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Endgame, or Continue? 
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Location: Colorado

Out toward the middle of nowhere, where Interstate Route 15 passes under Shriver's Corner Road, there sits the Hunterstown Diner. Not the most exotic place, nor the shiniest, nor even the classiest of diners, but amid the wood paneling a fur of any -ivore could leave with a stomach full of down-home country cooking and have their wallet not feel any hunger pangs afterward. Six dollars for a rack of ribs? Divine, is this scavenger’s opinion.

It was here, at that magical sunset time just before the sodium lights came on, that a scrawny, light-furred coyote had reached the end of his rope in the parking lot. He sat on the fender of an ancient hatchback--a restored 1975 AMC Gremlin, to be precise--with his forehead resting on a paw. On the outside, the blue car with its white, hockey stick-shaped accent stripe looked gorgeous, but like its driver, the interior was torn up and ragged.

The driver of the car, aforementioned coyote, looked like he had driven his vehicle right out of the seventies from whence it came. The dirty-blonde hair on his head ran all the way to the base of his tail. Round sunglasses, even bluer than his crystal-blue eyes, rested atop his muzzle, down far enough for him to look over them. One tuft of fur on his kinked tail even had a strand of beads dangling from it. Finish it off with a lightly tie-dyed shirt, bell bottoms that were a little too short, and engineer boots, and he ended up looking like a hippie who had gotten lost in the time stream. Too bad he didn't feel much peace, love, or understanding right now. He could have used those.

After checking his wallet one last time to see if there was anything, anything left but the meager seven cents he had come there with, the coyote snarled. His head twitched to the side, almost as if he were trying to shake water off, but stopped after the first shake. He was losing it. No medication--couldn't afford it--no money, and several other things, small and large, had finally gotten to him. This was it; he'd planned it ever since college. Now it was a few years after that, and with his current issues, named and as of yet unnamed, he was going through with his plan.

His mind turned to the Gremlin's trunk. Of course, a Gremlin doesn't really have a trunk; more like an SUV cargo area. Under a fringed buckskin jacket lay various means to carrying out his plan. He got up and pulled the jacket away. There were definite bonuses to having a stepdad who was a badger with hunting and firearm collection for hobbies. After secretly raiding the badger's safe, all that remained were choices.

Choice one: .44 Magnum. Six rounds. Easy to point. Would flip a deer over backward with one shot. He could hold a decent pattern, about 1 inch from the bull's eye with it. Not as creative, though.

Choice two: Russian SKS. Semiautomatic. Plenty of power, so there'd be less of a chance of merely wounding them and having them suffer--he didn't want that. No experience. Curses.

Choice three: Stainless and laminate Winchester deer rifle with matching stainless scope. Left-handed, just like its south-pawed owner. It was the only real gun the coyote owned, given to him as a birthday present. If only his stepdad had known. Nah, too long, too hard to aim at close range. Best go with the pistol. He hadn't brought any shotguns for the same reason.

But looking at the guns, the coyote began to shake. What was he about to do? He knew that he could do it, and in some sick way he wanted to. Just end it all. And hey, why not fulfill some sick fantasy beforehand? Five rounds into random strangers—he had no vendettas against anyone—and one into his own twisted brain. No more depression. No more heartache. And if he had been wrong for all these years, no punishment. But...but...

He slammed the rear hatch down with almost enough force to shatter the glass. Sitting on the generously endowed rear bumper, he buried his face in his paws. "God, if you're there, please...stop me. I've believed in you for years...but..." The words came out in a creepy sort of panting manner, almost as if he were laughing, but this laughter was not from anything funny. His head twitched again, several times in succession, as if his body were trying to tell his brain 'no'. If he could have relaxed the left corner of his mouth and stopped baring his teeth, he certainly would have. "I want to know I'm right. I want to not do this. But right now..." he gave a whimper, still in that disturbed, panting way. "Just please, stop me before I do what I'm about to."



Two French fries broken in half scraped off the very last of the ketchup on the gecko's plate. After some brief nomming, he pulled a handful of $1s from his pocket and set it on the table. He then got up, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and picked up a hard-shell instrument case.

Ian looked like he hadn't slept in a couple days--and smelled like a shower hadn't touched him in a week. His thrift-store clothes were fraying, the holes in his jeans patched up with duct tape that was starting to peel at the edges. Eyeing the clock on the wall, Ian made his way for the door. He looked out at the road and saw the coyote's Gremlin. The hatch's slamming caught his ear, and a brief glimpse at the guns caught his eye.

"Wow, haven't seen one of those in y--OH MY GOD!" The gecko dropped his instrument case and ran toward the car. He could hear the coyote's breathless prayer.

"What are you doing with those, man?" Ian cried. "You got some kinda death wish?"



Tom Alexander sat, almost motionless, in the corner of the eatery, a blank expression on his face. His trance would be broken at rhythmic intervals by the action of cutting the food on the plate before him and lifting whatever morsel had been selected to his beak to be eaten. At random times during the process his eyes would blink to clear the fog that would settle over his vision, a result of him doing little but staring absentmindedly in one direction.

Before him sat a plate of what had been, at one point, identifiable as some sort of pasta and meat combination, with a side of some variety. It had since degraded to a mess of reds, yellows, and greens, the likes of which Tom was gradually dissecting with knife and fork. Two drinks waited by the plate, one a half-finished cup of water, the other a full and sweaty bottle of beer, opened but entirely untouched by its owner. Truthfully, Tom had no interest in the alcohol, his profession had taught him the to be wary of such pleasures, but he had ulterior motives for ordering it. By purchasing said drink, and leaving it conspicuously on the table, Tom could prove to his viewers that he was, in fact, an adult.

The raven could have easily passed for a high schooler; He'd always had a youthful complexion and a thin physique. It made little difference, really, and he'd told himself that when he was older it would be a blessing. Regardless, he found himself being unnecessarily self conscious, and made obvious gestures to try and demonstrate his age.

And so it sat, the beer, the outside sufficiently covered in condensation such that it was clear it hadn't been touched. Curiously, the mug was aligned precisely with the object of Tom's vacant fascination: a disheveled looking gecko on the other half of the diner.

There was no particular reason for this fixation. He simply had locked his vision on the first thing that had caught his eyes as he proceeded to completely zone out from the world around him. Thankfully, eye contact had not been made, and so there was no feeling of awkwardness that would inevitably occurred should the two have noticed each others presence. So he had been content to observe the lizard's eating habits, seemingly mesmerized by the process. In reality, Tom was so shot from the day, it was a welcome relief to be so easily fascinated.

The fascination became legitimate when the gecko got up to leave, and Tom got a first good look at his dress.

Hmmm....Musician? Student? Roadie? I wonder if he's famous?

Tom watched him as he leaved the building, and through the window watched as he approached a previously unnoticed coyote in the corner. To his surprise, the Gecko covered the last half of the distance in a sprint, and began speaking to the coyote in what appeared to be intense tones.

Huh. Wonder what's going on? I wonder if they even know each other?

Slowly continuing his meal, Tom continued observing the two with piqued interest.




Not the most pleasant sound in the world. In fact, it's one of the worst--the heave, the retch, the wet splash of regurgitated food hitting the ground at nauseating intervals. It's made worse by anticipation of the smell to come--sour, sticking in the nose, slipping back down her throat into her stomach to gather the rest of its contents and hurl them out as well. huuuurk. Muscles crying out in agony. Vomit beading on whiskers. Front paws splashed with it, despite a long reach with her neck to try and save her front half from contamination.

When her body is finished with its spasms of sick, Gypsi-Rae lurches away from the stink, dragging the fronts of her paws in the dust to try and cleanse them, licking her nose and whiskers with her already tainted tongue. The taste in her mouth is acrid, but bearable. The spotted lioness turns to face the putrid mess, stares at it for a very long time. Her ribcage expands and contracts with each laboured breath. Her ribs and hips are clearly visible, covered only by a a thin layer of mangy-furred skin which slides over the bones as she breathes. Her joints are swollen, all four legs gangly, knees and ankles knobby and sore. Her spine is lumpy, her shoulders sharp. Her nose is dry as a bone. She constantly licks it and it cracks and bleeds, as do her gums, which are a sickly white against her crusty black jowls.

Flies begin to swarm her sick and she is jealous of them. That's all of yesterday's food, Gypsi thinks.

And why should she be feeding flies? She doesn't get enough calories as it is. She stares and stares at the flies, the sick, and realizes that part of her is considering padding right back over there and lapping it all right back up, like a dog. Another part of her recoils at this. There was something wrong with it to begin with--otherwise her stomach would not have forced the purge on her so violently. The meat she'd eaten was rotten. The rats she'd caught, the bones she'd gnawed, were infected or diseased. It's one thing to beg for scraps and take what you can from the trash--even the homeless two-legs do that, the down-and-outs. But she's not going to pad over there like a brainless dog and lap it up and prove what everyone's been saying about her this whole time--you're nothing better than a filthy mutt--animal vermin--four-legs are not welcome here--thumbless need not apply.

There is no work outside the reservation, and certainly no food, even soup-kitchen food. There's enough homeless two-legs to worry about, they say, without feeding every mongrel that comes traipsing through town with the wild coyotes and feral coons and dogs. Go get your meat from them. And it's no use trying to show that you don't need thumbs to do good work--it's thumbs or get the feck out. Doesn't matter what you can understand, it only matters what you can say. No voice? No service. Why did you even come to the city? Go back to the reservation and hunt some deer (there are no deer left because of the guns, but they don't know that); go back and leave us in peace why don't you.

Why don't you? Because starving on the reservation or starving here doesn't make any kind of difference, and it's a very long walk back on swollen ankles with bony hips that creak back and forth as you go.

Gypsi heaves a huge sigh and her red-tufted tail whips back and forth in frustration. She turns her back to the sick and marches resolutely away, sniffing the air with her dry pink-and-grey nose, tracking down food-smells. The only thing for it is to get more food to pack behind the ribs and ease the stomach lest it start to eat itself. She follows car noises to the interstate and pads along, great big trucks whooshing past, sometimes honking at her if she walks on the shoulder and not on the prickly grass. She'll walk on the shoulder if she wants, she thinks, picking her away over broken bottles and shredded bits of tire, trotting along and ignoring her joints and creaky bones. She passes small bits of roadkill and turns up her nose at them, making sure that drivers are passing as she lifts her head and passes the split open, sun-baked carcasses as if she's too good for that kind of thing. Her stomach protests. But Gypsi is a person with a mind and a soul and she knows she doesn't have to eat every little thing like a dog would or a feral coyote or coon would, and she makes sure everyone else on the road knows it too, even if they probably aren't looking at all except to honk because she's on the shoulder.

It would help to have thumbs to stick out and hitch a ride with.

It doesn't take too long before Gypsi finds very strong food smells, following them to what she reads (the two-legs wouldn't know that she could read, they never stop long enough to find out) is called "the Hunterstown Diner." There is a cloud of smoke from the back barbecue and the smell of roasting meat bombards her nose and clings to her jowls. Her mouth begins to water. They will have rubbish bins out back--perhaps someone will empty fresh scraps into them and she can climb in and extract a piece of what she's smelling now: BBQ-slathered ribs dripping with marrow and grease, frying eggs, hamburgers and hot dogs sizzling on a big flat grill with onions and mushrooms besides.

