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Literature
Kiva's Weekend
Nikki was technically a witch, but so weak she might as well not have been.  Her twin sister had always lorded her powers over her as they'd come of age, making her whatever she needed or wanted as whim struck her.  Their parents had made sure Nikki had been present for lectures and ambulatory for exams, but beyond that not interfered, thinking it good for the twins to hone their skills and defenses.  She'd grown out of it, but far, far too late to undo what she'd done to poor Nikki, who had grown unused to being anything other than her sister's plaything.
And so, the mark Nikki came to make on the world was wild, wild parties, where every two months or so she would rent out a bar, gather up a bunch of witches and mundanes, and have them all drink their humanity away.  She wanted to make a place where the question, at least for mundanes (a category in which, for most purposes, she counted herself), was not whether they would be transformed, but into what, and b
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Mature content
I, Gabriella :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 7 3
Mature content
Gabriella's Birthday :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 13 2
Literature
Something Happened on the Day He Died
"So softly a supergod dies."
Bri blinked herself awake at the notification.  Dana.  Had she just found out Lemmy died?  No - it's Dana - Natalie Cole? - jeez, though, how the hell had she not found out until now?  The phrasing sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it.  Groggy, she pecked out: "who died?"
A news link.  A video call.  Neither woman would be sleeping that night.  When morning came, both would have things to do.  Dana off to be a hero not just for one day, Bri to see if the fish would bite on the green grass of the card table.
Bri'd be out late, not to mention carrying a mint, so she took the puffy coat, to make her look larger, less curvy.  Concealed in an inside pocket, as well as the money, was a large hunting knife, sheathed.  The fact that such a coat would keep her warm was a bonus; she almost mentally attacked Dana for not having to worry about that last bit, but she did now, didn't she?  Her travels had
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Mature content
Gabriella :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 16 9
Literature
Degopification
With the end of the Trump administration, the American populace spoke with a single voice: "this cannot happen again."  The culture that had allowed the chain of figures that had so culminated and the government that had facilitated it both had to be taken to task.  The country had awoken from a long sleep, and could suddenly see in its mirror the grim, destructive nature that had disguised itself as discourse, and that to this mirror the most bestial, most willfully blind elements of the country had to be forcibly turned.
To the modern reader, it may be difficult to understand the difficulty of this revelation, remembering them as we do as a horde buried under the veil of time.  The populace, however, fancied them friends and neighbors, the turpitude of their natures hidden under a cloak of abstraction.  What words were spoken against them were, by and large, spoken cautiously, the few boors who expressed patent fact held indecorous indeed.  With this crescend
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Alexander and Natalia... :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 31 0
Literature
Bluth Serum - Rating 1/5
Bluth Serum
1/5
So of course you've all heard the press by now.  I'm not going to repeat the tired warnings up and down old and new media alike, but rather I just want to send a message to a certain group of people.  "One in eleven's not that many," you've said.  "It's so much cheaper!" you've said.  My wife thought much the same, and I'm writing - perhaps not to dissuade you - but to bring it home to you just what risk you're taking.
I say "my wife."  I guess I should say "me," since technically I'm writing this for her, this being her account, and she's standing by the keyboard vetting my every word.  This is her husband writing this - sorry, Amazon, this probably contradicts some clause buried in one of those umpteen contracts no one reads, but for now it's just expedient.  Anyway, I'll keep writing in my own voice, but bear in mind that there's nothing I say that doesn't have her full blessing.
Anyway, as you no doubt expect, I didn't buy it mysel
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(Spoilers?) Most Wonderful :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 0 0
Literature
Old Friends, part 2
One day, he simply hadn't shown up for work.  He hadn't answered his phone, and his cell phone had been turned off.  At eleven o'clock the day after that, he had been officially fired.  The only clue as to his whereabouts was that the first day he missed work, the neighbors had mentioned a woman stopping by to gather his things.
The detective assigned to his case had heard this and, of course, gone looking for the woman in question.  One of the neighbors recognized her - she'd stopped by before, but she'd been quiet.  No one had caught her name.  She didn't really show up on CCTV footage of the hall, either, but was weirdly out of focus.
The missing man's distraught parents told him about a woman who matched the description he had been given.  They said she was a witch, and the detective winced.  That would explain the footage, and that meant this might be a magical case.  Still, he didn't want to jump to conclusions - assuming it was even t
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Mature content
Old Friends :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 3 0
Literature
Hallowe'en PSA
HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWE'EN!
A public service announcement from the World Council on Magical Relations.
The powers of witches reach their strongest on All Hallows' Eve, from sunset to sunrise, and especially around midnight.  This is one of the draws of the night, and also one of its dangers.  Almost half of the transformations requiring intervention from the Council or Circologists occur on Hallowe'en or before sunrise on All Hallows' Day.  In light of our mission of promoting greater accord between the magical community and society at large, the World Council on Magical Relations have decided to put out a general caution against common magical pitfalls of this day, and to debunk a few perennial myths.
TO PARENTS OF TRICK-OR-TREATERS
Unfortunately, we must yet again begin by addressing the persistent myth of the neighborhood witch turning groups of trick-or-treaters into candy.  It doesn't happen!  In fact, althoug
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Literature
Drunk December Mischief
I spent what little afternoon exists this late in the year barreling through white wine after white wine until well after the sun went down.  As the moon came up, I started doodling on cocktail napkins my drunken approximation of what I remembered of Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.  Somehow this led to a fistfight, I think due to my disparagement of humanities degrees and/or of COBOL, and now that's a bar I'm no longer welcome at, so I headed for the next one.  As I did, I swore to complete the degree I drank myself out of so long ago if it took every penny I could steal, even though I knew and know there's little point at my age.  A storm boiled up, so I danced through taunting the lightning, a display in retrospect unwise, not due to any god's fury, but due to it costing me service at the second bar.  Now miles from home and unwilling to walk to the next bar down in the rain, I went instead to the apartment of an old "friend," in whose bed the wine whi
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A Little Warmup :iconinclassificabilis:Inclassificabilis 9 2
Literature
A Mundane Travesty
Leaning on one wall, Dale stared at the suit she'd bought, traipsed on one of the chairs at the dinner table, as she waited for her boyfriend to emerge from behind the partition they'd set. It should not have taken her longer to find a fuku that fit her than him to make one that fit him. She fidgeted with the vest that she was in theory no longer wearing as she glanced at the curtain. Finally, she heard Trevor's voice.
"Ready, Dale?"
She took a few steps away from the wall, turning to face the partition as she moved to unbutton her vest. "Ready and waiting."
Trevor stepped out from behind the curtain with perfect poise in his slippers. The skirt of his uniform was cinched tightly around the waist his corset created, coming to just above his knee, accentuating the firm, bare calves below. With arms tight yet sleek, he fixed the ascot on the suit above the chest, pushing it out just barely. Only the corset gave the illusion of breasts, small as they were, feminine enough. His natural, lu
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Nikki was technically a witch, but so weak she might as well not have been.  Her twin sister had always lorded her powers over her as they'd come of age, making her whatever she needed or wanted as whim struck her.  Their parents had made sure Nikki had been present for lectures and ambulatory for exams, but beyond that not interfered, thinking it good for the twins to hone their skills and defenses.  She'd grown out of it, but far, far too late to undo what she'd done to poor Nikki, who had grown unused to being anything other than her sister's plaything.

And so, the mark Nikki came to make on the world was wild, wild parties, where every two months or so she would rent out a bar, gather up a bunch of witches and mundanes, and have them all drink their humanity away.  She wanted to make a place where the question, at least for mundanes (a category in which, for most purposes, she counted herself), was not whether they would be transformed, but into what, and by whom.  Her sister, her guilt-ridden enabler, now making a mint in magical medicine, would bankroll these parties and help her clean up after.

There were a number of wards on the bar to prevent spells irreversible per se, spells cast at the bartender, misrepresenting oneself, and a number of other things, but between the haphazard flinging of various subtly different magics, the rather laissez-faire invites, and especially the free-flowing alcohol, all but inevitably a few guests would fall off the face of the earth, not even their owners certain where or what they were.  The sisters made sure that everyone who attended, witch or mundane, knew this; what had begun as a warning had become a slogan, to such an extent that they now felt the need to stress it wasn't in fact guaranteed.  Still, a guest list was kept so they could make a token effort to track everyone down after.

All this was in the back of Kiva's mind as she walked in, but at the forefront were the two words "open bar."  Her eyes were dark and baggy - the deepest hell, Aisling, the very deepest - and a drink or two would perk her right up.  She started over to the bar, eyes darting around the room for a suitable glass.  A few guests from past parties were now bar property, but only mundanes were allowed to request them, and of course, the bar had its usual inert glassware, but that felt like sacrilege.

Kiva's eyes landed a girl not speaking to anyone, glancing around in a strange way, off whom Kiva could sense no power.  A mundane, unaccompanied, and a woman - a rare prize.  Boys would be boys; she'd call it a sausagefest but for the fact few of these boys would walk out, and likely all those who did would have forgotten their sausage.  Couples, too, often liked the idea of becoming a matched set, but mundane girls who came here on their own were something special.  Most of them blended in until they didn't, and she always liked to be that "didn't."  She walked up to her.

"Witch?" she shouted in the girl's ear.

"No!" the girl shouted back.

"Glass?" Kiva shouted, nodding to the bar and holding up her hand, pinching as if gripping stemware.

The girl perked up.  "Sure!"

Kiva took one of the girl's wrists in each hand, lifting them as high as she could, above both their heads, sliding her hands down to the taller girl's triceps as they got too high for her.  "Here - about thirty degrees, palms up."  The giggling girl complied.  As Kiva willed it, the girl's clothes and exposed skin came to take on a glossy sheen; once the changes began, the girl closed her eyes with a huge smile on her face.

"You should open your mouth while you still can," said Kiva.  "Trust me, you'll enjoy it more."  The girl popped her mouth open in her final willful act as her body began to compress - not shrink, although it did come to weigh less - into translucent crystal.  Kiva continued to hold her by her arms until she was about half her original height and had gone from translucent to transparent, almost all color gone; at that point Kiva slid her hands down to the girl's waist.

The compression stopped when the girl's head was a little over half the height of one of her fingers.  Now she was light enough that the witch could hold her just by pinching her waist with her nondominant left hand, and so she did, grabbing her "victim" by the shoulders with her dominant right hand.  Despite the girl's uniform crystal texture to the eye, Kiva rotated her shoulders and arms like a row of a puzzle box, free of her neck and chest; as she did, they decompressed into a cone, a funnel straight to her ever open mouth.

