Liam, Emma, Noah, Olivia, Ethan and Ava were a bit tipsy. The school Halloween party had been over about an hour before (no alcohol there, of course) and they’d left when everyone else did. Everyone’s costumes were okay just not spectacular. So when the group got an invite to another party a few days later, they decided that they’d need better costumes (and different costumes) than those they’d worn for the school party. That meant an day (soon to become an evening) out looking for costumes they could rent.
Now normally, there were all kinds of costume shops that spring up like mushrooms around Halloween. They all tend to be pretty standard. Commercial costumes (inexpensive) abounded but these didn’t satisfy anyone in the party. It wasn’t until they’d been on their feet nearly ten hours (except for liquid meals well lubricated by beer, of course) they ran across a shop with a difference.
Circe’s Costumes wasn’t in one of the major malls. It had taken one of the empty shops in a neighbourhood strip mall. The proprietor was a young woman maybe 30 (if that old). She spoke with a slight Eastern European or maybe Greek accent but she wasn’t hard to understand. Her dark hair hung about her face, framing it nicely. It was the costumes that were so spectacular. Everything imaginable (and many never before imagined). Centaur, drider, deertaur, harpies, mermaids, naga, griffons, just about anything except the usual commercial junk. All were single person costumes with purported amazing actions that would make them seem almost alive when on their wearer.
Unlike so many shops, the proprietor didn’t mind that they try the outfits on first. In fact, she insisted upon it. The fit had to be just right if they were to work, she insisted. She cautioned them to make sure that they chose a costume of the appropriate gender as they wouldn’t fit otherwise.
They spread out through the shop (which was strangely large given the usual size of shops in strip malls) hunting for just the right costume. Liam, who enjoyed hunting in the fall with his father, chose a very surprising deertaur, complete with antlers. He announced to everyone (who paid little attention as they were busy on their own searches) that he was going to find out what the other half felt like. Emma, his girl friend of several months, found what she termed an ‘absolutely fabulous griffin taur' costume. Noah and Olivia decided on a sea theme with Olivia in a fabulous mermaid tail and him as a young Ursula. Ethan and Ava, not to be outdone, chose very unusual costumes. Ethan decided on a crow harpy while Ava found a cactus woman costume.
As each entered the change rooms at the back, Circe cautioned them again about making sure the costumes were gender appropriate and handed each instructions for getting into costume. She insisted they read the instructions before getting into costume.
Liam was the first to enter the back area to change into costume. He entered his change room and immediately tossed the instructions in a corner (typical male response to instructions). He could see full well that all he needed to do was pull on the front legs and everything else would be in place. The antlers were on some kind of headpiece and it was clear, to his alcohol befuddled brain, that it just sat on his head. He twisted the deer hind quarters around to to let him get his legs into the very tight front legs. He fought with the costume for the better part of five minutes never getting the costume on above his hips. He decided he’d have to strip to get his legs all the way into the costume. Once he took off everything, getting into costume was much easier. When he placed the antler headpiece on his head, he began to feel dizzy. It was fortunate that the rear portion had ended up in a position to support him or he would have fallen over. The dizziness passed after a few minutes and he pushed himself upright. The hindquarters paralleled his action and he found himself standing on all fours in the change room.
Olivia, too, received the instructions as she entered the back area and chose to disregard them as well. She owned a Lycra mermaid tail and knew full well how to get into a mermaid tail. The tail, once she stripped, slipped on far easier than her Lycra tail ever had. She found she didn’t have to fight getting her feet into a monofin either and that made a huge difference. She doubted she’d be able to swim in this costume though the workmanship was absolutely wonderful. The scales looked so realistic and even felt like fish scales! She too felt dizzy once in costume and, had she not been sitting on the bench in the change room, would likely have fallen.
