|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
Mike frowned as he maneuvered around a bright red sport utility truck. Massachusetts's back roads were always littered with rusty pickup trucks and shiny 4x4s this time of year. Their owners were all out looking for things to shoot. He hated hunting season anyway, but this particular truck was parked on a private road. Not that he had any room to complain, since he was a trespasser himself.
His first violation had been due to bridge construction that forced him to take unfamiliar roads that were more potholes than pavement. Misreading one of the detour signs, he'd turned down this dirt path and found that it dead- ended at huge field and a herd of Clydesdales. He had always liked the huge equines, but considering the rain, he normally wouldn't have stopped. With the number of horse farms in the area, it wasn't that unusual to find draft breeds.
Then, as he turned the car around, rapid movement in the pasture had caught his eye. Two foals were playing in the rain., whirling and kicking in an impromptu ballet. Stopping the car, Mike had actually gotten out and moved to the fence for a better look. They were maybe three or four months old, all gangly legs and wild energy. The filly was especially active, throwing herself into the air with an exuberance that was almost tangible. He'd been entranced by the performance, somehow picking up a sense of her joy.
Then the stallion was in his face. Mike had been so startled by its sudden appearance that he'd fallen back from the fence and ended up sitting in a large puddle. As he scrambled back up, there were some whuffles and snorts from the herd, giving him the distinct impression that he was being laughed at. The stallion hadn't shared the other's attitude. Flat ears and a snaking head pretty much said 'go away!' Its thunder had been stolen when the filly slipped past him and stuck her head between the railings to nudge Mike's hand. She'd bolted back to the herd when the male stomped a massive hoof, but the threatening mood had been broken.
Since then, he'd repeated the detour on a daily basis, long after the bridge repairs responsible were completed. It was difficult to explain the attraction, even to himself. There were Belgians on a farm much closer to home, and he had ready access to several stables in the area. Yet he found himself consistently drawn to this spot. The few days he'd missed due to travel or late hours at work had left him feeling strangely incomplete. Was it possible to become addicted to horses?
The massive adults had learned to tolerate him, perhaps even accept him. A few days after his first visit, the stallion had dropped the aggressive poses and performed an inspection that had started with the snuffling of his palm and ended with a very sloppy lick. Mike couldn't help feeling that he'd just passed some sort of test, an impression heightened when the rest of the herd came over for a closer look. The filly had nosed Mike's arm, nipping gently at the sleeve of his jacket. The invitation to come play was so clear that he could almost hear it in his head. She'd seemed disappointed that he never stepped over the fence, but was always happy to see him, anyway.
Mike stopped the car short of the fence and scanned the distant buildings for any sign of movement. If the horses weren't so obviously well cared for, he'd have thought the place was deserted. Repeated attempts to find direct access to the farm had failed. It seemed the only way in was through the pasture itself, and he wasn't ready to try that, even after two months. Hopefully, the owners would forgive his incursions, as well as the carrots he brought for the foals.
That was an oddity. He'd expected to be mobbed by the entire herd the first time he brought the treats. Instead, the stallion had come alone to investigate like a cautious parent. Mike had actually bit the end of one off to show that it was safe, feeling incredibly foolish even as he chewed. Imagination or not, the male had once again provided some signal of acceptance, and the filly and colt came charging for goodies. None of the others usually showed any interest, though the youngest mare would sometimes come for a nibble. It was almost like a teenager sampling Halloween goodies of her younger siblings.
As usual, the colt was waiting for him by the fence. It was amazing how little the two foals had changed. They still looked about four months old, even though a Belgian foal at the closer farm had visibly matured. Probably late bloomers. Mike would hate to see them lose the gangly innocence. They'd end up ignoring him, content to stand and graze with the adults. Right now, however, Brother was demanding his expected carrot.
Mike fed him a chunk as he scanned the pasture. The stallion and mares were congregated on the far side, near the buildings. The filly was intently studying something on the ground. Mike closed his eyes. It was silly, perhaps, but sometimes he could imagine himself out there. As if he could pick up her thoughts. Like now, for instance. Curiosity over the crawling thing. A bug? Mike had to chuckle at himself. That wasn't much of a mind- reading trick. And the happiness behind it was easy to place. His own pleasure and contentment being here.
