Thursday, June 2, 2016

Adventure: The Witch's Friend (update 10)

Introducing The Witch's Friend!

This adventure will be a bit of a different CYOA, focusing on probably one particular transformation rather than a bunch of branches and endings. It will also be run differently; rather than me coming up with a bunch of directions a particular page can go to, every page's comment section is a forum for suggestions on what should happen next.

I will basically pick my favorite suggestion(s) from those given, and branch off events from each. More than one mutually compatible suggestion may make it into the same page after the one in which they are suggested.

What's New? 
Update 10-4 new pieces; two have images. Re-ordered update list (the thing you're reading now) to have most recent first so it's easier to see what the newest stuff is instead of having to read down the whole list every time.
Update 9-9(!!) new pieces, 3 of which have images.
Update 8-5 new pieces, including two with an image.
Update 7-3 new pieces, all three of which have an image! (Used to be 2 but I decided to add a 3rd the next day)
Update 6-1 new piece; small update.
Update 5-3 new pieces, one of which has an image!
Update 4-4 new pieces (don't expect this pattern to continue though, honestly)!
Update 3-3 new bits, one of which has an image! I've amended the section above to reflect the reality that suggestions don't really just decide what the main character does next, but may dictate what other characters do and even events not connected to any character at all.
Update 2-One step forward added to each of U1's branches.
Update 1-Two branches begun! Fair warning, even events and facts prior to the story's beginning may differ from one branch to another until established somewhere along the branch.
Update 0-It exists! Now seeking suggestions for moving forward from the beginning.

Need Suggestions:
Just the new 4 desperately need them (due to having none). If you see a page with just one comment I encourage adding an alternative to that, though.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Changing Island: Entries 4-6

Just as a bit of trivia, not that I think anyone cares too much, but Entries 4 and 6 here are entirely new, while Entry 5 is a full reworking of a partially-written caption from way back when I was trying to do this as a series of captions. Also, wow, it took me days to figure out that I had managed to misspell the word "Entries" on the first post of this series. That kind of error is usually unlike me, and feel free to point out any other similarly glaring errors elsewhere.

Entry 4

As of this morning, I have started to change. But I'm going to save the details for a full entry after it's over. Anyway, today I got an interview with someone whose presence and appearance may very well corroborate the theory that this island keeps people young. Her name is Doctor Lauren Haden, formerly Larry; she is a botanist.

Dr. Haden was just over seventy years old when he washed ashore. He was still in active study, however, and had been on a research expedition to some South American islands, on a smaller ship going between two of the islands, when some kind of explosion rocked the ship. Lauren told me that she still speculates occasionally on what caused that explosion, but in the moment Dr. Haden focused his efforts on getting everyone safely off of the rapidly sinking ship. There was a second explosion, very close to him, just as he was about to get into one of the lifeboats, and something from that explosion hit the back of his head, knocking him out.

Around this time last year, he woke up, uninjured like everybody else, on the beach. His clothes were still intact, but soaked from the water. There was nobody there when he first stood up and looked around, noting the weather and the plant life and initially concluding that he must have washed ashore on either the island his boat had started out on or its destination. He went what seemed like farther inland, but began to notice strands of hair falling before his eyes.

On closer inspection, his hair had grown enough to frame his face, and more surprisingly, its grayish-white was starting to take on a reddish tint. Dr. Haden had been a redhead before the color began draining out with age, she tells me, so this was intensely curious. He called out at that point and a few girls showed up, welcoming him to the island and explaining what sort of place this was (and, is). As they lead him toward town to try and find some dry clothes and a towel, his hair continued to grow out, the pale red slowly becoming more vibrant.

By the time someone thought to take Dr. Haden's first photo, his hair had spilled halfway down his back and fully regained its original color, and his complexion looked generally more youthful than it had started. His height and build hadn't begun to change yet, however. Even though he was a botanist and not particularly well-studied in human anatomy, he decided to try and get a more full record of the ongoing transformation in case anybody else wanted to study the effect, so he borrowed a camera and asked to be left alone in his room until it was over.

At this point in the interview, Lauren pulled up on her computer a series of pictures taken in her bathroom mirror, arranged in chronological order, and began pointing them out to me. I'm referring to a copy of those files while writing this section. The first two depict the man I described before: Someone old, but with vibrant red hair. The next few show his skin becoming visibly smoother and more youthful, his height slowly decreasing by just a few centimeters at a time by some markings he had made on the mirror at that point. Lauren told me that about at this point he started to become excited as he realized that he seemed to be losing some of his age, and he actually felt younger as well, more energetic and limber.

Dr. Haden's entire transformation took place over that afternoon, and was over in time for supper. The photos show his height loss accellerating briefly before abruptly halting again, his body becoming a little slimmer along the way. By the time his height stabilized, Dr. Haden had the look of a healthy young man, albeit with unusually smooth, hairless skin. Then he starts to look steadily more feminine, with a bit more curve to his face, an increasingly slender frame and narrower shoulders.

His arms and legs slim down more, his hands (which at this point start having indivual pictures devoted to them) become smaller. His stomach visibly gains a slight inward curve, and his nipples grow slightly. I should note that Dr. Haden took these pictures after stripping completely, but took care to cover his private area in all of them. Lauren doesn't regret this decision, even though an important part of the transformation did take place there, the slow shrinking of what had made Dr. Haden male.

Before he even became female, Dr. Haden's chest visibly rises up near the nipples into a pair of small bumps. Lauren noted that the new skin formed by this growth was strangely sensitive to the touch, but refused to elaborate further. The pictures show Dr. Haden's hips widening at this point, his stomach continuing to curve inward more. A few profile pictures show his backside becoming larger and rounder as well.

He hummed to himself periodically, trying to trace the change of his voice. Lauren does tell me she wish she'd bothered to get something to record that with, as it was an interesting experience. Each time he aimed for the same set of pitches; at first, predictably, the lower ones were easy and the higher ones impossible. But his range audibly changed over time, the lowest pitches coming out as squeaky croaks and ever higher pitches becoming possible.

It seems that Dr. Haden's chest stopped growing just at the same time as he became fully female. There are a few pictures after that point that simply depict the exact same body, the same pretty face and hourglass figure as before. Right after the last one, there was a knock on the door.

Dr. Haden had given his soaked clothes to one of the girls who welcomed him; she had hung them on a clothesline. But when she came back for them, she found a different outfit entirely. About this time, she knocked on Lauren's door and nervously reported the state of her clothes. She yelped in a little bit of surprise when a woman's voice came from inside the door asking her to just leave them and turn around for a minute.

She put on the striped bikini and little white jacket, finding that they fit her new appearance perfectly. Besides that, she opened a few of the formerly-empty drawers in her bedroom to find several more bikinis and other feminine clothes, just the same way everyone had said there would be.

Sometime the next morning, she gave back the camera (having dumped its contents into what was now her own laptop) and let the owner take the usual "after" picture.

Given that Dr. Haden is both visibly youthful and feels as young as she looks, and given that the island's doctor (which, of course, there is one) found her to be in perfect health, without even a trace of the issues she had developed in the process of becoming a seventy-year-old man, I suppose it's reasonable to guess this island has a positive effect on its inhabitants' health, which amounts to or at the very least includes keeping us young. That's at least one good thing, I suppose.

Although Dr. Haden had been rather fond of the idea of remaining male, she told me near the end of the interview that she feels getting to be young again, and possibly even being able to stay that way, is a more than even trade for that. She's been studying this island's plants since the day she washed ashore, and apparently has discovered some new species, as well as a few that were thought to be several years to decades extinct. Apparently she takes the occasional day off (such as today) to just sunbathe, but between her prior life, her extensive knowledge and the work she has done even here in only one short year, I firmly believe she's earned the right to relax as much as she wants.

