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

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On the Couch

by Brian Eirik Coe

The doctor took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He remembered this patient from when he'd been here before, and from the smell of him, things hadn't gotten any better in the intervening years. You'd think a man over fifty could learn to take a shower now and then. "Should we get started, Mr. Bookmann?"

Mr. Bookmann just shrugged slightly and sat heavily down on the soft leather chair. "I suppose, Doc, but I'm really not sure why I came here. I don't think there's much you can do for me."

Resisting the urge to agree, Dr. Tarlow just smiled thinly. The fact that the man had come in on his own after so many years spoke volumes. It must be a good sign. "As I recall, we were making progress when you last saw me, and I think you have come to realize it, Mr. Bookmann."


"Matt, then," he repeated. "Why don't you just fill me in on the last," he glanced at the record, "four years?"

Matt just shrugged, "I've been a horse."

Dr. Tarlow stopped taking notes. "Excuse me? I'm sorry, I think I misheard you."

"I've been a horse."

Dr. Tarlow tapped his pen on the notebook and resisted the urge to sigh loudly. When Matt Bookmann had stopped coming around years back, he'd hoped that he'd dropped that delusion. It looked like he'd more-or-less gone around the bend instead. "Now Matt, we both know that's impossible."

Matt just shrugged again. "If you say so, but I know where I've been the last few years."

This time, Dr. Tarlow didn't resist the urge and let a slight sigh pas through his lips. "Okay." He said as he collected his notes. "Why don't we just start from the beginning? How did you become a werehorse?"

The man stood up and started pacing. "There really isn't much to say that I didn't tell you years ago. My parents were both werehorses from long before I was born. They never really had a chance to tell me all the details."

"Why's that?"

"My parents didn't tell me what I was, or what they were, until I was thirteen. They knew that it was only a matter of time before I accidentally changed myself and wanted to make sure I was somewhat prepared. They had barely started instructing me in the ways of the werehorse when they were both killed in an accident."

"How old were you, then?"

"Sixteen. I lied to the state at the time and told them I was eighteen so they wouldn't stick me in some orphanage."

Dr. Tarlow nodded, the details of Mr. Bookmanns case coming back to him. "You had no other relatives? Your parents never introduced you to other werehorses?" He resisted the urge to snicker.

He shook his head. "No, they never did. I got the impression that dad wasn't born one, though he never told me one way or the other. They both hinted that there were others, that they were living up in Canada or in the northeast, but they never got anymore detailed than that. I've tried to find them from time to time with no luck." He shrugged. "I know almost nothing about my background. My parents just didn't write any of it down."

"So how did your parents tell you? Wait until you started to change into a horse under the light of a full moon?"

Matt looked derisively at the doctor. "This isn't a bad Hollywood movie, Doc. If you're not going to take this seriously, I'll just leave."

Dr. Tarlow reacted instinctively, "No, I'm sorry. It's just a little hard to believe." As soon as he stopped talking, he realized that he'd missed a golden opportunity to get rid of this nut.

"We don't change under a full moon or any crap like that," continued Bookmann. "It's almost purely a state of mind. It takes concentration and imagination. It's extremely hard to control, but my parents taught me a lot about that in the short time I was with them." He smiled. "By the time they passed away, I was more powerful and versatile than either of them. They couldn't control their final forms all that much, alterations in their coloration's was about it. I was able to fully control my body. I could be any horse of any stripe. I've been everything from Shetland to Clydesdale, stallion to mare."

"So you spent a lot of time doing this after your parents passed on?" asked the doctor.

He shook his head. "Not really. You see, I wasn't all that enamored with the ability. It was sort of a hobby, really. It was just something I could do. Oh, I was good at it, but I didn't want anyone else to know, either. I was always afraid that someone would find out and sell me out to the government or the circus. That paranoia kept me from ever marrying, or having all that many friends."

"You never wanted to marry?"

Matt rolled his eyes, "I wanted to marry desperately, Doc. I met a girl in college that I loved dearly. I loved her so much that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. But I was scared to death."

"That she might not understand your· condition?"

"That she might not like being a mare!" he snorted. "Doc, I told you that my father probably wasn't born like this, but my parents never told me how the curse was passed on. If she'd transformed, I'm not sure that I would have been able to help her turn back." He sighed sadly, "I left her. Gave her some half assed excuse and begged her to forgive me. I never saw her after that."

"So, you spent the next couple of decades alone?" In your own little world, added the doctor silently.

