The Book

"The Book"

Copyright 1997 by David Piccola


   "Hey Steve? What's a seven letter word meaning, 'Wolves' teeth'?"
   The young man sitting in the lounger, eyes plastered to the Saturday morning
cartoons, was oblivious to his friend's question. He did, however, manage to
recognize the change in soundwaves to his ear by uttering a 'Huh?' back to him.
   "I said, 'What's a seven'...aw forget it."
   Steve turned his head. "You still working on that crossword puzzle? Damn,
Roger, you just never give up on that stuff, do you?!"
   Roger smiled and shrugged. "Hey, what can I say? I like puzzles. Now...about
that word...cuspids? No...hmmm..."
   Steve chuckled and went back to his bowl of sugary kiddie cereal - although
he inwardly chided himself that he was too old for this scenario - it was his
sixteenth birthday, after all, and his parents, for some reason still unknown to
him, had to go out to a business meeting for the day. Even on Saturdays, they
worked, going to these meetings, sometimes out of the blue. Man, he'd hate to
have to be living their lives right now. Being sixteen was gonna be the best
thing in his life - he was doing okay at school, running track was going to get
him a varsity letter, and best of all, he could finally drive! 
   And best yet, a couple of girls were actually taking notice of him! Granted
before high school, he never really paid much attention to them, but Amy
Garton...*sigh*. He never wanted to let on to her that he had a serious crush on
her - not only because she was a beautiful young woman, but also because she was
really nice and friendly and they always had a lot of fun together at school.
   Steve thought a bit about school - yeah, it was tough, but he always managed
to get by, do the right thing and all. Although why his parents wanted him home
from school this next week was still a mystery to him - his mom said something
about a family emergency, but...
   "Canines!"
   Steve pried his vision away from a Wile E Coyote cartoon, half thinking.
"What?"
   "Seven letter word meaning 'Wolves' teeth'! Canines! Don't ya get it?"
   Steve chuckled again and shook his head. "Okay, brainiac...you got it. Big
whoop-de-doo. Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back - remember, you
still need to be able to drive me to the mall to  pick up my costume for
tonight."
   Roger dropped his pencil, reared back in his chair and slapped his head. "Aww
MAN! I don't believe it! I'm such a friggin' procrastinator, man! I never went
shopping for a costume!"
   Steve made a low whistle. "Well, by now, all the good ones are probably gone.
Except, probably, the Barney suit."
   Roger glared back at his friend. "I'll try that on when I'm no longer
breathing! Besides, there has to be something I can throw together!"
   "On the morning of Halloween? On a Saturday? You're as crazy as you are
brainy, you know that?"
   "Still," said Roger, pulling himself up from the chair. "I gotta give it a
try. I'm not gonna be stuck in some stupid little get up that shows I didn't get
a good costume this year. No way am I gonna be the laughing stock of YOUR
party."
   Steve considered. "Well...you know, we have a pretty large attic here, I'm
sure my parents have a trunk full of old costumes and stuff we could try to use
to make something really kick-ass...and it's cheaper too."
   Roger's eyes brightened. "You think so? Really? Cool! Let's go check it out!"
   Steve yawned. "In a second, they're gonna be showing Animaniacs next..."
   "Come on, Steve - you already have a costume, help me out here! Please?"
   Steve closed his eyes and sighed. "You know, you could have more respect for
the birthday boy here. I'm trying to enjoy my sixteenth, and all I'm being
treated to in the morning is my whiny best friend." he said, partway through a
grin.
   Roger's smile widened. "I can keep it up for a looooong time, you know."
   "Okay, OKAY! Geez, you're worse than a little sister, you know that?"
   Roger chuckled. "Where do you think I learned to be selectively annoying?"
   Steve nodded. Roger's little sister was DEFINITELY the spawn of Satan - no
bones about it. Evil incarnate at 9 years old, that kid had done everything
imaginable - and other things NOBODY could imagine - to almost all of Roger's
personal stuff, and then played those cute eyes to his parents so they wouldn't
yell at her...it was sickening, and tonight was going to be a night that Roger
would try to get back at her...scaring her witless as she went trick or
treating. Hopefully have her end up in therapy...naah, nothing that brutal.
Still, a nice good scare would be great for her and her little Machiavellian
schemes.
   Steve got up from the chair and turned off the TV, then led his friend to the
laundry room of his parent's house. It was pretty clean, considering that Steve
hadn't put in HIS laundry yet. He saw the familiar cord hanging from the
drop-down stair panel in the ceiling, and pulled on it gently...he learned
quickly that a quick tug usually left him with a bump on the head..and the panel
quickly came down and extended the stairs for the two kids to go up.
   Steve went first, as it was his house...and they entered into the most musty
room on the face of the Earth. Piles of clothes, old toys, assorted junk lay
strewn everywhere - it was like a flea market gone into hyperdrive.
   "Hey, those clothes okay to use?" asked Roger as he pointed at a rack of
REALLY dusty menswear - an old tuxedo, some jeans, some fancy shirts, a couple
of coats and what looked to be a couple of costumes from years gone by.
   Steve shrugged. "Help yourself, if anything fits." he said, as his attention
diverted itself to other items, including a lava lamp that seemed to have been
drained of its contents. Steve snickered. What good is the lava lamp without the
lava?
   "Aw, man, this is so COOL! Hey Steve, check this out!"
   Steve glanced over at his friend, who had managed to deck himself into a
rather tight fitting, but otherwise salvagable Confederate army uniform. Steve
glanced over the dusty costume - it was very detailed, down to the medals on the
lapel, insignia, clothing and other time period refinements. Wherever his
parents got this, it must have cost them a fortune! "Yeah, it looks good, Rog."
   Roger started turning around in the costume, testing its limits. "You think
so? You think your parents would let me borrow it for the party tonight?"
   "Sure. They probably weren't gonna use it for anything...they said they
weren't gonna miss the party tonight for the world, that they had REALLY good
costumes planned. I don't think this is it, so...sure, take it for now."
   "Man, you are THE BEST!" exclaimed Roger as he started to take the jacket and
pants off. "See if you can help find any props for this - you know, a toy gun, a
sword, canteen, or something?"
   Steve shrugged. Nothing else much to do until Roger drove them to the mall.
"Okay, but let's get this over with, so I can pick up MY costume?"
   "Yeah, no sweat. By the way, what are you going as?"
   Steve turned around, grinning, arms crossed. "Ain't tellin'."
   "Oh come on, man! You know what *I'M* going as!"
   "No duh, Einstein! Look, you're just gonna have to be surprised! Deal with
it!"
   Roger waved him off. "Okay, okay...no problem. But how will I know you at the
party tonight?"
   "You'll know, believe me, you'll know."
   Roger finished taking the last of the costume off and started slipping back
into his trademark khaki shorts. "Man, it must be so weird to be born on
Halloween - I mean, don't people like that turn into mass murderers or
something?"
   Steve laughed as he threw aside some old games and toys. "I think you've been
watching too many horror flicks, Rog...My dad and mom say it's pretty special to
be born on the same day as a holiday. Besides, it's probably gonna get even
better for me when I get to college. You KNOW how good those frat parties are,
and when I get into Beta Theta Pi... I just wish I could outrun Brad
Thesseldorf...he's probably got a better shot at that scholarship than I..."
   A loud crash shook the walls of the attic. "Jesus, what was THAT?!" shouted
Steve, after calming his heart down a few hundred beats.
   Roger poked his head out from behind a curtain, from where used to stand a
curio cabinet, said cabinet now gracing the floor with its presence. "Sorry,
man. I'll pick it up."
   "You BETTER, you klutz!" Steve looked around, laughing. "On second thought,
leave it there. I think it improves on this place."
   Roger looked around at the disarray of the rest of the attic and laughed
along. "Yeah, it makes a statement alright - like, 'I hate to clean!'."
   Steve grinned and started to wade his way through the piles of clothes and
old games and whatnot to help right the curio cabinet when a small flash caught
his eye. He reached down and dug through all the mess of Tinkertoys, small cups,
an old copper pot, and childrens books, and found a picture staring back at him
- a picture of his parents. But what was so odd was what the picture was also
showing.
   "Hey Roger, take a look at this photo, will ya? This is really weird!"
   Roger ambled over and snatched the photo away from Steve.  He peered at it
long and hard. "Yeah, that's your parents alright....but what are they
wearin...Whoa!" he said, as his eyes went big as dinner plates. "That costume
your dad's wearing...it's the same one as the one I just wore!"
