|The Transformation Story Archive||Spells 'R' Us|
The Skin Game
I looked the shop over as I came through the door. It didn't look like much ... but with a name like 'Spells 'R' Us', it didn't need fancy decor. I was a little surprised the place wasn't mobbed. Most new stores wind up incredibly crowded in short order.
As I came in, a white-haired gentleman ... the proprietor, I'd guess ... was just giving a young couple a crystal. I wonder what ... on second thought, I don't think I want to know what it was for. Probably personal.
Once they left, he turned to me. "See anything you like? I know we have something for you."
I gave a short laugh. "That's a safe bet. Now, if I could afford it ... "
"Ah", he said. "Short on funds, then. No problem. I'm always willing to help out a customer who's down on his luck." He looked at me with a strange smile and said, "I think I know just the thing. Do you have a costume for tonight?"
"Aheh. No. Mother didn't want to buy until the last minute, and ... well, you know how the stores are nowadays ... "
"Yes, yes", he mused, stroking his beard. "So hard to find just the right costume, especially on Halloween day. I mean, the only thing I have left in your size is a werewolf, and ... "
My ears twitched ... hey, a lot of people can do that ... when I heard that. "May I see it?" I said eagerly.
"Of course, of course", he said. "Just a moment ... "
He vanished into the back room then, and I could hear him rummaging around. While he was gone, I looked around the store. Nice, subdued lighting brought out the simple elegance of the decor, the few bits of display merchandise that were out gleaming like jewels in a treasure vault. Even the glass display cases looked almost like real crystal ... but of course, that would be too expensive for anyone less than Donald Trump to manage.
Just then, he brought out the costume on a display hanger.
I looked it over carefully. It seemed to be one of the older styles, with laces up the back and a full-face mask. As I took the head of the costume in my hands, I could feel a hinge work in the jaw. Apparently it had mouth movement too. The overall effect was perfect, with a thick pelt of gray fur leading down to a flaring tail at the back ... the tail even ended with a black tip! And on the chest was a white star of fur. I looked it over and sighed.
Perfect. It was absolutely perfect.
I handed it back.
He frowned. "Don't you like it? It's a magnificent piece of work, you know."
"I know, I know", I said. "And no doubt with a magnificent price tag as well."
"I'm sure something could be arranged ... "
"I don't think so. I don't have any money on me."
He thought for a moment as I looked longingly at the warm, soft fur in his arms.
Then he handed it back to me.
I pushed it away, of course.
"Come on", he said. "Just this once, I'll let you try it. No charge."
"Oh, but I couldn't ... "
"Come now. Not even once?"
"I ... I just hate to take this and not leave you anything for security. I mean, I'd hate for anything to happen to it ... "
"Yes, yes", he said, then paused in thought. "How's this", he finally said. "I'll let you use the costume for free tonight ... and then you can work off the cost over time. Then, when you're done, the costume's yours."
My eyes grew wide as I contemplated the possibility of wearing the beautiful creation before me. "I don't know ... are you sure you can use me?"
"Positive", he said, nodding firmly. "Now, just take this into the back room and change."
"But ... "
"Ah-ah-ahh. No buts. Besides, it's made to fit closely. No briefs." He smiled at my obvious discomfort. "Don't worry. I disinfect all my sk ... my costumes regularly. There's absolutely no danger of infection or contamination."
"Well ... "
"Trust me", he said, thrusting the skin into my arms again.
This time I took it.
In the back room, I quickly stripped down to my briefs. Then, looking around to make sure the curtain in front of me wasn't gapping open, I slid out of the tight underwear.
After a few minutes of cooling off several previously-covered portions of my anatomy, I started the process of putting on my sort-of-rented costume.
The legs were the tricky part, since I had to llean against the wall to fit my feet into the brackets that held them on tiptoe. If it hadn't been for the cushioning at the toe, I would've been wincing. But it was soft and firm beneath my feet.
Next came the hips. Fortunately, it fit well in that area. The nerve-wracking part came when I had to ... ahem ... get intimate with the costume. After a bit of fumbling, I found an arrangement a bit like an athletic cup that held me ... erm ... "at attention". Actually, it felt quite nice. For once I didn't have to worry about feeling myself slide into an uncomfortable position. And I knew from experience with my briefs that the "up" position was infinitely more comfortable than the "down".
