You can’t Weasel your way out of this one!Conrad sat in front of his computer playing yet another online multiplayer shooter. The game had him so immersed that he didn’t notice his mother walk into the rec room and clear her throat. Adding another kill to his large and growing count, Conrad jumped and gasped when his mother tapped on his left shoulder to get his attention. Looking to his left at her, he heard his character die and frowned. He noticed she was wearing her black blue dress with black high-heeled shoes and diamond earrings. "Awe Mom, you just got me killed!" "Conrad, it’s just a game," she answered. "Yeah … I know but it’s just … annoying when you sneak up on me like that," he whined. "Can you turn it off or pause it for a minute?" she asked. "Well, not really; it’s multiplayer!" Conrad said, turning his attention back to the game. "Conrad!" his mother said. "All right, sorry!" he answered as he disconnected from the server and exited from the game. "So what’s with the getup?" Conrad asked. "Your father and I are going out to the restaurant on 23rd and Davis. After, we're seeing a movie just down the street from it; we should be back by eleven," she said. Reaching into her black purse, she pulled out a white business card sized piece of paper and handed it to Conrad. "If anything goes wrong, you can reach me at that number. I left twenty dollars for you in the kitchen for supper." He was already looking forward to having the house for the evening and started plotting what he wanted to do and how to get away with it. "Thanks Mom," the sixteen-year-old answered. His mother sauntered out of the rec room and stopped just short of the door. "Oh yes, no girls over while we’re gone. You can have one of your friends over, just not girl friends." Conrad rolled his eyes. "I mean it; you’re not old enough to have girls over without supervision." "Come on Mom, I’m old enough not to do something stupid," Conrad said. "That may be true but I don’t want to risk it. Remember when you tried to go into the attic a few months ago? If we hadn’t of caught and stopped you as we walked in the door … who knows what would have happened!" "I don’t get that; it’s just an attic. What’s up there that you won’t let me see until I’m eighteen anyway?" "We can’t tell you … please, just don’t go up there … especially without supervision … it’s dangerous!" Conrad wanted to protest but knew he’d end up in a circular argument so decided to abstain. "All right, I won’t call anyone over and I’ll keep away from the attic … but you’ve really got me curious." "I can’t blame you for that," his mother started, walking back to his side, "it’s just important that you stay away from there. Once you’re eighteen, you’ll find out why. Now, we’ll be back by eleven," she said, kissing Conrad on his left cheek. Conrad glared at her and she seemed to giggle as she walked back out of the room and upstairs. Despite her warnings, Conrad had little intention of obeying his mother. A dire warning was too much for him to ignore. He seriously doubted there was anything dangerous up there. Even if there was, he thought, he could get away in time. He knew he’d have to be careful how we went about everything but felt confident he’d be all right. When hearing his parents close the front door, he turned off the monitor before slowly making his way upstairs and into the living room window. Carefully looking outside, he saw their car pulling out of the driveway. Once it was on the street and drove off, Conrad smiled. "Great," he said, as he walked over to the stand beside the couch and picked up the telephone. Keying in his girlfriend Sandy’s telephone number, he waited for her to pick up. She picked up after three rings. "Hello?" she asked. "Hey Sandy, My parents are out for the evening and I was wondering if ya’d like to come over to watch a movie or something?" "Sure, sounds like fun, that is … if your parents are okay with it; I don’t want to get into trouble!" "It’s like we’re hurting anyone; we’ll just be watching TV or playing on the gamecube or computer." "I don’t know; I don’t want to risk getting caught. You already got in enough trouble the last time. If they catch us again, they’ll ground you for life!" "We were just kissing, it’s not like we were gonna do any more then that!" Conrad pleaded. "We know that but they don’t know that … and they didn’t believe us when we told ‘em we weren’t gonna do more," Sandy said. "Hey, I can’t help it if you’re hot. Don’t worry though, I got it all planned out; as long as we’re quiet and don’t make a mess, they’ll never know you were over … trust me," Conrad answered, as he twirled the telephone cord with his free hand. "Well … I guess. If they catch us, I was just over there to help you with homework though," Sandy answered. "I’ll be waiting. See ya soon," Conrad answered before hanging up.
* * *When the doorbell rang ten minutes later, Conrad peered into the peephole. If someone other then Sandy saw him answer the door so quickly, they'd suspect he was waiting for someone, so he had to be careful. When he saw her standing there in her blue jeans, gray sweater and black gloves with her red hair in a ponytail, he smiled, stood back and opened the door. A cold breeze from outside blew into his face as he smiled at her. "Hey," he said before motioning her to come in. She walked in and he opened the mirror closet for her to hang up her sweater and gloves. "Bloody cold out there; where did the summer go?" She asked. "Summer? Where did the fall go?" Conrad replied as he closed the door and rubbed his hands together. Conrad watched Sandy remove her sweater, revealing a red tee shirt underneath that went perfectly with her tail and accentuated her slightly tanned skin and trim figure. Conrad looked at her with a grin before opening the closet so she’d have a place to put her sweater. Sandy hung up her sweater, put the gloves in its right sleeve before removing her shoes, and put them on the floor mat inside, closing the closet door behind them. "So, what do you want to do?" "I was thinking of watching a movie or something but there’s something else I want to try," Conrad said. Sandy’s eyes went wide and she took a few steps backward, almost banging into the front door. "Er … you said you … wanted to wait … b … before we t … tried that," she stammered as her cheeks went red with embarrassment. "No, not that," Conrad held both arms out in a stop motion as he himself blushed from the miscommunication. "What I meant was … there’s something in the attic my parents have insisted I don’t touch until I’m eighteen. They’ve never told me why and I want to know!" "That’s only a year and a half away; why not wait? If you really want to know then why not go check it yourself?" Sandy asked. "Meh," Conrad said, shrugging his shoulders. "It’s more … exciting if two people do it. Anyway, my mom said, and I quote ‘without supervision … it’s dangerous!’" he added, doing air quotes and impersonating her voice. "Very funny!" Sandy asked, folding her arms across her chest but unable to hold back a small smile. Conrad giggled while shrugging his shoulders. "I thought so." "Seriously thought. Are you really holding back to obey what she said or are you are a bit scared?" Sandy grinned. "All right, maybe I’m a little afraid … but well if my parents come home early and catch us, I’ll say I heard strange noises up there and called you over," Conrad started. "In case something happened to you while investigating so I could call for help," Sandy finished. "There ya go! After, we can order a pizza with the money my