By mutual consent Nathan and Olwyn agreed to blow most of their meagre
savings on the
festive season. They both agreed it probably wasn't the sensible option:
the loss of Nathan's job
had been a bombshell they hadn't needed, and to have been made redundant
the week before
Christmas seemed particularly calous. They both needed a pick-me-up.
So their small bungalow on the edge of town had been decorated inside and
out. A real tree
stood pride of place in their tiny lounge: one of those beautiful Norwegian
spruces whose green
hovers between blue and silver. Olwyn had taken particular pride in
decorating it, picking a gold
and red theme that was echoed around the room by foil hangings and tinsel
deckings. She had
done a wonderful job, as Nathan had with coloured lights at the front of
the house, but it didn't
entirely stave off the air of gloom. They were not an unpopular couple, but
they were lacking in
close friends, and besides those from close relatives, there were few cards
and fewer presents.
Nathan came in from the cold, rubbing his hands, and caught Olwyn standing
before the tree,
gazing at it. He came up beside her and placed an arm about her slim waist.
Inclining his head,
he kissed the back of her neck, nuzzling gently. "We'll cope," he said,
reading her mood
perfectly: it echoed his own.
She sighed and leant against his comforting presence. "I know," she said,
returning his kiss.
"I'll see if any of the local stores need a sales assistant," he said.
"That'll tide us by. And who
knows? I might find another job like I had at Nova."
It was doubtful and they both knew it. Nathan was a talanted graphic
designer, but not quite
talanted enough to hold his own. Nova was a small agency, and cash-flow
problems had left it
unable to afford the flashy state-of-the-art software that could take so
much out of their artist's
workload. Digital effects were in and Nova lacked the expertise to market
graphics. Now he was unemployed and his CV was noticeably lacking in the
experience that would stand him in good stead right now: familiarity with
Inferno or Volcano, or
the new Fireline package that was Silicon Graphic's new baby. Even a good
of Photoshop and StudioMax would have been valuable. But while he was no
he simply hadn't had access to such software.
The doorbell rang and he gently released his wife and went to answer it.
The small hallway was
freezing and he pulled his sweater down further before kicking the
draft-excluder snake from the
front door and opening it.
A postman stood there. "Mr Eggerson?"
"That's me," Nathan agreed.
"Happy Christmas, sir," said the postman cheerily, handing a large padded
envelope over. It was
intriguingly bulky and hand addressed in a flowing script. "Lucky to get
this to you in time, sir. It
was only posted yesterday. Sign here please, sir. Thank you."
Nathan wished the man a happy Christmas and shut the door, reseating the
against the base of the door.
"Who was it?" asked Olwyn.
"Postman." Nathan opened the envelope and removed two small gift-wrapped
parcels. One was
flatish and yieldingly soft. The other was cylindrical and heavy for its size.
"Aunty Vivian," said Olwyn, looking at the address.
"We know what that is then," Nathan said with a laugh.
Sure enough, when Christmas morning arrived and their few presents were
opened wiith due
ceremony, Aunty Vivian's gifts turned out to be what they always were:
socks for Nathan; bath
salts for Olwyn.
"It's the thought that counts," Olwyn said, smiling. The bottle was corked
containing multicoloured crystals. The label showed a picture of a jockey
on a galloping
racehorse. "Epsom Bath Crystals."
"You'd think with all that New Age stuff she mucks about with, she could
cast a spell or two for
us," Nathan said. The socks were of a plain, soft fabric, white in colour
with black toes. "A
charm of wealth? An Amulet of Gainful Employment?"
Olwyn uncorked the bottle. A strong, herby smell immediately permiated the
air, warm and
"Hmm, not bad. An improvement on the usual."
"Smells kind of like a stable," mused Nathan.
"It does not!" refuted Olwyn hotly.
"I don't mean a dirty stable," he said. "I mean fresh straw and wood."
"Maybe," she conceded. "I think I'll try this later on. Are you going to
try on your socks?"