Emma’s costume was in several pieces. Circe offered to help her into costume but Emma was a bit shy and insisted she could do it on her own. Circe did help get the pieces into a change room for her though. Emma’s costume looked like a furred body suit with pawed feet on the front attached to the furred back of a leopard or lion. The wings lay up against the wall but she could see where they attached as there were openings in the chest of the lion-like half that were obviously meant for the wings. Once into the body suit (which required she strip entirely before it would fit properly), Emma twisted in costume and attached the wings. They clicked into place with ease. Once the wings had been attached, Emma felt unbelievably tired and just had to lie down, curled next to her costume’s hindquarters like a large winged pussy cat.
Noah’s costume was clearly the wrong gender but Noah insisted on it anyway. He wanted to match Olivia in their sea theme. Circe warned it wouldn’t fit very well but Noah, having had a few too many in their last bar, pushed passed her leaving her holding the instructions. He wobbled into an empty change room and tried to get into costume. It took several attempts and a little of befuddled inspiration to realize the costume couldn’t be worn with his pants on. Deciding it probably would fit better if he were nude, he stripped and slipped into the bodice of the costume. The eight large tentacles hung like ropes from his waist. He was unsatisfied and was just about to leave the change room when the costume suddenly came to life. He was amazed that the tentacles could be controlled and bent in places he’d never imagined possible (even the pair with his legs in them bent strangely). It was then his pleasure at the costume turned to surprise and then shock. The costume was shrinking taking him with it. After several minutes, he was left only with his head attached to a mantle and eight tentacles. Instead of Ursula, he was an octopus with a human head.
Ethan and Ava made their selections almost at the same time. This was good for Ava as her costume required help to get into. Ethan tried to help her get her legs into the base (a huge potted cactus). The costume’s internal saddle (Ava decided it was so she could sit while in costume) didn’t fit well with Ava’s underclothes on. She and Ethan had been intimate in the past so there was no problem with stripping and getting into the pot again. Ethan handed her the shiny green top complete with cactus leaves for her hands and forearms. He pricked himself a couple of times (the spines were sharp!) before he managed to get her into the costume.
Since there was little room left with a cactus woman in the middle of the change room, Ethan retired next door to get into his costume, promising to return for her. That his costume was clearly meant for a woman was obvious because of the bare female breasts that were part of the costume. He didn’t want to go hunt for another costume as everyone else must be very nearly changed by now. Slipping into the costume, with it’s strange bird-like boots, was easy. He’d learned from Ava’s experience and had stripped first. Finally he slipped his arms into the wings that were like a feathered long sleeve jacket of sorts. With difficulty, the wings made holding anything difficult, he slipped on the beak mask and tottered towards the door. Bird foot boots would take a little getting used to, he decided. It was then that everything went from normal to unbelievable. He felt the costume press in on him from all sides. The room seemed to grow to about double it’s original size and he passed out.
Olivia was the first to come to her senses. Her alcohol haze was totally gone. She found herself lying in front of a huge mirror in a puddle of water. Looking around, she realized she was in the large open space outside the change rooms. Looking in the mirror, she found her ears were like those of a Hollywood elf except they had fin-like edges. The tail lay bent in strange places in the puddle. When she attempted to get up, her shriek at the discovery that she had no legs and that the tail could bend like a fish tail in all directions, brought Liam out of his change room. He quickly trotted over to her to help her but stopped, catching sight of himself in the mirror. He was small, svelte and most definitely female. The antlers were solidly attached to his skull, the headpiece having disappeared entirely. Ignoring Olivia, he reached for his new breast. It was definitely his (or hers …)
A few minutes later, Emma came to and, uncurling from her cat-like sleeping pose, got to her pawed feet. It didn’t strike her the least bit strange that she could move like a leopard or cat now. She padded out to the other two, caught sight of them and then of her own reflection. In her amazement, she pumped her wings and discovered that they most definitely worked as wings. She slid to a halt beside an unfamiliar woman in a deertaur costume. She looked up at her a few minutes before realizing she was short, far shorter than she’d started out before putting on the strange costume. An odd slurping sound from behind caught her attention and she twisted her upper body to what should have been a most painful angle.
