Bob Cartman kept a tiger in a cage behind his house. He also had a big Rottweiler that lived on a ten-foot chain in the front of his property, and slept with a loaded shotgun propped against his bed. No one knew if he lived under a constant paranoia of being robbed or if it was the result of an overdose of the natural desire to display his machismo. No one bothered to ask.
The tiger was a massive male of the Siberian variety. In his ever-abundant creativity, Bob had dubbed him Stripes. The dog didn't fare much better. His name was Killer.
Stripes was a friendly cat, when he was in the right mood. Bring him out a piece of chicken and he would come up to the bars, rubbing his face against the cold metal and moaning an enthusiastic greeting. Bob liked to complain that he wasn't vicious enough, that he lacked the killer instinct of a ferocious jungle beast. He found many faults with Stripes in fact, from the cost of feeding to the habit the creature had of keeping him up all night sometimes with its husky roaring.
The property was far enough out of town that the neighbors didn't see or hear the tiger, but it was no secret that Bob had it. He simply didn't see the point in owning such an impressive creature without bragging about it to his buddies. It was practically eating him out of house and home after all, it might as well be doing something for him in return.
Occasionally Bob would bring people up to see it. He would charge them a single feeding's worth of meat- a raw chicken or hunk of beef pot roast would suffice. Then they could sit back and watch the impressive creature caress the food lovingly with its tongue before it ate, occasionally looking up to growl possessively, all pretense of friendliness dropped.
Now he suddenly found that he had to be away for a week on business. He turned to his pool of friends and acquaintances, searching for someone he could trust to feed the animals while he was gone. When Charlie Stokes, a young animal lover who had frequently come to visit the tiger, eagerly volunteered for the job, he agreed without giving it a second thought.
It's incredible, the kinds of things that one can find in antique book stores, Charlie thought to himself as he thumbed through the crinkled pages of the old book. It wasn't really that old, not nearly as old as some of the other things here. The format interested him though, so he brought it to the store's manager to request his opinion.
"Does it work?" Charlie asked. "I mean, do you know anyone who has ever tried it?"
The old man held the book gingerly in his hands, looking down at the worn cover. The Simplicity of Magic: The Truth Behind the Myth. He could not remember where he had gotten it from; he didn't recognize the author.
"I wouldn't put too much stock in it," the manager said, staring into Charlie's wide and eager eyes. "You're not one of those weirdoes who wants to become a vampire or whatever the current fad is these days, are you?"
Charlie's expression changed to show mild annoyance, but his tone remained pleasant and professional.
"No," he said. "I'm not interested in vampires. I'm studying werewolves, actually. Trying to find references to old spells and potions and stuff. I just thought I'd ask to see if you've had any experience with that kind of thing. There were quite a few other books like this back there."
The old man rolled his eyes.
"Take 'em," he said in a hurried tone. "You can have them at half price. Been trying to get rid of them for ages."
Charlie could not believe his luck. He quickly withdrew the necessary amount of cash and was soon on his way home with The Simplicity of Magic and a half-dozen similar books tucked away in his backpack.
October 11th, 7:34AM
Jane Evenson was having a very bad day. From the moment she woke up she wished she could just call in sick, but there weren't many sick days left. They would need to wait for a time she really needed them. She hated getting in these moods. Work seemed to have lost all meaning and passion for her, yet she still soldiered on and tried to pretend that it wasn't really so bad.
Jane watched as her partner Ricky Miller approached the police car with breakfast and coffee from their favorite doughnut shop. If there was any chance for the salvation of this miserable day, it was coffee. Jane lived for the stuff. She reached out and took her share wordlessly, and the two ate in silence. She liked that about Ricky. He could sense when she was in one of her moods and knew better than to try to bother her with small talk.
They had not yet finished when a few minutes later a call came in from their dispatcher. After gathering all of the details they turned on the lights and the siren and sped out of the doughnut store parking lot. Jane sighed irritably as they merged into the traffic. She hated having to deal with early morning emergencies.
Charlie had spent many days pouring over the old books, but in the end it was The Simplicity of Magic that really grabbed his attention. It had a truly wonderful section on animal transformations. He found himself returning again and again to the chapter, reading over the ancient spells and incantations. The author had gathered quite an impressive collection from cultures all around the world. One in particular caught hold of his imagination with its beautiful poetic flow.
There is one spell which is found in many variations across Europe. To gain the ability to transform into a wolf or other animal, the person must first drink a mixture of the blood and brains of an animal of the species he desires to become. Afterward he can use an incantation to change back and forth from his true human form to an exact copy of the animal whose essence he has consumed. There are many versions of this incantation, but the translation of one of German origin goes as follows.
To initiate the change into animal form the consumer of the potion must recite aloud the first half of the incantation.
"Man I am, Animal I will become.
Let the two join together and be as one."
To change back he must recite the second half of the incantation in his mind, for he will be unable to speak in his other form.
"Animal I am, Man I will become.
Let the unity between the two be undone."
In his changed state he shall be a creature of two forms- an animal with the mind of a man.