parents. We’ll still have enough time left to watch a movie and clean up enough so it looks like I stayed home alone all evening." "Okay, but if there’s monsters or something worse up there, we walk away and never speak of the attic again; okay?" "Okay. Come on, I’ll order the pizza so it’ll be here by the time we’re done," Conrad answered. Conrad walked into the kitchen and noted the location of the twenty-dollar bill as Sandy followed. He noticed Sandy looking around the large kitchen, appearing fascinated. "How can your parents afford this? I know you’re not rich or anything like that," she asked. "I dunno … guess they saved up or something," Conrad answered as he picked up the telephone. "What do you want on the pizza?" "Pepperoni, bacon and olives if that’s okay with you," Sandy answered. "I’m not crazy about olives; how about green peppers instead?" "That’s fine." Conrad dialed the pizza place, after a short discussion with them, he hung up, and told Sandy the pizza would be there in thirty-five minutes. "Well, let’s get this attic thing over with. I hate attics … they give me the creeps," Sandy said as Conrad started walking out of the kitchen, leading the way to the stairway up towards the bedrooms. "Why do they give you the creeps? It’s another room in the house. If there were monsters up there, don’t you think they’d break out or something? I mean, how would a few planks of wood hold them?" Conrad asked. "Yeah, you’re probably right," Sandy answered a bit angrily as they reached the top of the stairs. "It’s just that they’re usually dark and musty with cobwebs; I hate spiders!" Turning right, they walked a short distance and stopped just to the right of his parents’ room. Conrad reached up and pulled on the cord attached to the ceiling stairwell, pulling it down. "That’s why people keep creepy things in the attic; they know people don’t like going up there!" "You’re probably right," Conrad chuckled. "Let’s just get this over with," Sandy said. Conrad walked up the stairs and into the dark, foreboding attic, the floorboards creaking under his feet. He jumped and gasped when Sandy walked into him. "Sorry," she apologized. "No problem, I think the light is right around … ah, there it is," he said as he walked a few steps forward, stood on his tiptoes and pulled the short metal cord to turn on the light. For the most part, the now brightly-lit attic was Spartan; only a few cobwebs clung to the corners. Conrad thought all of this had been for naught and was about to turn over to leave when he saw a white blanket covering something at the other end. "Is that what your parents didn’t want you to touch?" Sandy asked as she pointed to it. "I dunno; only way to find out is to uncover it." "Sure that’s a good idea? What if it’s a bomb or something?" Conrad scowled at Sandy. "Why would my parents keep a bomb in the attic? They’re not terrorists or warlords! Maybe it’s money they saved up for my education; hence the eighteen thing they’ve mentioned," Conrad said. "Relax, I was only kidding. I guess the only way to know what it is, is to remove that blanket," Sandy said. Conrad nodded and with caution, the two proceeded towards the blanket and knelt down. Carefully, Sandy lifted the blanket off, throwing dust all over the place that made both sneeze multiple times. Once they recovered, they both reveled at the sight of the black chest before them. Conrad beamed with fascination as Sandy folded the blanket and put it on the ground. Conrad looked over the chest, wanting to know what it contained. Much to his elation, his parents hadn’t locked it. Taking a deep breath and admittedly rather nervous, he grasped the lid and slowly opened it. With the lid opened, they both gasped when they saw the shimmering blue stone and frame contained within. "This is so cool; I wonder how much it’s worth?" Conrad asked as he reached in, picked the stone up and held it in his right hand. It was quite large and fit in his palm. "It’s beautiful; do you have any idea what it is?" Sandy asked as she looked at it. "I don’t know; maybe it’s a family heirloom my parents wanted to give me when I turn 18; maybe as an engagement present or something for my future wife," Conrad said, grinning and winking his left eye at Sandy. "I don’t think we’re at that level yet but I appreciate the sentiment," Sandy said as she knelt beside Conrad and saw the frame. "What’s this?" she asked as she pulled it out. Conrad watched her pull out a wooden frame. It had several cracks in it, its worn cherry oak color highlighting years of existence. It had an oily scent, possibly from something used to preserve it. Conrad watched Sandy reading something in the frame. "What are you reading?" he asked. "I’m not sure," Sandy answered, showing Conrad the document. It’s yellowed color; faded ink and fragile appearance making it appear ancient. He didn’t recognize the words inscribed. "Do you know what it means?" "I’m not sure; I think I can try to produce it," she started, "Mustela nivalis tyka revana tapsa." When she said those words, the stone in Conrad's hands seemed to glow for a second. A strange sensation not unlike icy water pouring all over him covered his body and he felt dizzy for a few seconds. The sensations faded and he looked down at the stone, wondering what had happened. "You okay?" Sandy asked. "Yeah, I think so, just got dizzy for a few seconds there. Maybe we should put this stuff back; I’ve seen enough. I’m sure I’ll find out what this is all about when I turn eighteen," Conrad said. An itchy feeling had formed on his chest and his muscles were starting to ache, feeling as though he’d been lifting heavy objects all day. As they put the frame and stone back into the chest and closed it, his arms started itching considerably. Thinking it was just an allergic reaction to something, he tried to ignore it. They both stood up and Sandy retrieved the blanket and re-covered the chest. "Come on, let’s go watch some TV before the pizza comes, I’m getting hungry," Sandy said. "Okay, you go ahead, I’ll be with you in a minute," Conrad answered. He waited until Sandy was out of the attic before clawing at his arms. By now, they were hot as heck and itched unlike anything he’d ever felt before. Worse, the itching on his chest had spread across his entire torso. Craving release, he threw his grey tee shirt off and tossed it to the ground. When he started scratching his chest, he gasped with confusion and fear at the sensation of soft hair under his fingers. He’d heard of changes associated with puberty; at his age, he should have been most of the way through it. Even if not, his sparse chest hair couldn’t possibly expand this quickly and it definitely wouldn’t change from black to a yellowish colour! Running out of the attic, he saw Sandy walking down the stairs to the main level. By now, the yellowish hair had almost enveloped his chest! Looking at his arms, he saw red hair sprouting on both up to his wrists! The same yellowish hair from his chest was in the process of sprouting on his wrists and hands! There was something alarming about the look of it; it didn’t look like hair, it looked like fur! Whimpering from fear over what was happening, he screamed down the stairs after Sandy. She turned abruptly when he got close. "What’s with all the," she started, looking at Conrad's chest with horror and shock on her face, "oh my god what’s happening to you?" she yelled. Conrad hadn’t yet noticed he was shrinking. His pants falling down his legs and the top of his head only reaching Sandy shoulders instead of vice-versa however, made it rather hard to ignore. "Sandy, you gotta help me!" "Dammit, I t … told you we shouldn’t have gone up there! Now look at you!" Conrad watched with horror and building panic as Sandy appeared to grow even taller; now his eyes were level with her chest. His torso felt as though someone were pulling on it. The bones felt loose and his organs grumbled and felt as though they were moving around as they changed shape and size. Conrad felt faint as the world seemed to spin with the sensation, making him feel sick as he nearly hyperventilated while shaking with fear. As the sensation progressed, he thought he was going to vomit and nearly passed out. "Oh God … please no! Please stop this! I beg you!" he cried. As the terrible feeling passed, he looked down to see his torso was now much longer relative to his size; its humanoid appearance now musteline. