Greg's working the holiday rush when he comes down with a swelling case of dragon pox. Mature.
There were only two hours left in the Christmas Eve shift, but Greg was fading fast. Every sniffle he made was thick and glorpy, and he could feel the pressure sloshing around in his sinuses, squeezed against his forehead. If he'd felt like this when he woke up, he would have just called in sick. Now he was dreaming of collapsing on the couch with a big cup of hot cocoa as soon as he got home.
Between customers, he ducked beneath the register, rummaging for another tissue, but the box was empty. When he stood back up, his head throbbed from the sudden change of altitude. He leaned against the counter and glanced around behind the lanes. No sign of his shift manager.
Greg sniffed. His nose tickled. He screwed up his face, trying to hold the sneeze at bay. He sucked in a small breath, then a deeper one, then even deeper, twisting aside at the last moment to keep himself from sneezing directly on the conveyor belt.
With a great sproing a long yellow horn popped from his forehead. It snapped out straight and narrow then bounced back, curling its tip and spreading out thick at the base. The horn was about as long as his forearm and encircled along its length with small ridges. With the weight of his head suddenly canted to one side, he staggered to the left, bumped up against the divider behind him. Another sneeze was brewing, too quickly to do anything to stifle it.
A horn sprung from the other side of his head and smacked against his skull as it rebounded. Greg let out an unsteady groan and rubbed his hand across his forehead, massaging the broad bases of his horns where they'd pushed the skin aside, and his swollen brow, bulging thick and protruding from all of the pent-up pressure. The weight of his horns was just one more source of dull throbbing for his head.
"Bless you," a woman said, setting her things out on the conveyor belt. Greg just wanted to go home, but he smiled politely and said, "Thanks," then began to scan her things. Two sweaters, a bottle of sparkling cider, cheddar cheese, club crackers, salami. Grab the receipt, stick it in the bag. "Happy holidays." Try not to sniffle in front of the customer.
December 30, 2018
Five short stories filled with Halloween-y costume transformation. Mature.
The setting sun lit the tops of the trees like Halloween lights against the purple sky. The old house poked its third story up above the leaves, looking down at the town below, where trick-or-treating was in full swing. The weather had relented just in time, making the evening crisp, but not cold. Cars already lined the narrow road leading up from the highway, parked off the shoulder wherever space could be found.
The path to the house was strung with small lanterns, but Mitch lingered by the side of the road, pacing while trying to look like he wasn't pacing. He picked his head up every time he heard another car rolling by, and occasionally reached back to make sure the duct tape holding his tail on wasn't peeling off. His fox costume was a last-minute affair: a headband with red ears, a costume tail taped to the seat of his pants, and a scribble of black marker on top of his nose, with a few whiskers drawn along his cheeks.
When she saw Mitch, Leah called out, "Hey!" Then she remembered her mask and pushed it up on top of her head. "Hey, Mitch!" she called again, jogging up to meet him.
Leah was dressed as a lion, in a costume that could have come from a stage production: a tawny bodysuit, big furry gloves and boots for paws, a fake mane with rounded ears poking from the top, and a rubber mask, which had been painted over to match the rest of the costume. A wire in her tail kept it curled in the air and made it swing behind her when she walked.
Mitch turned and smiled, relieved to see someone he knew. "Oh, hey!" he said, then nudged his glasses up his nose and took a closer look at Leah. "Where'd you get that? It looks good."
"My parents' attic. I had to kinda sneak it out of their house, but it was pretty dusty, so I don't think they're going to miss it for one night," Leah said, turning sideways to show off the tasseled tail.
"By the way, thanks for inviting me," Mitch said. "If you hadn't, I'd probably just wind up sitting in my dorm all night."
The two of them joked about tearing themselves away from video games until Allison arrived, dressed in a tank top in defiance of the fact that it was almost November, and with her arms folded tight against her chest. She looked from Mitch's bargain-bin fox costume to Leah's full, theatrical lion outfit. With a hesitant frown she asked, "Uh, is...everyone going to be dressed up?"