"Later," he replied. "I thought we might go back to bed for a bit."
"Are you cold?" Olwyn asked. "With the door shut I thought..."
Nathan gave his wife a Look. She smiled. "Oh!"
Their loving was at once tender and playful as always. They had many
bedroom fantasies they
often enacted - today they played out their favourite, mare and stallion:
both on all fours, she
murmuring flattering equine comparisons about his anatomy while he nuzzled
at her face and
breasts. Then, when they could bear it no longer, he took her from behind,
lips carressing the
back of her neck as she leant back into him.
Afterwards they lay together, happily exhausted, temporarily purged of the
problems of the
world. Nathan pulled the duvet over the two of them: as their perspiration
cooled, it became too
chilly to lie on top of the covers.
"We should have brought the heater up with us," Olwyn said, running
carressing fingers across
"I didn't think we'd have any trouble keeping warm, my eager young filly,"
""If we were really horses, this wouldn't be cold," Olwyn mused. "We'd have
our own winter
coats." She twined a finger in Nathan's chest hair. "Or maybe some of us
Nathan chuckled. "No food problems either. We could live on the common. Or
undoubtedly a thoroughbred, we could apply as racehorses in that stables
down the road."
"I feel thoroughly bred at the moment," Olwyn purred.
"So you should," Nathan said, pretending exasperation. "It takes a stallion
to satisfy you."
"Then it's lucky I have one," Olwyn said contentedly. She stretched
languously. "I think I'll have
a hot bath and try those salts. Join me?"
"In a bit," agreed Nathan sleepily. He admired her nude form as she slipped
out of bed and
padded over to pick up her dressing gown. She didn't bother tying it,
grinning as he wolf-whistled
his approval of the enticing view.
She laughed as she made her way to the small bathroom. "See? A stallion."
The bath was a small, enamel one, narrow and fairly short. Olwyn sighed,
plans to save up for a corner bath large enough for the two of them. That
would have to be
shelved for a good long while now. This thing was barely long enough to
stretch her legs in, and
not much wider than she.
She turned on the hot tap full, and clouds of steam immediately began to
rise, testament to the
low temperature of the house. The bngalow had always been hard to heat: too
windows and an inefficient storage heating system that took all night to
charge and then
seemed to yield all its heat in an hour. They kept a small portable
convection heater and moved
it from room to room, wherever they might be spending time. She smiled: it
spent quite a bt of
time in the bedroom.
She picked up the bottle of bath salts and tipped a generous amount into
her palm. The crystals
tingled against her skin - reacting to the moisture on her hands, she
guessed. She scattered
them over the surface of the water. There was a hiss of effervescence and
the water changed
colour - first amber, then torquoise, and finally a deep emerald green.
Olwyn could see flashes
of silver light too. Entranced, she threw another handful of crystals into
the water, to see the
same change of colour; the same glittering motes of light.
When the bath was full she turned off the tap and gingerly tested the
water: perfect: hot but just
tolerable. She stepped into the water and sat down, sighing with pleasure.
"Oh boy!" The salts
had lent the water a pleasant tingle against her skin. She couldn't stretch
out in the water - not
in this bath - but she tucked her legs up and slid her body into the water
so that her torso was
mostly submersed. "Mmmmm," she sighed. Whatever was in those crystals was
weight in gold. She could feel the tension in her body just draining away.
She closed her eyes
and could almost imagine herself turning into a fluid and mingling with the
Nathan dozed off but woke shortly after. He could hear the occassional
splash from the
bathroom and knew Olwyn was still bathing. He got up to join her: the bath
was too small for
two, but the couple had long enjoyed washing each other. Naked and feeling
the chill in the air,
he hesitated as he saw the new socks. Why not? He would wear them - and
just them - into the
bathroom. It would make Olwyn laugh.
