He woke up to discover he was still a she.
Sitting up in bed, and glancing over at the mirror, the same green-blue eyes looked back as always, but framed by her sister's features, not Hunter's own.
At least the night's brought no further changes, but...she hoped no one would drop by unannounced at work today. Not that she'd slept much either, getting back quite late - or early, depending on how you view it - from Anglesey, then dropped Amber off before she finally could sleep.
Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, ignoring the cold, she set about getting dressed, finding the clothes from last night's trip to Anglesey folded over a chair.
Reminded of the night, she smiled to herself.
Ah, Amber blushed when I mentioned having to go emergency shopping...huh. Should probably go past a store, actually, and pick up a sports bra before heading to work, as Silence suggested. Kind of her to offer to help, if it would be required...I'd have gone to Al, of course, if she wasn't so busy...she would have helped, as soon as she stopped laughing...
Dressed, she ran a hand through her hair, the long, red locks draping down her back, and felt tangles all through it. Grabbing a brush, Hunter set about untangling the vermillion mess, tangle by tangle.
Is this what Jean goes through every morning? How can she stand it...should ask her next time I see her...
Putting the brush down, Hunter stood up, leant forward to start walking, stopped herself, rebalanced her stride, and stalked over to the door. Pulling it open, she shook her head as she smiled faintly towards the cats crowding up parts of the house. Growling at them to stay out of her room, she stalked through to the kitchen, putting the kettle on as she went through the fridge, hunting breakfast.
On second thought...probably shouldn't. "So, Jean, how do you cope with brushing this hair every day? I've only had to do it once, and it was terrible...oh, and where do you buy bras, and what size?"...no, that conversation would not end well, and raise too many new questions.
Perhaps it would be wisest not to stay over for Christmas this year, but head back after dinner, just in case...
Filling a pot with some oats and water, and putting it to boil, Hunter made a cup of tea, grabbing a large, ginger cat that had snuck up on the table, dropping her on the floor.
Perhaps, perhaps it would have been wiser to not learn the rotes that might cause you to randomly wake up as someone...or something else every night for the next few months after that upcoming holiday where you'll next see your family, and you wouldn't have to battle with your subconscious about your physical form...a fight, need I remind you, your subconscious is winning...
Seating herself on a chair by the table, putting her mug of tea down, Hunter glanced at the newspaper headlines, briefly distracted from her train of thought, but the timer for the porridge caused her to rise, and tend to it.
Well...it's not that long, is it? And next time...academic knowledge is all well and great, but the practical considerations of other potential issues would have been wise...no, of course I didn't know these changes were going to be so hard to reverse...an hour or two of ritual and chanting just to look like yourself...and yes, new wardrobe...must really ask Footnote about that tuition in Matter...
Heaping the porridge into a bowl, she sat down, and started eating.
Not that a woman's body was a completely new sensation, but those times had only been a few hours at a time, and consciously chosen ones...ones where clothes could have been arranged beforehand, the body tailored to suit, if clothes were even going to be an issue. How did I describe it to April...'Being a woman is no different at all, as compared to being an animal...except when it is'. As an animal, you expect everything to be different, new sensations, senses, instincts...but being a woman, you're still human, just with a few anatomical differences. No strange instincts, contrary to popular opinion...at least so far, there'd been no especial craving for chocolate, or any greater desire to take babies up and hold them...none of the children were mine, though. Sure, walking is slightly different...the body seems to naturally want to take slightly shorter steps, not long strides, and if I'm not paying attention, but it's not like it wouldn't be different if I changed into a man a foot shorter, or taller, or twenty kilos heavier either...nor were there any wings to worry about this time...that really throws you off...and so does all these cats, everywhere...
Finishing her breakfast, Hunter cleaned away the bowl and cup, went to the loo, and checked she had everything. Keys, yes, and the wallet.
Picking up the phone, she studied it curiously.
