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





If this was what having facial hair felt like, Leah was glad she didn't have to shave. She tugged at the bottom of her mane, squeezed her gloved fingers underneath it, and scratched along her chin and cheeks. Once her skin had gotten a bit of air, the itch subsided and she straightened the mane back around her face.

Everyone else had peeled off to do their own things. Even Mitch, which was a little surprising, since she didn't think he knew anyone else at the party. Left to her own devices, and trying to keep herself from scratching at her majestic mane, Leah decided to track down her friend who was hosting the party.

The first floor of the house was laid out like a square cut into quarters: a dining room, kitchen, living room, and parlor, which was really just another living room but without a television. A hallway cut through the middle, leading from the front door back to the dining room, with a flight of stairs along the side of the hall running up to the second floor. Each room was already buzzing with conversation, while groups of people hung out on the couches or snacked on chips and cookies or chatted it up while some schlocky horror flick played on the TV.

Leah finished a full circle of the first floor without finding her friend. She let out a hot sigh and scratched at her chest with her padded glove. As good as her costume looked, it was stuffy under the fake mane and the fluffy boots, on top of the gym shorts and tank top she wore underneath in case she needed to take off her costume later on.

Digging both hands underneath her mane and scratching at her scalp, Leah wandered back into the kitchen. A drink might help her cool off. She squeezed past someone in overalls with a rubber udder stuck to the front and went up to the table with the drinks. A genie in a pink veil and a fairly obvious blonde wig stood at the table, filling up cups. As Leah stepped closer, she realized who it was and dropped her hands.

"Wait, John?" she asked, then laughed. "I walked right by you! How's it going?"

John's grin was half-hidden behind his veil. He kept pouring as they talked. "Oh, pretty good. Granting everyone's wishes, as long as their wishes involve drinks."

"I could really wish for some cider right now," Leah said. She took the cup John offered and gulped down half of it in one go. While it couldn't ease the itchiness around her face and chest, it did cool her off a bit. "Thanks for doing this, by the way."

"Oh, no problem," John said. "Also, love your costume. Great mane."

Leah was mid-sip, but she nodded and swallowed, then said, "Thanks!" Along with the small sense of pride swelling in her chest came a new itch spreading along her arms. She held the cup in one hand and scratched with the other. "Yours is good too. Honestly I thought you were a girl. Anyway, hope it goes well, let me know if you need help cleaning up afterward!"

As she left the kitchen, Leah finished off her cider and pitched the cup into the trash bag hanging off the doorknob. The house felt warmer than when she first came inside. With so many people packed in, the air was vibrating, filled with energy and enthusiasm. Right now, she just wanted to catch her breath. Puffing softly, batting her mane away from her face, she began to hunt for a quiet spot to rest for a minute.

The living room was the least packed, and she found a spot in the corner where she could lean back and have some space. The open window beside her allowed a small breeze to blow across her back. A shiver ran up her spine as the chill hit her. Much better. She closed her eyes and shook out her mane. The fake costume fur swung side to side, draping heavier against her chest and falling thicker along her shoulders. A soft sigh rumbled out of her as she wove her fingers back through her mane. The stitched-on pads of her gloves puffed out fuller and rounder.

Leah stepped to the side, so the breeze would fall directly against her back. She arched her spine, tipped her head back, and stretched out her chest. The snug bodysuit spread smoothly across her widening shoulders and hugged her swelling biceps. The sleek tautness sliding against her skin was satisfying, the exact opposite of the hot, itchy roughness around her chest and chin. She rolled her shoulders and felt her muscles pop and flex.

For a moment, she wanted to climb out into the chill night air and stretch all the heat away, to arch her back and curl her tail and flex her claws until she'd worked herself loose and smooth and limber. Her toes flexed and wriggled inside her fluffy boots. Her hands clenched into fists, squeezing the thick finger-pads and palm-pads together. Her tail began flicking stiffly from side to side behind her back.

"Hi, Leah!" someone right in front of her said. Her eyes snapped open and her cheeks flushed, like she'd been caught in the middle of a particularly personal dream.

At first, Leah didn't recognize Rebecca. She just saw the pigtails and the cheerleader's uniform and the snug tank top, and felt something warm and tight stir deep down in her belly. She realized her mouth was hanging open. Gulping and blinking, she focused on Rebecca's face, and finally registered that it was her friend. "Oh, hey. Nice costume," she said.

Rebecca beamed and flicked back one of her pigtails. "Thanks! I borrowed it from my sister. I thought it'd be like, ironic, y'know?" Leah wondered if Rebecca was a bit drunk. It certainly sounded like it; she was never this energetic when sober. "Yours is real good too! You make such a cute lion," she said. She reached up and ran a hand through Leah's fake mane.

The touch made Leah freeze in place. Her hands and feet flexed their claws. She stifled a groan. With a small laugh, she shuffled in her boots and shrugged. "Yeah, well, it's pretty hot under all this fur. I might have to take it off—you had the right idea."

"Aw, but it looks so handsome!" Rebecca put her hand on Leah's chest and rubbed underneath her mane, nails tugging at her bodysuit. She leaned forward and put her other hand against Leah's firm stomach and giggled up at her. "Need me to help you scratch that itch?" she cooed.

Even with the breeze at her back, Leah was sweating. Her cheeks were bright pink. Rebecca had never shown any sign of being interested in her before, but now here she was practically falling over herself. In that tiny cheerleader costume, Rebecca looked so big, so tight, like Leah could just reach up and squeeze... The warm, swollen feeling deep inside of her pulsed and ached. The crotch of her bodysuit felt so tight she wanted to grab her costume and rip it off. All of it felt so tight she wanted to rip it off. She needed to get out of this costume.

"Sorry," Leah panted, pushing Rebecca away. "I need to...need to take this off."

Before Rebecca could follow or protest, Leah slipped off into the crowd and made her way through the living room and out into the hall. There were bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor; she could change out of her costume there. Thumping up the stairs in her thick paw boots, she scratched anxiously at her chin through her mane.

She swung the door to the spare bedroom shut behind her, and locked it just to be safe. Her heart was still thumping, her blood racing, her body straining against the snug costume. Heaving a deep sigh, she walked into the middle of the room. She'd be fine. She just needed to take all this off and cool down, and she'd be fine.

Leah grabbed the edge of one glove with her other hand and pulled. It didn't budge. Frowning, she grasped her glove by the fingertips instead, and tried again. Nothing. It wouldn't move. Fine, she thought, bringing her wrist up to her mouth and digging her teeth into the back of the glove. Her hand jerked away. She pulled back, hissing, "Ouch!"

The pounding of her heart quickened. With her costume's clumsy paws, she tried to search for the edges of the gloves. She couldn't find them; the seams had vanished. The fabric of the gloves was drawing tighter and tighter around her hands.

The more she struggled to get them off, the more they clung to her skin. She could feel her hands pulled and stretched to fit the shape of the gloves. Her palms elongated, her fingers curled, and the thick pads sunk down into her hands. The fluffy faux-fur along the backs of her hands now lay sleek and natural against her skin, while the soft felt pads grew smoother and more leathery. Her paws were becoming real.

Leah broke away from her stunned silence and started tugging at her costume, trying to tear it off. Her fingers wove into her mane and pulled, but it clung to her chin; she could even feel as each stitch fastened itself to her skin, one by one. She clutched the bodysuit and stretched it away from her chest, but couldn't pull its collar away from her neck. The seam had already melded into her skin. Smooth tawny fur sprouted from where it had lain.

Stumbling back onto the bed, she grabbed her boots, trying to shove them off, but they were already sinking into her feet. The padded soles fused into thick paw pads along the underside of her feet, spreading apart her clawed toes.

Her mane, now sealed tight around her head, grew out in all directions. Along with it came a shuddering, guilty tingle of pride that ran over her scalp, along her cheeks and chin, and all the way down to her chest. She tore at it with her growing paws, but it only flowed out thicker and prouder, sweeping back over her head, falling broad against her shoulders, tapering down in the shape of a V as it jutted out over her chest.

