Costume: Part 2

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As bashful as he may have been in the consulting room, Dr Pickford turned out to be a total professional when it came to the operating room. He had informed Sophie that the process would be divided into three distinct stages, which he termed “preparation,” “augmentation” and finally “consummation” (he blushed again at the last and moved swiftly on). It would have been possible for the whole operation to be carried out in the space of one day, but he explained that he wanted her to have the chance to come to terms with the alterations to her body a little at a time rather than waking up a biped and going to sleep as a mermaid in the same twenty-four hours.

At 9:00am the next morning Sophie was collected from her room by an efficient nurse and pushed in a wheelchair to the farthest wing of the house. The nurse had specific orders from Pickford that his patient was in no way to exert the muscles of her legs before the operation began.

Dressed in a theatre gown that barely covered her most intimate parts, Sophie could not help gazing down at her legs as she was wheeled towards the first stages of an operation that would totally change their shape. She ran her fingers over the skin of her thighs and was caught off guard by the realisation that when she had slipped her underwear off before stepping into the shower, she had had no idea of the odd significance of the act. It would be a long time before she was able to slip them back on again.

Pickford greeted her as she was pushed through the doors of the theatre. His casual clothes had of course been replaced by theatre greens and his face covered by a surgical mask, which he pulled down to reveal a determined expression.

‘We’ll be starting in a few minutes, Sophie,’ he motioned to the operating table and two theatre assistants gently lifted her from the wheelchair and laid her down upon it and raised the top half to an angle where she could see her own legs and the Pickford’s face. ‘First thing is to administer the anaesthetic,’ he produced a syringe filled with a clear liquid, ‘you’ll be conscious, but unable to feel a thing for the duration. He wiped a spot at the top of her arm with cotton wool and injected the contents of the needle. ‘As soon as this take effect we can start.’

The effects of the injection were unlike any anaesthetic Sophie had experienced in the past. Rather than passing out, she felt a sudden wave of relaxation and well being. The only thing she could compare the experience to be being high, unable to move or speak, yet still aware of her surroundings with her vision blurred slightly at the edges. When Pickford removed her gown she was aware of his touch despite his reassurances that she would feel nothing, but she simply floated on the chemical high that the drug had induced. In a corner of her mind Sophie was aware that she did not know what to expect; but again she simply could not find the will to do anything about it.

Sophie felt her legs lifted and something being pulled up over them. She glanced down and saw that what amounted to a long thin bag of heavy plastic had been slipped over her lower half. The bag was transparent and she could make out her legs inside. She also noticed that the bag was gathered just above her waist so that her torso was left clear.

There was a slight churning sound and Sophie heard a male voice from the far corner of the room.

‘Seal intact.’

‘Solution pumping,’ another voice answered.

A pleasant tingling sensation swept over Sophie’s legs as a warm liquid began to fill the bag. Soon it had totally submerged her feet and still it kept rising to cover her knees and then her thighs until the whole bag was filled. Once full, the pumping stopped and Sophie felt her legs floating in the liquid as if she were laid on her back in a swimming pool, floating on the water. But she was sure that this was not simple water. The liquid’s warmth seemed to seep into her legs until they felt warmed to the bone and the sensation relaxed her so much that she felt she might melt from it.

Sophie could never recall just how long her legs had been floating in the liquid, she felt that she had drifted away and slept for hours. The next thing she recalled was the feeling of a touch on her thigh. Her eyes opened to see Pickford pressing a finger into the flesh just above her knee. To her surprise, when he removed his finger it had left a small depression on the flesh such as might have been left behind had he done the same to wet clay.

‘The solution’s taken effect, the flesh is pliable enough,’ he said to his assistants out of Sophie’s sight. ‘I’m about to begin.’

What followed was a bizarre mixture of massage and a strange trip for Sophie. Pickford moved to the end of the table and began to knead her toes, which offered no resistance to his fingers and soon moulded together until the ends of Sophie’s feet were devoid of digits altogether. Next he began to work on her feet themselves, smoothing the insides of both and rounding her heels in the palms of his hands. Sophie watched as her feet gave way and became one, the flesh of each melting into the other whilst Pickford’s hands pointed them downwards and pushed what had been her heels back a little so that the tip of the newly amalgamated extremity was in line with her legs on an almost horizontal plane. Returning to what had been her toes, Pickford flattened the blunt end of the flesh and smoothed the point together until there was no trace of Sophie’s feet whatsoever as he carefully removed her toenails, placed them in a waiting metal pan and quickly eradicated the small indentations they had left.

Sophie looked on as Pickford moved up to her calves and gently pressed them together. Again she felt the very flesh of her limbs yield as they became one and Pickford carefully progressed all the way up to her knees before returning the way he had come to pull them closer together and seal up the fain line that still hinted as to the distinct limbs which they had once been.

Before he moved upwards, Pickford called to his assistants who gingerly lifted Sophie and turned her so that she lay on her belly. Now the doctor was lost from sight, but Sophie was soon aware of just what part of her was working on. She felt gentle hands make contact with her intimate parts and begin to mould them as they had done her feet and calves. What might have been deeply uncomfortable was softened by the effect of the drugs and the warm and yielding quality that the strange liquid had conferred upon her body. The sensation of movement was soon over and she was turned onto her back once more.

Only now did Pickford begin to push together and mould her thighs, first unifying her knees and then sealing the ever shrinking gap between Sophie’s legs until he reached the point where she had been waxed to remove her pubic hair before arriving at the Retreat. Here he spent a great deal of time putting an end to her crotch and levelling her flesh out so that when he was finished Sophie stared down the length of her body and took in the uninterrupted flow of soft pink flesh which started at her waist and ended at what were once her feet.

Her contemplation was cut short as the theatre assistants again lifted her and placed her on her stomach. Pickford worked quickly now, moulding and sealing the back of her legs so that they were uniform with the front until he reached Sophie’s buttocks. There he inserted something cold and hard, which brushed against her intimate parts and stayed there whilst he pressed the cheeks of her backside together and finally concluded smoothing everything together. When the object was removed the assistants turned her over once more and one held her lower half off the table whilst Pickford and the other pulled a long machine plated with polished metal from the corner of the room.

The machine was about five feet in length, three wide, maybe a foot deep and sat atop four legs mounted with castors. While Pickford opened the device like the bottom half of a coffin, the second assistant fiddled with the table until the section under Sophie’s lower limb folded away, all the time his colleague held her still. Pickford and the assistant then manoeuvred the machine beneath Sophie and guided the other man to lower her into it. She saw that the interior of the machine was shaped precisely to fit her new form and as the lid was closed she felt it press tightly around her allowing not an inch of movement.

Soon she began to feel heat building within the machine and suffusing her lower half once again. Reclined on the table she lost any sense of time and drifted into a deep and dreamless sleep.

When she awoke, Sophie found that she was alone in the dark. She groped instinctively for the bedside table and the alarm that she presumed must have woken her. As her arm waved about in the darkness she contemplated the ride to work and wondered if she should stick to the usual routine for her act, or try to throw in something a little more daring. Maybe tonight was the night to try taking the stage in a full-length toga and falling to the floor in pretend shock at the tail suddenly flapping away from between the folds.

It was about then that she realised the table was not there and there was no alarm.

Sophie recalled where she was and found the light switch on the wall by the bed.

Then she remembered what had taken place in the operating theatre.

With more than a little trepidation, Sophie pulled back the sheets to be presented with the sight of a dull grey material peeking out from under a nightshirt, which she had no memory of dressing herself in. She tugged the covers off her fully and stared at the tight stocking that covered her legs. Made of a smooth material almost without a discernable texture, the stocking was quite thick and extended right up to an inch above her waist.

The way in which the stocking held her legs together reminded Sophie of the similar garments she had worn under her costume. Perhaps, she thought, it was all a dream; just the effects of whatever they doped me up with.

At the other end her feet waved back at her as Sophie flexed them experimentally. They were quite mobile, but something did not seem right. It was as if they refused to bend all the ways that they should and Sophie simply could not make them point upwards as if she were trying to stand on the soles. A vague recollection of what she thought she had seen Pickford doing to them nagged at her, but she ignored it; lying down on her back, she began to pull the stocking down.

As soon as the garment had moved more than a few inches, Sophie stopped dead. At first she had simply rolled the hem down without a second thought, but then she realised that she should have passed her waist a good two inches earlier. She gazed at the point where her legs should have begun and saw only pink skin disappearing under the stocking.

She had not been hallucinating.

She did not have legs, as such, anymore.

She was one step on the way to becoming a mermaid.

If this was the reality of her situation, Sophie reflected, then she was going to get to grips with the practicalities of her new form. With this in mind, she stripped the stocking off completely and pulled herself over to the edge of the bed. She swung her unified lower limb over the edge and regarded herself in the full-length mirror upon the wall. The nightshirt followed the stocking and she took in the changes that Pickford had wrought to her body.

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall; who’s the biggest pink worm of them all?’ she whispered to herself as she followed the line of her body unbroken from head to what had been her toes. What Pickford had begun with his hands, the machine into which he had placed her had certainly made a nice finish to. The seamless line of Sophie’s lower body made her certain that the machine had been some kind of press or mould to set her flesh in its new shape. She noted with interest the absence of pubic hair and toenails. She also found herself admiring the graceful line that her lower half followed, from her waist all the way down to where her feet curved under slightly as if in anticipation of what was to come.

Sophie placed a hand on her extended lap and ran her fingers over the spot in which she guessed her intimate parts had been. She was surprised to find that while there was no trace to be found on the outside, something had certainly been left behind beneath the skin.

Intrigued, she rolled onto her stomach and felt for her buttocks only to find that while they were still there, they too had changed somewhat. Rather than the rounded cheeks she was used to, Sophie found that both sides were pulled tightly together as though their muscles had been strengthened. A probing finger found that the line between them extended almost twice as far as it had before.

Determined to find out all that she could, Sophie forced her finger in-between the cheeks and quickly found that her backside was just where she left it and her private parts had become a close neighbour to it.

Before she could explore any further there was a gentle rap on the door.

Sophie was suddenly aware that she had never bothered to check the time when she awoke. A quick glance told her that she had slept right through the night.

For all the apparent strangeness of losing her legs and awaking to find that her intimate parts had gone walkabout, she was about to have to deal with a whole lot more.

Pickford seemed quite delighted when Sophie explained to him that she had fathomed the ins and outs of the changes that he had made to her body the previous day (she later concluded that this was due to the fact that it spared him the embarrassment of explaining how her plumbing now worked himself), and was keen to move on to the second stage of the operation. Within five minutes of entering the theatre, she was back on the table and ready to take the next step away from being human and towards becoming a mermaid.

Before she received another dose of the hypnotic anaesthetic, Pickford drew her attention towards two plastic tanks that sat on a table a few feet from where she lay. The first and smallest contained eight small blue shapes, much like arrowheads, but curved on two sides and faintly transparent in the strong light of the theatre. Sophie looked closer and noted that they were suspended in a gel just like as the scale Pickford had shown her in the consulting room. She glanced down at her hands and spread her fingers wide apart as she recognised the shape of the webbing that had been glued in-between her fingers as a part of her stage costume.

But it was the contents of the second and far larger tank that held her attention rapt while Pickford explained them to her with a certain amount of pride.

In this tank was suspended a magnificent tailfin. Between two and three feet in length, it flared out at the top and twisted away into two flukes that tapered to points like nothing she had seen before. Of a blue that matched and yet far surpassed the webbing intended for her fingers, the tailfin was ribbed with five lines at each side that began at the top and followed the shape of the individual flukes until they met at their tips. Under the theatre lights, the tailfin shimmered like a giant butterfly of unearthly beauty and grace.

For the first time, Sophie found herself caught up in a state of enchantment.

Not only was she to be a mermaid; but also she was to be a stunning vision unlike anything she had dared imagine.

Pickford explained briefly what Sophie had already concluded; that the object of today’s surgery would be to attach the parts that she saw in the tanks. These had all been grown in the same way as the scales and would function as any other part of her body in just the same way. The webbing was self-evident, but he went into more depth in the case of the tailfin. Raising the end of Sophie’s unified lower limb, he explained that the tailfin would be attached to the bottom of her former feet. Now that the shape of her feet was like that of an uneven diamond, with the longer edges being the outer sides and the shorter being the edge where her toes had once been, the tailfin would be attached to the latter edges and make use of the bones and muscles now redundant that had once worked the long gone digits.

Sophie nodded that she understood and soon the anaesthetic was administered.

Again she was cast adrift on a sublime feeling and watched in a detached wonder as Pickford went about his work, before falling into a deep sleep. She watched as each of the triangles of webbing was placed in-between her immobile fingers after a concentrated spray from a small canister, which Pickford held in his off hand, had been applied. From the way the webbing sank into the skin as each piece was pressed home, Sophie guessed that the same strange liquid was being used as had reduced her legs to the consistency of clay. She wondered what other uses the Retreat had put the same substance, or whether it was the sole preserve of Pickford himself.

Though he had been careful with the webbing, Pickford took the greatest pains by far over the tailfin. With this he ushered the assistants out of the theatre and would let no hands but his own touch the contents of the larger tank. Delicately laying the fin out before the end of Sophie’s lower limb, he made precise incisions down both sides where her toes had been with a scalpel. Though she could feel no pain, Sophie was sure she could feel Pickford’s fingers as he sought and found the bones that her toes had left behind. As he worked, slowly at first and then ever more quickly, she became aware of the tailfin as each bone and its nerve endings were married up to a rib running its length. Eventually the same canister reappeared in Pickford’s hand and as he squeezed the trigger, Sophie again felt herself succumbing to sleep.

When the alarm sounded for real this time, Sophie was awake in a second and silenced the clock she had retrieved from her bag before leaving for the operating theatre for the second time. Estimating that she operation could not have taken more than six hours, she had set the alarm to go off at midnight. This she hoped would give her a good few hours to sleep off the after-effects of the anaesthetic and still allow for more time in which to examine the sum of the changes that had been wrought upon her this time round.

The first became apparent when she reached out and flipped the lights on. Her hand felt as if she were wearing a glove of some kind, and a closer inspection revealed that she was right. Both her hands had been covered by fingerless gloves; made of the same material as the stocking she had awoken in the previous morning. Sophie wasted no time in pulling these off to reveal her newly webbed hands.

She blew on her palm and found that they were every bit as sensitive as her fingers and joined the skin as if they had always been a part of her. Each curved between her fingers and met them below the first joint, and whilst she found that she was perfectly able to hold a pen and perform a host of other minor feats of digital dexterity, she was unable to wear a ring upon her fingers any longer or intertwine her hand with that of another.

Another stocking had been pulled over her legs and she treated this in the same way, only pausing for a moment before pulling the whole thing off to reveal the tailfin. Once the stocking was gone, the tailfin unfurled upon the bed in all its glory. It was heavier than Sophie had imagined, weighing the end of her fast developing tail down and forcing her to flex her muscles to move it around. But once she began, it was evident that the tailfin was far from inanimate due to its weight. Sophie found that she was quite able to twist and turn the fin in many different directions as its two halves worked independently of each other and responded perfectly to the demands of the ribs now attached to the nerves and muscles that had once animated her toes.

Sophie lay on her stomach and arched her tail forwards so that the fin flopped down over her head. Leaning on her elbows, she ran her hands over it and explored the thing’s texture and shape, all the time as aware of her hands upon the fin as she was the fin between her fingers. She had expected it to be cold and maybe a little slimy, but she found instead that it was warm and quite dry, even noticing the tiny and delicate veins that ran through it.

Feeling more than a little excited, Sophie eased herself off the bed and crawled over to her bags where they lay in a corner of the room. Most of the clothes she had brought were casual and quite ordinary, but not all of them. Sophie rooted around until she had found the items she wanted and then climbed back onto the bed.

Quickly she stripped her nightshirt off and cupped her breasts in a black strapless bra. The next piece of clothing took a bit more forward thinking as she attacked the toe of a pair of black tights with nail scissors and then balled them up ready to be pulled on. Sophie teased the ends of her tailfin into the leg of the tights that she had cut and then eased them through the holes she had made for them until they emerged from either side. She then pulled the leg of the tights up over her bare tail and to her middle and tucked the empty leg into the waistband. The outfit was finished off with a little black dress that fitted her like a dream. The ended well before her knees (or once had) and had never failed to impress.

Fully dressed, Sophie picked up the phone by the bed and dialled reception.

‘Reception,’ she recognised Gillian’s accented English, ‘how can I help?’

‘This is Ms Higgson in room twenty-seven. I missed the evening meal, please could you send me up something to eat?’

‘Certainly,’ Gillian replied, ‘what would you favour?’

‘Send me some seafood,’ Sophie stifled a laugh, ‘anything will do, as long as its seafood.’

‘Very well, someone will be with you within the next half an hour.’

‘You won’t be bringing it yourself?’

‘No, I’m afraid that would be quite impossible.’

‘Ok,’ Sophie resigned herself to the fact that she was not going to be able to shock Gillian after all.

She spent the next thirty minutes practicing and pouting in the mirror until she heard a knock at the door. One hand resting on her tail and the other cradling her head as she reclined on the bed she decided that she was ready.

‘Come in and put it down by the bed; you’re safe to come right in, I’m dressed.’

The door was opened by a young man not more than twenty and wearing the uniform of a male nurse. At first he seemed taken aback at the sight of Sophie as she moved her hand up to her breast and gave him a seductive smile. Then his eyes trailed down to the sight of her tail, naked of scales, but clearly visible for what it was beneath the black tights. Sophie flapped her tailfin as he stared open-mouthed and pointed at the platter he was carrying.

‘I’d bet you a pound to a penny that whatever you’ve got under there, it isn’t the catch of the day right now, is it?’ It was a line so predictable that it made her cringe, but it had the desired effect.

The nurse’s Adams apple bobbed for a second before he dropped the platter on the floor and fled the room.

Once she was alone, it took Sophie so long to stop laughing that the contents of the platter had gone cold.

The last day in the operating theatre began as the other two had with Sophie being wheeled through the doors and delivered onto the table in the centre of the room where Pickford greeted her. But this was the third day, when the final stage of the process would take place and for all intents and purposes she would say goodbye to the human being known as Sophie and become a creature conjured out of myth and fantasy. The same face would stare back at her from the mirror, but everything else would change from this day onwards.

Pickford would today engage in the delicate task of attaching the individually grown scales to Sophie’s tail, thus rendering the transformation complete and providing the world at large with its first genuine mermaid.

The end of her tail was soon strapped to a complex harness and hoisted off the table until only Sophie’s torso remained upon the table. The doctor explained that for this part of the operation he would be unable to turn her as he worked and instead needed to have the whole of her tail at his disposal.