The sun was setting, too. Gypsi was a very pale golden colour with light grey spots, but is so coated with grime she seems a uniform grey-brown by now and could use night as a cover to prowl behind the diner undetected. Diners throw away a lot of food. Fat, shiny-furred customers eat and eat and sometimes leave what they don't eat on their plates as they amble out into their cars. Sometimes there are all-you-can-eat buffets with huge trays of food soggy from steam at the end of the day or dried up from being out too long and they are tossed as well. Bread gets stale very quickly and is thrown out in great quantities, but Gypsi can't eat bread, not too much without getting sick. But there is meat here, and she might score some if she is patient and thorough.

Gypsi pads into the carpark, following the smells. Then there is another smell--gunpowder? Guns. There is a two-leg coyote standing behind his car looking at his guns in the trunk and Gypsi suddenly does not like him, because she hates guns. Guns killed her people's deer and they were not uncommonly pointed at her, fired in her direction until she scampers away like a guilty dog.

The two-leg coyote looks like he means to use the guns, but on what Gypsi cannot divine. Not for food, because there was a diner right there where you give little bits of metal or strips of paper for food and don't kill anything at all--and the two-legs always have bits of metal, Gypsi thinks. Some special kind, not bottlecaps or buttons--she'd tried those but no one wanted them.

The two-leg coyote looks dangerous, with his blue sunglasses and ratty blonde-ish mane and the crazy-man look on his face. Gypsi raises her lip, bares one canine tooth at him, even though he can't see her there. Somehow she thinks he might have come to hurt people in the diner, and that makes her mad. She thinks she might have to take him down. If she does, she can't eat him, she decides. The other two-legs would drive her off if she ate him, even if it was for a good cause. But maybe if she saved them and didn't eat him and proved that she had a heart and mind and soul they would give her BBQ ribs, or eggs, or little strips of green paper with dead men's faces on.

The coyote two-leg begins to shake and shake, and then he slams down the hatch and turns and Gypsi thinks he may have started to cry but she can't tell. A gecko-man carrying some large black thing with a handle runs out in fear toward the coyote and shouts something. Gypsi looks in the window of the diner and sees another person watching them--a black-feathered person, small for a two-leg but huge for a raven, looking out with black avian eyes. Not at her, but at the coyote and gecko.

Gypsi looks back at the gunman and the lizardman and decides to approach, to stand at a distance and eavesdrop and if they see her and look dangerous to growl because she hates guns, but if they look scared or frightened to pad forward slowly and tilt her head and look cute as she can, covered in dirt as she is with breath that smelt like sick.

The last thing she wants to do is turn her back on someone with that many guns.



Jesse ran his paws through his greasy hair. Blast it all, why couldn't he stop this stupid, sick laughter? And that head wasn't natural, he knew that. Too irregular. If he tried to stop, all it did was cause the amplitude of the twitching to slow down for a bit.

Then he heard the gecko coming toward him. An ear swiveled back toward the sound. Oh no. This blew his plan to smithereens. Or was it what he had asked for? God was trying to stop him. Maybe? Please let that be it?

When the gecko yelled at him, though, Jesse had no idea what to say. He stammered, trying hard to control his tic. His arms crossed, hiding his wrists. But then something clicked. The twitching resumed at full tilt. Not making eye contact, he looked somewhere out on the ground, ears pricked forward in the same direction. The corner of his mouth twitched its way back up into a taut, asymmetrical grin--and not a comforting one either.

"He-h-heh...Maybe, maybe I do have a deathwish, man," he said in between laughs. "Y'know? Just been thinking about a LOTTA things, h-hhheh-heh." Was it a laugh or a cry? It could almost have sounded like both. Though the coyote's mouth and ears spoke criminal insanity, his eyes and the tucked position of his tail cried silently out for help.

A thought crossed his mind. In the day of cell phones, this guy might call the police. But what could they do for our little psycho? Nothing, really. They had tried before.

Jesse uncrossed his arms. On the coyote's bony right wrist was a thin bracelet with seven multicolored beads: one each of black, white, red, blue, green, and gold, plus a clear one to hold the leather string together. It was a cute little accessory he had made as a pup in Bible camp.

On the left wrist, however, was something that might generate a far colder feeling. JESSE KELLER was written in black magic marker on a Kelly green plastic bracelet. It was made with several holes to allow it to fit any size wrist only once. With his slender paws, he could slide it on and off at will, but a bracelet like that came from one place: a hospital psych ward. Jesse had been discharged after two days, but had kept the bracelet as a memento; a reminder of how crazy he really was. After all, he had done time in a psych ward, state trooper escort and all. That meant he had to be insane, right? Riiiii-iiight, Hhh-heheh!

It was this left paw that he held up for pause, and to show the gecko just what he was dealing with. "Don't bother calling the cops; they can't help. They already tried once, and yet, here I am, aren't I? Don't worry. I'm not going to try and hurt you." Still he had not looked the gecko in the face. A louder sort of whimper started to pant its way out of him for a moment, then died back down to erratic breathing.

In all this rapid inhaling and exhaling, the scent of lioness mixed with various other stenches met his nose. His eyes flicked upward in the direction of the smell. "Hi there. Nothing to see here. Sorry, hhehahHAH, I don't have any money, or food. Of course, if you want, you could have me after I'm done here, but that'll be in a moment or so. Just be patient." Perhaps the most disturbing part, next to the laughter, was that the coyote's tone was eerily sing-songy and gay (gay in the 1950's sense, not the modern definition). He sounded almost innocent, like a pup. Or like the person in a horror flick who had snapped almost entirely, going beyond terror into counterfeit sunshine.



The coyote two-leg catches her eye and starts up an intensely disturbing laugh, which causes Gypsi to shrink back slightly, lowering her ears against her head. She has an urge to run away, run as far as she can from that face--the jumpy, hollow eyes, the teeth bared as if in pain, lips stretched across the mouth and jolted by unseen electricity.

He sees her and he speaks to her with the voice of a child. "Hi... Sorry... don't have... food... you could have me ... be patient." Gypsi does not hear all of his words, or maybe just can't register them through the insane laughs and her rising fear.

Wait... what? He is going to kill himself? Gypsi wonders--VERY briefly--if the two-legs would think it was wrong to eat a suicide, and then catches herself wondering and winces. She doesn't want to eat a suicide. She doesn't want to even witness a suicide. And why did he think she wanted to eat his scrawny arse anyway? Gypsi glares at him. He is only hair and fur and skin, and he is crazy, and can't you catch brain-diseases when you eat the brain or the meat around the spine? That's what they said about the mad cows back home, the ones that seize and foam at the mouth. You don't touch their meat unless you want to die the same way they're dying, which is the worst way to die because your mind goes away before your body does.

Maybe that's what happened here, Gypsi thinks. Maybe he ate a crazy animal's brain and he caught the brain disease and now he was considering blowing his own brains onto the carpark to give crows and mongrels his same psychosis, his twitches and choked laughing that sounds like crying--crying that sounds like laughing. He has a compulsion to spread the infection. No, Gypsi would never eat something like that.

And she is angry that she even considered it, and angry that the coyote knew she considered it; angry that she was becoming the mongrel no-brain that everyone assumed she was, a worthless four-legs that eats people (which she never has) or steals cows (which she never would) and so it's okay to pull out the guns and shoot at them until they fall and bleed or leave your land for good, sprinting off, fuelled by terror and desperation.

But no matter how hungry or broken she was, she never thought of letting them shoot her, of lying down in a pool of her own blood and falling asleep to never rise again. The idea is repulsive. Didn't they leave suicides for the crows to pick at, back at the reservation? Didn't they dispose of them far from burial mounds and hallowed ground? Rejecting the basic gift of life that the Creator gave you was like rejecting the Creator himself, they had told her. That's the last thing you want to do, because you'll end up worse off in the Other Life than you were in this first one you refused to take.

Gypsi wants to tell the coyote this, but her vocal chords aren't the right shape for two-leg speak and she doubts he knows any feral tongues. The gecko is looking on him with compassion, though. Gypsi hopes the gecko will find the right words to calm him down, to make that infernal twitching stop.

She decides that if the coyote tries to hurt anyone, she will kill him and save his soul at least from murder and suicide. If he only tries to hurt himself she will bite his arm and make him drop his gun, and she and the gecko together can stop him, hold him down until he comes to his senses, maybe slap him or pour water on him to shock his system into lucidity. If he is crazy from holes in the brain, he might be beyond repair--but if there is something he is crazy from, maybe they can put it right. If he is hungry she could waltz right into the diner and steal a rump roast or a steak straight from the kitchen or someone's plate and waltz right out and give it to him without even so much as a piece for herself, if it would save him. To her, everything basically comes down to food. When you're starving you do desperate things.

Gypsi takes a stubborn step forward and then watches to see what the gecko will say or do before she makes her next move.



Ian took the coyote's skinny wrist in his own scaly pawhands. All he could think about were questions.

"Why would I hur--? The cops? What is wrong with you? What are you doing out here? What's that fr--?" The gecko took a close look at the psych ward wristband.

"Holy Spirit Hospital..." Ian's big, reptilian eyes it up a bit. He looked down at the silver Celtic cross that hung around his neck and gleamed in the sunlight. "Must say I like the name. But how'd you end up there, first of all, and what are you doing here, Jesse? Let's get you up. C'mon." The gecko gently took Jesse's other paw and motioned for him to stand up.

"My name's Ian, by the way," he said in a boyish tenor.



Jesse stood as prompted. Thinking about the questions caused the tremors to cease, at least. The laughter simmered down to a mere silent, arrhythmic respiration, thank heaven. But when one feels an emotion, the mind wants to hold onto that emotion, at least in a head like Jesse's. The grin wasn't going anywhere yet. Each time he tried to relax, it invariably twitched its way right back up to the limits of his tendons. And this particular specimen of the canis latrans species had a pretty rubbery face anyway.

"What's wrong with me, Ian?" he repeated, ears falling back. A side track wondered why fewer furs used their ears in expression anymore. More on side tracks in a moment. "Plenty! ADD--I'm one of them nuts who actually HAS the adult form. Asperger's Syndrome--er, higher-functioning autism: essentially, my mind is a little more feral than most folks'. Uh, no offense to present company," he looked past Ian toward the lioness with ears flat to the side in apology, then returned to looking at the reptile's necklace, rather than his face. "And what they call 'effective depression'...big family history o' that. And those are just the mental problems, heh!" Don't worry; that last "heh" wasn't a relapse, just a sad little joke on Jesse's part.

It was the second disorder that gave him his peculiar, feral mannerisms and expressions. Most of the time, the coyote stood with his left arm held up like an injured animal or a dog who wasn't sure about something. No-one really knew why, as it was not tied to any emotion specifically. Depending on how he held his paw, it just looked like he was either a polio victim or a mime holding an invisible coat over his arm. But this autism-spectrum disorder gave Jesse an unusual connection to ferals on an emotional level. Hence, he guessed what Gypsi might have been thinking through her body condition and the fact that she had approached, but was hanging back. He knew they were smarter than they were given credit for. Speaking of credit, heck, if he had any money, he'd have bought the lioness a meal under more sane circumstances. But more on that when prudent; we'll let Jesse himself explain his oddities to Gypsy later, if it comes around. Whoops, he wasn't done talking yet.

