Chapter 1: The Beginning (Mort)

When I think back to how my previous life ended, I find it amazing that my prior existence lasted so long, and that I mourned its loss at all, knowing what I know now.

In many ways, going through MORFS, and becoming someone else was the best thing to happen to me, even though my birth into my new life was a painful and frightening one. I often wonder if I had been given the choice, knowing where it would lead, and the cost associated with it, would I have chosen to become this new person. Impossible to say.

My name is, or should I say, was, Mortimer Wilson and I was a 15 years old boy. Yes I know, not exactly the best name to be saddled with. Then again at least I didn't get any obscure middle names that I would need to hide. Most people called me Mort (which I didn't mind), or Morty (which I hated even more than my full name).

I lived in a relatively large village, called Little Greenvale, that borders the sprawling conurbation of Oxford.

Given the rate of expansion, and desire of people to live close to the tech centres along the Thames, I have no doubt it will be subsumed one of these days, but so far, that has been prevented, thanks, in no small part, to the large proportion of local politicians and upper class types who live in the area, calling in various favours.

It is a place where the old values still rule, and prominent land owners still lord it over the common man. It is a place of strong Christian values, and a part of the world that has remained fairly unchanged for the better part of a hundred years. It is also a place where they do not look kindly on people changed by MORFS, especially those unfortunate enough to be hybrids.

My family had a great deal to do with this. My father, Grant Wilson, is a local landowner and farmer. He prides himself on (as he puts it) his "moral purity". No one in the family has openly undergone MORFS. There have been instances of family members suddenly up and vanishing to live abroad, (or any of a dozen excuses and euphemisms, which at the time I didn't recognise but now understand better) but they are fairly few and far between. Mostly limited to people who married into the family.

My father is a tough man, who speaks his mind, and expects to be obeyed. He has little time for the opinions of anyone else. The only man he listens to is his older brother Richard, or Reverend Wilson. He runs the local church, and oversees his parish's spiritual well-being with an iron fist. He is of the fire and brimstone school of preaching. In his lengthy Sunday sermons, he expounds hatred of those who have been afflicted with MORFS, attributing their change to unchristian living. He also advocates the public shunning of these individuals, labelling them demons who have possessed the souls of the living.

Their efforts to make Little Greenvale a haven against the unclean individuals changed by MORFS have been quite successful, attracting a large number of like-minded individuals, who have taken up roles in the community from local law enforcement, to running the local businesses, to staffing local schools, and even the local politicians. This has made the village a very closed community, and very unfriendly to those who have obviously undergone MORFS.

While laws supposedly prevent discrimination, on the few occasions that locals have changed as a result of MORFS, or people have tried to move to the area who were affected, they have been given steadily increasing and unpleasant incentives to move elsewhere. When all the local authorities are allied against, you making a complaint about harassment does little good.

So growing up in such an environment, you can understand why I might have a somewhat twisted view of people who had been changed by MORFS. Not all people in the village felt that way, but anyone who publicly expressed an opinion contrary to the line taken by the ruling elite, was given almost the same treatment as someone afflicted by MORFS, so most kept quiet.

I have a brother, and a sister, both older than me. My brother, Grant Junior, is very much his father's son, a real chip off the old block. He and I don't get along. He is everything I am not, strong and athletic, captain of the local rugby team, and reasonably good at school (enough to get by, at any rate). He is also a bully, and extremely arrogant. He makes my life hell, his dominance of me is something Father seems to find amusing.

My sister Gwen is the only member of my family I like. She is a good deal older than me, at 19, but we get on quite well. She some how manages to stand outside the usual family pecking order, even defying father, if not openly. Despite repeated attempts by my Father and Mother to marry her off into a good family, she has remained free of such entanglements, and is planning to go to university as soon as she can earn enough money to pay for her tuition fees. (Since father refused to waste money on sending a daughter to college when she should be married, yet another attitude of fathers anchored in the dark ages). She is a very beautiful young lady, not just because of her good looks, but for her warm loving heart. The family tolerates her, mainly because they believe she will come around once she settles down.

