The first week of my summer break was
interesting, to put it mildly. All right, Ill admit, that was the understatement of the month. My parents work for an electronics corporation, and they were both scheduled to attend an exposition set to take place in California just after school let out. That would mean I would be left alone at home, with absolutely nothing to do outside eating, sleeping, and playing video games. That wouldnt be all that bad, but my parents didnt like that idea. So after some pleading on the part of my mother, the company decided to send me along with them. Thus, two days after school let out, my parents and I were shipped out to California in Business Class on a Delta Airlines flight.
This was a chance of a lifetime for me. While my parents sat in conference I got to scour the expo floor for the coolest new gadgets, hardware, basically the latest in technological innovations. Unhindered.
The non-business part of the expo, open to the public, took place in an arena of titanic proportions. The floor was PACKED. On average I had no more that about 2 and a half square feet of elbowroom. But it was worth it. I got a peek at Apples new iPod, (all new, improved touch screen) I took Battlefield 4 for a test drive on Alienwares latest desktop, (it was top-notch) and I even scored a 30-second interview with Sonys president or CEO, or something like that. I chatted with him about his thoughts on the gaming industry and where Sony was going with it. He said to me the corporation was currently developing the successor to the PSR (PlayStation R, the successor to the PSP and Sonys current handheld) and was always developing new games for the PS4. Normally, I'd be found at the Nintendo booth, but Nintendo wasn't here. My pick for best in show, however, didnt show itself until later.
Tucked in a corner, away from the hubbub of the main concourse was a booth set up by a firm called Advantech. The booth was rather large, and that surprised me because if this company could afford such a large booth, they must be pretty big, so why hadnt I heard of them before? Their slogan, inscribed below the company name, was Technology so advanced, youd swear it was magic! I snorted at that. Try me. I can normally figure out how any piece of hardware works if you give me 2 minutes with it, and magic certainly does not exist. Only technological magic existed, stuff like fireworks and laser shows. That challenge redirected my course from a path to the restrooms to a path towards Advantechs booth.
As soon as I got 5 feet from the booth a salesman, a guy about 25 years old, with a nametag bearing the name Jerry on it, walked up to me with a cheery smile on his face.
Anything I can do for you, sir? he queried.
Nope, just browsing at the moment
Let me know if you need anything! leaving it at that, he left. Some people can be so annoying... They dont get the hint that if I have a question, I will come to them; they are not to come to me.
I made my way through their booth. Their products ranged from stoves that could be activated by a text message from a cell phone to watches that could display satellite TV. They were pretty flashy, but as far as I was concerned, there was nothing magical about them. As I neared the exit, I saw the salesman that had greeted me earlier duck behind a piece of fabric that I had before assumed to be the border of the booth. But, obviously, there was more to this place. There was no sign saying Employees Only or anything to that effect on or around that piece of fabric, and on a whim I followed him in.
He had disappeared from my view when I reached the other side. There was another product on display here, so I didnt feel the need to go back. If theyve got products for show back here, why shouldnt I be allowed? I walked up to the display and looked at the merchandise. This particular product didnt fit along with the other gadgetry I had seen in the rest of the booth. It was a costume, a costume for some sort of creature with fur. Reddish fur... perhaps a fox? OK, definitely a fox, I see the tail. The costume was in a plexiglass case, hanging from a special stand in the case. It was hung rather haphazardly, as if it were a coat hanging on a rack. To me it was odd to see it in a booth belonging to a company such as this; zip on suits such as these were replaced by holographic technology years ago. I turned my eyes towards the placard in front of the costume. It read:
This all new, never before seen costume utilizes the most advanced technology of today. Unlike our competitors holographic products, our costume architecture provides FULL tactile and sensory feedback, raising the realism of being the subject of the suit to an unprecedented level. This prototype of a vixen endows the wearer with the feeling of truly being a vixen: the wearer can smell, feel, hear, see and taste as a fox would. The embedded sensors in the suit transmit the data they collect to the brain for analysis, and the brain interprets it as it would signals from human senses. The suit cuts off signals from the human senses during use to prevent interference. A holographic costume only fools the eyes. This one fools all the senses! Coming to stores Spring 2019.
