Sometimes the tiniest of mistakes can have the most significant consequences. Jimmy, a young man visiting Australia during the summer after his second year in college was about to discover this first hand.
The tour bus drove through the outback; occasionally stopping so the lead guide Mary could point out a geologic landmark and discuss its history. Jimmy was part of this group.
Jimmy was happy the bus had air conditioning and plenty of water; the outside temperature was more than 40 Celsius and there was no shade in sight.
About three hours into the tour, the bus stopped so that everyone could get out to explore a small cave that was nearby. The cave had several impressive geologic formations in it and was a normal part of the tour. The tour of the cave was uneventful, until Jimmy, who happened to be at the back of the group stopped to look at a few more formations before moving on.
Looking at his watch, he realized he had been starting at the formations for 20 minutes. He ran towards the exit of the cave thinking there was no way the group could forget him. However, much to his disbelief, upon leaving the cave, the bus was gone and there was no one in sight.
Cursing to himself for being so stupid, he pondered about what to do. He could already feel the sweat forming on his forehead. He was glad heíd worn a light blue shirt. Something darker would probably just absorb the heat. He had a cell-phone with him, as well as a couple of bottles of water. Iíd better leave them just in case it takes a while for them to find me.
He took the telephone out of his pocket and activated it. The display informed him that there was no service in the area. "It figures" he said and cursed rather loudly. After 20 minutes, theyíll certainly know Iím not there and will be back for me at any time; Iíll just sit here and wait. Locating a rock to sit on, he relaxed.
Meanwhile on the bus
"We are now at the half way point of the tour as we come to a rest stop. To your right, there is an outcropping of trees. If weíre lucky we might get to see a sugar glider or two as weíve observed them nesting in these trees. People keep them as pets in many parts of the world. However, itís always a treat to see them in their natural habitat. In the distance ahead of us are several tall pointed rocks, to the right about an hours drive away is a lush forest with hundreds of different kinds of wildlife."
"But I thought the outback was all desert?" one of the people on the tour asked.
"That is a very common belief. However, in reality there are several different types of environments out here as well as a great deal of fascinating rock and mountain formations."
In the back of the bus, Bob, (one of the assistant tour guides) counted each person as they exited the bus. He couldnít shake the feeling that theyíd left someone behind, despite the head count (which he did) confirming everyone was there. As one of the passengers stood up they picked up a hat and put it on, a hat that all the tour guides wore. It was then that Bob realized that said passenger was actually Jack, one of the new guides! Jack didnít have his hat on when he was outside. Bob had counted Jack as one of the people on the tour! Quickly getting up, Bob ran towards Mary to tell her what had happened.
After two and a half hours, Jimmy was worried. He was sitting at the mouth of the cave, trying to use it for some shelter. The front of his shirt was wet from sweat. His short red hair was soaked enough that if he didnít know any better, heíd have sworn heíd been in the rain. He wasnít sweating much and had a feeling that the hot sun was dehydrating him.
He wished heíd worn shorts rather then blue jeans; his legs were roasting. He considered taking the jeans off, but thought itíd be better to keep them on in case some insect bit him on one of his legs.
He heard the sound of movement just outside. At first, he thought he was just hearing things, until the movement got closer. Finally, he got up and walked over to where the sound was coming from to see four kangaroos standing there. They were about his height with orange fur. They seemed to be eating something off the ground. Bugs perhaps? There wasnít much else in the area that was edible; Jimmy was starting to feel hungry himself.
Well, as long as theyíre here, I might as well take some pictures of them, it would be a shame to go Australia and not take any pictures of the wildlife, especially their most famous animal. Alerted by his presence, the four roos turned around and looked at him. They didnít seem afraid, and in actuality seemed fascinated by Jimmy.
Jimmy opened his backpack and pulled out a digital camera he had inside.
"Youíre probably wondering how I got out here like this, all alone and with only a little to drink and nothing to eat." The roos looked at Jimmy. He wondered what they were thinking. Snapping a few pictures of them, Jimmy knew there were people that would be jealous of him for getting close enough to these kangaroos to take such excellent shots.
After taking two dozen pictures, Jimmy decided to tell them what happened. He knew theyíd never understand him but needed something to do. After Jimmy finished his story, he saw the roos turn towards each other, clicking their tongues and grunting at each other. If Jimmy didnít know any better, heíd have sworn they were having a conversation.
"So thatís what a kangaroo sounds like," he said.
The roos stopped making their sounds, and began hopping around him, two clockwise and two counterclockwise. The clockwise ones were slightly closer to him. For most of the experience, he had been at least a few meters with from, but they were now very close to him, close enough to touch them. Jimmy considered reaching out and touching one of them but decided not to. He regretted not having taken pictures when they were further away; now they were too close.
