It was Halloween, and a Triple Monday, at that. This hadn't occurred for over two centuries, but… but today, today was the day. Today was her day. The power coursing through had never before reached quite this level.
So maybe today… maybe today would be the day. Maybe she'd finally split the two into their respective selves. All her previous attempts only resulted in a transformation, which did not often lead to a discussion. It led to raunchier things. Which were totally okay, but not really super scientific or magical.
Jacklyn had been sleeping in the other room, preparing for the moonlight to leave its mark on her body, preparing to turn into the more aggressive Heidi.
But earlier, for the first time, Jacklyn had warned Alice. It was alarming.
"Be careful, okay?"
"What? I can take it, I've taken a lot from Heidi--"
"No! Just… Like, I don't know. You know how I kinda know what happens when Heidi's awake? How it's kinda dream-like for me?"
Alice started flipping through a spellbook, absentmindedly. "Uh huh." There were a lot of spells you could only perform on Triple Mondays. She was sure there were also… hmm…
"Well, on days when the moons are all out, I… don't remember a lot. Or anything, actually. So I'm not gonna really have any influence on her tonight. Okay?"
Wasn't there some old spell in here? A section for just this special day? A Triple Monday Halloween? Where was it? She flipped through quicker.
"Alice! Pay attention!"
Alice's eyes lingered on the book for a moment longer, then she finally turned to Jacklyn. "What's the deal? Don't you trust her?"
Jacklyn's eyes narrowed, her brow furrowed. She shuffled a little from foot to foot, causing the tag on her collar to jingle just a bit. "I mean, she's been with me for a long time… but that doesn't mean I know everything about her. You know, she used to force her way out of me sometimes."
Well, that was interesting. "Forced, huh? I thought you only switched to her during the full moon?"
"Well. Kind of. I mean, that's when it naturally happens. But like…" Jacklyn broke eye contact with Alice. She was clearly weighing what to tell, and what, exactly, to hide. Eventually she reached a consensus with herself. "But like, she'll come out if I can't handle something. Or if I'm feeling kind of violent about someone. She really, really likes to take advantage of that last bit."
"Violent. You?" Alice smirked. "Really? That's not too often then, is it."
Jacklyn scratched the side of her arm and looked further from Alice. There was something like shame on her face. "I've been trying not to get mad. You can call it working on my character, or something. It used to happen a lot more than now. Which is never."
Alice pondered this. What were the sorts of things that would rile her up? Maybe riling up wasn't the right phrase. What angered her? Strangely, she realized, there had been nothing listing this on Jacklyn's biography. All of the others auctioning off their time in the black market had listed some half a dozen items that would upset the servant-to-be. It saved an awkward conversation about potentially triggering instances or events.
Usually. But not this time. "So, what gets you all mad, Jackie?"
"Just… you know. Stuff, like, poor treatment of others…"
"Come on. That's not nearly specific enough. Who, when, why? Or you can just tell me about some time it happened before."
Jacklyn found a chair for herself, sat down, and sighed. "Okay."
Alice forgot about the spellbook for now, paying full attention to her servant. Jacklyn ran her paw over her forehead a couple of times, looking disgruntled. "Okay, but don't interrupt me or anything. Please. And don't ask for clarification, because I don't want to talk about anything I don't include the first time."
Alice grimaced. That was going to be a challenge, but she was really curious. "Fine. Where's it start?"
"So, back when I owned the brothel…"
Alice peered into the room, opening the door as little as possible. Everything was as she expected. The big ol' fluffy white wolf was sleeping on her back, legs splayed, tongue lolling out of mouth. Normally, Alice would have been focused on enjoying herself with Heidi, but… but something about Jacklyn's story flicked Alice's sex drive off and kicked her curiosity to the max.
Heidi had never really shown much more interest in Alice besides sex, so she had assumed that Heidi was a sort of bland wolf with bland desires. It didn't make them unenjoyable desires, but it just meant that Alice had been unable to consider Heidi as an interesting, entirely separate individual from Jacklyn. She just hadn't gotten to see the side that made Heidi whoever she was, yet. (Though really, she should have known there was more to it, as no other demon she'd ever known had been bland.)
Cautiously, Alice opened the door just enough to slip inside, then closed it behind her. She gripped her wand tight and adjusted her hat and collar. Just in case something went wrong or Heidi got out of control… Alice needed to be prepared.
She crept over on silent paws and settled next to the sleeping wolf on the carpet. She was close enough to feel the warm dog breath on her face with every exhale. She leaned closer.
Nothing changed. Heidi kept twitching in her sleep, and her jaw quivered a little. Her half-lidded eyes darted around at dream figments.