‘I think that I’ll have outdone Barnum by the time the day is over,’ he joked.

Sophie laughed out of simple politeness, but Pickford’s casual joke sent her mind racing back over the events of the past two days once more. She realised that the intense changes wrought to her body and the speed with which they had taken place had left her somewhat stunned; despite all the care taken to stagger the operation over a number of days she had still been overwhelmed by the massive reality of her new physical appearance.

Only now as the anaesthetic took effect for the final time did she begin to contemplate the vast implications of what she had allowed Pickford to do to her. There was a part of her that still refused to believe his claim that her transformation would not be permanent, that she was being initiated into a strange kind of human zoo where she would have all the rights of an animal. Sophie recalled a time when she had visited an aquatic park on the continent, but now rather than tanks populated with dolphins and other cetaceans, she pictured herself on show and made to perform for the applause of the tourists. She worried that with the changes to her body would follow changes to her mind. Deprived of legs and forced to deal with the reality that a tail had replaced them, would she be able to think like a human being for long? Sophie had been sure changes had begun to creep over Kiera after she had returned from the Retreat, as if her usual playful nature had been absorbed into the provocative nature of the creature she portrayed on the stage, the creature that had replaced her former self.

While she swam in an ocean of her own thoughts, buoyed up by the effects of the drugs in her veins, Pickford had wasted no time in starting on the job at hand. On a shallow tray by the operating table lay row upon row of scales, each nearly identical to the original Sophie had seen in the consulting room. With a fine pair of tweezers in one hand and the spray he had employed the previous day in the other, Pickford moistened a spot on Sophie’s tail and gently attached one scale at a time. He began at the very point where the tailfin met the pink skin and laid the first layer half over the former and half over the latter as to disguise the transition from one to the other. When he had laid a complete band around the base of the tail, he then began another above it taking care to overlap the second layer over the first. In this way he proceeded, each new band growing wider as the width of the tail increased and each overlapping with the last so that no gap at all was visible. Sophie watched his progress as the effects of the anaesthetic clouded her thoughts and silenced the trepidation that had taken hold of her. All the anxiety and fear was reduced to the simple act of watching, and she counted each scale as a step on the road away from her former self.

As the scales reached her knees and then inched up over her thighs and finally reached up to encircle her waist, Sophie felt herself swallowed up by a feeling of deep calm. The completion of the tail seemed somehow to silence her doubts and resign her to the fact that this was now as much a part of her as the colour of her eyes, the curve of her breasts or the sound of her voice. As Pickford dotted the scales up her stomach and over her back to graduate the change from fish to flesh and finally released Sophie’s tail from the harness, she watched the whole thing move like an iridescent shirt of chainmail above the elegant shape of the tailfin. This was no costume that she could pull off at the end of the day; as she had predicted, her costume had become her skin.

It was a good month later when Sophie and Pickford met again. They sat in the same chairs, in the same room and drank coffee from the same cups. Only Sophie, out of all the pieces that made up the picture, had changed.

She sat proudly, with her tail gathered up beneath her so that the flukes of her tailfin fell over the arm of the chair. She wore a loose fitting dress that made no effort to conceal the shape of her tail and fell away to reveal the silver and blue of the scales as they caught the sunlight streaming in through the window. Her hair was gathered beneath a scarf wrapped around her head and also caught the light where Sophie had taken to entwining small beads and charms into the locks as her rehabilitation had progressed.

For his own part, Pickford was visibly impressed. Sophie tried to puzzle out whether his admiration was for his own handiwork or simply for the sight of a flesh and blood mermaid sitting not more than a few feet away. In the end she settled upon a mixture of the two.

Both knew that the past month had been a revelation for the patient. The sudden reality that she was now at the end of the tunnel had washed away all trace of the trepidation that had dogged Sophie through the days of the operation. And Pickford had been right, her previous experience had crystallised in her mind and overcome the shock of her new form. At times Sophie caught herself thinking that she had forgotten to undress at the end of the day, but all that had soon passed as the undulating motions of her tail and its hypnotic scales became far more than could ever be termed second nature. As she learned to move and cope with the freedoms and the limitations that were afforded by the tail, Sophie found a new confidence born out of the very changes that she had once feared.

‘I’m pleased to say that you have a clean bill of health and the physiotherapist reports that you’ve taken to the using of your tail like…well like a fish to water. So I’ll have no problem in seeing you off back to London as soon as all the details are finalised. I hear your employer has made all the necessary arrangements for you in advance?’ he glanced up from her file to ask the question.

Sophie nodded. Doug had been in contact and rattled on over the phone about the apartment he had laid on for her return. The place was apparently tailored to allow her every freedom despite the limitations that faced a mermaid stranded upon dry land. He explained that the backers of the club had been generous in advancing capital to ensure that the new attraction was maintained in the appropriate manner. The money was even enough to secure a small indoor pool as a further sweetener to the deal. She had enjoyed mastering the art of swimming with her tail in the Retreat’s own pool, and Sophie was particularly looking forward to the thought of a private pool of her own.

‘So the car will be here to pick you up some time this afternoon and I’ll be seeing you, hopefully, in five years time…which should give me plenty of time to grow you some new toenails to replace the ones that I did away with!’

Sophie leaned forward and gave him a conspiratorial whisper in the ear.

‘Who says I’ll want those; I may ask you for gills when five years are up…’

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Filed under Body Modification, Short Story, The Retreat, Transformation

Game of the Walking Dead of Thrones

Suddenly having Craister chop off your cock seems like the easy option...

Suddenly having Craister chop off your cock seems like the easy option…

So we made it to the end of the second season of Game of Thrones and are secure in the knowledge that the third season was comissioned after the airing of the first few episodes once more. Now all we have to do is find something to do until next April while we wait for the boxset and the premiere of the new season, perhaps this little film that Peter Jackson has been bevering away on might provide a minor distraction until we can return to Westeros?

What were my impressions of the second season? Did I bathe in the glories or see places where improvements could have been made? Does anyone care what I think?

In the case of the last question, it’s a moot point as this is my blog, so if you have no interest in my opinion them what the fuck are you reading this for in the first place? Well, if there’s anyone who I haven’t alienated with that comment and some people who are looking to read a kinky story involving the undead and the inhabitants of Westeros still scratching their heads as to what this is all about (more kinky stories comming soon, I promise you), here are my feelings about the second season now that the final credits have rolled.

Overall there has been no drop in quality from season one in terms of either the writing, direction, casting, acting and scope of the episodes whatsoever. One merges into the other with no real let up and I would expect that a newbie would be able to watch both seasons back to back with little trouble. The new characters introduced in no way jar with those that were stalwarts in season one and in fact add a new dimension to the whole rather nicely as the narrative is inevitablty further split down as new factions emerge and alliances are broken and forged.

There are moments at which the division of screen time can make you aware of the fact that you had forgotten a particular character for a while, but this was always going to be the case with such a sprawling series of novels. Where the writers have chosen to make changes and omit some less central plotlines, these have for the most been made in a logical manner that suits the small screen and helps the more casual viewer to keep up. I truly think that had the series been made to the exacting standards of the average Game of Thrones obsessive, the thing would not have been nearly as popular with the great unwashed masses.

My criticisms are small and probably better taken as very individual points that occured to me rather than things that make me foam at the mouth with nerd rage. One is the fact that while I like the ongoing practice of hiring actors who are well known in the UK for minor roles (e.g. Ralph Inerson as Dagmar Cleftjaw and Tony Way as Sir Dontos), it would have been nice to see Clive Mantle return for at least one episode as Greatjohn Umbar as well. There was also the fact that some of the scenes that later in the series that focussed on Rob Stark and the Nights Watch minus Jon Snow felt more like placeholders intended to keep the characters in the mind of the viewer rather than actually advance the plot.

Oddly it was one of my favourite scenes from the series and not one that I have an issue with or that could have been avoided that struck me as the most obvious negative of the whole thing. The Battle of the Blackwater was without doubt the best episode of the entire season, with pacing, set pieces and acting that put Hollywood to shame. It should have been as well thanks to George R R Martin penning the thing. But comming before the end of the season, it inevitably made the final episode more an epilogue than a finale.

They tried, bless them for it as well, to make the final episode a slew of delight for the viewer with Danerys recovering her dragons while locking a man in his own vault to starve to death, Winterfell being burnt to the ground and Theon handed over to Ramsey Snow (a glimpse of him would have been nice, based on how much was revolving around him) and Geoffrey sliming his way out of the noose once more thanks to the efforts of others. But in reality they were just cleaning up loose ends and getting the viewer prepped for season 3.

Having Sam surrounded by an army of Wights was the last scene when I was expecting a moment of Mance Rayder to reveal who was going to get the role and set tongues wagging, but what would I know? It was a chilling sight and well done, but you and I both know that within moments of his first scene in season 3 Sam will be back in the company of his fellow crows, perhaps after an adventure with an onyx dagger. All in all the thing seemed more a self-conscious attempt to spice up the end of the episode rather than a genuine element of the storyline propper. But nonetheless, it was 99.9% perfect and I cannot wait for season 3.

PS: Why did we have to see Bran being spirited away from Winterfell in a barrow? Would it have been too much for Hoddor to have been carrying him in the sling across his back? And where do they find these odd but undeniably cute actresses? Ygritte is the latest to pop up and one of the best so far.

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Costume: Part 1

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The door to the room swung open and banged against the wall with a dull thud that jarred Sophie’s teeth and reminded her of the headache she had woken up with more than six hours ago.

Silently she thanked empty space for the small mercy that her shift was finally over for the night. It might have been nothing to look at, but at that exact moment in time the six feet by four of the dressing room was the most welcoming thing in the world. It had everything she wanted, a door and four walls between her and the rest of humanity.

From her vantage point, Sophie could make out only the legs of the battered dresser and stool, the oriental screen in the far corner that swallowed up the rest of the room, hiding the tiny shower and toilet, was a blur of faded colour in the corner of her eye. The carpet felt far better on the palms of the hands than the cold tiles of the corridor as she pulled herself into the room towards the stool. When the exposed skin of her stomach rubbed across the carpet it gave her a fresh burst of energy and a second later she cast a hand out and took hold of the nearest leg.

She paused there for a moment to gaze back over her shoulder and regard the progress she had made. Half the battle was over as she had covered half the way into the room and her upper half was fully inside. The fact was that she needed to check her progress before trying to shut the door for fear of misjudging and slamming the damn thing on the length of her tail that still trailed out behind her into the corridor.

Sophie turned over onto her back and drew her tail up as far as possible so that the blue scales rested and inch or two from her chin and the paler flukes which flared out at the end crept into the room. Once they had joined her, she rolled onto her side and swung the door shut with a flip of the end of the tail.

Now she was alone, she paused and rummaged around in a drawer at the bottom of the dresser. Rummaging around among the contents she cursed under her breath as the webs between her fingers got very much in the way. A tone matching her tail-flukes, the webs churned through the junk in the drawer and made her drop the object of her search twice before she tossed a pack of cigarettes onto the top of the dresser.

Pulling her tail round and under her buttocks, Sophie wriggled around until the end and the flukes were right under her rear end. From there she heaved herself up belly-first onto the seat of the stool and spent the next few minutes struggling to work her body around till she was sitting comfortably facing the mirror that dominated the whole of the dresser and looked down upon a multitude of cosmetics arranged before her like votive offerings at a shrine.

Before her hand strayed to the dresser for the cigarettes or the various cosmetics, Sophie stared into the mirror and regarded the reflection as if looking upon a stranger for the first time. She traced the tresses of hair hanging down below her shoulders, a brown so strong and tending towards red it seemed ready to burst into flame. She gazed into the round hazel eyes and lingered for a time on the details of a delicate face. A hand drifted down towards her breasts, naked save for a few scales that dotted them, as blue as those more numerous upon the length of her tail. The hand travelled down and was lost from the view of the mirror as it found her waist. A solitary finger roamed over the scales that began as a lonely few dotted around her belly-button and grew more and more it descended over the tiny curve of her stomach until all trace of skin was lost beneath the fine overlapping scales.

Soon the other hand joined the first as Sophie explored the scales at her waist, feeling as if for something lost which must now be rediscovered with all haste. Finally both hands met below her navel and she slipped her fingers under hidden seam of her tail and lifted the edge of the costume, pushing towards her right side. The tail fitted her so well that the overlapping inches of skin tone after the scales ended was a near perfect match for her own, perfect enough to fool the naked eye and create the desired illusion. Her hands found their way to their goal and released the clip holding the monofibre seam together and the costume slowly yielded as she peeled it from her legs.

Sophie bit her lip as she delicately removed the costume and liberated her thighs at first, and then her knees re-emerged followed soon after by her feet, all still held together by the stiff Lycra stocking that served to restrict her movements and heighten the illusion that what lay beneath it did not exist at all. She gingerly laid the tail over the back of her chair, well aware of the fact that she could not afford to replace it were there to be the slightest damage whilst she was off stage. Next she rolled the stocking down to her feet with little regard for the more robust undergarment. As usual it was wet with perspiration, she tossed it into a corner where similar stockings were piled and rubbed the feeling back into her feet. She wriggled a little on the seat as she quickly pulled of the scales that dotted her skin, then winced as she yanked the larger scales away from her nipples, too tired to use the solvents arrayed among the make-up on the dresser to dissolve the glue that held them in place. At last she pulled off the webbing from her fingers one piece at a time with a curse under her breath for each one.

Once finished, and dressed now only in a thong – the only underwear that the costume permitted her to wear – Sophie padded across the tiny space of the room and disappeared behind the screen where she was able to wash away the sweat and grime as well as do something else that her costume made impossible.

Dressed and mercifully clean, Sophie stood outside the back door of the club and watched as the night sky turned a pale grey before dawn. She took a last drag from her cigarette before dropping the butt on the ground and crushing it under her battered trainer.
‘Penny for your thoughts?’

She glanced over her shoulder and saw that a fellow smoker had joined her in the alleyway.

‘What did I do this time, Doug?’ she said, trying to cut to the point.

Despite the fact that she felt no particular enmity towards her employer, Sophie was almost asleep on her feet and polite conversation was the last thing she wanted.

‘Nothing…nothing,’ he replied, ‘apart from you never leave your stockings out for the laundrette run, you constantly pester me for advances half way through the month and you stuck two fingers up at that yank the other week, nothing at all.’ His tone was light and he grinned as he spoke.

‘You were there, you saw; the bastard tried to cop a feel.’

‘I know, I know…only joking,’ he paused for a second, ‘It’s just that you looked like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders in there tonight, I was worried about you.’

Perhaps the kindest thing that could have been said about Doug was the fact that he had chosen to work in an industry where he at least looked the part. He was balding, a bit overweight, had slightly rounded shoulders and dressed in suits that would not have looked out of place on the set of a cheap gangster movie. Everything about him screamed sleaze; except for the fact that he was afflicted by a conscience and totally unable to stop himself caring for the welfare of his employees. When Sophie had first started to work for him, Doug had given her warm handshakes and friendly grins, which she had been sure, were a preamble to a clumsy effort to grope her when the chance arose. But when the much-feared fondling attempt failed to materialise and Doug talked away her nerves, she had begun to grow fond of his bumbling ways and cheesy sense of humour. Experience had taught her that she could always approach him with a problem, be it big or small.

‘The usual,’ she managed as she lit his cigarette.

‘Trouble in the bedroom?’

‘No, the other usual.’

‘Ah, money.’

‘Bang on,’ she lit another for herself, ‘they cut the electric off yesterday.’

‘Why didn’t you say,’ Doug’s hand went instinctively for his wallet, ‘how much do you need?’

‘What? No I couldn’t…anyway, it’s more than having to put up with candles and cold beans. It’s the same thing every month, after the electric, water, council rates and my mobile I have those old student debts leeching from me as well. I’m stuck in a bloody rut and I something to kick me up the arse and get me out of it before I go mad.’

Doug looked thoughtful for a few moments before he spoke.

‘I’d pay you more if I could, but then I’d have to give the rest a rise as well; can’t afford that right now, no way. So you’ll have to get another job, or else rob a bank.’

‘Have you seen the unemployment figures lately? By the way, do you have a spare balaclava I could borrow?’

Doug was quiet again, as if he were weighing things up in his mind.

‘You could always go full BM; then I could get away with paying you more. What do you think?’

Body Modification, the words were both the ultimate taboo and the ultimate turn-on depending on which side of the equation you were on. In the last days of the twentieth century genetic modification had been nothing more than a term that was bandied around in the media as eco-warriors and the captains of industry argued back and forth about twiddling with the genes of crops and the dangers of “Frankenstein foods” being sold for human consumption. But with the passage of time it had come to mean so much more; it had come to stand for all the clever little tricks that mankind had learned to pull with the genetic makeup of not only the lower orders of flora and fauna, but also inevitably upon his own.

In the sweltering heat of the underground, Sophie’s thoughts raced like the train as it wound its way through the bowels of London. Cramped into her seat, she stared down at the paper open on her lap, her eyes gazing right through the print as if it were not there at all.

There had always been an underground in the industry that catered for the more outlandish and offbeat of preferences; the titillation that would raise a few eyebrows were it mentioned in polite company, but was nevertheless tolerated so long as it never strayed from the unspoken bounds that were set for it. The dominatrix could wield her whip and clamp her punters nipples, the dancer could gyrate in her customer’s lap and even the men who got off on wearing bibs and nappies were pretty safe whilst they indulged themselves behind closed doors.

While these had all been commonplace for as long as the industry had existed, it seemed that the past twenty years since the turn of the century had seen even more colourful ideas emerge from the mass unconscious when it came to getting your thrills. One had been the advent of the “Costume Clubs,” where the emphasis was on the exotic dress of the dancers and punters paid to see in the flesh what they could only see as fantasy elsewhere. The clubs ran the gamut from small places where the girls dressed as Japanese schoolgirls for wild-eyed oriental businessmen to the big time operations, which rented out large premises and had the financial clout to rival the Hollywood studios when it came to the quality of their costumes. Some clubs were a mishmash of concepts and ideas, but others followed a strict theme and employed dancers to play specific parts such as the occupants of a nunnery, a women’s prison or even a school of gladiators, decking out the interior of the club to heighten the effect. The more outrageous the theme, the more outrageous the costumes.

It was into this particular category that Doug’s own club fell, doing a brisk trade catering for its punters with a group of dancers portraying the creatures of ancient mythology. Despite his not being able to raise the wages of his staff, Doug had managed to funnel enough cash into the place to make sure that the parts of the club that the customers saw was something out of the ordinary. “The stage,” as he called it, was a good-sized loft not far from the banks of the Thames. Once inside, the illusion was almost complete and might have fooled the worse for drink into thinking that they were sitting in a Greek forum on a warm summers night. Only a keen eye would have convinced the average customer that Homer himself was not likely to be sitting away in a corner reciting poetry. At the far end of the club was a stage from which an ancient tragedy might have been performed, but from which a far more sensuous art was actually indulged in.

