|The Transformation Story Archive||Mythical Beings|
It started innocently enough with an simple ring of the doorbell. Though maybe it depends on how you would define 'innocent.' Like it or not, there is very little that isn't going to irritate you when your sleep is interrupted at nine in the morning, following a late-night writing binge spurred on by three cups of coffee, which to be honest, I'd been doing far too often of late.
Having been woken in body, if not quite yet in spirit, I switched myself into autopilot mode, rose out of bed and sloppily got dressed, exited the flat on the middle floor and went downstairs, while my mind attempted to pull itself together and figure out what day it was and which way up it was supposed to be today.
The doorbell turned out to be heralding the morning post. It was early. Not only that, but the postman normally rang only if the mail was too big for the letterbox, or if it needed to be signed for. But the main front door was ajar today, as it sometimes was to air the hallway, and the postman hadn't waited around. Still, I paid it no heed. I was much more intrigued by what had arrived.
It was a package, a rather strange one at that. A perfectly square box, completely unbound. Somebody must have had great confidence it would get here. It was also hard to tell which way up it was supposed to be, devoid as it was of any external markings, or even a stamp. There were three flats in this building; who was it for? There was no telling what it could have been; had I been thinking, I would have left it there and instead phoned the police. I was too tired and too curious to be suspicious though. I guess I'm just a sucker when it comes to surprise mail.
There was one other thing that had been delivered that day; a letter. By any account it resembled a standard Government-issue brown envelope, except there was no official sender address, no insignia, not even a postmark. Just my name and address, showing through the transparent window, and a line on the back which read, "For authorized delivery with official package only." Ah, so it was for me. Pleased, I picked the box up and raced back upstairs to the flat.
On entering the living room, I decided to open the letter first, and took out the single sheet of paper, a piece of printed stationary. Again there was no return address, but instead a watermark and logo illustrating a strange motto in a language I did not understand. The rest of the letter however was in perfect English.
"Mr. Sanders..." the letter began. No 'Dear'; not exactly a promising sign. I continued to read. "...otherwise known as Eala Dubh to frequenters of TransFUR, TSA-List and the Transformation Webring."
Well, that certainly raised an eyebrow. That alias of mine wasn't exactly common knowledge, and my keen interest in the field even less so, around my area anyway. Where had this come from?
"You are hereby notified to report for Internet Service employment..."
Internet Service? I'd never heard of that. National Service meant being drafted into the Army, though this country hadn't bothered with the practise for many years. Jury Service I had recently completed; that had involved travelling by train to Court and waiting in a sheep pen with all the other mugs to have your name called out, at which point the Prosecuting Council would tell you to poke off again for no readily explained reason, every morning for a week. But this was something new.
"...for the two week period commencing on Monday, July the 5th...."
What? That was today! Whoever sent this thing had some nerve, expecting me to suddenly be free. This had to be some sort of wind-up.
"...at 10.00 am sharp, GMT."
And just an hour from now, yet. Was that really GMT as in Greenwich Mean Time? Just what country had this come from? And how was I even expected to get there, if they didn't tell me the location? This was making no sense at all.
"You are advised that failure to comply will result in the immediate suspension of all Internet privileges. Proper attire is compulsory. Further details can be found in the enclosed message."
Hey, now that wasn't on! Punctuality at short notice was one thing, formal dress was another. But Net suspension... well, to an active member of the TSA-List, that was fighting talk. Angrily I screwed the letter up into a small ball, then turned to open the package, fully expecting not to appreciate in the slightest whatever I found in there. On that basis at least, I wasn't disappointed. The package contained just three items; a flat cap, a jacket, and a compact disk. A whole CD just for a readme file? That seemed excessive; still, the disk looked inoffensive enough, so I popped it on top of my PC to look at later. The other two things were a different matter though. Together the cap and jacket could have been loosely described as a uniform; or more accurately, half of one. They were hideous.
The cap had a jutting-out peak that made it look so phoney, it was like a reject from an Amateur Dramatics prop box. On the front was a garish, zatfig logo of what looked like the front view of a horse's head, set against a jagged shaft of cartoon lightning. The jacket managed to be even worse; the same logo was emblazoned on the back, and looked even more tacky and kitsch in a larger size. A prominent letter P could also be seen on the horse's forehead. The garment didn't even remotely look as though it would fit me, but I tried it on anyway.