Is the phone necessary? If I only use it for text messages, perhaps...wouldn't want to answer it. Nor would I want to be stopped by the police...don't think they'd accept my driver's licence, somehow. Just have to make sure I'm not...
Getting in the car, Hunter dropped the bag on the passenger seat, and reversed out of the driveway, setting off towards Bearsden, to hunt for clothes before heading off to Loch Lomond. Sure, Bearsden was home to the people trying to turn the community into a 'model society', if white middle-aged middle-class was your model for reality, but it was the closest place en-route that might have what she needed, and a three-hour detour into Glasgow just wasn't feasible with everything that needed tending to.
Wouldn't think there was all that much to do in a national park just before Christmas, but...always the chance someone will try to acquire a Christmas tree, or the parties people throw in the run-up...plenty of open fires. I could...no, the Art is not for your daily job, especially not vulgar applications. No detour...Bearsden it is. But if I can now turn into an animal...and what about Sights? They don't really change anything, merely enhance the senses. Makes it so much faster, and accurate, to determine the health of the woods...and I can't afford not to, in case there's a repeat of the werewolf incident...
Exiting the store, shopping bag in hand, Hunter headed towards the car. She was almost at the car, when she heard a wolf-whistle from over on her right. Head snapping round, eyes narrowing, she spotted a young man leering in her direction, standing outside a corner shop with two friends, smoking.
Feeling slight irritation at the man's manner, she tried to put that aside, and pulled out the car keys as she closed the gap to the car. One moron disrespectful human was not worth getting annoyed about...and then he started, loud enough that she could overhear him, commenting to his friends "I'd be doing her a favour, letting her taste some real cock..."
She heard nothing else after that, but was suddenly aware she was standing in front of the man, glaring at him, or more accurately, his throat, through slitted eyes. She forced her gaze up, to meet his eyes, trying to quiet the beast, whispering for her to slit his throat.
His eyes were on her chest, though, which only made her more irritated, and she reached out a hand in front of his eyes, snapping her fingers, causing him to blink and look up.
Letting out a growl, holding his gaze, she spoke slowly, icily. "Eyes up here, you narrow-minded ned...I'm going to do you a favour right now, and not castrate you on the spot...not that it'd be a large operation, anyway, judging by the complex you've developed. Pro tip: Try to imagine what it'd be like if I were to stand in your spot, making crude comments about, say, castrating you, and see how that'd make you feel."
Blinking once, she formed the Imago of three shamed boys as she cast Emotional Urging on them, awakening that feeling in them, and watched their cheeks blush slightly.
Reaching into her coat, she decided to drive the point home, pulling out the police ID card she had, as a Special Constable, casting a simple Imposter spell on it to modify it just slightly before holding it up, letting them see the official logo. Smiling without warmth, she said "Oh, as it's nearly Christmas, I will be lenient this time, but if I ever hear or see from you again..."
By this point, she'd leant forward again, looming over them, looking intently at the throat of the guy before forcing her gaze away, and they looked suitably intimidated and shameful...bar the third guy, who decided to have a go at her. Her nimble reflexes, and the shield granted by Space, let her easily avoid the swing, and she grabbed his arm, let his momentum carry him forward, past her, before she kicked him on the back of the lower leg, causing him to stumble and fall.
The other two would have stepped in and aided their friend, had she not growled and bared her teeth in a feral grin...instead they turned and ran, whilst she knelt down next to the guy, trying to get up. She leant down, reached one hand down to liberate the flick-knife inserted into his back pocket, and whispered into his ear, in a mock-sweet voice, "Why, oh why, did you have to do that for? Now I'll have to arrest you for attempted assault and weapon possession, write a report, put you in jail...and I'd be doing the world a favour...or you could do the world a favour, and turn round now. Walk away, take a long, hard look at your life, and try to do something with it. I'm keeping my eye on you."
The last line was almost a growl, but judging from his body language, as he slumped down to the ground, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." on the verge of tears, the messaged seemed to have hit home...he couldn't have been more than 16, now she actually took in his appearance.