Doug’s girls each had a creature that was their own, and the same money that had gone into the club also went into making sure that they looked the part whilst on stage. Fauns, centaurs, nymphs of all four elements, even snake-tailed nagas crept into the menagerie (though they were an import from the mysterious east and not native to the Mediterranean). And of course there was Sophie herself, the resident mermaid. They turned up, they got dressed, they danced for the customers and then they went home.

And when it was all over, the unpleasantness washed away and the money having changed hands, then everyone went back to their normal lives. If the willing participants, customer and provider of services, were to meet in the street then neither would dare to acknowledge the other in the real world.

But BM changed the rules; with it you could no more simply take off the costume and go home than you could take off your own skin. With BM the costume was your skin.

Doug had not lied when he spoke of the financial rewards, there was much demand for “the real thing” and people were willing to pay to see it. This was supposed to in some way balance the sacrifices that the subject had to make, the fiscal reward repaying the physical price. Sophie was also sure that he would pay her well were she to take that option; Doug had made it clear to his girls that the price of the treatment would go through the clubs accounts and their expenses would all be met.

She recalled as well the fuss and occasion that Doug had made when the first (and so far only) one of his employees had consented to the process. Kiera had returned from a long holiday in Africa and shown her face at the club only once before disappearing again amidst the whispers of the other dancers as to just what would return.

When the time came, Doug made sure that his investment in Kiera was worthwhile. Appearing on stage in a ludicrous toga and sandals, he announced to the eager crowd that he had just taken receipt of a rare specimen from the furthest reaches of the dark continent. At his command a pair of men dressed in similar togas (and feeling like a pair of prats) pulled a large cage covered with a rich red cloth out onto the stage. Without further ado, Doug whipped back the cloth and stepped back to reveal the contents of the cage.

Sophie recalled taking a breath in surprise.

There inside the cage was Kiera; the face was the same and the suggestive smile had not changed, even if so much else had. She wore a bra and loincloth made only of twisted black fabric, which was almost lost against the black and white stripes that crisscrossed her skin. A mane of black and white hair fell from her head and trailed away down her spine, narrowing all the way until it vanished just above the tail at the base of her spine that swayed back and forth. Far longer at the front, the mane fell down on the left side of her head, covering one eye whilst the other regarded the crowd with a mischievous glint. As she stepped out of the cage and made towards the edge of the stage, Sophie had cast an eye on her legs, seen that below the knee they bended back on themselves, and ended in black hooves, which clacked on the boards as she went.

Kiera was the new star attraction, she was worth more in wages than any two of her colleagues put together, she was exotic and alluring in a unnerving and alien way. But she could not go home, could not walk down the street, and could not ride the crowded and stifling underground back to her tiny flat in the soulless boroughs.

And it was that last memory which made up Sophie’s mind.

As the thronging crowds piled out of the train and carried her from the platform, up the stairs and out onto the street she was fumbling for her mobile and dialling Doug’s number.

A loud and persistent knocking at the door finally dragged Sophie out of bed. Though she did not bother to look at the bedside clock, the light lancing in between the slats of the blind betrayed the fact that it was the middle of the day. Silently cursing the nocturnal existence that her job demanded, she hunted around the room until she found a shirt to cover herself. The last remnant of an old relationship, the shirt was large enough to reach halfway down her thighs and would have to do, as her dressing gown was nowhere to be found.

The knocking at the door continued as she picked her way through the messy flat towards the door. Once there she stared through the peephole in the door and caught sight of the distorted image of a man in a courier’s uniform. As strange as the view through the hole made him seem, it was clear that the look on his face was one of impatience as he kept on pounding the door.

Putting on the chain, Sophie opened the door and peered round at the courier whose knuckles had stopped only an inch from the wood.

‘Ms S Higgson?’ he asked in a stressed tone of voice.

‘Yes.’

‘Package for you, luv,’ he proffered his palm-sized inventory, ‘just need you to swipe for it and then I’m gone.’

Sophie retrieved her ID card from the pocket of her coat, which was mercifully still hanging from the peg on the back of the door. She quickly swiped it in the slot of the inventory and was rewarded with a smile from the courier and a small cardboard box as he tapped the screen, recording the delivery.

‘Return’s been paid for, luv,’ he explained before disappearing, ‘call the number on the label when it’s ready to be sent back and they’ll send someone round to pick it up.’

And with that he was gone.

Sophie closed the door and carried the box into the living room where she sat down and cleared a space on the table. The address on the label was of course her own, but the plastic pocket attached to the box was filled with a small sheet of instructions and another label bearing an address in Kent for the return of the package.

Before she read the instructions, Sophie opened the box and pondered over the contents. Nestled inside the packaging, she found what looked like two test tubes with a plastic lids and a small book. She unscrewed the test tubes and noticed that the first had a swap attached to the lid, while the second hid a miniature syringe in the same place. Putting these down, she flipped through the pages of the book and was assaulted by a spectrum of colours. Each page was devoted to a different tone, from an intense colour at the one side and fading to paler tones at the other. All in all it gave the impression of a book of wallpaper samples, except for the fact that each page was perforated where it met the spine do that it could be removed from the book.

More than a little puzzled by these finds, Sophie skimmed through the instructions without bothering to read in any great detail:

…using sample containers provided, please supply a specimen of blood and skin cells for the purpose of genetic profiling (the inside of the cheek is advised as the most readily accessible source for the latter and can be collected using the swab provided)…having taken time to browse the pigment catalogue enclosed, please remove the colour of choice by tearing along the perforated line and placing this back in the box with the specimen containers after discarding of the rest of the catalogue…finally seal up the box, attach the label provided and return to The Retreat. Once we have taken receipt of the returned package we will contact you with further details…Thank you for your patronage…

“The Retreat,” that was the name of the place. Sophie had been wondering what to expect and when she would hear from the people who were to carry out the BM. Doug had been quite vague when pressed for details and simply insisted that they were a private and very exclusive clinic that dealt with each client on a one to one basis and in the manner that they felt best fit the situation.

Kiera had been no more help when Sophie had called in on her unexpectedly to pump her for information on her own experience. In the well-appointed apartment that her BM status afforded her, the zebra-girl simply reclined on a sofa in a silk dressing gown and refused to tell. She was the result of their handiwork, Kiera explained, and even in the twenty-first century the sacred oath of privacy between patient and doctor held weight. They were legally bound to keep her identity confidential and she was in turn bound to keep their unique methods and practices quiet so that they remained that way.

Before Sophie left, Kiera stretched out her legs and waggled her hooves before lying out on her side and warbling out a few lines in imitation of her colleague’s stage act. They were both the worse for more than one bottle of wine and Sophie had not been sure weather to be amused or insulted.

But for all her unanswered questions and misgivings she was committed now and determined no to turn back. The swap went round the inside of both cheeks, the syringe went in her arm with a yelp and she mulled over the book for a while before settling on a page where a deep blue faded into silver. With the page torn form the book and the box sealed up again, she stuck on the label and dialled the number for the courier service.

Within the hour the package was on its way back from whence it came.

From the back of the cab, Sophie caught sight of the imposing gates, as they swung open. The car turned in off the road and wound its way up a broad gravel drive hemmed in on both sides by trees. The cab driver muttered and cursed as his wheels threw up the gravel, which clattered off the bodywork, but Sophie ignored him and instead tried to get a better view of what was hidden around the next bend in the drive.

Train tickets and a letter informing of the appointed day for her to attend the Retreat had turned up out of the blue just as the package, from then on everything had been hurry, hurry. Doug had given her the time off without question and pressed a fifty-pound note into her hand for the taxi from the station. The letter’s directions had the grumbling driver winding his way down narrow country lanes and through tiny hamlets, until they had arrived at those tall, cast iron gates.

There had been no sign by the road declaring that this was in fact the place she was looking for, but as there was nothing else for miles around this had to be the place. The driver had been surprised to find no intercom on the gates, but a whirring camera turning in their direction from atop one of the gateposts was followed by the gates simply opening of their own accord as if they were expected.

As the cab rounded the corner, Sophie was presented with the facade of an elegant Victorian house. Built of red brick, it was perhaps too small to be called a stately home and a little too large to be a manor house. Long low wings of two stories ran off to each side and the entrance was reached by three wide steps before the circle where the drive came to an end. Like the driveway, the house was flanked by trees and afforded an air of privacy that seemed right for a clinic of its kind.

The driver pulled up by the steps and busied himself with Sophie’s luggage – which as it consisted of a holdall and a rucksack – took only a few moments. He accepted the money, grumbled again at changing the fifty-pound note and then disappeared down the drive leaving her alone in the shadow of the house.

Sophie shouldered the rucksack and dragged the holdall after her as she wandered through the open doors and into a hallway lit by an atrium window high above. Twin staircases wound up the sides of the hall leading to the first floor; black and white tiles checked the floor. The walls were hung with landscapes large enough to cover the space and on the borderline between average and bland so as to not attract too much attention, giving the impression of expensive background detail. Beyond the stairs, Sophie saw a lounge laid out with leather couches and a pair of doors leading out into a garden spreading out behind the house.

She was so busy taking in the hallway that she nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a polite cough. Sophie spun round to see a raven-haired woman sitting behind a neat desk of dark wood. Tucked away to the immediate right of the doors, Sophie had failed to even notice the woman and she was embarrassed to realise the woman had been sitting quietly waiting for her to turn round all the time.

Sophie hauled her luggage over to the desk and pulled the now crumpled letter out of her jacket pocket. The woman smiled as she accepted the letter; a sincere smile it seemed to Sophie. As she quickly read the letter and tapped away at the tiny desktop computer upon the desk, Sophie sized the woman up as best she could. The name badge she wore simply bore the name “Gillian,” with no mention of the Retreat and no mention of her job title either. From where she sat behind the desk, Sophie could make out that Gillian was wearing what appeared to be a black dress cut in an oriental style with a short collar. The dress had long sleeves and hugged close to Gillian’s figure, a little fuller than Sophie’s own and impressive for a woman who seemed well into her forties. The desk was covered by a dark throw that hung down over the front and hid whatever impressive pins Gillian might have been concealing under her snug dress.

‘Ms Higgson?’ Gillian asked, betraying an accent that set Sophie thinking of Eastern Europe.

‘That’s me.’

‘Welcome to the Retreat; my name is Gillian, if you need anything during your stay just pick up the phone in your room and dial one for reception,’ she gestured at the desk before her and the telephone sitting beside the computer. ‘I’ll be sure to send someone up to see to you.’

I’m sure you will, Sophie thought.

‘You are scheduled to meet with Dr Pickford at twelve tomorrow in consulting room two. Your room is number twenty-seven, on the first floor,’ Gillian handed over an old-fashioned key. ‘Shall I call for the Porter?’

‘No need,’ Sophie picked her luggage up once more and started towards the stairs.

‘Meals are delivered to your room; I’m afraid we have no dining room. Just…’

‘Call reception?’

‘Call reception, yes,’ Gillian laughed to herself.

At the top of the stairs Sophie paused and glanced back down at Gillian, sitting at her desk and tapping quietly at the computer again. From where she stood, Sophie was able to see Gillian’s legs before they disappeared under the desk. If the dress she was wearing had seemed a little snug on her chest, it looked positively skin-tight on what could seen of her lower half. Sophie was sure that the woman could not have walked at more than an inch at a time. Shaking her head, she decided to leave alone the mystery of the receptionist in the tight dress and find her room instead.

‘Sleep well?’

Sophie nodded; she had enjoyed the first good night’s sleep in months of working nights at the club and was still finding being up and about in daylight as something of a novelty. Her room had been much like the hallway; well furnished, but nothing over the top. A double bed, sofa, ensuite bathroom and a TV, which she had studiously ignored in favour of sleep.

But in contrast, the consulting room was quite a surprise. She had been expecting a dark room dominated by a huge desk and walls lined with diplomas and certificates; instead she had walked into a room painted a neutral wheat shade and carpeted with a thick brown shag-pile. The only furniture was a pair of comfy armchairs, a set of wooden shelves in the corner and a sideboard holding a coffee machine and crockery.

Even Pickford himself had been somewhat of a surprise, turning round to greet her from where he stood before the shelves and motioning to an empty armchair. Rather than the drab and grey man she had thought would lurk in a dark office and bore her to tears with a maze of medical jargon and babble, here was a bright character in jeans and a black woollen sweater. His dark brown hair was slightly unruly, but there was no sign of grey even at the temples and Sophie figured that he could not have been much more than thirty-five. A pair of spectacles rested upon his head as if they had been left there and forgotten, a suspicion that was confirmed when he retrieved a file from the shelves and then stopped with a look of confusion on his face until he found them and hastily balanced them on his nose. So, Sophie thought, this is what all those crazy professors look like before they go bald and loose their looks.
As soon as she was seated, Pickford had dropped the file on the arm of the empty chair and offered her a cup of coffee. While he made them both a drink, he had enquired as to whether she slept well.

‘Good, very good…kill you quicker than lack of water, you know?’

‘Pardon?’ Sophie looked a little puzzled.

‘Lack of sleep, brain needs to reach REM sleep every night…if it can’t then everything starts to fall apart…’ he paused, as if aware suddenly that he had wandered off the subject at hand. A confused expression crossed his face as he handed Sophie her coffee and sat down in the vacant chair. His own cup nestled between his legs; Pickford glanced at the file and seemed somehow steered back on track by the sight of it on the arm of the chair.

Sophie found herself grinning at Pickford’s friendly and bumbling manner. It was a long time since she had been a student and she had forgotten the eccentric characters that filled the halls of academia. There was no way that he could have survived in the real world; but here surrounded by his modern Swedish furniture, making coffees and polite small talk with his patients he made an endearing character.

‘I hope that Gillian made you feel welcome when you arrived, showed you the amenities and all that?’ Pickford smiled after asking the question and took a sip of his coffee.

Sophie nodded.

‘Good woman, Gillian,’ Pickford went on. ‘Very good with people,’ he considered something for a moment and then added, ‘former patient of mine, still up and alive…reassuring for you, eh?’

A former patient, so that explained the curves that she liked to show off. If he could do that for a woman heading towards fifty, then he might work wonders for a younger model. But then this was far more than a nip and tuck in the right places, and there were no examples of Pickford’s more extreme creations wandering about for her to judge him by.

Pickford made a point of opening the file and leafing through the contents, stopping occasionally to scrutinise a particular point and then moving on until he had made his way through the whole thing. Then he looked up and caught Sophie’s eye, his face a strange mixture of concern and enthusiasm.

‘So I see that you’re the girl that I’m to make a mermaid out of.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Sophie, the words sounded so strange coming from Pickford’s mouth that she could not manage much more.
‘Well,’ he began, ‘I have to say that I don’t think I could have picked a better candidate myself.’

He glanced away and took a quick sip of coffee as Sophie realised that he was blushing. A man more than a decade her senior and a doctor on top of that, had turned red with embarrassment at paying her a compliment. The last thing she had expected was for the man who was going to perform intricate surgery on her to get bashful at the prospect of admitting that he found a woman attractive. After so long performing in front of crowds of leering men, shouting at her whatever filth and depravity they could think of, Pickford’s reaction came almost as a shock. But then she supposed that a man in Pickford’s position had to control himself no matter what he might feel; no woman would put herself in the hands of a doctor whom she could not trust to keep his hands where they were supposed to be. Still, the doctor’s red face seemed an endearing quality and Sophie found herself liking him all the more for his little show of human weakness.

‘Now then,’ Pickford tried to move the conversation on, ‘as all the papers have been signed and the specimens required were taken weeks ago, I think it’s time we got down to some of the practicalities.’

‘So is this the point where you whip out your magic wand and make my shoes redundant in a puff of smoke is it?’ Sophie joked.

‘Unfortunately not,’ Pickford smiled, sharing the joke, ‘if only I could. Actually, Sophie, this is going to take at least three days of intensive surgery and a good few intensive months of recuperative physiotherapy and rehabilitation before you’re back on your…feet. And you understand that this is a contract, which binds you for a full five-year term to remain in the form you will be adopting…a mermaid that is? You’ll be a mermaid for the duration of that time with no get out clause.’

This is it, Sophie thought, now we really are through the looking glass now.

‘I think it might help if you keep in mind the fact that this is just another form of surgery, genetic rather than simply cosmetic, but a straight forward process that has precedents all the same. In the past we have been limited to changing the surface details of our patients; tweaking their faces, removing unsightly blemishes and of course the ubiquitous enhancements in the obvious areas. But now we’re moving into an age where we can go further, actually take action at the root of whatever the patient believes is their particular problem. In time this kind of gene therapy could cure disease and make genetic conditions a thing of the past, but right here and now we’re discussing a use to which it has been put that has lofty – if not so noble aims. I’m not about to subject you to something that could kill you or go awry, I’d like to think that we know what we’re doing here.’

‘I suppose you didn’t kill Kiera,’ Sophie conceded.

‘Kiera? Oh yes, you have the same employer as the young lady who was with us not long ago. A colleague worked with her, but as I remember it involved extensive dermal work as well as alterations to the skeletal system.’

Sophie nodded.

‘Well I can tell you that what I’m proposing in your case is nothing nearly as drastic and invasive as all that.’ He rose from the chair and returned to the shelves, rummaged around for something and then sat back down with a covered Petrie dish in his hands. ‘Take a look at this,’ he said as he removed the lid and handed it to Sophie.

Inside was a tiny object about the size of a penny; slightly oval-shaped, it sat suspended in a layer of clear jelly, but the light still played off the intense colours as it faded from intense blue to pale silver. It was a scale, the exact same colour as the page she had torn from the little book and returned to the Retreat weeks ago.

‘This is…’ Sophie stopped, unable to find the words.

‘That’s a scale,’ Pickford smiled, ‘or to be more exact, it’s one of your scales.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s a scale grown from the cell sample that you sent to us, designed and grown in a culture right here to the pigment specification you chose yourself.’

‘How’s this supposed to help me become a mermaid? People don’t have scales now, do they?’

‘No, but mermaids do; well at least the type that you’re to become do. And if people did have scales, yours would be pretty much the same as this one on a genetic level. This scale has the exact same genetic makeup as your hair, skin, teeth and your whole body; we just tricked it into thinking that you were supposed to have scales as well. You see this way there’s no chance of rejection as the scales are as much a part of your genetic profile in the ways that matter as any other part of your body.’

‘So you’re not going to cut me open and give me gills instead of lungs, or whip out my leg bones and replace them with a dolphins nether regions?’

