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First They Look Like You…

In-Fur-Nation - Thu 17 Aug 2023 - 01:27

For a while now Archaia Comics have been bringing us new series based on Jim Henson’s 1980’s TV series The Storyteller, staring John Hurt and Brian Henson. The latest addition is The Storyteller: Shapeshifters mini-series. And now, Archaia have collected all four issues together in a single hardcover omnibus. Sure enough, the stories feature everything from kids turned into swans to tricky fox-people. “Locus Award-winning writer Darcie Little Badger (A Snake Falls to Earth, Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1), and esteemed writers Andre R. Frattino (Simon Says: Nazi Hunter) and Deron Bennett, along with up-and-coming artists Nori Retherford, Alexandra Fastovets, Dani Pendergast, and celebrated cartoonist Emilia Cilento (INGOVY) bring together a timeless collection of tales about shapeshifters from around the world.” Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Shapeshifters is available from Simon & Schuster.

image c. 2023 Archaia

Categories: News

TigerTails Radio Season 14 Episode 51

TigerTails Radio - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 04:28

TigerTails Radio Season 14 Episode 51. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show. If you like what we do and wish to throw some pennies our way to support us, please consider sending a little tip our way. * Please note, tips are made to support TigerTails Radio and are assumed as made with good faith, so are therefore non-refundable. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Categories: Podcasts

Issue 18

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:06

Welcome to Issue 18 of Zooscape!

Sometimes it’s easier to stare danger in the face, unflinching, if you tell yourself the darkness wears fur and paws; or maybe hooves, horns, fins, or feathery wings.

Visit the nightmares and apocalypses in these stories, and come out the other side stronger for having faced humanity’s collective fears… and possibly even made friends with them.

* * *

Susurrus by Azure Arther

How Pepper Learned Magic by Renee Carter Hall

A Strange and Terrible Wonder by Katie McIvor

What Dark Plutonian Horror Beckons from the Shadows? by Christopher Blake

The Four Sharks of the Apocalypse by Tessa Yang

What Little Remains by Mercy Morbid

Hope for the Harbingers by Allison Thai

* * *

Now for a couple of announcements…

First, unlike some other speculative fiction markets, Zooscape will not be instituting any sort of policy banning AI or asking writers to disclose whether they used AI in writing their stories.  We don’t discriminate against writers based on what tools they use.  If an author can sign our contract, then it’s no business of ours how they wrote their story.

Secondly — and this one is exciting! — we are finally going to begin releasing anthologies bundling our previous issues into volumes.  We’ve partnered with the new small publisher, Deep Sky Anchor Press, and the first volume will be released on September 8th at Furvana.  You can learn more from their press announcement here.

And as always, if you want to support Zooscape, check out our Patreon.

Categories: Stories

Hope for the Harbingers

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:03

by Allison Thai

“He, like time, never stopped for anyone, but somehow he could not find it in his heart to go against the rabbit’s wish.”

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but what he does is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” ~Søren Kierkegaard


The tethers binding his soul were warm yet firm, pulling him up from the bowels of Hell. Impossible. Nothing could escape the downward pull of a fiery eternity, just as nothing in the physical world could defy the power of gravity. Still, somehow, he felt lighter than he ever had before, buoyed by a force that took him past the fire and muck filled with screaming, cursing sinners. Shadows of the damned wallowed in never-ending rounds of punishment, dealt out according to their vices. To be freed from such torment made him gasp in relief. What could he have done to gain this sweet release? Was he being saved?

Suddenly he found himself on water, standing on it, as the ocean heaved and bucked all around him. A storm brewed overhead, gathering, rumbling, and tumbling in swells of dark clouds. A beam of sunlight peeked through. He shuddered from the warmth, frightened at first, then quickly found it pleasant on his skin. He looked down, caught sight of his reflection, and gasped.

A horse stared back, one with a withered build, bones jutting out to form odd tents and hills of skin here and there, with off-white hair to match an off-white coat.

“Where am I? What am I?”

“You are Death, one of the Four Horsemen.” A little lamb, riding down the beam of light, had hailed him.

Though the reply was no more than a whisper, hardly heard amid the waves, the one called Death felt his knees buckle and heart race. The lamb exuded a blinding white halo, stronger than even the sun, and Death had to lower his eyes and muzzle lest he go blind. His voice dipped low with awe. “The Lamb of God.”

The animal he had been, the name he once bore—he could not remember, but nothing in his past life mattered now. Death looked around. “You say four. Where are the other three?”

“They will join you soon.”

True to the Lamb’s word, more horses burst through the ocean’s surface—one in red, one in black, and one in white. Blinking, gasping, and stumbling on the waves, they along with Death formed the quartet the Lamb had expected.

The Lamb of God addressed them in order of appearance, giving each a cordial nod. “War, Famine, and Pestilence, welcome.”

These horses too ducked their heads, more out of fear than rudeness, and quailed at the face of overwhelming power.

The one called War, blood-red and rippling in muscles, was the first to muster a response. “You called us, Lord?”


The water bore a reflection distilling some of the Lamb’s light, and from this Death took notice of the Lamb’s somber face.

“The Last Judgment is at hand. I have broken the four seals, as it was foretold, and hereby bestow upon you the task of destroying the world.”

Death exchanged looks with the other horses, and they mirrored his disbelief.

“Why us?” Famine asked. “Why appoint souls of the damned? Why not trust your own angels to do it?”

“You have been in Hell for some time,” the Lamb replied, “and because of that, memory does not serve you well. In your past lives you have made names for yourselves from the deaths and suffering of others. This world remembers you as warlords and monsters. You had been punished accordingly.” The Lamb’s voice did not ring with accusation, like a judge sentencing criminals, but was soft and sad, more like a father pining for his prodigal sons. “I chose you four out of many because you have the experience. Now I’ve raised you to be agents of calamity once more, this time in my name.”

The Lamb of God lifted an arm, summoning an array of tools from the water. “Take these before you go. War, you will bear a sword to sow the seeds of violence and discord. Pestilence, spread disease far and wide with the bow and arrow. Famine, with the weighing scale you shall run the world’s food thin. And Death, use this scythe to reap the harvest of souls.”

Death closed his hooves over the staff of the scythe, and its weight made veins stand out on his skin. He felt honored to earn the privilege of this task, grim as it may be. Anything was better than going back to Hell. He bowed even lower, till his muzzle almost brushed the water. “By your grace you brought us out of eternal flame. For that we shall carry out your will.”

Despite including the rest in his declaration, reactions among the other Horsemen varied. From the corner of his eye Death saw Famine rendered still with reluctance, Pestilence struggling to comprehend, and War squinting against the light.

“What will we get in return for completing this task?” Famine asked.

Death cringed at this bold inquiry, but the Lamb of God’s reflection rippled as he shook with gentle laughter.

“Hungry for more now as you were in your past life—I should have expected as much, Famine. I will say this: you are in no position to make any bargains. But I do everything for a reason. Just do your duty, Horsemen.” With that the Lamb departed from them, his coat of white wool one with the light.

Death nodded at his newfound equine brethren. “After you.”

The Four Horsemen shot off, surging with power that bore them before the wind, over land and sea, through the four corners of the world. Entire nations buckled under the tide of the Apocalypse. Even before the Four Horsemen were called, world leaders had their teeth bared and hackles raised at one another, unable to reach any kind of agreement or settle for peace. The air crackled with tension. All War had to do was strike a match with his sword. For all his bulk and redness, War cavorted across continents unseen, jabbing his blade here and sweeping it there to ignite the flames in people’s hearts. Animosity among species spiked. Even the meek and gentle, those less inclined to start fights, flew at each other like rabid beasts. War, always holding his sword aloft, saw to it that no alliances were formed. Not even among those of the same species. Camaraderie be damned — it was everyone for him or herself.

Famine played a part in fostering these schisms. Rivers ran dry, meat spoiled, and greens withered under his influence. What was scarce became sacred. People groveled and scrabbled for these necessities, and quickly resorted to looting and killing just to fill their bellies and live to see another day. Famine soon found himself in good company, surrounded by gaunt, stick-thin victims whose meat and fat wasted away from lack of nutrients. Famine viciously dismantled the Interspecies Protection From Consumption Act, as carnivores were driven to break the law by sinking their teeth into herbivores — fellow citizens, sometimes their own friends. The number of bodies climbed, but no one thought to keep track. The weak became meat, snatched up and swallowed down to feed the strong.

Such disregard for morals and sanitation gave way to disease courtesy of Pestilence. The Horseman slung his arrows far and wide, each riddled with every kind of poison and plague to send people by the hundreds and thousands to their graves. For a horse weighed down in boils, hair broiling with flies, and limbs weakened with rot, as arguably the slowest Horseman of the four, he did not have to run very fast or far at all. His joints, knobbly and frail as they were, could still bend the bow and that was enough. His arrows did much of the terrible work. They worked best on herds and packs, striking through many victims at once. Coughs and moans from the sick thickened the air. Contagion spread like fire, with no way to be extinguished except for the utter annihilation of those it consumed.

The Lamb of God had chosen well to bring them back as horses, for no other animal was more hardy and swift of foot to carry out the Apocalypse. Wherever War, Famine, and Pestilence went, Death was never too far behind, almost always on their tails. What else could follow such calamity but the end of one’s life? The harvest of souls was plentiful, ever growing. Death thought he would have found this somewhat enjoyable, if his past life held any indication. Instead, the sheer magnitude of souls to collect overwhelmed him. If he had an earthly body that breathed and bled, the work would have easily killed him. He had already died once, so no need to fear a second death.

Fear — the Fifth Horseman, Death liked to call it — proved even swifter and more terrible than his comrades as it drove hordes of people to take their own lives. Mass suicide became a common sight for Death, the most common source for his harvest of souls. Death watched how disaster and doom brought out the worst in people, with many cursing the end times and even more still resigned to forfeiting their lives in order to forego the slow agony of disease, starvation, and bloodshed.

Many met their deaths with despair. Only a few faced theirs with dignity. One such fellow was a young rabbit named Viktor, one of many brothers and sisters constituting a poor warren in Russia.

Death took great interest in this little rabbit, constantly looming over him, for Viktor teetered on the edge of life and death with his weak heart. Viktor was the smallest and weakest of his siblings, a classic case of the runt of the litter. Often short of breath, he was red-faced under his thin fur as the borscht his family was so fond of eating. He could hardly venture out of his home, and his family sheltered him for good reason — he’d be torn apart in a blink of an eye. Death drifted closer and closer; never before had he been so intrigued by the life of any mortal. For all his frailty and bleak future, Viktor held onto life stronger than even the fiercest lion or tiger. Out loud and in his heart, he gave thanks for every breath he took, every moment he could spend with his parents and siblings, who fretted over him and saw to it that he always had his needs met. He gave thanks for the food he was given, grown and salvaged though carrots would never be as crisp and fresh as before. He was grateful for the blankets and toys his siblings gave up to keep him comfortable and entertained. Death could not help admiring this young rabbit, who seemed to live in defiance of the depravity around him.

One night, alone in his bedroom, Viktor craned his head up to meet Death’s eyes.

“Hello there.”

That took the Horseman aback. “You can see me?”

“I’ve always known you were watching.” The rabbit did not scream or bolt out of his room. Instead he climbed onto his bed and wiggled into the blankets, like he would for any uneventful night. This amused and baffled Death.