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he saw the changes to his body. "I’m sorry … I didn’t think this would happen. I don’t want this!" he cried. He began tugging at Sandy pants; "Please do something!" His arms felt strange, as through an invisible force were pushing on them as his fingers tingled. He had no choice but to let go as his fingernails grew from trim human nails into long, sharp white claws. His jaw began to ache as the warmth spread onto his face. "This is crazy, a stone shouldn’t … nothing should cause this. What are we supposed to do; call the paramedics? Dammit, why did I have to let you convince me to go up there?" Sandy asked. "I’m sorry … I didn’t … think. Please … what … do I look … like?" Conrad asked. By now his arms had shrunk enough that he’d be unable to touch his face and his legs were becoming equally as stubby. Sandy seemed on the verge of panic. Sweat was dripping down her face and her pupils were dilating as though she were going mad. She seemed to be getting bigger by the second, but Conrad knew he was shrinking. By now, his face barley made it up to her knees. "Come on Sandy, stay with me here, I need you!" he cried, trying to ignore the high-pitched squeak sound that his voice had become. He felt his heart rate increasing into that of the creature he was becoming. He felt so stupid for disobeying his parents. Whatever that thing was, he knew it had to be magic. He had heard of magic and of people able to become animals but always assumed they were a myth, as he’d never personally seen anyone accomplish it. Now, he was experiencing it first hand and there seemed no way to stop it. "Red fur, it’s on the top of your face and the yellow fur is on the bottom. You got a muzzle and your eyes are turning black. Your hair is almost gone and your ears … they’re rounded. You look like a combination of Crystal and Sable and a mouse or something like that!" Sandy said.
Crystal and Sable were his families’ pet ferrets, a dark-eyed white female and sable female respectively."I’m turning into a … ferret?" Conrad asked, forcing out the last words as his vocal cords completed their transition into those of a weasel, restricting him to chittering and squeaking. "No, you look more like a weasel!" Conrad’s parents always had a fondness for the weasel family, given this stone apparently allowed them to become weasels, he knew why. He noticed Sandy and the room growing large at a fantastic speed that accompanied a sinking feeling not unlike falling. He felt his tailbone tingling, which soon led to feeling something brushing against his legs and touching the ground. When he was so small that only reached a little over Sandy ankles, he fell forward into all fours as his neck realigned so his head would face forward when on all fours. His life seemed to be over; everything he’d worked and hoped for in life was gone. Now, he was an animal and knew the future he hoped for would be impossible! What felt like a million thoughts were flooding his mind; soon he couldn’t think straight. Standing on his hind legs in front of his fallen pants, he looked up at Sandy, shrieking as instincts started flooding his mind. "Conrad? Are you still in there?" Sandy cried out as she knelt down, sniffling and her eyes wet with the formation of tears. The magnitude of what had happened to him was too much. Fear and panic over the prospect of being stuck like this soon overwhelmed him. He soon felt faint as his thought became hazy. Everything seemed to fade into darkness as he passed out.
* * *"Come on Conrad, wake up!" was the first thing he heard as everything came back into focus and he opened his little black eyes. He found himself in a body alien to him; the disorientation of waking up like this not unlike waking up in a strange place without knowing how you came to be there. Except for Conrad, the place wasn’t strange, his body was. The spell having robbed him of his method of interacting with the physical world was disconcerting to say the least. Trying to speak, he found his voice limited to a strange squeak like sound. It felt impossible that this sound was coming from him. He looked at his front left paw, an appendage formally his left hand. His was clawed and had no thumb. He could move the digits but no matter how dextrous they were these were not his fingers. He cocked his head to see Sandy kneeling before him. She was giant compared to him now; she smelled strange, a scent not exactly foreign to him but far stronger then he was ever meant to experience. His instincts wanted him to fear her, to run from this human. His knowledge and memories … human memories pacified his fears. He knew her, knew that she would never harm him. His situation was real; there was no denying it. He squeaked out at her, far too panicked to consider exploring his new existence; an existence he was too afraid to acknowledge let alone embrace. His withholding the stone from him until his eighteenth birthday must have been for a reason. He feared using it this early had entrapped him in this form! He wondered what his ferrets would think. Crystal would embrace him with curiosity. She was four years old while Sable was three. Crystal had welcomed Sable when they got her. They, however were the same species and both females; He had no idea how they’d react to a male weasel. "It’s all right Conrad. You were unconscious about ten minutes; we’re on the couch. Just stay calm and we’ll figure out a way to … deal with this," Sandy said as she caressed Conrad. The warmth and softness of her hands caressing his body was bizarre but relaxing. He felt secure in her presence and felt she knew how to handle animals such as what he now was. He soon realised scent wasn’t his only augmented sense. His hearing was considerably improved. He could hear Sandy’s heart beating and her breathing. With a single sniff of the air, he discovered a multitude of scents. He could smell his ferrets but they were only a single scent of a sea of scents. Experiencing the world in such olfactory and auditory detail was going to be an alien way of thinking and perception. He couldn’t believe what had happened to him, felt foolish for brining this upon himself and prayed this was all a dream. He tried to stay calm; lord knew he had more then enough to panic over; the trouble he’d inevitably get in; worry he was stuck like this and the terrible thought this would eventually affect his mind. If he were stuck like this, he’d never see his friends again; he’d never be able to do much of anything anymore. He’d probably end up a companion for his ferrets or worse, his parents might even be so angry over his disobedience that they’d kick him out, forcing him to fend for himself. He worried