‘There really is no point,’ Pickford gestured with his hands, ‘if you don’t mind me saying, you’re not likely to have to spend the rest of your life living under the waves now, are you? As far as I understand it you really need to have what amounts to a pair of legs in the shape of a tail, or rather one leg that looks like a tail from the outside. To that end I think that the changes had better be external rather than internal, and seeing as you already have experience in performing as a mermaid the rehabilitation will be at least a little easier for you.’

‘I suppose.’

‘My aim, Sophie, is to make a mermaid who can sit on a rock and charm the stars down from the sky; not to create some kind of zoological curiosity.’ He fixed her with a smile. ‘And of course the procedure done this way will be ultimately reversible.’

‘You’re serious?’

‘Of course.’

‘Okay,’ Sophie took in a deep breath, ‘when do we start?’

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Filed under Body Modification, Short Story, The Retreat, Transformation

Siren in Stockings

Image supplied by Charisma

Agnes had always told herself that nothing would change her, that no matter how high her star rose and what plaudits were heaped upon her she would still be the same girl who had been given her first break on the bill of that off Broadway play all those years ago. There was a part of her that at least wanted that to be the truth, but in her most honest moments, even she could acknowledge the reality that no one could experience a rise to fame like her own and remain the same person they had been when they set out on the path they had chosen to follow in life.

She comforted herself with the thought that things could have been far worse, she had managed to avoid the more common clichés that characterised actresses of her generation were savaged on account of in the media. There were no messy divorces in her past, no history of being caught applying a five-fingered discount in Hollywood boutiques and no habit of jetting off to remote parts of the world in search of a fashionable adopted child either. She had even been able to keep her dalliances with alcohol and illegal substances behind closed doors, a real achievement for someone who was not afraid to admit that she liked to indulge on occasion.

But of course there were some trappings of the trade that Agnes had been unable to avoid, things that became necessary when people started to recognise your face on the street. Perhaps the most obvious was her apartment on one of the highest floors of an exclusive building, which took security only slightly less seriously than Fort Knox. Others she hoped were less obvious to the casual observer and thus supported her belief that she was retaining a subtle quality to her character that connected with the real world on some level.
Whether or not Agnes chose to include the habit she had developed for wandering around the apartment in her underwear in that same category would have been an interesting subject for debate, but it was a habit she indulged on most days.

And today was no exception.

A large part of the habit came from the fact that there was a streak of exhibitionism buried deep inside her personality, tied up with the complicated need to be seen that had spurred her on to become an actress in the first place. This was amplified by the fact that her apartment had become a place where she felt totally at ease; free to express herself, in the décor, the layout and what she did within the space. Agnes was sure that the chances of someone getting a clear glimpse into the interior of her home was almost impossible and if she was honest, the idea that someone might was a little shiver of excitement that she was happy to keep alive.

Agnes also liked to indulge in the private habit because on a basic level she was exceptionally fond of underwear; it was as simple as that.

It had always seemed to her that clothes were designed to be the prelude to the naked human form in the same way that the narrative of a film began with scenes and dialogue that hinted at the story to come. Clothing lay on top of the body and created the illusion of a skin, while in reality it was nothing more than a covering that took its shape and derived its movement from that which lay below.

Some might have seen such a philosophy as deriding the role of clothing, describing it as a language of deception and a barrier between the observer and the truth. But that was far from the way Agnes saw things. To her the way in which clothes ghosted the outline of the human body was a fantastic story that gave veiled hints and fleeting clues to the naked truth below. For her the need to observe the layers that it created and penetrate them one by one only served to make the final revelation of the flesh all the more wonderful.

In the realms of her philosophy, underwear occupied a special position that nothing else could claim. Of all the clothing in existence, none came as close to the actual reality of human skin or followed the lines of the human body in the same way. Both literally and figuratively underwear strove to be a layer of skin that came as close as possible to being part of the person wearing them as possible. There was no chance for concealment with it, save for the ability to pull things tighter to the body, and instead the contours of the stomach, the curve of the buttock and the line of the leg had to be followed and accentuated.

No other type of clothing was made with the same diaphanous and almost weightless material and no other type of clothing was ever as close and intimate, spending more time clinging to a person’s body than the most devoted of lovers. No man or woman had ever cupped her breasts as softly, covered every inch of her legs with sensation or brushed her most intimate parts with such devotion.

Unlike many other things in life, underwear was an indulgence that Agnes allowed herself without a hint of restraint either. While she was never short of outfits required for her professional engagements, her stock of underwear ran far wider and deeper as she felt the need to have access to whatever kind of garment might take her fancy at a particular moment in time.

Agnes hoarded bras, panties, tights and stockings of every description and from every corner of the world she had visited. She owned corsets of all shapes and sizes as well as outmoded and antique pieces of clothing that had no modern equivalent and was quite able to dress herself as a Victorian lady denuded of her outer garments, often doing so for her own amusement. Sometimes she even dispensed with the need for certain elements of underwear, substituting nipple caps for the more common bra just for the thrill of bearing her breasts proudly.

Today she had opted for simplicity over extravagance, a pair of simple panties, strapless bra and hold ups all in black beneath an opaque dressing gown. Agnes did not have a figure that could be described as voluptuous; rather she was slender and possessed of a curving backside and pert breasts. But she was secure in the knowledge that a figure like her own could inspire far greater levels of appeal than a typical hourglass if only one knew how to prepare and position it properly.

In her hands, the shape of a petite body was dynamite.

There was no sense in dressing up more than necessary on this day in particular anyway, not when all she was doing was waiting in for a delivery.

Apart from lingerie, the contents of the delivery represented one of her other major weaknesses in life, another indulgence that she tried to keep in check and more often than not failed.

Agnes was awaiting the arrival of a small piece of antique jewellery.

She was not a woman who had time for piles of expensive and showy jewellery, not interested in the kind of rocks and flashy items that could be seen from orbit. Rather Agnes had a passion for authentic and intriguing pieces that caught the eye rather than poked it out upon first sight. Her collection was dwarfed by her underwear obsession, but the occasional item that she acquired became part of a small and well chosen array of jewellery that complimented her whether she was fully dressed in public or clad scantily in private.

If she was honest, Agnes was particularly excited at the thought of her latest acquisition arriving on her doorstep. It was an unusual piece that looked in the images she had seen and the write up of the item to be a kind of brooch made of a tarnished metal and set with a small black pearl. Had the metal been pristine or the pearl a more common colour, she would have had no interest in the thing at all, but the combination made it stand out and had sealed the purchase.

An added dimension was the fact that the brooch came with nothing in the way of a back story and the sellers had been unable to find any makers mark on the thing no matter how hard they tried. So in addition to being unique in appearance, it was a complete mystery into the bargain and had stirred Agnes’ imagination no end as a result.

As it happened, she was pouring coffee when the intercom sounded and left the cup half filled as she made her way to the door.

Agnes scooped up another dressing gown that was really more of a kimono as she passed through the lounge and into the hallway. She shouldered the thing on and tied the belt around her waist, making sure that she was covered as much as possible by the garment. Wandering around the apartment in lingerie for her own amusement was one thing, but there was no way that a random courier was going to be treated to the sight of a nationally recognised actress in her underwear.

She keyed the intercom and was about to tell the courier to leave the parcel on the matt, when she caught a glimpse of the man’s face on the small screen. The picture was terrible as usual, but she had become something of an expert at the art of filtering out the effects of the grainy image after seeing the mess it made of her friends and relatives in the time she had lived there. Her instincts told her that the face on the screen was a lot more interesting in the flesh than the poor quality of the image she was looking at.

Agnes was a complicated person on most levels, many of her characteristics seeming to be contradictory in nature when taken out of the context of her personality as a whole. It was nonetheless quite true to say that at heart she was something of a flirt, always secretly pleased and a little validated by the recognition that she received of her status. Though she valued her privacy and thought of herself as a woman not easily given to making an exhibition of herself in order to attract attention, there was always a part of her that wanted to know that she could inspire such emotions if the need arose.

She had noted the fact that the courier was male and no more than a year or two her junior. She had also noted that he was one of those men who, if you managed to get hold of them and straighten them out somewhat, could have been called pleasant in the face department. Last and most important of all she had noticed that he had that look on his face that was a pretty poor attempt to disguise the fact he had read the name on the delivery slip and made the leap of logic that put a face to it as well.

Agnes was more then used to the expression, the one that people used when they wanted to seem as though they had not recognised you until you were introduced. After the introduction they acted in the same manner as any of the more honestly star-struck, but the attempt was always amusing.

She weighed the elements in her mind; she was in a good mood on account of her new trinket having arrived, the guy was cute to look at and in awe of her already and she was doing nothing for the rest of the day and would probably be bored at some time in the next twenty four hours.

There was no reason she had to be bored right now.

“Wait there,” she spoke into the intercom, “I’m opening the door.”

Agnes swung the door open and saw that she had been right about the courier.

He was quite tall and attractive in an intelligent rather than burly manner and his only drawback was an untidy brown goatee that bristled from his chin. He wore a uniform of a khaki shirt and black trousers, hair tousled from a cap that was evidently a loathed part of the ensemble and shoved into a pocket at his side in quiet protest. At the sight of her he tried to look professional and unconcerned at the same time, failing to manage either as he proffered a small plastic box for her attention.

“Ms Maidenhead,” it was more of a statement than a question.

“That’s me,” Agnes was aware of the fact that she had allowed a leg to emerge from beneath the folds of the kimono. Though it was black against black, the nylon of the stockings caught the artificial light in the corridor, tracing the length of her leg and having the desired effect of pulling his eyes down from her face for a moment.

“Package,” his head jerked back up as if he had just remembered why he was there at all, “would you please sign?”

“Okay,” she accepted the box and gestured into the hallway behind her, “step inside a moment and have a drink?”

“Oh,” whatever the courier had been expecting it had not been that, “I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well…I guess I could.”

“Of course you could,” she turned and led him into the apartment.

Agnes prided herself on being a good judge of character and this was a man so scared of her fame that he would have jumped out of the window if she had asked him rather than cause offence. She was just after a little fun, after all, and the security in the building was so keen that they could have been in through the front door and tying his neck into a knot before he knew what was happening if she hit the panic button.

No, all she intended to do was sign for the package, give him his drink and see him on his way.

The fact that she’d be making him squirm with the presence of her body all the time was what made the whole thing worth it.

“Sit down for a minute,” she handed him a glass of mineral water and pointed him to a high stool.

In response he handed the package to her and watched as she signed the slip, making no effort to take a sip of his drink or utter a single word.

“Cat got your tongue?”

“What?” he looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “No, sorry…just not sure what to say.”

“You could start by telling me your name?”

“Mitchell,” he shook his head, “my name’s Mitchell.”

“Be honest, Mitchell,” Agnes could not help but be amused by his fumbling around her, “I can’t be the first famous person you’ve run into in LA; the place is infested with them.”

“No,” he smiled and she noted it was a pleasant one, “I bumped into a guy who I thought was Alice Cooper last weekend, but my friend swears it was just some crazy drunk. If he’s not right then that makes you the second.”

“You can’t have lived here long,” she started to make her way towards the bathroom.

“Just over a month,” he watched her go as if disappointed at the increase in the distance between them.

“I’ll be back in a second,” Agnes assured him before she disappeared around the door, “just need to powder my nose.”

It was a lame line to use, but she wanted the chance to take a look at her prize. In addition a retreat to the bathroom meant that the kimono could be left behind when she returned and no reference to the fact be made on her part. That way he would have to either draw attention to the fact or simply keep quite while she watched him twitch.

She shrugged the kimono off and sat down on the toilet, the box on her lap.

Eager hands soon removed the plastic to reveal a far older box beneath padded on the exterior with faux leather and worn by the passage of time. She flipped this open and was rewarded with the sight of the brooch sitting in the middle of dark red padding, looking every bit as unique and intriguing as it had in the pictures.

Agnes plucked the thing out of the box and turned it over in her hand.

Up close the combination of the uncommon black pearl and the tarnished metal that might have been any number of things beneath the accumulated wear and residue of years, made the piece even more wondrous to her eye.

She was surprised however, to find that upon turning the supposed brooch over and examining its back there was no sign whatsoever of the pin or even the remnants of one as would have been expected. Indeed there was no trace of anything that might have given a clue to how the piece was supposed to be worn at all.

But as she held the thing in her hand and the metal began to warm, she was struck with the idea that perhaps the purpose of the piece was not to be worn in that manner at all.
Agnes looked down at her stomach, folded into itself as she sat.

For some reason she was becoming ever more convinced that the piece was supposed to be worn there, but from where the conviction came she had no idea.

Almost without a conscious thought, Agnes pressed the black pearl brooch into her navel.
It fitted perfectly, sinking in a few degrees before she removed her hand and looked down at it with a sense of triumph at having found a use for it.

Suddenly there was an intense pain in her stomach, so deep and unexpected that the sensation turned her bowels to water for an instant. In that moment she felt as though searing wires shot out from the brooch and sank themselves into her flesh, burrowing through her insides in a matter of seconds.

She was ready to scream with all that she had in her.

But moments later the pain was simply gone, as if it had never been at all.

Agnes looked down at the brooch, expecting to see a horrific mass of melted metal and burnt skin. But instead she saw that the thing was intact and her skin was as smooth and unblemished as normal. The only difference was that, if anything the pearl was now sitting more snugly in her navel than before the mysterious surge of pain.

She shook her head in disbelief and went to pull the thing out.

A yelp of pain saw her stop almost as soon as she started, pulling the pearl causing her a stab of agonising discomfort. She let go and tried with the other hand only to feel the same pain once more. Puzzled, Agnes poked and prodded at the pearl and soon came to the conclusion that any attempt to remove the thing would be as painful as trying to pull a fingernail from her own hand.

Was that what the terrible pain had been?

Was this some bizarre scheme or an unfathomable prank?

But then who would want to orchestrate a situation in which an actress was sent an item of jewellery that attached itself to her navel and refused to be removed? What could anyone hope to gain from such a ridiculous scenario as that?

Agnes had to admit that she was at a loss to think of an explanation for the whole thing. But on some level she was thankful that nothing more serious had befallen her. After all there was nothing outwardly problematic about having a small pearl brooch stuck in her belly button. It was far from in the way down there and she could not say that she hated the sight of it staring back up at her. For the moment she was perfectly happy to leave the thing where it was and worry about it later rather than try to pry it out and cause herself another jolt of pain.

Suddenly the thought occurred to her, was the architect of the strange scheme sitting in the next room? It seemed unlikely that a man so nervous and unsure of himself could be the brains behind the entire thing, it would have required a consummate actor to hide his true intentions behind a façade the likes of that. She was sure that the possibility was less than zero as far as that actually being the case, she was a good enough judge of her own profession to know that his emotions were real enough. All things considered she was sure that Mitchell was no more than a courier simply doing his job.

But where should she go from here?

She was sitting on the toilet with an item of antique jewellery stuck in her navel and a nervous courier in the next room.

Was the idea of flirting him to death still something that appealed to her?

Agnes glanced at her reflection in the mirror, at her delicate lingerie on top of pale skin, the dark curls that fell to her shoulders and the contrasting shades of her makeup. If anything the addition of the pearl seemed to make her feel subtly more exotic and interesting than ever. It was a small addition to the whole, but somehow she felt it lent her the air of a harem girl or a bejewelled courtesan who was used to being adorned in such a way.

She gave a satisfied smile to her own face and decided that under the circumstances, this was just what she needed.

After all, she thought, I have to live up to my reputation as a siren of the screen.

Before the thought had faded from her mind, Agnes became aware of a sensation of warmth emanating from the pearl and spreading slowly outwards. It seemed to sink into her body, reaching her very bones while touching the outermost surface of her skin and setting both alive with a flush of sudden heat.

The feeling was like nothing she had experienced before in her life. It charged her body with a sense of fluidity that felt as though she were being turned into supple clay while stimulating her to the point of physical excitement at the prospect. Agnes truly believed in that moment that if she had not fought to hold herself together, she might have simply lost her form entirely and melted into a formless liquid of pure and liberated pleasure.

It was the realisation that the intense heat of the experience was building in her lower body that finally made her open her eyes and glance downwards. Agnes stared at her legs in a half dazed state and watched as the living flesh began to shift and change before her eyes. Perhaps an inch below her vagina the skin of her legs pulled together and simply merged into one, creating a single limb.

If watching the transformation was a strange experience for Agnes, feeling it happen to her own body was far more so. As her flesh shifted and reformed, she felt everything without a moment of pain and could do nothing but simply watch in silence as her body changed more and more with each passing second.

When the merging of the limbs reached her stockings, they were not pushed downwards with the motion of the transformation. Instead they seemed to almost imperceptibly ripple for a fraction of a second before they were simply absorbed into the new shape of her legs. The texture and colour of the stockings sank into the surface of her skin and became continuation of the curving shape.

Soon the merging of Agnes’s legs reached her knees and she raised what was left of the two limbs into the air to watch the changes as they happened. But her knees proved to be no more of an obstacle than her hips had and they soon sank into one another as her calves followed moments later. Once the change reached her ankles, Agnes felt her feet being forced into alignment with her legs and she was soon staring at the tips of her toes as they too merged together.

But the change did not stop there; something in her unconscious mind told her that it was not yet over.

Agnes was proved right when she felt an odd sensation of pressure in the sides of what had until recently been the sides of her feet and her toes. She heard a sound something like nylon being pulled over skin and saw a broad growth emerge from either side of her new limb. These quickly grew in a motion that was somewhat akin to a sail opening or a fan being unfurled, spreading out until they extended a good two and a half feet from the point where her feet had been.

She pointed the new growths upwards and realised that they were joined in the centre and moved in a slow, gently swaying motion reminiscent of movement under the water.
It was then that she realised what the growth was.

A tailfin, sprouting from the end of a tail…or to be more precise, her own tail.

Agnes was amazed to realise that the patterns on the tailfin were swirls and knots of lace, almost identical to those that banded the point where the tail began across her thighs. She had seen many images of mermaids in her time and been shown costumes in her line of work, but she had never even contemplated the idea of a tail that seemed to be formed of nylon and decorated with lace.

She was sure that she should have been more worried than she was at that moment, but instead she found that all she could do was look at her strangely altered reflection in the mirror.

She was a mermaid.

There was no way to avoid the fact; she had been turned into a mermaid and her tail seemed to be made of the stocking she had been wearing when the change took her.

Agnes had never really given much thought to mermaids in general; she had seen the films and come across them in the media. Perhaps she had thought they were cute when she was younger, but there was no way that she had ever entertained a wish to be one.

Or was there?

She loved the attention, revelled in the chance to show off her curves on her own terms and was amused by the idea of wrapping others around her fingers with her charms. Was not that what a mermaid was supposed to do in all the legends and fairy tales? Charming sailors from rocks was not high on her list of priorities, but was the idea of a mermaid limited to such narrow confines?