"There's probably going to be some people not in costume," Leah said. She lifted the lion mask from her forehead and offered it to Allie. "But you can borrow this if you want."
"Thanks," Allie breathed. She slipped the mask on over her face, then ruffled her hair to hide the elastic strap and tugged at the eye holes until they lined up with her eyes. The well-rendered snarl and wrinkled snout went a long way toward making up the fact that it was just a mask. "I don't want to look lame if Tory's going to be here," she said, wrapping her arms around herself again. "Now can we go inside?"
"We're still waiting for Erin and Chris. Let's give them another minute or two," Leah said.
It was hard to miss Chris. As he walked up, he announced himself with a dramatic growl of, "Greetings, puny humans!" He was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt patterned with red scales, a pair of tattered pants he'd used to be everything from a pirate to a peasant, red body paint to cover his hands and legs and face, a small rubber dragon's snout on top of his nose, and a stuffed red tail bouncing against the back of his calves.
Erin showed up just after Chris, wearing a jacket and jeans and canvas trainers. The only thing of hers that was even remotely a costume was the shock of red dye she'd put her hair the week before, and she had insisted that was just because she was tired of purple. "I heard you all the way down the road," she told Chris, giving him a mild glare. He didn't take it personally. Mild glaring was Erin's default state.
"You know this is a costume party, right?" Allie asked Erin.
Chris added, "I've got some horns and extra body paint back in my car. You could make a pretty good devil."
Erin rolled her eyes and sighed through her teeth. "Thanks, but I'm fine. I don't want a costume, I'm just here for the party."
And so the five of them filed up along the path toward the house: Leah in most of a lion costume, Chris already in character as a dragon, Allie wearing Leah's lion mask, Erin resolutely refusing to be anything but herself, and Mitch as a makeshift fox, bringing up the rear and gazing up at the old house rising from among the trees. The night was already settling in, rolling up the last rays of sunlight and drawing the sky darker. The warmth of music and voices rose as they crossed the lawn, eager to join...
October 25, 2018
A parasite slowly turns a young man into a woman and drives him to have sex. Explicit, rough language, mild body horror.
The grinding headache was the first symptom. Tom woke up feeling like two wrecking balls were smashing together in his head, and his limbs were so heavy they might as well have been tied down. Last night, there had been the party; the girl with the most amazing smile, who was so warm against him; sneaking off while snickering like drunk idiots; and then a big blank nothing.
Tom swung a hand onto his face and rubbed his cheeks: flushed, hot. He needed to shower. With legs made of lead, he crawled off his bed and forced himself to his feet. Vertigo spun around his head a few times. One hand on the wall to steady himself, blinking, scratching at the crust around his eyes, he pushed himself into the bathroom. The hot water creaked on and began to flood the bathroom with steam, while Tom, with his feet now firmly underneath him, peeled off his shirt and tossed it into the hamper.
The second symptom was the rash. It looked almost like webbing, like the outline of pink veins beneath his skin, tracing upward along his torso, blossoming across his chest, and fading as they stretched along his arms.
For a few moments, Tom's stomach churned, but then that passed and he was left staring down at his own chest with the crawling rash wrapped around it. That didn't look good. He'd have to look it up, WebMD or something. Right now, he felt like he was made of cheap frat beer and dried sweat, and he just wanted to dunk himself in the hot water and wake up his pounding brain.
With the water splashing through his dark hair and pouring down his shoulders and back, Tom felt better. He nudged the water a little hotter, then tipped his head back and let some of it fall into his mouth. He reached for the knob again; a little hotter still. He lowered his head. The water soaked his hair and ran down over his face, dripping from his nose and rolling from his chin to his chest. The knob wouldn't go any further. The air was thick with steam, and nearly as warm and wet as the water itself. Panting, Tom leaned against the shower wall.
October 7, 2018
One Last Summer
Two friends, soon to leave for college, become cow girls and grow closer to one another. Explicit.
I learned I was gay the same day I turned into a cow girl.
Sam and I both wanted to go to the mall, so she drove us there in the used Subaru her parents got her for graduation. We were both restless. It was our last summer: stuck between the end of high school and the start of college, trying not to count the days and months until we'd both be moving into our dorms.
