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Cat in a Cage




Rodford Edmiston


        It is a bit like the Kennedy assassination or the Moon landing. Even people who weren't directly affected can remember where they were either when the Change occurred or when they first noticed it. It certainly made an impression on me. I was sitting at my drawing table, working on a comic strip for a gaming magazine. The main character was E'eysha, a cute and curvy little female elf. The clarity with which I recall the events surrounding my transformation from tall, slightly overweight male human to slim, sexy and tiny E'eysha are only partly due to the character having an eidetic memory.

        I felt an odd sensation of vertigo, as if the room were rising up around me. In retrospect I realize that this was actually due to me shrinking. I grabbed futilely at the drawing board, and fell off my stool.

        I don't think I actually knocked myself out; even if I hit my head I was on a good carpet and wouldn't have done much damage, and I don't recall my head being sore afterwards or any of the symptoms of a concussion. I was dazed, though, partly by the Change and partly by the impact. As my senses returned I became aware that something was very wrong, and that it was me.

        Strangely, the first sight that I noticed was that my clothes were different. The fact that there were two suspiciously breast-like bulges on my chest came second. Then the recognition of the outfit: it was a short, tight-fitting dress showing a moderate amount of cleavage. What I had been drawing on E'eysha. That was when I knew, even if I wasn't ready to admit it yet, that I had somehow been changed into my character.

        I sat up, and felt a resurgence of the vertigo. Everything seemed so far away! I felt and saw the long hair now on my head, and reached up to feel it, which seemed a safer action than examining my chest. As I ran my hands through my hair I noticed that my ears were now delicately pointed. More evidence that something impossible had happened. Finally, I gave in to the inevitable and put my hands to those wiggly mounds.

        They were real. Not only could I feel those bumps with my hands, but I could feel my hands with those "bumps." I had breasts. Which meant...

        I've read, before and since, stories in which characters suddenly changed into the opposite gender immediately strip and examine their new body. I didn't need to. I knew what was under that short dress. I had drawn it often enough.

        Exactly how long I sat there, on the floor, I'm not sure, but something suddenly occurred to me. Maybe it wasn't just me. I jumped up, nearly falling due to my smaller than expected size and different hips and weight distribution. After a moment to get my sea legs I hurried over to the stereo and switched from Beethoven to a local FM station. It was twelve minutes until the top of the hour, but instead of waiting I also turned the TV on, muted, and began flipping through the channels.

        After about ten minutes I saw something start just as I went to the next channel and went back. It was a news report. I turned the sound back on and muted the stereo.

        "...reports of people being altered into other people and even strange, non-human creatures. Several of these transformations have been confirmed; one of our station staff changed. These events appear to have happened all at once, and be over now, so if you have not changed you probably won't. There has been no word from state or local governments on these strange occurrences, and we don't know how widespread they are. They might be strictly local or more widespread. We hope to learn more when the national news comes on at..."

        It wasn't just me! I can't properly express the relief I felt then, knowing I wasn't alone in this craziness. Maybe I was grasping at straws, but it seemed to me that the more incidences of this, the better the chance that someone would figure out how to change us back.

        Then it hit me. Did I really want to change back? Sure, I'd changed gender and gone through a radical weight (and height) loss, but E'eysha was an elf; I was immortal now. Or was I? Maybe something had just changed my shape, and I was still a normal human. Medical tests could probably answer that, but there other, more private and more immediate ways to tell if I actually had E'eysha's abilities. She was also a psi, a telepath and telekinetic. Not to mention extremely intelligent, in spite of her airhead mannerisms.

        I looked around for something to test my new abilities on, and focused on a decorative ashtray. I didn't smoke, and few of my friends did, but the thing had been a housewarming gift... I shook my head, and concentrated on the ashtray, pushing it with my mind, trying to make it move. Nothing. Well, that wasn't surprising; I was pretty much in the dark not only about how TK worked but how to use it. I tried again.

        The phone rang, startling me... but not as much as seeing and hearing the ashtray go shooting off the shelf and onto the floor. Strangely, my first emotion was irritation that it didn't break. That was quickly replaced a strange thrill. I have psi powers! The phone rang again. I hurried over and lifted the receiver, giving a tentative "H-hello?"

        There was a slight pause. Then a gruff, familiar voice replied.

        "Happened to you, too, eh?"

        "Yes!" I gasped, realizing who it was. "I got changed into E'eysha!"

