A "Winds of Change" Story
It wasnít much longer until they finally dragged me away from Todd to take my Powers test, which until now I had been more adept at avoiding than David had. Even though Todd hadnít exactly been talkative during my visit I really didnít want to go. I felt like I was headed into a final exam at school for which I hadnít studied, and upon which my entire future hinged. I asked my parents to wait in the lobby, not wanting to add yet more pressure to the test by their presence.
I didnít expect to develop any spectacular superpowers, of course; the probabilities were quite solidly against it and I didnít really mind. Sure, something like teleportation or a kinetic shield would be nice to have, perhaps even be useful, but most people lived just fine without and I figured I could live without too. Not that I didnít have a few small fantasies now and then, of course...
One thing I was rather worried about was the possibility of becoming a norm shifter. And in that, at least, the statistics were on Ďmyí side; norm shifting was extremely common, and avians in general had a higher proportion of norm shifters than average. Especially those without functional wings in morphic form.
If I wasnít a normshifter, there were two likely outcomes. I might sprout a pair of wings on my back, which would be fine with me though I knew it would be confusing at first. Or I would become so high-degree that my morphic form would be capable of flight, which would be disastrous for me; in those cases the birdmorph in question lost a large amount of manual dexterity indeed. And I needed my hands, with all of my fingers intact. I couldnít spare any for wings. All in all, I had no idea if being able to normshift would be a good indicator or not.
Fingering the patch of feathers on my upper back yet again, I shook my head in disbelief. I was going to be a birdmorph. It refused to sink in beyond that simple realization, I somehow still didnít quite believe it. I just didnít think of myself as the bird type.
Dr. Chin came into the room, and I began to sweat nervously; it was time for the test to begin. "Well, Jim. Busy day, isnít it?"
I nodded mutely, still running my fingers through my plumage. I wasnít sweating there, just on the rest of my skin. I supposed Iíd eventually have to give up sweating altogether, I realized, and wondered how birds regulated their temperature without it. Iíd find out soon enough, I guessed...
Dr. Chin sighed and decided to give up on making small talk, for which I was sort of glad; Iíd always been a quiet and reserved sort of person, especially around authority figures like doctors. But on the downside it meant we had to go straight into the examination now. Dr. Chin first had me take off my shirt again and scrutinized my back. He checked his clipboard, which I guessed contained the results of the preliminary checkup they gave me when weíd first arrived.
"Has it... crept any further?" I finally asked when I could take the silence no more.
"Nope," Dr. Chin reported. "Every feather is still accounted for, nothing new to report. I think youíre going to change via lots of very small surges. It may seem like a continuous change if theyíre too small to really notice individually, but I assure you you wonít end up Changing like Todd did."
Dr. Chin chuckled as I sagged in relief, and for a moment I completely forgot about the Power test that was my main reason for being here. "Can you tell how high a degree Iíll become from that? Will I get wings?" I asked, eager to put my mind to rest on that matter too. It seemed likely that I would keep my mind, now all I had to worry about were my hands...
But Dr. Chin shook his head. "Sorry, at this stage thereís still no way to tell. In fact, with microsurges like this might be, I probably wonít know your final degree before you do. The Change is gradual, and then one day it just stops. But donít you worry. No matter what degree you end up as, youíll be able to fly one way or another. The Change seems to realize that taking someone that close to a flighted form without finishing the job would be way too frustrating to bear." I could have sworn Dr. Chin was grinning as he said that, though how I could tell his expression though his inflexible beak and layer of facial feathers was beyond me.
Perhaps it was because I was going to have a beak and feathers on my face soon myself, I realized, and felt a chill that made the feathers already on my back stand up slightly. Despite Davidís apparent lack of concern on that point, it was a scary thing to think about. I liked having lips, and licked them nervously. "Can we do the Powers test now?" I asked, suddenly wanting to get it over with and get out of here. I had so little time left...
Dr. Chin nodded. "Sure. We should start with norm shifting, itís always a good idea to check for common Powers first. Theyíre less likely to interfere with tests for rarer power later if we know about them already." He closed the examination roomís door and latched it thoroughly, then turned back to me. "Youíd better take the rest of your clothes off. Even though your norm form probably wouldnít have a problem getting out of human clothing, we need to see whatís going on, hmm?"
Dr. Chin was trying to speak in a calming, reassuring manner. Iím sure he had tested plenty of reluctant or terrified kids in the past, and I told myself that if they could get through this then so could I. I resolved not to embarrass myself by being one of the terrified ones. I undid my pants, and soon was sitting naked on the examination table. I was embarrassed anyway. But at least I had my dignity, such as it was. "What do I do now?" I asked quietly, almost whispering.
