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

Horse Hide Shoes

by Bob Stein

"4 Reasons Why You Should Wear Horse Hide Shoes."

Darryl furrowed his brow in bemused concentration, peering through the junk shop window. That's what the box said, all right. Distributed -exclusively- by D.S. Peterman & Co., York, Pa. From the yellowing of the cardboard and the style of the shoe, these hadn't been distributed by anybody at all in a good century.

Let's see. Reason number one was that Horse Hide Shoes were made from genuine horse hide leather. What else would they be made of? Fish scales? The genuine heavy leather innersoles and steel shanks made up reason number two. Number three was interesting. Genuine bend leather soles. Bend leather? Probably more comfortable than rigid leather. And finally, Horse Hide Shoes will always remain soft an pliable.

He grinned at the ancient leather hightops. Not exactly the height of fashion. In truth, he was more interested in the box, with its period printing and prancing horse. It would make a nice display piece for his living room. Probably be expensive, though. He almost walked on, but on impulse, went inside and asked about the price.

Ten minutes and an equal number of dollars later, he had the shoes and box in a bag. This was probably silly. He had enough junk littering his shelves, desk, closets, and floor to open a junk shop of his own. Still, for ten bucks he could stick the box up on the bookcase and toss the shoes. Who knows? Maybe he could even wear them, though he suspected that few men of 1900 had 13 EEE feet.

He gave the shoes a closer look that night, and determined that at last one of the four claims was an outright lie. The leather was as soft and pliable as quarter-inch steel plate. Obviously, they had not been kept 'well oiled for service and comfort,' as the box recommended. Sort of a shame, since the shoes looked to be in good condition, otherwise. Leather. He chewed his lower lip, trying to remember what he'd done with leather in the past. The seats of his long-gone 78 Cadillac had been leather. And he'd bought all sorts of stuff for it.

A search of the garage netted a half-full bottle of leather cleaner, but everything else had been pitched or lost over the years. However, he did have a jar of 'Doctor Shoal's Skin Rejuvenation Cream.' He'd bought it at a yard sale for the antique container. The stuff inside could be as old as the shoes themselves, but seemed to be OK under a thin crust of dried, brownish gook. Couldn't hurt anything. After going over the inside and outside of the boots with cleaner, he slathered a handful of the thick, white goo all over the leather. It looked like thin lard. Really rancid lard. Freed from the jar, the cream stank to high heaven. He almost threw the shoes out, but opted to stick them in a corner of the garage for a few days.

It was actually more than a week before he remembered the footwear, and only then because he'd moved the box to another corner of the office. A cautious test sniff didn't cause nausea or vomiting, so he picked one up. The results were amazing. If anything, the rejuvenation cream had done too good a job. The leather was so soft that the high top shoes had drooped into almost shapeless blobs. Maybe they'd stiffen up again after a while.

One benefit was that he could try them on easily. Loosening the heavy string laces, Darryl sat down and tried to gauge the size of the soles against his feet. The shoes were probably too small, though they were obviously for men. He managed to get his toes down inside one with no trouble at all. The leather had an almost elastic quality, and some unabsorbed cream left on the inside acted as a lubricant.

The shoe was tight, but not uncomfortably so. Maybe he could use them for yard work. The other one went on with only a bit more effort, and he stood up carefully. No seams split, and they actually felt OK. Looked pretty silly, though. His feet overflowed the soles at least a half-inch all around, and the floppy tops bagged around his ankles like oversized socks. Pulling the laces tight, he managed to get the upper parts closed and mostly back to their original shape.

He made sure that nothing was rubbing anywhere, and then decided to try wearing them a while. The novelty of using century-old shoes outweighed the obviously dated style. Besides, if you didn't look too close, most people would think they were some kind of boots. After a few minutes, his socks started feeling sorta squishy. Oh, yeah. The cream inside the shoe. Worst that could happen was that his feet would get some rejuvenation as well. He continued to work out in the garage, not even noticing when the squishy feeling faded away.

"Ouch!" Darryl jerked his foot back from an old fluorescent light fixture on the floor. He'd been trying to kick it out of the way, and felt a sharp sting. There was a spot of blood on the corner of the fixture. The damn thing had cut right through the shoe! He leaned over and rubbed the spot absently, only to jerk his hand away and stare down in confusion.

