<- "Never Deal With a Wizard"   Up: Transformation Contest 2, Category 2  "Rise from the Ashes" ->


by Arthur Pearson

Another housewife out to the hardware store to pick up a few things. A nice woman, late 30s, a little mousy, average build and weight (as in not a super model), and her hair up in a bun. Out of reflex, Corey looked around the store. No one else around. He sighed and twiddled with the cash register, an old non electric type that was here when the hardware store opened in 1952. Still working after all these years. 'Course, they keep a calculator next to it to figure out the tax.

Corey began gazing into the reflective surface of the cash register window and his mind began wandering. Little images of the housewife appeared on the window, images taken from a worm's eye view. Corey blinked and cursed. He was getting worse. Last night, it was levitating the cat. Last week, it was conjuring a monsoon in his apartment. Last month he had turned Mrs. Shelby's little Oscar from a male terrier into a female husky. Mrs. Shelby was bewildered.

Now he was seeing the future. How the hell was he going to end up with his head ground level, looking up at this housewife? He wasn't sure he wanted to find out.

The housewife came up to him and put her pink purse on the counter. Corey rang up her one purchase. A broom. She leaned forward and smiled, saying, "I just have no luck with brooms. The last one got sucked down a jet engine."

Corey laughed and nodded. He gave her the total and she gave him money. As he was saying, "Have a nice day," a will-o-the-wisp sparkled into existence just behind her head and then winked out. He blinked his eyes at where it was then looked back at her. She was looking at him in an unusual way. Like she wasn't about to leave.

"Ma'am?" Corey said nervously. The lady turned her head toward the door into the store. The wooden wedge holding it open shifted loose after a strong gust of wind pushed the door open even farther and then the door swung shut. The door shut with such force that the "Open" sign flipped up and spun around. The woman then looked at Corey.

"Wow, did you do that?" He asked with a hint of joking.

"Yes, I did."

That blind sided him a little. "Heh heh."

"Seriously. Now what did you just conjure behind me?"

"Ah, nothing. I mean, what are you talking about?"

This lady was not going to be stopped. "You blinked at something behind me and banished it. What was it?"

Corey was experiencing the common feeling of fear. It was something he'd felt a couple times before like when he was 5 and lost in a huge department store, and the time he was drunk and nearly got killed in an accident. "Look lady, I'm just a clerk. I don't know what you're talking about."

Mrs. Mystery just frowned and said, "Well, if you really are a norm I can just wipe this memory from you later." And she suddenly was wearing all black and looked about 18 and about 30 pounds thinner. "I am Ganemede of the Twenty-Second Circle. Call me Ganny. And I am a witch. I recognize you have power but no skill. I want to take you under my care. Like an apprenticeship."

While she was speaking, Corey was plastered to the back wall. Slowly, he took everything that she said in. He blinked a couple times, trying to form his mouth around the obvious answer. He tried again and this time managed to say, "Ahh." Three time's the charm. He regained his composure and said, "What do I need to do?"

Ganny was suddenly her old self. "Well, that's the crux of the matter: what do you need to do." She pursed her lips and looked around the empty store. "Shall we talk about this later, say 8 o'clock at your place?"

"Fine. I mean perfect. You know where I live?"

"I thought I'd let you tell me."

Corey worked on the instant mashed potatoes and pork chops. Fanciest meal he'd had in a while. He hoped the witch would like it.

The witch. His mind balked at the idea. Another in the world, with magic! Heck, another. She said that she was of the 22nd circle. That means that there are a lot of 'em out there, hidden from the normal world.

The doorbell rang. Corey went to the door, opened it and said, "Hi!" Ganny walked in past him, almost ignoring him. "Uh... I made supper for us."

"I already ate." She said immediately.

Corey frowned. He went into the kitchen and said, "Make yourself at home." He took a couple bites from the pork chop and mashed potatoes, and then wrapped them up and put them in the fridge.

By the time he was back, his living room was totally rearranged. A big part of the floor was cleared off, pretty clean too considering the mounds of junk that was under the couch now leaning up against the far wall. "Hey.." He said, the beginning of a protest that weakly petered out.