One finishing touch.  She pressed the girl's feet against her palm, and they melted, flattening against the surface of her hand into a base.  She moved her hand away about halfway to the knee, and all that was left of the girl to the eye was a novelty cocktail glass, the stem in the shape of a woman, the cone a bit irregular, a happy perpetual drinker at the center.  The stem was far more modest than most such glasses; although Kiva probably would have done so anyway, the bar had insisted on modesty to such an extent that it was in the wards.  As Nikki'd put it to Kiva, "they know what sluts witches are."

That being settled, now Kiva could get a drink.  She brought the girl-glass to the bar and set her down; the bartender smiled at the thirsty face at the bottom of the cone, then looked up at her owner and balked at the sight of her dark eyes.

"Uh... wow," he said.

Kiva nodded.  "Do you have any idea the sort of looks a witch gets when she walks into a laundromat at midnight with two hampers full of soaking wet clothes?"

"Can't say I do."

Kiva sat down, setting her handbag, Ernie, whom she'd acquired at one of these parties about a year earlier, at her feet.  "Manhattan.  Stirred, not shaken."

The bartender soon came back with beautiful bourbon and vermouth, none of the chunks of ice so many bars couldn't help but leave in such drinks.  Kiva's glass deserved better, after all.  Scanning the mirror for anyone who might think her a sitting duck, she took a sip.  In the mirror, Nikki, clothes and all, was turning to chocolate, surrounded by hungry boys (and one girl holding her wrist); Kiva could hear her squeal.  Due to the partygoers' self-policing - lest there be no more parties - the boys would leave human, though likely not boys.

"Hey!" came a squeaky female voice; Kiva turned.  The voice belonged to a girl peeking out from behind a tall and rather stout young man.  She stood on tiptoes, lifting herself by his shoulders, her body pressed against him, her nose peeking over her hand.  Even from the fraction of her girlish countenance visible, Kiva felt cause to question the soundness of Registry holography.

"I saw what you did to that girl," the girl said.

Kiva held up "that girl," swishing her contents around.  "I wasn't exactly trying to hide it."

"I just wanted to know if you could turn my boyfriend into a new dress for me?"

Kiva looked into the boyfriend's listless eyes - he was clearly just humoring her.  Still, if he was willing to humor her, who was she to argue?  "Any special kind?"

"Totally your call!"

Kiva put a hand on the boy's unappealingly soft chest; almost immediately it flattened out into a cavity the same strawberry color as the witch's hair.  The boy choked as he failed to draw a last breath, and continued to struggle.  Kiva knew he was fine.  The cavity split into two panels of fabric, one front and one back, as everything above fell in; his arms all but fell off, hollowing out into sleeves draped over his girlfriend's arms, connected to his chest by thin strips of fabric.  Kiva could now see enough of her body to know how to condense the fabric to her size, and now she could see "neckline" was a strength of hers, despite her cute face - lucky that's what she'd started to go with anyway.  As the boy's legs shriveled up, his wide frame made his girl a nice, flowing train, despite the tight cut above the waist.

"Thank you so much!" the girl shouted.  She gave the dress a long kiss.  "Oh, you know you love it..." Kiva knew most of her victims, mundanes especially, couldn't speak in formal language unassisted, only project concepts.  Still, this left plenty of room to lie, or joke.  The girl rubbed the dress against her cheek.  "Mmm..."

Kiva heard a text alert from her handbag as the girl literally skipped off to the exit.  Kiva was frankly surprised she made it; if she'd been in that crowd, and the girl had passed within arm's reach, she'd probably have TF'd her on general principle.  She picked up her phone to read the text.

-"Kiva!  Dennis is going to make me a cake for my 25th, on the day (♃) @ 18h - you coming?"

Kiva groaned out loud.  Really, Dennis?  Wizards.  Still, eating her up seemed like a lot of fun...

"If still human, will be there."-
-"Still human?"
-"Ye gods, Kiva, tell me you're not where I KNOW you are."
"If you KNOW I'm home, k, not."-
-"Ugh.  Just let me know if you make it out, okay?"
"OK.  If you haven't heard back 24h from midnight, count me out."-
-"Sure."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw locks of red hair, longer, wilder, but in color nearly identical to her own.  It flew through the air as if suspended in water, writhing as in a heavy current.  Aisling.

Aisling and Kiva had both been working for the dam.  The previous day, Kiva had volunteered for enough work to make her quota, hoping to make sure she didn't leave too much orphaned if the party went that way.  Aisling had offered to help her, apparently, Kiva saw now, for the same reason.  They had settled on Kiva's apartment.

To make a long story short, haste makes waste, and in this case, "waste" was an interdimensional flood.  To avoid a greater disaster, Kiva was forced to exploit the spatial distortion of her "special" armoire, despite the fact that two of its residents were gifts from a hydrocleist some months before.  Granted, a "soft" hydrocleist, and neither had been planning on leaving anyway, so no real harm done, but still, rude!

Kiva knew Aisling's hair always did this floaty thing when she was casting, and a closer look told her this was no exception, some lucky boy, already barely recognizable as human, collapsing into a strip of gold before her.  She picked him up and fastened him around her neck.  Wahoo.  Kiva prepared a spell; she was no good at spells at a distance, so this would have to be gathered into a beam.

Kiva was more than half through her drink at this point, plus she was a bit tired and hadn't really eaten, and her sparse single meal she'd had a little something with; in other words, the beam missed Aisling.  It hit the mirror opposite the bar mirror, to assorted chatter by those who were used to more intimate, or at least more intentional transformations, and bounced right into the left buttock of a woman in a blue dress, whose conversation with some young man, thin, overdressed in a sport coat and tie, was interrupted by her yelp as it struck her.  She and her clothes shrank away into a loose blouse, the same sky-blue color as her dress.  Kiva dashed over, glass in hand (Manhattan partly on blouse from her haste), handbag on shoulder, and snapped her up, addressing the man she'd been talking to.

"Hi, really sorry about that..."

The man began to laugh, but his laughter was soon cut short as he and his clothes began to shrivel into a compact.

"I'm sure he doesn't mind," said Aisling, picking him up and putting him in her purse.

"Right," said Kiva.  "So... sorry I tried to turn you into a top?"

"Eh, don't sweat it," said Aisling.  "Anyway, your first question was really if he'd mind?"

"Oh, I know this blouse," said Kiva.  "Trust me, she doesn't mind."  She then pointed to the new resident of Aisling's purse.  "But where do you get off?  At least I asked someone!"

"Please," said Aisling.  "Boys know they get no say at these things."

Kiva shrugged.  "Fair enough."  The two women looked each other in the eye.  "So," said Kiva, "I guess we ought to end this, right?"

"Yep!" chirped Aisling.

"Seconds?" asked Kiva.

"Good idea," said Aisling.  "Boys."

"Okay," said Kiva.  She put her arm around the nearest boy, as did Aisling.

"So," said Aisling, "you two count together, to ten.  Ten is the cue, there's no need for a cue after ten.  If either of us jump the gun, both of you run to the nearest woman.  Figure you've each got an 80/20 shot of her being a witch, so 96/4 between you.  Probably, if one of us is willing to jump the gun, you won't make it, but never mind.  We trust each other anyway, don't we?"

"Oh, sure," said Kiva.  "But, ten, though?  Are we pacing as we do this?"  She gestured around the bar, and while it was less crowded than it had been an hour before, it wasn't nearly sparse enough for ten paces to be reasonable, especially since many of those who were still standing were in no position to get out of the way.

Kiva remembered the time, a few months before, she and others had turned at the sound of a stone girl crashing to the floor.  Next to them was a skinny, bespectacled boy looking sheepish.  He became a bookend, leaving an empty pile of clothing as he himself took on the brass form of the girl he'd knocked over, on a little plinth, with brass versions of her clothes (her own having still been fabric) and of his own empty rims, a transformation greeted with general applause.  Kiva had been the one to take him home, after the caster had left him there an hour.

When Nikki had shown up the next day, he'd refused to turn back.  Apparently he'd known the witch he'd knocked over and was embarrassed enough he'd rather spend the foreseeable future on Kiva's desk.  The witch turned up, human, two days later and picked him up herself.  Kiva hadn't heard from either since; in the present, she made a mental note to check up on them.

"You're right," said Aisling.  "Five... no, three.   But if it's going to be three, then there is a cue now: 'turn.'  Anyway, got it?"  The boys nodded.  "Okay," said Aisling, "here goes."

Kiva and Aisling first stood back to back, then took their three paces as the boys counted.  As one boy said "turn" and the other "now" (Kiva didn't know or care which was which), the witches turned.  Kiva felt Aisling's magic come down on her from all directions, as she herself fired another beam directly at Aisling's chest.  Drunk and hungry as she was, the beam hit home.

A look of horror came across Aisling's face, as Kiva smirked.  Aisling seemed ready to panic, but it was the game she'd signed up for.  She shriveled away, new choker and all, until there was nothing left of her but a tube of lip gloss beside her purse.  Now, Kiva didn't normally wear lip gloss (she'd almost made her lipstick, in those three seconds she'd had to decide, but no), but makeup went with the compact.

She turned to her and Aisling's seconds.  "Thanks, boys!  So what'll ya be?"  The two looked at each other.  "Shoes?" asked Kiva's boy.  "Shoes," replied the other.

Kiva winced.  "I would... I will, if you want, but... verruca...." she gestured to her right foot, lifting it a bit.  The boys winced.  "Gloves?" she offered, holding her bare hands out.

"Gloves," said the boys in unison.  Kiva again put her arm around her own boy, and beckoned Aisling's over to her.  She put an arm around him as well, and their flesh and clothing quickly flowed together, becoming silk as they flowed around her arms.  Soon there was nothing left of them but a sheer pair of gloves.

With her new gloves, she fished Aisling from the floor and dropped her into her own purse, next to the compact she'd made; she put it on her arm next to Ernie, in whom she tucked her new blouse, before returning to the bar.  After all, her glass now empty, and the unchanging expression of the open-mouthed face coming from the stem looked quite thirsty.  "Another Manhattan."

