|The Transformation Story Archive||The Circe Treatment|
"Mr. Stein?" Bob looked up to see a rather nervous-looking woman looking at him from her office door. "Would you come in, please?" He glanced at his watch. Twenty minutes. Well, that wasn't to bad a wait for any Government agency. He nodded and smiled, and took the indicated plastic chair in front of her desk as she shut the door.
"My name is Mrs. Sindler. I was assigned to review your case." She seemed flustered. "I'm not really sure how this happened. We have checked all available records, including new data that hasn't been added to the system yet." She paused. "You are Robert Anthony Stein, Citizen =258671253?"
Bob nodded, and pulled out his identification card with a sigh. He'd already been through all this with the receptionist up front. Bureaucracy machinery seemed to have a real problem with communication. Rather than fight it, he just sat back and waited for this particular cog to grind through her routine.
"Mr. Stein, I have been with the Reassignment Center for fifteen years. In all of those years, we have never, ever made an error in notification." She flushed. "However, after going over your files, I can see no reason why we would have selected you. You have an exemplary work history, no police record at all, and no credit problems. Although you are unemployed at the current time, your last employer states that you quit two weeks ago for personal reasons, and that he would happily take you back at any time. You have never used any of your Social benefits, and have at least two years before you would even become eligible for Reassignment." She clasped her fingers together and shook her head. "I am afraid that we made a mistake. But it seems that the error was already caught, because I can't find any record of your notification. It is too bad that you lost your copy. I might have been able to track down the error."
He waited until she had finished, and leaned forward in the chair. "Mrs. Sindler, there is no error. I never said that I received a notification of any kind. I told the receptionist that I wanted to talk to someone about setting up a reassignment."
The woman brightened. "Oh! I didn't understand. That explains everything. Are you reporting a known felon, or turning in a debtor?"
He shook his head. "You still don't understand. I want to arrange a reassignment for myself."
Her eyes widened, and then she smiled suddenly and leaned back in her chair. "Obviously, you don't realize what Reassignment means. We are not a job placement agency." She pulled out a piece of paper and started to write something down. "Here is the address of the Employment bureau. I'm sure that they..."
He interrupted her. "The Government established Reassignment Centers to recreate extinct animal species and races of Earth's past. Under the authority of the Genetic Diversity Act of 2041, the Employment Act of 2034, the Social Fraud Act of 2036, and the Criminal Justice Act of 2037, willing or unwilling eligible human citizens of legal adult status are reassigned as subjects for transformation into appropriate animals." Noting her curious stare, he smiled. "That is a word-for-word quote from the Reassignment Agency's Charter. You see, I came here as a 'willing citizen'." When she still did not seem to understand, he sighed. "Mrs. Sindler, I am a volunteer!"
She froze, and then sputtered for a moment. "But... but... you can't be serious! Reassignment is for people who have shown that they cannot live in society. Criminals, unemployables, social misfits who try to leech off the hard work of responsible people like you!"
Bob looked at her evenly. "So they are allowed to get the benefit of the Circe Treatment that my tax dollars have paid for, and I can't? According to the wording of the law, I do not have to meet any other eligibility requirements as long as I am willing."
Rising, his voice took on a firm note. "It is my right as a citizen to make use of the Reassignment Agency as I see fit. I am of legal age, mentally competent, and I have stated that I am a volunteer. I demand reassignment."
Sindler probably was a formidable woman when she was dealing with the normal clients of her office. However, faced with this unprecedented situation, she fell back on a time-honored bureaucratic tradition. She turned him over to her superior.
At least the chairs were more comfortable. Mr. Benson was a sharp-eyed, slender man of about fifty, with an expensive suit and an office both larger and better decorated than Sindler's. The woman had spent a few minutes in private with her boss, and left still looking at Bob as if he might suddenly start foaming at the mouth.
He sighed as Benson scanned a data file disk, probably what the woman had compiled on him. Although he had expected some resistance, the reality of battling bureaucratic red tape was frustrating. All he could hope for was that he'd eventually reach someone who would make a decision.
After only two minutes, Benson turned off his viewer and smiled. "All right, Mr. Stein. I apologize for the delays. Your request is rather unusual, and I'm afraid that your case worker wasn't prepared to handle it. The necessary authorization and waiver should be coming up momentarily."
