Endless Possibilities: A MORFS Universe Story
Life is all about choices. Things we choose to do. Things we choose not to do. Even choices we choose not to make. Then, there are the things we don’t get the option of choosing, things like family, race, gender, and MORFS, or not MORFS in my case.
My name is Michael Thomas. I’m thirty five years old and a fat balding white guy. Unlike many people, I did not contract MORFS when I was a teenager. Or, more accurately, the MORFS DNA inside me was never activated by a cold or flu or something. That means that I didn’t spend a week feeling like a pair of socks after the Boston marathon and that I didn’t wake up in a new body with new attributes and abilities.
In other words, I’m boring. Not that I don’t have a personality, I’m actually quite the extrovert and have often been accused of being charismatic, it’s just that there is very little remarkable about me. Fortunately for me, I went into the only profession where being boring is a virtual job requirement. I’m a high school teacher. Specifically, I’m an English teacher in Denver, Colorado.
I chose to teach English because I love books. Most of my own childhood was spent with my nose in a book and with my head in the clouds. I especially enjoyed ancient mythology, stories of gods, goddesses, heroes, and monsters. My other favorite genre was late twentieth century literature, specifically the works of the great masters of the era: Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce, and Stan Lee. My masters thesis had been on the cultural impact of the X-men.
I chose to teach high school because of MORFS. I’m sure you know the history well enough, botched terrorist attack + DNA mutating = complete sociological revolution. My position allows me the rare opportunity to observe the social impact of the condition as it unfolds.
This is where I make a potentially dangerous confession. I love MORFS. MORFS literally brings the dreams of countless generations to life: Telepaths, werewolves, sprits of the elements, flight. Hell, man has been wishing to fly since he first looked up and saw a bird. Now, eons later, I can name at least a dozen of my students who have wings. That little microscopic slug of chaos has created people with powers once reserved for only the Gods themselves.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those MORFS fetishists. I don’t believe for a moment that MORFS survivors should rise up and conquer the world. I don’t believe that the MORFed and unMORFed are naturally superior or inferior to each other. Most importantly, I don’t experience uncontrollable lust for anyone who is an obvious survivor. (Although, I did once date a tiger hybrid who knew some interesting things to do with her tail, but that’s another story) I simply have a unique point of view when it comes to something that some people hate, most people accept as part of life, and all teenagers fear.
This admittedly unusual combination gives me an interesting position with regards to the student body. Most of them like me as a person and hate me as a teacher. Did I mention that I’m one of those teachers that never lets kids slack off and expects them to actually work for their grades? Despite this many of the students like me because of my view of MORFS. I’ve taught a great number of students about mythology simply by telling the newly MORFed what characters and stories they now resemble.
What I didn’t realize at first was that many of these students had used my storytelling as inspiration when choosing their code names. For those of you living under a rock, most kids that transform come up nicknames that describe their new bodies and powers. For example, a female water elemental might start calling herself “Aqua.” Some students had even started calling me the Name Master and I did nothing to discourage this. By the time this story starts, coming to me to hear a story and take a name had become something of a rite of passage at this school.
“Aren’t dragons, like, evil monsters or something?” Asked a freshman girl named Samantha. She had just been cleared to return to school yesterday and it was her first day back. She’d turned into a lizard hybrid with red and orange scales over most of her skin, a forked tongue, tail, and large bat like wings on her back. It all combined to make her look like a classic dragon. She even had some low level power as a fire elemental. She hadn’t learned to use it yet, but I knew she’d be breathing fire inside a month. I doubted that she had any actual dragon DNA spliced into her, as those creatures were unbelievably rare (though it wasn’t beyond the range of possibility), but it made for a nice image and gave me something to work with.
“Hardly.” I scoffed at her question. “Dragons are simply misunderstood. They go about their business until some dumb jock of a knight wants to make a name for himself.” I thought I heard her giggle at that. It was the first smile I’d seen from her all day.
