“What the hell!” Stace yelped falling back on her ass as she took in the sight.
Fur was sprouting from her feet!
She watched in morbid fascination as tri-toned fur slowly crept up her thighs in undulating waves then moved onto her stomach. The change was accompanied by a bone-deep chill that faded once the fur finished growing in an area. To her immense relief, when it passed over her many bruises it took their pain with it. Wiping away months of accumulated aches and pains while leaving a surreal sense of euphoria in its wake.
When it reached her breasts, they shrunk significantly from a respectable handful to a range that would no longer require a bra and were covered in a much shorter downy fur that made them all but disappear into the long fur of her belly. Her nipples also shrunk to pinpricks that hid neatly beneath the fur now covering the rest of her breasts.
“What the!?” she croaked when it reached her neck and she could no longer observe. She was now covered in a grizzled long thick-haired fur with a yellow-brown tone all over a white base. The downy growths over her breasts were the same snow-white of her undercoat.
She felt at its luscious silkiness with shock-shaking hands. What is happening to me?
A few seconds later white-hot pain filled her head and she fell into blackness.
She snapped to, feeling exhausted and ravenous but surprisingly happy and energetic for the first time in her recent memory.
She felt strong.
The smell of a recent rain enhancing the pungent scents of the forest around her was almost overwhelming. The sharp tangy scent of blood gave the whole sensation a sinister undertone.
Whatever this high is, I want more, she thought, leveraging herself to her feet. Where she teetered on unfamiliar legs for a few seconds before finding her new, lower center of gravity.
The first new thing she noticed, other than her balance, was everything around her stood out in sharper focus. The greens of the leaves hanging from the immense trees were a more vibrant green, the iron-grey bark more distinct on their trunks.
She touched her eyes expecting her glasses but found none. When she tried to check for her contacts, she made her next startling discovery.
She didn't have fingernails. In fact, her hands had completely changed. The backs, all the way to the tips, were now covered in the beautiful grey-speckled fur that covered the rest of her. The reverse had changed to small pads divided by lines of her fur. They were also almost twice their previous size. I’ll have to relearn how to draw with these, she lamented at the discovery.
When she squeezed the tip of one finger, she discovered a hooked claw hidden in the fur on the reverse side.
"Holy cow, I have claws! How do I make them work?" It only took her moments to figure out she just had to flex her fingertips to draw and hold them.
Definitely not checking for contacts with these. She reasoned before continuing her exploration.
She spun around trying to get a more complete look at all the changes that had overcome her then stopped when she realized how silly she was being and instead returned to feeling with her hands.
She felt for her ears, heart missing a beat before she found them on the top of her head and not the sides. They were catlike and very sensitive to her touch. Especially the spikelike tufts that stood up a few inches from the point of each triangular ear and the wispy hairs hanging along their inside perimeter.
She discovered whiskers when she brushed her face with her arm and instinctively shook her head at the strange sensation that accompanied it. They were numerous and very long, spanning out to the full width of her shoulders.
You’re being a fool, Stace thought shaking her head before studying her surroundings again. She sighed when it turned out to be just as calm as the first time she looked. Her gaze was drawn once more to the corpse. It hadn’t moved and still hadn’t attracted many flies. I must not have been out that long, she reasoned before returning to herself inspection.
She touched her nose with a soft finger pad. It was wet!
She discovered her face was still relatively flat but her cheeks had widened along with her mouth.
Looking at her feet she discovered they had also widened like her hand but even more so. Thankfully her legs and feet did retain a mostly human setup.
I'm an animal girl she reasoned sitting back on her haunches. And not the cute anime human type. I'm a full-blown anthropomorphic cat. She’d drawn a few of the fantastical creatures for Frank when he’d asked and found the challenge fun. If what she was finding of her transformation wasn’t some drug-induced dream, she’d gotten many of the details wrong. For one thing, she had the very sharp teeth of a predator.
