Endless Possibilities: A MORFS Universe Story
“Pope Hill? That place across town? What about it?” I asked Knuckles with legitimate curiosity. The boy had just implied that I was about to be offered a chance to MORF despite the fact that I was in my mid 30’s. Needless to say, I was interested. However, my inner cynic reared his ugly head and reminded me that this wasn’t how MORFS works. Once the human body ages past puberty, the random genetic, whatever-it-is that causes MORFS can no longer be triggered. OK, so my scientific knowledge of the subject is a little limited, I’ve never been one to ask how the magic tricks work. Well, even if it was impossible, I figured I might as well hear him out.
“Well, I know some people who know some kids at one of the high schools near there and they’ve told me that Pope Hill is haunted and that if you go there and ask for a specific result from MORFS, then you get it. Apparently, it’s happened to a lot of people. We were thinking that if whatever does it can grant wishes to pre-MORFS kids, maybe it can the do same for you.”
He had obviously put a lot of thought into this plan. He then proceeded to spend the next five minutes telling me about all the theories that had come up as to the cause of this MORFS wishing well, everything from the spirit of the saint that the hill was named after, to aliens, to MORFed prairie dogs, to something involving time travel. He also explained that if I agreed, then all the Supers would go to the Hill first and ask the spirit to give me whatever I wanted. He then cautioned me that the hill didn’t always work the way you wanted. If you came asking for the power to hurt or get revenge on someone, then the hill might reject you or punish you with a MORFS package you didn’t want.
“Uh huh, and what happens? Does a man in a white sheet pop out of the ground and tap you on the head with a magic wand or something?” I asked, back into full sarcasm mode. He grinned at me.
“Close enough, from what I’ve heard, a shining image of what you’re going to look like post-MORFS appears and, like, flies into your body or something. So, ya interested?” He gave me a sideways glance that made me wonder if this was how Faust must have felt as he made his deal with the devil. Either way, this conversation was starting to excite parts of my personality that I had spent a long time repressing. I decided to change the subject.
“This is all very fascinating, but aren’t you supposed to be working with Mrs. Taylor right about now?” As soon as I said that, Knuckles swore under his breath and started to run off.
There was a high probability that this was either a hoax or a fantastic coincidence. However, I promised Knuckles that I would think about it. Before he ran away, he gave me a piece of paper that apparently contained a list of possible requests that I could make, all courtesy of the Supers. It seemed as if they were taking this thing seriously, but could I do the same?
As I drove home, the only thing I could think of was whether or not this was real. I knew these kids fairly well and they weren’t the types to pull this kind of a prank. For that matter, I don’t think I’d ever seen them act out of maliciousness to anyone who didn’t attack them first. They were professional counter punchers and took pride in that. This strategy is also what kept them from being expelled whenever they got into an altercation with the Pures. Of course the Pures got away with starting the fights because most of them had very influential parents, oh yeah, did I mention my boss is a jerk?
So the only logic in this being a cruel prank was that it was some sort of revenge for making them ask a caterpillar for help on their math homework. If so, it was a serious case of overkill. Perhaps this was just what it looked like, some kids trying to help someone they thought of as one of those endangered creatures: A cool adult. An act of charity to someone they saw as handicapped by genetics and fate.
On the other hand, the story had all the hallmarks of an urban myth, the type that never turned out to be true. Heck, Knuckles even heard it from a ‘friend of a friend.’ Just think about it, if it was real, than this Pope Hill turned everything we know about MORFS completely on its ear. If something like that was even remotely within the realm of possibility, then there would be a small army of MORFS researchers camped out in front of the place. There was just no way to keep something like customized MORFS a secret for very long no matter what the circumstances. It just wasn’t feasible.
But back on the original hand, almost all urban myths started out with a grain of truth. Albeit one twisted by time and telling. That meant that there could be something there, just not the same something that the kids at school thought. Maybe someone was playing a prank and my students had just been suckered.
By the time I reached my apartment, I had a come to the conclusion that the kids were well meaning, but the ‘power of Pope Hill’ was probably just the story first told by a particularly religious or superstitious kid that said a prayer at the hill and had happened to get VERY lucky when he or she came down with MORFS and had picked up the package that he or she had always wanted.
Wait a minute!!! What if that’s what someone wants people to conclude? Think about it. Covering up a real custom MORFS power with an urban rumour would be the perfect way to avoid suspicion and still use the power to help people. The masses and the media would assume that it was just a story and the person or group behind it could just slide under the radar. The same way nobody ever thought a rich man whore like Bruce Wayne could ever be the Batman. It was the perfect secret identity . . . nah!
Something like that would take dozens of people with unimaginable resources to pull off, and it’s impossible that no one would slip up and give everything away. Besides, someone would figure it out. There are a lot of people out there a lot smarter than me that would investigate even the off chance of something like this. If they hadn’t, there was probably nothing to it.