Entry 5

After learning that the island had decreased a person's age, I became curious whether it had ever done the opposite. And it has. Two years ago, an eleven-year-old boy named Cier went too far out into the water in his inner tube and the tides caught him, pulling him out toward sea. He tried to get back, but he couldn't actually swim so he had to stick with the tube, which was at the mercy of the tides. The beach went farther away rather than closer, and eventually it seems he passed out from exhaustion.

Of course, I wouldn't know about this if I hadn't interviewed him, or rather a woman named Ceira he became. This interview was a little difficult to conduct: Ciera still acts like a child in some ways, but like an adult in others. The point is that she wouldn't sit still and had trouble staying on topic, and at one point took my notebook and drew a picture of a penguin over some of my notes. But I'm doing my best to compile only the relevant information here.

Cier was the first (and I think only so far?) person under the age of eighteen to wash ashore; nobody was entirely sure what to do with him. He was sobbing, and unwilling to talk to any of them at first, as they were strangers, but after a little while they managed to calm him down. Efforts were made to find some way to contact his parents, but even though he was sure he'd known his last name before it didn't come to him, and his parents, of course, he mainly knew by the names "mom" and "dad". The messages that were put up online in an effort to contact Ceir's parents are still there, but there's never been a response to any of them.

On the first day or so, nothing seemed to happen—Najira told me some of the girls even suspected the island wouldn't change him because he was so young. But the next morning, he woke up with purple hair. He would go out and wade in the shallow end of the water, and ate some ice cream. (I think he probably ate normal food as well, but Ceira only seems to remember the ice cream.) Throughout that day, his hair grew a little longer, and his body subtly changed. His hips widened slightly, his body taking on gradually more feminine proportions.

Najira was largely the one who took care of Ceir those first few days; on the third she offered to try and teach him how to actually swim. He took some work to convince, but she promised to stick right next to him the whole time. Ceir hadn't changed much overnight that night, but began to slowly mature that day, growing a little taller, with longer arms and legs. His body gained small curves, and his trunks shifted into something more closely resembling a bikini bottom; Ceira told me that she doesn't know when the switch happened because she had been busy swimming and playing in the water all day, but by sunset she was definitely a girl.

The next day Ciera's change seemed complete. Somehow a bikini top had appeared to match the bottom, and small breasts had grown to fill it. She went out to play in the water with some of the older girls, but found herself slowly growing even taller, her chest filling out more. She matured throughout that fourth day, her upward growth soon stopping but her body growing generous curves, and by the end of the day she was a full-grown adult. In Ciera's words, the little chest she'd started with had become "huuuuge" (accompanied by her picking them up with her hands and grinning up at me).

I'm a little conflicted on whether Ciera should be considered an adult; technically she's only thirteen years old. But even though she acts childish, she seems to have some degree of mental maturity and apparently "knows all about sex and stuff," and everyone else here seems to treat her about the same as any other adult. I suppose it makes it easier when the adults here don't really have to work, and can splash around in the water, play with water balloons or water guns, or basically just do whatever they want anyway. Thinking on light of that, it's a little strange how so many of us seem to have taken on roles that are more or less work, often even the same kind of work as we did before coming here. We don't really have to; no one's making us. We'd have food either way, for example.

Well, I feel like it would be a shame to end these logs before covering myself. Perhaps everyone else feels something similar.

Entry 6

I intended to get four entries done today, but just after I'd finished writing Ciera's entry, my computer started acting up. I was on my fifth try to fix the problem myself when Lauren (who I hadn't even heard walk up) leaned her head over my shoulder and told me I should probably just let Nikki have look at it. This lead to the obvious question of who Nikki was, which leads to this entry. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me while repairing whatever had gone wrong with this thing, and I felt gratified that my habit of taking notes down on paper rather than typing them was paying off.

Nikki told me that before coming here, she was Niko. He lived decently well on money from doing freelance tech support work—repairing computers, phones, game systems, anything with a circuit board in it really. She told me that people came to Niko when the big businesses that sold the computers in the first place overcharged them or told them the problem was unfixable, and ninety percent of the time it was something so simple he barely even needed to open the case. Since the work tended to be so easy, he didn't need to charge much to make good money on it. When he wasn't doing that, Niko was a gamer. Given that I found Nikki sitting on the couch in her house playing on a Gamecube that I honestly have no idea the origin of, I suppose that's one thing that hasn't changed.

What's especially strange about Niko's story is that unlike nearly every one of us here, he never went out to sea: In fact, the last thing he remembered before arriving on Changing Island's shore was going to bed in is own house, which is in an entirely landlocked state, in an area that hasn't even had a major flood in decades.

Nikki told me that she wasn't overly happy with her body, as Niko. He was (in her words) "fat, overweight, weak, and too lazy to do anythin' about it." Being suddenly surrounded by a bunch of beautiful women (again, her words) only made him feel more self-conscious, and he wasn't sure they were being serious about the island's changing people, either. It all seemed like some kind of elaborate prank. But either way, Niko did need a place to sleep, and he was grateful to be given one of the bedrooms in a house.

One of the other residents of that house had been having computer trouble for an entire month; in fact she had switched computers twice only to have each new one give her the exact same errors. The afternoon of his arrival, Niko noticed her repeatedly punching the keyboard in frustration and offered to take a look at it, and within five minutes told her exactly what she had done to all three computers to make them act that way. She was embarrassed at having been the cause of her own troubles, but extremely grateful for the help anyway.

Niko didn't obviously change in any way that day or that night, but woke up the next morning to find that his hair was nearly down to his shoulders and, even more noticeably, his gut had shrunk in an inch or so. He confirmed that the hair wasn't a wig, and thought at this point that even if it was a trick, or even if he was being turned into a woman, this might make it worth it. He was just going to sit at home and play some games that day, but the girl he'd helped the day before saw someone else having trouble with their computer and brought him to it. He shrugged to himself and got to work.

This sort of thing continued throughout the day: One person after another would refer the newcomer to this or that problem they were having. Niko didn't really mind: It just felt like a normal day at work, but with friendly, pretty girls instead of the occasional angry old man who didn't understand the function of a power button (her words, again). He found himself brushing his hair back occasionally as it slowly trailed its way down his shoulders and beyond, and it seemed like every time he stood up his shirt was a little looser in the stomach area. But when he sat down, his butt would occasionally take up even more room than before.

Niko caught a break after supper, and went to his room to try and figure out just how much his body had changed throughout the day. Taking off his shirt, he discovered that what had once been (in Nikki's words) a big, round, fat belly was now just a little bit of pudge. In fact, his arms looked slimmer too, maybe even a little bit stronger. Taking off his pants, he found that his legs had become trim like his arms, but his hips were indeed fairly wide now. he ran a hand down his side, feeling the slight inward curve of his stomach and the outward curve of the hips, and he realized that his body hair had actually mostly disappeared as well. He ran his hands down his arms and legs to find the skin soft and smooth, as if he'd used some kind of lotion on them, which of course he hadn't.
His underwear had shrunk a little bit, but not enough to really worry him too much. Having heard several stories of people whose clothes disappeared or abruptly changed when out of sight, Niko decided to try keeping his clothes on all the way through and into bed. He'd taken them off and laid them aside the night before, but he was sure they'd probably change now that his body had started to do so, and was curious how much they could change while he was still wearing them.

It turned out they didn't change at all over that night. Niko's hair seemed to have stopped growing as well. But with the new day came a new torrent of requests to fix computer troubles, and soon he was busy with that. It was a little less than the day before, and no repeat customers at least. When he spoke, he sounded progressively less like himself, and more like a girl. He got a few looks at his face in black computer screens and could see it becoming more rounded and feminine, as well.
A little after lunch, Niko took a moment to examine himself again and found that his stomach had completely flattened and had become narrower as well, the slight inward curve from before becoming more pronounced. His underwear was now a check-patterned bikini bottom with a very awkward fit. Throughout all of this, it seemed like he'd never gotten any shorter, which Nikki told me she kind of liked, and likes, as it's convenient to not have to adjust to a new height.