   Steve took the picture and looked at it again. The picture showed Steve's mom
sitting down in a large lacy Southern Belle/Scarlet O'Hara type dress, while his
father was seen wearing that same Confederate uniform Roger was wearing not
moments ago. The picture looked quite old, like it was actually taken around the
time of the Civil War.
   "Wait a minute...I remember this picture!" Steve said, smiling and tapping
the picture with the back of his hand. "Mom and Dad went out to one of their
business conventions a few years back, and there was a nearby fair that had
somebody taking pictures - they had some period photography done as souvenirs.
Dad said he was lucky enough to purchase the soldier's uniform from the
photographer becuase it fit him so well and he might want to wear it later on
sometime."
   Roger came back and looked over Steve's shoulder. "How long ago was that?
   "Ummm... about 10 years ago, I think."
   Roger blinked. "TENyears ago? Man, your mom keeps her age pretty well!"
   Steve grinned. "She'd love to hear you say that to her, you big charmer."
   "I think she's spoken for...Oooh! Is that a saber on the wall there?"
   Steve looked where Roger was pointing...and looked back to the picture. Yup.
The same saber that his dad was pictured with was hanging on the wall of the
attic, right next to an antique lamp that most likely didn't work. "Man, he must
have bought out ALL the props there." Steve thought to himself.
   Roger took down the saber and attached it to his belt loop. He struck a
rather gallant pose and grinned. "Gather round, troops! We're gonna be takin'
down those Yankee varmints at Boatright Hollow! The South shall rise again!
Yeehaw!"
   Steve winced. "Please, Roger...PROMISE me you won't pull that crap at my
party tonight? Please?"
   Roger humphed. "Some people have no appreciation for getting into the spirit
of things." he said as he took off the saber...and something caught HIS eye. A
small flash of gold, buried under some old shoes. He cleared away the offending
footwear to reveal...
   A book.
   Roger humphed again and shrugged, picking up the book. As he did, he noticed
that the book was very large and ornate, covered in wonderful gold trim that
looked real to him. The binding was large and bound in leather..."Hey Steve,
look at what I found!"
   Steve glanced up from an old National Geographic he had found and came over
to his friend. "Whoa. Now that's one serious book report assignment."
   "Tell me about it," said Roger as he turned the book over. No name, no
authorship, no printing date. "This must be a really old book...it might even be
worth money!". He continued to roll the tome around in his hands, and the front
cover spilled open, revealing the precious first page...
   Steve took a glance at the page - it was meaningless to him. "Can you read
this, Rog?"
   Roger took the front page and glanced at it. "Yeah, it's Latin. Or a
variation of it - I can't make out all the words, but most of them are pretty
easy...lessee..."
   The boy took the book over to a desk, hastily cleared by Steve so the large
book could be easily placed on the surface and perused over. Roger stared
intently at the words, trying to make his Latin classes from high school pay
off. "This...the arch-mage... describes... have... power... beyond.... all that
is known....". Roger pulled his head up. "That's all I can read of that."
   Steve looked wide eyed at the book. "Roger...arch-mage? Power? You think this
is some sort of magic spell book?"
   Roger laughed out loud so hard he shook the walls. "Oh come ON, Steve! This
is a nice little decoration piece, but real magic doesn't exist!"
   Steve grinned. "Oh yeah? I'll bet it does. I've seen a lot of things happen
that science can't explain - magic does exist out there, you just have to be
receptive to it."
   Roger pulled back and crossed his arms, smling. "And I suppose, Mister
Houdini, YOU are?"
   Steve smiled sheepishly. "Well, I DID have that magic show when I was
younger.."
   Roger nodded as he approached the book. "And as I recall, the dove and the
frog and the egg you had up your sleeve decided to leave your clothing all at
the same time. Great comedy act!" he said with a large smirk.
   Steve looked at Roger with a challenging smile. "Okay, then...maybe magic
doesn't work on you until you believe in it. I didn't then, but I don't
know...there's a lot of weird stuff that happens nowadays, I think there's
something out there that science just doesn't know what to do with, and you call
it 'magic'..."
   Roger was barely listening - he was going over other pages of the tome. "If I
remember my Latin correctly, there are a lot of incantations here that work on
enhancing the human body - a lot of it is 'Mad Libs' - style, you have to insert
your own words into some of them."
   "Why do you have to do that?"
   Roger shrugged. "I dunno...YOU'RE the magic-wannabe expert, YOU tell ME."
   Steve considered as he stroked his chin. "Maybe it's a personality thing -
that you put an essence of yourself into the spell by infusing it with your
choice of words, of thoughts..."
   Roger smiled. "So what would the book do in your case, when you HAVE no
personality?"
   Steve whapped his friend on the back of the head. "You want me to take back
that costume, Mr. Sarcastic?"
   Roger quickly became quiet, shooting a smirk to his friend.
   "That's better. Hmmm...you see anything there about ability enhancement?"
   Roger went over the book again. "No...nothing
here....love....wealth...knowledge...all spells intended to increase one's
ability..."
   Steve thought for a second. "Anything on increasing one's speed?"
   Roger looked up at Steve and smiled. "That's a neat idea! I'll look...." he
said, thumbing backwards through the nearly-ready to crumble pages of the old
binder. "Sympathy...Success...Aha! Speed!..."
   Steve smiled. Logically, he knew that this was nothing more than a flight of
fancy. There was a part of him, though, that really really hoped this would
work, that something might be done to give him that edge against Brad
Thesseldorf. ANY edge.
   "Okay, I think I got it. Um...lessee...there's a mixture of the pseudo-Latin
and English here...I'll speak the latin, mostly to myself, I'll let you know
when your part comes in."
   Steve blinked out of his trance. "What's my part?"
   Roger continued reading. "You have to put in an analogy - the spell works by
drawing the ability out of one thing and transferring it to another - all you
need it the item in mind."
   Steve's brow furrowed, but he shrugged again. "Okay, I think I got it."
   Roger smiled and nodded. "This is so cool...okay...". His hand went up into a
flamboyant gesture, all fingers extended towards Steve..."Inomunous
Aparate...Morphus of Life...Grant ye o seeker of knowledge and of power, that
which ye seek..."
   Steve began to feel a chill crawl from the base of his spine up to his neck.
He looked around the room - it began to feel weird to him. Was something
happening? Was he really being infused with magic?
   "...And now, you need the personal influx, Steve...what do you want to
change?"
   Steve's body began to quiver a bit at the chills in his spine as his mouth
shifted to one side...how was he going to do this? He wanted to be faster,
faster than any of the guys on the team. What was the fastest animal that he
wanted to be like? The...the ...Steve mentally smacked himself as he couldn't
remember a simple name of that cat that could run really really fast...
   "Steve?"
   Still a blank. "Umm...okay...I want to be fast....fast like the...the..."
   Roger looked on expectantly. "The....???"
   Steve snapped his fingers. "Oh you know, what's a really fast animal?"
   Roger considered. "A wolf?"
   "Yeah, a wolf...NO! That's not it...wait!"
   The chills still hung heavy in Steve's body...Roger stopped waving his hand
at Steve and closed the book. "It is done." he said, in a low ominous tone,
trying to stifle a chuckle.
   Steve scowled at his friend. "You jerk! I wasn't thinking of a wolf! I was
thinking of a... a cheetah! DAMN! Why couldn't I remember that?"
   Roger shrugged. "Dunno. But wolves run pretty fast, don't they? Besides, I
still got that 'Canines' answer on my mind. Not like it's gonna work or
nothing."
   Steve chuckled. "Yeah, you're probably right...still...I felt kinda strange
when you were doing that." He looked at his friend questioningly. "You think I
should...maybe test it out?"
   "Sure. What do you want to do?"
   Steve rushed over to the stairs and motioned for his friend to come along. "I
want you to time my run around the block - see if I got any faster."
   Roger got up and chuckled. "Steve, man, you're always the optimist."
   "Hey, it's MY birthday, I'll spend it however I damn well please!"
   "Sure, bud, whatever you say." said Roger as he disappeared from the top of
the stairs, the book still in his hand.

   "Time!"
   Steve came rushing by Roger as he pushed himself into a last minute sprint
that carried him from his block run - a great way to keep in shape and time
himself to see if any speed gains were obtained normally. He painfully loped
over to his friend, holding the stopwatch and a clipboard. "Well?" he panted out
to his friend. "How...*pant* how did I do?"
