Horse and Jockey (mm mc tf)

Copyright © 2005

Fantasy Cast
Evil Magician- Anton Gelder CLIFF SIMON
Horse guy- Shane Filker ERIC SZMANDA
Lawn Jockey- Wentworth Suffolk WENTWORTH MILLER
Their friend the stable hand- Tobey Riddings KEVIN ZEGER

View the dream cast for Horse and JockeyWentworth Suffolk was a dashing man of 6'4" and was of that rare breed that wished he was 5'6". Wentworth was an equestrian and an accomplished polo player, but what he really wanted to be was a jockey. Wentworth passed by the stables of the lawns where he worked and saw the various jockeys gathered around chatting with one another. Wentworth nodded to the diminutive group of athletes, and his nod was returned with a quick and perfunctory wave as the small men went back to their own interaction. Wentworth continued on, trying to behave as if it didn't bother him.

Wentworth had a great deal going for him. Besides being tall and athletic, he was handsome, with deeply tanned skin and tightly shaved hair, making him look as much like a naval officer as a professional polo player. He was well-respected by both the staff and the professionals of the equestrian lawns he frequented, and admired by most of the ladies who attended the polo matches. They would have to settle for admiring him at a distance, however, as Wentworth also had a small one-bedroom home near the lawns that he shared with his boyfriend, and equestrian enthusiast who adored Wentworth.

Wentworth had just finished a practice game and though it was not required of him, was attired in full polo gear. Red jacket, white jodhpurs, tall riding boots, white gloves. His small helmet was tucked under his arm as he strode by. He grinned at the few appreciative glances he got from those few women who were out and about. He knew that while in full polo attire he was something between dashing and adorable. His youthful appearance was something that Wentworth did enjoy.

He paused briefly by the railing of the race track and watched as some of the race horse jockeys ran their own practices. Wentworth sighed and watched the sleek steeds rush by, their powerful hooves tearing up the dirt lanes and sending clouds of dust into the air. As he did every day, Wentworth pined at the exhilarating sight, wondering what it would be like to be one of the men astride one of those mighty animals.

"Hey, Wenty!"

Wentworth turned to see a few of the men from the polo team walking their horses to their stables. "Hey, fellas."

"You all pumped for the big party tonight, Went?", one player asked him. The big bash to launch the new season of equestrian events had become legend on the grounds. Mr. Livery, the ironically-named man behind the lawns, always insisted on a big fancy dress party, always with an equestrian theme. Wentworth was not usually one for playing dress up, not beyond his game uniform anyway, so he usually attended the party wearing that. Despite his distaste for costumes, Wentworth usually had a good time at the annual social gathering.

"Looking forward to it", Wentworth admitted.

"Gonna stick to the ol' standby polo uniform?", another player asked him. Wentworth only shrugged. He had planned on it. The player smiled. "Not the way Shane tells it. He's been bragging all week about some kickass costume he's got all picked out for you." The others shared a quick chuckle at Wentworth's expense.

Wentworth raised an eyebrow. "Oh, he has, has he?"

"Better get on home to that boyfriend of yours and see what he's got in store for you", the player added, giving Wentworth's shoulder a friendly slap with his glove.

Wentworth felt that was good advice. He cut his view of the racetrack short and moved off toward the small home he and Shane shared. Whatever the costume was, Wentworth would find some way out of wearing it. This would be the umpteenth fancy dress kickoff party Wentworth had attended, but the first alongside Shane. The couple had been together only for a few months, and ever since learning of the costume party, Shane had suggested (perhaps threatened?) that his man Wentworth would look great dressed as a cowboy. But the idea was less than appealing to the man who'd have to be stuck in the chaps and ten-gallon hat. Suppressing a smile, Wentworth picked up his pace and made his way across the grounds.

The house Shane Filker shared with his boyfriend Wentworth Suffolk was not a spacious ranch, but it was decorated as if it were. Tasteful rugs festooned the hardwood floor and tapestries with native American design work hung here and there on the paneled walls. Photos were framed upon bookshelves and atop the television showing the happy couple riding together or sharing a congratulatory hug after a successful polo match. Trophies and ribbons boasting those same winning matches, bearing Wentworth's name, were relegated to a wall on the small room used as a study, across from their shared bedroom. An 11x14" matted photo in the hallway showed the two boyfriends astride the same horse, smiling joyfully at the camera.

The duo was not particularly wealthy, but were able to add some bits of culture and high art to their abode through two imitation Fredrick Remington sculptures and a detailed Western painting by Beverly Doolittle.

Shane, while sharing his boyfriend's love of horses and riding, had very little of his skill, so he busied himself in keeping a nice house for both of them and helping out where and when he could on the grounds. Shane was practically buzzing about the fancy dress party coming up that evening. He had found what he felt was the perfect costume for Wentworth, whom he was certain would wear it gladly despite his vociferous complaints about fancy dress affairs. The costume for Wentworth had cost Shane a pretty penny, which he could ill afford, but he felt the expense was worth it, especially if it would make his lover happy. Shane's only concern now was what to do for himself. He had invested so much time and money in Wentworth's costume that he had no idea what to do for himself. He was contemplating borrowing one of Wentworth's polo uniforms and wearing that. Wentworth was of larger stature than Shane, but perhaps if the distinguished polo uniform fit him too loosely it would add to the humor of his wearing it.

There was a knock at the front door, which jarred Shane out of his reverie. Shane went to the door and opened it, not expecting company. No one was there. He saw a large box had been deposited upon the small porch. It was no doubt its arrival, and it's thudding against the door, that Shane had mistaken for a visitor's knock. Shane picked up the box almost absently, intending to set it on the kitchen table for Wentworth. No doubt it was something he needed for his polo games, some type of riding equipment or the like. But as Shane set the box down on the table, he saw that the parcel was addressed to him.

URGENT DELIVERY. Please RUSH to SHANE FILKER. With their address listed below.

Shane scrunched his brow at that. He and Wentworth hadn't been living together that long yet. And Shane was notorious for taking ages to send out his forwarding address cards. Who knew that he was living with his boyfriend? Curious, Shane tore the sealing tape from the edges of the box and opened up the package. Inside was what appeared to be a tan blanket folded neatly upon itself, perfectly filling the box's interior. Shane wondered at that. Given the heft of the box, it was too heavy to just be a blanket. Unless it was some type of horse blanket? If that were the case, he'd need a bit of room to fully unfold it.

Moving into the living room, Shane slowly withdrew the contents onto the floor. Shane felt the material between his fingertips. What was this thing made out of? It wasn't blanket fabric. It was something that felt almost chemical. Smooth, soft, but almost spongy. Shane lifted the material to his nose and sniffed. Definitely a chemical trace to the faint aroma. Was this made out of a kind of rubber? Hurriedly, Shane pulled his delivery entirely out of the box. Some parts were heavier than others, flopping here and there as Shane freed them from their package. With the last, and heaviest portion coming out in his hands, Shane realized what he had.

"No way..."