"As to how I got this little bit of street cred," Jesse continued, the other side of his mouth curling into a smile, "Meh, that was back in college. Long story, but it ended with me revealing this plan to the guidance couselor." He bumped the trunk of his car with his practically nonexistent kiester for emphasis, considering his paws were still being held. Then he shrugged, "She asked about it, and I couldn't lie, could I?" One of the Asperger's symptoms was that it was like truth serum, at least when combined with the Christian belief system. Unless acting a role or just playing with someone, he was a terrible liar. "So what do I get for being honest, then assuring her there was no way I'd actually do it (true at the time)? Florida State Troopers--that's where college was, 'round Orlando--dragging me to the nearest psych ward for two days. Not a fun place to be, lemme tell ya."

That answered most of the Gecko's questions, Jesse figured. Or at least, provided enough answer for a conversation in the middle of a public parking lot. Jesse always had been a more private creature, as coyotes are known to be most of the time.



Ian nodded his head and let go of Jesse's hand. "Aspeger's. Heard of it; I have some friends with it." He knew about the lack of eye contact and the unique sense of humor but wondered what "genius" qualities the coyote possessed. "I see you like guns...A lot." He gulped, his head trailing away, then straightening back up into the coyote's eyes.

"Listen, I need to get going to Baltimore soon. Why don't you leave that hunk a' junk here and come with me in this?" Ian pointed to an old Mini, a British car that certainly lived up to its name. "I could get you a lil' something to go from the diner here, and we can just talk. Whaddya say?"



Gypsi listens to the two talking, trying her hardest not to look at the coyote's still-disturbing grin, which stretches his face in a way that looks painful. At least his attack of shuddering twitches has stopped and he no longer looks as if he may start foaming at the mouth any moment, like the crazy cows.

The gecko has a slightly calming effect on him. He looks poor but his green scales shine in the dying light of the sun. He is barefoot. Gypsi can appreciate that. She decides that she likes him and in different circumstances might have begged for scraps of food from him, if he seemed like he had anything.

The two-legs drop medical terms as they talk, terms she does not recognise, though the meanings are plain enough. The crazy one tells her he means no offence when he talks about ferals, but she hadn't taken any. He looks at her and speaks as if she can fully understand him. This is such a welcome change that even if he were shouting insults at her she wouldn't mind, as long as he shouted at a person and not an animal.

The gecko offers him a meal, a ride, and a talk. Gypsi wants so very badly to be part of this, to share a meal, to listen to them talking, to ride in the little car he points to and rest her groaning bones for a while. But she has to make some kind of gesture to be included, she knows. A gesture of Good Will. Back on the reservation they would share marrow-bones or fresh livers when they sought friendship or favours, presenting the gifts with mild ceremony, bowing the head and presenting the neck just enough to be vulnerable but not enough to be submissive.

Gypsi doesn't have any marrow-bones and doubts the two-legs would appreciate them even if she did. She thinks and thinks and then an image springs up in her head. When two-legs talk, sometimes they open glass bottles with bottle-openers and sip at their drinks, warming up as they open more bottles till they're red-faced and singing. Gypsi feels like she saw one recently... giving the coyote a look that, she hopes, clearly means "I'll be right back," she trots straight into the diner and heads for the little booth where the raven was sitting.

The two-legs in the diner jerk away from her as she shoulders open the door and passes them by. She's dirty and she stinks and she has no right, walking in like she owns the place, and they express their disapproval in myriad snorts and shouts and comments. But even as bony and starving as she is, she stands nearly a metre to the shoulder and could stand taller on her hind legs than any of them. Her lean muscles ripple under her baggy, spotted skin and they know better than to mess with her without some serious backing (such as recourse to guns or packs of vicious, trained dogs). She is a lioness, after all, and lions are huge. But this intimidation will only last for so long before they band together to drive her out.

There is a wet brown bottle on the table where the ravenman had been sitting, but he is gone now, having left bits of metal and green paper on the table. Gypsi lunges forward and grabs it in her mouth and dashes away. As the patrons of the diner gawk and complain about her she shoulders open the door again and trots back outside to the two conversing figures, presenting the bottle to the coyoteman.

The two-legs call this drink some name she forgets but the spotted lions call it wheat-water and none of them like it much. In her experience, two-legs loved the stuff. They say things like, "boy I could use a drink," but they don't mean water or milk like a four-legs would mean--they mean this. Not all of them drink it but she takes the risk in the offering. Surely the ravenman will understand how desperate the crazy one seems, his lips drawn taut and eyes darting about. It's cold against her tongue and the condensation on it feels nice. Her spit doesn't stink too bad anymore.

She tilts her head at them and tries to look cute. No one need die today.



The more he watched the events unfold in the parking lot, the more Tom ignored the meal in front of him. It had since grown cold, but he had like wise lost his appetite.

He'd concluded, thus far, that the two didn't know each other. He'd assumed they were friends at first, but they way they acted toward each other, their body language, seemed a bit too tense to be acquaintances. It was at this point he began to feel particularly uncomfortable.

Should I go see if I can help? Will I just make it worse? Can I even help at all?

Tom's mind raced with excuses why he shouldn't. Inability to make a difference was first, followed shortly after by that its not his problem and he shouldn't be poking his nose in other people's problems. His excuses got more and more primal, now instead focusing on how they might brush him off angrily, or even turn on him violently. This fear did the most work, and almost convinced him, until he glanced the bracelet on the coyote's wrist.

Oh, boy. There's no way this can be happening....

He recognized the bracelet because he worked in a psych ward. What bothered him is that bracelet, or so he thought, symbolized that, although released, he was considered on watch and potentially hazardous.

That coyote was psychologically unstable.

Tom really wished he hadn't seen that. He wished he could go on with his meal, and not have to worry about things like this. Despite his best efforts, he found himself standing up, placing money on the table, and leaving the restaurant. In his head, he told himself he was just getting out of here, but without fail, Tom found himself walking towards the two he had been watching.

"Excuse me, can I he-"

Tom found the words caught in his throat as he spotted the lioness in the distance. He froze for a moment and bristled, his attention briefly focused on the feral behind the two. He gathered his thoughts and finished, now slightly distracted however.

"....can I help with anything?"



Jesse had gotten the "be right back" look, but he tilted his head in curiosity when the lioness had trotted off. What was the lioness up to?

Before he could deal with that, though, Ian had offered something. Baltimore? What was there? Besides delicious crabs and Ravens football, that is. At this desperate point in his life, he was willing to go along with anything, except...

Jesse looked back at "that ol' heap." It wasn't an old heap to him. "I'd love to, man, and thanks for offering, but I can't just leave her here like this." The old car meant a lot to him; it was the first car he ever remembered riding in as a pup with his mother, it was a playhouse when the car had been retired for nearly a decade, and he had restored the exterior as a senior project in high school. Heck, Jesse's dad had just had the entire engine rebuilt to its 1975 performance recently. He couldn't just give her up like that. "And besides, if I'm not going through with my plan, I need to return'know..." he jerked his thumb toward the rear hatch. "before my stepdad finds them missing."

Jesse looked from the gecko's classic British subcompact to his own classic American subcompact. The difference was about one inch by fifteen inches by almost three and a half feet. Yeesh. Besides, other mementos and favorite things were riding in the car as well...leave it to an Aspie to want his inanimate friends with him for his possible final moments. But maybe we'll introduce them later; they don't mind waiting.

At any rate, Jesse hadn't many options to play with. He was left with either the guns in the trunk, or trusting a gecko he had only just met. "Hey! If you really want me to come with you, tell you what. Follow me to my parents' place. Stepdad's working at the mechanic's shop right now, so I can put the guns back before he misses them." Jesse's tail began to twitch now, but this was different. It was a tiny shadow of a wag, but it was one that symbolized hope trickling back, a drop at a time. "Then to make up for time, I could take us the back way to Baltimore! It's faster...I think."

Presently, the lioness had returned with a cold one. HUH?! His mouth wound slowly down to a quiver, almost at normal position. "For me? Erm, I don't drink, heh...not often, anyway. But thank you? Wherever you got that from." Scavenger that he was, Jesse could never have let something useful like that go completely to waste. He picked the bottle off the ground and set it on the car, with intent to maybe give it to someone later, if there were a later.

Then the raven came walking up. Jesse yelped to himself. The benefits of hatchback storage were that one could easily access anything in the back. The problem with it was that one could just as easily see what was in the back. Jesse dared not reach into the trunk now, lest any of them panic. But who else was going to see that there were several firearms in his trunk? The entire county?

Jesse grit his teeth and finally forced himself to look in the gecko's eyes. When he spoke, his lips did not move. Therefore, some of the letters came out a little wrong, but the phenomenon of ventriloquism caused most furs to hear the correct words anyway, at least in their minds. "Reach in the trunk and cother ut the guns, tlease. I can't do it nyself, decause--" blast, the raven was practically upon them, and had just asked if he could help. Jesse needed a diversion, and he himself was it. He turned around, smiling, using his acting skills as best he could.

"Heh, no, I think we're ok here, thanks! Had a little trouble at first, but I think we figured it out," he said, kicking his heel against the Gremlin's back tire. With luck, the implication would be that the trouble was with the old car, and not with the young driver. Of course, Jesse didn't know that Tom knew about the bracelet.



Gypsi had not noticed the ravenman standing there when she trotted back out to deliver the brown bottle. She does not notice him until the coyote accepts her Good Will offering and she turns around and there he is, walking up. He says some things to the coyote, who goes all stiff, and then goes all stiff himself for a moment when he notices her standing there.

The Good Will offering had been accepted, and even though the coyote did not drink it, he had taken it. To Gypsi it is simple: they are now friends. At least for today. At least until the guns are taken away and locked up and they get into someone's car and drive away from this horrible place where bloodshed is contemplated by an infected brain that wants to spray its infection over the entire carpark.

But the bottle originally belonged to the raven, she remembers. Even though he abandoned it on the table before coming out, it still belonged to him at first. Did that mean he was tied up, somehow, in the Good Will offering as well? The two-legs had their own ceremonies and social expectations that Gypsi did not know. Unspoken social rules--the coyote seemed like he was more her type, the kind who did not go for more than the most simple and obvious sense-making ones. But still, when you attempt to infiltrate another society, you do your best to act how they do. Gypsi decides that she will befriend the raven as well, for the time being. All these friends means she must stay here, despite her angrily empty stomach, and watch and protect them until everyone is safe and happy and then she can run off to find something to eat.

The raven makes the coyote nervous. Gypsi makes the raven nervous. The gecko's eyes move from one to the next to the next and finally settle on the coyote as the coyote speaks to him with a frozen jaw and jowls still stretched in an uncomfortable smile.

The coyote pretends to the raven that something else is going on, rather than what actually is. Gypsi is angry at this. The way the coyote speaks it's as if he still considers his "plan" viable. As if he thinks, one thing goes wrong from now and he can still reach into the back of his car and go out with guns blazing. Even with three people now surrounding him and making it clear that they don't want him to die. They want him to get the help he needs, whatever it is. And Gypsi knows he has no right whatsoever to use those guns on anyone or anything else and if he thinks otherwise he needs to be growled at until he rolls over and exposes his belly and submits.

You can't just pretend things away like that. His twitching is mostly stopped by now, and Gypsi is glad for this. Perhaps he does not have holes in the brain after all. Or maybe the holes are very small. If he is not too far gone, however, then he needs to stop this at once because she's his friend now and she will not stand for violence, not today, not in the presence of the kind-hearted gecko and the raven who gave up his brown bottle, and certainly not in front of her right after she showed him Good Will.



Ian smiled. "All righty, I'll follow you. We'll drop off those guns at your place, but I need to get my stuff out of my trunk first. Be right back."

