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Robert Dash was sitting in the office of Samuel Cohen, talent agent extraordinaire. Sam had promised to supply a Santa, sleigh, and eight reindeer, nine if you included Rudolph, for the Christmas Festival that was put on by Thorne - Foster Pharmaceuticals every year for all their employees and the kids in the local area. It was a really big deal not only for the great public relations with employees and the local population but the film footage shot this year would be used for next years advertising. If it didn't go off without a hitch, heads would roll.
Robert worked in the Public Relations Department of T - F Pharmaceutical and was the Project Manager for this year's event. Success would ensure his promotion and a secure future. Failure meant… Well, he didn't even want to think about that but at that moment it was hard to think of anything else from what he was hearing.
"What the hell do you mean they're in quarantine until January fifteenth? They can't be. We have to have them here no later than this week for the Christmas show in three weeks. Yes, yes, I understand that the government quarantines all animals being imported into the country but I'm not importing the damn things, I'm just using them in a show and then they go right back to Canada. They'll only be here for three weeks, a month at the outside."
There were a number of expletives expressed just prior to Sam slamming down the phone receiver. Samuel Cohen was pissed. "I'm sorry kid. I don't know what to tell you. I've never had a problem like this with show animals before. Some officious twit at the boarder has placed all of the reindeer in quarantine for six weeks observation. It's some new regulation. Part of the new anti-terrorist rules. Nothing worse than fundamentalist reindeer on a mission. They were the only trained reindeer available at this time of year. I just can't get any others for you."
Robert felt a wave of panic wash over him. The cold chill radiated out from the pit of his stomach and his breathing became labored. "But we have to have them. They're the highlight of the entire Christmas Festival. The kids have waited all year for them. They're the centerpiece of next years Christmas advertising campaign. The film crew is all set up. You have to get them."
"No can do, kid," Sam said as he leaned back in his chair. "I've been on the phone all morning and can't get them out of lockup. They won't even let them go back to Canada. Their owner is pissed, you're pissed and I'm pissed but they're still in quarantine and will be until January 15th."
"Come on Sam. There has to be something you can do to get them out or find some others to replace them."
"I can't kid. Like I said, I've been on the phone all morning. There's only one other team of reindeer and their owner won't even consider brining them across the boarder in light of what happened. The owner can still play Santa and the sleigh and all the other equipment has been released. I can get you a team of horses, mules, donkeys, even an ox team but no reindeer. Why don't you go back to your office. I'll keep at it but don't hold you breath. I don't think it's going to happen."
Robert rose from the overstuffed couch in Sam's office and headed for the door. As he turned the knob and pulled the door open, he turned towards Sam one last time, "There has to be an answer, Sam. My future depends on the success of the Thorne - Foster Christmas Festival. If it doesn't go off perfectly I'll never have another job in PR. Do the best you can, please," he pleaded.
"I will kid, I will. It's my reputation too you know. I'll call if anything comes up but you should seriously consider the horses. They aren't reindeer but at least Santa and his sleigh will be pulled into the event and the kids will get their presents from Santa. Think about it kid," Sam said as he waved to the departing Robert.
Robert walked out closing the door behind himself. He glanced at his watch on the way to the parking garage, eleven forty-five. He had about fifteen minutes before he had to meet Lorraine for lunch at the TF Cafeteria. Shouldn't be a problem. A few minutes later, he was headed back to the Thorne - Foster campus. Lorraine worked in the TF Labs and Robert was trying to spark a relationship with her. Nothing serious yet but there were possibilities.
During the drive, his mind was in a frenzy of thought. 'I wonder if horses would be ok? Maybe they could super glue antlers to their heads? No. That's ridiculous.' He shook his head as if it would clear out his crazy, desperate thoughts and tried to come up with a plan that was actually reasonable and would work, something acceptable, but none came to him. He was screwed if he couldn't come up with a team of reindeer.
Robert was just thinking about what other jobs he could apply for when he was fired from T - F and mentally going over his resume when he drove through the main gate and turned towards the cafeteria. Another glance at his watch told him he as right on time.