Ganny was her younger self. She turned to him. "Here's the deal. About 200 years ago, there was a big war between the witches and the warlocks." Witches being female magic users and warlocks being male. Corey gulped. "So, the Highest Circle, when we won, wove a spell to prevent a warlock from ever being born again."

"So what am I?"

"You were probably a girl in your mother's womb and avoided the spell. But due to a genetic drift or something that the Highest Circle had no clue about way back when, you were born a man."

Corey pulled his head back. "That sort of thing happens?"

"Gender, for some fetuses, is pretty ambiguous." She frowned. "Now. So. You're not allowed to exist. No, no, don't worry. I'm not here to destroy you."

He said instead, "What are you here to do?"

"Well, as I said, male witches would obviously not be allowed to join the circle. But I could change you."

Corey gasped. "Into a woman? No way! I'd never be able to pull it off!"

Sadly, Ganny nodded with him. "I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking I was going to have to destroy you." Ganny then spread her hands and smiled saying, "But it came to me in a flash."

"What?" Corey was reluctant to hear what came next.

"I could make you my familiar."

"What do you mean? What exactly is a familiar?"

"A familiar is an animal companion to a witch. It could be anything from a black cat to a white dog to a red toucan."

Corey sat down in his big recliner and stared forward in shocked thought. A woman or an animal... My masculinity or my humanity. He held up a hand and pictured two scenarios to replace his hairy work calloused hand: delicate fingers with red nail polish, or fur and claws. Then he thought long and hard about just how much he wanted to learn magic.

He looked up at her and folded his hands. "Do they allow you to have tigers as familiars?"

Ganny had a surprised look on her face. "You go for the throat, don't you?" She chuckled as Corey floundered. "No, nothing so unusual that would make people run away in fear."

"So that excludes bears too. Gods, what to decide?"

"You've got 30 minutes."


Ganny shrugged. "The other witches can be very nosy about your business. When they asked me why I was coming over here, I had to tell them something. So I told them that I'd recently acquired this place from the previous owner and was thinking of moving in."

If Corey was a cartoon his jaw would have dropped to the floor. "WHAT!?"

Ganny just cocked her head in a careful warning look. "Think quickly."

Corey got up and spun around, looking at his life. All gone in under 30 minutes, guaranteed. He looked back to the witch with obvious distress. "My home..."

"You'll still live in it, silly. You'll just have a new set of hands." She brought up and shook her own hands.

Corey knew exactly what being an animal was going to mean. But he wanted to have hands. Monkey? Too weird. Raccoon? Hmm... maybe.

"Would... raccoon work you think?"

There was a knock at the door. They both looked to it in shock. Ganny looked at Corey apologetically. "Sounds good to me. Quick, get out of your clothes. Coming!"

He obeyed as quickly as he could. Ganny drew a quick circle in the floor around him, putting a little gem at three points. Once he'd got down to his pants, she warned, "This'll have to do." She pulled out and pointed a wand at him as the knocking got louder.

"Ganemede, I know you're in there. What's the hold up?" It was a teenage voice.

Corey then felt forcibly tapped into the electric feeling he called magic. It rippled over him again and again and then stopped as Ganny finished the quiet spell and said behind her, "Just conjuring a dragon you impatient witch!" To Corey, she said, "It will take a minute or so to change you. Get in that closet over there."

Corey looked at his hands. His nails were blacker already. He scooped up his clothes and tip-toed over to the closet as the knocks became sledgehammer whams.

He watched as Ganny closed the doors and it became dark in the closet. He lifted up the wooden blinds on the door so he could watch from the darkness of the closet.

But he got a little distracted. His pants fell off his shrinking waist and he reached down to pull them up. He fell over onto his back and then lay still in fear that he'd be heard.

Change. His body was changing. About the size of a young teen now, he felt not fur growing from his body but his skin sinking beneath the fur that was already there. His human hair disappeared and he felt his body shrink except for the furry raccoon ears that were there all the time. A chitter of pure excess energy trilled up through him and he brought his paw to his muzzle.

Change. He looked at his paw as his body shrank more, revealing more and more raccoon. His claws and "fingers" were now structured very differently, covered in black skin and black hair that stuck close to his skin at the wrist and gradually poofed out as you went up to the shoulder. He put his paws on his furry chest, feeling the texture there.