The bodysuit fused with her skin as her growing frame stretched it taut. Thick muscle rolled down her back. Layers of sinew added bulk to her chest. Her ribcage swelled and her shoulders popped, forced wider by her shifting frame. The hot prickle of sprouting fur raced down her arms and chest. What had been sleek spandex unfurled into a tawny pelt.

Her hands and feet stretched longer as they grew into paws. Large claws curled from the tips of her fingers, fat and hooked. Her fingers themselves had grown short and blunt, and her thumbs had shrunk into dewclaws. As she pushed herself up onto her padded palms, her claws snagged the sheets of the bed and tore through them. She heaved herself back onto her feet, then fell forward onto all fours. Her heels curled high into the air and her tail lashed freely behind her, flicking its thick tip back and forth. On the balls of her feet and the pads of her palms, she crawled toward the nearby dresser.

New muscle rolled down her thighs and swelled along her calves. Her shoulders cracked and her ankles popped and her spine creaked as she pulled herself along the floor. With every swing of her arms and legs, she felt her own size and weight more sharply than ever before. When she reached the dresser, she hooked her claws into the gaps between the shelves and began to pull herself back onto her own two feet.

The hot, aching, churning feeling inside of her rose to a peak. Her knees buckled. Her shoulders strained to support her weight. The bulge between her thighs swelled and throbbed and grew until with a burst of fur and a snarl from her throat, it sprung free. A swollen cock hung heavily in front of her, jutting from its sheath.

Wide-eyed and panting for breath, Leah reached up over the dresser and lifted herself onto her feet. She swayed for a moment, adjusting to the new, heavier balance of her body. Her tail swung like a counterweight between her legs. God, she felt so big and heavy and hairy, she just—

A sharp tingle crawled up her spine, hitting her with a head rush so sudden that she barely had time to brace herself against the dresser.

Fur poured from her mane, spilling over her chest in a proud tuft, sweeping out smooth and thick and handsome from her cheeks and her scalp. A deep, dizzy, rumbling groan left her lips. Her paws popped and swelled. They hung heavy off her arms and legs, bulky and blunt, with pads so thick she could barely spread her fingers. Standing barefoot felt like wearing a pair of thick-soled boots. Her claws scraped the floor with each lumbering step.

She staggered away from the dresser, clutching her head in her paws. Lion blood pounded hot against her temples. Her teeth ached inside her mouth. She was dizzy, disoriented, flush with heat and fur, and nearly nauseous with leonine power.

Leah's eyes rolled, fluttered, and then blinked open. She looked down at herself, then screamed. From the mane crowding around her head down to the tip of her tail, she looked like some great, monstrous lion-man. The only part of her that had been spared was her face, aside from a set of fat, jagged canines jutting from her gums. She felt almost lost beneath the claws and muscle and just so much fur.

A smoke detector began to wail from downstairs, loud enough to startle Leah. A few seconds later, it stopped. She was in no state to go investigate. How was she going to get out without everyone seeing her like this? Maybe if she could reach one of her friends, Mitch or John or Rebecca...

Rebecca had looked so good in that cheerleader's uniform. And she'd been so warm, too. And the way she'd stroked her mane and scratched her chest... A low growl rumbled out of Leah's throat and her tail began lashing back and forth. Hunching against the wall and panting, she imagined what it would feel like to have someone underneath her, someone warm and firm she could wrap her paws around and squeeze tight against her chest. She could pin that cheerleader down and mate for hours.

Leah shook her head to clear her thoughts. No. No, what was she thinking? She had to find some way to stop this. Whatever this was, magic, drugs, some kind of curse, whatever had turned her into her costume—

Her costume.

The mask.


Leah snarled under her breath and rushed to the door. Her thick paws clapped around the doorknob, but no matter how she pushed or squeezed or curled her claws, she couldn't get a grip on it. She had to warn Allie about the mask. She slammed her shoulder and wrestled with the doorknob until at last it slipped. The door swung open. She staggered out into the hall, roaring, "Allie!"

She just hoped she wasn't too late.





"I love your Cleopatra costume!" Allie said, beaming from behind her mask at a girl wrapped up in medical gauze, wearing a gold foil headband and carrying a miniature crook and flail.

"Actually, it's Hatshepsut," the girl said, nudging a few bandages that were slipping back into place. "Cleopatra was a Greek pharaoh, Hatshepsut was an Egyptian queen who..."

Getting the feeling that she could safely tune out, Allie let the girl keep talking while she tipped her head to the side and glanced over at the front door. A couple people were coming in, but no one she knew, and no sign of Tory. Of all the Halloween parties she could have gone to, she had to come to this one, because she'd heard a guy in her major that she liked might be showing up. She was going to be pretty upset If she spent the whole night with her nose in a mask that smelled like acrylic paint with nothing to show for it.

Sensing that the explanation was over, she said, "Oh, that's cool. Have you seen Tory around?"

"Who?" the girl asked.

Allie waved her hand. "Never mind. Have fun with your, uh, Egyptian costume though!" she said, then slipped off into the hallway.

With no one around, Allie lifted her mask for a moment and itched at her nose. The mask was starting to be more of a hassle than it was worth. She didn't want to come off like she didn't care or she thought costumes were dumb—Erin had that handled, anyway—but with the mask on it was hard to talk, hard to see, and hot enough that her face was getting sweaty.

She rounded the corner into the kitchen and nearly bumped into someone with a drink in her hand. The other girl squeaked and sprung back, then quickly said, "Oh, sorry—I didn't spill any, did I?" Her cheerleader costume looked a bit big on her slight frame, and she had her hair down around her shoulders.

Allie recognized Rebecca almost immediately. "Oh, hey! It's me, Allie. We met at Leah's place like, last month or something?" She tipped up her mask so Rebecca could see her face. Then, deciding that was more comfortable anyway, she shook out her hair and left the mask propped against her forehead. This way, it looked like she was trying to wear a costume, but just taking a break right now. Best of both worlds.

Rebecca relaxed her shoulders at the sight of a friendly face. She gave Allie a shy smile. "Oh, yeah. Nice to see you. That's a pretty scary mask, it sure got me," she said, then tried to laugh.

Something tickled Allie's cheek. She brushed at it, figuring it was just sweat, although her fingers came away dry. "Thanks, Leah actually let me borrow it cause I forgot to bring a costume."

"Oh, neat. She's here then?" Rebecca asked. Her mood brightened just a little.

"Yeah, we split up after we got here but last I saw she was wandering around," Allie said. She scratched absently between her eyebrows. Her skin felt strange; too soft, like she could wiggle it around just by pushing on it. She put her hand down and tried to ignore the faint weight laying against her face, like a thin layer of something on top of her skin.

Rebecca nodded. "I should go say hi. Honestly, I don't know a lot of people here..."

Allie felt like she ought to give Rebecca a little confidence-booster. "Before you go, you know what would make your costume even cuter? You could put your hair up, like in pigtails."

"You think that'd look good?" Rebecca rolled her hair sheepishly between her fingers.

Allie said, "Yeah! I'll even do it for you, just turn around."

With a spare hair tie, she tugged back one side of Rebecca's hair into a long pigtail. Before doing the other side, she paused to scratch at her brow and rub her cheeks. Her face felt...wet. Wet and elastic, and heavier than it was supposed to. She had to fight the urge to start scratching at the corners of her eyes and licking at her lips. Her skin just didn't fit right on her face. It felt like she was still wearing a mask.

She shook off that feeling and finished tying Rebecca's hair back. "There, how's that?"

Rebecca's eyes were unfocused. She blinked a few times, then her face lit up and she swept her hair back off her shoulders. "Oh wow, it's cute. I like it, thanks!" Already she stood a little taller, smiled a little brighter, and looked a little less like she was trying to wear someone else's skin. Even her uniform seemed to fit better.

"It looks good on you. See you later!" Allie tried to smile, but it made her skin wrinkle around her cheeks. She grabbed a cup of punch, then hurried back into the hallway and up the stairs.

She shut herself into one of the bathrooms, then peered hesitantly up into the mirror. If she held still, nothing looked obviously wrong, but when she tried to smile or raise her eyebrows or wiggle her nose, her face looked loose and heavy. Was she sick? Was this some allergic reaction to the mask? Allie kneaded her face slowly, squeezing and pulling at her cheeks. They squashed and stretched like rubber. She splayed her fingers on either side of her face and dragged them up and down. Her face warped diagonally, skewing one way and then the other.