“S . . .so what are dragons really like?” She asked, her voice shaking. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it. She thought she was a monster and had probably run into others that had told her as much and worse. I flashed her a smile as I launched into my story.
“For centuries, dragons have represented everything we as humans don’t know. They are what spur men to explore. That’s why the earliest sailing maps had dragons around the edges. They were a symbol for ‘We don’t know what’s out here. Go find out.’” I accompanied myself with finger quotes. For the first time, Samantha was looking me right in the eye rather than glancing nervously around the room. I had her full attention.
“Dragons are the most prolific of all magical creatures. They appear in every culture around the world. In Egypt, a dragon like being helped the god Anubis judge the souls of the dead. To the Vikings, every mountain on the horizon was a ridge in the back of the giant dragon that encircled the globe, a dragon that was fated to destroy Thor during Ragnarok. In Asia, dragons are symbols of great power and wisdom. They embody the perfect balance of yin and yang. In Chinese mythology, it was the dragon queen Tiamat that created the universe and gave birth to the very gods themselves.”
“Tiamat?” She rolled the word around in her mouth for a few seconds to get the feel of it. “Tiamat.” A grin flashed over her face and her eyes lit up with a spark I hadn’t seen before. Considering her untapped fire elemental ability, I’m not sure that wasn’t a literal spark. Still smiling from ear to ear, Samantha got up and ran out of the classroom. As soon as she was outside I could hear her say to her waiting friends. “Hi guys, call me Tiamat!”
The Name Master strikes again. Sure, I’d fudged a few of the details and deliberately not mentioned instances where the dragon really was the evil monster, but I was willing to sacrifice accuracy in order to give that girl a better self image. Sadly, it was time to swap out my white cowboy hat for the black model. In other words, it was time for class.
The bell rang with its traditional monotony. And wonder of wonders, the majority of the students were on time. There were a few students missing because they needed extra time to shower and dress after the MORFS gym class due to extra things that needed drying or clothes that were unusually complicated. I tended to be lenient with them, but they were expected to know everything covered in my lecture and they were not granted additional time if we had a test, they just didn’t get detention for being late every day. It was compromises like this that made sure I was never accused of unjustly favoring any of my students.
I sat behind my less than state of the art desk and clamped on my patented “the teacher is not happy” face. After a few seconds, I picked up a stack of papers and made my way to the front of the room. For dramatic effect, I slammed the stack on my lectern.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is pathetic!” Pause to let it sink it. “I gave you a simple assignment, a five to eight page short fiction story on the topic of your choice. You had free reign to let your imaginations run wild and this is the best you could come up with!” I was nowhere near as angry as I was making it sound, but I was disappointed. I removed the top three papers from the pile and held them up with the blank side facing the students so they wouldn’t know whose papers they were.
“Three of you, and you know who you are, gave me this rubbish. Do you honestly think I don’t watch movies? If you’re going to copy last summer’s blockbusters, at least have the common sense to change the names of the lead characters.” Again, for dramatic effect, I dropped the offending stories in the trashcan. “Plagiarism is a serious offense. It is against the law. You three have already been reported and should expect the principal to have a long chat with your parents. I’ve recommended the maximum punishment for a first offence because you chose to not only cheat but to insult my intelligence in the process.” Most of the students were looking very uncomfortable and I had a feeling that several were just this side of needing new underwear.
“As for the rest of you, these are . . . not bad, for a first try.” I broke into a smile as I delivered the last part of that sentence. The sense of relief the room was tangible. I returned the remaining papers and spent the next twenty minutes lecturing on things like characterization, description of setting, and plot. I then had the students work in pairs to find ways to improve for the next draft while I wandered around the room and offered help where I could. While doing this, I told the three criminals that they had 48 hours to get me a new draft. If they did so, they could still get credit for the rest of the assignment, although the zero for this draft was non-negotiable. I’m tough, but I’m fair.