Bob sat up in the chair, pleasantly surprised. "That's it? I was afraid that I'd have a real fight on my hands."
The official shrugged. "You are a good citizen with a valid claim to Government services. But..." He cocked his head slightly. "While we wait, would you mind telling me why? I have already approved your request, so there is no risk of being refused. I am, however, somewhat curious."
Relaxing back into the chair, Bob met the man's eyes with an easy calm. "I am 41 years old, single, and have no living family. My job has provided adequate income for me to live comfortably, but it is an unimportant job that really means nothing to me. I do have friends, but none that cannot manage without me. In essence, I am one of those billions of people who live and die without leaving so much as a footnote in history.
"When I am reassigned, I will be helping restore something of the Earth that might have been lost forever. I would like to be a horse of some kind, for I have always thought they were beautiful animals. But no matter what I end up as, I want my life to make a difference to future generations. And instead of being chained to a desk for another 30 years and then rotting in retirement until I die of old age, I will experience the world in new ways. Growing up, living, and even dying will be an adventure."
Benson pursed his lips thoughtfully, and nodded once. "Perfectly logical and quite admirable reasoning." He smiled again. "There was some concern that you might be doing this because of some temporary depression or anxiety." Then the smile faded as a holographic form popped into existence between them. "This is a formal request for reassignment and a waiver of all rights. The moment you imprint this, all records of Robert Stein's life will be erased. There is no return. Even if you change your mind before the Circe Treatment is given, you will be forced to undergo reclassification."
Nodding, Bob wiped a suddenly sweaty palm on his pants. The moment of truth had arrived, and he felt a lump in his stomach. Yet he found himself raising his right hand and pressing it into the holographic form without hesitation. When he pulled it away, an image of his hand print was etched over the lettering, sealing the request and ending his human life.
Instead of nervousness, he felt a sudden elation. He'd done it! The only question remaining was what he would be reclassified as. Benson pressed a button, and the hologram was replaced with a three-dimensional image of a brown and white draft horse. "Well, then. Let's see what we have available." He grinned. "I don't think we've ever given a client his choice before, but I think your case warrants special treatment."
Although there were literally millions of animals which needed repopulation, Benson stuck with only equine species. Even so, Bob had an impressive selection, at least a hundred different breeds. Donkeys, mules, draft horses, riding horses, and even wild zebras and ponies were needed. He was puzzled by one entry which Benson flipped past. "Wait a minute. What was that? The vase?"
The official clicked back, and smiled slightly. "A rather obscure project called 'Buccephelus'. It isn't a vase, really. More like a sealed bottle. It was found in some Greek ruins about two years ago. According to the notes, it contains blood and hair with equine characteristics, but the coding doesn't match anything on record."
Bob stared at the image, feeling growing excitement. "Why is that in the selection file? Are they trying to recreate whatever it was?"
Raising an eyebrow, Benson enlarged the specification listing. "It appears the project has been on hold because they can't get approval to draw a subject from the normal channels. Of course, if they happened to get a volunteer..." He looked up at Bob.
Of all the forms he had to choose from, this was the most irrational. Yet he knew his decision had been made the moment he saw the vase. "Then they have one."
The man nodded. "I thought you might be interested. If you are ready, I'll arrange transportation to the Equus Center for Rare Horses at Greenwood Acres. The director is a friend of mine. I suspect that he will break all speed records getting you there."
Four hours later, Bob had to agree that the Buccephelus people were indeed anxious. He was now standing naked in a large, padded room some 2,000 miles from the Center, having been flown by special transport directly to the Equus Center. Interestingly enough, no one would talk to him. In fact, the last person to actually speak to him was Benson. Since leaving the man's office, he had been treated, well, like an animal.
Not that these new people were not delighted to see him. He had never seen so much excitement and frenzied preparation. Of course, they really didn't need to know anything about him. Once he received the Circe Treatment, any wounds, illnesses, or deformities would vanish as his cells rebuilt themselves to become something else.
He was starting to feel nervous again. For the first time in the history of the Circe Treatment's use, no one really knew what the donor animal was. His only comfort lay in the knowledge that the treatment would also reset the pattern's biological clock to a point somewhere between birth and a few weeks old. Whatever he was going to become, he would have that creature's full life span.
