It was her boots that caught his eye.
She wore a flirty yellow mini dress and Army-regulation tanker boots. Rather than laces or zippers, they were closed by a long strap of leather that spiraled from her ankle, around her calf up to a buckle near the top.
Tanker boots had a special significance to Jacob. In Kuwait during the first Gulf War, frustration with an especially ill-fitting pair led him to discover his ability to manipulate leather with his thoughts. Jacob was a leathermancer.
It was the first really nice day of spring, in an lakefront park. It had been a typical winter upstate NY winter, long, cold and gray. So, on the first warm, sunny day, Jacob and seemingly everyone else in town went to the park. No one paid any attention to the older-seeming gent behind the salt, pepper and cayenne beard, glasses, and Greek fisherman's cap, as he pretended to read the paper on the bench.
He was really using his power and playing with other people's leather. The guy in the suit's new oxfords were pinching, so Jacob made them a little softer. The kid in the leather hi-tops would have blisters by the end of the day, so he made them fit better. He fixed the rip in the biker's chaps. He was limited by physics - he couldn't create leather with his mind, or destroy it, but he could change its shape and texture. He could also work other materials, but leather was always easiest for him.
Then he saw the girl in the tanker boots. She was a medium height brunette, average in looks, and maybe 25 or so in age. Then she looked at something behind Jacob, and he was captivated by the vivid ocean-blue eyes framed by her dark wavy hair.
Jacob decided he had to do something special for her. Luckily, her Army-issue boots gave him plenty of leather to work with. Most women's boots are made of thin flimsy leather that gave him few options.
He decided to fix the rubber sole first, since it would take more of his energy. He stared at the low, blocky combat boot heels, and pictured a tapered three-inchers instead. Then, he reached into the back of his brain, gathered up some energy, and willed the heels of her boots to look like the picture in his mind's eye.
The woman let out a little squeak as she was suddenly lifted two inches higher. Jacob smiled behind his paper, and started the next step. He mentally grabbed the tops of her boots and pulled them up. When he stopped, her legs were wrapped in perfectly fitting, soft black calfskin leather from toe to the hem of her dress. The spiral strap wrapped around, making the leather conform to her every curve. She yelped, and looked around wildly, as if making sure no one saw what just happened.
Jacob buried his eyes in his paper, glancing up after a minute to gauge her reaction. She was looking down, prancing around a little bit, plainly admiring his work. He was confused by her reaction. Most people either freak when confronted with power, or try to ignore it. He was glad she liked her new boots, but they didn't quite look like he had pictured them. Jacob decided to try something he had never done before.
He reached out with his mind, grabbed some of the extra weight she carried around her waist, mentally divided it into four pieces, and pulled them down. She screeched in pain, then clamped her mouth shut and grabbed onto a light pole for balance. He hadn't thought it would hurt her, but one started, he had to finish it. He pulled the adipose tissues down until they were where he wanted them, just above and below her knees. By converted the mass to muscle and bone, he made her legs now about three inches longer, and her waist noticeably thinner. Yes, that was the look he was going for! Encouraged, he took two smaller masses of tissue, and this time dragged them upwards. He didn't make her small breasts much larger, just rounder and firmer, and added connective tissue to keep them that way through the years. Then, with a light touch, he toned and firmed her body, adding strength, yet leaving enough softness to keep her curves. With the last of his power, he tailored her dress to fit her perfectly.
He slumped on his bench, exhausted. She gasped, livid with rage. She looked around as if trying to figure out who had done this to her. She stumbled the first few steps, unsure on her new legs, then ran off with the grace of a gazelle despite the heeled boots. He watched her until her could no longer see her, then folded his paper and walked home.
A few weeks later, he was on his bench again, pretending to read the paper and playing with other people's leather. A harried mother was attempting to herd four whining kids towards the park exit. The narrow strap of her heavy purse was cutting into her shoulder, so he reached out with his power and widened it. He couldn't do anything about the kids, but he could remove one source of irritation from her day.
He got up, folded his paper, and turned to walk home, only to find his way blocked by the young woman he had transformed back in the spring.
She was wearing the thigh high tanker boots over snug white jeans, with a dark blue shirt that perfectly matched her eyes. Most off-the-rack clothing was to snug here, or too loose there, but her jeans and top looked like they were custom made to her exact fit.
"Whatever happens next," she said, "I wanted to thank you for the boots."
"How did you know it was me? What do you mean, what happens next?"