Quickly, Shane lay the material out fully upon the floor, kicking the empty box away. Shane's face lit up with a wide smile. Almost giggling, his hands went to his mouth and he felt a bit giddy at what he had. "No fucking way."

For no reason Shane could understand, he knew he had to put this wonderful surprise gift to use immediately. Without another thought, he shucked off his shirt and practically leapt out of his pants, tossing them aside to land in a heap upon the couch. Shane was still tugging off his shoes with his heels as he picked up his prize. This was more than a blanket, far more. It was something to wear. And he had to wear it right now.

Shane fussed and fought for a moment with the awkward wearable, not certain at first how to climb into it. Soon enough, he discovered an opening in the back and began to climb inside. No sooner had his feet brushed against the open legging than a thought ran through his mind. No socks. It would probably fit better without socks. Quickly, Shane withdrew his leg and yanked off his socks, tossing them over his shoulder to snag on a nearby potted cactus plant.

Again, Shane rushed to climb into his new suit, but a second thought came to his mind, unbidden, even stronger than the last. Lose the underwear. Wear it commando. Without even pausing to question why he thought that, Shane stripped off his briefs and rushed back to getting dressed. The rush didn't last long. With one leg into the suit, Shane felt a wonderful rush of tactile sensation spike up calf, his thigh, and into the rest of his body.

"Ohhh-oh-oh waaoooooww--!", he gasped. The feeling of the strange rubbery material against his bare skin was intoxicating. Slowly, gently, Shane let his foot come to rest within the inside of the shoe attached to the end of the suit's right leg. It was all Shane could do to catch his breath. He found himself taking in sharp, shallow gasps. Whatever this thing was made out of, it had an extraordinary effect upon the wearer. Shane slowly caught his breath, and then softly rested a palm against the outside of the legging, pressing it to his own leg underneath. He threw his head back with another sharp inhalation of breath.

"HOL-y shit!", Shane blurted out.

Rapidly, Shane lifted his free bare foot from the floor and thrust his other leg into the suit, planting it firmly within the second attached shoe. Shane was overcome by an exhilaration of sensation that gave him a sudden head rush. Shane's arms pin wheeled for a moment as he took a few steps in the unfamiliar shoes, making the material press against his encapsulated legs and brush snugly against his sockless feet. Only Shane's legs were inside the outfit. After pulling his arms in, Shane clutched at the spongy material, less it fall down and release his legs. There was little chance of that happening, however, as the tops of the legs held firmly to his body, conforming to his build. From the crotch up, Shane was still naked, his rear and member still exposed as he stumbled forward, then backward, trying to get a feel for these strange and wonderful new coverings on his feet.

The footsteps made Shane feel even more heady, as the soles of his feet pressed so firmly against the interior of the shoes. Overcome by the sensation, Shane tumbled backward and landed firmly on his ass. The landing was hard one, but Shane was so delighted by what caused it that he couldn't help but laugh. Once on the floor, Shane against placed his palms against the legs of the strange suit. This time, though, he pressed down firmly, rubbing his hands up and down the leggings, squeezing here and there. Shane's head buzzed. As the rush of the material-on-skin contact faded somewhat, Shane marveled at his new shoes. He looked at his feet as they stuck out in front of him. From the look of the shoes' shape, it was hard to discern how Shane's feet fit inside them at all. But moving his feet back and forth at the ankle, Shane could feel that the oddly-shaped shoes fit his feet perfectly. It made Shane wonder how the rest of the suit would fit.

Clambering back up to his feet and working to steady himself, Shane reached down and tugged the suit upward. At first, it didn't seem to want to come up, but then with a sharp pop, the crotch area of the suit came up and slipped into place over Shane's pelvic region. The suit's seat squeezed Shane's cheeks and the pant front pressed smoothly against his penis. Shane couldn't believe how good it felt. It was if the soft rubber was simultaneously squeezing his butt and massaging his member. Shane felt himself grow instantly erect. Shane rested his palms against his ass, which now followed the contours of the strange suit. It felt wonderful against him. With a soft squeeze, Shane gripped the seat of the outfit and felt an electric charge shoot through him from behind. It made Shane look down at his front. He grinned mischievously.

Tentatively, Shane lightly fingered the crotch of the suit. Even the gentle touch of the material pressing against his cock sent lightning bolts of erotic pleasure arcing though him. Shane's penis pulsed, throbbing against the material and increasing the sensations. Shane quickly yanked his hand away to prevent his rising to orgasm.

After taking a few moments to collect himself again, Shane pulled up the suit to cover his torso. Oh, the sensation of this bizarre rubbery suit against his flesh seemed to spike, to increase tenfold. Shane's breath was coming in ragged gasps, his legs trembling slightly, his penis pulsing as if to burst. He took a few steps around the living room, feeling the rear of the suit brush snugly against his own ass. His head spun and one thought pounded in his brain. Put it on the rest of the way. You have to be completely covered in this thing. Put it on. Put it all on.

Reaching behind him, Shane yanked at the back zipped and pulled it up almost to his shoulder blades. He dare not go any farther, lest he be unable to slip his arms into the sleeves. The press of the material against his back sent shivers up his spine, but Shane tried to push that distraction away for the moment. Plenty of time to revel in that after he was fully dressed. Anxiously, Shane thrust both his arms forward at once, pushing them down into the sleeves at the same times. Uncertain of exactly what he was doing, Shane instinctively pushed his arms forward and shrugged his shoulders back, pulling the suit up tightly to wrap around his sternum and snap around the back of his neck. With another forward lunge, Shane felt the zipper in back yank up its final inches and secure to the pull-around at the base of the neck. Shane had no idea how he knew to do that, but he was glad he did. The feeling of this suit hugging him from behind felt beyond wonderful.

Shane extended his arms out in front of him. They looked amazing. The shape of the outfit gave his arms an entirely new appearance, himself an entirely new identity. And as amazing as the sleeves looked, they felt even better. Shane turned his arms over and back, staring at the glorious sleeves and losing himself in how incredible that rubbery sheath felt clutched to his skin. The material was almost porous, and seemed to breathe enough so that it was very comfortable and soothing rather than confining.

Shane felt himself giggle again, delighted at his wonderful gift. He noted that there were mitts attached to the sleeves, but was uncertain how to put them on. They were folded back to expose the sleeve cuff openings, and appeared to be fastened there. Experimenting, Shane snapped his hands downward at the wrist and thought he felt the fastened mitts give a little. Not giving any thought to why he didn't simply just pull them down with his fingers, Shane snapped his wrists forward again and the twin mitts snapped down firmly over his hands, closing his fingers up inside. Shane smiled. This was the perfect addition to make the sleeves look just right. Shane held the mitts up before his eyes and examined them with approval. He looked back down again at his feet and the new shoes upon them. Just perfect.

Shane could feel the weight of the suit's hood still hanging limply at his back. He wouldn't be satisfied until he had the hood down upon his head as well. Shane fumbled behind his shoulders to grasp at the hood, but the mitts were of a stout material that restricted his dexterity. Shane was unable to grasp the hood properly to pull it up and over his head. Struck with an idea, Shane dropped to all fours and jerked his head forward strongly. The hood flopped up, almost over his head, but not quite.