that Sandy might even turn into a weasel herself. She had after all recited the spell, what if holding the stone instantly turned one into a weasel while reciting the spell without the stone produced a delayed change? Sandy’s stroking of the fur on his back seemed to reassure him that he was going to be okay. Rather then worry about what he now had no control over, he instead chose to concentrate on her. He could smell the soap and shampoo she’d used in her last shower or bath, it was an interesting smell; different from anything natural yet, a connection to his humanity. He could hear her heart beating, its rhythmic thumping somehow soothing. He still felt just as attracted to her as he ever had. In a sense, it only added to his frustration; he’d never have any chance at anything with her now. If he were stuck like this, he’d be her pet, not her boyfriend. That upset him enough that badly his little stomach hurt. He knew he needed something to concentrate on should his mind wouldn’t wander and he’d find himself worrying. Instead, he chose to close his eyes and focus on the petting. He wasn’t necessarily stuck like this; if it were only temporary, he didn’t want to end up not exploring it. Once he calmed down a bit and tried not to think about his future, it wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there before his bliss was broken with the sound of the doorbell ringing, a sound far louder and annoying with his senses. "The pizza must be here. Stay here and I’ll go get it," Sandy said. Standing up, she placed him on the couch. He could feel the warmth radiating from where she’d sat. It contrasted oddly with the cool touch of the rest of it. Being alone had him feeling vulnerable and panicked. He didn’t want her to leave and squeaked at her as she started walking away. "It’s all right," Sandy said as she walked back, knelt down and petted him. "I’ll only be gone a few minutes okay?" Conrad nodded and Sandy stood up and walked out of the den. Conrad heard her walking and retrieving the money to pay the pizza guy. The sound of the front door closing and the incredible smell of pizza permeating his nostrils had his stomach rumbling. Sandy walked into the den a few seconds later holding the pizza box. Smelling the pizza and knowing she was there calmed him enough to allay his fears, even if only temporarily. "Maybe we should eat this in the kitchen? We’re already in enough trouble … I don’t want to cause more by staining your rug or couch." The smell of the pizza was having an odd effect on Conrad. He was finding it harder to concentrate and soon, he only cared about the food, cleanliness meant little to him. He knew was thinking like an animal and tried to shake it off but the smell was too much; he had to get at it! As soon as Sandy put the pizza box on the couch, Conrad leaped on top of it and started scratching at it. With his razor sharp claws, it didn’t take long before he'd torn the top. Steam poured out the breech, carrying the scent of the pizza at ten times the intensity of before. Conrad clawed at the hole to get at the pizza. "Hey, calm down, you can have the pizza in a few minutes," Sandy pleaded. Conrad was of course too preoccupied with the smell to really understand or care about what Sandy was saying. He kept on prying at the hole until he’d exposed the pizza. When he did, he stuck his head in the box it and grabbed at a slice; easily prying a piece of cheese with pepperoni and bacon attached to it with his razor like teeth. "Conrad … stop, you’re acting like an animal … a bad one," Sandy said. The former human didn’t seem to care what his girlfriend was saying. Whatever this body was doing to him mentally, the food seemed far too important to ignore in favour of what a human was saying. "Conrad … please, listen to me; don’t let the animal body win!" Looking up at her with cheese hanging from his little mouth, Conrad at first worried she was going to take the food from him. The familiar tone of her voice however, calmed him with confidence that he could trust her. Finishing off the cheese and pepperoni, Conrad suddenly felt terrible embarrassment over his actions. He couldn’t believe what he had done; he’d acted just like an animal! He’d only been a weasel for a short while and already he had lost himself in it. If this had happened to him already, the thought of what the future would bring terrified him. "You scared me there; you were acting like an animal. I’ve noticed the sound of my voice calms you down. Please don’t give up on me! We’ll get through this, you just need to fight it!" Sandy said. Conrad nodded. "Now, let’s get this into the kitchen and eat it properly." Conrad felt uncomfortable as she raised the pizza box. Looking down at the ground, he was unsure if it was safe for him to jump or not. With eyes at the sides of his head, his depth perception was terrible which made him afraid of heights. "What’s wrong?" Sandy asked, petting Conrad across his back to calm him as she put the box back down. Something else nagged at him. A part of his mind, the same part that had him clawing at that box for the food inside, found this situation illogical. He should be on the ground so predators couldn’t get him and prey couldn’t see him as he hunted them. A couch in a relatively open room was not a good place for either. "You don’t like heights? I don’t remember heights ever bothering you before. Then again, you weren’t a weasel before. All right, just calm down for a second, I’ll let you walk on the floor then. You go behind me so I don’t accidentally step on you," Sandy said. He couldn’t judge how far the floor was. He chittered at her, hoping to convey it. Conrad felt Sandy slide her hands under his torso before she lifted him off the couch and lowered him to the wooden floor. Feeling immense relief, he stood on the floor, on all four of his feet. Everything looked huge and the wood floor felt weird against his little paws. Sandy started walking but Conrad stood there, terrified about starting to walk; walking on all fours was an animal thing and he didn’t want to engage in such an activity. He stood there for several minutes contemplating his situation, an action not unlike waiting until the last minute before leaving for school or work. Sandy returned to the den shortly after leaving it. "Do you know how to walk on four feet? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; just think of how your ferrets walk," Sandy said. Sandy’s voice finally gave him the push he needed to get going. