The car came to rest at the front door of the Barken motel. It was a black sports car, not too expensive or fancy, but certainly much more fashionable than the conveyances that the folks of Barken used. The front door opened, and out stepped a man of moderate height, wide shoulders, clean cut hair, wearing a black hand-tailored suit, and sporting a pair of dark sunglasses. He wore professionally made shoes, leather soles and all, and he looked at the front of the motel a moment, before swinging the car door shut, and striding into the building, head held high, confident that he was in the right place. As he stepped into the darkened interior of the motel, he removed his sun glasses slowly, surveying the room with a sideways motion of his eyes. He folded the sun glasses up, and carefully put them inside his jacket pocket. He then strode into the room, and sat down at the same table as the room's only other occupant.
"Glad to see you made it, Will." Ted smiled as the finely-dressed man sat down.
"I'm glad to see you're still alive, Ted." Will replied cracking a smile.
"Yeah well, I don't know how long that will last." Ted leaned down over the table. Then he opened his coat up a bit, and Will saw the rifle nestled between his shoulder and side. "That's what this sucker is for."
Will nodded, and said, "Now you know I came down here for a reason, tell me what you think is going on."
Ted nodded, and started, "Well, basically I think this town is cursed. Have you seen the number of dogs out there? I'm convinced that everybody here in town is also a dog."
"Really?" Will asked, not fazed by his friends assertion.
"You bet, and I think I know what's causing it!"
"Do you have any proof of this?" Will asked casually.
"I saw it with my own eyes, I saw a man become a dog. We have a cadaver in the laboratory that looks half-man, half-dog. I can show you if you want."
"I would like to see that, yes."
"First I think I should show you where the Indians are buried." Ted pulled out a map, and laid it out on the table.
"The what?" Will looked at the map a look of befuddlement falling across it.
"The Indian Burial grounds. It's what's cursing this town." Ted pointed to a location on the map that he had circled. Will shook his head in dismay. "What?" Ted was surprised. "I thought you FBI guys loved this stuff. I thought you guys investigated this stuff all the time."
"Ted," Will advised, "you watch way too much X-Files."
Ted looked downcast, and he meekly put the map away. Will sighed and then added, "I really would love to see this cadaver though. Please show me it now."
Ted looked at his watch. They would have all left the laboratory by now, so there wasn't much danger in taking him. He stood from the table, and the two of them walked back out to Will Bryant's car.
Not a single one of them was planning on leaving the laboratory that morning. There was simply too much going on out there, and now four of them were gone, who knows where in fact. Karpan and Olympia kept up there work on the corpse, while Nelson and Jason watched the windows in case anybody tried to sneak up on them. Olympia primarily focused on pouring over the data recovered from the samples taken from her and Ted's quarters, since neither Mullins nor Schwarz had returned with their samples the previous day. Karpan was looking at tissue samples from the cadaver, when he suddenly shouted, "Olympia! Look at this!"
Jason and Nelson turned to see what had gotten him so excited. Olympia looked into the microscope, and twisted the nob a bit, shaking her head. "Which one of the samples did you get this from?"
"None of them. That's the man-dogs flesh, from the side that is primarily man." Karpan told her. "Check out this slide now." and he removed the first slide, replacing it with a second.
"I can see the difference." Olympia nodded. Then looking up at him she asked, "Where is this from?"
"The dog half.", Karpan pointed to the creature still lying on the table, though now covered by a cloth so that Jason wouldn't get sick to his stomach. It was starting to smell, but as of yet, it wasn't so bad that Jason had to leave.
"So what are you saying, what's the difference?" Nelson asked, very interested now.
"Well you remember that there was a micro-organism that seemed to be nearly wiped out by our solution? Well, it is inhabiting the cadaver over there. It's a large population on it's human side, but on the dog, barely anything at all, and the ones that are over there are dormant." Karpan told them.
"So what does that mean?" Jason asked, curious.
"I don't know." Karpan admitted.