Shrugging his shoulders to brace himself, Shane smacked his right fist against the floor once, twice, then jerked his head forward again, this time with success. The hood came up and over his head, hugging tightly to the crown of his head and holding tight against his ears. Shane let himself fall backward son his butt, a strange feeling for sure in this new suit, and with his mitted hands pushed the hood the rest of the way down over his face and pressed the front edge of the pullover hood against his shirtfront.

With some effort, Shane scrambled to his feet and stood. He almost fell once, but was able to get steady footing and keep upright. Shane was amazed at how easily he could breathe. He assumed that with the hood in place, his breath would be stifled, but to his delight it felt just fine. And the suit felt just wonderful. It felt better than wonderful. It felt like rebirth, like a gift from above. Shane laughed fully from inside his wonderful anonymously-sent gift and spun around in a circle, his arms out at his sides. Then, with a surge of inspired silliness, Shane began to gallop around the living room, just as if he were back in kindergarten gym class.

Galloping like a hyperactive toddler, the newly-attired Shane made his way around the kitchen, up and down the short hallway, and then back into the living room. On his third pass around the living room, Shane gave into temptation and actually whinnied.

"What the HELL is this?!"

Shane skidded to a halt before the front door, where Wentworth stood in all his polo playing splendor. His eyes were wide and his jaw slack. He was staring at the most outlandish sight he had ever seen. A strange...something was galloping around his house.

Before Wentworth was a tan creature of foam rubber or something very much like it. It stood upon it's hind legs which were quite slender, ending in large dark shoes, looking like truncated cylinders. It's torso was large and curving, with a string chest and shoulders and an enormous, unflattering ass from which hung a long tail of dangling loose hair. It's arms were as slender, if not more so, than it's hind legs. Like it's legs, the arms also ended in hard dark short cylinders. They could have been more shoes, they could have been mitts. It's head was oversized and oblong, with a long, tremendous nose that ended in a wide snout. It had small pointed ears atop on either side of the top of its head, with beautiful large brown eyes further down it's head and a lush mane running down the back of its neck.

Wentworth blinked, uncertain what to do next faced with this aberration. From within the rubbery creature, a muffled but familiar voice echoed.

"Hi, honey. I'm a horse."

* * * * *

Wentworth stared at the horselike man (or manlike horse) standing in the middle of his living room. The image was a strange one. It was definitely a costume, of that there was no doubt, but it was unlike any horse costume Wentworth had ever seen. It was designed for one person, and form the look of it the suit completely enclosed the wearer. The sculpted foam rubber of the body gave the person in it the look of a small horse standing up on its hind legs. It appeared to be a horse with front legs shorter than its hind legs, since a man's arms were inside, but the lifelike hood so faithfully recreated the look of a living horse that it was hard to dismiss the possibility that it was in fact some kind of actual horse at first glance.

"Shane, is that you in there?"

"Yep", came the muffled voice. "It's me. See?" Shane reached up to remove his horse-head hood, but his hoof-enclosed hands were unable to gain any kind of purchase. He tried a second time with no better result, then began to scrape away with one hoof on top of the other in a struggle to remove the odd gloves. "It's really me", he assured his boyfriend. "Just hang on a second."

"For heaven's sake", Wentworth said, putting down his hat and moving over to his encapsulated lover. He searched for some kind of flap or attachment at the base of the horse neck. "How did you get into this thing, anyway?"

"I'm beginning to wonder that myself", Shane answered from inside.

Wentworth began to search along the underside of the horse head more energetically. "You must be suffocating in there."

"Oddly enough, no", Shane said. "It is cool, isn't it?"

"Where the hell did it come from? This is hardly something you could hide in our bedroom closet."

"I got it today."

"Where from?", Wentworth asked, then quickly added, "Ah, here we go. There is a seam under here. Damn, it was nearly invisible. Let me--there." Wentworth peeled the hood back to hang upon Shane's back. Shane shook his head to regain his bearings, then with a dazzling smile, leaned over and kissed his boyfriend.


Wentworth smiled back. "Hey." Wentworth saw how truly excited Shane was by his extravagant costume. "You seem pretty happy", he observed.

"I am. Have you ever seen anything like this thing in your life?"

"Can't say that I have." Wentworth squinted slightly at the sight of this horse's body with his lover's head protruding from its shoulders. "This isn't the costume I hear you've been cooking up to stick me with at tonight's party, is it? because if it is--"

Shane's face fell. "Who the hell's been gabbing? It was supposed to be a surprise. And no, this suit isn't for you. It came addressed to me."

"It came?", Wentworth queried. Shane nodded toward the shipping box he had kicked aside earlier. Wentworth picked it up, looked it over. "No return address, no postage. It didn't come by way of standard shipping, looks like. There was no note with it or anything? You don't know who sent it?"

"No idea."

Wentworth shrugged. "Sounds to me like Mr. Livery's doing. Welcoming the new member of the family, continuing to nudge me to dress up for his little soiree." He walked over to Shane and put his arms around his shoulders. "So you like your new horsie suit?"

"Oh, Wenty, it feels incredible. You should try it out."

"Don't call me Wenty, and no."

"So now that you already know about it, you wanna see your costume?"

Wentworth looked down at his boyfriend's feet, or in this case, his hind legs and hooves. "How the hell do you stand in those things? Where do your feet go?"

"Don't change the subject. Do I get your costume now or spring it on you right before we go?"

Wentworth sighed. "It's not a horse suit?"

"It's not a horse suit." Wentworth stepped away from Shane and with a grand sweep of his arm indicated that his boyfriend should go get the dreaded costume. Shane clapped his front hooves, which sounded like twin coconuts clopping together. "Yay. I'll be right back." And Shane thudded out of the room like a kid on Christmas morning, down the hall to their bedroom.

Wentworth watched him go. "God, he even gallops."

In a thrice, Shane was back, horse head flopping against his back, front hooves holding aloft a large white clothing box. He held it out to Wentworth, who looked at it suspiciously.

"This is it?"

"This is it. Go on, open it."

Wentworth pushed his tongue into his cheek. "Well, if it is a cowboy outfit, you sure didn't fit the ten gallon hat in here."

Shane frowned. "Cowboy? What--no. Just open it."

Uncertain what to expect without the cowboy costume waiting under the lid, Wentworth opened the box very slowly. He kept his eyes on Shane, the part of him that still looked like Shane, not the horse parts from the neck down in any case, as he removed the top of the gift box. Wentworth had to grin back at Shane's bright expectant expression, then he glanced down at the contents of the box. Wentworth lost his grin. Instead, he felt his jaw drop open.

"Oh, Shane. This...this is..." Wentworth let the box lid fall to the floor and he gazed at the costume.

"So go ahead and take it out!", Shane prompted.

Wentworth removed the collared striped shirt of bright green and yellow. Beneath it was a pair of white trousers neatly folded atop a pair of riding boots with a tan top cuff, different from the polo boots Wentworth already wore. A snug cap with an attached chin strap lay beneath the boots. Wentworth looked at his boyfriend with wide eyes. "It's a jockey costume."