Then she saw the seam. It was small, hard to spot, a little shadow running around the middle of her neck. It got bigger when she tipped her chin up. She flicked her thumb across it. It peeled back. To the touch it felt like rubber, not skin.

Her heart beat faster. She lifted the lion mask off her head and set it on the counter. Leaning closer to the mirror, she nudged her fingertips underneath the seam. The skin underneath was tender, and a little damp from sweat, but peeling back the seam didn't hurt.

Allie pulled and her face came off. It was smooth, rolling up across her head all as one piece. She felt the edges of a smaller seam lifting off her lips. Her cheeks slid free with a soft sucking sound. Her brow wrinkled as all the excess slack was pushed up higher on her head. Her hair slipped free from her scalp. New hair tumbled down her cheeks as she lifted the mask that had been her face off of her head completely.

A dizzy rush hit her. Her head spun and her body buzzed and for a few seconds, she could barely think. Her mouth hung open. She blinked and tried to focus her eyes. It was like getting drunk all at once. Leaning against the counter, she looked into the mirror and saw her new face. Bushy eyebrows on a thicker, furrowed brow, wide-set nostrils almost like a bestial snout, heavy cheekbones, and lips that felt numb and puffy.

"Oh my god," she mumbled roughly. Her tongue felt too big in her mouth, bumping against the backs of her large teeth. The face in the mirror didn't feel like hers, it felt like someone else's. Her face was lying on the counter, slack and folded up on itself, like a discarded mask.

She cranked the faucet and splashed water on her face. She scrubbed her cheeks and wrinkled nose and dark lips with a washcloth. No amount of scrubbing or splashing changed what she saw. She looked like something from Star Trek. The more she prodded and poked, testing her cheeks, scratching at her brow, the more real her new face felt. Almost more real than her old face.

"This is crazy," she said, looking herself in the eyes. She had to be drugged or dreaming or hallucinating or something because she couldn't just peel her face off. Her head was pounding. She buried her face against her fists, rubbing her eyes and baring her teeth. Something split open along her neck. Slowly, she picked herself up, looked into the mirror, and raised her chin. There it was: another seam. Was the face lurking beneath it her own? She had to find out.

Allie got her fingers underneath it and pulled. It clung to her skin more than before, peeling back like it didn't want to come up at first, but she kept tugging and it kept coming. It clung to her lips before they popped free; she had to wriggle and squeeze to get it up over her nose. With a rubbery snap, the mask came free.

It felt as if her thoughts slipped free from her head, too. She slumped forward against the counter, eyes glazed over, panting deeply. The dizzy, drunken feeling hit her even harder. Her broad tongue rolled across her heavy lower lip and lapped up along both sides of her cheeks. Her eyes blinked out of sync once, twice, and then finally focused on her reflection.

The front of her face had grown into a short, bulky snout tipped with a broad nose. A few whiskers poked from her puffy upper lip, while tufts of tawny fur clung to her chin and cheeks and the edges of her ears. Her heavy-set brow was creased in the middle, like a permanent scowl. Her whole head hung off her shoulders like some heavy weight. Her hair fell long and untamed across her cheeks. She absently batted some of it back away from her face.

"Wuh—no," she grunted. Her attempt at pouting came out as a fearsome sneer. Her tongue was heavy, and her voice came out thick and growling. "That's"

Allie tried to think, but her mind felt empty and her thoughts slow and plodding. There were three masks lying on the counter: a pretty girl, a lion, and something somewhere between the two. Which one was her? She knew one of them was, but the effort of trying to remember made her head throb. In frustration she snarled, hunching her shoulders and baring her fangs at her reflection in the mirror. This is your fault, she thought. Whoever that was.

Her body felt tight all over. It was like her skin was too dry, layered too thick on top of her. She rolled her shoulders and twisted her back and dragged her nails across her chest. Even her face felt cramped. Her nose was squished up against the front of her snout, her jaw couldn't stretch open, and her lips were packed too tight. Beneath her skin, her muscles flexed and her bones shifted, bulging, fighting against her taut skin.

She did everything she could to keep from pulling at it. Whatever lay underneath, she didn't want to let it out. She gripped the counter until her nails ached, she wrinkled her snout and growled at herself in the mirror, she clenched her bristling muscles until they began to cramp. Her skin rippled and strained.

At last, she couldn't stand it. She reached for her neck, grabbed the seam, and pulled. It was an even tighter fit now; it took both hands to pull the mask up over her golden-furred chin. Her mouth fell slack once it was free, and drool oozed over her fat black lip. Once she had gotten the mask up over her broad snout, it slid back easily over her cheeks and brow and tall, rounded ears.

The mask slipped free. All her worry and stress and panic slipped away with it. For a moment, she felt that weight lifting off her shoulders, and then she wasn't even aware it had been there in the first place. It was like being freed. She didn't have to worry about who she was or what she was. Her dull amber eyes gleamed in the mirror and a deep, satisfied growl rumbled forth from her chest. She was a beast, and that was what mattered.

No longer feeling any need to hold back, she dug her nails into her neck and pulled. The rubbery layer of skin peeled away from her thick shoulders. The pale golden fur running down her back bristled in the fresh air. She wriggled her right arm free, then her left, then clenched her clawed fingers and flexed her arms, savoring the freedom of movement. As she tore through her tank top and stripped her chest bare, the slender shape of her torso gave way to thick pectorals, a firm stomach, and a bulging shaft. Her tail had gotten stuck down one of the legs; as she rolled the skin down her thighs and calves, it flicked free, then lashed from side to side.

Kicking the last of her old skin away, she planted her hands on the counter, bristled the fur on her back, and let out a satisfying roar at the lion in the mirror. Though she lacked a mane, the hair hanging around her face was long and thick enough to make up for it. The snarl on her lips, the wrinkled snout, the heavy brow—they were a perfect copy of the lion mask laying discarded on the counter. That was who she was now: the Lion. Simple and easy, much easier than trying to be some human named Allie, especially for a thick-headed beast like him.

There was one thing the Lion knew: he was here to hunt the Minotaur.

Flinging open the bathroom door, he strode into the hallway, his nose held high and his nostrils flaring. The house was thick with the scents of beasts, but as soon as he discerned his quarry, he tracked it to the door of one of the bedrooms. It was shut, but there was a voice just on the other side. A heady blend of hunting and mating instincts swelled inside his chest and a smile curled around his fangs. As a fire alarm began screaming from downstairs, the Lion slammed open the door and thrust himself into the room with a predatory snarl.

Tory had ran into that same bedroom several minutes earlier, as soon as he'd realized he was growing horns. Before his eyes he'd watched them grow from tiny nubs into a pair of thick horns nearly a foot long each, and he'd learned that it felt guilty yet satisfying to rub his hands over their smooth, solid length and think about just how big and bullish they were. He was just realizing that the fake brass ring in his nose had become a real brass ring, that it wouldn't come out, and that it was forcing his face to swell out into a snout, when the door to the bedroom burst open.

He yelped and staggered back in surprise. The Lion strode into the room, tail lashing, claws bared, snarling out a challenge. Tory's mind was racing, trying to think how he could get away, when suddenly all his thoughts were shoved straight up into his horns. He grunted; his eyes crossed. Suddenly he had an extra foot of horn each jutting from his head, at least twice as thick at the base, and heavy, so heavy and big and bullish.

A rippling surge of growth rolled down his body. His snout sprung out from his face, his pecs hurled out broad and burly, his stomach rippled, a straining bulge slammed against the crotch of his pants, and thick black hooves burst through his shoes. Dark brown fur bristled along his swelling snout and chest.

The Minotaur narrowed his dark eyes, lowered his horns, and let out a territorial snort. As his thoughts melted down into primal instincts and horn mass and raw bovine strength, there was one thing he knew: he wasn't giving in without a fight.

From the open door, Leah watched the Lion and the Minotaur with one large paw clamped across her mouth. They circled one another, snorting and snarling, until almost in unison they sprung at one another, colliding, falling to the ground in a tangle of limb and muscle and claw and horn and overgrown masculinity. Leah pulled back before either of them spotted her, then lowered her paw from her lips and whispered, "Shit."