Her head jerked up and she noticed him for the first time. Giving a loud whinny, she kicked her heels up in what had become a traditional dance of welcome. Mike found himself wishing it was raining, just a little. The filly saved her wildest cavorting for those days when a toss of her head created a spray of crystal droplets to chase.
She stopped suddenly, staring back towards the trees. Strange noise. Mike hadn't heard anything, but he recognized the reaction. Curiosity always won out over everything else, and he knew she'd have to investigate before she returned her attention to him. Leaning against the fence, he broke off another piece of carrot for her brother. He might have illusions of friendship with the filly, but her brother made no pretensions. As soon as Mike ran out of carrots, he'd be history.
Mike began to feel a vague uneasiness. Whatever had the filly's attention was still lost behind the trees, but he had a growing sense of danger. He clapped his hands, and was relieved when she took a few steps in his direction. Then a doe broke out of the forest and leaped the fence, almost ramming the foal in a blind panic.
He screamed even before he heard the shot. An invisible hand slapped the filly backwards, and she collapsed as the doe bolted across the field. Despite the distance, a crimson stain was clearly visible across her neck. Mike leaped the fence and ran towards her, sending the already startled colt running for its parents. A man dressed in blaze orange stepped from the trees. The bastard must have seen Mike coming, for he vanished back into the woods.
Fighting nausea, Mike felt tears burn his eyes as he got close. It was a mortal injury. The bullet had passed through her neck just below the jaw, ripping arteries and muscle as it exploded out the other side. Falling to his knees, he pressed against the awful wound, getting sprayed by hot blood that gushed around his fingers. He was dimly aware of the other horses thundering up around him. The stallion gave a scream of rage as it continued past, clearing the fence with a leap that carried it twenty feet on the other side. All the others clustered around Mike and the dying foal.
Cradling her head in his lap, Mike stroked the filly's cheek with his free hand. His efforts to soothe her were broken by his own sobbing. One liquid brown eye focused on his face, and he gasped at sudden feelings of pain and confusion. These were no imagined sensations. Yet he continued to hold her, trying to focus through impossibly shared thoughts. Friend. The word came from his mind, but the concept was hers. They were getting numb now, and cold. They could feel the blood soaking through her thick coat, and wondered if it was raining. His vision closed in with hers as her heart slowed, faltered, and stopped. Unable to break away, he felt himself slumping forward as he followed her into death.
Mike woke in darkness, jerking up suddenly from a vivid nightmare. Panting slightly, he looked around in bewilderment. He was in a strange, mostly empty room with stained plaster walls. There was one dirty window which showed a cloudy night sky, and a peeling white door that hung open just a crack. The only furniture visible was a broken mirror in a corner and the double-sized mattress he was sitting on. No sheets or cover, and a faint smell of urine to match old stains. It was slightly cool, emphasizing the fact that he was wearing only his underpants.
As he tried to absorb everything, the door creaked open and he saw the silhouette of a woman's head appear. "I thought I heard something." Her voice was strong and warm, if not overly feminine. "I'll bring you something to eat and drink. Just rest for a while." Then she withdrew, leaving the door open.
The light from the other room was dim and flickering. Candles? Taking a shuddery breath, Mike drew his legs up and rested his head on his knees. God. He felt so drained. How had he gotten here? And where were his clothes? Nothing looked familiar, though he could probably guess where he was. The old farmhouse on the far side of the field.
The condition of the house was puzzling. Even this far from Boston, a farm with so much land had to be worth a good million. And horses weren't low maintenance animals, especially when you were dealing with draft breeds. Yet the inside looked long abandoned, and if the light outside was any indication, they didn't even have electricity. Rich eccentrics, perhaps.
Further speculation was interrupted by the woman's return. "Come on into the main room. It's warm, and there's a table you can sit at." Mike started to get up, and then remembered his lack of clothing. Seeing his discomfort, the woman waved a hand in dismissal. "No use for modesty here, Mr. Blake."