"It is. Do you like it?"

Wentworth slowly shook his head, staring at the shirt, the pants, the boots. "Like isn't strong enough a word." He let the pants unfold and saw their length. "The suit's so big."

"Big enough to fit you", Shane smiled. "You wanna try it on?"

"You couldn't stop me", Wentworth said. "Thank-you so much, love." He gave Shane a kiss and then strode down the hallway to their bedroom. Shane paced back and forth in the living room, his costume hooves clipping and clopping against the floorboards. After only about five minutes, Wentworth called from the hallway. "You ready?"

"I've been waiting for weeks", Shane answered. "Let's have a look at you."

Standing very tall, Wentworth walked into the living room in his jockey uniform. His grin was ear-to-ear and his eyes shone. "Do I do it justice?"

Shane clapped his front hooves together and let out a brief cheer that sounded more like a whinny. "You look perfect." He galloped over to Wentworth and put his costumed arms around his boyfriend's shoulders and kissed him tenderly.

"You realize you ruined my pre-party preparation", Wentworth said.

Shane looked concerned. "How so?"

"I had been practicing how I would refuse any costume you might present me with all during my walk home. Guess I didn't need to have bothered."

Shane smiled. "Save it for Mr. Livery's Christmas party, if he has one. I think you'd make a dashing toy soldier."

Wentworth's eyes bulged. "Never in a million years." Then he kissed Shane.

"When's the party start?", Shane asked.

"After the races this evening", Wentworth told him.

"Let's strap on the feedbag first", Shane suggested.

"Literally, in your case", Wentworth observed.

"And then arrive fashionably late to the party."

Wentworth furrowed his brow. "After the way you've been anticipating it, and your excitement over your new horsie suit?"

"I want us to make an entrance", Shane grinned.

Wentworth grinned back. "Of course you do."

Shane spun around quickly, placing his back to Wentworth. "First help me put my hood back on. I wanna try out my costume some more. You know, you are more than welcome to give it a whirl. It'd be a little too tight on you, since it fits me so well, but you can always--"

"Ah, no. You can be the only horse in this family", Wentworth said. Fastening Shane's horse head back into place, Wentworth pulled him close and said into his ear, "But I just may end up riding you later."

Shane let out a delighted whinny and proceeded to gallop around the house. Wentworth shook his head at his boyfriend's antics, but stopped to admire himself in the small living room mirror. Wentworth the jockey. That alone would be worth a dramatic entrance at the party.

* * * * *

The evening's race went well. The crowds were good, the betting window active. All the local favorites ran as well as predicted, a few exceeded expectations. By the time the lights surrounding the downs were doused, spirits were very high among the staff and grounds workers. The party began with a rousing start and the proper mood.

By fifteen minutes into the affair, the party room was packed. Mr. Livery was making the rounds and working the room to ensure that all were having a good time. As required by the host, everyone present was in costume. Most of the fancy dress outfits were simple ensembles. There were a few cowboys with broomstick hobby horses in hand. One or two couples had hobbled together two-man horse costumes, but they looked rather threadbare and ridiculous. Anything relating to horses or riding was fair game. Guests mingled together as mounted policemen, frontiersmen, and a blacksmith, among others. There was even one rodeo clown. But in terms of impressive costumes the showing was meager. Most folks were there for the food, drink, and atmosphere and less for the masquerade.

The pair of two-man horses even came apart in short order. The first, a brown horse with a comical head tried to make a pass around the room but ran into a refreshment table and came apart in a tangle of arms and legs amid laughter and applause. The second, a gray number with a papier-mâché head and a body that looked for all the world like a stretched washcloth, remained together for only a few minutes before its wearers separated and spent the rest of their time walking about in only half of their outfit. The front half kept the molded head tucked under one arm, the back half made his way to the open bar with his horse's ass hanging from his shoulders by suspenders. All other attempts at a horse costume consisted of simple horse-shaped face masks worn as a compliment to everyday street clothes or stable wear.

It was perhaps twenty minutes on when a few partygoers began to comment on the absence of Wentworth and his new beau. As Wentworth's discomfort at dress-up parties was well known, many began to wonder how long they'd have to wait until he made a polite showing before slipping back out. They didn't have to wait long. Striding proudly in his jockey costume, Wentworth appeared at the door, filling it with his tall and impressive build.

"Hey, everyone!", someone called. "Check out Wentworth!"

Most of the guests crowded the door to see Wentworth standing there in costume. Everyone present, especially the longtime staff of the grounds, were delighted to see him dressed up. "Wentster! You look incredible, man!" "Always knew you'd make an impressive jockey!" "Where the hell did you find a uniform in your size?"

Wentworth fielded the compliments and thanked everyone graciously. Mr. Livery made his way over to Wentworth with hand extended. Mr. Livery was dressed in the attire of a traditional fox hunter, complete with top hat. He shook Wentworth's hand vigorously. "So glad to see you finally getting into the spirit of things, my boy! You make a most dashing jockey there!" Mr. Livery looked around Wentworth's shoulders. "So where's this new boyfriend of yours I've heard so much about?"

"He wanted to make an entrance in his own right", Wentworth explained. To the bystanders, he announced, "My friends, may I introduce my partner, and the one responsible for my dashing ensemble this evening, Shane Filker!"

With that, Shane came galloping into the room in full horse costume, neighing and whinnying and receiving rapturous applause for his grand entrance.

"That is one hell of a cool costume", came the glowing response from nearby. Wentworth turned to see the smiling boyish face of stable hand Tobey, a good friend and the only one Wentworth consistently trusted with the care of his polo steed.

"Tobey, good to see you", Wentworth said, shaking his friend's hand. Wentworth looked over the handsome young man, and the strange brown half-circle that arced around his midsection, a knob in front, a long dangling strap around the back. "Tobey, what the hell are you supposed to be?"

Tobey looked crestfallen. "I'm a saddle. Can't you tell?"

Wentworth curled his lips inward and bit down to stifle a laugh. Shane galloped up alongside him just in the nick of time.

"So do we finally get to meet your new man, or is his face so bad that he needs to be kept hidden under a horse hood?", Tobey asked.

"Hardly", Wentworth said flatly. He reached over and began to finger the front of the neck on Shane's horse costume. It took some digging.

"You stalling?", Tobey asked.

"Hang on, hang on", Wentworth insisted. Finally, he was able to get a grip on the hood and peel it backward. "Meet Shane."

Tobey raised his eyebrows. "Oh. Not a horse face, then."

Shane smiled amicable at the stable hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Tobey. Wentworth thinks you're one of the best hands on the Livery grounds."

Tobey beamed and Wentworth spoke out the side of his mouth, "Don't tell him that, he may not work as hard."

Shane extended a hand to Tobey but had to pause when he realized he still had a hoof covering his fingers. Tobey grinned and gave the outstretched hoof a shake anyway.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, my boy", the magnanimous Mr. Livery said warmly. "Nice to see a man in the life of my favorite polo player." Shane smiled brightly and Wentworth looked down at his jockey boots, thankful that his deeply tanned complexion hid his blush.