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to walk on all fours; somehow, he seemed to know how. He knew he was going to have to walk that way eventually; Sandy couldn’t carry him everywhere. Standing there denying his situation wouldn’t make it go away. Taking a deep breath, he started following her, his claws making scratching noises on the floor. They were too quiet for the human ear to hear, but his weasel ears perceived them. The sound was irritating and he tried his best to ignore it. He followed Sandy into the kitchen, knowing he was in there by the ceramic floor and the humming of the fridge and smell of food. He waited in the centre of the Kitchen as Sandy put the pizza box on the counter and opened it. She reached up into the cupboard and picked out a couple of dishes. She got out a few pieces for herself and one for him, placing it on one of the plates before putting it on the floor in front of him. "There ya go," she said, her voice a little upset sounding. Conrad titled his head to the right, wanting to know what was wrong. "I’m sorry … it’s just scary seeing you like this. You’re so tiny and seem so vulnerable. What’s worse, I always thought magic like this was a myth; you know, like a warning that parents used to scare their kids from being bad. Knowing this can really happen makes the world a bit scarier. What if you can't change back because you used the spell before turning eighteen! Dammit, why did I have to recite that spell? I should have just left it alone!" Knowing he couldn’t answer frustrated Conrad to no end. He desired to re-assure Sandy that everything would be all right; in reality however, he didn’t know it would. He didn’t want to live out his life like this. Hopping it would comfort her, he nuzzled her right hand; it wasn’t much but she did seem happier when he did that. "I guess we can only hope for the best and learn as much as possible from all of this." Conrad nodded and diverted his attention to the pizza slice; it smelled incredible. The same feeling he’d had before seemed to re-activate within him. Suddenly, the pizza slice was all that mattered; he couldn’t hold back any longer. Without a further thought, he dove into it, soon getting tomato sauce all over his face and belly, staining the yellowish fur. He was full by the time he’d eaten half the slice. A small amount of food being enough to satisfy him was one advantage of his small size; even if the only one. As he watched Sandy eating, he started cleaning himself off without realising it. It didn’t take long before he was again clean. When Sally was finished eating, she looked down at him and smiled. "Done?" she asked. Conrad nodded and Sandy picked up his plate, stood up and picked hers up before putting them in the sink. "Well, now that we’ve had some food, now what do we do?" Conrad wondered what he could do. He couldn’t play any console game nor do much on his computer. While he could use his paws like human fingers to type, he wasn’t sure what he’d say to anyone. He didn’t want to go broadcasting that he was a weasel out of fear of the potential reaction. He could watch TV or listen to the radio. Since he never really listened to music, watching TV appeared to be the choice for him. He wondered how to communicate this to Sandy. "I don’t think you can do much on the computer or your console system as a weasel. Maybe we could watch TV?" Sandy asked. Conrad nodded his little head. Standing on his hind legs, he knelt into her right hand, nuzzling it. Had he been a kitten, he may have started purring. Knowing she was there for him was comforting. Perhaps it was the fur and his enhanced since of smell. She smelled so nice and her touch was so soft and assuring. As a human, the most he had done with her was a kiss on the cheek; that was fine with him; they were still young and didn’t want to do something they’d regret. It frustrated him that should he be stuck like this, petting was all he’d even get to do with her. However, he knew he had to be strong for Sandy. Should he give up, he had a feeling she would give up as well. He soon felt Sandy lifting him up and holding him securely against her chest. Her proximity and scent dampened his trepidation over heights. She carried him into what he assumed from the familiar scent was the den. When she sat down on the couch, the leather scent confirmed it. Putting him on her lap, she picked up the TV controller that sat on the table beside the couch. Turning on the TV, she began flipping through the channels. "What should we watch? I do wonder how your parents will react to coming home and seeing me watching TV while holding a weasel." Conrad wasn’t sure what he wanted to watch. He honestly was willing to watch anything that would get his mind off his situation. Her second question had him picturing his parents coming home to see Sandy standing there holding him, trying to convince them this creature really was their son had him terrified at the potential outcome. What if they get so upset over my asking her to come over that they keep me this way? I don’t want to be a weasel for the rest of my life! Why did I have to be so stupid? He was screaming and fidgeting so much that Sandy touching his back made him jump. "It’s okay, calm down!" she said as she petted him. "Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned that. Try concentrating on the TV; don’t worry about what’s going to happen. We’ll worry about that when it does." Conrad nodded and looked back towards the TV, trying to find an angle that allowed him to see it properly enough with his eyes being at sides of his head. Sandy finally settled on a sitcom and Conrad stretched out on her lap and listened to it. He soon found himself not worrying about his immediate future and relaxed enough to fall asleep.
* * *The sound of the telephone ringing roused Conrad from his peaceful slumber. Opening his eyes, Conrad immediately realised he wasn’t on Sandy’s lap. He had hoped that meant his experiences were a dream and he was in his bed still semiconscious and not fully aware of his surroundings. Looked around and standing up, he at first felt crazy for standing up in his bed. It hit him when he realised he was standing on four legs rather then two and was much closer to the ground. He was still a weasel. He was also definitely not in his bed; he appeared to be in his ferret’s cage. Something touched his backside and he jumped up in shock. He wasn’t wearing any clothes and felt exposed and humiliated. When he looked behind him to see Crystal standing there, his embarrassment turned to fear. What used to be a small animal was now at least twice his size and obviously had him at her mercy. Her mild musky odour smelled far stronger, although Conrad attributed that more to his enhanced sense of smell rather then anything. Conrad wasn’t sure whether to panic and try to run or if he should let her do whatever she intended to do. He wanted to know why Sandy put him in the cage. The telephone was still ringing; he knew it was probably his mother calling to check up on him. Conrad wanted to put off discovery of his situation as long as possible. If no one answered and it was his parents, they’d want to know what was going on. However, Sandy answering them and his inability to pick up would alert them something was wrong! The telephone rang for what he thought was the third time; the voice mail service would pick up after the fifth ring. The telephone rang again and he heard Sandy’s voice saying hello after hearing her pick it up. Meanwhile, Crystal was sniffing him while Sable stayed towards the back of the cage, most likely uncertain of how to react to him. For all he knew one or both of them was going to attack them. He knew Sandy had to have put him in here and didn’t understand why. He stared at his now mustelid brethren, terrified of how she’d react to him. It’s okay girl, it’s Conrad; you know the guy that lets you sit in his lap while he watches TV or uses the computer. He didn’t know what sounds to make to convince he that he meant no harm; sure he’d heard them make that dook like sound when excited but he didn’t know how to make it or if it’d be effective. Turning around, he walked to the front of the cage and listened to Sandy, hoping her words would clue him in as whom she was talking to. "The taste was excellent and the delivery speed was excellent," he heard Sandy say. Doubting his mother would ask about what he guessed was the pizza; he felt at least some sense of relief. That relief was short lived when he felt crystal nip at his tail. Looking back at her, her noticed her stamping the cage floor and making an excited