by Hydrargentium

He recognized her. Chelsea Halligan — Professor Halligan — always kept a tidy office. Most of the other professors in Computing Science were men, and had offices ranging from eccentric to disastrous, but even the other two female professors in the department tended towards clutter and piles.

“Oh,” she said, when she looked up from her cell phone and caught sight of him in the gloom of the corridor. It was times like this that Mongrel wished he could make himself smaller. The light from the window at the end of the hallway would be putting him in silhouette, making him look even bigger and more imposing.

“It’s okay,” he said, trying to sound friendly and gentle, and grimacing at the growly sound of his voice. That wouldn’t help either, here.

“I… my name’s Mongrel. I’m supposed to be here.”

She looked like she was thinking about screaming, or maybe calling 9-1-1. He caught the first whiffs of fear on her scent — something else he didn’t need to think about to recognize — even though she was nearly twenty feet away. This was exactly the kind of thing he didn’t want happening. Once again, he wished he could become smaller.

Then he realized he could make himself smaller and less threatening, sort of. Without moving too quickly, he dropped to his knees until he was sitting down fully on his heels. Remembering something he’d read about inmates in support groups, he clasped his hands behind his back, trying to indicate his commitment to non-confrontation and passivity.

“What… what are you doing?”