|The Transformation Story Archive||The Circe Treatment|
It was turning out to be yet another glorious day on the savannah, I reflected with a sigh as I relaxed in the shade of one of the clumps of trees that dotted the reserve. Sometimes I wished the weather was a little bit more interesting. On the other hand, of course, no shelter would be provided by the wardens until conditions became life-threatening for us, so I guess it wasn't really so bad living in this climate. It was just that after five years I was getting desperate for anything new to happen, even something unpleasant. I missed snow.
After a while, one of the pride's males padded over from the main group, clustered in the shade of another clump of trees nearby. I think his name was Jeremy; he's only been here six months or so, and still hadn't adapted to the monotony of moments like this. I made an inquisitive noise. He responded by quickly scratching part of a grid pattern in the dirt with a claw and looking at me hopefully. I wasn't in the mood for games right now so I sighed and shook my head. He looked momentarily dejected, he had probably already been refused by the others he had just left. Then he shrugged, and wiped the lines smooth with his paw. I smiled apologetically at him as he padded off, looking for some other person to ask.
I returned to my relaxation and introspection. I had never been terribly interested in board games before my conviction, and I had taken to cultivating a certain aloofness on occasions like this. Sure, I joined games at other times; we'd managed to come up with a variant of soccer we could play since the wardens had given us a suitable ball, and there was the occasional bout of wrestling I enjoyed. I had even learned to enjoy hunting, when the wardens introduced live prey into the reserve. But I also liked my quiet time. Time to reminisce, to think of my friends and family...
I no longer cried when I thought about them; I'm sure they had gotten over me by now, and I had begun to get over them. The pride was my family now. I remembered gratefully how supportive some of them had been when I'd first arrived, lost and confused, even my own body now completely unfamiliar to me; sure, some had been jerks, but others did their best to comfort me in that difficult time. We were still just people, despite what we looked like. The Circe treatment made sure of that.
Of course, some people did go naturally insane after finding themselves transformed. They could be scary to deal with; if they got too bad the wardens would take them away to special facilities, but there were still members of the pride out there that were definitely not right in the head. Bruce, for example, who spent her days pacing the entire length of the fence searching for a way out. Where did she think she could go? But as long as we left her alone, she didn't cause trouble.
I still wouldn't have chosen life as a lioness, but all things considered it wasn't that bad.
Some time later, my attention was drawn from my thoughts by the faint hum of an approaching jeep. I perked up, wondering if it was a tourist group; they were often interesting, someone had even managed to slip us a newspaper once. We'd never let the wardens find out we had it, and it had kept us fascinated for weeks until the rains had come and destroyed it. It wasn't tourists this time, just a pair of wardens. My interest didn't drop for long, though, when I saw that there was a cage in the jeep. Were we going to get a new reassignment case? It seemed too late in the day for that, they were always dropped off in the morning.
I got to my feet and trotted over to the rest of the group to meet the jeep. The two wardens were Timmy, a security man, and Thomas, who was the field medic; since no one was injured that I knew of, that must mean it was a new arrival after all. But rather than getting out and opening the cage, Thomas stood up and addressed us.
"Robert A. Smith?" He asked as he scanned the assembled lions. It took a second for it to register, but I remembered with a start that that was my name. I raised a paw and gave a sharp bark of acknowledgement. "Ah, Robert. We've come to collect you, could you come over here please?"
Puzzled and nervous I slowly walked over to the jeep, the rest of the pride looking on with intense curiosity. What was up? I had just been taken for my semiannual medical checkup the other month, and I certainly hadn't been making any trouble. Timmy got out of the jeep and went around back to open the cage, which must have been brought for my transport. "Hop in, please," he told me. I hesitated, glanced back at the others, and then looked at him questioningly. While there was no legal reason to need my consent for anything any more, we had an understanding with the wardens that made these things generally courteous between us.
"It's all right, Robert," Thomas called back to me, "no harm will come to you. You have my word."
I knew Thomas somewhat from my medical exams, and I figured he was a good egg. Twitching my tail once, I jumped up into the open cage door and began getting comfortable for the ride. Timmy closed the door and I heard him get back into the jeep; "Show's over," I heard him say to the rest of the lions, "She'll be back in a little while to say goodbye, if she wants."
I spent the rest of the trip back to the base trying to figure out the meaning of that one statement.