Sensing that the end of his change was near, Niko announced he was taking a break for the rest of the day after supper. He took off his shirt and pants again to find the bikini bottom fitting a lot better than before, but also, with some surprise, a matching top hanging awkwardly from his narrow, girlish shoulders. It was very loose on his flat chest, its material soft and elastic.

Niko sat on his bed and watched the bikini bottom slowly pull close as the change completed down there, and then she experimentally crossed her legs and leaned back a little, finding the position comfortable and relaxing. She leaned forward again as she felt the top moving a little strangely, and looked to see what was happening. As you may be able to predict by this entry, Niko's chest was what was moving, rapidly expanding outward, already a pair of average-sized breasts by the time she had the chance to look.

Nikki told me that she didn't feel anything too extreme from the growth like some of the others had. She felt a little neutral about it, but kind of liked the idea of that extra mass making her attractive instead of ugly. They continued to grow, soon filling the sizable bikini top, but even then they apparently weren't satisfied. Nikki stared as the top stretched and strained against the big globes of flesh, before finally they gave up and stopped growing.

Some people congratulated Nikki on the end of the change the next day, or asked how she felt, or other things. She gave them the same response she gave me near the end of the interview, a vague shrug. It seems like she is fond of her new look, but never really put that much stock in outward appearance anyway. It seems her old clothes are still around, in addition to all of the new clothes actually designed to fit her body. She actually was still wearing the old shirt while fixing my computer; despite the size of her bust, it's still baggy and oversized on her.

As an epilogue to all of this, it turned out that what was wrong with my computer was a bit of sand that had gotten into the keyboard, between the keys. I suppose that's bound to happen on an island with so much of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The "Best" RPG Ever-22

Rose slowly opened her eyes to find that it was still dark out. For a few seconds or so she had a mental disconnect with the collection of odd feelings, namely: Being curled up on grass, having a tail, having wings, having horns (one of which had gotten buried in the soil slightly thanks to her sleeping position), being a woman and all the things that came with that. But it didn't take her long to adjust, calmly reminding herself what had happened yesterday.

She blinked a couple of times, seeing that, as promised, the cute witch girl...Mika, right?...was up keeping watch. Mika gave a cheerful wave when she sat up, and she waved back. Well, at least one person in their party didn't seem too suspicious of her. Would the entire town feel this way about a poor dragon-girl, or was it unique to these adventurers, she wondered. Maybe there was some way to get the town to like her right away, make a really good first impression or something? She thought about it for a moment, putting her index finger in her mouth near-unconsciously and then distracting herself by running her tongue along the weird scaly texture it had before pulling it back out to concentrate.

People...liked plants, right? Things like pretty flowers were nice, but there were other reasons to like plants. A town would have potion-maker-people, and they had uses for a lot of fairly rare, hard-to-find plants. She had entire groves full of such plants, Rose realized. All she needed to do was take some along and offer it as a gift! Easy. She skittered off eagerly, practically on all fours, to take care of that before the others could wake up and think she'd abandoned them, not considering just telling Mika what she was doing until she'd already gone what felt like too far off to bother coming back.

When Rose returned a little after sunrise, but before she came into view, she heard the, guy, berating Mika. "Why didn't you wake me up, then? This is kind of important!"
"Well, I disagree," said the witch. "She'd just woken up. I dunno about you, but there's some things I don't feel like I need to announce to every stranger that I do when I wake up in the morning."
The dragon-girl got in view of them in time to see Zack attempting to come up with an angry response, mouth entirely open, for a good several seconds before finally deciding he had been out-argued and closing it up again. Rose decided this was a pretty good time to show back up.

"Hello!" she said cheerfully, waving at the four girls (err, three and one guy...) with her free hand. In the other one was a closed, basket-like container she'd grown out of leaves that was now full of a collection of nice-looking flowers, herbs, and a few other plants she knew to be rare, useful, or both. "I just wanted to bring some of my forest's plants to your town," she said, "like, as a gift? Could one of you hold onto this while I carry those guys?" It was an idea she'd had only now, about simultaneously with realizing she'd need both hands to carry four vine-wrapped people, but the more she thought about it the it seemed like a good idea. If she trusted them with this precious cargo it meant she trusted them in general, so they should trust her. Right?
They looked at each other and Nora stepped forward, offering a hand. Rose passed over the handle and then walked up to the bandit-kidnapper guys, pleased that her vines had held all night. She pulled on a couple of them, her magic repairing any minor damage while checking to find that they were still just as strong as when they'd grown into place.

"I h-had to knock them out again last n-night," said the elf girl. "T-to be honest, I d-don't care that much if one of them gets a c-c-concussion."
"Hmm. I never knew you had such a vengeful streak," said Katherine with what seemed to be an approving tone.
"I-I'm were...they," stammered Nora, but she failed to come up with any decent rebuttal and at this point just gave up.

"So, you're ready to leave?" the knight asked, and Rose nodded.
"Mhm." She extended the vines and combined them in pairs, so she had two "ropes" to drag a pair along in each. "Lead the way!" she pointed dramatically, and then after an awkward pause added, "Or, uh, I guess I could lead the way out of my forest."
As they headed through the relatively thorn-free path, Mika looked around. "This place is really pretty," she said. "Do you ever get monsters trying to trample on it?"
"Nope!" said the dragon-girl, nearly glowing with pride from the compliment. "Nasty monsters know better than to tread on my territory. Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind if folks from your town used it as a safe haven now and then. As long as they don't mess it up. You girls are always welcome, though." After a brief pause: "Uh...and you too, Zack."
"Thank you," he said flatly. It was hard to tell whether or not she'd offended him again.

Once they finally left the forest, everyone seemed a little more tense and alert. Rose didn't feel terribly worried, though; she felt confident that she could beat up any monster in the region and protect everyone! Or at least..she certainly felt like she wanted to do that, maybe get a chance to be their hero? Not quite enough to intentionally attract monsters, if she had a way to do that. No, she decided, that would be mean and dumb. And she really didn't have any way to do it anyhow.

The board out in town square seemed like the best place to look for an easy kill-something job. "Hmm..killing a bunch of dire wolves seems easy enough," said Aria, picking out one piece of paper.
Lynn took a closer look. "...Nope, see that stamp? Someone already took care of it."
"Oh. Then what's it still doing here?" Aria crumpled up the paper and then uncrumpled it again and started tearing it up nervously. She'd been unusually antsy all morning, and the others thought it was because the sword was hungry. That wasn't false, but...
"Uh...hmm. What's this, an old missing person request?" said the illusionist, pulling a paper mostly buried in other ones. It had a sketch of a female elf's face on it, along with some further description, noting that a priestess of some sort had gone missing. "I know I know," she said when the others looked at her, "we can't do this one now. But I'm gonna memorize this in case I just happen to run into her somewhere."

Lynn pulled on another request, looking over it. It was for a small band of men who'd started raiding supply caravans recently. Aria glanced over her shoulder. "Grrr, they want those guys alive if possible. I don't think taking human blood is a good precedent anyway." The archer nodded and put that one back on the board.
"Say, does this world have vampires?" asked Rayna. "If there are non-evil vampires, there might be some kind of black market for animal blood or something."
"I don't think a few blood bags will make much of a dent," said the shifter, shaking her head. "Besides, it's so much better fresh..."
"What if we just bought farm animals periodically? could take up a job slaughtering them! Just let your sword drink all the blood, and the meat would still be usable."
"That is disgusting," said Lynn. "Please stop."
"Hey, I'm just tryin' to be helpful here."
"Then look for a request we can take," said Aria, her teeth visibly sharpening.

"Okay, okay...hey, this looks good." The fox-girl pulled off another piece of paper from behind the others, showing it to her party-mates. "Some kind of giant bird swooped on town at night and killed some people, took the bodies with it. They've tracked down its nest but it'll notice a big raiding party coming and just fly away. I can make it not notice us at all, until it's too late," she said with a vicious grin.
"You're a little scary, you know that," said Lynn.
"Hey. It killed people. I'm allowed to be hateful toward things that kill people."