From that point on, she remained mainly at the bar, using the mirror to people-watch, to apply her new lip gloss, and to patrol her surroundings.  She soon felt a spell upon her and reflected it onto its caster, and although she could sense the caster had succumbed to it, she didn't even bother to check who it had been or what she'd become.  A power move, it let her finish her drink in peace.
Kiva's Weekend
This began as an attempt to explain the origin of Kiva's top... might've gotten a bit out of hand.  (Fun fact: Victor Hugo once saw a prostitute arguing with an aristocrat... the novel that inspired got more than a bit out of hand.)
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Mikaela!  Wow, I didn't expect to see you - certainly not this close.  I guess I've got no one else to talk to, at least not coherently.  I guess it shouldn't surprise me.  Dennis hinted before the party that I shouldn't worry about icing - I guess you're what he meant.

So it looks like we'll be seeing a lot of each other for a couple days at least.  Dammit, Dennis.  I swear, the second I'm human again, he's a toad - I mean it this time!  He'll probably let me, too.  He knew what he was doing.  After I told him, to his face, that being batter in the fridge was "too much fun" for me, he goes right ahead and turns one of the people who's eaten me into a cake and takes him home.  Basically the same thing - sure, a little more under control, but still, it's going to be at least a week or so before he even starts to track my bits down, and that's assuming Kiva's little friend is still human, and still has her.

Dammit... dammit... dammit!  I even let Eden shrink me to do this thing!  I can't imagine you've come upon anyone who unshrinks people - have you?  Of course not.  Me neither.  I mean, I'm a witch and you're not, no offense, if I dig deep enough, I'll find a specialist, whereas you could only find a friend.  Honestly, just the two of us here, you don't really want to be unshrunk, do you?  But never mind.

So anyway, you've met Cassie, Kiva, Dennis, Eden.  You haven't met whats-her-name - I have met her, but I don't know her name, or really much else about her, so meh.  You haven't met Miles, is my point.  He's a mundane, like you; we hadn't talked in years before a couple weeks ago.  A friend of his got turned into a purse by some hydrocleist bitch - that's why it set me off like that when whats-her-name turned Kiva into a purse, right in front of him.  He came to me.

We used to date... sort of.  We were kids, and there was another boy - Danny, whom you've met - involved.  They liked each other - they even made out a couple times, albeit under the pretense it was for my benefit.  I'd sigh if I could.  So, long story short, I broke through, and Danny wound up a plushie for a couple months.  Miles was there, too.

Miles got really distant after that, understandably, since Danny was out of the picture for so long.  I felt abandoned as he only saw me every few months, then less and less.  But meanwhile, Danny was just gone.  Even after the circologists got him back, he was homeschooled for the rest of his compulsory career, since by the time he was back on his feet, he was well behind, and also he'd gotten used to not being human.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this to you, but this is one of my great regrets.  Danny had a life, he still does I guess, in my wardrobe.  I didn't think about it for a second when he asked to be my panties, when I'd only just learned to do that.  He was one of my boyfriends, after all, and my other boyfriend was barely speaking to me, which basically made him my only boyfriend, so I might as well... well.  I was a virgin at the time; I guess in a way, holding a human against my loins like that was my first time.

Anyway, the thing I regret isn't that Danny was my first time, however I define it, but what became of him.  Every time I tried to reintroduce him to human society, he just wanted to vanish into my wardrobe, and I let him.  Like the frog in the pot, I acquiesced again and again, until there was nothing human to restore.  All the people I've transformed since, I wonder if they had the same grooming - you? - stupid question, I know your story - anyway, even if they did, it's not my fault.  I wonder if Danny could have done better.  I try now and then to make him a part of the greater world for just that reason.  But that's a lost cause now, I think.

Miles, though.  He is a part of the larger world, or at least he was, and I stole him from it.  Huzzah for the gig economy, where I can steal him and return him without too much bother.  His papers, once publish or perish, are now publish or don't eat, and I can keep him in a place where he need not eat, for weeks at a time.  At first, I only kept him for the odd night, though.

The first such night was a few days after a little get-together I'd arranged before I knew about his horrible affair, and had invited him to as a way to get his mind off it.  Once he'd gotten used to our little world, I decided to make him a nice little set of frog-pattern pajamas, based on a joking threat I'd made to turn him into a toad - don't think I don't mean it for Dennis, though.  I gathered him around myself that night and turned him back the next morning.  He would come back as often as not, to "sleep with" me, in a sense both unusually literal and unusually euphemistic, until Daryl's funeral.

Daryl was the friend whose transformation by a hydrocleist reunited us.  Once the news came down from CMRM, after a week or two of denial, his family held a funeral, and Miles brought me with him, as his date.  He explained to an elderly woman why it was she had never seen me before, and from her the fact I was a witch spread to the entirety assembled, who all glared daggers at me for the rest of the night.  I can't really blame them.

Miles asked me to walk us to my home rather than separate, and I didn't worry about it too much - I'd assumed he'd wanted something I'd have gladly given.  Rather, though, when we got there, he asked me to make him an LBD, and I did - well, I gave him little sleeves, but close enough.  I asked him, in his transformed state, whether he wouldn't rather be in a state to spend the night with me, and he replied that he'd be fine as long as I wore him now and then.  There was a tone of permanence in his voice when he said that.  We didn't talk about it explicitly, but the next time I wore him it was to clean out his apartment.

As a lover?  You know, Mikaela, I honestly don't care.  When we're both human, he can do what he likes to me; he's certainly given me the same privilege.  I hope, if he does, we have fun, but he's pleased me more than he ever could physically.  I love him.
I, Gabriella
Descriptions, descriptions... I'm lousy at descriptions.
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Kiva was first to arrive.

"Kiva!" shouted Gabriella, arms outstretched.

"Gabriella," said Kiva, hugging her, head resting against her neck; although Gabriella was on the short side, she still loomed over Kiva, who was more elfen in appearance than some elves they knew.

"So what's the plan?" asked Kiva as they let go of one another.

"Not too much," said Gabriella.  "Once Dennis gets here, he'll make me a cake, and that's pretty much it."

"Fun!" said Kiva.  The two of them went inside, killing time talking about nothing until Cassie's arrival.

When Cassie did arrive, she had a bundle of fabric under her arm.  Gabriella, being Gabriella, glomped her.  Cassie patted her back with her free hand. 

"I brought a little surprise," said Cassie as Gabriella let go.  The two of them went inside, and Cassie closed the door.  She set the bundle on the floor and lifted the fabric, underneath two piles of rubber the color of pale flesh.  Cassie's eyes flashed, and the rubber piles unraveled each into the form of a nude woman, strings disappearing into their vulvae.

The two were identical in physical traits, both with long red hair (indistinct, of course), but posed differently.  One had a coquettish smile, hands clasped behind her, knees bent; the other was straight as if standing, arms folded below her breasts, her face staid and neutral.

"Phoebe!  Oscar!" said Gabriella as Kiva giggled.  "Oh, wow!  That takes me back."

"I thought you'd remember them," said Cassie.  "Good times.  So Dennis is making you a cake?"

"Yep!"

"Any other plans for the big day?"

Gabriella winked.  "Well, I certainly don't have any."

At last Dennis arrived.  "Hey, birthday girl.  Ready to get started?"

"Not quite yet," said Gabriella.  "Eden's coming, too."

Dennis let out a small puff of air.  "Oh, I'm sure she'll be the life of the party.  What happened to that charming boy I met a few weeks ago?"

"Oh," said Gabriella with a blush and a pinch of her black mini-dress, "he's around."

Dennis rolled his eyes.  "Really, Gabriella?  That old line?"

"Says the warlock who insisted I tell everyone he'd 'make me a cake.'"

"Still."  With that, he went to her kitchen to preheat the oven.

Eden arrived.  As soon as Gabriella had opened the door, Eden's eyes went straight to the salacious balloons on the ceiling; she let out a huff.

"Eden, hey," said Gabriella with an exaggerated smile, trying to block Eden's gaze with her body.  Behind her, Kiva was adjusting the balloons to occupy as much of the field of vision from the door as possible.

"So," said Eden, "you're being transformed into a birthday cake?"

Gabriella gave her shoulder a light punch.  "Oh, come on, you can't play along?"

"I can and will partake of you," she said.

Gabriella shook her head.  "Oh, just come in."

Eden entered, and once she was facing none of the others, she smirked briefly.

Now that all four had arrived, Gabriella went to fetch from her closet a blue robe far too large for her.  Returning to the common room, she draped the robe over a chair by the dining table, and removed her dress.  She held the dress out in front of her until all eyes were in her direction.

"One last guest," she said.  The dress went from jet black to an olive flesh tone, its skirt separating and forming into legs, it sleeves into arms, its neckline closing.  The legs reached the ground and formed feet (as something else formed at the base), the arms formed hands, and a head grew from the neckline.  Soon a nude man stood, facing the onlookers, Gabriella behind him with her hands on his shoulders.  "Since not all of you have met him," said Gabriella, "this is Miles."

Miles cringed a bit at being so exposed.  He tried to bury his genitals between his legs without touching them, an endeavor that looked nearly as lascivious as if he'd started tugging one out.  Gabriella stopped this debacle by taking the robe from the chair and lifting it to his shoulders.  "You remember Jan," she said.

"Oh, yeah."  He put his arms out, and she dressed him; he pulled Jan shut and turned around.

"So I thought I heard Dennis was making you a cake?" he asked.

"Yep!"

He licked his lips.  "I can't wait."  Gabriella giggled.

"Me neither," shouted Dennis.  "Let's get to it!"

"By all means," she said.  "Only, won't I make a lot of batter?"

"Oh, sure," said Dennis.  "Forty-some liters, at least."

"Won't that be too much?"

Dennis put a hand on Gabriella's shoulder.  "Gabriella, we could never have too much of you."

She brushed his hand off.  "I mean, too much for the party."

Dennis shrugged.  "I kind of figured that was the point - that we'd have some to take home."

Gabriella laughed and shook her head.  "I think that might be a bit too much fun for me."  She turned to Eden.  "Eden, I've seen you shrink people; can you make me, maybe..." - she paused - "...two-fifths my height?  Or a little less.  Thank you, Miles," she said, maintaining her focus on Eden.  Nonetheless, Miles smiled and nodded.

Eden crossed her arms.  "You do know I don't unshrink people."

"That's fine.  I'll figure something out."

Eden nodded.  "If you're sure."

"I'm sure."  Gabriella put her arms out and stood still.

Several seconds passed with nothing happening.  "You're not going to get undressed first?" Eden at last asked.

"I figured it'd be easier just to climb out?  Unless you need me to get undressed."

"No."  Eden pointed a finger at Gabriella, and Gabriella began to shrink, her bra hanging from her arms, her panties sliding down her legs, her socks crumpling around her ankles, until she had reached about sixty centimeters.  She kicked off her now gigantic socks and panties, put down her arms to let her bra drop, and walked to the kitchen buck naked, beckoning Dennis.