        "Fortunately, I changed into someone based on me, so I can look normal," he supplied. "So for now, don't spread it around."

        "Who? Who did you change into?"


        I felt an odd chill. Bent-Tail was a werewolf, and not just any werewolf. He became nearly four meters tall in mid-form, and was quite formidable.

        "Have you called any others?" I asked, kicking myself for not thinking of using the phone.

        "You're the fourth person I've tried. Two didn't answer; Rollie didn't know what I was talking about."

        "Oh, he's going to hate missing this," I exclaimed.

        "Yeah, well, it apparently only happened to folks who were thinking about a character when it - whatever 'it' was - happened."

        "I'm still pretty confused, not really thinking straight," I told him, reflexively putting my hand to my head and pushing up my hair in a mannerism that was pure E'eysha. "I mean, I don't even know how to convince people of who I am! How do I prove that I'm still the same person, legally?"

        "Get all the ID you have in the house," he told me. "Go down to the police station. Tell them you need to replace your driver's license. By the time you get there they will already know about people changing, but you'll probably be the first in line. What with all the confusion, and bureaucrats being bureaucrats, they'll probably just go ahead and give you a new license. That's your legal proof of identity. Go on from there with your checking account and such, using the license to prove who you are. Make a record trail of your change."

        "Well, it's a better plan than I can think of," I admitted. "I'll go right now. Bye. And thanks for the idea!"

        I quickly gathered my wallet and some other papers, emptying a camera bag to have something to put these items into. I then grabbed my keys and hurried for the door, pausing only to turn the TV and stereo off. As I opened the door a breeze blew up under my dress, and reminded me of something. Feeling a bit shocked, I closed the door, and timidly lifted up the hem of the dress. I wasn't wearing any underwear. Forget that I no longer had a penis; I'd almost gotten used to the idea of being my character by now, as strange as it seems. Seeing what was now between my legs - and what wasn't - was still a jolt, but not nearly as big a one as the realization that I had almost gone out in public with nothing on under that dress.

        I just sort of leaned back against the door for a few moments, feeling dizzy. I guess I was in shock. I had been so wrapped up in figuring out what had happened and what to do about it that I had not realized some of the implications. E'eysha had been designed as a playfully sexy little elf, the star of a humorous comic strip. Now I was that character. And unless I planned to routinely outrage public morals I needed to be careful about how I acted and dressed. There were places where simply being E'eysha could get me arrested on a morals charge.

        Now, where could I get some underwear that fit? Then I remembered. My previous girlfriend - whom I had actually given serious thought to marrying, which was why I bought the townhouse I now lived in - had left some of her clothes, mostly stuff that was the wrong size. Among those items was a package of panties I had bought for her which turned out to be too small.

        I hurried into the storage room - intended as a second bedroom but never used as such by me - and rummaged through some boxes, until I found the opened package. As I worked I noticed two differences between this new body and my old one. I wasn't as strong as before, and my senses seemed much keener. The stale odor I had barely noticed before now seemed almost overwhelming, as did the scent of moth balls. Also, as I left I automatically reached up to turn off the light, only to realize that I hadn't turned it on! This was a dark room, yet I could see quite clearly.

        Well, of course, stupid! I thought. Elves can see in the dark!

        I shook my head, feeling a need to gather my thoughts. Exploring the details of my now other-than-human self could wait; right now I needed to get official recognition that I was still who I said I was. I pulled one of the pairs of panties out and stepped into them, pulling them up snug. It was a bit disconcerting that they could pull up snug, but they felt comfortable, if loose. Well, they seemed to be staying up with no trouble; if I was careful about moving around they'd probably do just fine.

        I went out, making sure to lock the door behind me, and hurried to my car. There were a few people outside, looking quite normal. None of them gave me a second glance. It occurred to me that with my hair down over my ears I simply looked like a small, slim woman. (With my figure there was no chance of being mistaken for a girl.) As a full-time artist I often use models of varying sizes, shapes and genders, so my neighbors were used to seeing unfamiliar people coming and going at my place. I wasn't sure how they'd react to me changing like this, but figured I'd find out.

        Aside from having to adjust the seat and mirrors, driving the car was no problem. Well, physically, that is. The psychological effect of knowing you're out in public in the wrong body is enormous. It is lessened while in a vehicle, but still there. I remembered to turn on the radio, and found that nearly every station was making some mention of the Change. The phenomenon appeared to be worldwide; about one person in ten thousand had Changed. All had become the character or creature they were thinking about.