dook. The nip didn’t hurt; in fact, it made him feel a little playful. He knew she’d never do this if she wanted to fight and/or saw him as a threat. Conrad looked at the cage door; despite being an animal, he still knew how to unlatch it. He heard Crystal stamping her feet impatiently as he fidgeted with the latch until he got it opened. He knew what he was about to do meant further embracing this little body of his but remembered Sandy’s advice to not worry about the future and repressed his concerns. Bolting out of the cage onto the carpeted floor of the living room, Conrad stood on his hind legs and attempted to imitate the excited dance he’d seen Sable and Crystal do. He started hopping all over the place and stamping the floor. Crystal soon started imitating him, which only got him more excited. That seemed to awaken Sable’s curiosity and soon she was stamping her feet as she dooked. Conrad soon started running; hoping the two would follow. Much to his delight, they did. He heard both pursuing and quickened his pace to a fast run. Despite everything being huge, he found himself able to navigate the rooms; perhaps his sudden playfulness alleviated any worry over a collision with a wall or piece of furniture. He ran all the way through the ground level of his house, eventually running into the kitchen where Sandy was finishing the call. She hung up just as he ran between her legs with Crystal and Sable close behind. "How the heck did you guys get out of your cage?" Sandy asked, sounding rather shocked as Conrad stopped while Crystal tackled him, playfully nipping at his sides. Conrad was having too much fun wrestling with his ferrets to pay attention to Sandy. He nipped back at Crystal’s side as Sable batted at his ears while making dook sounds. All three could feel the thump of Sandy’s feet as she approached. Crystal and Sable backed off, leaving Conrad laying there feeling discontented. "Sorry Conrad but you were getting a little rough there. We can’t afford you losing yourself to this; despite how much fun you three were having." Conrad squeaked at her as the two ferrets looked on. He wanted to play with them but didn’t want to let Sandy down. Standing on his hind legs, he nodded at her trying his best to resist his desire to play. When Sable and Crystal approached him, he found their proximity only increasing his musteline tendencies. As they started batting at his sides and nipping at his tail, it started growing even harder to resist. "Come on, we’d better get them back in their cage before your parents get home. I cleaned up the dishes and put the leftover pizza in the fridge," Sandy said as she stood up. Conrad didn’t want to put Crystal and Sable back; in fact, he wanted to continue playing with them. He’d never been able to do something like this and felt that he’d never be able to again should he regain his humanity and lose the ability to take this form. However, he also knew that playing with them had him growing a little too accustomed to this form. He couldn’t afford to end up liking it so much that he didn’t want to change back. Rolling onto his feet, he stood up on his hind legs and nodded his head before walking over to the two ferrets. He squeaked at them to get them to follow them and strolled back towards the cage. I want to play with them. Why won’t she let me play? Come on, just a few more minutes won’t hurt. Those and other troubling thoughts echoed in his mind as he walked towards the cage, this was not a game; this situation was dangerous and life altering if a cure wasn’t found. However, he was finding it harder to resist wanting to abandon those worries and have fun. Unfortunately, whether it be instincts or his mind becoming a weasel mind, he couldn’t resist. What started out as a jog soon became running. It wasn’t long before he heard Sandy running after him. As he rounded a corner and ran into the Den, Sandy suddenly ran into it from the other direction. Conrad stopped as quickly as he could, sliding across the wood floor into her legs as Crystal slid into him. "Conrad, listen to my voice. You’re starting to worry me," she said. He didn’t want to listen to her voice; in fact his attention span seemed non existent as he turned his attention to the white, black eyed ferret now standing behind him. He squeaked at her and she excitedly stamped the floor with her front paws as Sable rounded the corner. Out of what felt like nowhere, Sandy leaned down, picked Crystal and Sable up, and carried them to the cage as Conrad followed. Before Conrad or either ferret could respond, Sandy put the ferrets into the cage and locked the door. Knelling down beside Conrad, she petted the top of his head. "I’m sorry I had to do that but you’re getting far too into this and scaring me. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have put you with them in the first place," she said as she started to sob. Conrad felt terrible, as though he’d let her down. He licked her index finger and nuzzled against her hand, wishing he could talk so he could say he was sorry. "You’re probably curious as to why you woke up in the cage. I let you sleep in my lap for about an hour. I had to go to the bathroom and I didn’t want to wake you. I noticed you seemed uncomfortable out in the open so I put you in their cage. That was about two hours ago; it’s nine thirty. That was the pizza place on the telephone. They wanted to know what we thought of the pizza. They wanted to talk to you but I bluffed my way out of it by telling them you were busy." Conrad’s parents would be home in another hour or so. He wanted to tell Sandy it was okay to go home. That way he could blame this on himself and not get her involved. He guessed that this ability wasn’t one his parents intended to tell others. "Come on, let’s go sit down on the couch until your parents get home. Maybe this is why your parents wanted you to wait until you were eighteen for this. Maybe they knew something like this would happen and somehow, waiting a couple more years would prevent it." As she stood up to carry Conrad, the two ferrets squeaked at her, unhappy she was taking their new companion away. "I’m sorry girls but he needs to rest now. Maybe he can play with you later; when he’s human again." With Conrad secure in her hands, she walked back into the living room, sat down on the couch, and put Conrad on her lap. Picking up the TV controller she turned the TV on and started flipping through the channels to find something to watch.