"Yeah, this looks great," said Aria with a nod. "I wonder if its blood tastes like chicken."
"..I'm going to go insane between the two of you," said the archer after a long stare. "Let's just go take this request so we can get it over with."
As they started toward the guardhouse, Aria looked over at the fox-girl and asked, "Hey, how come you kept noticing jobs that were behind a bunch of other ones?"
"Uh...more of the meta-data vision stuff. I was actually looking at a big list of job titles instead of the physical board itself. Once I decided I was interested in one by its title, I knew exactly where to find the paper it was on."

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, Zack and Katherine both stopped in their tracks, looking around and listening. "What?" said Mika, looking back and forth between them.
"..Buzzing," said the knight, turning in the direction it was coming from, and then tilting his head upward. He drew his weapon, and the others who had weapons followed suit. Seeing their behavior, Rose let go of the prisoners for now and produced from her own inventory a thorny rose, which had apparently been in there for a while now. It seemed like a natural choice to grow it out into a thick, spiky vine and use that as a longer-range weapon than her claws.

The others could hear the buzzing by now, as well as see what it was in the distance. Four of what looked to be gigantic wasps were coming straight down toward them. "I don't understand," said Katherine, "why giant bugs have to exist. Of all the things that could be around, why giant bugs?"
"Aww, don't worry," said Rose, "I can squish 'em." Once they came a little closer, she drew back her whip and struck forward with it, making it grow even more mid-strike, long enough to wrap its way around the main body of the bug it hit. She retracted the vine between herself and the captive wasp quickly before tossing it to one side, smashing it into the ground.

By now the other three had arrived, all three of them rushing at the dragon-girl. Zack moved in front of one, shifting back to dark form and drawing his shield in one motion and blocking a strike from its stinger. Mika tossed a regular pumpkin at another in a successful gambit to get its attention, while Katherine focused on what small bit of a mind the third one had, drawing its aggression toward herself.

Rose's bug slipped out of her whip's grasp, though not without cutting itself across its thorns along the way. It buzzed straight toward her; she leapt aside, her wings flapping and allowing her just enough air to land back on her feet and smack it with the whip again before it could change direction, knocking it farther away from her.

The witch waited for her opponent to get a little closer, and then summoned up some demonic fire right in its path, too close for it to correct around. It went straight through the flame, and Mika remembered why she didn't usually draw aggro. She hopped on her broom and flew in both senses of the word, the giant bug following her closely but unable to surpass her in speed.

Zack took a number of unsuccessful swipes with his sword, the giant bug agilely dodging each one. Nora moved a little closer and raised up a wall of earth in the way of its next dodge, allowing him a clean swipe through its side as it rammed into the wall. The bug flew up out of Zack's reach and down toward the elf, but the knight moved between them and bashed its stinger with his shield again, knocking it backwards. As it spun around in the air, trying to regain its equilibrium, Nora raised up a tall dome of rock and earth around it, pulled the entire thing closer in, compacting the dirt so it would be harder, and then collapsed the whole thing down on it. Zack followed this up with a quick stab to the mound of dirt, which he felt go straight through the bug's outer shell into softer flesh.

Katherine hopped and ducked around the wasp as it continuously tried to sting her, swiping at its wings from behind with her knives every opportunity she got. It seemed like her strikes were connecting, but the thing kept on flying anyway. Eventually she gave up on that and tried swinging around to the front and stabbing its eyes. This proved to be a little harder to do, as the bug saw the knives coming and flew to one side to dodge them. At least this gave her a reprieve from her own acrobatics.

Rose made short work of her opponent, wrapping it up more thoroughly when it came for her again and then squeezing her whip tight enough to crush its exoskeleton in on the rest of its body. Then she turned her attention to the one chasing Mika, watching the two of them fly around and looking for a good opportunity to attack. Soon she had one, as Mika came in for a dive directly to the right of the dragon-girl. Rose drew her weapon back and timed her strike carefully, swinging left against the wasp's momentum and catching it right where the fire from before had left its shell weakened; her whip crashed straight through its body and it went down. Mika flew back up into the air, still panicking and not looking back.

Katherine finally managed to get a small cut across one of the wasp's eyes before Zack showed up, chopping straight down and forcing the wasp to one side. The psion looked at him for a second, transmitting an idea much more quickly than the words required to describe it, and he nodded, beginning a few methodical strikes at it while Katherine moved her knives into place. He got the bug looking straight at him, and drove it from one side to another, and finally backwards, straight at a steady wall of four knives. The bug impaled itself, but the wounds were fairly shallow and it seemed about to free itself. However, this held it still just long enough for the knight to run it through with his own weapon, and finally the loud buzzing stopped.

Katherine looked up at Mika, who had been yelling into the air for the past minute or so. Hey, fight's over, you can shut up and land now.
Mika's flight slowed down; she turned her head around and finally noticed that her persuer was gone. Breathing a small sigh of relief, she floated carefully back to earth and got off of her broom. "Eheh...sorry about that," she said.
"It's fine, you lead him straight to me," said Rose, grinning.

"Hey, did I see you make fire earlier?"
"Uh..." The witch only just now remembered the bit about not mentioning fire to this woman.
"Can you control it or just summon it?" she asked eagerly.
"W-well, I mean it's not really a natural fire, it's like a demonic thing. So I can control it because of that, but like, not normal fire."
"Ohh, okay," she said, nodding, and went back over to check on the wrapped-up criminals. They were, predictably, still unconscious and still wrapped up.
Mika looked at Nora with some surprise; the weaver gave a simple 'I don't know' shrug. So instead she decided to get it from the source. "I uh...I thought you didn't like fire?" she said, moving closer to the dragon-girl, who was putting the vines together to drag the prisoners along a little more.
"Well, I don't like fire because it burns me, or my plants...but I'd love having a friend who can control it!" said Rose. "Because a person who can control fire can take it away from me and my plants, even better than a bunch of water."
"Ah, alright."

They started on their way again, Katherine leading the way with the map. After a short while, the psion looked back at Rose. "Hey, uh, I don't want to offend you or anything, are part dragon, right?"
"Mhm!" she nodded cheerfully.
" you have, a breath weapon?" She looked confused. "Like...something you can breathe out instead of normal air that does something magical? I guess not fire, since that wouldn't make any sense."
"Oh, yes! Well, I wouldn't call it a weapon exactly. I can breathe minty breath!" She huffed out a bit of aquamarine-colored smoky stuff as a demonstration. "It smells minty fresh, and it can heal people, animals and plants. It even makes bigger cuts and things not hurt as bad! But's really easy to set on fire, so I have to be careful with it."
"Huh." The catgirl thought for a moment. "If it's that flammable you could use it as a weapon. Breathe it over something you don't like and then just light a match under it."
"I guess so? I don't like being close to fire, or things that can make fire, uh, other than friendly people who have control over it and won't accidentally catch. I guess I could do it if I had a friend who'd light it after I got away from it."

"Hey, how...close are we to your town by now?" she asked a moment later. "I am really strong, but carrying these guys for much longer is gonna really tire me out."
"We're fairly close, should be there before noon," said Katherine.
"Oh, good! So lunch could be there! They're...not vegetarians there, are they?" she asked, looking at Zack. "I mean, I like fruit, but my sharp teeth aren't just for show."
"Yes, they have meat," he said flatly, briefly wondering why she'd asked him about this before remembering he was visibly part wolf.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Changing Island: Entries 1-3

So, a very long time ago I had the idea to write a series of captions about the inhabitants of a mysterious island, as told by one recent arrival. It was the first series of captions with any continuity between them (as far as I can recall) and probably also my first attempt ever to tell any sort of coherent story that spanned several transformations. It was supposed to either culminate in the entry describing the narrator's change or go through that at some point only to continue, but despite having three or four more captions partially written or planned I eventually more or less scrapped the entire idea with only three captions written.