The jacket was indeed several sizes too large. It was like wearing a potato sack, great folds of cloth flopping every which way with gleeful abandon. Tie the sleeves around the back and it would have been a strait-jacket. Did they seriously expect me to show up for Internet Service in this thing? Besides, what good was only half a uniform? Sighing, I picked up the cap and turned it over in my hands several times while I took another good look at the ghastly thing. As spacious as it also was, it did at least appear not to be so oversized for me that it would flop over my eyes. With no choice in the matter, I put the cap on my head...
There are several schools of thought surrounding the intricacies of transformation. Some like the imagery of the human body twisting and realigning as it assumes a new shape; others prefer to picture a cleaner, more fluid morphing process. A myriad of stories and messages on the discussion forums have speculated about the possible sensations, of the human mind being submerged in a tide of animal instincts, or of a detached spirit watching as unnatural forces wreak havoc on its physical form. Looking back on it however, I can honestly say that none of the above applied to me. They simply weren't given the time.
The whole change was quite incredibly sudden and swift. An onrush of dizziness, a momentary feeling of intense internal pressure as I bulged massively, and a loss of balance as my centre of gravity jumped backwards by about a metre or so, catapulting me ungainly to the floor. Not forgetting the tremendous crash and splintering noise that came from the bookshelf behind me. In my current fatigued state of course, I couldn't possibly have gathered the faintest idea about what had really just occurred, even if I had seen it. It was simply too much for my tired brain to register; the 'Abort, Retry, Fail?' query had promptly decided on 'Fail'.
After a minute, the confused jumble of mental signals began to resolve themselves into something a little more meaningful. I was lying awkwardly on the floor, that at least I understood. A square object beside my head caught my attention; a rather folorn-looking book. Whatever had struck the bookshelf must have really hit hard for it to have been flung this far. I could also feel the weight of something on top of me. Several things in fact, now that I was aware of it; presumably more books.
Hang on. I'm in the middle of the big space in front of the desk. The bookshelf is supposed to be up against the wall. Something was very, very wrong here.
Still in a daze, I attempted to sit up. Only, it didn't exactly work out that way. My top half obligingly raised upright as it should have, but my backside and legs hardly seemed to move. They should have drawn up from under me. I could move my torso and bend at the waist, so I had to be sitting up, but it still felt as though I was lying down. The shift in weight had however caused some of the books to slide off me, and I could tell that the feel of them was definitely coming from much further back than it normally would have. And that wasn't all. Looking at my upper body gave me a shock. It wasn't to be the last one. Somehow, the voluminous jacket wasn't now any more. I tugged at a sleeve; no, I wasn't imagining it, the thing really was the right size, snug and cosy. Either it had shrunk to fit, or...
Nervously, I bent over and looked down at the place my legs should have occupied. They were still legs, admittedly. But they absolutely should not have been attached to a human frame. They were naked, thin, and completely white; the covering of clean, short hair was responsible for the colour. They were bent in the kneeling position, obscured below the knee with the ankles and feet still under me. I slid in a probing hand, only to encounter a strange, knobbly joint and something heavy, hard and flat. A subconscious command saw the entire leg emerge from beneath. It ended in a hoof. Abruptly I was fully awake and terrified. I twisted around to look at the bookcase; what was left of it, along with several spreadeagled volumes, were draped across a gleaming white rump, a thick, glossy tail, and an extra pair of very equine hind legs.
Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't panic.
A deep, relaxing breath. Ahhhhhhhh....
Oh, sod it!
The insulation between the flats was, to say the least, not of the greatest possible quality. It was a good thing the neighbours went to work each morning; Lord knows what their reaction would have been to the noise... or to me. Half of my body had just transformed into that of a horse. Good God, I was a fargin' centaur.
And it was... no, it was... it was just wonderful. Most of the fright had drained quickly away; the impromptu vocal outburst had actually done a great deal to get it of my system. Panicking wasn't going to help, in any case. Instead I was filled with awe and disbelief; the sort of euphoria a person experiences when his fondest wish and wildest dreams have just come true, but it hasn't yet sunk in. Like winning the lottery, or being elected Prime Minister, or... turning into a centaur. I sat there unmoving, drinking in my new form to the point of complete intoxication, slowly becoming aware of how it functioned. Simply to breathe, and feel the expansion of two different sets of lungs, was incredible. My heart was pounding with excitement. No, that was hearts; there was a second beat in my barrelled equine chest. Together they pulsed, forcing the blood though my human brain in a soothing, regular rhythm, slowly but steadily calming my nerves.
