Chapter 23Mature

“Alright.” Nathan said. “So, what exactly can we do to help?”

“Outside of offer suggestions?” Marcus said.

Alex’s ears perked hearing the tone in his friend’s voice. That underlying tone of anger.

“Maybe some time has to pass, and then he can change back?” Catherine suggested.

“It’s already been, what, two hours?” Marcus said.

“Yeah, but I don’t know if time is a factor.” Alex said.

“What else could be?”

Alex thought hard. Experience, desire, fear, and hunger all stood out, the latter two the most despite himself already being full. “You said it’s only been a month. I think that’s the big one.”

“Length of time. Makes sense.”

“But something had to get you back to being human before, right?” Nathan asked.

“Yeah.” Once again, Alex had to watch his words carefully, but he was lost on what to follow up with. And remained so for nearly a minute.

“If you got defensive just now…maybe relaxing would do the job.”

“Makes sense,” Alex said. “but I think there’s more involved.”

“Your guess is as good as ours, man.”

Alex exhaled slowly. “I’ll give it another try. Maybe it’ll work.”

“In that case, maybe we should leave you alone for a while.” Nathan said.

“No, it’s OK. If you’re all here, I’d rather have you around.”

Relaxing his breathing again, letting his body and limbs relax as well, Alex let his thoughts drift and his friends fade from around him. He imagined himself as a human again, walking triumphantly out of the bathroom after a nice shower. High fiving Nathan after getting some fresh clothes on, and maybe sharing a laugh cleaning up his discarded fur. It was a great set of thoughts, but it didn’t make him feel any different.

By the time he opened his eyes again, several minutes had ticked by.

“No luck?” Catherine asked. Alex shook his head. “Keep trying. You’ll get it.” Alex nodded to her and went into the same mindset again. This time, it felt less pleasing to him and the thoughts didn’t stick around long.

It was then that something clicked. Those thoughts were just mental escapes. Fantasies and daydreams to make him feel happier.

“I think I’ve got it.” Alex said, opening his eyes.

“What is it?” Nathan asked.

Alex began to reply, stumbling on the first few words before starting over. “What is that term for a cure that…doesn’t really cure anything?”

“Oh, geez. I can’t remember.”

“The Placebo effect?” Marcus said. Alex nodded and confirmed his answer. “That’s for medicine, though.”

“Not really.” Catherine said. “It can work with things besides that.”

“That’s what I’m hoping.” Alex said. “That the principle works for this.”

“It might. Go for it.” Nathan said.

Nodding to his friend, Alex laid his head on the table and tried to focus. Tricking, or forcing, himself into changing back. That would be something else if he could pull it off. Everything else now felt like escapism while the inevitable crept up.

The End

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