It looked like things were going to get worse before the night was through.





Running on pure Halloween energy, Chris had bounced from person to person since he'd arrived. He'd chatted with the genie manning the drink table about being an imaginary creature, threatened to carry off the guy dressed up like a cow, and generally was having a great time being in character. And as the party went on, it seemed like everyone else was, too.

Leaning against the wall in the parlor and grinning around his rubber dragon snout, he rolled his eyes and said, "Usually I kidnap maidens, but a maid is close enough, if you ask me."

"Ooh la la," cooed the girl in the French maid costume, fishnet stockings and all. Over the course of their conversation, a thick, cheesy French accent had crept into her voice. Chris was encouraged to see that he was helping her loosen up and get into character too.

"So, do you come with the house?" he asked.

The maid giggled and nodded with a flick of her prop feather duster. "Oui, monsieur Dragon. It is such a spooky mansion; I am busy all day dusting!"

In the middle of joking with her, a hot flash broke across Chris's chest. It was like a wave washing over his body, squeezing the breath out of his lungs and making sweat prickle across his brow. Panting, he plucked at the front of his shirt and fanned himself with it. "Phew. Is it hot in here, or am I just a dragon?" he said. "I better get a drink. Have fun, Mademoiselle!"

Once he had turned to leave, the maid pouted. Her hand began to absently flutter the feather duster across the nearest bookshelf. She was confused. Since when did she know any French?

The heat kept washing over Chris as he passed through the dining room and into the kitchen. The whole house was getting warmer, as a simple result of so many people packed together, but the aching in his chest felt more like a post-exercise burn and his skin felt flush, like he'd just been running. The front of his scale-patterned shirt rose and fell as he took long, deep breaths.

The genie—she'd said her name was Jeannie, but Chris had a feeling she was just being playful—was waiting behind the drink table draped in gold-trimmed pink silks with her long, silvery-blonde ponytail falling down her back. As he approached, she smiled mystically behind her veil, then bowed her head. "What is your wish, master?" she asked.

Wow, even she was playing it up. Chris would have chuckled if he hadn't been panting. He said, "Just water, please."

Jeannie nodded. One of the empty cups filled itself with water, then clinked a pair of ice cubes into existence. She picked it up, passed it to him, and said, "Your wish is my command."

Chris had missed the magic entirely. He took the cup, smiled at her, and said, "Thanks."

Sipping with a costume snout on was tricky, so instead he tipped his head back and poured the water into his mouth. As he drank his chest began to rise, filling out against the front of his shirt. The pattern across his chest stretched. One of the printed-on scales, just below his collar in the middle, bulged. It stretched outward like a rising bubble, then popped free from the fabric. The new scale—a real scale—stuck out on top of his shirt. The light gleamed across its gentle curve, sparkling like a ruby.

More scales blossomed from his shirt, growing straight from the fabric itself. Two more, then four, spread across his front. As the edges of each scale slipped free, they popped up, sitting atop his steadily rising chest. The more scales grew, the heavier and rounder his chest became.

He finished the last of the water and tossed his cup into the trash. The satisfied sigh he let out was so hot, the air rippled in front of his lips. His small dragon snout began to grow, inching out further from his face, creeping higher up along the bridge of his nose. The nostrils became more pronounced, the tip more tapered. A line of ridged rubber scales rose up along his forehead, emerging one by one from the base of his snout and blending in with his red body paint as if they had always been a part of his costume.

Chris didn't notice this. What he did notice was that he was hungry. He swung back into the dining room, where the table was crammed with party food, from pizza boxes stacked at one end, through bags of chips and trays of cookies and brownies, all the way to assorted bowls of Halloween candy at the other end: chocolate bars, packs of gummies, candy corn, chocolate coins…

Coins. He let out an involuntary snort. A pair of thin smoke trails curled from the nostrils of his rubber snout. Part of him thought he should grab a few; they'd make a neat prop for his costume. Another part of him was close to salivating over the sight of glistening golden coins, just sitting there for the taking.

The stuffed tail he wore stretched as if being packed with extra filling. It grew not just thicker but longer, curling up as it came closer to the ground. Scales sprouted from its felt surface, flowing along the top before wrapping around its sides. Chris had painted his nails red to match his costume; now they curled and tapered into small claws. As he stalked closer to the bowl of chocolate coins, his eyes darted. His pupils tugged into narrow slits.

No one was watching him. What if he just took the whole bowl? Surely no one would mind. Chocolate coins weren't on the top of anyone's list. It would just be a fun joke about his costume.

Reaching out, he dug his claws into the bowl of coins. The gold foil sparkled and shimmered and sent tingles racing along his nerves. He sunk his other hand into bowl and pulled out two glittering handfuls of coins. His mouth hung open. He had to take deep, heavy breaths. One of the coins fell through his fingers, back into the bowl. The way it shone was different. Warm. Smooth. Rich, heavy, polished—real. Real gold.

A sudden surge of heat swelled through him. His shoulders and biceps rippled with blazing strength and his breasts bulged outward—given their heft and roundness, it was hard to argue they were anything but breasts. Gleaming scales flowed across his shirt as the heat raged inside his chest, then shot through his throat and burst from his mouth as a white-hot gout of flame. It rolled through the air and danced dangerously close to the ceiling, but flickered out before anything could catch fire.

A smoke detector began to screech. Chris's mouth hung open in shock until he realized what he'd just done, and clamped one hand tight across his snout. His other hand almost instinctively snatched up the gold coin from the bowl. Cheeks burning with embarrassment, he ducked into the startled crowd and squeezed and elbowed his way out of the dining room. He slipped through the sliding door, spilled out onto the back porch, and slammed the door shut behind him.

When he let go of his mouth, he wheezed out a few smoky coughs. The cold October night and the fact that he had just breathed fire jolted him back to full awareness. He began to frantically examine his costume. His fingers, with their pronounced claws; his rubber snout, jutting a good eight inches from his face, with its wide-set nostrils and jagged fangs; his shirt, its broad scales stretched tight across his burgeoning breasts. He clutched them in his claws and lifted them. The sensation of touch, of his fingers squeezing against that warm softness, made him shiver. Behind his back, his stuffed tail had grown large enough to drag its tip along the ground.

His costume was growing, and so was he. Even while he was struggling with his shirt, finding it had become too tight for him to pull off, more prosthetics spread along his cheeks, adding to the sharp draconic cast of his face. Tugging at his snout was useless. It was stuck on tight.

Only then did Chris realize he was still clutching the gold coin in his hand. Loosening his grip, he looked down at it, and felt a rush of heat welling up inside of him again. His eyelids fluttered. His back arched. He dropped the coin onto the railing and clutched it for support. The dragon-fire roared up into his chest, poured down his limbs, bubbled up into his head. His shirt fought against his bulging torso, his legs tensed, and his toes curled against the soles of his shoes. At last the heat boiled over. He tossed his head back and let loose a thick blast of flame. While his head spun, he slumped forward against the railing, puffing out clouds of smoke with each breath.

Thoughts of gold and treasure and maidens filled Chris's mind. He knew he shouldn't be thinking them, but compared to his mundane human thoughts they were so large and heavy and draconic that they crept in even when he tried to shut them out. He began to think it would be…good for his costume if he found a lair to fill with treasure and show off to eligible maidens.

By now, his shirt was pulled taut, stretched across his burly frame and broad breasts, tightening around him like a vice. He hunched his shoulders and clutched his chest back against his ribs, but it didn't help. He couldn't stop himself from growing. The pressure kept building and building.

Then his shirt burst open. It started with his biceps: the scales split along the inside of his arm, and as they spread open, fresh new scales slid free from underneath. The two sets of scales cleaved apart smoothly, like a snake shedding its skin. His new-grown scales were a dark, regal yellow against the rich red of those from his shirt, which now sunk down into his skin, becoming a part of his draconic hide as well. His shirt split open down the front. The red scales were thrust to either side, opening a strip of broad golden scutes running down from his chin, around the curve of his breasts, and all the way to his crotch. Even his tail tore apart, parting along the underside in order to swell out longer and thicker.