“And my voice is strange,” She said aloud. Sibilant she thought the word was. S’s are hard to cut off.
Wait, do I have a tail? She thought not having felt any strange movements behind her and reached around behind herself, bending forward to feel at her backside.
She frowned at what she discovered. Yes, she had a tail but it was only a handful of inches long. Another thing I got wrong when making those drawings. Or it could just be whatever I am.
A sound behind her startled her and she fell forwards. Planting her face in the moss a few inches from the corpse earning another earthy mouthful.
“Fine, I'll do your dirty work if it means I can keep my boy safe, you duplicitous bas...” an angry but familiar gravelly voice said behind her. Oddly it grew even deeper as he spoke.
"Oh, holy carrots! *cough*. Holy, mother of Loki, protect m..." Stace turned and the voice trailed off.
Old man Stewart stood there, butt ass naked with the stillness of a statue, staring at her with his mouth in a firm line of determination.
Stace swore she could taste the fear that was clearly plastered across his face.
“Nice, pretty, kitty, I didn’t mean to intrude on your meal. It’s all yours, I don’t want none. I'm just gonna leave, slowly. You go back to your meal, please,” Ken said in an overly friendly voice while raising his hands and taking a slow step backward and to the side.
More quietly but still in a friendly tone he said, “I should've known that devil would pull something like this.”
Stacey watched in open mouth astonishment, as the old man before her changed with each step.
First, just like her, it started with his hair. It sprouted from his bald pate in a deep almost blue-black stopping once it touched his shoulders. Then his beard started growing adding a good foot and turning to the same blue-black as the rest of his head except for two lines that followed the ends of his still grey mustache down around the curve of his mouth to the ends of his new beard.
She stayed where she was, astonished by the show before shaking her head.
“That’s a nice, good, beautiful, kitty.” He continued to back away one slow step at a time.
“Hey,” Stace started, getting to her feet and half raising an arm to stop him.
“Good kit…” Ken teetered mid-step then slumped to the side with a loud groan.
Curious; Stace stood, walked over to his crumpled form, knelt down beside the naked man, and watched as the changes intensified.
The whole process only took about a minute.
First, he seemed to shrink before widening significantly; his shoulder, arms, legs, and torso became stouter, thickening to resemble those of a younger, more buff man and expanding the sinewy look he had possessed until he looked entirely made of steel cables under his firm skin. The only thing that didn’t seem to change significantly was his already large work calloused hands. They just seemed to fit the new him better while becoming slightly denser.
His head changed last, becoming a little wider with his brow bones becoming thicker, sinking his eyes into his skull in the process. Then many of the wrinkles left his face but most of the deepest remained, leaving him to look about 30 years younger. More the early sixties than the mid-eighties Stacey knew he was.
Stace remained on her haunches, watching and waiting before Ken groaned and shifted where he lay before opening his eyes and looking up.
He started and flinched back. Stout legs kicking at the ground to propel him away.
Stacey smiled at him and he scooched back faster. She felt a thrill at the reaction she was getting before shaking her head to dispel the feeling.
“Ken,” she said and he stopped cold, staring at her slack-jawed.
Stace felt the blush start in her legs and quickly engulf her whole body. She straightened and covered her privates before turning away when it irrationally dawned on her, she too was naked.
"Miss Haes?" Ken said with an uncertain cough. “He said you would be here. But, Is that really you? What did… but, right.” He rubbed at his face, starting again when he discovered his beard before pulling on it thoughtfully.
"Yes," She confirmed while turning back to meet his eyes. I’m covered in fur, she reasoned with herself, forcing herself to remove her hands.
“Stacey Haes?” He asked again.
“Yes, Ken Stewart?” she asked the stout naked figure before her.
“Okay, just making sure,” he said with a slow nod, his shoulders sinking with his following sigh.
“You want a real mindfuck? Look at yourself,” Stace said after giving the man a moment.
“Oh?” Ken looked down. “Oh…”
“I like the beard, it suits the new you,” Stace offered.