She stood up slowly, sighed, and extended a hand towards him, saying "Get up." He turned over slightly, and edged away, before he slowly reached out to take her hand, trembling slightly. Pulling him up on his feet, she looked sternly at him as she said "Let that be a lesson...violence is not the answer. Now, you will tell me your name, then go back to school, before I have to arrest you."
Nodding a few times, he muttered "Tom", before he turned and walked hurriedly away, hunched over, hoodie pulled up, glancing back nervously once or twice, speeding up when he saw her still standing there, watching him go.
When he was out of sight round a corner, she shook her head, waved away the concerned looks the store owner was giving her, and stalked over to her car, depositing the shopping bag in the passenger seat, and set off again.
Why did you do that? Why did you not just let them be? What purpose did it serve? Why this anger...didn't I have this under control? What was it Amber had said, last night...for control to have a meaning, it has to be challenged...and recently, there had been very little that could shake that control to such a degree. This was nothing that should bother her...or was that it? That it was a new situation, an unfamiliar provocation? Was it that I am currently a woman?
Turning out of Bearsden itself, she smiled faintly at the sight of open fields...at least for as long as it lasted.
No, that should have no bearing on it, except she'd not faced said provocation if not...but perhaps there was something there. Was it, perhaps, the particular shape, that this body is my sister's, and I lashed out in...defence of her, who is not even here? There was no threat to me personally...none that I couldn't handle...but lashing out in defence of family, that is not unreasonable as an explanation, even if it is not true...Jean is not here. Easier to be angry on someone else's behalf, even if it is not wanted or warranted?
Navigating her way through the houses and narrow roads on her way through the morning traffic, she eventually made it to the A82, where she could focus less on the driving...not that multi-tasking was an issue either way, if necessary.
Overprotective brother syndrome, perhaps. Now, at least...I have experienced what it is like to be on the receiving end of such comments, not merely having read about it, even if...I suspect most are more scared, something they shouldn't have to be...in an ideal society, that wouldn't happen either, but...building an equal society cannot hurt, but what is 'equal'? One where everyone has the same chances, the same potential, opportunities to study or do what they want, but is that a side-track? No...that is exactly what we are fighting for, isn't it? That everyone, no matter who, has the chance to question, to explore...to Awaken. A world where we can be who we are, or want to be, without fear of being bullied or beaten...oh, Amber, how might your life have turned out otherwise...but then, would she have Awakened otherwise? Would I, had I not encountered that boar? Existence may be war, but does that preclude equal opportunities? You still would have to work for what you want...you'd just not be blocked from trying...and are we not engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of humanity? This is but one facet, one battlefield...
As she approached the forest park, she smiled faintly, and let herself briefly be distracted by one last thought, before getting into work.
Hmm...I should remember the idea with the police card...what was it they'd called in in Doctor Who? Psychic paper? Surely someone thought about it before now, and possibly made an imbued item out of it. I'll have to ask if someone can make me one...could come in handy in the future.
He woke up, and found himself...well, himself. Back in his own body, the slightly gangly, but quite sturdy, twenty-three-year-old that he normally was.
Normally? That's a curious word...what is 'normal'? What is 'normal' to the Awakened? Judging from Sunday's conversation...less of a regard for human life, worryingly...or for what is actually realistic. How do you even emphatise with a Sleeper...other human, when your perspectives are so different?
Striding out, his thoughts drifted towards the demon, and preparations needed for that. Boosts for the cabal, scouting, means to slow the demon down...
He woke up, to find himself...lighter? Less? Opening his eyes, and sitting up, he noticed he wasn't as tall, and his arms looked awfully bony...and as he slipped out of bed, he made two more discoveries; firstly, his boxers were too large, and secondly, his strides were really short.
