It was late in the fall, a year or two or so ago. I, and several friends, had an appointment at a man’s house. As I recall, we were to discuss something important with the man, but, to this day, the memory of what it was has eluded me. What I do remember will seem unbelievable. That's why, until this day, I have never spoken of it. I, as usual, was the first to arrive for the appointment. The house was a modest, single story bungalow and, as I recall, in very poor condition which was apparent by its peeling paint and unkept landscape.
The front door was slightly ajar. When I knocked to announce my arrival, I held onto the knob to keep it from swinging open. There was no response, so I knocked again. I waited for a couple of minutes before calling through the crack, "hello, is anyone home?" Still no response—so I eased the door open just enough to sqeeze inside.
As soon as I entered, I noticed something very strange about the house. The size of the foyer was much larger than the outside appearance could allow. Although the space was dimly lit, making it difficult to discern its overall dimensions, the ceiling height and curved staircase and open balcony did not match up at all. I called again . . . but still there was no answer. Since my entry was uninvited, I decided it would be best to wait outside for my friends. That was not at all a difficult decision since I was experiencing a great deal of discomfort due to the strange and unexplainable size discrepancy between the inside and the outside of the house. It certainly caused me to feel uncomfortable about the scheduled meeting; so much so that I considered calling it off altogether.
But then, just as I was about to leave, I heard a man’s voice say, “I’ve been expecting you, Peter.” The announcement startled me, however, the sound of it gave me a sudden chill. The voice was low and resonating and non-directional. I searched the dim corners of the foyer, as well the second floor balcony, but I couldn’t focus my eyes on the person speaking. I was positive I had been lured into a trap, and, therefore, determined to make my exit a hasty one, but when I tried to move, my body would not obey me. I could twist around easily enough, and flail my arms --- which I remember doing with a great degree of desperation, but it made no difference --- I couldn’t bend my knees or even lift my feet in order to take the slightest step forward or backward.
“Relax, Peter,” said the man, as he emerged out of the darkness of a hallway.
As soon as the man said those words, a sense of calm wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I wasn't panicking in the least as I would have expected. Afterall, I was an uninvited guest in a very strange house and my feet were glued fast to the floor. Perhaps my composure came out of knowing that my friends would be arriving soon and I was confident they would be able to stop the person from harming me, if, in fact, that was his intention.
The uncharacteristic serenity continued to wash over me, yet, as the warmth filled me, I began to feel detached from the whole situation, as if I didn’t belong there. I remember preparing, in the most natural of ways, to observe what was to happen. I was convinced beyond any doubt that whatever trivialities of business my friends and I were scheduled to speak about with this man had no relevance to me whatsoever.
Suddenly, the elevated sensations of security and detachment disapated as quickly as they had come, transforming instead into a wave of panic that crashed onto me with a vengeance. Within seconds, every part of my body was oozing a sickly sweat accompanied by a nausea that brought me closer to throwing-up than I had been in years. I knew something was going terribly wrong. I needed to get away from there as fast as I could . . . but it was not to be . . . and there was nothing I could do about it because I still couldn't move my legs.
The man stepped closer and studied me from forehead to floor where I stood affixed like a tree to its roots.. He smiled a broad ugly smile. Then, while nodding his round, balding head approvingly, I began changing into a bird—a man-sized bird. It started at my feet. I watched in horror as they turned into something like rooster claws. It wasn't long before my whole body began to change. I was mortified and unable to call for help or yell at the man, who was stiill nodding and smiling while, I am sure, marvelling at his dastardly handywork.
My only hope, I thought, rested with my friends. When they finally burst into the foyer and announced their late arrival with apologetic handshakes , the surge of sensations that had been overtaking my body abruptly ended. The very next emotion I can rememeber experiencing was anger at my friends for being late. Had they been respectful in their duty and arrived on time, as I did, as I always did, they would have been able to save me from the assault.
There is still a chance, I thought. Then it occurred to me; my friends hadn't notice my transformation. They were behaving normally toward me, proving they thought I looked the same as I always did.
I was sure the man had also cast a spell on my friends, causing each of them to see me as a normal person. It was imparative I tell them what the owner of the strange house had done to me, and to warn them, with the utmost sincerity, by insisting they run from the house as fast as possible.
So, as not to provoke an angry reaction that might cause the man to do something even worse to my friends, I would have to choose my words carefully --- but when I spoke, my sentences came out as squawks and screeches and fell on my ears as desperate and alien . . . yet, there was something human about the sounds. What was worse, my friends didn’t act as if they heard my screeches and squawks . . . just as they had failed to react to the sight of my enormous bird-body. On the contrary, they seemed to be seeing me as always, as well as hearing my normal voice saying normal things. They showed no ill will, anger, shock or surprise while they went about discussing business with the man. Terrified, I fell silent.
The meeting drew to a close with the usual approving smiles, and an exchange of papers. When it was finished, the owner of the house turned to face me. With a glint in his eyes and a devious half-smile, he said to me, "Don't be concerned, Peter --- everything that has happened here today will remain strictly confidential."
Help me, I thought. You can't leave me like this.
"You do understand, don't you Peter?" he said, as the last of my friends left the foyer.
In fact --- I understood completely.
No one except the two of us would ever know that I had been forever changed into a bird.
Jeffrey B. Allen