The Transformation Story Archive Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...

The Duel

by Bob Stein and Jack deMule

A little war broke out on the tsa-talk mailing-list. Even though the jokes are mostly insider jokes, I think some of the short shorts are good enough to be here in the archive

The Horse Farm

by "Jack DeMule"

Bob fingered the object in his pocket nervously. It reassured him that it was still there. He had traded everything he owned for the little charm. The gypsy had promised that the device woven from willow and horse hair would fulfill his wish. For several days Bob prowled the country side looking for a suitable candidate. Finally he found a Clydesdale stud colt in a big pen, with plenty of food. There were other young horses for company too. That evening under cover of darkness he crept up to the fence. The curious beast approached. Bob touched the charm to the yearling's nose. There was a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and it was done. Bob and the yearling were now one. The next day he was shocked to overhear the hired man casually remark. "Yep! Horse meat is up to three eighty a pound. Good margin too, 'cause horses fatten up quick." Too bad Bob didn't farm, he'd have known it was a feed lot.

Use Only as Directed

By "Bob Stein"

"Shit!" Jack jerked his hand away from the gate, and stared at his thumb. Blood poured from the wound, and he glared at the metal latch plate which had just ripped off his entire nail and tried to take most of the tip with it.

Molly brayed on the other side of the gate, the sound suspiciously like laughter. "You think it's funny? Wait until the next time you get a crack in your hoof. Then I'll be the one laughing, instead of spending $100 for some backwater cure."

He turned suddenly towards the supply cabinet. Hey! That stuff had fixed the mule's hoof overnight. And fingernails were pretty much the same thing as hooves. Hell, they were selling horse shampoo in drug stores now for people, and he knew dozens of women who swore hoof dressing was the best hand lotion around.

He cupped his uninjured left hand under the right to catch the blood, and stumbled over to the cabinet. There wasn't much salve left in the glass jelly jar, but he'd been reluctant to throw anything away that worked so well, especially when it cost and arm and a leg.

Jack didn't usually go for any kind of home remedies, especially where Molly was concerned. But one of the mule breeders at the last show had heard him complaining about all the trouble he'd had with the jenny's feet, and told him about the salve. The grizzled old man wouldn't tell him where the stuff came from, only that it was guaranteed to make Molly's hooves like new. After the bad attitude most of the long-time mule people seemed to have against a 'farmer wanna-be' like him, the sudden help was suspicious. But Jack had been willing to try just about anything, and the gamble had paid off.

It was awkward getting the lid unscrewed with his mangled thumb, but he finally managed it. The old man's warning flickered through his mind. "This here stuff is only for your mule. Don't go using it on anything else." Jack shrugged. Worst that could happen is that the stuff wouldn't work on people. He scooped the salve out with the fingers of his left hand and smeared it over the injury.

Wrong. The worst thing that could happen was the stuff wouldn't work, and still hurt like crazy. Jack hopped around the stable, shaking his hand and earning fresh equine laughter from Molly. Finally, common sense kicked in and he dashed to the house to rinse the evil stuff off.

As he turned on the kitchen tap, he was surprised to see that the blood had stopped flowing. His thumb was really throbbing now. Gritting his teeth, he stuck the injured digit under the faucet. As the water washed off the blood, he could see no sign of a cut or further bleeding, even where the nail had been ripped out. The pain faded quickly, leaving only a vague pulsing sensation.

Amazed, Jack flexed his fingers a few times. That salve was incredible! Except for missing the nail and being a little swollen, his thumb showed no sign of injury. Maybe it wasn't as bad as it had looked. Of course, ripping the nail off would cause a lot of bleeding, but he would have sworn the whole tip was almost severed. He'd have to find that guy at the next show and stock up on the stuff.

It was already late, but he went back out to the stable and finished up. Molly was unusually curious, stretching her neck over the gate and snuffling in his direction with eyes wide. Probably still had the scent of blood. He wiped off the gate latch, and after wasting a few minute looking for his missing fingernail, shut off the lights and went to bed.

Getting punched in the nose is a bad way to wake up. When you live alone, it can be downright terrifying. Jack jerked up in the bed, looking about the intruder. "Take what you want. I don't have a gun or anything. Please, just leave me alone." There was no answer, and no movement. His heart pounded. The intruder had to be in the room. No way anyone could have hit him and gotten out in time.

The pain was making his nose run, and he reached up to rub it. And got hit again. Bewildered, Jack reached to turn on the bedside lamp, only to send it crashing to the floor. My fingers! What's wrong with my fingers? His hand felt as if it had been dipped in concrete, stiff and heavy. Any fears of an intruder were forgotten as he jumped out of the bed and made his way to the overhead light switch.

He blinked first at the sudden brightness, and then at the swollen black lump that resided where he expected to see his right hand. A dream. I'm having a really bad dream. Jack tried to ignore the fact that his nose still ached, and that a bruise was forming on the side of his face where he'd hit himself the second time. Watching his arm elongate and grow brownish fur helped a little, at least until he decided this wasn't a dream and started screaming.

