|Thaumaturjekyll: Book One chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Overview||Book Two chapter 8 9 10 11|
Thaumaturjekyll: Book Two
Tricks and Treats
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
If you can remain calm and collected amid all this confusion,
you don't understand the problem.
Vfrgoysl peeked out into the great opening. It was dark, but he could see clearly. Nothing moved. With an inaudible sigh, he scurried forward, keeping to edge of the wall a he scanned the vast expanse before him seeking food. Hunger drove him. It always drove him, and it was not just his own hunger but the hunger of the many mouths of his children and his children's children.
There! Food! A large blob of something pulsating slightly, but otherwise unmoving. It was enough to feed his entire family for several days. Vfrgoysl salivated in anticipation, but it was in the open. He would have to move away from the safety of the wall. He would have to move into the open where the giants lived, where blindingly bright light could appear without warning and where huge objects could drop down on you from nowhere to crush you.
There really was no choice and Vfrgoysl knew it. The hunger would consume him otherwise. His family would die, the thousands of them. Another quick scurry brought him to within mandible-reach of the blob.
From this close, it was clearly pulsating and Vfrgoysl twitched his antennas as he tried to sense whether it was truly edible. The faint cloying odor was all he needed to convince himself. He stretched a mandible to taste of the delicacy before him and found himself stuck. His mandible seemed to be rapidly sinking deeper and deeper in. He jerked once, trying to back away from this new threat, but found himself stuck.
Within seconds the blob had engulfed Vfrgoysl and less than a minute later he had been completely absorbed. Vfrgoysl was no more, but a small portion of him, his knowledge and his emotions, lived on. No-Nac grumbled at how slowly he was regaining his original mass. At this rate, one cockroach at a time, it would take forever. Using the information he had obtained from Vfrgoysl he reformed himself into a gigantic version of the cockroach and scurried off toward his nest. There were a couple thousand morsels of food waiting for No-Nac and the sooner he could regain his original size and reclaim the Heart of Virtue, the sooner he could petition the Dark Gods to return him to his homeland.
"Emily?" Herbert Lanyon plucked at her bra straps, irritated by their foreign feeling and not comfortable with the smooth silky feeling of her blouse.
"Yes, dear?" Emily Lanyon looked up from the hay he was spreading about with his hooves in the makeshift stall they had created on one side of the family's attached garage.
"Stop kicking the hay around and listen to me please. I'm worried about how the Uttersons will handle this."
"Some privacy, would you two like?" Akcuanrut glanced over from the work bench, clearly entranced by the various power tools and hoping he would be able to continue his examination.
"No, perhaps you can help," Emily waved him over. With a last wistful glance towards the workbench, he joined the two centaurs.
"We've done what we can. The kids will get another copy of the Jekyll formula from our safe deposit box on Monday. You even found an all night feed and grain store that delivered feed and that hay you were just kicking about. Darn, I feel like I just did a commercial for the Yellow Pages®," Emily smiled politely at his husband's attempt at humor, but Akcuanrut stopped sneaking glances to the workbench long enough to give the female centaur a quizzical look.
"Sorry," she blushed and explained about indexed business listings. Before she could return to the original topic of discussion, the door bell rang. "Oh dear, I guess we'll have to wing it."
"Don't worry, Herbert," Emily assured her as he reached out and tucked an errant strand of hair behind his husband's ear. "The Uttersons are our friends. They'll understand."
With that they all moved to a position behind the four foot high barrier that had been constructed earlier. The barrier was designed to block the centaur's lower body from view until their new forms could be presented in a manner designed to avoid shocking their friends.
They could hear questioning voices approaching. "Is my tie straight?" Herbert glanced critically at her wife and nodded, reaching out to grasp her hand and squeeze it nervously.
"Emily? Herbert? Are you really out there? Is this another one of your Halloween pranks? And where did you get these two darling girls to pretend to be Hastie and Jack..?" the cultured "Vassar-voice" trailed off as Mrs. Lucille Utterson preceded her husband George into the garage. She stopped short when she saw Herbert Lanyon, his wife Emily, and a stranger with flowing white hair standing uncomfortably behind a plywood counter.
George had been paying more attention to the two barbarian women to notice his wife had stopped and bumped into her. "Sorry dear. Must have tripped," he smiled endearingly at her scowl.
"My Gawd Emily, you've turned the garage into a stable," Lucille clapped her hands in excitement as she turned back to the centaurs. "I can't wait to see what's next."
As they had previously agreed, Dr. Lanyon responded as if she were her wife, or at least tried to, but Sondra had already turned to Akcuanrut. "And who might you be sir? As you're here I'm sure you must be a good friend of the Lanyon's, but in that marvelous costume, I don't recognize you."