        Distressingly, many of them had promptly died, because they had become something that couldn't live on Earth, or which was simply impossible. Many were experiencing serious health problems. I tried to think of whether E'eysha had any physical characteristics which might cause such problems. I couldn't, but was only slightly reassured. More comforting was news that some of the Changelings (yes, some people were already calling them that) had demonstrable superhuman abilities.

        Once I parked at the police station I had to take a few moments to work up the nerve to get out. Fortunately there wasn't a lot of activity in the area just then. I made it inside, found the directory and went to the correct room without having to speak with anyone. Aside from the clerk behind the desk and a couple of others in the office beyond her the place was empty. I sighed, nerved myself, and went up to the clerk.

        The process went much easier than I had expected. There was some surprise and confusion, yes, but they had heard about the people who had changed and understood my goal. After the clerk called her supervisor, and he called his supervisor, they discussed things for a while and asked me some questions. I thought some of them were silly, until I realized that they were testing me. They finally decided to just go ahead and make a new license for me, as Bent-Tail had predicted.

        I got my photo taken, paid for the license, and put it - still warm - into my wallet. I gave a sigh of relief. I still had problems, but at least I now had a legal proof of my identity, and could drive a car without being arrested for doing so without a license. And as I relaxed a bit, I realized that all the tension was getting to me. Making a face, I headed out of the license office and looked for the women's restroom.

        I boldly pushed the door open, and felt a great relief that it was empty. As I headed for the stall, the mirror over the sinks caught my eye, and I turned, and froze. It was the first time I had seen my new reflection, and it was a stunning experience.

        "My God," I whispered. "I'm beautiful."

        I wasn't just being vain. I had created E'eysha to be attractive, and here she was, realized in the flesh. I sighed, shook my head, and resumed my quest for bladder relief.

        A few minutes later, feeling more comfortable (physically if not emotionally) I exited the stall and again caught sight of my reflection. This time I examined my new self a bit more carefully. I had a triangular face, gold hair, blue eyes, and pointed ears. The ears didn't really show unless I pushed my hair back, which meant I could pass for human. Except for my size. I was perfectly proportioned for a rather buxom, centerfold type, but my chin was barely above the top of the counter.

        I tidied myself a bit, feeling glad I didn't need makeup, and exited the restroom, my sandals clacking on the tile floor. I was waiting for the elevator when the clerk I had seen in the license bureau came hurrying up.

        "Oh, good, I caught you!" she gasped. "I was afraid you had already left. Listen, we've got a problem down in juvenile detention that you might be able to help us with."

        "Well, sure, if I can," I replied. Now that she wasn't standing behind a counter I noticed that she had nice legs.

        She started off, talking as she went.

        "We've got one of you in the cell," she explained, making broad, vague gestures with her hands. "I mean, word just came up that someone in the female juvenile detention block had changed into some sort of cat creature, and asking for anyone who might know how to help, and I thought of you, since you're apparently the only one in the building besides her who has changed..."

        She trailed off, apparently realizing just how flimsy a hope that was. I, however,  wasn't so sure that I would be useless. I remembered that ashtray. E'eysha had powerful telepathic abilities. Not only could she read minds and send her own thoughts to others, she could mentally attack or control someone, and had even healed a couple of people of inanities. I didn't think I could do that - not without years of training and practice - but I might be able to read the girl's mind and figure out a way to get to her.

        We were intercepted by a rather beefy-looking matron, who demanded to know who I was and why the clerk (her name was Sharon Euler, by the way, and she was rather cute) had brought me there.

        "I'm a Changeling, too," I explained. "I thought that if the girl's problem is simply the shock of being transformed, it might help if she knew that others had also changed."

        The matron considered this for a moment, then shook her head.

        "Listen, I don't think that touchy-feely, New Age stuff is going to work in this case. We've got a real monster, here. She changed, then went berserk, herded all the other girls up against the door. Don't know what she'd have done if we hadn't gotten them out quick."

        "Is she still in there?"

        "Yeah," the matron replied. "We managed to get the door closed. We've got a couple of psychologists talking to her, but she won't respond."

        "Maybe she can't respond," I said, suddenly. "If she's changed into something that can't talk..."

        I was just thinking out loud, but the matron was startled. She thought for a moment, then nodded.

        "Don't know how you could make things worse. The cage is locked and she can't get out. Might as well give it a try. You can at least tell the shrinks your idea."