Lorraine was waiting for him in the foyer when he went through the doors. "Hi. Sorry I'm running a little late. This has been a really bad morning. My life is turning to… Oh never mind. You don't need to hear about my problems. Let's have lunch."
After they were seated, Lorraine turned to Robert and asked, "What's happened? Did something go wrong with the Christmas thing?"
Robert gave out with a short, sarcastic laugh, "Ha! 'Wrong' doesn't even begin to cover it. Disaster might be a better word. Santa's reindeer have been quarantined until after the first of the New Year and no other reindeer are available. I'm a mere few days from being fired and I don't know what other jobs I'm qualified for."
Lorraine put her hand over Robert's and said, "Oh Robert. It can't be all that bad. I'm sure you'll work it all out. You always do."
"Not this time I'm afraid. It's in the hands of the government and totally out of my control. There will be no reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh at the TF Christmas Festival." Robert answered dejectedly.
"Don't say that. It's like the Doc always says, 'Nothing is ever hopeless or impossible. There's just a temporary lack of a solution.' Say, maybe Doc and the guys in the Lab could come up with am answer. They're brilliant when it comes to solving the impossible."
"I don't think that even the brilliant Doc and his team can help me out on this one. That is unless they can mix up a team of reindeer in one of their test tubes," Robert said with a wry smile.
"Don't be so sure. I've seen him pull some pretty amazing things out of his test tubes and beakers. I'll talk to him right after lunch. Now, enough worry, let's eat," Lorraine said.
After lunch Lorraine gave Robert a quick peck on the cheek and they went their separate ways, Robert back to his worries and Lorraine back to the Lab to talk to the Doc.
"Hey Doc, have you got a minute to talk?" Lorraine asked as she poked her head through the doorway to his office.
"Sure thing Lorraine. Come on in and have a seat. What's up?" the Doc answered.
She walked in and took a seat as she started to describe Robert's problem, "It's Robert, Doc. He has a major problem. All of the reindeer for the TF Christmas Festival have been quarantined by the government," She started.
Doc listened as she laid out all of Robert's problems, his mind was already starting to search for a solution. "And so I was hoping that you might have an idea that could help him out, Doc," Lorraine concluded.
"I've been thinking while you were talking and I may just have a solution but I need to check a few things out first. Do you know where they are keeping the reindeer in quarantine?"
"No. I have no idea. Do you want me to find out?" Lorraine asked.
"No. That won't be necessary. I have a few connections in the government. I can find out where they are. If my idea pans out, I'll let you know. It'll be a couple of days but I think you can tell Robert that I am fairly certain I have a solution."
Lorraine called Robert with the news as soon as she was back in her office, "He said he was fairly certain that he had a solution. Isn't that wonderful?"
"Yeah. Great if it's true but I don' know how it could be."
"Have faith, Robert. Doc rarely fails, you know that. Just hang in there for a few days and give him a chance. K?"
"Ok. I'll keep on working like the reindeer were actually going to show up and I wasn't on the verge of being unemployed," Robert answered.
"Don't be so pessimistic, Robert. Think positive."
"Well, just give the Doc a few days before you slit your wrists, ok?"
"I will. I honestly do hope he comes up with something."
Robert did not feel very much relief when he hung up the phone but he did see it as a slim thread to grab for. He would have preferred a stout rope with a life preserver at the end but this would have to do.
It was four days later when Lorraine called Robert again. She had just returned to her office after a meeting with the Doc. "Robert. Great news. The Doc has a solution to your problem. You have to come down to the Lab and see him as soon as you can," she said excitedly.
"I'll be right there," Robert returned just before hanging up the phone.
Lorraine was waiting for him as he entered the Lab and escorted him to where the Doc was working at a lab bench near the back of the Lab. "Ah, there you are Robert. I have your reindeer right here," he said as he pointed to eight test tubes standing upright in a rack. Each had a label on it listing the names of Santa's reindeer. 'Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.'
"Is this some kind of joke? If so, it isn't funny," Robert said while trying to control his anger.