The idea was almost too ridiculous to consider, but could the pearl have been magical?
What’s on the scale of ridiculous, Agnes chided herself, when the scale’s being totted up by a mermaid?

Then she recalled the thought that had been uppermost in her mind just before the transformation had begun. She had thought of herself as a siren, so had the pearl simply tapped into that mental image and transformed her as a result?

Agnes began to run a bath without thinking as her mind raced.

Was this where the whole idea of a mermaid came from? Perhaps this was a power common to all black pearls, to see into the minds of women and transform them as a result of their passions. Had these pearls washed ashore in past ages, or been found by divers and from there into the hands of women who dwelled on the shores of the oceans? If they had seen into the depths of desire in those long dead women, touched their passions and inflamed their bodies, what would they have seen but the images of sleek fish and graceful dolphins as a metaphor of their physical needs.

Had those first mermaids been such women, transformed by the magic of a black pearl into a creature half human and half aquatic?

Did the pearls retain the memory of the women they had been possessed by and changed?
Now that one had fallen into the hands of a modern woman, had it simply responded to her declaration that she was a siren and changed her accordingly?

Agnes realised that in her own mind it would not have found the simple, primal images of ancient times but rather more complex thoughts of lingerie and the fine art of teasing. Where the mermaids of old would have grown scales and lured their prey to the rocks where they sang, this one would seduce with the flash of satin and the hint of impish enticement. Searching her unconscious mind, the pearl had done as best it could to reconcile the two things and in the end reached a compromise.

With the bath full, she slipped off the dressing gown and unhooked her bra before sliding into the water and feeling the sensation as it soaked her tail. Water cascaded over the side of the tub, but Agnes took no notice as the new experience of her changed form took hold. Her hands roamed over the new textures and shapes of her tail and fingers found their way to her exposed vagina as the sensual appetites that seemed to be a natural element of a mermaid’s nature slowly seized her mind.

Suddenly there was a rapping at the door.

Agnes was shaken from her reverie and rudely reminded of the hapless courier, still waiting outside and ignorant of what was going on inside the bathroom.

“Are you okay in there?” Mitchell’s voice sounded worried despite the effects of the door between them. “There’s water seeping under the door.”

“It’s okay,” she shouted, “the sink just ran over.”

“Okay,” there was all of a sudden a strange quality to his voice, as though his words were being read off a script with no real conviction, “the sink just ran over.”

“Mitchell,” Agnes was oddly aware of the responses he was giving before he spoke, “are you alright?”

“I’m alright.”

She screwed her face up in thought for a moment before speaking again.

“Mitchell,” this would answer her question, “you’re a talking, purple elephant.”

“I’m a talking, purple elephant.”

Agnes supposed that some of the legends had to be true, so why not the tale that sirens were able to bend mortal men to their will with the power of their voices?

There was no hiding the fact that this had potential to make her current predicament a little less drastic than she had first thought. If she could command poor old Mitchell out there simply by using the power of her voice then she might be able to just tell him that he had not seen a mermaid in a bathtub and get him to disappear back off on his rounds. Longer term she really had no idea what she was going to do, but in the here and now she had a plan to make things a whole lot easier for herself.

“Come in and give me a hand,” she called.

A moment later the door opened and Mitchell stared down at the sight of a mermaid, reclining in the bath and ashamed in no way, shape or form about the fact that she was naked save for her shining black tail.

Agnes noted that although Mitchell did seem to be under the effects of a spell cast by her voice, his expression was not that of a stunned animal by any means. She could tell by the way he was looking at her that the effects must have been limited to his ability to reason on a higher level as his more base instincts were reacting just as she would have expected them to under the circumstances.

“I’m tired,” she was surprised that she almost pouted the words, “I don’t want to walk to the bedroom…carry me?”

Mitchell said nothing, but made his way across the small room and plunged his arms into the water. He scooped the mermaid up and carried her out into the apartment, heedless of the water that soaked him and rained onto the floor.

Agnes was still shocked from the way in which she had asked to be removed from the tub. She had wanted to be deposited on the leather couches in the sitting room, but the words had refused to come out in any other way. Now that she was being carried in his arms, the same impulse was getting stronger all the time. She found herself wrapping one arm around Mitchell’s neck, while the other stroked his chest, the hand undoing the buttons of his shirt one by one. At the same time she could not help breathing into his ear, so close that her lips brushed against his skin.

Was this the other side of the coin as far as being what was known as a mermaid?

It seemed that she could wrap another person around her little finger with the shape of her body and the power of her voice, but there was no way that she could stop herself now. Deep down, Agnes knew that whatever she had set in motion with the idea of flirting for amusement had been turned into something far more serious by the forces that her new from possessed. She had gone too far and there was no turning back.

Inside the bedroom, he lowered her onto the covers, neither of them concerned for a moment as the mermaid’s still wet body soaked the bedclothes beneath her. By this time she had stripped him of his shirt and he completed the job, not caring where anything landed in his haste to hold her again.

Agnes raised a hand to stop him for a moment and pulled herself backwards up the bed until she was able to reach a drawer and rummage inside. He waited obediently as she retrieved a condom and handed it to him with a nod. The spell did not seem to have affected either of their deep seated common sense and the sheath was soon rolled over his erect penis.

He did not enter at first, but instead simply brushed her vagina with the head. The feeling was light and filled with intent of what might follow this first attention, as though he had managed to turn the instinct to flirt and tease around on her for a moment. Agnes felt the helpless desire she had been building in him as he tormented her and she arched her body towards him, trying to catch his member, but to no avail.

They kissed lightly, lips mirroring the delicate contact between their genitals and the very tips of tongues passing, but never delving. Occasionally he would turn his attention to her delicate breasts, fingers stroking and cupping them as if enchanted by the fact that he could cover them with the breadth of his palms and yet be aroused by their femininity.

Agnes was satisfied for a while to be the object of his attentions, petted and flattered by the manner in which he attended to her body. But soon she felt her appetites rising and knew that she would not be content to take a passive role for much longer.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and gently pushed him sideways with the weight of her body. He complied and allowed himself to be guided onto his back as she turned herself over and crawled across his body, her tail pressing down on him as she did so. Once he was where she wanted him, with his back against the pillows, Agnes began to climb him an inch at a time. What might have been an easy task for a human was a considerable effort for a mermaid who lacked legs to brace herself as she climbed. Agnes was forced to rely on sheer strength and the contours of his body to make her progress, not that the experience of being climbed by her was anything but a pleasure for him.

Finally she placed her hands on his shoulders and arched her body, lowering herself onto his penis almost as slowly as she had climbed his own body. For a time it seemed that the sensation would never end as her own weight sank the length of his member into her body. Agnes was no stranger to this act, but the effect of her transformation had rendered the whole experience and every feeling it inspired like a euphoric drug and she felt each movement as she never had before.

She felt his hands grip her buttocks just above the margin of her tail and his thighs take her weight as they began to move together. Afterwards she could not have said how long they managed to hold the position, but she would not have complained if the thing had lasted for so long she had been frozen in place like a statue. She was sure that she climaxed there, bent like a bow and braced with her tail against his legs.

Afterwards she curled her back against his chest and lay still, expecting to sleep.

But she was surprised to feel his penis slipping between her buttocks and finding her once again, his instinct revealing that the transformation had left her vagina as accessible from behind as in front. Agnes was drowsy now and in no mood to reject his renewed attentions, so she simply submitted to them instead, lazily allowing him to stroke her body and wrap his legs around her tail as he tried to cling as long as he was able to the experience of making love to an exquisite mermaid.

When he was spent, she turned and commanded him again.

“Mitchell,” he was awake and alert at once.

“Yes?”

“Get dressed and let yourself out of the apartment.”

Agnes watched as he obeyed her orders. She knew that it was callous to simply throw him out after she had used him like a vibrator, but he had hardly hated the experience and she needed to think what her next step would be. He was done sooner than she expected and before he turned towards the door, she called out to him.

“Mitchell.”

“Yes?”

“Give me your mobile.”

He handed the phone to her silently.

“You won’t remember a thing about this afternoon, not where you were or what happened,” she was keying something into the phone as she spoke to him. “Until you hear your mobile ring and see that the call is from…Black Tail.”

Agnes handed the phone back to him and he left without another word.

What she had done amounted to keeping him around for when she was in the mood for some attention, but she could live with exploiting him so long as she was sure he was getting something out of the deal as well.

For some reason, once she was alone the panic about becoming a mermaid did not seize her as she thought it would. She soon saw the reason when she looked down and saw that her legs were slowly returning to normal, the tights becoming mere lingerie once more and the tailfin disappearing into her redefined feet.

A quick tug and yelp confirmed that the black pearl was still firmly stuck in place.

She lifted the surface of the tights and wondered to herself; would the tail appear if she were naked? For some reason she thought not, convinced that her transformation had been so closely tied to her love for such sensual clothing.

But she was sure that it could not be limited to just those stockings alone.

Suddenly her wardrobe had become something more than a collection of outfits; it now had a new world of possibilities and she was potentially the first mermaid in history capable of changing her scales with the seasons.

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Filed under Body Modification, Erotic, Short Story, Transformation

Matter Dynamics: The Heart’s Strings

The warmth of the afternoon sun had been carried into the cavernous room by the almost imperceptible breeze, keeping the air both fresh and comfortable as well as dispelling some of the jarring presence of the complex machinery that filled a large portion of the space. But the relative clemency of the surroundings seemed to have no effect on Mischa Brasi, who simply pulled the edges of her silk dressing gown ever tighter around her body as though she were afraid of catching her death without its protection.

The woman’s trepidation was nothing unusual in the eyes of the small group of scientist and technicians who fussed around the equipment, making the final checks before the process could begin. Every one of them knew full well just what thoughts of fear and trepidation were going through her mind and the reality of her role in what they were about to do. For the most part they tried to keep their eyes on their work and away from her, fearing they might add to her sense of apprehension were she to catch them giving her a sympathetic glance.

None of them felt Mischa’s anxiety more then Noa Blackwell as she steered herself into the room in the wheelchair that she had grown accustomed to using over the past months. After all, she had gone through the experience herself and the reality of matter conversion was nothing to be taken lightly.

In her previous life, Noa might have seen the other woman as nothing more than a shallow clothes horse paid to look pretty and keep her mouth shut. But her own life-changing transformation at the hands of the machine into which Mischa was about to climb had taught her to look deeper into others and find the closest thing to their true character as she was able.

Noa was under no illusions that this professional model was hiding the brains of a genius inside her pretty head, but the conversations between them led her to think that the other woman was very much oppressed by the expectations that her looks placed upon her. In fact, Noa was sure that there was not a single person Mischa thought of as a friend or confidant among the contingent of bodies that had become known to her colleagues as “their people”.

It had been the way in which Mischa’s face lit up for the first time when she realised who Noa was that the less statuesque of the two had decided that she would try her best to befriend and support the other. Many people had come face to face with the petite woman who had allowed herself to be turned into the world’s first living and breathing mermaid as she promoted the public image of Matter Dynamics. But none of the adult she had met reacted in the same way as most of the children; save for Mischa.

The expression of pure and simple enchantment that had spread across Mischa’s textbook perfect features had taken Noa totally off guard at the time. The other woman made no show of embarrassment whatsoever at being ecstatic to be in the presence of a real live mermaid. Noa found that she could not resist lifting the hem of the heavy blanket that she used to cover her tail in circumstances when professionalism trumped the need to flash her scales and treating Mischa to a quick flick of her fins.

From that point on there had been nothing but distain from Noa for the way in which the people who were financing their latest project behaved towards Mischa. The formidable presence of the assertive mermaid had become her own private champion in the course of things.

“Look at those arseholes,” Noa almost ran her wheelchair into the legs of Callum Watson as she paid more attention to the men gingerly unloading a large shipping crate than they did to Mischa. “If they’re not gawping at her body then she might as well not exist as far as they’re concerned.”

“Well,” he deftly stepped out of her path, “telling me is going to do you no good at all as they seem to pay less attention to what I tell them with every word that comes out of my mouth. Maybe if I had a pair of tits instead of a face it’d be a different story?”

“We could replace Mischa’s with your face while we’re at it,” Noa succumbed to his efforts at defusing her anger, “that way they might both be able to make yourselves heard.”

“I think the root of their negligence today,” Callum shook his head, “and don’t think that I condone this attitude one bit, is based on the fact that their boss has impressed upon them the fact that there are thousands of models in the world. But there’s only one of those.”

The contents of the crate were just becoming visible as Noa followed Callum’s gaze across the room. She could have sworn that none of the men whose gloved hands were nervously touching the carved wood beneath antique gold leaf had taken a single breath since starting the job, such was their concentration. Their faces showed frayed nerves and barely suppressed frustration as they tried with all their might to ensure that no harm came to the priceless musical instrument.

Almost as tall as a man, the harp was an imposing thing that seemed to have a personality all of its own. Noa was a scientist and not regularly given to flights of fancy, but still she could not escape the feeling that the elaborate patterns into which the wood of the harp’s frame had been shaped somehow lent it a depth that went beyond its status as an antique. It was as though the thing crouched where it was placed rather than simply standing idle, daring anyone to approach it and try to pluck its strings.

The sight of the singular instrument only served to make Noa more concerned than ever for the fate of Mischa after the process was complete. The rational part of her mind was fully aware of what was supposed to happen once the other woman entered the machine and, she was involved in the minutiae of the planning on every possible level. It was on an emotional level that her concern was building and as such there was no way to rationalise or silence her fears.

When it had been her own turn to undergo the process, Noa recalled, at least she had been able to find some comfort in the fact that she was to be melded with animate matter. There had been something to cling to in that despite the alien nature of the experience, perhaps the fact that there was some distant kinship between the stuff of her body and that of the creature she had become one with.

Mischa would be a different case; she would be broken down to a collection of molecules and then bonded to those of an inert and ostensibly dead object. The science was sound and Callum had demonstrated to her on more than one occasion the fact that their control over the process would ensure that the result was a fully living, breathing form of life. But she could not shake the feeling that elements of the transformation were beyond his ability to understand.

After all, there were still changes that had taken place in her own nature that she had chosen for one reason or another to conceal from her colleagues. The gills beneath her arms and the fact that she had swapped warm blood for cold were only the surface as far as her own new nature was concerned. So far she had been able to keep the midnight swimming, cravings for seafood and other less innocent needs secret, but there was always the possibility of them being discovered.

Noa watched as the men began to move the harp once more, perhaps this time with even greater care, into one of the large metal pods which formed a significant portion of the equipment in the room. She glanced over to the left of the pod where its identical twin stood no more than ten feet away.

Mischa had, by some odd coincidence, moved closer to the pod on the left as she stole a nervous glance at the harp. Noa was struck by the proximity she had unknowingly assumed to the apparatus she would soon be required to enter.

The third and final pod from which the result of the process would emerge stood in front of the first two so that they formed a rough triangle. No one seemed to be paying any attention to that pod apart from the technicians running their final checks.

All too soon she saw that the harp was in place and the checks were complete.

“Okay,” Callum raised his voice to be heard over the various noises filling the room, “that’s everything ready. Assume positions and prepare to power up the systems.”

Noa glanced at Mischa, suddenly realising that she had missed any chance of a final few moments of conversation, kicking herself mentally at the time she had spent complaining instead of sharing positive words with the other woman.

Mischa caught her gaze and managed to smile, trying and failing in one motion to assure her newest friend that she was prepared.

Both of them knew this was the point of no return.

Silently, Mischa dropped the dressing gown to the floor and stepped into the pod.

 

The past year had been a blur for most of the people involved in Matter Dynamics and there had been little time to do anything more than simply trying to keep their heads above water as the fortunes of the company seemed to go from nothing to cutting edge of controversy and public opinion. Noa herself had, if the pun could be allowed, been riding the wave of publicity generated by the images and footage of a real mermaid spreading across the world in mere hours.

In some respects Callum had been right to bet on the power of such an easily recognised and iconic image for their emergence into the eye of the general public, but there had inevitably been critics as well as admirers for what they had done. Some people accused them of playing god, others of meddling with forces they could not understand; accusations that he dismissed as archaic in the case of the former and ignorant in the case of the latter.

They had answered numerous questions and had many parties show interest in their technology, but Callum had been disappointed by the fact that most of the attention they received was focussed on the fantastical possibilities of the process. He had hoped that what he saw as the true potential of their work would have been evident to what he saw as the right audience, but it had simply not worked out as he had hoped.

When their first legitimate enquiry had turned out to be based on Noa’s fantastical new form rather than some sound scientific principle, he had hidden his disappointment and thrown himself into the project as best he could.

This had come in the form of a letter from the secretary of the Austrian National Opera, which seemed at once both impressive and laden with historical authority. Callum had begun reading, half convinced the thing was a hoax, and ended it more confused than he had been when he began. The chances were that he would have forgotten the whole thing if he had not begun to receive a string of emails and phone calls from the same man. During these conversations a bridge between a Scott rooted in the world of particle physics and an Austrian in the world of classical music eventually managed to find a means of communication and from there things began to move apace.

At their first meeting in person, Mr Gupter – which was the name of the Austrian in question- confounded their expectations of a small and neat man in a suit by turning out to be a towering giant in perhaps the most crumpled and abused suit of clothes either of them had seen in years. He filled the room with his person and the air with his personality, expounding on the brilliance of what they had achieved while at the same time admitting with no hint of shame that he did not understand a fragment of it himself.

After he had devoured a number of sandwiches and more than half a dozen cups of coffee all the while calling Noa’s tail a wonder of the modern world, Mr Gupter finally got around to explaining just what it was that his employers were proposing.

“It happened recently,” he began, “that a rather wealthy and in my own opinion rather vulgar citizen of Vienna died without legal heirs, having years before written his own family out of his Will in an act of spite. It seems that apart from acquiring material possessions, the only thing that the man found any pleasure in was the music of Mozart. In his lifetime he hoarded anything and everything that he could lay his hands upon that was either an artefact of or had a relation to the great composer. Perhaps he relished the idea of being the sole owner of such things, but as his death approached he stipulated in his Will that the collection should be passed to us after his demise.”

He paused to indicate that he would like more coffee, the cup seeming tiny in his massive paw.

“In the course of things,” Gupter sipped his refilled drink with a delicacy that boggled the mind, “this man died, as thankfully all vulgar people will and the collection came into our possession. Amongst the items he had amassed, we found many things that we were most delighted to have, but the most intriguing was a fragmentary manuscript for what we believe is a previously undiscovered opera.”

He let the words hang in the air and was rather annoyed when Callum simply stared back at him.

“You uncultured sod,” Noa hissed in his ear. “That’s probably the musical equivalent of an undiscovered Shakespearian sonnet!”