It was thus a remarkably short time before I was able to approach the situation with some degree of rationality... or as rational as could possibly be expected, anyway. More sensations were arriving from all over my extended lower body. The position I currently sat in was becoming decidedly uncomfortable; my second back was twisted, thrusting my rear limbs out in an unwieldy angle to the rest of me. I had to move. Experimentally, I ordered my muscular back to realign my spine, and rotate my hindquarters--or sixths, if that was the proper term for a centaur--into a proper sitting position. I wasn't sure if this would even work.
In fact, it worked far too well. There was a great spasm, a mighty heave, and my back end suddenly lurched around, flinging out my hind legs to strike a small table, nearly smashing either it or a hock to pieces. Mentally I kicked myself--with all four hooves--for attempting to do too much, too soon; if I was going to gain control of this huge, powerful body, it would have to be slowly, one step at a time. After that display I would have to careful if I wasn't to demolish the entire house. Luckily I had been facing the computer desk when my rear end had exploded outwards; as it was, the bookshelf itself was now little better than firewood. Great, there had gone my rent deposit. My upper half was the best place to start learning to move properly again, I reasoned. But though it was still human--sort of--I wasn't convinced it was still mine. There was the matter of the jacket. I glanced round the room; it did indeed seem smaller in relation to myself. As I looked, I tilted and moved around my head to iron out the kinks in my neck, then did the same for my upper back. Then I stretched out my arms, marvelling at their strength and thickness, at my broad shoulders, and at how muscular my human torso now was. I reached over, and picked up the book to my left, noting how diminished it too was compared with my hands as I thumbed the pages. Turning, I looked back at the wrecked bookshelf to measure the length of my horse body. Wow. I wasn't a mere pony, I was a full-blown stallion- and my human half had grown in proportion to match it, ensuring a perfect fit. At a guess, I would have been some eight feet tall, fully erect. Man, I was a monster!
All the more reason to be careful, then. The exercise had told me that everything in my upper portion still moved as it did before, which was comforting. Now I had to figure my way around the mechanics of my quadrapedal section. Gently at first, just enough of a signal to tense the muscles in each limb and feel how they worked, without moving the leg. I adjusted my position to give my forelegs proper room to move under me, and attempted to flex them a couple of times, to become accustomed to the relationship between cannon, fetlock and pastern. Control seemed not to be a problem. Pleased, I performed the same motions with my hind ones. All four legs were functioning perfectly.
Full of enthusiasm, I decided to experiment, and see what else I could move. To begin with I clenched and unclenched my enlarged buttocks a number of times, before moving upward to my croup and hips, waggling them a little from side to side, feeling the interplay of the muscle and sinew beneath. The movement dragged my tail along with it. Oh yes, now that I wanted proper control of. Where was my tailbone... ah, there it was. For several minutes I indulged myself, waving it from side to side, swishing and flicking, hiking and drooping. It was a beautiful white flag of a tail, if I may say so myself. Absorbed in my vanity I could have got quite carried away, had I not been under pressure from so many other things to learn. And I still needed to sit up properly.
Now that I had got to grips with each individual mechanism, could I move them together? There was only one way to find out, so I attempted the rollover manoeuvre again. Hup... hah. Perhaps this was going to be easy after all. The transformation itself must have seen to that detail, since a six-limbed mammal should have been biologically impossible--
Wait a minute.
Some other section of this implausible form had just decided to make itself known to me. I performed a quick mental recount. Two, four, six... eight.
There was another pair, alright. I could feel the weight on my withers, close to the front. In trepidation, I reached behind with a hand, and found whatever it was that lurked there.
Incredibly, it felt like... feathers.
They really were, too. It was a pair of genuine, honest-to-goodness wings!