With a snarl, he split open his prosthetic snout. The rubber fell away; he bared his real fangs and snorted through his real nostrils. His feet burst from his shoes and his heels rose as his weight shifted onto his sharp talons. A keen throbbing dug against his forehead, until a pair of horns burst free and curled back over his head.

Chris's eyes rolled back and his forked tongue spilled out between his fangs. A new fire was raging between his legs, just as fierce as the one in his chest. He dug his claws between his thighs, squirming and baring his fangs and wrinkling his snout. As he ground his legs together his crotch rearranged itself, retreating back into his body until it was all swallowed up into his thick, scaly mound.

Smoke puffed from Chris's mouth. His mind flooded with all the things a dragoness could do to a maiden—things with her tongue, things with her tail­­... The dense, steamy fog of draconic desire stifled any thoughts that weren't about how good it felt to be a dragoness, to be so big and scaly and horned and powerful and just so hot.

Tossing her head back, Chris let out a roar and a thick burst of flame. It curled high into the air, casting flickering firelight across the side of the house and into the surrounding woods. A delighted shudder rolled up her spine. Her horns pushed out further from her head; they curled up at the tips and thickened at their bases.

Chris slumped against the railing, clutching one arm across her breasts, curling her talons into the wooden deck, and grinding her thighs together. She tried to clear her thoughts. She was only wearing a dragon costume for Halloween. Her name was Chrys, short for Chrysothrax, and she was a puny little human with no beautiful scales or powerful, rolling muscles or anything, and she did not want to bathe in gold coins or live in a vast lair filled with treasure or flirt with every maiden she could find.

There. See? She was perfectly fine. Nothing wrong. Totally able to handle this.

Chrys glanced down at the gold coin sitting on the porch railing. Her pupils went wide. Her tongue slithered out between her lips and her tail thumped excitedly against the ground. Okay, that was all a lie. She was one hundred percent dragon, and she wanted to bury her face in that bowl of gold coins, and this house probably had a cellar, didn't it, which was close enough to a lair for right now, and there were so many maidens to pick from: one of her friends or that French maid or the genie—ooh, and what if she wished for a whole pile of gold...

Chrys was still lost in her eager fantasies when she heard the door slide open behind her and someone stumble out onto the deck. She turned to see a woman in a silky white linen dress, draped in bandages along her arms and legs, with a golden cobra headdress resting atop her braided black hair. Her eyes were lined with dark kohl, and her skin was richly tanned. "Oh my god," she whispered, touching her cheeks and rubbing her arms. "What's going on...?"

An eager growl rolled off the big dragoness's chest as a grin spread across her snout. At eight feet tall, the Egyptian woman barely came up to the level of Chrys's chest. "Hey there," she said, sauntering up to her. "Getting some fresh air?"

"We've got to get help," she said, looking up pleadingly at Chrys. "Everyone's going crazy in there. Our costumes, they're—"

Chrys leaned closer. Her tail slyly curled around the woman's calves to coax her a little closer as well. "Speaking of costumes, yours looks great. You're a natural Cleopatra," she told her.

The woman blinked a few times, getting a distant look in her eyes. "It's not...I'm...not..." She swayed for a moment. Gold bracelets glittered into being around her wrists and golden earrings fell from her ears. Regaining her composure, now with dark crimson lips and an extra curl of kohl along her cheeks, she set her hands on her hips and said, "My name, you monstrous crocodile, is Ma'at-ka-re Hatshepsut, She of the Sedge and Bee, Queen of the Two Lands—"

Chrys wasn't listening, though, because she was nearly drooling over the thick, glittering golden jewelry this woman had just sprouted. As she listed out her whole royal titulary, more and more gold sparkled its way onto her body--thick golden anklets, beaded bracelets with golden wire, a broad collar made of solid gold, small gold caps on the ends of her braids that tinkled together when she moved. Even her cheeks glittered as if brushed with gold leaf.

"Oh, you're royalty? You don't say," Chrys purred dreamily. She slipped one thick arm around the Egyptian queen's shoulders and wound her tail around her waist. "I love royalty...have you ever seen a dragon's lair?"





Mitch wasn't sure if he was supposed to be on the third floor. At the top of the stairs, the noise of the party was dim, almost distant, and the door was shut. Shut, but not locked. He turned the knob, then pushed it open. The door swung back with a slow creak. Before him was a darkened hallway, lit only by the light spilling up from the second floor.

Something in the house was calling to him. He'd felt the same way before, out hiking in the woods—a sense that there was something interesting to see, something that anyone else would miss. A secret.

He took a few steps in. A still, dusty scent hung in the air, and it was cooler than in the midst of the party downstairs. Several doors stood on either side of the hallway, all of them closed and quiet. Mitch hung there for a minute, glancing down the hall, then back down the stairs, until he pulled out his phone, turned on its light, and shut the door to the stairwell behind him.

Some of the rooms were locked, but most were open. The ones he poked into held old furniture, left bare or draped in sheets, and empty shelves. The small light from his phone made the shadows slide and tremble around him. The thrill of exploration and the danger of being where he shouldn't made everything a little more mysterious.

At the end of the hall was a study with an old desk and a large, round window that looked out over the valley. It was fully dark out, but from the streetlights down below, he could make out the shape of the town. Even from a distance, he could see Halloween lights twinkling among the houses. The moonlight carved slivers of clouds in the sky, like glowing outlines against the faint stars. He stayed at the window for a minute or two, then stepped back into the hall.

Mitch nudged up his glasses and rubbed his nose. The side of his finger came away smudged with black. Oh well, not like his fox costume was a masterpiece anyway.

He had explored all the rooms, and yet still felt that pull just beneath the surface of his mind. There was something more to find here. He lifted his eyes. A pull string hung down from a hatch in the ceiling. He reached for it, then hesitated. He was only maybe not supposed to be up on the third floor; he was definitely not supposed to be poking around in the attic. Then again, who was going to know? The longer he fretted, the stronger his curiosity grew, until at last he stretched up, grabbed the string, and pulled down the hatch..

The first thing he felt was the cool air coming down from the attic. It smelled like pine and nutmeg, sharp and prickly against his nose. Phone in hand, Mitch scaled the ladder one rung at a time, peering up over the floorboards as he emerged into the attic.

The attic was entirely different from the third floor. It was packed with shelves filled with books bound in old red leather and stoppered glass jars. Ropes draped from the roof beams, hung with vials and sheets of cloth and dried herbs. Wilted candles rose out of their wax stumps like tiny trees, sprouting from the corners of tables and the covers of books. In the center of the room was a black iron cauldron, bubbling, casting a thick green glow on the smoke that billowed up from its surface and rose up to the roof. It was a scene straight from a story book.

For a few moments, Mitch hung there, his feet still on the ladder, staring at the witch's den before him. He breathed in the scent of spices and strange concoctions; his nostrils spread and his nose grew darker. He sniffled and rubbed it again. This time, the black didn't rub off. One of the felt fox ears on his headband twitched. What was this?

A secret worth finding, for sure. He stepped off the ladder and onto the floor, drawn forward into the eerie glow that danced from within the roiling cauldron. The bubbling brew cast enough light that he didn't even need his phone. He turned to peer at a book left open on one of the shelves. The pages were smooth and leathery beneath his fingertips, and the words were written in a spidery hand. Was that Latin? No, not quite.

Mitch turned back to look at the cauldron. It stood on a tripod made of broad black iron. There was no fire beneath it, just the steady, rolling smoke, lit green by the glow coming from within. Whatever this room was, whatever was going on here, that cauldron was the center of it.

He took a step closer, then another. A faint draft brushed against his cheeks and fluttered through his hair. Downy fuzz began to spread around his black nose. His hair curled down his cheeks.

As he breathed in, the smell of the smoke tingled along his nose like little dancing sparks. The beginnings of a snout rose from his face, dusted with orange fur along the bridge of his nose and white along his chin. The ears on top of his head stood tall, brown, and fluffy; they swiveled to listen to the low burbling from the cauldron.

Another step. Mitch was as close as he could get without sticking his head into the smoke. Soft fur tickled along his cheeks while his glasses struggled to stay straight on his budding snout. A chill ran down his back, prickling the hair along his spine and tickling the light coat of white fur creeping down his chest.

