Normally Sylvia was not an early riser, especially after only about three hours sleep. But the next morning she came instantly awake a little after sun-up, the sound of birds in the trees out back her alarm clock.
Well, normally before she turned into wereseamonster. Now apparently there was a new normally.
She came lithely upright feeling perfectly rested. She felt she ought to stretch and blink sleep from her eyelids but apparently werewhatevers were immune from such ordinary needs.
She made a huge breakfast, a dozen bacon strips and a half-dozen eggs, still good despite a month in the fridge. She used up half the stale loaf of bread for toast, throwing away several slices with mold on them. The pot of coffee she finished off, though she used to pour out most of it. Her bladder and belly took everything and didn’t seem to need emptying. Apparently she also had super insides as well as outsides.
She had the breakfast in the front porch table area. As she ate she looked out over the low white picket fence at the ocean. It rolled forever over the horizon, a beautiful swathe of dark blue liquid shading to aqua near shore. She could look at it for hours at a time. As busy as she usually liked to be she had always been able to zone out at oceanside.
A few clouds disturbed the blue sky and glances to the left and right showed her the beach curving away toward both horizons, the near-jungle back of the sand a dark-green backdrop.
Perhaps an hour later Sylvia stood up and took her emptied tray back to the kitchen. This time she cleaned everything up and wiped down the sink insides. In her bedroom she made the bed and hung her robe in the closet. Then, naked, carrying a hand mirror, she walked outside. She had much exploration to do about her new condition.
In the bright sunlight she examined her body directly and with the mirror. Not one detail marked her as no longer human. Except she no longer had any of the tiny scars most people collected. She, for instance, had had a barely visible knitted white line on the back of one finger from a childhood cut. Nor did she have any of the moles and pits and other skin imperfections.
Examining inside her crotch she discovered she was virgin again.
Her skin had formerly been a pale white which burned easily. The instant she stepped into sunlight it became a pale tan and when she backed into the doorway it became white again. That changeable nature could be a problem when people noticed it.
She stared at her skin, wondering if she could change its color by — say — wishing for freckles. And they showed up. It took less than a second. Banishing them took another second. An ebony skin came and went just as easily though it took longer.
She shook her head. This would take some getting used to.
She opened her mouth and, by angling her mirror and head, used the bright sunlight, both ambient and re-directed, to look into her mouth. Not an unusual detail that she could see, though a dentist or a throat doctor might notice something. Especially she saw nothing to do with water breathing. But then if there was a bypass of her belly down there into her lungs it would be further down. However, her sense of her interior told her there was no bypass now.
Last she looked at her hair. It looked perfectly normal. The usual offshore breeze swung the bulk of it as it should, stray hairs flew randomly…
At that thought her hair shifted of its own accord to settle perfectly in place. And she felt her hairs do it.
She stared at a curl of her hair. Why in the world would she grow ten thousand new organs and limbs?
Could they can change color? Maybe to red?
A wash of color flooded her hair. It kept its curls. It gleamed the way it always had, maybe with a little extra sheen.
Could she do black? She could indeed but it took several times as long.
Brown? No problem? Streaks? Not so successful. They were uncoordinated. Maybe with practice. She returned to her normal bright blond ringlets.
Could she lengthen or shorten her hair? Yes, but within limits, at least rapidly. Beyond a couple of inches the stretch or shrink slowed but she knew somehow that she could change her length much if given a few hours or days.
Change curliness? Mixed results again, some very radical, and quite ugly, as if she’d been on an all-night drunk. She brought her hair back to normal again.
When she could get access to a microscope she could cut off a length and —
Damn! Her hair shrunk tight to her head as if trying to hide!
For a moment she wondered if each hair had a mind of its own but a moment later realized that she herself had reacted to the idea as she would to the idea of amputating one of her arms or legs.
Well, her hair was long enough that with a little careful arrangement she could still look at it through a ‘scope viewer. Or arrange for someone else to take photomicrographs. Or maybe her pubic hair —
Which was when she noticed she had none. The hair down there was so light that she normally didn’t notice at all. Now it was gone.
Maybe for the best. A man might be understandably shaken if her pubic hair began caressing his member!
Sylvia giggled, then broke into helpless laughter at the images evoked.
Well, enough self-examination for now. She needed to retrieve that window protector.
She left the mirror on the front porch table and went around the back of the house. The white fence surrounded a mini-orchard in the back surrounding a barbecue pit and some plastic lawn chairs. All of this had come with the house and once Sylvia had enjoyed spending time here. But now she couldn’t imagine spending time back here, nice as it was, when an entire beach stretched before her.
Past the back fence the low grass became higher and low bushes began to intrude into the margin between the grass and the trees. Perhaps she should go back for some shoes and pants —
But rough leaves and limbs did no worse than tickle her legs and stones and stickers the same for her feet. Which underscored yet again she was no longer human. Maybe a sophisticated machine? No, her body was too complex and flexible for that, unless it had been made by some very advanced aliens.
But why would they do something like this? Well, OK, aliens: alien thinking and motives. But still — it made more sense to her that this was some kind of natural phenomenon. Yeah, that was her prejudice showing. She was after all a scientist.
Toward the end of her trek she was a tad surprised, she’d been thinking so much, to find she’d reached the trees. She looked back a the cottage. Maybe half a football field in distance. And she’d effectively shot-put maybe fifty pounds over her head into the trees maybe another half-field distance!
