Shape Shifters Anonymous

Contributor: Erin Cole

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Claire popped her joints into the corner of the wall and became amber doorframe. Three children charged down the hallway, shrieking with ear-splitting rumpus. The eldest, Sam, tripped over a spot he couldn’t identify. He scratched his head in wonderment, then resumed to the fake beheading of his twin sisters’ by the dull glint of a plastic, pirate sword.

Only when they were gone, did Claire wring her shoulders from the molding and continue searching Sam’s room, specifically looking for evidence that he had been shifting. A number of peculiar happenings threatened to confirm her hunch: the stereo clicked on by itself, skipping through tunes like a scratched record. The front door slammed on its own, not a breeze in sight, and the lights intermittently. New house, new bulbs.

If he had been shifting, flakes of skin would dust the floor around the objects he had shifted into, one of the side effects of chemical alteration. Claire didn’t think he would be of mind yet to hide it.

But Sam was only eight, much too young to start shifting. Regardless of age, shifters had to sign contracts, be initiated, undergo training … it was a thorough, tedious process with the Others, that if skipped, resulted in fines and/or imprisonment.

Claire rummaged through tubs of ‘boy stuff’ also know as ‘what the hell is this?’ stuff. After an excess of crude discoveries, she sat down on his bed defeated, but still ripe with suspicion. The blanket beneath her moved and transformed into her husband’s groping hand.

“Dammit Jack. Stop that!”

The blanket curled up, becoming his head, torso, and legs. A giggle reddened his shifting face. “Works every time,” he beamed, sitting down human again.

Claire flicked his skin flakes away with the back of her hand and turned pinched brows to him. “This is serious. Sam is only eight, and I think he’s shifting already. Last week, Evette’s daughter, Lynn, you know, the little girl with the hot-pink braces smile?” She paused, if only for a vague nod from Jack before continuing. “Turns out, she shifted into the microphone before her brother’s performance. I heard it was awful and obvious to the Others. They fined the family $1000, and no one has heard from the mother since. She just up and disappeared.”

“She probably shifted into a boat and sailed away.”

“Patty? She’d never do a thing like that.” Claire noticed Jack lift his face aside, in a way that seemed to conceal the expression of a secret thought. “Spill it or by the dark side of the moon, I’ll shift into the unthinkable.” Her eyes drilled him with equal threat.

He stalled, seemingly teetering on a decision, and then pulled a card from his shirt pocket. He handed it to her.

Shape Shifters Anonymous: we bend into objects, so why not rules? “Oh, Jack. Say you didn’t?”

His mouth bent into a smirk, then he slipped into the lamp next to him. The cord tugged on itself and suspended Claire in darkness.

“Aaaagghh!”

She shot up from the bed, made contact with the ceiling, and melted into it like a snake gliding into water. The house shook side to side. It shuddered, knocking pictures from the wall and books off the shelves. The lights flashed, cutting everyone’s movement into a robotic stride.

Jack shifted back into human and followed his children’s hollers into the kitchen.

“Dad!” the twins yelled. “It’s an earthquake!”

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Your mother is … home.”


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Erin Cole is a dark fiction writer from Portland, OR with work published in various electronic and print publications. Last year, her story, “The Wall of Never Doubt,” won 10th place in Writer’s Digest 80th Annual Writing Competition, Genre Short Story.
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3 Responses to this post

  1. Deborah Walker on May 22, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    What a wonderful premise and a killer last line. Excellent.

  2. Milo James Fowler on May 24, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    Holy cow, this is great! Too much fun, Erin; nice work.

  3. Chris Allinotte on May 29, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    What an amazing world this would be to live it. I'd never sit in a chair with 100% confidence again!!

    The "real mom" concern behind the crazy details make this work very well, and give us a point of entry. Nicely done, Erin!

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