by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2002 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
Tails of the Blind Pig, by Mark Van Sciver, was a watershed story for TSA-Talk as it was one of a very few stories that have grown beyond their humble beginnings to become a widely written-in story universe. It may not be the biggest (the Winds of Change story universe probably has the most words), and it's not the funniest (Spells R Us probably has that distinction), but it did strike a chord with many list members and while they are less frequent than in the past, people are still writing stories in that universe.
I think what I like most about Tails of the Blind Pig is that it was probably the first story I ever read that presented a physical transformation and its aftermath as it might actually happen. Where many writers tell about the wonder of this glorious transformation or that, Tails of the Blind Pig was a gritty tale of a group of people trying to survive in a hostile and uncaring world. They loved and hated, they cursed and prayed, they even drank to try to forget.
As this issue honors Van Sciver's story universe, I thought I should be on topic for once and elaborate on the question his original story had the courage to ask. What would it really be like to live in the world as something very unlike and possibly uniquely different from the rest of humanity, something you didn't ask to be and might not really know how to handle, in a world ill-equipped to meet your needs?
In a world where experimental uterus transplants are being tried in Saudi Arabia, where Dolly the sheep has been cloned in Great Britain, where the project to map human DNA is nearing an end and where people are already using plastic surgery to make themselves appear more like cats, wolves and even Barbie Dolls, it seems likely that the future will include brain transplants, gene splicing, fur growth and maybe even SCABs as Mark predicts. Will there still be con men preying on the hopes and prayers of others? Will the technology gradually move down from wealthy to poor? Probably. Will there still be love, hate, virtue and evil in the world? Absolutely. Will some people be happy with their changes and others not? Of course! The following is an attempt to describe some of the likely changes in our future and describe how they might impact upon those people who have been transformed. For ease of reading, they are offered as brief vignettes.
|The Heiress||Mrs. Lionel Barrington III sniffed in distaste as she spoke to
her current toady.
"Yes. A cat meld. How gauche." Edith Coopersmith chanced a quick glance through the crowd of partygoers to examine the current topic of derision, one Emily Foxworthy, daughter of Findley Foxworthy the multi-billionaire.
"You would think someone with that much money would have some taste. I mean -- it's a domestic short hair for gawd's sake."
"I've always fancied Persians myself..." Edith stopped as she saw Mrs. Barrington's lip begin to curl in displeasure."
"You're not a 'cat lover' are you Edith?" Everyone knew Mrs. Barrington hated cats.
"No. No, of course not. It's just, if I had to be a cat meld, I'd at least like to be something unique. Oh look. Here she comes." The last was spoken in a hissing whisper.
"Emily dear," Mrs. Barrington turned to the newcomer with a smile on her face. "How are you? You're looking quite enchanting tonight. Is that a cat meld? I love it. Where did you get it..?"
|The Salesman||"That's right, Mr. Merkle. May I call you Joe? This Strato Sam
is our top of the line model. It has everything you could ask
for in a replacement body: Good health, long life expectancy,
excellent muscle tone, guaranteed not to gain weight or lose hair
for at least twenty years, good looks..."
"I don't know. That's a bit more than I was hoping to pay."
"How much were you looking to spend Joe? "
"About one third less than the list price on this model."
"Okay, then we can direct you towards some of our more price-conscious models. How about this Worker Willy model? The basic features are the same although he's not quite as sleek looking as Sam, but it will still guarantee you adequate dexterity and muscle tone to complete most tasks and..." The salesman watched Joe's eyes as he examined the proffered model. It didn't take much to see that he was still not satisfied. Watching his customer's eyes -- he kept wanting to think of them as marks -- he saw Joe dart to the next model over. He knew that the eyes really were the doorways to the soul, but could he really want that?
"Of course, we also have a variety of other models. For example, in the next aisle we have a variety of melds ranging from aardvark through zebra..." No response. I guess he really is interested in that one next to Willie. Oh well, just keep telling yourself, "The customer's always right. Besides, that's a temp model and actually costs more than the Strato Sam, which means more commission for me."
"And right next to Worker Willy is Barbie. Did you know she's named after that doll that was so famous most of last century? "
|The Repairman||"Thank you for calling the BodyMelds hotline. How may I direct
"Service? One moment please."
"Service. This is Tim. Please give me your model and contract number."
"My records show that you purchased the basic unit, Model CF1003, a female centaur, gender neutered as required by law, in chestnut. What seems to be the problem?"
"Yes ma'am. I understand, but my records don't show that you purchased that option. You could order the upgrade. Would you like me to connect you to Sales?"
"Certainly ma'am. One moment please while I connect you."
Damn, the service rep thought to himself, I wish Sales would be more up front about those options, but I guess it should be obvious that a meld that's more horse than human is going to be a herbivore. You'd think people would be just a bit more aware of what they were buying. Who ever heard of a horse eating steak tartare?
|The Politician||"That's right Katie, I've submitted S-43321 along with Senators
Hawley and Morris in order to stop the proliferation of illegal
melds. We are all aware that in the current poor economy more
and more people are turning to full animal melds so that they
can have it easy as a pampered farm animal and avoid their bills
or paying taxes."