The force in the back of his mind drew him forward. His curiosity was too strong to resist. Closing his eyes, he plunged into the smoke, reaching out for the rim of the cauldron, grasping it, feeling a flood of warmth wash over him from his head down to his waist. He opened his eyes and stared down a long, slender muzzle. A pair of small spectacles were perched halfway along its length. His vision was framed from above by the large brim of a hat, and on either side by long, pink curls. His hands, gripping the edge of the cauldron, were covered in sleek brown fur and fingerless gloves made of purple satin.

"Oh, dear," he gasped, in a voice too light and refined to be his own.

Clutching the cauldron for fear that he might collapse if he let go, he raised one hand to his face, brushing back his thick locks and running his fingers along his fluffy cheeks. He reached over the round brim of his hat to pluck at its floppy, pointed tip, and then felt along the fluffy edges of his ears. From there, his attention moved lower, to his chest—oh dear. He had breasts, round and full and wide across as his shoulders, hanging from his chest, with a short gold-trimmed cape draped over them as their only cover. And they were heavy.

His hand grazed lower, along his slender stomach and its downy white fur, until he reached the waistband of his pants. That was where the change had stopped, almost like a line drawn across his body—the lowest point the smoke had touched. Below that were his jeans and his taped-on costume tail.

He ran his hands along his thighs. They didn't feel like his hands: they were too light, too smooth. It felt like someone else was touching him.

The spell over his mind broke. With a sudden start, Mitch reeled back, pulling away from the smoking cauldron and stumbling backwards into a bookshelf. From there, he sunk to the floor, slumped back with his shoulders against the shelves. The brim of his hat had fallen forward, and his breasts rose and fell with every deep breath he took.

Holding onto the shelves with one hand and keeping his distance from the cauldron's smoke, he climbed back to his feet. He tipped his witch's hat back up on his brow, looked up into one of the glass jars on the shelf, and saw his own reflection staring back at him. Clutching the jar in his hands, he dragged it off the shelf. He turned his head to one side, then the other. Confronted with his transformed face, it struck him now all at once: from the waist up, he had become some sort

Mitch frowned and pouted his pink lips. This was not good at all. Setting the jar back down, he braced himself against the shelf with one hand and clutched his head with the other. His fingers wove through his thick pink curls as he tried to think.

"Okay," he said to himself, in the buttermilk-sweet voice that wasn't his. "How do I fix this? There's got to be a...a spell in my spell-books somewhere."

For a moment he was ready to start hunting through the crowded bookshelves for the tome he needed, until he realized just what he had said: his spell-books. "By the stars!" he gasped, then covered his mouth with his fingertips, wide-eyed and holding his breath.

He closed his eyes and tried to calm his racing heart. He wasn't a witch. The first principle of witchcraft was—No. He didn't know any of the Nine Principles of Witchcraft, and he couldn't cast a single spell from any of the Seven Schools, and he was most certainly not a witch.

It was the bubbling cauldron and the billowing smoke driving him mad. It had to be. He needed to get out of this attic and back downstairs, where he could think straight.

A magical chill crept slowly up Mitch's spine. The fur on his neck stood on end. He weaved his way through the cluttered attic, leaning on a table crowded with alchemical equipment, ducking underneath a hanging sheet of purple cloth. Ducking a bit too hard, in fact—the strange top-heavy balance of his new body sent him stumbling forward, falling, catching the side of a shelf with one hand and holding onto his chest with the other. A few jars fell to the floor and shattered. Their contents began to sizzle into the floorboards.

"By the moon and stars!" he snapped, glaring down at his chest. "Why do I put up with you?"

Heaving himself up and ignoring his sore backside, Mitch crossed the last few feet to the hatch. He turned around and his eyes fell on the cauldron, spilling its green glow across the attic, as he began to climb down. His chest bumped against the top rung of the ladder. A soft gasp slipped out of him and he leaned back in surprise. Before he could catch himself, he felt his shoes sliding from the rungs. The magical chill washed over his head and world spun around him as he fell.

The next thing he knew, a spell had sprung to his lips. A pair of thin, ghostly hands caught him by the shoulders and lowered him safely down to the ground. He staggered on his feet, clutching the ladder while his eyes glowed like moonlight in the dark.

Quicksilver magic through his head, enchanting his thoughts as it washed over them. Hexes and charms, rhymes to remember the magical herbs, spells that could be cast with just a look or a flick of the finger: everything a witch ought to know. Even his name was transmuted, growing and shifting into something more suited for her new self: Hecate.

"I'm a witch." It slipped out as a whisper, without even thinking about it, then the fox-witch's eyes blinked and widened and she stammered, "N-no, I mean, I'm—I'm not—oh, dear..." With all the magic packed into her head, it was hard to think without getting lost among her spells and incantations.

Hecate looked down and saw her feet, still human, still clad in sneakers. She reached out and ran her hand along her leg. Each felt strange to the other: the thick denim against her hand, and the slender fingers along her thighs. She had to stop this, before she got even more lost in her own costume. The feeling of being stuck halfway made a spell spring suddenly to mind: a charm she'd learned as a young witch (no she hadn't, she reminded herself) to fix botched transmutations and return the target to their natural state. While the thought of using magic still felt unsettling, there was no reason why it wouldn't work.

As she recited the spell, she watched a soft, golden light begin to dance above her hands, held in her cupped palms. She closed her eyes and focused, to draw the glowing energy around her waist and command it to return her to her proper form. The thrill of magical power rolled up her spine, making her shiver and arch her back.

The magic sunk into her body, and then her tail came unfurled. It weaved through the air as it grew, until its tip could tickle the backs of her ankles. The cheap felt fabric burst out into voluminous fur, crisp orange all the way down to its cream-white tip.

Hecate broke the spell, waving the light away from her hands as she gasped, "Wait, no!" It was too late. The tingling magic was already moving along her hips, bringing with it soft fur and thick thighs and transmuting her pants into a pair of velvet stockings. The baggy denim grew sleek and tight against her legs. In the midst of her panic, an explanation popped into her head, as if it was obvious: the spell had belonged to her fox half, so it assumed her human half was the mistake.

This was too much for one witch to handle. She needed to find help. Hecate took off at a jog down the hall, careful to keep herself balanced and ready to catch herself against the wall if she stumbled. She reached the door downstairs and pushed it open, then nearly fell face-first down the stairs. She caught herself, leaned back, and then gripped the railing and ran down the stairs as quickly as she could. Her unraveling shoes fell by the wayside; by the time she reached the second floor, she was barefoot, and fox from head to toe.

Rounding the second-floor landing, she skidded to a sudden halt. She'd nearly run straight into a broad, fur-capped chest. She stepped back, taking in the bulky, powerful paws and the lashing tail and the handsome, sweeping mane—and Leah's face.

"By the stars! Leah?" she gasped, straightening her spectacles with a touch of her finger. "It's me, Hecate. I mean, Hecate—my name is..."

With a confused frown on her lips, Leah looked from the fox-witch's tall brown ears to her long tail to the black nose at the tip of her muzzle, and then the pieces fell together. Her eyes widened. "Mitch?"

It was hard to think clearly, especially when a lion-beast like Leah would make such a wonderful familiar. Just think how Hecate would look, riding along the back of a great powerful sphinx...

"Yes!" Hecate gasped. Although the name rolled over her like water across goose-fathers, although she couldn't speak it, it was still a relief to hear it. "What's going on? How did you get turned into your costume too?"

"It's happening to everyone," Leah said. "Rebecca's a cheerleader, John's a genie, Allie's a lion too; I couldn't find Erin or Chris, but everyone's going wild. Even I'm—" She took a deep breath and let out a low growl. "I'm barely keeping it under control."

Where they stood, Hecate could hear the wild din coming from the floor below. Howling and roaring, stomping and thumping, voices shouting in shock and surprise and excitement. It sounded like chaos. Part of her wanted to run back to her den in the attic and hide out there. Part of her still wanted to make Leah into her familiar.

But maybe there was something a fox-witch like her could do to help.

"Come on," she told Leah. She started down the stairs, holding onto her hat with one hand and the railing with the other. "There's got to be some way we can fix this."