   Roger checked the stopwatch, and frowned. "2 minutes, 5 seconds. 8 secs
slower than your average."
   Steve's stomach began to twist at the news, his calves feeling like they were
on fire. "Damn! *huff* I thought I was *pant* running better this time! Check
the watch!"
   Roger tapped the stopwatch. "Nope, no problems with the equipment. You were 8
seconds off your average time, bud. Sorry."
   "Ah well...I thought I might give it ...a try...erggh!" His comment was cut
short by the pain in Steve's stomach, getting stronger, and the fire in his legs
shooting up throughout all of his legs, his thighs, calves and feet. "Jeez, I
must have pulled a muscle in my legs or something..."
   Roger tucked the clipboard under his arm and put his other arm around his
friend. "Lets get you back inside and you can put your feet up and rest up."
   "N-no...the best thing is to walk it off..." said Steve, as he pushed away
from his friend and started to limp off..."No p-pain, no gaaiiRRRGH!" he said as
he fell to the ground, writhing in agony from the searing pain that had shot up
from his stomach to his chest area. "Oww...geez....I must have pulled EVERY
muscle in my body in that run! God, it hurts! OW!" he screamed, flailing around
like a fish out of water.
   Roger dropped everything to run to his friend. "Geez, Steve...okay, let's get
you inside, alright? I'll see if you have any Ben Gay or something inside...come
on, let's get out of the sun right now."
   Steve nodded dumbly, as the pain seemed to brush over his face and arms,
making it painful to do anyting but think about how wonderful he would feel
without this sudden firing of every neuron in his body...he slowly, wincingly,
got up and limped alongside his best friend back to the house.
   Once inside, Roger was hoping that the air conditioned atmosphere would cause
his friend to be relieved a bit. The howls of pain erupting from Steve seemed to
indicate otherwise. He brought his friend to the couch and made him lie down.
"You're gonna be okay, bud...lemme go get some ointment and I'll rub it in for
you. You want a drink too?"
   Steve nodded, biting his lower lip to keep from screaming obscenities over
how bad the pain was. "Pain...killer..." he managed to blurt out...
   Roger nodded and sped off towards the medicine chest in the nearest bathroom.
Spotting a bottle of aspirin and a tube of workout ointment, he came back to the
sofa at top speed, hoping to ease his friend's pain. "Here you go, guy..."
   Roger stopped and looked at his friend....something was different about him.
Aside from the abnormal position of Steve in his fetal-pained pose, he looked
somewhat darker...blacker...
   Steve let out a cry of pain. "ROGER! GOD IT HURTS MAKE IT STOP! AAAIGH!" he
said as he thrashed around, oblivious to what Roger saw was happening...
   Steve was growing hair...LOTS of hair...
   "ROGER!" said Steve's voice again, this time a bit deeper. "HELP ME OH GOD
THE PAIN!!!" he screamed as coarse black hair continued to sprout from Steve's
visible limbs - his arms and legs were being covered in the stuff.
   Roger just dropped the aspirin and tube and stood back in amazement and
horror. "Oh my God..." were the only words he could urge out of his shocked
mouth.
   Steve screamed again, and turned to his side to howl in pain. And it did come
out as a howl. Roger looked at his face - the face had started to push out from
the mouth, growing a large mouth area, his eyes moving farther apart, his teeth
seeming to poke through the ridges of his rapidly expanding maw.
   Roger's glance dumbly lowered to Steve's arms and hands - the arms were now
completely covered in this black fur, while his hands grew larger and his
fingernails changed shape...tapered at the end, much larger and deadlier
looking. His legs were similarly furred...but shaped differently, like his foot,
which had since grown out of his running shoes...the heel had extended to a
point that would make it impossible for him to wear anything on his feet...the
toes were becoming more pronounced, turning larger and making a pad at the
bottom, with claws not unlike at the hands sprouting from the tips of the
digits.
   Steve howled...this time a deep, pained, mournful howl, as he thrashed again.
Now Roger could see the back of him...his shirt had ripped apart from the
apparent height and width his chest and back area had gained in addition to all
the fur...Steve was definitely growing and bulking up, his shoulders becoming
sculpted and intensely large, like a bodybuilder's...at the base of his back,
Roger could see something poking out...and snaking down towards his
feet...1..2..3 foot length of a furry tail that had grown from Steve's rear...
   Roger looked on in horror and fear as Steve thrashed again, showing the side
of his face to Roger. This time, there was nothing human looking about the face
at all - if Roger had seen the face as a head shot in a photo, he'd swear he was
looking at a black wolf...no, not quite a wolf....
   Steve moaned and the thrashing died down...the black furry body stirred on
the couch, groaning, whining...still in pain, but not as much as before.
"R-Roger..." came the voice. Deeper, more guttural...
   Roger gulped and took a step back to get away from whatever happened...and
nearly tripped over the bottle of aspirin on the floor. He picked it up and ran
to the kitchen to get a glass of water...he didn't know if that would be enough,
considering what had happened to his friend - right in front of his eyes no
less. He poured the last of the water and sped into the living room, where the
creature had changed position - it had sat up, rubbing its forehead. "Roger..."
it said again. "What...ohhh my head...what happened?"
   Roger swallowed hard again and came up to the creature that was his friend.
"S-Steve? Is that... is that YOU?"
   The wolf's head swung around and opened its eyes...the same brown coloring
Steve had....and it stared directly at Roger with a look of confusion and pain.
"Of course ...it's me....who else would I be?"
   Roger's eyes darted up and down the body of this wolf-creature, who was
claiming to be his best friend. "A nightmare." he muttered to himself, almost
inaudibly.
   "A nightmare? Why? What happened?"
   Roger snapped into attention at the wolf's question - he didn't expect him to
hear what he said. "Um...Steve...I don't think you want to know what
happened..."
   A clawed paw ran over the wolf's head as the rest of hte body began to stir,
the wolf tail behind him starting to swish slightly. "I feel so...so weird...the
pain was so immense...*sniff* ...and you really stink! This whole house...it
stinks! It smells like...like...I dunno WHAT the hell it smells like, but it's
terrible!" he said, closing his eyes again to stop the vertigo.
   Roger still hung his mouth open...and in his possibly best moment of bravery,
or worst of stupidity, he reached out and touched Steve on the shoulder. All he
could feel was fur and muscle. The fur was coarse, but not stiff. "I...I think
you better take it easy for a while, Steve."
   Steve's face swung back up to Roger. "What happened? I remember coming
inside...it was awful pain...then more pain...and then I woke up...and I could
hear things and smell things and feel things I never could do before...". His
clawed paws started scratching his stomach, back and legs. "And why do I itch?"
   Roger gulped again. "Steve...you're not going to believe this,
but...um...you've changed. SEVERELY changed, man..."
   The look on the eyes changed to that of confusion, as the eyes then glanced
for the first time at the arm that was providing scratches to his stomach. It
was covered with black fur. He looked at his clawed paw, following the furline
over his torso, his stomach, his other arm and paw...and down to his
legs...where he saw the misshapen form of a black dog's hind legs greeting his
view, the toes he wiggled wielding similar claws to his hand-paws.
   Steve looked at Roger with fear and dread, confusion and frustration.
"Mirror!" he growled...
   The kid sped off to the bathroom to grab a hand mirror, wondering inside if
he was doing a smart thing by letting Steve see himself now. He ran back into
the room, where he saw Steve trying to stand on his toes..."H-Here you go,
Steve..." Roger said, with fear in his voice.
   Steve brought the mirror up to his face...and prompty hit it against his
mouth. He moved the mirror farther from his face and found a distance where he
could see all of his face - and what he saw made him gasp in horror. All that
was looking back at him from the mirror was the astonished face of a wolf,
staring back at him, mocking him..."What..the hell...is going ON here!?!?" Steve
yelled. He looked over to his friend, still with the look of amazement and fear.
"Roger! What the hell happened?!?"
   Roger shook his head, still staring at his friend. "I..I d-don't know, Steve.
You just... changed! Right in front of me! You just...changed..." he repeated.
   Steve's view went back to the mirror - the look hadn't changed at all. He
examined his head - the nose was now several inches away from his face, resting
on top of what he could only feel to be his jaw muscles, grown out from his
mouth, said mouth accomodating the new size by growing along with it. Thus the
muzzle...His ears had moved to the top of his head, giving a more directional
approach to hearing sounds. He could feel his ears swivel slightly to pick up
minute sounds more clearly - a ticking of a clock in a nearby room, water
dripping...he could feel the intense aromas provided by inhaling from his nose -
the smell of the room, of himself, of Roger...they all were different,
distinct...and confusing...