What are they doing? Jimmy watched the dance, becoming entranced by it. After what felt like two minutes, they finally stopped. Hopping away several meters away from Jimmy, they lay down on their stomachs looking at him as if expecting something to happen.
Not knowing what to think at this point, Jimmy suddenly lost his balance and onto his rear end. The camera fell to the ground with a clanking sound. Now in a sitting position with a dazed look on his face, Jimmy was uninjured but something didnít feel quite right. As the roos continued to watch him, Jimmy felt an itching in his ears. His clothes felt softer; to Jimmyís bewilderment, they actually looked as if they were melting!
"What the heck?" he said aloud. A few seconds later, his jaw felt almost as if some unseen force was pushing it outwards from the inside. While it didnít hurt, it was a very odd feeling.
Jimmy touched his face, gasping when he felt his nose and mouth extending outwards! It canít be what it feels like; it must be the heat. Oh my God, Iím hallucinating, I must have heatstroke or something. Gasping nervously, Jimmy touched his ears. He whimpered when he felt lengthening pointy ears. Every rational thought in Jimmy's mind told him that what he'd felt was impossible. Therefore, from his point of view, he was hallucinating. In a desperate hope that water would help him, Jimmy scrambled on all fours to his open backpack. Upon grabbing one of the bottles of water, he drank down one its contents (which was warm by now). He didnít delay before drinking the water of the other bottle. Almost immediately, he started sweating again.
His clothes were by now half melted, exposing Jimmyís skin in several places. I can feel the sun where my skin is exposed. How can I hallucinate that? However, if itís real then whatís happening?
Trying to stand up, he rose to his knees as the changes continued. Now it was affecting his hands; his nails were turning into small claws! In his field of vision, he could see that his jaw had extended into a muzzle. Again feeling his ears, he found them twice their normal size. Sounds were louder; something that made what Jimmy needed to believe wasnít real all the more difficult to deny.
Jimmyís clothes were now all but gone, leaving him nearly naked. He felt exposed not only in a humiliating way but also that heíd be that much more vulnerable to the elements.
Looking at the female kangaroos, Jimmy glared. "What have you done to me?" However, he couldnít bring himself to become angry with them. He just wanted to know what was going on.
The Changes suddenly seemed to accelerate. Orange fur sprouted on his upper arms, the top of his head (replacing his human hair), his midriff and inner thighs. The claws on this hands darkened and the nails on his feet became dark claws as his feet began to lengthen. This is not happening; itís impossible!
The flow of sweat seemed to stop as the process changing Jimmyís body made his skin tingle. He could only guess it was altering his sweat glands.
Feeling a pulling sensation above his rear, Jimmy turned to see something growing out from above his rear end. It canít be what it looks like; none of this can. However, Jimmyís body had other ideas. Before his eyes and to his fascinated horror and disbelief, a small tail began growing from his tailbone. No, only animals have tails. That means that Iím Ö oh man. Okay get a grip Jimmy, youíre dreaming. Thatís right, youíll eventually wake up in youíre bed to find out this was all just a figment of your imagination.
His legs were getting furrier and his thighs had more then doubled in size. His hands were beginning to look almost like paws, and more fur was growing on his chest. He felt his nose and what were now huge furry ears, finding them as he assumed a kangarooís would feel. Who am I kidding, this feels too real to be a dream!
The changes forced Jimmy onto his back and he supported himself with his hands (paws?). Fur had covered almost his entire body! The bottoms of his feet had pads; they were getting much longer and his tail continued to grow. Theyíre watching me; they must know whatís happening. But why would they do this to me? As he became more animal like, they watched him with increasing fascination. Jimmy didnít need long to figure out why.
Iím becoming a kangaroo, this nuts! A chill ran up Jimmyís spine and his stomach turned at that thought. This wasnít on level with getting a new job, going to a new school, or even partaking in a lifestyle change. He was becoming a whole new species; being a kangaroo would change the nature of his existence. This is impossible, yet itís happening, how am I supposed to explain this? After a break in the changes, Jimmy slowly got back onto all fours, unsure if the changes were done or not.
He got his answer when they began again and his fur fully grew in, covering his entire body. It made him feel itchy but also a little dirty. The fur gave him a strange odor not much different from the roos before him. While he didnít feel as naked or vulnerable, Jimmy knew that all of his parts were still there in the open for all to see. He wasnít sure if he should feel liberated, giddy or humiliated.