The gecko pulled a small suitcase out his trunk, closed the door, and walked back to the Gremlin. He slung his backpack around his shoulder and picked up the instrument case before noticing Tom.

"Oh! Hi there. Just helping a friend. Middle of nowhere. I know, right?" Ian nervously laughed before asking Jesse to open the hatch. Once he did, the gecko covered the guns with a blanket and set his things on top.

"Ready to go!" Ian smiled, his tongue hanging out, before catching eye of the lioness. He'd never seen a feral one before, but he knew that if he himself were feral, he'd be a tasty snack for her.

"Niiice kitty, good kitty." The gecko extended his paw to Gypsi's snout. He didn't know how well ferals spoke English, so he tried to act friendly.



Gypsi is confused when the gecko reaches for her nose. It was no kind of greeting she'd ever seen before. On the reservation they would greet each other by touching noses, or sniffing the side of the mouth where the scent glands are. And didn't two-legs shake hands? She draws back her face and offers him a spotted paw instead, pressing her pink pawpads against his sticky gecko fingers.

He obviously doesn't know what to make of her, and she can't assure him that she understands him because she doesn't have the words. She can't even tell him her name... on her official US birth certificate it says "GYPSI-RAE LEONINE," a name she cannot pronounce that only sort of makes sense to her and her family. Spotted lions on the reservation all have last names like that, "leonine" or "leonid" or "feline" or "felidae" or just "leo" for the older ones. Her real name means wanderer, or gypsy, and sounds close enough to the latter to make sense, a kind of tongue-noise followed by sibilance and a growly "rr" that became "rae" somehow at some point.

"Gyysssi," she tells him, pointing to herself. It's the best she can manage at the name. "Hi," she adds, a sound in the back of the throat that isn't too difficult, but may not come across as the proper word if he's never heard a feral try to say it before.



This is happening. This is totally real.

The surreality of the whole scene struck Tom like a wave, and for a brief moment he was stunned to take the whole thing in.

The Gecko's effort to make the situation seem inconspicuous failed miserably; Tom was much too suspicious to be so easily distracted. Unfortunately, this meant he also was paying enough attention to catch the glimpse of what he had convinced himself was a gun of some sort in the back of what he figured was the coyote's car. Despite what common sense should have told him, this only furthered his resolve to stick around; he was almost certain someone in the coyote's position was not allowed to legally wield firearms, let alone own any.

And then, as if the situation couldn't get any more odd, the lioness talked.

Tom knew, intellectually, that many ferals were just as intelligent as folk like himself, and that they often carried citizenship status as well. He'd never met one his entire life, and while his mind reminded him that this was a relatively common occurrence, he nonetheless was taken back by the novelty of the experience. Immediately, he began to feel embarrassed at his own insensitivity, however unintentional, and began to consciously remind himself to not treat her any different, which, ironically, failed simply by trying.

All this culminated in Tom finding himself standing awkwardly while the gecko addressed the lioness, whom he thought said her name was Jesse, and which had apparently borrowed his untouched beer in his absence. Thankfully, this somehow disarmed the situation, as everyone seemed to relax at the rather touching sight. This gave time for Tom to take stock of the situation, and plan his responses.

Okay, there's no way I can just let this guy leave. Its not safe. Calling the police won't help by any means, and I can't prove he's done anything wrong. Maybe if I can get them to come into the diner, I might be able to figure out what's going on. Of course, I'll have to buy them food...

Tom's train of thought briefly drifted to his current monetary status. He wasn't exactly swimming in money at the moment, and this thought briefly stalled his intentions as he reviewed all the things he would have to pay for in the near future. Conviction held through, and he decided to carry through with his plan.

He chuckled before he spoke, hoping to defuse the situation even more and move the conversation to lighter tones.

"Look, I don't need to know what's really going on if you don't want to tell me, but its pretty obvious its not the car that's the issue. Look, I haven't eaten yet, and I"m not hurting for cash at the moment; I could use some company if the tw- the three of you would like to join me, for drink or a bite."

He gestured towards the diner behind him, hoping that his bald-faced lie wasn't that obvious. He'd consciously tried to include the lioness in his invitation, partially because she looked hungry, and it made him feel bad that the thought had occurred to not invite her. Of course, knowing his luck, she'd be the only one to take him up on his invitation.

Tom really hated himself for thinking that...



Jesse had six and a half different thoughts to juggle at one time. Only about three of those had to do with the current situation though. First, he had to run the munitions back to where they belonged. Second, Ian over there had someplace to be, but he was offering Jesse a way out. Third, he pitied the lioness, who had surprised him by introducing herself. At least he didn't have to make up a name like "Spot" for her. Then there was the invitation to dinner, the hopelessness that still ate at him, probably a song stuck in his head, and maybe what the cartoon characters he had made up would have thought of this present situation.

"Thanks, Ian. I couldn't have done that myself, because...well...wouldn't have looked good, me reaching in there, ya know?" Blast! He'd let it out to the birdman, but something told Jesse that the latter already knew what was up.

One at a time, Jesse. One at a time. First, he nodded toward the lioness with a tail wag. The name sounded like something, but he didn't want to guess wrong. So guess in the form of a question, he did. "Gyysssi...almost sounds like my name, unless...Gypsy? Erm, I'm JESse, heh." He mentioned it primarily to her, but to the rest of the small gathering as well. "Pleased to make your meeting and such." Seeing her state, Jesse's connection to ferals prodded him to do something about it, if he could. He may have been a little psychotic, but Jesse was generally a nice doggy, at heart. It was just his mind that was twisted. "Y'know, it'd have to be ok with Ian, but if you want, you can come with us." His ears went up, his head ducked, and tail twitched welcomingly.

Next, talk to the birdy. "Heh, thanks for offering, but I couldn't impose like that. Besides, Ian here has to get going, and I'mma go with him to Baltimore. If he's ok with it, then I guess we could stay here with you, but yeah. Also have to make a real quick errand." As much as Tom wanted to keep the mad coyote here, the same wanted to get out of there just as much.



"Gisss...." Ian tried to sound out the lioness's name before Jesse piped in. "Gypsi. That's a very pretty name for a lion. Never seen one with spots before!" He smiled.

The gecko noticed Tom for the first time and turned toward him. "Oh, hi there. I just ate; we were gonna drop this thing off at his stepdad's place before going to Baltimore. I've got room in my car over there." Ian pointed to his green Mini Cooper. "Back's all stuffed but I've got room for one more up front."

Ian loved having traveling companions wherever he went, no matter how long the distance. On the rare occasion that he flew on a plane, he would chat it up with the guy next to him, across the aisle, even the flight attendants. "Jesse's got some...uh, stuff to take care of," Ian shuffled his feet nervously, his voice trembling a bit, "But if you need a ride to Baltimore, I'm going there." A small light bulb switched on in his head.

"Wait, you're a raven. Why would you need a ride anywhere? You can fly!" He chuckled, nudging Tom in the chest. "Heh heh, maybe you could follow us from the sky!"

Ian looked back at Jesse. "Hey, Gypsi here looks kinda lonely. Think she can fit in your car? I can't fit a feral lioness in mine."



Tom laughed at the gecko's comment.

"Well, I could fly....If you wouldn't mind driving half the speed limit! That is of course if you don't want me passing out after ten minutes or so. I could use a ride though. Baltimore sounds nice anyways."

Consciously, Tom told himself this was so he could follow Jesse, but truthfully it was a breath of fresh air; his past had finally caught up to him, and it would do him best to keep moving. Furthermore, it had been a while since he'd spent some time with people. This would be good for him.

"The names Most people just call me Tom. Sorry to just butt in willy-nilly into your lives. Probably not the most polite thing I've done. Oh, I'll help cover gas. I'm not gonna bum a free ride."

Tom smiled. He couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable about spending some time with people he hardly knew, but through it all he found it exciting, a welcome change in his life.



How quickly the gecko and coyote guess at her name--this Gypsi takes for a sign. When you are meant to be with someone for a time, the Creator sometimes gives you an understanding that seems to come from nowhere. Most two-legs who don't call her nobrain or vermin or soulless mongrel end up calling her "Spot" or "Bessie" due to the unfortunate similarity between her spots and those of dairy cows. That these three strangers now know her true name (even if it is the two-legs' pronunciation) means they are on the same level. Equals. People. It causes a warm feeling in the heart that does not burn like indigestion.

Gypsi tries to remember the two-legs' names. "Jesse" is the coyoteman. She can say the name sort of like she can say her own, more of a cat's hiss than an S sound, but it is a strain anyway. "Ian"--the geckoman. So many vowels. They won't come out right. And the ravenman is "Tom"--best she could manage would probably be some manner of cough and she doesn't think he would appreciate that. Or just "aaahm" which would sound... wrong.

Gypsi decides she is done "talking" for the time being. They treat her like a person now so as long as she keeps acting like one she needn't bother herself with strange syllables and her horrendous accent.

It becomes clear to her what is about to happen. Even though her stomach tells her she wants food more than anything else, and the ravenman--Tom, Tom, she tells herself--has offered it, she cannot leave Jesse to himself and she cannot leave the guns until they are locked away. She will ride in the car with Jesse and the guns and they will go to put them back. Tom will ride in the car with Ian who will follow along. Afterwards they will drive away to a place she's never heard of but, sure, it's a two-leg city and it can't be better or worse than any other two-leg places she's been. Except it will be infinitely better because she will be with three two-legs who think she is a person and will not let her go hungry right under their very noses. They might take her to the gasoline-place that smells heavy with oil and petrol but carries bags and bags of dried meat with spices, warm hotdogs and sausages rolling in their own grease, beef patties slathered in mustard and ketchup that can be freed from their buns and swallowed nearly whole. Or they'll go to a diner or restaurant and sit in padded booth chairs that Gypsi won't quite fit into and they'll look at menus and get whatever looks good to them and tell the waiter to bring them endless refills of clean water with ice in it.

And it won't just be charity: Gypsi can be useful to them. She is useful because she has a good nose and good ears and good eyes especially in the dark and she is big and strong despite the constant hunger. She can sprint faster than any of them, faster than even their cars can start up and get going, even if she does get tired rather quickly doing that.

Gypsi trots over to Jesse and sits right next to him, nuzzling her head under his hand. She knows it calms the two-legs to pet their nobrain animals, and it never did her any harm to get her ears scritched a bit. It's calming to her, too. She likes the two-legs that come out of the backs of their shops and look around furtively for their bosses before hand-feeding her scraps and patting her head and scritching her ears and saying they're sorry they don't have any more for her but there's a good kitty anyhow. Even if they think of her like a cub, halfway between a nobrain and a two-leg child, at least they manifest kindness in everything. And having your ears scritched doesn't make you a nobrain. Gypsi is dirty and knows there are ticks attached to her in various places but there's not a sign of a flea or a louse, she's very careful to keep them away, so there's no harm in standing close to Jesse hoping for an ear-scritch.

It means, yeah, I'll go with you. She knows the coyoteman knows this. She won't purr at him though. She's not a nobrain cat.

Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:10 pm
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Gypsi certainly picked a winner when it came to ear-scritching. Jesse had paws that had an independent drive for exploration. They loved to just feel things (his parents had had to remind him "Don't. Touch." every time they went into stores), especially if said thing was glossy and smooth or soft and fuzzy. He could feel the dirt on the cat, but it certainly wasn't the worst he'd ever scritched. Had Gypsy the lack of dignity required to converse with nobrain dogs and cats who had encountered the coyote, they might have said he had magic paws. He could reduce a critter to semi-consciousness in minutes. As a result, immediately following the touch of the big cat's head to his pads and the realization of what she wanted, Jesse went to work behind her ears, then slowly running a single digit up and down that ridge between the eyes, then working with three fingers on top of her head and pinky and thumb under her ears, then along the base of the jawline, always adding just the faint touch of his claws--giving her feline scalp the whole works. Every once in a while, he'd find a tick and his arm would cringe, but he performed his tactile witchcraft despite it.