It was so straightforward. There had to be something to it. Charlie was certain that this was the answer he had been looking for. Magic was not some difficult process that relied on rare mystical ingredients or ages of instruction to master. It was so easy that anyone could do it, people had just forgotten how.
To gain the ability to transform into a wolf or other animal
It had always been Charlie's dream to find some way to become a werewolf, but suddenly events seemed to have offered him up an even better possibility. He would feed the tiger just as Bob had instructed, but only long enough to figure out how to make this dream a reality.
October 10th, 7:45PM
Charlie had known that it was going to be a messy process, but there was no way he could have guessed just what a nightmare it would be. First he had to figure out a way to kill the tiger. Poison was out, obviously. In the end all he could get his hands on was a small pistol with only four bullets. He had no experience with guns, and his hand had shaken terribly as he tried to psych himself up to do the deed to the poor creature. It had taken all four shots and over ten minutes of listening to that terrible moaning before it was all over. He would come up with some story to tell Bob later. Bob was an idiot, he would fall for anything.
Then there was the business of collecting what he needed from it. He held a large porcelain bowl in his hands, trying not to look at it or the tiger's limp body lying halfway out of the small cage.
Don't think about it don't think about it don't think about it
And the chainsaw, oh god, the chainsaw
DON'T think about it! Why oh why couldn't I have thought of a better way to do it? I would rather bury that thing than try to clean it out.
Well, he had come this far. There was only one thing left to do. He closed his eyes and raised the bowl to his lips. He surprised himself by managing to suppress his gag reflex long enough to finish it. Afterward the bowl slipped from his hands and smashed to pieces on the cold earth as he doubled over, coughing and sputtering for a few minutes before he could get himself together again.
Recovery brought a strange lucidity with it. Everything around him felt so real. The wind in his hair, the smell of the fall leaves, the sound of the dog tied in the front barking his frustrations to the world. Just what was he doing here, anyway? Did he really think that reciting some old incantation would change him somehow? He let himself mull over these thoughts for a while before he realized it was all futile. There could only be one way to know for sure.
Trembling, stuttering, Charlie searched his memory for the right words. He almost panicked when he thought that he could not remember them, but finally they came to him.
"Man I am, Tiger I will become. Let the two join together and be as one."
He waited. All around him night was falling. The wind blew colder and the sun set further beneath the tree line until all color around him was blurred into a dusky purple-black. At least it was harder to see the remains of the tiger now.
Just when he felt that the whole ordeal was about to end in horrible disappointment, the tingling sensation began. It started in his hands and feet, then shot up his arms and legs until his whole body felt like it had been submerged in bubbles. It tickled. Charlie grinned widely and raised his arms above his head, laughing to himself. This was going to be great! When the tingling deepened into a sharper prickling feeling that quickly became intense and fiery he did not panic. He lay down calmly with his back on the cool earth and his face looking up at the stars, and let the change take control of his body.
It seemed to take forever, and by the time his bones and joints were done popping and stretching and rearranging themselves he was quite pleased to be over with it. The pain subsided as the last few things fell into place, but he let himself rest for several minutes before he tried to get up and examine the results. He could already feel the difference though.
Standing up and stretching to get the feel for his new form, he regretted that he had not thought to bring a mirror. Nevertheless, a deep pleasure welled up within him. Possessing the body of a tiger was even more fantastic than he could have ever imagined. The sharpened senses, the massive muscles, the sleek feline tail- what a contrast to that puny human body he had left behind!
He put his massive muzzle to the ground and began to sniff, fascinated at the complexities of scent that could be obtained from simple leaves and dirt. Suddenly his nose passed over a large scrap of white cloth, and a familiar scent drifted into his nose. He sighed, a deep tiger rumble that bore no resemblance to human voice. If only he had been more careful with his clothing. That was his favorite pair of pants. The jacket had been a nice one too. Oh well, there were other things to think about now, like the sound of the barking that was coming from somewhere just out of sight.
Charlie had been irritated by the dog's noise earlier, but now for some reason it was music to his ears. It filled him with a strange hunger. This frightened him at first, but then he realized that it was irrational to reject the feeling. Why else had he decided to become a tiger, after all? He should give in to all that these new instincts had to offer, allow himself to enjoy the full richness of the experience. He drew his rough tongue across the dry, leathery texture of his nose and crept through the night on silent padded paws.
October 11th, 5:27AM
The next few hours were a blur in Charlie's mind as he allowed the instincts of the tiger to guide him through the night. It had been quite a ride, and it left him feeling tired but satisfied as he made his way back to Bob's house to get his car and go home. As much as he desired to spend the rest of his life enjoying himself like this he knew that he could not abandon the duties of his human side. Work, family, friends- these things called to him and reminded him that he was still the same person he had been before. There would be time to play with his newfound ability later.
He made a checklist in his mind as he approached the car. First things first, he would need to go home to try to get some sleep before he went to work. After work he would come back and clean up the mess he had made here. He still didn't have a good excuse to fool Bob with, but he had a few days left to think of one. After he got finished with cleanup the rest of the night would be his to spend in his new form.