After getting bored with watching terrible movies and eating orange and black tortilla chips, Erin slipped out onto the back porch, where she could get a bit of fresh air and quiet and maybe one or two bars of cell service. She leaned against the railing, her face lit blue by the screen, and swiped to refresh a few times, then held her phone up in the air and tried again.

All she got was, 'Oops! Something has gone wrong.' Great.

Erin stuffed her phone back into her jeans pocket and leaned against the railing. She was getting a ride back with Allie, so she was stuck here for a while still. The party wasn't terrible, but she was zero percent into Halloween and everyone inside was hamming up their costumes and acting like idiots

A chill bristled the hair on the back of her neck. Erin shoved her hands into her jacket pockets and pulled it snug around her chest.

From somewhere far away, there was a howl and a flutter of wings. Erin glanced out into the woods, but it was hard to see anything beyond the yellow splash of the porch light. Leaves rustled, slowly coming closer. She stiffened, staring ahead; a small, paranoid part of her thought she heard something walking through the woods. A few seconds passed, and a little tumble of leaves skirted along the ground, caught in the breeze. They ran up to the edge of the porch and then fell flat.

See? Halloween was just a bunch of dorks spooking themselves.

Erin let out a small snort and reached down to scratch at the back of her heel. Straightening up, she stomped her foot on the porch to wiggle her shoe back into place. It still didn't sit right. She leaned a hand on the railing, kicked her foot up again, and tried to adjust her shoe, but no matter how she pushed and pulled, it squeezed uncomfortably tight across the heel and the sole.

Curling her knee up to her chest, Erin tugged her shoelaces open. Getting her shoe off was more of a struggle than she expected, but with some bending and pushing, she managed to pull it free. She gripped her toes and felt, beneath her socks, a smooth, flat surface along the bottom of her foot, like a firm layer of...something.

She tugged her sock off and gripped her leg by the ankle, tipping it into the light. Extending nearly an inch from the bottom of her foot was what looked like the sole of a glossy red shoe. It grew directly out of her skin, numb to the touch like the surface of a fingernail. As she watched, the red color crept up around her toes and her skin began to shine with a polished finish. The gaps between her toes rounded out; it felt like standing in wet sand, having it squeeze up between the cracks. From the underside of her heel, a red spike emerged.

"What the fuck," Erin said.

She dropped her foot. It fell to the ground and settled into an arched posture. Feeling the same numb thickness spreading along the bottom of her other foot, she scrambled to get her other shoe off, but she wasn't as quick this time. By the time she was tugging the laces open, the sole of her canvas sneaker split through, and out clunked another growing, glossy, red high heel.

Erin leaned on the railing for balance. Not only were her heels growing at different rates, one catching up with the other, but they were also getting tall—five, now six inches of elevation, leaving her perched on her tiptoes. Panicking, she bent down and grasped at her ankles, trying to wrench her feet free from the shoes growing out of them, but she couldn't.

The material her skin became felt slick, elastic, and taut, like latex. It climbed higher and higher, growing up around her ankles, starting to engulf her calves. She tugged up the legs of her jeans and watched her shins grow red and sleek.

While her legs were subsumed beneath her growing boots, her toes began to squirm. They were packed too tight together, squashed against one another, and getting worse—yet the shoes weren't shrinking. In fact, the shapes of her toes bulged against the top of her boots, shapes that were oddly thick and rounded. Then, with the snap of rubber splitting open, her toes burst free, covered in rich brown fur, silvery claws poking from their tips, and thick pads underneath each one. Her paws flexed and spread their claws, protruding over the edges of her heels.

"What the fuck," Erin said, staring at her swollen canine toes. "This is such a cute costume."

Wait. What did she say? The words had just sprung to her lips without thinking, like someone else had spoken them. Her hand went to her throat, where she found a band beginning to swell out of her skin. Its corners slowly hardened as it grew tight around her neck.

By now, her latex boots had grown to reach her thighs. She could feel the numb thickness laying on top of her legs, hugging skin-tight from her feet all the way up past her knees. She needed to find somewhere to take off her pants and get these stupid, sexy boots off her feet. Balanced precariously on her high-heel-clad paws, Erin staggered back into the house.

As she pushed her way through the crowd, she caught glimpses of strange sights—a guy in opened overalls clutching at his bulging udder, shuddering as milk sprayed from his teats; a genie serving drinks in the kitchen, her hips tapering off into a wisp of pink smoke rising from a silver lamp; a girl dressed like an Egyptian queen, staring as her arms grew richly tanned.

Erin came to a halt in the hallway, leaning against a closet door. Her boots were too tight. All the way up from her ankles to her thighs the taut latex squeezed against her skin, like it was trying to strangle her legs. One hand clawed at her thighs through her jeans, while the other reached up to pull at the red leather collar now wrapped around her neck.

At last, her boots split open along the sides. Laces strung across the growing gaps, crossing back and forth over the sleek brown fur covering her calves and thighs. The slits tapered wider as they climbed higher, stretching out to four inches wide at her hips. With the sudden release of pressure, her thighs swelled out thicker and rounder, filling out from her waist down. Suddenly, it was her jeans which were squeezing her legs, too slim for her newly-thickened hips. It felt like a vice around her legs. She could hardly bend her knees.

Kicking and tugging and shoving at her pants, Erin fought to peel them off. First she had to get the waistband down off her hips, and then she had to wrestle the legs off over her boots. At last, she dragged herself free from her pants, then climbed up to her feet, fingers brushing over the exposed fur along her hips.

Erin meant to say something about how this was fucked, but what came out was, "This is so hot!" Her hips wiggled eagerly and shifted her weight from one boot to the other.

She clapped one hand over her mouth. With the other, she grabbed the collar and twisted it, trying to find the clasp to take it off. Instead, it sprouted a ring of chrome studs around its length, and caused her hair to come unfurled like a curtain being dropped. Thick black locks, fading out to rich blood-red at the tips, fell across her shoulders and chest and draped along her cheeks.

Her head spun. It grew harder to keep her thoughts straight. What was happening to her was terrifying and inexplicable, but fascinating at the same time. Giddy excitement and shock and panic piled on top of each other, until all she could be sure of was her own thumping heartbeat.

A layer of black latex began to rise around her waist and crawl upward along her hips, peeling away from her body as it grew. She clamped her legs together and bit her lip, grasping at her hips as if trying to push the latex back into her skin. Unlike her skin-tight (or fur-tight?) boots, this new latex rippled as it grew, rising out of her with a strange, slick sensation. Its edges clung to her skin beneath her underwear, until at last she shoved off her panties and let the black latex miniskirt unfurl. A wolf's tail burst free from underneath it, followed by a rush of dark fur filling in from her thighs up to the small of her back.

Erin yelped and looked back over her shoulder. Her new tail beat cheerfully from side to side behind her back. A thrill ran from its tip all the way up to her head, feeding her reluctant, unwilling excitement. Instead of wagging her tail because she was happy, her wagging tail was making her happy. She clenched her teeth to keep from panting.

She threw off her jacket and tugged up her shirt to find her navel filling in and smoothing over. The emerging latex was black, with thin strips of red trim accentuating her waist. It tightened around her stomach as it grew, pinching inward, accentuating the curve of her hips. She whined through her nose and grasped at her back, hunting for laces that weren't there. Her nipples sunk into the sprouting latex beneath her bra, forming the cups of the tight corset.

The wave of fur came next, straining against the corset's hold and flooding out thick and brown across her chest. Her breasts stretched outward, filling up the latex cups, pulling them taut, and nearly spilling over. Supported by her corset, her furry chest jutted out in front of her.

Erin's back was arched, shoulders against the wall, her hands up above her shoulders as if she was terrified of accidentally brushing her breasts. Waves of lightheadedness washed over her as she fought to breathe against the corset. Look how hot she was! Her eyelids fluttered. She gasped and her chest heaved mightily. Everyone was going to love her costume. She tugged at the front of her corset, managing to squeeze in a deep breath and win herself a bit of lucidity. She didn't care about costumes, no matter how hot a werewolf she was!

A smoke detector began to howl from the dining room. She winced and clapped her hands over her ears. A bolt of pain jumped between them; the noise was far too loud, or her ears were far too sensitive. After a few seconds, it stopped. She dropped her hands and leaned back against the wall, panting softly.