By the time he had calmed down enough to think clearly, his right arm was almost fully changed into a mule's foreleg. It pulled down on his shoulder like a dead weight as he searched his desk frantically. The old man's phone number was written down on a scrap of paper, but where? He shoved the computer aside, not even caring when the monitor fell over and hit the floor with a multitude of shattering noises. Ah! He snatched at an envelope. That was it. 968-6853.

His neck was starting to pull slightly back as he fumbled with the phone. Damnation! Why had he gotten this stupid cordless? The number pad was in the center of the handset, and he had to put it on the counter and punch the number several times before he got through.

The phone on the other end rang an awfully long time. Considering it was about 3 in the morning, the man might not even answer. About the 12th ring, just as Jack was about to give up, a very cranky voice said "What is it?"

Jack fumbled desperately for the man's name, and had to charge on without it. "Uh, this is Jack DeMule. I, uh, bought some salve from you at the last mule show?" There was a moment of silence at the other end.

"So? It didn't work? You calling me in the middle of the night to complain?"

Jack swallowed hard. "Look, this is gonna sound crazy, but I smashed my finger tonight, and there was a little salve left in the jar, and.."

The man interrupted. "You damn fool! Used it on yourself, and you're turnin' into mule, right?"

Jack didn't know whether to be relieved that he wasn't crazy, or horrified that the man could so easily guess what had happened. "Uh, yeah! And it's happening fast! What the Hell am I gonna do?"

The old man was muttering to himself on the other end. "Dumb-ass farmer wanna-be's. Can't follow simple directions." Then he spoke directly. "What's your address? And the fastest way to get there?"

Jack gave him the information, getting distracted a bit as his chest began to barrel out. "Can you do anything to help? I mean, I turnin' into an animal!"

"Just stay inside until I get there. Gonna pick up some of the boys, and take care of things. Don't call nobody else. We'll be there in a couple hours."

Seeing fur start to spread across his belly, Jack panicked. "Hours! That's too long! You gotta get here faster..." He was talking to a dead line. The man had hung up on him. He stared at the phone for a moment before slowly putting it down. Who else could he call, anyway? The vet? His doctor? National Inquirer?

Curiosity started to overcome fear, and he made his way back to the bedroom. He felt like a hunchback now, an image borne out by his reflection in the full-length mirror. The upper right portion of his body was almost fully transformed into that of a mule, and though the change had spread all over, the rest of him was a lot slower catching up.

There was no pain involved, other than the rather intense psychic trauma of seeing yourself become an animal. If anything, he felt slightly high, as if he were on a good drunk. It was strange to feel his bones moving, and flesh reshape itself. Yet he found it all fascinating in a horrible way. It was sort of like all the rubber-neckers at a bad accident. You didn't really want to see anybody dead or hurt bad, but you couldn't help looking, anyway.

His left shoulder started to shift now, and he pulled off his underpants while he was still able. At least there was one part of his body that was benefiting from this impossible change. Seeing the enlarged, darkening organ between his legs made him think of Molly, which in turn enlarged the organ even more. Would it be considered bestiality?

His head started to change shape now, and a new fear banished any thoughts of sex. What would happen to his brain? Was he gonna end up thinking like a mule as well? If that happened, he'd be as good as dead, wouldn't he?

He could feel his skull swelling in back even as his forehead started to drop. It was getting harder to focus, and then vision split into separate images as his nose and mouth pushed out into a muzzle. It was disorienting to get the different pictures, but after a few minutes, his brain seemed to adjust. The resulting image was a slightly distorted panoramic view of his bedroom, though details and color were not as good.

By now, he looked like one of those Monty Python pictures, with the front half of a mule grafted onto the back half of a man. Literally half-assed. But there was no kidding himself even that much. Twisting around, even his new eyesight could tell that his hindquarters were already more equine than human. The most obvious transformation was happening to his feet, so he concentrated on them. Toes were merging into a solid lump, and the bones stretched out and became heavier. Finally, he was looking at a pair of mule's hind legs, which he discovered were attached to what appeared to be a perfectly normal mule.

Movement was awkward for a bit, but like his eyesight, everything seemed to become natural. The growing familiarity of this new body alarmed him, yet he could still remember who he was, and didn't think he had lost any of his memories. Oddly enough, he found the change disappointing. He'd sometimes tried to imagine what it would be like to be a horse or a mule, usually thinking he would feel stronger, or more powerful. The reality was depressing. He could feel aches and pains all over his body, and his rump itched something fierce.

The overall impression bothered him, and he shuffled closer to the mirror for a better look. Details sharpened some this way, and he felt a cold chill at what he saw. The wrinkled lips, dark teeth, and white muzzle meant only one thing. He was old. Not just middle-aged, as he had been as a human. The mule reflected back at him was thin and worn, with dull fur and rheumy eyes. Jack's practiced eye estimated the beast to be a good 35 to 40 years old. Or, he realized, about what his human age had been. Much too old to worry about encounters with Molly. In fact, he looked like his life expectancy could be tallied in months, not years.

