By Bob Stein
(based on illustrations by Eala Dubh)
was still just a faint glimmer of red behind the rolling hills, but it
would be rising soon. Myron turned on the rental car's map light and checked
his scribbled directions. Right 5.2 miles outside of Chirbury, then a
left onto B4386 for 2.1 miles, and finally, right on Leigh Road for 2.9
miles. According to the odometer, he should be smack in the middle of
Mitchell's Fold, Shropshire, Wales.
out of the tiny Fiat, he peered at the dark landscape for some kind of
sign or marker. One of these dark mounds was Stapeley Hill, home of the
ancient Celtic stone circle he was looking for. Not that he expected anything
noteworthy - the old woman running his bed and breakfast had been quite
clear that this was a 'local's only' attraction. In fact, she had only
told him about it after hearing of his disappointment in Stonehenge.
it had looked impressive in photos, the famous landmark was actually only
12 feet tall and thirty feet across. And it was roped off so that you
couldn't touch anything, with no visitors before dawn or after dark. Even
when Stonehenge was open, the ancient structure was so crowded with tourists
that he was more likely to commune with nature in a WalMart store.
it wasn't all that bad. A good part of his bad mood had been caused by
the long trip back. Driving in Great Britain was a test of nerves and
memory. The divided highways were easy enough, but a few accidental attempts
to maneuver the busy roundabouts in the wrong direction had earned him
blaring horns and shaking fists more than once. Happily, this early morning
trek had been free of traffic almost the whole way.
the cows were up, even if the farmers were not. He heard soft lowing from
the grassy hills. Miles from any street lights, the stars were still twinkling
in the pink-gray pre-dawn sky. He had to grin. Most of his friends would
probably think he was nuts to have gotten up so early just to stand in
the middle of an empty field. Of course, their idea of a great vacation
was Vegas, or Disneyland. Noise, bright lights, and crowds of people.
He shuddered. That was more his idea of Hell than a place to relax.
moment, Myron started walking up the larger of the hills. Since the stone
ring was set up to work with the sun, it seemed logical that it would
be on the highest point. There was supposed to be a public footpath leading
to the ring, but until the sun rose he was probably going to have better
luck just wandering around. He stopped a moment, considering going back
for his camera, then decided there would not be enough light anyway. He
could come back for it later.
it was the beginning of May, the morning air had a slight chill. Not enough
to be uncomfortable, but he was grateful for his long-sleeve shirt and
slacks. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he strolled over the soft ground,
heading for the crest of the hill. The cattle were visible now, mostly
gathered close to the top. Great. The ancient stones would be even harder
to spot among dried cow patties.
the huge animals turned to watch as he approached, and a couple actually
plodded towards him to snuffle curiously from a dozen feet away. They
probably weren't used to seeing humans wandering around the dark. There
would be plenty of them here later on. That was another tidbit of information
shared by his hostess. Some of the locals would gather on this spot at
mid-day to celebrate the Festival of Beltaine.
honored some ancient Welsh deity that the old woman had referred to as
"The Shining One." He was the god of healing and light, and
had something to do with the welfare of sheep and cattle. Given Britain's
recent epidemic of mad cow disease, it looked like Old Beli wasn't doing
a very good job these days. Maybe that was why he didn't rate an early
had feared, any stone set into this hilltop were nearly invisible. He'd
been hoping to find the center marker before sunrise, just to see if the
ancient Celtic astronomers still had things lined up. It didn't really
matter. He was content to stand here and watch the rural landscape come
sudden prod from behind startled him, and he turned to find one of the
cows regarding him with huge, liquid eyes. She had only thebarest nubs
of horns, with a thickly muscled body covered in golden brown and white
fur. Although the animal was huge, he was amused rather than frightened
by her attention. She snuffled at him, and then butted her head against
him again, pushing him towards one of the larger clumps of cattle.
bewildered, but also curious, Myron stumbled ahead, only to have the cow
nudge him again. The other animals seemed a bit nervous, opening their
circle as he was pushed among them. Amusement quickly turned to annoyance.
The first rays of the sun were breaking over the far hills, and he seriously
doubted that the view would benefit from a border of bovine butts. Yet
the animal kept shoving him, moving with him each time he tried to step
out of the way.
had closed ranks again, and Myron felt a twinge of concern that made him
feel silly. He could see the tabloids now. 'Yank Tourist Held Captive
by Cows!' Make that, 'Yank Suffocated by Cows.' He wrinkled his nose as
the combined odors of his audience assaulted his senses. Why the sudden
increase in stink? His worst fears were confirmed when he glanced down.
A large, grayish lump was directly in front of him. Major cow flop.
he looked closer. The surface was too regular, the edges too defined.
Amazed, Myron looked around the hilltop and then back at the stone directly
in front of him. This was the main marker! Grinning, he turned towards
the horizon. The sun was dead center between two distant hills, sending
a hard edge of light that was creeping towards him through the grass.
Just then, the cow almost knocked him over with another hard shove that
sent him stumbling forward. His right foot landed on the stone in perfect
unison with the first ray of sunlight.
was as if he had stepped on a land mine. A shock of pain and heat shot
through his body and his legs jerked so violently that he literally flew
backwards and landed in a heap on the dew-covered grass. He lay there
for a few moments, literally stunned. It took a while to recover from
the sudden and intense jolt, but he slowly realized that whatever the
cause, the pain was gone.
