|Thaumaturjekyll: Book One chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Book Two chapter 8 9 10 11|
Time for a Change of Scenery
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©1999 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
I say violence is necessary. It's as American as cherry pie.
-- H. Rap Brown
"He's coming around. Everybody. He's coming around."
Hastie opened his eyes to see his parents and a vision of loveliness looking down on him as he tried to sit up. The pain stopped him.
"Don't try to move Hastie dear. The bunny rat sliced up your chest with its claws before you killed it."
"Bunny rat?" Memories flooded to the fore. He remembered the formula, the problem with his father's TSP device, the double moons, and... the bunny rats. "Oh." It was more a groan than an acknowledgment, but the others smiled supportively.
"Is everyone else okay?"
"Yes dear. Your father has a bad scrape on his arm, but Sonja and I are fine."
"What happened to the... uh, 'bunny rats', and why call them that?" He tried to get up again and winced with the pain, but made it to a sitting position.
"Lie still son, and we'll explain." Dr. Lanyon pushed an orange and violet colored object shaped like a small squash into his hand. "Drink. It tastes something like cherry cola, but not as sweet. It's from the tree. I suspect the bunny rats were trying to get to them and we were in the way.
"Anyway, to answer your questions in reverse order, we're calling them bunny rats because they have characteristics of both. There's the long ears and fur like a rabbit and the tail and teeth of a rat. Of course, they are quite a bit bigger."
"About 60 pounds bigger," Sonja interjected. Dr. Lanyon glared as he would have at any of his students who were rash enough to interrupt one of his lectures, but when she just smiled and stood her ground, he shrugged and continued.
"As to what happened, we killed them. Sonja got two, I got one, you got one, and your mother got one."
"One and a half," Sonja interrupted again. "The knife you used to kill yours was the one your mother threw. Plus one got away."
"We are not sure of that young lady." Dr. Lanyon corrected her in annoyance, but Sonja just smiled knowingly.
"Leave the girl alone Herbert. She's right."
"What? Yes dear, I mean, how do you know that?"
"I saw it, dear. It was right behind the one you killed. I threw a knife at it too, but missed. Sonja tossed a rock at it and scared it away."
"So one of those monsters is still out there?" Hastie's eyes darted everywhere at once as he tried to make sure there were no bunny rats nearby. His awareness of his need for self-preservation had been dramatically heightened by the fight he had been in.
"Relax son. We'll take turns standing guard but I doubt it will come back. It has no pack to rely on any more." Sonja nodded her agreement and somehow that small gesture was more comforting to Hastie than his father's assurances, but not enough that he was ready to take a chance on sleeping ever again.
"No way. One of those monsters is still out there and I am not going to give it another chance at me." Hastie tried to use the back of the tree to help him slid upward into a standing position, but immediately groaned in pain and slid back down.
"Herbert Lanyon the Fifth! I will not allow you to foolishly injure yourself because you do not trust your own father and mother. You will lie down and close your eyes this instant." Mrs. Lanyon was an unstoppable force when she was angry. Long experience had taught both Hastie and his father never to argue at such times.
"Yes mother." Hastie bristled as he noticed Sonja snicker, but slowly slid down into a more comfortable position and closed his eyes. He was asleep in seconds.
There must have been an earthquake. The whole world was shaking -- and it hurt. Someone was calling him from a distance, "Hastie! Wake up dear. Please wake up."
"Wake dear. Please wake up. Please."
"Wazza matta?" The earthquake stopped and Hastie closed his eyes again, ready to go back to sleep.
"Herbert Lanyon, don't you dare go back to sleep."
"Yes mother." His eyes were wide open again.
"Listen carefully Hastie. We have a problem. The lacerations you got from that bunny rat have become infected. Both you and your father have become very ill. We've been discussing what to do and we've only come up with one answer. You -- actually you and your father -- must both take the formula and change shape. Do you hear me? You've got to swallow the formula and then concentrate. Can you do that dear?"
"Sure Mom. Right after I take a little nap..."
"Don't you dare go to sleep."