I tossed my bag on the couch and proceeded to stick a box of frozen pseudo-nutrition into the microwave. As I waited for it to heat, I thought back to the list that Knuckles had slipped me at the end of our little talk.
Taking the paper out of my pocket, I unfolded it and read the list. It was just like the games that pre-teens and teenagers had played for years, “What if MORFS made me. . .” There were a lot of notes scribbled in the margins, I’ll transcribe those in parenthesis. It looked something like this:
Mr. Thomas’ MORFS ideas:
1. A super elemental able to control all the elements. (Too Powerful)
2. Gender swap + age reduce = hottest girl in school. (Hermes that desperate for a date)
3. Telepath. (NO! Teacher reading minds = BAD)
4. Spider Hybrid = Spider Man. (Spiderman = MORFS????????)
5. Other Hybrid
Cat (Mary Veto)
Dragon (Hermes: Tiamat = hot)
Bird or bat wings
6. Full hero package. Strong, fly, x-ray eye, etc. (Too Powerful)
7. Horse hybrid = centaur
8. MORFS reading telepath = can get job at clinic if asshole fires him. (Story too soon for cocoons?) (Hey, that rhymes!)
9. Illusionist (tell stories w/visual aid)
10. Mark votes gender change regardless.
I admit, I chuckled at a few of them, especially the part about Spiderman being a spider hybrid despite the fact that the character was written several decades too early. That set my mind wandering on the topic of what Stan Lee would have thought of MORFS. Probably would have made his job writing fantasy stories a lot harder.
I put the list away and fired up my relic of a computer. I did have a serious problem to address. Specifically, I had to deal with the fact that I might need a new job. I pulled up my resume and double checked that all the information was correct. I then took the liberty of replacing the word “current” over my present position with the month and year of my all too probable termination. It's just one of those things you should take care of before you have to. As I looked back at my past, summed up in a twelve kilobyte computer file, I realized that I hadn’t done anything in the past few years other than keep my licence up. Maybe I should start writing a few professional articles, might get me some consulting work down the line.
That’s one of the great secrets of the teaching profession. Teachers are always analysing the students in hopes of turning the experience into a publishing credit. Since credits always equal money in the short and/or long term, this behaviour is understandable. If it sounds like we treat the children like lab rats, that’s because we do. It’s one of the after effects of spending months in a college classroom, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars, learning “how to teach” whilst never actually interacting with anyone under the age of 20.
I opened a new file and filled in the standard introduction to one of these papers and started thinking of a title. It was about that point that I realized how little I cared about what I was doing, shut down the computer, and yanked the list back out of my pocket. The work could wait until later.
I spent the next half an hour rereading that list and wondering what my life would have been like if I’d had MORFS and got to live with these various possible results. The first one, the super elemental, was rather interesting:
“By your genetic anomalies combined, I am Captain MORFS!!” OK, that was a rip off of a really dumb line from a cartoon my Dad had watched as a kid, but it fit the situation.
Most of the suggestions were too much responsibility. I didn’t want the temptation of telepathy or “the full hero package” because there are countless stories of someone gaining that level of power and succumbing to it. After all, with great power, there must also come great . . . OK, if you don’t know that line, I don’t want you reading my life story. Go read a comicbook instead.
I plopped down on the couch and continued to stare at the list. I let my mind wander and began to day dream the same way I had a thousand times before. I was 14 years old again and back in my parent’s house in Oregon. It was Monday and I was dreading the upcoming day at high school. All of my friends had survived MORFS and were, well, beautiful. They weren’t walking versions of classical Greek statues; they were magical to me. My fantasies brought to life. But not me, not Mike. Even Sally, the first girl I’d ever had a crush on, had MORFed into dolphin hybrid. I thought she looked like a mermaid princess. I’d even once had the guts to tell her so. She just looked around nervously and walked away from me. We hardly said ten words to each other the rest of the year and lost touch completely after that. That was the pattern, Mike gets left behind.
Eventually, my little flight of fancy shifted gears and I thought of what it would have been like. NO! What it should have been like. I could see it all. I’d wake up one morning feeling like death warmed over. I’d spend the entire morning trying to keep last night’s dinner from making its reappearance while still getting ready for school. Thankfully, when my Mom saw me stumble downstairs for breakfast, she’d instantly see what was going on and march me right down to the doctor. A few simple blood tests later, and I’d have had my answer, MORFS. We’d have made a quick stop at the pharmacy for all the necessary supplies to help me through stage two and then we'd have gone straight home with Mom making a quick call to the school to explain the situation. I’d wolf down an energy bar, plug an energy pack IV into my arm and settle for a long sleep. Before I’d have drifted off, my Mom would have leaned over and kissed me goodnight in the way she hadn’t done since I was 6.