“You have a beard too, you know,” Ken observed.
Stace felt at the sides of her head and cheeks finding that he hadn’t lied. It’s almost like a lion's mane. Wait! She looked down again then checked; turning to the side. No, still a girl. What kind of predator has females with beards? She wondered.
"I thought that was my hair,'' she said, moving to feel the top and back of her head. All she felt was the same mid-length fur that covered the rest of her.
"I don't have hair!" She whined.
"I wouldn't say that, it looks to me like you have plenty," Ken said wryly.
"You know what I mean!" Stace said, punching the new dwarf in the shoulder, forcing him back a step with the inadvertent strength she put behind it.
“Ow,” he said, rubbing at it. “You need to learn your own strength,” he warned. “Human-like hair would look silly on you now,” he added.
Stace smiled at him sheepishly.
He spent time exploring his changes, going so far as doing a few jumping jacks and pushups while Stace turned to study their surroundings again.
"Oh wow," she murmured as she spun a slow circuit.
Huge trees dominated the area completely blocking her view in every direction after a few hundred feet with their enormous trunks, many wider than some houses she’d seen. They soared upward to disappear into the dense boughs that hung a good 30 feet overhead blocking most of the sun's light from passing underneath.
Small ferns and moss clustered near and on the base of the giants with only an occasional small clump brush clustered where the giant’s above allowed light to filter down. She only found a few juvenile versions of the giants growing nearby. Only one kind of tree that I can see right here. That’s strange. She found herself excited to explore further. She just wished she had her tablet or paper and pencil to sketch them.
The immediate area was dominated by a small clearing, almost like one of the giants should have been growing here but simply wasn't, bathing them in the bright rays of the high sun overhead.
“The devil did say a relation to the Sons of Ivaldi. Dwarves, I believe they were. It’s been a while since I've done any reading on the Norse pantheon,” he said drawing Stace’s gaze back to him.
To her, he seemed satisfied with the changes to his body.
“Devil? What devil?” Stace asked, followed by another loud rumbling from her stomach.
“Loki,” he said, meeting and holding her gaze again for a long moment. "The devil told me to tell you, before he kicked me out, that he accepts your offer. Your sister Rony will be dropped here two Astrain years from today," Ken said.
"What offer?" Stace asked, confused.
Ken shrugged. "It's all he told me, dear. I'm sorry. That's the danger when dealing with devils."
Stace gave him a look of consternation. Anger built slowly in her breast. Rony would be stuck with him for two years! What kind of deal was that! She bared her new fangs in a snarl and felt the fur along her spine bristle with her outrage.
"Hey, hey," Ken raised his hands in defense and stepped back. "I'm not hurling accusations here. I have no moral ground to stand upon, considering my own deal with the hellspawn." He spat to the side.
He lowered his hands when Stace schooled her anger and gave him a begrudging nod of acceptance, stepping back herself. Her blush of shame hidden by her new fur.
"It’s mighty scary when you do that, dear," Ken cautioned with a shuddering breath. "Maybe too many werewolf movies as a youth," he added wryly to himself.
"Sorry," she murmured, feeling her face heat further.
"You said Loki?" Stace asked, changing the subject and trying not to think of her sister.
"That's what he claimed," Ken said.
"Loki has been portrayed as largely neutral outside of Marvel movies. A trickster," Stace reasoned.
"Yes. But beware false idols and prophets; powerful men pretending to be more than they are," Ken warned before letting out a deep sigh. “I don’t know what he really is. Only that he is powerful.” He gestured at the changes they’d both undergone.
"We need to leave these theological questions behind us for now and focus on our immediate future," Ken said, stepping forward and offering Stace a hand up from where she was now crouched.
"Did you touch him?" Ken asked, indicating the corpse.
"No?" Stace questioned looking back at the corpse. "Why?"
"Something else Loki said just before I fell through the second light," he said while studying the corpse. Walking a wide circle around it.