"Yeah, Ian, I think we could make some adjustments. It's only about...oh...fifteen minutes to my place, we could get Gypsi here a quick snack while I offload, then be back on the road in no time." Jesse looked at the car and what most would call "junk" in the back, alongside the firearms. "It'll take a little Tetris, though." He then regarded his passenger, letting up on the scritches. "Would you prefer the front seat or back? Back's wider and would probably fit you better, but the front has more leg room." WAY more leg room, as the Gremlin was a car noted for punishing knees in the back seat, while a two-leg maned wolf could ride comfortably up front. Still, a feral lying across the whole bench in the back might stand a chance at comfort.



"No problem!" Ian chirped happily at the raven. "You'll be up front with me, and looks like Jesse's gonna try to fit Gypsi in his car."

"I don't want anything to happen to this ol' thing." Ian looked at his car then back at Jesse. "Why don't I just put my stuff back in mine and you follow ME to Baltimore? I know how to get there from here, no problem. I would offer you a ride, but then that leaves Gypsi without one." Ian sighed. "These weren't made for ferals of her size..."

Despite the occasional hassle of figuring out who rides with whom and where to go, Ian loved to travel. New friends to make, new places to go. Life was one big adventure just waiting to be taken.



Gypsi closes her eyes and has to try very hard not to chuffle as Jesse's fingers run along her head and face. For a moment she thinks she may have fallen asleep with the pleasure of it but then he takes his fingers away and asks her a question and her scalp protests the withdrawal of the magic.

Can't they just get going, already? Silly two-legs and their attachment to things and their dependence on cars. But in this case Gypsi doesn't mind the cars because it means she can take a break from walking and conserve her precious energy for a while.

Jesse asks her if she wants to sit in the front or the back. She thinks about it. The front would be nice because she could face forward and see where they were coming and going and be just like another two-leg riding in a car. But the uncomfortable way she'd have to hunker down under the short roof would make it miserable after a while. To answer Jesse's question she opens one of the back doors of the car (car handles are difficult without thumbs, not not impossible, especially if you have a brain in your skull) and crawls in onto the rear bench and sits there, flicking her tail and looking over her shoulder and saying, in a brisk leonine tongue--which consists of more body language than anything else--are we ready to go yet?



Tom felt a great deal more relaxed knowing he was traveling with Ian. He liked the gecko; truthfully, it was hard not too. He had one of those infectious kinds of personalities that drew people to him.

Once again, however, Tom felt the pang of guilt for being glad he wasn't riding with Gypsi. There was no reason to be; he simply had wanted to travel with Ian, no more no less. Regardless, he found himself distracted by self accusations of his own discriminatory nature.

Tom walked to the passengers side door and waited for Ian to get in the car. It was probably an unnecessary nicety, but something that had been drilled into him from his childhood and would not be so easily overlooked, and so he waited. He had nothing to get of his, anyways, nor did he have a car to drive. He'd flown here, after all, and had purposefully traveled light, so save for the backpack on his back and the clothes on his body, he had no other possessions to speak of to bring with him.


Jesse was impressed at Gypsi's dexterity. Still, she ought to have waited for him to rearrange the cargo compartment. He facepawed, reaching for the hatch.

"Guess that answers my question," the coyote said, working with the cargo in the back. TV goes against, wait, computer tower goes against the side, so it won't move. TV next, so the tower won't fall over. Next to it goes Ian's, dangit, that should go between them; it's more padded. NOW put the TV in. Then my briefcase. Good. Wrap the guns in the blanket and place on the floor in front of Gypsi. Put the jacket that was covering them back on, and finally...oo. There's an idea. Wait 'til you're on the road.

Jesse stood up with a superfluous clap of the paws as he shut the trunk--actually, this model's hatch was just a rear window on hinges. "All righty, that settles that."

Only now does Ian's question settle in. "Huh? Didn't we already get through this, man? I can't just leave this stuff here, or else we won't have to worry about me killing myself; my stepdad will do it for me," he says with a nervous grin and a measurable tone of urgency. Sure, there are little things in the back of his mind that won't let go of suicide as a viable option; he hasn't been talked out of that. But hope is moving his legs and holding his logic-driven insanity at bay for now. "Besides, the back way's shorter than the highway. We'll go straight through Hanover. And c'mon, we can't leave her here," he said, nodding his head toward the back seat.

Going around the driver's side, he opened the door. "Ready?" Jesse glanced at the Mini, and the fourth caballero already seated. For some reason, some insane, yet perfectly logical reason, he didn't like the bird. He was quiet, and seemed to be picking the coyote's brain or something. Also didn't buy the "no trouble here" ploy. Jesse's heart told his head to shut up; he was a trusting canine, hoping for the best.

On second thought, let's make that question rhetorical, shall we? Don't need Ian triple-guessing the situation. Jesse hopped in and looked back at his own passenger. "We'll get you some eats at my folks' home, 'kay?"

He stomped the accelerator a few times, prepping the carburetor's choke before cranking the engine. Gotta love the little nuances that gave these old cars character. As the car fired up, the stereo came on, blaring a cassette by an all-arachnid 80's band.


Flick. Sh-cluck. In two quick motions, Jesse's paw turned the volume knob down to near minimum and ejected the cassette, giving the ear-blasted cat an apologetic look. Such music affected the coyote so. The right song could drive his heel all the way to the floor, and Scorpions could do that to him. Besides, desperate plans required an equally desperate sound track. On the way here he had figured, why not see if his car could actually hit that little number 120 at the end of his speedometer? The answer: yup, it could. Though the needle waved frantically after 70, so it was hard to tell. But now he didn't want crazy driving music, and he figured that the lioness might not be a fan of hair metal anyway.

"--stening to FM 90.3 WJTL, the station Where Jesus Touches Lives." The local contemporary Christian radio station played quietly in the background while Jesse and Gypsy rode along. "Hey, uh...weird question. Can you read?" he asked the rear-view mirror--or rather, the lioness reflected in it. One ear perked up with interest while the other turned back for the answer.



There are tensions. Misunderstandings. Gypsi can tell that Jesse is wary of the ravenman and maybe that's because he doesn't know Tom indirectly supplied the offering of Good Will. Or maybe there is something else to it, something Tom said, something to the way that Tom eyes Jesse's little bracelet? Gypsi does not care one way or another about bracelets and this one doesn't even seem expensive or pretty. But Ian had remarked on it too, so it must be important. She will let the two-legs deal with it, though.

Ian suggests following him to Baltimore and of course he means after the guns are gone, because why would he want to be followed by a car full of guns?, but Jesse misunderstands, he is so eager to get home. Underneath his calmer demeanour Gypsi can tell he still has the brain-holes, or maybe heart-holes. The craziness and desperation has not melted away yet, just settled deeper into his guts. But in time, if she and Ian and Tom and anyone else who happens along are good to him, he will digest it away. That's the way they explained it on the reservation--troubles need to be swallowed and digested away and if someone is having a hard time they are still digesting, or maybe choking on them.

Jesse performs a set of actions and gestures, like the steps of a dance, to get his car started grumbling and spitting exhaust. A loud peal of noise and confusion erupts from the dash but Jesse quickly banishes it with flicks of his fingers on the buttons and an embarrassed look. Gypsi remains tense even after it has stopped and a softer, gentler music takes its place. She nearly jumped out of her skin and if there is one thing she hates it is being startled by loud noises in a confined space where she cannot sprint off if she needs to. But it wasn't Jesse's fault so she holds nothing against him about it.

The car trundles along and Gypsi looks out through the back window, over the mound of two-leg junk in the boot, to see Ian's tiny car following along, Tom in the passenger's seat and Ian at the wheel. She wonders for a moment at the fact Tom never tried to bring along his own car or dash back anywhere to get anything--he just got up from his food and left with them. Perhaps he is a nomad like Gypsi. She wants to ask him about it but he is in the other car and she can tell he has a hard time looking her in the eyes.

Gypsi's wondering is interrupted as Jesse pipes up with a question. "Hey, uh...weird question. Can you read?"

Gypsi turns her head and returns his gaze in the rear-view mirror. She gives a vigorous nod. Of course, she says. They have schools on reservations and if there's anything that matters to a four-leg with a brain who's going to school, its being able to read. Being able to read brought her all the way from her Texan pan-handle reservation to the rolling green hills of Pennsylvania--road signs and shop signs and maps posted along the highways at little rest stops with carparks and bathrooms and tourism brochures. She had been on her way to the Atlantic ocean, roughly. If she couldn't read she might be lost in a Kansas field somewhere, starving in the grain, or wandering in circles in the canyons and crags of Amarillo till she laid down and died and her bleached bones sat for thousands of years in the sand.

Being able to read made her want to leave the reservation to begin with. Because she learnt the word "poaching" and realised that's what the hunters did who rounded up their pronghorn antelope and bison and scared them off the reservation and shot them just outside of the protection of the reservation's border. Because she read about how the two-legs drove the four-legs out of their own land here or brought them over on boats from other countries to work for free for forever like the no-brain animals they already had. It all happened a long time ago so Gypsi wasn't angry at anybody about it, but she knew that there were better things out there if you could just find them, and she knew that because she could read.



"OK, I'm following you," Ian chirped. "Let's go!" He smiled, hopping in the front seat and closing the door. The gecko turned on his iPod, put some Owl City on shuffle, and started driving behind the fellow little-car owner.

"Heh heh, I'm listening to music by a bird, and driving with a bird!" Ian giggled. "All comfy, feather man?" He had a thing for giving his friends cutesy nicknames. Hopefully Tom wasn't offended; the gecko tried hard not to make anyone mad. Ian always tried to have a smile on his face, reflecting his bright green and orange scales.


Tom opened his beak to point out that there were, in fact, over ten thousand species of birds, which made him barely more related to the singer than Ian was to that croc that just passed them going twenty over, But it dawned upon him that this was an attempt at being endearing. Despite his culturally imbibed desire to be self-righteous, he'd much rather have a friend at the moment.

Pausing for a brief moment, which must have come across as slightly awkward, Tom laughed.

"Yup! Never really been comfy in seat belts, but its a minor thing. Fun fact by the way: lead singer of Owl City? Sparrow. Grew up in a suburb full of owls, which is apparently where the name came from."

Taking a moment to admire the car he was in, Tom stared out the window, enjoying the view.

"So, what does one do to get a nice car like this? You work at an insurance company or something?"

Tom made the remark with a sly grin on his face, hoping the humor would be caught.



Jesse's tail thumped the duct tape holding his seat together. Though the exterior and drivetrain had been restored beautifully, the interior was another whole project waiting to happen. At least the back seat where Gypsi was riding was perfectly intact and comfortable.