Jesus Christ. Human muscles just did not have the kind of energy that took.
She looked down at an arm, turned the wrist over and back. Was her wrist bone thicker? The other bones in her arms? Maybe a little. Not much. Her muscles? She squeezed a bicep. It was hard, like a slab of leather, though it was not tensed. Definitely not normal — not that she’d expected normal. Yet it flexed easily and looked little larger (if at all) than it had been.
She shook her head and went deeper into the trees, a mixture of oak and taller palm trees, an old growth, the trees well-separated but providing complete cover from the sun. She found the bars easily. They’d plunged through the tops of two trees before arresting in a third and tumbled to the ground. The mid-trunk of the first tree had been decapitated and hung askew, kept in place by the trees around it.
She hadn’t thrown a shot put. She’d fired a cannon into these trees.
She looked at her slender hands. She would never need a gun as long as she could grasp a convenient possible missile. And if they got within arm reach she could just tear them apart. She was a God-damned lethal weapon.
When she reached it the heavy grid of welded-together iron bars seemed to weigh no more than a frying pan and was no more unwieldy to her muscles than a book.
What a neuromuscular system! Earlier she had handled kitchen utensils including a frail coffee cup with delicacy. There was some serious asymptotic scaling of the system’s feedback mechanisms.
On the way back to her home she amused herself by throwing the bars into the air. It took some skill not to be thrown off her balance, since it weighed a large fraction of her weight. But her reflexes seemed to be several times faster than human and she had no problems.
Which was yet another of the now-long list of her non-human traits. Human nerve impulses had only a limited speed.
It was lunch-time by the time Sylvia had reached the house and made an appointment a few days away for repair people to re-attach the bars and repair the walls they were attached to. To her relief she only needed two stuffed sandwiches to satisfy her. Apparently the monster meals earlier had been catching her up to some need. Caused by the energy of shapechanging?
After eating she took care of her mail, just in time for the mailman’s arrival. She hurried into a robe so she could see the little round man personally.
“Señorita Cubana Doctora! You’re back. Did you have a good trip?”
She made up a lie to explain her absence, answering him in Spanish, which she’d learned in Miami as a child from Cuban playmates. Her accent had softened from the fast choppy Cuban pace but the Carribeanos still teased her sometimes of being a Cubanista.
“René, how are you? Yes, it was a good trip. You know, school business. Your family?”
“OK. OK. Caramela is teething. Ai! My poor wife. She gets no sleep.”
“That’s because you are a male chauvinist pig, René. Never caring for children. Sitting back like a big king in your chair at home.”
He laughed as he handed her a fat package with a green Post Office acknowledgement card. He found her remark a joke because the truth was exactly the opposite of her accusation, as they both knew she knew. Like most Latin men he was deeply involved in his family and just as likely to feed or soothe a child at night as his wife.
“I knew you’d be back so I kept bringing this. It’s for your studies, yes?”
“It is indeed. Thank you very much my friend.”
The corrections on her dissertation’s third part were few and took only a half hour to complete. She printed it out, then she set beside it the fourth and last part with its numerous Post-It notes and red-ink corrections. She had only two weeks to finish it and mail it and the third part back to her dissertation adviser. She was determined to do it despite this radical interruption. But first she had more exploring to do.
In a bikini she slowly approached the edge of the sea as it came foaming up the sand and sighed back in place. She tentatively buried a toe in water.
She felt no reaction. She took a couple of steps to fully stand in the water as it came up above then dropped below her ankles. Still no change.
Minutes later still nothing. She wished for her feet to change, slowly.
A tickle then a tingle touched her skin. Barely covered by the water she could see her toes begin to lengthen, the nails lengthen more. The nails became fatter, curved a bit, became impressive claws. Webs spun into place between her toes. Then the change stopped, completed.
Sylvia swished a foot back and forth in the water. It had impressive push-power, just as an artificial swim-fin did, but she also had much finer control of it, and she could feel the water with it.
She walked out of the water. The clawed frog feet did not change. She clumped back and forth at the water line to test them out. That way she’d leave no tracks.
She sat down and looked at one foot closely, all her learned and objective professional interest involved. But beneath it she was thrilled. She was seeing close-up parts of a creature totally unknown to science!
It was so totally weird that SHE was the creature.
Further investigation showed that she could change her feet, hands, and teeth at will and control exactly how much or little they manifested. Some changes weren’t under her control, at least not yet. The cruel curve of her thumb claws would not change angle or shape though they’d change size.
She swam around but submerged only long enough to be sure she only became a water breather when she willed it. She would not betray herself in a swimming pool or at the beach by involuntarily converting.
Though she was sure, somehow, that she would convert if she started drowning.
Satisfied, Sylvia left the water. She was becoming ever more hungry and concluded that changing was increasing her need for food. She had little at home, between age wastage and her earlier bingeing. It was time for a food run to San Luisita.
She showered and dressed in jeans, tee-shirt, and tennies and hauled her bike out of the tiny tool shed. The front tire was a bit flat again and she topped off both tires with the tire pump. She draped the canvas carriers on each side of the bike behind her seat and set off. As she pedaled eastward the bright early-afternoon sunlight slanted a bit in front of her, casting a dark shadow. She reached the road and turned north.