"Hmm?" Stace prompted.
"'The first 4 corpses you and misses Haes touch will give you an inheritance each. Make sure they have their heads. You have a single day to find the dead when you step through.' Or near enough," Ken quoted.
"Inheritance?" Stace asked, baffled.
"It's one thing that has me worried. I don't know," Ken said. He bent and retrieved a stick from the ground before prodding at the corpse.
He let out a whoosh of breath. "Good," he said when nothing happened. "Its actual touch."
“What’s the other thing?” Stace asked.
“Why does he believe we can each find four corpses in under a day. And what killed them all, or do we have to kill people for his inheritances?” Ken said, giving the forest a thorough survey before grabbing a larger branch and using it to flip the body over.
“Did he say anything else?” Stace asked, relieved when the dead man turned out to look nothing like Chester.
“Plenty, but nothing relevant right now,” Ken said, after a sigh of relief of his own. “How long was I out for?” He asked.
“A few minutes?” Stace answered moving closer to the body to study it with Ken.
“Good,” he said, prodding at a large gash in the man's lower belly with his small stick. “This guy died recently.”
Stace felt a little queasy watching the corpse twitch about with Ken’s prodding. It was only the second time she’d ever seen a dead body and the one time she had before was at an open casket funeral. It wasn’t the same.
“How do you know?” Stace wondered finding it hard to turn away regardless of her stomach's protests. Her earlier hunger was entirely forgotten.
“Not many flies have found him yet and he doesn't stink worse than your typical feces and the blood pooling below him,” he explained.
“What’s that?” Stace asked, pointing at a shiny object buried in the forest debris that was under the body.
“A broken sword of all things.” Ken shook his head leveraging it out with his sticks to get a better look at it before he slid it aside. It was exactly what he said; a sword snapped off about a foot from the end of the well-worn hilt.
“That makes about as much sense as everything else that has happened in the last half-hour,” Stace said, gesturing at herself again then the forest around them.
"The nonsensical can often become sensical if given proper thought and investigation. The real observation here, other than the violent death, is that he had a very good cobbler," he said while working the dead man's boots off with a pair of bent sticks. He shoved the ends into the boot and pushed.
He stood and lifted his foot to compare the size of the boot to the underside. Unsatisfied with his findings he shook his head and offered it to Stace over his shoulder who fumbled taking it with her unfamiliar hands.
“I’m not sure I need boots anymore,” she said while looking at the boot closely. It was a sharp-lined dark brown leather boot with a raised heel that looked somewhat like cork. A figure of a large stag-like creature was tooled into the leather on one side.
“Cobbler? that’s a shoemaker, right?” Stace clarified. It was a nice boot.
“Exactly. Cobblers are rare these days, outside third world countries and renaissance faires. Well the crusty rich and some cowboys still use them, but you get the point,” he explained.
“You know about ren faires?” Stace said looking at him side-eyed.
“Of course, those girls make the best bread in the area in that wood oven of theirs. I often stock up when they have a fair,” he said while turning to study the broken blade closely.
“This is a strange metal. Not steel or anything else obvious. It’s interesting,” he said before he began working at the man's soiled leather belt with his sticks. Flipping the loop out and unlatching it before using the belts metal hoop to pull it free of the body with his bent stick.
“Why don’t you just touch him?” Stace wondered. “It might confirm what Loki said.”
“Because It might confirm what Loki said. And I don’t think this is a ren faire gone horribly wrong,” he reasoned, turning to give her a more comprehensive once over to emphasize his point. “But on the very rare chance it is, I don’t want to be accused of murdering this gentleman.”
“No, you’re right,” Stace sighed, brushing at the fur on her crossed arms. Damn, do I have soft fur.
Bio: I'm a Canadian carpenter that doesn’t understand the metric system. That spends most of his day swearing every other word at the philistines he works with, and writes in his copious amounts of “cough” spare time. When I'm not busy scratching my balls and having cold baths.