"Just how do you hope to accomplish that Senator Billingsly?"
"S-43321 would prohibit anyone from selling a full animal meld, making it a class E felony with a mandatory twenty-five years to life. Additionally, it would make it a class D felony to accept or be found for any reason in a full animal meld."
"But Senator, current statistics from the Department of Agriculture suggest that there are currently seventy percent more cows in this country than there were five years ago, that's almost twenty seven million cows. Our staff, here at NewsAmerica, speculates that at least five million and as many as eighteen million are likely to be melds. Who would pay for their unmeldings and how could the country handle such a huge influx into its prison system?"
"S-43321 would not be retroactive, so those that have already taken full animal melds would not be affected. Only new melds would be affected and the bill also calls for a tax of two percent on every meld to pay for the forced unmeldings of violators."
"Isn't it true that most of those who have gone the full animal meld route have done so as a last resort to avoid starvation? Our figures show that the rate of deaths by starvation have increased more than twenty-four hundred percent since all forms of welfare were banned a decade ago."
"The United States government cannot be everyone's safety net. That was proved more than a century ago when the Great Society experiments of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare collapsed. In the recovery package Congress authorized last session, it permits up to fifty percent of taxes due to be donated to voluntary agencies such as the National Food Bank. Besides the cost of beef is the lowest it has been in more than fifty years. There should be more than enough food available to good working Americans."
"Thank you Senator. One last question and then we need to move on. This one is from a listener in Tulsa. She says her husband and several of his friends went full animal meld and joined a herd at a nearby ranch. Since then, she has been unable to contact him and fears he may have been slaughtered..."
|The Preacher||"Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls,
and of every thing that creepeth upon the ground, there went in
two and two unto Noah into the arc, male and female, as God commanded
Noah. -- Genesis 7:7-9.
"I'd like to take a moment here my friends to stop our reading from the bible and discuss more current topic. Is everyone aware that there is a rally scheduled for nine o'clock tonight at the park in support of Senator Billingsly and his efforts to prevent full animal melds? I hope as many of you as possible will make time in your daily activities to be present and show your support for him, but I'd also like to remind you that our church does not condone the use of violence."
|The Teenager||"Man this is cool," Jason Merkle said to no one in particular
as he preened in front of the mirror. He had just stolen his father's
new BodyMeld unit. Joe Merkle worked as a greeter at one of the
clubs downtown and insisted that the Barbie model got him better
Jason didn't care about tips, he wanted something that would stand out as unique and different at the school dance. All his friends were talking about coming as various mythical creatures, but Jason had checked them out early on and determined that they cost way too much. The permanent versions were about a third less, but still well above anything he could afford.
His friend George Coopersmith had suggested going to a dealer instead of the approved stores like BodyMeld, but there were just too many horror stories floating around school, like the one saying that the real reason why Cyndi Hatori had left school in the middle of the last semester was that she'd gotten locked into a full animal rabbitmeld after going to a dealer rather than because she was pregnant as her friends suggested.
Jason was in his father's bedroom, trying to decide what to wear from amongst his selection of gowns when his old man walked in.
"What? Who? Jason?"
"Uh, hi dad," Jason responded sheepishly.
"What are you doing in my Barbiemeld?"
"I was trying it on. I was going to ask you if I could borrow it for the Halloween dance next week."
"Have you ever done this before son?" Joe asked the pulchritudinous woman before him.
"No dad. This is my first time. I swear. I'm not one of those weirdoes they're always warning us about at church."
"That's not what I meant son," Joe Merkle explained. "Did you follow all the directions when you put it on?"
The older man sighed. "Well, I've been wanting a break from work, but I never expected it to happen this way. Sit down son; we've got a lot to talk about. I really wish you'd talked to me before trying that meld on. First off, how do you feel about having that shape permanently?"
|The Sportsman||"Today we'll be hunting rabbit, Mr. Hawley." The hostess was very
pretty, probably a Barbiemeld, but Ex-Senator Francis Hawley could
see the jerky movements that told him she was probably not even
a natural woman. Well, the hell with him or her or whoever; he
certainly wasn't going to give a damn after losing the last election
over S-43321 and its companion bill, S-43328, that tried to ban
cross gender melds. Besides, he was here today to have some fun
and shoot some game.
"Fine. Fine. Save the speech and let's get to the hunt."
"Yes, sir." She bent over awkwardly -- he was positive the hostess was really a man inside that meld -- and released a cage door. Nothing happened so she took a stick and poked it inside the cage.
A rabbit ran out, bolting from shrub to shrub, looking desperately for someplace to hide, but the shooting gallery was quite small and nothing was actually large enough to hide even its small body. Blam!
The rabbit flew backwards, kicked a couple of times and lay still on its side. Blood seeped from a wound just behind its front shoulder.
"One moment sir and I'll get your trophy." The hostess flicked a switch disabling the gun and stepped through the gate to recover the dead animal. "How would you like the carcass prepared, sir? We usually recommend the meat in a hearty stew and the skin mounted for display.
"Oh look. This one even has a tag around its neck. What's it say, 'Cyndi'? Why does that sound familiar, I wonder? Never mind. What would be your preference, sir?"