"Yes, Emily?" Lucille turned back to Dr. Lanyon with a perplexed look.
"Please sit down," Dr. Lanyon gestured to the chairs that had been positioned just inside the garage, facing the barrier the Lanyons were standing behind. "We absolutely MUST talk."
"Why of course, Emily," she sounded hurt. "Why didn't you say so? Come dear," Lucille gestured to her husband to follow, then marched haughtily to a chair and waited for her husband to seat her. Making a production of smoothing out her skirt, Lucille finally looked inquisitively up at the two centaurs standing behind the barricade. "What would you like to say dear?"
Hiding her face behind her hand as she pretended to clear her throat, Dr. Lanyon muttered just loud enough for her wife to hear. "Sometimes I don't know how you've put up with her all these years, Emily.
"We," she continued aloud facing the others, "Dr. Lanyon and I, need to tell you a story. On first blush, it will seem a rather outlandish tale, so I must ask you both to bear with us until the end."
"Why Emily, this sounds positively conspiratorial," Lucille beamed, "like in college when we -- George, stop poking me."
"Yes, Emily? Oh, of course. Your story."
With the skill of a career academician, Herbert Lanyon IV, MD, Ph.D., female centaur, described the events of the preceding few days in excruciating detail, successfully transforming the family's incredible adventure into a report suitable for the driest technical journal. Mr. Utterson sat listening intently while his wife allowed the tale to progress to its eventual conclusion, albeit not without some foot-tapping and a stifled yawn or two.
At the conclusion, Mr. Utterson peered at one Lanyon and then the other before speaking. "That was a fascinating story Emily, although presented in a manner more like what I would expect from your husband," he nodded cheerily at the male centaur he assumed to be Herbert Lanyon. "Definitely not up to your usual standards of entertainment. But certainly you are not purporting to claim it as whole cloth, are you?"
"Of course it's true dear." Lucille gave a broad wink at the person she thought was Emily. "After all, you know sorority sisters never lie to one another."
"Hastie. Sonja. Would you take your positions please?" At Emily's deep voice boomed out, the twins quickly moved to stand at ease behind the Utterson's chairs.
"Thank you. Now Akcuanrut, would you please remove the barrier?" The wizard grumbled at being asked to perform manual labor, but rolled the barrier away to reveal the Lanyons in their full glory.
"Well really! Emily Lanyon I'm shocked. Cover yourself up this instant." Sandra quickly scanned the garage seeking something to throw over her old friend, apparently standing naked from the waist down before her -- and, mor importantly, her husband. Spying an old blanket in a corner, covering the gas barbeque grill for the winter, she stood to rush over and grab it -- or at least tried to stand -- but two strong hands snaked out from behind her and held he immobile in her chair.
"I say. What's the meaning of this?" George began to rise and also found himself held firmly in his seat as the woman behind him said "Sorry Dad," and confused him even more. Then everyone tried to speak at once. Finally, a plaster cracking bellow from Emily Lanyon silenced the others and in the silence, Herbert called to Akcuanrut, "Why do the see us as humans? What's wrong -- er, or should I say right?"
"Magic it is, your centaur magic. In a land of humans safest to be perceived as human it is, so as human you are perceived."
"So how do we let them see us as we are?"
"Wish it so, you must. Your magic it is and to you it answers."
The two centaurs glanced at each other. Emily shrugged his shoulders and they both closed their eyes and concentrated. The Uttersons' gasps told them it had worked.
Sonja was sprawled lazily on the living couch watching the twenty-four hour news channel.
"Jeez. You'd think you'd never seen a TV before." Hastie playfully ruffled Sonja's reddish blond hair as she ambled past on the way to the lounge chair. On the news was a story about the theft of several lab rats being used to test a potential cancer cure. A spokesman for the laboratory was noting that the loss of the animals would delay testing for at least a year.
"Who the hell would want to steal a couple of white rats?" Hastie wondered aloud.
"Got me," Sonja picked at a piece of loose fabric. "Maybe we should investigate Frank."
"Right Joe," Hastie snorted. "But your reference is messed up. The Hardy Boys were -- well, boys -- or haven't you looked in a mirror lately?"
"True. Maybe Nancy Drew would be better -- or how about the Bobbsey Twins?"
"Wasn't one of them a boy? I vaguely recall my mother once lecturin' me on them when I was a kid and didn't want to learn to read."
"Probably," Sonja turned off the television and rolled onto her stomach to face Hastie. "But who really cares? Are you as bored as I am?"
