R.L. came via a referral from Steve ‘I’ll send you gold every time I sneeze’ Carr. I love the first line of this story. Such a great hook! Ripple was cool. Ripple was hip… The rest of the story follows through on the promise the first jaunt hints. We bring you, a bit in time for this cool day in October (Nevada Day, right?!)…
… But Satisfaction Brought Her Back
Ripple was cool. Ripple was hip. Ripple was punk and funky—A new breed of homo sapiens: nova sapient, never mindful of the explosion of radiant change trailing his stardust footprints.
When New Wave and Ultra Wave curled over the scene, Ripple had already slipped on, leaving the New and the Ultra as dusty as his surfboard slung from the rafters of his garage. The Leading Edge trimmed his whiskers, his oblique exit puzzling even the most avant of the garde. But Ripple was by no means young. As a young cat, he had suckled the bittersweet milk of Lord Buckley’s humor. He wore a goatee in the forties, full beard, long hair, and fringe in the fifties, and took an accounting degree, C.P.A. license and his first million in the sixties.
Now, he was convinced it was time for a new outlook. For three years, he had depilated and gilded his scalp. His domed pate now sported a surreal planetarium woven in genuine gold and silver leaf. Dali-esque perhaps, yet still a true celestial map of the cosmos as man’s most powerful telescopes had been able to perceive it. The Horsehead Nebula graced this canvas for three weeks, the Andromeda Galaxy for five. Even a relatively simple representation such as the Pleiades involved strenuous and interesting research, and even more certainly tickled the public’s curiosity bone. People magazine pursued him remorselessly for three weeks after a rumor leaked that a radio transmission, possibly sentient communications, had been received which may have originated from the Pleiades, four hundred forty-four light years distant.
Ripple was dissatisfied. His current involvement in what he thought of as his “personal art” was just an extension of a theme as tedious as the mohawk and later the spiked doo he had worn to the discos in the seventies.
Ripple was convinced that the genuine emergence of an entirely new human cultural subspecies would be heralded by transformation, not just a change of style. The new rebellions held his interest only as amusing curiosities.
Man had teched-out. It was time for a return to the primitive. Not that old hippie-Indian-teepee bullshit. No, a real return in full to primal animal nature. A symbolic return would not satisfy Ripple. His nature required a change as substantial as man’s accumulated knowledge and technology could provide.
Ripple did his homework: Deep research at the University library, field studies of man and his animal cousins in tame and wild environments. He interrogated professors of physiology and biology, trekked to the bush to observe hunting and mating habits. Although Ripple was cool, sometimes apparently to indifference, he was a sensitive and precise observer of his fellow humans. He noticed how people looked and acted like different animals. One man betrayed the appearance and character of a cow, placid, stolid, and satisfied; another, a woman, neighed horse like when she laughed; a third lumbered like a moose in heavily forested swampland.
What was his animal? Ripple studied recent reports of Japanese and Russian advances in their attempts to adapt man to an environment of seawater. He spread his fingers and envisioned them webbed. And gills? Ripple shook his head. No way. As fascinating as the prospect of underwater life might be, his animal, his secret primal self, as he thought of it, was a land dwelling mammal. He chuckled. He had wasted six months on a forebrain search. The scientific method always failed in nonrational pursuits. He was searching for an archetype, a primitive memory lodged deep, in the medulla, perhaps. A more mystical method was called for.
Ripple fasted as some of his Native American forebears had fasted in pursuit of their totems. The ancients had climbed to a high place, or walked the desert, and fasted until their spirit animal was drawn to them. Ripple sat upon his couch in his living room overlooking Central Park gazing into a crystal mirror. He beheld the image of his own face with wide, almond eyes, slightly unfocused, until the visage blurred and melted. Faces from the past, faces of his friends and acquaintances, faces of his own mini-incarnations as beat, hippie, and punk coalesced in the glass, liquid-solid, and vanished. A continual flow of faces: monsters, aliens, children, Ronnie-baby followed by Bozo, male, female, old, and young. Muzzles and snouts, the animals he had studied: wolf, deer, dolphin, viper, panther, and eagle. Finally, his own mirrored meditation stared back at him perfectly clear and stable, reflecting the thick mane of baby-fine auburn hair he had regrown the past year, amber eyes, yellow-brown skin tone. It drew an answering curl of lip in recognition. It was his face. It was meat. Prey. A meal. Sustenance.