Dr. Chin grinned his imperceptible avian grin again. "Everyone visualizes the mental efforts needed to activate their powers differently, I canít tell you exactly what to do. But most people think of norm shifting power as a wall or a door in their mind, with their other form on the other side. See if you can find something to push against in your mind, and try to get through it."
I frowned and closed my eyes. How was I supposed to do that? I tried to visualize the lobes of my brain, and used them to push on the inside of my skull, but nothing happened. Perhaps I was being too literal, I needed a metaphor instead. For some reason, Jello came to mind. I pictured myself standing in front of a wall made of black Jello. I pushed my imaginary hands against it experimentally.
It yielded, slowly and reluctantly. It didnít feel like Jello, more like molasses. Perhaps thatís what the wall was really made of, a slab of molasses somehow retaining an upright form against gravity. Iím being too literal again, I reminded myself; this was just my imagination, after all. Walking through molasses was just a metaphor for activating some power of mine. I didnít feel like my body was changing, though, and decided Iíd better back out before going to far.
My imaginary hands wouldnít come, they were stuck in the intangible molasses. In fact, it almost felt like they were being pulled deeper by a powerful current. My eyes popped open in sudden panic. "Iím stuck!" I exclaimed, almost screaming.
Dr. Chin jumped, startled. "Stay calm! You havenít normshifted yet, what do you mean? Stuck in human form?"
I ignored him for a moment, struggling with the imagery of pulling my hands out of the wall they were stuck in. It was my imagination, right? So why couldnít I do whatever I wanted? It was like a nightmare, I couldnít control what was in my own head. Even banishing the image by thinking of something else didnít help, I still felt an incredible suction in my mind. A pressure, forcing me slowly but inexorably onward in a direction Iíd never been before. "Oh god, itís sucking me in," I moaned. "The wall. I canít pull away, and itís sucking me in!"
Dr. Chin hurried around to the other side of the table I was sitting on and gripped my shoulders to keep me from moving. His scaled hands felt different on my skin somehow, and I realized that I now had feathers on my shoulders too. There was a crawling prickling sensation as more feathers sprouted around the edges of the patch, spreading slowly down my upper arms as I watched. It wasnít stopping, this wasnít just a small surge. The Change was creeping now, and faster than even Toddís had! I looked over my feathered shoulder at Dr. Chin, silently pleading for him to stop it somehow. I was too scared to speak.
Dr. Chin set his beak in a puzzled frown. "Donít panic, Jim. Iím going to call in the Nullifier, just in case, but I think I may know whatís going on. We might have triggered a larger surge than I expected, or your normshifting power might not have fully developed yet. That often happens early in the Change like this, nothing to worry about."
I felt only slightly reassured. As Dr. Chin stuck his head out the door to summon the Nullifier, I watched green feathers continue to spread over my skin like a rash. It didnít hurt, or even really itch all that much; just a continuing tickling prickle as they poked out and grew. They were down past my elbows, all over my back, and moving onto my chest and neck. At least only my skin seemed to be changing so far, I couldnít feel any muscles or bones moving around inside me...
By the time the Nullifier arrived a minute later, a low-degree beavermorph who looked like he had been dragged away from something important, I was quite eager for help. I felt like I had been completely drawn into the Ďwallí in my mind, like I was being swept along in a powerful current that I was nowhere near strong enough to get out of. Dr. Chin told the Nullifier what was going on, and gave him the go-ahead to try stopping me in my headlong fall to birdhood. He took hold of my arm and concentrated.
I gasped as I felt the river of molasses in my mind suddenly freeze solid. "What is it, Jim?" Dr. Chin asked worriedly. "Does something feel wrong? The Change has stopped."
I shook my head. "I donít know... I still canít back up, out of the wall. Iím frozen in place."
Dr. Chin nodded. "Okay. I think this must be a result of a Power, then, perhaps a form of normshifting. If it were a surge a nullifierís power wouldnít have been able to stop it. Ed, let him go again and letís see what happensó"
I quickly grabbed the beavermorphís hand, making sure he didnít let go. "Wait! Donít!" The Nullifier glanced to Dr. Chin for instructions.
Dr. Chin tried to speak calmingly. "Itís alright, Jim, we know what weíre doing. We handle unusual Change cases all the time, everythingís under control. But you canít stay nullified forever, we need to see what exactly this Power is doing. Very few Powers are really bad for the person that possesses them, you know."
I took a moment to slow my breathing and think. I had to believe him, I guess; he was the expert. But fear isnít all that rational. "I want... I want mom and dad in here. If Iím going to go..."
Dr. Chin nodded. "Hold him for a few more minutes, okay?" He told the Nullifier, who sighed but agreed. Then he went out into the hall to fetch my parents from the lobby.