He raised his eyebrows at the use of his name, but then realized she must have seen his wallet when she took off his pants.
"I had to get those clothes off you. They were ruined, and... " She paused a moment and took a breath. "Oh, never mind about that now. Anyway, people wear skimpier stuff as bathing suits."
Too tired and confused to care anymore, Mike gave a resigned sigh and got up. He was a bit unsteady on his feet, and the woman moved quickly to steady him. God, she was big. Not fat. Just solid as a mountain. He flushed slightly, embarrassed at his weakness. "I'm sorry. Don't know what's the matter with me."
"Nonsense." The woman guided him through the door and out into a larger room that was pleasantly warm. His first impression had been correct. Large candles had been placed on either side of a large fireplace mantle. "Have a seat in the chair over there. I'll bring in the food." He plopped down in the weather-beaten old recliner, noting absently that it was the only chair in the room. A sturdy table was set up next to it, with a neat stack of mail on one side. The top was addressed to Mrs. Hale Johnson
His hostess returned almost immediately with a large bowl and a glass. "Oatmeal and warm milk. About all I have in the house right now, I'm afraid. We don't get much company." The woman managed a soft smile. "None, actually. We're pretty private people."
The fare looked pretty unappetizing, but he took cautious tastes just to be polite. The milk was richer than he was used to, but very good. Same for the oatmeal, which was coarse textured and had a strong flavor. He realized that he was pretty hungry after all, and ended up finishing everything while she stood and watched.
Mike regarded the woman as he ate. In this light, it was impossible to tell her age. She could be 30 or 50. Pleasant looking, but too coarse-featured to be considered pretty. Her hair was dark brown, as were her eyes. The flowered, tent-like dress she wore effectively disguised her shape. The overall impression was that of a female professional wrestler, yet he found himself instinctively liking her.
When he finished, she took the dishes back into the other room and came back dragging a large, upholstered chair with no apparent effort. Positioning it across from him, she sat down heavily. "Time for us to talk. Do you know where you are?"
"The farmhouse. You own the Clydes?" She blinked, but nodded slightly. "I've tried to find a way in here to meet you, but the only access seemed to be through the pasture."
"It is. Like I said, we're private people. Bought the place because it suited our needs." She looked around the room and shrugged. "Guess things look pretty rough in here, but we don't use the house much."
Mike flushed slightly, deciding not to comment. They must live somewhere else and just kept the horses here. That would explain a lot.
Looking down for a moment, the woman wiped her eyes before continuing. "I can't tell you how grateful we are for your kindness. She liked you very much, and it meant a lot to have you comforting her."
"You were there? I mean, you saw what happened?" Mike was amazed that he hadn't seen anyone, but then, he'd been preoccupied..
"Only what came after. You were already doing everything that could be done." The woman seemed to sag slightly. "I'm so sorry. We did not think there was any danger. It's never happened before, at least not with an outsider."
Mike shook his head. "You couldn't have known. The hunter should have made sure what he was shooting at."
"The hunter?" She looked confused. "Oh, yes. Him."
Had he missed part of the conversation? Maybe he was more exhausted than he thought. "You know, I got a pretty good look at a truck parked off your road. I'll bet it belonged to the hunter. We might be able to track him down, so you can prosecute him."
"That won't be necessary." The woman looked away. "No point in involving the law. It's all over and done with."
Mike crossed his arms awkwardly. "Look, uh, if I could get my clothes, it's probably time for me to head home."
She looked down at the plain wood floor, clearly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry. They were soaked with, with... " The woman started to cry, and Mike felt his own eyes water again in remembered pain. Reaching out, he took her hand and squeezed it gently. Having someone else grieving over an animal made it easier for him to accept his own reaction without feeling silly. Perhaps it was the violence, or being part of the tragedy, but he couldn't remember anything in his life which had hurt so deeply.
"Right, then." The woman wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. "It's very late. Why don't you sleep over tonight? You still look tired, and nobody is expecting you back. We'll know a lot more in the morning, and I can rustle up some clean clothes then if we need them."
