The first thing Dave felt, as he saw the spectral green flames enveloping Jake and the tangle of gold wire in his hand, was profound relief that his friend hadn’t chosen the malevolent darkness emanating from an ancient clay bowl.
As Jake picked it up from the cloth it had been lying on the artefact untangled into what, to Daves eyes at least, looked like a large irregular spiders’ web. It may just have been the natural result of someone trying to create concentric circles by connecting delicate metal-rods the length of a mans finger, but given where it came from Dave suspected it was the more sinister of the two possibilities.
Jake seemed to be lost in his own world as he slowly turned the thing in his hands, watching the strands shift as the green flames swirled around him. Then unseen gusts of wind started to pull at his clothes and hair, fanning the flames into a emerald bonfire that obscured Jake from view. In the moments between the gusts, when the flames settled down far enough that Dave could make out his friend, he could see the look of intense frustration on his face that only intensified in the moment the flames dancing along the golden strands began to coalesce into images a split second before a new gust hit, rendering Jake into an indistinct humanoid shape.
As the gusts increased in intensity and frequency, Dave could see his friend changing. It was subtle at first, but each time the flames receded it became clearer that the unnecessary pounds were melting of Jakes frame like wax from a candle. His ash-blonde curls that already showed a balding spot became a luxurious golden mane. His complexion was a bit clearer each time. And he might have gained an inch in height. But something about the changes seemed a bit off to Dave.
Maybe it was just because he had a hard time reconciling the lithe blonde figure amidst the flames with the chubby little guy he had known since kindergarten. Dave flinched as an unseen hurricane seemed to hit Jake head on, pushing the flames away from Jakes front and into a billowing cloak stretching halfway across the room. The storm wind died down as quickly as it had arrived, but as the flames receded they left pristine white feathers in their wake.
Dave stared in shock, at the two wings that now stretched from Jakes back. When he looked to see Jakes reaction, he found his friend staring directly at him with. Softly glowing eyes the color of jade met Daves and held his gaze for several long moments, before Jake broke the spell with a sullen shake of his head muttering “Why couldn’t I……!?” before he was cut off by a spectral storm wind whipping the flames into a frenzy again. Dave had just enough time to think how strange it felt to see such a sour look etched onto Jakes delicate angelical features before he had to take a hasty step back. Unlike the previous times the unseen storm seemed to have no intention of dying down, instead it seemed to gain in fury with every passing minute as it fanned the flames into a twisting column that grew until it hit the ceiling, splashing to the side in a swirling cloud of flame and smoke.
Also unlike the last few times, the spectacle didn’t occur in ghostly silence: as the flames build up speed they did so with a keening wail that grew in volume until Dave feared the neighbors might call the cops.
The howling stopped from one moment to the next, the pillar of fames disintegrating into swirling motes that were quickly snuffed out. The only thing that could be seen of Jake were the soot covered wings he had wrapped around his upper body like a protective cocoon. The robe too, was stained black all the way down to where it touched the (reasonably) clean carpet. There had definitely been some additional changes to his friend, but Dave couldn’t quite put the finger on it.
The click of a suitcase snapping shut reminded him, he and Jake weren’t the only people in the room. At some point all the other artifacts had disappeared, and Ezekiel was picking up the deerskin suitcase they had come from. When he noticed Dave looking, the man in the top hat winked. “Wouldn’t want the wrong person to pick them up, do we?” he said, nodding towards the window to the backyard, where Lauren had gotten up and was putting on her clothes.
“Shit.” Dave muttered as he looked to Jake who still hadn’t moved, then back to his mother fishing for her shoes. There was NO way he’d be able to explain that!
“Uh. Jake.” he tried to get his friends attention. When Jake didn’t react he tried again, a note of urgency creeping into his voice “Jake!”. The wings tightened slightly in response, but Jake made no sign he intended to come out of his shell.