"Look in the lazy Susan," she said when he got there, but he'd been to her apartment often enough that he was already going for it.  "Push it left and get the bottom bowl in the upper first stack."

Once Dennis had retrieved the bowl, he lowered it to just above the floor in front of Gabriella, in a token gesture, as she put her hands on the rim in an equally token gesture.  Finally, he set it on the counter and lifted Gabriella into it.  She dangled her feet off one side, her hair off the other, as Dennis lifted the bowl, a spatula in one hand.

"What would you have done with forty liters of me, anyway?"

"Oh, I'm sure Miles would've helped."

"Uh-huh."

Dennis carried the bowl out to its occupant's common room's dining table.  She scrunched up her legs into the bowl and buried her head in her knees, shaking a few times to make sure all her hair was inside the bowl.  She then, after scooting forward a bit so that no hair would go back outside, lay her head against the side of the bowl, and scooted back up to as comfortable a position as was possible with her head entirely within the bowl, which, large as it was, was not meant for even a sixty-centimeter woman.

"Okay," she shouted to the room as best she could with the bowl's acoustics, "the moment you've all been waiting for!"  Cassie (balloon women in tow), Kiva, Eden, and Miles all moved toward the table to get a good look.

Dennis held out his hands over the bowl, and Gabriella began to melt, the shape of her body becoming indistinct.  She let out a contented purr with her last breath before her lungs became mush inside her.  Her auburn hair was nearly untouched, at least to the eye, breaking up only as it became immersed in the thick liquid that had been her body, and then only slightly.  The surface settled into a peach-toned cake batter, a sweet smell hanging heavy over the room.

"You have to start from batter?" asked Miles.

"Have to?" Dennis asked rhetorically as he stirred Gabriella's hair into her body, "no.  I've been known to make people ready-made cakes; want a demo?"

Miles chuckled.  "Maybe later."

"But this way you can really feel the cake's human soul," Dennis continued, putting his index finger fully into the batter, "there's no substitute for that; go on, try some."  He licked his finger clean.

Miles hovered his finger over the bowl.  "...you're not going to make me kiss you again?"

"Make you!" said Dennis.  Cassie and Kiva giggled.

Miles wet the tip of his finger and licked it.  His eyes widened, and he brought his finger toward the bowl again, at which Dennis hit his wrist with the spatula.

"Ah-ah-ah!" Dennis said.  "No more until we cook her!"  And having said that, he licked the last of the batter from the spatula.  Even Eden seemed to be holding back a chuckle.  Miles licked up the flecks of Gabriella that had landed on his arm while Dennis took the bulk of her off to the kitchen.

So while Gabriella baked, her five guests waited in the next room.  Kiva amused herself with a small but intricate light show as Cassie looked on.  Eden sat in a corner, meditating.  Dennis sat on Gabriella's couch, and despite her remote being right beside him, he spend the time at first looking at nothing in particular and Cassie's balloons in general.  Miles paced aimlessly.

"Miles!" called Dennis.  "Sit down."  Miles sat down on the couch, closer to Dennis than strictly necessary.

"So I'll bet you've been 'around' since we first met, eh?" Dennis asked, punching his arm.

"No," said Miles.  "I mean, the next night, and some others sporadically, but continuously, just since the funeral."

"The... ah," said Dennis.

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry."

Miles laughed and winced.  "Unless you've been hanging around dark alleys as a woman, it's not your fault."  Miles's eyes widened as he realized what he'd said.  "Wait, I mean... I'm sorry."

Dennis laughed and put an arm around Miles.  "Gods, don't you be sorry!  I wouldn't dare compare my teen years to a thing like that!  I'd always figured there was a good chance anyway."  He sighed.  "No, I don't know, I can't know what this mess is to you."

Miles rested on Dennis's shoulder.  Dennis turned on the TV after not too long - some interchangeable doubtless one-season sitcom doing a "wacky" bit with the familiar one-note witch-next-door.  Nonetheless, he kept it on as background noise as he waited for Gabriella to cook.  By the time the timer rang, Miles had come to lie on the sofa, his head in Dennis's lap.  Miles sat right up at the sound.

"Sounds like she's done," said Dennis.  He turned the TV off and headed for the kitchen, Miles close at his heels, the other guests paying it no heed.

Dennis turned upon reaching the threshold of the kitchen, looking at Miles behind him.  "Like a lost puppy," he said.  "So you want to help with the icing?"

Miles paused before answering.  "No."

"Clever boy."  Dennis took Gabriella from the oven and, once he had her on a tray, removed his potholders; he placed his bare hands on either side of the cake, and steam fled it toward them.  "An old trick my mother taught me," he said, "back when I was her little girl."  A wistful smile came to his face.

When the steam stopped, Dennis took a chocolate woman from his coat pocket and broke her in half at her hourglass waist.  Her syrupy chocolate innards poured from her body onto the cake until she was an empty shell, at which point she began to melt.  Dennis dropped her and she melted the rest of the way into icing that wrapped itself around Gabriella until she was perfectly frosted, at which time a geometrically perfect pentagram rose on top the color and consistency of blood.

Dennis took the cake out to the table as Miles followed, Dennis singing, "happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday our dessert..."  He used the corners of the pentagram's interior polygon to cut five equal pieces, each with a point of the star, putting them before the chairs Gabriella had already set out.

Kiva and Eden sat down promptly, but Cassie stood behind her chair.  "Just so you know, any of her I eat you're not getting back."

Dennis sighed.  "Really, Cass?"  Cassie shrugged, as all four just stared at her for most of a minute.  With a tut, Kiva took off her top and laid it in Cassie's chair, where it became a statuesque woman of Persian features, dressed in a flowing blue gown.  "Problem solved," said Kiva, adjusting her bra in a futile attempt to adapt it to a purpose it wasn't made for.  Cassie walked over to the sofa and sat down on the edge, letting her balloons come to rest above her, the three of them watching the other guests chow down on their dear friend and whoever that was in Dennis's cupboard.

Gabriella did taste of peach a bit, not enough to clash with the chocolate girl.  The blood pentagram tasted sharply of cinnamon.  When Miles had finished his slice, he started picking at the crumbs on his plate, and a worried look came to him.  "Um, Dennis... these aren't going to pose a problem, are they?"

Dennis laughed.  "Trust me, we'd have to be very messy eaters."  Despite not having finished, he stood up.  "Anyway, Miles... it's later."

Miles nodded and stood up.  "No, don't get up."  He sat back down, and opened Jan to just above his waist.

At once, he vanished as though teleported, and Jan with him.  From every angle, Jan's human face seemed to appear briefly, like a floater, as on the chair sat a cake frosted in Jan's blues.  Dennis boxed the cake up, and the four remaining humans at the table went back to eating.

When all had finished, Cassie took the knife that Dennis had taken to Gabriella and went to the kitchen to get another.  Upon returning to the common room, she threw both knives in the general direction of the balloon women, and they took impossible courses to pierce each in the center of her chest.  The knives and the women's rubber remains fell to the floor together; Cassie gathered them up, setting the knives on Gabriella's counter, wrapping the shreds in the same piece of fabric she'd brought them in.

Kiva's top put a hand on her shoulder, and Kiva's skin abruptly turned the color of leather, her clothes disappearing into her skin.  Her upper body hollowed out into a shoulder strap, her legs retracted, and her pelvis became a purse.  The three remaining humans who had eaten Gabriella all flinched, including the caster herself.

After the momentary jolt, Dennis was left openmouthed, Eden stone-faced, and Kiva's top just confused.  "What was that?"  She looked over at Dennis and Eden.  "What?"

Eden turned to Dennis and cleared her throat, and Dennis returned to his usual smug dignity.  "Nothing you need to worry about," he said to the new purse's old top.  "I might explain later, depending on..." he began to say something, but stopped himself.  "Well, just depending."

"Okay, just, that's not going to happen again?"

Dennis looked down at the cake, and back up at her.  "Nah," he said with a smile.

"I'll take your word for it."

With that, the guests left, Dennis carrying Miles, Cassie carrying her bundle of fabric and rubber, Kiva being carried by her top.  Eden was last to leave, so with a key Gabriella had left by the door she locked up the apartment, now without animate occupant, behind them.
Gabriella's Birthday
Yes.  I decided to do a story based on this old joke.  I'm not sorry.  (Although I suspect a Google search I did while writing this story has put me on a shiny new watch list.)
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"So softly a supergod dies."

Bri blinked herself awake at the notification.  Dana.  Had she just found out Lemmy died?  No - it's Dana - Natalie Cole? - jeez, though, how the hell had she not found out until now?  The phrasing sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it.  Groggy, she pecked out: "who died?"

A news link.  A video call.  Neither woman would be sleeping that night.  When morning came, both would have things to do.  Dana off to be a hero not just for one day, Bri to see if the fish would bite on the green grass of the card table.

Bri'd be out late, not to mention carrying a mint, so she took the puffy coat, to make her look larger, less curvy.  Concealed in an inside pocket, as well as the money, was a large hunting knife, sheathed.  The fact that such a coat would keep her warm was a bonus; she almost mentally attacked Dana for not having to worry about that last bit, but she did now, didn't she?  Her travels had brought her not too far from her now.

Her habit was to take the morning bus out and the evening bus - i.e., the red-eye bus that returned the evening crowd - back.  She was pretty sure this was against their rules, but she hadn't been called on it yet.  With the free play and the meal ticket, the ride would be literally cheaper than free, except that the meal ticket's lack of fungibility and the issue of taxes complicated things.  On the bus, she worked her way through War and Peace, as Twain had said about Paradise Lost, just to have read it.  She had boarded at the bit where von Phull was showing off his tactical prowess to Prince Andrei, Tsar Alexander, et al., where he was compared to a mathematician who "had contemptuously ceased to demonstrate ... having already proven what he had set out to prove."  For all his mathematical metaphors, Bri reflected, Tolstoy was not a reader of mathematical journals.

Dana got on her own bus, one owned by the sort of people who would detest Bri's little adventures.  Two years Dana had been fighting the good fight, and she'd be doing so for the foreseeable future.  For the first time in what must have been months, she was wearing a dress, one that she'd torn, slightly.  She wondered if any of the rebels would catch on.

