The Mansion

Four horror-style stories from a haunted-style mansion: "The Portrait," "The Trophy," "The Conservatory," and "The Stables." General.

1 – The Portrait

At the front of the hall hung a portrait painted in oils: a woman in a gown and corset, with dark lips and darker hair. Its eyes didn't follow the viewer so much as pierce through them. Though its mouth curled down into the slightest scowl, the light and shadow across its cheeks made it seem, if you caught it in the corner of your eyes, as though it was smiling.

Paintings lined the hall, but it was the portrait that Jason's flashlight lingered on. He stuffed a fist into the pocket of his puffy jacket and hunched his shoulders to fend off a shiver. Did it count as creepy? It was working on him, but he'd have to convince the rest of his friends if he wanted to win their contest. Setting his flashlight down on a nearby table, he dragged his phone out of his jeans pocket.

While he framed the portrait in his phone's camera, his fingers grew cold. He clenched his hand into a fist, then blew on his knuckles, then patted his cheeks, but they remained cold and oddly pale. Hurry up and get the shot, he told himself.

With a ruby-nailed finger, he tapped the screen, then lowered it to peer at the finished picture. The zipper on the front of his jacket twitched before sliding downward, slowly baring the front of his shirt.

No good. The picture had come out blurry. Jason took a few steps forward. His sleeves thinned out while he rubbed his hands together to warm them up—slender fingers, slim wrists, goose- bumps along his soft skin. He swept a lock of darkening hair behind his ear, out of the way of a red teardrop earring.

The portrait's hands, folded in its lap, now looked large and plain in comparison, and its ears were conspicuously unadorned.

Lifting his phone again, he held it as still as possible. His pursed lips were overtaken by red lipstick. The collar of his shirt stretched lower across his chest and his copper-red hair tickled his slender shoulders. He tipped his head back, held his breath, and snapped another picture. This time, the shot was clearer, but the photo itself seemed wrong. Instead of eerie scornful beauty, there was a confused, almost shocked look in the portrait's eyes.


Going Up

For two office workers, an elevator ride becomes a growing, swelling, sloshing experience as they're turned into a big goofy toon wolf and gator. Mature.

On one side of the elevator stood Andrew. On his way back from a late lunch, he hadn't expected to run into anyone he knew. Okay, 'knew' was a bit of a stretch, since he didn't even know her name, but he knew she worked in Legal up on the fifty-second floor, that he was intimidated by how good she looked in a pantsuit, and that he wouldn't be able to say a word to her without stumbling over his own tongue.

On the other side of the elevator was Breana. She'd just gotten out of a meeting with one of their clients. She couldn't help feeling a little jealous of Andrew, who didn't have to haul out a stuffy suit jacket or wear heels every time he had to meet someone new. She didn't know his name either, but she recognized him from the couple of times she'd been down to Finance on the forty-third floor. They'd never had the chance to talk before.

"So," she said, breaking the silence as they waited for the doors to close. "You like Dopey Ditties?"

Andrew was caught completely off guard. "Um, what?"

"You have a, uh, B.B. Wolf mug on your desk." Great idea, she thought, kicking off a conversation with old cartoons. Not weird at all. "I always liked Al A. Gator."

"Oh. He's pretty cool," Andrew said, for lack of anything better to say.

The doors swung shut on the lobby and, mercifully giving Breana an excuse to go quiet again, the elevator chimed, "Going up."

The two of them were about to get know each other real well.


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.


All Chained Up

A quick sketch of a post-apocalyptic doberman transformation. Explicit.

When I wake up, my hand goes straight for my knife, which isn't there. I roll around until I can get my knees beneath me, then stand up nice and slow. There's a heavy weight around my neck, and the clank of a chain as I move. I grab at my neck—there I find the collar, and the thick chain hanging down from it.

The sun's as bright as it always is, but if I squint, I can start to make out where I am. Outside of some raider encampment, it looks like. I wince and cradle my head as last night barrels right into my skull, right up until I see a pipe swinging for my head.

Could be worse, I guess. I could be inside the camp.

I follow the chain back to its end, where it's been wrapped tight around some bent, rusted rebar sticking out of a concrete block. I don't like this. It doesn't make sense, chaining a girl up outside the camp and just leaving her there. I try all the things you'd expect to get free, but the collar's been welded shut and no amount of scrabbling at the chain will get it off the rebar.