The chest was almost embarassing. First I tried pulling it up ... but something didn't feel right. Then I figured it out. I needed to put my arms in first, then handle the chest. So, with a bit of twisting and grunting, I finally arrived at my neck with the furry fringe of the costume's pelt.
Next, I reached behind me and ... next I reached over my shoulders and ... next I swung from side to side and ...
Next I went out front to talk to the owner.
Fortunately, he showed me what I was doing wrong. Apparently, I needed to bend over to flip the head up, then tie the strap under my chin.
Finally, I looked out through the eyeholes of the mask ... and asked for a mirror.
After I got over the shock, I realized the magnificent specimen in the mirror was me! All the way from nose to toes, from tail to ... whoops.
I suddenly realized that the costume was anatomically correct.
"Don't worry", the old gentleman said. "It's perfectly natural. Just remember that you are wearing fur and you won't have a problem."
"Now", he went on before I could comment, "I do have to ask that you get yourself back here by midnight at the latest. I simply cannot stay open any later than that. Do you understand?
"Oh, just nod your head or shake it."
"You're sure you understand?"
I nodded and made the sign for "OK".
I put my hands on my hips and tapped a foot. Well, stamped a foot. You can't tap when you're standing on your toes.
"Sorry", he said rather shamefacedly. "I've had some bad experiences with some of the local college students. Late returns and all that. Still, you are a graduate." He opened the door. "Your clothes will be waiting for you when you're done with the costume. Enjoy yourself, Nathan."
It wasn't until a block later that I realized I hadn't told him my name. Still, he probably heard it from one of my friends. Everyone knows me.
By 10:00, the costume party was already winding down. As usual. Around here, you're a night owl if you're up past ten, and there aren't many night owls around here.
I'd discovered through luck (and absent-mindedness) that I could drink punch through the muzzle of the mask. Of course, the dips and chips were out of the question. One false move and it's a huge dry-cleaning bill.
Not much had happened to disturb my people-watching. Oh, a few girls had worn WAY too much perfume earlier in the evening, but I'd made sure to stay on the other side of the room from them. The only real problem was the costume's tail. No matter what I did with it, I couldn't sit up straight without getting the rigid core straight in the gluteus maximus. The best I could do was slouch over my drink with my ... I mean, the costume's tail stuck through the back of the chair. Good thing they used kitchen chairs. This'd never work with an armchair.
A few people had even tried to talk to me ... but the mask made it frustratingly impossible. By the time 10 o'clock rolled around, my lips were getting stiff from the combination of working the jaws and yelling my lungs out trying to make myself understood.
The slow music they had on the tapes was beginning to make me drowsy. Finally, I just laid my head on my paw ... hands and relaxed, letting my eyes drift gently closed.
Suddenly, I was incredibly, impossibly, stiflingly HOT! I cracked the jaw a little, trying to let in some air. It seemed to help, but I couldn't even feel the air get past my mouth. Stumbling to the bathroom, I fumbled for the tie beneath my chin so that I could open up the head of the costume. When I didn't find it, I decided to risk a mending bill and yanked at the sides of the head. Other than a brief pulling sensation, I got nothing. I reached up top and yanked at the ears, trying to raise the head. Nothing but another pulling sensation as my ears twitched. For a moment, I thought I saw movement in the mirror, but all was still when I wearily turned back to it. Next I reached for the neck join, to try and open up some surface for cooling. No sign of it. My head was beginning to swim as I panted heavily, my tongue hanging out of ... no, that's impossible. Finally, I decided to head back to the mall. Hopefully, the old man would be able to get me out. A few people stared at me as I stumbled past, the combination of tilted feet and overheating sending my balance into orbit as my mind threatened to follow.
I didn't meet anyone on the street, thank goodness. Painstakingly, I wobbled my way back to the mall's front entrance.
It was locked.
In the sweltering heat of the night, my situation was rapidly getting worse. The world seemed to tilt as I pounded weakly on the door in front of me. I grabbed a door jamb and held on as the tilting world beneath me threatened to throw its pavement against me. I tried to talk, but couldn't even make a grunt between pants as my eyes smarted from the heat.