"I think we should get some more samples around here. We need to pick up Mullins and Schwarz samples, so we can see what's going on over there. Plus we should probably take some samples around town, see if we can find anything different there." Olympia suggested.
"We should all go then." Nelson pointed out. "There no reason for another one of us to up and disappear."
"One of us should stay here though, to make sure nothing happens to the laboratory." Karpan pointed out.
"I'll stay." Jason volunteered. "I wouldn't be much help to you out there anyway."
"Okay." Karpan nodded, and packing up some stuff he made ready to leave. Olympia waved good bye to him, and Jason smiled, waved back as he watched the three climb into Nelson's truck, minus a windshield of course, and drive off into the desert. Jason found the situation eerily familiar, as he had stayed behind while his fellow youth group went out to search for Brandemas and Greg just over three years ago. That night was the first time he'd turned into a dog, and the thought gave him the urge to turn into a dog now.
He thought about it for a minute, reminding himself that he really shouldn't, not when he was in the laboratory. Then again, they would be gone for several hours at the least, and he would have nothing to do. It was much easier to let the hours roll pass as a dog than it was a human, and he could just keep an ear perked up for when they drove back, he'd hear the truck from quite a distance, and it would give him time to change back, so that no one would be the wiser. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
Folding his clothes up, he laid them on his bed, and sat there. He thought of himself as a dog, and he found the change coming quite easily, and quite quickly too. In moments, he was sitting on the floor, a Husky once more. It was strange the way it felt shifting though, for before he had felt as if he were simply gliding along a steady path, now it felt as if his humanity had been precariously perched atop a cliff, and all it took was a little conscious effort, and he reached the bottom.
He would have felt a bit of trepidation at the analogy, but just then the most malignant and maleficent odour struck his sensitive nose, and he raced immediately to the door to escape it's foul clutches. He pawed at the door handle, and it opened to his weight, and he fell forward onto the desert floor. The air was much nicer out here, the dry scent of the desert, and the various aromas of the three scientists that had just left in a hurry. Then he heard the door swing shut, which was a sudden cause of alarm for Jason. He turned around, and tried the knob, but simply couldn't turn it. He could get his mouth around it, but he simply was unable to make it budge.
Finally he found a position which afforded him a tight grip. He slowly twisted the knob, when it suddenly and quite abruptly came to a stop. He thought this was strange, since he had hardly turned the knob at all, but shrugging it off, he pulled on the door. It didn't move. He began to get quite nervous, and tugged again, but to no avail. The door must be locked from the inside, he thought. Wonderful.
Jason trotted underneath the laboratory, and lay down in the cool shade. He could smell Obermeyer's scent down here, but that didn't make sense, as far as he knew he was the first to have been under here. Perhaps that's how he escaped, Jason thought, perhaps he hid under here, and then waited for them all to go to sleep. Possible, but he put those thoughts from his mind.
What he did think about was the reaction he was inevitably going to get from the three scientists. He had no choice now but to reveal his nature, and the nature of Barken to the three scientists. Like it would be any more of a shock than the cadaver that Nelson had found, and whose vile stench had made him run from the room as a dog, but he had hardly noticed as a human. Putting his head in his paws, he waited.
He didn't have to wait too long, for his ears perked up at the sound of a car, not a truck, he could tell that, approaching in the distance. He peered out from behind the tire he laid behind, and could see a dark car speeding towards them. It arrived quicker than Jason expected, and he pulled himself back behind the tire, and out of their view. He heard the car doors open, and two voices talking. He recognized the scents of one as Obermeyer - where had he been? - but the other was unfamiliar.
"Well here's the laboratory. I told you, nobody here." Obermeyer said.
"Let's go in." the other voice intoned, obviously dominant over Obermeyer.
Jason heard the door open, and the two figures step inside. Jason craned around to see if he could sneak in before the door closed, but it shut in his face. Jason slinked back under the laboratory, when another thought occurred to him. Obermeyer had to unlock the door for him to get in, and he probably had left it unlocked. Well, he could just stride in there then, all he had to do was become human again. He'd be naked but, it would be embarrassing, but hey, they were scientists.
