‘Ah shi-it..’ Gary said as he found himself on his hands and knees with his mouth full of grass at the park. He sat down and sighed, leaning on his knees and chewing absent-mindedly on the grass while pondering how often he had found himself in the middle of the park at night now, each time transformed into a half man, half sheep.
He was pretty sure that sheep that bit him at the petting zoo was the cause for it. It happened a few months ago when he took his sister’s daughter there to keep her busy for the day while his sister spent a day at a spa. The sheep looked innocent and all the kids loved it, but when he gave it a pet and was distracted by a kid falling in mud he felt a sudden pain in his hand. Looking down he saw the sheep grinning at him with his hand in its mouth. It was definitely a grin because the corners of its mouth were turned upwards and it looked devilishly at him.
He yelled out, clutching his hand and some of the people looked at him in wonder. He pointed at the sheep, telling them what it did but it just stared blankly at him, batting its eyes innocently. He was sure while the others were snickering at him as he left, that sheep gave him another evil grin.
Gary grabbed his short, curled horns and groaned in frustration. ‘Da-amn shee-eep!’ he shouted with his new thick bleating accent, spitting out bits of grass. Groaning more he got up on his feet, or better said, his hooves, spat out the rest of the grass and wiped the bits out of his wool coat. He looked around to make sure, but as usual there was no one at the park at night. The town was rather quiet and only few people came out of the bar next to the park late at night.
Sticking to the shadows, he made his way back to the small apartment building he lived in. Even though he tried to keep quiet, the clacking of his hooves sounded like thunderclaps to him on the concrete floor of the stairs and hallways. Glad to find his door unlocked, he slipped inside and let out a deep sigh, leaning back against it for a while before going back to bed. Staring at his reflection in the mirror was something he no longer cared to do.
‘Good morning, Gary.’ said Suzy when she saw Gary coming out of his door.
Gary smiled at her. ‘Good morning, Suzy.’ he said. ‘Ready for another day at work?’
She nodded with a little smile, combing her curly brown hair back. ‘Misses Valerez can pick up her chihuahua Toby today.’ she said. ‘I’ll miss that cute dog.’
‘Think you’ll take over the clinic when Johan retires?’ Gary asked while they walked down the stairs together. ‘Don’t you have your final exam to become a veterinarian at the end of the year?’
‘Yes.’ she said. ‘And I hope I can because it seems all the animals love me.’
‘Apart from one.’
Suzy held up her bandaged hand. ‘It was just afraid.’ she said. ‘And it was some sort of wolf breed according to the people who picked him up, so it was no wonder how it reacted when it woke up on the operation table after getting hit by a car.’
‘Did they ever tell how it escaped?’
Suzy shook her head. ‘No. They had no idea either.’
‘Well, I’m glad nothing worse came of it.’ Gary said, holding open the front door for her.
‘Yeah.’ she said, looking up at the cloudy sky, then gave him a smile. ‘Anyway, I’m off. Have a good day at work.’
‘You too.’ Gary said and walked the other way to the office where he worked as graphic designer, happy to once more start the day with seeing his pretty neighbour.
Suzy smiled as she walked to the clinic, her blue eyes twinkling and happy to know he had remembered about the exam she had mentioned a while ago.
“Of course.” Gary thought, finding himself once more at the park and spat out grass again. “Tomorrow, I’m going to buy some sturdy locks that can’t be opened with a pair of hooves.” He rubbed his face and screamed because he forgot for a moment his face resembled a sheep, but also because he had larger black nails looking like tiny hooves. And those were painful to drag across his face.
He grumbled to himself, wiping his face with his open soft palms, then pricked up his ears when he heard rustling nearby. Looking around carefully, he kept as still as possible. There was hardly any wind to make the trees rustle, and it came from somewhere at ground level. There was no movement he could make out but it had made him nervous.
Gary stood up slowly, his eyes moving left and right, and walked toward the edge of the park slowly. Another rustle from somewhere left made his heart skip a beat and increase his pace. He thought he heard soft breathing as well and looked at the bushes to his left, spotting the reflection of a pair of eyes in the shadows.
With a sharp bleat he ran for home, hearing something growl and run after him. His heart pounded in his throat as he tried not to slip and trip over his hooves on the sidewalk. He ran straight across the street into an alley that was a shortcut to his home. Using his hands to push against containers and the wall to steady himself he managed to reach the end of the alley and grabbed a drainpipe at the corner to swing quickly to the right. Whatever ran after him had some trouble as he heard it bump into trash cans and scraping sounds like claws on the concrete ground.
He had barely ran halfway to the apartment building when he heard scraping behind him and imagined the thing slipping as it tried to go around the corner. Seeing the front of the building made him push back the pain in his lungs and give his legs an extra boost of energy.
The sound of running came closer behind him and Gary thought he could hear heavy breathing. The front door wasn’t far away now.
He could make it.
He needed to make it and live.
The breathing came closer.
Just a few more metres.
He slid on his hooves like an ice skater to the entrance and let himself crash into the wall to stop him, grabbed at the front door, pulled it open, rushed inside and closed it fast, seeing a dark shadow rush past the entrance, scratching at the pavement and judging from the sound that followed, crashing into the couple of large potted plants in front of the building.
Without waiting for the outcome, Gary rushed upstairs to his apartment, closing the door quickly behind him and catching his breath while his blood pounded in his head. There were no sounds outside his door, relieving him for a bit in the knowledge he hadn’t been followed inside.