He nodded. "I bought a small farm in the mountains and grew berries. I never made much money, but it was enough to keep me happy. I made a few friends, associates really, and was pretty sure that I'd live out my life that way."

Dr. Tarlow nodded, "That is when you first came to see me, correct? About the time you turned forty?" He looked at his old notes, "You were having a midlife crisis at the time, weren't you?"

Matt nodded. "Life had passed me by. I didn't know what to do with myself, and I'd started spending more and more time as a horse. At first, it was to get around the farm more quickly, but then I started sleeping like that, spending days at a time. I spent virtually a month that way one summer, only changing back to muck out my own stall. When I thought about it later, I got nervous. I thought I needed help."

Dr. Tarlow jotted all this down in the notebook. "I remember. So what changed?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Something changed, Matt. You stopped seeing me all of a sudden."

He sighed. "I wasn't completely honest with you, Doc, but I did share my secret with one other person. Scott Mueller."

"Who's that?"

"Scott was a young man who owned a small feed store in town. Nice guy. Not really a friend at the time, but more of an acquaintance."

"So, why did you confide in him?"

Matt chuckled. "I didn't. He came into the barn one morning while I was in the middle of changing back into a human. Scared the hell out of him, too. Took me about an hour to calm him down and convince him that I hadn't made some kind of deal with the devil or come from outer space."

That's what you think, thought the doctor. "I take it this friendship helped you out of your funk?"

Matt chuckled again. "In a way. Matt was interested in what it was like to be a horse. He worked with them all the time and was fascinated to get my perspective. He was so enthusiastic that I changed for him all the time and let him try me out as a guinea pig of sorts. Everything from new tack to new feeds."

Dr. Tarlow wasn't sure what to make of this relationship. It almost sounded like this Scott character was delusional as well. "So Scott was a good friend?"

"After a time, the best," agreed Matt. "He did more for me than anyone else ever did. You see, the real reason that I haven't seen you in so long is that I've been stuck."


He shrugged, "Yeah. My parents had mentioned it as a possibility, but I hadn't thought about it in years. I'd transformed myself into a thoroughbred gelding one morning to get to some trees on the other side of the property. When I got there and tried to turn back, I couldn't. I was completely stuck."

Dr. Tarlow just nodded and kept writing. "Go on."

"Well, that's when Scott showed the kind of friend he was. He came up to the barn that afternoon, and in pretty short order got the message. I was in a panic, but he calmed me down in a hurry and set out to thinking about the situation. By evening, he had a whole plan worked out." He smiled. "Scott was going to own me."

"Own?" parroted the doctor. "You're not serious." This was a whole new level of psychosis.

Matt smiled thinly. "I was a bit taken aback myself, but I recognized it was the only real option. I couldn't maintain the farm and such myself as long as I was stuck, and if I couldn't get back to human, then I needed an owner. I still tried to turn back, but while I tried, Scott went to setting things up."

"How did he explain your disappearance?"

Matt let out a long sigh. "He never had to, and to this day I'm not missed. I had no friends. When I dropped out of sight, no one noticed."

Dr. Tarlow nodded knowingly. This man seemed to have all the makings of a dangerous loner. "So what did Scott do for you?"

"Well, Scott had been around horses a long time, and horse owners. I suppose he didn't really need to do it, but he managed to forge all the papers that we needed. Gave me a nice, but unremarkable background. Just enough to convince people that I'd been around a while. We made sure that everything was right. He even forged an identification tattoo, see?" He pulled down his lower lip.

The sight of the dark purple numbers sent a shiver up the spine of the doctor. It would have been hard for anyone to do that to themselves. It meant that, on some disturbing level, this story was true. Not the horse part, certainly, but possibly the owned part. "Why did he do that?"

"In case anyone got curious, I guess. We didn't really expect that, but it was a precaution. I suppose that he had friends willing to cover the story if need be, though I never asked."

"So, after all this," asked the doctor, "what happened?"

"For about a year, not much," admitted Matt. "I fell into a routine of eating and sleeping. It wasn't until it was clear that I was in a funk that Scott insisted that we try riding. I was a bit hesitant, really. I'd never done it before."


Matt nodded, "Never as the horse, no. It just wasn't something that interested me. So Scott took it upon himself to train me to be a horse. Took him a long time to teach me how to take commands."

"Weren't you still· uh· human in your mind?" asked the doctor delicately. He was past wondering if this guy was human in mind now.

Matt nodded, then seemed to be searching for the right words. "You ever ride, doc?"

Dr. Tarlow nodded cautiously, "A few times, sure."