At least the face is familiar, again, and...not an animal, but...is that me? Looks like...at a guess, age 7 or 8. Hair more red than brown...must be closer to 7, then. This...won't actually work, or rather, can't go to work like this. I guess it's time to find out just how strong my subconscious is...or maybe I should take a sick day. Not had many, really, so I guess one can't hurt...I mean, not had any this year yet, or...actually, since I was about this age, and had the measles, possibly...Would it be immoral, to do so? It was, technically, a medical condition that meant he couldn't do his work properly, but he could also say he'd be a bit late, and find out how potent at spell he needed to weave...something worth knowing.
Pulling on a bathrobe several times too large, Hunter padded out into the kitchen and grabbed some quick breakfast, speaking to the cats occupying the space as he did so. They were very confused by the shape, and the familiar-yet-different smell, but accepted him as he was...especially after he put down some food for them.
Finishing breakfast, he scribbled a note for Joe and Wraithborn, sent a quick message to his boss, and retreated into the quiet room set aside next to the Hallow.
Seating himself cross-legged, he started to meditate, making himself comfortable, clearning his mind so that he could focus on the task ahead.
Half an hour later, he rose to collect what he needed for the ritual...fetching what he would wear, and a picture of himself, to give him something to focus on.
Body-paint, for the runes, and a jug of water and a glass, for his throat.
A knife, and a bowl, for the blood.
A Swiss Army knife, to represent the versatility of the Practice of Patterning.
A pencil and a pad of paper, for the Imago itself.
Items collected, he took a deep breath, breathing in the resonance of the Hallow, one he was by now familiar with...and which seemed to have changed slightly recently, perhaps in line with the Cabal, perhaps...more feral, and he felt like a wolf in sheep's clothing...a very young wolf currently, but a wolf nonetheless...trying to dress in the skin of a sheep. Reflecting briefly on this, he set about the spell, slowly building the Imago as he began to chant, barely managing to focus on the spell as he heard his voice...his pre-pubescent voice, so unfamiliar, mixing with the underlying growl that was present whenever he used the High Speech, a curious juxtaposition. Having stumbled over the first few words in High Speech, though, he put that out of his mind, and walked round the room, starting to paint the symbol for a Patterning Life effect first on each of the four walls, then on his own chest.
Once he finished, he seated himself cross-legged in the middle of the room, picking up the pencil and the sketch book, and as he kept chanting, he started to draw a vaguely humanoid outline, starting with his current self. Visualising the spell's effect, he slowly started to change the drawing, or perhaps overlaying another one on top, of the outcome of the spell, occasionally glancing over at the picture he'd brought. As the spellcasting went on, he refined the outline, the shape, and in his mind, the Imago, simply an image of himself, grew stronger and stronger, in line with him adding more and more details to the drawing.
Pausing once, an hour in, he set down the pad of paper, and poured himself a glass of water, which he swiftly drained, then another. Pacing back and forth to loosen up his limbs, he stretched, and then sat down again.
Resuming the spell, he once again began his chanting as he picked up the pad and pencil, adding further details, glancing over at the clothes he'd laid out to add their likeness to the image. He felt the Imago solidify, and knew he was nearly done as another twenty, twenty-five minutes had passed, and at that point put down the pad.
Instead grabbing the knife in his right hand, he pressed the blade into the palm of his left hand, and cut. Holding the hand palm down over the bowl, he waited for it to fill a bit before he wrapped his hand with a bandage - the wound would heal as soon as this was over, but for now, he couldn't bleed everywhere - before he picked up the pad again, holding it with his left hand as he dipped the little finger of his right hand into the bowl, and started to trace his pencil lines with blood, as accurate as he could manage. When that was done, he put the pad down, standing it up so he could see it, and in the air traced the strange gestures for the Doppelgänger rote in the air.
The channelling complete, he felt power coursing through him in one final rush, and suddenly, his vantage point changed...and he filled out the dressing gown.
Smiling to himself, he stood up, stretched, and started to clean up the room, before he got dressed and left for work.
Now I know at least I can create a spell stronger than that of my subconscious...if only for two days...could make it longer, but that feels like trying to cheat the price. As long as I can manage till the weekend...