Arctos: Filters – Episode 1 (Part 1)

“Wait, is this the right one?” Bruce asked himself when he opened up the app on his phone, and started scrolling down through it. One of his coworkers that day had mentioned some new app that did some sort of really cool photo filters, but by the time he’d gotten home he hadn’t been able to remember the exact name. This one had sounded familiar though, and so he’d downloaded it from some company named Arctos. He booted it up, and it looked…well, like a lot of other filter programs he’d seen, but nothing particularly special. He’d just have to ask him for the right name tomorrow at work.

He browsed through the selections in this one, and was actually impressed by the sheer number. There were filters to change facial hair and hairstyle, filters that made you look like someone from a particular occupation–and then he saw something he hadn’t seen before–there were filters that the app claimed could change the look of your whole body. There was a buzz from his phone, a message from Jean, his boyfriend, checking to see if they were still on for dinner tonight, and Bruce decided to send him something funny. There was a collection of animal filters, and he found one that looked like a set of floppy pig ears. He turned it on, and was surprised by how lifelike it was–when he turned his head, he could see the ears swinging with it, and the physics of them was surprisingly realistic. He tilted his head to the side, letting one ear flop against his cheek, while the other one hung down, and then tilted it the other way. He didn’t know what company this was, but this was actually way more impressive than the one his coworker had mentioned. He took a photo of himself with the floppy ears–though it took a while for it to pop up on the screen, and then he sent it to Jean, along with a message that he was just about to leave.

He slipped his phone into his pocket, grabbed his coat and stepped out of his apartment. Jean lived a few streets away, but Bruce preferred walking, rather than trying to catch a bus. He hit the street, checked his phone again, and saw a message from Jean–“There’s my handsome man,”–but no mention of the ears added to the photo. Bruce was a bit annoyed that Jean didn’t mention the filter, he usually liked silly things like that, but it wasn’t a big deal, he supposed. Bruce just enjoyed the Spring chill on the twenty minute walk to his place, not really thinking about much in particular beyond how excited he was for Summer to finally arrive. He buzzed for Jean, who let him into the building, and Bruce hiked up the three stories to his apartment, where Jean was waiting for him. He gave him a kiss, and stepped inside, hanging his coat up on the hook inside. “Did you like that pic I sent?” he asked, “Kind of cool, right?”

Jean looked at him a bit puzzled, “Of course, you’re always cute in a photo–are you just fishing for compliments, or what?”

Bruce rolled his eyes, “Yeah, but the ears Jean, come on.”

Jean just chuckled, “I know you feel self-conscious about them sometimes, so I never know if I should say anything or not, but of course they looked good–they always do,” he stepped closer, reached up and flicked one of the floppy ears hanging off of Bruce’s head, and watched his boyfriend’s face go pale, both hands flying up to the side of his head, and then he dashed to the bathroom like a madman, locking the door behind him.

They were there. The ears, they were real! Bruce grabbed one and gave it a tug, wincing from the sudden pain. It couldn’t be possible, it didn’t make any sense! He stared at himself in the mirror over the sink, tilting his head side to side like he had into his phone half an hour earlier, watching his new ears flop and hang just like they had, just like…they always had, right? He fumbled with his phone and pulled up his photos, looking through his selfies, and sure enough, his ears were there, in every single photo. His pig ears. Had he really walked all the way over here, and not a single person had looked at him? Or had they been looking, and he was just so used to the stares at this point, that he didn’t worry about it?

“Bruce?” Jean said, “I’m sorry, I…I mean, you asked, and I didn’t want to upset you, alright? Let’s talk about it.”

Bruce went back to the app, and his photo was still up. He backed out to the camera, and there, in the upper left hand corner, was a button marked undo. He slammed it, watched the screen process for a moment, and when the screen came back alive, they were gone. His normal, human ears were right there, like they’d never left. He looked in the mirror, and again, the pig ears were gone, and also from all of his photos, which had also turned back to normal. He heaved a sigh of relief, and then opened the door, where a very concerned looking Jean was standing.

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