|The Perils of Were-Ostrichdom
by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
Melanie Nicholson walked into the office bright and early Friday morning. She was hot, sticky, and tired. She had been working in this hick town for only a week, and it had taken her the entire week to finally to get the records, or lack thereof, organized. In fifteen years as a social worker she had never seen such a disaster. That's probably why the state office had sent her down to this county office to take care of things.
She flopped down into the old wooden chair that was the best there was to offer and picked up the first case she had to look into. She browsed through it to refresh her memory. It referred to a Mr. Tim Corrigan who lived just outside of town. He had never married, but was raising three children. That would not have been odd except that every child was an orphan that he had found on his doorstep.
Melanie could accept one foundling, maybe even two, but three?! She had already passed the information on to other authorities to check for missing children and had gotten their responses but hadn't had time to look at them. Now she did - there was no correlation. So, where were the babies coming from?
There was a creak as the office door opened and Melanie looked up and saw Miss Walters walk in, late as usual. She had been the sole worker here until Melanie had arrived.
"Why, good morning Ms Nicholson! You're in early."
Miss Walters' cheerfulness never failed to get on Melanie's nerves, particularly first thing in the morning. And particularly when she was in a foul mood, which she had been ever since arriving in this hick town in the middle of nowhere. She scowled. "Somebody has to get some work down around here."
Miss Walters, who had asked Melanie to call her Roberta many times, walked up to her desk. "Oh come on, its Friday. There's nothing that can't wait until Monday. I know some men that I can introduce you to..."
Melanie stood up and glared at Miss Walters. Every day she would try to hook her up with a guy - she seemed to think that being unattached at thirty was unnatural. Melanie had no plans to get married, or even to meet someone. She had a career to worry about. "As I have told you before," she began dryly, "I don't have any interest whatsoever in any men you might know. I have no plans to stay here once I clean up the mess you left. I care about my work." Melanie stared until Miss Walters turned away.
"I do care about children," Miss Walters whispered. "But I also care about others." She turned around and started walking to her desk.
Melanie remembered the case she was looking at. "What about Mr. Corrigan?"
Miss Walters turned and looked at her.
"Don't you think it the least odd that he has found three babies over the last fifteen years?"
"No." Her answer was a whisper - almost, Melanie thought, as though she knew something.
"You've never gone to talk to him, to find out what is going on."
"No. You shouldn't either."
"Why not?! What if he's stealing them from other parents? Is that good for the children you care about?"
This time it was Miss Walter's turn to glare. She stomped back and gripped the edge of Melanie's desk. "He is the best father anybody could want. His children are well behaved, and have never broken the law. They're happy."
"But if they're stolen, then their parent's aren't. Shouldn't we find out?"
"You don't want to go there."
"There are rumours..."
"Rumours?" Melanie's response was dry.
"There are strange goings on. People whisper.."
"And this hasn't caused you to want to check him out?"
"No. And neither should you."
Melanie sighed. "And why not?" Then her voice turned nasty, "I would have thought you'd be dying for me to meet him. He is unattached I believe."
"Fine. Go. Don't listen to me. Go your own damn way." Miss Walters turned and stalked out, slamming the office door behind her.
Well, somebody had to check Mr. Corrigan out and it looked like it was going to be her. Then she would have a talk to the state office about Miss Walters and see if they could get somebody competent assigned here. She picked up the folder and left and locked the office. Her car was parked outside - its bright cherry-red finish looked odd amongst the older cars scattered throughout town, most were a dull brown from years of dirt. She'd be glad when she was done here and could get back to Cleveland. She prayed she'd be sent somewhere else where the hotels had air conditioning.
Even though the town had only one street, and only one side street, Melanie still got lost twice trying to find the Corrigan farm just outside of town. She had a map, but it was at least as outdated as the records down at the office. She didn't mind too much, as her car had air conditioning. Eventually she found the entrance that was almost completely hidden by dried brush and saw the faded sign saying 'Corrigan'. She turned from the half decent gravel road onto a dried out rut.
She hoped her car wouldn't need too many repairs.
After a few minutes she pulled out in front of a small house and stopped. There were no cars, or trucks. The house itself was unpainted, consisting of two stories of sun-blasted wood. Beyond it were walled enclosures - she could see a pair of ostriches looking back at her.
It figures - not even a normal farm.
She sighed, and turned off the car. The air conditioner died and she could hear the ticking of the engine. Time to go back out into the heat. She gritted her teeth and opened the door, the blast of furnace heat causing her sweat and to almost immediately soak her shirt. She walked over to the house and used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off of her face. Then she banged on the door.