Jimmyís body was now far more kangaroo then human. His legs, tail, thighs and rear end were not yet the size of a natural kangaroo. As though alerted to his thoughts, whatever force was doing this to him accelerated the changes to his body. Jimmyís mind raced with denial, curiosity as to how heíd look when this force was finished with him and fear as to what was to become of him.
His tail, legs, thighs and feet grew even longer in what was thankfully a painless procedure. Jimmy felt his tail touch the warm ground. The new sensations his human body could never have experienced sent chills up his spine. His expression was of pure shock. The changes seemed just about done, so feeling a bit more comfortable, Jimmy stood up on his feet as a few additional changes were still taking place.
The sun felt great on his fur. Shortly forgetting about the enormity of what had happened to him, Jimmy couldnít help but smile. Looking at the world though animalís eyes was strange yet fascinating. So this is how a kangaroo sees the world.
Despite having all the fur, he still was technically naked. Jimmy had to admit, he felt a little stimulated. Mentally, he was still human, at least enough that he still saw being naked outside of a private setting as inappropriate behavior. He was getting away with said behavior and best of all, no one would know.
Jimmy felt his ears stop growing as the rest of the changes seemed to stop. With one final alternation to his body, Jimmy felt his center of gravity change. His posture changed from erect to the slouching like posture kangaroos tended to have. With that, Jimmy felt complete; he was a kangaroo.
For several minutes, Jimmy just stood there, experiencing the sensations of his new body. His sense of smell was much stronger now. He could smell things he never knew existed. He could actually smell that humans had passed by this area not long ago. More importantly, he could smell the four female roos that had been watching him change. They were all now standing, keeping their distance.
Summoning some courage, Jimmy hopped over to them, although it was just a single and short bound, it felt liberating. All four roos started clicking their tongues at Jimmy before standing up and hopping away. Jimmy felt an instant desire to pursue them. There were no thoughts of resisting it. Jimmyís lack of clothing still had him feeling frisky and far less inhibited and rational then heíd normally be.
He hopped after the closest one, catching up with her after 15 minutes. It was clear she wanted Jimmy to catch her. She made several sounds, sounds that he, with an almost look of terror on his face, knew were mating sounds! Jimmy may have been feeling stimulated by the situation but he was not ready to take it that far!
Jimmy realized he'd not only left the area around the cave but was quite a distance from it! I didn't even think about waiting. I just wanted to play with her and that was that. Jimmy felt a chill when he realized he was starting to understand the thought processes of an animal. He hadnít even considered the consequences or implications of his actions before he held back with the female! Heíd never been impulsive before. Now however, acting on whim was natural and almost impossible to resist.
Now, he felt another emotion, an almost panic level desire to get back to that cave. Again, he didn't think about it, he just started hopping. But, theyíre looking for a human! No, I have to get there; somehow, Iíll let them know who I am! The female roo didnít seem too upset at his hoping away, almost as if she knew why he was.
While Jimmyís mind was intact, he couldnít deny the effect of kangaroo instinct coupled with perceiving the world though the body of one. He was losing himself to this already! The desire to hop away was at the back of his mind and becoming stronger by the minute.
After some heavy hopping, Jimmy arrived back at the site. His was sweating and his heart was racing. He felt invigorated and almost hopped past the site before coming to a rest. In the distance he could hear the sound of a vehicle approaching. Almost instinctively he hopped away slightly so he could observe it and still be able to run away if they posed a threat.
* * *
"This is the place," said the bus driver as he brought the bus to a stop. Mary, Bob and Jack disembarked from of the bus and started looking for Jimmy, calling his name several times. Jack noticed a male red kangaroo standing nearby watching them. When Mary called Jimmyís name, the kangaroo seemed to respond.
"Isnít that cute, he thinks weíre calling him," Jack said to the other guides.
"I found something, a camera and backpack," Bob said. All three converged on its location.
The kangaroo hopped right over to them, clicking and grunting at them.
"Easy fella," Mary said as she held her hands out.
The people on the bus were commenting on how cute the kangaroo looked and took pictures of him.
"Hey Mary, look at this," Bob said.
Mary saw Bob pointing at tracks in the dirt. Some were of boots; some of human footprints, others she couldnít recognize and others were kangarooís prints.
"The human foot prints and boot prints just disappear. He must have gone into the cave for shelter," Mary said.
"What about these weird ones?" Bob asked.
"I have no idea," Mary replied. The kangaroo started pointing at the prints while grunting at Mary and the others. "Yes, those are your prints but these others arenít!"
Mary wished the kangaroo could speak, perhaps it knew what happened to Jimmy. With seemingly no other place to look, the three tour guides entered the cave to look for Jimmy.