"Shane, come on with me and let me introduce you to everybody you don't already know", Tobey said.

Shane looked back at his boyfriend. "You mind?"

Wentworth nodded. "It's what we're here for. Go. Mingle."

Tobey took Shane by the arm (or the front leg) and led him around the room. Shane was welcomed by all those who met him. Within another three minutes, however, he had Tobey the Saddle help him put his horse head back on.

Wentworth smiled as he watched his lover acclimate himself into the polo player's life. He leaned to Mr. Livery. "Sir, I just wanted to say thank-you. Seeing how happy Shane is right now, how much fun he's having. I mean, it must have cost you a small fortune."

"Nonsense, nonsense. Glad to do it. Mind you, if I'd known it would get you into a costume and into the spirit of things, I'd have done it three months ago. But don't fret the expense. I always have a side fund of my own to finance this annual party."

Wentworth grinned, realizing his employer had misunderstood him, thinking Wentworth was referring to the party in general rather than the elaborate horse costume that had been sent to Shane. "Actually, sir, I was referring to--"

Mr. Livery interrupted, saying, "That is a magnificent costume your boy has on, if I may so observe." He turned to look at Wentworth and asked with complete sincerity, "Where on earth did you get it?"

Wentworth found he didn't know how to respond to Mr. Livery. He looked out across the room and watched as his boyfriend galloped from place to place, laughing and charming all who met him. For a reason he could not define, Wentworth felt a sudden chill run up his spine.

* * * * *

Back at the Suffolk/Filker household later that night (much later), Shane was still riding high. He galloped into the living room and clopped across the hardwood floor, still giddy from the night's festivities. Wentworth wandered in behind him, considerably more fatigued and a bit sore from being on his feet for so long in unaccustomed boots. Wentworth plopped down on the couch and proceeded to yank off his tall boots, letting them drop to the floor. He pulled off his jockey's hat, tossing it to one side and let his head flop backwards upon the back of the couch, letting out an exhausted sigh.

Shane galloped up to his boyfriend and launched himself onto the couch beside him. "You tired already? I'm still rarin' to go."

"I can see that."

"You burn out too easily", Shane teased from within his horse's head.

"Too easily? I've been up all day, had a rigorous polo practice, the surprise of receiving my dream jockey costume, went to dinner and the races and then partied all night. And", and he pulled a Polaroid print from his pocket, "I did slow dance with a horse." He showed the print to Shane, showing the smiling jockey arm-in-arm on the dance floor with a horse who was not as tall as he was.

"I was kind of hoping for some post-party afterglow", Shane said, nuzzling his faux snout under Wentworth's chin.

"Take that thing off", Wentworth complained. "I draw the line on my equestrian interests at beastiality."

"It might be fun", Shane kidded. "It feels good enough just to wear it. I wonder what it would be like to make love in it." His laughter was muffled from within the ornate mask, but still came across rather loud.

"That's it", Wentworth scolded. "Out of the suit, now." He clawed with his fingernails to find the base of the horse mask. "And here I thought you hadn't had anything to drink tonight--" Wentworth felt his eyes widen as he peeled the hood off of boyfriend's face and up over his head. "That's weird."

"What's that?", Shane smiled brightly. "I look even better without the horse face?"

"No, your face is dry." Wentworth rested his palm atop Shane's head. "And your hair may be all matted down, but it's dry, too."


"Shane, you just spent God knows how long inside a rubber horse suit. I'd think you'd be swimming in your own sweat. You're bone dry."

"Doesn't mean we can't shower together before bed." Shane kissed Wentworth, but the costumed jockey was distracted.

Wentworth tried to push Shane off him slightly to get a better look at him. "You could be dehydrated. You should get some water into your system before you start to feel--" Wentworth clutched the neck and shoulders of Shane's horse costume with either hand. "Ugh. The outside of the suit is moist." Shane sniffed his palm. "Whew! There's your sweat alright." Wentworth looked askance at his friend. "I've never seen anything like this.

Shane shrugged. "The thing is really porous. Most likely it's designed to draw the sweat away from the body and drain it like a sponge."

"Sponges absorb, they don't repel", Wentworth corrected him. Then he added, "Say, did you know that Mr. Livery didn't send this thing?"

"What thing?"

"The horse costume. I asked him and he had no idea where it came from."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Then who sent it?"

"I have no idea."

"Maybe it was meant for you. Maybe the other guys pitched in on it to finally get you into a fancy dress costume for the annual party."

"No, it was addressed to you." Wentworth was silent for a moment, thinking. Coming up blank, he gave Shane's heavily-padded and slightly stinky shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "For now, let's get you out of this thing. It's more than served its purpose tonight. And I'm not all that crazy about you keeping it on when we have no clue where it came from, or why."

"We still gonna shower?"

Wentworth nodded. "Absolutely."

Shane whirled around. "Unzip me."

The duo did indeed share a very loving shower with lots of soap, suds, and tender caressing. The jockey costume was stuffed into the bedroom hamper, the cumbersome horse costume left draped over a couple kitchen chairs. The couple fell asleep in each other's arms naked in bed.

It was around 4am that Shane woke up and carefully slipped away from Wentworth, taking pains not to wake his lover as he slipped out of his arms. Shane padded barefoot down the hallway to the kitchen and retrieved the now-dry horse costume. Slipping into the living room, Shane put the costume back on. It took him twice as long as before as he wanted to keep quiet. Once finally back in his horse suit, Shane lay on his back on the couch, all four feet galloping happily in the air, pretending he was running down a country lane and over a grassy field. He stayed off the floor, not wanting the sound of hoofbeats to wake his slumbering boyfriend.

* * * * *

"I think we should put that suit away until we find out where it came from."

Shane looked up from his work, pausing in setting the table for breakfast, a fork hovering between place setting and silverware drawer. He blinked at Wentworth. "Why?"

Wentworth lightly seasoned their omelettes, absently wiping one hand on his apron front. He was as handy in the kitchen as he was on the polo field. "I just think it's a good idea, is all. I mean, we know that Mr. Livery didn't give it to you, so I'd just like to know who sent it, is all."

Shane didn't like the idea of tucking away his wonderful new horse costume the day after he got it. He knew that was a ridiculous response to have, as it wasn't as if he could exactly where the costume to the movies or when going out for groceries. Still, he had an inexplicable connection to the costume and he felt extraordinary when he had it on. "Can't we just ask around? I mean, it had to be someone who knew about the costume party."

"That hardly narrows it down, considering where we live." Wentworth flipped the first omelette over perfectly, sprinkling it with a dash of spices crumbled between thumb and forefinger. "Everyone on staff knows about the party, and even in the surrounding area outside the grounds, the event is legendary." The second omelette broke upon flipping, but Wentworth was so quick to tend to it that after seasoning the two looked indistinguishable from one another.

"Yeah", Shane conceded, "but who among all those people would send me something so elaborate as an anonymous gift?"