"No joke at all, Robert. I found your eight missing reindeer in quarantine and took a blood sample from each of them. Then I came back here and broke out the specific DNA for each. That I combined with formula TF-40. It's a formula that we came up with a few years back so we could buy lab rats and alter them to whatever species we needed for our experiments and testing. Saved us a fortune on lab animals and kept the animal rights weirdos off our backs. So, each of your reindeer actually are in those test tubes."
"You're going to inject rats and turn them into reindeer?" Robert asked incredulously. "Sounds like that fairy tale turning mice into horses and pumpkins into coaches.
"No, no. That would never work. For one, the mass differential is far to great. Can't get anything bigger than a rabbit out of a rat. No, we need something much larger. Plus you said these reindeer were trained, right?" Doc asked.
"Yes. They're trained to pull Santa's sleigh and to be good around children. Why?" Robert asked.
"Hmm. That presents another problem. Normally I would say to use something like a deer or a small donkey but you need them trained and you'll never get them trained in time. I'm afraid there's only one solution."
"Solution? I don't understand what the problem is," said a confused looking Robert.
"The problem is that you will need something that is easily trained. Something that will understand when you explain what to do and have do it. I'm afraid that the only answer is to use humans for your reindeer. That way you can just tell them what to do." Doc said.
"Turn humans into reindeer? Are you nuts? Even if that was possible we can't do that. What the hell are you, some kind of mad scientist? If what you're saying was actually possible, and we did it, we'd be tossed into jail and have the key thrown away."
"First off, I'm a scientist but I'm not mad or nuts. Second, this is all quite possible. Third, we would use volunteers and they would be returned to normal after the TF Christmas Festival by using their original DNA."
Robert looked over to Lorraine and said, "He's actually serious, isn't he? He's talking about turning eight people into reindeer for a couple of weeks and he thinks that there would be volunteers for that? He is nuts."
"He's quite serious Robert. He actually can do it. Turn a human into a reindeer that is. As for the volunteers, there are almost two hundred people that work here in the Lab Division and I know for a fact that many more than eight have expressed an interest in doing something like this to see what it was like to be an animal. You would have more volunteers than you could use in a heart beat."
Doc added, "If you want to do this, just leave it in my hands. I will screen the volunteers, set up a temporary compound for the new reindeer to live in, train them to pull the sleigh and have them ready by the time of the festival. All I need from you is the sleigh, tack, and any other equipment that I need."
Robert was still harboring quite a bit of doubt but on the other hand, really wanted to believe what the Doc and Lorraine were saying. It would save his job and his ass. "Ok. I'll get everything that you need. There's just one thing. If this is actually possible, I wouldn't ask someone to do what I wouldn't so, if it is to be done, I'll be the first volunteer. I can have my assistant take charge of the actual running of the Festival. It's all set up so I won't absolutely have to be there."
'But Robert…" Lorraine started t object.
He turned to her and said, "No negotiating, Lorraine. I'm not going to have someone walk a path that I'm unwilling to take myself. Now I have to get back to the office and get everything set for Danielle to take over in my absence. Call me and let me know when it's all set up down here."
Robert spent the next three days briefing Danielle on everything and giving her all of his notes and paperwork. She was more than prepared to take over for him while he was handling an 'out of town family emergency.'
He had just finished with the last of it when he got a call from Lorraine. "Doc says all is ready and he's going to do it tomorrow morning."
"You actually found the volunteers?" He asked.
"Found them. We had to have a drawing to pick the winners that would be Santa's reindeer this year. There are a lot of very disappointed people down here right now. Matter of fact, Doc already has a list for next year's volunteers and the year after that."
Robert was really surprised by the number of people that actually wanted to be a reindeer for several weeks. "Wow! I never would have thought that would happen. I never would have said I would do it if it wasn't my responsibility. I felt that I had to."
"Well we have the next person on the list that would love to take your place if you want to back out. There's absolutely no reason for you to do it now." Lorraine said.
"No. I'm committed now. I have to follow through."
"Ok, Robert. It's your choice. Doc says we will all meet in the barn out in the rear of the compound. You know where that is?"
"Yeah. It's where we were going to keep the reindeer when they arrived from Canada. I've already had the eight stalls constructed for them."
