Calvin got a call way too early on Monday morning. He sat up groggily in bed and fumbled for his phone.
"Calvin?" said his boss Irene. "There's a situation, so you should probably stay home today."
"A... situation." Did she always have to be so obscure?
"An office furniture situation. We're rearranging so much stuff that it's going to be tough to accomplish much. So just work remotely today, okay?"
Calvin didn't mind that. It was nice not to have the commute. He slept in for a little while and logged into his work computer, which let him start working even before getting dressed. There was a new circuit design that a customer had come up with, that worked perfectly in his lab. Unfortunately the inventor didn't understand that mass production was not the same as throwing together something in your garage, and that the circuit needed rethinking to make it practical. Calvin poked at the blueprints and hammered away at the problem all day.
The next morning he came into the office and stopped in the doorway of his department. His cubicle had been totally rearranged. There was now just a big pillow on the floor, no chair, and the walls were spread out into more of a trapezoid than a rectangle. "What gives?" he asked Ann in the next space over.
She'd managed to not lose any working area, by pushing a plant farther into a corner. She shrugged and said, "They're trying out some new arrangements."
"Yeah, but why me?"
Ann had already gone back to her work, ignoring him. Calvin frowned and had a seat on the cushion. It wasn't as comfortable as a chair, and the wider cubicle didn't make any sense to him in terms of how to reach things.
He got through the morning and went off to the usual sub shop. He was starved enough to get the foot-long for once, and when he'd finished it off he was still hungry. He relented and grabbed some extra chips on the way out.
Since he had time, he stopped by the company gym. He arrived just as the facilities guy was plugging in some kind of fancy treadmill. "Oh hey, Calvin, good timing. Mind trying this out?"
Calvin looked it over: an extra long track to run on and unusually low handlebars. "This is a weird design."
"It's the latest thing. We want to be inclusive and have some equipment for every employee."
Skeptical, Calvin hopped on, stumbled, and steadied himself on the machine using the handlebars. It beeped encouragingly and he started an awkward trot. "I'm having some trouble finding my rhythm on this thing."
"Try raising the speed."
He did, and it actually got easier to keep up. It was probably the odd length of the machine or the height, but he felt like he was jogging differently, with the wrong gait. Still, it worked well for him and he was able to keep going at a good clip for ten minutes without breaking a sweat.
The facilities guy had been retooling a weight set in the meantime. He patted it and said, "How is the positioning on this?"
"I ought to get back to work," Calvin said.
"It'll just take a minute."
Calvin had a seat at the weightlifting machine, feeling awkward as he tried to pull down some bars. He watched the steel weights rise and fall and marveled at how much he was lifting, but it was like he was... grabbing each bar, left and right, with both hands at once? "It seems off, somehow. Like my hands are... crowded on the bars."
"Hmm. This is a custom design; I'll have to try adjusting the length of them. Check back tomorrow?"
"Uh, yeah, sure." He wasn't sure why he was the test subject. He went back to his cubicle and found that his seat cushion had been replaced already with a longer one, and the whole desk lowered like he was meant to sit at one of those low Japanese tables. "Remodeling again?" he said.
Ann said, "I should get one of us moved, so we're not tripping over each other. Excuse me." She got up from her desk and squeezed past Calvin on the way out of the room. Calvin fidgeted and made room for her to pass. It shouldn't have been necessary; there was enough room between his desk and the wall.
He worked for a while, then stretched and headed for the bathroom. As soon as he'd flushed and turned around to leave the stall, he banged into the wall. How, he wasn't sure. He tried to reach behind him and get the door's latch, but something he couldn't quite see was in the way. He squirmed and cursed, brushing against the filthy toilet and repeatedly hitting the walls.
One of his co-workers, Mark, said, "Hey, Calvin, are you okay?"
"How did you even fit in there?"
"What do you mean? I'm not any fatter than you." He felt a low rumble in his throat. "No offense."
Mark said, "Here, let me... I think I can reach the latch through that gap on the door. Hang on." A credit card or something rattled around behind Calvin and pushed the latch aside, freeing Calvin.
Calvin spilled backwards, tumbling at an angle that didn't seem possible, and crashed into Mark. "Ow! Sorry." Calvin grabbed a sink to steady himself. It seemed unusually tough to stand up. He glanced back at Mark and felt like the guy was taking his hand for leverage, but that wasn't possible because Calvin's hands were both on the sink. There were four parallel gouges in the ceramic, too, next to his left hand. And another, shallower set by his right.
While he was staring at the marks, wondering, Mark dusted himself off and said, "We're going to need to build a bigger stall, or something. I guess you could use that handicap-access one on the second floor, but..." He made a face. "Might need other equipment too. I hadn't even thought about that. Has it been tough for you?"
Calvin was bruised and dirty, focused now on trying to rub wet paper towels over all his exposed skin. He'd need a shower as soon as he got home. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, tossing some crumpled paper away with one hand while holding the sink with both hands. "Since when am I taller than you anyway?"
Mark gave him a weird look. "I'll just leave you to it, then."