"Great! I figured you could read, but just wanted to make sure. Reason why is, there's an old typewriter behind your seat. If you can pick it up without scratching it..." he gulped. The antique mechanical typewriter c. 1964 was one of Jesse's prized possessions, and thus had been chosen to accompany him on what might have been his final trip. He was a dramatic artsy type, and so he had brought with him items that sort of created a portrait of the coyote. But even now, the thought of claws scraping against the beige enamel made his tail want to hide between his legs. "If you don't think you can, we'll get it when we stop. But I thought, for the sake of communication--I kinda know how to speak some feral, but I don't catch everything. Plus the other guys I don't think know much feral at all. Anyway, if you can type on it, it'd make things easier, y-y'know? I could show you how, if you need." Jesse gave Gypsi that flat-eared grin of hesitant optimism.

Jesse took the East Berlin/Heidlersburg exit off of Route 15 and onto Route 234 toward his hometown. They were almost home, but there were still a few short miles yet to go. Already he had calmed down to looking practically normal. Or at least, as normal as one who looked like he got lost somewhere on the space/time continuum could look.



"Huh, I guess I never paid much attention to his life story," Ian giggled, enjoying the ride with the raven, "But sparrows are cool."

The gecko licked his eyeball right as Tom asked the next couple of questions. "Nawwwww. It was kind of a gift. My Dad & I split it for my 16th birthday. But I do have GEICO. Happened to be the cheapest for me, even before the gecko discount." Ian chuckled again.

Thankfully, Ian was able to follow Jesse just fine; the coyote, even in his questionable mental state, didn't swerve between lanes, and he stayed just under the speed limit.

"Y'know, I was really surprised to find out that Adam Young's a Christian. I have so much more respect for him now, especially since a few of his new songs are more spiritually-centered. Like 'Galaxies'!" Ian turned up the volume just as the song was starting and they turned onto the exit. His singing wasn't as good as his synth playing (hence why he used Auto-Tune on his own recordings), but the little gecko sang at the top of his lungs in a boyish tenor without a care in the world. Hopefully he didn't annoy Tom too much.



Tom watched Ian start singing, a pleased smile on his face. He'd known this person no more than a half hour, and Ian was already treating him like an old friend. Initially uncomfortable with this level of familiarity from a virtual stranger, Tom sat quietly for the first half or so of the song.

Awww, to heck with it.

In the middle of the chorus, Tom joined the gecko, belting to the heavens. Neither could seem to find the right key, but only compensated by singing all the louder. Tom didn't really know the song, but picked up what he could as he sang. Losing himself in the moment, the raven even started dancing, or as much as was possible while buckled in.

As the song came to an end, Tom settled down in his seat, feeling remarkably good. As self-awareness returned, he began to feel awkward again, and hoped Ian would put on another song, looking to bring back the last few minutes.



Running through the forest, whilst not exactly feral, not exactly anthro, Lupus happened across a highway. Before he even had to to think, he was hit by a Gremlin.
"I'm okay!" Lupus yells.
Lupus knew English and many feral languages, resulting from what he is, not feral, not anthro, but able to walk on two legs or four.



Gypsi eyes the typewriter, then her paws, then the typewriter again. She might could use it, if need be. She squints to see where all the letters are.

She knows a bit of canine, though.

Speaking wolf-tongue maybe better? she says, doing her best to imitate the vocal range and accent of a canine. There were a lot of coyote and wolf four-legs on their reservation, crammed in next to the spotted lions with completely different feeding and territory habits. But they did the best they could to get along. Most cubs ended up multilingual from a very early age, and Gypsi could speak several feral tongues, besides being able to understand, but not speak, two-leg talk and birds as well. paws big, letters small, she adds.

But if she had to, she could try.

Gypsi's mind seemed to blank all of a sudden, and a grey blur appeared out of nowhere in front of the car.



The reason Jesse had been driving slower than normal was because his ADD had given priority to the conversation between driver and passenger. Jesse's ears cocked back nervously, then his eyes glanced back at Gypsi. "Uh...rrrrright." Was that...yeah, it was, but how much did he really know how to speak? Sure, he had been born with the ability to speak canine, specifically coyote dialect. But anthro public schools tried to teach that right out of their students. As a result, most anthros knew not a grunt of their instinctive tongue. Fortunately, Jesse didn't exactly accept the curriculum in its entirety. Therefore, this coyote more or less knew what the lioness said. Now to form a reply.

But while he tried to figure out how to say "Just peck at the keys with a claw," the aforementioned gray blur came into the corner of the coyote's eye. Before he could do anything about it, there came the thud. Rather than exclaim anything, even yelp, Jesse took action. Asperger's was useful for eliminating pointless blather. His ears shot back, eyes ready to pop out and bounce off the windshield.

His black, buckled boot jumped from the custom paw-shaped accelerator directly to the brake and planted it against the firewall. All four tires locked up and slid, squealing bloody, smoking murder as the hatchback skidded to a halt, turning itself a few degrees sideways. Who needed anti-lock brakes when these provided their own siren?

As they came sliding to a halt, Jesse's chest heaved as he heard the "I'm okay!" He thanked goodness for that. But he was still resting across both lanes. Oh no. Move it move it move it! Grabbing the selector, he slammed it into...reverse or forward? Gah, which way?

A Mustang driven ironically by a horse—gotta love speciesist brand marketing—was coming this way in the other lane, and a gecko and raven behind. BACK UP BACK UP! Wrestling with the shifter again, he found R and plunged the pedal down, hoping to high heaven (literally) that Ian had already stopped. Now only the back tires squealed as he whipped it into his own lane again, just in time for the pony in the pony car to miss them all.

After the immediate threat was over, Jesse sat with both paws death-gripping 10 and 2, his muzzle slightly agape, eyes unblinking. Were they dead yet? No? Ok. Lucky for them, there was little traffic on this stretch of back road, so he could afford to sit there for a moment to gather his runaway wits.



Ian slammed on his Mini's brakes, swerving around the Gremlin in an almost 180-degree arc. That little car had some impressive turning. He pulled the emergency brake, turned off the ignition and ran toward the bundle of fur in front of Jesse's car.

"Oh my gosh...what happened here?" The gecko's eyes gleamed as he saw Lupus's poor figure. "Who are you?"



"Are you okay?" A Gecko asked Lupus. Lupus, thinking it was the reservation police, or worse, the pound, said "I'm not from the reservation, I'm like you see!?" Hopping up, Lupus hears a sickening crunch, notices that his elbow is out of joint, and pops it back in as he talks, without flinching. "Who are you? Where am I? Can you-hey look! A Feral! I just loves Ferals, I'm actually half-Feral. Whats your name? My names Lupus, seeing as how I'm Lupine and all."



Completely unprepared for the sudden loss in forward momentum, Tom found himself slammed painfully against the dashboard of the car. When the maneuver halted, he rubbed his beak tenderly, at a loss as to the situation.

" Wha...What just happened?"

Ian didn't answer, instead dashing out of the car at the source of the problem. Cluing in, Tom hopped out of the car himself, though remained by the Gremlin, unsure what he was supposed to be doing. Out of reflex, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and began dialing 911, but a quick glance at Jesse's car stopped him, and he replaced it back.

Feeling awkward just standing there, Tom stepped away from the car and walked up Jesse's vehicle, peaking in the window to see if everyone was alright.

Ian licked his eyeball, his jaw hanging open in shock. "I....I'm Ian. You sure you OK? I've got a little first-aid kit in my car."

The gecko had no idea if there was some special law for hitting a Feral, but he was afraid of some legal trouble.


"Yup, I'm fine, I've gotten hit by many cars before, when I was living with my family in the woods, I have my own cabin out there, complete with the power of lightning! or as you call it, electricity." Lupus said, checking his body for dust.


The grey blur becomes a shaggy humanoid shape, and the coyote man stops talking, jerking the wheel this way and that, tires squealing. There is a loud THUMP against the hood of the car, which careens sideways across the road. Gypsi is not wearing a seatbelt or any manner of restraint, and is hurled into the front seats, her left front leg caught painfully between the seats and her chest, her head smacking the ceiling--her chin smacking the passenger seat, driving sharp teeth into the sides of her tongue. She then rolls back in-between the seats, pelted by unsecured ammunition and little bits of things that make their residence in the Gremlin's boot. The typewriter they were just discussing rattles in percussive distress as it shakes and shatters against the gun cases and sides of the car.

Gypsi's head hurts intensely, and her mouth is bleeding a little. Her left legs are caught awkwardly between seats. Her left front elbow is somewhat wrenched, her paw splayed out in the air beside Larcen. She is not sure if the car is still moving or not. The world is a dizzy place to be.

Larcen is still, his breathing heavier than usual. It is quiet for a moment.

Then she hears the opening and shutting of the Mini Cooper's doors. Tom and Ian talk to the creature. It seems to be all right, but Gypsi can hardly hear what they are saying through the buzzing sound in her ears.


When Jesse's brain deemed it safe to end the lock-down on his body, the first thing he did was shake off canine style, then put the car in park and listen. Ok, the thing he had hit was apparently all right, and being attended to by Ian. Then a black face caught his peripheral vision. Jesse's head turned to meet Tom, though it wasn't a relieved face he met him with. Just to show he was all right, the coyote gave a nervous, silent laugh and let go the wheel. Then his ears turned to the passenger seat.

"Are you all--" the sentence trailed off as he turned back toward the upended lioness. Clearly she was not all right, so it was pointless to ask. How had she gotten up here?

"OH geez! Here, I got a first aid kit too!" Jesse pawed at the glove compartment and fetched what he was looking for. It was a travel-size first aid kit, all right, but any normal fur would probably be terrified by it. The plastic window on the front of it had yellowed to opaque, and the car logo on the other side had tailfins of all things. Clearly, this thing had been crafted somewhere around the Eisenhower administration. But gauze and band-aids were what they were, and bacitracin kept forever, so the coyote's motto was make do with what you got.

Throwing the door open, he narrowly missed clocking the raven with the long, heavy steel battering ram that was the Gremlin's means of entry. Jesse practically slid around the front of the car. Then he caught himself and slid back to reach in and pound the hazard light knob. Once a steady click-click of the 4-ways was confirmed, he dashed around again, whipping the passenger door open.

But what do you do with a potentially injured lioness? Especially a feral one? "Uh...can you move? Here, I'll, uh, patch you up, but get situated first, if you can? O-o-ok?"


"We need to get her out of the car. Help me lift her."

Something changed in Tom, maybe it was the panic in Larcen's voice, or the sight of the dazed lioness; either way the softer, more reserved Tom melted away. The uncertainty on the raven's face vanished, to be replaced by a mask of confidence. Most notably, his voice was different; he spoke with an uncharacteristic tone of authority and a surety of purpose not befitting the puerile bird.

Grabbing the First-aid kit from Larcen, he popped it open, muttering a quick "that'll do" under his breath before setting it on the ground. Reaching inside, He placed one wing under Gysi's head, the other under her shoulder.

"We're going to lift on three, then set her on the ground. Ready? Okay. One. Two. THREE!"

With a heave, Tom carefully lifted Gypsi, trying not to knock her head on anything.

At first, Jesse pulled back at Tom's order, raising his paw up to mid torso like the uncertain canine he was. Moving a feral? Yeah, Gypsi was smarter than the average lioness, but her four-legged appearance still flashed the rule of "injured animals will strike when touched. Do not approach."

But New Tom brought him out of it. Jesse knew how to not get bit or clawed, so when Tom took charge, he obeyed. He took a gentle hold of her hind paws, working them carefully around to a less painful position. On "THREE" he lifted her back end and laid her gently on the pavement in a fashion perfectly transferred from the old medical drama, ER. How appropriate that the theme to that show now queued up on his cerebral iPod. Jesse too had shifted into action mode, marked by his eyes widening until the whites were visible all the way 'round. That homeschool first aid training came back, and he was all medical from this point.

