“He needs to be taken care of,” Hugo explained down the telephone. Playing with an apple in one hand and a knife in the other, Hugo leaned his black furred head into his shoulder, holding the cellular device clumsily in place. After listening to Max give a brief report on Kale’s condition, Hugo had heard enough. “We cannot let him found out about his animal side. If Kale or anyone else finds out he used to be something other than human it could mean the end of us.”
“I’m not comfortable with this,” Max sighed. Hugo ignored it.
“Orders are orders, Max. You know that,” he reminded the homosexual fox. Max growled down the line. His paws were being forced to become dirtier. Eventually the blood that had stained them before would no longer wash off. “Besides… we wouldn’t want anything to happen to any friends of his now, would we?”
“You wouldn’t!” Max snarled.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Max,” Hugo reassured him. “I’m only a messenger after all.” Max bit down on his canine tongue, taking deep breaths through his nose to calm himself. The black nostrils of his vulpine nose flared in anger at the threat.
“Just a messenger…” he breathed. “Well you take this message back to them. If you harm one blonde hair on my son’s head, Kale will be the least of your worries.”
On that note Max disconnected the call and went to check on Bruce. Plump and half dressed, the adolescent fox was quietly clicking away at his computer’s mouse, occasionally letting out an evil sounding giggle as he killed some form of artificial fantasy monster on one of his role-playing games. The giggle turned to a retching cough. Max stood at the doorway for a moment, admiring the view with the proud adoration of a parent as his son continued on, despite his illness.
The odd cat here, the odd dog there…
High school is a strange place when you are the only known human walking around. Sitting at one of the numerous and identical plastic covered tables, Kale sucked on a straw that was sticking out of a carton of orange. He was not holding it. Instead it was sat on the table whilst his two skinny arms were folded on the table surface, his chin resting on his wrists. It was mindless playing.
“Ha! Ha!” one random crow chirped as he walked past with a canine friend of his. “The bald monkey can’t even drink with his hands!”
Kale sat up and shook his head, annoyed. Picking up the half empty box, he considered tossing it at the avian. The action would have given him some small degree of satisfaction for what was turning out to be a very lonesome and tough day. Kale wondered how Bruce was coping at home with kennel cough. He had tonsillitis once, which he figured that the only thing he could compare it with. Looking back at the carton of juice as he stood, Kale decided he would go and see Bruce after school.
“Not so fast,” Ashley hissed, stopping Kale from leaving with his tray. “I’ve had nobody to talk to all morning. So sit back down.” Kale did as he was asked and Campy joined them a few seconds later. A question occurred to Kale.
“Hang on,” he started as Ashley began poking at the thrown-together offerings that the lunchtime cafeteria provided. “It’s Friday.”
“Your point, oh great observant one?”
“Both you and Camp have the same timetable for today. Why haven’t you spoken to him?” Kale’s question was answered by the struggling intake of breath that sounded out from behind the rabbit’s teeth. “Never mind…”
“Are you going to see Bruce?” Ashley asked as she stuffed something resembling food into her feline mouth, getting some of it stuck to her orange fur as she did so.
“Yeah,” Kale answered. “After school, I will. I’m not going to stay long though.”
“How come? Campy and I plan on keeping him suffering for hours.”
“Oh come on,” Kale winced. “Campy gets more sleep than anyone in the entire universe, so it’s pointless him doing anything, and you just want to get away from the house because Gus is stalking you.”
“I’ve got to go,” Kale said nervously, looking at his watch to try and distract Ashley from her possibly violent train of thought. He left his used tray sat on the table opposite the now annoyed feline and comatose rabbit. Ashley stared at the littered tray when Kale disappeared through the door, now wondering for Kale’s wellbeing given the constant displays of uncharacteristic behaviour. Not quite the neat freak he usually was, and seemingly more unsure of himself than usual. It came as little surprise to her, given how he seemed so lost after his recovery from being run over. She almost ripped Bruce’s head off for it. If he had watched where he was going…
She sighed as her thoughts turned to Eve. The poor girl was more than love sick over the human boy, she was worried sick. All of the attempts to get him to open up, all the times she had been there for him whenever he felt too lonely. It was obvious to Ashley that Eve cared for him greatly, possibly even loved him.
Against the background noise of chattering animals and Campy’s narcoleptic induced breathing pattern, Ashley put her head in her paws and started daydreaming. It summed up her morning. Her staring did not last very long. As her thoughts were slowly interrupted by an annoying sound, Ashley found herself sneering more and more. Eventually, she looked at Campy and realised his snoring had ceased. It happened once more and she looked forwards. Gus was coughing up a nice, slimy fur ball on the table opposite. She did not even realise that he had been sitting in her uncaring view for the past few minutes, staring at her nervously. “He’s not going to leave me alone, is he?” she thought, feeling somewhat embarrassed by the harmless affection.
“Gus?” Ashley said to gain his attention and snap him out of his loving trance.
“You have until I count to five to leave the table before I hit you…hard…” It did not take much convincing. Gus promptly upped and left the table, looking back to Ashley all the way, until he turned when arriving at the door…coming into full facial contact with the painted frame surrounding the entrance. Embarrassed and bloody nosed, Gus pushed through the door and hastily made his way down the corridor, leaving Ashley to sigh woefully.