And waited. There was no answer.
She banged again. Still no answer.
She looked around and shouted out, "Mr. Corrigan!"
The heat ate her shout.
She sighed and started back to her car. She would have to try again on Monday. She knew she should have tried calling first, but she couldn't have stood another whole day of Miss Walters trying to match her up.
She stopped and looked. There was a man coming to the house from the ostrich pens.
"I'll be there in a minute!"
She stopped and waited. She had to wipe her face twice before he finally reached her.
"Good afternoon. Who do I have the pleasure of talking to?"
"I'm Ms Melanie Nicholson. I'm from Child Welfare."
"It's about your children."
He glanced around and then forced himself to stop. "What happened? Are they all right?"
"They're fine. But I need to talk to you about how you found them."
"There are some irregularities."
"But... Why don't we step inside. I can get you some water and we can sit and work this out."
Melanie followed him into the house where it was a little cooler. She sniffed - it smelled clean but there was a faint odour she couldn't identify. They walked into the kitchen and Melanie took a seat. Mr. Corrigan got two wooden glasses from a cupboard and poured two glasses of water from a clay pitcher that was in the ancient fridge. There was a loud rattle that made Melanie jerk in her seat, but she calmed as the sound quieted to a dull thumping and she realized it was just the old fridge. Mr Corrigan pulled the second chair out and sat down.
"So what seems to be the matter, Ms..."
"Its about your children."
"I understand that they were all foundlings left on your property?" She took a sip of her water.
"Yes. I talked to the appropriate government agencies and ended up adopting them myself when no one else would."
"That was quite nice of you. I can see a person doing it for the first one, maybe even the second, but..."
"I was a foundling myself. I wouldn't put my worst enemy in one of those homes."
Could he be kidnapping children to make up for his childhood? "That's quite understandable. But don't you find it the least bit odd that you have three foundlings?"
"I don't know what to say. It just happened."
Sure it did, she thought sarcastically. She needed to dig deeper: "But why? And you were always there, willing and eager to take them in."
"I told you why"
"So convenient that you were." Maybe if she pushed him, he would let something out. "Almost arranged."
"I don't like your tone. Ms Nicholson."
"Have you ever thought about the grieving parents of your children? About what it took for them to abandon their child?"
"Yes. Often. That's why I took them in and do my best."
"Did they come willingly?" Melanie's throat was really dry - it must be the heat. She swallowed the rest of her water.
"I don't know what you're talking about. They were left on my doorstep and I took them in. What more do you want?"
"I want the truth. Where did they come from? There is no way in hell that three foundling children were left here by chance. It simply isn't possible." He was starting to break.
"I'm sorry, but that's what happened."
"That's all you're going to say on the matter?" She knew he knew more. And she would find out.
"Then you leave me no choice but to bring in the authorities to investigate."
"You'd actually go that far?"
"Yes. I have to do what is best for the children."
"And their staying with a father they love isn't enough?"
"Not if they have real parents who are missing them."
He sighed. "I'm sorry Ms Nicholson, but you leave me no choice."
She stood up to leave, but suddenly lost her balance.
He ran around the table and caught her. "Are you all right?"
She'd never felt like this before. "It must be the heat. Do you have someplace I can lie down?"
"In the living room. Let me help."
He helped her walk into the living room. She lay down on the couch and couldn't stop herself from closing her eyes.
She awoke lying on a bed in a dark room - she could see some light coming through the window from the setting sun; she could feel nothing but the hot breeze on her bare skin. Bare skin? She tried to sit up, but felt a sudden stab of pain in her shoulder. She turned to look but saw Mr. Corrigan sitting, watching her. He too was nude.
What the hell was going on. What kind of pervert was he? Wait. Be calm. Be calm and ask questions. Get information but don't let him get too close. She managed to keep her voice calm as she asked, "What happened?"
"I'm sorry I had to make you faint - I have to protect my children."
It was just the heat that had made her faint - she knew it. But what did this have to do with children?
"Let me tell you a story."
"Sure." Whatever. Always give the madman what he wants and look for a way to escape.
"I was found by someone and they didn't want me. They sent me to a state run facility."
"You told me that already."
"Have you ever dreamed about changing Ms Nicholson?"
She turned her head to look at him. Remember, humour him. "No."
"I did. I hoped to escape. I dreamed of becoming a wolf and fleeing into the wild. I would write down fantasies about it."
Melanie slowly moved her left arm to feel her shoulder. She could feel warm blood. What had happened?