Lately, as I have been feeling ambitious, I thought I might try and revive the series of captions as a story instead, with each entry being what would have been a caption before. So that's what this is. This particular post covers the first three entries, which are fully rewritten versions of the three Changing Island captions that did get finished and put out. Feel free to compare differences in writing, setting, events, so on as you like, but I do consider this to be much better written overall.

Hopefully I'll be inspired enough to write an Entry 4 and beyond that will actually be fully new, at least to everyone who isn't me, since a few of the partially written captions are planned to be incorporated as well.

Entry 1

My name is Lucas Jost. If you know me, I guess you can be happy that I'm okay, but it seems it's going to be a little difficult for me to get home, or for you to visit. I was on an expedition to the north, but our ship broke up in a storm and I was pretty sure I was going to drown or freeze to death. Instead, I woke up on the beach of a temperate island, completely unharmed.

This isn't an abandoned island, either. But there is something strange about it. All of the inhabitants are women, and say they used to be male. There are computers, clothes, houses, and food and drink seemingly provided from nowhere. The computers even have Internet access, from anywhere on the island, which is how I'm able to put this up in the first place, but any site that tries to identify the location of the computer mysteriously fails.

It seems that efforts to work out where this island would have to be by who's washed ashore here have also failed, as people have shown up from all around the globe. It was bad enough to think that I had gone from somewhere near the north pole to a place as close to the equator as this would have to be to have the weather it does. Those who live here (which I suppose includes me from now on) call this place the Changing Island, for both its apparent ability to change its location in the world and that which I mentioned before, the change of those who live here.

Well, given my occupation (or, prior occupation I suppose) I can't help a desire to try and chronicle events here. It seems like a good place to start is with the stories of the inhabitants, so I am taking some interviews and paraphrasing accounts of the people who wound up here. I was debating how to organize this, considering something more chronological, but the more I think on it the more it makes sense to just list stories in the order I learn them, beginning with that of their leader.

Her name is Najira; she doesn't exactly govern in the sense that a king or prime minister does, she just handles disputes and lays down general rules for behavior when necessary. It seems more like something people expected of her and she took on than her having declared for herself at any point. Anyway, she washed ashore here five years ago as Naj; he had been living in an apartment alone and scraping out a meager living with a disproportionately large amount of work. He won a vacation on a cruise ship in some sweepstakes, and about halfway through there was some bad weather, and everyone was advised to stay inside. He went to bed in his cabin that night, and woke up on this island's shore with nothing but the clothes he'd gone to bed in...and barely that; they were badly torn up.

Naj was the first person to arrive, so there was nobody here to greet him. The first thing her did after waking up was go farther inland, to look for civilization. What he found was very unusual. There were several houses, well-made, two-story, and apparently well-maintained, with plenty of food, running water and electricity, but there was nobody in any of the houses. They were also completely unlocked; in fact none of the doors even had locks except the bathroom doors inside. The houses' refrigerators and cabinets were full of food, and because he was hungry, Naj took some. It was very good. He spent the day exploring, but returned to the first house he'd come to for lunch and dinner. Eventually the sun set, and he went to one of the bedrooms in that house, took off his mostly-destroyed outer clothes, and went to bed in just his boxers, hoping that if someone did own this place, they would be understanding.

The next morning Naj woke up with aquamarine hair and purple eyes. Of course, he didn't know that until he looked in the mirror. Also, his skin had somehow lost a lot of its hair and all of its blemishes, even a birthmark on his wrist. It had taken on a slightly paler, though not unhealthy, tone. He wondered if there was something in the food or drinks here, but it hadn't killed him, and he'd have to keep eating or starve. So he had breakfast.

Being alone and bored, after breakfast Naj entered the library room in "his" house, and found several bookshelves, each full of books on a particular topic arranged alphabetically. One shelf was full of cookbooks, and he got the idea to try and cook some of the recipes, figuring it would take until he was actually hungry to make something decent. That turned out to be about right.

He noticed about halfway through the morning that he was brushing his bangs out of his eyes, and then that his hair had grown out nearly to his shoulders, framing his face. By the time he'd managed to make something edible his hair had become so long that he could feel it all the way down his back. For some reason, he had never thought to put back on his clothes from the day before, and now that he did think about it he went and looked for them where he'd left them, but they were gone.

He looked around "his" house a little more, and eventually found a bunch laptops in what looked to be some sort of office. Turning one of them on, he found what I've already mentioned—an Internet connection. But he didn't really have anyone he wanted to contact, when he really thought about it, so he just found some games to play, to pass the time. He was busy with that until his stomach angrily growled, and when he looked around he saw out the window that it was about sunset. He got up and paused, noticing something felt different about his stance.

Indeed, he had ecome thinner, his stomach especially, except his hips and upper legs were wider than before, which explained why he had to place his feet differently to keep balanced. His shorts had also changed a little too, becoming tighter and shorter, and the colors had faded somewhat. He ate supper and then, feeling unusually tired, went back to bed in "his" room.

He woke up late the next morning, and found that his body had changed shape even more: Now he was even thinner, with narrower shoulders; his arms were slim and his hands and feet had become smaller. He went over to a mirror and saw that his face had become more rounded and feminine. He ran a hand across his chin before something lower down caught his eye. He discovered that his shorts had shrunk into a tiny white bikini bottom, and further that it was snug and comfortably flat between his legs.
Naj told me that she blinked a couple of times, put her fingers in the odd gap between her thighs, and then finally said, "...Oh." At that point, she noticed that her voice (which she hadn't used since yelling a couple of times in the empty town and houses in an effort to see if anyone was there) had become a very distinctly female alto tone. Almost as soon as she had realized the change in sex, she felt a sudden outward push from her chest, and made her second sound as a woman, a surprised "Aah!"

She watched, wide-eyed, as her nipples rose up, followed by little bumps around them, followed by more of the chest around that. Her face reddened and she crossed her arms over the bumps, and felt them pushing forward against her arms as they continued to grow. Before she could really process what had happened, they had burst out into a pair of large, full breasts.

Najira describes what happened next in terms of emotions. She felt happy somehow, as if she'd been set free from her old life. It was at this point she felt like calling herself by a new name, even though there wasn't anyone to introduce herself by it yet. She found the dresser in her bedroom full of bikinis and other feminine wear, including a top matching the bottoms she was wearing; all of them matched her size exactly. So she put that on, in case anyone else did show up. I interviewed her in exactly that first set of clothes today, and have included a picture:

Curiously, I've seen old pictures of her from near the time she first washed up on the island. She doesn't look any older than those at all. Some of the girls here speculate that the island's "magic" or whatever it is that changes people also grants some kind of longevity, or at least a continually youthful appearance. I'm hesitant to draw such a conclusion, though it's certain a number of strange things are going on.

Entry 2

My second interview was with a relatively recent arrival to the island, from a few months ago; her name is Danny. She used to be named Dan. I was given a picture of how she used to look: Tall, fit, handsome. It seems at some point it became a tradition to take "before" and "after" photos of people who come to this island, though of course we have no picture of Najira as Naj since he was the first here. I had my "before" picture taken yesterday, in the rush of welcoming and getting accustomed to this place, but I don't seem to have changed any yet.

About Dan. He was a surfer of the highest caliber, winning competitions all over and getting enough local endorsements to live off of his passion. It seems like he was on the cusp of becoming truly famous, but he did have enemies in others envious of both his appearance and his abilities. It seems he was participating in a certain competition off the coast of Florida, but his board had been sabotaged. I'm uncertain of the meaning of the technical terms, but apparently it was impossible to remain standing on it because whatever they had done had made it very slippery.

At any rate, he "wiped out" terribly a bit too far out, most likely (according to Danny) hit a rock with his head and passed out, and then awoke on the shore of Changing Island. He had only two things with him when he first arrived: His swimming trunks and his beloved skateboard, which was mysteriously unharmed, in perfect condition in fact, and free of the damage that whatever cheating competitor had done to it.