When we arrived, my cage was lifted from the jeep and conveyed inside to the animal clinic. By then I was quite confused and worried; what were they going to do to me? When they opened the cage door, I stayed firmly inside and tried to look as puzzled as I could. Timmy sighed. "Look, Mr. Smith, I don't want to use the stunner on you; you're a nice guy, come out. I promise we aren't going to do anything nasty." Grumbling, I decided to comply and slunk out. Timmy snapped a leash onto my collar, and left me on the large examination table. Thomas and another doctor I didn't recognize came inside, pushing a cart with a large hypodermic needle on it. I bared my teeth and hissed slightly; I didn't like where this was going.
"Now, now, Robert." Thomas assured me, "just relax. This is Dr. Auchstein, he's with the department of reassignment. I've got good news; you've been reprieved."
R... reprieved? I wondered in amazement. What does he mean? Dr. Auchstein picked up the needle and approached me carefully, both Timmy and Thomas ready to hold me down if I tried anything, but I was too surprised to fully register what was happening until Auchstein actually stuck the needle in my side. I flinched then, but kept my wits enough to resist the urge to struggle while he emptied the contents. I wouldn't want to break that thing off inside me.
"There," Dr. Auchstein declared as he withdrew the needle. "That should do it. Let's get her under observation." They turned on the examination table's passive scanners, and then sat back to watch me and wait for something. I lay there watching them back, trying to figure out what was going on. I felt too weak to expend much energy on it, however.
After a minute a burning sensation began to spread through my body and I moaned slightly in fear. What was that stuff doing to me? My muscles felt looser, as if I were falling apart, and soon I couldn't've stood up if I'd tried. It was almost as if I had been given another Circe treatment, but that was impossible, wasn't it? A second treatment couldn't overcome the one that had made me a lion in the first place, at best it would do nothing and at worst it would kill me. Perhaps that's what it was doing to me, tearing my cells apart with conflicting commands. I moaned again, louder and higher than before, as my flesh rippled and flowed under my skin. My vision blurred, and I closed my eyes to shut out the sudden glare as my pupils dilated. I was sure I must be dying, though the burning had receded and there was no more pain.
At last it stopped, however, and I was left panting and exhausted but alive on the table. "Excellent," I heard Dr. Auchstein declare. "She seems stable." Timmy and Thomas sighed audibly. Beginning to recover somewhat, I opened my eyes and tried to figure out what had happened. It took a moment to adapt to the light, and then my forelegs swam fuzzily into vision in front of me. I shifted slightly, and let out a small cry of alarm when I saw that all my fur had fallen out and was lying loose on my skin. "Wha... what..." I gasped raggedly. Then I fell into stunned silence as I realized what I had just said.
My probing tongue confirmed what I suspected; human teeth. human mouth. Human arms, with light brown skin under the layer of yellow fur I had shed; not the color I remembered, but what the hell. I'd been out in the sun a lot. Slowly, as if my body was a bubble that might pop at the slightest disturbance, I climbed to my hands and knees.
The very first thing that struck me as feeling strange was not my flexible fingers, nor my ridiculously long hind legs, but the weights on my chest. I glanced down at myself, and saw that they were clearly breasts. Breasts! Still keeping calm, perhaps helped by some tranquillizer in the injection, I shakily pulled my hind legs under me and sat on my haunches. I felt Thomas' hand on my arm, helping steady me; without the fur, I could feel touch and texture with a clarity I had long forgotten. "Oh-h-h..." I groaned. "What hap... happened?"
"You're feeling okay?" Thomas asked with concern.
"Yeah. This is so... weird. How can I be human again?" I hadn't spoken out loud in five years now, but I had kept in practice with english mentally; the old reflexes fell easily into place.
"After the elections there was a review of old cases your judge had presided over, and it was found that many of them were false convictions. The Darren Tribunal ordered them overturned. And fortunately, it was discovered that there was a secret Circe treatment on file that could override the old one, so the victims could actually be returned to human form."
Most of that went right over my head; I was too confused right now to consider the incredible ramifications of a way to reverse a reassignment existing, or of the legal changes that would have been necessary to allow its use. All I could think about was that I was human again. It was incredible, so familiar and yet so strange...
"Why... why am I woman?" I asked at last, more curious than anything else, licking my dry lips and coughing slightly. Thomas handed me a large cup of water while he explained, which I carefully gripped in my hands and attempted to lap greedily. I would have to work on that.