"So that's where they came from. The Doc was wondering. Ok, see you tomorrow morning at eight o-clock."
When Roger hung up the phone, he felt a cold chill run through him. Just the thought of what he was going to do tomorrow morning scared the shit out of him. Why would anyone be willing to do this? It mystified him.
The next morning he was up early and took a shower. He was standing at the sink shaving when it occurred to him that the small amount of stubble that was on his face was nothing to what would be there when the Doc was done with him. He laughed and continued until his face was free of hair and then splashed on some aftershave.
He dressed in some sweats as the email from Doc had instructed and put on his tenny-runners. He went around the house and made sure all of the doors and windows were closed and locked and then turned down the heat to fifty degrees. No sense heating the place when he was going to be gone for three weeks. Robert went over his checklist one last time. All perishables were in the garbage can outside, mail and newspapers stopped, all circuit breakers off except the furnace. Yep, everything was done. He left through the front door, locked it, and headed for his car.
He parked at the barn and went in. Lorraine met him at the door and took him to the small lab that the doc had set up in the tack room. There were seven others sitting in chairs just outside the door. Robert looked at Lorraine once they were inside, "Are they the other seven?"
"Yes," She answered.
"They're all women."
"Yeah. Weird, isn't it? Luck of the draw I guess. They're the ones that were pulled out of the hat."
"Ah, there you are," Doc said. "We're all ready to get started. Lorraine said you wanted to be first so, pull up your sleeve and I'll give you the first injection."
"Hang on there Doc. Just exactly what is going to happen?" a concerned Robert asked.
"Oh. Of course. I'm sorry. All of the others were briefed at the Lab yesterday. I forgot you weren't there. Ok. The first thing is this injection. It will temporarily nullify your body's natural defenses to foreign invaders for a very short time. It also contains a mild sedative to keep you calm and relaxed. Then You will receive an injection of TF-40 in an hour that will introduce the reindeer DNA and the formula to rewrite every cell and fiber in your body. After that injection you will be led to a stall where you will strip to your birthday suit and wait. That's about it. Any questions?" Doc explained.
"Yeah, a couple. How long will it take, when will I be back to normal, and ah, how much will it ah, hurt?" Robert asked.
The Doc smiled and said, "The process will be about ninety-five percent complete by this evening. The fine-tuning and small details will occur overnight. By this time tomorrow you will be one hundred percent reindeer down to the smallest genetic detail. There will be no real pain. It will be more like discomfort similar to sore muscles and some feelings of pressure. Of course we aren't absolutely sure because we have only done this to animals and they can't explain what they feel. We can only judge that by their reactions. Your story when you return the day before Christmas should be quite interesting and informative. So, are you ready now?"
Robert nodded his head and said, "I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be so let's do it," as he held out his arm.
Doc swabbed the area inside his elbow, wrapped a piece of rubber tubing around Robert's upper arm and then with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, he slipped the hypodermic needle into Robert's vein and pushed the plunger. It was done. The process was started. There was no backing out.
Robert let out a small chuckle and remarked, "Well, that was rather anticlimactic. Not even a drum roll."
Doc smiled and said, "Ok Robert, Lorraine will take you to the waiting area for the next hour."
As they were walking down the center isle of the barn Robert heard the Doc call out, "Ok, next victim."
"Well here it is. There's a chair and a TV for you or some magazines if you want. You'll have to wait here for the next hour until the next injection. I'll come and get you when it's time. If you need anything just push that button," Lorraine explained.
She turned to go and then turned back. "Robert. I know this works and is perfectly safe but I wish you hadn't done it. Call it women's intuition or whatever but I have a bad feeling about it and you giving me that power of attorney for all of your affairs this morning didn't help one bit."
"Sorry, but it's my project. I'm the one in charge. I had to do this."
Lorraine looked at Robert and said, "I know," as she walked out the door.
An hour later Robert returned to the tack room / lab and received the second injection. As the Doc removed the needle from Robert's arm he said, "Ok, that's it. Lorraine will take you to your stall now."