Wentworth lifted the skillet off the stove. "That's what I'd like to find out. Coffee." He nodded to the pot which had finished brewing on the counter top. Shane retrieved the java and the two sat down to breakfast.

"I just think you may be overreacting a bit is all", Shane said. "It's not as if I'd been sent a threatening letter or a six pack laced with a narcotic. It was a costume on the day of a costume party."

Wentworth cut a piece of his omelette, the cheese sauce spilling out onto his plate. He sopped it up with a piece of toast. "It was a very intricate and expensive costume which, I might add, you couldn't get enough of for some reason."

"Because it was cool!"

"Nevertheless, I'd really like to find out who sent it. Let's just tuck it away until then."

"But I had some ideas for getting pictures of the two of us in costume that we didn't get last night. You in the jockey uniform, me in the horse suit--"

Wentworth looked up from his eggs and spoke in a quiet voice that conveyed control and the end to the discussion. "Shane, I don't like mysteries. Let it go."

"I was just saying--!"

"For now." He met his boyfriend's eyes. "Just let it go and I'll see what I can find out."

Shane let out a sigh, lips fluttering like a horse. "Alright", he whined.

While doing the dishes, Wentworth offered a compromise. "If you'd like, I could just put the suit away for now. I could tuck it away in the back of our bedroom closet so--"

Shane started, nearly dropping his breakfast dishes into the soapy water of the sink. "No! Don't do that!"

Wentworth looked askance at his boyfriend. "Shane, it's just for a little while until we can figure out who sent it--"

Shane tried to gather himself. "No, no, that's not what I meant. I mean, I'll do it. You're right. We really should find out who sent it before I go playing with it any more or anything."

Wentworth stepped aside as Shane took over the washing up. Wiping the suds from his hands on a dish towel, Wentworth smiled, "It's not as if it's the kind of ensemble that lends itself to everyday use. You won't be needing it again any time soon."

Shane shrugged, reaching for a sponge wand. "No, I suppose not." A thought occurred to Shane. "Wen, where's your jockey costume?"

"Oh, I already put it away."

"You put it away?"

"Yeah, I gave it a quick wash then folded it up and put it in one of the boxes in storage for Halloween and holiday decorations. Couldn't exactly wear it to work today, now could I?" Shane forced a smile. "I'll do some checking around today, find out about your precious new horsey suit. You left it strewn all over the living room from what I could see this morning." He paused. "Which is odd, because I thought we left it in the kitchen. You moved it before setting the table, I take it?"

"Just leave it. I'll take care of it."

Wentworth gave Shane a quick peck as he departed. "See you tonight."

Shane went on doing the breakfast dishes, sighing.

Not long after Wentworth had gone, Shane gathered up the horse costume from where it had been abandoned the night before. Even picking it up off the floor and where it lay draped atop the furniture, the suit felt wonderful in his hands. For a moment, Shane slipped his arms into the sleeves of the suit's front legs and inhaled deeply at the sensation of having the material wrapped around his flesh again.

Shane stood there in the living room with his arms thrust into the horse costume for several minutes. He toyed with the idea of crawling back into right then and there, but fought off the urge. Disheartened, he made his way to the bedroom with the suit gathered up in his arms. In the bedroom, Shane briefly sorted through the closet to make room enough to accommodate the cumbersome disguise. Wentworth was something of a neat freak, so it was easy enough to sort the plainly-labeled boxes and odds and ends to this side or that, stacking some on top of others, scooting some to the far side.

At the back of the closet, tucked beneath the hanging suits and formal wear draped in dry cleaner's plastic bags were two things of Shane's. One was a large cardboard box filled helter-skelter with memorabilia and loose impedimenta from his last home. The other was a heavy white cardboard tube sealed with plastic caps. Shane's heart jumped a bit at the sight of it, causing him to look over his shoulder to verify that he was alone in the room. Something inside of him told him for a moment that this was something he had intended to throw away but never did. Perhaps he should do so now. As much as he wanted to dispose of it, something else inside him told him he wanted to keep it. About the tube, or more accurately, its contents, Shane knew only one thing for certain among his otherwise mixed feelings. He did not want Wentworth to see it.

Gently, Shane worked off one of the plastic end caps and slid out the slick, rolled-up paper that was inside it. Slowly he unrolled the paper to reveal a glossy, garishly-colored theatrical poster. It featured the looming face of a man bearing a grin of confidence bordering on smugness. He was dashing in his own way, with slickened hair and a trim goatee. Even on the two-dimensional surface, his eyes gleamed back at the viewer with the look of someone used to being in control. Circling the large and commanding portrait on the right-hand side of the poster were smaller images of the man engaging in feats of illusion and magic. He was shown hypnotizing a helpless maiden in a chair who cowered before him, he levitated a large man who lay amazed in mid air, and in the lower corner of the poster the man himself appeared to burst to a million pieces, exploding like a human stick of dynamite.

The lettering on the poster was drawn in an old-fashioned style reminiscent of wartime carnivals and sideshows. In golden yellow and cardinal red the name screamed "The Amazing ANTON". Shane felt his heart skip a beat as he looked the poster over, knowing that this was why he was so insistent on being the one to put away the horse costume. The poster was not for Wentworth's eyes. And considering his penchant for organizing everything, Shane knew that Wentworth would immediately open the unfamiliar tube to check its contents, if only to properly label it for what was inside.

Shane rolled the poster back up and considered throwing it away. The thought left him immediately. Better to simply stash it where it would not be seen. Shane tucked it into a small cubby hole at the top of the closet behind an old shoebox marked to hold gloves and scarves. Then Shane returned to the unpleasant task of putting away his horse suit. He upended the box of his old mementos and shoved the old stuff aside. Shane held the wadded horse costume over the empty cardboard box. It was just big enough to hold the costume. Shane sighed. He really did not want to just put the suit away after all the fun he'd had with it yesterday. In a moment of giddiness, Shane stripped off his clothes and tossed them onto the bed. He climbed partway into the horse suit, leaving his head and hands free, so that he could go about the business of putting away the stray belongings that formerly inhabited the box that would now house the horse suit--whenever Shane wasn't in it, of course. The feel of the horse costume, even without the finishing touches of the hood and front hooves felt so good that Shane left it on as he tended to the rest of the day's tasks, doing the laundry, vacuuming, dusting. he focused his efforts continually on things to be done indoors so he wouldn't need to remove the costume for a trip outdoors. Never once did his increasing need to remain in the horse suit strike him as odd.

That evening, Shane just barely stripped himself of the suit in time for Wentworth to come in the front door. Shane greeted him with a kiss. "Hey, hon. What did you find out?"

Wentworth smiled at his lover, pleased at his warm greeting and bouncy attitude. Then he took in the surroundings. "Wow. Somebody's been busy."

"Just wanted to do some tidying up. After last night's excitement and all."

"Well, we did have a horse running around in here last night."

"Yeah, about that--what did you find out?"