"Heidi, get up."
There was a small hitch in the rhythm of her breathing. It was nearly unnoticeable -- Alice had only been half sure she had even caught it. She tensed up, anticipating… something from Heidi.
And then Alice noticed Heidi's eyes had stopped scanning for dream figures from behind the droopy lids. Alice's body reacted instinctually at this point; she leapt back just as Heidi's left arm sprung to life and took a swing where Alice had been not even a second prior. She landed semi-crouched, wand out and ready. Where dogs were built for power, cats were built for speed.
Heidi's eyes shot open and she grinned an awful grin. Before, Alice had before found it arousing, but now it was rather frightening. She did her best not to raise her hackles.
Heidi spoke first. "So, you mind telling me where the hell I am?"
Alice was taking short, quick breaths as she figured out what to do. Though Jacklyn had no magic of her own, she knew Heidi had some strange demon magic, though Jacklyn had been unable to relay the specifics. What would this mean for Alice? She didn't know. What spells would even work? She just didn't know.
Heidi sat up, propping herself to the side with one arm, and looked Alice straight in the eyes. The grin had turned into something of a sneer. "I asked you a question, kitty cat. Where are we?"
Alice saw Heidi's other arm twitch, and only barely recognized in time that Heidi was about to throw another punch. This time, Heidi's fist smashed through the stone wall that had just been behind Alice. She had severely underestimated Heidi's actual speed. The first swipe was probably a groggy one. Things were looking bad.
While increasingly scared, she was also getting annoyed. "What do you even mean, 'where are we?' -- you've been here for three months with Jacklyn. I'm getting kind of tired of your guys' lapses of memory.."
Heidi shook her fist of debris and then cracked both knuckles. It was supposed to be a menacing gesture, surely. "What the hell are you doing to her, then? Where the fuck is this? And what the fuck is this?" Heidi gestured to the collar. "I know she's not into sub shit."
Alice was at the ready, across the small room. Even if Heidi looked to be calming a little, it was safe to keep a distance. "That's the tracking collar she agreed to wear after I bought her time."
Heidi groaned and scratched her head. She was so much different when fully… awake? cognizant? than she had been when Jacklyn had transformed in the previous months. This, this was the real Heidi. The others, those had been Heidis in a fugue, hadn't they? This was the only thing that made sense. "Well, you know what. You didn't buy my fuckin' time. Get me out of this stupid thing. And where are my clothes?"
"Look. I'm not having you just run off. I bought her time for a reason, and I'm not wasting that money."
Heidi's eyes shimmered with disdain. Her body tensed.
Alice was getting tired of this. She saw the lunge coming, felt it coming. The next two seconds were very chaotic. Alice envisioned the spellbook for the briefest of moments, coughed out a laugh, and flicked her wrist. At the beginning of her lunge, Heidi was confident and sporting a nasty grin with wicked intent. Even as Alice's wand tip glowed and shined, Heidi remained sure of herself, knowing that Alice was in a terrible position to run. Alice was cornered.
But something happened as the orange light from the wand hit Heidi's body. Her expression morphed instantly into one of confusion and terror. Something in Heidi's plans had gone awry. Something about this situation wasn't supposed to be happening.
Momentum from the lunge carried Heidi into and against Alice, but her giant wolf's body was slack. Alice ended up crumpled beneath.
Heidi's limbs were stiff. She couldn't stop panting. She could barely speak. "What… what…?"
Alice was still trapped beneath some 250lbs of muscled wolf. She wriggled out, using as much strength as her adrenaline would grant.
"I don't really like that you kept attacking me like that. I give you guys a damn roof and food and everything, and it's all for free. Mostly."
Heidi was still in a pile on the floor, but her legs and arms twitched and quivered as she tried to move. It didn't work. In fact, Heidi's limbs started to recede into themselves, and her body started to compress. She grunted and yelped, and Alice supposed it was maybe a little painful, but it would be over soon enough. And if Heidi had just been nice from the start, this wouldn't have happened, anyway.
An invisible force crushed Heidi's snout inward, and her jaw cracked along with the rest of her limbs. A membrane had appeared to connect her arms to her body. Alice figured that since the process was almost over, the danger was gone, so she got closer to the writhing mass of fur. What had once been Heidi was now a tiny wolfbat, an extinct species. The collar was somewhat large and hung comically on her neck.
At long last, Heidi could move her limbs freely again.
And her mouth. "What the fuck?! What the fuck?!" Heidi's voice was now higher pitched than Alice's own, and hearing such a funny voice burst into cursing like that had startled Alice into laughter.