“Do you know who I am?”

Viktor frowned, studying Death from head to toe. “You don’t look like a guardian angel. You don’t have wings.”

“You’re right. My name is Death.”

“Hello, Death,” he said, as if making a new friend. “I’m Viktor. Call me Vitya, if you want.”

“Are you afraid?”

Viktor shook his head. “I know you’ll come for me. I’ve known since I was very little, when I realized I could never run as fast or jump as high as my brothers and sisters. Everyone will find you at the end of the road sooner or later. I don’t have long, but I’d like to be with my family for a bit more, please.”

Death nodded, impressed with Viktor’s courage and touched by a politeness that he had never before received in all his time as a Horseman. Most people feared him and hated him. He, like time, never stopped for anyone, but somehow he could not find it in his heart to go against the rabbit’s wish. After all, Viktor’s soul was not for the taking just yet. For someone terminally ill and on the verge of death, Viktor still had some life in him.

“I’ll leave you alone, then,” Death said, “and come back for you when you’re ready.”

“You’re welcome to come back before that,” Viktor replied, “just to relax, if that’s possible. You look tired and lonely. I don’t think the rest of my family can see you, and for most of the day they’re out foraging, anyway. I’d like a friend to keep me company.”

Death tipped his muzzle at him. “I appreciate the offer.” And he took it whenever he could, for his duty proved very taxing and draining, indeed. After rounds of collecting souls and witnessing all manners of terrible deaths, the Horseman liked to visit Viktor and take his mind off the strain, if even for a moment. They spent most of their time together over open storybooks, fairy tales with happy endings, or silly stories that would make Death whinny and snort and break free of the somber frown that seemed to have set in his muzzle permanently.

“I love to read,” Viktor said. “It’s my escape. It takes me to faraway places and lets me be the hero I’ve always dreamed of being.”

“You’re already a hero.”

“How? I don’t swing a sword.” Viktor tilted back to behold the scythe that loomed over him. “And I’m very sure that thing would crush me if I tried to lift it.”

Death let out a rueful chuckle, hefting the weapon for a moment. “You don’t need anything like this to be a hero.” He rested a big, worn hoof over Viktor’s head, dwarfing it. “I mean that you are strong and brave in ways you can’t imagine. Believe me, I’ve killed — er, met many, many people around the world, and no one’s quite like you.”

The rabbit’s ears stood rigid and fluttered a little. His cheeks flushed, making his face even redder, and bunched up below his eyes in a wide smile. “You may not look it, but you’re very nice.”

Time was not so kind. Viktor grew more sick and frail with each passing day. He was confined to the bed and could not even risk a venture to other burrows in the warren.

Death knelt over the little rabbit’s bedside. “It’s almost time,” he murmured.

Viktor closed his eyes. “I understand.”

After supper, he asked for the attention of the entire family. Of course they were all ears, wide-eyed and curious, wondering what he had to say. Death also listened in, invisible to the rest, wondering how they would take the news.

“Everyone…” Viktor paused. His nose twitched and eyes blinked rapidly as he struggled to collect himself. With great effort he sucked in a deep breath, and went on, “Please don’t be upset, but I think now is a good time for me to say good-bye.” Stunned silence all around met him.

Finally, his father asked, “What do you mean?”

“Vitya, don’t say that,” his mother cried. She reached out to take his paw into hers. “We’re doing everything we can to care for you—”

“I know, and thank you.” Tears welled in Viktor’s eyes. “I feel I can never thank you enough. But you’ve seen the world around us, outside our warren. Even the world’s coming to an end. I am going to die, and I know you’re just trying to protect me, but you will have to let me go.” Viktor offered them a wide smile. “Don’t worry. I will see you all on the other side someday.” He bid his family good night, for the last time. He gave each sibling a long, earnest hug, while they restrained the urge to pile up on him all at once. Finally he was enveloped in arms and tears by his parents.

The lights went out. Viktor’s body went still and slack, his voice no more than a whisper. “I’m ready, Death. Take me away.”

His passing was a painless, peaceful one — the only one Death carried out alone. He had insisted on acting without the aid of his fellow Horsemen. With a pull of Death’s scythe Viktor’s soul slipped free, and without a weak earthly body to bind him, he sprinted out of the warren and floated well above the Muscovite landscape. Death followed him up, and Viktor turned to him with wide, searching eyes.

“Are you coming with me, Death?”

The Horseman gestured to the desolation below them. “I’m afraid not. I still have work to do down here.”

“Will we see each other again?”

Death had to be honest. “I can’t promise anything, but I hope so.”

“I hope so, too.” Viktor waved a little white paw. “Good-bye, for now.”

Death watched the rabbit’s soul drift — up, up, up — along a stairway to Heaven the Horseman could not see.

Parting ways with Viktor weighed down his heart. At the same time Death rejoiced that the young rabbit could leave this crumbling world after a proper farewell to his family and end up in a better place. If anyone deserved that, it was Viktor.

Death tore his eyes from the sky, a glimpse of Heaven, and turned back to search for more worthy souls to send into God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, the Apocalypse produced few instances of enlightenment and mental fortitude. Death grew weary of his work again, wondering if there would be an end to it all. In the constant accompaniment and teamwork with his fellow Horsemen, Death took it as a reprieve to strike up conversations with them.

“What is God’s plan for us after this?” Death had to raise his voice, on account of howls and screams from the mobs of starving, disease-ridden people fighting over scraps. Such an event called for a group effort, the presence of the other three Horsemen.

“You mean what’s after the Last Judgment?” War folded his arms over his huge chest. “A foolish question, Death.”

Famine’s dark eyes glittered. “On my way here I caught a glimpse of Heaven, maybe even Empyrean. I’ve never wanted anything so badly before.”

Pestilence’s ears, riddled with holes, perked. “You’ve actually seen it?”

War’s muzzle stretched from a frown. “We’re damned, anyway. God’s sending us back to Hell after we do our part.”

“Why would he do that if we are following his orders?” Death asked. “Surely he will reward us.” He paused to scoop up souls who had lost their bodies to bloodshed.

“What reward? After what we’ve done?” War snorted. “God said so himself: we’d been punished accordingly. Hell is final.”

Death shook his head. “Christ went down and came back up for the third day. He broke open the bolts binding the gates of Hell. Bolts that even Satan could not pry out. Even now the gates are left open.”

War waved a hoof in dismissal. “The Harrowing of Hell. It happened, yes, but everyone down there just takes it as hope, a chance, for a way out. Well, false hope and fat chance. Christ descended into Hell only for the righteous, anyway. We are sinners. There’s no freedom for the likes of us.” He reached down to thrust his blade into the hearts of those too tired to fight, making them spring back to their feet and rejoin the mob.

Death knew better than to fuel War’s ire, but he felt inclined to disagree. God had already done the impossible: bring up the damned from Hell. Not up to Heaven, of course (a ridiculous stretch), but onto the physical plane. That was a miracle in itself. God made use of even sinners to do his good work. Deep in Death’s unbeating heart, he felt that God would not toss them away like trash. At the same time he felt he did not deserve redemption.

“The Lamb is too detached for my taste,” War went on. “Maybe he’s making us do his dirty work. He wouldn’t soil his wool for this. And he’s hiding things from us. He gave me this sword but not my memories. I’d very much like to know who I was and what I did.”

Famine cracked a grin — a rare act, considering their line of work. “Well, I’m quite sure that even at your prime, you hadn’t started up this many wars.” Then he craned his narrow muzzle back as he pondered, as if weighing the scales in his head. “I must have wanted a lot of things in my past life. Even if I remembered them all, they don’t matter anymore.”

Death followed Famine’s gaze upward, searching for an inkling of light amidst the storm. “If God isn’t telling us everything, I believe it’s better that way. I don’t want to know what I’ve done to earn a place in Hell. I think God made us Horsemen to give us a second chance.” His grip tightened over the scythe. “Forget the past. Trust in God to lead us to a better future.”

War doubled over guffawing. “You should hear yourself. Have you gone mad?”

Pestilence did not respond with scorn as War did. Sunken eyes peeked through a matted forelock, making him look like a lost child. “Do you really think there’s hope?”

“Yes. Hope for the harbingers.” Death wanted his comrades to believe that, too.

“Whatever put that idea in your head?” Famine asked. “That little rabbit, am I right?”

Death conceded with a smile.

War chuckled. “You must have taken a real liking to him. You wouldn’t let the three of us get anywhere close to that warren.”

“I do not like giving children terrible ends,” Death admitted. He remembered the fairy tales Viktor would read to him. “I like happy endings.”

“I doubt it will end well for us.” Pestilence heaved a sigh, the huge boils sagging with his shoulders.

“That’s fear talking,” Death said. “You have to believe with all your might that God will forgive you. Forgive us.” He did not believe he deserved such a thing, but yearned for it all the same. He began to take inspiration in how Viktor led his short life on Earth, making it a habit to thank every moment he spent out of Hell, even if he stood far from Heaven. Fear of going back down there fueled his gratitude. He encouraged his comrades to do the same. As they gathered together and shared stories, Death found that War, Famine, and Pestilence had found their own Viktors in the midst of strife and suffering.

“I have found peacemakers,” War told them. “My sword can’t cut them.”

“I met givers,” Famine said, “who gave all they had when they could have helped themselves.”

“I might have produced the finest physicians the world has ever seen,” Pestilence said.

These stories pleased Death greatly. This cemented his belief that he and his fellow Horsemen were doing good work, after all. There was something to be learned here.

Finally, after what seemed like ages, the Last Judgment drew to an end. Every soul was sent up, or down, and accounted for. The Four Horsemen joined forces, combining their strength, to deliver the blow that would send the world into oblivion. Death lifted his scythe, adding to the steeple formed by War’s sword, Famine’s weighing scale, and Pestilence’s bow. They swung down together, and remnants of a sinful, imperfect world gave way before their very eyes. A huge wave of light blinded them. Death expected the downward tug, the return of his soul to Hell, now that his work here was done.

He felt no such thing. He dared to blink his eyes open, and the other Horsemen followed suit, their stances tense and unsure. What Death saw next took his breath away. Before him stood the Lamb of God, heading a multitude of angels and souls, innumerable beyond measure and compare. Death’s legs buckled and he sank to his knees.

The Lamb smiled. “Please rise. You are in good company.”

Death obeyed, exchanging wide-eyed confusion with his comrades. He certainly did not remember Hell looking like this.

“You have done as I have asked, and you did well. My tests are never easy, and I must commend you for passing the one I imposed on you. For that you will be rewarded.”

Pestilence’s mouth hung open, then worked like a fish out of water, and finally he shut it and lowered his head out of embarrassment over looking ridiculous before the Lord of all creation.

Famine managed to spring out the question. “This…this is Heaven? We made it?”

The Lamb nodded. “I’m afraid I must save a proper warm welcome for another time.” He turned his muzzle downward, and amid the light a spot of darkness remained, where an ugly serpent writhed and hissed below the heavenly host. “There is still the Enemy to vanquish once and for all. Only in his defeat can we rejoice in the founding of New Jerusalem.”

“We will help,” War said. With his ears tucked back and head bowed, he looked sorry to have doubted and spoken against God at all. Clearly he sought to make up for it.

Famine, Death, and Pestilence nodded in agreement.