"One day I thought my dreams had come true. On the night of the full moon I started to change. I kneeled and prayed, thanking the heavens. I could feel my bones shifting, changing. But instead of fur I grew feathers."
"Feathers?" Remember, humour him. She could make out the door just enough to see it was closed.
"At that point I still didn't care. I could live with being a falcon, or an eagle. I would still escape. Do you know what I ended up becoming Ms Nicholson?"
Enough was enough. "Ostrich?!"
"I managed to keep it hidden until I reached eighteen. Then I was finally released. I had read everything I could about ostriches by then. I took a loan and started this farm, long before ostrich farming even became popular."
"That's nice." She had to get out of here. She ignored the pain and sat up.
"There are lots of strange things about being an ostrich, Ms Nicholson. You become very possessive of mates, much more so than actual ostriches. You can't tolerate other males with your wives. And you can't resist the smell of a female in heat."
She ignored him and tried to stand up.
"I found that out when I changed. I couldn't stop myself from going to the pens. Then I started impregnating my harem. I couldn't control myself. I even killed the other males, as competitors. When I regained my form I was frightened of what I had done."
She leaned out of bed, when pain suddenly wracked her legs. It was so bad she no longer noticed the pain in her shoulders.
"Your first time will be painful, but you'll get use to it. You'll even manage to get a little bit of control after a while. Then you'll be able to do other things too."
She felt the bones in her legs melting and collapsed back to the bed. She screamed out loud from the pain. She could barely hear him continue to talk over the crackling and rumbling sounds she could hear coming from her own body.
"For a while the eggs laid by my hens were normal. I checked very carefully, but there was nothing odd. So, each night I would join with my harem and mate. At first I couldn't stop, but then as nothing unusual happened, I came to enjoy it. I even found that I could control a hen once we had mated. Eventually I didn't even need to mate to gain control, but it was much easier once I had. Then one morning one of my hens birthed a human baby instead of an egg."
Melanie could feel her legs thin and harden. She felt her foot shrink and tear into three long toes. New bones formed and her legs bent in new ways. Her skin tore and fell to the ground in flakes as scales formed underneath it.
"What else could I do? I said I'd found a fondling and adopted it. It was my son, after all. I tried to stay away from my hens, but couldn't resist. I mated the next night. The next day I almost fled, fearing more children, but when my hens laid, there were only eggs. It stayed that way for another six years. Then, another baby was born. I adopted her too."
Melanie collapsed to the floor, her legs sprawled under her, bending in ways they never had before. She felt her claws scrape across the wooden floor, and felt the scales on her legs rasp her chest when they rubbed against it. She tried to lift herself up with her arms, but they began to melt.
"I was just as trapped as my ostriches and my children. My son found out what happened to me each night, and I found that I could change him to join me. I suspect he would eventually have been able to do it naturally. Fortunately, I was able to change him back in the morning. So now I'm forcing the change on you - although I did bite you just in case the were legends are true."
Melanie rolled onto her side and felt the remnants of her arms sucked partially into her chest. She tried to scream but couldn't. Her neck began to sprout and lengthen. It grew longer and longer, but couldn't support her head. Its growth dragged her face across the floor. But she didn't get any splinters, for her face had hardened and was sprouting outwards.
"Then you came. You wouldn't accept the foundlings, and I won't let you threaten my children. So I made you fall unconscious, and now you are going to become my wife."
Melanie screamed, but all that came out was a squawk. The pain finally resided and she just lay on the floor. She could feel the warm wood through her skin. Then, suddenly, her flesh felt as though it was on fire. She felt feathers starting to pop out and scrape against the floor.
"You will love me. Once we mate, you'll have no choice. Then you can be the mother to my children, and they will be safe."
Finally the feathers stopped. Melanie struggled to her two legs, and flapped her wings for balance. She looked and saw Mr. Corrigan shrinking in front of her. She could see his legs melt and reform; she could see his neck start to grow.
She tried to run for the door, but lost her balance and landed on her chest. She managed to keep her head raised and managed to turn her neck. Mr. Corrigan had finished changing and was walking towards her, in the fading light she could barely make out his head bobbing to keep his balance.
The office was dark and empty when Roberta arrived Monday morning. She wondered where Ms Nicholson was - she hoped nothing had happened to her.
The phone rang and she picked it up. "Hello, Child Welfare office."
"Roberta! I have wonderful news!"
"Ms Nicholson? Where are you?"
"You were right - I needed someone. Now I'm in love! I'm going to marry Tim Corrigan..."
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at email@example.com