oh no, I forgot to go meet Ted. He's probably stir crazy by now waiting for me!"
"Obermeyer. He's one of the scientists. He called me and convinced me I should come out here to help him figure this out. I've got to go find him before he does anything stupid."
"Then go." Davis told him, leaning back in his seat. "Hopefully I'll still be here when you or anybody else gets back."
"I hope so too." and with that, Will turned around and swiftly left the building. Davis could hear him gun the engine, and then drive rather quickly down the street. It was only moments later though that he heard the phone ring. Picking it up he asked, in a rather dour voice, "This is Sheriff Davis. What's happening now?"