|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
www.circe.com. That was a new one. And it had the shortest description he had ever come across. TKOnet: Advanced Solutions for the World Wide Web.' That was a little odd. His search parameters had been 'horse, magic, transformation.' That was usually a good combination to bring up transformation stories buried on the web. The site name was enough to warrant a visit, though his expectations were low.
The internet page that appeared was simple in design, and surprisingly vague. The actual name of the company appeared to be TKO, with no connection to the Greek sorceress that he could determine. The company logo was a small triangle rotating in the top left corner of the screen, containing stylized symbols that might be Greek or Roman letters. 'TKO' was there, along with a 'v' that didn't have any obvious meaning.
Curious about the site name, he searched the web page for clues. Buried at the bottom, he found some additional links in tiny letters, as well as the last date of modification. Today! No wonder he'd never encountered it before. He might be the first visitor. The text links repeated choices contained in a drop-down menu higher up. A quick search of the pages disclosed no clues as to why the page had shown up on his search. None of the keywords appeared anywhere.
That probably meant there were hidden pages. Most web sites had other links that could only be accessed if you knew the exact address. Not quite ready to give up, he tried adding '/horse/' to the browser location. A NetCloak setup error. Whatever that was. "Magic' and 'stallion' returned the same error. He was about to end the session, and then had an impulse to try 'Transformation.'
'Host www.circe.com/transformation/ contacted. Waiting for reply.'
Bingo! Probably an employee's personal page, hidden behind the company junk. Considering the lack of any real information about the company, this hidden page probably would get more hits than the open links. Bob frowned at the screen as it remained blank. Still loading? Another minute passed. Then two. The browser must have locked up. Sighing, he rolled the pointer up to the 'Stop' button just as the screen flickered and changed.
'Gathering subject information. Please wait.'
A sudden sting caused Bob to jerk his hand back from the mouse. It had felt like a splinter or insect bite, but when he picked up the pointing device and checked it, the surface was smooth and clean. Oh, great. Carpal tunnel syndrome setting in. He flexed his fingers a few times, turning back to the screen when it flashed purple, and then loaded an image that made Bob's mouth fall open.
Someone had created the most lifelike 3-D animation he had ever seen. Obviously based on Greek mythology, the camera moved along a path towards some sort of white temple, simulating his own eyesight. Sounds started playing as well, providing a background of soft breezes, distant surf, and various animal sounds. A minotaur walked past in the opposite direction, grunting an unintelligible greeting. Off to the side, he saw a satyr and nymph rather graphically doing what legend said they did best. Guess an adult content warning wasn't required on hidden sites.
Closer to the temple, he began to make out a much wider variety of creatures. He was pleased by the large number of equine forms shown. Centaurs. unicorns, humanoid donkeys and horses, and normal looking animals all wandered around in incredible detail. Not that the selection was limited to his particular preference. Variations of almost every animal he could think of seemed to be represented. Lions, wolves, cats, sheep, goats, bears, even a rhinoceros on two legs conversing somehow with a delicate-looking deer-morph.
Smaller species were well represented too, though he didn't notice them until he got closer. Skunks, squirrels, and rabbits played around the base of fluted columns, dashing under the larger animals. He would have loved to examine the incredible centaur stallion standing near the steps, but the camera swept past the mythological beast and up into the temple itself.
The interior was dark, but the image lightened gradually, simulating the adjustment of his own eyes. Clever. Sounds diminished too, still faintly audible, but muffled by the virtual walls. Again, the detail was amazing, even in this comparatively sparse scene. Forward motion stopped, and the camera panned down abruptly to the floor. He could just make out the tops of bent knees at the bottom of the screen, and laughed. His virtual counterpart was kneeling with his head bowed.
"Welcome, Robert." The quality of the female voice was almost as startling as the use of his name. Remembering the delay for 'gathering subject information,' he felt a bit uncomfortable. Though he knew there were scanners out there that could easily trace a user's identity, it was something else to actually be the target of one. He did have to admit that the result was quite effective.
His virtual self looked up, providing the view of a sparkling mist that formed directly ahead. The mist coalesced into a human shape, and then sharpened into the image of a beautiful woman. She was dark haired and slender, with slanted eyes that gave her an exotic appearance. Sophia Loren at 40, perhaps, though not so full figured. She smiled, and tilted her head slightly. "I am Circe, enchantress and transformer of men. Welcome to my home. There is no need to fear me, for my powers work only on those who are willing."
And electronic, thought Bob. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create this setup. He hoped that the obligatory transformation scenes lived up to what he'd seen so far.
"So, mortal. What shall you be today?" She smiled impishly. "Perhaps something along these lines?"
A clopping sound came from the speakers, and the camera turned to show the centaur from outside. He was younger than expected, maybe mid-teens, with the leggy look of a young roan Arabian below. The facial features were coarse and protruding, with slightly pointed ears and a thick reddish mane of hair that continued down to the equine back. It was a little unnerving to have that particular form selected by the software. Then Bob realized that the creature had been closest to the steps. It made sense for him to be the first choice.
Circe continued, "But not as he is now, I think. So many desires! First, a change of coloration." The centaur's hair and coat darkened, turning glossy black. "And size." Muscles rippled over human and equine portions, and the centaur matured visibly as he grew to gargantuan proportions. Now the creature was a combination of football player and draft horse. Essentially a Shire centaur stallion, judging from the feathering on the legs and solid build.
Then the Circe animation reached up and stroked the centaur's face. "A little too human for your tastes, isn't he? But that can be fixed." The man's features pushed out under her caress, swelling out until the head was fully equine. A sweep of her hand sent the black hide of the horse racing up the human torso, creating what looked like a gargantuan draft horse with arms protruding from a swollen neck. An equitar.