The rest of my family is just as bad as Father. My mother, Mary Wilson, is a member of the women's group for village happiness and well being. Ostensibly a social group, they are really another side of the control over the village. They organise all the social events, and act as a rudimentary spy network, gossiping and exposing any local secrets. On more than one occasion, it has been this group who outed those who tried to keep their affliction with MORFS a secret, even occasionally outing people who had never undergone any changes simply out of spite, or some affront to their collective control.

I am the youngest member of the family, and a constant disappointment to the bulk of the family. I was scrawny, standing a mere 5'3", and useless at any kind of sport. I preferred a nice quiet read, instead of rushing about a muddy field in the freezing cold with an inflated pigs bladder. I was not hideous at school work, but by no means exceptional. As a result, I was treated at best, as invisible, at worse a disappointment.

That changed one Friday in October 2035, it was turning autumn the leaves were beginning to fall and the nights were drawing in. I was on my way back from school. It was now out for a week, due to an anti-MORFS protest all the local big-wigs were going to, and local children were expected to attend as well, for moral fibre. I was a bit unhappy at the closure, for two reasons. One was the reason behind the closure, and the other was the fact that I had actually been enjoying school for once. We had been studying animals, and some children had even brought in exotic pets to show. Since the local school was run by the village in a pseudo private manner, such closures happened quite frequently. The head teacher, Mr Thomas, had been fired from a prominent position at a private school for his refusal to teach students who had undergone MORFS, so teaching at little Greenvale was something of a dream job for him. As such, he had no problem with closing the school for such events.

I hated such events, though mainly due to the requirement to spend hours marching to protest in my parent's and brother's company (my sister always finding some way of being elsewhere those days). Protesting against people with MORFS, and any laws to help, them didn't really bother me then. I had been conditioned practically from birth to think that people who had been changed by MORFS were evil monsters.

It was the fact that the marching usually gave me blisters I hated, and this time it would be worse due to it being a weeklong set of protests up and down the country, culminating in a march on parliament.

The very thought of all the marching, and sleeping in a cold tent with my brother was making me feel sick. At least that's what I thought at the time.

I got back home to our house, which was a converted barn. It had a lovely rustic look, with all exposed timber beams, even if the lack of proper insulation and double glazing made the place draughty.

I felt like death warmed up, and was met by my mother who gave me a cold look. "You are late!" she told me. "You are well aware we need to be off promptly to meet with the group"

Her expression was beginning to become a sneer of distaste.

"I wasn't feeling too well" I replied weakly. By now my nausea was accompanied by a dull throbbing pain in my head.

"I'm in no mood for your nonsense tonight," she snapped. "What I ever did to deserve an ungrateful wretch of a son like you, I will never know. I've a good mind to have your father teach you a jolly good lesson about being punctual."

I paled at her threat, I did not want to receive another of my father's punishments, it would mean the belt for sure.

"If only there were the time," she said almost regretfully. "Go and get your bag ready now, before I change my mind"

I hurried off quickly to avoid getting further into her bad books. I could only hope that she would forget this, or I might get a worse punishment later. I rushed up stairs to my small room. On the way I nearly ran into my brother, who shoved me roughly out of the way, and I staggered back against the wall.

"Look where you're going, pip squeak!" he shouted, with a nasty grin on his face.

As he strode of down the corridor with a confident swagger, I just knew he was going to make this week a nightmare. I pulled myself back on to my feet and continued to my room. My headache was getting worse. I gathered what I needed for the week as quickly as possible, not wanting to anger my mother any more than she already was.

Just as I was zipping up rucksack ready to go, I suddenly felt on the brink of throwing up. I raced to the bathroom, barely making it in time. I was violently sick in the toilet, and while I was recovering, I heard someone walk into the bathroom. I looked up expecting the worst, to see my sister standing in the doorway with a look of concern on her face.