"Just a nap Mom. Not long. Just a few more minutes and I'll get up for school."
"He's not paying attention. What are we going to do?"
"I'll wake him up." Sonja gently pushed Mrs. Lanyon out of the way.
"Wake up Hastie. Wake up Hastie. Wake up Hastie." Each prompt was punctuated by a slap harder than the one before. On the fifth slap he roused enough to push the hand away.
"Why are you hitting me? Would you like me to hit you like that?"
"It's okay dear," Mrs. Landon quickly intervened. "You're sick and you couldn't wake up. Can you hear me now dear?" A nod.
"You're very sick dear. You could die. You must take some of the formula and transform. It's your only hope. Do you understand?" Another nod, but Hastie's eyes were beginning to close again.
"Herbert Lanyon the Fifth! Don't you dare go to sleep. Do you hear me?"
"Yes Mom," he slurred. "Won't go to sleep."
"You must take the formula and you must transform Hastie. You must become a centaur. Do you hear me Hastie, a centaur?" Sonja placed a test tube to the injured boy's lips and tilted it up. When the liquid touched his lips Hastie swallowed reflexively and then choked, nearly spitting it back out.
"No Hastie. Swallow. You must swallow dear."
"Don't worry about him swallowing, I'll make sure he does. Now we need to keep him awake and focused long enough to start transforming."
"That's true Sonja. You keep him focused and I'll take care of Dr. Lanyon."
The two women separated and Sonja turned back to Hastie. "Listen up Hastie. I want you to think about centaurs. Do you hear me, centaurs."
"I hear you," Hastie slurred. "Centaurs." He further emphasized his understanding by nodded his agreement, but concurrently his eyes were glazing over.
"Hastie. HASTIE!" Another slap.
"What? Whaddya want?"
"I want you to think of centaurs."
"Centaurs. Right." His eyes unglazed and he looked up at Sonja. "Say, did anyone ever tell you you're pretty?" With that he passed out.
"Mrs. Lanyon. We've got a problem here. Hastie's unconscious and I can't wake him."
"Oh dear. Herbert, you'd better hold up on taking the formula. We may need all of your medical expertise with Hastie." They all crowded about the injured boy.
"Do you think it will work Herbert? Do you think the formula took?"
"I don't know dear. We'll have to wait and see."
"Look!" Sonja pointed. "He's changing. Maybe he'll be okay."
"I just hope we were correct in our assumption that changing would heal his wounds."
"I think so," Sonja responded. "When I changed a rather painful football injury disappeared. It should work for him also."
"We'll see. We'll see."
"Oh shit." Sonja was watching the transformation.
"Don't say that word Sonja dear. It's not ladylike." Then Mrs. Lanyon glanced back down at her son. "Oh shit."
The shape that was forming from what had been Hastie Lanyon did not seem to be developing hind legs.
"I don't like being a centaur. It feels strange." Emily Lanyon fought to suppress a grin at how whiny her husband's voice sounded.
"Well, the breasts are a bit much dear. Do you really think I look like that?"
"Of course not Emily. I guess my spacial perception and judgement isn't as good as I thought." His words did not stop him from blushing.
"It's alright dear," Mrs. Lanyon laughed. "I'm actually quite flattered, but we had better get something around those things before you hurt yourself. I can't wait to see you cantering." With that Mrs. Lanyon began rummaging through the junk pile. Finding the flowered peach curtains that had been hanging in the lab she doubled them up and began wrapping them around Dr. Lanyon's new breasts. Crossing them in the back, she brought them over her husband's shoulders and then tied them between her wrapped breasts.
"This seems awfully tight dear."
"I made it tight purposely. If those things are bouncing uncomfortably now when you're just standing here talking to me, imagine what it's going to be like when you're galloping." Dr. Lanyon's face turned bright red and he staggered a bit which only served to prove his wife's point. If he could have figured out how to sit, he would have done so gladly.
"Hastie's coming around." The two centaurs turned to see Sonja pointing to a double of herself except with blonde hair. The double, still wearing Hastie's now ill fitting sweats, was lying on her back, groaning and rubbing hair from her face.