"If we can get her bandaged up for now, I got two surgical kits at home we can use." Not that they would ever be used, even in this case, but the coyote's stepdad had taken Y2K a little too seriously back in '99. Coming around to the lioness' front, he crouched, head low. Pointing his nose in an aimless circle toward her, he kept his eyes on hers, but shifting to not threaten. With an added whimper, it all served as his best attempt to speak feral. Loosely translated, it meant, You hurting? Where? Or at least, that's what Jesse thought he was saying.
The raven and the coyote lift Gypsi out of the car and place her on the ground outside. Her left front elbow is wrenched some more and she struggles not to nip and bite at the hands that pull her. Her tongue flaps in her mouth as she snaps at the air and then holds her jaw shut through pure willpower. Flecks of blood from the bitten tongue spray out and it probably looks worse than it really is.

Gypsi is fine except for a headache and her front left leg, which seems broken more and more as time passes. Or terribly sprained. The pain comes and goes, swelling to an intense and unbearable level before relaxing to crescendo again. The crack of glass and crunch of metal plays in her ears a few more times and then finally leaves her in peace.

No blood but her bitten tongue, no pain but her leg and a few bruises on the ribs and hips from when the bones smacked the front seats. If she had fat on her bones... if she had food...

the dizzy is from lack of food mostly.

Jesse asks her where she hurts. Gypsi attempts to wriggle the leg but the pain shooting through stops the motion.

that leg, Gypsi nods toward it. tongue. Nothing else hurting. Head, thoughts, still strong.

Jesse received the message, but had to restrain himself, lest he actually start prodding with his nose to check for broken bones. He remembered he had paws, and used them instead. Gently, he ran his paws over Gypsi's head, checking for fractures. The act stimulated a flashback to when his mother had done the same to an infant Jesse after he had taken a tumble and broken his own skull. That's right, folks, he literally had been dropped on his head as a pup. It explained a lot.

But now that the flashback was over and no fractures were found, he carefully worked his way to the lioness' leg. No crunching, no getting his arm bitten off, so nothing broken there. Thank heaven. Jesse's tail wagged, and his tongue flicked toward her face. You're all right. Nothing serious.

Presently, Jesse's humanity returned and reminded him that certain other medical amateurs probably didn't speak dog. "Uh, she's, she's ok...nothing's broken, just a little wrenched, Tom. Let's get her in the car and get her to my place." He stroked Gypsi's head. den. We going; carrying you, yes? Or you can get up?So his grammar was a little rusty.

As the hippie coyote stood, he inspected his ride. Gotta love them monstrous steel bumpers that stuck out several inches from the front of the car; they had taken most of the collision with the wolf. Which meant to say there was no real damage to the Gremlin itself; no crumple zones meant no crumpling in a light collision. He threw the passenger door wide and pushed the seat forward, allowing for transport of the patient.

Oh yeah, that's right! There were others here. "You two ok over there?" he called to Ian and the wolf.

Ian had been leaning against the front door of his Mini, staring at Lupus the whole time. "I'm fine," he said, his voice a bit shaky, "Just...shocked. Is Gypsi OK? I could call 911 if she needs medical attention."

The gecko was concerned for the lioness, but still puzzled as to how Lupus could claim he didn't have a scratch on him.

"No worries about me. It happens really often." Lupus said, wondering what had happened, and who the large cat was. Whoever it was, she needed his help. "I may be able to help her. Oh, and by the way, who is this Gypsi?"

"No need, Ian. Thank you though. I gather she doesn't have medical insurance, and I figure Larcen doesn't want people looking into his businesses anyways."

He said this passively, waving at the pile of bullets leaking slowly from the front seat. He didn't care much at the moment whether Larcen knew he knew about his weaponry; his attention was solely focused on Gypsi. As he spoke, he gently felt the leg she seemed to signal as being in pain. Satisfied, he pried her eyelids open, snapping to get her attention.

"You're a tough kitty, aren't you? No skull fracture. You seem to have bit your tongue, but the bleeding is minimal. There's no break on the leg, and you can move it, but its still possible you have a fracture. I would certainly recommend staying off of it for a couple days. My biggest concern is that you may have a concussion. You seem largely cognizant, but I'm seeing what may be signs of Anisocoria...uhm...Your pupils are different sizes. The next step, of course, would be a CT scan, but that's out of the picture. The biggest issue seems to be malnutrition. I would suspect hypoferremia but there's....I mean, Iron deficiency...there's no way I can know for certain. Either way, Larcen is right. Regardless, we need to get off of the road! Just go ahead and rest for now, we'll take care of you."

Standing back up Tom wiped his hands together, an idiosyncratic motion not meant to actually remove anything.

"And how's our newest friend? Walking? Wow, you have an angel looking out for you, sir!"
Gypsi resists the urge to snap at the birdman's hand as he plays with her eyelid. He knows medicine. Gypsi doesn't want medicine, she wants food.

By the power of her stomach, Gypsi stands up and shakes the dust from her mangy coat.

Am walking, she tells Jesse. Having three good legs.

And off she goes. In the wrong direction.

Jesse sighed, being taken the wrong way. Jogging up to her, he stood in the way. "Nono, I meant, can you walk to the car? I promise, no more accidents. And I'm the only one who knows where my house is, remember? I've got whole jars of meat with your name on 'em," he hinted with an encouraging, yet worried grin. Mother always said Jesse was manipulative, but he did it out of concern for Gypsi's well-being.

As of current, Jesse still had no idea what to make of or do with the wolf, of course. He seemed ok, considering he had answered in the affirmative at least twice or so. After getting Gypsi in the car, Jesse figured he would at least give the wolf his address in case he needed anything, just in case.

"Let's get back on the road then," he called to Ian while giving Gypsi time to think about his offer. "You're in a hurry still, right?"

Ian rose to his feet and licked his eye clean. "Yeah, but I made sure to give myself plenty of time in case something happened. Funny how that works, heh?" He giggled.

"Come along, Tom!" Ian waved to the raven. "I think that wolf's gonna be okay. Besides, I've got lots more Owl City songs we can sing along to!"

What a day it had been. The gecko had met a dubiously suicidal coyote, made new friends with a bird, and witnessed a wolf getting hit by a car! And he still had enough time to get to Baltimore for sound check. What other adventures might Ian have today?
"Oh, uhm, Okay!"

Tom replied obediently to Ian's request, trotting over to the passenger side of Ian's car, sparing a glance back at where Larcen was helping Gypsi. By now, the veneer of confidence had melted, leaving the timid bird in its wake. Sliding in, he buckled up and looked expectantly at Ian.

"Well, now what?"

"Still going to Jesse's place, I guess, unless we're taking Gypsi to the hospital." Ian shrugged. "Is she all right? Looks like she can still walk, but I'm not sure." The gecko had never before encountered a feral, but she was tugging at his heartstrings. He really hoped she was OK; maybe once they got to where Jesse needed to go, he could try talking to her a bit.

"I wouldn't worry much about the car accident. She's got a sprained ankle; might have a mild concussion, but that's the worst of it."

Leaning back in his seat, he stared out the front window, growing a bit more somber.

"Its the malnutrition that worries me. I don't know if she's had a solid meal in days, and what she has eaten probably wasn't very healthy. Which, of course, carries with it its own slew of problems.."

He shrugged, his attitude changing from contemplative to accepting.

"Eh, what do I know! only got a two minute look at her, and its not like I've treated a feral before. I'll bet when we get some food in her, she'll be right as rain."

Gypsi obediently climbs back into the car, keeping weight off the hurting ankle. Jars of meat sounds good. Getting away from this place and this weird wolfman and everything seems good.

The two-legs talk about her, but Gyspi doesn't mind. She will do more thinking when her stomach is full. Full stomachs are the best for thinking.


Jesse followed Gypsi back into the car and after making sure she was secure, they were off. Down the road they went, ever closer to his home and putting this nightmare behind him. A few minutes on Rt. 234, then to the winding Fish & Game Road, then to Gladfelter Road and home he was. Maybe 10 minutes and they'd be there. The Gremlin purred right along, humming smoothly.

Unfortunately, while the lioness had resolved to do more thinking when her belly was filled, Jesse was still thinking even now. And he was thinking about his car, of all things. Before it had been restored, he had been forced to drive his stepdad's 2001 Volkswagen. Killing himself by vehicle had been a flight of fancy to even consider then; the VW had far too many safety features. At most he'd end up horribly injuring himself and surviving in a world of pain.

But now, oh, now...the thought of it. Jesse's lip curled up again. He reached down to the dash to flip a switch. Said switch connected to two spark plugs mounted in the tailpipes. When they ignited, twin tongues of flame poured forth from the exhaust pipes, lapping the air--just an old 1950's hotrodder trick to add 'cool' and excitement to one's ride. Jesse's paw pushed harder on the accelerator. The car obediently shifted into passing gear. 45, 50, 55, 60 miles per hour. A car like this was what they called a 'death trap', and not for nothing. In the seventies, even crumple zones hadn't been invented. The only two safety features equipped on the Gremlin were the seat belts and the horn, and the former were weathered and dry-rotted into uselessness. 65 mph. That's it. Reach top speed, then hit a pole--or better yet: wait for a semi truck to come in the opposite lane. That would add even more force--like hitting something doing 165! That's like, NASCAR speed! If he were not decapitated by a glass collar, his skull would surely burst like a melon against the truck's grille. 70. 7-

Hold it. Jesse's ear flicked toward the back seat. 65. 60. He would murder the lioness too...could he do that? Hmm...come to think of it, he felt sorry for her state. In fact--65--it would be a mercy killing; putting the poor creature out of her misery. Jesse's paw leveled the accelerator. 70, 75, 80. The white SPEED LIMIT 50 sign whizzed by, warning him. He gripped the wheel tighter. 85.

No, stop! In a crash, the lioness' carcass would just slam against the backs of the seats, which were more soft and giving. She stood a relatively high chance of survival, but the injuries. Ribs, legs, spine, possibly head fractures; damaged internal organs; internal bleeding. Oh no...NO! Jesse could never allow anything to suffer in such a way. He let go the accelerator and braked gently. 80, 70, 60, 50. Jesse's paws quivered. Just get home, he thought to himself, make it home and get this out of your head. What the passengers of the car behind him must have thought.

As Ian and Tom sang along to some more Owl City songs, the gecko noticed Jesse's Gremlin moving further and further away from his Mini. "What's up with Jesse, dude? He's speeding up. Hope he's not trying to lose us!"

He pushed harder on the gas, never having gone so fast in the little British car, finally catching up a bumper's length away from Jesse before the coyote slowed down again.

"Well, good. Maybe he just felt like going for a bit of a joyride." Ian shrugged. "I hope Gypsi's okay...can lions get carsick?"

The guys continued on and Ian handed his iPod over to the raven. "Here, why don't you pick something to listen to?"

The car begins to speed up and even though Gypsi is not used to cars, she can feel the new forces pushing her back against the seat. Something is not right.

The coyoteman's face is frozen in a wicked smile again. His madness causes him to twitch. Gypsi watches his eyes dart back and forth, scanning the horizon and flicking back down to the dial that shows his increasing speed. They are unhinged eyes, buzzing like two angry wasps in his skull. They settle upon Gypsi several times. She's a variable, a puzzle piece, a question mark in his lunatic thinking.

His thinking of killing her.