“Oh, Callum tried to mend the damage by looking amazed, “what are the chances of that!”

“Very small, I can assure you,” Gupter was not in the slightest fooled and went on with an expression that registered his noting of Callum as a dullard in matters of culture but at the same time appreciated in a resigned manner his attempt to stay with the story. “Understand this was only a fragment, but with the help of the most gifted talents in the world of the opera we have managed to elaborate on that and come up with what we are sure will serve as at least a fitting tribute to the idea that the great man never had the chance to complete in his own lifetime.”

“A new opera?” Noa tried to keep Callum from making things worse.

“Yes, a new production of what we believe would have been an piece intended to sit alongside ‘The Magic Flute’ in the repertoire and in such circumstances and knowing its plot, we feel we can call it nothing apart from “The Magic Harp” for fear of appearing to think ourselves anything but paying tribute to the great man.”

“And where do we fit in?” Callum’s blunt comment almost made Gupter cringe visibly.

“Dear boy,” he placed the coffee cup down before him, “the instrument in this opera is enchanted, able to play by itself and cause mischief after being carved from a tree possessed by a dryad. I have the perfect harp and the perfect girl to play the part. I was hoping that you could bring the role to life for us?”

 

Mischa was aware of the fact that she had no idea of what was happening to her. No matter how many times the process had been explained in front of her and how simply Noa had tried to put it, there was just no way that her mind could hold onto the concepts involved. She was not frustrated or maddened by the fact that she was only aware of the process taking place around her in the most simple of terms, it was just another one of the things in life that seemed beyond her to grasp.

Though she had no way of knowing it, Mischa’s ability to accept her own limitations and simply get on with life in spite of them was one of the things that prevented her from being truly stupid. There were many people in her world that may have been higher up the scale as far as intelligence was concerned, but a great number made the mistake of assuming that their limitations lay far beyond what they were capable of in reality. Some might have achieved great things by stretching themselves, but more simply overreached themselves as a result.

It may have been small compensation that Mischa had never overreached herself, but it was there all the same.

When she had been asked to play the role of a harp, she had been puzzled on account of the fact that she had never even plucked one and despite her agent’s wishes, she had never tried her hand at acting.

But then they had explained, in the normal condescending manner, that they wanted her to actually be the harp. They wanted to turn her into the instrument and use her as the centrepiece of a fantastical new opera in Austria.

After they explained they meant a country in Europe rather than an island in the Southern Hemisphere, they had introduced her to Noa and told her that the process would be quick and that they could change her back afterwards.

Mischa had weighed the entire thing up as best she was able, concluding that the money seemed right and the people behind the opera seemed legitimate.

But it had been meeting the mermaid that had swayed her to say yes.

How could they do anything wrong if they had made something so pretty?

So she had trusted Noa and stepped into the booth.

 

Mischa had no concept of the process that took place within the booth as her body was reduced to its constituent elements. Her conscious mind was simply aware of itself at one moment and then lost in the shattering of her physical form. Her awareness returned in much the same manner as though it had never been absent.

How odd, she thought, to be deprived of sensation for such a long time and then simply to regain it once more.

As the door to the booth swung open and she felt the warm air of the evening reach her naked body, Mischa was no more aware of the unusual complexity of her thoughts than anyone else in the room.

Instead they stared at the sight of her body as the mist cleared from inside the third booth.

There was no hiding the fact that Mischa and the elaborate harp had been melded together to create an artefact of strange and compelling beauty. The largest part of the harp seemed to have remained unchanged, with its body and neck still resembling the gilded wood of which it had once been composed. But it was the elegant pillar at the front of the instrument which had borne most of the changes. Here the old lines of the harp had been merged with the curves of Mischa’s body. From the top of the pillar to the bottom of the foot, the entire thing followed the outline of the woman’s form. Her head met the front of the neck, disappearing into her hair that had been gathered into a classical Roman style. Her skin was a perfect match for the gold of the frame and her torso was naked to the waist, bearing her breasts with the curve of the pillar and revealing the loss of her arms and the rounded shoulders left in their absence. Below the waist, Mischa’s human form was lost beneath a series of ornate carvings that mirrored the original shape of the pillar, but the form had been altered to simulate the outline of her legs and the curves were a wonder to behold.

None of the men in the room noticed it, but to Noa the sight was the most important detail of all. She could see just as well as anyone else in the room that Mischa had emerged from the process alive and able to function. The golden skin of her chest rose and fell in a regular rhythm and she stood proud and erect before her admiring audience. But above all, when Noa looked at her face, she saw that Mischa was smiling.
To her that was better proof than any that the process had been a success.

 

Noa decided that despite the fact the architect was long dead, she still hated with a passion the man who had designed the opera house. Perhaps he own perspective on the matter was biased, but there was really no excuse she could think of for a person from the eighteenth century to have been able to predict that there might well come a day when a mermaid was required to patronise his building. Even the subtle modifications that had been made to the building in order to allow ease of use to disabled opera goers proved to be insufficient for her own particular needs and she was forced to endure hours of discomfort as they sat through the performance that night.

She was also quite disappointed to discover that she was not a fan of the whole experience either.

Noa had always liked the idea of the opera in vague way, but now that she had been forced to sit through the entirety of one she was nothing but bored by the thing.

It seemed that opera was a foreign language that a person either understood instinctively or was totally bemused by. On top of that she suspected that there was also an unspoken rule that forbade those who did from explaining even the slightest detail to those who did not.

The fact that Callum had been enraptured from the moment the performance began did not help her mood either.

In the end she resolved herself to tuning the worst of it out and concentrated on the spectacle of Mischa on the stage below.

The press attention for their latest creation had been almost totally enthusiastic and images of Mischa had dominated the front pages of newspapers from one end of Europe to the other. There had been no courting the press this time though, the star of the new opera had been kept away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi by her employers. They claimed it was to keep the mystique of the human instrument for the performance itself, but there were rumours to contradict the official story.

Noa was more inclined to believe them than most, having been there and watching as Mischa was eased into the realities of her new physical form over a period of months after the melding had taken place. Right from the start there had been something very different about the demeanour of the woman and Noa was sure that she had an insight into the reason why.

However simple and self-loathing Mischa might have been before she was transformed, that aspect of her personality was long gone. It had been replaced by a serene manner and a look of new found confidence that Noa was sure could only have come from the new influx of genetic material in the other woman’s body.
In her own case, Noa had been well aware of the fact that she was gaining genetic material from a living creature. But Mischa had been merged with dead wood, strings and gold leaf, none of which had been alive at the time. Callum had theorised that some elements of the organic materials may have had an impact on what Mischa became, though he had no cause to take into account the instrument itself in those theories.

Perhaps that was where he had gone wrong.

Although Noa was a scientist to her core, she still wondered if there was some element of the new creature Mischa had become that was down to the harp itself. Could the complex and passionate individuals who had played the harp over the years have left something of their passion and intelligence imprinted upon it? Maybe it was nothing more than Mischa’s own knowledge of the instrument manifesting itself in a personality that differed from her own, some natural trick of the mind to hive off the personality of the woman she had been from the living object she had become.

She hoped that the change in personality would benefit Mischa in the long term no matter what the explanation.

The person she really felt sorry for was the poor girl playing the princess with whom the passionate prince was supposed to be falling in love with, if the plot was to be believed. The look the man had in his eye when he was regarding the magical harp that his character was playing in order to free the princess from her incarceration was far more believable.

Maybe the rumours were true.

Maybe the harp had bagged the prince in reality after all.

 

Mischa remained totally still and silent as she was gently placed onto the trolley and wheeled backstage. It was a skill that had developed after her transformation and was now one that she found incredibly easy to make use of in order to speak only when and to whom she chose. The effect was uncanny and more often than not people seemed to simply accept the fact that she had fallen into some kind of inanimate trance, simply treating her as a delicate object rather than a living creature.

The contrast was that inside her own head there was seldom anything but a whole galaxy of thought, as though she had looked up at the night sky and for the first time noticed the stars. She had slowly come to the realisation that her mind had become sharper and more focussed in the days after her emergence from the matter conversion device and she found that she was very happy with the results.

The simple fact that she casually used and comprehended the terminology of the process was all the proof she needed.

When she had first come to terms with the realities of her new form, she had been shocked at the loss of her arms and the fact that she was in essence rooted to the spot. But once her mind had begun to come alive, it was as though she had remembered a whole new set of limbs forgotten and left to wither in the past.

At first she had been filled with a sense of outrage that she kept to herself when the subject of her being played had come up in conversation. The idea was enough to make her compare her situation to an animal kept for its milk or meat and she bristled at the idea of hands touching her in such a way. But her attitude had changed when she was given a series of films to watch in which harps were played to produce the most haunting and beautiful music.

Mischa found that she somehow understood the language of the music, as though it were as natural to her as speaking to another human being. Soon she recognised the same forms on sheet music and found herself jumping ahead, able to predict the course the music would take. But no matter how many different performances she watched, there always seemed to be something wrong to her ear that no one else could perceive. The sound of no other harp truly sounded good enough.

It came as a shock for her to realise that the source of the sensation was jealousy.

Mischa realised that she had been biased against the sound that the other harps produced because deep down she believed that she was capable of better. On top of that, she became aware that a large element of her jealousy was also rooted in the fact that she resented seeing other harps played when she herself had been sitting idle all this time.

The battle between her outrage at being played like an object and the desire to produce music was settled when she was introduced to the man who, she was told, would be performing with her when the opera reached the stage. Her minders struggled with the definition of her relationship to the man in question, who would in effect be playing her. The term seemed to belittle her too much in their eyes and they danced around the subject like those embarrassed to look a person with a disability in the eye.

His name was Laslo, and he was very different to the men Mischa had known in the past.

She had been shown footage of a striding man with a storm of dark hair that dominated the stage with his presence. Actually meeting the quiet and nervous man in person was a stark contrast to what she had been expecting. They had told her he had been a prodigy, raised on music and song with a talent for both that made him prized in the world of classical music. He was young, not unattractive and seen as one of the greatest of his generation, but for some reason he sat in front of her looking as though he was terrified.

Once they were left alone, Mischa had a realisation almost as surprising as her own jealousy.

She saw for the first time that Laslo was terrified of her.

His eyes were only fixed upon her for a few seconds before they would dart away and a look of terrible guilt would come over his features.

Mischa had never been forced to coax another human being into communicating with her, but she tried as best she could.

“Laslo?” her voice was as quiet as she could make it.

“Yes,” he still refused to look at her.

“Do I scare you that much?”

“What?” he sounded genuinely surprised and turned to look her in the eye for the first time.

“Am I so hideous that you can’t even look at me?”

Mischa had feared that a person so devoted to the world of classical music and the culture it belonged to would be able to see her as nothing short of an abomination; she was becoming convinced that she had been right.

“God,” he shook his head, “good god no.”

“Then…”

“You have to forgive me,” Laslo stood and forced himself to hold her gaze. “I’m not sure how I am supposed to behave in your company.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I was presented with a beautiful woman, I would compliment her. If it was an exquisite instrument I would ask to play it,” his words were forced out in a tumble of nerves. “When I am presented with what seems to be both…I am at a loss as to which is appropriate and which would be improper.”

Mischa was lost for words.

She had absorbed enough of the type of language those in Laslo’s world used to be able to know that he was, in his own way, trying to say that he found her both stunningly beautiful and totally beguiling at the same time. Even before the transformation, she had been used to people treating her as an object and afterwards they had simply continued that habit once more.

No one had stood in awe of her the way this man was.

“You could always start by getting to know me,” she smiled, “and take it from there.”

From there their relationship had grown rapidly, with Laslo easing her through the experience of being played a step at a time. At first the sensation of another person plucking her strings had been strange, but he was gentle and allowed things to progress at a pace she was comfortable with. Soon she came to love the act of producing music and delight in the feeling of what his hands could do when they came into contact with her strings.

He told her all he knew about the history of the harp and filled her head with tales of the instrument and the place it had occupied for thousands of years of human history. In turn she shared all that she felt able to about her own life and the changes that the process had wrought in her while he listened, fascinated to be the first man in history to actually know his instrument and understand her feelings.

The first time he kissed her came almost as an accident, his hand brushing her naked breast as he passed one evening. She gasped at the unexpected sensation and he glanced down to see where his hand had come to rest. For a moment he remained still, feeling the strange combination of warmth and weight through the golden skin before gently pulling his fingers away.

It was as if in that moment they had both been reminded of the fact that Mischa was not simply some clever automaton that moved and spoke thanks to the winding of a key.

He stepped forwards and pressed his lips to her own, holding her head in his hands.

From that moment on they had been as close to lovers as they were able, the playing bringing them together more and more with every day that passed.

On this night, like so many before, Mischa remained as still as a statue until she heard the door of the dressing room open and was sure it was him entering. Only then did she come alive for the precious few hours they enjoyed every night.

It amused her to think how close to a fairy tale their lives had become. She was the woman who had been turned into a magical instrument and cursed to remain an object until the spell was broken and he was the man who had vowed to wait for her to become human again. They counted down the days until her contract was due to expire and they could be together finally as equals.

But until then there was the music and they plucking of the strings into the small hours of the morning.

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Filed under Body Modification, Matter Dynamics, Short Story, Transformation

Matter Dynamics: Noa’s Tail

It was a shock to the system to feel the chill that hung in the air of the main test chamber and despite the comfort it had offered as she made her way through the familiar corridors of the bunker, Noa Blackwell had found that the material of the dressing gown offered no protection from the effects of the coolant that bled heat from the machinery which dominated the room. Not only was she discomforted by the cold, she realised that the sights and sounds that had been her daily norm for what seemed like such a long time had been rendered strange and intimidating by the subtle differences in her role on this day as opposed to any other which had gone before.

There was no confusion in Noa’s mind as to the source of her trepidation, which was obvious. On any normal day she would have spent hours in this room, surrounded by the same complex machinery and feeling the same cold air. The difference was that on such a day she would have been dressed in her lab coat and engaged in the business of running tests on the status of the same machinery.

Today was different because she was standing in a dressing gown, beneath which she was naked.
It was also different on account of the fact that rather than being inside the safety of the control room monitoring the progress of the tests, today she was scheduled to be the subject of the test herself.

“Can you still feel your extremities?” the voice came to her ears clearly, but was relayed through an intercom from the control room.

Noa looked up to the observation panel in the far wall and at the familiar face of the speaker on the intercom. Callum Watson was certainly still wearing his lab coat as he tried to talk his colleague into a more positive mood through three inches of plexi-glass and one and a half feet of reinforced concrete. Knowing full well what they were trying to attempt today and her role in the process, there was no way that the man could have been surprised at her trepidation. But the fact that he was even trying at all was simply one of the many little things that made him who he was.

And it was those little things that made Noa willing to trust him, those same things in the end that made them friends rather than just colleagues.

“My insides have gone numb,” Noa’s Glasgow accent was rendered even more impenetrable by her shivering, “can we get on with this before I die of exposure?”

“Okay,” Callum almost laughed, “I hadn’t noticed on account of the fact you’re already so pale.”

Noa narrowed her eyes in response to the jibe, but in any other circumstances she would have been the first person to admit that she was amongst the palest skin tones known to mankind. She imagined herself so pale as to be almost transparent under heavy illumination and visible only on account of her red hair and freckles. It was a combination of features that she had often lamented over the years, jealous of those who could be caught outside without fear of being turned bright red by the slightest attention of the suns rays.

The truth, as is often the case with such instances of self-loathing, was in the eyes of most people whom she met quite far removed from her own opinion of her appearance. Where she saw pale and short, others were far more likely to see a petite woman with the most delicate tone of skin picked out quite fetchingly with freckles and boasting the most striking head of red hair. Named for her paternal Grandmother, Noa had also inherited a flourish of Japanese genes that manifested itself in her features so as to lend them a hint of the faerie and a sense of mystery.

All in all no one had ever been as harsh to Noa as she was to herself.

“Very funny,” Noa turned her back and walked towards one of the three large metal pods that stood towards the back of the test chamber, “now let’s get started before I come to my senses and back out of this thing entirely.”

There was no reply from the control room, but the hiss of pressure from the pod nearest to her indicated that the releases that held the main hatch closed had been released in by the personnel behind the glass all the same. Once the hatch had opened outwards and then to the side, the interior of the pod was revealed to be bare of all features save for the plain white of the walls and the metal grill that formed the floor.

“Pod number one reading nominal,” Callum’s voice was now devoid of the humour he had shown moments before, “pod number two showing the same across the board as well. I’m now running final checks on both units.”

The hatch on the pod to Noa’s right opened in a perfect imitation of the one she was standing in front of. Inside the features of the pod were identical to the first, save for the fact that in the centre of the floor was laid a large fish that must have been three feet in length at the least.

“Pod number two subject reads as present and correct, anaesthetic still in effect.”

“Pod number one subject wishes she had an anaesthetic right now as well,” Noa tried not to look at the fish in the second pod.

“I’ll take that as a joke,” Callum broke back into his normal tone, “remember the discussions we had around that subject? We need you conscious and aware while we do this. The physical and mental process as experienced by a human subject is vital to proving that this project has applications beyond the mundane.”

“This isn’t the time to be quoting my own words back at me,” Noa spoke in a manner that stopped Callum in his tracks, “just run the final checks on pod three and make it quick.”

“Pod three makes it a trio of clear readings,” Noa glanced at the third pod, which was stood perhaps five feet in front of the other two pods and positioned so that they formed a small triangle. “We’re as ready as we’ll ever be,” Callum fell silent.

“Okay,” Noa allowed the dressing gown to fall to the floor of the test chamber and took a deep breath before she climbed into the first pod. She turned to face the observation window with a look of resigned trepidation on her face. “See you on the other side.”

The last thing she saw before the hatch sealed itself closed was Callum’s face, concerned but confident as he watched on from the control room.

Noa had no more than a moment before the total darkness inside the pod was replaced by the most blinding light she could have imagined swallowed everything within it.

A moment later she felt nothing as her body was shattered into its constituent atoms.

Her physical form was destroyed utterly in less than a second.

In the control room, Callum noted her total disintegration with calm interest.

So far, everything was going as planned.

Noa could still remember the first time she had met Callum Watson and the impression he had made on her. She had been one of the research assistants filled with enthusiasm and anticipation at being chosen to work on, what was at the time, the best funded research project into practical teleportation technology in the world.

For a time the prospects of the work she had been involved in had been nothing but good. The theoretical elements were long behind the project and much progress had been made in the practical thanks to a successful prototype which proved capable of transporting individual molecules no more than a few feet at a time. While the distances involved were not great, the fact that the device functioned reliably again and again was a massive step forwards.