Kale sat next to Bruce, watching the blonde haired fox’s handiwork on the computer. There was the usual cackle and the odd quip about how brave his character was in the game. Kale simply smiled at each mistake Bruce made in the game. Knowing what could have been done to ensure the current task went more swimmingly, instead of Bruce’s usual style of swinging his sword around like a lawnmower on an acid trip.
Kale looked at his watch. It was getting late and Bruce had eventually relented to tiredness, opting to say his goodbyes at the computer, leaving Kale to go downstairs and call home for a ride.
It was the bottom step that caught him off guard. His foot lost its grip of the edge of the step and he face-planted onto a side table in the hallway. Hearing the commotion, Max shot out of the living room and arrived in time to see Kale picking himself up from the floor holding his head like his life depended on it.
“Kale?” Max asked. Looking to see what was the matter.
“Ow,” he merely replied, rubbing at the side of his head, causing the brown hair to become unkempt.
“Okay,” Max ushered the boy into the kitchen and sat him down. Reaching in to the freezer he grabbed a bag of frozen peas and closed the door. When he turned around, Kale was standing by the sink with a knife in his hand. Still holding the frozen bag of uncooked greens Max hesitated, wondering what was going on. It was not until he saw the hand that held the knife that he started to panic.
The once plain and wrinkled skin was now hidden beneath a plume of dark fur and elongated nails. The furred fingers clutched the handle tightly. Kale’s green eyes stared intently at the blade. Below the fringe Kale’s face had started to change. Max quietly put the peas on the side and took a step towards the boy. Kale’s gaze snapped up and their eyes met.
“Kale…?” Max quizzed nervously, putting his hands into his pockets in a vain attempt at acting normal. Grey fur had cloaked the skin that covered his developed snout, the light glinting off his black nose. Kale took a step forward with the knife prompting Max to take action. Snapping his hands out of his pockets, Max looked at the draw he snatched open grabbing hold of the first thing the pads of his fingered paws touched on. Looking back at Kale, the boy had turned into a fox. In the time it took for him to cross the kitchen his ears had moved up to the top of his head, disguising themselves under black fur. Distracted by the swish of a tail, Max did not feel the tip of the blade under his jaw, but he froze instinctively.
“Impossible.” It was the only word uttered from Max’s mouth, but he was not aware it had passed his lips
“You did this to me, didn’t you?” the angry grey fox snarled as he held the kitchen knife under Max’s jaw. His fierce gaze half blocked by the brown hair that fell around his eyes. Despite the feeling of the blade poking into his skin and the small flow of blood staining his fur, he was in awe of what had happened to Kale.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Max denied, pleadingly. Kale pushed harder with the knife, drawing more blood from the canine. Taking a risk, Max snatched at the blade. The move was semi successful. The blade was no longer near his throat, but he had caused a deep gash to be sliced into the palm-padding of his paw. Max yelped, but retained the composure to continue turning his defensive move into an offensive assault on the young fox.
Max stopped when he saw a rush of movement block his view of Kale. It took him a moment to realise that someone had stepped in. In bewilderment, he realised he was staring at Hugo when he recognised the way the buttocks seemed to hug the inside of his jeans. When Hugo turned to face him he saw Kale lying unconscious on the floor, and a syringe in the grip of the skunk’s hand.
“Alcohol and Rohypnol,” Hugo smiled. “Who said that cheap thrills are hard to come by these days?”
“Not even funny,” Max growled as he pushed past the skunk to check on Kale. He carefully picked his limp body up and carried him away to the spare room. Hugo followed. “I appreciate the help, but you shouldn’t have come. What if Bruce had woken up? And what did you inject him with?”
“Just pretend I’m another tap for your keg,” he shrugged. “I can live with that. As for the needle, it’s just a little sedative and something to wipe his memory with.”
“I’ll need to find a reason for why he won’t be able to remember the night,” Max told him as he left placed Kale gently down on the bed and moved him onto his side in a crude attempt at a recovery position. “You better disappear before I find an excuse to hurt you.”
“You’re welcome,” Hugo said as he left the house. Max listened as the door closed, waiting for Hugo to be gone for long enough before going to the telephone to call Kale’s foster father, Cyrus.
Waking up with a headache was not Kale’s idea of the perfect start to the day. The world around him sitting in the blurred haze, Kale sat up, struggling to recognise his own bedroom. Standing up and plodding out of the room he waltzed haphazardly in to the bathroom. After taking a piss Kale went to the sink to wash his hands. Reaching to the side he dried his hands and glanced into the mirror. For a split second he thought he saw something other than his reflection. Looking again the moment of surprise was quashed by the welcome look of Kale’s own haunted human expression. Shaking his head Kale examined the bruising behind his temple and touched it, hissing at the tenderness of it.
Stepping back into his bedroom, Kale stopped when he had a flash of an image in his mind. For split second it looked like he was holding something to the throat of a panicked looking Mr Beradino. Sitting on the end of his bed Kale tried to replay in his mind the events of last night. As far as he could remember he was watching Bruce playing a role-play video game, coughing his lungs up in great hoarse chunks. After that he fell down the stairs and everything after that had decayed into a swirling mass of haze and fog that started to ramp up the intensity of his headache. Resigning to futility Kale decided to stop thinking about it. There was another day of school to attend to and he did not want to be late.