The rest of the period passed without incident and before I knew it, it was time for lunch. Unlike many of the teachers, who either remained in their classrooms or retreated to the teacher’s lounge, I liked to eat in the cafeteria with the students. I usually ate alone, that gave me the image of someone who’s available to the students while still maintaining a professional distance. Often, students would come up to me to ask for advice, assistance, or just to talk. I always did as they requested, but I was never the one to initiate the contact. Again, it was a matter of professionalism.
“Hey, Mr. Thomas!” Came an energetic male voice from across the room. I looked up and saw Mark Ridge, or Hermes to his friends, walking over to me. He was a speedster with an advanced metabolism that gave him the power to heal at remarkable speeds, hence the code name. He was a decent student, but the problem was that he belonged to the click known as the Supers.
The Supers are everything I’m afraid to be associated with. They started out as the anti-Pures but many quickly became just as bad, but with non-MORFS survivors as the victims. I was, however, flattered to know that I was the one non-MORFed teacher they thought was OK to be seen talking too.
“Mr. Thomas, can you give us a hand? We’re having trouble with this calc. assignment.” Mark asked as he waved me over to the Supers’ table.
‘Crud, I know where this is going’ I calmly walked over and stood by their table. I took a cursory glance at the textbook and remembered why I thought English.
“You really should ask Mrs. Taylor about this, I was never any good at Calc.” Susan Taylor was one of the math teachers and a true wizard with numbers. She was also a kind person who didn’t have a problem using her skills to help others, like doing the other teachers’ taxes for example. Unfortunately, she was as “normal” as I was. A look of apprehension spread around the table before someone finally said what they were all thinking.
“Yeah, but we didn’t really want to bother her. Besides, you’re here and she’s in her room.” Said Knuckles, he was a sophomore with bright red skin, fists the size of watermelons, and the strength to match. He also happened to be a telekinetic, giving him the power to levitate.
“That just means you don’t want to ask her for help. Just because she’s not a butterfly doesn’t mean she doesn’t have talents. The woman can do math problems in her head that college math teachers need calculators for.” I realized that this was becoming a speech so I sat down to make myself more comfortable. “You all know that MORFS can give one fantastic gifts, but that’s not the only way to measure a person. Sure, we may not be as flashy or impressive, but we’re still useful.” I didn’t notice until much later that I was including myself in the category of people that still had uses.
“I know how you guys feel, but if you devalue people because they haven’t been dealt the same genetic hand you have, then you’re no better than the Pures. I’m going to shut up now and we will sit in awkward silence until one of you goes to Mrs. Taylor and asks for her help.” I leaned back and crossed my arms over my chest. As I did so, I cringed at the reaction of the folds of flab that are so poetically referred to as man-boobs. God, I hate my body.
Thankfully, it was only a few minutes before they realized I wasn’t bluffing and Mark dashed off in the direction of Mrs. Taylor’s classroom. He returned a few moments later and reported that she’d agreed to work with them all after school. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and returned to eating their lunch. However, I didn’t get up. I’d started an important discussion and I wanted them to finish it. If I was lucky, this might just turn into a teachable moment.
“Why is it OK to ask me for help, but not Mrs. Taylor?” I asked.
“Well, she’s not really one of us.” Knuckles replied.
“And I am?” I gestured down at myself. There were several seconds of contemplation.
“Sure. I mean not really, but you’re, like, you get it. You’re the only one of them that understands us.” This came from a girl whose name I didn’t know. All I knew was that she had pointy ears, golden hair, and was an electricity elemental. I only knew that because she was a huge help during the blackout last winter.
“Oh really? And what do I ‘get?’”
“You respect us, and not just us, all the MORFS in school. Plus, your stories help a lot of people out of the cocoon. You’re almost an honorary MORF or something.” Knuckles explained as he levitated a french-fry to his mouth. His unusual hands made it difficult to him to pick up small objects, so he used his powers to compensate.
“If you would open up a bit, I’m sure you would find that most people will respect you. Sure, some will fear you because of your potential. For example, if you wanted to Knuckles, you could splatter my brain across that wall in one punch. But if you let others see the people not the powers, you’d have a better time of it.” I cut it off there because I was not ready to give another lecture. Besides, I wanted to eat my lunch.