“Thank you,” the Lamb replied. “Now, I can’t have you go into battle unprepared.” With a sweep of his arm, he sent up a great wind that peeled away every blight on the Horsemen’s bodies, granting them pure white coats and builds that brimmed with health and vigor. Then with another wave of his arm, he substituted their Apocalyptic instruments for blades forged in the brightest holy steel. Death embraced this new identity with open arms, thrilling in the divine power that coursed through him.

Then something else hit him — something white and soft. Death drew back and gasped. “Viktor!”

The rabbit, who had tackled the former Horseman with a fierce hug, pulled away and grinned. “I knew you’d come.”

Death drew him back for another hug. “I didn’t think I would, but here I am.”

The Lamb of God gave them a warm smile. “It seems I have given you two the happy ending you’ve wanted.”

“I would not have it any other way, Lord.” Hell seemed nothing more than a bad memory now. Death felt he could burst, overjoyed to know that he was given another chance, that his hope and faith bore fruit. Fruit he had shared with his fellow Horsemen.

Viktor clasped his friend’s hoof with both paws. “Come on, let’s go slay a dragon together.”


* * *

Originally published in ROAR, Volume 8

About the Author

Allison Thai is a specialist in pediatric anesthesia. When she isn’t taking care of kids during surgeries, she eats up books and video games, always hungry for the next good one. Her critter-centric fiction has been published in Podcastle, Anathema, Zooscape, and ROAR, and was featured on Tor and Locus recommended lists.

Categories: Stories

What Little Remains

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:03

by Mercy Morbid

“It’s like I’m using my limbs for something they weren’t designed for, and while it isn’t at all painful, the urge to swim remains in my body like a dull ache.”

The ruins rose out of the water, a line of steel and concrete skeletons piercing the horizon. I sat on the front deck, listening to the whir of the hovercraft engine, my goggles around my neck. The wind stirred my hair into a frenzy and sprayed me with drops of ocean water. As they slid down my gray skin and hit my gills, I felt a rush of excitement. I wanted to swim, needed to swim. I was made for it, a shark chimera with a body designed for hydrodynamics.

Patience, I told myself. You’ll get in the water very soon.

As the ruins grew closer, my patience wore down little by little. The anticipation that comes before swimming is a drive I can’t really explain to terrestrials. Although I can live on land as easily as in the water, walking doesn’t feel as natural to me. It’s like I’m using my limbs for something they weren’t designed for, and while it isn’t at all painful, the urge to swim remains in my body like a dull ache.

Soon the hovercraft had entered the sunken ruins, the remnants of an old Terran metropolis called Boston. It slowed to a halt just above the target area. I had gone salvage diving in this area once before, and I felt certain there was still more to find under the waves. Sera, my dive assistant, came out from the back of the craft. The purple-haired squirrel held a tablet and a stylus. She had just finished checking off the pre-dive requirements.

“Ready for another run?” she asked.

I grinned, showing off my sharp teeth. “You have no idea,” I said.

“Are you sure you wanna do this dive unarmed?” she asked. “There could still be some pre-collapse security measures we don’t know about.”

“This was a tourist district,” I retorted.

“Marina,” Sera admonished.

I sighed.  “Fine,” I grumbled, relenting. “Hand me that harpoon pistol.” She did, and I clipped it to my dive belt. “I still think you’re mothering me too much – ah!” I gasped as she gave my snout a gentle stroke.

“I just want you to be safe, babe,” she cooed.

I put my hand on top of hers. “I know,” I said, “And I will be.”


“Promise.” She smiled, and I smiled back, releasing her hand and letting it fall.

“Good luck down there,” said Sera.

I grinned. “Luck? Pfft,” I said, putting my goggles on. “I was born to do this.” And with that, I turned around and did a running dive off the side of the hovercraft. The cool saltwater enveloped me like the arms of an old lover. I took a couple of warmup strokes as my gills opened up and my eyes adjusted to the low light of the depths. I was home. Time to get to work.

I swam to the building I had marked as my target at the briefing. Recon had identified it as an old hotel. There was an open window on the fifth floor that looked like a possible entry point. I swam down to it and surveyed the area. No external security devices present. Sticking my head in the window, I looked back and forth around the floor. Moldy carpets, warped wooden doors and barnacle-encrusted walls filled my field of vision, but again I found no signs of any security countermeasures. The coast, for lack of a better term, was clear.

I swam into the hallway and began to try the various doors to see which ones opened. As it turned out, the locks on a good number of them had rusted shut, but one door had been left slightly ajar. I swam up to it and peered through the tiny opening. There was a red light inside the room, pointed directly at the door. Without warning, it blinked.

“Is someone there?” asked a waterlogged, hissing, electronic voice.

My mind instantly went to my training, facing down submersible drones in target practice, and to Sera’s face as she begged me to be careful before my dive. I drew my harpoon pistol from its holster and waited, my finger on the trigger. When the light blinked again, I kicked open the door, took aim, and fired the harpoon straight into the eye of a moldy, animatronic teddy bear.

The poor toy that I ruthlessly murdered whirred as its motors ground to a halt before turning off for good. Bubbles escaped my mouth as I sighed in relief, mentally admonishing myself for being so trigger-happy and glad that the teddy bear was neither a security drone nor another diver. With the imaginary threat neutralized, I swam into the room and took a look around.

The furniture was waterlogged and encrusted with barnacles, much like the rest of the building. The television was rusted, the screen warped and clouded by its long submergence in the briny depths. The drawers of the dresser were open and empty, and one had even fallen out of its enclosure. It appeared as though whomever had last stayed in this room had left in a hurry.

As I scanned the orphaned dresser drawers, a metallic glint caught my eye. Swimming over, I saw a rusted, heart-shaped locket tucked in a corner of one drawer. I picked it up, and was astonished to find that the latch seemed to be in good condition. I opened it and gasped at the contents. Inside was a picture of three humans. Two of them, both adults, were hugging a young child. The child held a teddy bear, which appeared to be waving at the camera. The photo must have been waterproofed quite well, as it was neither warped nor faded.

I floated there with the locket in hand, staring at the photo in shock. Humans had only ever been theoretical to me, a snapshot of the history that predated the collapse of the Terran ecosystem. My own DNA was descended from theirs, the result of a centuries old bioengineering project that produced the chimeras. We had inherited the works of our human ancestors, but no one yet lived who had seen a human outside of history class.

I wondered what had become of the family. What were their lives like? Did they come here on vacation? Did they escape the collapse? Did they die screaming in a climate catastrophe? Possible answers swirled in my mind as I stared at the locket.

I surfaced sometime later with a pack full of old tech, which I handed off to Sera before climbing aboard the hovercraft. Sera took a brief look inside the bag.

“Why do you have a teddy bear in here?” she asked.

“It’s animatronic and still functions. I bet it has a fusion battery inside. Might still be good for a few centuries.”

“Why does it have a harpoon in its eye?”

“It snuck up on me.”

“Uh huh.” Sera shot me a quizzical look. “What have you got on your neck?”

I touched the locket gingerly with a free hand. “A memento,” I said.

Sera opened her mouth to say something, then closed it, and simply shrugged.

Sera went back into the cabin, placing the salvage on a table inside. I followed behind her. Sera took the pilot seat and began prepping for the ride back to the salvage platform. Soon we were on our way, and there was nothing left for me to do but catalog the salvage and see what, if anything, was usable. That is our job, and the reason I dive. We have lost so much to the waves of time and history. We must salvage what little remains if we want to build a future.


* * *

About the Author

Mercy Morbid is a pixel artist, speculative fiction writer, and Vtuber from Northeast Ohio. She enjoys tabletop roleplaying games, books with queer characters, and the blood of the living. When she is not writing, she is often found posting her thoughts and ideas on Twitter (@MercyMorbid). She would be very happy if you read them.

Categories: Stories

The Four Sharks of the Apocalypse

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:02

by Tessa Yang

“My unsightly and unlovable brethren, hide your shame no longer. Let us engage in a glorious contest to determine who will be crowned the Greatest Freak of All Time!”

Revelation 6:17: “The great day of their anger has come, and who can survive it?”



All hail your new lord and conqueror: Bull Shark rises from the ocean with a crown of barnacles on its head, ready to haul you landlubbers back to the steaming seas whence all things good and evil were born.

If you’d had to name your fishy overlord, this would not have been your first guess, but keep that thought to yourself. To mouth the words Great White Shark is to hasten your own demise. Bull Shark can be a little testy when it comes to mentions of its bigger, show-offy cousin with its stupid aerial displays.Master of saltwater and freshwater, it was only a matter of time before Bull Shark was promoted to other realms. See it tear through the skies like a pterodactyl. Feel the reverberations as it bombs sinkholes into the earth. Trees whisper of its coming through their mycelia networks. They say no harpoon or bullet or net can destroy it, for Bull Shark is invincible with righteous purpose. It’s armored in the rage of a hundred million sharks caught in a hundred million fishing nets, finned and flung overboard to die of suffocation.

Bull Shark balloons. It beats its tail and tsunamis swell in answer. Creatures bow or flee before its indisputable might. Its presence has the feel of an ending, the ending. Not even the trees are asking what comes next.



Goblin Shark tires of appearing on your listicles.

14 Ocean Freaks You Didn’t Know Existed

Top 10 Sea Monsters to Haunt Your Dreams

Weirdest Fish

Creepiest Fish

There’s only so much any of us can take before we snap.

The ocean is the world’s biggest empath. She spreads her feelers inland beyond the brackish mouths of estuaries, into rivers and streams, the backyard creeks where crayfish wander. Goblin Shark is tuned into these frequencies. The electroreceptors on its toothy snout reach out. From the lightless seafloor, it broadcasts a message in a voice that is like the belching of a thousand undersea volcanoes:

“Come, my naked mole rats! Come, Goliath bird-eaters and vampire squids, giant hornets and leaf-nosed bats! My unsightly and unlovable brethren, hide your shame no longer. Let us engage in a glorious contest to determine who will be crowned the Greatest Freak of All Time!”

And so Earth’s ugliest creatures haul themselves from nests and burrows. Scaly bodies unwind. Furry legs flex and scuttle. Cautious at first, half-blinded by the sun, their limitations soon evaporate thanks to the wizardry of Goblin Shark — part fairy godmother, part referee. The battle that follows spans biomes. From the tallest mountains to the deepest grottos, the planet seethes with the frenzy of wrestling tentacles and slashing fangs.

Goblin Shark surveys the carnage with satisfaction. It has never seen anything so beautiful.



Tiger Shark’s appetite precedes it. Famous devourer of squids, turtles, birds, porpoises, nails, tires, cans, boots, cameras, license plates, a fur coat that one time — but what becomes of the ocean’s garbage can when the ocean is a garbage can?Has it ever occurred to you that Tiger Shark doesn’t want to eat all that trash?You can have it back. It was yours to begin with. Tiger Shark was only borrowing. Thus commences the great purge, centuries of refuse boiling up the ocean’s throat, a maelstrom collecting junk from the bottom of the sea and spewing it back on land where it belongs. Bang. A refrigerator door. Crash. A sunken oil rig. Wham. An Ohio-sized web of nylon fishing nets.

A soundless rain of cigarette butts, dancing prettily on the wind.

Transport halts. Crops wilt and languish under the toxic barrage. What was already happening in some places is now happening everyplace, because above all, Tiger Shark is committed to fairness. No more looking away. No more sending your trash to the other side of the world where for all you know, a benign sorceress waves her wand and poofs it out of existence.