"Hastie dear, how are you feeling?"
"Wha?" He was abruptly fully awake.
"Don't talk Hastie," Sonja interjected. "Your father will explain." Hastie just stared from Sonja, to his mother, to his mother the centaur, and back in total confusion.
"You and I were sick and probably dying from the infections we got when the bunny rats scratched us with their claws... and yes, I am your father as well as a centaur who looks like your mother. Just like you, I took the formula and changed. We needed a form of transportation and we needed to be able to communicate. Being a centaur seemed simplest. Unfortunately, when the change started I was wondering what your mother would look like as a centaur. Thus..." he gestured to display his body.
"I think it's flattering, what your father has done," Mrs. Lanyon cooed. "Don't you? He's taken my body as his template and made some minor modifications to idealize it." Mrs. Lanyon referred to the slightly larger breasts and the more youthful, thinner, and more glamorous face.
"It's okay son. I'm still getting used to it too." Dr. Lanyon carefully pranced back and forth to demonstrate how facile he had become in his new chestnut mare's body. "You need to do the same."
Hastie once again gazed back up at his parents in confusion, unsure what his father meant. Then he remembered that he had taken the formula too and quickly examined his body with growing shock and alarm.
"That's right, Sis." Sonja chuckled. "Welcome to the Brigitte Nielsen fan club." As Hastie tentatively poked at the offending lumps on his chest, Sonja slapped his hand and continued. "You've got to get your mind out of the gutter my friend."
"So to summarize," Dr. Lanyon pontificated in hopes of bringing the conversation back to something more useful to their situation, "Jack has become a red haired woman who is calling herself Sonja, I've become a centaur with an upper body that's a duplicate of your mother's, and you've become a blonde version of the same woman as Jack."
"We've always been close friends, Hastie," Sonja noted. The young Lanyon wasn't sure if he was more disconcerted by the sinister belly laugh that emanated from the redhead standing before him or her next words. "Now we can share clothes and boyfriends."
Hastie was at a loss for words although he opened and then immediately closed his mouth several times as he tried to get some sounds besides a gurgle to pass his lips.
"Relax Hastie, I was joking."
"That's quite enough Sonja," Mrs. Lanyon interrupted. "Hastie is still adjusting to this. I suspect it's a bit of a shock. Now if you ladies will excuse me," she turned her back just in time to avoid having any of the others see her snicker, "I'm going to go off and become a centaur also, so we can travel more easily."
With that Emily Lanyon headed off to the other side of the tree with a reminder for the others to be quiet and not disturb her so she could concentrate on doing a proper transformation. Sonja took the time to check for potential enemies. Then she helped Hastie up and handed her the other sword.
The blonde woman took it without thinking and began practicing some routines. Shortly, Sonja joined her and they began sparring only to find that Hastie too was quite good. They were surprisingly evenly matched. No one noticed that Hastie's jeans and tee shirt had become a black leather version of Sonja's skimpy leather outfit.
About a half an hour later Mrs. Lanyon returned, or at least everyone assumed the centaur that came from around the tree was Mrs. Lanyon. The problem was that while the lower portion looked like a chestnut stallion, the upper portion was an idealized version of Dr. Lanyon the man.
"I'm sorry dear," she apologized to her husband. "I just don't understand. I'm quite sure I was thinking of becoming a centaur mare just like you."
"That's alright dear. I was actually wondering about the gender changes myself. I really thought I had been very careful to visualize myself as a male centaur, but when I came out as a mare I assumed I had slipped at some crucial point and thought of you. With you telling me the same thing, and considering the gender changes the boys went through also, I am beginning to postulate that there may be more to the formula than we thought.
"As I think of it, I don't remember grandfather, usually fastidious about details, being very specific about his time as a horse. I think everyone in the family assumed that he just didn't wish to talk about it, but maybe his uncharacteristic reticence was because there was a gender change. That would have been a tremendous shock to his Victorian sensibilities."
"That would make sense dear."
