Hello My Name Is...

A customer at Katie's diner is messing with words, and Katie—or whatever her name is now—has got to stop it. Mature.

Katie kept her name tag pinned above the left breast of her pink button-down blouse. It was part of the outfit she had to wear: the blouse, the matching skirt, and the apron she kept her pen and order pad stuffed into. At the start of every shift, she dug her name tag out of the bowl in the back next to the shift schedule, and pinned it to her chest. It was the one part of the dumb, outdated outfit that she had no problem with.

At least, not until today.

Two other name tags were missing from the bowl when Katie clocked in. The first belonged to Liz, who was making herself busy in the late-afternoon lull by tidying up around the register. Her shift would be over in an hour and change, and Katie knew she was just counting down the minutes, because that's what she did herself when she had the eleven o'clock shift.

The other was Benny's. He was just the busboy, but he was six-foot-something and had once tackled someone who'd tried to leave without paying. Katie had never talked to him much, but she gathered he'd played football while he was in school. She was jealous of him, because he didn't have to wear pink.

As far as Katie could tell, it was a normal, slow day at the diner. She'd gone around to each booth and pulled down the blinds, so the sun wouldn't be glaring in through the windows, and had checked to make sure the table of college-aged guys didn't need anything. They were no one she knew, thankfully.


Second Skin

A woman gets swallowed up by her new scaly skin and turned into a cobra. (Contains biting.) Explicit.

Emily stepped barefoot across the tiled floor. A sliver of the North African breeze rustled the hem of her nightgown as she paused in the doorway, looking back at her fiancée slumbering amidst the sheets. With a small smile she swung the door closed, leaving only a crack open.

Filling the basin of the sink from the tap, Emily scooped up two handfuls of water and stroked them across her face. It had taken weeks of negotiating for Simon to agree to bring her on one of his 'expeditions', so she wouldn't let him see a hint of regret, even if the sun singed her nose pink and the dry air left her skin feeling like parchment.

Hands on the edge of the sink, Emily lifted her face and let the water drip off her chin. The cool air brushed against the edges of her cheeks. She chased an itch on the back of her palm with her fingers, then sunk her hands into the water and rubbed them together. Leaning over the water, she splashed several more handfuls across her face, too, in an attempt to soothe the itch running down her forehead and across her nose. After a thorough scrubbing, she groped for the washcloth and dried herself off.

The water hadn't helped. She scratched above her temple, along her cheekbone, across her jaw. Her nails left red tracks across her skin. She dug her fingers underneath her gown and scratched at her neck.

With a small breath of frustration, she lifted her nightgown from her shoulders, pulled it off over her head, and laid it out beside her while she retrieved a bottle of oil from her bag. She set aside the glass stopper, then poured a splash of the oil into her hand and spread it across her bare shoulders and onto her neck and cheeks.

As she rubbed the oil into the nape of her neck, Emily felt a tug around her midsection, like the grip of a corset, or more likely the tautness of dry skin. She turned toward the mirror. What looked like a translucent, silky sash had wrapped around her stomach, from her waist up to just below her ribs.

It wasn't silk. It was patterned, textured, scaled; it was snake skin. And it wasn't staying still. It slid outward along her skin, like a sheet pulled by an invisible hand. It was swallowing her up.


Friday

A latex outfit grows out of some guy's body as his apartment changes around him. Mature.

One Friday, entirely by accident, George found he had kicked up the corner of the rug of reality.

Before then, it had been the sort of day that left him desperate for the weekend. A late shift at work bled into the bus ride home into the rain washing down as he walked to his apartment building. Cold and damp, George started climbing the stairs to his floor. As soon as he got in, he was going to peel off his clothes, dunk himself in the shower, and then crawl into bed until tomorrow afternoon.

When he stepped onto his floor, he spotted a woman leaned back against the wall opposite his front door. What caught his eye wasn't her posture or the way she was casually checking her phone or her unfamiliar face, but the fact that from her diamond- studded collar down to the tips of her toes, every inch of her was wrapped up in a pink latex catsuit. Her lips and her hair were so brightly pink they could have been made of candy. Next to all that, her plain black jacket looked out of place.