Soon the experiments had moved on to ever larger and more complex compounds and substances with the same success rates. Even the inevitable tests conducted in strict secrecy with live rats met with no problems and confidence was running high within the project.

But the stumbling block came in the form of distance.

No matter what approach they took, any attempt to teleport a subject regardless of its size or complexity, more than those few feet resulted in utter failure.

There was no grand explosion or Hollywood style ironic disaster; the objects simply failed to materialise at the other end and that was that.

Noa had lost count of the hours they had spent trying to theorise just where the hell all the stuff had ended up until finally the high ups had come to the conclusion that there was just no hope of overcoming the problem.

The official explanation had declared that the limits of possibility based on contempory scientific knowledge had been reached and there could be at present no more achieved by the project. That translated into common English meant to say that no one on the project had a clue how to break through the wall they had run into and until a new Einstein came along the prospect of a viable teleportation device was as likely as an effective chocolate kettle.

Noa had been looking to console her professional woes by soothing herself socially and after the end of the project took solace in the friends she had neglected while lost in her work. It had been at one otherwise forgettable party that she had absently been popping berries into her mouth from a bowl in the middle of an otherwise crappy buffet when she realised that she had no idea what she was actually eating.

Holding one of the offending berries up for a closer inspection, she saw it was a vivid red and about the size of a strawberry but at the same time more alike in shape to a raspberry. The taste was an odd combination of sweet and tart that eluded her memory, but seemed so familiar at the same time that she was sure she could recall the name of the thing if only she tried.

“Don’t eat the lot,” Noa looked up to see a young man no more than a few years older than her pointing at the berry in her hand. He was of mixed race and pleasant to look at rather than handsome, his clothes and mannerisms speaking of someone who was less than adept in social situations like this.

“Sorry,” Noa dropped the berry back into the bowl, “did you have your eye on some of these?”

“No,” he shook his head and smiled, “I’m Callum, by the way.”

“Noa,” she smiled back.

“No,” he went back to his previous line of conversation as if they had never left it to introduce themselves to one another, “I mean those are all there are.”

“Okay,” Noa shrugged, unsure as to why Callum was so keen to preserve a fruits presence in the buffet, “I suppose no one wants to have to go out in the rain and get more of them.”

“No,” Callum seemed to be saying that a great deal in the progress of the conversation, “that’s really all there is; I didn’t make any more of them.”

“You mean those are GM?” Noa tried to keep her voice down. “You really should have put a label on them or something. I’m not fussed about the whole GM thing, but some people react to it like you’re serving them human flesh.”

“Well, it’s not really GM in the sense of genetically modified,” Callum seemed unperturbed by the possibility of being lynched by anti GM guests, “more like genetically melded in reality.”

“Melded?” Noa was confused by his use of the term. “You mean these aren’t one berry with the DNA of another spliced in there to produce a new variety?”

“No,” Callum shook his head as if the suggestion was ridiculous, “that’s pretty much last century thinking. These are literally the amalgamation of strawberries and raspberries to produce a new berry that’s a combination of the two.”

“That’s possible?” Noa asked. “How is it even stable on a molecular level?”

“You’re the one who’s been eating the damn things at a rate of knots; you tell me how stable they are!”

Noa almost gagged at the realisation she could have been poisoned by Callum’s homemade hybrid berries.
“Kidding,” he laughed at her distress, “I’m not insane. I put those things through more tests on my own time than most of the stuff sold on the open market has been through and they’re as safe as anyone could make them.”

“But how did you manage it?” Noa steered Callum away from the ears of other guests.

She was far from drunk and knew enough about the state of scientific knowledge to be sure that whatever had created those berries was an area of research that bordered on that which until very recently she had herself been studying.

“A small scale matter conversion device that I’ve been tinkering with in my spare time,” Callum said the words as if that kind of device was as common as a TV set rather than rare and bafflingly complicated.

“I was on the university project myself,” Noa could not keep the tone of resentment out of her voice, “until they pulled the plug.”

“Good collection of brains on that one,” Callum nodded, “but the direction never struck me as the one I would have taken.”

“You’re serious?”

“It’s just my opinion,” Callum raised his hands defensively, thinking that he had insulted her, “you see I’m always amazed that most people think the only possible worthwhile use for matter conversion technology is teleportation.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Noa had to admit that she had fallen into that category, even if she was not about to admit it.

“Some of the major names in the field always reminded me of a man who finds a plank made of pure gold and insists on simply using it to cross puddles and keep his feet dry. I mean, good luck to anyone who can make long-distance teleportation work, but at the same time there are other things it could be used for apart from that.”

He gestured to the berries as if to illustrate his point.

“No one ever won the Nobel Prize for novelty berries,” Noa was intrigued, but not convinced.

“Those are just for nibbles,” Callum seemed put off at her lack of enthusiasm, “it could be so much more.”

“That sounds like the kind of thing that needs serious money behind it,” Noa raised her eyebrows I recognition of the scarcity of funds in the world of scientific research.

“Would you believe me if I told you it already does?”

“No shit?”

“Not the words I would have used,” Callum grinned at her surprise, “but yes, I have a backer and I’m looking for people that I can rely on to be part of the research team. Normally I’d be asking for curriculum vitae, full references and a pretty probing interview. But seeing as how you haven’t needed me to dumb it down once in all the time we’ve been talking, I like you and maybe because I’m drunk…would you like a job?”

Noa had agreed to Callum’s proposal that night mainly because she was sure he was insincere and also on account of the fact that she was out of work and had nothing to loose by doing so. But she was soon proven wrong as in the months that followed she received a constant string of letters, phone calls and visits from him on the subject of the project. It seemed that whoever his backers were, and their identity was something he never revealed, the pieces had suddenly begun to fall into place and things were moving at an unexpected pace.

More often than not, Noa saw Callum in person when he appeared on the doorstep of her flat, totally unannounced while standing in the pouring rain and clutching a bag full of sketches and blueprints that he needed her feedback on.

It was during these long and intimate periods that they became more than colleagues, finding that they were compatible as friends and made easy company for each other. For a while she had wondered if there was the possibility of more between them. But neither of them had broached the subject and Noa simply accepted him as a much-needed friend, not willing to loose him to an ill-advised attempt at seduction.

For his own part, Callum was too wrapped up in his work to think of anything else.

Noa soon learned that he was fascinated with the possibility of utilising matter conversion for any number of practical purposes, but his main area of obsession was the perception of the technology in the minds of the masses.

“Look at the track records for great ideas that have been sunk because they scared the man in the street,” he lectured one night when they were both filled with perhaps too much wine. “You could have the cure for cancer right there in your hand, but if the average human being fails to warm to it you might as well be offering to shoot them in the head for all it’s worth.”

“I’d be more worried about them actually understanding the whole thing at all,” Noa shook her head.

“Ah, now that’s where I’ve been thinking that we need to focus our attentions on something that’ll encapsulate a small part of what this thing can do and serve it up in a way that even a layman can’t fail to understand.”

Noa nodded for him to go on.

“We need to find the worst possible perception of matter conversion technology in the common unconscious and devote ourselves to proving once and for all that it’s wrong in every way possible.”

“You’ve put some thought into this,” she laughed at his enthusiasm, “so tell me what the demon we have to exorcise happens to be?”

“Two words: The Fly!”

“We’re up against just one film in which some fictional scientist gets spliced with an insect?”

“As far as I see it, yes.”

“I don’t know about you, but I think I can take Geena Davis if you tackle Geoff Goldblum.”

“I’m serious!”

“So am I,” Noa smiled, “the woman has to be well into her dotage by now.”

“Stop joking,” Callum’s tone very much in earnest, “we have to prove that the product of our enterprise can be something beautiful rather than something hideous. After that the actual details of all the practical stuff we can achieve with his technology will just fall into place.”

“You really want to create some kind of chimera?”

“You’re still stuck in the mindset of that damn film,” frustration was threatening the edge of his voice, “you know as well as I do that the refinements in the particle management programme allow for far more precise and controlled interaction of the donor molecules and resulting product. There’s no way in hell that we could make something like the creature in that film unless that was exactly what we set out to do from the start.”

“Okay, so sell it to me.”

“We need something that will resonate with the public, something pretty and shiny to get them all excited about the possibilities. In addition we need to prove that it’s viable and safe as well as reversible when the time comes. We can start with small stuff; maybe use the device to create alloys or rare mineral formations from their constituent elements. Then we move on to at first simple and then more and more complex life forms. We could create a mythical menagerie or something stupid like that.”

“We both know where this is going,” Noa gave him a wan smile; “the inevitable end is a human element in the process.”

“I know, but the real issue isn’t the safety of the process; it’s finding someone willing to actually undergo the process in the first place.”

The following months were a blur for Noa as the project relocated to the remote Shetland island of Walsey and began to convert an old bunker left over from the Second World War for its own purposes. The concrete walls were drilled with modern power cables, the old rooms expanded and every inch filled with the bewildering array of machinery and equipment needed to make the entire thing actually work. The staff lived above ground in prefabricated huts, the lights flickering as the machinery below drew vast amounts of power from the electrical grid to run the necessary experiments.

Progress was made in the order that Callum had predicted, building from trials with inert elements at first and moving with cautious optimism to simple and then ever more complex forms of life. Noa reviewed the data and could be nothing but positive about the advances they had made.

But when she questioned Callum about the end they were working towards, he became evasive and brushed her aside as best he could with talk of his workload and contacts amongst their financial backers who were looking into the matter of a suitable candidate.

Matters came to a head when she realised that the lack of news as to a human test subject was no more than a few weeks from stopping them in their tracks.

“You can’t find anyone suitable, can you?” Noa had cornered Callum in the control room and offered him no chance of escape this time.

“Short answer would be no,” he relented to her inquisition, “long answer would be maybe and then but. The best offer I’ve come across was so close to modern day slavery that it scared me to death. Apart from that there seems to be a distinct lack of sane human beings wiling to let us send them through that thing.”

“We simply can’t use an animal,” Noa shook her head; “the thing would become the next Dolly the sheep.”
“No argument there.”

“Then there’s only one other answer,” Noa stared at the three pods through the glass of the observation window.

“No,” Callum shook his head.

“Tell me another way around this?” Noa shook her own head now. “Don’t think I’m in love with the idea, but look at the alternatives. In addition this would show that we’re one hundred percent sure of this thing as well.”

“Or that we’re mad.”

“You said that this thing is safe and the process can be reversed, so we’re just putting our money where our mouths are.”

“If you did this thing,” Callum was coming round to her way of thinking, “it’d provide us with a photogenic specimen for the media at the very least.”

“Flatterer.”

“But what do we go for?”

“Let’s keep it grounded in what people know,” Noa shrugged her shoulders, “show me a little girl that doesn’t like mermaids.”

There were no words to describe the experience and after all, how could mere words ever hope to encapsulate the sensation of at once being aware of every molecule that constituted one’s being at the same time? Her consciousness was so wide as to be galactic, spanning the expanse that had become her state of existence and encompassing nothing that lay beyond its borders. Indeed there was no way to perceive or understand what, if anything, did lie beyond the limits of her own being.

Noa had no sense of herself as an individual and no means by which to understand the disjointed images that flashed through the eye of her mind at random. The terms by which such things had been known in the material world were devoid of meaning in this state of disembodied freedom. Here there was no use for form or categorisation, what use could such things be when reality itself had no definable form or sensation?

The first realisation of an order being brought to the chaos arrived on the periphery of her senses as a string of previously meaningless images and concepts began to align themselves in such a way that they resonated with one another. These in turn drew yet more free-floating motes of thought towards themselves to create longer and ever more complicated structures of signification and meaning. Layer upon layer assembled itself, with each one a new dimension chimed into being within her thoughts as though it had been there forever, simply unheard and awaiting the gift of a voice.

Time itself had no bearing upon the process until it too appeared as part of the growing chorus of concepts and ideas. But with its arrival the passage of time became perceivable and the process seemed to quicken its pace as if in response to the knowledge that it was becoming ever better defined with each moment that could now be recognised as passing .

It was no great wait for the complexity of the pattern emerging to build to the point where the images themselves began to expand in terms of meaning. No more were they simply random snapshots of colour and shape, instead they took on names and a significance all of their own. From there they deepened once more in meaning to become records of individuals distinct from the person of the observer, places that existed somehow outside the limits of their own thoughts and abstract concepts somehow skewed between the two.

Behind all of these images, revelations and chains of meaning there had been growing all the time a baffling concept that was at once bound up in the morass of it all, but at the same time extended far beyond it. In a moment of terrible realisation, the concept became aware of the fact that it was aware of itself, that the thoughts and images were elements of its own self.

In the same way that the layers of meaning had increased in complexity, the consciousness literally snowballed in size and complexity with every moment that seemed to pass. Before long the formless mind had bridged the gap between the stream of its own thoughts and sensations to those that streamed away behind it in the ever lengthening chains. It understood the difference between thought and memory and thus assembled the elements that would constitute a distinct personality for itself.

Faces, vistas, objects, landscapes, colours and sounds all condensed themselves from vast oceans of meaning to smaller and smaller touchstones of memory. They crystallised in nature and pulsed as tiny elements of signification in the now vastly complex structure of identity that encapsulated the conscious mind that grew from them.

I have a name, the thought was born into the centre of the mind perfectly formed.

What is my name?

Noa, that was part of it, but now there is more.

The hatch hissed open and the air being released from the third pod turned into vapour as it met with that in the test chamber. Noise levels fell steadily as the machinery powered down into a state of almost total shutdown and the technicians in the control room checked the readouts the test had produced.

Callum strained to see into the room beyond the observation window, filled with a desperate need to see the contents of the pod and an all too real fear for the safety of his friend and colleague.

Finally the vapour cleared enough to allow him to glimpse the white interior of the pod and he was relieved to see a mass of red hair emerging from the mist.

Noa blinked, the churning mist making her eyes water, and tried to scrub the tears of irritation from her face. She managed as best she could and was about to call out for help when her gaze fell upon the delicate webbing of pearlescent membrane that ran between her digits. She pulled her other hand into sight and saw that both of them possessed the webbing, moving her fingers and feeling the sensation as the new part of her body responded like any other.

By now the vapour had dissipated enough for Noa to glance down at her body, but when she did she found that the familiar form that had entered the pod had been replaced by something entirely new. Where she had been slender before the experiment, she was now somehow supple in form, as if the definition of her body had been redefined so that she resembled a snake or an eel. Her torso was still noticeably human in shape and colouring, but the lines of her body suggested a spine that was infinitely more pliable than that of a normal human being.

Indeed her torso seemed to merge almost perfectly with the silver-scaled tail that had totally replaced her legs. This new limb began in truth perhaps an inch or two below Noa’s navel, but the scales dotted the pale skin of her torso in the same manner the freckles did her face.

No one who saw this tail could have mistaken it for a costume or a clever prosthetic as it was devoid of any hint of human legs. As Noa sat within the pod, it curled underneath her more like the body of a snake than anything else, the wide silver fin to which it tapered at the end flipping and slapping against the floor in response to her unconscious movements.

There was a subtle clue in Noa’s posture and expression as she assessed herself, a hint that there was more to her transformation than simply a physical change. Callum noticed it in the way she made no attempt whatsoever to cover her naked body as he entered the room. The woman he had known would never have been happy to bear her breasts with no hint of shame or pause for apology.

Noa simply tuned to face her friend as he approached, her pale breasts naked in the cold air.

He noticed that the transformation had turned the colour of them to silver in keeping with the tail and the sight fascinated him until he recalled that he had been responsible for the finer points of the resulting physical form.

Callum had succeeded in using the matter converter to merge his colleague’s physical form with that of a sturgeon, but he had not created a monstrous hybrid of fish and woman. Instead he had spent countless hours refining the protocols that had guided the integration of the two matter patterns until this had been the result. Noa had the body of what he considered to be a close to a true mermaid as was possible. She had gills, a horizontal fin and a powerful tail that were all fit for purpose, but at the same time she retained the beauty of her human features.

“Noa?”

Her eyes flicked to meet his own and in that instant he was sure there was something more behind them than simply his friend.

“Callum?” She said his name as if seeing him for the first time after an absence of years.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel,” Noa paused for what seemed like far too long, “fine.”

What else could she have said to him? There was no way that Noa could explain there and then the fact that her own mind had pieced itself back together to find that it was more and less than it had been before the transformation. She was still for the most part the woman that she had been, but now there were new thoughts and feelings that surged under her conscious mind like unseen denizens of the deepest waters.
She looked at the man in front of her, knowing that he was a valued friend. But whispering in her ear was a hunger that urged her to see him for no more than the most base of uses to which she could put him. The human part of her mind wanted to reach out to him, but the darker element of her only wanted to make use of him.

There had been no way to understand what the mental side effects of the process could be, but Noa was sure this was one of them. Had something of the animal nature of the fish with which she had been merged altered the nature of her mind? That would have explained the almost feral way in which her unconscious was responding to the world around her.

But there was no time for that now, there were people to meet and smiling appearances to make.

Too much was riding on the success of marketing her as living proof that the process was safe to start worrying about the feelings she was becoming more aware of with every minute that passed.

She smiled and flipped her tail in a manner that she was sure a mermaid would have done.

There would be time for the recriminations and the appetites later.

For now she was determined to play her part to the full.

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Filed under Body Modification, Matter Dynamics, Short Story, Transformation

Repackaged

The radio was a faint hiss in the background as Mina hunched over the dashboard of the car and tried in vain to keep her hands from freezing by holding them over the heat vent. It was a battle that she was loosing fast no matter how much she rubbed them together.

In the seat to her left, Sadie shook her head and took another long swig from the coffee she had insisted on picking up at the start of their shift. She swallowed and shook her head again.

‘Told you to get the tea,’ she stood the paper cup on the dashboard and glanced over at her partner. ‘Are you going to be able to stave off the hypothermia until morning, or what?’

‘I’m fine,’ Mina managed to keep the edge out of her voice, ‘fine, just fill up on caffeine and be done with it.’
Sadie shook her head for a third time and wondered, not for the first time, how the petite and vulnerable looking little woman sitting by her managed to be such a good police officer.

Mina looked for all the world like just another young girl from the affluent suburbs of England, the darkly pretty daughter of a respectable Asian family who’s mother wanted her to marry a nice boy and settle down in a semi. Instead she had left university and promptly joined the police, leaving her mother to endless worry and that poor hypothetical nice boy to find a less headstrong bride. For all the outward appearances, Mina was a determined and strong-willed character who was rarely beaten by anything.

When she had been partnered with Sadie, it hadn’t taken long for the rest of the officers in the station to start calling them the “Odd Couple”.