   Steve took the mirror and angled it downward so he could get a better view of
his new chest and stomach muscles. Where Steve was previously just in good
shape, this body was equivalent to that of a gymnast at least, if not a first
rate bodybuilder. Even through the fur, the shape and definition of the lateral
muscles, the stomach muscles and the pectoral areas were outstandingly large and
firm. So, too, were his thigh muscles. Every part of his leg felt out of joint,
though, especially since it appeared he had to walk on his toes - his foot was
angled way too high to walk on it the way he had been used to.
   Steve immediately became aware of another sensation, around his lower back.
He prodded back there and felt a growth coming from the base of the spine.
Following it down, he began to bring the growth around to the front so he could
see it better. As he followed it, he noted that the growth got bushier and
larger...then tapered back to being smaller, but still bushy. "A tail..." he
said, staring in wonder. "I have a damned tail..."
   Roger swallowed hard again. "Steve? Are...are you, you know...are you feeling
okay?"
   Steve turned his head to widen his eyes on his friend. "Okay?" his muzzle
mouthed out.  "OKAY?!? DOES THIS LOOK LIKE OKAY TO YOU?!? I'M A FREAKSHOW! NO I
AM *NOT* OKAY!!!" he snarled.
   Roger pulled back in horror. "Oh man, ...what in the world happened?"
   Steve looked back at the rest of his body. Then his head propped up, his eyes
widening. He turned to Roger. "The book! The book did this to me! Where is it?
We have to see if we can get rid of this!"
   Roger stammered. "I-I don't know! The last time we used it was up in the
attic!"
   Steve bared his teeth. "Well we better go FIND it and get rid of this fur
coat then! Come ON!" he said as he streaked past his friend on his way to the
laundry room.
   Roger reoriented himself and ran to join his friend, who had since pulled
down the access to the attic by himself (it took both Steve and Roger the first
time to do it- Steve was definitely stronger in this shape), and gone to look
for the book. Roger took the steps slowly as he could hear things being thrown
around, growling...
   "IT'S NOT HERE!!"
   Roger poked his head through the floor and saw Steve...or the creature that
was Steve before...tearing through piles of junk in a desperate search for the
book. "It's not here!" he screamed again. "Roger, where did you put it?"
   Roger came all the way up. "Okay, okay, calm down. I need to remember.
Lessee, I cast the spell, you wanted to try it out..."
   Steve came over to Roger, put his clawed hands on his shoulders and shook
him. Hard. "THINK HARDER! Where did you see it last?"
   Roger was flailing under the strength of the wolf-beast, like a rag-doll
being tossed around by the omnipotent child. "S-STEVE! Stop it! I can't
con-concentrate when you're sh-sha-skaing me like this!!"
   Steve's long toothy muzzle, drawn back in a frustrated grimace, softened
slightly, as he hung his head down in shame. "You're right. I'm sorry..I'm...I
just need to get rid of this. That book is my only chance." He looked right at
his friend, his face shaped in a despairing twist. "You've got to remember where
it is!"
   Roger whipped his head up and glared at his friend. "I'm TRYING! Shut up and
let me think!"
   Steve backed away, putting his paws up. "Okay, you try to remember, *I'M*
gonna keep looking!" he said as he returned to the piles of junk and started
rooting around again, while Roger began talking to himself in order to backtrack
his memory.
   Steve leapt from pile to pile, clawing his way through the junk, some of it
rather heavy, like it was paper. Whatever this form was doing to his mind, it
was giving his body a big boost in strength and speed, much like that of a wolf.
But he wasn't thinking of the advantages at that point - all he wanted to do was
lose the wolf skin and be normal again. "Please...God...let him find that book!
I can't let my parents see me like THIS! I.."
   "I got it!"
   Steve's ears oriented to Roger's exclamation, and in less than a heartbeat
had leapt from the junk in the far side of the attic to his friend's position.
He had, in his hand, the book they had used earlier. "Where was it?" demanded
Steve.
   "Right where I left it, on the table. But you had thrown that table around,
so i had to look for it. It was over by the.."
   "Never mind, never mind! Just look through there and see if you can find a
way to get me back to normal!" interrupted the wolf, arms akimbo and tapping his
clawed toes impatiently.
   Roger sat down again and pored through the tome, mouthing some of the words
to try to get pronunciation down, without accidentally doing more unintended
magic. Finally, he got to the page he had used before. "Aha!"
   "What? What? You found the spell?"
   "I found the ORIGINAL spell that changed you...hold on..."
   Steve paced the floor quickly, unconsciously swishing his tail behind him in
a nervous manner. He picked up the appendage, and noted he could exert a little
control over it, but not much. Not like he should be practicing - if Roger can
find that spell, he'll be tailless, like he was meant to be. But for now, while
he was waiting, he figured he should at least keep his mind occupied so he
didn't bother Roger.
   15 minutes had passed before Steve couldn't wait any longer. "Roger! Come ON!
Where is that spell?"
   "I'm trying to find it, Steve! Latin isn't the easiest thing in the world to
read, you know! Give me a second!"
   Steve growled, which made Roger look up with a fearful look on his face.
"Okay, Okay! I'll read faster! Just...just don't come near me with those fangs,
okay?"
   Steve paused a second. He didn't even growl...at least consciously...it was
his body reacting to his mind-state. He was feeling angry, despairing,
worried....and his body took the cue and produced that growl and showed those
fangs....Now Steve was REALLY getting worried. He had to get rid of this body
soon, or no telling what it would do without his conscious control!
   "Okay, I think I got something..."
   Steve broke out of his little trance to come over to Roger's side and peer
over his shoulder. Roger could feel the hot canine-breath eminating from his
friend's muzzle. "Well? Whadya find?"
   Roger pointed to a line on the page. "It's the same spell we used originally,
but the personal influx has to be the agent of change - we used 'wolf' before,
now I guess we should use 'human'."
   Steve sniffed. "Is that all? All we do is say the same thing and replace the
bit about wolf with human?"
   Roger shrugged. "I think that's it. The book isn't very clear on what to do
in case of miscast or unintentional spellcasting, you know."
   Steve sighed. "It's all we got, it BETTER work. Now...where were we when we
did this? I want this repeated exactly so there's no screwups!"
   Roger got up from the desk and walked to the center of the attic. "We were
right here...you were over there by the cabinet. I was here...okay hold on, let
me take a look at the words again. I want to make sure I don't misread them."
   "You and me BOTH."
   Roger smirked and kept reading. Steve looked around furiously to make sure
nothing else was out of place. Aside from the rampage he had set upon the attic
in search of the book, nothing major around the area he was before was upset. So
it seemed like it should work.
   "Okay here we go. Ready?"
   "Yes! Just read the spell already!"
   "Okay, here goes."
   Roger took the book in his hand and gestured with his other hand. Steve felt
that same chill go up his spine, although it started lower this time - at the
tip of his wolf's tail.
   "Inomunous Aparate...Morphus of Life...Grant ye o seeker of knowledge and of
power, that which ye search for..."
   Steve blinked. "Wait a second, wasn't that ,'Which ye seek'?"
   Roger looked up from the book and then returned his gaze to the page.
"Dammit, you're right...lemme start over."
   Steve rolled his eyes and growled. "No mistakes this time, Roger!"
   Roger trembled a bit. He was obvisouly nervous - if he failed in casting this
accurately, no telling what would happen to Steve - or to HIMSELF.
"O-Okay...here goes...Inomunous Aparate...Morphus of Life...Grant ye o seeker of
knowledge and of power, that which ye seek..." He silently gestured to the wolf,
who closed his eyes, clenched his paws into fists and concentrated on his
picture of himself.
   "I want to be shaped like a human!"
   The tingle remained in his spine...Steve felt a little dizzy, but fought to
maintain his balance - a difficult task in itself.
   Roger finished his gestures with a couple of flourishes. He closed the book
and glanced at Steve. "Okay, it's done."

   Steve opened his eyes and glanced down at his body. It was still covered in
fur. "It didn't work!" he howled. "I'm still a wolf!!"
   "Hold on! It didn't change you immediately last time...maybe...maybe it takes
time to work?"
   "Oh jeez! How long was it after you cast before and I changed?"
   "About 10 minutes or so...but you also RAN during that time - you might need
to do that again."