"Well, I appreciate the offer.." He stopped, recalling something she just said. "How did you know I live alone?"
"From your license plate." She got a little flustered. "I mean, we checked on you when you first started visiting. You have to understand, we've never really interacted with outsiders before. Hale wanted to run you off, but I thought it would be good for the.. the foals." There was a pause. "I guess I should have listened."
The conversation was getting hard to follow again. Was it him? Mike rubbed his head. He did feel a little disoriented. Not sick, exactly. Sorta fuzzy. It was hard to concentrate, and he was having some problems coordinating his movements. "I must be coming down the flu or something. Maybe I could call a friend to come pick me up... "
"No phone." The woman sighed. "We're pretty much cut off here. Besides, it awfully late. Past midnight."
Mike was surprised he'd been asleep that long. "Maybe you're right. I don't have to go to work in the morning." He looked towards the door outside. "Uh, is it safe to leave the car out there?"
"Hale already moved it over by the barn." She gestured towards the bedroom. "Get some sleep. We'll talk again in the morning, and figure out what to do then."
The bedroom was just as warm as the main room when he went back in. Curious, he glanced around, but saw no source of heat. Come to think of it, he'd seen no heaters or vents in the main room, either. Besides, there was no electricity to power anything. A wood stove in the kitchen, perhaps. No matter. He lay down on the mattress and closed his eyes. God, what a day.
Mike woke, but lay still. There was whispering close by. Opening his eyes a crack, he could just make out two large shapes dimly silhouetted in the doorway. One was the woman, but the other... he had to force himself to maintain an even breath rate. Even in the darkness, her companion was grossly misshapen and tall enough to be partially hidden by the top of the doorframe. It also appeared to be naked.
"... until we know for sure." The woman's voice. "It won't be long. Oh, Hale. What do we do if... " She moved back towards the main room, and he couldn't make out the words anymore. Hale? That huge thing was her husband? No wonder they lived in seclusion. Mike immediately felt ashamed of that thought, but couldn't help growing nervousness. What were they talking about? Know -what- for sure?
What if they held him responsible for the filly? Every bad horror picture he'd ever seen returned to haunt him. The situation seemed ludicrous. He was lying on a dirty mattress in his underwear, in an empty old house lit by candles, with very strange hosts whispering in the doorway. He knew nothing about them. The woman hadn't even introduced herself. Yet they seemed to know a great deal about him.
There was no going back to sleep after that. They shuffled around the main room a bit longer, not even bothering to light a candle. Finally, he heard the front door open and close. He lay still, making sure they had left. The floorboards creaked slightly as he got up and crept to the door. No signs of movement. Crouching low, he moved to the front window and looked out. The horses were gathered near the house, but there was no sign of the two people.
Mike stifled a nervous giggle. This was insane. These people hadn't done anything to justify fear. They were sorta odd, maybe. OK, a lot odd. It was his own reaction that frightened him most. For he found himself strangely attracted not only to the woman, but the distorted giant as well. Not in any sensual way. More as if he would be safe with them, comfortable. Like he belonged here.
It was a very odd thing to be scared of. Yet Mike was terrified, and the only solution was to get away. But how? He was sure the man and woman were out front somewhere. What had the woman said about his car? Hale had moved it out by the barn. He wondered how that massive frame had fit into his compact sedan. Hopefully, the keys were still in it.
Moving as quietly as possible, he slipped into the kitchen. It was as empty as the rest of the house, without even a stove or refrigerator. However, there was a back door, and through it, he could see the barn. He gasped involuntarily as he stepped outside, feeling the chilly morning air. The sky was heavily overcast, but he could make out the faint reddish glow of sunrise over the trees.
Stepping carefully to avoid injuring his bare feet, Mike worked his way around back with seeing anyone. There was a vehicle of some sort behind the building, but it didn't look like his car. It didn't really look like anything. It wasn't until he was almost next to it that he recognized the front end. The red 4x4. Or what was left of it. From the engine compartment back, the truck was a charred, melted lump. Mike backed away, shivering from more than just the cold. All over and done with. Just like the woman had said.
