|The Transformation Story Archive||The Circe Treatment|
Reassignment"As you have been unemployed for more than the maximum 24 months, you are hereby ordered to come to the reassignment center tomorrow at 9.00 hrs. Appearance is mandatory."
Jeremy sighed as he put down the fax. He had known it was inevitable that they would eventually find out. He grinned for a moment. He had given them quite a slip. "...for more than the maximum 24 months," indeed. He had managed not to work for 5 years! Selling a few of his paintings to the gullible and incompetent, he had fattened his welfare checks up to a point where he could live. He had changed his name 4 times, always relocated, and tried not to be too conspicuous.
Ah well. He had known that the Agency would get him sooner or later. He had never had the stomach for the true underground -- too dirty and dangerous for his taste. He would much rather sit in a nice house in the 'Acres, the fenced reservation for the idle rich. That was the life he was cut out for: to be pampered and idle. It was just bad luck that he hadn't had the right parents.
He read the fax again, and steeled himself for the interview tomorrow. What could they do, anyway? At the worst they could give him some menial job. He would put up a contrite face, and then drop out again at the earliest opportunity.
It was 9.30 when he came to the center, yawning and ruffled. He was prepared for a few hours wait, just like the times when he had come to get his check.
The reassignment center was a modern building, far cleaner than the social office. It almost had the atmosphere of a hospital. Surprisingly, there were no queues, and when he gave his name to the front desk the girl just glanced at her screen and said, "You're late Mr. Ingall. You were scheduled for nine-oh-oh."
"Oh, sorry", he said, "y'know, the tube was late and..."
The girl interrupted him. "You don't have to explain." She looked him up and down, then gave him a chit, and told him to go to Room 240.
Room 240 turned out to be a spacious office. The occupant was a nondescript woman, who introduced himself as "Mrs. Sindler". As soon as he sat down, she looked at her screen, looked him over (in a way that was strangely similar to the way that the girl at the front desk had looked at him), and then started to talk.
"Mr." she paused shortly, looked at the screen, "Ingall, or are you more comfortable with some of your other names?" She didn't give him time to answer, but continued at once. "According to these files, you have been unemployed for five years, seven months and ... 4 days. You have embezzled quite a lot of the taxpayers money this way." Jeremy wanted to protest, but Mrs. Sindler immediately continued: "By the Employment Act of 2034, the Social Fraud Act and the Genetic Diversity Act of 2041, you have forfeited the rights citizenship confers, and are therefore eligible for reassignment." She looked up. "Do you know what that means?"
"No, I don't, I don't follow the news much. Sorry." Jeremy tried his best to sound apologetic, "I know, I shouldn't have done that, but there never was a job that was, uh, right for me. I really tried, Mrs. Sindler, and I'll try my best in whatever you have for me this time." He almost managed to put tears in his eyes.
"I'm sure of that." She allowed herself a thin smile. "You see, we are not a job agency."
Jeremy was a bit baffled. "You're not? Then what...?"
"We are a reassignment center. We don't give you a job, which you would probably leave after a few days or weeks. We give you a new existence. In fact, you have already been assigned to the 'Equus Center For Rare Horses' at Greenwood Acres."
"You expect me shovel horse manure at some stable?" Jeremy frowned. That didn't sound so drastic.
"No, Mr. Ingall." She smiled again. "Not quite. You'll see."
She pushed a button. Two security guards immediately entered the room. They immobilized him silently and efficiently, and although he protested that he was voluntarily cooperating, they handcuffed him and then escorted him out of the room. He was brought to some kind of large sanitary tract, where he was roughly stripped, washed, and then handcuffed again. He nearly screamed himself hoarse during this treatment. The worst part of it was that he was treated like an object. The guards didn't react even to the most vulgar insults he could come up with. By the time he was led out of the bath, naked, he was resigned to his fate. He didn't protest any more, nor even say anything.
He was brought out a back door of the building, where a transport van was parked. The side of the van was adorned with a stylized horse and the expected lettering, "EQUUS - Center For Rare Horses." He wanted to walk to the passenger door, but was expertly deposited in the back of the van. He huddled in a corner of the car, trying to come to grips with this unexpected development.
