Steven Bergom

Michael sighed as he parked his car in the garage. It seemed that every god known to man — and some not — conspired to make every task he performed that day take a little longer than he wanted and so he ended up arriving home much later than he originally planned. Rebecca, his girlfriend of three years, would not be happy.

The house was preternaturally quiet as he stepped through the door, and even his cheery greeting elicited no response. Shrugging, Michael assumed that Rebecca had stepped out for a while and didn't think any more on it, preferring the phrase, "Out of sight, out of mind." With that he put his briefcase and coat in the hall closet and made his way to the kitchen.

His first order of business was to find something to wash the taste of the vodka concoction his secretary gave him out of his mouth. The cupboards were relatively empty, a blatant reminder that someone would have to do the grocery shopping soon, and there was little selection in the refrigerator as well. Wondering if pot roast was supposed to be that shade of green he reached past the nearly-empty bottle of soda and grabbed the pitcher of cranberry juice. He poured the juice into a clean glass, put the pitcher back in the refrigerator and then made his way to the living room.

The condition of the living room should have indicated that something was afoot. When he left for work that morning, the living room was relatively clean; a few books left out on the end tables and the sofa cushions could use some fluffing up. Michael and Rebecca weren't bad house-keepers, but they did tend to be indifferent when it came to cleaning a home. Now, however, the room was spotless, and the only time that any room in the house was ever in as pristine a condition was when Rebecca was angry. At that moment Michael didn't notice that he could clearly see his reflection in the woodwork.

Michael sipped at his juice, not yet aware that his life was in danger and thumbed through the TV Guide, musing at how well the cranberry flavor washed away the aftertaste of the liquor. There wasn't going to be much on the television, he noted. There never was, anymore; shows were dictated more and more by the wants and desires of fictional test audiences and sponsors more worried about avoiding offending the masses so that bad feelings would not be associated with their product. When a relatively decent show happened to be put on the air the networks usually found something wrong with it and yanked it before even a fraction of the season was completed. As such it was with happy surprise that he found hiding in the mediocrity of "Friends" and "Walker: Texas Ranger" a lone rerun of "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer". When he raised his head to look for the remote control, he saw her.

Rebecca stood with her arms folded across her chest in the center of the room. Her green eyes flashed with an inner light and her nostrils flared with each breath. If she were a dragon Michael had no doubt that flames would be shooting from her nostrils, scorching anything they touched. More than a little flustered at her fearsome appearance Michael took a nervous drink of his juice. "Hello, honey," he said when he achieved a sense of calm. "How was your day?"

Ignoring him Rebecca glared at her boyfriend malevolently. "Where were you?" she asked in a voice that indicated that no answer but the absolute truth would be tolerated.

"Where I told you I would be, honey," he answered reasonably. "I was at the bar buying my secretary, Miss Brooks, a drink for that bet we had going on who would win last Sunday's game. Since I lost I—"

"Silence!" Rebecca roared. She had not moved, and that made her self-contained rage all the more dreadful. "I followed you. I know where you've been. You did not just go to the bar like you said! Now, where have you been?!"

"No, really! I went to the bar with Lisa and—"

"And?" she prompted, her anger visibly growing by the minute. When Michael, stunned beyond words, did not speak, Rebecca continued for him. "After work you went to Miss Brooks' house." She stated, spitting out the secretary's name like it was venom. "Didn't you?! And don't lie because I followed you!"

"Okay," Michael said finally. "I went to Lisa's house because she wanted to show me her NFL tea cozy collection."

"For three hours?!"

Michael shrugged. "It was a large collection."

"And then you thought you could put me off the trail by calling me, saying that you were at some bar and that you would be late! Do you think I'm stupid?"

"But, Honey, I have a receipt—"

"I'm not finished!" Rebecca interrupted. Her arms had finally dropped from their position across her chest and she began punctuating her screams and yells with stabs of her fingers in Michael's general direction. "Receipts can be forged! Timestamps can be faked! A piece of paper that you claim came from someplace is not proof of anything! You have been cheating on me and I know it!

"Oh, don't look so surprised. Don't think that I haven't noticed you sneaking around all the time, going outside at all times of the night. 'I'm just meeting some friends,' you'd say in the morning. What kind of friends, I ask you? The kind that you take to a sleazy motel and leave a tip for if they're 'extra friendly'?

"And now you're with that— that— tramp of a secretary! You're old enough to be her father, for Pete's sake! Don't you have any morals? Can't you keep your dick in your pants long enough to walk away, or is that too hard!"

Rebecca continued with her rant for nearly half of an hour. At first Michael tried to interrupt but she verbally walked right over his objections, listening to nary a word he said. Instead of continuing a fruitless effort, he just stood on the carpet, sipping occasionally at his cranberry juice.

