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Alpha Centauress


Rodford Edmiston

        Dr. Randal stepped out of the examining room, wrote some notes in the file she carried, then glanced at her watch. Her most unusual patient was due in few minutes and she wanted to make sure that she was ready for her. Marian Holst presented problems unique in Dr. Randal's twelve years as an MD. In fact, she couldn't think of a medical practitioner outside of a veterinarian who might have encountered anything similar. Dr. Randal was at a loss as to what she could do for Marian. Aside from her obvious physical state - Dr. Randal hesitated to call it a deformity - she was perfectly healthy. In fact, she was abnormally healthy.

        As she entered the office area to check with the nurses, Linda caught her eye.

        "Marian Holst is here," said Linda, looking a bit uncomfortable. "Some of the other patients seemed to be upset by her, so I went ahead and put her in room four."

        Well, that was understandable, if unfortunate.

        "Anyone ahead of her?" Upon receiving a negative reply, Dr. Randal told Linda that she would be in room four.

        Even though she knew what to expect, seeing Marian again was still a shock. She was standing in the examining room, tail swishing nervously, arms folded across her chest, all four hooves planted firmly on the linoleum. Dr. Randal had noticed that as long as Marian didn't think about what she was doing she was quite graceful, but when she paid attention to her stance or movements she looked awkward. Dr. Randal didn't understand how she could move at all.

        "Good afternoon," Dr. Randal announced confidently, as she looked up at her patient. "How are you today?"

        "About as well as can be expected," Marian replied, sourly, "for someone who looks like she just stepped out of a fairy tale."

        Through a process no one yet understood, this working mother of two had been transformed into a centaur. Marian now stood nearly eight feet tall, and weighed half a ton. Her human torso had grown larger, to match her equine body, and her breasts had increased in size even more than the rest of her. She wasn't alone in having something strange happen to her; on that same Monday afternoon two weeks earlier, a large number of people had shared in a bizarre - some were even saying mystical - experience. Most of these people had not changed visibly, and most of those who had still appeared normal enough, if different from what they had been before. A few, like Marian, were obviously no longer quite human.

        "I have the results of the last series of tests," said Dr. Randal. "They confirm what we already knew."

        She shuffled the papers until she found the one she wanted.

        "Despite appearances, you are not part horse. Your biochemistry is still human, including your digestive enzymes. That is why you can still eat meat. Even your DNA looks human. Theoretically, you could bear human children."

        As soon as he said this, Dr. Randal regretted it. She knew how despondent Marian was over the reaction of her own children to her new shape. They were now terrified of their mother, and were staying with her Mother-in-law.

        "I do have some information which might help you," Dr. Randal continued quickly. "An industrialist is funding a private research project to try and discover just what happened to people like you."

        She held out a card with a name, address and phone number on one side, and additional information on the other.

        "Call first, and make an appointment. Room and board are free as long as they feel there is anything to learn from studying you."

        "I don't know," sighed Marian. "I've been poked and prodded so much the past two weeks..."

        "At least give them a call," said Dr. Randal, pressing the card into her hand. "They are setting up a data clearinghouse to help people who were affected as you were. They will also provide free medical treatment for their subjects."

        Marian stuffed the card into her shoulder bag without comment. They talked for a few moments longer, then Dr. Randal ended the session. Marian walked into the lobby and found Charlene reading a magazine. She heard the whispers and felt the stares as she carefully moved over to her friend and caught her attention. Charlene was a wonderful person, but give her anything to read and she was lost to the world.

        "Oh! Are you finished?"

        Marian nodded. "Let's go," she said, stepping back cautiously to give Charlene room.

        Outside, Charlene let down the tailgate on her husband's pickup and Marian climbed clumsily in. She lay down on some blankets, with her arms propped on the side. Marian couldn't help noticing how the truck's suspension sagged; she came close to its rated capacity. Still, it was this or walk. She couldn't fit in her car any more, and she certainly couldn't take the bus.

        Home did nothing to improve her mood. Marian felt a wrenching as she saw the crude outline of a horse someone had spray painted on the aluminum siding of her house four days earlier. Every time Marian saw this she wanted to scream "It's not my fault, I didn't choose to be like this!" Her husband had packed some bags and moved out the day after the vandalism, giving the excuse that his mother needed help with their two boys. Marian wasn't deceived and Robert knew it, but they both played their parts. Marian had heard through a friend that he had already seen a lawyer. The divorce was only a matter of time.

        Marian had known before marrying Robert that he had trouble handling anything out of the ordinary, but had never thought that she would qualify. Considering how she felt about her new form, she couldn't even blame him for his reactions. Marian said good-bye to Charlene and went inside.

        Marian's heavy footsteps echoed through the house as she entered the living room. The answering machine message light was blinking, from where the device sat on the mantle. The telephone table, and the telephone, had been early casualties of one of Marian's recent plague of temper tantrums. She had slammed the receiver down in anger after receiving an obscene phone call, and wrecked both phone and table. What had made her so mad was that the caller had known who and what she was, and had targeted her specifically.

        As if her physical change weren't bad enough, she had also been going through wild mood swings, experiencing uncontrollable crying or blind anger without warning. Every room in the house showed signs of damage, either by accident due to clumsiness, or from Marian venting one of her sudden angers on something inanimate. Fortunately, her spells of fury had eventually moderated, and Marian now thought that these were the result of the mental trauma accompanying her change, rather than part of the change itself. Even so, the rage and the tears hadn't helped Robert adjust to the situation, and neither had the realization that Marian's strength had increased fantastically.

        Marian knew she couldn't afford to let her anger loose, even though she could now control it. That left her with only crying. It hit her unexpectedly, several times a day, and could last for over an hour.

        And no wonder. Every act Marian undertook required conscious thought. Something as simple as brushing her teeth was a major project, because nothing was designed for her; even the bathroom mirror was the wrong height. Things that Marian had taken for granted all her life were now either impossible, or very difficult.

        When Marian played the tape on the answering machine she found that there was only one call, from Craig, her boss. He wanted her to return to work. Marian felt a surge of affection for the man, but dealing with the reactions of customers who would see her in the office was more than she could handle right now. Maybe in a few days.

        Marian went into the bedroom and changed clothes, making sure to carefully hang in the closet what didn't need cleaning. Very little of what she owned would fit her now, and she hadn't done much shopping. She sighed as she saw her bed. The mattress lay there by itself; the pieces of the frame were stacked in the garage. Robert had taken the bed apart that first night, observing practically that there was no sense running the risk of Marian's weight breaking it when it was a simple matter to put the mattresses on the floor. He had used the same matter-of-fact tones when he had informed her that he would sleep on the couch that night, so that she wouldn't have to worry about rolling over on him.

        Marian tore her eyes from the bed and turned to the dresser, angrily upending her purse to sort through the contents, a small ritual she had begun soon after starting work at the agency. Something fluttered toward the side, almost escaping before she caught it. It was the card Dr. Randal had given her. She read it carefully, not sure why. It made no promises, offered no miracle cures, only said that any beneficial information would be shared. Maybe it was the simple honesty of the words, but Marian decided to give the place a call. At least it would offer a break from the depressing monotony her life had become.

The End

    This work is Copyright 1998 by Rodford Edmiston Smith, who can be reached at: stickmaker@usa.net. Please contact the author for permission before reposting or reprinting. Thank you.