   "What? NOW?! In broad daylight where everyone can see?"
   Roger slapped his forehead. "Oh man, you're right...." He started pacing the
floor, then turned around with a snap of his fingers. "What if you run on all
fours, like a... like a wolf?"
   Steve glared at his friend and bared his teeth. "That's NOT funny, Roger!"
   "No, hear me out...this neightborhood has had a problem with stray dogs,
right? Who's gonna pay attention to another dog running around the block?"
   "But on all FOURS?"
   "Whoever heard of a dog running only on his hind legs? Besides, you're having
a hard time standing up on those toes, much less run on them!"
   Steve bowed his muzzle and shook his head as he slowly descended the stairs
from the attic. "Man, this had BETTER work!" he said as he made his way to the
front door.
   "All FOURS!" Roger called after him. "Don't want to make the neighbors
suspicious!"
   Steve looked back at his friend. "After all the noise I made, I'm surprised
the police haven't come here answering a charge of animal abuse." he said as he
dropped to his hands and feet, looking for all the world like a slightly
deformed black wolf. "How do I look?" he said.
   Roger smiled. "Like a slightly deformed wolf! You're fine. Now, once around
the block, and come back here. Then we'll wait the rest of the time to see if
you change back."
   Steve nodded as Roger opened the door. As soon as the autumn air hit his
face, his body started running. Steve felt like he left his stomach behind - he
was going REALLY fast, faster than he had ever traveled before on his own power.
"Boy, if I could only run the track like this!" he thought to himself as he
rounded the corner of the block at record speeds.
   Glancing left and right as he pounded over the sidewalk pavement, he was
bathed in details of neighbors yelling at him to get off their lawns before he
'messed them up'. Steve couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of leaving a
nice little 'present' on Thesseldorf's spotlessly-kept Mustang his parents gave
him. Maybe he should take a quick detour and...
   Steve shook the thought out of his head. He had to get back to the house if
he wanted any chance of losing this form. He sped down the sidewalk, oblivious
to the rest of the world, until he rounded the last corner and streaked towards
his house. Coming up to the door, he started to stand up to reach the doorbell,
but quickly caught himself and did the only thing he could think of. He
scratched at the door. "How embarrasing" he thought to himself.
   Roger opened the door enough for Steve to come in, and quickly closed it. As
soon as the door closed, Steve stood up and bent over backwards, releasing the
crick in his back that had developed from his change of running style. "Okay,"
he panted out. "I've run the block...now when am I supposed to change?"
   Roger blinked. "You ran the block ALREADY? You were gone only a half a
minute!"
   Steve smiled...or at least, did the best approximation of a wolf smiling...
as his breathing was quickly returning to normal, his tongue hanging out in true
canine style. "Yeah...yeah I was blazing! You should have seen me, Roger, I was
kicking ass and taking names!"
   Roger chuckled. "Well, let's hope that you're not stuck running like
that...you've still got a few minutes. Better lay down on the couch."
   Steve nodded. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I could use the rest." as he loped
over to the cushions and plopped his body down...eliciting a sharp pain as soon
as his rear hit the surface. He yelped and sprung back up immediately, rubbing
the base of his tail. "Dammit, I'd better change back - I'll never get used to
having a tail!"
   Roger laughed, which elicited a stare from Steve. "It's not funny, man!"
   The lad smirked a bit. "I'm sorry, Steve...it's just that...well, remember
last week, when you saw Amy walk by and you were telling me you really wanted a
piece of tail?"
   Steve blinked and groaned. "I didn't mean it LITERALLY!...Still, I always
thought of her as a real fox - maybe we should introduce this book to her!"
   Roger rolled his eyes. "Wow...Amy Garton as a vixen! Whoosh! 'Course, she
looks good enough without fur."
   Steve smiled and thought...then realized. "Roger, how long as it been since I
came in?"
   "Five minutes. Why?"
   "Didn't I change almost IMMEDIATELY after I ran?"
   "I don't know...I guess so."
   "I don't feel any different, no pain...I'm not gonna change back, am I,
Roger?"
   Roger took the book that he had the foresight to bring WITH him this time
from under his arm and began reading. "It looks like it SHOULD work. With a
couple of small exceptions - your speed in running the block, for example - it's
identical to what we did earlier on..."
   Steve laid down on the sofa again, this time slowly and gently to accomodate
his tail, and stretched his tall 6'4" frame over the length of the furniture.
"It better work...I don't think I could face my parents like this!"
   Roger hmmmed as he was still reading the book. Then he stopped short and
blinked. "Uh oh.." he said.
   Those canine ears oriented on those words very quickly, as the rest of Steve
followed suit. "Uh oh? Whaddya mean, 'UH-OH'??? There BETTER NOT be any
'Uh-Oh's!!!"
   "I...umm...I just read the...the 'fine print. It
says....er....only...*gulp*....one change to a customer."
   "WHAAAAAAT?!?!?" howled Steve as he leapt off the sofa and lunged at Roger,
grabbing him roughtly by the shirt. "You BETTER DAMN WELL BE KIDDING!!"
   Roger pointed to the latin sentince, shaking all the while and stuttering his
reply. "I-I wish I were, Steve. B-B-But it says it right here....'Only once
shall this incantation affect a subject.'"
   Steve's lips curled back, showing the large pointy fangs, as his grasp on his
friend intensified  and the wolf heaved him up into the air, a good foot off the
ground. "ARE YOU TELLING ME...I'M STUCK LIKE THIS?!?" he growled out.
   "Y-Yes..." came the weak reply. "But I'll keep reading - there may be another
spell, a DIFFERENT one..."
   The wolf started to tremble with anger, his eyes became bloodshot and filled
with rage. Roger could feel the claws tearing into his T-shirt, and almost into
him. The growling from Steve increased in volume and intensity. "For your sake,
Roger, you BETTER find something!!!" came the now animalistic sounding voice.
"Or else you'll wish you never FOUND that book!"
   Roger's eyes went wide with fear and dread as Steve's eyes, no longer the
soft brown of his friends, now possessed an inhuman fire..and were staring
directly into the back of Roger's skull. "D-Don't worry,
Steve...we'll...um...I'll think of something!"
   "You had better..." was the only reply as the wolf dropped the human, who
fell the foot and crumpled to the floor. Gathering the book and stealing a
fearful glance at the creature that once was his friend, he shambled to the
table and started to read the book again.
   Steve collapsed to the sofa and looked on, trying to mentally force Roger to
read faster, to fix this problem. His ears swiveled again - now he had learned
to pay attention to all these new sounds - as his sensitive auditory organs
picked up the rumble of a rather ancient car engine approaching the driveway
from the street - an engine not unlike the car of...

   "My parents!" shreiked Steve. "AAAIGH! There HERE?!? They're back already?!?
Oh crap, what am I gonna do!" he growled as he looked at Roger, still reading
but startled into alertness at his growl. He vaulted over to his friend and
shook him. "You gotta hide me, Roger! You can't let them see me like this!"
   "Let who? Who is gonna see you?"
   "My PARENTS you idiot! They're coming! I can hear them in the driveway!"
   Roger shot up and leapt to the window. Sure enough, he could see Steve's
parents - a rather handsome man in his late 30's with jet black hair, carrying a
briefcase and dressed in casual shirt and jeans, and a woman in her early 30's
with long red hair, a stylish office skirt and a more contemporary top. They
exited their car and appraoched the door...
   "Oh man, you gotta HIDE, dude!" Roger said as he turned around. "They're
coming up the..."
   He stopped when he noticed he was talking to nobody...Steve had long since
left. But Roger was confident he knew where he was...he vaulted over the sofa
and ran to the laundry room. As he suspected, the access panel was lifted up. He
knocked on the door softly.
   "Roger, go away! Don't lead them here! You gotta stall for time!"
   "Steve, I can't DO anything for you! Maybe your parents can help you! It was
their book, wasn't it? It was in THEIR attic, they might know who to talk to to
get you back to normal!"
   Roger was interrupted by the sound of the front door slamming. "Honey, we're
home!" came the beautiful voice of Steve's mom. Roger turned around and saw the
red-haired woman come over his way, tucking some items into a carryon bag. "Oh,
hi Roger!" she said, smiling, when she had seen him. "Where is Steven?"
   Roger was about to answer her when he noticed that the spellbook was still in
plain sight - Steve, in his hurry to hide, didn't take it with him! "Geez, if
they see this book, they might figure out what happened!" he thought to himself.