"Yup, and unless you feel like some sword practice we're probably gonna to stay bored. You know how damned long it takes our parents to come to develop a plan of action once they start talking. We could be old and grey before they decide anything."
"So let's go out and do something -- something other than sword practice," Sonja sat up, getting excited by her idea. "We could visit the arcade at the mall, or check out how the team is doing without us. We could even go to the dance like we were planning before this all started."
"Now wait a damn minute Sonja -- and you are Sonja now, not Jack. Do you want people to see you like you are now?"
"What's wrong with what I look like?" Sonja stood and posed seductively. "I think I look pretty darn good. Besides, who's going to recognize us? We'll just be two people in the crowd."
"Right," Hastie laughed. Standing, she gently took Sonja by the hand and led her up the stairs to his bedroom. "I've gotta get you to a mirror."
"This is crazy, this is crazy, this is..."
"Oh shut up already, Hastie. It's panic like that -- panic unbecoming an ex-first string quarterback, I might add -- that's the reason why I'm driving, even if it is your car."
"But the football game? No one will know us and they'll..."
"Exactly, Hastie. No one will recognize you. That's why we agreed that we would call you Nancy, although I still think Hattie would have been easier for you -- who would have known you had a thing for Nancy Drew? So what's the problem?"
"What's the problem? Damn it Sonja, we are headin' towards a high school football game. Teenaged boys; hormone factories, and they'll be even more difficult to deal with once they get their adrenalin flowin' from the game. You must remember what that's like Jack," she intentionally used his birth name, "you used to be one."
"So? I'm not looking for sex Nancy," Sonja used the female name Hastie had selected for similar effect, "just a good time. Teenaged girls have been dealing with boys for ages. How many girls did you rape after each game you played?"
"But what? We're going to watch our team play. If you still feel uncomfortable, we can leave right after the game ends. Nobody's going to hit on you. Besides, if someone did, you could kill them at least seventeen different ways. But please don't. I would suggest just using some of the same techniques your girlfriend Connie has been using to keep you both virgins. It would be hard to explain away the blood."
"Connie never looked like we do, I mean she was pretty -- real pretty -- but look at us. I mean, we're freakin' gorgeous. And worse than that, look what we're wearin'. We're gonna freeze or damned asses off wearing little more than leather bikinis like this."
"No problemo, buddy mine. The bikinis are fine -- they're just a Halloween costume like almost everyone else at the game will be wearing. As for being cold, look on the back seat." With that, Sonja pulled into the high school parking lot. "Come on," she called out as she grabbed her old letter jacket, slammed her door and strutted proudly towards the gate.
Hastie sat watching as Sonja strode through the gate and disappeared into the crowd. She could hear the cheers from the crowd and shivered, now that the car heater was off. With a deep sigh, she reached back and grabbed her letter jacket. Throwing it over her shoulders and holding it closed in front of herself, Hastie slowly left the car and trudged towards the gate -- and who knew what else.
Aktuanrut was also bored. He had quickly realized that he did not have enough knowledge of this world to be of any help, especially as the direction of the discussions were leaning towards how to cope until the changes could be reversed rather than how to get back to Aktuanrut's world. It had not taken long to come to the conclusion that he would have to arrange for his own return. The others did not even notice when he excused himself and left the garage.
Wandering through the kitchen was fun for a while, the gas stove was amazing and he played with it for several minutes before moving on to the refrigerator. He played with the refrigerator door, watching the light go on and off, then with the in-door ice maker until there was a small pile of cubes and crushed ice on the floor. The sink was most fascinating of all to Aktunrut, with its hot and cold water and the drain to take it all away. He was tempted to use a bit of his magical reserve to determine how they worked, but grudgingly decided against it. He didn't have enough magic to return as it was and this world did not have much to spare. Instead, he decided to see if he could find and gather what he would need. Not one to delay once he had finally made a decision, Aktuanrut stalked out to the garage. The door was still open to air it out after one of the centaurs had relived himself or herself. The debate still raged and no one even noticed as he grabbed the blanket off the grill and stalked purposefully off into the dusk.
No-Nac was hungry again, and weak. He had no idea where he was, but assumed it was some hell the Dark Gods had sent him to for failing to protect the Heart of Virtue. It took so long to surround and absorb his food in this place where magic was so scant. He had to find a wizard, or at least a powerful source of magic if he was ever to escape this prison. It was faint, but he could sense a wizard nearby, but food was closer -- and he was so hungry... so hungry.