“Maybe, but you never got MORFS. There are some things even you can’t understand.” Said Mary Carmichael, a dog hybrid (I don’t know much about dog breeds, but I guessed she was some kind of retriever), her family had moved here after a group of Pures had chased them out of their old hometown. She’d only started hang around with the Supers because they protected her from the hybridist element in this town. I smiled sympathetically at her. She was right, I didn’t know her pain. I also didn’t know the joy she’d once said she felt running at top speed through the woods and letting her canine instincts run wild.
“True, and I truly wish I could, but that’s no reason to shut yourselves off from the world.” I sighed and stood up. “You are all special, I know you know this. Don’t think that makes you better or worse than anyone else. No matter what some might think you are still human. No more, no less. If you’ll excuse me, lunch is almost over and I do have some work to get done, so I’ll see you in class.”
I walked as quickly as I could back to my classroom and threw myself in to preparing for my remaining classes for the day. There were several things running through my head that I couldn’t afford to let off the back burner. Thankfully, the rest of the school day passed without incident.
I normally stayed about two hours after school to work. Partly because a student might come asking for something and partly because the school had a much better internet connection than I did at home. Not today, today I wanted to get home as fast as possible. Sadly, that was not to be. As soon as I had my stuff all put away and my desk locked, there was a knock on my door.
‘Well, duty calls.’ I sighed. When I opened the door, I saw the serious face of a senior named Claire Simons.
“I besiege thee oh Name Master, and humbly request your services.” She said with a graceful bow. If you couldn’t guess, she happened to be the president of the drama club. I laughed, returned her bow, and waved her into the room.
“Now what could you possibly need the Name Master for? Your parents name you Claire and MORFS makes you clairvoyant. There’s nothing I can do to improve on that.”
“Not for me, for my brother. He’s a freshman and he’s going to enter stage one this weekend.” Her tone of voice told me that she’d knew this for certain because she’d foreseen it. I raised an eyebrow. Normally Claire’s abilities didn’t extend much beyond the next twenty minutes. When she did get flashes of the relatively distant future, she didn’t get that clear a picture.
“Sure, any idea what the end result will be?”
“No clue, I woke up this morning and ‘heard’ him retching in the bathroom. My time senses told me that this was happening Sunday, er will happen Sunday. Damn pronouns.” Clair explained
“That’s damn verb tenses and watch your language.” I paused for a second. “Time senses?”
“What else do you call it? When I have these visions, it’s like I have a clock and calendar in my brain that I can’t ignore.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“No, I like the name; I’d just never heard it before. I’ll be glad to help your brother if I can. Just have him come see me when he gets back to school.”
“Thanks Mr. Tomas, you’re the best.” She waved at me as she took off down the corridor to catch her bus home. I was already thinking ahead to her brother’s visit. Since MORFS results tended to be similar within a family (although there was no rule to it), he would probably take after his sister with minimal cosmetic changes and a neat power or two. That meant a story about an appropriate hero rather than a creature. That was all the preparation I could do since absolutely anything is possible with MORFS.
‘Unless you’re stuck without the chance.’ NO! I quickly pushed that thought out of my mind and made for my car. I wanted to get home and relax before I allowed myself to think about those kinds of things. Naturally, the fates decided to toss a few more obstacles in my way, one big obstacle by the name of James Bragdon to be exact. A pompous, arrogant, purist, jackass . . . who also happens to be principal of this school and my boss.
“Thomas, if you have a moment?” He asked as I walked by his office on my way to the parking lot. His tone made it clear that it was not a request.
“Can I help you Mr. Bragdon?” ‘Please say no!’
“Yes, step inside for a moment please.” He gestured for me to enter, never once getting up from his chair. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. This man hated my guts, but I had to respect the chain of command.
