A thief steals a priceless statue in the night. The experience changes him forever.
Jake sat in his truck and sighed. His hands were sweaty on the wheel, no sound but the engine idling. He had pulled up to the place because his fence had told him the owner of the house died and left loads of valuable merchandise alone. Not that he could tell by looking at the place; it was a two-story wreck. The paint was peeling in several places, even in the meager light shed by the moon and his headlights he could see patches of the rotting, corpse-gray wood beneath the sun-faded apricot paint.
He turned the key and killed the engine, before clambering out of his truck. The truck door squeaked in the bitter late-autumn cold, the ground in the wooded area he parked in was slick from the rain and as he walked, bits of leaves and dead grass stuck to the heels of his boots. He approached the back yard and stepped over the waist-high fence. Jake shuffled through the grass to the back door. It was a small yard, but it was laid out in a way that made it appear big. The over-grown lawn helped with the illusion, and in the back of his mind Jake remembered his childhood and how he and his friends used to tell stories about haunted houses.
He put his hands around the cold, stainless steel knob and turned, only to find it was locked. Jake cursed under his breath and dug in his puffy down jacket for his crowbar. He stuck the straight end of the crowbar into the space between the door's lock and the frame and held it firmly at an angle. A quick kick, and the door fell open; the smell of stale carpet hung in Jake's nostrils as he stepped inside.
He groped around in the soft blackness for a light switch. When he found one, he flicked it and a weak yellow light filled the room, he was quite surprised the house still had power. He found himself in a pantry, with shelves full of dusty old cans and jars of vegetables, some of it probably half Jake's age or older. He opened the door into the main hall and stepped out onto the creaking hardwood floor.
He paced through the hallway, checking every drawer and container he saw. Mostly, he just found junk; old candles, seed packets, and yellowed paperback books. He reached what he thought was the old woman's bedroom and worked up the hope that the good stuff was there. The room was unlike the rest of the house, with a neat single bed and wine-colored walls; the air smelt of dried flowers.
His boots stained the off-brown carpet as he inspected the room. He pulled open an expensive-looking oak dresser only to find socks, and then he saw it out the corner of his eye.
It was in a corner of the room next to the closet, a large statue of a goat, three feet high and sculpted sitting on its haunches. Jake took a step towards it and shone his flashlight on it, it shone yellow with slightly-tarnished gold; but more interestingly, its eyes glittered red. He went up close to it and checked it out. It was very well-crafted, so detailed in its fur and musculature that he almost expected it to stand up and bleat. And most importantly, the eyes were fashioned out of a red translucent material that looked very much like garnet.
Even if it wasn't real gold, the eyes alone would make this thing worth a nice bundle. He licked his lips at the thought of the money it was worth, hundreds or maybe thousands. He stroked the whiskers on his chin, making a mental note to shave once he got back with his haul.
He was set to continue his sweep of the bed room when he heard the door at the front of the house swing open, with heavy footsteps behind it. Jake's instincts took over and he snatched the goat statue up, it was heavy but not unmanageable.
He heard a voice bark something at him as he bolted for the pantry door. He ran out the back so quickly he didn't even have time to turn off the light, and he was just ten paces, ten short paces from his truck until he tripped and fell face-forward onto the dark grass.
Jake got back up, wondering at the back of his mind why his toes felt stiff, and continued his dash to the safety and warmth of his vehicle. Thankfully, the statue was just dirty, but undamaged by the fall.
He spent the first half of the drive back checking behind him, there was nobody following him each time, but he couldn't shake the feeling something was after him.
He made it into town when he started feeling sick. His stomach felt tight, his skin felt hot and itchy. Jake pulled up at a little motel downtown, hoping the illness would clear up after a good night's rest.
The desk clerk was a thin, disinterested woman who looked to be in her late 20's. She looked up from her magazine as he came in.
"Can I help you, hon?" She said.
Jake coughed and rubbed his head, feeling concerned about the hard nubs he felt under his sandy-colored hair.
"Yeah, I'd like a room for the night."
The clerk wrote something down in the ledger, money exchanged hands and Jake received the key to his room from her.