In contrast, Sadie was a tall girl with a build that made her imposing in uniform and quite striking out of it. Her dark brown hair was cut in a choppy style and she seldom took the time to wear make-up when off duty, instead she relied upon her natural, and somewhat taken for granted, good looks. After one viewing of the film “Miss Congeniality” in her days training for the force, she had been dubbed “Dirty Harriet”.

Both had admitted over drinks that in the world outside of the force they would probably never have met, let alone gotten on, but their time together had taught them a respect for each other that had grown into a strong friendship. In the long-term it was clear that while Mina was aiming for an influential position in plain clothes, Sadie wanted to stay on the streets for as long as she was able. But until they were separated by their differing aspirations, they devoted themselves to the job at hand and worked well together.

So far tonight had proven to be one of those nights where the job at hand seemed to be nothing more exciting than sitting around behind the wheel of their patrol car and waiting for something, anything, to happen.

Sadie swallowed the last of her coffee and Mina tried to warm her hands and think of a better excuse for not taking a warm drink herself. The truth was that she really didn’t relish the idea of having to leave the car and go out into the cold to relive herself behind one of the trees by the country road. While she was far from worried about who might be lurking in the shadows, it was the biting cold that really put her off. That and the fact that if she mentioned the fact she would find a rumour spreading around the station as soon as they were off duty.

Suddenly the radio crackled into life and Sadie’s hand was there in an instant as the hope of a reprieve from boredom blossomed. It might be nothing on the other end of the radio, but then again it might not. Both women were hoping that it was anything that would get them out of the lay-by and moving against the cold of the December night.

‘Car 831?’ the voice on the other end of the radio filled the car.

‘831 here,’ Sadie replied.

‘Confirm that you are currently in the vicinity of Blackwell Tor?’

‘Confirmed.’

‘Calls have been coming in from locals describing suspicious noises and movement on the side of the Tor, please proceed to the site and investigate?’

‘Ok,’ Sadie looked over to Mina, who turned the key in the ignition, ‘we’re on our way to the scene.’

‘Sounds like a strange one,’ Mina commented as soon as they were on the road.

‘Who cares?’ Sadie stared through the windscreen and out into the gloom of the night. ‘At least we’re moving rather than sitting on our arses back there.’

‘It’s still strange though,’ Mina insisted, ‘who on earth goes up the side of a bloody great big hill like that and starts making a racket on a night like this?’

‘Christ knows,’ Sadie laughed suddenly, ‘might be some kind of mad pagan ritual, you know, loads of hippies and crusties cavorting about in the nude with raging phalluses! Now that would be something to remember!’

‘You have to be kidding; they’d be dead of exposure before we got there. The only kind of stiffies would be six foot long and blue from the cold!’

They wound their way along the deserted country roads and towards the hills that surrounded the looming shape of Blackwell Tor. Soon the roads twisted madly and there was no way to drive on at anything more than a crawl. But despite the dark of the night it was not long before the lights that had alarmed the locals could be seen emanating from the far side of the Tor.

Both women knew that the roads gave out long before the climb up to the Tor began and so they found themselves leaving the car at the end of a narrow dirt track and making their way up into the woods that clung to the hillside.

The torches they had brought from the car proved unnecessary, as the lights were plain to see as they picked a path through the woods in silence. Neither of them pressed ahead or tried to hang back as they climbed the Tor, instead they made their way methodically towards the source of the disturbance.

As they came closer, the noises became more distinct as those of some kind of heavy machinery, the lights resembling industrial lighting through the trees. When they were perhaps no more than a few hundred metres from the source, the noise suddenly seemed to lessen and then be reduced to a low humming like a generator and the lights blinked out, leaving them once more in darkness.

‘Looks like we’ve been spotted,’ Sadie said whilst she waited for her eyes to adjust to the sudden loss of light.

‘God knows how,’ Mina was having the same troubles, ‘I don’t see how we could have been seen or heard through all that. Whatever’s over there is more than some drugged-up crusties.’

‘Should we call for backup?’

Mina thought for a moment and then shook her head, a gesture that Sadie could only now begin to make out in the gloom.

‘No,’ she walked a few steps forward in the direction of the humming, ‘we should see what the bloody hell we’re dealing with here before we do anything like that.’

‘Ok,’ Sadie fingered her torch, ‘let’s see what we can see.’

Sadie was the first to see the building that stood in the clearing ahead, she waved to her partner and strained to get an idea of just what they had stumbled upon. If they had been anywhere near civilisation she would have just described it as a warehouse and moved on.

But the question had to be asked: what was a warehouse doing halfway up the side of Blackwell Tor?
Apart from its location, the building was unremarkable, made of metal and concrete and seeming to be nothing more than a storage space. A large sliding door was open in the side of the building closest to them, emitting a dull glow and the low sound of humming still filled the air. Powerful lights could be seen on the edge of the flat roof, presumably the source of the lights that had vanished so suddenly.

How the building had got there was a mystery to them as there was no road to the clearing and nothing seemed to have disturbed the trees around the clearing for a long time. Yet the building was modern and looked new with no signs of the decay that eventually attacks manmade structures. No tracks could be seen around the warehouse and there was no sign of anyone around, no sound at all apart from the incessant humming.

‘Now I’m starting to get freaked,’ Mina whispered the words as though afraid to stir some reaction from the ominous silence.

‘Only starting?’ Sadie kept scanning left and right in the hope of seeing something that would help to make sense of the warehouse. ‘This is really starting to feel like an episode of the X-Files.’

Together they made their way cautiously out from the cover of the trees and into the clearing before the warehouse. As they covered the short distance to the sliding door, the eerie silence remained save for the humming sound from within. By the door they stopped for one final glance around the clearing before stepping inside.

With the slightest flicker, the lights suspended from the high ceiling above came to life almost as soon as they were inside the warehouse. Dazzled for a moment by the glare, Mina and Sadie covered their eyes and cursed as they were forced to stand exposed until they could see once more. At first they noticed nothing more than the concrete floor of the warehouse under their boots, but soon they were able to glance around and see the wooden crates that were stacked almost to the rafters all around them.

‘Lights must be automatic,’ Mina spoke as she craned her neck to see the towering crates and turned in a circle, ‘tripped them when we walked through the door.’

‘You don’t think that everything’s set up like that, do you?’

‘Could be.’

‘But where did everyone go?’ Sadie gazed down the avenues of crates that stretched away to their left and right, lining the outer walls of the warehouse and filling the cavernous centre. ‘Surely there needs to be someone around here for…whatever’s happening up here?’

‘That’s the real question; what’s really happening up here?’

‘There are no labels on the crates,’ Sadie pointed at the nearest stack, ‘did you notice that? And there’s nothing on the walls outside or in that we’ve seen, and that’s another weird thing. You’d think that there’d be at least a dirty calendar stuck to one of the walls or a newspaper left lying around, but there’s nothing. It’s weird. All the other drug factories that I’ve seen had stuff like that lying around, this is too clinical and clean.’

‘You think it’s a drug factory?’

‘Looks like a perfect place to run one from to me,’ Sadie pointed to the catwalks that could be seen spanning the length of the warehouse above the crates. ‘I think we should get up there and have a look at how big this place is.’ She found a ladder up to the nearest catwalk and the two of them climbed quickly onto the narrow walkway.

From that vantage point they could see that the crates ran around the entire outer wall of the warehouse, stacked almost as high as the catwalk itself. In the centre of the warehouse they had been stacked to the same height, but the rows were only one crate deep, leaving a large space in the middle of the building empty of crates.

In the space was what looked like small metal construction, a smaller building standing inside the larger one? It stood perhaps fifteen feet tall and forty feet long on a side and was made of a dark metal, bristling with tubes, cables and a multitude of other baffling components. There could be no doubt that this was the source of the low humming as the sound was far more clear above the level of the crates. The catwalk crossed directly over the top of the space that the building occupied, but where the crates stood beneath it a ladder lead down to the warehouse floor no more than a few short metres from its metal side.

Neither of the two spoke as they walked across the catwalk and made their way down the ladder towards the new mystery in the warehouse. There was no way on earth for them to tell what this was, but the fact that someone had gone to the trouble of hiding it made up their minds. If there was any place where they could find a clue as to just what was going on, it would be down there.

‘This looks like a door,’ Sadie rapped her torch on a panel in the closest side of the metal building which resembled a smooth bulkhead of some kind. ‘Now the question is, how do we open it?’ She placed a hand on the cold metal where a handle might have been located on a normal door and jumped back in surprise as there was a slight sound like the releasing of air and the panel slid aside to reveal a small chamber inside.
The chamber was no more than five feet square, well lit with walls a clinical white and a floor composed of a metal grid. The walls to the left and right were bare, but straight ahead there was another door, similar in shape to the first, but white and with a window that resembled a porthole at eye-level.

Before Mina could say a word, Sadie was inside and straining to see what was on the other side of the porthole.

‘Careful,’ she reluctantly followed her partner into the little chamber, ‘I have no idea what the hell this thing is and neither do you!’

‘Whatever they’re cooking up in this place,’ Sadie didn’t turn around as she gazed through the window, ‘this has to be where they’re making it. Secure and clean, away from the floor of the warehouse. And why else hide it away in the middle of all these crates?’

‘God alone knows,’ Mina looked warily back over her shoulder as she took another step into the chamber, ‘what on earth is through there anyway?’

‘Looks like a corridor across the length of the building. There are, I think, five more doors on the other side of this one. Must be the labs where they’re making their drugs.’

There was another sound of air being released and Mina span around just in time to see the door slide quickly closed behind them. She pressed her hand to the cold metal in an attempt to stimulate the same response that Sadie had from the other side, but to no effect. She ran her fingers around the edges of the door and pressed her weight against it before turning back to her partner with a look of exasperation on her face.

‘Shit.’

‘Don’t worry,’ Sadie cocked her head towards her radio, ‘this would be the perfect time to call for back-up.’

She clicked her radio and spoke into the mouthpiece. ‘Control?’

There was no response.

She tried again.

There was no response.

‘Looks like we have to find a way out on our own,’ she shrugged her shoulders and placed her palm on the door before her just as she had with the last.

Neither of them was surprised when there was a third release of air and the door slid open to allow them into the corridor.

‘The air smells…somehow, cleaner in here,’ Sadie shook her head.

‘Must be sealed to keep whatever they’re making pure,’ Mina peered into the nearest porthole that was set in the door in line with the one they had just come through. ‘There’s a door at the other side of the room through here, but it hasn’t got a window and there’s nothing in there at all.’

‘Nothing in these either,’ Sadie made a quick trip from on end of the corridor to the other. ‘Odd. I would have thought that this was where they were making the drugs. I was expecting all the usual paraphernalia. There’s just the same door in the far wall. So which one do we try?’

‘Perhaps we should split up,’ Mina suggested, ‘there’s no one here but us; otherwise they’d have noticed us wandering about. The quicker we get them searched, the quicker we can get out of here.’

‘Sure, why not.’

‘I’ll take this one here,’ Mina gestured to the door in front of her.

‘Suppose I’ll have a look through this one then,’ Sadie pointed to the one to Mina’s left and placed her hand against the metal as her partner did the same. The doors slid open and the two of them stepped into the small white chambers beyond.

A second later the doors slid shut again with the same jet of air.

Mina turned to look at the door as it quickly slid shut and swore under her breath in frustration. She thought about hammering on the door and shouting to Sadie, but the chances were that she was on the other side of the door to the next room and could not hear a sound she made. Instead she walked over to the other side of the room, eager to get the door open and move on. But when she pressed her hand to the metal of the far door she was surprised to discover that nothing happened.

There was a click from the corners of the room as a small vent in each opened and a clear liquid that flowed too slowly to be simple water started to gush out across the floor.

Mina cried out in alarm and backed up to the door as the liquid reached the centre of the room and started to rise rapidly. In a matter of moments it had reached to ankle-level and soon after it was lapping around the tops of her boots.

Now she cast aside her earlier reluctance and started to hammer on the door and then the walls of the room as the liquid reached her knees and then to her waist. As she waded through the liquid she was aware of the fact that it was warm and offered more resistance than water would have. Soon it had reached the point where she was forced to start treading water in order to keep her head above the water. And in no time at all she was mere inches from the white ceiling of the room and gasping for breath.

Finally Mina was forced under the surface, as the room was totally flooded. She battled against the panic that threatened to seize her until she lost her grip and was forced to cry out, releasing the air from her lungs. The liquid flooded in and Mina panicked, as her short life seemed to flash before her eyes and her limbs thrashed futilely.

She floated in what she supposed must be the brief few moments before she died, but then noticed that they had stretched on into more than moments and yet there was no end. Her eyes were open and she was floating in the liquid filled chamber, but she seemed to have somehow stopped drowning.

Mina tried to move, to swim through the water, but there was a sudden flash of light in the room, like the glare of a camera’s flash and she was stunned into immobility. She floated, sedated in both body and mind, only vaguely aware of her situation.

As she floated, another light swept through the room, this time a green light that moved over her body again and again until it had covered her from every conceivable angle.

A pair of delicate mechanical arms emerged from concealed tracks in the walls of the room. They moved along the tracks towards Mina, angling themselves on either side of her body and sent thin beams of light shooting towards her.

On their first pass they cut through the material of her jacket, her hat and then the leather of her boots, slicing them all into sections that sank to the bottom of the chamber where a hole opened and sucked them away. The second pass sliced away her trousers and then her shirt, which fell away to the same fate. A third pass removed her socks, bra and knickers’ and one more sliced away rings, her watch and the clips holding her hair up.

Mina floated naked as her thick black hair came free and surrounded her head like a dark halo.

The arms came back for a third sweep around her body, this time coming closer than ever, as close as a razor and serving the same purpose as they not only removed every hair they found below her neck, but also destroyed the root with minute precision so that the hair would never grow again. They removed the hair around her most intimate parts and then cleansed her face of any follicles that did not belong to her eyebrows or eyelashes. The latter they shaped with elegance and left in place above Mina’s eyes.

When the arms returned, or perhaps when new arms emerged, they were holding smooth discs, the colour of unfired clay, which they carried towards her breasts and abdomen. The first and the largest they slipped between her legs where it was attached to her body, laying over the top of her intimate parts and covering them as it bonded with her skin tighter than any adhesive. The second were carried higher to be attached to her breasts, cupping them and covering her nipples, bonding in the same way as the first had when it had made contact with her skin. Mina’s nipples were flattened against her breasts, but even in her semi-conscious state she could feel the stimulation as their sensitivity spread across the small discs now bound to her chest.

Next came a length of the same material with a band at either end, one larger and more complex than the other. The simpler band was wrapped around Mina’s knees, pulling them together tightly so that she could no longer move them apart. The length of the material was laid between her calves and quickly bonded them together while the complex end was slipped over her feet. It stiffened as soon as it was in place and pushed her feet together and downwards as though Mina was stood on the very tips of her toes.

Mina’s bound legs swayed as she floated, and still the arms moved through the liquid.

Now the arms returned with what looked like strangely shaped metallic moulds, four of them, which closed around different parts of Mina’s body so tightly as to leave no gap whatsoever. One enclosed the length of her bound legs from toe to waist; another wrapped around her chest and covered her breasts while the final two covered her hands like over-sized mittens. There was a rush as the liquid was expelled from within them and then a feeling of intense warmth and pressure that drifted in and out of Mina’s clouded mind.
The moulds could have been in place for hours or mere minutes, such was the state of the woman held within them. But eventually she was released from their grip and again left to float freely in the water.

Changed as she was.

Mina’s legs still swayed as she floated, but now they were concealed beneath an elegant silver tail, which covered her from waist to toe and ended in a long tailfin of aqua blue. Webbing of the same colour linked her fingers, making her hands move up and down in the liquid. A pair of shells, too small and perfectly fitted to be real, covered her breasts and completed the image of the mermaid that slowly turned in the liquid.

All the time she was left to float alone in the liquid, wrapped in a tail that was bonded to her skin wearing only her meagre shells (which were as sensitive as her buried nipples had ever been), a subliminal contact was made with Mina’s mind. It slipped into the wide open parts of her mind that the process had laid bare and filled them with images of the sea and dreams of sitting on a lonely rock, singing for the love and fulfilment that she sought from the sailors who passed her in the night. It pushed aside memories of her past and replaced them with the concerns that she must feel as a mermaid even as she was gently drawn down an opening in the floor of the chamber and away.

Mina stretched and spread her arms out as she woke form an unusually deep sleep then flexed the tips of her tailfin to chase away the last of her weariness. She sat up on the cushions that filled the inside of her giant clamshell, tucked her tail beneath her, perched her ornate hand-mirror on the edge and started to smooth her hair with the matching brush.

She was determined to make her hair do exactly what she required of it this time. When she lifted the lid of the shell and was seen by the one who would save her from a mermaid’s lonely life in the sea, everything had to be perfect. If it was, then he would be hers forever, trapped by her enchanted gaze and the well-timed flicker of her tail.

Mina was too wrapped up in herself to notice the fact that her clamshell was one of hundreds of others that filled one corner of the silent warehouse. They varied in shape, size and colour, but all looked large enough to contain a human form curled into a foetal position. All of them when examined closely showed that man rather than nature made them.

A noise in the nearest corner of the warehouse was enough to make Mina forget the combing of her hair and crane to see what was disturbing her pursuit of mermaid perfection.

This corner was filled with large wooden boxes, all exquisitely made and painted in bright colours. As with the clamshells, all were large enough to hide a human being. All of the boxes sported crank handles on one side. All of them were firmly shut.

Apart from one.

From one box there had burst Sadie, her legs bound into one limb and hidden beneath a stocking that was lined on the inside with a wire, which wrapped around her to give the impression of a spring rather than legs. She wore a red ballerina’s tutu above the stocking and her skin was as pale as porcelain, the fingers of her hands moulded together, all to give her the look of a doll. Her face had been painted to resemble one, with red lips and cheeks and her hair replaced with red wool and gathered into bunches.

She swayed forwards and backwards like the Jack-in-the-box she was sure she was, trying to regain her balance. Eventually her eyes fell on Mina and she smiled in the slightly dizzy way that the subliminal words had told her was just like a silly little thing on the end of a spring. She waved a pale hand at her friend; unable to separate the fingers as she did so, but sure that she had always been limited in that way.

Mina giggled to herself as she watched her friend sway on her spring and thought of the surprise she would give her new owner when she popped up out of that box in front of him for the first time. Sadie was a perfect Jack-in-the-box. No wait, Jill-in-the-box, that was better, prettier and it suited her far more. She was almost as good at being a Jill-in-the-box as Mina was at being a mermaid.

But then why should they not be, she thought, that was all they had ever been and all they had ever wanted to be.

They were both so looking forward to the day when they would be off into the world.

They had been cleaned, dressed and repackaged and now they were ready to be on their way.

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Filed under Body Modification, Short Story, Transformation