The laces were gone. So was the stitching. Except for the small, dark red cut just below his ankle, the leather was a featureless black. The toe of the shoe was still shiny, but the rest had taken on a dull, almost coarse texture. He knew he had tied laces to get them on. Sitting down on the floor, he took a closer look. There were no holes, no tongue, no signs that the shoes had ever had a fastening at all. The leather was clinging to his feet so tightly it looked like a second skin.

Or maybe a first skin. Having recoiled instinctively at the first touch, Darryl forced himself to feel one of the shoes again. Fingers reported warm skin, and the warm skin reported fingers. Bewildered now, he pulled up the leg of his jeans. Black, coarse hide swept up to the pinkish skin on his legs in a gradual transition, not a break. He probed the area above his ankles, scratching welts with his fingernails as he tried to find the top of the shoes. Nothing. They were literally part of him.

This was ridiculous. Explanations whirled in his head. He'd felt the cream inside the shoes. It must have dried and become like some really strong glue. That didn't cover the sudden absence of laces, or the lack of separation. Still it was a start. He could try soaking them in water. That should loosen up the leather so he could pull them off. Soon. Heels and ankles were throbbing slightly, and he found that standing was a little uncomfortable.

Making his way into the house, Darryl turned on hot water in the tub and plopped down on the toilet. He couldn't get his jeans off over the solid lumps of the shoes, so he rolled up the cuffs as high as he could. Frowning, he touched the discoloration just below his knees. Hadn't that been lower just a few minutes ago? Maybe the dye was bleeding out of the leather. The skin felt rougher as well, and he leaned down for a closer look. Stubble? Blinking, he twisted his head around and squinted. Coming up under the already ample hair on his legs was what looked like a five-o'clock shadow.

Startled, he spun suddenly and thrust both feet into the tub with an audible clunk. He could feel the water around his heels and ankles, but his toes registered only faint warmth and the hardness of the tub. After a few minutes, however, the dark areas started to look a little softer. There was no sign of an edge yet, but the shoes expanded slowly, though curiously, only lengthwise. If anything, they drew in, becoming more tube-like. Darryl felt no discomfort, even when the shape of the leather seemed to get too narrow to cover his ankle and heel.

He dug at the sides of his legs again, discovering that the soft darkness wasn't the leather - it was hair. In the few minutes he'd been sitting there, the light stubble had grown out almost a half-inch. Very pale, almost white from his heel down, and pure black above. He groped for the faucet handle and turned the water off. When the surface stilled, he stared at large shapes he'd assumed were distortions from the water. Hooves. Horse's hooves.

He jerked both legs out of the water, amazed at how heavy they were. The movement was surprisingly awkward, and one hoof hit the sliding shower door hard enough to shatter the glass. He cringed at the noise, afraid that he'd end up badly cut. Most of it ended up on the floor, and the few pieces in the tub didn't even register when they hit the hard surface of his hooves.

Heart pounding, Darryl tried again, this time grabbing the edge of the sink for leverage. Only to be stopped by the empty aluminum framework for the doors. Bewildered, he realized that his feet had more than doubled in length, and his knees weren't bending properly. He'd have to slide off the toilet and drag himself across the floor. The glass-covered floor. He wasn't desperate enough for that, at least not yet. Looking around frantically, he saw some scissors. Maybe if he cut away his jeans, he'd be able to flex his legs enough.

As the tough fabric split apart, more changes were exposed. His knee was sunken back under the same black hair that covered his calf, and the darkness continued higher. Both thighs were developing stubble, and muscles under the rough skin throbbed. And as he gaped, both legs lengthened visibly.

Grabbing at the tub, Darryl pulled himself up. If he could get to a standing position, he could step out of the tub. Momentary concern for his feet triggered a hysterical giggle. His hooves wouldn't be bothered. Swaying unsteadily, he braced himself against the wall as he tried to balance on what had been his feet. The structure of his legs had changed enough to throw him slightly forward, and while the hooves looked fully formed, they were not broad enough to support his weight upright.

Pain began to build in his thighs, and then in his crotch as the fabric of his jeans pulled tight. He fumbled with his belt, but the strap was already too tight to loosen. Grabbing the scissors, he sawed frantically. The leather finally broke apart, and he ripped the front open. Relief was short-lived, for the fabric still pulled tighter. This time, he cut everything off and let it fall into the tub.

The rapid spread of fur on his legs and shifting bones should have prepared him. Still, Darryl stared in shock at the glossy black hair and unfamiliar contours of everything south of his waist. His thighs had flattened, jutting out more front and back. And though not greatly enlarged, his sexual equipment was mottled pink and black and had developed a definitely inhuman sheath.