Wentworth let out a heavy breath and admitted, "I have learned conclusively that absolutely no one around here knows anything about it. Everyone assumed it was Mr. Livery's doing and he assures me he hasn't a clue."

"Any chance he's pulling your leg?"

"I doubt it. Besides, if he'd arranged that elaborate a surprise, he'd be busting a gut to tell everyone in earshot once you'd arrived at the party. No, he didn't send it." Wentworth looked around at the pristine household. "So where is it? The suit?"

"Oh, I stuffed it in a box and put in the back of the closet, like you said."

Wentworth gave him a peck on the cheek. "Good man."

At dinner, Wentworth talked about upcoming polo matches and other small talk about the grounds. The new trainer coming in next week, Tobey's incessant gushing about a new stable cleanser he'd discovered, so on and so forth. Shane listened in silence, nodding and agreeing as need be, his mind forever drifting back to his boxed-up costume, his body growing more fidgety for not having it on him.

At bedtime, as the two settled in for the night, Shane leaned over Wentworth's shoulder and asked, "So tomorrow who do you think you'll talk to so we can find out who sent the horse costume?"

The comment seemed to come so far out of left field that it took Wentworth by surprise. "What? The horse costume? Are you still on that, Shane?"

"Well, you said you didn't find out who sent it and you didn't want me wearing it until we did, so I just assumed you'd keep trying--"

Wentworth rolled over on one side to face Shane. "Honey, I think the matter is closed for now. Nobody knew anything, I'm stumped for leads. In fact, a lot of people thought I was being a little obsessive trying to find out where the thing came from anyway. In a way, I suppose they're right. We had a costume party to attend, someone sent you a costume, you wore it, you liked it, that's that."

Shane bit his lower lip. "I guess."

Wentworth rolled back over. "We'll find out who sent it eventually, don't worry. Besides, it's not as if you're going to be wearing it again anytime soon anyway, right?"

Shane lay on his back staring at the ceiling. "Yeah. Right."

It was almost 3 am before Shane could no longer ignore his restlessness. Naked, he slipped out of bed and silently dug into the bedroom closet and retrieved the cardboard box holding the horse costume. When he had reorganized the closet earlier, he had arranged everything to provide easy access to the costume box, with all other items pushed to the wayside so that even in the dark the costume could be easily and noiselessly retrieved.

Once in the living room, Shane carefully got back into his horse costume and this time put back on the hood and the front hooves. Shane spent the remainder of the night hopping from couch to chairs, imagining he was a majestic stallion leaping over hurdles and hedgerows in some glorious riding event. By the time he had managed to peel himself out of the suit (that alone took close to half an hour) and climbed back into bed, there was only twenty minutes before the morning alarm went off. Wentworth woke without any sign of being aware of Shane's late night equestrian escapade. When asked, Shane said that he'd slept like a log.

* * * * *

After Wentworth had gone out the following morning, Shane was still riding high from his time in the horse suit the night before. Unable to sit still or tend to house work--what little there was that still needed tending to--Shane went out to run errands in attempt to burn off his excess energy. It didn't take long.

It was just before lunchtime when Shane staggered back to the small house he and Wentworth shared. The lack of sleep from the night before and the excitement of slipping out and into his costume had taken their toll. Absently depositing the sacks of groceries and sundries atop the small kitchen counter, Shane collapsed onto the couch and quickly fell asleep.

Shane's nap was deep and rejuvenating. It was mid afternoon when he began to rouse, but found it difficult to shift himself on the couch as his movements were hampered. Upon coming to full wakefulness, Shane realized why it had been difficult to get up from the couch. He was back in the horse costume.

Shane sat up rapidly, making himself fall off the couch to the floor as he tried to gain his footing. He had gone into his nap as a man but had awakened as a horse. Shane was alarmed. He had on the full horse's hood and the front hooves, both fastened tight. He had no memory of getting up and putting on the suit. Shane looked all around the living room and could not find his clothes. He galloped into the bedroom--realizing only after he had clopped to a full stop that he had been unconsciously moving at an exaggerated gallop--and found the cardboard box resting on the floor before the open closet, his clothes neatly laid out on the bed.

Shane had no idea when or how he had retrieved the costume or laid out his discarded clothing. But seeing that there were in hand, he opted to leave the horse costume on for a few more hours. He galloped up and down the hall as a horse, putting away groceries and tidying up like a trained show animal. He had the suit off and hidden away again by the time Wentworth had returned home in the evening. Just as he would do every day for the next five days.

It was almost a week later when Shane saw off his lover with a kiss and then practically sprinted to the bedroom to don his horse suit. The time he spent wearing his costume had become just as exciting as the moments of intimacy he shared with his boyfriend. The intensity of the physical sensations that accompanied both were easily comparable. Shane had taken to keeping the horse suit on for most of the day now, enjoying both the pleasure of having it on his bare body as he did the mischievous feeling of doing something he was not supposed to. Unbeknownst to Shane, that feeling would take on an entirely new dimension on this day.

* * * * *

Tobey Riddings, when he wasn't disguised as a big saddle or something equally laughable at the Livery fancy dress party, was perhaps the best stable hand in five counties. Unlike so many who viewed their job as an interim position or worse, and end-of-the-line job signaling the end of an otherwise promising career, Tobey truly loved his job. It showed in his work. Tobey kept a thoroughly stocked pickup truck whose flatbed was filled with all manner of hoses, buckets, brooms, and cleaning equipment. Though he spent his days mired calf-deep in mud, dirt, and horse droppings, Tobey always appeared professional and clean.

Tobey's self-styled uniform consisted of a short-sleeved green work shirt with his name neatly stitched across one breast, dark brown or navy slacks (depending), and knee high rubber farm boots. Tobey never wandered the grounds with any residual deposits left on those boots as he moved from job to job. He always saw to it that he was rinsed off and looking neat as he went about his day. The eager young man felt that every worker on staff was a reflection of the entire establishment, and should any visitor or passerby stop to ask him for directions or information, he wanted to present himself as every bit the professional as anyone else on the grounds, be they jockey, trainer, or owner.

The other stable hands sometimes gave Tobey a hard time about his pride of service and Protestant work ethic, but they all aspired to have their own work areas as clean, their tasks accomplished as efficiently, as Tobey's.

Tobey had become very much in tune with the workings of the grounds. He had come to recognize the different horses and their own particular personalities and eccentricities. he understood which ones needed constant attention and affection and which animals were best given a wide berth. Tobey had come to recognize the different sounds they made as well, knowing which whinny or snort was standard fare and which signalled a need to summon a veterinarian. There were very few sounds heard on the grounds of which Tobey was not aware. Which is why the new sound tearing through the air that day caught Tobey completely off guard.

Tobey was loading up his truck with freshly hosed-off spade and metal bucket after cleaning out a stable on the far end of the grounds when he heard a terrified whinny coming from nearby. Tobey's first instinct was to race off toward the stables to see which of the steeds had cried out, shaken by the fact that he could not place the sound of the animal's voice. It was unlike any he had ever heard, sounding more like a mingling or rider and horse rather than just the animal itself.

