I actually looked things up for this story, so its accurate
in places and names. If people are confused, the Encierro is the
annual running of the bulls in Spain. Yes, that one where they let
bulls charge through the town chasing insane tourists. I mean, who
would run along in front of bulls anyway? This story was inspired in
about ten seconds after seeing the opening few moments to
City Slickers incidently, I liked the movie. Norman is cool :)
I like cows.
It was one of those things which seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, it still seemed like a good idea. We had flown into Italy, caught a boat along the shore of the Mediterranean and were now wandering through Spain. We were dropped near Barcelona, the boat trip itself deserves its own story. We estimated we had about three days hike ahead of us to reach Pamplona in time. Mike still seemed enthusiastic about the idea, but I was beginning to have second thoughts, but still grinned like an idiot when I talked abou it. We wanted to be in Pamplona for the Fiesta de San Fermin to participate in the Encierro. That's the Running of the Bulls to those who were a little confused. Like I said, a few thousand kilometers away, it seemed like a good idea, but wandering through the country side eyeing the cattle which lined the roads, it began to seem that maybe just watching would be enough. That night, we wandered into a small village only sixty kilometers or so from our final destination and hunted around from the local inn. Previous experiences told us that there would be one nearby somewhere. We found it after a while, the sounds from within unmistakable. Opening the door we stumbled into the cheery glow. I always hated entering a small pub. I felt like I was barging in on some secret gathering. Almost all conversation stops immediately and you can feel the eyes of the town beginning to bore into your soul, as if weighing your very existence. It happened again at this pub and we both gave a polite nod and headed towards the bar. In our limited Spanish we order two glasses of the local brew. The bartender seemed to reach her judgment and pulled out two glasses, filling them before handing them over. "Englanders?" she asked curiously. "No," I replied sipping my drink. "Australians." That seemed to relieve some hidden pressure point and the small room suddenly burst into life again. Soon we were surrounded by people asking us questions about our travels. Luckily, most spoke English better than my Spanish and we seemed to get on quite well. With the aid of barely grasped Spanish, mime and drunken English we explained how we were here to compete in the Running of the Bulls. That raised a cheer from the bar. If my guess was correct, it would have seemed we were in the town which provided the bulls for the event. In fact, most of the farmers seemed to be more than happy to provide cattle for the festival. Somewhere towards midnight I found myself wedged between two blokes in a booth singing some ancient drinking song I had never heard before. Opposite me, Mike was doing the exact same thing. A short time later the barmaid gave her last round and eventually we stumbled out into the cold air. The crowd slowly dispersed, leaving Mike and myself surrounded by three farmers who were debating angrily between themselves about where the best place to stay would be. This old man won and we somehow managed to climb into the back of his truck as he headed off to his farm. A short time later he stopped and we were guided into his barn. Inside was warm and cosy, the few animals which were there shuffled restlessly in their stalls. He gestured to the fresh hay in two stalls and both of dumped our stuff and were about to crash when he reappeared carrying a small bottle and three glasses. Smiling to himself he handed out the glasses he filled them and we drank. Then we drank again. In fact, I dimly remember quite a lot of drinking going on. I have no idea what time it was, but I can vaguely remember the feeling of straw hitting my face and the blissful calm of unconsciousness. The next thing I heard was a terrible groan. Then it happened again and I realized it was coming from me. My eyes slowly parted and I gave a third groan. What was in that stuff? My head felt as if it was filled with wood shaving and the rest of my body was not much better. I rolled over, moaning softly as the hay pushed at my skin awkwardly. For an instant I thought about sitting up, but dismissed that thought pretty quickly. I heard another moan nearby. "Mike?" I announced in a husky whisper, wincing at the sound. There was a moments silence before I heard a tentative "Yes?" drift back from the other side of the stall divider. "How do you feel?" I asked softly. "Ummm, hard to say," came the reply. "My brain is still disconnected I think." I smiled, then winced again, trying to muster the courage to stand. I took me quite a while. I was in the act of figuring out why I seemed to have two left feet when I heard another whisper. "Brian?" it said. "Are you wearing any clothes?" My brain twisted that sentence around for a few seconds, reached a conclusion and I looked down. I had to blink a few moments to make sure before I spoke. "Ummm, no," was the answer. There was an equally long pause. "Me neither," floated across to me. That bit of activity seemed to take a lot out of us and I found myself sitting back on the hay. Somewhere behind my eyes my brain was trying to tell me something. Hangovers do not usually feel like this, nor should I be sitting naked in a stable, but somehow the messages were not being answered correctly. I rubbed slowly at my arms, trying to determine an excuse for the aching, but besides thinking they seemed softer than normal I couldn't find anything wrong with them. Eventually my brain gave up and I fell back on the hay in a deep sleep. When next I awoke, I felt a little