How on earth could I have possibly missed them? This was fantastic. To be a flying centaur... a pegataur. Yes, I could even move them. Hardly even trying, I watched in rapture as the wings obeyed my will, unfurled and spread themselves. Good grief, they were enormous. It was hard to tell from this angle, but the flight pinions must have been over three feet long. It was marvellous, the feel of unfamiliar ligaments stretching and working beneath the skin and feathers, and muscles shifting along my broad white back, producing a sensation completely alien to me. It would be something of a clichè to say that a tingle ran up my spine, but it was indeed something vaguely akin to it. Beyond that it is impossible to describe how having a pair of wings actually feels. I dearly wanted to flap them.
That, alas, was impossible within the confines of the living room. The wings simply weren't able to unfold fully before they brushed against the walls. Besides, I had broken enough furnishings already. And once the sense of wonder had worn off, it dawned on me just how hopelessly impractical, even ridiculous, the appendages looked sprouting from my equine shoulders. The largest and heaviest birds capable of flight were swans and albatrosses, with enormous wingspans; impressive as they were, there was no way these things could possibly support the weight of- well, a horse.
Was I seriously expected to be able to fly with them, or were they instead purely for decoration?
Decoration. Ah. That brought something else to mind. Now that I had a good idea of what this new body of mine looked like, what about my face...? What else might have changed? I had to know. The trouble was, the only mirror available to me happened to be in the bathroom. And that meant, standing up and walking to it.
It's very peculiar how the subconscious regions of the brain that we take purely for granted actually work. You would imagine that following an extreme change of shape it would be tremendously difficult adjusting to an entirely new method of locomotion, and the weights and balances involved. In fact, as my exercises had suggested earlier, precisely the opposite turned out to be the case. Along with the skeleton and muscles, my nervous system had adapted itself beautifully, and the thought processes that governed everything had similarly adjusted to fit; so subtly that my human reasoning had not even noticed. It was perfectly natural, just as how a newborn foal is capable of taking its first steps within a single hour of its birth. But determination also spurred me on; new body or no new body, I wasn't about to be outdone by a mere infant.
I planted both front hooves, one at a time, against the floor and pushed away. The legs obligingly straightened and the joints locked, bracing against my body as it rested on my hind limbs in a squat. So far, so good. Now for the awkward part. I steeled myself and inwardly counted to five... then ten. Right.
Push... come on, it's not hard. Just don't fall over again.
A brief wobble caused me to clutch at the nearest object, the computer desk. Balance quickly steadied, and I continued to arise. Nearly... done. There, I was upright on four feet. Tentatively I let go of the desk...
Fresh confidence washed over me. Deftly I raised each leg in turn, and didn't slip. Faster and faster I stepped on the spot, performing a kind of macabre dressage dance. Wow, I could really do this!
Or perhaps not, after all. Suddenly it occurred to me about the size of the living room. The flat, like any human habitation, simply wasn't designed to accommodate a creature of the size I now was... and I had to get out.
The fact that the flat was an absolute pigsty wasn't going to make things any easier or less hazardous either, and with so much junk strewn about there just wasn't the room to fully turn around. I would have to reverse out of the door behind me. Thankfully it wasn't closed and the way to it seemed reasonably clear, and for once, a bad habit of leaving doors open would prove itself to be useful. Stepping backwards, I reached out with my left hind leg, caught the door and nudged it wide fully. Passing through the doorway itself was a squeeze; even my widened human shoulders had trouble fitting through, and the door handle jabbed painfully into my flank. Inhaling, I sucked in my stomachs--both of them--and pushed my shoulders together, a tactic that surprisingly appeared to work for both halves of me. The pressure relieved itself, and through the doorway I went, pausing only to duck my head before I beaned myself on the skirting frame.
Out in the hallway, circumstances were not intent on making the task any less of a pain. The hall was narrow, and as equally cluttered with books, magazines and other things as everywhere else, making it far too risky for me to navigate my equine bulk first, sight unseen. To turn the right way, I would have to keep going backwards into the doorway opposite the living room, far enough so that I could guide myself forward again and turn left, though not without difficulty and discomfort, and my horse portion would follow. After that it was just a straight walk to the bathroom; at least there were no stairs to climb or descend. However, another unexpected hazard was that my wings kept trying to get in the way; as I walked, they instinctively wanted to open themselves in preparation to taking flight. With a bit of effort, I could manage to keep them folded and under control. Eventually I got to the bathroom without slipping on a magazine, or stepping on anything too fragile or valuable. Not bad. Good enough to earn my 'R' plates, had this been a driving test.