Charlie reached the car and tried to speak the second half of the incantation to return himself to his human body. A low rumbling growl was all he could manage. The memory that he simply had to think the spell took a while to work it's way through to his tired brain. He remembered the incantation and recited it to himself. Nothing happened.
He gave it a while to work. Maybe the change back would take just as long as the first one had. He waited and he waited, but there was no tingling or prickling or burning feeling working its way through his body. His feline form stubbornly persisted.
Now a wild panic began to creep into his mind. Something was wrong. Those had been the right words, hadn't they? He had thought so, but now he wasn't so sure. Charlie paced nervously back and forth in front of the car, moaning softly to himself and reciting combination after combination of words. Try as he might, he just could not remember the other half of the spell.
The first signs of daylight were already showing. The sun would be up soon and he would be trapped in this body for all the world to see. Panic continued to grip his mind, clouding his judgment. The tiger's instincts attempted to steer him away, told him to lay low and hide until he could move under the cover of darkness once again. They frightened him now; he did not want to listen to them any more. All he could think of was returning home, finding the other half of the incantation in The Simplicity of Magic, and changing himself back. He didn't live all that far away. Surely he could make it if he hurried.
Charlie turned away from the car and sprinted down the dirt road that would take him back into town.
October 11th, 7:49AM
Jane and Ricky tensed as they reached the street and approached the address they had been given. It had been a strange call, but the evidence was there clear as day. The front door of the house was gouged deeply with what looked like claw marks. Jane got out of the car and approached, noting the enormous muddy paw prints that crisscrossed the front porch.
Ricky called out to her from the car.
"Hey!" he yelled nervously. "What are you doing? Wait for backup to get here, will ya!"
Jane looked over her shoulder at him as she withdrew her gun.
"I'm just going to check it out," she said flatly. "No point in us sitting here if it's already moved on."
She ignored his further protests, hugging the wall of the house as she headed for the back.
It was still there all right. Jane could hardly believe her eyes as she peered around the corner and watched the huge tiger paw repeatedly at the back door. It seemed too distracted to notice her. After raking the door a few more times with its claws it bit at the doorknob, grasping the tiny piece of metal between its teeth and turning its head awkwardly from side to side. Finally the tiger gave up and sat down, a low, deep moan erupting from its great mouth. Jane gasped in surprise, immediately cursing herself for her lack of discipline.
As if coming out of a trance, the tiger noticed her for the first time. It leapt up and began to bound across the yard toward her, tail raised over its back, moaning softly. Jane shrieked and held the gun out like a shield before her. The tiger stopped immediately. Ricky raced around the corner of the house and almost ran right into her. He yelped at the sight of the tiger, but recovered quickly and covered it with his gun as well.
The tiger stood there for several moments staring at them with wide rolling eyes, ears pinned back against its head, tail lashing violently back and forth behind it. Suddenly it sat back on its haunches and began to wave its paws around like a circus bear begging for a treat. It moaned pitifully, the gestures becoming wilder and more erratic. When it dropped back down to its feet and reached a paw out toward Jane she screamed and fired at it, hitting it point blank with one shot that was quickly followed by three others.
October 11th, 6:00PM
Sally Moore sat down beside her fellow policewoman. They were not exactly friends, but it had always been her policy to reach out to people whenever she perceived them to be in a time of need. Right now Jane looked like she was in need of a stiff drink. The whole station sat around a TV, watching as Jane recounted her adventure on the evening news.
"Why did you feel the need to shoot it?" asked a reporter. "Animal control was on its way, they would have been there within minutes to tranquilize it."
"Are you freaking kidding me?" Jane responded hotly. "It was a freaking TIGER! Of course I shot it. It tried to attack me. Are you saying you wouldn't have done the same thing if you were in my position?"
Jane leaned over and banged her forehead repeatedly against her desk. Everyone had always said that her temper would come back to bite her some day. She just hadn't figured it would happen so soon. Her boss had already given her several reprimands for various things in the past year alone. Apparently he didn't like her unique way of getting the job done.
After the segment was over Jane got to work cleaning out her desk. Sally tried to offer a comforting word, but Jane shot her down with a nasty look and a rude gesture.
Fine, be that way, Sally thought to herself. No one is going to miss you with an attitude like that.
Bob Cartman denied that he had ever owned a tiger. When it became obvious that this tactic was doomed to fail, he swore that he had only ever owned the one. By now his story had changed so many times that no one was inclined to believe a word he said. The second tiger would be listed as belonging to him and included in the charges against him, which included illegal ownership of wild animals, cruelty to animals, and endangerment of the public.
Somewhere along the way somebody had leaked photos of the two dead tigers and the dog to the media. Outraged animal lovers across the world were now crying out for his blood. There was no doubt about it- he was going down.
Sally sighed to herself as she walked across the office, carrying a handful of missing person posters. She hated doing this. It was always so depressing. She couldn't help but stare at each of the faces as she pinned them up on the bulletin board, the mysteries surrounding their disappearances haunting her imagination. She lingered over the last poster in her hand before putting it up. Charlie Stokes. Such a nice looking young man. She hoped they would be getting some information on his whereabouts soon.