Dan was almost immediately greeted by some of the earlier castaways—all women, of course. He asked if there was "Nothing but chicks on this island," and they told him about the changing.
He just shrugged. "Eh, that's alright. If I'm a dude or if I'm a chick, 's long as I get to surf." He meant that seriously; soon after meeting everyone he paddled his way back out to the waves and spent the rest of the daylight surfing.

His skills were as impressive as ever, and those who stuck around to watch enjoyed the show. But each time he came back to shore he was a little shorter and smaller, and by the end of the day his height had sunk by at least two and a half feet. Since he didn't eat anything on the island until after sunset that day, I suppose we can fully rule out the idea that the food or drink that mysteriously appears here is responsible for people changing.

The next day he found that his hair had turned blue and grown so long it was a little in his face. He asked one of the girls for a hairband, and tied a bit of it up in a ponytail off to the side—apparently that was easier. His skin had become much paler, and his muscles were less visibly defined, though he felt no less fit than before. After eating some breakfast someone else in the house he'd been given made, he took his board and hit the waves.

When Dan was eating lunch that day, one of the girls asked if he could teach her to surf. Before long everyone at the table was making the same request, and he finally conceded. He still wanted to surf solo some of the time, though, so he agreed to teach for a couple of hours in the morning, a couple in the afternoon, and maybe occasionally pick a day to do nothing but teach if he felt like it. It was enough to get everyone off his back so he could go back out surf. His stomach was thinner by then, and (in Danny's words) just as smooth as a recently-waxed surfboard. He didn't seem to have any trouble surfing as he usually did, despite the drastic differences that should have come to his weight and balance.

By the time he came back that afternoon to start teaching, Dan's hips had grown out, and his trunks had become the bottom of a black bikini, which mostly fit aside from the obvious glaring problem of being on a man. But his upper body—chest up, including the face—was largely unchanged from after lunchtime. While he was talking some of the girls through surfing basics, his voice steadily rose in pitch, and his frame became narrower; his arms and legs slimmed down a little more as well. When he got back to his room that night, he noticed in the mirror that his face had gotten smaller, smoother and overall more feminine, as well as his eyes having changed color to match his hair.

He was about to walk away from the mirror to shower, but then he had a slight odd sensation in his chest. Danny told me that at this point she guessed it was about "time to really turn into a chick," which turned out to be correct. He stared at the mirror and saw the bikini bottom slowly pull the rest of the way flat between his legs, followed by a pair of bumps appearing on his chest. They grew slowly, but she kept watching anyway since it was apparently an interesting process to see, and this was not the kind of thing she'd get to see twice.

Once it finally seemed to be over, Danny tells me, she felt very comfortable with her new form—it was cute and attractive, but not overly so; people wouldn't bother her because of jealousy over it. Apparently that was something Dan had found irritating before, although my interview didn't really go into depth on that. At any rate, after that she went on to shower, and after that she discovered that the bikini bottom had been joined by a matching top, a visor, and a jacket, all of which fit her new appearance exactly. The next morning, this picture was taken:

I asked Danny (although the answer seemed fairly obvious) whether she minded being turned female, or the fairly extreme loss of height. She said, "Nah, dude, y'know. At the end of the day, like, I don't really care what I look like or sound like or any of that stuff. I live to surf, and as long as I can do that, nothin' else matters." After that, she gave a small salute and grabbed her board, running back outside to the beach. I suppose I'm lucky she agreed to an interview at all.

Entry 3
Whatever doubt I had, in light of the fact that nothing seems to have happened to me yet, that this island changes people...well, it has been dispelled. Late this afternoon, as I was walking along the beach looking for a third person to round out tody's interviews, I discovered another man freshly washed up on the beach, still unconscious. I called out for some help in case she was injured, though of course I was later told nobody ever washes ashore here with injuries, even if they remember having been injured the last time they were conscious. Either way, the first couple of people to show up immediately went to get a photographer, which was apparently the greater priority to them.

From our later interview, I learned that she had been called Iryen, and had worked as an ornithologist. He wasn't quite famous, but his work was extremely accurate and moderately known, at least among people in his own field. Evidently he had been studying some beach birds, when he encountered one he had never seen before. He carefully followed this mysterious bird a short way out into the water, hoping to get a picture or document something about it that might help him either identify it or prove it existed. Just when it seemed like he was close, the bird suddenly turned around and dove straight at him. His last memory before washing ashore was the bird being beak-first, hardly a centimeter from his face.

Iryen woke up, and I offered a greeting and a hand to help him up, which he took. He was still a little disoriented, especially since as soon as he was standing someone came with a camera and took a photo of him. No sooner had that happened than a toucan swooped down and landed directly on his shoulder, as if it were a tame bird.

Immediately Iryen started to visibly change, his frame becoming narrower, his shoulders rounding off. He hadn't been broad-shouldered before, quite scrawny actually, at least his frame hadn't quite been feminine before. He shuddered, according to my later interview due to an odd tingling in his upper body, as his body hair pulled in, his skin smoothing over; his shirt unbuttoned itself and split open. He shrank a little in height and width, enough that his pants fell off, but his underwear stayed, beginning to pull closer against his body. His hips widened, his bottom grew, and his legs became curvier.

His hair grew out suddenly and a ribbon appeared around some of it, jerking his head back somewhat. By now his arms had thinned and shortened enough that his sleeves fell past most of his hands; he held a hand up before his face and it was clear to all that had changed, too. His hands were smaller, with slimmer fingers, and his nails had even grown out a bit. He then let out a surprised "Aah!" in what seemed to be a woman's voice as his chest burst forward all at once into a pair of small breasts, and then an even higher gasp at a strange, sudden pulling sensation from between his legs.

No sooner did Iryen realize she had become a woman than the photographer took another picture of what was now a small, petite girl, who was still too disoriented and confused by the whole situation to do more than give the camera and spectators a wide-eyed stare.

After shaking herself out of it (which caused the bird to fly off of her shoulder and away), she buttoned back up her shirt, her face bright red, and demanded to know what was going on. The three or four people present other than me all started talking at once, but then there was a loud "Yooo, chill!" from off to one side. Danny walked up, having just surfed ashore to all of this racket, and as soon as she understood that someone new had washed ashore she waved the rest of us off and lead the new girl aside to explain everything. Irya later told me that she was close to panicking at first, but Danny took such an easygoing tone that she soon calmed down enough to understand the explanation.

It seems on the way to her new house on this island, Irya encountered a few specimens of the unusual bird she'd seen before. The other inhabitants of this island, myself included, didn't even notice anything unusual about it, but for reasons that apparently even a common bird-watcher would know, it really is a new species. She eagerly told me that it seems to be native to this island, and she can't wait to begin studying it and looking for any other new species here.

I asked her how she felt about her sudden transformation (well, not in those words exactly), and whether she minded being a woman now. She shrugged, saying that it was very strange at first, but by the time Danny had finished explaining our situation she had already begun to feel comfortable with it. She also said that she hoped I would have just as easy a transition, apparently believing the same thing would soon happen to me as well, albeit possibly at a slower pace.

Every person on this island, even a newcomer, seems certain that my own change is inevitable, and I have a hard time coming up with any reason why it wouldn't be at this point. I suppose I should brace for tomorrow, what I might find different about myself when I wake up.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Last Game

Turns out this is actually the longest caption I've ever written. It's so long that it's kind of hard to read in my preferred pure-image form for captions, but here's a link to that anyway. In light of how long it is, it's in the text+image form I usually present stories in below:

Nick was in serious trouble. It wasn't enough that he had managed to declare bankruptcy and be in just as much debt all over again a couple of months later; he'd taken a bad deal to get out of that and now some of his considerable debt was to people nowhere near as kind about asking him to pay it back. It had all started because he had a serious gambling problem, and he had tried a few too many times to gamble his way back out of debt on money that was itself borrowed, only to lose everything again.