I switched on the bathroom light, and stepped as far into the room as my long body would allow. Naturally the bathroom too had been built to be as compact as possible. The bath itself hadn't been particularly comfortable to begin with; now, it seemed absolutely tiny. The toilet, at present the epitome of porcelain uselessness, had thankfully been used already today and bodily functions wouldn't be a priority for some time... but no doubt I would have to worry about that later. The mirror hung over the sink; it wouldn't show much of my equine portion since my hindquarters still hung outside of the door, but it would tell want I wanted to know about my face.
The visage that peered back at me was still recognizably mine. Only a few details seemed to have changed. Whatever power had mysteriously transformed me had also corrected the defect in my eyesight. My glasses had gone and I no longer needed them; indeed, I looked much better without them. What I could see of my hair had blanched from its usual brown to the same white colour as my oversized rump. Instead of flowing over my shoulders, it now gathered around the back of my head. When I placed a hand to the nape of my neck, I could feel the hair that was attached there; tugging at it pulled the skin. A mane. Reaching behind under the jacket, I traced out the line the mane ran down to where it merged with the hair on my lower back. The cap covered more than just the top of my head; my ears were hidden, having shifted upwards in position to where they couldn't be seen, though I felt them twitch underneath. I imagined they too must have looked relatively horsey. Gingerly I removed the cap to take a better look.
And for the second time that morning, ended up flat on my backside as my weight suddenly shifted again.
Clearing my head with a quick shake, I quickly inspected myself. The jacket once more hung loosely around my upper body, which had resumed its normal proportions. The equine half had vanished; in its place, my customary number of legs which, I was pleased to discover, wore the jeans I had dressed with. I felt my face and head; no pointed ears, no mane. No doubt about it, I was fully human again. I looked at the cap. Blue sparks and crackles of magical energy arced across its surface for a second or two, and faded away. It had been obvious all along, but still hadn't occurred to me in the confusion of the change.
Alright, so now I knew how, as well as into what. But it still left me none the wiser as to what the airborne intercourse the point to any of this actually was. I looked at my watch, which somehow had managed to stay intact throughout the whole debacle, though the plastic strap had been stretched and no longer gripped my wrist. Only about a half hour had gone by, which still left me that amount of time before the supposed deadline, assuming I could possibly make it. It was definitely time for some answers. Quickly doffing the horrible jacket, I returned to the living room, twirling the cap around a finger as I went.
Retrieving a toppled chair, I sat at the desk, booted up the PC and inserted the CD, expecting to find an explanatory text document.
It didn't appear to be there. Instead, the disk contained an extractor file which, as I watched, brought up the familiar Install Wizard screen and began to transfer itself onto my hard drive.
It was a mail program. Now why had they bothered to send me this? They knew I was connected to the Net, ergo, I was capable of receiving E-mail messages already. The mail program itself also happened a very familiar one which again, had already made it itself at home on my system. I assumed it was a brand new update, though it didn't seem to care about the older installed version. I just hoped it wouldn't clash with or corrupt any of my system drivers.
With a beep, the mail program performed a quick diagnostics check, then expanded its GUI to fill the entire screen, revealing to my surprise the specially-coded message that was ready and waiting for me; the employment details referred to by the letter. So that's where they had put them. I was right about one thing; this had to be a very special or limited edition indeed to have such a personal message inscribed prior to production. It more or less reiterated the contents of the letter, but contained an additional paragraph that read thusly.
"Due to the rapid exponential increase in Internet users in recent years, the entire World Wide Web Network has become unable to automatically sustain in full the additional workload. It has therefore become necessary to enlist the aid of Internet users on a rotational basis to ensure the proper running of the Network. Duties will involve the following:"
There then followed a list of options. The bottom one was highlighted in red; this presumably was the one that applied to me.
"1: Policing of major data transfer routes to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.
2: Overseeing and maintenance of IRC and IRQ channels.
3: Sorting and prompt delivery of E-mail messages.
Of course. Despite my love of obscure wordplay, I couldn't help but groan out loud at the truly horrendous pun that explained away the whole thing. The jobs that had just been described were a traffic cop, a phone operator, and myself... a Pegasus Mailman.