With that in his mind, he ambled over slowly to the sofa where the tome rested
and sat casually down beside it.
   "Oh, he's..he's around. He's not quite...um...feeling himself today, so he's
taking a rest."
   The man shook his head, laughing. "That boy is probably one of the laziest
runners I've ever seen! Still, it IS his birthday, let him enjoy it." he said as
he brought in a large giftwrapped box, and the woman had laid a paper bag filled
with groceries on its side.
   "Well, dear, I guess that means he must take after YOUR side of the family!!"
quipped the woman.
   "Oh is that true, eh?" laughed the man as he pounced to his wife and hugged
her tight before she had a chance to escape. "But we're fast when we wanna be!"
he said before placing a kiss on her lips, to which she promptly responded.
   Roger just sat in silence, hoping that the two might have forgotten something
on their business trip and would immediately leave so he could try to change
Steve...
   "So what have you two been doing today, Roger?" asked the man after he left
his wife's embrace, coming over to the young man. "Got your costume picked out
for the party tonight?"
   "Huh?" said Steve, broken out of his trance temporarily. He had to make small
talk, or else they'd get suspicious and ask to see Steven. "Umm..Mister Wendell,
can I ask you a favor?"
   The man nodded. "If I can. What is it?"
   "Your Civil War Costume up there - Steve and I were up there earlier and it
fit me pretty well, I was wondering if I could..."
   "Borrow it for the party tonight?" completed the man, a brow furred in
thought.
   Roger nodded dumbly. "If..if it's okay with you."
   The man smiled and put his hand on Rogers head, rubbing it. "Sure, Roger! You
and Steve are really good friends, I think I can trust you. Just be REAL careful
with it - it's one of a kind, you know." he said as he turned back towards the
table where his wife was putting things away.
   "Yeah, Steve told me about the fair picture!"
   The man stopped and turned around. "The what? Oh...oh yes, the fair picture.
Yes, that was... it was certainly something." he said, half-lost in a memory of
his own, apparently. "By the way, I need to see Steve about something. Where is
he, again?"
   Roger gulped. Eventually, they were going to grill him with enough questions
to make the SAT look like an addition quiz. "I...um....he's upstairs...but you
shouldn't go.."
   The man was already striding to the stairs. "It's very important. Besides, if
he's not feeling well, we need to know." He passed the sofa just as Roger shot
up and blocked his way. The book fell to the floor at Roger's vault from the
furniture. Mr. Wendell looked down and saw the book cover, and frowned.
"Roger... where did you get this?" he said as he bent down to pick up the tome.
   Steve's mind raced to give him a plausible lie...but nothing was coming to
mind. So all that was left was stuttering. "I-I-...um...Steve and I...w-w-we
found it in the at-attic..."
   Mrs. Wendell now came over and peered over her husband's shoulder. "Oh my
God...is it THAT book? I haven't seen that in ages! Where did you find it?"
   "I...under some clothes...Um...Steve and I...we...we tried out one of the
incantations."
   The man stopped leafing through the book and peered at Roger. "What did you
say?"
   Roger gulped. "W-w-we...we tried one of the...the spells in that
book...and...ummm...Steve..."
   The lady and the man looked at each other with concerned looks on their
faces. "What about Steve?" the lady asked, concern and impatience in her voice.
   "He...um...he's not quite...himself right now.." repeated the kid, his
bladder near bursting with nervousness.
   The man put his hands on Roger's shoulders and squeezed. Hard.
"WHERE...IS...HE?" he said, slowly.
   Dammit, thought Roger, NOW Steve was going to give it to him for snitching!
"He's... upstairs..." he said, his face beginning to tear up and looking his
friend's parents in the eyes. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wendell, Mrs. Wendell...I never
expected the book to WORK!" he said, crying the words out. "I just...we were
just reading it and..."
   Roger's head dropped again as he stared into the floor. He felt the hand of
Mr. Wendell on his shoulder. "Roger...what did he change...into?" asked the man,
slowly, solemnly.
   Roger sniffed. "A wolf...a werewolf...he's upstairs hiding." Roger looked at
the parents, who had by now exchanged worried, but seemingly knowing glances at
each other. "I couldn't...I can't change him back. This is your book - can you
change him back?" Roger said sheepishly as he glanced at the book in Mr.
Wendell's hand.
   "The book..." the man said as he glanced at the tome, then back at his wife.
Roger drooped his head again in shame, expecting them to strike him down in
anger. But all he heard was what sounded like a stifled laugh. Confused, he
looked upward to see the once more solemn faces of his friend's parents. The man
began to speak, almost hiding a small smile.
   "Roger, take us to him. I think we can fix this...but you have to promise me,
on your word of honor, and upon penalty of...of being changed like Steve
was...that you will not tell another living soul about what you have seen
today."
   Roger's face brightened at the prospect of changing his friend back to
normal. He would have agreed to surgery with a toothpick then to save him,
especially since in his current state, Steve could easily rip him apart for
failing him. "I promise. Please, hurry! I don't know if that spell is permanent
or not!"
   Mrs. Wendell nodded. "We'll take care of it, Roger. Now show us where Steve
is."
   Roger nodded and led the two up the stairs and to the laundry area where the
access panel was drawn up. Roger pointed up to the ceiling, and the two adults
nodded. "Roger, I want you to go home...We'll...um...we'll have Steven okay, you
don't need to worry." Mr. Wendell placed his hand on Roger's shoulder again, and
gestured with the book. "And remember your promise - if word gets out about
this, I'll know who to come to.." he said with an ominous tone.
   Roger looked between the two faces. They were NOT kidding, all levity left
them at that precise moment. He gulped as best he could with a near paralyzed
muscle system. "I..I remember. I won't tell another living soul, I PROMISE!" he
said, with earnest intent.
   Mr. Wendell nodded. "Very good. Now, go home. I'll have Steve bring over that
Confederate uniform later for you, okay?"
   Roger nodded dumbly and scrambled down the stairs, wanting to be away from
that accursed book as fast as he could.

   "Steve? You there, buddy?" the man said into the darker and mustier expanse
that was their attic.
   No answer.
   Mr. Wendell brought the ladder off the access panel and climbed up, helping
his wife behind him. Soon they were both in the room, looking around at the
junk. "Geez, when was the last time we cleaned up here?" said Mr. Wendell as he
cocked his head to listen for his son in the room.
   "Not for a long time, apparently." responded the woman as she dragged a heavy
dresser over on top of the access panel and quickly joined her husband as he was
orienting towards a rather large pile of clothes - a pile that was moving like
it was breathing.
   "Son? You in there?" said the man.
   "Go away! I don't want you to see me!" came the low, growling voice from
under the pile of musty old clothes.
   "Son, Roger told us what happened. We want to see you, dear." said the
mother, softly.
   "No! I'm a monster!"
   "RIGHT NOW, MISTER!" said the man, in the most stern parental tone he could
muster.
   The pile of clothes stirred and began to rise, falling off the form that was
hiding within them, one by one. The cascade of cloth revealed the tall and
muscular frame of a totally black werewolf, staring sadly back at them.
"Mom...Dad...I'm sorry, Roger and I were fooling with that book and we..."
   The two looked at their son with wide eyes, then looked at each other and
smiled, giggling. Soon the giggling increased in volume to a low laugh as the
man looked casually at the book in his hand. "Oh son, there's *chuckle* there's
nothing to be sorry about! We would have told you sooner or later - I'm just
*snicker* sorry we weren't here..." said the man as he began to sway in his
mirth.
   The wolf just stood there, open mouthed. He couldn't believe his eyes - here
he was, this hellish aberration, and his parents were LAUGHING at him! "What's
wrong with you? What's so funny? Look, just use the book and change me back,
please? There has to be something in there!"
   That sentence just elicited more laughter. "Steven...I'm...I'm not sure how
to tell you this...hehe...but...um...this book....it has no magic power...."
   It was now the wolf's turn to sport the rather large eyes. "WHAT? Of COURSE
it's got magic! Look what it did to me!" he said as he extended his furry arms
and turned around on his toes, to give his parents the full view of his
completely fur covered torso, wolf head and canine tail.
   The woman grinned and calmed down enough to address her son. "Steven,
honey...listen to your father. That book is no more magical than a radish!"
   Steven looked confusedly between his mother and father. "No! You're wrong! It
HAS to be the book!"
   The man sighed and looked to his wife. "I suppose this calls for a
demonstration." he said, smiling. The wife nodded agreement. "I'll go first
dear," she said as she started to undress herself.