They were very good quality, he had to admit. He couldn't actually identify
the material, the
weave was so close: it could be cotton or wool, or a synthetic for all he
knew. There were no
seams, inside or out. The black toes joined to the white flawlessly without
offering any clues
there either. The material was thick and warm, and very soft. Nathan pulled
them on over his
feet. "Hmm!" He regarded the socks with delight: oh, he could use a dozen
pairs of these!
Warm and cushioning, he wouldn't even need slippers with these on. And
despite their seeming
thickness, they formed a surprisingly smooth fit against his skin. They
were longer than he had
expected too: he had supposed they would reach just a few inches above his
ankles, but in
actual fact it reached halfway up his calves. They were obviously quite
elastic. There seemed to
be some kind of sole involved in the toe as well: there was akind of
protective hardness there he
hadn't noted when handling them. Socks with toe-caps. He smiled. Then
looked closer. Damn
it, they WERE longer! They were almost to his knees! And he could see them
growing longer still!
Seriously spooked, he tried to take them off, but his fingers could find no
purchase: the material
was flat against his skin with no edge he could find. But just then his
attention was diverted by a
cry of surprise from the bathroom. "Olwyn? Are you okay?"
"Nathan!" he heard her call back: she sounded distressed.
He jumped up, took two strides toward the door and nearly fell flat on his
face as his feet
showed a marked reluctance to bend properly at the ankles. Walking on
tiptoe and angrily
worried now, he hurried to the bathroom...
Olwyn had found the fizzing water so relaxing, she had briefly dozed off.
She awoke feeling
oddly stiff and tried to sit up. She couldn't. She felt wildly disoriented
and the bath seemed
smaller than usual. "I'm wedged in!" she thought, astonished. "I know I've
put a few pounds on in
the last month, but I'm not that fat!"
But it wasn't just that her sides now spanned the entire width of the bath:
she found her arms
would not flex properly at the shoulder. Both limbs stuck out awkwardly in
front of her, and not
her best efforts would persuade them to move more than an inch or two to
the side. Up and
down, yes, and the elbow and wrist joints behaved more or less normally,
although her fingers
tingled as if she'd jarred them against something. Her hips too tingled and
her feet felt funny.
Which all left her in an absurd position: stuck on her back in the bath,
unable to do anything
more than uselessly wave her arms and legs about above her. "Nathan!"
The bathroom door slammed open, and Nathan almost fell into the room. He
glared back at the
door as if to blame it for tripping him, then his gaze fell on her, and
widened in shock. His jaw
At first Nathan had the incredible notion that there was a large pig lying
on it's back in his bath.
Only on his stunned double-take did he notice the human limbs and his
wife's pale face on the
creature's head did he realise the truth was much less plausible.
Her body had swollen to a gigantic barrel, practically filling the bath so
that much of the water
had overflowed onto the bathroom floor. Her breasts had vanished but there
seemed to be some
kind of small udder low on her abdomen.
He took all this in just before he fell on his hands and knees, no onger
able to balance upright.
A panicked look at his feet showed not the outline of his toes beneath
socks: instead he found
a pair of large black hooves, like horse's hooves. His gaze rose higher,
taking in the altered
proportion of his legs all the way up to his pelvis. In no way were they
the human legs he was
"What's happening to us?" he demanded, hardly knowing who or what he was
answers of. Olwyn's limbs were also assuming an equine configuration: as he
watched, her toes
seemed to flow together, harden and darken and leave solid hoof. Her hands
also. And when he
looked down, his hands too: he was astonished to find himself standing on
four legs. His body
was growing too: he could now look down on his wife, or what had recently
been wife. A fine pelt
of red-brown hair was now spreading smoothly across her flesh.
"I can't move!" Olwyn squeaked. Her voice sounded shrill and strained. "I
feel really strange!"
It was the understatement of the year, and Nathan realised she couldn't see
him from her angle.
Not, that is, until her neck began to lengthen and allowed her to move her
head. She screamed:
it sounded like a mare squealing.
They both looked bizarre now: totally equine apart from their heads which
still looked entirely
human. His skin was covered in a soft coat of white hair, faintly dappled
on his flanks. A dark
tail hung behind him, pressed flat against his buttocks indicating his
distress. Olwyn's coat was
a fiery bay, almost red on her body, darkening to black on her legs.