Now he had a real reason to be scared. Moving faster, he worked his way to the far side of the barn and almost wept in relief when he saw his car there. As he got closer, he saw that heavy ropes had been tied to the front. Ruts extended from the rear tires all the way back towards the pasture. He looked in through the window. The keys were still in the ignition, and the emergency brake was on. Hale must have used one of the horses to drag it from the other side of the pasture. Why hadn't he driven it? Or at least released the brake?
Mike tried the door. It was unlocked. He took a deep breath. They'd hear him start the car for sure. Slipping quietly behind the wheel, he had to stare at the controls a moment. It was hard to think clearly, even the normally automatic ritual of starting the car taking real effort. Luckily, the engine caught instantly. He fumbled with the gearshift, wincing at unfamiliar grinding noises. The clutch! Shifting properly this time, he took off with a spray of loose dirt. There was movement ahead, but it was just the horses. Two of the beasts were running towards him, and he actually had to swerve to avoid hitting them.
The windshield became a maze of cracks as he burst through the fence and shot across the pasture. And then the engine started to falter. Alarmed, Mike looked down at the instrument panel. Plenty of gas. The temperature gage! Its orange needle was pegged against the hot side. After a minute? He realized that the interior of the car was uncomfortably warm now, and remembered the 4x4. Skidding to a stop, he threw himself from the car and scrambled away across the grass.
There was no flame. Paint turned black, and then peeled off as the metal underneath glowed cherry red. All four tires popped and melted on the rims, and he watched the top sag like hot plastic. He could feel the intense heat as his car self-destructed. There just wasn't any cause.
He jerked as teeth gripped his shoulder. The stallion. Had they trained it to be some sort of watchdog? Pressure increased slightly, and there was a tug upwards. Mike stood, feeling dazed and numb. A slight twist. He was facing the house. The stallion gave a final squeeze to remind him, and then released his shoulder and gave him a forceful nudge. Resigned, Mike started walking towards the buildings. He couldn't fight invisible fire and watchdog Clydesdales.
The woman was waiting for him. Her hair was mussed, and her dress looked like it had been thrown on. Still, she looked sad rather than angry. Neither spoke as he went back inside and huddled on the mattress. He was still shaking, despite the warmth inside. Which also had no source. And no stove in the kitchen for cooking. He tensed as the woman approached and reached for his head, but her hand simply stroked his hair gently.
"It's going to be fine. You aren't going be hurt, I promise." She chewed her lower lip, and then smiled. "There's so much happening. Let me get Hale. It will take a few minutes. Just stay there, please." She backed out of the room and shut the door. At least he didn't hear it lock.
A soft glow of sunlight was coming through the window now. Mike brushed absently at some dead leaves that were stuck to his calf, and then frowned in puzzlement. Bits of grass and leaves were still hanging on around his ankles, caught up what looked like pale hair. He had brown hair, not white. Besides, this stuff was a couple of inches long. Must be something from the pasture. He pulled at it and winced. Was it stuck on somehow? He tried scraping the strands off. Only to stop when he saw the same fine hairs on his wrists.
What the... ? He tugged at one and saw his skin lift. The hair was definitely part of him. And looking close, he realized that the hair on his arms was longer as well. After everything else that had happened, the discovery wasn't as shocking as it might have been. The odd disorientation of last night was also returning, combined with a throbbing in his muscles. Had they poisoned him? Something in the oatmeal? His forehead didn't feel hot. But it did feel fuzzy. And swollen. Scrambling up, he went over to the old mirror.
Mike fell back from the reflection with a soft moan. It looked like he was suffered from some horrible allergic reaction. His nose and mouth were swollen tremendously, even his forehead looking distorted. And there was so much hair. Dark fuzz coated his whole face. And his chest. What were they doing to him? The door opened, and he turned as the woman and her husband came in. Mike's eyes widened, most of his questions answered by Hale's appearance.