“Jake. Get to my room. Lauren is awake and coming back.” After hesitating for one more moment, The wings unfolded slightly giving Dave a glimpse of a delicate face obscured by long black hair, before Jake turned away and fled up the stairs without a word. Dave stared after his retreating friend, the face had looked nothing like Jake but Dave felt he had seen it somewhere before. The sound of the yard-door opening interrupted that train of thought. A panicked glance around showed no sign of Ezekiel.
“Hey mom.” He called out, wincing inwardly at how guilty it sounded in his minds ear. “Ah, hey.” Lauren greeted him as she came into the room “I heard noise. Did something happen?”
“Ah, errr yes. I must have sat on the remote.” He pointed to the tv sitting in the corner, growing a bit more confident as inspiration hit him “When I turned it on, the volume was turned to eleven. Sorry. I didn’t want to wake you. ” It wasn’t the most original excuse, but to Daves relief Lauren seemed to buy it. “Don’t worry about it.” she waved off his apology with an embarrassed laugh “I don’t know why I even thought sunbathing at this time of year was a good idea. I can’t even remember buying this bikini.” She made a vague gesture towards her chest “ I mean it’s basically a bunch of shoelaces. It’s not really…” she continued looking more worried with every word “I…. I can’t really remember anything I did the past few days. Did you...? Did I…?” she looked to Dave, struggling to find the right words. It seemed Jake had erased her memories, too while fixing her.
“You got hit pretty hard by the flu.” Dave tried to assure his mother “It is probably just some lingering fatigue.”
“You think so?”
Dave nodded “Just take it easy for another day or two. Pushing yourself to go to work in that condition, is probably why you collapsed like that in the first place.”
Lauren still looked pretty worried about the gap in her memories, but nodded slowly “You are probably right.” Before giving Dave a grateful smile “Seems I was lucky you were around. I know playing nurse probably isn’t how you wanted to spend your holidays, but I don’t even want to imagine what happened if I’d been alone...”
“You would have collapsed into bed, and your boss would have called the police after a day. ” he reassured her. “Skippping work isn’t like you.”
“Yes. Probably.” She admitted. “How about a cup of tea.” Dave offered gently as he suddenly remembered the kettle Ezekiel had put on in the kitchen. It had been just a spur of the moment thing, but the warm cup in her hands seemed to calm Laura down a bit while Dave did his best to ease her worries.
After a while, with Lauren as reassured as she would probably get, Daves desire to see what had happened to the newborn demon hiding in his room was getting the upper hand and he excused himself.
When he reached the door to his room Dave reflexively raised his hand to knock, before reminding himself how silly knocking on the door to your own room was. As he slipped inside he found Jake sitting dejectedly upon the edge of the bed, black wings draped around his body like a cloak and a curtain of long black hair obscuring his averted face. The wings did not have the usual sheen a ravens or crows plumage would have and were an uniform sooty black, making it hard to see the individual feathers instead of a large shadowy mass. The same went for Jakes hair.
The only things of color were the gold-bordered hem of a white robe and the pair of pale grey horns that emerged from the sides of Jakes head to sweep forward in a way that reminded Dave of laurels.
Daves inspection of his friends new form was interrupted as Jake turned his head to give him a reproachful look from slitted pupils surrounded glowing green usually associated with nuclear waste, poison or acid. Good eyes to shoot someone a venomous look.
But the glare wasn’t what made Dave take a step back in surprise, it was because the face glaring at him was clearly that of a beautiful woman.
“Yeah” Jakes expression softened as she(?) slowly got up from the bed, the wings unfurling to give Dave a better look at what lay beneath. The formless white robe had turned into a long white dress that left no doubts that Jake was now indeed a member of the fairer sex. “I am a fucking chick now.” Jake confirmed in a silken soprano. She shifted her weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other as Dave took in all the changes, but made no attempt to cover herself..
