Chapter 1
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Adrian bounced his leg anxiously as he sat in the doctor’s office waiting for his name to be called. This was it. Today was finally the day. He had waited so long for this, and had to jump through so many hoops to get here. There were all the doctors he had spoken to about his mental health and state of being about the general wrongness he constantly felt. He even had to get legal permission to go through with this procedure, because there were supposedly those who would abuse it. Today was finally the day he would “get his ears” as the phrase went.

In this world there exists people who experience a certain kinship with animal spirits. These people are usually born with traits of this animal, typically eyes, ears and a tail. Every once in awhile someone is born who is connected with an animal spirit, but the traits never manifested, which causes a strong sense of disconnect and dysphoria with their body. By seeing doctors who specialize in spirituality and magic, a certain magic procedure can be done to bring out the animal traits to rectify this. This was Adrian’s situation.

“Adrian Bennett?” a nurse called.

Adrian immediately stood from his chair.

“How are you today?” the nurse asked.

“Good. How are you?” he returned.

“Good! I’m Mara, and I’m your nurse for today,” The nurse replied as she led him down a hall and into a room. The room had chairs along one wall, and a computer for the doctors and nurses to use. The rest of the room was completely bare, save for a large pillow on the floor and a lamp in the corner. Adrian immediately went to sit on the pillow but the nurse stopped him. “Please take a seat in one of the chairs for now. That will come later.”

Adrian did as he was told. The nurse went through the standard procedure of checking his weight and blood pressure. After making sure everything was okay, she asked “Any changes since you last saw Dr. West?”

“No, none. Everything still feels the same.”

“And what is ‘the same’?”

“Can’t you just look at the file? Nothing’s changed and I’m ready for the procedure.”

“I understand your frustration, but this is the final check to make sure everything is absolutely okay before we start.”

Adrian sighed. “Fine. I still feel like my body is wrong. I feel a phantom tail and animal ears on top of my head where there are none. I’m always forgetting that I’m completely human and not Kinfolk.”

The nurse nodded. “And your medications?”

“Just Prozac, which I haven’t taken in a month just like the directions said.”

“Good. Have you taken any over-the-counter medications in the since yesterday?”

“None.”

“When did you last eat?”

“Yesterday at around 6:30.”

“Okay, and I can see you don’t have any ear piercings so nothing to take out there.”

“Nope.”

“Now, I have to reiterate the risks of this procedure. If something goes wrong or the procedure is interrupted it could result in no traits at all manifesting, malformed traits, or on the extreme end, your entire body may change, such as a change in height, or your features becoming altered, and any changes would be permanent.”

“Yes, I am aware of everything that might go wrong.”

“And it looks like we have your mom as the person to call if anything happens. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then! Everything checks out. The doctor will be in shortly.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” the nurse said. “And congratulations.”

Adrian smiled at that. He was left to stew in the near silence, broken only by the sound of the computer tower whirring and the dull hum of the fluorescent lights overhead. After nearly ten minutes of awaiting his new future, Dr. Mattox knocked and finally stepped through the door.

“Hello again, Adrian!” Dr. Mattox said, wheeling in a cart behind him. Adrian and met with Dr. Mattox before during the consultation. The cart he brought in was full of an assortment of jars, each containing various herbs and plants that were necessary. What was about to happen was called a procedure but was really more of a ritual. “Now if I can just have you sit on that pillow there, if you would?”

“Yep!” Adrian responded, and hurriedly plopped himself onto the pillow and sat cross-legged.

Dr. Mattox chuckled. “Eager, aren’t we?”

“Well yeah! My body’s finally going to be fixed!”

The doctor smiled, “Well it’s going to take a few minutes to get ready. I’m going to start some calming music for you to help you relax. While I’m getting ready I want you to take long, slow breaths, and to focus on your animal. Oh, and remember to pull your pants down slightly to give room for your tail to grow.” He walked over to the computer and turned on some gentle, mystical-sounding music.

Adrian nodded and closed his eyes after adjusting his pants. Being relaxed helped the procedure go much smoother. He sat without moving, and tried to listen only on the sounds playing from the computer. He focused on his animal, the maned wolf. Ever since he was little he had been aware of the spirit’s presence, and instinctively knew what it was.

“Now I’m going to light the incense. It might sting your eyes a little.”

The doctor lit the incense and the smell permeated the room. It was strong and pungent. Adrian couldn’t place the scent, but it was definitely some kind of plant that he was smelling.

The doctor began removing ingredients from his jars and mixing them in a bowl. When that was done he carefully spread it in a circle around Adrian. He then turned on the lamp in the corner and shut off the main light.

“Now Adrian,” the doctor began. “Are you completely ready?”

“Yes,” Adrian replied monotonously.