Even the mall felt ready to change. They still hadn't fixed the floor tile that clinks when you step on it, or the one duct-taped on the corner because it'd broken off, but it was already drifting away from the place we knew. A cheaper clothes store had moved into where the Old Navy had been. The bookstore where we'd spent days and days working our way through the manga shelf had been replaced by a branch of the local library.
"That's probably why they went out of business. If we'd actually bought books..." Sam said.
I said, "No one bought books. And then they were like, 'we're basically a library, let's make it official'."
We wandered up the first floor and down the second. Eventually, we started doing the thing where we'd point at ads as we passed and try to imitate whatever goofy grin the person had. It felt normal enough, but in the back of my head, Sam was playing soccer in her new school colors and hanging up posters she'd bought with me in her dorm room and laughing with new friends whose faces I'd pulled from TV shows. Would we even want to hang out when we came home for break? I knew we would change as people, but I didn't know how.
And I definitely wasn't expecting to get changed into a cow.
April 19, 2018
A stressed-out college student relaxes by turning herself into a bimbo. Mature.
Kris thunked her face down into the middle of her textbook and let out a groan. Her lips stuck to the pages, which was probably gross, considering she'd bought it used. Dragging back her red hair, she pulled herself up, then folded her arms and flopped back down.
Midterms could eat a dick. Her first one wasn't until next Monday, but she'd been studying all day and she'd barely gotten through the first two weeks of class. She hadn't even changed clothes. She was still wearing the blue, palm-tree-patterned pajama pants and old high school Quiz Bowl tee shirt she'd worn to bed. It wasn't that she didn't want to take a break, it was that she couldn't. Even if she tried to nap, she'd just lie in bed stressing out over her impending doom until her stress headache came back.
What she needed was to relax.
Kris tipped her head to the side and glanced up at the shelf above her desk. Sitting on the side next to her closet was a round red button with a silver base. She reached up and pulled it down, setting it on the desk in front of her. In bold white letters across the was printed 'RELAX'.
Kris tapped her fingers across the letters. She'd never used the button before; never really had a need to. Now, between her headache and gnawing anxiety and her inability to get some rest, this was as good a time as any to try it out.
Her fingertips danced on top of the button while she pursed her lips. Either she should do it now, or put it away, she told herself. She pushed the button with her palm. It sank until hitting the bottom with a ker-click!
February 10, 2018
The Elixir of Al-Rūn
A College mage tries to steal an elixir of suggestion from his alchemy teacher, but winds up pranking himself pretty hard. Mature.
The evening bells rang out over the blue domes and white walls of the College, calling all its students to dinner in the Great Hall. By rule, only primes or those with special dispensation from a College Master were exempted. Martin was neither of these, but he had come to learn that during dinner, when the halls were nearly empty, was the ideal time to avoid being caught.
The sleeves of his blue fifth-year's gown were rolled up above his elbows and his dark hair was tucked behind his ears. On his desk before him, a sigiled blue flame lapped at the bottom of his glass alembic. A vial underneath the spout collected the thin, milk-white fluid, a distillation of white betony and hyssop petals.
Crouching down, Martin tapped the side of the alembic, coaxing a few more drops to run down into the vial. The betony and hyssop was spent. They had given him less distillate than he'd hoped, but he was sure it would be enough. He only needed to make it to the alchemy laboratory and back.
Within the laboratory, in the personal collection of Isidore, the College's Master of Alchemy, there sat a glass decanter, inlaid with gold and filled with a rose-red elixir. Martin had seen it only once, when Isidore had taken it from his study to show it to a sixth-year. It had been a gift from a friend of his, a Master at the great University of Al-Rūn, the cradle of alchemy itself. As Isidore described it, the elixir was made of camomile, saffron, a lock of hair cut from a slave's head, and the claw of a tame tiger. If drunk, it would render the drinker pliant and suggestible for a time.
This was his aim: to steal a portion of the elixir of suggestion, enough for several doses, and use it for his own ends. First of these would be Nicholas.