        What I didn't say, because I didn't know if I could make it work, was that even if she couldn't talk, with telepathy I might be able to communicate with her anyway.

        The matron passed Sharon and me through. In addition to the two psychologists there was another matron (this one looking a lot less stereotypically butch) and two female police officers. It struck me that I was in a female-only part of the building, which gave me an odd little thrill.

        Sharon introduced me, explained that I was also a Changeling, and told them my idea. While the psychologists discussed this, I looked through the bars into the holding cell.

        Her name was Linda Marshall. She was sixteen years old, and this was her third time here. She was always stopped for something minor, and arrested for making a fuss over it. She had no history of violence. At least, not before today. She was the daughter of a local black businessman. Her mother was a volunteer worker at their church. She wasn't a bad girl, but she was undergoing a particularly severe case of teen rebellion against any authority. Her parents had overreacted this time and basically told the cops to keep her there until the hearing for her latest offense. So far they couldn't be contacted about this development.

        All this I picked up from the psychologists, as they talked, with each other and Sharon and me. I occasionally nodded and made encouraging noises. What I could see was a humanoid tigress, wearing a fringed leather outfit that looked like a two-piece bathing suit, huddled shivering in the back left corner of the room.

        Something about that form seemed familiar. I couldn't tell for sure, but...

        "Are you an Asrannai?" I blurted out.

        The tigress' head jerked up and she gave a little, frightened meow, then tucked her head back under her arms.

        There was dead silence from behind me for several moments.

        "What did... that's the most response we've seen from her since..."

        "I'm an artist. I do a lot of work for the fantasy gaming industry. An Asrannai is a type of man-tiger from a major role-playing game."

        The younger psychologist had no idea what I was talking about. This professional child psychologist, who was supposed to be familiar with the interests of her patients, had not only never heard of this particular role-playing game, her only knowledge of RPGs turned out to be two-decade old myths about Dungeons and Dragons. She didn't even know there were other RPGs. Strangely, the older one knew about RPGs and had even played them.

        I explained what I could about the Asrannai, and went back to watching the girl, thinking hard. Meanwhile the psychs discussed the therapeutic benefits of role-playing versus the danger of getting caught up in a fantasy world. I stared at Linda, emptying my mind, trying to reach out to her. I tried several times, and several ways. Finally, I felt something. I focussed on that feeling... and gasped, jerking back, as my mind was flooded with panic and fear.

        "Are you all right?" asked Sharon.

        "Yes, and I know what's wrong with her," I announced, quickly. I pushed my hair back, showing them my pointed ears. "I didn't mention this earlier, because I didn't know if it would work, but I got changed into a creature which can read minds. And I finally touched hers. She's terrified. Not just at this sudden change, but because she thinks she might hurt someone. That's why she chased the other girls out of the holding cell. She didn't want them to get hurt."

        "So what do we do about this?" asked the older psychologist.

        "I have an idea," I told them, smiling. "I can bring in someone whom she can't possibly hurt. I don't know if he'll cooperate, and if he does it will take him a while to get here. Meanwhile, you can keep working on her."

        I had Sharon escort me to a payphone. She thanked me for helping, and explained that she had to get back to her job. She seemed reluctant to leave, and I wondered if she could possibly be attracted to me, or just interested in the situation. I didn't have the courage right then to find out which. I sighed as I watched her walk away, the sight of her rear moving under her skirt giving me odd sensations. I remembered to be glad that I had made E'eysha bisexual.

        I put my mind back on business and called Bent-Tail.

        I met him just under an hour later, in a parking garage near the police station. I was holding a bag, containing two novelty items I had picked up while waiting for him.

        "Wow," was his first comment, as he looked me over, the smile on his face just avoiding being a leer.

        "Pull your tongue in," I said, though with a grin. It was interesting to have that effect on a man, especially someone I knew. "Okay, we'll go over separately. I'll meet you outside the first floor men's room."

        "And the bag is for my clothes."

        "Among other things," I replied, giving him a mysterious smile.

        I left first, stopping at the ladies' room (yes, again). After finishing my business there I exited and stopped at the water fountain. There were still only a few people around, and whenever someone went by I pretended to be getting a drink. Then I heard the door to the men's room open. I turned and looked up.

        And up. And up. I had remembered that Bent-Tail was twice my height in midform. But that had been my old height. Now I came just barely above his knees. I peered up at his fierce visage and felt a little faint. Bent-Tail gave me a wolfish grin and winked. Rather timidly I accepted his offered bundle of clothes, and reached into the bag to pull out what I had bought for him. A spiked collar and long leash.