Seek shelter, ideally underground. This could take a while. Tiger Shark has been swallowing your shit for a long time.



Even by arctic standards, Greenland Shark moves slowly, dragging its ponderous body through the whipping currents of space-time. Its solemn duty is to review the labors of its younger kin — even if it would much rather be drifting beneath the ice contemplating the universe’s greatest questions, or snacking on snoozing cephalopods. You’ve seen one apocalypse, you’ve seen them all.

The party’s nearly over by the time Greenland Shark arrives. Bull Shark belly-flops onto an archipelago, flattening it into the sea. Goblin Shark eggs on an army of elephant seals. Tiger Shark, finally depleted, naps contentedly in tropical shallows, reduced to a speckled pup beneath red-lit skies.

Greenland Shark takes in all of this with one left-to-right sweep of its milky eyes. Its memory soars back through the centuries, through the millennia, to the moment when water vapor condensed and plummeted earthward, and bacteria gushed forth oxygen, and hard-shelled organisms filled the infant seas, and fish came, and shed fins for limbs, and inched timidly onto land. The stars were old even then, but they seemed new, so new, spearing the sky with barbs of blistering brightness.

Now the lights of heaven shudder and sift downward like a shower of marine snow, stirred by shifting currents. The universe searches for its new form. To know what this might be is beyond the pay grade of Bull Shark, Goblin Shark, and Tiger Shark, and if the oldest and wisest among them has any inkling, it does not yet speak on the matter.

“It is good,” declares Greenland Shark, and descends back into the frigid depths to digest a polar bear carcass.


* * *

About the Author

Tessa Yang is a fiction writer and shark enthusiast from upstate New York. She is the author of the speculative short story collection The Runaway Restaurant (7.13 Books, 2022). Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, CRAFT, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Find her online at, or on Twitter: @ThePtessadactyl.

Categories: Stories

What Dark Plutonian Horror Beckons from the Shadows?

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:02

by Christopher Blake

“His foolish generosity only feeds my terrible strength.”

We shadows can be anything: the monster under the bed, the robber, the ghost, the serial killer.  I trained in the darkest nether pits, and now that I’m out, it’s my turn to put the boogie in bogeyman, the knight in nightmare.

I coalesce in a dank alley: overturned garbage bins and faded graffiti stained yellow by sodium lights. A textbook shadowhaunt. Blue neon flickers from a diner across the street.  I skulk behind a dumpster, flitting through various hideous and crepuscular forms, listening for a victim.

Faint footfalls echo along the windblown street and I watch a man in jacket and toque hunch against the cold, striding through cones of streetlight.

“Psst,” I say, though it’s not what he hears. He hears whatever his brain’s disposed to hear. But I’ve chosen the setting, primed his mind for fathomless fear.  And now his subconscious will give me shape.

He stops, then takes a step forward. He makes a clicking sound with his tongue.

“Here boy,” he says.

He stretches out a hand, then reaches into a paper bag he’s carrying. He breaks off a piece of hamburger and holds it out.

I sniff the air and emerge into the light.

The new form his subconscious grants me has black fur, whetted teeth, and fearsome claws.  A noble mien of shadowstuff.  I surge forward and leap at the man, ready to tear him apart, but my new jaws seek only the proffered meat.

“Oh, good boy,” he says, struggling to speak as I lap at his face.

“Heck,” he says, holding out the rest of the burger. “Have it all.  You labs are voracious.”

I snarf the burger (displaying dominance) and he checks my neck, looking for a collar that isn’t there.

“You have a home, boy?”

I whine.


He looks up and down the street, as if offering the universe one last chance to keep me.

“Well, you do now,” he says. “Let’s go, buddy.”

We walk side by side through quiet midnight streets. He whistles as he walks, a pleasant melody.  Whistling by the graveyard, no doubt.


He’s terrified already.

As well he should be.

He lets me into a basement apartment, the sort of place that should be depressing. It isn’t much: short window-wells and damp floors. But his spirit lives on the walls in movie posters and horror novels, and I feel, curiously, at home.

He goes into the tiny kitchenette and fills a bowl with water.  Then he opens the fridge and dumps some leftover ground meat into another bowl labeled “Rufus.”

“Little midnight snack,” he says, stroking my coat.  “Lots of leftovers these days.  Haven’t quite got used to cooking for one, yet.  Keep picturing old Rufus waiting around every corner.”

I try to resist, but the meat smells delicious, and I scarf it down in a couple bites.  No matter.  His foolish generosity only feeds my terrible strength.

The man laughs and scratches behind my ears.

“Alright boy, let’s hit the hay.”

He flips down the back of his futon and throws a pillow and a comforter on top, then strips to his boxers and crawls under the covers. He pats the mattress and whistles for me to jump up.

After a few minutes, he falls asleep, his gentle snores filling the small room.  I loom over his sleeping form, my slobbering maw quivering.

Now is my chance, a textbook opportunity to terrify.

But it’s been a long night, and I’m tired.  And, if I earn his trust now, my brutal betrayal will traumatize him all the more.  Yes, that’s it.  I’ll bide my time for one more night, then strike when he least expects it.

But for now the futon just looks…


So cozy…

Next I know, I’m cuddling against him, warm morning sunlight bathing us both.  I lay alongside him (no doubt siphoning his body heat), listening as his chest rises and falls.  He looks so innocent and sweet.  It’s almost a shame that I must inundate him with unspeakable horror.


But he gets up and scoops out an old tin of dog food from the cupboard.  I devour it voraciously while he eats a slice of toast.  He throws me something that looks like a bone, and I gnaw ominously at what I conclude to be the hardened skin of a dead animal.  It is incredibly satisfying.

Afterwards, we go to a dog park, and he throws a ball for me to chase.  At first, I look down upon this childish pursuit, but soon I am running and leaping through the air, retrieving the ball for him to throw again and again.  After a while, I lose track of time.  All I know is that we play so long my tongue almost gets tired from lolling.


On the way home, he waits patiently, humming to himself as I urinate on various telephone poles and fire hydrants.

Later that night, we curl up on the futon.  He strokes my head as he watches the TV flicker, holding out the last of his vanilla ice cream for me to lick.

And then he falls asleep, and I sit, surveying him.

I am a shadowthing.  The best of the worst.  Now is the time to terrify.

But I watch his mouth puff a gentle breath, and see his eyes below their lids flicker to the infinitely mutable shadowshow of dreams.

And the thing inside my chest that has beaten all day, always faster when he’s near, beats faster again as I remember at last that we shadows can be anything.

We can be man’s worst nightmare.

We can be man’s best friend.


* * *

About the Author

Christopher Blake is a physician by day and a writer by night. He is a dad (cat and human), by his back of the napkin calculations, approximately 32 hours a day. His short fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, and Stupefying Stories.

Categories: Stories

A Strange and Terrible Wonder

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:01

by Katie McIvor

“The driver knows the place: the secret beach where, once a year, the dogs of myth take their outing.”

The dog bus makes its rounds once a year through the lands of myth. Starting in the north, in the early morning – so early it’s barely yet light – the bus rolls up to a middle-of-nowhere sign by the roadside. In the misty grey dawn, in the shadow of the hill which mounts into blackness above, the Cù Sìth is waiting. Its haunches twitch on the wet grass.

As the bus approaches, the Cù Sìth emits three sharp, haunting barks, which for miles around cause children to wake from their sleep and huddle in their blankets, sheltering their heads beneath the safety of pillows.

The door wheezes open. Onto the first step come the Cù Sìth’s paws. The smell of stagnant water precedes it. Up close, the dog’s fur is a dark, bog-like green, the colours of the endless moor. Its eyes burn with a spectral gleam. The driver nods hello, and with a whine the Cù Sìth bumps its nose up into his hand. Its claws click on the vinyl as it makes its way down the aisle.

The bus drives on. Headlights smothered by the moorland fog, it creeps south. The grey city grows around it. In the kirkyard, its tiny shape lost in the deep, gravestone gloom, a terrier wags its tail. When the doors open, it springs up into the bus and leaps into the driver’s arms, licking his face with a small, ghostlike tongue.

“Away with you, Bobby,” says the driver, but his eyes are smiling.

Bobby avoids the steaming, bull-sized bulk of the Cù Sìth. He sits up front, just behind the driver, his tiny paws against the window.

They continue south. On a lonely road in Northumberland, a huge black creature waits with its front leg extended: the Gytrash, foe of solitary travellers. Heading westwards and then down the M6, they stop to collect the phantom Moddey Dhoo, fresh off the ferry from Douglas. The new passengers sit aloof from one another, each taking up a double seat, curled like enormous, matted cats. Bobby’s wary eyes flit between them.

Wales is slate-grey with rain. Halfway down the tree-lined slope of the Nant y Garth Pass, a shuddering howl halts the bus, and the Gwyllgi, the Cŵn Annwn, dog of the Otherworld, comes aboard. The driver chucks it absentmindedly under the chin. In its wake, a small, bouncing shape appears: a corgi, with her fairy rider perched side-saddle. The fairy flies up to hand her fare to the driver, but he knows better than to accept coin from the fair folk.

Back into England, and on through miles of dull motorway. They stop at a service station somewhere near Wolverhampton. At this strange, perpetual dawn hour, only red-eyed lorry drivers peer from their curtained cabs, and they think nothing of the procession of phantom hounds which crosses the tarmac to pee on the litter-flecked grass and drink, one by one, from the dirty metal water bowl.

The next stop is a cold, dark little church where the wind shrieks through the branches of yew trees. The church grim trots out, stretching his hind legs. He greets the Gytrash politely, nose to nose, for they are old comrades. The others he ignores.

Black Shuck has roamed to the very edge of his eastern domain to catch the bus. Giant head raised, steam spouting from his nostrils in the cold, deathly air, he climbs aboard. The driver feels a chill pass over him, as though of footsteps over his grave, but he pats Black Shuck on the head all the same, though he has to reach up from his chair to do it. Black Shuck’s glowing eyes soften to a pale, almost pleasant yellow beneath the strip lights. He takes his seat across the aisle from the Cù Sìth, whose bog-damp fur gives off an odour that is comforting to him, reminiscent of the Norfolk Broads.

The streets of London are ghostly at this hour, abandoned even by the drunks. At 31 Kensington Park Gardens, a large Newfoundland waits patiently by the gate, her three floating charges in tow. The children whoop with excitement as they board, causing the corgi to leap up with an ear-splitting bark and bound into the air, trying to nip their ankles. The fairy, dislodged from her nap, yanks on the corgi’s reins, while Nana herds the children back to the front of the bus and sits them down in an orderly manner.

Moving through the south-west, they collect the Devil’s Dandy Dogs, fresh from a night-time hunt, and the cowed, scavenging mutts of the Camelot kitchens. Then the bus, now nearly full, jolts up onto Dartmoor, where awaits the most fearsome hound of all: the slavering beast of the Grimpen Mire. Its great jaws drool misty vapour as it slinks up the aisle of the bus.

They descend towards the coast. The driver knows the place: the secret beach where, once a year, the dogs of myth take their outing. Despite the long drive, dawn has just broken by the time they arrive. The beach is long, perfect, empty of the picnickers and holidaymakers who will soon swarm its picture-postcard dunes. They have the place to themselves.