They walked down the center isle of the barn again and passed the waiting area. At the first stall, Lorraine stopped and with a sweep of her arm said, "Well sir, this is it, your home sweet home for the next three weeks. You need to strip down and hang all of your clothes on that hook over there. If you're cold, you can wrap that blanket around yourself until you don't need it any longer. The Doc will be looking in on you from time to time. I'll leave you alone for now," and she left the stall and closed the door. Robert heard her throw the bolt on the door and her footsteps fading as she walked back to the tack room.
Robert grabbed the blanket off the wall hook and wrapped it around himself. The barn wasn't heated all that well and it was December. He paced back and forth in the stall nervously waiting for something to happen.
He looked around the stall and saw that the floor was covered with a thick layer of straw and that there was a trough filled with what looked like some kind of moss. There was another trough that had water in it. 'All the comforts of home,' Robert thought.
After about fifteen minutes, he felt that it might be better to be cold than have the blanket they left wrapped around him. He figured that it must be made of coarse wool because he was itching all over, especially his back and arms.
He lasted a few more minutes and then threw the blanket down on the straw covered floor with a few well verbalized curses. That was when he saw the source of all the itching. His upper body was covered with a thick wool-like mat of hair and it was working its way down his legs. 'Oh fuck! It's working. It's really happening,' he thought. Robert never really believed that it would work, or maybe he hoped that it wouldn't but that was not to be. Robert didn't know it at the time, because he never studied up on the animal he was about to become, but he was developing the wooly undercoat common to all reindeer and/or Caribou.
He watched in awe as the wooly undercoat spread down his legs with the prickling and itching as it went. 'Well, at least I'm warm again,' Robert thought to himself as he continued to pace the stall.
As he was pacing he developed a cramp in his calves. It started as an uncomfortable sore muscle and soon became an all out cramp that brought him to the floor. "Damn! So much for the not painful part." He said to no one but himself.
Robert tried massaging the cramps out of his legs for a bit but then his fingers started to hurt. He watched as his fingernails turned dark and grew to enclose his fingers leaving him with the beginnings of a two-toed hoof on both hands.
While he had been concentrating on his hands, his feet had been going through a similar transformation along with his legs. He didn't know how long it had been but the changes were moving across his body fast. His hips began to change conformation and he couldn't sit any longer. He laid down and rolled to his side. His breathing became labored. Every breath he took seemed to expand his chest further and change it' shape.
He didn't know how long he laid there because his mind drifted in and out. He never completely went to sleep but he wasn't awake either. He felt his arms straighten and his shoulder blades snap as they rotated to his sides. It was the same with his hips and legs. Nothing seemed to feel familiar any longer. It was like waking up in a strange house.
A twitching at the base of his spine signaled Robert that he now had a tail. He raised his head to look back and see what was there. That's when he noticed that his neck had also changed and was much longer and more muscular. He was able to look down the length of his body and could see that his legs and arms had completely changed his arms were now legs.
Robert laid his head back down on the straw and let out a long groan. 'What have I done? I'm an animal. I'm going to spend the next three weeks like this. I hope the Doc knows what he's doing and can change me back. I wonder what I look like.'
He raised his head again and was looking at his reformed body when it occurred to him that he was seeing things differently. He was looking at himself with just his left eye. The other eye was seeing the stable. His field of vision had changed. His entire head had changed. He looked forward and could see the long muzzle that now protruded out from his face. He ran his tongue around in his mouth. His teeth were different. He had his front teeth but there was a large gap between them and his molars and they all felt completely different. He snorted out through his nose and could feel the difference.
Robert twisted his body and tried to get his feet under him. He wanted to stand up but was unsure just how to go about it. He was finally able to get his legs in position and plant his feet on the floor. With a bit of effort he started to straighten his legs while at the same time doing the same with his forelegs, or arms as he still thought of them. Slowly and very awkwardly he was able to rise to a four-footed standing position.
Once he had steadied himself, he turned his head to the left and right and checked out his body. He no longer had just the undercoat. A thick coat of brown, white and grayish hairs had grown out through the wooly undercoat. He looked down at his legs, all four of them. When his mind thought he was moving one of his arms, one of his forelegs would move.