        He considered these items a moment, then sighed and reached for them. This was an obvious solution to the problem of how to avoid panicking the entire police station. People would see a giant werewolf, then realize that he's being docilely led around on a leash by a tiny woman. He put the collar on with only a bit of difficulty, but had to lean down for me to clip the leash to it. As we were finishing I heard a gasp and a sort of squeak, and looked up to see a young female clerk about to drop her papers.

        "It's okay," I told her, reaching up to pat Bent-Tail's flank. "He's housebroken."

        Bent-Tail gave me a dirty look, but kept quiet.

        Fortunately it wasn't far to the cell block. The same matron was still guarding the door. She stared for a moment, then quickly opened the door for us. I stepped in ahead, holding the leash behind me.

        "Any luck?"

        "None so... far..."

        The psychologist trailed off, her mouth drooping open, as I walked in, Bent-Tail obediently trailing behind me, bent well over to clear the top of the door frame.

        "I told you I'd bring in someone she wouldn't have to worry about hurting."

        Bent-Tail sized the situation up, then moved over in front of the cell door with me trailing on the leash. Linda was still curled up into a ball in a far corner, not even looking up. Bent-Tail sat down with a muffled thump that seemed to shake the room.

        "Reed ra rall," he rumbled.

        "A ball?" I asked. He nodded. "What kind of ball?"

        "Rough. Reary."

        It took a moment, but I finally deciphered that he wanted a large, heavy, tough ball.

        "I have a bowling ball in my locker," said one of the guards.

        At Bent-Tail's nod she went to get it. She seemed quite eager to leave, for some reason. She brought the ball back after a few minutes, handing it to me. I dropped the leash turned and gave the ball to Bent-Tail. He nodded and winked.

        "Roren ra roor," he told them.

        One of the guards rather gingerly stepped between Bent-Tail and the door and unlocked it, pulling it open as she stepped back. Bent-Tail put the ball on the floor and began casually rolling it from hand to hand. At his size he could easily palm the thing. After a few moments of this Linda looked up, curious in spite of her fear.

        She started when she saw Bent-Tail. Then she focused on the ball. In fact, she fixated on the ball. As if she couldn't help herself, her rear came off the ground, her tail lifting and starting to lash back and forth. Now she was in a crouch, her hindquarters wiggling. Bent-Tail, casually watching her, suddenly rolled the ball diagonally into the cell. Linda pounced, swatting the ball wildly across the concrete floor.

        She batted it around a few times. Then it came close to the door, and Bent-Tail reached in with startling speed and snagged it. Linda shied back. Bent-Tail started rolling it between his hands again. She watched, entranced, for several seconds, then suddenly pounced again. This time she actually let Bent-Tail wrestle her for the ball. Within minutes they were play-fighting like old friends. Finally, she calmed down, Bent-Tail stroking her back. Given his size, she looked like a Maine Coon with a kid in a wolf suit.

        Sensing an opening, I slowly stepped forward.

        "Can you understand me?"

        She started, but Bent-Tail was performing some sort of arcane cat-lover's ear-rub that seemed about to put her to sleep, and she decided not to bolt back into the cell.

        "Yes," she said, quietly. Her voice was odd, not really cat-like, but definitely not human.

        "You aren't alone. A lot of people have changed, including me."

        "Yes." She closed her eyes as Bent-Tail gently skritched her under the chin. "Didn't want to hurt anyone. Don't like to hurt anyone."

        "Well, you'll just have to be careful, then."

        I turned to the others.

        "From what I remember, Asrannai have human-level intelligence, but are more subject to their instincts than humans," I explained. I turned to look back at her. "She may need some therapy to help her control her impulses, but according to you she was going to get that anyway."

        I led the bolder of the two psychologists over to Bent-Tail and Linda. It took a while, but we were finally able to reach a point where Linda felt calm enough to be led to a secure room, to get cleaned up and fed. Bent-Tail seemed reluctant to see her go.

        "I knew you liked cats," I told him, reaching up to scratch his shoulder. If he hadn't been sitting I wouldn't have come anywhere near it. "So when I realized that she needed someone who understood feline behavior and who could control her if she panicked I thought of you."

        "Rood rirea," he grunted. "Ret's ro."

        "That's probably a good idea, too," I decided. "We better get you out of here before someone thinks to find out who you are."



    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.