Wow. Thats new. Interaction between circuits and neurons is exceedingly difficult to achieve; apparently these guys mastered it. That still left one question, one that I mumbled to myself,
Why? I couldnt see why someone would want to look like a fox. The human bodys good enough for me; I have no need for a tail. Of course, heightened sensory awareness could be useful, especially in military applications, but you dont need to look like a fox to achieve that. Hmmm
well, there are those furry nuts out there who want to look like
how should I put this? A human and animal cross? An animal that can stand upright? I should probably say they want to look like a humanoid animal. They take a human body and modify it with the fur, paws, snout, ears, and tail of a specific animal, usually a cat, dog, fox, wolf, et cetera. Anthropomorphic animals are the politically correct term. Theyre the only people that this sort of technology would be beneficial to. And I only know about this sort of thing because Jenna, the girl that sits next to me in Language Arts, is one of those nuts. She took the time to explain it to me during class the other day. She even showed me some sample artwork she carried around in a binder, stuff that she drew. Anthro artwork, she called it. I think she was trying to make a convert out of me.
Hey, how did you get in here?
I did a quick about-face. The salesman from earlier had reentered. I just walked in.
How did you know this was here?
I saw you go behind that curtain and curiosity took hold of me.
Oh. He sighed, reluctantly. Well, I see youve discovered our latest design prematurely. See, it wasnt supposed to go on display until tomorrow, so its back here. Were still running tests to be sure this prototype is in full working order. In fact
he trailed off. He was giving me this look of interest. Our test person is out sick today. And you appear to have the same build they do
Would you like to try the fox costume out?
Are you nuts? Thats a VIXENS costume! Im a guy, not a girl.
So? Our lead testers a guy. He enjoys himself when using the suit.
Then he needs his head checked for holes!
Youre sure? Well pay you for your time.
Hmmm, theres a solid incentive. Im constantly short on cash, and I have to beg loans from my parents. How much?
50 bucks for a full field test. Shouldnt take more than 20 minutes.
WOW! Ill do it! I said. 50 bucks for 20 minutes of my time. What a deal!
The salesman smiled. I knew you would. If you could wait here for the public to leave, we can get started. And with that he disappeared through the same curtain I had gone through.
Wow, what a great deal! $50 just to get in that pointless suit and run tests, whatever the hell they are. Hell probably have me testing the sensory feedback of the suit as well as the integrity of the fabric. This is gonna be so easy!
I played my Nintendo handheld to pass the time. The background noise of the crowd diminished, then vanished completely after a while. Soon enough, the same salesguy came in again, this time escorting this middle-aged man who was wheeling a dolly. They acknowledged me, then placed the case holding the prototype costume onto the dolly, covered it with a sheet, then wheeled it out of here. Shortly thereafter they both came back and fetched me. I followed them to a door off the expo floor, and went through it to a hallway without windows, and went a couple doors down to a room without windows. The place reminded me of my High School. Obviously some top-security storage for the show. The middle-aged man went over to a metal briefcase sitting on a small countertop. I noted the complex locking system on the case. Theres probably sensitive documents in there.
Jerry turned to me and said, Matthew, I would like you to meet Dr. Graham Howe. Hes the head of R&D at Advantech.
Howd he know my name? Oh, yeah, its printed on my nametag. I gave Dr. Howe a nod. He nodded back.
Mr. Matthew, if you could kindly step over here so I can prepare you
Prepare me? What the hell does he mean
? I saw him twiddle the knob on the locked suitcase for a moment, then it clicked. He opened it as I walked over to him. He pulled a headset, (one of those tiny Bluetooth models) a walkie-talkie, a notebook, and a pen from the case. He then shut the briefcase, twirled the knob to lock it, and set it down in a corner of this windowless room. He handed me the tiny headset.
Here, youll need this for communication in and out of the suit.
Wont my ears be under the fabric?
No, because remember, with the suit on the signals from the human ear arent recognized; only signals from the costumes sensors. He went over the plexiglass case containing the vixen costume. He reached in and hung it properly, so that I could see the front of the costume. I hesitated momentarily; the fox was wearing no clothes. But thoughts of a $50 bill kept me going. Now, Jerry and I are going to step out of the room to allow you time to get in the suit. I need you to strip yourself, and when youve done that, contact me with the headset.
They both left. I glanced at the costume again, then proceeded with taking off my clothes. The task finished, I suddenly appreciated the fact that this room was windowless. I picked up the headset and turned it on.
What do I do now?
On the other end, Dr. Howe said, Now, go over to the costume. You will see that it is currently unzipped. Place your left foot inside the left leg.
I stepped over to the case and squeezed myself in. The foxs fur was warm against my skin. It was highly realistic. I stepped my left leg into the vixens left leg. All right, next? I asked the headset.
Place your right leg in the costumes right leg.
Like I didnt see that coming. I did as I was told. Now do I place the arms in?
Yes, came the reply. I placed my left arm in the left sleeve, transferred the headset from my right hand to the vixens left, and placed my right arm in its sleeve. I was getting slightly nervous.