"Tough, isn't it? When you don't know what you're doing?"

He nodded, "Sure. It's not easy to be the rider."

Matt chuckled. "Try being the horse sometime. It's a real pain when you have to unlearn being the rider. It's still a pain for me. Especially without Scott."

"What happened to him?"

"An accident, about six months after we started riding. He drove his car into a tree after it blew a tire. I didn't even find that out until a few weeks ago. I just knew that something had happened, that he was gone."

"So you were all alone again?" asked the doctor.

Matt shook his head. "No, that's probably the worst part. We'd transferred the farm into his name after it started to look like I would be a horse for good. Then his sister inherited it when he died. She's a lovely lady, but had no idea what she was doing. She liquidated the farm, and me, as soon as she could."

"Why didn't you tell someone?" asked Dr. Tarlow. "If you'd just told her·"

"I'm not Mr. Ed, doc. I can't speak like that. I scratched messages into the dirt for Scott. You have to have patience to have a conversation with me. And when I realized Scott was dead, I was in too much of a funk to try." Tapped his foot on the carpet. "I just let myself get sold. Didn't even raise a fuss when they loaded me onto the truck." He sighed. "I didn't have a clue where I was going, either. A part of me hoped that it was a meat plant."

"Would you consider it a suicide attempt?" asked the doctor. He was sure that this was all allegorical to something. In time, Matt would tell him what the reality was.

"I never thought about it that way, I guess," he admitted. "I suppose it was. I doubt that I'd have raised much of a fuss if it was." He thought a little more about it. "Maybe it explains so much more, too. I've been on a long path toward ending it all since Scott died."

"How do you mean?"

Matt stood up and started pacing. "Obviously, I wasn't taken to a meat packer. I ended up as a horse at a riding school. I was lousy at it, and didn't give a damn. I'm not sure why they bought me in the first place, but they sold me in a hurry. I bounced around to a couple more of them before long. I was always a lousy ride. I'd have my good days, but then I'd fall into a funk again." He stopped pacing. "I knew what was going to happen eventually. Someone would decide that I was incorrigible and get rid of me the only sure way."

The doctor nodded in agreement, deciding it was best to humor this nut for now. "But you're still here, right? What changed?"

"I got bought by a kid I kinda liked. He bought me despite my problems, knowing all about them, and gave me a chance. I've been his a while now, and he's never given up on me. I can still be a lousy ride, but I'm trying harder now."

Dr. Tarlow sat silently, not sure what to make of all this. One thing was for sure, if there really was some new 'owner', he wanted to see them on the couch, too. "He domesticated you?"

Matt did a double take, then laughed. "I guess so, I guess so. For the first time since Scott died, I feel happy and content. I used to worry about being found out as some kind a freak, and now I'm content to be the best damn horse I can be."

Sr. Tarlow impatiently thrummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. "It sounds like you feel like your life is good." He leaned forward, "So why are you seeing me?"

Matt smiled and held out his hands. "I'm not stuck anymore, doc. I haven't been for a couple weeks. One morning, I woke up and found myself human again. I could walk away anytime and try to put my life as a human back together."

"But you don't want that, do you?" asked the doctor.

He smiled, "I'm addicted to being owned, I guess. I'm not sure if I'm nuts, but I don't want to stay this way for the wrong reasons? Is that so wrong?"

Dr. Tarlow took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes in frustration. He so preferred the yuppies with their more normal mid life crisis. This lunatic needed to be committed. The fact that he smelled like a horse seemed to confirm that more than anything. Some things were beyond his power, though. Mr. Bookmann was going to take a long, long, long time to cure. "Our time is about up, Matt. Why don't you come to see me again next week and we can delve deeper into all this."

Matt looked at his watch reluctantly, then shrugged, "I suppose. But do you mind if we make it in the evening? My owner stops rides in the morning and I don't want to miss him."

"Sure, whatever. Just see my receptionist." After Matt left, he dropped the notes down on his desk and shuddered. It was the most complete delusion that he'd ever encountered, it was going to take a lot to break it. He leaned over and looked at the notes from one of the sessions years ago. He'd been thinking about a direct confrontation then, but had ruled it out because it had seemed like such a harmless thing.

Now, Tarlow felt he didn't have a choice. First thing next week, he'd demand that Bookmann transform himself into a horse right there in the office. It was risky, but Bookmann needed his fantasy punctured. When he wasn't able to do it, when it was clear this was all an elaborate delusion, the real therapy could start.

After all, some people just need proof before they can be helped.