While the dark covering had stopped growing when it was an inch or so long, the white hair had continued lengthening until it formed a thick mop around each hoof. Feathering. The horses in the Budweiser commercials were like this, though they all looked to be brown. His hide was almost blue-black. His hide? He realized that he had been watching the hair spread up his belly, as if this was some movie special effect. Fortunately, the rapid sweep of transformation suddenly slowed, and nearly came to a complete stop halfway up his chest.

Darryl remained standing in the tub for several minutes. Changes to his back and spine left him bent over, as if forcing him to look at his equine parts. The tub was empty now, affording him a clear view of his glistening hooves. As he watched, the bright sheen dulled as the last traces of water were absorbed into the hard surface. That was curious. Even the long white feathering was bone dry, even though both hooves had been submerged in water just a few minutes ago. Even more curious was that the tub's stopper was still in place. Where had the water gone?

Morbid curiosity prompted him to slide one hoof back into the small puddle of water over the drain. All of the moisture vanished in seconds, as if the hoof had been a dry sponge. At the same time, he felt a renewed prickling across his chest and back, and saw the shadow of hair creep upward another inch before stopping.

OK. So soaking his feet in water had been a bad idea. Now what could he do? Even with the shards of broken glass in the tub and on the floor, it was hard not to dismiss this all as some incredible hallucination. He wasn't sure which would be better - to really be turning into a horse, or be crazy enough to think he was turning into a horse. This certainly felt real. And hallucination or not, he could not stand without support.

The biggest question was what to do now. His legs didn't work right, and trying to climb out of the tub could send him sprawling onto the remains of the shower doors. Even assuming that he could manage that, there weren't a lot of choices. He could call 911. And say what? "Send an ambulance. I'm feeling a little horse?" The dry humor broke through his forced calm, and he trembled in sudden apprehension. Who could he call? Who could he tell? Nobody would believe him. 911 might send over men in white coats and a straight jacket. His biggest fear was that they might be exactly what was called for.

On the other hand, if this was really happening, he was a monstrosity. Unable to walk, or even sit with his equine hindquarters. He'd be taken away somewhere for research, poked and prodded by doctors and scientists. Neither prospect looked good. Of course, there was a third option. He twisted around to look back at the faucet. If he was crazy, it wouldn't matter, and if he wasn't, well, at least he wouldn't be a freak.

This was gonna be one for the books. The officer shook his head as he waited for backup. Dispatch had already given him a hard time, even though they were the ones who'd sent him out here in the first place. At least they'd diverted the rescue team and fire truck. The paramedics wouldn't be prepared for this particular patient, and more water was the last thing needed here.

He wasn't sure how to write this up. So far, there was a lot of damage, and a missing person. The broken glass and shredded clothing in the bathroom was a cause for concern, as was the fact that the tub had overflowed long enough to flood the front part of the house. More puzzling was the fact that whoever called 911 had not bothered to turn off the water.

Even so, the situation had all the earmarks of some elaborate and rather vicious practical joke. He'd feel a lot better about things if and when they found the missing homeowner. Neighbors had seen him in the garage earlier, which was still open. None had seen him leave, and his car was out front. Of course, these same neighbors had missed seeing the rather unusual pet this guy had somehow squeezed into the house.

Speaking of which. The officer stuck his head back in the door. Still standing in the middle of the living room, the huge black stallion stopped lipping the sofa arm and regarded him with mild curiosity. Hard to believe that this gentle giant was the screaming, kicking beast he'd discovered in here not twenty minutes ago. It regarded him with a liquid brown eye, and then dropped its head to pick up a scrap of cardboard with its lips. Pausing, it seemed uncertain what it wanted to do next. Bristled lips pulled at the water-logged paper, and then the animal swung its head towards him and spit it out at his feet.

The remains of an old box. Curious, the officer flipped it over with his foot and read the ornate script on the top. Horse Hide Shoes. He had to laugh. "Don't worry, fella. I'm sure no one is going to turn you into footwear." The horse snorted and shook its head, almost as if it understood him. Then it gave a deep, whuffling sigh and dropped its head to search the waterlogged carpet for something to eat.

The officer stared at the animal, and back at the box. He had a lot of questions about this case, but suddenly, he wasn't so sure if he ever wanted to know all the answers.

Horse Hide Shoes copyright 2000 by Bob Stein.

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