"What did this to us?" she demanded, frightened.
"The presents," exclaimed Nathan. "Those damned presents!"
"You're telling me that my Aunt Vivian has moved on from balancing her
chakra and that lesson
two is how to transform her niece into a plough horse?" Olwyn demanded.
"Have you got a better explanation?" demanded Nathan. Damn, it was getting
hard to talk. His
mouth and larynx weren't responding quite the way he wanted them to, but it
harder to find the actual words in his mind.
One thing was clear though: Olwyn couldn't remain where she was for much
longer. They were
both growing: he reckoned they were about pony size right now. If they kept
could end up injuring herself.
She was quite helpless however: like a horse cast in its stall, she had no
purchase. Her slender
equine legs thrashed the air hopelessly.
Nathan nerved himself to move his new body, awkwardly rearing up to brace
his arms - forelegs!
- on the near rim of the bath. Setting himself, he hooked both front hooves
over the rim and
heaved. The bath creaked and the seal around the wall split with a loud
cracking sound. A
startled spider shot out from under the tub and made good its escape out of
the bathroom door.
Nathan heaved again, making an deep grunting noise in his throat. The bath
more water, and teetered on the fulcrum of one edge. He pulled again and
the bath fell over with
a crash, depositing several gallons of emerald tinted water and one
almost-mare. Olwyn kicked
and wriggled her way free and struggled to her feet, mane and tail
plastered against her dark
They stood then and stared at one another. The tides of change were lapping
at their faces now:
Nathan felt his jaw begin to lengthen as he watched his wife's face begin
to shove forward into a
muzzle. Nostrils widened: ears grew tall and pricked: eyes grew huge and
brown and white-
Mare and stallion stared at each other, then slowly took the step that
seperated them and
sniffed at each other, gently nuzzling. Both felt... well, reborn was the
only way to describe it.
They were still themselves, they knew, and yet the world of words had lost
its hold over them.
They communicated their wonder in soft grunts and gentle whickers,
reaffirming their love for
It was the mare who finally led the way to the back door with a come-hither
whinny, and the
stallion who kicked it open, watching to be sure his lady was suitably
impressed. The two
horses moved out into the cold air, snorting with steaming breath and
wondering at how weather
so cold for humans could feel quite acceptable to them.
A damp fog billowed over the common. The two horses spent some time looking
out at it, each
occassionally dipping their head to touch the other in reassurance. A
passed beteen them, expressed in movements of the ears and skin; a toss of
a fine head and a
scrape of a graceful hoof. Then apparently reaching agreement, the two
broke into a wild gallop, jumped the fence and fled across the wet ground
to be lost in the
shifting grey. The sound of pounding hooves vanished on the still air.
Aunt Vivian turned up late in the afternoon bearing gifts: a jar of
bath-salts blessed with a charm
of wealth, and a pair of socks charged with a spell of gainful employment. She couldn't imagine what had possessed her to get her enchanted items mixed up like that. She made a mental note to use
socks and salts for different spells in future.
Getting no reply from the doorbell, she made her way around the back of the
house and found
the backdoor lying in the garden in sorry shape. It had a number of small
indentations in it. One
was recognisably hoof-shaped. Hoof prints pocked the lawn and led toward
"Ah," said Aunt Vivian slowly. "Ah." She went in and had a look round. She
found the bath, and
the opened jar of salt. "Ah," she said again. "Well." Perhaps it was for
the best. She knew they
hadn't been very happy lately. Too preoccupied with material things in her
opinion. They'd be
happier this way. She'd have to remember to visit the common more often.
She patted her pockets absentmindedly and drew out a crumpled diary. Now,
who had she
inadvertently given the rabbit slippers and Flopsy Bunny bubble bath to?
And the comic reindeer
antlers and deerskin mocassins? And the his-and-hers Tiger and Tigress