My parents were quickly ushered in, my father squinting his large lemur eyes in the bright light of the examination room and my motherís catlike bearing as serene as always. I crossed my legs turned slightly on the table, blushing at my nudity even as I was relieved beyond words that they were present. "Dr. Chin said you were having trouble with normshifting?" My father asked worriedly, eyeing the feathers that now covered my upper torso and much of my arms.
I nodded and glanced at the Nullifier holding my current form in place. "I started shifting slowly, I think, but it was going all wrong and I couldnít stop. Iím scared, I donít know whatís going to happen if I let it go."
Dr. Chin started to say something, but my mother cut him off before he could start. "Jim, itíll be okay," she said firmly. "You should follow this path to the end. Trust me, youíll need it." I looked at her with a hurt expression; she knew I doubted her Ďinsightí, I needed something more concrete than vague psychic reassurances to go on right now.
"Sheís right, you know," Dr. Chin tried again once she was finished. "Weíre in a hospital already, with Inducers and Nullifiers and everything right here. This isnít like what happened to your friend. Everythingís under control."
I glanced at my dad. He nodded and patted my hand. "Weíll stay here. The doorís shut, you wonít get lost even if you do lose it. Weíll be right here to help bring you back."
I turned to face the Nullifier holding my arm. His muzzle wrinkled in a lopsided grin. "Go for it, kid," he urged. "I bet flyingís pretty neat, eh?" I swallowed, nodded, and then he let me go. The feathers resumed their spread over my skin.
Within five minutes, my skin was almost completely covered in feathers and I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up. Dr. Chin confirmed that the plumage was almost definitely parrot. I was mostly green, with bright patches of primary color on various parts of my body; red on my head, tufts of blue on my wrists and backside, and yellow down the insides of my arms. I could have spent all day just trying to absorb the idea that my plumage was going to look like that.
But the suction in my mind didnít stop; growing feathers turned out to be only the first phase of my transformation. Once my skin had been completely covered by them, deeper structural changes began rippling through me. My hands and feet went scaly and grew short talons. My teeth and gums began fusing and growing out past my lips into a small beak, temporarily throwing my pronunciation out the window until I could get used to it. The stub of a tail sprouted under the patch of long blue feathers on my hind end, and what happened to my groin was pretty much the worst thing that could happen to an insecure adolescent male such as myself. But even so, I was beginning to relax and realize that my Power knew what it was doing. Exploring the changes that were happening to me started to become almost fun, though still in a scary sort of way. I was definitely going to be a parrot, alright! And I had no idea what to think of that.
After about ten minutes, though, the changes continued without a sign of slowing down and I started getting a little anxious again. My feet were changing in an unsettling fashion, my toes growing and changing orientation oddly. Worse, my little fingers were also growing rapidly, losing their talons and sprouting longer flight feathers. Soon my ring fingers began to fuse with my elongating little fingers, and my worst fears started to come true. My hands were becoming crippled, turning into wings. "This had better be reversible," I muttered, flexing my remaining fingers. I had no idea what Iíd do if it wasnít. Cry for days, probably. I didnít want to even think about it yet.
"If this is a normshift, it probably can be," Dr. Chin assured me. "Depending on the final degree of your morphic form, of course," he added. "If itís higher than this current transitional form..."
"Oh great," I replied through my clenched beak. "Thatís the last thing I wanted to hear right now. Whereís that Nullifier got to?" The question was rhetorical, of course; I couldnít have a Nullifier hanging around me for the rest of my life, and it probably wouldnít stop the Change if or when it caught up with my current form.
I was seeing the future of my Change in fast-forward, and I didnít like where I was headed. I couldnít believe that Mom had said I should be doing this! So much for ESP, I thought bitterly.
My middle fingers were now fused into
the lengthening extension of my hands, and when I clenched my fists they
only folded down against my forearms like a birdís wings would. I could
feel my entire frame shifting now, rib cage deepening and pelvis reorienting
so that I couldnít stand upright any more. I stumbled as my feet underwent
a sudden twist and flex manoeuvre, Dr. Chin and my mom catching me before
I fell and helping me up onto the examination table. I was smaller now,
my feet only reached halfway to the floor.
"Iím going all the way," I muttered, on the verge of tears.
"In all probability it is a normshift, even though itís going rather slowly," Dr. Chin reminded me. "Itís supposed to go all the way. Youíll change back."
"But how far?" I demanded. Dr.
Chin remained uncomfortably silent.
"Just hang in there son," my father told me, and held my hand reassuringly. It was a meaningless reassurance, but just the same it was all that kept me from losing it completely. He held my hand until there werenít enough fingers left to make it a hand. Then he held my wing, gently squeezing it between his own primate thumb and forefinger. I was physically only about two feet tall by that point, the examination table had become an enormous plateau and the rest of the room towered over me. I felt even tinier.
It was hardly any relief at all when, over half an hour after my first normshift had begun, the sensation of change finally stopped. I was a parrot.
I had lost everything.
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