There was a crash from the front room, and he twisted around to see some rough-looking men entering the bedroom. An older man in front looked familiar. It was the one who'd sold him the salve! Jack gave a coarse bray of joy to see him. Now things would be put right!

A dark-haired man about Jack's age slipped a rope around his neck while the old man checked him over. "Too bad he's so old. That kid we got last year has been a great stud."

The inspection was thorough and got rather personal. When it was over, the old man clucked his tongue and motioned for the man to bring Jack. Not knowing what else to do, Jack plodded along behind. He stopped dead when he reached his front room. Five or six men were carting his belongings out the door, already almost through emptying the place!

"Make sure you get the bedroom, and clean out the stable. I'll take the jenny in the trailer with him." The old man directed the operation with practiced ease, and Jack felt growing dread as he was led out to a battered horse carrier.

"Nobody will miss ya'." Jack realized the old man was talking to him. "We're gonna take your things and make it look like you moved out sudden-like. Happens around here a lot." He grinned. "Amazing how many trouble making kids run away, never to be seen again. Or cheatin' wives. Or farmer wanna-be's.

"Too bad old lady Pritchard never figured out how to make the magic change age and stuff. 'Least you turned to a mule. I remember when Dan Meadow's little brat got into the salve he kept for the sheep. Hadn't even finished elementary school, and she dropped dead of old age as soon as the change was finished.

He patted Jack's rump. "You got maybe a year or two left. Don't worry. I'll keep ya' in pasture 'til the end. I'll sell some of your stuff to pay for your keep. And that nice little jenny of yours will be real welcome in the herd." The old man chuckled. "Guess we shoulda put a label on that jelly jar. 'Use only as directed'." He shrugged. "But then, you folks never follow directions anyway."


by "Jack DeMule"

The old mule was left on a deserted farm along with a half dozen more. Smitty bought the animals at auction. He had fattened up the rest and sent them on their way but the remaining mule just wouldn't gain any weight. Smitty staked it out along the road side so it could graze down the fence line. Maybe some fresh grass would turn his appetite around. Smitty went back to his chores in the shed and was just getting cleaned up when he heard a thunder clap. "Huh! Thunder on a clear day? It's those damn jets again, scaring all the stock and putting them off their feed. Why I ...." Smitty stopped and blinked, there was Jack standing next to the fence completely naked, with the mule's halter draped across his face.

"Jack! What in blue blazes are you doing?" "You wouldn't believe me if I told you Smitty. I bought this hoof crack medicine and." Smitty butted in. "Yeah, and you used it on yourself and tuned into a mule. Everyone 'round here knows about it."

Smitty started to chuckle. "That's not the best part, old man Monthey was brewing up another batch of that stuff when the barrel exploded. Turned him and his whole damn family into mules. I bought all of them and seeing that there was no way to turn them back, I ran them through the lot. At least I thought there wasn't, until now." Smitty looked a little ill.

"Uh, Smitty? I need a bath and some clothes." "What! Oh, sure Jack, let's go over to my place and see what I've got that will fit ya. Then you can tell me the whole story over supper."

In a few weeks Jack's life was pretty much back to the same boring routine it had settled into before his mishap. Each day he drove past the feed lot on the way to work. This morning something caught his eye. His truck skidded to a stop, Jack jumped out and ran up to the fence.

Jack babled with excitement. "Hey, that's a nice Clydesdale! I wonder if Smitty will sell it to me? Why I didn't notice it before? Smitty must have kept him in a stall. Trying to put more weight on it I guess." "Speak of the devil! Hi Smitty! What do you need on that Clydesdale?" "Oh I dunno Jack, what's it worth to you?" "Well Smitty with anyone else I'd try and bargain, but with you, well I'll give you what he'll bring at market weigh." "O.K. Jack, I'll bring him 'round later on today."

"Hey Jack, don't work too hard. You should take it easy after what you've been through! Good thing I set you out grazing around the fence If you hadn't found that gypsy thingamabob you'd have been stuck as an ugly old mule." Jack winced. "I was not ugly, well at least molly thought I was cute." Smitty grabbed Jack's arm and looked him in the eye. "I'm sorry about molly, an if it helps any, she busted my hired man's jaw when we were loading her in the truck." "Thanks Smitty you couldn't know, I'll miss her though"

Smitty delivered the animal as promised. "Here he is Jack! The girls cleaned him up a little. I even had the vet vaccinate and geld him. I sure hope he works out for you." Jack ran his hand over the geldings withers and smiled. "Thanks Smitty, thanks a lot".

