|The Transformation Story Archive||The Paradise Saga|
Fool's Paradise (4)
The huge satyr snored. No, that wasn't an adequate description. He rumbled, he roared, he erupted! Aaron squirmed on the mattress, still not used to a dry bed. He'd left his mud box back in the Hydroponics Lab when he'd followed this noisy goat-man to yet another new universe.
Well, not exactly a universe. More of a way-station in between universes. Rocky, the satyr who brought him here, said this was a Service Department, like the one he had just left. Except that it really wasn't anything like that Police State where strange creatures were obsessed with controlling and categorizing portals. If the goat-man was to be believed, this new place was part of a group that actually encouraged the use of the strange doorways.
Aaron had discovered portals only recently, accidentally activating one after his car broke down. Wishing for an escape from the pressures of his life took him to NeverNever Land, the micro-verse whose inhabitants were plants who looked and acted like children. After becoming what looked to be himself at age 3, he'd escaped back to his own Earth by picturing the forest where he'd been stranded by his car. Once there, experimentation had created a choice of the glowing dimension. The next one took him to a huge control center which wanted to regulate all portals. His ability to create portals simply by thinking about them caused a real panic, and only his ability to draw saved him from being returned to NeverNever Land permanently.
The members of that group were so dependent on technology that manual skills such as drawing had been lost. He'd been a perfect artist to draw new universes where technology didn't work, especially with his lack of normal needs. The plant-based body required only light and water, and occasional doses of minerals which he absorbed from his mud hole. But though he enjoyed doing the art, he disliked the purpose it was being used for - identifying and 'restricting' portals so no one else could use them. Unauthorized use of a restricted portal could result in imprisonment or even brain wipe.
That's when Rocky had appeared. Turned out that the satyr had tracked anomalies in the gates, and discovered Aaron's ability to summon portals. He was more interested in Aaron as a key to opening the gateways than as an artist. However, instead of closing portals, he was a repairman who worked to open and maintain them. The decision was easy, and he stepped into Rocky's repair shop without a second thought.
The huge room which served as the satyr's workshop was an amazing and sometimes bewildering collection of junk, machinery, furniture, and items which defied description. Some of his belongings wouldn't take well to Aaron's somewhat dirty sleeping habits, so the satyr came up with a nutrient solution which removed Aaron's need for mud. The stuff looked suspiciously like the Miracle Grow he'd used on his plants back in his home universe. It tasted OK, though, sorta like peppermint.
That had been a week ago. Since then, Rocky had been testing his ability to open portals at will. Although the satyr was obviously excited, Aaron was getting a little bored. The idea was absurd - bored with opening doorways to other dimensions? Yet he no longer felt the excitement he'd had just a few weeks ago. Maybe because he didn't really explore any of these new places. It had become more like a slide show, with Rocky using some sort of gadget to take pictures of each new doorway.
Being 3 years old didn't make things any easier. It wasn't that the other treated him as a child. Most of them didn't know if he was supposed to be 3 years old or 300 hundred. But almost all of the other species were at least what he considered normal size, and he had to look up all the time. He wasn't thrilled about being a plant, either. Rocky kept telling him how great his body was, able to live in almost any universe without supplies. Right. The satyr had changed his tune a bit after Aaron opened the portal to NeverNever Land and told him to step in.
Aaron sighed and stretched, feeling a little stiff. He sure wasn't going to get any sleep while Rocky continued to snore. Sitting up, he shook the tangled mop of hair out of his face. Something about the color bothered him, and he lifted a bunch out to where he could see it. There were small green leaves caught up in the brown strands. He tried to pull them out, and felt a strange twinge as one came free.
The leaf was small and bright green, and had pulled the hair with it. Where had it come from? Aaron peered at the foliage and felt whatever passed for his stomach clench. The hair wasn't caught around the leaf - it extended from the base, forming a thin brown stem.
He jumped off the bed and ran for the antique mirror which Rocky had sitting next to some sort of weird machine. The reflection made him gasp. A mass of tiny leaves covered his head like a bed of ivy, and even his skin had a slight greenish cast to it. "Rocky!" Aaron's yell brought the satyr fully awake and alert. "What's the matter kid, what's going... " Rocky stopped short, staring down at him. "..Oh, shit!"
Aaron shook his head in disgust. After everything else that had happened, he shouldn't even be surprised. He'd even gotten used to the idea of being a plant. But it was one thing being a plant that looked like a human boy. Now he was starting to look like a walking philodendron!
"What happened?" Rocky fingered the delicate leaves growing from his hair curiously. Aaron shrugged, and started checking the rest of his body. "I don't know. Your snoring woke me up, and I saw the leaves in my hair." The satyr frowned. "This shouldn't be happening. Your body type is supposed to be stable. And I don't snore."
Aaron ignored the remark. "Well, something sure the hell is going on. And it isn't just my hair." He pointed down at his feet. Or what had been his feet. The toes had lengthened and split into masses of greenish tendrils, and hundreds of tiny roots covered the soles like a fine layer of fur. Rocky stared down at his backside, and squatted to feel the skin. Aaron twisted around and groaned. His waist blended into his thighs in a straight line, with almost no trace of buttocks. As if his body was becoming a tree trunk.
The satyr stood up with a grunt and cocked his head to one side. "Maybe the nutrient solution isn't quite right." Aaron exploded in rage. "Not quite right? What do you mean, not quite right? I'm turning into a damned rose bush!" Rocky spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "I'm sorry! I'm a technician, not a botanist." Aaron glared up at him. "Than get me a botanist! Now!"
Fortunately, Rocky had many contacts in the multiverse, and at least one of them had both the time and interest to check Aaron out. This particular contact looked something like a 5-ft tall cockroach in a lime green leisure suit. He couldn't decide if the suit or the cockroach was more revolting.
Gruggy, as Rocky called the huge insect, was fascinated by Aaron. The creature prodded and poked for close to an hour, near the end of which Aaron was desperately wishing for a giant Roach Motel. Finally, it crossed three sets of arms and looked at Rocky. "I'd recommend a large pot with medium soil, and a steady light source. Water it twice a week until the roots take. And you might want to cut off the top so it fills out."
"Hey!" Aaron backed away from the cockroach. "That's my head you're talking about!" All six shoulders shrugged. "Not for much longer. Your body mass is thinning out and changing structure. Best I can tell, you're becoming some sort of tree." Rocky sighed. "Never much for bedside manner, were you Grug? Is there anything we can do to stop it?"
Again the six-shouldered shrug. "Looks to me like he's following a natural process. Probably triggered by the lack of certain trace elements in his diet. Quite practical, really. His needs are adjusting to what's available in his environment." Aaron stared down at the waxy green surface of his feet. "But I'm gonna be a tree! A friggin plant!" The cockroach nodded. "Quite right." Gruggy gathered his things and started towards the portal. "Good luck, Rocky. And save me a cutting!"
- 30 -
Fool's Paradise (4) copyright 1996 by Bob Stein.
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