My fantasies always hit a switch track at about this point. Every time I would wake up with a different body, a different power, a different life. Sometimes, I was a hybrid, reviling in the beast’s soul that now resided inside me as I ran on all fours through the park or soared through the sky lifted only by my own wings. It always took me a while to get used to the wardrobe changes necessitated by things like tails and wings, but I always became more comfortable with myself as I learned to listen to the animal. For example, if I became a squirrel hybrid, I would eventually learn to listen to myself and start spending a lot of my spare time in the tops of the trees that surrounded my back yard, fully confident that I wasn’t going to fall and break my neck.
Sometimes, I was a tamer. Wherever I went, animals of all shapes and sizes would follow me around just because they wanted to talk to me and be my friend. Even animals who nature decreed were destined to kill each other would sit together in peace if I was around. It was rather interesting at school when hybrid girls would just stop me in the hall and try to start making out with me, especially if they had boyfriends . . . big boyfriends . . . with powers. Then, thanks to the magic of a dream time fast forward I grew up and was chosen to be the human ambassador to the local tribe of dragons.
Other times, I was an elemental, with the very forces of nature herself coursing through my veins. It offered me a more complete understanding of the universe because I could see it in ways that other people couldn’t even imagine. (The dreams were usually vague on this point precisely I couldn't ) I had a problem with control at first, and that always lead to some minor property damage and some strained friendships, but I always sorted it out in the end.
Still other times, I was a woman or even intersexed. Watching with wonder as an entirely new aspect of human existence was opened up to me. At first, I hated it. Particularly bad was the part where my Mom dragged me to the mall for a post gender change shopping spree. What bothered me more was the fact that several of the stores now gave TG discounts if you could prove that you were within a month of changing. But before long, I would find that I enjoyed looking in the mirror and seeing this pretty girl looking back at me. I discovered the, er, pleasures of my new body and grew to revel in the freedom of the feminine (this is where “I Feel Like A Woman” starts playing in the background). In some of the dreams, I even fell in love. Once, I was even able to feel my father’s arm as he walked me down the isle at my wedding. This was an especially poignant fantasy for me because I’ve never even come close to getting married in real life. Most women fail to see past my flabby body and often empty wallet.
No matter what the body, there was one overarching pattern; it was different. Most importantly, the fat, pale form that I’ve always been cursed with and that no amount of diet or exercise would rid me of was gone forever.
In a fit of anger and frustration, I crushed the paper in my fist and threw it across the room. It missed the trash can by a mile, but I didn’t care. I’d made my decision. It didn’t matter if it’s a hoax or a conspiracy; I was going to ask for Pope Hill to give me MORFS!
Now for the ultimate question, the one that could define the rest of my life, what should I ask for?
I got in my car and made for Pope Hill as fast as I could. I broke more than a few traffic laws in the process, but the cops in this town are the laziest bunch of so-and-sos you’ve ever met so I knew I wouldn’t be pulled over. Besides, I didn’t care. If there was a chance, even a 1% chance, of me MORFing, then I had to take it. I had to do it now, before the Supers had a chance to set anything up. That way, I could be sure anything that happened or didn't happen was real and not my messed up imagination. Besides, if nothing happened, the only one to see my embarrassment would be me.
It was nearly dark when I approached the public park that contained Pope Hill, I realized that I was experiencing an emotion I had never expected: fear. If this was real, if all the rules of our world could be broken, anything . . . and I do mean anything could be possible. If this was real, it means that the very laws of science meant nothing. Could humanity really survive in such a world? Authors have spent centuries imagining that we could, but even in fantasy there are always rules. Medusa is vulnerable to a mirror. Vampires can be staked. Wolverine has crappy luck with women. There are always rules. If this is real, what are the rules?
Cut the philosophical crap Thomas, you know you're just trying to take your mind off what you're doing. Just get your ass out off the car and do it. The only thing that's certain is that nothing will happen if you just sit here.
It wasn't working, I was still sitting there. The parking lot was just a few feet from the marker at the base of the hill. The marker bearing the name of St. John Paul, the former Pope that the hill was named after. According to Knuckles, that was the spot to make your request. I couldn't do it, I couldn't walk those last few paces.
What if I was wrong? What if I was doing this for all the wrong reasons? If the Hill saw my motivations as pure greed . . . what would it do to me? I could end up as a blob of protoplasm, or worse, I could go through the misery of stage one just to end up as my same old self. That would be a fate worse than death. That was another aspect I refused to acknowledge, this experiment could very easily lead to my death. During college, I had contemplated committing suicide.