"Gee Jack, you think he'll out pull those mules of yours?" Jack smiled, it was a sinister grin. "Oh, he'll out pull the mules all right or burst his heart trying. If he doesn't, well I'll just have to sell him back to you, saves you from the expense of feeding him in the mean time." Smitty scratched his jaw a moment then shook his head. "Well, I guess you've got this all figured out Jack. That's some strong motivation there. Oh, I almost forgot, his name is Bob." "Smitty, why would you name a Clydesdale Bob?" Smitty smiled and winked. "That's the only name he'd come to. Suits him, don't ya think? See ya later Jack, gotta go feed the stock."

Bless the Beasts...

By "Bob Stein"

Jack shifted uncomfortably in his tuxedo. It was bad enough to be surrounded by the noise and stink of a big city. Now he had to spend most of the day ushering and speaking at a friend's wedding. Well, it was better to be stuck in a monkey suit for a day than a mule suit for the rest of his life.

Although the incident was several months past, he still remembered being a 'jack' for real with crystal clarity. Being transformed into an animal hadn't been all that bad, especially since the 'mule people' had known what happened and taken care of him. Luckily, he'd found that strange Gypsy charm before they did anything with his farm or major belongings. Of course, the real blessing was that those country folks took such things in stride. If it had happened while he was living in the city... He shuddered at the thought.

As the last of the guests were seated, he heard the organ start playing. Time to escort the bride's parents down the aisle. The mother-in-law -to-be gave him a strange look as he offered his arm, and kept glancing his way as they walked. Jack was a little annoyed. She was one of those glamour queens who probably spent 6 hours a day in beauty parlors trying to hang onto her looks. Even in a tux, Jack was sorta scruffy looking. Guess she wanted Robert Redford, not Peter Falk.

Of course, he could have picked a tux that fit better. Geez, he must have gained some weight since he was fitted. The cumber bun was cutting into his waist, and his pants felt like they were stretched tight. Come to think of it, he'd been feeling sorta funny ever since he got here. He looked around. The church was a fancy one, actually the first he'd been in for a number of years.

The discomfort of his tight clothing distracted him so much that he almost missed his cue to go up and do the first reading. He stumbled a bit and he walked to the podium, feeling a little off balance. Maybe he had the flu. After the reading, he could go out the side and lay down.

As he turned to face the audience, the pressure around his legs suddenly relaxed, accompanied by a soft tearing sound. His pants had just ripped apart! Nobody could see for now, but as soon as he stepped from behind the podium... There was a door right behind him for the pastor. He could back out that way. Gritting his teeth, he forced a smile and went on with the reading.

"Haaaaw-hee-haw." Jack froze, eyes wide. The guests were staring at him, and he heard a few gasps and murmurs. What was going on? He became aware of a growing tightness in his shirt, and glanced down to see his chest pushing out. The sensations were suddenly familiar. He was turning into a mule again!

People were screaming now, jumping up from the pews and backing away from him in obvious fear. Jack stumbled as he tried to move from the podium, legs tangled in the remains of his pants. Why was this happening? He'd been human for months now, with no signs of changing back. And why here? If he was home, it wouldn't be that much of a problem. Stuck in a church full of city snobs, who would believe weird stories about magic potions and Gypsy charms, even if he could still speak.

Magic and Gypsy charms. Jack twisted his head around to stare at the crucifix above him. It hadn't occurred to him before, but weren't there supposed to be different kinds of magic? If the Gypsy charm which had turned him human again was 'black' magic, perhaps being in a church had canceled it out! He had to escape, and hope that everyone would think it had all been some strange hallucination. If the authorities thought there was any truth to the wild story, he'd spend the rest of his short life being studied as a freak or a lab animal.

His face was pushing out now, and his weight pushed the podium forward. As it fell with a crash, he caught himself on his forelegs, and shook off the tattered remains of his tux. Only one guest remained in the church, poised behind the video camera that had been set up to tape the wedding. With a sinking feeling, jack realized that his whole transformation had been recorded. And the camera was set up in the middle of the pews, out of reach from an old mule.

A couple of police officers were coming in now, looking thoroughly confused. There was no escape for him, and he felt tears of despair welling in his huge brown eyes. He saw the verse he had been about to read lying face-up on the floor, and felt bitter irony at the first line. "Bless the beasts and the children..."

An End to Dreaming

By "Bob Stein"

Jack woke in a hospital room. Not again! He shivered, wondering what had happened this time. The madness was unpredictable. At best, there were vague memories of people and activities. This time, there was nothing.

He remembered being in a lab, and excitement about his continued transformations between man and mule. Something in his blood had provided the key to research on something called the 'Circe Treatment.' Apparently, that backwoods 'witch' had actually stumbled onto an organic compound which triggered physical change.

The prospect was exciting, even after his unpleasant experiences. According to the scientists who poked and prodded him daily, there was no limit to what the change could do. They seemed scared of it, thinking only of chaos and disruption of society. Jack had already benefited from the process, and could see the positive side.