He left the men's room but felt like he was wobbling, and standing tiptoe, and was way too tall. His ears were brushing the ceiling. He made an effort to quit standing like that, and to his surprise, his perspective shifted downward not by a few inches but by several whole feet! "What the heck?" he said, staggering his way toward his cubicle. He banged one hip into the doorframe on the way, at another impossible angle.
As soon as he'd crash-landed on his seat cushion, he pinged his boss online. "I'm sick or something," he said. "I'm seeing things and my balance is completely thrown off."
"Understandable," the boss wrote back. "You can head home. Did you replace your car yet, or did you ride a bus today?"
Calvin pawed at his cushion with his hands while typing. "I drove. What makes you think I replaced my car?"
"Uh... Did you hit your head?" the boss sent. "Just head on home and come back when you're adjusted."
Maybe Calvin had hit his head and forgotten something. He growled in frustration, drawing a startled yelp from Ann next door. He went back to the bathroom to examine himself.
In the mirror, he saw a face with a white muzzle and black stripes around the edges. The markings continued all the way down his neck and back... and farther along than ought to have been possible, along another back and a long fuzzy rope of a tail that was attached to him.
At that point he fainted.
He woke up with Ann and Mark and his boss standing over him in the break room. "You're heavy, you know that?" said the boss. "And flexible like a rug. We had to drag you out of there."
Calvin startled and looked toward them. He was laying on his back. The view showed him what looked like a white tiger's body with its forepaws in the air, with his slacks ridiculously belted onto its back half and his tattered socks on its hindlegs. His shoes were nowhere to be seen. He tried to keep still so the tiger wouldn't notice him, but its tail moved, and he felt it twitch.
"Honestly," said Ann, "What were you doing in there? Shouldn't you be on the second floor where we've got better accommodations?"
The boss chimed in, "Didn't we have a meeting about your changes?"
Calvin tried to get up, to get away from the animal sharing the floor with him, and to avoid thinking about the fact that its four paws moved at his command. He managed to roll onto his side and feel a too-long, fuzzy body that was definitely not his, slumped next to where his legs should be. "My...?"
"Changes, yes. The toxin exposure, the need to make reasonable workplace accommodations as you adjust? Don't tell me you've suffered memory loss about the incident too."
Ann told the boss, "Notice that he wore pants to work? I don't think he even knows."
Mark said, "Hey, Calvin, can you tell us where you and the others got exposed to the toxin? You know, last week?"
"Others?" Calvin scowled, trying to remember what they were talking about, and felt his ears flick back.
The boss waved the others off. "Okay, okay, just... just give him some space. I'll send for a van."
And so, he found himself in a doctor's office, where a patient nurse was holding up a large mirror while a doctor checked him out. The doc said, "You really don't perceive this lower torso?"
Calvin stared into the mirror. The centauroid white tiger there moved when he did, though he had no idea how he'd walked in here if he really had four feet along with his arms. "I can see it," he said, still mystified. He looked back down at himself and his perception flickered between the human body that ought to be there, still in his battered work clothes, and the feline one that the mirror insisted was his. "But how?"
"We've been getting other reports of selective memory loss in the other patients, too. Would it be all right if we kept you for a day or two for observation? No charge to you; this is for science."
Calvin scoffed. "Patients who were exposed to some kind of poison recently, you think?"
"A prion-based DNA-modifying CRISPR-related radioactive toxin, yes. The accident was on Saturday if you recall."
"I'm fairly sure those don't even... Never mind." Calvin tried to move one of his forepaws by itself, nearly fell over, and steadied himself against a counter. "Okay then, doc, if I'm delusional, then tell me: why was my car in the parking lot this morning? How do you think I got to work; squashed into that little Prius?"
"I wouldn't know about your parking arrangements."
"Okay, how come there was a... cat-taur-compatible treadmill all ready to go over the weekend? The company has a good on-site gym but they're not exactly diligent in updating the equipment."
The nurse wavered in holding the mirror, letting the bottom edge thunk against the floor. The doctor scowled and said, "What are you saying? That there's been some sort of conspiracy to rearrange events in your life to look like you were human until today, instead of having transformed?"
"I think that somehow, reality has shifted. The evidence doesn't match your idea that I somehow just was completely in denial."
"That's not a very scientific hypothesis," said the doctor, folding his arms.
Calvin said, "Mighty impressive words for the laymen, doc, but I took some science classes too. I'll bet you an extra-long sub across the street that I'm carrying proof that more than my body has changed. That something fundamentally screwy has just happened to the universe."
"Fine, but what would that be?"
Calvin squirmed and rolled over on the examination couch, to snag his wallet from what remained of his pants. His new claws caught on the leather. There was going to be a lot of work ahead to rethink his life no matter what the reason for this change was, some "toxin" or something even stranger. He took a deep breath, opened the wallet to see what was there now, and pulled out his driver's license. As he suspected, it depicted a smiling tiger-face. He grinned back at it and held it up.
"See this? According to what passes for reality right now, I transformed over the weekend and I already got my driver's license updated."
"My God," said the doctor. "Something is deeply wrong here."