Change. He was now the size of a dog. He saw his hind paws and stuck them up as he pushed his face forward, his black marble eyes glistening in the near darkness of the closet. With his hind paws raised, he felt his tail extend from his spine, fluffing out fur as it went.

And then the magic left him. He was a raccoon. He put his paws to his muzzle in shock, looking around himself at all his human clothes. All big enough to be blankets for him now. He chittered in fear. Why didn't he choose a wolf or a great dane or something the same size as he was before?

He yelped and scrambled into the back of the closet when the closet door flew open. Now he paid attention to what was going on.

"C'mere. C'mere. Don't worry. It's Ganny." She didn't coo. She just talked reasonably. Corey appreciated that.

He walked forward, pressing his paws into the soft clothing, catching his claws. He looked up at her and she picked him up and held him. Right next to her breasts. He goggled, and realized he couldn't really ignore them, since his entire little furry naked body was pressed up against them.

Let's just say that he found out that his masculinity was definitely preserved. He got embarrassed, but luckily his underside was not visible.

"All right now, my little familiar. Meet Candia of the 20th circle." Corey twisted his furred head around and pointed his muzzle at the newcomer. She was younger than Ganny, or at least looked like it. About 16, he'd guess, and modestly endowed. She had a kind of look in her eyes that made him feel like he was a single celled organism beneath her attention. He blinked at her and tried to chitter a hello.

"A familiar, Ganny? Really. What use do modern witches have of familiars? And why a raccoon?"

Ganny hugged Corey a little closer in defense. He was beginning to think he could handle this familiar gig. Handle it just fine. "There's a lot he can do. He's very intelligent. I could teach him to mix potions or grind herbs. He's got little hands, you know." Ganny demonstrated by lifting up one of Corey's paws. He obligingly clutched the finger that held it up.

A few seconds passed as Candia just looked with disinterest at Ganny. Then she swept her gaze full circle around the place. "What a dump. What is all this crap around here? Did the former owner move out?"

"As a matter of fact, no. He just disappeared recently. I conjured up a fake will and made everyone think he'd died and left his things to me."

Corey looked in surprise at Ganny as if to say "WHAT?!" He was getting used to the feeling of being simultaneously incredulous and surprised. Ganny just gave him a warning look.

He couldn't believe it. In a matter of minutes, his entire life was taken over by these witches. His friends at the store, he'd never see again. His crazy old mother. That cute little girl that always came to the store on Thursdays and flirted with him. All thinking he was dead. Ganny deposited him in his big comfy chair as the two witches began refurnishing his house. As if he didn't exist.

His ratty old couch that he'd slept on for a summer because he didn't have a mattress. Gone. They conjured duplicates of themselves that hauled it out. His race car collection. Boxed up to be sold. All his pictures, taken down. The ugly pea green wallpaper, changed magically to a creamy white.

Corey thought, huh. I'd been meaning to change that color ever since I got this place.

Then they came back over to him. Candia said, "And what about this old thing? Ugh, it's so ratty. What do you say? Burn it?"

Not my comfy chair! Corey planted his paws and glared up at the two, snarling a little. Rrr...

They both looked surprised. "Well, it looks like he's gotten attached to that chair." Ganny said. "Well, it's no difference to me. There's plenty of space."

Corey held his ground until they passed on. Then he sat back down in his chair, his forepaws planted and his rear feet splayed to either side as if he were about to tip backward but was using his forepaws to keep him facing forward. He stayed there, watching on as the witches' doubles hauled bag after bag of his old junk and life away to the curb. Well, he was a raccoon now. He could just go down there and root through the garbage and get back what he wanted later.

He sighed and let himself roll on his back, and then to his side. His comfy chair was now a bed. He stuffed his muzzle between his paws and closed his eyes, curled up like the little creature he was.

A new life awaited him and he wanted a good nap in before it started.

-The Intolerable Picklejuice (apearson@d.umn.edu)
... "And that, my Liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped."
"That which does not kill me had better be able to run away damn fast."
How come Mr. Moebius never seems to see more than one side to any question?
"Faster.  Farther.  Furrier."
* * *
Copyright 1997: apearson@d.umn.edu . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first.       Thank you

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