He was the stallion. But not completely a horse. The towering male stood on two legs, though they still ended in massive hooves. What had appeared misshapen in the darkness was actually impressive and even beautiful in the light. Just impossible. A humanoid Clydesdale, still covered with fur and retaining mostly equine features. His muzzle was much shorter, and he had thick, oddly-shaped arms with dark, three-fingered hands. Still, there was no mistaking the powerful male who had guided him back to the house.
"We are not going to hurt you." Hale spoke slowly and deliberately, probably because of the odd mouth structure. His voice was very deep and gravelly, sort of an equine James Earl Jones. "We did not want this to happen. But you are turning into one of us."
Mike laughed, but it was a short, hysterical sound. As ridiculous as the statement was, he had already seen the evidence of its truth. He could feel the transformation coursing through his body now, reshaping him. And the sensations of disorientation were becoming stronger. No, not disorientation. Animal thoughts and instincts taking root as the very substance of his brain altered. He sagged against the wall and slid down to sit on the floor. "A horse. I'm changing into a Clydesdale stallion."
"No. Not quite." The woman spoke this time. "We aren't horses. At least, not the essence. I guess you would consider us aliens."
Big surprise. As far as he knew, the normal animal variety couldn't change back and forth to human form. Or change others. Mike struggled to concentrate. It felt like parts of his life were slipping away, and the thought of losing himself to a horse's mind was terrifying. "Why did you do this to me? I didn't hurt the filly. I never hurt any of you."
Hale sighed and shook his head. "We aren't responsible for this. At least, not directly. Maybe we should have stopped you from coming to visit, but none of us realized how close you had become." The equine head cocked slightly. "How long had you been able to feel her mind?"
"Feel her mind? I don't know what... " Mike stopped in mid-sentence. The feelings he'd had watching the filly, even on the first day. Not imagination. Some sort of empathy, or perhaps even more than that. A sharing of her emotions. Pure, innocent joy and contentment which had become a druglike addiction. Sorrow. Hope. He stared at the two aliens, realizing that the last two emotions were coming from them.
The woman smiled and nodded. "Yes. What you had with our daughter is now shared with all of us. In our natural forms, we have no physical bodies. All communication is by a form of what you call telepathy. We can move things, control temperature... "
"Kill people." Mike interrupted bitterly. "The hunter. And now me." He sensed immediate grief, followed by confusion.
"You aren't going to die!" There was sincerity behind the woman's words. "As for the other?" Sadness again, and regret. "Hale thought our daughter was dead. We all did."
Hale nodded, radiating sorrow. "I chased after him, but he got into his vehicle and tried to hit me with it. I could have avoided him, but my rage was too great."
It was impossible to lie, Mike realized. He could feel the words in his mind now, sense the truth. Yet his own despair was not lessened. "What about me? Maybe I'll still be alive as a horse. But if I lose my memories, my identity, I might as well be dead." Almost in emphasis, he felt the throbbing in his fingers increase. Eyes wide, he fought growing terror as they darkened and fused, not quite hooves but no longer usable as hands.
"This isn't permanent." The woman crouched down next to him, and took one brown lump in her hands. "It's the only form she knows. Later, we can teach you others."
"She?" Mike stared at the now fully formed hooves, starting to recognize the pattern of hair that had covered his entire body. "The filly? She's doing this? But she's dead!"
"No, she's not." Hale stroked Mike's head gently. "She would have been, except for you."
The woman gripped his hoof with both hands. "Most of the time, we have no solid form. We travel the universe, visiting planets and sampling different lives by merging with lifeforms that look interesting. Part of our abilities allow us to manipulate bodies we share. Like these equine forms Hale and I borrowed. The horses are part of us, more than partners, really. Most of the time, they are in full control."
"You're parasites!" Mike twisted his head away from Hale's caress, aware that his neck was longer and more flexible than it had been moments before. "You steal people's lives!"
"No!" Hale looked shocked. "Our partners have always been willing. And we repay them in many ways. Youth, health, injuries and defects repaired." He closed his eyes, and Mike suddenly had a picture of two old Clydesdales, obviously neglected and in poor health. "These were our hosts before. When we leave, they will still be as they are now. In the prime of life, strong and healthy. And we will make sure they are provided for."
