|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
A Peri Tale Ending ...
"All right, young Fatima, which story would you like to hear tonight?"
The young child, her Middle-Eastern ancestry evident in every line of her classic features, bounced eagerly on the edge of her mattress. "Goldilocks, Joseph! Please? You tell it so well ... "
Joe grinned through his beard at her. She knew he'd tell her the story ... but no sense making it short. "Weeeelll, I dunno ... I mean, I could read you the newspaper ... "
"No!", she giggled.
"I could tell you about the President of the United States ... "
"Not even tell you everything they did in Congress today? That's a good story, all long and boring ... "
He sighed, rolling his eyes melodramatically. "Well, if you really want to hear it ... "
"Yes! Oh, please ... ?"
"All right. But just this once."
As he searched through the bookcase for the book, stretching it out as much as he could, he smiled to himself. She was such a nice kid, after all, and with such nice parents. After all, how many people actually run a wild animal shelter out of their own home? Well, the stalls in back of it ... but it was still pretty impressive.
Sometimes, though, he had to wonder why they'd come to him. After all, most people didn't really consider men to be babysitters. Still, all the agency had said before they sent him out was that the others had all left. He shrugged slightly. Their loss. And his gain, at the rates they insisted on paying.
He turned back and slumped his shoulders. "I can't find it, Fatima. Do you know where it might be?"
She giggled and pointed to the bedside table where he'd put it earlier. He raised his hands and widened his eyes in mock surprise. "Well, what do you know? It's a good thing you were here, Fatima, or I'd never have found it." He rumpled her hair as he said this, and she squealed and giggled with delight. Then, sitting down in the "story chair", he opened the book and began to read.
" ... and Goldilocks was so scared that she ran all the way home and never stopped once." He closed the book with a sigh, then shook his finger at Fatima. "See? I said she shouldn't go in there without permission."
The little girl giggled, then mock-growled at him.
"Oh, so you're a baby bear, hm? Well, then, I must be", he said, switching to a booming voice, "The Big, Fat, Papa Bear."
As sge giggled, he slumped forward onto the bed and bounced it a few times, setting her to giggling and squealing again. Then, leaning over her where she held the covers up to her nose, he sniffed her hair, her ears, her cheeks ... and then licked her gently on the nose. Her giggling squeal was music to his ears. Suddenly, she lunged forward and caught him in what she always liked to call her "baby bear hug", squeezing herself against his big, soft belly, with her arms pressing in at the sides like two straws against a pillow. Then she said something he'd never heard her say before.
"You're a big, cuddly papa bear." Then, her eyes wide, she stammered "Oh, I shouldn't've said that! Papa will be angry ... "
He stroked her hair and pulled her against his built-in pillow again. "Shh, shh. It's okay. You can call me a papa bear if you want to. I don't mind."
"Of course not. Not when it means I get to give you a Great Big Bear Hug." And he squooshed her and snuggled her until she calmed down.
Later, as he sat reading the paper, he wondered why she'd been so upset about calling him a "Papa bear". She certainly shouldn't know the other meaning of "bear" at such a young age, and the other one made no sense. Silently, he resolved to ask Mr. Rhajwani when he came in.
As he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, which seemd rather lumpy tonight, his nails snagged on the upholstery. Then, after he'd freed his hand, he noticed that his shirt was coming untucked. He reached to tuck it back in, feeling the material stretch oddly tight as he did so. Then, he turned back to his paper.
Some time later, the situation with the chair was not improving. In fact, it was now emitting odd groans and creaks. And the arms seemed closer together than he remembered, his hips pressing against them oddly ... and uncomfortably. He took one hand from the paper to shift position ..
And heard the rip of shredded newspaper. With a start, he turned back to the paper. There, down one side, was a set of four parallel slices, ripped straight through the pages. He reached out to gather in the waving banners of newsprint, and jumped in his seat. There, at the end of his arm, was a paw.
A paw with four long, sharp claws on it.
He turned the paw over twice, looking at it in fascination. Of course, it has to be a dream, he thought to himself. I must've fallen asleep reading the paper. Still, it's an interesting dream. Might as well see where it takes me.
As he thought that, he realized that the height from which he was seeing things was changing, growing taller, even as the chair bore harder into his hips. next, he saw his other hand start to change, the short hair on the back of it growing into fur even as the plump skin on the front coarsened, toughened,and turned black as ... well, as leather.
Finally, he decided he needed to get out of the chair. While it didn't hurt, exactly, it was getting ex-TREME-ly uncomfortable for him. Leaning forward, he put his paws on his knees and pushed ... and stayed right where he was. Looking down, he saw his pants ripping at the seams with a deep flowing sound, revealing legs that were quickly becoming as round and furry as the arms were. Abandoning that idea, he quickly discovered that his paws didn't reach the arms of the chair. So, leaning forward, he gave a heave ... and landed with a thump on all fours.
With a chair wedged onto his hind end.
Walking forward, he dragged the chair with him. A quick shake of his backside didn't dislodge it. And he didn't want to shake harder for fear of knocking something over in the real world. So, he thought for a moment ... then lay down and crawled forward on his belly, sliding out from under the chair.