And now it was time. Clusters of people in white coats gathered above to peer through the heavy glass walls of his cell. He also noted, with some concern, two guards holding some sort of weapons. Did they think he might become something dangerous?
A young woman came into the room with a syringe. She hesitated for a moment, looking into his eyes. He nodded in acceptance, and held still as the injection was made in his back. He felt the light brush of her fingers across his cheek, and then she left.
He'd expected some pain. Instead, there was an odd pulling sensation in his back which slowly spread outward. A murmur came from above as his audience watched what he could only feel. Reaching around awkwardly, he managed to rub his hand over the growing patch of silky hair, and plucked a strand to look at. Pure white, and longer than he expected a horse's coat to be.
The transformation got faster as it sank into his muscles and internal organs. His stomach churned, and a strange throbbing followed the coils of his bowels and worked its way outward. His first clear look at the change came as the flesh of his crotch began to swell and darken, drawing his penis into a heavy sheath. At least he was going to be male.
His chest barreled out, and he felt renewed fear as his shoulders started to shift outward from his back, changing shape and angle. Up to now, he had still looked mostly human. With his arms stretching into animal legs, the enormity of his actions was catching up with him. He began to clench and release his hands, aware of a growing stiffness. His palms narrowed and thumbs rotated slowly backwards as his fingers fused into split, numb masses.
Split? Confused, he twisted around and looked at what was left of his feet. Already almost fully formed, there was no denying the cloven nature of his hind hooves. Horses didn't have cloven hooves! Yet the general shape of his body was becoming that of a small colt.
His neck and head started to change now, and panic grew. What kind of creature was he turning into? The conversations around him were merging into an unintelligible jumble of sounds, still distinct, but no longer decipherable as comprehension altered. Scents and sounds were becoming interwoven with the visual images from his eyes, forming an awareness of his surroundings unlike anything he had ever experienced.
Thinking was getting difficult, at least thinking in human terms. The process was not supposed to alter your human identity, yet his emotions and thoughts were distilling into simpler processes. He could feel the memories and knowledge of his life fading away, pushed out by something new and strange. A tingling began on his forehead, just above his eyes, becoming a pleasant warmth that spread outwards. Oddly, the sensation traveled backwards through his already transformed body, until he felt a glow all over.
Concern, coming from some of the humans. He could feel the emotion in his head, curiously tangible, like a pebble he could roll around in his mouth. Awe and joy sparked in his mind as well, blossoming like sweet clover. Clover? He became aware of the oddness of his surroundings. Lifeless, colorless. Things were not right here. He pictured the way things should be, and the tingling in his forehead got stronger.
There were sudden screams and dark, sharp blades of fear stabbing out from the people around him. Their panic only confused him further. Why should they fear the thick green grass or flowers which covered the rich dirt underneath him. Perhaps because the walls of their cold nest were crumbling away, becoming the trees and bushes of a forest glen.
One of the humans stumbled towards him, pointing a dark stick. The fear was very strong in this one. His mind reached out to draw the darkness from the man, who shrank into youth, then boyhood, until there was only innocent joy in the mind of a small child.
At the same time, his mind sought the other sources of ugliness. Hatred, anger, terror. He cleansed them all, making shapes from their dreams into reality. One fell to the ground a man, and rose as a satyr, bleating happily as he pranced on goat-like legs. Another felt her legs swell into the body of a young filly, horror becoming pleasure at being a centauress. A cringing young couple reformed into a mating doe and stag, the female's womb already filled with an unborn fawn that had been a man moments before.
And then there was peace. He sniffed the fresh clean air, drawing in scents of the creatures around him. Only one human remained unchanged. The woman who had given him the injection trembled before him, her desire burning brightly. He reached out once more and shaped her mind and body to match his, different only in that she remained female.
The white-furred creatures rubbed equine snouts graced with wispy beards, and were quickly entangled as the deer were. Their joy would blossom and flourish now, spreading ever outward as it restored that which had been long lost to the Earth. For the goat-like little horses had spiraled horns on their heads, and magic had been restored with the unicorn.
Restoration copyright 1996 by Bob Stein.
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