Four years of surgery, physical therapy, body hair implants, tooth filings, pullings, and leonine implants wrought changes no man before had ever experienced.
Ripple’s silky, fudge-ripple coat glistened as he licked it. Fellow diners at the five-star restaurant in which he celebrated the conclusion of adaptive surgery dropped their silverware in awe as he tore into a raw steak with glistening fangs. Special contacts altered the look of his eyes and improved his night vision. Ripple registered only one minor drawback. Direct sunlight was a bitch and sunglasses did not offer an aesthetically acceptable solution.
Even pushing modern adaptive surgical techniques to the limit, Ripple’s basic body structure remained essentially human. Elective cosmetic surgery to shorten and restructure his limbs and remove his fingers and toes, while feasible, struck even Ripple as extreme. He kept his digits and limbs, in fact, all of his extremities from the scalpels of the Stockholm surgeons who, although wary in the early stages, rapidly warmed to the project as Ripple’s transformation neared its conclusion. The famous Dr. Bjornstein declared the precisely functioning claw implants to be his finest work.
Ripple was a hit. The cost was hard to maintain, but gods, the chicks loved it. And sexually, he was all human male. A fur codpiece kept him street legal. The women he mated seemed to be in heat, wild and primitive.
Orthodox humans generally exhibited deep shock. More than one policeman had to explain to a besuited gentleman, “No, he isn’t doing anything against the law, sir,” or to a polyester clad matron, “No, ma’am, I can’t arrest him for wearing nothing but fur.”
As he strolled through the young punker’s turf, his lips curled into a wide, warm, and fangy smile. It was a moment of perfect truth, a shredding of the veils of Maya, of illusion to allow for one elongated moment, a communication direct from mind to mind of absolute clarity—an end table tableau of five goggle-eyed spike heads, a corner grouping accoutered in Hyper Wave sartorial magnificence struggling to close safety pinned lips over the gobbled words, “Wha…Wha…”—a moment so splendorous to Ripple that he could not resist a growling purr and curl of the claws as he padded past.
But Ripple sought genuine experience, not just shock value. He sought the heady exhilaration of the kill, the lazy naps, the seasonal lust.
During the following year, Ripple gradually curtailed his social life. His answering machine which recorded each week fewer messages from old lovers, friends and acquaintances—the cool, the hip, and the trendy—bore the message, “Timothy Leary’s dead. Turn on. Tune in. I’ve dropped out.” Reporters on the lifestyles of the rich and infamous no longer noted his presence at nightclubs and galleries.
Ripple was not idle during this period, however. An upright, quite leonine being was observed canvassing the open stacks at U.C. Berkley and Davis. A hirsute individual (the Doktor actually said “furry”) questioned the esteemed, white-haired Herr Professor Doktor Doktor Berghofenstern of the African Lion Behavioral Institute Nexus Organization for several hours. An undescribed (witnesses to the transactions being understandably and professionally reticent), but allowably strange entity (”Maybe it was human, maybe not. But it was real narly, like.”), made discreet purchases from an endless-summer surfer lab tech at a Los Angeles Laboratory and, two days later, from a one-handed Japanese purveyor specializing in unobtrusively obtained and perfume bases in an odorous attic establishment above the more orthodox shop, Knock Offs, which sold copies of Australian knits in a lesser known and unelegant neighborhood of Tokyo.
Books and films brought him knowledge. Technology and the black market provided him the proper scent. Repeated practice ingrained almost to instinct the walk, marking movements, dominance and submissive postures. Finally, he was ready.
Memory is sketchy. A surreptitious approach to a semi-tame pride by night. Surprise! Initial acceptance. Unprotected females. The overwhelming sex scent; the season of the swollen ruby; the fire of penetration; the rake of claws; pierce of fangs; the jugular flows open and black, ruby-red in the moonlight. The sweet blood of life; vanquished verisimilitude.
It is so good.
R. L. Adare has been writing most of his life. An old-timer, he took his degree in Linguistics, has taught school, owned a kite shop and been an accountant for 30 years. For ten years he lived onboard his junk rigged Cape George 36 in Monterey Bay, CA. He has published in the old SASE days in Wings, Pass the Hemlock, and Whalesong Quarterly. More recently he was published in Ariel Chart and has a novel accepted for publication by Oghma Creative. You can check out more of RL’s work and drop a line via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RLAdare/ and email: RobinAdare@gmail.com