Suddenly, he heard another ripping sound. Looking down, he saw that his shirt had bunched up over his expanding paunch, the cloth stretched over his apparently furry chest. That explained why he couldn't reach the arms of the chair, anyway. As he watched, the ripping slowed until the remains of his shirt hung by threads from his back and neck.
Then, as he wondered what happened next, he felt an odd squeezing sensation around his head and shook it. Still, it persisted. Finally, he realized his head must be changing and went into the master bedroom to get at a full-length mirror. Once there, half-illuminated by the light coming in from the den, he watched his ears slide to the top of his head, his nose and mouth merge as a snout, and his entire head squeeze into a new shape. Finally, when the squeezing sensation stopped, he turned around before the mirror to look at himself.
What he saw was a large black bear, in the brown phase, with a fine coating of fat rounding his middle. He almost laughed when he saw the stub tail, but decided to see the dream through. Turning around again, he thought he made rather a nice bear. After all, no-one tells a bear he weighs too much ... or puts him on a diet ... he smiled as he thought of a plate of cookies, fresh from the oven, just for him. And no weight problems. Get too big, sleep it off this winter. Next, he tried balancing on his hind legs.
Three crashes to the carpet later, he decided he wasn't that good, even in a dream, at balancing himself like that. Besides, he didn't want to risk the lamp ... he caught himself, realizing he was acting as though this were real, and chuckled deeply, feeling the huffing noise reverberating in his deep, furry chest. Finally, he galumphed ... galumphed? yes that seemed right ... galumphed back into the den and lay down in front of the fallen chair to see what the dream would do next.
Just then, he heard a car pull into the driveway. Realizing that, if it was happening in the dream, it was probably happening in real life, too, he decided it was time to wake up. He closed his eyes tight, then opened them.
He grunted in surprise to find himself still a bear. Hearing the car door slam, he closed his eyes even more tightly and willed himself to wake up. Then he opened his eyes.
His grunt of surprise was even louder this time. And he was still a bear.
As he closed and opened his eyes, growing more nervous by the minute, his agitation kept him from hearing the door open. But not from hearing the voice of Fatima's father.
"Oh, dear. I see something untoward has happened."
The sing-song voice of Fatima's stepfather broke him from his terrified cycle. With a look of desperation, he lowed a grunting call for help.
Which was why he was so surprised at the tranquilizer pistol he was shot with.
When he came to, he found himself not only still a bear, and minus the remains of his shirt, but in the stalls in back of the house. Rushing to the door, he clambered to a two-legged stand and shook the door.
"I would appreciate it greatly if you would please not do this thing."
Turning with a start, he saw Mr. Rhajwani standing near the stall ... but not too near, he noticed. He gave a loud call, which seemed to make Mr. Rhajwani even more upset. "Please, please, please listen to me! Please!"
Reluctantly, he calmed himself. "Allow me to explain, please. My wife is from Iraq, you know this, yes?" Joe nodded mutely. "She is of what is called Peri lineage. It is what you Americans would call, so I believe, fairy blood." Joe cocked his head, not seeing the connection. Hr. Rhajwani sighed. "It would seem, also, that she is of a royal line of Peris, who have the power to change others into birds and beasts, merely by saying so." Joe's eyes grew wide as he recalled Fatima's reaction to calling him a "Papa bear". Poor kid. Mr. Rhajwani nodded grimly. "Yes, you see, I think. She is young, and does not as yet understand the manner of controlling her powers. I am immune, because I am married to her mother. Unfortunately, as you have now become aware, our babysitters are not so well protected." He pointed to one side, and Joe turned his head to see an assortment of animals ... probably, he now realized, former babysitters.
"Allow me to introduce to you our friends. This is Samuel", he said pointing to a wolf. "He was particularly good at telling "The Three Little Pigs", I am told." The wolf bowed gently to Joe. Pointing to a rabbit a few stalls down, Mr. Rhajwani said, "This is, believe it or not, Peter. He was very good at telling Fatima the stories of Beatrix Potter. All you see about you are your predecessors as Fatima's babysitters. We found it necessary to change the requirements of our advertisement to allow men persons to perform the duty when we had run out of willing female persons to serve as babysitters. We keep them in seperated stalls, of course."
Seeing the low (and getting lower) look on Joe's face, Fatima's father hurried on. "It is my privilege to tell to you the fact that Fatima will, in time, be able to return you to yourselves. However, this shall not be for some years as yet, I am afraid. She shall be able to return you to yourselves at or perhaps shortly after she attains to the age of eighteen. Until then, we shall be more than happy for you to be our more than welcome guest in this establishment. However, I must know if you will mind if we were to show you to the children when they are coming on a field trip. The children do enjoy their field trips."
Joe nodded sadly. Fourteen years ...
Fatima's father nodded sadly. "Yes, my friend, I am sorry for you. But be of cheer. It is a long time ... yet it shall not be forever. Now I must leave you, for I must rest and prepare to explain to fatima what has happened to you."
With that, he left Joe, who promptly flopped down on the straw with a groan. Fourteen years ... ! Fourteen years of living in a stall and getting looked at by kids.
He'd just have to grin and bear it.
A Peri Tale Ending ... copyright 1996 by Wanderer.
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