"Ah, folks," the two barbarian women spoke in near unison. "Someone's coming." They both pointed to a cloud of dust approaching from the distance.
"Oh great!" Dr. Lanyon was less than happy about this intrusion into his introspection regarding the situation. "Now what do we do?"
"I recommend we gather a bunch of these fruits and 'high-tail it for the other end of the canyon partner'." If the previous instance of speaking in unison was strange, this, with the phony western drawl, was downright eerie.
"Girls, don't do that. It's spooky, almost like you're actually one person in two bodies." Mrs. Lanyon grabbed the other curtain and piled a dozen of the melon-like fruits into it. Tying it into a bundle and knotting it, she threw it over her shoulder and yelled for the girls to jump on. Two flying leaps and they were racing off towards the far wall of the canyon.
Sonja grabbed a brief glance backward. "They didn't stop at the tree." The others just grunted and the two centaurs broke into a full gallop.
"Try to the left," Hastie shouted. "I think I see a small arroyo. maybe it's a way out. If not it's a place we might be able to defend if we have to make a stand."
The cloud of smoke was growing closer. Neither Dr. Lanyon nor his wife were fully acclimated to their new bodies and had to concentrate for fear of stumbling. The extra weight of the new twins was also disconcerting.
"I see about a dozen riders," Sonja called out. "They're all armed with swords."
"There's the arroyo," Hastie pointed. "Only about two hundred yards. I think we can make it."
The two centaurs were breathing hard as Hastie shouted a plan of war above the rapid hoof beats. "Once we clear those rocks, Sonja and I will drop off and prepare an ambush. You two gallop ahead a bit so the dust cloud continues into the pass and then circle back. Grab some rocks and throw them from a distance."
"Get ready. We'll drop the bags when we jump off. Now." The two women jumped and scrambled behind several large boulders on each side of the small rock cut. The centaurs galloped on and they waited, but instead of continuing to close, the riders stopped a couple hundred feet away.
They milled about until one rode forward a couple of yards. "Give up. You have nowhere to go."
"We have food and water," Sonja called back. "We are waiting for others." Sonja ignored the confused look Hastie gave her. "They will arrive shortly."
"Then they too will become our captives."
"They are more than your rabble. They will take you captive, if they do not slay you out of hand."
"Before you make any additional threats," the pack leader called back, "look behind you."
"Look to your own rear," Sonja called back, brushing off Hastie's frantic tugs at her arm.
"Our friends will be here shortly." The tugging became even more insistent and Sonja hissed at Hastie to stop.
"Shut up and look behind us," Hastie hissed back.
Cautiously Sonja glanced behind and then sighed as she lowered her sword and let it slide to the ground. Several paces behind the two women the narrow entrance widened rapidly. In the opening were the centaurs with riders mounted on their backs holding sharp looking swords pointed at the two women. As the swords fell and the girls' hands rose into the air, one of the riders called to the others and they rode up to join the group by the rocks.
The fallen swords quickly disappeared and the men bound Sonja's and Hastie's hands behind their backs with strips of leather. Another longer strip of leather was tied about their necks like a noose with the other end tied to a saddle horn. Two horsemen examined the centaurs and babbled excitedly when they could not find reins. Leather was quickly placed around their necks too.
Without a word to the prisoners, they started off, only to stop to stare back at the bright light and tornado of noise surrounding the now distant tree. Five minutes later, the noise and light disappeared as quickly as it had begun and they all headed trek down the widening canyon.
Sonja and Hastie had to trot to keep up with the horde. Given the number of rocks and boulders strewn about the floor of the canyon their eyes were forced down to avoid tripping. Thus, they nearly bumped into the horse of their captor when he stopped short after rounding a corner.
Brushing hair from their faces the two women peered around the horses to see, carved into the side of the canyon, a huge set of doors surrounded by a pair of engravings of centaurs, one male and one female, with lights from their fingers beaming down on the travelers.
The horses seemed ill at ease and several had to be reined in while riders murmured anxiously, but the only clear word was "Zambulus."