I brought the headset to my face and said, Finished.
Now, for the last bit, youll need to get the head on. It simply zips up in the back of the head. See the zipper? Be sure you dont drop the headset, and when youve finished, unhook the costume from the stand, but dont zip it up yet.
The head of the vixen was attached to the rest of the costume by the skin on the front of the neck. As best as I could with my arms in the vixens paws, I flipped it up over my head. I could see out the costumes eyes into the world. I felt for the zipper hidden by fur on top of the head, and pulled it down to complete the process. I felt like Darth Vader getting his suit put on for the first time, and I was getting more nervous by the second. I reached up and took the costume out of the stand, as I might remove a coat from a coat rack. Unsupported by the stand, the weight of the costume fell on my shoulders. It was very lightweight, considering the amount of technology stuffed into it.
I said back to Dr. Howe, Now, do I zip it up?
Well, you dont. Again, without dropping the headset, feed the zipper into the slot on the back wall. The pulltabs right above the tail. Theres a motor in that slot thatll zip up the costume for you. The slot should be highlighted with a white stripe.
I twisted around as much as possible, located the zipper just above the foxs tail, and fed it into said slot. It was difficult due to the position in which I was working, and compounded by the fact that with my hands in the suits paws. It was like trying to tie your shoe with mittens. The pull-tab finally clicked into place. I then said into the headset, Done.
Good job. Now, when I say go, drop the headset. It wont break, trust me. The motor will zip up the costume. Prepare yourself; thisll come as a bit of a shock when you find yourself a fox morph. All systems go? I dont think I had ever been so nervous. Maybe this wasnt what Id bargained for. Oh well, Im getting paid for this, so
All systems go, I told him.
I dropped the headset from the vixens padded paws. I heard a whirr, and I felt the costume constrict as the zipper was pulled up. I closed my eyes, and realized that when I open them again, I wouldnt feel human any longer. The zipper moved up farther, (it was about halfway up) and farther, (about at my shoulder blades) and farther still, (nearly there!) then it stopped.
Right then, a chain reaction was catalyzed that turned my entire nervous system upside down. Explosions of information detonated in rapid succession. It wasnt a painful sensation, it just made me dizzy. My body felt very odd, it was an indescribable feeling. I suppose it was then that my cerebellum was adjusting itself to the new muscles it had to work. My sensory areas pounded as they reset to the vixens sensors. All was chaos in my neural matter. I was paralyzed.
But not for long. The static died down in the course of about 10 seconds; it was gone in 15. My eyes were still closed; my limbs paralyzed. But my thoughts werent. I gave my vitals a cursory glance. Everything checked out, my lungs were pumping, my heart was beating, albeit faster than normal, I didnt feel any pain or nausea or anything like that, and my body felt fine.
Or was my body fine? It felt
just weird, disorienting. I concluded this was because of the new signals from the costume. But were they truly synthetic signals, coming from man-made sensors? It didnt seem like it. I slowly opened my eyes, then shut them tight again upon seeing my muzzle. I had a muzzle! Not like it wasnt coming, but it still came as a shock. Summoning my reserves of willpower, I bravely opened my eyes all the way and stepped out of the costume case.
Shortly after that my sense of hearing regained proper function. I could hear a hell of a lot more than I thought I should be hearing. I could hear that air conditioning unit I walked past on my way in from here! Next was smell. I could easily, almost subconsciously, pick out my smell in this room. My human scent, that is. I could also pick out who had recently been here: Jerrys aftershave and the aftershave of Dr. Howe were heavy in the atmosphere, along with the trace scents of a few other people. As a human, I suppose the smell wouldnt have bothered me, but now, with my nose being much more sensitive, it was nearly choking.
Oh yeah, Im supposed to be using that headset now. I bent down to reach it, but then I realized my vixens body was still without proper clothing. I picked up the headset and said, Im
and stopped there. My voice was noticeably higher in pitch. This damn thing changed my voice, too! It makes perfect sense now that I think about it, but again, it was completely new to me and it caught me by surprise.
Matt? Are you there? asked Dr. Howe.
Yes, Im alive and well, but completely naked.
I heard laughing from the other end of the line. Both Jerry and Dr. Howe were laughing. Oh, sorry about that, Dr. Howe said back, with Jerry still laughing in the background. Look in the cabinets, we always use this room for the costume tests so the clothes that fit it are in one of them.
I searched the room and found them. In that cabinet I came across a skirt with a tail hole in there. Yikes, I forgot, I have a tail now. I turned my head around and attempted to give my tail a swish, and it responded naturally. It was quite bushy. Wow, I didnt think even their technology could grant the costume wearer use of a tail. Cool. I put everything she needed on, and I hope I got everything on and in the right places. Im pretty sure I did. Keep in mind this my first experience with handling female clothing.
