New Account Registration re-enabled - apparently the extension we use for ReCaptcha service had a configuration change and to utilize the more secure form it needed different parameters. We did not notice this when it occurred. Sorry folks!
Stable Home Life
I looked around my new apartment feeling very pleased with myself. The area had been a farm in a previous life, but encroaching civilization had forced the previous owner to sell the property. There was new construction where fields had been, and the barn had been converted to living space. It still had some of the feel of a barn, though, the apartments laid out in a very organized manner that reminded me of stalls and rough planks and beams visible instead of the more finished look of most apartments. I loved it; the place had character.
Amazingly for a new apartment, it came fully furnished. As far as I was concerned that was absolutely perfect. I had only signed the lease last week and had already moved my meager possessions in and unpacked most of them. Rex, my cat, had been the last to arrive, getting here yesterday. He was busy rubbing himself on everything in sight. I could just imagine, "Mine! Mine! That too! And that! All mine!" going through his kitty mind.
"Am I the first to move in?" I asked the manager. She was a sweet old lady who barely came to my elbow. I had to keep an eye out since I constantly felt like I'd step on her if I wasn't careful.
"Oh my, no," she said. "In fact, you're one of the last."
"The miracle of modern advertising," I said, grinning. We both chuckled at the joke; her advertising consisted of a sign outside reading, "Vacant apartments available."
"You need anything, just let me know," she said one more time. She was actually getting on my nerves that way, but I just nodded. It seemed to satisfy her and she left.
I spent the next few hours getting the last of my things unpacked. I put the last of my book collection on the shelves in the spare room. I owned a lot of books; they covered most of the wall space. The shelves were one of the few pieces of furniture I'd needed to bring into the apartment when I moved in. Luckily, they were one of the few pieces I owned, along with the television. Dorm life makes people frugal in their furnishings.
After dinner I settled down in my favorite chair with one of those books. The cable still wasn't turned on, so it was either that or just go to bed, and I much preferred reading if I was able.
It was hard to concentrate, though. There was a loud thumping coming from one of the apartments next door. It sounded like someone was stomping as hard as they could on the hardwood floors. "Dancer?" I mumbled to myself. If that was it she was the clumsiest dancer on the planet, or maybe it was one of those modern things. I tried to figure out how long this had been going on, to estimate when it might stop, but it was tricky. I'd made a lot of noise of my own shoving the boxes of books into here and putting them on the shelves. It was silent when the manager had left, I knew that, but otherwise I couldn't guess.
"Hey!" I shouted. "Keep it down, willya?"
There was no change, though. Actually, there was. A second later the sound was being duplicated from the apartment on the other side. Swearing, I got up and went into the main hallway.
"Hey!" I shouted, pounding on the door of the first noisy apartment. "I'm trying to read, man!" No success even then. I stood there, fuming, for several minutes. "Fine! I'm getting the manager to register a complaint!" I said as I turned to go.
By the time I got to the exit the building was utterly silent.
I swore again and headed back to my books. No reason to bother her if she wasn't needed. Still, I wondered if this was such a great place after all.
It was quiet after that. I heard not a sound from the other apartments, which allowed me to immerse myself deeply into my book. It was an old favorite of mine that I'd had for several years and read at a dozen times. I read it straight through, making it a baker's dozen. It was dark by the time I finished, and Rex had curled up on the back of the chair. My feet had gone to sleep, too. I closed the book with a satisfied sigh and rubbed them to get some feeling back.
And stopped. "What the...?" I mumbled. They felt very odd. I lifted one to look, and gasped. The thing was huge, misshapen. My foot had somehow pulled out of the shoe that couldn't hope to contain it, and my toenails were dark and huge.
I wriggled my foot again, and it moved. It was my foot all right. But it couldn't be! I tried to stand, but immediately fell back into the chair. I couldn't seen to put my foot flat on the ground. "Ok, think... think!" Maybe this was some sort of infection. But it had developed so fast! Besides, it didn't actually hurt, it was just kind of numb, with a bit of tingling on my shins where this... whatever it was ended. But if not an infection, then what?
I looked down at my foot again, hoping to get some better idea, and got the second shock of the evening. It actually looked worse now, if that were possible. My toenails had grown to cover my entire toes, and had actually fused a bit at the back into one mass. A cautious scrape against the rug revealed that I could still feel through it, although the sensations were dulled a bit. And the foot had elongated terribly, and looked thinner as well.
Once more I tried to stand. I had to get to a phone, call the ambulance or something. But that was in the kitchen. I'd only needed one phone in the dorm, and hadn't gotten an extension yet. "Damn!" I cursed as I teetered on my mutant toes. I took a hesitant step, then another, and then fell back once more into the chair.
"Ow! Dammit!" That hurt! It felt like I landed on a rock or something! I twisted around to look accusingly at the chair, but it was innocent. It was still nicely padded and rock-free. A quick feel of my butt, though, revealed something growing there.
A tail. "Oh my god..." I felt around, through the fabric of my pants. They were starting to get tight, actually, pressed from the rear by my impossible new appendage. I moaned and started to unbuckle my belt when I noticed that my hands were getting numb now as well.
I could only stare silently. They looked like my feet. The nails had grown, turned black, and I had no doubt they'd start to merge together in a minute. My palms had elongated and thinned. I noticed white hair growing on them, and a quick check confirmed it was growing on my feet as well now.
My pants were painfully tight now, and so was my shirt. With every inward breath it seemed to grow tighter, and I could do nothing but moan as I watched the buttons grow taut. Through the space between I could see my chest, covered in white fur.
"Help me! Somebody help meeeee!" But my plea devolved into a meaningless whinny. I could see my nose growing, now, no doubt changing into that of a horse. Rex woke up at my cry and gave a terrified screech of his own before running to hide under my bed. I hardly blamed him.
My clothes began to rip at the seams, finally giving me some relief. I could feel my hips changing, and managed to roll over the side of the chair before sitting because too painful. I landed on all fours, and couldn't get up again. My new tail whipped about, and the last of my shredded clothing fell down around me. And yet... I still wore something. I hadn't noticed as it appeared -- there had been too much happening at once -- but I could feel something around my head. Straps of some sort ran down the length of my face and over the back of my head. A bridle, I realized suddenly. It was still too large for me, but in a minute or two it'd fit fine, I was willing to bet. My face was still expanding, after all.
My vision started getting blurry. Or... wait. No. It was my apartment! Everything, the wall, the floor, even my own books, started to get blurry and fade away, to be replaced by... a stable. Of course. Dammit, this couldn't be happening! I whinnied loudly again and lunged for the door. It had become an ordinary stall door, and there was no chance of opening it when my hands had turned into hooves. I turned to get space for a good running leap, and bumped up against another wall. The entire space had shrunk on me! I really was in a horse's stall!
Oddly, the only thing I could think of was to hope Rex was still okay, wherever he was.
The manager sighed as she poured herself a cup of tea. She glanced towards the barn; she could still hear the frightened screams of her new horse. He'd get used to it, she thought. They others had.
It had been a stroke of genius to go into business this way, she mused. Spending a few dozen dollars on some herbs and a few hours preparation was so much cheaper than buying a horse for a few hundred. A simple illusion of new housing would always bring somebody in. Illusionary addresses made it untraceable, too; even if they did tell friends or relatives or even the government where they were moving to, they'd never be found.
"Here kitty," she called to the hallway. Rex hissed at her and ran to another room. She just shrugged. Rex would get used to his new home too, in time. Or she could give him to somebody, if that didn't work. But she was confident it would.
The manager sipped her tea. More sugar, she thought, and reached for the jar.