|A Walk in the Enchanted National Forest
by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
It's always nice to just walk through one of the Enchanted National Forests of Canada -- even with all the forms and releases you had to sign. Once again I was glad I was born male, females had all kinds of additional forms to fill out before they'd let you in.
There was something subtly different between a normal forest, and an enchanted forest. The latter had greener leaves, brighter sunshine, more interesting bird calls. Its sunlit air danced with pollen and unknown fuzzy things. The movie Legend had gotten a special license to film in an Enchanted National Forest--
The path I was on led to a small wooden bridge, or so I remembered, before curving away to avoid the curtain that led to the so-called Unseen World. Of course, with the superhighways leading into it, it was hardly unseen these days! My mind was drawn back to reality with I began to hear the pleasant burbling of water over rocks up ahead. It didn't take long for me to get there, but then I ran into a problem.
The bridge was gone.
A quick check suggested that the bridge had been washed out as there was flood debris high up along the bank, and the bridge remnants looked like they'd been torn apart.
Stopping, I scratched my beard, and then checked the map. My only option was to go back almost two miles and take the alternate path. It was late, I could see the path on the far side, and the stream was now shallow and quiet. And, my boots were certified water proof. Sure, everybody told you to never leave the path in an Enchanted National Forest, but, there were dire warnings everywhere, who'd ever know?
A last check to make sure nobody was around, and then I dashed down the slight slope, crumbled stone tinkling and crackling beneath my heel, and started splashing across the stream.
That water was cold! So cold that I'd have sworn that liquid nitrogen was warm in comparison. I watched an iceberg bobble down it.
At that point something brushed against my foot, something big and heavy, and I stumbled; a rock slid underneath my left boot and I fell face first into the icy water.
"Sorry about that! You startled me," a bubbly voice stated.
Blinking my eyes I saw the blurry image of a trout covered in some kind of white furry growth. Its fins lazily moved as it hovered there against the current, it's fur pushed back by the current, it's big mouth opening and closing with the regularity of a metronome.
I tried to stand up, pushing with my hands against the bottom, but I couldn't move them. The water cleared and I saw the fish, I could tell that it was a trout, watching me.
"You really should have stayed on the path you know," it's bubbly voice said.
"What's happening to me?" I spit out, icy water dribbling down my throat but not into my stomach or lungs. My mouth started opening and closing on its own.
"Too late. Don't worry, it'll get warmer soon. Don't know why the water's so icy cold here. The fur really helps."
I felt myself shrinking, everything faded around me, wavering in a blue-green glow. My clothes slid off, tugged and yanked by the water, before bouncing downstream in a tangled mass. I would have sworn I could see watery hands in the ice-cold stream carrying them off. Chill passed into my skin, I gasped, bubbles gurgled out of my wide open mouth as I sank deeper into the arctic liquid.
My legs shrunk, my feet flattening and turning into pelvic fins, a tail burst out and blossomed into a wide ribbed blade. My arms coiled inside me like a slinky and my hands spread out into pectoral fins. Spines burst out my back and behind where my legs had once been, and folds of skin grew between them.
But, all I could feel was the cold. The icy, bitter cold, sapping my soul. I gasped, the freezing water curdling down my throat and out through my gills, sucking the warmth right out of me.
Scales blossomed, and I struggled to stay in place, waving fins and jerking all over.
"You need to calm down! Let the magic finish, it'll be warm soon."
Finally, long silky white fur burst out, growing between my scales, ensheathing me in a coat of luxurious ivory warmth. I slowed down, my breathing calmed. I could feel my fur wavering in the current, keeping me nice and toasty warm.
The trout swam around me, it's mouth opening and closing. "Oh my!"
"What?" My voice was all bubbly too, though higher pitched than his, and I could feel a last few globes of air tickle their way out through my gills and up to the surface to be swept away.
"You're beautiful dear!"
The furry trout rubbed against me, its hair tickling and intermingling with mine.
"Very beautiful indeed!"
Trying to swim, I was nowhere near as fast as he, nor as experienced, and soon I learned how female I'd really become--
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