But… but now Heidi was shivering and scrambling to get away like a frightened feral animal, and that made Alice feel weird and sad. She approached the chair Heidi had chosen to escape under.
"Can we actually have a conversation now?" she asked, as gently as she could manage. Which really wasn't very gentle at all. Actually, it still sounded kind of annoyed. She put in a last minute effort at fixing her tone. "Please?"
Heidi peeked from beneath her wing, gauging how much more adventure Alice had in store for her. After a long moment of staring, she spoke up. "How did you do that?"
Alice blinked. "Do what?"
"What is this trick? This can't be real." Heidi weakly gestured to her body.
"Uh… that's a super secret Triple Monday Halloween spell. It only works because that's today. It'll wear off in the morning, if you're that worried."
"No… how did you do it?"
Alice was confused. Do…what, her magic? What sort of question was that, even? How was anyone supposed to answer something like that? "I don't know. Same as I do any other spell? I think about it. Say some words too, I guess, sometimes."
Heidi took her head wildly, jingling the tag on the collar. "This isn't even real. How did you…?"
Alice stared at Heidi, bewildered. This wasn't quite the conversation she had been hoping for. She tried changing gears a little.
"So like, do you remember me at all?"
Heidi shook her head again.
Alice scratched her temple and sat down in front of the chair sheltering Heidi. "Okay. Well, um.". She wasn't sure where to take it, but figured anywhere was better than nowhere.. "Actually, you're the reason I was interested in Jacklyn. I thought she and you were the same, and I was interested in the whole demon thing."
When Heidi said nothing, Alice continued. "Like… I thought she just turned into a demon. I didn't know you guys were separate until after I saw you for the first time and she didn't remember what happened." Alice waited for a response, but again, none came. "And so I thought you were kind of dull, since you were only interested in sex-"
"With you?" Heidi interrupted incredulously, with a tinge of… fear?
Heidi shook her head in disbelief. At this rate, Alice wondered if Heidi's head might fall off from all the shaking it'd endured.
"Look," Heidi said shakily. "If Jacklyn's been here for months, then what about her place?"
"Her brothel? It's disbanded. That's why she's my servant. For now."
Heidi thought about this a little. Then she got to the point. "Why do you care about demons?"
Alice hummed to herself. That was a pretty good question. Why, indeed? "Well, they're always interesting. I guess that's it."
"Bullshit. That can't be the only reason."
"Ehhh, maybe. I don't really know. They're just like… they do their own thing. And I do my own thing. So I think that's probably the only reason I need."
Heidi looked doubtful and leaned against the chair leg. They sat together in silence for a few minutes (which was rather hard for Alice to endure). Eventually, Heidi started tapping the floor with a single finger. Was… was this her demon tic?
Heidi turned to Alice, but still couldn't look her in the eyes. "Kitty cat. What is your name?"
"Alice. Will you help me?"
Huh. "Help you with what?"
Heidi managed to lock gazes with Alice. In her stupidly cute and tiny voice, she said, "I need out of this body."
"I already told you, it'll wear off later--"
"No. I need out of Jacklyn's body."
This… this is what Alice had been waiting for. She had been waiting to hear those words without even knowing those were what she needed to hear. This was something she knew, something she felt was correct in every way. Even though she knew the answer, she asked anyway: "Is that even possible?"
Heidi ignored the question. "I need you to find my friend. I need you to go to Hellside to find them."
Alice leaned forward and rested her chin on her paws. "C'mon. I'm not the one who owes favors. What am I gonna get out of it?"
Heidi tapped her claw finger harder against the floor. She remained lost in thought for a good while before Alice interrupted her. "You gonna leave me hanging or what?"
"I'm thinking." Heidi tapped harder. "Could you fetch paper? I need to write down the instructions in case you do decide to help me out."
Alice snorted. Doing errands for others was not her job. However, she was interested in what Heidi had to offer, so she stood up and fetched paper and a writing stick from a cupboard that had narrowly avoided destruction at Heidi's fist not long ago. She then slid them under the chair.
As Heidi took the stick in her hand, Alice wondered something. "Am I the first one you asked for help?"
It was Heidi's turn to snort. "I've had fewer than… thirty? Fewer than thirty evenings as myself while in this pitiful body. Most of the time, I'm not fully present. When not fully present, I have no time to think about my current state. And in the full days, I have found no one I believed capable of stepping foot in Hellside, let alone traversing it to the destinations I have in mind. Until tonight."