Jason closed his eyes, and thought of himself as a human. He focused on that image, replacing paws with hands and feet, replacing his muzzle with his face, and removing his tail and fur. He focused on that, but he felt as if something was just standing in the way. He felt that wall he had before, and he tried to search for a door, but as the moments wore on he got to understand that the door simply wasn't there any more. Frightened, he tried harder, blocking out all the senses, depriving himself of any distractions. He thought again of the cliff, and he knew then, that it was not climbable, and there was apparently no way for him to become a man again. Involuntarily, mostly from the shock, he then took a piss, not really caring where it landed.
Will looked about the bullet scarred laboratory with a bemused expression on his face. Looking about he noticed the pile of clothes lying on the bed, topped off with a pair of underwear, and he suddenly smiled mischievously. Ted motioned for him to take a look at what was under the white sheet. Lifting it up and over, Will stared for a few moments, put on a black surgical glove, and began to fiddle with bits of the body. Ted looked at him questioningly.
"Do you have any paper?" Will asked, holding the human arm in his gloved hand.
"Sure, let me get you some." Ted grabbed a few sheets from the printer.
"I only need two." Will told him, so Ted put the extras back.
Will pulled out an ink pad from his suit coat, and opened it up. Carefully, he placed the fingers on the creatures hand into the ink, and rubbed them around on the paper, capturing the finger prints. He folded the sheet of paper up, and it along with the ink pad returned to his breast coat pocket.
"Now, I need the names of the other scientists. Full names." Will insisted. "From what you've told me on the way over here, I have a pretty good idea what's going on."
"How?" Ted asked, curious.
"During the entire flight over, I read every bit of information about Barken on the FBI files. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that's happened here."
Ted nodded, and then wrote as legibly as possible the names of all seven scientists, plus Jason Kubelik. Will took it and placed it in his pocket as well. Will then put his sunglasses back on his face, and said, "I've got to head to Cherry. I want you to clean off his fingers, and make sure it looks like we were never here. I'll meet you at the hotel again tonight."
"Okay, Will." Ted grabbed for the surgical soap, but as Will stepped out the door he followed after him. "Wait!"
Jason heard somebody shout wait, probably Obermeyer, when he heard the door open again. He had tried several times already to shift back, each of them quite unsuccessful. He had moved away form his piss, and was lying unhappily in the sand. When he heard the door open however, he shot to his feet, and peered out to see what was going on. He saw the unfamiliar man step out of the doorway, and turn to face back into it. Jason pulled back some, he didn't want to be seen yet. However, he was too late, as the man looked down, and leaned over looking underneath the laboratory, and straight at him.
"C'mon out pooch." the man coaxed to him, wearing a friendly smile. Jason hesitated, he could now see Obermeyer looking down at him as well, his mouth agape. "C'mon out, I know you're human." the stranger added.
This addendum shocked Jason for a moment, but in the end it reassured him, so he stepped out from under the laboratory into the waiting arms of the stranger. Only then did it occur to him that he might just possibly be form Cherry, he'd vaguely heard the word mentioned from above him, but of course now it was too late.
The man scratched him on the head, and Jason sat before him, licking his hand in appreciation. The man then added, "Are you Jason Kubelik?"
Ted's eyes got wider as he stared at him. Jason simply wagged his tail, and did his best to nod. Ted mouthed his name, still not comprehending what was going on. Will smiled, and patted him on the head. "Well, I have some questions for you. I would like to see you shift back though first."
Jason whined, lying down on the ground, looking up at them as pitifully as he could.
Ted looked to Will, "What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know." Will admitted. "I've never dealt with people that could turn into dogs before."
Ted then had an idea, "Wag means yes, bark means no. Just ask him some yes or no questions."
"Do you understand that?" Will asked Jason, and Jason wagged some, now standing on all fours, looking up to them.
"That's good. Now, are you Jason Kubelik?"