"I'm a witch. One of a circle of witches. Once we knew to look, my sisters and I found traces of your work all over town. Still, I wish you had stopped with the boots. I mean, I like looking like this, but..." She trailed off as another woman walked up next to her. A Nordic beauty, she had hair like sunlight and eyes like the sky.
"We've learned a lot from examining your work," said the blonde, but you should have stuck to being a magical cobbler."
A rich, throaty voice said behind him. "Magic must never be used on another person without their consent, except in self-defense or defense of another. This law may not be broken without going unpunished." He turned around to see a woman with skin like sunshine on mahogany, standing tall and proud and slender, like a Swahili princess. Incongruously, he remembered a college professor saying the Swahili Kingdom was exchanging ambassadors with the Chinese Empire while Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. He was being surrounded by women, all of them gorgeous, and all deadly serious.
The last one to arrive had a smooth, young face, but silver-white hair and traces of crow's feet and laugh lines revealed that she was older than her looks. She said, "We are the sisters of the Cayuga Lake Circle of Witches." She had accent he couldn't place. Eastern European, he thought. "Had you not used magic on our sister, we would have wanted to teach and learn what we may from you. Now that choice is taken from us. Your life is forfeit to the Goddess. What she will do with it, I do not know. Pray she is merciful!"
She raised her arms and gestured. He felt a surge of power from all around him. The witches were passing their energy to their priestess. The priestess guided the combined flows of eleven witches at him, plus her own. It blasted past his feeble shielding attempt, and struck him full on the chest. He was surrounded, trapped by its power. He tried to scream, but his vocal chords were paralyzed. He tried to run, but fell first to his knees, then onto all fours.
The power gathered at the crown of his head and went downwards, remolding his skull as it went. He could feel it forcing him into a new shape, as he did with leather, as he had to the stormy-eyed girl. He hoped he would not be too hideous. The power crept downwards.
He felt his eyeballs sag as his facial bones shifted, then they grew to fill the larger voids in his skull. His teeth fell out. They lay on the ground in front of him, with their old silver fillings. Smaller ones grew back in their place. They fit his smaller jaws. Still, the power crept downward.
His shoulders, once the broad, powerful shoulders of a soldier but diminished by age, grew narrower still. His ribcage followed it, popping and creaking as the bones found their new places. Still, the power crept downward.
He could see it now changing his arms, smoothing away the roughness of age. His gray arm hairs fell out and were replaced with downy red-gold ones. His chest felt odd, weighty, sort of like the pecs he had in his Army years, but very different. He looked down between his arms, and saw soft, rounded shapes growing there, hanging downwards. He realized what the Goddess's punishment was. She was taking his life, and giving him a new one. Still, the power crept downwards.
He felt abdominal his organs shift as his waist contracted and his hips swelled outwards. A mass of curly red hair, the color of his in his youth, spilled down around his neck, and blocked his view of what was happening below. He lacked the strength to lift a hand to move it, and was glad of it. Still, the power crept downwards.
He almost vomited when it reached his crotch. His testicles were forced up into his abdomen, squeezed through openings smaller than they were. He fell down to lie on the cool grass, racked with pain-induced nausea. Between dry heaves, he could feel his aching balls move up through his abdomen to take positions a few inches below and to either side of his navel. The pain was so intense, he didn't feel other changes down there. And still the power crept downwards.
She felt her legs shift, her feet shrink, and then it was over. Where a middle aged man had stood, a young woman lay, breath heaving. She slowly becoming aware of the little things. The feeling of her arm pressing on her breasts. The way her legs felt, lying close together without squeezing the boys. The tightness of her men's pants around her hips, and the bagginess of her t-shirt.
She rolled over into a sitting position, and a small Asian woman, elegant and poised, said, "Let me help you with that." With a surge of power, she reshaped Jacob's worn, poorly fitted men's clothing into new woman's wear, even remembering to flip the fly and button of her jeans onto the other side. Her t-shirt was now a knit cami top, and chunky, high-heeled Red Wing work boots came up to just below her knees. "Oh, I almost forgot!" she said, and Jacob's briefs rearranged themselves into panties.
Desperate for some vestige of her former life, she reached into her back pocket and fumbled for her wallet. On her license, a young woman named Jackie stared back at her. She looked a lot like Jacob's sister had at that age. Her date of birth was January, 1991, when Jacob had been in Kuwait.
The priestess said, "Sisters, we have been, in number, twelve. One short of a coven. Help her to her feet. It is the Summer Solstice, and we have a new sister to initiate tonight."