Bri went and smashed her favorite slot machine with the free play, and having scored a couple dollars, made a run for the card room.  20/40 stud, where it was practically mandatory the players hide behind fifty-year-old eyes; that morning, Bri and one stubbly, skinny white boy were breaking that rule.  These sons of bitches (and the odd bitch) made it feel like Thanksgiving every day, only most of the time with presents (if only some festivity combined the two - someday soon, perhaps she'd see).  Well, always presents - the only variation was whom the presents were for.  Often Bri was a recipient, often others, but the house always won.

"We venerate these sorts of people in other countries, don't we?" shouted the man opposite Bri at no one, whatever strain of table talk had gotten them there already forgotten.  "When it's Coke or Xi-Jizzle chasing them off their land.  But when it's Uncle Sam, at least under Barry, oh hell no!"  Bri just smiled.  At fifty-ish, he was well below the median age of the table.  Bri knew him, although she couldn't remember his name.  He'd order Mongolians, and sip them like a fine whiskey, and the few times she'd played hold 'em with him, she'd noticed a habit of his of referring to A4 as "Cait" or "Caitlyn," or a few months prior, as "Dil."

He waved his hand at the boy.  "I know, it's not the same, they don't have the right, well, who do you think has the deed, those poor farmers or the Coca-Cola company?"  The boy was still in the hand, so he said nothing.  The old man seemingly took this as assent, so he said nothing, just raised his glass.  He took a look at the television behind Bri, and downed the rest of his Mongolian in a gulp.  For the rest of the dealer, his eyes were frantically darting around the room for the waitress.

Dana, meanwhile, was writing - writing, in this case, being plagiarizing.  No one had mentioned her dress, but she'd gotten a few dirty looks, from the few she suspected had gotten the idea.  Yeah, he was a problematic fave.  No one doubted that.  But even taken at such a level, he had certainly made contributions to racial diversity in music, to the normalization of the LGBT community, despite being (nominally) in neither community.

Lunch for Bri - she'd thought about using her credit card to buy rye bread, but that would be wasting her food comp - as usual, she bought a half sandwich at Panera and used the rest of the comp to buy bread, albeit, yes, rye bread.

Sitting in the Panera, she opened her Facebook, to see Dana, having said something about the idea of Yudkowsky's "dark arts," that it was a necessity to being a good person.  It warmed her little heart.  The width of a circle - in relation to its other properties - was the same, provided it was well understood what a circle was, whether you realized God, fucked Satan, or went and fucked yourself.  Bri said something to this effect.  Dana blocked her.

Dana seethed.  After their heart to heart the previous night, it seemed such a betrayal to pollute her wall with her hyperempiricism.  Her false "view from a hill," from her rich, suburban, albeit half-black upbringing.  There was a reason STEM folks had to take courses to tether their knowledge to its cultural context.  Apparently, they hadn't taken.

Bri thought of Dana's reaction, not for their lost friendship, but something that meant far more to her.  Poker, and her other petty little hustles, had been her best shot at something like what she had prepared for her whole life, but maybe she could shoehorn her way back in.  She should at least try; the variance she'd subjected herself to would get her, but more than that she was worried that it had been heretofore on her side.  It was impossible to know otherwise.  She had been making money, but maybe she'd just been lucky.  She started looking at colleges, hoping to find something at her age with her failures that wasn't a scam.  Of course, she couldn't apply here, not wanting to give her social and bank details on a casino wifi, but the second she got home.

Dana screamed at the people, one voice in a mob.  "Take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy," all this year, and the last several years, and the last several decades, and the wrong guy had happened to be of the wrong color.  "And I wonder why sometimes."  She shouted at the mob of rubes who couldn't understand what was responsible for their woes.

The man from the morning was gone, strangely.  That Mongolian he'd necked had been his last.  He was a solid player, one Bri feared, but kept a steady stream of ethanol, like Mitchell and Webb's "Inebriati."  The money Bri had made in the morning was mostly gone; she was even, well, technically up two hundred something.  At least she hadn't lost.  That would have just been the perfect cap to such a day.

Dana figured she could probably spare forty dollars for her night out.  It was certainly a special occasion if there ever was one.  It wasn't as though she was the sort the boys bought drinks.  She looked over herself; she'd torn her dress, her face was a mess, her eye region looking like she'd done a handful of 'ludes.  A stiff drink would wake her up.  An old tube of lipstick could give her a lightning bolt.  She sighed.  Where the fuck did Monday go?

A local bar had karaoke Mondays, and that morning on Facebook they'd announced an unsurprising theme to that night's occasion.  Dana sat herself down next to a man in a dress and wig similar to the one from that one album cover, sipping something pink, which the bartender had made from everything from Southern Comfort to sloe gin, from a shot glass clearly meant for shooting, and it struck her, here they were in a bar to wake a recovering alcoholic who'd died of liver cancer.  Nonetheless, Dana herself got a drink to celebrate his last years - a Manhattan.

The man in the dress got up to sing.  She looked at her phone and laughed - 9:25.  When he'd sat back down, it was her turn, so she gave him her phone, and asked him to take a photo.

"Ugh! So gross!"

"Sooo problematic! Unfollowed!"

"How many children die to our adventurism, and this merits your voice?"

Bri, on the bus, kept reading from her book by the streetlamps and headlights the bus passed, but having been up since one or so, soon passed out.  Upon reaching the bus's destination, she stumbled toward her apartment as though drunk, not having had a single drink (maybe she should have).  When she got home, she thought of her pledge from that afternoon to apply back to school - it could wait until morning.  She passed out.

For both women, this had the makings of a long year.
Something Happened on the Day He Died
Two young Americans heard the news today.
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The witch winked at me, as all I could do was stare in shock.  On her arm was a new purse, which a moment ago had been Daryl.  She let out a slight giggle.  "I always love the looks on their faces."  She kept looking at me.  "Say something, boy."  I did not move.  After some time, she gave a mock pout, as I remained still.  "I usually don't leave witnesses, but you look too cute like that to transform."  She giggled again.  "Lucky!"  She vanished, purse and all.

I was still reeling.  I had watched his skin turn to leather, as if being tanned.  The leather grew over his mouth and nose, as he sank into his clothing, his upper body hollowing into a shoulderband.  It was difficult to tell, but the purse proper seemed to mostly come from his pelvic region, opening in front, in a mouth that had seemed disturbingly yonic at a glance.  And so I was left there, ruminating, in a dark alley I felt posed no threat to me, no threat greater than the one who'd just played her sick game of catch-and-release.

That would have been a very good excuse to avoid the word of magic thenceforth, but my drive was the opposite: I went home that night determined to find out more about the magical world.  I wasn't under any illusions about getting my friend back, but it would have felt irresponsible of me not to at least try.  The world that coexists with our own, and on occasion so dramatically affects our own, came to fascinate me, and Daryl's fate struck me as a fatal blow to my previous "out of sight, out of mind" approach.  Fortunately, I already had a connection to that world.

Gabriella was her name.  Not "Gabby" or anything else, she'd have you know - "Gabriella."  We hadn't spoken in nearly two years by that point, due to my fear of her world, after most of a decade of quasi-avoiding her.  I still remember that Hallowe'en night.  She, I, and a boy named Danny had had a mutual "thing" going, and had together decided if we were old enough for that, we were too old for trick-or-treating.  He was fourteen, we were each thirteen.  We had all retired to Danny's bedroom, for novelty card games punctuated by makeout sessions, because we were all too nervous to go any further than that.

I didn't realize it had anything to do with Gabriella at first.  I was dealing out cards to her and to Danny when suddenly Danny's body began to twitch.  I rushed over to him, and I couldn't get him to acknowledge me; I thought he was having a seizure.  It was only when I noticed that the scant hair on his arm was thickening and turning white that I thought to turn to her.

Gabriella was also not responding to me, but not twitching.  Rather, her eyes were... not glowing, precisely, but flashing, and her hair was standing on end.  I turned back to Danny, and saw that his hair was standing on end as well.  It was then that I realized what was happening, and decided it would be best for all three of us if I wasn't touching him.  I backed away, watching the two of them, helpless.

He seemed to swell up at first, like a balloon, but only slightly.  The hair on his arm thickened further, with hair on his face to match, as the hair of his scalp shrank to the same white fur.  His whole body was shrinking uniformly, so slowly that it took me a while to notice, and any hint of his bones seemed to fade.  His face took on cartoonish features, his nose poking out, as his ears grew upward from his head.

Gabriella was beginning to come to her senses, a look of horror coming to her face.  She looked over at me, agape.  Most of me I wanted to take her into my arms, to console her, to kiss her, but, I told myself, my higher faculties told me it wouldn't be for the best; in retrospect, I call it my cowardice getting the best of me.  What I did was to give her a nervous smile and go to the door.  It would be best for her that I call in a professional, my chickenshit logic told me - it would be best for everyone.

Needless to say, we'd grown apart after that.  She'd been pulled out of school in favor of a special program aimed at witches and would return only for exams, to furtive glances from her fellow students.  At first, I made a point of stopping by at least once a week, but I found we didn't have so much to talk about anymore.  Her kisses had lost their appeal, and I didn't want to bring up the subject of witchcraft.  Once in a while we'd deal ourselves a round of the novelty card games we'd once so loved, but it seemed to upset her, so that faded.  Mostly, we just sat, and it became increasingly obvious that these visits were token.  The most damning proof in my eyes was that she never initiated one.

Within three months, I had stopped making it every week.  There was no conscious decision to do this - first I forgot to make a date, then I couldn't remember what I'd forgotten.  Every two weeks or so, then every three or so, I would realize how long it had been since I'd seen her, and the same pointless exchanges between us would take place.  By the next Hallowe'en, it had become a little less than monthly.  Over the four years between that anniversary and graduation, we must have seen each other - other than at exams - about thirty times all told.

I remember I asked her once, during those first couple months, whether she wanted to meet up at my house.  She gave me a sad smile that told me her answer, but I asked anyway - "...my parents?"  She gave a shrug that may as well have been a nod.  I sighed.  My parents had loved her once, but they had already resented her a bit, due to the path they could see she, I, and Danny had hoped to embark on.  Even before they'd caught on to that, however, they had warned me about the fact that her matrilineal great-grandmother was a witch, despite two generations of women without the knack making her breakthrough unlikely.  Although they didn't know I had been there for it, nor did they know what had happened to Danny, they knew afterwards that she had broken through, and when they heard I was going to see her, while they'd never stop me, disapproving glances and mutters would follow my departure.