She didn't look up as George walked to his front door. Still, he knew she'd noticed him and was politely pretending to ignore him. He pulled his keys from his pocket. He could feel her attention boring into his back, but if he looked and she wasn't staring at him, he'd be the weird one. Something about him was interesting, but he didn't want to be interesting. He wanted to be warm, and dry, and asleep.

With the door swung shut behind him, standing in his kitchen-slash-living room, he felt comfortable again. What was someone dressed like that doing hanging around here? A neighbor he hadn't seen before, maybe, or someone's girlfriend. It was enough of an answer to put his mind to rest.


Shifting

A new werewolf and her boyfriend are ready for her first change. They weren't expecting her to change into a male werewolf, though. Explicit.

June sat on the floor of the living room in nothing but her underwear, with all the furniture pushed up against the walls. Sean hovered nearby, reading over Your First Full Moon, the pamphlet from the doctor's office, for what had to be the fiftieth time.

While the bite had healed weeks ago, today she'd woken up with two strings of red marks curled around her left wrist. Cortisone cream only helped so much, so she'd put on a long-sleeved shirt and tried her best not to scratch, but they'd itched all day long. Now that the mark was bare, it was hard to keep her fingers off of it. Every so often, it twinged beneath her skin like a flexing muscle.

"You sure you don't want anything else to eat?" Sean asked, looking up from the pamphlet.

They'd read the whole thing together: sitting on their bed, her arm freshly bandaged and tucked against her chest, her cheek against his fur, leaning on him like a big, Sean-shaped comfort pillow. The cuddling was one of the upsides of having a collie for a boyfriend.

June leaned back on the floor. "At this point, I'm less worried about going hunting and more worried about throwing up on the carpet." Then she added, "I'm full, but thanks." All day she'd had more bark and more bite in her than usual. She wasn't sure how much of that was anxiety and frustration, and how much was the feral feeling stirring beneath her skin.


The Party

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...

 

The Party

 


Spell-Bound

Megan hypnotizes Erica into becoming a burly lion barbarian; the now-male Erica takes control and hypnotizes her right back. Explicit.

While Erica leaned back cross-legged on her girlfriend's bed, Megan pulled a mahogany jewelry box down from the top of her bookshelf. Holding it in one hand, she opened the lid and lifted a brass stopwatch out by its long chain.

Erica stifled a snort. "You're gonna use that to hypnotize me?"

Megan's cheeks turned red. She began to bundle the chain into her palm. "Well, I mean, I don't have to use it. I want you to be comfortable. I thought—"

"No, it's fine." Erica shook her head. "I just figured a watch would be, like, too stereotypical."

The smile returned to Megan's face. "It's easier with a physical focus," she explained, scooting up onto the bed to sit in front of Erica. Megan had insisted that the both of them dress down to just their underwear, though she hadn't explained further than to say that this was going to be a 'sexy hypnosis session'. She'd dodged every question Erica asked about what that meant or what she was going to do, though Megan had been clear that Erica would be able to stop any time if she wanted. Megan had been so eager Erica couldn't refuse. It was hard to say no to those big brown eyes.

Megan bent over the watch, clicking the stopper a few times, then winding it up, clicking it again, and winding it one more time before she seemed satisfied. Holding the chain between her fingers, she let it drop from her hand and spin until all the kinks in the chain were worked out.

"So what do I have to do?" Erica asked.

Megan caught the stopwatch between her hands and held it between her palms. "Just listen to me. You'll know what to do," she said. She waited until Erica's eyes were on her, and not on the watch. When Megan was sure she wasn't looking, a tiny glimmer of light flickered across the brass case and wove down into the clockwork gears. The spell was set. Megan opened her hands again and smiled. "Ready?"

Erica re-crossed her legs to get comfortable, sat up straight, and nodded at Megan. "Hypno away," she said. She tried not to be too sarcastic. As dorky as she thought all this fantasy role-playing stuff was, she knew Megan was into it.

With a click of her thumb, the watch began ticking. Megan dropped it from her hand, then let it sway at the end of its chain. A slight tip of her wrist from side to side kept it swinging.

Curious, Erica followed the swinging watch. She wondered what it was about watches that was supposed to be so trance-inducing. Maybe the gleam of the light rolling off of brass and crystal, maybe the way the second hand spun within the pendulum's arc, maybe the tick-tick-tick-tick that kept tick going and tick wouldn't tick stop tick.