Hell had happened? Myron raised up on one elbow and rubbed bleary eyes,
still feeling a little disoriented and somehow bloated. He must have pinched
a nerve or something when he stepped on the stone. The sensation had been
awfully intense - hopefully nothing had been broken. Nothing hurt - actually,
he felt oddly warm and content just lying in the thick grass.
wasn't until he started to get up that he realized his shoes and socks
had come off. And his shirt must have gotten twisted as he fell, for it
was hanging open around his belly, the buttons popped off. God, he needed
to go on a diet! Myron stared at his massive gut in dismay. English cooking
must be really packing on the weight. He shook his head, trying to clear
muddled thoughts. This didn't make sense. He'd been eating lighter than
usual, not heavier.
pushed himself up and managed to stand, though balance seemed a bit off.
His left shoe was on the ground, but the right was nowhere to be found.
As he leaned over to pick up the one loafer, he felt a cramping in his
toes. Balancing awkwardly on one leg, he tried rubbing the spasm out -
and stared as the toes pressed together, and then merged into two thicker
wasn't possibly. He could see the main bones thickening, his foot stretching
out. This was some allergic reaction to the grass. Or maybe some really
weird bruising from hitting his foot on the rock. Yet even as he thought
that, Myron realized that both feet were affected equally. And not just
his feet. His entire body was swelling, gaining mass with each heartbeat.
His pants were sliding down in the back, too small and too short. The
fabric squeezed his legs with increasing pressure, and his ankles were
jutting well below the cuffs. The right cuff wasn't even there anymore,
just some tatters of blackened fabric.
and stared at the stone. Sure enough, a scorched footprint was burned
into the top, with bits of melted rubber and bits of leather that might
have once been his other shoe. He closed his eyes, trying to clear this
mad hallucination from his brain. Unfortunately, he could feel the pressure
and pulling as he continued to swell, and grabbed automatically at his
pants as they finally slipped off his butt.
couldn't quite grip the fabric, and the cause was quickly obvious. His
hands were altering to match the swollen, thick lumps that had been his
feet, no longer able to flex or grip. Although his rationale mind was
still trying to deny the obvious, his eyes easily matched up the general
shape with the cloven hooves of the cows around him. He was turning into
a cow? Bewilderment mixed with his disbelief. There were cows all around
him, dozens, maybe a hundred. What possible use would another bovine be?
answer came in the form of intense warmth and swelling in his crotch.
Myron gasped as his testicles and penis swelled suddenly, his lengthening
member drawing up to his belly as a dark-furred sheath formed around it.
God, it looked like he was carrying some small cannonballs between his
remembered the Festival of Beltaine, and realized that there probably
WAS a deity involved. Beli, The Shining One. A quick glance around confirmed
his immediate suspicion. The cattle watching him with increasing interest
were all female. If there had been a bull for this herd, it must have
died of old age, or perhaps been a victim of the Mad Cow disease slaughters.
In either case, Old Beli had obviously decided to show Myron just how
well an ancient god could look after the welfare of his charges.
the knowledge was somehow comforting. Though he still hoped that this
was all some insane delusion, the result of bashing his head on a rock
when he fell, Myron felt his fear draining away. He was still bewildered
as his body continued to transform, but those feeling were becoming based
more on awe and amazement.
of his pants finally gave way with a popping of stitches, revealing a
long, ropy tail that swung loosely with a twitch of new muscles. His shirt
actually shredded, fabric pulling apart over the barreling mass of his
chest and back. It was getting hard to stand upright now, and he leaned
forward precariously on fully formed hooves. The sensation was curious,
like having his feet asleep. Hands and feet were numb, yet he could feel
pressure, even coolness through them.
Up to now,
his head had been mostly ignored by the forces reshaping his body. They
rectified that oversight with a pulse of heat that thrust his lower face
forward even as it sucked the back of his skull back into his thickening
neck. He longed for a mirror, a still pond, but had only the flowing shape
of his own shadow to follow the transformation. Pressure in his forehead
eased as horns emerged, forming elegant black curves in the grass.
his mass was too much to hold up, and he fell forward onto thickly muscled
forelegs, his hooves hitting the ground with a solid thud that seemed
to reverberate through the air like the tone of a huge gong. Momentum
threw him off balance, and his hind end twisted sideways and hit the ground.
The position was uncomfortable, and he found himself rising with a lunge
that came all too easily. Standing on all fours felt normal, but seemed
to accelerate the process, as if the earth itself was fueling his change.
felt his muzzle make a last push outwards, saw the shadow horns make a
final outward curve. A sensation of mass, of incredible strength and virility
washed over him, and for one terrifying moment, he felt the transforming
heat touch his mind. However, when it faded, he realized that he, Myron,
was still present and accounted for. Relief mixed with gradual awareness
that his thoughts had not gone unaltered.
rich and varied, filled his nostrils. Grass, dirt, his own bullish sweat-urine
scent, even a lingering trace of that marked his own lost humanity. Then
his mind processed another, far more overpowering smell - the desire of
a hundred cows combined into a single heady perfume that awakened new
instincts and desires. Cows that pressed forward to welcome him, pulling
off the scraps of clothing that still hung on his black-furred, powerful
back. Cows that he felt a sudden and deep attachment to, a need to serve
of the females pressed against his side, gazing into his eyes with obvious
desire. Her scent was familiar, her markings known. This was the cow that
had pushed him here, the one responsible for the loss of his humanity.
He tried to summon a spark of anger, a faint glimmer of resentment. And
was more than a little surprised to find nothing but gratitude.
it was more of Beli's influence, a change to perception and thought that
made the prospect of his new life acceptable. Insurance that the cows
would not be short-changed by an unhappy bull. Still, as Myron tilted
his head to regard the first of his bovine mates with bemused wonder,
he found himself responding with a very deep and contented 'Mooo.'