Really, I couldn't blame them.  We've all heard the rumors about witches, and on that night with Daryl - to a lesser extent even that night with Danny - I would find those rumors painfully true.  I had grown up with Gabriella, and even I was afraid of her.  In college I made a point of seeing her every time I could, which wasn't too often, but I managed to see her more often than when we had lived in the same town.  With her all but totally immersed in an environment of witches, the subject of witchcraft had become unavoidable.

"So you're learning to turn people into toads?" I had once joked.

"No, we're learning to turn people into toads usefully.  It's easy to turn people into toads.  Here, I'll do it right now."

"Me?!"

"Well, you or anyone," she said with a glance around the bustling café.

"Um... please don't."

She laughed.  "You're no fun."  My face, I realized, had taken on a look of horror, that caused the smile to fade from her face.  "Uh... you okay?"

I wasn't.  She saw then that discussion of such things made me uncomfortable, and never made such a threat again.  We would only talk about other classes of magic, and the boring legalisms of her world.  Even then, she gave me a very high-level overview when she could.  Mostly we would talk about my studies in mathematics, ultimately, theory of algebraic structures.  I would make my best Feynmanesque attempts to be understandable without sacrificing comprehensiveness or correctness.

Still, while we saw more of each other, I'd estimate, during those four years than we had in the years before, we hadn't seen any of each other from shortly after graduation to that fateful night.  There was nothing noteworthy about our last encounter to make it our last encounter, and indeed, it may well be the fact that it bore so little note that made it our last encounter.  Just idle pleasantries and pretending the rift her nature had caused wasn't as great as it was.

As of that night, it had been well over two years since I had last seen her.  When I saw that witch, though, her faux-innocent little smile, I had thought back to that half-joking offer to turn me into a toad.  I don't doubt she would have, right there in the café, if I hadn't reacted the way I had.  But she didn't.  She asked, and she didn't.  And I doubt she would have kept me that way for long, whereas, somehow, Daryl... I shuddered at the thought of what was to become of him as I walked up to the door of what I hoped was still her apartment.

I smiled as from inside I heard her voice for the first time in so long.  "Hold on a sec," she said, quietly, not directed at the door, but someone inside.  I barely had time to breathe before she answered.  She looked, well, just as I remembered.  If you're expecting some fawning description of her beauty here, well, I'm sure she'd love that, but I can't say it's my style, only that my eyes were drawn immediately to her brown locks, a joy after what a blond witch had done.  She looked radiantly familiar, and in my own head, I feel that's the highest praise I could give.

"Hey, Gabriella," I said.

"Miles!  Hi-hi-hi-hi-hiiiii!"  She hugged me, and I returned her hug with a pat on the back.  We took a few steps into her apartment in unison, as if doing some sort of clumsy waltz.  Over her shoulder, I saw a man sitting on the couch in a robe, looking up at us, his expression seeming most to me like one of boredom, betraying nothing.  Whatever he was projecting, it certainly wasn't jealousy.  Even so, I worried I had intruded.

"Oh... someone's here?"

"Oh, don't worry about that!" she said, waving a hand at the man, whose skin began to change color, from a pasty white to a dark green.

The man raised a finger.  "Um," he said, not bothering to finish his thought, even though he seemed to have time.  A moment later the finger, and his hand with it, retreated into his sleeve.  He did have time to say more if he'd had anything else to say, but a few seconds later his green lips melted together over his mouth, and his head began to shrink.  What struck me was that at no point while his head was distinct did he seem the least bit vexed - a bit surprised, I could tell, but nothing like the image of horror on Daryl's face still burned into my head to this day.  It can't have been a full minute before he had vanished completely, an empty bathrobe, with a tiny bit of green fabric peeking out at points, all that remained of him.

Gabriella turned to me, a casual smile on her face, as if I'd just watched her finish some everyday chore.  "So what brings you here after all this time?"

I tried to maintain a poker face, and to my credit, I think I succeeded - it didn't hurt that at this point I was more puzzled than anything else.  "Um... well... there was an incident the other night, and I thought I should get your... input?"

"Incident?" she asked.  "What sort of incident?"

"Well, my friend Daryl and I ran into a witch, and she, um... turned him into a purse."

"Ugh.  I hate it when witches pull shit like that!" she said, going back to the couch where the man had sat.  She pulled a green shawl from his clothes, and draped it around her neck.  "So what do you think?" she asked.  I stood dumbstruck as she took a few sniffs and crinkled her nose.  "Ugh... one sec."

She vanished.  It's strange, when people are teleported, the way the rest of the room seems to jump.  Something about the human form, especially the female form, draws the mind's eye in a way that seems to affect the position of everything else in the room.  For a person to vanish with no fanfare, as witches have them do, causes the room to the mind's eye to spontaneously rearrange itself, without a micron's movement.

She reappeared.  Same jump, but less noticeable with my eye so drawn.  She was no longer holding the shawl; rather, she was looking at me.  "I'm sorry. That seemed flippant, didn't it?" she asked with a sigh.

"...a bit."

"I don't know, I just thought... gloom and doom seemed unwelcome."

After a moment's reflection, I smiled.  "Thanks.  So, er, where did you take him?"

"Laundry room."

My eyes widened.  "I thought water made it permanent?"

She chuckled and sighed again.  "That's an old, tired myth.  Besides, it was already permanent.  The myth is that water locks permanent spells, and that's only true for a tiny minority."

"Permanent...?" I asked.

She gave her best "evil" smile, an expression not welcome in the state I was in.  "Of course!  All my spells are permanent."

"...but... Danny...?"

"When's the last time you saw Danny?"

I realized with a chill that the last time I could then remember seeing Danny was that one Hallowe'en... I had it in my head that I had seen him since then, but I wasn't sure where I'd gotten that idea.  As she saw a look of horror come to my face, she began to let out a girlish giggle, which slowly became a witch's cackle.

At once she stopped laughing and winked.  "Be right back!"  She vanished.  I reflected on how the giggle and the wink had reminded me of the witch from the alley far more than her hammy cackle or "evil" smile.  Maybe it was a sign of her innate goodness, or maybe a shared hateful innocence.  I didn't have much time to think about it, though, since soon she'd returned with a blanket, of the same green as the shawl.  "Say hi!"

I took the blanket in my hand.  "So... this is him...?"

"Yep, there it is."

I heard his voice in the blanket, still so strong in my memory - why was it so strong, if I hadn't seen him since fourteen? - though muffled and indecipherable.  I stood, staring at the blanket, running it over and over again in my hands, as it looked like Gabriella was barely hiding a laugh.  After a moment, I realized something, and I began to smile as well.

"He's not a plushie anymore..."

"Hee!  That's right!  I was wondering how long it would take you to catch on!"

She telekinetically seized the blanket from my hands, and as it fluttered to the ground, it unfolded into a naked man, familiar to me, although he was older, unmistakably Danny.  "Did you have to muffle me like that?" he asked.

"Of course!  If he hadn't heard your voice, it would have ruined the joke, and I couldn't let you speak distinctly and give the punchline."

"Hmmph."  He waved up at me.  "Hey, Miles.  Been a while."

"Hey," I said, waving back.

He looked up at Gabriella.  "So can you go ahead and turn me into something so I'm not lying bare ass in the middle of the living room?"

"You could wear Miles!" she chirped, raising a hand in my direction.

"Pass," Danny said.  I said nothing.

"Oh, all right."

In a spectacle I was beginning to worry I was getting too used to, his body hollowed out before my eyes into a frilly little dress of the same green.  She held up his body in front of me.  "This would be perfect for you to wear to the party!  I would wear it, but I'm already going to be wearing Cecil here..." she gestured toward the empty robe, "...well, not here, but... well..."

"He wouldn't fit," I said interrupting her rambling.

"Oh, I could fix that."

"No."

"Aww."  She pouted.  "I guess I'll ask Leann..."

"Mm."

She sighed.  "Anyway.  More serious matters.  I really should get you to the council."

"The council?" I asked.

"Well, yeah, who did you think I was going to take you to?"

I suddenly realized I had hoped she would do something about it herself, but of course that made no sense.  "The council."

"What, did you think I'd go all vigilante?"

"...no?"

She laughed.  "I rather like walking on two legs."  At that, I lowered my gaze to the Danny-dress.  She followed my gaze.  "Was he complaining?" she asked.

"No," I said, raising my head to make eye contact again.

"Then let's go!" she chirped.

"Now?"

"Do you have a better time in mind?"

"No."

She gave a theatrical shrug, then opened the door with an equally theatrical beckon.

"You're not going to teleport us?" I asked.

She shook her head.  "Too far, too unfamiliar.  Pain in the ass."

"All right."

We began down the street together, beads of sweat on my face in a temperate twelve degrees.  I was afraid of her; I was afraid of the council.  I expected the witch who had taken Daryl was the exception rather than the rule - in fact, I must have thought her more exceptional then than now I do - but still I had already seen something of her in Gabriella.  The council, whose very mission was to preach peace, nonetheless had both the power of the gods and the power of legitimacy, a terrifying combination in the softest of hands.

For the longest time we walked in silence.  I could see her turn to me a few times, with a look that told me that she had noticed the sweat on my brow, and had gleaned the reason.  Still, she said nothing.  Eventually, I had to say something, anything, and I came up with a doozy.

"So, um, are you wearing anyone now?"

"Yes," she said, without changing expression.

"...anyone I know?"

"Of course not."

"Anyone interesting?"

At that she smirked.  "Not anymore."

"Heh," I replied.  "Um... wow."

"Oh, I could tell you all about the pasts of some of them... but nowadays, they're not up to much."

"H-how many are you wearing?"

"What?  Oh, right now only one.  But I have a lot back at home."

"And they'll... stay that way?"

She shrugged.  "Most of them."

"And they're okay with this?"

"Of course.  Most of them I can hear while I'm wearing them, so if they want to go, they can go."

"Most?"

"A few asked not to."

"That... that's a strange request..."

She shrugged.  "I don't know... I can't get into their heads, not my magical forte.  But I imagine it's a thing that seems much more reasonable to a mundane who's spent a year or three hanging around witches."

"That doesn't sound healthy."

"I'm a witch, not a doctor.  If someone wants to be incommunicado, I don't psychoanalyze them, I do it."  With the last three words especially, her voice became louder, harsher - I flinched, and she winced at my flinching.

"And maybe I shouldn't," she continued.  We stopped in the road, and she hung her head.  "I think... I think I won't again.  I hardly wear those people anyway... it's just no fun.  There are enough witches who get off on that sort of thing."  She gasped slightly and looked up at me with a sigh.  "I guess you know that, though."  She put an arm around me.  "Miles, I'm sorry."