Eventually Rebecca's tirade began to wind down. However, instead of giving Michael a chance for rebuttal, she had other plans. "All men should know we women feel when you bastards cheat on us! Most women don't have the power, but I do. I am a witch, Michael A real witch, and I am going to turn you into a woman so that you can know the feeling of shame when a man treads on your feelings!" With a look of malicious glee Rebecca raised her arms to the already agitated heavens and began chanting.

"Kandel et me-dee 
libel no sonnet 
arakkis, arakkis hennet arafat 
tedelat ney hyundai 

"Bed lak tulu 
arat, no les 
robrikk tintael 
anodine leth lor 
de tu 
abond a.  

"Nephret!  Nephret 
idio matische 
turat, turek, tillet 

As the winds and thunder called up during the spell died down, Rebecca knelt on hands and knees on the floor, gasping for breath. Large spells such as the one she just intoned were always energy intensive and left her listless for days on end, but it was worth it. Chuckling softly at the exquisite punishment she had visited on her errant boyfriend she looked up…

…and beheld Michael standing before her, calmly sipping at his cranberry juice. "Quite good," he said appreciatively. "Your accent was perfect, but you need to work on your rhythm. Oh, and in the second stanza, the fifth line should be, 'de tarek tu'. Overall, that was pretty good for a second level witch. Unfortunately, you made a mistake.

"Rebecca, I'm an eighth-level warlock; I thought for sure you would have figured it out by now. Those late-night escapades? Those were meeting with the council. In a sense, I really was meeting with friends, though it was to do business, not just drink a few beers and have a good time.

"Now, however, we have to get rid of this," Michael said pulling his left hand from behind his back to show a sphere of blue energy, crackling it's rage at being confined. "You can't just let spells dissipate; they have too much energy! If you did that, whole cities could be leveled with a spell that does no more than brush your teeth. So, here! You can have it back." With a negligent flip of the wrist he tossed the ball at Rebecca, still kneeling on the floor in stunned disbelief.

The ball burst upon Rebecca's forehead like a soap bubble before cascading over her. Anticlimactically, nothing happened except for a few tickles of static electricity. "I hope you don't mind but I made a few changes to the base spell; since I can't really turn you into a girl I had to change that. Oh, and I'm not one for theatricality so no storms and such…"

Michael then sighed with real regret. "You know, I'm kinda' disappointed that you didn't trust me. I really did go to the bar with Miss Brooks, and I did go to her house to see her tea cozy collection. Which reminds me," he said, setting down his glass on an end table. "I have something for you."

While Michael left the room Rebecca noticed that her perceptions of the room began to change, somewhat like what happens when one stands up too fast. As if she was in an elevator going down, the couch, chairs and door arch rose up. The wood polish she used earlier began its assault on her nose and all the colors of the room washed out. She knew she was smaller than before but she couldn't turn her head to see what was happening to her. Instead she had to satisfy herself with the feeling of her clothes slipping along her skin.

"Here!" Michael exclaimed, returning to the room and sitting down in front of his quickly changing girlfriend. "Lisa made you your very own tea cozy," he said, brandishing a green and yellow cloth contraption. "She knew you liked the Green Bay Packers so she stitched together one with Brett Favre and all his stats. Of course, you're probably unable to read any of this right now, aren't you?

"I really am sorry about all this, but it had to be done." Setting aside the cozy, Michael reached over and picked up his transformed girlfriend. Rebecca struggled but he held her firmly, stroking her side with gentle caresses. "You see, from time to time I serve as a judge on the council, and one of the laws that must always be upheld is that the assault on a superior be properly punished. Since you did attack me, well… Let's just say I am honor-bound not to let you off easily.

"Look at the bright side, Rebecca," he said, continuing to pet a much calmed Rebecca. "Before you could gain a higher rank you'd have to find your way out of a transformation spell sooner or later. I had to. I've been a wolf, a tiger, a Galapagos turtle," and here Michael smiled wryly, "and I've even been a girl. Most interesting couple of years of my life!

The warlock talked for several minutes on his past experiences, what he was going to teach her and what to expect in the coming weeks. A much more relaxed Rebecca even found herself starting to purr at his ministrations. She still wasn't too happy at what he had done to her, but she'd get even; a few late-night singing contests and the occasional dead mouse lying around were definitely called for.

"So I tell you what," Michael wound down. "I'll fix you a nice bowl-ful of canned tuna and we'll see what happens after that. Okay?" With a happy "mrowr" Rebecca climbed off of her companion's lap and waited somewhat patiently for him to lead the way to the kitchen. The thought of fish was absolutely delectable to her newly feline brain, but that didn't mean Michael wouldn't find cat vomit waiting where he would least expect it.

He wasn't going to get off that easily.