"I wasn't willing. And I'm not some dumb animal. I have a life! Friends and family!"
"You didn't ask for this, I know." The woman stood up and looked him in the eye. "But you can't tell me that you didn't sometimes wish to be a foal, to join her out in the pasture. That's what drew her to you, why you were able to connect with her soul. And why she joined with you when her physical body died."
It was true, of course. He hadn't really thought about it before, but all those times he'd watched her cavorting, he'd imagined himself out there. What was the old line? Be careful what you wish for? Still, none of this made sense. "Why did she need to come inside me, anyway? If you don't need physical bodies, why did you think she had died?"
Hale sighed. "Our kind must merge with solid forms of life to reproduce. The filly and the colt were born of our equine bodies. So was the other mare. It takes years to develop their mental abilities enough to live outside a host. When she was shot, you stayed connected with her, opening yourself up. Her essence joined yours. But she only knows the form she was born in. Powers she isn't even aware of, much less control, are reshaping you."
Mike absorbed this as best he could, and then stared down at his crotch. His arms wouldn't bend properly anymore, and he didn't have fingers to slip under the waistband. Hale used his thick digits to tear off the already tight underpants, revealing both more and less than what Mike expected. Two small, dark nubs had replaced his penis and testicles. Teats. Nestled between legs that were no longer remotely human.
Desperate to see what was happening to him, he looked towards the mirror on the far wall. It was too far away to be any use, but then another picture formed in his mind. A deformed animal backed against a wall. Mike shifted uncomfortably, and the image echoed his movement. From the angle, he realized he was seeing himself through the woman's eyes.
She nodded at his unspoken question. "We can all link like this. But it isn't forced, or necessary." Her spoken words were beginning to have underlying color, concepts and meanings shared at a deeper level. They were obviously picking up his thoughts already.
Closing his eyes made the projected image seem to be his own vision. It was fascinating and terrifying at the same time. The filly was easily recognizable now, yet grossly deformed by elements of his human form. He felt confusion and curiosity from deep within, combined with a fuzzy memory of the foal as he remembered her. It was the foal's essence, growing stronger. Yet the picture was drawn from his memories.
There was a soft mental caress, like a feather across his soul. He could feel Hale behind the touch, yet there was also a stallion there. Equine thoughts and sensations, augmented in ways by the alien's presence, but still unique. They were individual souls, integrated into a single consciousness. Mike realized that both Hale and the woman had opened themselves up completely to him. No secrets.
He was almost overwhelmed by the contact. The vastness of their knowledge incomprehensible, like a major library might be to a child just learning to read. They were old, older than he could imagine. Yet that was unimportant. Love and compassion washed over him as an almost tangible force, not just for the foal emerging from within his mind, but for Mike as well. His fear crumbled under the assault, and the filly burst forward.
A sudden convulsion of muscles sent him sprawling awkwardly to the floor. He caught himself with widely-splayed forelegs, battling confusion and disorientation as the world shifted around him. He focused on the image still being projected by the woman. Mother. His mouth pushed forward, and the foal's muzzle stretched out. Internal organs pulled and shifted, changing the way they worked even as they made room for new functions.
The filly's consciousness didn't overwhelm or even challenge his. Instead, there was a subtle merging, like sugar dissolving invisibly in a glass of water. The image from the Mother faded out, no longer needed. It was replaced by a desire to escape the confinement of walls. Father opened the door, and they stumbled outside.
The air was still chilly, though they were simply aware of that as a condition, not really uncomfortable in any way. Clouds hung low, forming a blurred gray ceiling. They moved unsteadily off the porch, not quite free of disorientation. There was still confusion in their mind, a conflict between human knowledge and the child's innocence. They could keep that difference, or surrender to the foal's nature. And even as she thought that, she realized there had never been anything to question. Sudden joy filled her soul, and she bounded towards her brother. Rain was falling and she wanted to dance.
Rain Dance copyright 1999 by Bob Stein.
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