"We remind you again that proper attire is compulsory. Loss or damage to any part of the special uniform will result in immediate termination of employment, cessation of all Internet rights, and a fine to the value of up to one thousand pounds in local currency."
Well, they certainly meant business. After the trouble they had gone to to recruit me, that was to be expected. Obviously, they wanted me to arrive to work dressed for the job, wherever the office actually was. I assumed the last few lines of the message would tell me, I would look at them after I changed again. Quite why my employers felt it necessary to transform people just to be computer operators was a mystery; maybe they cared passionately about aesthetics. Or else they just had a warped sense of humour. Either way it would have to be a damned big office. Maybe I should wait instead until I got there before I put the cap on, I thought; I still had to get downstairs, and people would stare at me in the street. But then again... oh, what the hell. Let 'em stare. It's not like I'm the only person to get this...
Without any more ado, I moved aside enough of the litter for my pegataur body to comfortably stand in the space, and readied myself so that I wouldn't topple once my mass expanded. I put on the jacket and finally donned the cap, feeling the instantaneous rush as the change took hold.
A cursory examination then told me that I wore exactly the same winged half-horse form that I had briefly taken earlier; this time however, I was quite looking forward to staying that way for a much longer period. I checked my tail for tangles, smoothed out the jacket, and straightened the cap to ensure that I looked presentable. After all, a Pegasus Mailman had to properly look the part.
Now, back to the end of the message.
"When ready, please reply to this mail."
Oh. That was it. Reply to the message? What, just to tell them I'm coming? Didn't they have a phone number or something? If it was more important, surely they'd want to talk to me directly anyway. They still hadn't told me who 'they' were. And what about these bloody directions?
Frowning, I fidgeted for a minute, trying to think of something appropriate to say as I traced out sad little patterns on the screen with the mouse pointer. Writing without inspiration or caffeine wasn't my strongest point. But eventually a few lines of text were cobbled together, ready to be sent. The reply address was a unintelligible jumble of characters; encrypted, no doubt. These were a secretive lot. But I assumed it would still work; stranger things had certainly happened that morning. The mouse pointer hovered over the correct button.
The normal 'Send' command had been replaced by a different word, 'Transmit.' It wasn't a command I recalled ever seeing any mail program use. Still, compared to everything else it seemed a pretty insignificant detail. I clicked the button.
Idly, I scratched my left hind hock with the other hind hoof. My wings twitched and tail swished with impatience. Something had better happen to sort things out soon.
It wasn't at all to be what I expected. I had been concentrating so intently on the screen that I was totally unaware of the green glow, at first. And no wonder, since it didn't come from the screen; instead, it radiated off... me.
Worried, I lifted my hands. Sure enough, a network of thin green lines had appeared on them, racing up my arms as I watched, connecting together and spreading. What was happening?
Twisting, I gazed at my rear half in horror, letting out an involuntary whinny, trying to ascertain what was going on. The glowing grid was already well-advanced by now. It had begun at the end of each extremity, including my tail; a crosshatch of intersecting vectors tracing the contours of my body, following me as I moved around to look at them. Before long I was totally engulfed by the fine mesh, and resembled nothing so much as--the thought suddenly hit me--a computer-generated 3D model!
It was true, though. The final stage was irrevocably underway as, like a stream of dust particles, each tiny square that made up my form broke away from the main mass, was converted into a data packet and fed into the computer. My legs were the first to disappear, leaving the rest peculiarly suspended in midair. The stream became a torrent as the process began to absorb my winged horse torso, then worked its way up to my human half, leaving the head for last. There was no pain, only surprise and satisfaction now that I fully understood the ramifications of the job. If one was to assist as an Internet messenger, where better place to work than within the Net itself--and in an appropriate guise that would presumably make the delivery process so much faster and easier? That was why they had singled me out; they needed to find people willing and able to accept the incredible way their lives would be turned upside down, and relish the experience. Probably some of the other TSA members had received the same mysterious letter already. Well, there were certainly less interesting ways I could think of to spend a couple of weeks. And who knows, I thought, there may well be some familiar names working alongside me.
And I wondered if there were any permanent positions that needed to be filled.