The interior of the bus trembles with energy. The dogs sit poised and upright, only the intense wagging of tails betraying their eagerness. When the doors slide open, the excitable corgi is the first to tumble down the steps, her fairy rider cursing and hauling ineffectively at the reins. The Camelot mutts are right behind her. They writhe and trip over one another in a tangle of hairy legs, while the Devil’s Dandy Dogs snap at their tails. Next come the Gytrash and the church grim, at a stately pace, shoulder to shoulder. Black Shuck and the Cù Sìth follow. The Gwyllgi and the Moddey Dhoo skulk after them, glancing over their shoulders at the Dartmoor Hound, which paces lone and panther-like from the back of the bus. Lastly, Nana shepherds her three children down the steps, and only Bobby is left, polite and patient as always, waiting for the driver. The old man and his old dog walk the path to the beach side by side.

The sand shines primrose-yellow in the sunlight. Deep-clawed prints race to the shore, where a cacophony of splashing, leaping, and barking unfolds in the shallows. The Camelot hounds coat their skinny bodies in sand, eyes rolling with delight, while the Devil’s Dandy Dogs take off as one in pursuit of a seagull. The corgi is a frantic, cannonballing blur, her thick fur soaked, her fairy rider laughing through the saltwater spray. Even the deathly dogs, the portents of the underworld, frolic for all they are worth in the sea and pass a red rubber ball from jaw to dripping jaw. The Dartmoor Hound, overcome with sudden excitement, takes off and races its own long shadow from one end of the beach to the other.

On the dunes, Bobby and his owner sit and watch the sunrise. They are quiet with each other, after all these years. The old man rests his hand on Bobby’s wiry fur. The soft sand feels kind beneath their stiff limbs. A little way below them, her tongue lolling contentedly, Nana oversees the construction of a sandcastle.

The sun begins to lift into the sky as the day draws on, and the shadows shorten. The Moddey Dhoo solidifies in the brightness, no longer ethereal, nothing but a large spaniel splashing delightedly in the surf. Black Shuck, with his wolfish fur slicked into spikes, could be any oversized black dog, the Gwyllgi any capering mastiff. Even the Cù Sìth, although the height of a horse and the colour of submerged moss, might be mistaken for a family pet as it barks and frisks on the wet sand. Duties forgotten, for this one day of the year, they are free.

As the holidaymakers begin to appear over the crest of the dunes, the bus driver whistles to his pack. One after another, the dogs of legend shake water from their coats and trot up the beach towards him, panting and laughing. The corgi plants sopping paws on the driver’s knees, and the Dartmoor Hound, in a fit of exuberance, surges up to lick his weathered cheek. But to old Bobby, who waited for fourteen years by a grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the scene is already a dream. He lies fast asleep and smiling in his master’s arms as the mythical pack piles back onto the bus.


* * *

About the Author

Katie McIvor is a Scottish writer and library assistant. She studied at the University of Cambridge and now lives in England with her husband and two dogs. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The DeadlandsUnchartedInterzone, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthology Mother: Tales of Love and Terror, and her three-story collection is out now with Ram Eye Press. You can find her on Twitter at @_McKatie_ or on her website at

Categories: Stories

How Pepper Learned Magic

Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 03:00

by Renee Carter Hall

“They said I was going to be an abracadabra dog.”

“Abracadabra,” I whispered, trying to keep my tail from wagging in excitement. I didn’t want to make a bad impression on my first day.

“What are you on about?” the grizzled German shepherd muttered next to me.

“Just— you know. The job.”

“Right.” He gave me a sniff and sighed. “Puppies. They’re sending puppies now.”

I was not a puppy; I was a fully grown Labrador. But again, first impressions. I managed to quiet my tail.

I had already been disappointed that my training hadn’t included any magic tricks. I’d expected to hop into boxes to be sawed in half, or maybe to disappear behind a sparkly curtain. So far it had just been a lot of sniffing for things, but maybe that would change today. Did humans do magic shows in the woods? I sure hoped so. Maybe I would even get my own cape.

It didn’t start off very promising. In fact, it felt just like training. We were given the usual command and started searching. I did my best to calm down and focus, and soon enough I found the scent—faint at first, but there. I loped toward it, pulling my person along. Something had disappeared and I was going to make it reappear, because I was a magic dog. They’d said so.

And then I found it, and I knew I was supposed to sit, but I couldn’t help it. I dug joyously through leaves and soil and muck. I had found it. I was doing it. I had found—

A person. I had found a person.

Who wasn’t moving.

Who smelled like dead things.

Who was flesh and bone and hair and not all in the same place.

I staggered back.

I sat.

My person was happy with me. They were acting just like they had in training when I did the right thing. In all those hours, all those sprayed scents, how had I never realized what I’d been smelling?

The German shepherd was next to me. “Good job, pup.”

I didn’t answer.

“Something wrong?”

“When do we do the magic?” I whispered.

“The what?”

They were covering what I’d found, getting ready to carry it away. It made it a little easier to talk.

“They said I was going to be an abracadabra dog.”

The German shepherd stared at me, first in confusion, then with contempt, and then with something like pity. “The word,” he said finally, “is cadaver. Meaning, a dead human.” He sighed and looked away, sagging a little. “You poor dumb thing.”

That was my first day.

I never saw the German shepherd after that; I guess from then on they trusted me to work alone. And I was good. There was no doubt about that. I found bodies in woods and water, newly dead and months gone, old and young. I climbed through cinderblock rubble and storm-twisted trees. But even when I could eventually feel satisfaction at my person’s praise, there was a part of me that stayed numb, and still angry at my silly pup self for having expected something more.

That changed in another forest, on a wet October day. I was following the scent, professionally ignoring both squirrels and chipmunks. This scent was young, very young, and everyone around me seemed particularly distressed, but I did my job. My person praised me after, as they always did.

Then one of the others said something to my person. A question. My person hesitated and said something back, and then the other human approached me, hand out.

I sniffed, and his scent was familiar. It was an echo of the scent I’d just found. He scratched behind my ears, and I wagged my tail a little so he knew it was okay. And then he was kneeling, in the leaves and the mud, his arms around me, his face against my wet coat, holding me tight.

“Thank you,” he said into my fur. “We can take him home now.”

I thought he would let go of me then, but he hugged me tighter, shaking. I licked his face and tasted salt.

And I began to understand.

It isn’t the magic I thought it would be. No tricks, no stage, no cape. But what I can do is bigger and more powerful than I ever imagined that first day. It’s the difference between a question and an answer. The difference between a wound and a scar.

I’d like to tell that old German shepherd that he was right, and he was wrong. He was right about the word, but he was wrong about me.

My name is Pepper. I’m a fully grown Labrador.

And I am a magic dog.


* * *

About the Author

Renee Carter Hall writes fantasy and science fiction for kids, teens, and adults. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons and Podcastle, and her novels include the Cóyotl Award-winning young adult fantasy Huntress. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, their cat, and more books than she will ever have time to read. Readers can find her online at

Categories: Stories


Zooscape - Tue 15 Aug 2023 - 02:42

by Azure Arther

“Names were a thing that made no sense to Abernathy. He was a nightmare and nightmares were all the same, until they weren’t.”

The nightmare slurped the last drop of fear just as the man died. The essence was bitter, full of regret and sadness and the terror of not reaching the heights one had planned. It wasn’t his best meal, but the nightmare was eating just to eat at this point. He placed one hoof on the man’s head and pressed, tentatively at first, then with all the weight of a full grown pegasus. Heavy.

There was a satisfying crunch and the nightmare moved on. No necromancy would bring his enemies back to life. No god would return a favorite warrior to battle. The nightmare left nothing. He was the stallion of dread, the harbinger of fright. He was—

“Bernie!” a voice called from farther away, drawing the nightmare’s attention. He looked around the cluttered battlefield, where he and the girl had killed her enemies. His enemies now. Dead men lay in the grass, across each other, some caught in mid-run, others with sword in their hand. All of them wore the emblazoned livery of the king, but they were not soldiers. The wagon that had carried the mercenaries was on its side, its horses having run from—

“Bernie? Abernathy.” The girl’s voice was impatient as usual, laced with urgency, entitlement, no fear. The nightmare sighed and turned towards her. He tossed his mane, and flowed across the shadows on the ground, silken, pitch, a soft rustle that strikes fear in the middle of the night, when sleep has just barely claimed its due.

“Bernie!” Kyra was in front of him now. Her black leather pants glistened in places, someone else’s blood, but she was unharmed. There was no need for her to call him so urgently. She craned her neck to look up at him and stomped one foot.

“I know you heard me,” Kyra said. Abernathy chuffed her braids and spread his wings. Kyra rolled her eyes.

“Bernie…tone it down. Look.” She held up her hands. Nestled between her long, brown fingers was a kitten. The tiny beast hissed and recoiled in fear, spitting and scratching at Kyra until she let it go. It raced off.

“I just spent five minutes coaxing it from under the barn, Bern!” Kyra groaned.

Abernathy tapped one hoof on the ground and looked meaningfully at the bodies.

“Yes, I already took everything of value.”

He lay one ear back and clicked his teeth at her.

“Fine.” Kyra stomped over to the bodies, doing one last check. She was tiny in comparison to the corpses, and even though she was still a child, Abernathy knew she would not be much larger when she was fully grown. She found a few rings and a missed change purse, a belt buckle that could be sold, two good pairs of leather boots to be traded. Abernathy pressed his nose to a particularly warm cloak and coughed. Kyra frowned when he stared at her.

“Ugh. Then I have to wash it.”

Abernathy nodded his large head in agreement.

“You know all this stuff has to go on your back, right?”

Abernathy lowered his front legs, carefully bowing so that Kyra could load the bags on. She looked around the farm before anxiously looking back at him. “Do you think I should let the farm family know it’s okay to come out?’

Abernathy bared his teeth and Kyra nodded. “Okay.”

The nightmare whinnied softly, and Kyra nodded again. She climbed on his back and with a running leap, Abernathy shot into the sky, his wings unfurling. He felt the air, cold here, colder there, and finally, a warm updraft allowed him to glide. The magic that hid him from the humans would hide Kyra too. She bundled into the woolen cloak that smelled of man, lay across his neck, and went to sleep.

* * *

It was Kyra who named him. She was a small human at the time but had been with him for several of her human years at that point. For much of their first years together, she had called him “horse,” “Blackie,” “Wings,” and other things, but finally, she had decided he needed an actual and permanent name. Abernathy disagreed.

“You need a name,” she had indicated, her words careful and clipped, in the way speakers of foreign languages tend to overenunciate. Abernathy had given her speech in a dream, several dreams, many nights of patient fostering of human language that he had stolen from others. She spoke many of their dialects now, knew how to cook, how to maid to another human who felt they were superior to other humans, which wasn’t possible, and how to do a myriad of other things. Sometimes they were fanciful ideas, and others were necessary requirements, like how to bind a wound, and what herbs would keep it from festering.

But names. Names were a thing that made no sense to Abernathy. He was a nightmare and nightmares were all the same, until they weren’t.

Abernathy shook his head when she stated he needed one. She had already been named Kyra when they met. He assumed her parents provided her with the name. She did not need to name him, as well.

“Yes, you do. I am Kyra and this is my noble steed, the nightmare, does have a fancy ring to it. I agree with that.” Kyra was braiding her hair, sitting in the warm stable-like cave they called home. Half of the fluffy cloud of black, shiny strands stood up and out, coiled in places, straight in others, but the rest was deftly folding into neat cornrows. She changed her and, unfortunately, Abernathy’s hair often. “But you need a name I can call you, one that isn’t anyone’s but mine.”