You can come back in, I said into the headset. I set it down on the counter space as Dr. Howe and Jimmy reentered the room.
Oh, sorry about the clothes. I forgot to tell you about that before we left, Jimmy said. The doctor said nothing. He stepped closer to me and gave me the once-over.
The transformation appears to have gone well, Matt. (Transformation? What the hell is he talking about?) The suit fits you perfectly. Howre you feeling?
I answered back, Very surprised, a little nervous, more than a little woozy, and very disoriented.
He lifted an eyebrow. You dont feel any nausea or pain?
I shook my head. Nope. Should I?
No, because that would mean something is wrong. Well, this makes my life easier, the doctor said, sounding relieved. Now I know that the technology can work on virtually everyone. Now, I do suppose you want to get a look at yourself? He walked over to the costume case.
Yeah, I answered.
Then simply look here, and he closed the plexiglass door. The door was reflective, and I glimpsed myself as if I was looking at myself in a window. I very nearly passed out right then and there.
My appearance, had, like many other things today, taken me by surprise. Up until that moment I had simply considered this to be some sort of out-of-body experience, but now I fully appreciated the fact that I was not out-of-body, I was in a new body. I wasnt simply controlling the actions of and seeing through the eyes of this fox, I was that fox. From here I could see that my eyes had changed from my human color of fir tree green to a luminescent blue, an almost sparkling blue. The sparkling was probably due to the fact that some animals retinas can reflect incoming light back at its source for better night vision. I did a quick 360. The only thing distinguishing me from a true morph was the zipper. But for all intensive purposes, I was an anthropomorphic vixen. My ears flicked in different directions as needed, and my tail responded to my every move. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Not to mention that I was entirely furry.
I couldnt imagine how Jenna would react if she saw me now. I wonder what my reaction would be if I met a girl looking like this. I think I might find her quite cute. Possibly even sexy. Which is a pretty big deal, because I am the least romantic person I know. I simply dont choose to pursue a girlfriend. I dont have the time, patience, or disposition, for that matter. But this costume could really do wonders.
Its cool, huh? Jerry asked.
of course, I answered. Have you ever put it on, Jerry?
Yup, I tried it on once. I dont think I ever want to do it again.
I dunno, I just think its weird.
I turned to Dr. Howe. Do you need me to do anything? Like stretches or running or anything?
Nope, you completed the test just by successfully transforming into the vixen, so as soon as you get out you can get your money and leave, Dr. Howe replied.
Interesting word choice. Transform. Hes used that twice now. The first time I thought he was just saying that I looked much different. Now, Im thinking he means that I am a fox morph. I just put the suit on, its not like my human body has changed, and Im still human under this fabric arent I? I reached my paw up to the spot where my human ears normally are. Now, if I was still human under the fabric, I would be able to feel the ear cartilage under the fabric. I reached up and felt nothing. Just fur. There were no bumps there that identified the presence of my human ear. Oh shit, what the hell have these freaks done to me?
Okay, calm down, calm down. It simply could be the programming of the suit. Some wise guy added a limiter to the touch sense that keeps the wearer of the suit from feeling their human ears under the suit. So, technically, I really am feeling my ear with my finger, but the information that its there gets lost on the trip to my brain. But whats the point of adding that in? I wonder if they limited the visuals? I stepped closer to the makeshift mirror of the case. My reflection still wierded me out, but I turned my head so that I could see where my human ear would be. I saw nothing, no bumps showing through the fabric. I touched it again. Nothing. So, either the programmers at Advantech are really savvy, or Im not human anymore. I forced myself to believe the former, though a small part, the part of my mind that is most active during my daydreams, still held that I was no longer human. I thought back to that signs subtitle: Technology so advanced, youd swear it was magic! I was starting to believe that was true: this was magic. But I quickly pushed the matter to the back burner. Who cares what it is? I can always just get out of the suit. Its not like Im stuck like this
Thankfully, I dont think either Jerry or Dr. Howe noticed my brief panic. I turned to Dr. Howe. Could I
Could I have just a few more minutes in the suit? Alone? I asked.
Certainly, said Dr. Howe. He motioned to Jerry, and he left the room with Howe and closed the door behind him. I could hear Jerry sniggering in the hallway. Dr. Howe hushed him, and said Matt deserves a few minutes alone; thisll probably be the only time Mattll be able to do this. That made me grateful towards the old man.
