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Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #3 of 12

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Because it was the Year of the Dog, and because Hsien had grown tired of his ancient body, he went down to Meat Swap on Sunday and bought himself the body of a forty-pound mutt.

The operation was a simple one. Hsien's consciousness was extracted and sealed in a small lacquer box with two chopsticks sticking out. The chopsticks slid into the back of the dog's neck like a plug. A little woven collar—Hsien chose a manly and youthful green—protected the box and the dog's neck.

Hsien trotted out in the cool spring air on four strong legs. He received more attention instantly. Beautiful women patted his head and dragged their manicured fingernails along his back. Two sweet ladies even touched his rump! It had been decades since a woman—even an ugly one—had wanted to feel the sag of his old body's ass in her hand.

Of course, he missed the colors. And now kneecaps filled his vision instead of faces. He could smell the garbage on the street, and it made his stomach growl. But his back didn't hurt. His claws chattered on the sidewalk and he let his mouth hang open, his tongue loll out.

"Yes," Hsien thought. "This feels right. I should never have waited so long to switch bodies."

It troubled him slightly, though, about the dog. He was a beautiful specimen, well-muscled but lean. Where had the dog's soul gone when Hsien's had been inserted? Possibly it was a question for the monks or the high government officials, but it nagged at him through the evening and into the next day. Even his breakfast of meat scraps tasted dull and sticky, like overcooked rice.

"Dogs are beautiful, loyal spirits," Hsien thought, for he could no longer speak with his mouthful of teeth and his big pink tongue.

And so it continued for many days and nights, until the next Sunday Meat Swap. Hsien's old body was still on the freezer shelf, sagging and hunched. Apparently no one else had wanted it.

Hsien studied his body for many long minutes, his guilt dissipating in the shadow of that decrepit hairless prison he'd worn for so long. Finally, he thought, "I'm sure the dog's soul is in a far better place than this. Yes, I'm doing us both a big favor." And, mostly convinced, he trotted out of the Meat Swap to find some place to piss.


Jenn Reese photo


Jenn Reese has published stories in cool places like Polyphony 4, Flytrap, Strange Horizons, and various anthologies. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she practices martial arts, plays strategy games, and laments the loss of Buffy. You can follow her adventures at her website. To contact her, send her email at jenn@sff.net. Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
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