Abernathy had shaken his head again, adding a firm stomp, an agitated tail swish, and a heavy snort, but Kyra had stood firm. “I’m going to call you Abernathy, like the great sage. Bernie for short.”

Thus, he acquired the name, and accepted it, as he accepted everything else that Kyra chose.

* * *

Abernathy paced when they landed outside Unan, and the marketplace Kyra was only allowed to go to thrice a year. They lived too close for people to see them too often. He tossed his head twice. The midafternoon sun provided excellent shadows for them to hide in, yet she insisted on entering the sunlight, to cross the field of bright green, into the town.

“I’ll be careful.” Kyra said, sliding from his back, her voice soothing, with a slight note of impatience, as usual. “I’m always careful.”

Abernathy shimmered to shadow, translucent, unseen by the regular human eye. Kyra glared at him.

“No. I don’t need you kicking down stalls and trampling people just because a vendor haggles too hard.”

Abernathy snorted and stomped a foot.

“You did too.”

He turned his head. It had only happened once.

“Just… stay here, Bernie, okay? I’ll be alright.” Kyra patted down the pockets of her pants, checked the weapons holster at her side, and hefted the bag. She called back as she walked away, “In and out. I’m going to grab some sugar and apples for you, some wool to make socks, and some brine for our salted meat. Winter is coming. Oh! And no overhead either! I’m fine.”

Abernathy watched from the trees as she crossed the meadow, a small hunter with her goods, as noble a carriage as any royal. He whinnied softly as she walked away and tossed his head. Kyra was nothing more than a foal in many ways, a child in comparison to the youngest of nightmares. And humans were cruel.

The nightmare pawed the ground and paced for what felt like hours, but Kyra didn’t return. Finally, he shimmered completely, spread his wings, and launched into the air above the marketplace. She wouldn’t know if he had been overhead. He wouldn’t dive into the middle of the market this time. He wouldn’t upset Kyra. He wouldn’t act like an irrational horse. He was a nightmare. Nightmares were not irrational.

But he couldn’t see through the tents and stalls and poking his head through the fabrics was exhausting and felt silly. He landed and crept through Unan. It could have been one of any of the larger towns that Abernathy and Kyra had been through. Low cottages with neat paint and yards sprawled across the grounds before the town wall with smaller and more squalid lodging just along the interior, in the shadows of the bricks that protected the city. Farther in were small houses, minor shops, leading to gardens and larger houses, a tavern, an inn. Past that was the town square, the marketplace.

People shivered as he passed; babies cried; small children watched him with wide eyes. One woman clutched her chest, her breath coming in gasps. “I need to get him to make sure the baby is alright.” A man stared at his partner with suspicion in his eyes. “You’re cheating me, aren’t you?” The marketplace dissolved into bickering and fear at his presence. He moved quickly, drawing in his influence as best he could, the power that made him a nightmare allowing him to walk through people if he chose, but Kyra told him not to do that. It made humans feel like someone had walked over their grave, or as if Death himself had touched them.

He whinnied low and waited. Only Kyra would hear him. He flicked his ears forward, listening. To the sides, listening. Back, when he didn’t hear her. He breathed in deep, checking for her scent. Kyra smelled like shadows and spice, human and horse. Kyra smelled like—

“Abernathy?” she hissed and the nightmare froze. Kyra was behind him, but she didn’t smell very much like Kyra. “I told you to wait.”

He turned to look at her. Her braids were coiled on top of her head, and she wore a gown. She had bathed.

He nickered at her softly and placed his head on her shoulder. She reached up to pat his nose and sighed. “Now you’re gonna have me looking like I’m talking to myself.”

Around them, the marketplace had reached a fever pitch of fear and one group of men had begun to argue loudly.

“Fly, Bernie. I’ll be there in a second.”

Abernathy huffed, pressed his hooves into the cobblestones, and leaped into the sky. Kyra looked up at him, her brown eyes solemn. She looked presentable, Abernathy noticed. The cream dress she wore complemented her brown skin, and she had a basket on her arm.

* * *

He found Kyra on a dark and stormy night, the best kind of night, when shadows feed well, and children huddle in their beds, when burly human men sneak glances over their shoulders. The herd Abernathy traveled with was feeding at a castle. Nightmares were known for their work with sleep and dreams, but they fed on fear, and fear could be found in many places. There were always nightmares at the healers, the apothecary, and definitely hanging around during conflict and hostilities.

The castle was in chaos, a civil dispute turned battle turned war. There had been a coup. People were dying, and the herd was eating well. Battles were waged in all corners of the palace, but victory was very clearly going to be with those who were taking over. One king or another. Someone’s cousin, someone else’s third stepbrother five times removed. Abernathy hadn’t cared. He flit through the walls, spreading a miasma of fear and defeat, feeding on the run for the joy of running. He tore through stone, his shape flashing in and out of solidity. A meld here, a solid there. Through a bed here, destroy a tapestry there. He was having fun.

Until he burst into a grain storage, and almost trampled a very small, elaborately dressed, obvious princess, crying over a dead maid. She had looked right at Abernathy, no fear coming from her, just solemn, red-rimmed brown eyes. Her hands clenched and unclenched into tiny fists. He had been startled by her. She wasn’t the first human to see him; Some could, a touch of the sight, a bit of fae blood generations removed, a magic object, but she was definitely one of the few to not lose her mind at the sight, to not be so overcome with terror that she tore her eyes out or her hair or banged her head on the floor, the wall, a sharp object. She walked over to him, tilting her head back, small fists on her hips as she bent her spine to look up, up, up at him.

Her face was heart-shaped, with a tiny, pointed chin, round cheeks and bowed lips. She touched his leg and leaned to the side to look at his back half. He followed her gaze and huffed. He was halfway in and halfway out the wall. With a snort, the nightmare walked completely into the room.

“I need to get away before they find me. Can you help me?”

He could have ignored her. He should have ignored her, but it was at that moment soldiers burst into the room, and the before-he-was-named Abernathy bared his teeth in rage. He raised up on his back legs and trampled the three men before they had a chance to recognize what was happening. When he finished, he turned to look at the tiny child. Her elaborate clothing was splattered with blood.

“Thank you.” Even the girl’s voice was even small. What did he know of small humans? But more voices sounded in the corridors.

“Find the princess.”

“First General says he stabbed her maid before she went through a secret passageway. They can’t be out of the palace.”

“She’s the only heir left.”

“Please?” the girl whispered, and the nightmare sighed. He leaned over, folding his front legs, and tilted a wing down for her to climb up. When she was on his back, he focused, shimmered, and enveloped them both in his magic.

* * *

“I told you to stay.” Kyra was angry, pacing. She huffed and stomped a foot.

Abernathy stared at her with placid eyes.

“You made things so much worse. I was trying to get some gossip. I needed to— Ugh.”

Abernathy nudged his nose into one of the bags Kyra had tossed. He gently closed his teeth on the gown and tugged it out of the bag.

“Stop, Bernie!” Kyra rushed to his side, wresting the gown away from him. Her voice was defensive. “I just wanted a bath. You make better barter when you’re not dressed like a ragamuffin scavenger.”

Abernathy tilted his head and chuffed. Kyra glared at him. He stomped a foot.

“Fine. I just wanted to be clean.”

Abernathy turned his head.

“Don’t act like that, Bern.”

He flattened his ears and lifted a hind leg off the ground.

“Oh, don’t be mad.” Kyra was silent before she finally spoke, her voice quiet and contemplative. “I just wanted to see what it felt like, okay? I’ve been with you since I was four. I’m seventeen, Abernathy, and we rarely ever talk to humans, and I saw that shop, and the lady was so nice…”

Abernathy whinnied, a bit shrill, and lowered his hind leg. He kept his ears flat and leaned over to snap his teeth near her face.

“Yes, she could have been an enemy, and I know that, but I don’t think so, Bernie.”

Abernathy blew out all the air in his lungs and unfurled his wings, raising them high and lowering them in a sharp snap.

“True. Surprises happen.” Kyra shrugged. “I would’ve been okay, Bern.”

Abernathy neighed, shrill and high-pitched.

“I said I’d be careful! I was careful!” Kyra stuffed the gown back into the bag and tossed them on Abernathy’s back. He bucked and knocked them off. “Oh, it’s like that, huh?”

Abernathy bared his teeth at her.

“Fine. I’ll walk home.” She picked the bags up, slung them over her shoulder and took off walking. Abernathy followed, seething. They hadn’t gotten far before he looked back, studying the trail Kyra left through the woods. He would need to remind her of nature walking when she slept. He caught up to her and bumped her shoulder with his and almost knocked her down. Kyra laughed.

“I win.” She affectionately rubbed the side of his face. “No more silent treatment.”

Abernathy blew his breath, a quick flap of his lips and Kyra giggled. She tossed the bags up and climbed on his back. He immediately vaulted into the sky, but his gaze remained down, watching the woods and the way they moved, as if someone were following a careful path through the trees. As if someone was following Kyra.

* * *

It wasn’t like Abernathy didn’t understand Kyra’s need for human company. Sometimes he left her to run with the herd. He couldn’t stay with them anymore, not with Kyra in tow. She wouldn’t have fared well in the shadow barn the nightmares lived in, fed, and served by a myriad of creatures who would consider Kyra a tasty morsel. But Abernathy could fend for himself, unlike the small human he fostered.

She frustrated him, but the annoying feeling in his chest, the thing called worry that he had never had before, that frustrated him even more. Which was why, while Kyra slept the day sleep, Abernathy paced the gloom outside their cave.

No humans had ever reached their hiding place. It was bathed in shadows, reinforced by Abernathy’s urine, the entrance hidden from sight. Yet, a human came. Abernathy could smell him, hear him, long before he broke the clearing. He was strong, younger than the usual mercenary. He smelled of spice, somewhat like Kyra, and had the same rich brown color of her skin. His hair was thick black ropes the size of Kyra’s thumb, neatly tied back with a leather thong. He smelled faintly of apprehension, nothing like the usual human who neared his presence.

Abernathy pushed the scent of fear out and tilted his head, waiting for the man, boy really, not as young as Kyra, but not much older, to quake with trepidation. He didn’t.

“A—” The boy cleared his throat and looked around the clearing. He didn’t appear to see the entrance, but he obviously knew they were there. “Abernathy, sir?”

Abernathy paused. He looked back into the cave, at Kyra’s sleeping spot. She was sitting up, her brown eyes wide in the darkness. She hunched her shoulders and tossed her head at him. Abernathy stomped, shimmered, and stepped from the shadow of the door.

He silently walked towards the stranger and flared his wings before allowing the shimmer to fall. The boy gasped but didn’t run. Fear wafted from him in waves, but it wasn’t fear at the sight of Abernathy. The stranger bowed and Abernathy lowered his wings, curious.

“Hello, Abernathy, sir.” The boy cleared his throat and held up a fist of hemlock flowers. Only Kyra knew what a delight they were to him. “Hello, sir. I, sir. I—”

Abernathy stared at the boy.

“He wants to know if he can come with us.” Kyra said from behind and above them. The boy made a soft noise of protest. Both males looked up at her, standing on the ledge above the clearing. “Or, and Bernie, just hear me out, maybe I can stay in Unan.”