He had to get out, but as long as he was handcuffed and naked, he didn't see a lot of chances. He'd cooperate. He might as well try to get some clothing and a meal in him before he tried to escape during the night. This plan fixed in his mind, he came out meekly when the van finally stopped and its doors opened.
Still, nobody talked to him. He stayed quiet as well, trying to fix as much of the surroundings in his mind as possible. The van had parked in front of a large building and at the side he saw some stable doors. Of course -- this was a horse farm, he realized. Surrounding the building, at least as far as he could see, was a large meadow, where a number of horses stood in the afternoon sun, some quietly grazing, a few running around, and others just lying in the sun. It was an idyllic scene -- for somebody with a mind to enjoy it. Jeremy only had eyes for possible escape routes. He couldn't see any fences, but that probably only meant they were out of sight.
He didn't have a lot of time. Almost immediately he was led into the building, and then was brought into a featureless room. The room had an almost rubbery substance covering its walls and floor. A large window was set high on one wall, but he couldn't see whether somebody was up there.
He felt panic rise again as the guards who had led him in left the room and closed the door, but he forced himself to stay calm. Closing his eyes, he sat down and leaned against the window-wall. He wondered how long they would leave him in here. He couldn't see a toilet, just a hole in the floor in one of the corners. He hoped that he wouldn't have to use it.
Half an hour later, as he was almost dozing off, a man wearing the traditional doctor's whites entered the room, followed by two guards. Jeremy rose. "Excuse me," he said, still trying to be on his best behavior, "I don't understand. What's going on?"
Opening a small case, the doctor answered. "I apologize for the discomfort..." he began.
Jeremy was almost startled. He had already gotten used to people refusing to talk to him. He interrupted, losing his temper and forgetting all his thoughts about "best behavior." "You apologize? I get dragged in here naked, getting handled like a sack of beans, and you fuckin' apologize? What the hell is going on here? You can treat your bloody horses like this, but not me!" The guards made a movement to restrain him. He put his hands up. He didn't want that kind of trouble again.
The doctor stayed calm. "Well, actually we can treat you like this. You lost your rights as a citizen a few hours ago, and you did bring it about yourself. But no matter. You will be very valuable to us in just a few hours." The doctor calmly filled a syringe and moved towards him.
"Hey!" Jeremy yelled as he started to move away. He was immediately held down by the guards.
The doctor continued his speech as he emptied the syringe in Jeremy's right buttock. "We care about our horses here. As machines took over farming jobs, the need for working horses faded. By the end of the last century, many draft breeds became extinct. Fortunately, some forward-thinking biologists preserved cell cultures of the last specimens, hoping they could be cloned in the future. As you perhaps know..."
Jeremy was listening with mounting confusion, meanwhile feeling an almost burning sensation from his buttock.
The doctor talked on, with the tone of a teacher explaining. "...cloning didn't work out. The resultant animals were not viable. Some spark seemed to be missing. Now, using a slightly modified Circe Treatment, we can recreate them. The resultant specimens are not only eminently viable, but fertile as well, and we're having great success at breeding them."
Slowly, the words of the doctor sunk in. "NO! You're not going to turn me into some stinking horse!" Jeremy again tried to struggle against the restraining guards, but he felt weak, so weak, that when the guards released him, he fell down and was reduced to pleading. "Please, don't do this to me. Please! I'll work for you. I'll clean everything. I'll shovel horse shit, whatever, ..." He surprised himself by starting to cry.
The doctor looked down at him, with an almost gentle expression. "You won't have to work. The transformation will begin in a few minutes. Even as we speak, all genetic traces of your human existence are being purged from your body. You'll get a full life span, being cared for and even loved. Don't be afraid. You'll stay yourself. The early versions of the treatment had some mental side-effects, but we have improved it. The horse's instincts will help you, but they will not overpower you." The doctor paused, looking at the sobbing man at his feet. "Don't fight it. There's nothing you can do. Believe me. Though I might sound cynical, you will have a better life than you ever deserved."