Jake wasted no time getting to his room and locking the door behind him. He sat down on the edge of the mattress and kicked his boots off. He turned the TV on to an old movie channel and lay back on the bed; within moments of the TV as background noise, he fell asleep.
He awoke some time later, groggy and disoriented. He glanced at the digital wall clock, which displayed '2:30' in green digits.
"Son of a..." Jack mumbled. He woke up feeling sicker than ever and it wasn't even daylight. And then he saw, right by the door, the goat. He wasn't terrible bothered at first, he just assumed that he had moved it to his room and didn't remember it. His mind felt foggy, looking at the statue made his feet feel really itchy. He sat up and pulled his socks off...and saw that his feet had hooves.
He closed his eyes, opened them again. He groped for the lamp on the nightstand and turned it on and the yellow light confirmed it. Hooves, a pair of glossy black hooves where his toes were.
He reached out to touch them, feeling how smooth and hard they were, and saw that his arm was covered in a layer of bristly, yellowish fur.
He screamed, or tried to, as he opened his mouth all that came out was a strained, quiet bleat like a goat would make.
He pushed himself off the bed and tumbled to the floor; his legs weren't cooperating with him, his joints popped as his legs took on an animal shape, his jeans slid down revealing more glossy yellowish fur. He tried to stand but his digitigrade legs would no longer allow it, and he fell back down on all fours, his boxers slid down around his thin legs, letting his little tail hang free in the still apartment air.
He stumbled over to the door, not used to walking like an animal...god no not that. His mind shuddered at the thought. He took in a deep breath and reared up on his legs and grabbed at the door knob, only to watch as his hands finished their transition. His fingers melded together; Index and middle, ring and pinky. As his fingers merged into thick, short stumps; the nails darker, thicker, and stiffer as they grew out. In mere seconds, his hands became a pair of clumsy black hooves, just like a goat's hooves.
He fell back down on all four hooves. His ears were hanging down lower, lower as they took the shape of floppy goat ears. The experience of becoming an animal, being a mind trapped in an animal body, reminded him of a book he read in school; if only he could remember the title. His mind was reeling, buzzing. No hands meant no way out of the room, no way to do anything. Just be an animal. Forever.
He tried again to scream for help, only to be struck silent by the sensation of his jaw and palate creaking,pulling outward. As the golden yellow fur spread up his neck; his skull went to work forming a muzzle. Lips were thinning, nose flattening into a set of thin nostrils at the end of a blunt snout. It hurt, it hurt a lot, but it wasn't an unpleasant hurt;it was almost exciting in a sick way. He felt like a doctor observing symptoms of a new disease.
As his snout filled out, his horns, a handsome dark-brown, slightly curved pair, erupted from his scalp as the yellow fur overtook his natural hair color and erased all remaining traces of it. His front teeth flattened out as his jaw pushed out; the flesh rippled and the bone made cracking sounds like tree limbs breaking in a windstorm. His mind was rocked by the foggy, throbbing, echoing sensation like a migraine. His long ears rang; a long, high pitched ringing like a dial tone. His tongue felt around his new mouth and then he threw back his head and let out a long, warbling bleat.
With square-pupiled eyes, he turned and saw himself in the mirror. A lop-eared young goat with a brilliant, glossy show-quality coat. The statue was gone, but that wasn't his concern. He was a goat now. No longer a human being... a wild animal condemned to be shot or hit by a car. He stumbled around in a daze, he was so unused to walking around on all fours, and the experience felt wrong... demeaning. His mind was a blizzard of panic; all his plans... all of his connections and possession were now nothing. He was alone now, alone in the body of a dumb animal.
In the middle of his self-pitying, his ears pricked up. His keen hearing had detected a set of light footsteps heading towards him. He looked around the room, and thanked the gods he didn't believe in that the window had been left open. He trotted over to the window, his hoofsteps well-concealed by the dirty carpet, and threw himself up on the windowsill. He hooked his front legs against the particle board frame and with a powerful kick of his back legs, threw himself out the window and onto the cold metal fire escape. He heard the door swing open, a woman's voice yelling in the back of his mind as he ran down the steps and into the black midnight.