Abernathy bared his teeth at the boy and raised a hind leg. Kyra scrambled down to throw herself in front of the stranger.

“This is Jonah. We’ve been friends for years.”

Abernathy stomped his back foot down and walked away into the cave. He nuzzled his head into one of the bags and pulled out the dress, careful not to drag it when he returned. Kyra’s face flushed when she saw what he had brought.

“Fine. Yes. The dress was for Jonah.” She threw her hands up. She snatched the gown and shoved it into Jonah’s arms. Jonah watched their exchange with wonder on his face, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. Abernathy snapped his teeth at the boy, causing him to flinch and stumble back.

“Stop, Bernie. It’s not his fault.” Kyra rubbed Abernathy’s chest and wrapped her arms as far around him as she could. “I’m sorry I lied.”

Abernathy chuffed her braids, split in two, down to the middle of her back now, and glared at Jonah over her shoulder.

“I would take care of her, sir.”

Abernathy snorted and Kyra shoved him. “Be nice.”

She lay her head back on his chest and stayed there for a moment before whispering, “I need to be with humans, Bern.”

Abernathy raised his hind leg, slowly, his wings rising at the same time.

“I know you think it isn’t safe, but those mercenaries didn’t even recognize me, Bern.”

Abernathy tossed his head at Jonah.

“He doesn’t even know, Bernie. It’s been thirteen years. We hunt them more than they hunt us. You hunt them, anyway.”

Abernathy considered her words. Kyra had never hunted the king’s men in the way Abernathy had. Once he had decided she was his, he hunted down her enemies with a vengeance, sometimes with a group of nightmares, but often alone. Sometimes with Kyra with him, but often alone. Alone.

Abernathy backed away from Kyra, nodding his head, tucking his wings and ears.

“I’m not leaving you.” Kyra’s eyes glistened with tears. “You can stay here, and I’ll come visit, or you could pretend to be a real horse, or…”

“He can’t stay, Kyra,” Jonah said softly. “I saw what he did at the market. I’ve never heard of a nightmare attaching to a human, but… I’m not surprised.”

The boy smiled at Kyra, and Abernathy saw it, the fierceness that rested in Abernathy’s chest, the need to protect, the worry. Human love.

“I just… I won’t stay if you don’t want me to, Bernie. I’ll stay with you ” Kyra said, the tears beginning to fall. “I’ll stay with you.”

* * *

The nightmare hid in the shadows, watching the burnished light that came from the window of a cottage. He had killed two king’s men on the road, far from here. They could have been coming or going, or not even planning to stop, but he still hunted them, wherever they were, whenever he caught them. They were the only thing in the world that he feared. After they died, he came to check, to see.

Kyra opened the back door and looked out. Her hair was longer now, the braids tumbling into the small of her back, adorned with shells and beads and at least six strands of Abernathy’s hair. Jonah walked up behind her, his arm snaking around her waist and pregnant stomach. The boy had filled out, man now, strong and muscled. At night, Abernathy fed him dreams of battle training, fighting styles, weapons knowledge, and other things he felt he needed to watch the nightmare’s little girl. To watch Kyra.

And the other two.

A child, a little girl of around four, wriggled past her parents to run into the darkness, giggling. She made a beeline for Abernathy. From the doorway, Kyra shook her head.

“Don’t keep her out too late, Bernie.”

“Up, Bern. Up?” The little girl reached, dancing at his side on bare feet, waiting for Abernathy to lower a wing. He did and the child climbed up, grasping tight fists of his mane until she was settled between his wings. She giggled again and Jonah smiled.

Abernathy stepped out of the shadows, a slight rustling, a chill on the wind, a nightmare with a little girl on his back. They were dangerous. He tossed his head and whickered softly at the girl’s parents; then he shimmered and took a running leap for the sky, his gallop into the air punctuated by a child’s high-pitched squeals of glee.


* * *

About the Author

A Flint, MI native and Dallas transplant, Azure Arther has been obsessed with literature since she was a child. She has found that her passion is evenly distributed between writing, teaching and reading books with her son. Her short stories and poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in nearly two dozen publications, including Midnight & IndigoAurealisAndromeda Spaceways, and a winning story in Writers of the Future, vol. 38. She is a college professor, a playwright who dabbles in surrealism and fantasy, and a children’s author. Her website is

Categories: Stories

What Is Furry Transformation?

Fursonafy - Mon 14 Aug 2023 - 06:36

  1. What Is A Furry?
  2. What Is Furry Art?
  3. What’s A Fursona?
  4. Then What’s A Furry Transformation?
  5. Is It Similar To Shapeshifting?
  6. Where Can I Find Furry Transformation Art?
  7. How Do I Commission Furry Transformation Art?
Article Content What Is A Furry?

A furry, in its simplest form, is someone who is interested in anthropomorphic animal characters. There are thousands of different sub-categories and sub-fandoms within the furry fandom but the one thing that they all have in common is their shared interest in anthropomorphic (typically cartoon) animal characters. 


We understand that there are a lot of negative connotations surrounding the furry fandom and a lot of the time it comes down to complete misconceptions about what it means to be a furry. Whether or not this is a case of weaponized ignorance or just an innocent misunderstanding is beside the point, the point is that people have the completely wrong idea about the furry fandom and will likely be even more confused when discovering what furry transformation is.

Being a furry does not mean you want to have a sexual relationship with an animal. It does not mean you want to be an animal despite what fake news reports about litter boxes being implemented in schools may lead you to believe. It does not mean your pronouns are fur/furself. These are all just gross misrepresentations of what the furry fandom is. 


So in this article, we’ll not only help you understand what a furry transformation is but also clear up the air on any rumors about the furry fandom.

What Is Furry Art?

Furry art describes art that depicts any sort of anthropomorphic animal. This would technically make movies like Zootopia full-length, Pixar-made furry movies which to an extent they are as they tick all the boxes but there is more of a culture to it. When something is referred to as furry art, it was likely made with the intention of being labeled furry art. By this I mean, the majority of the stuff that will come up when you search “furry art” are pictures of people’s fursonas.

Example of Furry Transformation Art

Image via DeviantArt

What’s A Fursona?

A fursona is a furry characterization of a person. A person’s fursona doesn’t necessarily have to resemble them (but if it does this is known as a truesona), it can be a complete binary opposite of who they are. Fursonas are just fictional animal characters, some people like to liken themselves to their fursona whether that be in the way they dress, their behavior, or their hobbies, however, this is not for everyone. 


The point stands however that there is a difference between actual furry art made by furries for furries and art that happens to tick all the boxes of being classified as furry art and that difference is the target audience. This is not to imply that the furry fandom rejects all mainstream furry content, quite the opposite is true, there is actually always love for it as it gives the fandom some exposure, but there is just a difference between mainstream furry content and furry content made by furries.

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Level up your fursona with the help of our expert designers

"The artists had amazing response times and were constantly updating me on my piece" Clara Draw My Fursona Then, What’s A Furry Transformation?

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with what a furry transformation is but not to worry there is a tie-in. Furry transformation is a type of furry art. It refers to furry art that depicts a human person progressively turning into an animal. This is usually shown through stages. At the first stage, they will be a perfectly normal human person then in the next stage they might have a tail and cat-like ears and by the final stage, they will have completely transformed into the animal sometimes keeping their human clothes. This isn’t an exact science so of course it changes from artist to artist but that is the general idea. Sometimes people will illustrate themselves transforming into their fursona other times it is just a random person turning into a fursona.

Is It Similar To Shapeshifting?

A lot of people would compare this to shapeshifting which is a trait that a lot of people give their fursonas meaning they can switch forms from animal to person to other animals. Characters like these are known as polymorphs within fantasy fandoms and can be seen a lot throughout furry fan fiction and furry culture in general. So, in short, shapeshifting is actually just a form of furry transformation. However, when the word “shapeshifting” or “transformation” is used in the context of the furry fandom it usually refers to a person turning into an animal or an animal turning into a person, as opposed to an animal turning into another animal like Druids from fantasy fandoms.

More Furry Transformation Art

Image via Furry Amino

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"My artist worked tirelessly on my reference sheet despite several complete revisions of the piece" Craig Draw My Fursona Where Can I Find Furry Transformation Art?

We’ll admit furry transformation art is pretty niche so you might have a fairly difficult time finding some but there are definitely a few places you should look whether you are just browsing for fun or you need some inspiration.


If you are looking for any sort of furry art regardless of how niche it may be Furaffinity should pretty much be your go-to every time. It is and has been the hub of all furry art for several years now and it doesn’t look like this is set to change. So, if you’re interested in finding furry transformation art, or any furry art for that matter you should definitely check out Furaffinity


This is another super popular site for furries looking to publish their artwork. Albeit it is nowhere near as popular as Furaffinity but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re struggling to find the art you’re looking for.

How Do I Commission Furry Transformation Art?

If you’ve checked out some furry transformation art and are interested in getting your very own piece commissioned then it’s worth mentioning a few things. For one, you’re going to struggle to find artists advertising “furry transformation commissioning” as it’s such a specific type of art that it’s not even worth advertising. So, when looking to commission art like this, it’s more than likely you’d have to double-check with the artist first if they are even able to pull something like that off. Lucky for you, the furry community, for the most part, is really friendly and with the right artist, they’d be more than happy to help you bring your artistic vision to life. In fact, if you put in a request for a reference sheet with us and specify that you’d like furry transformation art, our artists would be more than happy to help.

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Categories: News

Organizing a Meetup

Ask Papabear - Sat 12 Aug 2023 - 12:37
Hello, Papabear,

I've been in the fandom for a long time privately but only active in the last 2 years when my kid showed interest. We have never been to a furcon, just anime and popcons close by. My question is about furmeets. I would like to host one and having never been to one wouldn't know where to start. What advice do you have on a successful furmeet that would be inclusive to young furs and grey furs ?

Thank you for your consideration,

Dartumus (43, West Virginia)

* * *

Dear Dartumus,

What a lovely question, thanks for asking. I always love to hear about furry parents and their furry children having fun in the fandom together.

There are two types of furmeets: the ones you have at your own home and the ones that are set up at other venues.

The easiest thing to do is to invite a bunch of friends you already know who are furries and just have a party at your house. This way, you aren't dealing with any unknown factors such as a stranger coming to your house who might not be entirely trustworthy. Furry home activities can include playing board and video games and watching furry movies and, of course, lots of noms and fursuiting. Tip: if you DO have a home meet with strangers attending, make sure your valuables and prescription drugs (if any) are stowed away safely. Also, have a room where people can change into their fursuits and keep all their furry stuff and keep an eye on that room. Usually, everyone is cool, but there have been times when I have heard of people stealing stuff from furmeet houses. Finally, keep the party booze- and drug-free.

If you wish to broaden the attendance some to include allowing furries you don't personally know to attend, then I suggest organizing something away from the house. There are all kinds of options for this. You can organize a trip to the theater to see a new movie, you can go to a park and have a picnic, go bowling, or go to a state fair or other event (the best types of these events include Halloween parties and Renaissance Faires--there's a Ren Faire every June in Lewisburg, WV, if that is close to you). All of these activities are appropriate for younger and older furries alike.

If you wish to set up a regular furmeet, I suggest you create a account, then announce it on various social media websites that your local furries would use..

Good Luck!