Even being an old mule had been fascinating, and given the choice, he might even return to that body. But with the new Treatment, he could become a colt, or a horse, or a lion, or even a child again. If these stuffed shirts could see past their ordered little world, they would see what a magnificent gift the Treatment was.

He sat up and looked at himself. Fully human. No sign that he had ever been anything but plain old Jack DeMule. That would change. The possibilities were endless. He smiled, thinking of running the fields as a stallion, or flying through the air as an eagle. These closed-minded fools couldn't keep the Circe Treatment hidden forever, and then broader minds would realize the wonderful potential.

The door opened, and one of the doctors came in. Johnson, wasn't it? "Mr. DeMule! Glad to see you are awake."

Jack nodded. "What happened, Doc? I remember being a mule, and then being some place with a lot of people."

Johnson sighed. "I'm afraid you stole a vial of the Circe Treatment, and sprayed it on someone in a restaurant. We aren't sure why. The victim, a man named Bob Stein, turned into a lobster and fell into the water before anyone could catch him."

Jack paled. "Oh, God! I don't remember anything like that!"

"Well," continued the scientist. "The madness seems to be linked to your transformations. When you shifted back and forth between mule and human, your personality was juggled and tossed about. If it is any consolation, we can guarantee that it will never happen again. You've been cured, permanently."

A cold lump began to form in Jack's stomach. "What do you mean?"

Johnson smiled broadly. "Well, knowing what a threat this entire Treatment represents, we have been working to find a way to prevent it. And we succeeded! We developed a form of the treatment that locks a person's genetic structure, making them immune to the Circe Treatment, and any other form of gene-altering process."

Jack felt sick, and lay back in the bed as tears started to flow. The doctor mistook his reaction, and nodded happily. "That's right! You were our first success. You'll never have to worry about becoming something else for the rest of your life!"

Jack's Revenge

by "Jack DeMule"

Jack lay in the dark, sweltering room staring into the darkness. He was trying to piece together the events that brought him to this place. After he was released from the center he seemed to have no ambition to pick up the pieces of his life and return home. The small monthly payments that the center made to him, for the use of his genetic material in their treatment, allowed him to rent an apartment in the Tidewater area. "The only thing I have to go on is this Bob Stein guy. Why would I want to attack him? Good thing he found out that you can control the transformations before he was seriously injured. Now that he too has had the Circe vaccination maybe he'll feel that's it's safe for him to talk to me." Jack flipped through the phone book. "Ah here he is! No, maybe this is better done in person."

Bob heard a knock on the door. He looked through the peep hole he could see Jack on the steps. "Hmm....I wonder what he wants. They told me he had been released but I never thought he'd have the nerve to show his face around here." Bob opened the door just a crack. "What do you want Jack? This had better be good. I have a restraining order against you and the police will be here any minute." Jack began to fidget. "Uh, Mr. Stein, I mean Bob, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the trouble I caused you and ask you if you know why I would have wanted to attack you? Bob opened the door a little wider. "Well I suppose I owe you that much, come on in."

Bob explained how he had been working for an alphabet agency and had selected an out of the way rural community to test the Circe virus. He had worked with the farmer named Monthey to test the virus on unsuspecting subjects. Some how Jack had found out and had been seeking revenge for being turned into a mule." Jack interrupted. "Not for being turned into a mule but an old mule and being embarASSed in the process." Bob continued. "After you attacked me I could see how wonderful the ability to transform could be but now that is not possible since the development of the vaccine." Jack looked like he was on the verge of tears. "Yeah, you know they developed the vaccine from my blood. Just like me to screw up the only chance I had to really change the world. I always wanted to try and make amends for some of the projects I worked on. Seemed like I always end up making the world worse rather than better. It's ironic that by moving out to the farm to get away from that line of work that we would cross paths." Bob's attitude softened. "Hell Jack, at least I was able to fulfill my fantasy of being a draft horse for a couple of weeks before they caught me. I think it was all worth it. Well, I have an appointment to keep so I have to go now. It's been nice chatting with you and no hard feelings O.K.? "Sure Bob, no hard feelings, you were just doing your job."

Slowly the memories returned and Jack became more agitated. Finally the idea that had been nagging him could no longer be pushed away. "I still have a few vials of the Circe virus stashed away that they didn't find. If I could just damage my immune system enough maybe I could be infected long enough to transform one last time." Jack broke into the Space Radiation Effects Laboratory that evening. "If this doesn't work I'll be dead. But what the hell no one lives for ever." After turning on the source he walked through the labyrinth of lead block walls and stepped into the sample chamber. In a few minutes he was nauseous. "Well, that should do it I'm dead for sure now it the virus doesn't overload what antibodies now exist in my blood." Back at his car he injected the contents of one of the vials into his thigh. Nothing happened and he was feeling more sick by the moment. He returned to his apartment vomited and fell asleep.