   "MOM! What..what are you doing?"
   Mr. Wendell laughed as he too started to disrobe. "Don't worry, son, this is
all part of the big surprise." he said as he turned to his wife, who was now
completely naked.
   Steve averted his gaze at his mother. "Mom, please! Put your clothes back
on!"
   "Steven, look at me."
   "Mom, I..."
   "LOOK AT ME!" came the harsh reply...only a little deeper...
   Steve turned around at the last saw...and his wolf jaw hit the floor. It was
his mother, but she was changing color - from pinkish flesh to an orange/red
hue, as millions of individual hairs began to sprout all over her body. Her
body, too, was changing form - getting slightly taller, and adopting a more
wiry, muscular frame. But what was even more noticable was that her face had
elongated into a tapered canine muzzle, her hands had morphed into dainty paws,
and her feet had elongated to sport the black socked feet of a fox.
   After about 10 seconds, the transformation was complete. Mrs. Wendell
extended her arms and twirled around, showing off her orange/red coat and white
tufted underbelly, her black tipped ears, paws and feet, and a rather large
bushy tail. "Tadaa!" she growled out.
   Steve's jaw was still agape. Just as he was pulling his mouth together, his
father cleared his throat. "Now it's my turn!" he said. Steve looked at his
father apprehensively, yet also in a curious demeanor. What was HE going to turn
into?
   The man closed his eyes and balled his fists. Soon, he was getting
darker...no...lighter in some areas...actually a LOT of areas as silver-colored
fur began to sprout over his naked body. His features, too, began to morph into
that of a grey werewolf. He opened his eyes and smiled with a big canine grin.
"We were going to surprise you at the party tonight, but you kind of called our
bluff a bit early."
   Steve stood motionless, gaping.
   The silver wolf gestured towards the fox. "Meet your mother - RoseStealer.
And my Shifter name is CloudRider."
   The black werewolf just stood and stared - his mother and father had just
turned into a fox-creature and another werewolf. "How...Wha..?" were the only
words that could escape his mouth.
   The father grinned put his arm around his son's shoulder, which was easier
now because they were both about the same height. "Steve...you had this ability
in you since birth. It only manifests later in life, when you hit the same time
as puberty for most other males. This, your sixteenth birthday, was the day of
your Virgin Shift, as is the way with our people. The Shifters..."
   Steve drew back from his father. "The what?!?"
   "Shifters, honey," chimed in RoseStealer. "We are a race of shapeshifters,
called 'Shifters' for short. We've existed for thousands of years, and will live
for thousands more. You just experienced your first shift." She looked
confusedly up at her husband. "I thought he was supposed to do this the week
AFTER his birthday."
   The man smiled. "On rare occasions, the first shift happens ON the Shifter's
birthday. Those Shifters are destined for greatness, according to our
traditions." The smile left him. "I'm just sorry we missed it - it was
undoubtedly a traumatic experience..."
   Steve let out a nervous laugh. "Traumatic? Try horrific! I mean, I was there,
running around the block, then I came in and I was overcome with.."
   "Pain that you thought would never end...yes I know." continued CloudRider.
"We all went through the same thing at your age. You really deserved us to be
here when it happened."
   Steve looked from the fox to the wolf and shook his head. "So the
book...had...had nothing to do with this? I changed because it was my birthday?"
   The wolf let out a howl of laughter and put his paw back around his son. "No,
no! The book is totally worthless - an item your mother and I picked up eighty
years ago, from an old gypsy, as I recall."
   Steve's eyes got large again. "EIGHTY YEARS AGO?!"
   RoseStealer chuckled. "And we don't look a day over 35... Our race has
existed for thousands of years, before mankind kept any written record. Some saw
us and declared us to be gods - remember ancient Egyptian theology? How do you
think they came up with a jackal-headed god?"
   "But you're....you guys look so YOUNG! How old..are you?"
   "We've been living for about 300 years....after the Virgin Shift, your aging
process slows dramatically. We're expected to live another 700 years or so. And
you have a full millenium ahead of you! 
   Steve's eyes wandered to the Confederate uniform Roger had on earlier, still
laying rumpled on the floor. "And that uniform...it wasn't from a fair, was it?"
   The silver wolf smiled as his eyes sparkled. "Ahh...the 42nd Infantry of
Tupelo, MS...You're right, Steven,  that was from the actual Civil War. I wore
that when I fought alongside of Stonewall Jackson himself, after I was
transferred. One of these days I will have to tell you about it. I had it
preserved as long as I could...On second thought," he said, looking to
RoseStealer, "I think we should help Roger find another costume."
   The fox nodded. "Sounds like a good idea. I don't want that suit getting any
more battle action - the dry cleaners would rip it apart!"
   Steve, oblivious to the conversation, collapsed on the floor, his mind
boggling with all this information. "So why didn't you tell me about this before
my birthday? WARN me about it?"
   The fox crouched down and stroked the headfur of the black wolf, smiling.
"It's against our society rules, honey. The Virgin Shift is the most important
day of a Shifter's life - that Shift needs to be done with no knowledge of our
society so that when 16 comes around, the Shifter will be mature enough to
explore the full meaning of their existence. There's nothing that says loved
ones can't be around when it happens...but we weren't expecting you to Shift
TODAY."
   CloudRider crouched down on the opposite side, and laid his paw on Steve's
upper leg. "The Shifts get easier and less painful with time, son. Soon, you'll
be able to shift on command, like your mother and I did. But we need to train
you, to indoctrinate you into our society's ways."
   Steve blinked. "And that's why you took me out of school for next week! So
you could have time to train me!"
   The fox and the wolf nodded.
   Steve looked down at his paws...he could feel his tail swishing back and
forth as he thought. "I must admit...when I ran like this earlier...I was faster
than the wind...faster than Brad Thesseldorf! I...I kinda liked it!"
   The silver wolf made a whuffing sound. "You went outside like that?"
CloudRider said, furrowing his brow. 
   Steve gulped. "Yeah...Roger and I...we still thought it was the book, you
see, so I ran because that's what I did before I changed INTO this. But I ran on
all fours, so I looked like a big dog. It was Roger's idea, actually."
   The wolf stroked his chin and laughed. "Smart thinking! But I think we'd
better have you lose this form until Halloween is over."
   "Wait!" Steve said as he scurried up from the floor. The other animals
stopped to look back at their son. "What is it, honey?" RoseStealer asked
melodically.
   "Umm...you think I... I could stay this way for the party tonight? I mean, I
DID have a costume, but..." he said as he turned around, and looked in a nearby
mirror. "This beats the crap out of any costume I know!"
   CloudRider had a worried look on his muzzle. "I don't know...You JUST
shifted, and you may not be totally in control of your powers..."
   RoseStealer went up to her husband, laid her head on his shoulders and
stroked the fur on his arm. "Oh, come on, honey. It IS the best costume we could
have, and this is the ONLY time he could be 'normal' in front of other people!
Besides, we were going to go like this...it's only right!"
   The wolf nodded and smiled. "It is at that! Ok, son, you can go as you are
tonight..."
   "AllRIGHT!" shouted Steve as he did a little footballish 'Victory Dance'.
"Woohoo! Man, this is fantastic!"
   "BUT....," continued his father, sternly. "The next few hours, your mother
and I are going to give you the crash course in how to control your shifting so
you don't make any mistakes tonight."
   Steve nodded. "Sure! No problem...Ummm...wait a second...what about Roger?"
   The fox blinked. "What about him?"
   "He saw me shift - won't he tell others about us?"
   The wolf let out a small chuckle and reached for the 'Book of Spells'. "As
far as Roger knows, what changed you was in this book. He's sworn to us that he
won't tell anyone else, and when he sees you 'normal' again, he'll be fine. But
if he ever threatens to tell anyone..." he said, thumping the book, "you may
want to remind him of your 'mage parents' who will turn him into a salamander if
he spills the beans!"
   Steve looked worried. "You..can't Shift others, right?"
   CloudRider laughed. "Of course not! But ROGER doesn't know that...as long as
he keeps THINKING this book has the power to turn him into something else, he
will keep quiet. Besides, if you're careful, he wll never see you in your true
form again."
   "Besides," chimed the fox, "It's better than having to eat him."
   "WHAT?!?"
   The wolf and fox just laughed. "We're kidding, honey!" RoseStealer said,
smiling and wrinkling her vulpine nose. "We don't eat people, but we can defend
ourselves. We work better in stealth, though. No need to make a name for
ourselves."