Before she had a chance to recover, a crawling itch crept along her arms. She began to scratch at it; her nails caught along the ridges rising from her skin. Sticking her arms out and turning them over, she watched spiderweb patterns weaving underneath her skin, darkening as they swelled, finally peeling free as black fishnets. They were followed by a rush of brown fur, rolling over her shoulders and spilling down her arms. The gloves stopped at her wrists, but the fur filled out along her hands. Her fingers sprouted claws with red nail polish and soft, puffy pads.

Her tongue hung heavy from the bottom of her mouth. She panted, head pressed against the wall and eyes rolled back. She reached for her collar with both hands, tugging at it, trying to tear it off. The small studs around her collar sprouted into a ring of shiny metal spikes as the fur came flooding up over her face. Her jaw popped, her nose swelled thick and black, her ears sprung up on top of her head, and her jaws filled with fangs. Two of them, her upper set of canines, shot out long enough to overlap her bottom teeth.

The change was over. Erin was left panting. No matter how tight she balled her paws into fists, she couldn't keep her tail from whapping happily against her thighs. Her boots clunked along the floor as she hurried down the hallway, making for a mirror hanging by the front door. With every step she fought to keep her mind clear, to keep from thinking about tasty candy and pumpkin spice and cute costumes and spooky decorations. She stumbled to a stop, planted her hands on either side of the mirror, and leaned in to see nothing.

More accurately, she saw the other side of the hall behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, then back into the mirror. Nothing. No reflection. A snicker slipped out and her lips curled into a grin, baring her extra-long canines—even for a wolf. She couldn't see them, but she could prod them with her tongue. Her shoulders hunched as she started cracking up. This was such a good costume.

What could be more Halloween than a werewolf? Easy: a vampire werewolf.

Her snickering became giggling, then full-on, claws-clenched cackling. Halloween spirit tingled through her fur and crackled between her fingertips. She felt so free, free to be someone else, free to be as much of a monster as she wanted to be. She could—she could just... "Ah, ah—"

"Awooo!" She threw her head back into the howl. Half-wolf and half-vampire, she was one hundred percent Halloween, and she loved it.

As she came down from her howl and basked in the glow of Halloween spirit, she realized her new responsibility: to make sure everyone else was enjoying themselves as much as she was.

The party had grown into an absolute cacophony, but it was music to her ears. Braying and barking, snorting and snarling, gasping and squealing—the sound of a whole houseful of people turning into their costumes. Or as she would put it, getting into the holiday spirit. With a strut in her step, Erin waded through the chaos, looking for anyone still putting up a fight.

In the living room, she spotted a cheerleader with a worried pout on her lips, pushing her way toward the front hallway. Prowling through the crowd, Erin moved to cut her off. As she stepped out in front of the cheerleader, the girl made a small squeak of surprise and took a half-step back. "Oh, um, like, sorry—" she began to say.

"I love your costume!" Erin said, smiling brightly to show off her fangs. "You make such a cute cheerleader. You just need some pom-poms and you'd look perfect."

"Really? I dunno," she began to say, then glanced down at her hands. Colorful felt pom-pom ribbons were sprouting from her palms and fingers. With a yelp, she clapped her hands together, trying rip the ribbons off, but the more she struggled, the more her fingers unraveled into felt. In a panic, she shook her hands up and down. When she did, a glassy-eyed look fell over her, and a little titter slipped from her mouth.

She shook her pom-pom hands again. With each shake, the pom-poms grew bigger and the worry fell away from her face. Soon she was bouncing on her heels, her pigtails swishing against her shoulders, her breasts bobbing up and down inside her tighter and tighter tank top. A soft pop! separated her new pom-poms from her hands, which at once went back to normal. "Yay, thanks!" she chirped, then bounded off back into the party.

In the parlor, Erin found the cow she'd spotted before. He was splayed out on one of the couches, now sporting a thick pink snout. Black-splotched fur had grown along his arms and legs. He breathed heavily, his forehead beaded with sweat, while he held his udder tight in his arms. He gripped his two lower teats with his hands and pressed his forearms against the upper pair, trying to stem the flow of milk. As Erin stalked up behind him, her sensitive vampire werewolf ears picked up his muttering, "Oh god, I'm not a cow, I'm not a cow."

She lapped at her lips, then leaned over his shoulder and whispered, "Yes you are." Startled, he flinched and turned to look at her, but the size of his udder kept him from scrambling away. His ears twitched and stretched out from the sides of his head. She looked right into his eyes and said, "You're a big, sweet cow and you're just so full of milk, aren't you?"

A low groan came from his throat, which started out as 'no' but quickly swelled into a deep moo. As the sound reverberated through him, it filled him up—his belly bulged and his thighs thickened and his udder surged out heavier between his legs. Spurts of milk squeezed from his teats as he squirmed, trying to keep himself stopped up while his body grew thicker and rounder and just so full of milk.

His eyelids drooped. A pair of small horns poked from his head. Black and white fur rushed across his body, covering him as his clothes began to split open—his overalls ripping along his hips, his shirt bursting around his thick belly and his swelling breasts tipped with fat pink nipples of their own. He breathed in sharply, as if trying to make one last protest, but the only thing leaving his big snout was another long moo. He sunk down warm and heavy against the sofa and his hands moved automatically along his teats, milking himself out of sheer instinct.

Leaving the cow, Erin continued on into the dining room, where she found a frilly French maid picking up red plastic cups and stacking them together. Each time she bent down to pick up another, she winced and frowned, as if fighting to stop herself from compulsively cleaning the house.

Erin waited until the maid's back was turned, then swept up behind her, gripped her by the shoulders, and sunk her fangs into her neck. There was a gasp of "Mon dieu!" as Erin felt a feather duster beating frantically against her forehead. After a few moments' struggle, the maid's body began to relax, her head tipped back, and a wavering groan fell from her lips.

The fingers of the maid's gloves began to wilt, then the gloves themselves; drooping, hanging limp, like there was nothing there. Her feet slipped in her shoes and her shoulders sagged against her dress while Erin kept on drinking. A dizzy, "Ooh," was the last sound she made before there was nothing more to drink from. An empty maid's uniform fell to the floor.

A moment later, though, the gloves began to move again, and the dress filled out, and the clothes themselves lifted back into place one by one, until standing before Erin was a complete maid's uniform with no one inside it. Turning on its heel, it bowed its nonexistent head toward her, then picked up the plastic cups and the feather duster and went back to cleaning as if nothing had happened.

By now, it seemed like everyone had fully thrown themselves into the Halloween spirit and was having a great time. Erin basked in the satisfaction of a job well done.



The Morning After


By the time the first day of November dawned on the house, there was no sign left of lions or dragons, or fox-witches or vampire werewolves, or cows or cheerleaders or genies or French maids or Egyptian queens.

"So you don't remember anything?" Leah asked, walking alongside Allie on the path to the road. She had her lion costume on still, an excellent defense against the chilly morning. The lion mask Allie had given back to her swung from her wrist.

Allie huffed and shuffled her arms against her chest, tucking her hands into her armpits. "Well, I mean, I know I woke up in bed with Tory, so like, something happened between us...but no, not really."

Chris groaned from behind them. His neck let out a stiff crack as he rolled his head from one side to the other. "At least you woke up in a bed. I woke up in the freaking cellar with a girl I didn't even know."

"Stop bragging," Leah said.

That got a tired snort out of Erin, who was lagging behind a few steps and had bags under her eyes so deep she looked half undead. "I just want to know what the fuck I did last night," she grumbled, "so I can never do it again."

Mitch, following up the rear, sighed and said, "Yeah, at least everything's back to normal."

Leah gave him a sidelong look over her shoulder. "What do you mean 'back to normal'?"

"I mean—" What did he mean? He hadn't thought about it, the words had just come to him. For a moment, he looked back at the house. His eyes went up past the balcony, past the round window on the third floor that looked out over town, up to the small attic window, nestled among the eaves. There was some force in the back of his brain, some gentle magnetic pull...

"Never mind," he said, then hurried along after his friends with his fox tail swishing back and forth behind him.


The End



(Until next year)