When he awoke he felt surprisingly well. "I'll think of something small just to see if it worked. Maybe a house cat, yeah that will do nicely." Jack concentrated hard on the image of a house cat. Suddenly the bead let out a groan and collapsed. "Damn, I'm an old mule again but it worked! the "cure" can be reversed."

It was late, nearly two A.M. when Bob was awaken by Jack pounding on his door. "Hey Bob, let me in you have to se this!" Bob was hesitant but opened the door. His jaw dropped open when he saw the mule on his front lawn. "Quick get in here before someone sees you, you silly ass!" Jack did as he was asked making sure to turn around in the hallway, making a shambles of Bob's display of Noritake China, before he transformed back into human form. "Ugh, Sorry about that Bob." But Bob was too excited to take notice of the mess. "You did it! You really did it but how?" "I used the source in the radiation lab to destroy my immune system and re-infected myself with the virus. Well what do you think Bob, wanna try it yourself?" Geez, Jack you know I'd do anything to regain the ability to transform." O.K. Bob, I'll pick you up this evening at eleven.

Jack showed Bob into the specimen chamber and shut the door. He flipped on the intercom from the machine control console. "Bob?" "Yes Jack?" "O.K., Now this will make you feel a little sick but don't worry after I inject you with the virus you'll feel better." "Let's hurry Jack. I don't want a guard to catch us." "Nothing to worry about Bob no one will bother us here." Jack turned the source on. "O.K. Bob that should do it."

Jack entered the chamber and injected Bob in a vein. The effect on Bob was more rapid. In a few minutes he was feeling better and ready to give it a try. "O.K. Jack here I go." Bob concentrated on the image of his fancy and he began to transform. A close layer of Black hair formed on his body. he quickly stripped off his clothes before they were ruined. His legs stretched out and his chest expanded so quickly it was like a balloon. Where Bob had been there was now a slick black Percheron Stallion. Jack stifled a laugh. "Now Bob, you need one more treatment before it is done if you want the process it remain irreversible." The huge horse nodded his head. "O. K. Bob It will only be a few minutes more."

Jack returned to the machine control. He flipped the switch that locked the chamber door and turned the source on and set the controls at maximum. Then he hit the intercom button. "Burn in hell Bob. Did you really think I'd forgiven you? I just wanted you to feel yourself fall as far as possible. The way I did when you ruined my life. I'd really like to stay and keep you company but I'm going to see if there's anything left of the farm. Bye." As Jack left he could hear the Bob pounding the chamber door with his hoofs. "Even fifteen hundred pounds of horse won't bust that door down. He'll be well done by the time the technicians arrive in the morning. I wonder which Bob they'll find? Dosent't matter there won't be much left of either one" Jack whistled as he strolled to his car. It was good to be alive again.

More than He Bargained For

By "Bob Stein"

Jack reached his car just as the door to the lab exploded outward. Knocked forward by the blast, he sprawled against the door with enough force to knock the wind from his lungs. As he lay gasping in the dirt, there was a second explosion which took every window out of the building.

Jack stared dumbfounded at the destruction. This shouldn't be happening! The chamber was designed to survive tremendous stress, and nothing he had done should have caused such a disaster. He sat up, slowly getting strength back to stand. Well, so much for Bob.

And then he heard the clop of hooves. A massive dark shape was emerging from the burning rubble, impossibly huge. What little strength he had regained fled and he staree as the shape paused for a moment, and then moved towards him.

Most of what he saw was black stallion, twenty-one hands at least, built like a Shire or monster Percheron. Even in the darkness, he could see blistered patches on the legs and sides which were healing even as he watched. But the most amazing part was what wasn't stallion.

Where the horse's head and neck should have been was the incredibly muscled upper body of a dark-skinned young man, proportioned to the massive horse below it. Jack blinked and stared harder. The youth's features were familiar, if somewhat altered by the equine ears and mane which started just over his forehead and ran all the down to the stallion back.

"Bob?" Jack's voice cracked in fear as the centaur loomed above him. There was no place to run, even if he could find the strength to move. The blow of a single hoof would crush him like an ant.

A massive hand reached out towards him, and he cringed in anticipation of death. He was lifted like a doll, and gently raised until he found his own legs. Then the hand released him. Still shaking, Jack looked up and saw the young centaur smiling down at him.

"Well, Jack. Seems like you really done it this time." Bob's voice was rich and mellow, with no hint of anger. "I know you didn't mean to help me, but it seems that your chamber and the Treatment worked rather well together."

Jack swallowed. "You're a.. a.."

"Centaur?" Bob twisted around to admire his new body. "Yes and no. Actually, far more than a centaur. I seem to have some lingering control of little things like space, time, life and death. As best I can tell, you have changed me into a centaur god. And I really can't be made at you for that."

A black finger touched Jack's head, and he felt a strange warmth. When it passed, he was in a familiar form. Well, almost familiar. He was a mule again, but he felt wonderful. Strong, healthy, and.. young?