"For what?" I asked.

"For her.  For Daryl."

I took her hand and gave it a half-hearted push "off," only getting to the top of my shoulder.  "You're not her."

"No, I'm not.  But I'm invoking her in your head, I can tell."  I said nothing.  "It's just because I'm not her we're going where we're going.  I doubt she's ever seen the council."  She took on a dark affect in her voice before saying, "I promise you she will."

She took her hand from my shoulder and grabbed my arm before continuing, "I can understand why you're wary of me.  I'm just glad to see you again, even if it's under such bleak circumstances.  Please don't abandon me like that again.  I understand why you're afraid of me, but please - it was bad enough to have Danny reduced like that, to have him traumatized like that, to have gotten him hooked like that, but I hardly saw you for over a decade now."

I felt sorry for her, and stopped to give her a soft hug.

"Don't do that if you're going to turn around and run away again."

"All right," I said, "if I were, I wouldn't."

After a moment, she asked, "what?"

"If two is three, I'm Senior Pontiff."

Another moment, and again she asked, "what?"

"I won't abandon you."

She hugged me back.  "Thanks."

"You're thanking me for the bare minimum, without even me having done it."

"I know," she said.  "Thanks."

I said nothing at that, but held her until I felt her grip weaken.  About two kilometers from her apartment, we came to an unassuming stairway to a third-floor office.  This office had the council insignia on the sign, "CMRM." She and I walked into the room.

The office was unsurprisingly busy, but unexpectedly normal.  No scarecrows, tin men, or lion-men, only humans walking around in suits, not unlike any other office. I suspected that there was a "dress code" of form, although I didn't ask.  Almost all of them were women.  A woman walked up to us.  "Gabriella?"

"Hey, Sharon."

"Who's this?"

"His name is Miles.  He had an issue with a wicked witch last night."

"Oh.  I'll find someone.  One sec - just have him sign, and you ought to sign next to him."

The form had some markings for whether a guest was a witch or not.  Guests without the knack would often be accompanied by witches, I inferred from the presence of a special column for that, separate from either alone, which we both signed.  "It's good we're at the council," Gabriella said, "they've broken a number of cases similar to this one."

"So you think they'll find her?" I asked.

Gabriella did not answer, and I decided not to press her.  A woman wearing a blood-red cape over a formal business suit soon approached.  I glanced around to see that no one else in the room was wearing such a thing, and thought that she must have a side office.  Indeed, she took us there, since there was no door taking both our hands to phase us through.

When we got to her office, I described to her every aspect of the offending witch's appearance, which she told me not to repeat.  I also told her the circumstances of our meeting - the utter chance nature of it.  She asked several times whether I or Daryl had done anything to offend her, stressing that she wasn't asking to judge us, but only to establish her MO.  She asked strangely subtle questions, things about her mannerisms and speech patterns, only a few of which I could answer.  The more I said, the more her face fell; I turned to Gabriella, and she seemed to echo the councilwoman's concern.

Finally, with a heavy sigh, the councilwoman filled out a form and placed it in her outbox.  "Well, it's not good news."

"What do you mean?"

"I think this is someone we've been looking for for a while, and I doubt we'll find her now.  Even if we do find her, there's a pretty good chance we won't be able to save your friend.  She's a hydrocleist."

"A what?" I asked, as I turned to Gabriella upon glimpsing her wincing behind me.

"Yeah..." she said, "you remember what you thought earlier about water?"

"Yeah..."

"Hydrocleist witches are where it comes from.  Any transformation done by her, if she's dipped them in water, becomes very difficult to undo - what's more, hydrocleists are hydrocleists because they want to be, because they want to trap people.  If she's a hydrocleist, she probably dipped him in water as soon as possible."

"...oh."

The councilwoman nodded.  "If we get him back, and he's been dipped in water after being transformed by a hydrocleist, it's very likely it will take us longer than his consciousness will persist to break the lock.  That's if he's even still alive at all - for a number of hydrocleists, their victims' consciousnesses are shattered upon immersion."

"Thank you, E--," said Gabriella, "I was trying to take a soft touch."

"And I was trying not to be on a first-name basis on an official visit."

"Well, we can't always get what we want, can we?"

"Clearly not."

I remained speechless as Gabriella and the councilwoman continued to babble on in front of me.  I hardly heard a word of it after that.  Gabriella walked out without needing to touch the councilwoman, and I followed.

"Hey," said Gabriella, putting a hand on my shoulder.  She looked up at me with her little doe eyes.  "You really should come to the party."

"I don't want you transforming me."

"Okay.  Hey!  Jan!" she said, waving to a woman across the room.

"What?" she said, turning, her skin taking on a blue tint.  "Oh.  Okay," she said, and almost too quickly to see collapsed into her clothes.  Gabriella ran over, collecting the empty pile of clothes under her arm - woven through them was a flowing robe of countless blues, which Gabriella pulled out.  The councilwoman politely looked in any direction other than any of ours.

"You can be her ride!" said Gabriella.

I sighed, with a pained smile on my face, at the knowledge that I was not getting out of this party.  I took the robe in my arms as Gabriella gathered up the woman's clothes.

And so, when the time came, I knocked again on the door of Gabriella's apartment. It seemed larger than before.  I was greeted by Gabriella, wearing Cecil the scarf, his green incongruous against a pink witch's hat with matching mini-dress and platform flats.

"Miiiiiiiles!" she pounced on me with enough force to throw her hat down into the common vestibule, a bobby pin with it; I had to grab the far wall.  She gave me a peck on the cheek.  "Come in!"  Inasmuch as I'd have put even money on the hat having been human (a bet I can now say I'd have won), I tried to reach down for it, but she ushered me inside.  I think I saw her wearing that hat again later that evening, certainly many times since.

I looked around.  There were eighteen of us there humanoid, and for all the eldritch forms they took, the first thing I noticed was that I was one of only two men.  If it had been two men and five women, I might feel a lucky bastard and cast my line.  Two men and sixteen women, my first instinct is to go up to the other man.  He had a goatee and wore all blue, a blue coat, pastel blue shirt, blue tie, navy pants and shoes, and a royal blue scally cap.

"Hi."

"Hey - uh, and you were...?"

"Um... I'm me."  I grabbed my robe.  "This was a woman named Jan."

He touched it as well.  "Ah, I see - hey, Jan."  He tipped his hat - "yes, I'm the 'ride' of a girl named Nicole, myself, but since I've never seen you before, I'd assumed you were a new form of someone I knew."

"What - who would want to be turned into me?" I laughed.

"I thought maybe she'd turned some woman I knew into a man.  It's not always predictable how a woman turned into a man will look.  In retrospect, I should have caught on to the Jan-robe."

"Yeah, you really should have," I said, running a hand down my side.  "So you know Gabriella?"

"She and I run in the same circles," he said.  "In fact, I thought I knew most of those who knew Gabriella... and you don't seem to know any of them.  So really, I should be asking you."

"We grew up together," I said.  "But after she broke through, I kind of got scared away from her.  It's only recently we've been in contact again."

"Scared away?" he asked.

"Yeah... I mean, I knew she was all right, I tried to keep in touch, but every time I saw her, I would think of my... our... boyfriend Danny, whom her breakthrough put out of the picture for a while..."

He nodded.  "Breakthrough spells can be like that."

I barely heard him as I continued.  "...so what the three of us had kind of wasn't a thing anymore... so what the two of us had had hung over us.  Plus there was no way I couldn't be afraid of her after that.  Not be afraid of magic after that."

The man laughed.  "Well, some luck you had then, finding the only other witch on two feet!"

I jumped.  "What?!"

"Oh, relax," he said.  "I don't use that sort of magic at these parties - well, not unless I'm asked.  Gabriella wouldn't have it, and I like the swag I get here too much."

"Swag?" I asked.  "So... you keep these people?"

The warlock nodded.  "Most of them, at least for a while.  Usually, eventually, either Gabriella or a loved one of the item will come by and ask for them back.  But all told, I still have about a quarter of the people I've ever worn here."

"...and if their loved ones don't know?"

"Then she'd have set a schedule for herself, or gotten their permission for me to keep them.  I daresay you're some friend of hers if you think she throws random people to the wolves.  I trust her."

"...so do I," I said.

"Doesn't sound like it."

"Well, I want to trust her."

"But you don't," said the warlock, lowering his voice lest anyone overhear.

"No. I don't.  I first found out about her powers when she broke through, and I found out today Danny's still inanimate."

"By choice," he said.

"It is now.  It wasn't then."  The warlock laughed.  "Is that really something to laugh at?" I asked.

He shrugged.  "It is now, isn't it?"

"I... guess so..." I said, "but what if he'd tried to go back to his normal life?  Hell, what if he did go back to his normal life, and found he couldn't?"

"She broke through.  Breakthroughs are always messy."

I took a step back, wondering what he was implying.  "I you don't mind my asking, what was yours?"

"I do mind you asking," he said.  "But tell me, what do you call a male witch?"

"A warlock."

"What else?"

"Um, a wizard – but isn't that offensive?"

The warlock laughed and put a hand on my shoulder.  "Good lad. Can you tell me why?"  I racked my brain.  I knew the word had some nasty historical connotations, but I wasn't sure quite what it was.  "Here, I'll make it easier – can you tell me when it's correct?"

"...never?" I said.

"Nope.  There's a subclass of warlock for which it is correct."

"...transformed women?"

"No.  Well... no.  It's used that way, often by the so-called wizards themselves, but you'll royally piss off some of them.  The ones I'm thinking of, though, by definition don't exist anymore.  It refers to warlocks in a structure where practicing magic as a woman is discouraged or condemned to an extent seen nowhere in the world today."

"So it's offensive because it suggests chauvinism."

"Chauvinism, but moreover, ancient values in general, from a much more grim era.  But it's not really the word that suggests that, but our very existence, especially with the perennial myth that only girls actually break through.  The word is just a reminder."

"So it becomes a slur."

"Bingo.  When I broke through, my mother took all of thirty seconds from finding out to turn me into a girl.  S.O.P.  Spent the next damn year working my ass off to undo it, neglecting all else, just that.  I can't blame her, though - we get along - people don't trust warlocks.  I'd guess about a third opt to stay female, and a third pretend to be mundanes.  I'm the third third."

I smiled.  "That's weirdly inspiring."

"It'll be more inspiring when and if I don't have to say it.  But..." he sighed.  "...I shouldn't be too much on my high horse.  It's a myth that serves an important social purpose, and I should be glad it's out there."