better. My head had stopped its throbbing, but still felt as if it was stuffed with wood, but my body did not hurt as much. I heard my stomach rumbling and wobbly climbed to my feet. Reaching out for the sides, I looked over. Mike was curled up on the other side, he looked strange with the single overhead bulb. "Mike?" I called softly, my tongue still having difficulty with the words. His eyes slowly flicked open and he woke up gradually. By this stage I had reached the stall gate and had to fumble with the latch for a while before it opened. Between the two stalls was a small table where we had last drunk with the man. He was no where in sight, but had left us a small mountain of food. I eagerly fell upon an innocent loaf of fresh bread and began to munch it down. Beside that were two large glasses of the stuff we had been drinking the night before. As I ate, I washed it down with the strange brew. Now that I think about it, it did not taste like a spirit, more like a potion. It was very strange. Mike joined me in a few minutes and began devouring his own share of the table. A short time later we had both finished and were picking the crumbs off the table top. "Tired. Need sleep," announced Mike with an excellent Homer Simpson impression. I nodded, watching him as he walked back into his stall. I can remember thinking about how strange he looked, somehow darker and more muscled, but sort of furry as well. It was hard to describe. I walked back into my stall as I yawned. I as arranged the hay into a softer pile I seemed puzzled how my fingers had trouble grasping the single strands of straw, but sleep over came me before I could ponder that further. The next time I awoke I could hear distant alarm bells ringing. I tried to call out for Mike, but couldn't seem to form the words correctly. I heard something which could have been formed into the name "Brian" with a bit of imagination, but equally could have been one of the animals in the surrounding stalls. My tongue seemed to big. Actually my entire mouth seemed too large. It looked to me as if my nose had somehow managed to swell up. I couldn't see properly in front of me, but that was not much of a problem, my head was too heavy for me to keep up anyway. I patted around on the hay, feeling for my other hand, eventually feeling something which approximated what I was looking for, except it only seemed to have two hard fingers and furry arms, but I could feel one hand rubbing the other. I gave a moan and collapsed back down on the hay. It was dark again when I came too. I could sense someone in the stall with me. I sung my head around, the figure of the old man swinging into view again. I sniffed in his direction curiously. There was something about him which smelt good. His hand reached out and I licked at it tentatively. There was something sweet and gooey, but very nice. His other hand came around slowly and I ignored it, then when it was level with my mouth there was a quick flick. I felt a stab of pain inside my nose and pulled by head back instinctively. My nose began to throb and the man began to back away. I snorted and started pulling my muscular torso up onto my thin legs, but something went wrong and I gave a strangled cry and plummeted into the hay. I heard him chuckling as he left while I tried to sort myself out, then a loud moan came from the direction of Mike's stall, followed a few seconds later by a muffled squash of hay. The next time I awoke I definitely felt better. My body had stopped it aching and I sat up from where I lay on my belly. It was daylight again. Three days. This was the third day. I knew there was something important due to happen on the third day. As I chewed idly on a piece of straw I tried to remember what it was, but my mind just did not seem to be working. In fact, it was getting worse. Lifting myself onto my arms I tried to stand, but almost felt, falling back onto all fours. I shook my head. All fours? Why would I want to stand on my hind legs? At this height I could see over the railings and scratched my big head against a corner post. The rough sawn timbers felt nice against my fur and I let out a rumble of comfort. Sniffing I detected another of my kind and looked over the edge to see another bovine sleeping. I reached down and nipped playfully at his flank. His skin twitched and he jumped to his feet, standing rather wobbly on all fours for the first time. In his eyes I could see he was struggling with something and I found myself associating a different animal to his form, but I gave up and shook my head in puzzlement. There was a rattle of a pail and we both turned to watched an old human walk into the barn. He put the bucket down and picked up a short length of rope. Walking to me he slowly looped it around my nose ring and lead me out to a truck. Strangely this did not seem to both me and a few minutes later the other bull joined me before the truck moved off. During the ride, I tried to get use to this strange, but familiar form. It was not long before I mastered my balance on the winding road and I spent the remainder of the time watching the countryside. There was a moment of panic as I caught my horns in the bars, but an advantageous bump assisted in freeing them. After an hour we reached a large town. We were led from the truck and paraded between two crowds of people. I did not like it and wanted to escape, but the human holding my rope had too much control over me. We entered a small arena, the rope was untied and myself and some other bovines that were already there congregated in the middle. The humans began to shout, their chants frightening me. To one side an opening suddenly appeared and together we all made a dash for it. As I scampered down the narrow streets I can vaguely remember a feeling of accomplishment. As if it was important for some reason for myself to be running with my fellow bulls.