A woman-headed octopus was dragging itself along the floor, leaving a trail of water behind it. None of the people at the mirror recognized Noah as an octopus woman. It took several minutes to drag himself (herself?) to the mirror. Her piercing soprano scream brought Ethan hopping from his change room. He (or maybe she?) could only make bird-like shrieks and caws now. The harpy flapped once and glided to the mirror. There she became most agitated but couldn’t be understood by anyone present.
A muffled call for help came out of Ava’s change room. It seemed she couldn’t move anything except her arms. She needed help to get out of the room. The strange deertaur, who Olivia realized was actually Liam in costume, trotted to the room and began to drag Ava to the mirror. She was cactus from head to toe (er, roots) now. Only her face remained to identify her.
“What is going on?” Emma asked plaintively.
“It’s the costumes,” an alto voiced Liam responded. “They changed us somehow.”
“Can we change back?” a soprano voiced Noah asked rhetorically.
“I sure hope so,” Ava replied slowly. Ethan could only caw sadly as her response.
A strange electronic hissing sound behind them caught their attention. A blue glow grew from a point until it was a circle the size of a person. It's surface writhed and twisted but didn't seem to change shape. Anyone looking at the disk for any length of time would get a nasty headache. The shop’s owner stepped through the glowing, writhing portal. Surveying the six, she shook her head.
“Young people,” she began. “always the same. Not one of you read the instructions, did you?”
A glance passed amongst the six. Finally Olivia twisted herself in her puddle
“I know how to get into a mermaid tail. I own one for swimming.”
“You most certainly do now. The instructions were a spell to keep the costumes from being permanent. Had you read them, the costumes would have fit reasonably well and you could have rented them. You’d have had a great time at the party you were going to and they would have vanished after the party was over.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s been years since the Greek myths were taught by your progressive educational system. I’ve been around a long time …”
“Shoot,” interrupted Liam. “You can’t be more than 30.”
“I haven’t been 30 in 3000 years. Do any of you know who Circe was?”
“Hell no,” Liam growled as best as his female voice could manage. “Why should we?”
“I encountered Odysseus and managed to turn most of his men into pigs many centuries ago. Pigs and animals aren’t terribly challenging any more.”
“Challenging?” asked Noah.
“These transformations are far more interesting for me. Now, if you’ll be so kind, please step through the portal. My island awaits. You’ve no place in this world any longer.”
“You can change us back, right?” came Ava’s worried query.
“Why would I want to? I stay young by absorbing the life force of those I transform. You will live out your lives on my island and age faster than you would here. Eventually, you will die on my island.”
“But our families …”
“Will search. My island isn’t on Earth. You won’t be found.”
“I texted my friends about ..”
“I know that quite well. They will find an empty shop in a nearly empty strip mall.”
“But …” Ethan began to cry.
Liam had other ideas. She charged Circe, head down, meaning to impale her on her antlers. Circe laughed as she cast a glowing yellow ball at the charging deertaur. When it struck, Liam stopped dead frozen in place, and shrank to a glowing orb. The orb swirled the room a few times and then entered the glowing portal.
“She’ll complete her charge on the island,” Circe laughed. “End up very surprised at having a new environment and no target.”
Emma and Ethan dropped their gaze and trudged as dejectedly as their new forms would allow to the portal. They too vanished in a shrinking glowing ball.
“This leaves the three of you,” Circe noted. “Two of you can join the reef community. You aren't the first sea creatures I've created,” she waved a hand and a pair of orbs struck Olivia and Noah. “As for you, my dear. I’d love to have you stay at my palace. You’ll make a fine addition to my arboretum there.”
As soon as Ava in her glowing orb entered the portal, Circe stepped through the portal herself. The shop and everything in it faded from existence.