Bob nodded. "That's right, Jack. I've made an ass of you again, but this time I think you'll appreciate the results. Maybe 5 years old, uncut, and somewhat of a rarity. You see, you are quite fertile. And since you will want to make use of that new equipment..."

The centaur gestured with his hand and another equine shape began to form. A jenny, young and well formed, and familiar. Molly? Jack brayed joyfully, and trotted over to nuzzle the female.

"She deserves better than being made into dogfood." Another gesture, and Jack blinked in warm sunlight. The NASA parking lot had been replaced by lush rolling hills, and fields of clover and sweet grass. "And certainly better than being stuck in a Government complex."

Bob was becoming transparent, his form fading into shimmering sunlight. "If and when you tire of this, you can chose anything else you want just by imagining it. Travel back to your old life and world, or start a new one anywhere as anything."

Jack felt a lump in his throat, and tears formed in his eyes. He was overwhelmed by joy and contentment. Molly pressed against him affectionately, and the two mules watched a sparkling cloud rise and vanish into the sky.

And a sideline...

The Chain of Life

by "Jack DeMule"

Bob stepped out of the Opera house and stood on the steps enjoying the cool evening breeze. He smiled as he though about how well he had performed. Suddenly his revelry was interrupted by a ragged looking man jumping out of the bushes. "Don't you recognize me Bob? Huh? Well maybe not. A few years in a state hospital can do that to a person." Bob took a step back, it was Jack, he had escaped again. Jack inched forward and drew something from his pocket. "I went through hell to get this and now your hell begins." Bob blanched. "Geez! Jack don't shoot me! Where's your sense of humor?" Then he took a closer look at what Jack held. It was a little translucent plastic squirt gun, similar to one he had as a boy. Bob smiled. "Jack, you are over the deep end. What are you going to do? Ruin my suit?" Jack aimed and fired. A feeble trickle hit Bob square in the face. Jack grinned. "How's that for a sense of humor!" Then with an insane cackle he turned and ran, screaming "Remember Bob, you are what you eat! You are what you eat!"

Bob took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. "Well, a call to the police and he'll be under lock and key again soon enough. I'm not going to let this ruin an otherwise wonderful evening." He decided to put the whole silly event out of his mind and indulge himself at his favorite restaurant on the pier. He asked for a secluded table near the edge of the pier so he may watch the activity on the water. "This is the life, the ocean, good food, and no crazy Jack to annoy me."

He was only a few bites into his cold lobster when he felt a little nausea. "Must be a bad piece of lobster or maybe Jack upset me more than I realized." He had the distinct feeling that the table was growing larger. "A sip of wine to calm the nerves will help." He reached for the glass but instead of a hand a mottled claw gripped to stem. He over turned the glass and stared at the claw in horror. The process accelerated and before he knew it he was stuck in one of his pant legs. He flipped his tail frantically and dropped to the floor. Slowly he backed to the edge of the pier. Good! No one had seen him change.

Now he needed time to think. He backed over the edge of the pier and plopped into the water. Sitting in the silt at the bottom Bob fumed at his situation. "Damn that Jack! I'll give him a case of hoof and mouth disease when I see him again. Maybe claw in mouth if I can't find a way out of this."

It was an unthinking, instinctive act, Bob nibbled on a passing invertabrea. He felt himself changing again. "Oh, no! How far down the food chain am I going to go?" Bob came to rest in a tide pool. He had been careful not to eat, which was not too difficult since a start fish has to work quite hard for a meal.

Suddenly a huge hand grabbed him. The little girl squealed in delight. "Mommy! Look! Can I take it home Pleeeese!" Her mother wrinkled her nosed then smiled. "O.K. honey but when you get home be sure to put it on an ant hill so it will be nice and clean and then let it dry in the sun before you bring it in the house."

Full Circle

By "Bob Stein"

The starfish could feel itself being eaten away. There was no pain, at least not in the human sense. In fact, there was nothing but a vague awareness that it was alive. Sometimes a faint image or half-remembered sensation would surface in its primitive consciousness, only to fade without even being comprehended.

Even as that limited awareness began to falter, the starfish continued the only activity it knew how to pursue. Something brushed across the orifice that served as its mouth, and it instinctively tried to devour the morsel. Taste was wrong, not the normal plankton or seaweed it was used to. Then there was confusion.

Sweeping the area with its antennae, it located thousands of its own kind. The food source had vanished. Thought was even simpler now, but also structured in very concrete patterns. The ant continued to search for the starfish that it had once been until it became aware of another food source.

Time had no meaning. Communication was simple and direct between the ant and its brothers, as was reaction. Almost as one, the colony's foragers formed a line towards the fresh supply and began the journey. They traveled until the new source was reached, and began the process of carrying it back to the colony.

The ant that had been a starfish opened its pincers and grabbed a hunk of the rotting flesh. It experienced a moment of disorientation, and then felt itself start to swell. Sand around it began to be absorbed into its mass, converted into new flesh as the ant became more than an ant.