“Good, good. Just keep maintaining your breathing and focusing on your maned wolf, and I will do the rest.” Dr. Mattox then took out a large, thick book and began reading from it after selecting the correct page. Adrian didn’t know the language. He just knew that it was old, and that not even the modern combination of science and magic had a complete understanding of it yet.

Adrian remained seated as the doctor began. He could hear the doctor’s voice, droning on as he spoke in the ancient tongue and shuffled slowly around in a circle. Adrian found himself falling into a trance. The only thing on his mind was the maned wolf, and he could feel the connection between him and the spirit growing stronger. It felt like he was gently floating toward it, and would eventually reach it, when suddenly there was a loud “Pop!” noise, something falling, then Dr. Mattox’s voice quietly saying “Shit!”

Adrian felt like he was violently flung forward toward the spirit and his body convulsed on the ground as it began to change. He didn’t have control over his body, but if he did he would be screaming in agony as it felt like everything was on fire from the inside out.

After what seemed like hours Adrian’s body completed the changes. He could feel that he was covered in sweat and bruises. He blearily opened his eyes. As he regained consciousness he saw Dr. Mattox and Nurse Mara kneeling over him with concerned looks on their faces.

“What happened?” Adrian asked. His voice sounded wrong, but he chalked that up to how incredibly dry his throat felt.

“Could you get him some water?” Dr. Mattox asked the nurse. She nodded and left the room. “Adrian…” the doctor started “… There was an accident.”

Adrian’s eyes opened wide in shock. “What do you mean?”

The doctor sighed. “I’m so sorry, Adrian. This shouldn’t have happened.”

“What happened?” Adrian asked again.

“The lamp burst. I don’t know how yet but it was probably just the bulb. I was so startled by the noise I dropped my book. I could still see from the light of the computer, and I could tell that the book landed on the circle and broke it.”

“Am I okay?”

“You’ll have to get checked out to be sure, but physically, I think you’ll probably only be bruised. But…”

“But what?”

“Your body changed Adrian.”

“The traits are malformed, then?”

“No, they’re all there.” Dr. Mattox was avoiding Adrian’s gaze. “What happened is you’ve become female. I’m sorry.”

“What…” Adrian slowly got up. He was still weak and in pain from the sudden transformation. He could feel his new tail as he moved, and felt glad about that, but as he sat up he noticed his shirt sticking out from his chest. “My chest…” He carefully made his way into a sitting position and leaned against the wall. He could feel an absence between his legs, and his clothes were far too large for him now. He just continued to lean against the wall in shock until the nurse came back with the water, which he eagerly drank. “So what happens now? How do we fix this?” His voice was much smoother now without the dryness, and it was decidedly high in pitch compared to his old one.

“We can’t.”

“But the ritual wasn’t completed!”

“Even an interrupted ritual counts as a completed one.”

“But...! How am I…? What am I supposed to do?”

“A ritual can only happen to a person once in their lifetime. Anything more would be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. I’m so, so sorry this happened, but there’s nothing that can be done here.”

There was a knock at the door. A voice on the other side said, “Grace Bennett is here.” Before Adrian could prepare himself his mom stepped through the door.

“Adrian? Is that really you?”

“Mom…” Adrian didn’t want to be seen like this. He could feel the new ears on top of his head folding back as he began tearing up.

She wrapped him in a hug and gently rubbed his head, which felt great on his new ears. It was then that he noticed his hair was much longer as well. He began sobbing. “This was supposed to be the day my entire life began, when I could finally be who I was supposed to be. Now I’m someone else.”

“You’re not someone else, sweetie,” Grace began. “You’re still you. You’re still my child.”

Adrian didn’t say anything else and just cried while his mom held him.

“Where do we go from here?” Grace asked.

“It’s best he’s looked at immediately to make sure there weren’t any further complications. Someone will be here soon with a stretcher to bring him to the medical part of the building where they’ll make sure he’s physically okay.”

They sat in silence while Adrian sniffled and after several minutes, the stretcher finally arrived. Adrian shakily stood up, helped by his mom and one of the people who brought the stretcher. His pants fell down which embarrassed him, but they managed to get him into the stretcher and began wheeling him over to the medical area, followed by Grace.

They brought him to a standard hospital room, and he was transferred to the bed. A doctor did some preliminary tests which showed he was okay so far. Adrian then fell asleep from exhaustion while his mom watched TV. After a few hours he was woken up to have a complete scan of his body done, which determined that he was a healthy young woman. They had him stay overnight in case anything happened, but he was to be released tomorrow morning with some medicine to help speed up the healing process for all his bruises.

Upon arriving home Adrian immediately went to his room to be alone. He lay in his bed snuggling his new tail while wearing a bittersweet smile at what it had cost him. He cried again and barely ate anything or left his bed that day. After a few days of missed absences in his college courses he ended up dropping the semester. His friends were worried about him but he just ignored them. After two weeks passed, Kara, one of his friends, came to check on him.

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