Journey into the Unknown

The truck smelled wrong.

It smelled clean and medicated, like hospitals, and made William think uncomfortable thoughts about experiments and laboratories. He would have been far happier had it smelled of straw and dung, like the cattle trucks he was used to. This clean smell was wrong, and all the animal senses he had been loaned along with the behavioural modifer were screaming at him. Even the hay they had been given smelled wrong. He and his two companions huddled nervously in a corner, lowing unhappily, and wished with all their hearts that they were back in their comfortable green field with the herd.

The truck stopped several times, and the three bullocks were joined by a gaggle of sheep, a few pigs, a small flock of chickens and even a horse, a spirited young man who tossed his head and screamed in protest as they tried to load him up, making the rest of the occupants break out with their own various cries of objection. But in the end he was coaxed inside and the truck set off once again, the atmosphere in the back thick with fear.

William found himself squashed up next to the horse and one of the pigs, a bulky young woman who was probably the calmest one there. His immediate reaction was to get as far away as possible, and if this was not an option to lash out; but before he could spark a riot, he managed to get a grip; not much of one, but enough to keep him in a sort of jittery calmness.

Okay, okay, all I gotta do is persuade myself that they're friendly. Part of the herd. It worked last time, it'll work this time...

He focussed his mind as best he could, and thought desperately about how friendly they both were, part of the herd, really they ought to be honorary bullocks...and a little to his surprise it worked, and he no longer felt like the right course of action was to impale the solid young pig on his silly costume horns. He even took a mouthful of the wrong-smelling hay, while watching the horse out of the corner of his eye.

The young man was not happy. He twitched constantly and tossed his head, eyes rolling wildly. He had been hobbled to stop him kicking out, and as such was having trouble keeping his balance as the truck bumped along. He was a heavyset pony, probably previously used as a child's ride; why he was lumped in with the farm animals William didn't know. He wanted to ask; or, at least, the human side of him wanted to ask. The bullock side of him really couldn't care less, and it had the casting vote. Besides, he wasn't at all sure whether he could still talk. It didn't feel like they'd removed his vocal cords, and he could certainly still make noises, but real words might be beyond him. Bullocks didn't need it; bullock-ese, as may be, was almost entirely body language. And mostly they only said things like 'Move over, this is my grass!', or 'Stop flicking your tail in my face' anyway, which wasn't exactly scintillating conversational wit.

But there was no time to think any more about it, because the truck lurched to a halt with a jerk that toppled the hapless pony over. Screaming with fear, he fell sideways into the flock of chickens, whose frantic squawking soon sent the sheep into a frenzy, which in turn sparked off the bullocks and the pigs. William panicked with the rest of them, and added his share to the general chaos; it wasn't helped by the shouts of the men trying to calm things down. They were obviously not experienced with animals, and evidently as afraid of their new charges as the humanimals were of them.

The human part of William's mind, clinging on doggedly as the waves of animal panic broke over it, decided that this was not a very good omen.

The End

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