By Pat Cuynningham
Having just spent a week battling bronchitis and coughing liquid out of my lungs every 15 seconds, I got to wondering about what diseases might affect our shifters. Are they immune or susceptible to human maladies like cancer and STDS? Do their youngsters get distemper as a childhood disease instead of the mumps? Do they visit a doctor or a vet, or have they developed their own specialized healer caste?
This idea can go both ways. The comedy possibilities are endless. Of course shifters are vulnerable to the common cold. EVERYONE is vulnerable to the common cold. There’s nothing worse than a mighty lion or sleek virile tiger with a drippy nose. And where do you keep a hanky? Jaguars become stricken with “leopard pox” which causes rosettes to appear on their human skin. Or a virus disrupts the shifting process, causing a shapechange to stop at the halfway point, or leaving the human form with fuzzy ears, a tail, and fur in embarrassing places. Picture a tough alpha wolf who shifts into something that looks more like a poodle. Or a literal “swine flu” which makes people randomly and involuntarily shapeshift into pigs. Try explaining those symptoms on your insurance form.
For the serious suspense writer we have the desperate alpha leader whose clan is dying of a shifter pandemic, who kidnaps the lovely research scientist and now must a) convince her shapeshifters actually exist and b) persuade her to help them. Or some wacko creates a pathogen specifically designed to eradicate shifters, who are seen as abominations against God. Or maybe the wacko wants to turn all people into shapeshifters because he thinks they’re neat. If you could turn yourself into a sultry tigress, would you even want to be cured?
I don’t know yet where shifters stand on national health care reform. Maybe some tiger’s a state rep or something. Right now I need to go out and buy more juice and Nyquil. Stay healthy.