"It was decided that to cause the minimum stress, your gender wouldn't be changed." Thomas explained. He sounded apologetic, but right now I wasn't particularly upset. Perhaps I would be later, I wasn't sure.
While I was thinking about that, Thomas reached up and carefully undid the leash that still held me on the table. "Are you ready to try standing?" He asked when I had finished drinking and put the cup down. I nodded, then I climbed down off the table while leaning heavily on him for support and balance. My golden fur fell everywhere as I moved, only traces now clinging loosely to my skin; I was almost sad seeing it go. But I was too busy trying to stand upright to think about it much. I managed it easily, and though I still held on to Thomas as a backup I was able to take a few shaky steps. Walking must be like riding a bicycle; one never really forgets it.
"Well, I can hardly call you 'Mr.' Smith any more," Timmy suddenly piped, and I found myself laughing so hard tears came to my eyes.
"Oh, gods, I've got to sit down," I gasped when I finally had enough air to speak again. Thomas directed me to a chair, and I sat. It really hadn't been that funny a joke, but in my condition it had had a disproportionate impact. "All right. Whew. I'm all right now. So what happens to me next? Can I have a mirror?"
They'd already had one waiting for me in the room, and I was quickly lost in self-examination. The dark brown hair on my head was straight and very short, almost a brush cut; I suppose it was reasonable to expect considering how quickly I had grown it. My face, and my body in general, were what I would call pretty and athletic. Not overly voluptuous, but very nice. It was very strange, even though I'd been female for the past five years already I'd never had breasts before.
While I was doing that, Thomas had continued talking. I guess I should have paid closer attention, but I was understandably distracted. "Well, Robert, first there's a little testing to make sure you're okay. Then, well, then you'll be released. You're human now, and free. You've been given some money as compensation for wrongful reassignment, it's not a lot but then you're lucky that there's even such a thing as 'wrongful reassignment' in the legal code now. I would suggest applying at the employment agency immediately, but that's just common sense. Beyond that, I guess it's up to you. Robert? Are you listening?"
"Hm? Oh, yes. Wow. I haven't thought about any of this... wait a minute, am I going to get my old body back?"
Dr. Auchstein shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ms. Smith. The second treatment is irreversible."
I was momentarily taken aback, but not terribly so; they'd said the same thing about the first one five years ago. And besides, what was wrong with being a woman? I was human again! The only real difference these days was that I could get pregnant if I wanted to... a sudden thought struck me. "My... my cubs. Could I see them?" I had given birth to many over my time here, and a few weeks after each delivery they were taken away to be raised in a real environment with real lions. I had learned not to get too attached to them, but still...
Thomas smiled. "I think that's entirely reasonable, at least for those we still have in the local facilities; many are in the wildlife preserves now, those are off-limits." I smiled back; seeing my cubs was going to be weird now that I was human again, especially the ones that were all grown up... I could even be a grandmother by now. I shook my head in amazement. I would need a long time to get used to this.
"Uh, do you have any clothes I could wear?" I asked at last. I would be needing them again.
Several hours later, I had a decent meal in me and I was beginning to finally come to grips with all that had just happened to me. I wondered if it was general policy not to give any warning before a Circe treatment, it seemed like it. Perhaps there was some psychological theory behind it.
I didn't care, I was done with Circe treatments now. I had called my brother, and arranged to stay with him; I would need a while to get reacquainted with everything that went on in human society, even moreso considering how much it had changed while I was away. But I must admit, I felt a certain sadness as I returned to the reserve enclosure to say goodbye. I had lived here for five years, and I realized that it had actually been a very nice stay. No real worries, lots of relaxation and fresh air, and close companionship when I needed it. As Thomas drove the jeep out, I realized that I knew each and every lion out there by name. I knew I would miss them.
Most of them were still hanging out under the trees where I had been picked up, and they watched the jeep with curiosity as it pulled up to them. I could guess what they were thinking about me; was I the daughter of someone high up, to be given a private tour by the wardens? Perhaps a journalist? It's what I would have been thinking, I knew I looked too young to be a VIP myself. I wondered what I should say to them as I got out and walked up to them, Thomas said I had about an hour if I needed it. He was standing by with the stunner on the offchance that someone decided to do something stupid, but I didn't expect anything like that. I knew them too well.
Wiping a few tears from my eyes, I said goodbye to my pride.
Going Home copyright 1997 by Bryan Derksen.
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