“Certainly sir.” As soon as the door closed, we both relaxed and dispensed with the formalities now that the students couldn’t see us. James cleared his throat before starting with the accusations
“Mike, I understand you were seen in the cafeteria with some known gang members. If that’s true, it was grossly unprofessional. Care to explain?” He asked with his hands folded neatly in his lap.
“Excuse me? I don’t know what you’re taking about. What gang? A group of students called me over and asked for help on an assignment so I joined them and helped where I could. If they’re involved with anything illegal, it didn’t come up. It’s rare that students actually ask for help, so I jumped on the chance.” I explained and it was even the truth. Of course, I knew exactly what he was talking about, but it was in my best interest to play dumb and count on the fact that I’d done nothing wrong to get me out of this.
“I see. Well, in case you didn’t know,” His face told me he didn’t buy that for a second, “that particular group is part of a street gang known as the Supers. Little terrorists in training if you ask me. They’re dangerous. Now, if you were just helping them with school work, that’s fine. But be careful in future, this school can not risk being perceived as condoning such behavior.” At this point he stood up and looked me square in the eye. He was not a happy man; he had the same darkness in his eyes that I’d seen when the Pure parents had protested the district allowing MORFS survivors on the school football team.
“I know about you Thomas. I know you’ve got a soft spot for these freaks and I warn you, that’s going to come back to bite you in the ass.” It didn’t take a genius to see the threat involved. I decided then and there that I’d had enough of this. He’d just made the slipup I needed.
“To what ‘freaks’ are you referring James? Surely you don’t mean to say that MORFS survivors are freaks. That would be discrimination and would be quite illegal. Someone could lose their job over something like that.” Two could play the veiled threat game. His eyes looked like sewer lids. I had him, he knew it, he knew there was nothing he could do about it, and he hated it. If he tried to fire me, I would just expose him for the bigot he was.
“That’ll be all Thomas.”
“Very well sir, have a good evening.” I turned and left. I could feel his eyes drilling into my back the whole way out.
As soon as I was outside the building, I took a deep breath and firmly told my heart to get out of my throat. I’d probably just thrown my job away. It looked like I was going to spend the night getting my resume in order. Maybe there was an opening at a school in Sun City. Being fired from my old job for not being Purist enough would be as good as a letter of recommendation. Either way, there was nothing I could accomplish by standing in a parking lot trying to remember how to breathe. I’d have my nervous breakdown later, when I had the time.
Finally, like Jason before the Golden Fleece, I could see my car. What surprised me was seeing Knuckles leaning on the hood and clearly waiting for me.
“Thanks Mr. Thomas, it took a lot of guts to stand up to Bragdon like that, I hope you don’t lose your job. That would suck.”
“Oh,” Troy, her real name was Helen, was another one of the supers. MORFS had left her with a nearly impossible figure and had made her a powerful empath. I’d used Helen of Troy and an empath from an old science fiction series as inspiration for her name. “I guess emotions were running pretty high in there. Thank you and I appreciate the support, but don’t think that gets you out of next week’s quiz.” I said with a smile.
“Heh, didn’t think it would.” He laughed. “Seriously though, we all got to talking after you left. It’s a damn shame that you never MORFed. We wanted to try and fix that.” His posture said that he wasn’t joking but I didn’t notice.
“That’s not funny Knuckles. You know I’m too old. I’ve already missed my chance. It’s really nasty of you to tease me like that.” My voice was angrier than I wanted so he jumped back a little thinking I’d snapped at him. Served him right, dangling a dream in front of me like that.
“I’m not kidding teach. I know you’ve heard of AMORFS. If some bio elemental can turn a bunch of adult Pures into goat hybrids or whatever, then it proves that grown ups can still MORF.”
“First of all, no one’s been able to prove the source of AMORFS. Second of all, what am I supposed to do? Start touring the Church of Purity lecture circuit and hope I catch AMORFS before someone shoots me?” I’d switched into sarcasm mode. The sad part is that I’d considered just such a plan after the AMORFS story broke.
“No, no, no, of course not. But we have another plan for you. Have you ever heard of Pope Hill?”
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/