Finally, my balance gave up fighting gravity and I toppled to the pavement, wincing in pain on impact. The world was beginning to blur, as though I were looking at it through an out-of-focus lens. Frantically, I focused myself on the task of pounding on the door, and began hoisting myself to all fours to do so. As I reached my knees and elbows, I caught sight of my reflection in the sheet glass of the door. The eyes in the costume's eyeholes were wild and staring, the tongue large and pink, the nose ...
As I tried to focus more clearly on the image, I fell back to my side with a gasp. The apparent impossibility was driven from my head by a more practical consideration and a single lonesome thought.
My eyes lost their focus as I stopped struggling and lay bonelessly against the concrete, my sides heaving. Through the haze of the heat building up inside me I thought I heard running footsteps. Then a voice.
When I awoke, I was lying on a couch in a small room. A small room that felt wonderfully, totally cool. As I groaned, a voice responded from what seemed like a great distance.
"Don't move yet, Nathan. You're still a bit weak."
I was in no mood to argue with such irresistible logic and relaxed my muscles slightly, hearing a muffled, soft thud, thud, thud from somewhere nearby, slow and faint. After a few minutes, it stopped.
Then the old man came in.
"I do apologize for the overheating, Nathan. I really should check the weather forecast for the area when I rent my furrier costumes." I nodded weakly and he went on. "In point of fact, you almost missed me entirely. You were very nearly late, you know." At my puzzled look, he pointed to a clock on the wall.
As I buried my head in my p-paw ... hands, he explained, "You only just made it under the wire, Nathan. You've been out for almost ten minutes since I found you."
I tried to apologize, but my parched throat just growled hoarsely.
"I quite understand, Nathan", he said. "Some of the music they use at parties today, it's a wonder you even woke up for this."
"Now", he said, "You should really take that thing off."
Hoisting myself to my feet, I pointed to him and then my chin. "Oh, troubles?" I nodded.
"Here, allow me."
Quickly, he reached beneath my chin and undid the strap, letting in a flow of cool, sweet air. I gasped in pleasure at the relief I was feeling. Next, he started rolling down the chest ... and I started feeling wobbly. When he reached my waist, I almost complained, but I was too glad of the cool air to quibble over privacy now. Besides, it was getting harder to stand upright for some reason. Finally, he tapped me on the instep, and I rocked slightly, raising my feet just enough for him to remove the costume from around my ankles.
Then he looked at me with a smile and said, "If you wouldn't mind turning to your left?"
Turning, I wondered why he'd brought in another costume.
Then I saw it shift from foot to foot ... just as I did.
I felt my jaw drop open ... and the furry figure's jaw did likewise, exposing a long, pink tongue.
Just then, I lost the ongoing battle to stay vertical and fell to the floor, just barely catching myself with my ... hands? I tried to stand back up, but felt a strange pulling from beneath me, and a strange discomfort from my hips. I landed back on all fours, my mind reeling wildly as I took in the picture in the mirror. Where the image of a moment before had been a Hollywood-style werewolf, the one I saw now showed no sign of humanity at all. Barring the blue eyes almost hidden beneath the heavy brows, the figure in my reflection was 100% wolf.
I looked up at the old man with a whimper. This was getting too confusing.
"Well", he said, "I did say you'd be working it off. You see, my usual shoplifter deterrents have been getting rather overworked lately. I thought that perhaps a living guard ... an unobtrusive one, in any event ... would be useful. Again, I do apologize for the heat prostration you went through earlier. The warmth of two coats of fur, you know."
As I whimpered, looking back and forth between my reflection and him, "he went on. "Now, now. Don't worry. It's only temporary. As soon as you pay off the rental fee, you'll be able to stand on two legs again. Then, if you like, I can remove the spell entirely and you and I can go our seperate ways ... or, of course, you could continue to work for me and get paid."
When I cocked my head at that, he rushed on with, "Don't make up your mind just yet, Nathan. Wait until you've finished your end of the bargain. Oh, and don't worry about your friends and family", he said with a grin. "As far as they're concerned, you've simply accepted a new job offer." He chuckled. "Then again, in a way you have."
"Now, Nathan, let's get you fed and bathed and I'll instruct you in your duties." Still a bit wobbly on my paws, I followed him off into the hallway outside the room. I'd already decided to take the job after I'd finished my debt, though.
It may be a guard dog's life ... but it'll sure be interesting.
The Skin Game copyright 1996 by Wanderer.
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