So he was sitting on his bed, head in hands, swearing to himself that if he survived this he'd never gamble away his money again. If there could be some way he could start over with a clean slate, he thought, he'd pay any price for that, and never go back to it afterward.

Nick's phone rang.

He got up slowly and walked over to the dresser it was on to see who it was. It wasn't as if he really had any friends left, having borrowed a little too much money from those who would otherwise have been friends in the past. The number was 'withheld', so it wasn't one of his creditors, but that was the kind of thing the phone said for someone who wanted to sell something, too. He decided to let it go, and watched for his phone to stop ringing, but curiously, it didn't do that. It just kept on ringing. If Nick wanted it to stop, it seemed he would have to pick up the phone and hang it up himself.

Well, this situation was strange enough to make him curious. He could always just hang it up right away if it was just his imagination and a telemarketer, after all. So Nick picked up the phone and answered it. "Hello?"
"Greetings. Is this Nick?"
"..Yeah, who is this?" He didn't recognize the deep male voice on the other end, but there was something about it that seemed...powerful. It was hard to place why.
"I want to play a game with you, Nick. But before I tell you about that, I'd like you to check on your credit card accounts. I'll wait."

Nick put down the phone, confused, and opened up his ancient computer, looking at the balances on the several credit cards which he had actually just spent the afternoon cutting up with scissors and throwing in the trash. To his surprise, one of his accounts showed as entirely paid off. It seemed that its exact balance had been paid off at exactly the time he had picked up his phone. this stranger had his attention.

He picked back up the phone. "Uh..thank you.." he said, still a little stunned.
"Consider it a token of goodwill, and proof that I can remove your debts," said the strange voice. "Are you interested in the game now?"
Nick caught on that he was talking about possibly a very high-stakes game, having thrown around that kind of money as a mere 'token'. But...he'd just promised himself he wouldn't gamble, hadn't he? "Well..." he said slowly, uncertain.
"My stakes would be monetary," said the man on the other end of the phone, "paying off more of your debts when you win. Your stakes won't be monetary, but something else instead."
"Uh..." That was something different, thought Nick. If he didn't have to risk any money...he'd just been thinking he'd pay any price for a clean slate. This way he might not even have to pay any price at all, technically!
"So, are you interested? I can come by your house to explain more before you agree to the game."
"Yes. I'm interested."
"Good." There was an audible click from the other end of the line as the phone hung up, and not two seconds later Nick's doorbell rang, making him nearly jump.

He went to the door carefully, avoiding the windows, and checking the peephole in the door to see who it was. It was a tall, well-groomed and generally rich-looking man in a black-and-white suit, who seemed to turn his head toward the peephole as soon as Nick looked in it and nod in what appeared to be intended as a reassuring manner. "It's only me," he called through the door, and Nick recognized the voice from the phone. He opened the door.
"It's good to meet you in person," said the stranger with a calm smile, offering a hand to shake. "You can call me 'Y'."
Nick shook his hand. "Uh, I guess you already know my name," he said, to which Y nodded.
"May I come in?"
"Yeah, sure." Y walked inside and strode over to the kitchen table, Nick following behind with some confusion.

He stopped just next to the table. "So.." said Nick, not sure how to react to much of anything that had happened thus far.
"Right. The game. As I said, my stakes will be monetary. Your stakes would be your form."
"My..form," repeated Nick, clearly not understanding.
Y nodded. "Whenever you lose, you cede some control of your appearance to me, which I may use to alter your form as I like. But I will not render you helpless, unable to speak, or unable to continue playing. Does that sound agreeable?"
"Well..I guess so. I'm not sure I understand how you're gonna do that, though.."
"Don't worry about it," said Y. "It'll become clear once we're playing. May we use this table?" He tapped the kitchen table.
"Oh, sure."

They sat down on opposite sides of the table, and the strange man tapped the table a couple more times. This time, a bunch of small circular pieces wood rose up out of the table and separated from it, glowing slightly before turning red. There were fifteen of them total, arranged evenly in a wide 5x3 rectangle. Seeing this happen, it dawned on Nick that he was either dreaming, hallucinating, or dealing with something very supernatural. Well, there had been some clues that something supernatural was going on before now, but this clinched it.

"The game's rules are fairly simple," said Y. "You see there are three rows and five columns. Each game the player take turns selecting a row or column and, beginning at the left or bottom end, take as many as he wants from that row or column, but it must be at least one. The winner is the player who takes the last one."
Nick nodded, understanding. He'd never seen this game before, but it seemed simple enough.
"We'll take turns going first. I'll go first this game, to show you how it works." Y made a gesture, and the entire row closest to him swept along the table to the edge in front of him. "The winner can choose to double the stakes, in which case I'll add another row and column, or cash in, in which case I'll reset things to how they were at the start of this game. If you want to stop at any time after one of us cashes in, we'll stop. Is that clear?"
"Yeah." Nick took his turn, removing all of a random column.
Before moving again, Y said, "The starting stakes..ten thousand dollars on my end, a small change on yours. Agreeable?"

Soon there were only three of the wooden tokens left on the table, none of them in the same row or column, and it was Y's turn. As he made a small motion to take just one token, Nick realized he was going to lose this round. Oh well, he thought, he was just learning the game right now. Nick took one token, and Y took the remaining one. "All right," he said, "I'm going to cash in this game." He pointed vaguely at Nick's right eye, and nothing much seemed to happen.
He tilted his head in confusion, but Y produced from under the table (where there definitely hadn't been one before) a small hand mirror and held it up to his face. Nick's right eye had turned a bright yellow! "Oh...okay," said Nick. It was a relatively small change, he thought, probably Y just making sure he understood that giving over control of his form was a real thing and he really was capable of changing things once control had been won.
"Would you like to continue?" said Y, putting the mirror back down (and seemingly out of existence again).

Y won the next two games, doubling the stakes each time and summoning more tokens. But Nick was catching on to how the game was played, the right kind of strategy to take. He was able to demonstrate that he had at least somewhat figured it out when he won that third round, which would earn him forty thousand dollars less debt.
"I want to cash it in," he said. "Pay the mob."
Y nodded, and dismissed the extra tokens back into the table. It was a fairly small dent, but Nick hadn't been willing to take a huge risk yet.

The next game went well, too, and Nick chose to double. There was a tense silence as the game after that played out, but Y eventually one and decided to cash out. He pointed up at Nick's hair, and this time no mirror was necessary to see that it was growing out, some bangs falling before his eyes, some of it framing his face and falling across his shoulders while an even longer lock fell down to stomach level in the back. He took some of it to examine it curiously; it seemed cleaner and shinier than usual, as if it had been very well kept.
"Play again?" said Y, and Nick nodded.

"It's awfully silent," said Y as he played his next round. "Would you mind if I ask you a little about yourself?"
"No, that's fine." He didn't want this strange, supernatural visitor to get bored and leave before at least getting rid of most of the debts, or at least getting rid of the dangerous ones.
This turned out to be perhaps the right decision, as Nick won the next four games, doubling up the first three before cashing in. Y was asking him about his background: Where he'd grown up, what his family had been like, childhood friends. It seemed like he was distracted from playing the game well even though Nick was the one doing a lot of the talking.

That was eighty thousand more dollars of debt, gone. Nick breathed a sigh of relief; at least now the only people after him would use legal means to get their money back. But when Y asked him if he wanted to play again, he nodded, preparing to concentrate again.
Y asked him about his interest, what he liked to do with his free time. Nick mentioned gambling as something he used to do, but had decided not to do anymore. But after that he brought up some things that he had enjoyed when he was younger, before he started gambling. They still sounded fun, to be honest. He won and doubled up twice more, but this time Y got him on the third round.
"I'm cashing in," said Y. "Well...brace yourself, I suppose." Nick nodded, and Y made a sweeping up-and-down gesture toward him. Suddenly Nick was shrinking, the room and the table and Y all seeming to grow up around him. He didn't merely grow shorter, but slimmer as well; he watched his hands become smaller with thinner, more delicate-looking fingers. As his clothes felt increasingly loose on him, a tingling spread from his face downward, all the way to his toes, and as he watched his arms became smoother, softer and paler as well as thinner and shorter, rapidly losing their hair. He gently felt of his face as the shrinking finally tapered off and found it just as smooth, and then looked up to see that his eye level, even sitting down, was now just at Y's chest.