He slowly made his way around inside the stall trying to get used to walking on hooves and four legs. Coordination was difficult at first but came to him fairly quickly. He was wondering what time it was and decided to yell for Lorraine but that didn't work out all that well. As he tried to call out all he managed was a series of loud grunts.
The noise did however attract Lorraine's attention. As she opened the large door to Robert's stall she was momentarily taken back by the sight that greeted her. Standing up on all fours, she saw Robert looking at her with a look that was sad, confused and upset all at the same time. "Robert? Oh my God! Look at you. I can hardly believe it. Can you understand me?"
Robert made some grunting sounds and nodded his head to let her know that he knew what she was saying. Lorraine cautiously waked up to him and gently laid a hand on his forehead and then lightly petted his head. Robert moved his head over a bit and nuzzled against her chest. Lorraine wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him.
"This is going to be so great, Robert. Not only have you saved the TF Christmas Festival's main event but you and the others will be the first to ever go through this process. Just think of what you'll be able to tell the Doc. And there may be commercial applications for the process that will make a bunch of money for Thorne Foster. This could be a gold mine and you're in on the ground floor."
Robert grunted again.
Lorraine was rubbing his head when she felt something move. "What the hell?" she said as she moved around in front of him and stared. "Robert! Your horns or antlers or whatever are growing."
Robert knew something was going on. He was developing a pretty good headache and could feel something happening on his forehead. He looked up and Lorraine was backing off across the stall. "Holy shit! They're growing fast. Real fast. I think there's something wrong. They're all fuzzy. Antlers aren't fuzzy are they?"
'How the hell should I know? I've never seen a reindeer let alone an antler,' Robert thought.
Just then Doc walked into Robert's stall. "Well, you're looking real good there Robert. I need to check you out real quick to make sure everything is going according to plan."
The Doc ran his hands all over Robert's new body. He made strange sounds and said, "hmmm," a lot.
When he finished he said, "You're doing fine Robert. Everything looks real good. You're at about ninety-five percent right now. By morning the transformation will be complete. Well I better check out the other ladies and see how they are doing," he said as he headed for the door.
Lorraine stopped him and asked, "Doc, why are the antlers all fuzzy and why are there three of them?"
"Oh that's the normal configuration for reindeer antlers and the 'fuzz' as you called it is the velvet that supplies the blood and nutrients to the growing antlers. It will drop off when her antlers are finished growing. Anything else?"
Lorraine looked questioningly at the Doc, "Her?"
"Yes. Of course. All reindeer that you see this time of year pulling Santa's sleighs are female. Everyone expects to see antlers on Santa's reindeer and only the females retain their antlers through the winter. All of the reindeer that I took the blood samples from were female so naturally Robert is a female reindeer," Doc said matter-of-factly.
Lorraine glanced over at Robert and said, "Oh my."
Robert listened to the exchange and was upset at first but then reasoned that in three weeks he would be back to normal so what real difference did it make? He just turned back to his stall and walked over to the water trough. He was thirsty and that was far more important to him than what sex he was.
Lorraine and the Doc left and closed the door and Robert was left for the night. Later the lights went out and he settled down on the straw and fell asleep.
The next morning when Robert woke he got up, ate some of the stuff that looked like moss, had a good long drink of water, and was rubbing his fully grown antlers against a post in his stall before he had his first conscious thought.
'What the hell am I doing?' he questioned himself as he looked up at the post. It was covered with blood and had bits of furry flesh clinging here and there. 'Oh shit! What have I done?'
At that moment the door to his stall swung open and a man Robert didn't know walked in and gave him a gentle slap on the rump. "Get along girl. Time for you to go outside and get some fresh air. No more hanging out in the barn for you," he said.
When he got outside he found the other seven were there before him. He got his first good look at what he must look like. 'Impressive,' he thought. 'What a magnificent animal a reindeer is.'
He wandered over to the edge of the pasture where there were low hanging tree branches and started to rub and run his antlers through them. It hurt a bit but it also provided relief from an itch and irritation that was bothering him since he woke up. 'Damn it's weird having these massive things growing from my head,' he thought as he glanced over at the seven others. 'But they sure do have a regal appearance.'