I went to my human pants on the floor and pulled my digital camera from the cargo pocket. I set it to Timer, with some difficulty owing to my unfamiliar paws, then laid it on the countertop, and pressed the shutter. A red light blinked a few times while I posed, then the shutter opened and it snapped my picture. I picked up the camera again and reviewed the picture. It turned out well, but
I spent about 5 more minutes taking and retaking my picture until I got several worthy of sending to Jenna. Just for me, I took several topless/nude ones to drool over later. I forwarded all the pictures to my laptop at the hotel via wireless connection, to the encrypted folder nobody can access but me, and locked the pictures under a password on the memory card to save them from any accidental deletion or unauthorized viewing. I turned the camera off, replaced it in my pants pocket, and took off my shirt to admire the vixen costume. It truly was an engineering marvel, and sexy to say the least. Pity I didnt have a two-piece swimsuit to try on then. I took a long look at myself in the door of the costume case, taking special care to commit this image to memory. Every detail was to be archived for later recollection. The look, the emotions, the feelings, the thoughts of the day. I cataloged it all away, and it was then that I realized, I dont want to go back. I was enjoying this. Thats about the last thing I expected. I was turning into that tester who I was replacing, a guy who enjoyed being a fox morph. But then I thought, if I looked this way for the rest of my life, what would that life be like? It wasnt a pretty picture. Besides, back here in the human world I have friends, I have family, I have high school and college to finish, I have my whole life ahead of me! I think that suits software was messing with my head. I put my shirt back on and called Dr. Howe in. Jerry did not appear.
Are you ready to take the costume off? he asked.
Then Ill step into the next room. Youll need to strip yourself again. Use the headset to let me know when youre ready. And he left.
I took my clothes off, folded them neatly, and put them back in the cabinet from which I got them. I reluctantly took the headset into my hands and stepped inside the plexiglass case. I took one final look of longing upon my furry body. I felt it all over to reassure myself of its reality, then radioed the doctor, Im set.
What you need to do is essentially the reverse of how you put the costume on. Youll need to get that zipper in that slot again. Tell me when youre ready.
I turned my head to locate the slot, and blindly attempted to fit the pull-tab in it. It was harder this time because I couldnt see what I was doing. The pulltab was out of my field of vision. I succeeded after a few moments. Done, I radioed back.
Now, when I say go, drop the headset again. The zipper will move downwards, and as soon as it starts youll feel human again. Ready?
I considered myself for a moment. Oh, how I wish I could stay this way for just a bit longer! But I knew, in the back of my head, that if I didnt get out of this thing NOW, I would never have the willpower to go back. So I answered with, All systems go.
And so, my masquerades as a vixen came to an end. When the zipper stopped, I zipped the head off, stepped out of the suit, hung the furry shell on its stand, fingered the warm fur for a brief moment, then put my human clothes back on. I radioed back to Dr. Howe that I was out and dressed, so he could come back in. He presented me with two twenties and a ten, (over the course of the 20 minutes that I was in the suit I had forgotten that I was being paid for this) and escorted me out of the building. Before I started for my car, though, he requested my full name, address, and email so that he could contact me again, if he needed a tester. I considered saying no. If I got back in that suit, what stupid things might I do? But by the time he needs me again, Ill surely have matured, and thus have better judgmental skills. Hopefully I can convince my parents to let me come out to California for the additional testing he may have me do. I wrote the information on a piece of notebook paper and handed it to him. I waved goodbye, got into my rental car, and started for my hotel.
The following day, I returned to the expo. The night before I simply told my parents I ran into traffic and forgot to call them to explain my absence. I chatted with Jerry at the Advantech booth for a bit, but the subject of the costume was not brought up. I saw Advantechs press conference, at which Dr. Howe demonstrated the properties of the prototype suit. He had gotten somebody else to put it on for the cameras. It mightve been Jerry, I dont know. Not like I wouldnt have done it myself, because unless I had a nametag on or something no one would know it was me. It received a fair amount of applause; it wasnt uninteresting to the audience.
After we arrived home I forwarded the pictures of my vixen form to Jenna. How I acquired her email address I do not know. She emailed me back, telling me that she was excited that such technology existed now, and was, of course, jealous that she didnt get to try it herself. After several days of pestering me to tell the full story of my time in the suit, I typed my memories of it up and sent it to her as an email attachment. Soon enough we became friendly enough to trust each other with our IP addresses, and we had regular chat sessions. During them Jenna would tell me that she had reread my story to the point that she could quote from it. I actually ended up going to Homecoming that Fall with her. But that was only because my friends bribed me to ask a girl out. Else I wouldnt have done it. I think that when Dr. Howe contacts me again for help, Ill send her in my stead.