Bearly Furcasting S4E16 - Surprises At Every Turn

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 12 Aug 2023 - 05:00

Moobarkfluff! Bearly, Taebyn, and Rayne chat about lots of things, we play some trivia, highlight upcoming events and are joined by a surprise guest. Taebyn interjects jokes at every opportunity and tries to get the catabolism phrase unbeeped. Bearly teaches us a new word. This week is very random and fundane, so come spend some time with us, you will be glad you did. Moobarkfluff all you furs!


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This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the show

Thanks to all our listeners and to our staff: Bearly Normal, Rayne Raccoon, Taebyn, and Ziggy the Meme Weasel.

You can send us a message on Telegram at BFFT Chat, or via email at:

Bearly Furcasting S4E16 - Surprises At Every Turn
Categories: Podcasts

The Mouse That Whirrrrred

In-Fur-Nation - Thu 10 Aug 2023 - 01:52

Multiple Ursa Major Award winner Rick Griffin recently self-published the novel Ani-Droids, a radical re-imagining of his popular science fiction novel Argo from 2011. “In violation of the will of the Collective, Mira McAllister set out to create a new breed of ani-droids that can think for themselves. But when she discovers a mouse-droid with unusual quirks to her programming — and darker secrets besides — she may have set in motion an accidental rebellion… The Collective must not find out. But the Collective is every other ani-droid on Earth.” Ani-Droids is available now in e-book, paperback, and Kindle editions.

image c. 2023 by Rick Griffin

Categories: News

Furry Is Having a Hard Time Socializing at Meets and Cons

Ask Papabear - Wed 9 Aug 2023 - 16:43
Hello, Papabear,

I have been following the fandom since my early teens. I WANT so badly to belong, but the few times I've reached out to locals or joined any group, I've found it to be a nightmare. The people I meet are either not great people, or I just don't fit in. The one con I went to was a terribly lonely experience.

I regretfully say that the fandom has left a bitter taste in mouth. I however, also find it hard to just "walk away." I am now a sad, lonely, semi-furry. My mental illness also makes it hard to fit in as few seem to understand. I am wondering what your advice is for fitting into the fandom or going it alone.


Anonymous (age 33, Texas)

* * *

Dear Furiend,

Yours is not an uncommon problem. The difficulty with joining local meetup groups is often that they are already an established group of friends with a hierarchy, etc., embedded into their system. The best way to enter such a group is if you are already friends with one of the members and they invite you to join. If you don't know anyfur in the group, then yes, it is hard to introduce yourself and gain acceptance. Imagine if there were a house party somewhere and you lived in the neighborhood but didn't know anyone at the party, but you decided to invite yourself in and go anyway. As you likely know, this is called being a "party crasher" or "gate crasher," so it's kind of the same thing. Of course, with a furry meetup, you need to tell the host you're coming, so it's not exactly the same as crashing the party, but I think you know what I mean. Still, people seem to think that just because we are all furries that it is okay to just show up at a meet and everyone will welcome you as a friend. Nope. The same dynamics are in play at a furmeet as they are in a normie party. This problem is compounded by the fact that many furries are quite shy, so it can be tough to break the ice.

Similarly, if you show up at a furcon all by yourself, not knowing anyone, you're going to have a lonely time. Many furries will already be grouped with friends there, and they also converge into cliques, such as gamers and fursuiters. The best con experiences I have had is when I go with (or meet up with) friends who are also attending. Have you seen the movie Coco? In it, the boy Miguel thinks his grandfather is the famous Ernesto de la Cruz, and he goes to meet him in the afterlife. Ernesto throws huuuuuge parties, and when Miguel manages to enter the giant villa party, no one pays him any attention, even though everyone there shares a love of music (just like furries share a love of anthros). But then, Ernesto introduces Miguel as his grandson; suddenly, everyone is welcoming (also, there is the fact he is a skilled guitarist LOL). In comparison, one might say that if you are friends with a popufur, you're going to get some attention pretty quickly. Same holds true, though, if you are connected with a respectable furry who might not necessarily be furry famous, or with a furry who is in an established subgroup.

Now, once you have a few friends already with you, it can be a bit easier to make new friends by just participating in various activities and sharing some experiences. For example, I met a couple of furries while going to an escape room at IndyCon. This is a particularly good activity as you have to work together to find the puzzle solutions. Another good way can be if you like gaming and can perhaps find a group that needs an extra player. Some cons also have a video game room set up, and you might be able to find someone who wants an opponent to play with.

(Side note: my furiend Michael Crisci [Dineegla Moose] is trying to organize a kind of "Welcome Wagon" at the next Midwest FurFest. The idea is to have a kind of welcoming committee at the con to provide those who are new to the experience or who are having trouble connecting with information and friendship to make their con experience more enjoyable. I think it's a great idea, and I hope the MFF organizers allow him to do it, and then maybe other cons will follow suit.)

Anyway, the best way is to meet someone beforehand and then go to the meet or con with them. You can find friends or acquaintances in a lot of social media groups ranging from Facebook to Discord. I see you are 33, for example, and could join the Greymuzzle group I run on Facebook. It's easy to meet people there and then try to see who might be going to a con you attend and see if you can meet them there.

An alternative to joining an established meetup is to create one for yourself and invite people you have met online locally. Since you are running the meetup, you can have it focus on things that interest you--whether that is board or video games or going to a movie or bowling outing or whatever. 

As for your "mental illness" (autism spectrum disorder, perhaps?), many furries have such issues, so that shouldn't stop you from furry activities. Most furries I know are sympathetic or may have the same issues you do. 

Finally, an excellent way to overcome feeling alone is to go to meets or cons as your fursona. One of the cool things about the fandom is that we can fantasize we are someone else, and these fursonas, you will find, can provide a way to gain entrance into the social world of furry, whether that is online or in real life (online RPGs are an excellent way to meet furries). So, when you go to a meet, try going as your fursona. I find that this really loosens me up, and I bet it will for you, too.

Hope this helps!

Bear Hugs,

Why is JC a yellow cat? w/JC #shorts #snippets

Fox and Burger - Tue 8 Aug 2023 - 23:00

Infurnity con chair JC talks about why he is a yellow cat. Come on, weren’t you curious too? Catch the full episode here: ---- Social Media: Official FABP Twitter: Michael: Burger: ---- #foxandburger #shorts #snippet #furry
Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 14 Episode 50

TigerTails Radio - Tue 8 Aug 2023 - 04:35

TigerTails Radio Season 14 Episode 50. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show. If you like what we do and wish to throw some pennies our way to support us, please consider sending a little tip our way. * Please note, tips are made to support TigerTails Radio and are assumed as made with good faith, so are therefore non-refundable. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Categories: Podcasts

FWG Monthly Newsletter August 2023

Furry Writers' Guild - Sat 5 Aug 2023 - 19:54

Sorry for the slightly late blog – I got distracted with the Women’s World Cup matches every evening.

Why yes, I do also have some important writing projects I’ve been procrastinating from, why do you ask?

We do have some new to share, though! Furry Book Month and Oxfurred Comma are rapidly approaching, so it’s about time to start sharing some of what we have planned.

Oxfurred Comma
Everyone’s favourite online furry writing convention will be back for another year! We will be running the convention on Twitch on October 21/22 – save the dates! Exact times TBC but expect it to run through the day on a USA schedule. Those interested in running panels are encouraged to let us know as soon as possible – with details on what your panel will be and who will be taking part. Panels can be pre-recorded or run live.

Send us an email or message one of the guild staff directly for more information on running panels.

Flash Fiction Contest
As always, we will also run a flash fiction contest with the winner announced at the conclusion of Oxfurred Comma. Exact details are still be finalised in terms of theme and how to submit. Keep an eye on our socials for more details to come.

Novel Bundle
The story bundle we ran last year was a great success, so we’re keen to do it all over again! But this time we’re intending on doing something a little different – we’re planning on two bundles! One will be a general rating like last year, and a second bundle will be for more adult-rated content.

As it was last year, we will be opening this bundle up to all self-published works by FWG members. At this stage, we have not had the necessary discussions with publishers to include any works published by them. Send us a message if you’re not sure.

Novels included in last year’s bundle will not be considered at all for this year’s bundles. Authors included last year may submit separate novels, however we will be prioritising new authors who were not included in the 2022 bundle.

Submission details will be shared soon. Like last year, this bundle will be available for a limited time during Furry Book Month.

Social Media Update
While not related to Oxfurred Comma or Furry Book Month, it is still an important situation to address. Twitter has been going through an… interesting time recently, and users are starting to leave in larger numbers. So that the FWG can maintain a strong social media presence, we are currently in the process of shifting to other platforms. It is unlikely we will fully leave Twitter at this stage, but we are in the process of setting up a Mastodon account, and should soon be getting onto Bluesky as well.

Once these two sites have been set up, we will approach guild members to get details on their accounts on these platforms – we want to keep track of all members if and when they depart Twitter!

That’s about all for the news updates this month, but there are still plenty of anthology calls open, including a few new ones from FurPlanet!

Feisty Felines and Other Fantastical Familiars – Deadline October 15th 2023
Altered States: Draconic Desire – Deadline November 30th 2023
Get Wild – Deadline December 1st 2023
Indulge – Deadline January 31st 2024
Indecent Exposure – Deadline When Full
This Is Halloween – Deadline When Full
Furry Femdom Erotica – Deadline When Full
F/F No Erotic Anthology – Deadline When Full
Isekai Me! – Deadline When Full
Children Of The Night – Deadline When Full
Furry/Lovecraftian/Erotic/University Themed Anthology – Deadline When Full
Beyond Their Pale – Deadline When Full
#ohmurr! – Deadline: Ongoing

We also invite you to check out the new and upcoming releases from guild members:

Gnoll Tales, by NightEyes DaySpring. Released June 30th 2023.

Fang Volume 11, edited by Sparf. Released July 1st 2023.

In The Light Of The Dawn, by the Furry Historical Fiction Society (featuring multiple FWG members). Released July 1st 2023.

The Red Vixen After Dark, by Royce Day. Released July 1st 2023.

The Dry Spell, by Ryan Loup-Glissant (Slip Wolf). Released July 1st 2023.

Clade, A Post-Self Anthology, edited by Madison Scott-Clary. Released August 2nd.

The Prince of Thorns, by Tim Susman. Available for pre-order. Released November 14th 2023.

Commander Annie and Other Adventures, by Mary E. Lowd. Available for pre-order. Released November 14th 2023.

We’re all looking forward to seeing your ideas for panels at Oxfurred Comma, and we hope to soon see your submissions for the novel bundle and flash fiction competition.

Until next time.
Safe writing.
J.F.R. Coates

Categories: News

Bearly Furcasting S4E15-No Bearly, More Taebyn, More Rayne

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 5 Aug 2023 - 05:00

Bearly is away at a concert and Rayne and Taebyn have the controls. This week we talk about The Past Today, Furries in the News, Media, play some This or That, finish the second part of Taebyn's story "Do Not Wish for a Pet Ostrich", and tell some really bad jokes...I mean good jokes, yeah good jokes. Join us for a fun filled episode!

This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the show

Thanks to all our listeners and to our staff: Bearly Normal, Rayne Raccoon, Taebyn, and Ziggy the Meme Weasel.

You can send us a message on Telegram at BFFT Chat, or via email at:

Bearly Furcasting S4E15-No Bearly, More Taebyn, More Rayne
Categories: Podcasts