The crowd roared. It was first and ten on the thirty yard line and the Orbs had the ball. Sonja was yelling and cheering them on with the rest, but Hastie was a bit more critical as he analyzed his replacement's moves. Phil Whiteside was doing remarkably well as a second string quarterback coming out from behind Hastie's shadow, but he seemed to be afraid to go with a pass play.
"Sonja. Sonja!" Hastie shouted and tugged at her leathers to get the cheering girl's attention as Sonja had discarded her jacket within moments of finding a seat. "We've gotta get Phil to pass the damned ball. No one's coverin' any of the receivers. They're wide open and he's almost outta time."
"What?" Sonja shouted over the crowd. "I can't hear you."
"I said, he needs to do a freakin' pass play."
"So tell him."
"No way. I'm stayin' low key. Besides, the way I look, why would he believe I have the slightest damned idea how to play football?"
"So you'd let our team and our school down?"
"No. That's why I told you. You don't seem to mind paradin' around for everyone to see. You go tell him."
"No. It's your suggestion. You go," Sonja smiled archly.
"I can't. I just can't." Hastie was near tears in her frustration. "Come on. It's your team too."
"Well, alright. You're right there. I don't want them to loose either." Sonja hesitated for a moment. "But you're gonna owe me -- big time. Right Nancy?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'll owe you. I'll owe you. Anythin'. Now get down there and convince him to do a pass play. It's already second down."
Smiling back at Hastie, Sonja gave a flip of her hair and flounced off to the bench where the coach was giving the team a last minute pep talk. Smiling, she wondered if it was the usual one involving calling the players ladies and threatening to enroll them in the cheerleading squad if they didn't win.
The time out was ending as Sonja made it to the bench and called Tim aside. The whistle blew as they were talking. Hastie couldn't tell what Sonja said but Phil shook his head and started to head back out onto the field. Sonja stopped him and pointed in Hastie's direction just as the coach got to them and started yelling. Suddenly the coach was on the ground holding his arm and Phil's eyes were bugged out. Ignoring the quarterback's shocked expression, Sonja said something again and pointed towards Hastie again.
Before she had finished her instructions to Phil, a whistle blew and everyone groaned as the refs moved the ball back ten yards for delay of game. Hastie fought the urge to scream in frustration. Phil shook his head and jogged out onto the field, but kept sneaking glances back at Sonja, who was helping the coach slowly to his feet.
The huddle broke and both teams lined up with the Orbs needing twenty seven yards with just seventeen seconds to the end of the game. A running play would use up most if not all of the clock and the Orbs would end up losing nineteen to fourteen.
Phil knew that the barbarian babe was right, but he was worried. He hadn't connected on a single pass in the last practice and the one pass he had thrown this game had resulted in an interception and the touchdown that currently put the Wolverines in the lead.
The coach had called for a lateral to Tim Walsh the halfback, and when the ball was hiked Phil quickly tossed the ball, only to see Tim buried in red Wolverine uniforms after gaining only two yards.
Now the pressure was really on. Another quick huddle, then the ball snapped for the last down of the game -- and he dropped it. Cursing, he lunged for the bouncing ball, scooped it up and began running towards the bleachers only to see a wall of red charging towards him. Doubling back, a silver Orbs uniform streaked past him and a Wolverine went down. Three more still closing. Desperate, seeing Tim Walsh standing alone in the end zone, hands in the air waving frantically, he chucked the ball into a wobbly arc just as a wall of red crashed down on him.
When Phil awoke, he found himself lying on a cot at the sidelines with Sonja, the coach, and the team's trainer staring down at him. In the background he could hear cheering, but couldn't tell which team the cheers were for.
"Uh," he lifted his head, or rather tried to, until everything started spinning. Setting it gently back on the pillow and holding it he mumbled, "Who won?"
"We did Phil," the coach beamed down at him. "Tim caught your pass in the end zone. No one was even near enough to touch him." The others nodded, also smiling.
Cautiously, Phil turned his head to Sonja. "And it's a date?"
Sonja smiled and nodded. Then the cot lifted and they followed him out to the ambulance.
The crowd of food had drawn No-Nac like a magnet and he huddled beneath a wood and metal structure trying to decide which morsel to consume first when he recognized a magic source with the taste of his original world. How could that be, he wondered and stretched an eye up on a pseudopod. Wiggling between the wooden slats he saw one of the barbarian women and quickly withdrew. If one was there the other was probably nearby and he worriedly searched for another magical signature. The other one could be sneaking up on him as he searched for her.
With a sign of relief, No-Nac finally located the other one near the open field that people had been running about on. Hunger was now secondary to survival in No-Nac's mind and he slunk off looking for easier prey.