* * *The next two hours passed without incident. Conrad stayed on Sandy’s lap while they watched TV. The sound of his parents opening the front door and walking in the house brought his situation to the focus. Sandy turned off the TV as Conrad stood on his hind legs. Fear gripped him as he found himself imagining the worst case scenario coming true once his parents discovered his disobedience. He pictured them putting him outside into the cold night, forcing him to go wild while turning Sandy into a weasel to keep her quiet. "Conrad, we’re home," came his mother’s voice from the lobby. Conrad looked back at Sandy, unsure of how to respond. "Conrad, is everything okay?" his mother asked, sounding concerned. "We’re in here," Sandy quietly replied. Conrad’s mother didn’t have to reply; the angry sigh and sound of her stomping into the den was more then enough to convey her emotions. A chill ran down Conrad’s spine and he started quivering in fear as watched them walk in. "Sandy, where’s Conrad?" his mother asked. Conrad squeaked at his mother. Despite his parents seeing him naked being embarrassing, he couldn’t do much about it so chose to ignore that problem. "Oh shit!" his father cursed "You went into the attic!" his mother said, more of an accusation then question. "Dammit Conrad, we told you not to!" his father said. Conrad’s nervousness was on overdrive at this point and he silently cursed at himself for his stupidity. "We also said no girls! Not only do you invite Sandy over but you go into the attic?" his mother yelled. "Mr. and Mrs. Brown; I know you’re upset and angry over Conrad calling me over and us going into the attic," "You both went in?" Conrad’s dad asked. "We didn’t know this would happen. He was curious, that’s all. He’s had a hard enough time dealing with this happening to him. I know what he … what we did was wrong, but I think we should focus on helping Conrad before dishing out punishment," she said, pointing to the weasel standing on her lap. "Fine; we’ll figure out discipline over this later," his mom agreed, fidgeting her hands in obvious annoyance and trying to think of what to do next. "How long has he been a weasel? Can he still understand you?" "Since around five. He seems to understand me when I talk but sometimes he loses control; like when he was eating or playing with the ferrets. He seems calmest when he’s with me," Sandy answered. "Okay, that fits. You’re a connection to his humanity so when he focuses on you, it keeps him grounded … something he’ll probably be in a different way once we get him out of this mess," his mother said. "Guys … what exactly is going on here? Why did that stone turn Conrad into a weasel? I’ve heard of magic but always thought it was a rumor. I’ve never seen a person turn into an animal. Yeah, I’ve seen rabbits out of hats and other parlor tricks but nothing like this," Sandy asked. Conrad’s mother sighed deeply before sitting down to her right. "Sandy, what we are about to tell you must remain a secret for as long as you live," Conrad's mother started. "Honey, are you sure we should tell her … our little secret?" his father asked. "She’s already seen this happen to Conrad," his mother said. "Exactly, she’s seen too much!" his father protested. "What else are we supposed to do; turn her into a weasel to keep her quiet? The last thing we need is the authorities breathing down our necks." Sandy watched this conversation and started shaking as beads of sweat poured down her forehead. "I don’t want to be a weasel! I just want Conrad back!" she whimpered, her eyes growing damp with tears. "Shhh, it’s all right, we wouldn’t … we couldn’t do that to you," Conrad’s mother said, gently hugging Sandy to calm her. "Harold, please don’t scare her like that!" "I’m sorry, I just … panicked. Believe me Sandy, I’d never condemn you to live as an animal. I didn’t mean to scare you." Sandy nodded her head while sniffling and rubbing her eyes. "Can Conrad be human again?" "Yes dear, he can. We wanted him to wait until he was eighteen because it’s safer at that age. When younger, people tend to lose themselves to the animal form," his mother assured her. "I guess if you and Conrad were to get more serious, we’d eventually need to have this conversation anyway. I just wish we didn’t need to have it now," his father said. "Believe me guys, I can keep this a secret. I mean, who’d believe me anyway? If I told someone, they’d probably think I’m crazy!" "Indeed … anyway, the ability for Conrad to become human again is there right here and now. First, we should tell you … both of you how this all started," Conrad's mom said. "It all started nearly a thousand years ago. An ancestor of mine was a well-known thief. She had a knack for being able to break into just about anywhere. Unfortunately, one fateful evening, she broke into a wizard’s house and tried to steal a magical stone. She didn’t realize what it was at the time; she only cared that it looked valuable. Unfortunately the wizard captured her and decided a weasel would be a better form for her and turned her into one. Fortunately, she managed to escape with the stone and several others. She wasn’t sure how long she spent as a weasel, maybe a few months but she was eventually able to figure out how to use the stone she originally intended on stealing to return to her human form." "So, how does that bring us to here? Is that stone on the attic the same one she stole?" Sandy asked. "After changing back, she discovered the ability by accident. One day, she was thinking of that incident, thinking of the process that changed her body when she found herself reverting to weasel form! She soon discovered she could change back and forth from weasel to human at will. When she later had two sons, she hid the ability from them. One of them however, discovered the stone one day; it turns out he’d seen his mother turn herself into a weasel and heard the stone caused it. After discovering them in a book, he spoke the same words that are written in the frame while holding the stone and found himself becoming a weasel. His mother was able to get him to change back using the same tactic she used to revert to human form. They discovered that the other brother would gain that ability when chanting those words while holding the stone." "So, anyone can become a weasel this way and gain that ability?" Sandy asked. "No, her husband tried it and nothing happened. However, when she chanted the words while he was holding the stone, it worked and turned him into a weasel. He was able to change back but didn’t get the ability to change form at will as they had. The family decided to keep this ability a secret along with the stone. It wasn’t until several generations later that their descendants discovered a sort of loophole. This happened when the wife of one of their descendants tried the spell and lost herself to the weasel form. They searched for her for three days before they found her and were able to find her and help her to change back into human form. When she changed back, she later discovered she too could become a weasel at will. Subsequent trials of the spell confirmed anyone not part of the bloodline needed to spend 72 hours as a weasel for the ability to take hold." "Why couldn’t they just cast the spell the original wizard cast?" Sandy asked. "We’re not sure why but it wouldn’t have worked. From what we heard about it, because the original person spent so long as a weasel, that is why she gained the ability and could pass it on to others." "So, how does Conrad become human again?" "Here, put him on the floor and we’ll show you. First, go to his room and get him some clothes so he has something to wear once he’s human." "Alright," Sandy said. Conrad patiently waited as Sandy lowered him to the floor in front of his parents before heading to his room to get his clothes. Conrad stood on his hind legs looking up at his parents. The story his mother had told seemed impossible, like something from a fairy tale, yet here he was, a little weasel standing on the floor while his mother looked down at him. "There’s another reason we wanted you to wait until you were eighteen. We’ve found that some people who go through the change before they are eighteen sometimes are unable to change back. Even those that can change back often end up with some aspect of the weasel form as part of their body that never goes away," Conrad's mother said. Conrad didn’t like the sound of this. For all he knew, his ears would end up being stuck as little rounded weasel ears or he might end up stuck with the fur or who knows what else. What if he was stuck as a weasel? He didn’t want to live his life as a furry little