When the doctor left, Jeremy stopped sobbing. There just didn't seem to be any point in it. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes before daring to examine himself. The burning had subsided, and he didn't feel bad now. In fact, he felt better than he had for quite some time. Little aches and pains he'd gotten used to were gone, and he seemed to have more energy, but his feet were becoming a bit stiff.
He couldn't wiggle his toes. It felt as if they were stretching, as did his hands. When he flexed them, he found that the middle fingers seemed to be swollen.
Keeping his eyes closed, he felt his body. He seemed to have grown a light fur already. He opened his eyes again, and looked down. So fast! A deep black coat covered his body. His feet were a lot longer, while his thighs had almost shrunk. His knees were a lot farther up, as were his elbows. Still, he felt no pain, nor even a hint of cramping.
He looked at his loins. The hips were oddly turned and his thighs were flatter and farther apart than they should be. He was confused when his penis began to draw into his changing body. Shouldn't it be growing? Then he realized with a start that they would need more mares than stallions for breeding.
The changes were accelerating now. His legs -- although by now he should probably think of them as his hind legs -- were almost flowing into their new shape, yet he was calm. "Probably some tranquilizer in the mix" he thought. He watched. His middle finger had by now almost completely absorbed the others. Just the thumb was still recognizable. At the same time, the whole hand had elongated, and as he watched, the nail grew to form a hoof.
Still, he stayed calm. He almost wished for somebody to come and tell him how he was transforming, and how it worked, but nobody came. He settled down and watched himself. He had to move and roll on his side: his back was getting rounded and his legs (and he had four by now) felt better when he stretched them sideways. And then it was finished.
A man came in, talked soothing nonsense at him, as he tried to stand up. He was gently held as he wobbled on his newformed hooves. When he could stand alone, the man walked away and returned with a bucket. A bucket with a nipple. He could dimly remember that such buckets were used for feeding foals. At first he refused, but then he noticed that he was hungry. He chided himself for being proud. He was an animal now, and he should accept it. He sucked, at first haltingly, then greedily.
Strange. Now that he stood on all fours, the transformation had lost all terror for him. Not that he didn't want to be human again, but, he realized, he hadn't lost himself. He still was Jeremy Ingall. He just looked a bit different.
For a few hours, he kept himself occupied by testing his body, walking around, and trying to jump and to kick with his hind legs. Then somebody came in, fastened a rope around his neck, and led him out. He didn't even try to put up any resistance. There were quite a lot of people around him. They talked about him, and even though he could understand them easily, he let his mind wander, trying out his new senses. A wealth of smells almost overwhelmed him. It smelled of a lot of horses -- his kind now -- and of, yes, grass and flowers. He looked over the wide field again and watched the other horses.
He was jolted out of his reverie by somebody grabbing his neck. "Is this the new foal, Daddy?" As he twisted his head to get a look, he saw a girl standing there, at the most about ten years old. "May I care for it? It's beautiful!" The girl looked under his belly, and he almost skittered off, but then realized that this was the way it was to be from now on. "Ohh, it's a lady-horse again. May I give her a name?"
"He called himself Jeremy, before," said the doctor, who had just come out of the building, "but this nice foal should have a different name now."
The girl thought for a moment, then brightened. "I think I will call her 'Night Beauty.' Her black fur is sooo beautiful." She turned to Jeremy again, never having let go of his neck. "How do you like it?"
He thought earnestly about it, then nodded. Might as well get a nice name.
She then led him away amid the chuckles of the adults, all the while chattering to him. "I'll get you a mommy now. Y'know, we did give her extra shots, so she could give you milk. Ohhh, I was so much waiting for you. Daddy promised me that I could have the next foal to care for, and I..."
He stopped listening to her as he was hit by another smell. Hunger struck him again, and even though he felt the girl trying to restrain him, he found the mare's teats easily. As he suckled, he realized that he would now get the life he had always dreamed of: being pampered and living in the 'Acres.
Reassignment copyright 1996 by Thomas Hassan.
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