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

Student Exchange

by Bob Stein

Rory Graham swallowed, still feeling a little nervous. After years of regular classrooms, he was at the last stage of his training to be a veterinarian. All that was left was his internship. Poor grades had almost cost him his chances of finding a sponsor, so the offer from Sunny Acres had come as a welcome, if surprising opportunity.

Well-equipped, and famous for producing some of the best draft horses in the country, the facility also had a reputation for giving previously unsatisfactory students an uncanny insight into the thoughts and feelings of animals. There was a waiting list for the expensive, six-month program, and an even longer waiting list of stables eager to hire graduates. Sunny Acres took great pains in selecting students, with an interview process that included detailed questions about interests, family, friends, and even childhood memories.

"OK, Rory. You about ready?" Mr. Andrews, the owner, motioned to him from the stable door. Rory hesitated. Supposedly, this was his last chance to back out. According to the terms of his contract, he was required to remain at Sunny Acres with no outside contact for the first three months. Even then, he would only be allowed phone calls until he finished the program. No visitors, no holidays or weekends home. He'd signed the oddly-worded document, though he had no intention of staying cooped up here. After all, they had to take a break sometime. And who'd know if he snuck out once in a while?

Nodding, he followed the man into the previously off-limits private stable.

Like other similar buildings on the property, it was clean and well-lit. However, it was almost empty, with a lone Percheron in a large stall near the back. After all the hoopla about coming in here, Rory felt a little disappointed. What was the big deal?

They entered the occupied stall, and Andrews stood back with an expectant look. Rory looked the beast over. Glossy black, a mature colt maybe 18 months to two years old. No sign of any deformity or disease. He looked closer, figuring this was some sort of test. After a few more minutes, he shrugged. "I can't find a thing wrong with him. He looks perfect."

Andrews grinned. "Glad you approve." The man made a motion with his hands, and Rory staggered as a wave of dizziness washed over him. Then he felt steady again. Too steady. Thoughts were still confused, but he realized he was standing on four legs. His cry of fear came out as a strangled whinny, and he twisted around in time to see Andrews helping a familiar-looking young man outside the stall, and then slam the heavy gate closed.

Movement was awkward, but Rory managed to turn in the stall and focus distorted, colorless vision enough to make out his own body. The young man was sitting in the straw, staring at himself. After a moment, he rose to hands and knees, and then stood shakily on his feet with the help of Andrews.

The movements were jerky and awkward, much like Rory's had been.

Had been. A chill swept through Rory's confusion as he realized the disorientation of this new body was fading rapidly. Andrews seemed to pick up on his feelings.

"Don't worry, son. It'll feel natural after a few days. And by week's end, the horse's memories will take over and you won't remember being anything else." He chuckled. "Hell, the colt here has to deal with a lot worse change. Getting all those human memories and thoughts sorted out. Probably be a month or so before he can even talk right. But with some coaching from the interview tapes, and six months to adjust, he'll leave here as a drastic improvement over the sorry Vet you'd have made."

Rory whinnied in protest, kicking out in rage and horror. Yet he knew it was hopeless, for the sensations of this new form were already arousing his interest. Besides, when he thought about it, Andrews had lived up to the letter of his contact. Although it hadn't made sense at the time, Rory now knew why the program had been called a Student Exchange.


Student Exchange copyright 1997 by Bob Stein.

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