"Mort, are you all right?" she said with a worried look in her eyes.

I tried to answer her, but was sick again.

Then I heard a booming voice shout from downstairs. "What the devil are you doing up there boy? Get down here this instant! Don't make me come up there, or you'll regret it!" my father yelled.

A few seconds later I heard him stomping up the stairs. "You asked for it, boy!" he growled.

I turned to see my sister shoved aside, as my father walked into the doorway with a look of fury on his face, at which point I threw up again. By the time I had recovered enough to look back, the look of fury had been replaced by one of disgust and contempt.

"Mort isn't well," my sister said quietly. "He probably needs to see a doctor"

"Stupid baby's just faking," sneered my brother from the corridor. He had obviously followed my father back up, in the hopes of seeing a beating.

"We don't have time for this. We need to be going, now!" my father exclaimed angrily.

"Look leave Mort with me, I'll take care of him. You get off to your protest," my sister reasoned.

My father snorted and fiddled with his watch. "All right but when I get back we are going to have words, boy," he threatened.

With that he was gone. I heard the door slam and a car drive off moments later. I could only hope that the protest went so well that when he got back he forgot his anger at me.

"Come on," my sister said while helping me up, now my sickness seemed to have subsided a bit. "Let's get you cleaned up, and into bed. Then I'll call Dr Benson to see if he can come and take a look at you."

I nodded weakly as she helped me wash my face, then helped me to my room and tucked me in to bed. I was too weak to undress, so just fell into bed fully clothed. Despite my splitting headache, I must have passed out, as the next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by my sister, and Dr Benson stood at the foot of my bed. Dr Benson was the local g.p. (general practitioner) a kindly old fellow. He was also one of the few local people who spoke out openly against the anti-MORFS attitude of the village. He had been pressured to reveal patients who had undergone MORFS, and to not offer treatment to those affected, and had steadfastly refused.

Various people had tried to have him struck off the medical register, but he was an outstanding doctor, with an impeccable record so all had failed. As a result, most of the high and mighty snubbed him, and tried to pressure him to retire. "How are you feeling, young Mortimer?" he asked with a gentle smile. "Your sister tells me you are not feeling too well."

I sat up, and managed a quiet, "I've been better, Doctor."

"Why don't you tell me your symptoms, lad," he replied.

I went on to describe the sickness, the headache, the muscle pains, and anything else I could think of.

The doctor hummed and ahh'd a bit then opened his medical bag. "Right, let's take a look at you then." He pulled out a stethoscope.

He listened to my heart, proceeded to take my blood pressure, check my temperature, and all the usual doctor things. He stood there with a frown for a bit, as if in thought, then rummaged around in his bag for a bit, coming out with a small white box. He opened up the package and took from it a small box with a hole in one end, a small vial of liquid, and what looked like a pin sealed in a sterile container.

"This is a blood testing kit, which I just want to use to rule something out," the doctor said calmly, though I thought I saw a glimmer of worry in his eyes.

"OK, What do I do?"

"Just hold your finger here," Dr Benson said. "I'm just going to prick your finger, there we go."

The doctor pricked my finger and allowed a small drop of blood to fall into the hole in the tester. He then put a plaster on my finger, and added the contents of the vial to the hole.

He gently shook the tester. "This will just take a moment."

I was beginning to worry, what was wrong with me, that was so bad the doctor would not even mention what he was testing for?

Dr Benson looked at a small results strip in the tester, and compared it to a key in the instructions. He seemed to be checking the results very thoroughly, as if he didn't want the result he had. Then he put the test down and said quietly, "Oh dear."

"What is it, doctor?" my sister said worriedly.

"I'm afraid... " he said hesitantly pausing, and looking me right in the eye, " ... you are in the first stage of Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome or MORFS"

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