Gypsi knows. She can tell--it's the same look in his eyes as before, the same smell of desperation rising from his unwashed fur. He thirsts for blood, but not blood to drink, not nourishing blood. Blood to spill out over the road in a senseless waste.

Even though Gypsi is hungry and tired and in pain, she never stops moving. She never stops looking for food, for rest, for warmth, for light. Even now that her ankle piercingly throbs and her stomach is shrivelled, her belly swells outward from starvation. Even now that all she once knew is blistered with heat and lost in memory hundreds of miles and as many days behind her. No matter what, she defies her death at every turn. Death is not relief. Death is battle. Death is our final fight for all we are.

And if you lose this fight, your pain becomes your everything.

Jesse seems to change his mind and the car slows down. Gypsi wonders what thought brought him to this place. He won't look her in the eye. It must have been pity for her. Or consideration. Last minute, but not unwelcome.

starving being better than dying, Gypsi whispers. Unsure if he can hear her. suffering being better than nothingness.

She waits for him to glance in the rearview mirror and meet her gaze.
"Sure. Lets see whatcha got."

Tom grabbed the ipod and flipped through the selection. He found himself very quickly lost, as band names flashed through he had never heard of before.

"Ya, know, I couldn't help but notice the instrument case. You a musician of some sorts?"

Tom finally settled on a band called the "Trans-Siberian Orchestra," being a little taken aback when he was greeted by guitar riffs instead of what he thought would be classical music.
"Yeah, that's a keytar in there!" Ian smiled. "I've also got my laptop and a couple synths sitting in the trunk. I play synthpop, kinda in the vein of Joy Electric, Owl City, or Cut the Red Wire."

He smiled even bigger at seeing the look on Tom's face when the raven heard the big, epic guitars and started to laugh. "Never heard of TSO? Gosh, what do you listen to around Christmas?" The gecko playfully gave Tom a little punch in the arm before focusing back on the road.

"So I hope we're getting close to Jesse's place soon." The tone of his voice suddenly turned much more serious. "I don't want any more shenanigans than we've already had today."

This puzzled the raven. How could a guy with such a cheery disposition suddenly act all jaded?
Jesse heard the growl, understood it. He replied with a pitiful whimper; he was not sure what he actually said by it, though. Half the time, he was just imitating sounds, but it seemed to fit his current desperation. He spoke outright.

"I just...I don't wanna die really; but I don't wanna live either..." he sighed. "We're almost home. Let's just wait 'til the other guys are there, so that way I don't have to repeat myself, ok?" From then on, he shuts up and drives. Not that it's much further at all.

After getting on Gladfelter Road, it's an eighth of a mile further and the second to last house on the right. Jesse pulled into a driveway that was only half asphalt, the rest being stone. The house was a modest rancher, no shutters, no frills. But the yard was no-man's land. Eight cars littered the driveway and surrounding area; only one of which actually ran. The aforementioned Passat was it, along with a wrecked New Beetle, an older Beetle of similar color, a Firebird, huge brown supercab truck, smaller silver truck, an Audi, a rusted out classic Camaro, even a mid-20th century tractor. Along with these were other random bits of cars, tires, and other assorted junk. The lawn was a patchy palette of greens and yellows--if it weren't for crab grass, there wouldn't be a lawn. There were definite attempts at landscaping, at least: some flowers, trees, a wee flowerbed, and the like. But this was definitely a lower-middle class establishment. Also, mind the smallish boulders that lined the first half of the driveway, Ian.

Jesse parked next to the house, then opened the passenger side door for Gypsi. "Here we are; you ok for walking?" He turned back toward the approaching car, waving them up behind his. After they got out, he explained.

"Let's get her inside and eating, then we'll worry about the guns, okay? Mom 'n' Rick--er, my stepdad are away for a business trip, and they took the dogs, so there's nobody else here."

Tom had no response to the gecko's comment. It was so wildly out of character, at least for what he knew of Ian, he had no idea what to make of it. It didn't help that, moments ago, things seemed so congenial and pleasant. He didn't like it. Tom knew Jesse was emotionally distraught, and he had come to the point that he was willing to admit he felt a bit ill at ease around Gypsi, not for anything she had done, but his own lack of association with ferals in general. This made Ian the only one of his new-found companions whose company he had legitimately enjoyed. A part of him wanted to dig further; he deeply suspected this had more to do then the incident with Jesse, but the youth of their relationship bade him to keep quiet, so he went back to watching the road.

After a few minutes, they arrived at their destination. His foreboding thoughts were removed by fascination as Tom took in the atmosphere of the homestead. A series of cars, none of which he could even remotely identify, passed by as they rolled up the driveway, coming to a stop behind the Gremlin. Tom was the first out, though he waited patiently until Ian could join him.

"Okay. I'd like to get a better look at the ankle, if she doesn't mind, but food would probably be a priority."
"Sounds good." Ian nodded as the raven left. He didn't know why he was in such a funk all of a sudden. Then he remembered why and started smiling again. The gecko opened the door and jogged a bit to catch up with Tom.

"Sorry, didn't sleep well last night. I was excited for tonight's show. Guess I got a little cranky there. No worries, though--the Holy Spirit cheered me right back up!" Ian chirped, turning to look at all the cars. "Cool, Beetles! My first car was a blue Beetle. I called it Otto." He stuck out his tongue and jogged some more to catch Jesse's attention.

"Cool stuff ya got here, 'yotefriend!"

Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:11 pm
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[too headachey to think but I wanted to revive this game]

Gypsi nods that she is okay to walk, stumbles out of the car, and limps toward the house, ready to follow the coyote anywhere. Her stomach is more powerful than her mind, her nerve endings. She for one refuses to die.

Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:31 pm
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Jesse made his way round back of the house. More scrap littered the back yard: wheel-less livestock trailers used for storage, several bicycles stacked against them, good heavens, the junk. Jesse propped open the screen door for Gypsi and opened the real back door--out here, locks were redundant. With pit bulls, firearms, and low income, criminals usually skipped Gladfelter Road for fatter neighborhoods.

Inside, the kitchen was a mix of stainless and 1950's--black and white checkered floor, porcelain-coated iron kitchen sink, and various professional appliances harvested from decades past--a commercial blender, butcher's meat scale, Ice-O-Mat, and other fancy implements. The table was a glorious formica with black leather chairs straight out of the Korean War era. Fresh, green walls and a ceiling the color of dormant glow-in-the-dark came together to make the kitchen actually rather nice...except for one corner that defied any interior decorator's expectation. In one corner, next to the bay window, where the floor dropped off to bare cement, the walls turned to an insane brick pattern. Some of the bricks were bowed outward, done in various colors and sizes. Hanging from it was an almost frightening array of antique metal objects: skillets, two-fur saw blades, hook pulleys, even a set of claw-like hooks used for holding ice blocks. In the middle of the corner stood a dusty coal stove, the main source of heat in the home. Jesse made his way to a cabinet in the hallway and produced from it two quart jars of cubed venison.

"Gypsi, would you rather just dig in, or would you like me to heat it up first?" he asked. The question actually wasn't him just being lazy; he was concerned as to how desperate the lioness was. The home canning process cooked the contents anyway, so canned meat was ready to eat straight out of the jar without risk of e. coli. Jesse popped the lids off with his claws and poured the meat into a mixing bowl for her, then set it down on the floor--a good four pounds of venison.

"Um, make yourselves at home?" Jesse invited the others. The living room was a bit more rustic. Within the pale yellow walls and threadbare berber carpet sat a beige leather sofa and chair, a convertible ottoman that looked like a giant Tastykake brownie, a titanic old standard-definition TV and an Xbox 360, but the most notable feature was more animal. The wings of a turkey, two full heads of deer and three sets of antlers decorated the walls. Yup, we is in a redneck home, I tell you what.

"I uh, guess you wanna take another look at her, right..." drat. Jesse had forgotten the bird's name. He snapped his fingers a couple of times to jog his memory. "...Tom?"

Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:41 pm
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The gecko hadn't seen a place like this in years. He kinda missed that retro..ness, for back home he had a large collection of vintage analog synthesizers. This was a whole different animal, like the 50s had thrown up all over the house. After following the rest into the living room, Ian contemplated hanging out on the wall, but the trophies made that impossible.

"Th-thanks, Jesse." He plopped down in the leather chair and put his feet up on the ottoman. "Can't stay too long, though, y'know."

Sat Jun 30, 2012 8:20 pm
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"Wah? Oh...! Right..I should do that."

Having followed the trio into the house, Tom had got quite distracted panning the walls, admiring the relics and artifacts of a different time. He shivered, quite unintentionally. Truth be told, he didn't care much for the "retro" look, or for anything that could be described as "quaint" for that manner. It always made him feel cold for some reason. This was likely a product of his comparably privileged life up to this point, but he had never really thought about it.

He made his way half-heartedly towards the lioness, not quite sure what he was doing. In fact, he wasn't sure what he was doing here at all. Back at the diner, it had seemed a supremely noble task to watch out for the coyote, but events had transpired rather quickly, to the point that whatever original purpose he had entered with was lost, and he was now curiously at the mercy of several strangers, who, despite their congeniality, still held no loyalty to him whatsoever. What he would be doing, where he would be staying, and how he would be surviving over the next few days were fairly lost to him at the moment, and that fact bothered him a great deal. In many ways, he found himself envying his much more flexible companions, who seemed somehow unfazed by the situation. Somehow, this had made him remarkably self-conscious of what they thought of him.

Approaching Gypsi, Tom kneeled down and put on his best "I'm about to touch you in places most would deem inappropriate, but its okay, because I know what I'm doing" face.

"Hey there, ah..." he wasn't quite sure where to start. "It looks like you're feeling a little better, but after the accident, it looked like you might have hit your head pretty hard." Tom really wasn't sure how much of this Gypsi understood, but he continued anyways. "You may have also broken your ankle, and I need to know if it needs to be set. I.." He thought about his words carefully, "have...some experience with this sort of stuff, and I'd feel better if I could take a look."

Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:40 pm
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[just so you guys know, i'll be gone for the next 30+ days. however, please feel free--Larcen, Ian, and Tom--to write actions that my character makes, facial expressions, etc. Larcen can include animal tongue speech if he wants to (just remember all verbs are present tense and superfluous words are gone as much as possible).

Gypsi is intelligent, brave but aloof, a true survivor. Having spent her whole life fighting to survive, she does NOT understand why anyone would want to kill himself, and has now taken it upon herself to guard Jesse to either prevent him from offing himself, or failing that prevent him from taking others with him. She's very loyal and protective, even if not talkative. She knows her own strength and never hurts anyone unintentionally. I want to see this thread still going on when I come back so give me lots to read okay? If you're not sure what to do with Gypsi just have her tagging along in the background like a loyal dog. Ian--you know me pretty well, give her my personality but quieter and more lion-like :3]

Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:56 am
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(Thump) "HELP, HELP!" I'm trapped! Wait, theres a door. Why am I still yelling?" (Lupus walks into the room) "Hey, guys! I'm here!"

Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:26 am
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Ian jumped at the sound of the wolf's voice. "Hey....what was it...Lupus! How'd you get here?"

Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:22 pm
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"Well, my father...oh wait, thats not what you meant. I teleported." (Raises paw and wiggles fingers) "Not really. I just stowed away in your car when you weren't looking. I got tired of running, so I decided to take a ride." (Wags tail and smiles awkwardly) "So here I am."

Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:30 pm
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This thread has been locked at Larcen's request.

Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:14 pm
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