Wow. Bob realized he had been holding his breath, and let it out slowly. Then he frowned. This was getting to be far too detailed to be simple coincidence. From his long stint as a member of the Transformation Story Archive, he knew that the equitar pictured was not the preferred form for most. It was, however, dead on for him. His mind raced. This couldn't be a joke. The user scan. Oh, damn! All of his stories, artwork, pictures. The site must scan a visitor's hard drive for key words, and then pick out the most frequently used. Just how much data had they sucked out of his machine? When this was over, he'd have to run an extensive virus check. Even so, he had to admit that this virtual Circe was worth the trouble. They had to have an incredible library of morphs on hand.
Speaking of which - Circe smiled and gestured at the massive centaur. "Does this meet your desires, Robert? Or would you like another choice? Touch the screen to indicate your selection." He frowned again as the words 'CENTAUR' and 'OTHER' appeared near the bottom of the screen. Didn't that kind of interface required a special monitor? He pressed a finger tip against the 'OTHER' text. Circe raised an eyebrow. "So, you want to see what else I can do. Very well."
A minotaur was next, possibly the same one he'd passed on the path. This animation was rather graphically sexual, absently playing with itself as the sorceress altered it into a more buffalo-like version. Again, something peculiar to Bob's interests, though he could only think of one story where it had been mentioned. How could this program sort out his interests from the custom stories he'd done as gifts? There were werewolf stories, deer stories, even some kitsunes. Relatively common furry preferences that should have been picked before this shaggy monster.
The choices were CENTAUR, MINOTAUR, and OTHER. He had the oddest feeling that he should simply exit out now, but couldn't resist temptation. When he selected 'OTHER' again, Circe frowned. "This is not a game, Robert. I realize that you find this fascinating, but I do have others waiting." Then she shrugged. "One more. And then you must choose."
The animated woman's annoyance was effective. He felt a shiver of nervousness as she moved the drooling minotaur off to the side. It was clever, really. Without a limit, he'd probably spend hours checking out every possible variation. Good thing he'd found it early. Once the rest of the TSA discovered the site, it would inaccessible for months.
Predictably, given his interest in Greek mythology, the third choice was a satyr. It looked disturbingly like a demonic 12 year-old boy. From the waist up, he had a child's slender build, with dark, smooth skin. His face was also a boy's, though a curly growth of hair spread across both cheeks. From the waist down, he had the hindquarters of a dark brown goat.
The software had messed up at last. He was interested in satyrs, but hadn't ever really thought much about being one. In a way, Bob was disappointed. The software had started to take on a supernatural flair, but in the end, it was just a really good program.
"So little faith?"
He was startled by the comment. It seemed to respond to his thoughts. Circe was shaking her head. This time, her attentions made the creature more human, rather than bestial. The patches of hair on his face cleared, and his features smoothed. Though the lower half remained animal, the species shifted from goat to sheep. This was echoed by the nubs on his forehead, which curled out into the horns of a ram.
Bob stared at the image. It was the perfect representation of a Dungeons and Dragons character from years back. Aaron, a human fighter turned into a sheep-based satyr by a mysterious nymph. A white scar across the chest confirmed the identity, as did the copper red hair and green eyes. Yet there was no record of the character on his computer. Aaron existed only as a tattered paper statistics sheet and a memory.
"An old friend for you, Robert." Circe looked amused. "Ah! Did I finally surprise you? Perhaps now you are starting to believe in me?"
He thought frantically, trying to recall any story, any outline that might have Aaron in it. Nothing. A prickly sensation ran down the back of his neck. There was no way anyone could know about the character. Just like there was no way his computer monitor could work as a touch screen. However, there were three choices along the bottom of the screen now. CENTAUR, MINOTAUR, and AARON. They even had the name.
"Come now, Robert." The computer image was getting impatient. "I have provided you with three choices. Select one now, or forever regret missing your chance. You will never find this site again." The screen flickered, and started to dim. "One chance in a lifetime, Robert." Circe's voice began to fade.
He reached out, hand shaking. This was impossible. It was crazy, stupid. The tip of his finger seemed to move on its own. He knew it was a trick, he just couldn't figure out how they'd done it. His hand wavered momentarily between the centaur and the old game character, and then jabbed suddenly at the equine form. What did it matter? This was all some ridiculous game.
Circe rolled her eyes. "I knew the others were a waste of time. Sorry, boys. Maybe next time." The minotaur and Aaron turned and started to walk away, slowly changing back to the original forms as they left. Nodding to the equitar, she gestured towards Bob. "It is time." The centaur stepped forward and raised his hand, giving the illusion of having it pressed against the inside of the screen. "Seal the trade with your hand, Robert."
What was she talking about? What trade? The three fingers splayed against the other side of the glass were dark and thick, and showed incredible detail. Skin texture and coloration, even the distortion of shape from pressing against a hard surface. The animation had taken on a photographic quality. And his hand started to move up towards it.
"Leave your worries behind, Robert. Aaron will take your place. No one will miss you, for you will never really leave. He will assume your life, your family, your memories." Circe was no longer visible, obscured by the black fingers. "You can experience transformation, not just once, but many times. Live as a pure animal, and then become a centaur again. Shrink to a foal, and grow up to be a mare. And perhaps you will even stand here one day, ready to return to the human world as someone else."
No! He didn't want this! His eyes were wide, and his breathing became rapid. Circe was doing this! She was forcing him to touch the screen. Bob closed his eyes ands swallowed. That was a lie, and he knew it. Whatever the sorceress was doing, she was restrained to her side of the screen. He was acting of his own free will. For he knew he could not pass up the chance, whatever the outcome. His hand touched the cool glass...
WWW.CIRCE.COM copyright 1999 by Bob Stein.
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