Travelers never did expect me to be anything but a cute, stupid little animal. Trappers didn’t either, but my kind are far better than the normal otters that sometimes show up around these parts. I stared ahead at the woman in her fancy blue traveling clothes, and widened my eyes. I stood on my hind legs and alternated my back feet. My entire body wiggled as my large bottom shifted. I pressed my front paws together and made the “woop” sound that so often worked wonders for me.
The human looked down and made the human sound of endearment, then reached to pick me up. I scrambled into her arms and rubbed my forehead on her cheek, then gave her a nose-nuzzle. I had her now.
The human’s male made grunty, threatening noises at her, then glanced at me. I put on my sweetest face and rubbed my cheeks and forehead, miming an otter’s bath. The female ignored her male and carried me into her wheeled house.
The wheeled house was lined in blue fuzz, and I could smell food nearby. I wriggled in the female human’s arms and dropped down to the floor with a thud. It sounded hollow under the dark blue fuzzy surface. I began to lay down, when something grabbed me. I kept calm, despite my instinct to bite and struggle, and looked back to see that it was just the female. She wrapped me in a rougher fuzzy cloth and rubbed me until I was pleasantly warm, and I felt no wetness in my fur.
She actually managed to get a happy chirp out of me before I shut up. If they knew my sounds of joy, they might be able to manipulate me. I gave her another nuzzle on the cheek with my nose, and she made a human joy sound that reminded me of the birds that go tat-tat-tat-tat-tat when they’re angry about me stealing the eggs they lay on the ground.
Eventually, even I can get tired of being warm, so I wiggled free and began to explore my new temporary home. I tried to sniff out the food, but before I could, the human placed the rough warming cloth on the ground and put a plate of fish down on top of it. Far from my favorite, any free meal is to be savored– even if it is the worst kind of fish in Icesog, and burnt at that.
I ate eagerly, though. A show of being thankful never hurt my chances at another free meal, I found. I had to try very hard to keep my feasting neat and tidy. No human wanted to keep a messy guest. I tried to eat as ‘human’ as possible, with my hands bringing food to my mouth. Silly insensible humans and their eating habits.
They always burned their food, or otherwise did strange things to it. Most of the time, it was pointless. Rarely, they made something that was passable as far as tastiness goes. Those were my favorites, but only people who wore the most blinding colors or in black ever had them. Somehow, they tasted very sweet, like the beets I stole sometimes from farmers before they began to make my belly hurt.
As I finished my meal, the human took the plate away and made high-pitched noises at me. I wasn’t alarmed– these were human sounds that they made at babies. This meant that I was adopted now, and had a little more freedom in how I acted. Once a human became attached, it was difficult for them to turn me away. I have no idea why, but even when they make angry sounds, they still feed me.
The human picked me up and looked me in the eye. Unlike with dealings of my own kind, humans did not threaten each other using this action. It was puzzling, but I had no objections. Free meals carried a lot of weight with my belly. She made her lips very thin as she bit the inside of them. I pricked my ears forward. She was about to give me a name, and I was expected to come when that name was called– humans somehow thought I was a dog.
Finally, she spoke. The name she gave me was easy to remember– I had it once before. I paused and leaned forward, pressing my paws against her to get a better look at her. I disguised my interest with another nose-bump-nuzzle that humans called a kiss.
This was trouble.
She was the same who called me that name before, and recognized me. She surely knew that I planned to eat her food for a time, then run away. I licked her face a few times in a show of adoration, hopeful that she would get the impression I found her and returned of my own will.
The female laughed and squeezed me between her ever-pregnant nipples. I was accepted once more.
After a month of dealing with wearing human clothes and doing tricks for treats, I finally had enough of the degradation. It was easy to escape during the night, and I slid out of the wheeled house’s door. I was already hidden in the darkness when I heard the door slam back shut behind me. A search would begin, and a more intense search would occur in the morning. I had little time to escape, and I made full advantage. A low trill called others of my kind together, and we rearranged the floating islands to cover my trail.
The troop of us swam away to a small cave, and one of the others lit a small fire. We slept the rest of the night together, and I romanced a female in heat and mated with her. I was free again, and life was good.
Come morning, I stretched and rolled over onto my belly to get up. The fire was down to embers, and the others were gone, save the female I mated with. She smelled of sour milk. I would be a father in the beginning of winter. That was a bad time.
“Maybe mating last night was not wise.” I admitted in the closest my kind has to an apology.
“I am unconcerned.” She stretched and wiggled her rear forward to catch up to her front paws. “I will take a human for the winter. If the young become pets, so be it. Pets are not free, but they are not hunted.” She ran her paws along the top of her head, brushing her mottled brown fur forward.
“I know one. I fled from her. She has ‘cookies’.” I trotted over to the female and curled around her to give her warmth. “She is gentle, but stupid.”
The female tilted her head back, then rubbed her cheeks. “I will keep my ear open for you in the future.” she promised.
Bliss soared inside me, and I began to clean her face. She approved of me enough to wish to return to me after this mistake! Cleaning took only a few minutes, but was interrupted by the sound of a human outside. I heard the call of the male who belonged to the human I just escaped from. “That is the human’s male. He is seeking for me, and does not know the differences in our markings. He will deliver you, and I will follow to ensure he does nothing hurting to you.”
The female nodded, then bounced out and let out a woop of familiarity at the human male, who picked her up. I almost charged to bite him as he wrapped his hand around her belly, but he shifted her onto her back in his arms before any damage could be done to the unborn kits.
He left, and I followed along at a distance. When they arrived, the human female spotted me leaning on a tree and peering at them, and must have decided she liked my new mate better. She took my female in, and did not mention my name at all. Perhaps the human was more wise than I thought.