Alice wasn't sure what that implied, exactly. She had met plenty of strong individuals; they were everywhere. It was impossible that Heidi hadn't found someone at least comparable to her, magically. And Alice knew that Heidi's wolf form was stronger than she, physically. So the question rolled right off her tongue: "What do you mean?"
"Don't play stupid, cat. I will write a message for you, and you can make use of it, or not. Do not interrupt me as I write, or I will have to start over again."
Alice wanted to die. Not really, but the pace at which Heidi wrote was horribly slow. Absolutely horrendously slow. Had she never written before? Or--
Heidi fumbled with the writing stick in her long claw fingers, dropped it, and cursed, and Alice suddenly understood. She felt a little bad, kind of.
Heidi tapped the index claw of her other hand as she wrote. Alice peered beneath the chair frequently, checking up on Heidi's progress. It was painstaking to watch. Nearly half an hour had passed, Alice realized, before Heidi had even finished the first line. Was this on purpose? Why was it taking so long? No matter how Alice looked at the symbols, they were foreign. They looked very familiar though, which was maddening. What language was this?
But she couldn't ask. She couldn't say a word, or else the trance would be broken and Heidi would have to start again. She knew this to be true and did not wish to test it; many runes had to be inscribed without concentration faltering. This writing was definitely something… different, if it wasn't magical.
So she just watched. She watched and thought about how different this Heidi had been from the Heidi she thought she knew. The other Heidi had only been interested in primal urges. This one though… this was the true one. This was the one without the fog of dreamscapes painted over her mind.
So how much of Jacklyn's personality was affected by this true Heidi?
And furthermore, what would happen to Jacklyn if Heidi were freed from the body?
Alice didn't know. She hoped Heidi would tell her, but demons were tricky. Not as tricky as imps, but demons were known to be very self-interested. She didn't want to think Heidi would lie, but that urge and feeling came from knowing Jacklyn, who had been exceedingly honest in Alice's time of knowing her. She had to remember: Heidi was most definitely not Jacklyn.
So what was she, then? Who was she? Alice became lost in thought for hours, imagining several backstories for Heidi.
But then with slight panic, Alice noticed the sky outside begin to take on purple and pink tones. Daytime was approaching, and Heidi had been writing for as long as Alice had been daydreaming. She had almost finished the single sheet of paper. That was it. To Alice, it was still every bit as unintelligible as it had been during the first line.
And it was almost dawn. Who knew when Heidi might reappear in full, again? Well, Jacklyn would know. But who wanted to wait that long? Alice swished her tail in agony, wanting desperately to ask how close Heidi was to completion, but knowing that would be the writing's undoing.
Then Alice noticed something was missing. The finger tapping had stopped. She turned to Heidi, still under the chair, and noticed that the writing stick had been placed on the ground. Heidi was done and had completed a single sheet. Was that enough? Or was she just at a stopping point, for now?
"Okay, cat," she announced. "I'm finished. I see my time here is just about up, but please consider my offer." Heidi slid the paper toward Alice and waited. Alice picked it up gingerly. Even though it still didn't look magical, it felt like a precious artifact. It felt like it retained someone's intent… without magic. What?
Alice didn't know how else she was supposed to respond. "Um… so, what does this say, exactly?"
Heidi's serious expression was shattered by this. "What do you mean?! You can't read that? How did you even do this, then?" she asked in panic, motioning to her tiny body. "You can't be serious... No, no, no!" she shrieked.
Alice was dumbstruck. Clearly Heidi had been counting on Alice's ability to read it. Why? Where did that assumption come from? She stared hard at the paper. These instructions felt very specific, but she couldn't quite place her finger on how or why she thought that. Were they even instructions? They sure felt like it. As she got lost in the symbols, she envisioned a sort of shimmering, tall figure, with a flowing gown and a lovingly cruel smile.
Heidi calmed down, but slumped in defeat. "I was wrong. Please leave me be to meditate, cat."
"Can't you just tell me what it says?"
"No," Heidi replied meagerly. "I can't."
Heidi didn't respond. She simply curled up under the chair and seemed to fall asleep. She probably wasn't actually asleep. Just meditating, like she said.
Alice didn't know how to feel about this, so she ended up lying on the rug in the middle of the floor and staring out the window, thinking about the paper, until dawn came and Heidi's body shifted and reformed back into Jacklyn's. Jacklyn was still sound asleep, barely fitting between the legs of the chair where Heidi had taken refuge. She looked silly and out of place.
Alice fell asleep with the image of the paper still burned into her mind, but before drifting off, she couldn't stop wondering who the wolf in the shimmering, starry cloak was and what they had to do with Heidi.—glitchedpuppet