* * *
The bus was right there. All of those people were seeing Jimmy naked. Yet, that didnít bother him. A naughty part of his mind long suppressed by years of growing up and conforming to etiquette was growing stronger. Jimmy wanted to resist, but found himself having difficulty coming up with excuses as to why he should.
Although I can get away with so much now, I should still let them know who I am.
Unfortunately, Jimmy couldnít speak. He looked at the ground and considered writing his name on it; his kangaroo paws were certainly capable of that.
Even as he leaned down to do just that, something held him back. If I just hop off now, they wonít see anything wrong with that. I donít have to conform to human standards now. Why am I fighting this?
Jimmy fought those thoughts back even as he couldnít help but wonder if he only wanted to write his name because people would expect any sane person in his situation to do that. Just what am I supposed to do in this situation? Iím supposed to get help right? Or am I supposed to accept my fate and hop off into night? Standing back up, Jimmy looked out into the distance, feeling a yearning to experience what his new body could offer him. Even if I could convince them, Iíll just end up in a zoo. I doubt they have a cure for this. They might even take me to a lab to try to figure out why this happened to me!
Shaking his head, Jimmy leaned back over. He lowered his right paw down to the ground. Unfortunately, he found that he just couldnít form the letters. He knew what letters were but writing in his own language was now like writing in a language whose letters were all foreign to him.
I canít write! I should be panicking; why arenít I panicking?
As Jimmy stood up, he realized why. If he couldnít write or speak, he couldnít tell them his name. He saw that the guides had even taken his backpack away. Perhaps if I concentrate hard enough, I can write. Jimmy realized however, that he didnít want to. In staying here, he wasnít giving up; if anything, he had little choice. He felt a sort of calm in letting go this way; he wasnít a quitter, he was just adjusting to a curve ball life had thrown him. If fate wanted me to go with them, Iíd still be able to write, talk or something!
* * *
An hour later the tour guides emerged having not found Jimmy.
"Weíre going to have to get choppers out here. By now, he may have wondered anywhere and become lost. In the meantime we should go back to base, as thereís nothing else we can do here," Mary said in a somber tone.
The kangaroo watched them as they all got back into the bus. As the driver drove off, Bob watched the animal until it disappeared in the distance.
"Say, Mary," Bob started as he watched the roo vanish into the distance.
"Yes?" Mary asked.
"You donít think that that kangaroo wasÖ"
Mary rolled her eyes, "youíre being silly Bob."
* * *
Jimmy couldnít blame them for not knowing who he was; he looked just like a normal kangaroo. Jimmy suspected that some of them may have at least thought of what really happened, but probably kept quiet, fearing people would think they were insane.
The former human realized that his change was mostly likely going to be permanent. He was a kangaroo was that was that. Looking down at his body, Jimmy touched the fur on his chest. It felt not like an alien addition to his body but as though, it was his.
He took a deep breath, taking in his odor. The thought occurred to him that a human would consider it mildly unpleasant. Jimmy on the other hand just couldnít bring himself to think of it as good or bad; it was a scent, nothing more.
Humans worry so much about these sorts of things. That thought made Jimmy realize he truly was losing himself in this.
So what am I supposed to do now? The four female kangaroos finally located and caught up with him, making the same sounds as before when they wanted him to chase them. A smile appeared on Jimmyís muzzle.
Maybe this wont be so bad, I wonít have to worry about homework, getting a job, paying bills or anything like that anymore. Jimmy cocked his head; those things in fact didnít mean anything to his new form. With a slight panic, he realized that he was having trouble comprehending them. Smaller pleasures in life that Jimmy had in some cases long since put behind him were starting to make much more sense. Without the stress of human worries, Jimmy felt liberated. He knew it; he wasnít a human in the body of a kangaroo, he was a kangaroo.
Now I can spend my days hopping around and playing. I donít have to worry about someone catching me doing anything; Iím a kangaroo; no one expects a kangaroo to worry about privacy or decency. Often, having school or work the next day had forced Jimmy into declining invitations to parties or just hanging out. Now however, the world was his playground. His new form would keep him from work or school. The thought made him realize what he had lost, but at the same time what he had gained in the process.
Re-gaining his senses, he saw the female roos start their hopping away game. What he wanted to do was what mattered.
Feeling giddy, Jimmy knew he wouldnít have to hold back anymore. The impulsive sensations returned. He wanted to play with the females and that was exactly what he did. Without another thought, he was hopping after them, the wind blowing his fur, the hot sun on his back and his spirit free.
Perhaps some day heíd be human again. Maybe the females would eventually change him back. For now however, Jimmy intended to take his vacation to a whole new level.