By noon all eight of the new reindeer had removed all of the velvet from their antlers and were grazing comfortably in the pasture when Doc and several men showed up. Doc called out to them, "Ok ladies, time for your first lesson on pulling Santa's sleigh. Come on over here so they can get you in harness."
All of them walked over to Doc as if they had spent their entire lives on four legs. 'It's kind of weird really,' Robert was thinking. All morning the eight of us have been grazing, rubbing our antlers, and lying in the grass and never once did we try to communicate with each other.'
They spent the day learning their positions, what the commands were, how to draw the sleigh, and how to act around people. They all learned rather quickly but it was apparent that a lot more practice would be necessary before the big event.
After their lessons they were released back into the pasture for the rest of the day. In the evening they were herded back into the barn and put in their stalls. Robert noticed that all of the stalls now had names on them. His stall had a white sign with red lettering and a green boarder saying, "Dasher." Rather appropriate he thought, considering his last name was 'Dash.'
'So now I'm Dasher. This is definitely going to be an interesting three weeks,' Robert thought as he entered his stall.
Robert and the other seven settled in for the night. He ate a bit of the moss, he had found out it was called Reindeer Moss, and had a drink before lying down in the straw and going to sleep.
For the next two weeks, their schedule was pretty much the same. Sleeping in the barn at night, grazing out in the pasture in the morning, learning to draw the sleigh as a coordinated team in the afternoon, and then more grazing afterwards. Then it was back to the barn for the night to start all over again.
Robert didn't know about the others, because there was no way to communicate between themselves outside of very rudimentary and basic grunts and body language, but he found that he never consciously thought about anything at all unless something out of the ordinary came up. Even then his thoughts seemed to be more simple and to the point about things or situations.
He also found that no one really talked to any of them. Not really. Not as a person. Just as reindeer. The people around them had taken to talking to them like you would any animal. Even Lorraine had fallen into that habit. She couldn't even tell him apart from the others without reading his name plate and then she would walk up to him and say things like, "Hey girl. How you doing today." Or, "Hey Dasher, that was real good. Nice work girl." She never called him Robert, only Dasher and girl. It was demoralizing in the beginning but Robert had fallen into the routine and for the most part accepted it as the norm.
It only upset him on the rare occasions when his human consciousness came to the front but at the end of the two weeks, it had been several days since Robert had made an appearance.
It was finally the week of the TF Festival. The eight reindeer were on edge. They could tell that there was a change in their routine but what it was and what it meant didn't penetrate anymore. They just instinctively knew something was up by the actions of the humans around them.
Every day of the festival week they put on two shows. They drew Santa's sleigh into the crowd of cheering kids and their parents. They stood patiently while presents were handed out and then stood some more while the kids pet them and stood around them laughing and yelling.
At the end of the festival the eight reindeer were taken back to the barn. When Robert was led to his stall he found Lorraine and Doc were waiting for him. "Hi Robert. Are you feeling well?" Lorraine asked.
He just stood there looking at her. There was something familiar about this human. He tried to think. Tried to have some thoughts about her. He tilted his head and looked at her and then at Doc. Finally a thought came, 'I know them,' and he made a grunting sound and scraped his right fore hoof on the floor..
The Doc spoke next. He spoke slowly and distinctly, "Robert. Do you understand what we are saying? If you do, nod your head up and down."
Robert fought his way through a haze in his mind and tried to make sense of the sounds they were making. After a few moments, he slowly felt an awareness and nodded his head.
Lorraine was excited, "See? He's still there Doc. He understands you."
"Yes, that may be, but I fear it's only on a very basic level. I don't know if he will ever come back."
"Yes he will. I know he will. I just need to keep talking to him," Lorraine insisted.
The Doc looked at Robert seriously and then turned to Lorraine, "Ok. You keep talking to him over the next twenty-four hours. If Robert actually returns to the point that we can communicate the information to him we'll ask him what he wants to do. If you can't talk to him and make him understand you, then we follow my plans for her future. Understand?"
"Yes, Doc. I'm going to spend the night with him. Robert will be back. I know he will."