critter. "Whatever it is, if anything, we’ll be there for you but you still shouldn’t have gone up here. I guess it’s partly our fault; we should have locked the chest or told you what was in there was toxic or something to keep you away," his father said. Conrad nodded at his father; but he also didn’t blame his parents. He chose to go up there, open the chest and handle the stone. It wasn’t as if anyone forced him. Sandy came back a few seconds later with a pair of jeans, underwear and a blue tee shirt. She placed them on the floor beside Conrad before sitting down on the couch. "So, how does he become a human again?" she asked. "We’ll show you. First, you need to know something," Conrad's mother said. "Oh no, what?" Sandy asked. "Because he turned into a weasel before turning eighteen, there may be some complications. You see, there have seen incidents where some activated the spell before turning eighteen and had … problems. He might have some weasel parts that are permanently part of his human self or he may not even be able to change back. We’ll have to wait and see as there is no other way to know." "All right," Sandy reluctantly answered. "Okay Conrad; changing back isn’t too hard. In time, you’ll find it easy. Here is what you need to do. You need to picture your human form; concentrate on it as hard as you can," she said. Conrad closed his eyes and did his best to picture himself as a human. Unfortunately, nothing was happening; with weasel scenes, it was difficult to picture things from a human perspective. He squeaked in upset at the thought he was going to be stuck like this. "Nothings happening!" Sandy cried. "Okay, stay calm; this is always the most difficult the first time. It’s important to stay calm. Panicking will only strengthen the instincts and make it even harder to think in human terms. Try closing your eyes; do your best to ignore sounds you normally couldn’t hear as a human or scents you normally couldn’t smell. Don’t think of us as much larger then you as we are. Think of us as looking as we did to you when you were human. Picture moving your hands and legs as a human, walking as a human, and doing other human things. You aren’t a weasel, this is just a temporary form, don’t think of it as your true form, think of your human form as that. Think of a future as a human, not as a weasel. You can do it … believe in yourself; don’t think you can do it, know you can do it." Conrad pictured himself walking to school with Sandy, using the computer and getting dressed in front of the mirror. He ignored sounds his human ears couldn’t pick up. Soon, he felt a tingling all around his body. He wasn’t sure what it was and didn’t open his eyes to find out. His arms felt funny, as did his legs. He felt an odd compaction like feeling all over his torso. Soon, his arms and legs felt longer and more mobile, his eyes tingled and his skull felt funny, as though it was expanding. He felt an odd chill and the sensation of something pushing into his skin. His throat tingled and his tail seemed to disappear as his neck re-aligned. Within minutes, he felt himself again. He felt someone tie his shirt over his groin area to give him some decency before opening his eyes and standing all of the way up. Everything looked normal again; he was looking at his mother, seeing her as shorter then he and looking at his father, who stood a little taller then him. "I’m human again!" he proclaimed. Looking down at himself, he saw something a little unexpected; he had blonde hair on his chest; the same color as the yellow fur he had on his belly as a weasel. The amount off hair wasn’t more then before but it contrasted with the black he was used to. "Er … more or less!" "It’s also on your head, but red! Although … your beard is blonde too," Sandy said. Conrad felt the stubble on his chin and under his nose. "Looks like your hair color has changed. It’s what we mentioned about some aspects of the weasel staying with you." Conrad's mother said. "I see," Conrad said as he petted his head hair, "I guess I’m lucky to be human again at all." "Indeed," his father started, folding his arms; "you could have kept the tail or the ears, or even the entire head. Be thankful a change in hair color is the worst of it. Now do you see why when we say not to do something that we mean it?" "Yes, I know," Conrad nodded. "I was stupid to go up there, I should have known better. How am I going to explain the hair color change with different color facial hair then on my head? I mean, I can shave it but sooner or later someone will notice." "Don’t worry, we can say you dyed it and it got stuck like that for some reason. It may not be a strong excuse, but the evidence is kind of hard to ignore," Conrad's mother said. "Yeah, I guess so," Conrad answered as he shrugged his shoulders. "I do have one question," Sandy started. "What’s that?" Conrad's mother asked. "You said your ancestor that started all of this was a thief. Do you guys use this ability to steal things? I mean, your newly re-done kitchen must have cost a fortune!" "To put it simply, no we don’t. We prefer to use it help people as we can get into smaller areas. Often though, we just use it to have fun and get away from humanity occasionally. We could afford the kitchen because my great great Aunt did use it to steal some jewels and hide them away. The statute of limitations on persecution over possessing them expired ten years ago, so we were able to use them to afford lots of things; the kitchen, and money for Conrad's education as examples. We know it seems wrong but she stole those things more then a century ago from people that exploited the poor for their own gain. We’ve donated much of the money from that to the poor; at least that way others can benefit from it." "That’s cool," Sandy said. "So, how do I become a weasel again? Can I control it enough to become a half man/half weasel type of creature?" Conrad asked. "Yes, you can, but it takes years of discipline and practice to accomplish. We’ll discuss that later. In the meantime, you still did both call Sandy over and went into the attic. You disobeyed and betrayed our trust. I don’t think you should be using this ability until your old and mature enough." "But mom, I just spend an evening as an animal, I think I’ve learned my lesson!" "But nothing … you don’t realize how much danger you put yourself in. You could have ended up with terrible deformities because of this or worse, you may have been stuck as an animal forever. This ability is not a toy and until you learn to discipline yourself, I don’t think you should be using it." Conrad thought of protesting but considering what had happened and what he did, he realized that it was best to go along with what she said. "All right Mom … I understand." "For the next month you’re grounded. Maybe after that we can discuss this more," his mother said. Conrad sighed but nodded his head. "Well, I’d better be getting home. This has been one bizarre day and I think it’s time to end it. Don’t worry about me telling anyone, my lips are sealed. I’ll see you on Monday Conrad," Sandy said as she walked into the lobby to get dressed to go home. Conrad got dressed after Sandy and his parents walked out of the room. Once dressed, they said their good-byes as she left the house. His parents told him to go to his room, and he did so. Despite the trouble he was in and the odd events of this evening, he looked forward to having this ability and wondered how he’d use it. As he closed his bedroom door behind him, he smiled at all of the possibilities now open to him.