"Can you change back?"
Will rubbed his chin for a second, then asked, "Do you know why?"
"Do you know anybody that could help?"
"Do you know who is lying there dead in the trailer?"
"This is getting depressing." Ted noted. "Do you know where the dead Indians are buried?" he asked before Will could interrupt him.
Jason looked at Ted quite bewildered. After a second he barked once, then shook his head in dismay. Ted scowled.
"Do you want to be a human again?" Will continued
"Do you know what it means to keep a secret?"
"Then tell nobody about our visit, that is our jobs. Trust me, I only want to help you." Will smiled and patted Jason on the head again, scratching him between the ears. "Would you like to go back inside again?"
"All right then. You take care." Will then looked up to Ted. "I'll see you later tonight. Don't do anything stupid."
"Right." Ted muttered heading back in to clean up the mess.
Will then climbed into his car, waved and smiled at Jason, and drove off. Jason lied down on the sand again, sighing. There was nothing more he could do until the others got back.
Sheriff Davis looked at his best officer, sitting in a chair, growling at nobody in particular. Randy Kempe, one of many people of Barken stuck in his dog form. Of course they had all been advised to stay indoors, as the ever diminishing population of human sentries continued to watch the perimeter. Even Davis himself was beginning to feel the urge to be a dog again. He last had been a dog a week ago, but the pressures of his job afforded him very little time to romp. Whatever was preventing the people of Barken from reverting to human form was now in little incremental ways working to turn all the humans into dogs too. Every person he'd talked to felt it. Not every person was able to resist it. Most of the sentries so far were resisting, but there wasn't much that could be done, for eventually they would all drop to all fours, and never again rise up from them.
It wasn't that Davis and many other people of the town wouldn't mind spending out there life as a dog, many he knew spent more time as a dog than as humans, but that it was almost always contingent upon there being able to survive. In a desert, with the nearest town being about thirty to forty miles away, and that being a town who's main objective was to wipe Barken and its populace off the face of the map. If they were all dogs, then the slaughter that would occur would be of Gargantuan proportions. Davis took no satisfaction in the knowledge that Barken itself would survive, but only in a warped and twisted version of itself, turning all who dare set foot on its lands into dogs forever.
Bill Budd was sitting in the other seat, eyeing the Rottweiler nearly frothing at the mouth in frustration. "Well, the latest numbers on our situation are looking.. grim." he was saying.
"Just spit it out, the numbers getting worse as we speak." Davis told him quite distractedly, his mind unable but to think of his own eventual transformation.
"Three-fifths of the town are stuck as dogs. They're all staying in their homes like you ordered, so the streets are quite dead. It feels like I'm in Cherry when I walk down the streets, all the eyes looking out at me from their windows, the deathly silence. I can't take it." Bill told him.
"How many sentries do we have left?"
"Twenty. Including myself."
Davis turned to the window, "There has to be something we can do. There has to be somebody who knows why this is happening."
Bill shrugged, the thoughts of his own eventual regression too alive in his mind to think about much else. Randy however had nothing to worry about, as he was already a dog. He surprised both of them by jumping up on the table, and grabbing another pencil in his mouth. Davis held the pad steady, while Randy scribbled. Once he was finished, both of the men looked at each other, "H20."
"Water." Bill said, and Randy barked excitedly.
"Why would water have anything to do with this?" Davis asked.
It then dawned on Bill and he felt like a fool for not mentioning this before. "The scientists!" Randy jumped up and down, turning around in a circle as he did so, then he jumped back into his chair, wagging excitedly.
"That's right, they working on reversing desertification in this area." Davis nodded thinking to himself.
"Which means there will be more water, that's what Randy meant." Bill added.
Randy laid down on the seat, unable to do much else, his tail still wagging, and his eyes looking quite content. "Get over there now." Davis told him. "Find out whatever you can. They may be our only hope."
"Yes, sir." Bill stood from his seat, and was out the door in a flash. He literally prayed to God that the scientists could reverse this madness.