Y asked Nick more questions, and they kept talking. Y was strangely easy to talk to, for being some kind of super-powerful magical being, and Nick found himself opening up about some of his more private feelings. They went back and forth for ten whole rounds, each time the winner doubling the stakes, until the tokens at the start of that last round nearly covered the entire table between them. When Nick won that round, he knew better than to double again, and chose to cash in instead. It was over five million dollars he didn't owe anymore, and he felt like a massive weight had been removed from his shoulders.

He didn't even mind that he lost the next couple of rounds, his opponent doubling and cashing in that order. Y waved at him, and he could feel his clothes shrinking, pulling tighter against his body. But it was more than shrinking: His shirt turned bright yellow and lost its sleeves altogether, the collar dipping down a bit, and his pants turned to a softer material, also yellow, and shrank up to his thighs, exposing most of his legs. The exposed legs, thanks to the earlier changes, looked rather girly overall, slim, clean-shaven and smooth. But it didn't really bother Nick; he could just change into other clothes later.
They talked like old friends over the next couple of rounds, which Nick won and doubled on. Winning the the third round, he knocked out a little more of his debt. It was more than two-thirds gone, by his estimation, and he just needed to get a few more good rounds in to win.

The subject of Nick exhausted, Y began to talk about himself. He was from a magical race whose name was unpronounceable in human language, as was his own actual name, which was why he called himself 'Y' instead. They had a lot of power, but obeyed strict rules, requiring permission from a conscious being to interfere with that being or their possessions in any way. Nick was fascinated, having never encountered anything remotely magical before, and started asking questions about what other kinds of magic was around. He was the distracted one now, losing three games in a row before Y called attention to it by cashing out again.
"Your form is almost out of changes to make," said Y, gently moving his hands together as if in a slow-motion clap before lowering them. Nick's shirt clung tight against his waist as it slimmed down still more, curving inward; its hem merged with the top of what had been pants and the spread out as his hips pushed out, forcing him to shift around to get back to a comfortable seat. Underneath, his underwear turned softer and lost its leggings entirely, pulling a bit snugly between his legs but otherwise seeming to grow with his hips. Before long the outerwear had changed into a single piece with a skirt at the bottom, and then a little red ribbon grew out of it in the middle of his chest.
"Are.." Nick paused, having not expected to find his voice nearly an octave higher, almost like a young boy's. "Are you..changing me into a woman?"
Y nodded. "To tell the truth, I observed you some and found your spirit captivating...but, to be honest, your body less so. My people are somewhat shallow and petty in ways you might not expect."
"You're...interested in me, like, romantically?"
"Well...yes. But I would never, rules or not, force you into a relationship."

Nick thought about that as he played the next several rounds carefully, asking a few more questions about magic, about Y's race or Y himself, but a little less frequently. Y seemed like an awfully nice guy, and he was interesting and a little funny. But of course, since he was still male right now, Nick didn't exactly feel attracted to him the same way.
His careful playing, as well as his experience from the earlier games, payed off, as Nick was able to double six times before finally losing. But Y, with an unusually kind look in his eyes, doubled when he won the next two rounds, allowing Nick to cash out when he finally won the ninth one.

"Well, that's almost all of your debt," said Y. "Are you sure you want to keep going?"
"Yes," said Nick, nodding. "I feel like going around like this would be a little awkward anyway. Besides, I'm still in debt. I want an entirely clean slate."
"All right." Y nodded.

Nick won, doubled, and lost. Y cashed out, making a small upward sweeping motion, and he found his underwear pulling tighter between his legs again. Only, it was accompanied by an odd inward slipping sensation down there, and a movement deep inside the pit of Nick's stomach. He squirmed slightly in his seat in discomfort before the feelings slowly faded off, a pair of soft panties now pulled tight against an unfamiliar flatness between her legs. She felt a heat in her cheeks as she looked back up at Y now: He was rather handsome, and now that she was actually a girl the missing physical attraction from before was rushing in.
" more!" she said, frowning and trying to look intense, but her face had lost the ability to look anything but cute several rounds ago. It was even worse now since her voice had become high and feminine, a perfect match for that face.

She crossed her legs and leaned forward in her seat, frowning more as it became clear she wasn't going to win this round, either. But Y doubled again and she got another chance. She lost again, but he gave her another chance. What was happening? Surely there was so little left to change about her now that he could cash in and it would be totally over. Was he...being nice to her? Nick felt even more flustered, thinking about that, and had a hard time playing the third round.

But Y doubled again, and there was a fourth round. Before making her move, Nick took a deep breath to calm herself. Come on, she thought, this would be enough money to be out of debt and even have a little extra! She played carefully, one move after another, and before long it was her round in a position she knew she could win. So she took the one token she needed to, and Y nodded, smiling, as he took his. With one last move, Nick won, and sighed in relief.
"I'm cashing out," she said, grinning, and Y nodded.

"Well," he said somewhat wistfully, "Your debts are all paid, so I suppose our game is over." He made a small motion, and the tokens sank back into the table they had come from.
"You kinda, let me win though," she said, slowly, carefully standing up and standing awkwardly, unused to the balance of her widened hips. "D-do you me as much as you said?"
"Of course," Y nodded, appearing next to her standing up and helping her get steady, taking her small hand in one of his own.

"Y-you know.." Nick blushed, looking up at him. He was so tall, and handsome, and nice...! "I, don't think I would mind if you just did whatever you were gonna do if you won again."
"Are you certain?" said Y.
"Y..yes," she said, nodding. "I mean, I do like what you've done with it so far. can have the last of the control over my form."
"All right," he said, and gently placed a hand on her chest for a couple of seconds before letting go.

Her chest tingled briefly, and then it pressed forward, two little bumps forming under her dress. "" The newly-growing skin was strangely sensitive, and Nick felt a pleasant feeling between her legs as the bumps brushed forward along the soft material of her dress. She closed her eyes, smiling a bit at the feeling. "Mmnh...!" Her legs started to feel weak, and she stumbled backwards out of Y's attempt to steady her, finally falling back toward the ground...but instead, she found herself falling onto cloth, with something soft and springy behind it.

"Hhh, hh.." Nick panted slowly as her chest's growth finally slowed down, leaving her with a nice pair of breasts to match her small, girlish figure. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself looking up at a ceiling from what a quick look left and right revealed to be a bed with a pink floral bedspread on it; Y was standing at the foot, looking down at her with a quiet smile.
"H-hey," she said, "I guess I can admit now that I actually really like you too..." 

She slowly sat up and scooted herself up to the foot of the bed, her feet hanging down but too short to actually touch the floor. "I, uh...what do you think I should call myself now?"
"I'm fond of 'Nima'," said Y, "but your name is your decision. It doesn't really matter that much to me."
"Nima," She nodded, "...Yeah, I like that. D-do you want to, like...go steady for a while?" she said, her blush brightening.
"Certainly." Y sat down next to her and put his arm around her waist, gently teasing her hair a bit before gently turning her head to him. "Would agreeable to a kiss?" he said, betraying his first bit of shyness since he had first appeared. His face was even a little bit red.
Nima threw herself onto him, wrapping her arms around him as he fell onto his back, and pressed her lips against him, beginning the first of a lifetime's worth of long, passionate kisses. Actually, more than that, since Y's race didn't grow old with age and he now had permission to change her form nearly any way he pleased...