It was after I'd finally aged pass the point of the oldest MORFS case on record at the time. The shear hopelessness of spending the rest of my life surrounded by that world of the fantastic that I could always see but never touch was more than I could bare. I sank into a depression so deep that I honestly thought that death was the only way out and that I was so useless that no one would even notice I was gone. I never actually attempted to kill myself. At the time, I thought I was too much of a coward to go through with it. That was when I decided to dedicate my life to being a part of that amazing world, to helping people pass through the gate. That was the defining moment of my professional life. That's when I became a teacher. Not exactly the noble reasons most people imagine as motivation for this work, but it's better than nothing. As I grew older, I developed a true love of teaching, of watching those kid's eyes light up when they finally understood, but those baser reasons always remained.
I'd thought that I'd put such dark thoughts behind me years ago, but now? Being confronted with the chance to MORF at this late stage . . . I don't know what would happen, what I would do, if this didn't work. That's why I wasn't quite allowing myself to believe this. I couldn't put my whole heart into it.
NO! I had to go. I had to act. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't at least try.
“Here goes nothing.” I muttered to myself. I heard the car door slam behind me like a starters gun. Let me emphasise, the distance between the parking lot and the marker was less than half the length of a football field. It may as well have been on another continent! I moved like a snail as I wondered why those birds had to be so damn annoying. I'm serious! There had to be two and a half a dozen birds in that tree and they all appeared to be trying out for the all avian edition of American Idol and none of them would make it past the first episode. Isn't amazing how, during the most important times in your life, your mind can focus on the dumbest and most trivial of things.
It was almost pitch dark by the time I finally stood before the unassuming marker. Barely more than a stick in the ground really. A sudden breeze rushed passed my ears as if the Gods were pushing me to get on with it and make my request. Well, I've never been one to turn down an invitation from the heavens so here goes:
“Dear Your Holiness/Aliens/Prairie Dogs (Delete where applicable). I don't know if you're real or what I'm supposed to say. My only request is this: I want to understand. I've lived in a world of marvels for so long without ever really living. All I ask for is the chance to know the magic. If my motives are impure, please forgive me. I just want to experience the possibilities.”
There, I'd done it. So . . . now what? Isn't something supposed to happen? Oh no, don't tell me I'm wasting my time. Please, not after all this. Please, show me something! I must be going crazy, here I am talking to a rock and hoping a magic prairie dog will answer my prayer.
It was then that I was over come be a feeling of calm. Something inside me was saying that there was no rush. If I was patient, everything would pay off. Why the hell am I thinking that? The whole reason I'm standing here is that I can't wait any longer to . . . I can wait. All things happen in their own time. I don't understand why, but I know it's the truth. I can accept that.
As soon as I thought that, the air in front of me started to, I guess the right word is, shimmer. It was like the optical illusions you see on a hot summer's day in the parking lot at the mall. Only, it was March and on a grassy hillside. The waves of air started to move together and an image started to form about five yards away. If Knuckles was right, this would be an image of what I would look like after MORFing. My lungs emptied themselves as I watched what could very well be the rest of my life unfold before me.
That is, try to unfold before me. The image was floating and golden all right, but it was fuzzy, sort of out of focus. The image itself kept changing as well. One second, it was an outline of a human woman, the next it was a male, then some sort of animal. The changes started to speed up until it was like I was looking at the image through a prism. A few seconds later, the images had become such a blur that the overall effect was akin to an amorphous blob. Then, all of a sudden, the image shot toward me like a bullet. As it impacted with my torso, I expected to be knocked back by the blow. Oddly, as if this whole thing wasn't odd already, I didn't feel anything as it entered my body.
Then it was all over. The wind had died down, the image was gone, and there I was staring in awe at my stomach. It was at that point that my body told me I seriously needed to start breathing again.
All I could do now was wait. Something would either happen, or it wouldn't. I had no clue where this new sense of calm and contemplation came from as I had spent most of the day a nervous wreck. Maybe it was the very fact that I was here and had done it. Either way, it didn’t really matter. Now that I had made my request, it wasn't up to me anymore. All I wanted to do was go home and rest. Weird, I wasn’t that tired a few minutes ago, but now I feel like I barely have the energy to get home.
As I drove, my thoughts returned to the mundane aspects of my life. It was Wednesday night so I had two more days of work followed by a very well deserved weekend. My boss was out for my blood, I would probably have at least one student come and ask for a story, I needed to make sure the juniors are ready to take the state assessment test next week. Thinking about the most important thing in my life, my students, did serve to prevent the nervous breakdown that I had felt boiling in my gut all afternoon.
By the time I had reached my apartment, I had completely zoned out due to mental exhaustion. My body was on complete auto pilot as I dragged myself inside and, ignoring the fact that it was barely 8:00, fell asleep on the couch.
Tomorrow is another day. Things will either happen or they won’t. All I know is, I have to be patient.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/