Dave had always been slightly taller, but now the gap had widened by another few inches. And Jake had not just dwindled in height. His stocky frame had slimmed down considerably too. Well aside from the hips and …chest area. Those were definitely more voluminous than before. Not in an exaggerated fashion, but with a figure like that Jake would have a hard time disguising his new sex. Which his current clothes did not do in the slightest. In fact it seemed to be designed to flatter Jakes new body as much as possible: Gold accents subtly drew the eyes towards exposed skin, cloth draped loosely around the hips to added a bit more volume and form a pleasant contrast with the way it clung to the waist and chest. I cost Dave a considerable effort of will not to let his eyes linger on the rather daring décolleté, and move his eyes upwards to study Jakes face.
It was without a doubt a very beautiful face, but at a second glance Dave couldn’t help but notice the small inhuman touches. The mouth that was just a bit too wide. The neck that was just a touch too long and slender. The way the cheekbones … no the entire proportions of the skull seemed to be subtly off. And of course the large eyes with their slitted pupils and the bright green iris that had expanded to fill the entire eye. Despite their inhuman nature they were easily the faces most enticing feature. On closure inspection its neon-green coloration came from flecks of gold that mingled with the green background, shifting the balance from gold to green depending on how the light fell on them.
“Dave?” A quiet female voice interrupted Daves reverie. When had he crossed the room to gently cup Jakes cheek? Dave wondered, staring at the hand in question in confusion. How had he gone from studying her face to….?
“Dave.” Jake tried again, a bit more forcefully this time.
Dave blinked, tearing his gaze a way from Jakes eyes once again to realize he was still standing there his hand cupping Jakes friends face.
“I am so sorry!” Dave hastily stumbled a few steps back “I don’t know why…I didn’t….” he stammered feeling his face heat up.
“As you can see these eyes draw others like the candle draws moths, now.” Ezekiel commented from his seat of the bed, causing both Dave and Jake to whirl around in shock.
Jake was the first to recover from her surprise "You!" she hissed. Her wings flared out behind her as far as the confines of the room allowed, knocking several books, papers and other items from nearby surfaces as she took a menacing step towards the demon "You did this!". Dave took an involuntary step back as her sudden anger twisted Jakes face into a demonic visage. It didn't actually transform. Her eyes narrowed to angry slits and her lips peeled back until they stretched nearly from ear to ear, revealing long needle-thin canines and gums lined with a saw-like row of thin hooked teeth. And just like that Jake had gone from 'slightly inhuman but lovely' to 'monstrous'.
Ezekiel seemed unfazed by the display however "Actually that was all you, my dear.".
"Hah! Nice try. There's no way in hell I'd buy that 'You secretly always wanted to be a woman'-crap." Jake spat back.
"Oh I know you don't, my dear." Ezekiel retorted calmly.
"Stop with that 'My dear'-shit, you fucker" Jake growled and took another step towards the demon, her hand raised to do .....something. The prospect of a fight breaking out shook Dave from his stupor and he moved to stop his friend from doing..... what? Dave faltered mid-step wondering why he had suddenly tried to tackle his friend. his own confusion was mirrored on Jakes face, as she stared at the empty bed in puzzlement.
Looking to Dave she murmured "What..? Why'd I get angry just now?" giving him a confused look. "I don't know!" Dave raised his hand in a warding gesture as her gaze turned from confused to accusing.
"I do not enjoy being threatened any more than the next man." Ezekiel stated leaning next to the door, causing the pair flinch in surprise once again. Their memories of the prior conversation snapping back into place.
"If you don't feel inclined to listen, I have few compunctions about leaving and letting you figure things out by yourself."
"How'd you do that?" Dave asked.
"This is one of the minor perks I got for allowing a demon into my soul." Ezekiel explained, a smug little smile dancing around the corners of his mouth "Nothing your friend here will be able to do, but she could learn a host of tricks that are out of my reach in turn." turning his attention to Jake he continued "So can I trust you to swallow your pride and stay civil while I provide an introductory lesson? "
Jake still looked like she'd love nothing more than to strangle the man with his bow-tie, but after a few long moments she nodded stiffly and her wings dropped back to her side and her fangs once again hidden from view.