Lorraine spent the night with Robert. She talked to him and, as time passed, he became more aware and was able to respond more and more. They slept off and on with Lorraine lying next to him in the straw wrapped in the blanket. There were times when he felt annoyed by this human and just wanted to drift away and not be bothered anymore but she would bring him back time and again. Her constant attention would not allow him to get mentally lost in his reindeer state of mind.
By late afternoon she was having fairly decent conversations. He was giving yes or no answers to most of her questions when Doc showed up again. "So, how is it going?" he asked Lorraine.
"He's doing great. Why don't you talk to him?"
"Good morning Robert. Are you feeling well?" he asked him.
Robert looked at the Doc and nodded his head.
"Are you aware of everything that has happened during the last three weeks?" Doc asked and Robert nodded again.
"Ok Robert. I'm glad to see you are still with us."
Robert looked at the Doc with a questioning look and head tilt. He wondered what had gone wrong. Did something happen to the others?
His thought were interrupted by the Doc speaking again, "I imagine that you are wondering about the others or if there are problems. The answers are, the other seven are fine and are right now almost all the way back to normal and yes, there were some problems. It seems that all eight of you became lost in the identity of the reindeer. You were the worst of the eight. We knew that, when an animal was transformed, it adapted to its new form rather quickly but made the assumption that the human brain and thoughts would remain superior to the animal and not succumb to the more basic instincts in the same way. We were wrong. Are you following me, Robert?"
Robert nodded his head again. He was glad to hear that all the rest were ok.
The Doc began again, "You seemed to become more enveloped in the mental state of the reindeer than the others. We didn't recognize this at first. Not until the last few days. Then we ran into another problem when I was mixing formula TF-40R to return you to your human form. The formulas for the seven women mixed and tested perfectly, yours did not. Your return formula was repeatedly rejected and it took us quite some time to trace the cause. Are you still following me?"
Now Robert was becoming concerned. 'Oh shit! Am I stuck as a reindeer?' he wondered but nodded his understanding.
"Good," Doc said. "It took us a bit to track the reason for the rejection but we got it. It had to do with your chromosomes. When I gave you the reindeer formula it had the XX chromosomes for the female reindeer. That entered your system and started the changes. Those changes utilized your X chromosomes and eliminated your Y chromosomes and the changes went forward normally. Do you understand all of that so far Robert?"
Again Robert nodded. He was no scientist but even he knew about the X and Y chromosomes.
"That's good. I'm glad you're following me. Now listen closely to this part. As I said, when we mixed the formula to return you to your human form it repeatedly rejected. It kept testing out as human female. We finally tracked down the reason. There was no Y chromosome in the reindeer for yours to work with, only the X, so there was no way for it to test out as human male. Do you understand the ramifications of what I am saying?"
The Doc stopped and looked at Robert. The question hung in the air. Robert stared back at Doc, his mind working on what Doc had just said, 'No Y, only X. If there is no Y then there is no way the formula can make me male. It only has the X so it can only return me as a human female. No. That can't be what he means.' Robert went over what Doc said several more times but came to the same conclusion… and he didn't like it. Didn't like it one bit.
The Doc saw the light of understanding in Robert's eyes and in his body language. "That's right Robert. I can see that you understand what I'm saying. When we thought that your mind had converted irrevocably to that of a reindeer, it was my opinion that we only had one option… to just leave you as you are, a female reindeer, but Lorraine wouldn't hear of it. She felt certain that she could reach you and she did. Now we have two options and the choice is yours. You can, of course, remain as you are, or…" Doc left the obvious unsaid.
Lorraine spoke up, "You have to come back. I can help you. I can teach you everything you need to know. It'll be a great life. Maybe not the one you had planned but plans have to change sometimes."
Doc spoke up, "It's up to you Robert. Lorraine and I will leave you alone for a short while to think about it and make up your mind. When I come back I will need an answer."
Doc and Lorraine left Robert in his stall and closed the door. Robert paced the straw covered floor for a bit, ate some of the reindeer moss, had a drink of water and the laid down to think, to sleep: perchance to dream.