"What do you mean?"

"It was a horrible time, and we can't be too high strung about its consequences today, not when its quieter effects on women still echo."

"Hmm," I said.  "I guess that sort of thinking comes up a lot in the mundane world, but I never really thought about it as it affected witches."

The warlock shrugged.  "Why would you?  Anyway, my name's Dennis."

"Miles."

"So I suppose you want to take me home?" he asked.

"Uh," I said, blushing, "not really... I mean, really not at all... I mean, obviously I've had things with men, I kinda just said so, but it's not really my thing generally."

Dennis gestured toward the woman wearing Danny, sipping her wine, her skin a labial pink sheen, a plastic look, a shape that seemed not quite right.  "Go say hi to your boyfriend.  His ride's named Leann.  But be careful with her.  Her, ah, mistress... well, she's a card."

I nodded.  "I will."  I stepped away.  "Wait," he said.  "I'm at [address].  If you really are new to this whole thing, you should say hi to me, say, Tuesday night?"

"Sure," I said, and I walked over to Leann.  "Hey."

"Heyyy...?"

"I kinda know the guy you're wearing."

"Oh," she said.  "Miles?"

"Gabriella mentioned me?"

"Yeah... she says you kind of fucked her over."

I winced.  "Ah, geez... were those the words she used?"

"No."

"...she's right, though."

"Yeah."

"How's..." I didn't honestly consider asking "how's her sex life," but I tried to think of a way to say it without saying it.  "How's she doing in that regard?"

"Well enough.  She invited you, didn't she?"

I turned to look over at Gabriella.  Her hat was back on, I think.  "Yeah..."

"Don't worry," she said.  "You're a tiny part of her life.  An insignificant worm."

"Thanks," I said.  Leann laughed.

"Well," she said, "my dress seems to like you."

"Oh," I asked, blushing again.  "Does he?"  I omitted, but thought, the word "still."

"Yeah," she said.  She smirked.  "Are you blushing?"

I considered trying to deny it.  "Yes," I said.

She ran a finger over my cheek.  It was odd how warm it felt, despite her rubbery texture.  "It's cute," she said.

"Oh?"

"Oh."

"How does he feel?"

"I think he wants me to take you home."

I almost said, "really?" but thought better of it.  "Well, I agree," I said.

"Well," she sad, "you're as good as anyone."  She took my hand, taking me over to where the coats were.  She took a talisman from a bowl of them and opened a portal.  I asked, "where is this in relation to [my own home]?"  The address she gave was quite close, "not that it matters," she said.

"Okay," I said.

"I should leave this; Cassie won't like me wearing him home."  In front of all and sundry, she stripped naked.

"Uh..." I looked around for cues.  There were a few glances our way, but no one seemed all that bothered.  I noticed then, for the first time that evening, that one of the other women, an unaltered human, was naked.  She must not have been when I got in - I'd have noticed.  She was in a little crowd, not talking to anyone in particular.  Maybe she hadn't even been human when I'd arrived.

Through the portal, I looked around.  Mannequins, statues, balloons, all women - it frightened me, but I can't say it didn't turn me on a bit.  Leann saw me looking around, and she put an arm around me, drawing me to a bedroom.  Shortly we had come to bed together.

She pulled my clothes from my body, letting the false magical warmth of her false magical body touch my natural flesh along my legs, along my chest, soon along my cock.  She directed my hand to her sex and I teased it as best I could; barely familiar with female anatomy, not at all with rubber anatomy, I did what I could.  
In time, she had splayed herself against the back of her bed, and I penetrated her, pressing her up up to the head of the bed, again and again, her rubber flesh rubbing against the headboard.  At some point it must have caught; she burst, and her bits fluttered to the bed around my nude body.  I jumped up.

A woman walked in, dressed like a newspaper caricature of a witch - all black, brimmed hat like Gabriella's in black, sexy as all hell - giving a slow clap.  I turned.  "Bravo," she said.

I turned and fell onto the bed.  "You... you live with her?"

"Indeed."

"You must have known... she must have known she'd burst."

"Indeed."

"You wanted her to burst... she wanted to burst?"

"Indeed."

"...what are you?" I asked, "what's your relationship?" being my intent.

"A witch."

It said something about my attitude to Gabriella that that answer seemed underwhelming.  I expect she expected me to be terrified, and with the events a few days before, I should have been, but with Gabriella I had come to see a witch as more a victim of herself than anything else.  I expect from her entrance she'd expected me to infer that she was somehow mistress of Leann.  I didn't.  Still, I did expect she was the reason Leann was what she was.

"So you made Leann this way?"

"I made her my own."

"...oh?"

"I've always felt transformation should be a one-way street," she said.  I took the scraps of Leann in my hands.  "I mean," the witch continued, "I'll stitch her up, of course, and sooner or later probably blow her back up.  I might not animate her again for a while, though. I will eventually.  None of that counts.  But she'll never be human again, nor will any of my other 'pets.'"

"Oh," I said, still fiddling with Leann's pieces.  "Okay."

"My name is Cassandra, or Cassie."

"...okay.  Ah, mine's Miles."

"I suppose Leann has brought you here to join my collection?"

"Er... for how long?"

"Forever, of course."

"...no."

"Then you'd best go.  Are your clothes here?"

"Yes."

"Then get dressed."  I did, and I made for the door.

"Now, I do like to keep things consensual," she said as she ushered me out, "but, well... let's just think of this door like an EULA.  The next time you walk through it will be the last time."  She put on a massive smile and waved as I left.  "That said, come again!"

Thus I escaped Cassie's "clutches," and some time later I kept my appointment with Dennis.

"Oh, hi! Wasn't expecting you see you," he said when he greeted me at the door.

"You invited me."

"Yeah, but when I saw you leaving with one of Cassie's pets I thought that plan - and all your plans - had been very, very cancelled.  Or at least revised a fair bit."

"Heh.  I got about the same impression at Cassie's, but no, she let me go."

"You didn't want to be transformed?"

"Not permanently, at least.  I mean, not Cassie-permanent.  Maybe Gabriella-permanent."

"Oh?" he asked.

"...and not by you!" I hastily added.

He smiled.  "That wasn't what I was about to ask."

"Then what were you about to ask?"

There was a long pause.  "Beer?"

"Was the beer always beer?"

"At one time it was barley.  But I only fill my kegs with guests who are present - and I haven't in a while.  Too long, come to think of it."

I stopped myself from saying "just don't start with me" - I'd come to trust him enough by then that such protests were starting to feel rude.  I could tell that he could tell, however, whether magically or not, that I had stopped myself from responding, and I was fairly sure that, magically or not - well, most likely not - he knew what I had stopped myself saying.

"Familiar got your tongue?  No matter.  I expect some beer will loosen it up.  I'll get you Rachel."

"Rachel?" I asked.  Dennis just smiled.  "I thought you said the beer wasn't human!"

"Well, sure!  But you weren't planning on swigging from the can like some savage, were you?"  He teleported away, and returned with two steins in one hand, two different six-packs in the other.  "Meet Rachel and Phyllis!"

"...you have a stein named Phyllis?"

"Well, no, actually, his name is Damien.  But I really want to find a Phyllis who'll let me turn her into a stein.  Lager or stout?"

"Stout."  He handed me one of the six-pack, and I held it in one hand, taking "Rachel Stein" in the other.  As he opened his lager, he raised an eyebrow at my hesitance to fill the stein I had.

"Here," he said, "gimme that."  He took Rachel from my hand and filled her himself.  The mug he had been holding then reformed itself into a naked man, thin, vaguely muscled, white, pale, longish dark hair.

"...yeah?" the ex-mug said.

"My drinking buddy's a whiner," said Dennis.

"...'kay," said Damien, as Dennis took a sip.

"So it looks like either I'll have to turn you into a woman named Phyllis, or I'll turn you into a keg of beer," said Dennis.

"But I don't want to be named Phyllis..."

Dennis made a keg appear. "You'd best get in then."

Damien stepped into the keg and began to melt, first his sweat coming down from his flesh, then his skin, soon his entire body dripping into the keg.  Dennis drew a draught with the Rachel stein and offered her and him to me.

"Is it... he... it sanitary?" I asked.

"It's alcohol!"

I cringed.  "We're not harming him, are we?"

"Take a swig and answer that."

I heard something between a moan and a sigh as I took a sip, and he dropped from my hand.  Dennis stopped Damien and Rachel from dropping, and took a sip himself.  He handed them back to me.  The fact that he was having us drink form the same mug I felt brought into question any claim he made regarding hygiene.  I took a sip nonetheless, took a deep draught.  Dennis smiled, and we shared the rest of the mug.

When the stein was empty, Dennis said, "well, I can't just take Damien back, now.  You have to give him to me."

"So how do I do that?"

Dennis's smile grew broader.  "You kiss me."

"Um, is that the only way?" I asked.

"Well... let's just say it's the easiest way, the fastest way, and the most fun way."

After a moment, I returned his smile. "All right."  And so we kissed.

What more happened or didn't that night is of little relevance, only that on Wednesday, after I had gotten a draft of an essay submitted, I went to meet Gabriella.  No soon-to-be-transformees or partygoers at her apartment that evening, just the two of us.  She sat on her couch, me in a chair opposite.

"So I heard you were with Dennis last night," she said.

"Part of last night," I said.

"He spoke with me.  Told me some things."

"Oh?" I asked.

"He said you were more at ease with what I was."

"Oh," I said, a guilty look coming to my face.  "I... well, I guess I am."

"Hey," she said, rubbing my shin with a foot.  "It's okay you were nervous.  Your two big experiences with witchcraft... neither of them were especially good.  I don't envy you at all.  All my powers; all your..." she smirked, "impotence.  And I'd say I didn't mean it like that, but I do."

I crossed my legs.  She laughed.  "Same old Miles."

"Same Gabby."  She kicked me, laughing.

"Do you want to be a toad?"

"Oh, like you can't think of a better revenge than that."

"That reminds me," she said, "Dennis said something else."

"...that we kissed...?" I asked.

"Oh, no," she said.  "Everything in that vein I'd already counted in 'else.'  But he told me something besides that..."

With that, she placed her foot against my chest, and where she pressed, I began to feel my skin turn to fabric; I couldn't help but laugh.

Gabriella
I don't know what to say about this one, really... a pretty standard TF story, I think.
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Kindii Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
*flails around* What am I drawing for youuuuu?
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Thanks for the watch!
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Thank you for the visit!
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