   "Oh that reminds me...," continued the wolf. "We need to give you YOUR name,
son...but we really hadn't thought enough about it, so we'll just wait until..."
   "I have a name." Steve said, smiling, thinking back to earlier. "BlackWind."
   CloudRider beamed at his son. "BlackWind! I like that! I like it a lot!"
   RoseStealer nodded along with her husband. "It's a fine name, honey!
BlackWind it is!"
   The three canines embraced each other for a long time, and decided that it
would be better, in case others came along and looked in the windows, that the
crash course training for controlling shifting would start there and then in the
attic. Within those few hours, Blackwind learned to shift almost effortlessly
back and forth between his human shape and his true Shifter shape.
   All three Shifters morphed back into their human form, and the parents began
to clothe themselves. Steve, although with a ripped shirt, still had his shorts
on. He tended to wear them baggier, so during the shift, they accomodated. "I'm
going to go over to Roger's and see if he wants to use my costume for the
night."
   "Okay honey...but be back here before the first guests arrive so you can help
with the party decorations and shift before anyone sees you!" called the mother
as Steve bounded out the door, towards his friends house...

   "o/~ And you can mash!...and you can Monster Mash!"
   The music was loud, but not loud enough to bring police. Everybody in Steve's
homeroom class was at the combination Halloween/Birthday party, with a few
exceptions. The room was filled to the brim with all kinds of costumes for the
night's activities, but none got as many compliments as the hosts of the party.
   "Wow, Mrs. Wendell - that's the neatest fox costume I ever saw!"
   "I can't even see any stitchmarks on that!"
   "Hey Steve! You look kinda cute as a wolf, you know that?"
   BlackWind had to fight his normal reaction to that last one from one of the
cuter girls in his school. He looked around the party and smiled a big toothy
grin. Yes, tonight was indeed the most special night he'd ever gone through -
and it could only get better for him, now that he knew the truth...
   Just as the wolf was sipping a drink through a very long straw, a Capone-Look
Alike came up to him and patted him on the back.
   "Steve, man! Great party! And it was so cool of you to donate your costume to
me, too!"
   BlackWind smiled. "Well, my parents already..provided me with this, so I
didn't need that one. Glad you like it."
   Roger came in closer to whisper to BlackWind, which really wasn't necessary
as BlackWind could hear him perfectly no matter where he was. "That's...not
permanent, is it?"
   BlackWind remembered what his parents told him to say. "As far as they know,
no...but I couldn't pass up a night like this to go as a Wolf...so I changed
back this way for the party. They said they'd turn me back again...as long as I
didn't do anything...stupid."
   Roger nodded and gulped a little bit, remembering Mr. Wendell's warning
before he left. He glanced around the room and smiled. "I guess it is
reversible, otherwise your parents wouldn't have done the same things for
themselves. Honestly, if I didn't know where those forms came from, I'd swear
they were the best costumes around."
   Blackwind nodded. "Yup. They are a bit of a surprise aren't they?
   "Hey, can you do me a favor, Steve?"
   The wolf stopped sipping his drink. "What's up?"
   Roger glanced along the floor smiling. "My kid sister has been bragging to
her friends that she's so brave about Halloween and stuff - after the party, I
thought we'd give her a little bit of a scare...see just how truthful she's
being."
   BlackWind grinned toothily. "Of course! It's the least I can do for snapping
at you earlier...what were you thinking of?"
   Just as Roger was about to respond, when a kid dressed as a clown charged in
the door to the party as the music was dying down. "Hey guys! You'll never guess
what happened!"
   "What?" "What happened?" "Tell us!"
   "I just heard - Someone left a big pile of dog crap in Brad Thesseldorf's new
car!"
   The entire room erupted into laughter...everyone except Roger and BlackWind,
who was just smiling. Roger looked to his friend. 
   "You didn't..."
   BlackWind began to whistle.
   "STEVE!"
   The wolf shrugged. "Hey, it could have been a DIFFERENT big black dog...and
when ya gotta go..."
   Roger smirked, then fell over laughing onto his werewolf friend, who leaned
over on his friend's shoulder to help support him as he, too, was laughing
incredibly hard. "I only *hehhe* wish I could *snort* have seen his face!!" said
Roger as Blackwind howled with laughter along side of him.
   "Me too." said BlackWind, grinning. "You know," he continued, "I wouldn't
mind if this were permanent!"
   Roger stood up. "Don't say that, man! Your parents made you like this - they
could KEEP you like it!"
   BlackWind smiled, confident that Roger still believed in the power of the
book. "You're right. I guess I'm going to have to play my cards differently from
now on." he said, clapping his paw on his friend's back as he looked over the
party. 
   The wolf felt a presence behind him, and suddenly, a paw was on his shoulder.
"How are you enjoying the party, guys?" a familiar voice said.
   BlackWind turned around to face his father. "Great, Dad! This...costume is
really great!" he said, smiling. "I only hope I can get out of it later!" he
said, shooting a knowing glance at Roger, who nodded appreciatively. The effort
was not wasted.
   CloudRider smiled a big toothy grin. "Wonderful! Oh, Bla..er, Steve...,"
stammered the wolf. "Come with me a second - I have a surprise for you!"
   BlackWind looked to his friend, who shrugged his shoulders. "I'll be right
back, Rog..." he said as he followed his father to the darkened den, where his
father promptly locked the door behind them. "So what's the surprise?" asked
BlackWind, his tail swishing fervently back and forth in anticipation.
   CloudRider smiled and pointed into the darkened area. BlackWind's vision had
improved as a result of his form, but still could not see anything...
   "Hello, Steve! Or should I say,...BlackWind!"
   BlackWind's ears perked up - he knew that voice! "No way!" He turned to his
father. "Dad, What's going on?"
   The silver wolf just chuckled and pointed back to the darkness. BlackWind's
gaze followed...and lighted upon one of the most shapely female figures he had
ever seen. Not to mention the furriest body, longest fluffy tail and razor sharp
perked ears. "What's the matter?" the voice repeated, with a canine-ish 'yip' to
it. "No hellos to a classmate? Or to a fellow Shifter?"
   BlackWind gulped. "Amy? Is that YOU?"
   The vixen came out of the black area and became fully illuminated. BlackWind
stared - it was definitely Amy's shape, but the shape was about the only
similarity. In the place of an attractive young woman was the visage of the most
knock-down gorgeous female fox BlackWind had ever seen - even more beautiful
than his mother! The coloration was similar, but instead of black tips on the
tail and paws, they were brown, more natural looking.
   "We found each other at one of our monthly meetings - those 'business trips'
you saw me and your mother go on. I had no idea she was living in the area, so I
told her about you, and she wanted to be here on the night of your virgin
shift."
   The vixen giggled. "You certainly have changed for the better, BlackWind."
She winked at the wolf as she looked at all of him. "MUCH better."
   "Y-you t-t-too..." stammered the black wolf as he approached the fox and
extended his paw. She took it, smiling, as he brought her closer for a long
embrace - feeling a sense of peace on finding another like himself. "And to
think - the girl I had a crush on is a Shifter too!" Blackwind pulled back as
soon as he realized what he had just said.
   The vixen murred. "Silly! You didn't think I knew about how you felt? The
truth was, though..." she said, her foot absentmindedly passing over the floor,
her tail flailing back and forth slowly. "I kinda had a crush on you too. When
your father and I met at the meeting, I knew we had a lot more in common than
just each other's thoughts...so I asked if I could be around on your virgin
Shift night. I had no idea it was going to be on Halloween!"
   BlackWind smiled widely. "Yeah, today's just been full of surprises!" he
said, laughing. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his father slowly
opening the door and backing out, leaving the two together in the den. The sound
of a lock being used followed the click of the door.
   The vixen stroked his headfur and smiled again. "I guess this means that we
can be...'an item' at school now, huh?" she said with the most sultry voice the
vulpine jaw could generate.
   BlackWind nodded. "Oh yes! I mean...I-If you would have me...by the way, what
is YOUR Shifter name?"
   The vixen backed away from BlackWind, tracing her paw along his muzzle and
falling into the darkness, beckoning with her claws. "HeartSoar" she said,
softly as she disappeared into the darkness.
   As the wolf smiled and prepared to enter the dark area with the vixen, one
last thought penetrated his mind. "Yes sir," he mused. "Things are going to be A
LOT different from now on!"

   The End....?


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