Bob woke suddenly, and sat up in confusion. He was outside, lying in a pit of some sort in the middle of the night. What the Hell...? He remembered being in a restaurant, and that crazy guy who's prayed him with the squirt gun. "You are what you eat!" the guy had screamed. And then Bob had taken a bite of his lobster.

Memories, more like vague impressions, began to form. Bewildered, he looked down and brushed some of the grit from his skin. You are what you eat? He'd become a lobster? Of course not. That was silly. He must have gotten drunk and gone swimming or something. Why else would he be lying stark naked on the beach in the middle of the night?

Something didn't look right about his skin. Brushing off some of the grit, he stared at the smooth surface. Even in the darkness, it was obvious that the chest and stomach he was looking at wasn't his. Or at least, hadn't been his when he'd started dinner. He'd never been this trim and muscular in his life, and it was also fairly obvious that quite a few years had vanished with his extra mass.

The inspection was interrupted by awareness of a terrible stench, as well as itching sensation on his right arm and hand. Looking towards the source, he scrambled up with a strangled cry.

A rotting corpse lay partially exposed in the side of the pit, covered with a moving blanket. Part of that blanket was sampling the fingers of his right hand, and he brushed frantically at it. Ants. They had already removed much of the bloated face which stared back at him from its sandy tomb. You are what you eat? Realization came to him slowly, and he stumbled away in horror as he retched up the contents of his new stomach.

"Want a hamburger or something?" Bob blanched, thinking of himself swelling into a cow in the middle of a police station. He'd already had a panic-stricken moment after taking a drink from a water fountain. Apparently, the microbes and bacteria in the air and water wouldn't trigger the nightmare treatment. The officer shook his head sympathetically. "Don't worry, kid. We've already got a fingerprint search going. And they're looking over old Missing Persons reports. Who knows? Maybe you'll remember things yourself pretty quick. Amnesia can be sorta funny like that."

Bob gave the man a tired smile and nodded. Amnesia wasn't really the problem. Bob remembered everything about his life. The problem was, those memories didn't match up with the red-haired young man whose body he now had. Probably some kid who'd drowned surfing or swimming alone. At least it hadn't been the body of a beached whale, or some rotting fish. He'd managed to control his stomach long enough to recover the exposed corpse with sand. It would still be found, but he was hoping to gain a little time and perhaps even disappear before the dead kid's existence started questions about the live kid police had found wandering naked on the beach.

Assuming he could stay human that long. If the Treatment continued to work, he'd end up dropping back down the food chain, maybe drastically. According to a calendar, he'd gone from human to ant in less than two days. About the only things he could safely eat were processed foods, or protein drinks. At least, he hoped he could safely eat them. Plant life seemed safe, as well. He must have eaten a lot of algae and other vegetable forms in the sea, and not changed. Whatever the Treatment was, it recognized animal DNA, not plant.

So, he was a forced vegetarian. And he'd have to be pretty paranoid about breathing through his mouth. Probably have to get a painter's filter, or one of those germ shields that doctor's wore. He'd rather look sorta weird than take a chance of swallowing a bug.

The biggest hope he had was that all of these precautions were unnecessary. Until this last change, he'd been dropping in size and mass. Which meant that the proportional dose of the Treatment in his cells had remained mostly the same. This entire human body was new, constructed from the sand as his ant's body transformed. If it worked the way he thought it did, the Treatment had pretty much been eliminated. However, he wasn't sure enough of this to test it out, at least yet. Of course, he could always find someone he wouldn't mind becoming, and bite them.

Right now, his first concern was getting out of the police station. He didn't want to be identified, because he really wasn't the person they'd identify him as. Getting up, he walked over and looked at the mirror on the snack machine. The boy staring back at him didn't shave yet. He could still be in high school. All he needed was some sobbing parents dragging him to a strange house and keeping an eagle eye on their poor son who wouldn't know them. And then there would be the fresh heartbreak when the truth finally came out.

Bob looked around. Nobody was really paying much attention to him right now. And the sweats one of the officer's had loaned him would do for clothing until he got home. With his ATM card, he could keep himself going financially, and he had vacation and sick leave built up at the office. Taking a deep breath, he eased out of the room and into the hallway. No alarm was raised. So he went down the hall. Still nothing. Finally, he was out on the sidewalk. Luckily, it was warm enough that his bare feet didn't raise any eyebrows.

He sighed as he headed for the Interstate. His car had probably been towed from the restaurant, and he didn't even have his keys. Looked like he was stuck hitchhiking back to Norfolk. Once there, he'd have to figure out how to locate the weirdo who'd done this to him. He had to smile as he reveled in the fitness of his new form. If this body either already was, or could be made stable, he'd probably end up thanking the guy.

The end

The Duel copyright 1996 by Bob Stein and Jack deMule.

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