Tobey was tearing off toward the stables when he realized that he was moving further away from the sound as he did so. He skidded to a stop, his rubber boots kicking up dust from the gravel at his feet as he tried to place the source of the sound. It was definitely coming from behind him. Tobey raced back to his truck, where he had originally heard the frightened cry. The horrible whinny of panic was definitely not coming from within the grounds, but beyond them. Tobey's truck was parked on an access road that circled the outer edges of the grounds, surrounded by a chain link fence. The cry came from beyond the fence.

Anxious to find and tend to the troubled animal, Tobey opted not to drive the full length around the grounds' perimeter to the next gate and instead hopped the fence. Running through the tall grass beyond the fence, Tobey heard the horse's cry growing louder and more shrill. This was not one of the Livery horses, of that Tobey was certain. All of the horses were accounted for as he made his cleaning rounds, and besides, he truly did not recognize the sound he heard now. Perhaps it was a horse privately owned by one of the neighboring farms or personal stables?

Tobey ran through the grasses toward the open areas that would accommodate a horse, but again the sound faded as he moved. Pausing to pinpoint the origin of the cry again, Tobey found himself racing back toward the small tract homes nearby the grounds. What was a horse doing there? And why had the sound remained stationary when the first reaction of any frightened horse out in the open was to run? Tobey now feared that whatever this animal was, it may be trapped or worse.

Tobey now stood outside a row of homes that were usually empty during this time of the day, which would explain why he alone was responding to the animal's cry for help. Tobey looked left and right, around the back of a few homes and could find no trace of any horse. Tobey walked along the front street of the tiny houses straining to locate the precise source of the whinnying cry that now sounded even more strained and unnatural. Finally he came to the familiar porch of his friend Wentworth. He had not been to visit since Wentworth's new boyfriend had moved in, but Tobey new the home all too well. And it was clear that the terrible noise was coming from inside the house.

Tentatively, Shane rapped on the front door and called out. "Wentworth? Are you home? It's Tobey." From inside, the whinny took on a higher pitch and there was the sound of frantic hoof beats upon the hardwood floor. Tobey burst in to find a man in the fancy horse costume which premiered at Mr. Livery's costume party, leaping about in blind panic. His front hooves slammed against his head and tried in vain to reach around his back. Tobey stood there with his mouth agape. "What the hell--?"

The horsey man stopped leaping around and bounding up and down long enough to make eye contact with the intruder. From within the horse head hood came a muffled voice. "Fohfey?"

Tobey raised his eyebrows. "Shane? Is that you in there?"

Some fifteen minutes later Tobey had successfully helped Shane strip the horse suit off of himself down to the waist. "Thanks", Shane gasped, "I can take it from here."

"How they heck did you wind up in the suit again, anyway?", Tobey asked.

Shane's mind scrambled for a plausible explanation. "I--I was cleaning out the closets when I came upon where we'd stored it, and um, I just, well I sort of--"

"Got the urge to play dress up?"

Shane went with it. That suggestion made as much sense as anything else. "Yeah. Just a whim I guess. High spirits."

Tobey shook his head. "You goofball." He held the horse head hood in his hand, turning it over and looking inside to see how tight it must fit. "I can see why you freaked out, though. This thing must be really claustrophobic once you're all inside and zipped up."

Shane knew that the opposite was true, that his breathing seemed just fine, if not easier, once inside the full hood. He said nothing.

"Especially since with those hoof-gloves it must be near impossible to manipulate--or hell's bells, even find--the zipper. Took me long enough just to figure out how the hood fastened into place." Tobey clicked his tongue.

Shane opted not to confide in Tobey that the real reason for his mad panic was that he could find no way out of the suit and feared he'd not be able to make his escape before his lover came home and caught him. "I really appreciate your help, Tobey", Shane said honestly.

Tobey clapped a supportive hand on Shane's bare shoulder. "Happy to help. But hey, next time you want to play around with this thing, you really should wait until there's someone around to help you in and out of it."

Shane gave a sheepish grin. "Point taken."

Holding onto the lower half of the suit, Shane saw Tobey to the door. At the door, Tobey stopped and turned back. "You know it's funny, but when you were yelling out for help, from outside it really sounded like a frightened horse whinnying."

Shane looked worried at that revelation and tried to sound surprised when he said, "Really?"

"Yeah. It really did."

"Must be the hood. Muffled my voice and everything."

Tobey was thoroughly unconvinced, but flashed his beautiful boyish smile. "Must've been the hood. Take care, now."

Tobey departed and Shane closed the door, putting his back against it and sliding to the floor. Shane held up his hands and found they were shaking. He could not tell Tobey the real reason for his extreme panic. Shane no longer had much trouble getting out of the suit, even with the front hooves and hood on. He had actually gotten to be something of an expert at it. No, that was not the reason he could not extricate himself from his elaborate outfit this afternoon.

Shane lifted up the front legs/sleeves of the costume and held them in his hands. He rubbed the material between thumb and forefinger and felt the ripple of pleasure crawl up his bare arms at the contact. He trembled at the feeling, a sensation not entirely one of pleasure.

No, the reason Shane could not get out of the horse costume this time was that for some reason he could not divine, he found himself unable to discern where his own arm ended and the costume horse's leg began. He could not separate himself from the horse suit literally or figuratively. Suppressing another shudder, Shane feverishly shucked off the costume, which seemed to cling more than usual to his hind quarters. He could not get out of it fast enough.

* * * * *

"Man, I have never been so tired!"

Wentworth tossed his jacket over the back of a kitchen chair and stretched. "I had one hell of a busy day, I tell you", the polo player said. "I am bushed. I did so much--" he paused, really taking in his surroundings for the first time since he came through the door. "And so did you, by the look of things. Did you mop the floors?"

Shane was busy wiping down the countertops, but he nodded. "Uh-huh."

Wentworth peered in the living room. "You dusted all the knickknacks, too." Wentworth made a quick trek down the hallway and stuck his head in the bathroom. "You cleaned up in here too. Geez, you got all the grout, too." Wentworth gave a quick whistle of appreciation at the new soap in the sink dishes and the towels neatly hanging from their racks. Heading back down the hall to the kitchen, he remarked, "All that you need to complete a home makeover is--"

"Fresh laundry's folded on the bed", Shane said, finishing the countertop and reaching to move the dishes from the drying tray into the cupboards.

"Check that", Wentworth said, raising his eyebrows. Then he glanced at Shane's trousers. "Are those grass stains on your knees?"

"Um, yeah. I was trimming the hedges. Did some weeding."

"Man, you have just been a busy little beaver today. And I thought I had a full day. What inspired all the--" Wentworth frowned. "Shane, is there anything you want to tell me?"

Shane stumbled a bit putting the bowls away but kept on doing what he was doing. "Ah,, I don't think so. Why?"

Wentworth came up behind his boyfriend and put his arms around Shane's waist. "Because you only get busy with the happy homemaker routine when you're trying to prevent me getting mad about something naughty you've been up to", he kissed Shane on the ear, "or when you're obsessed to keep your mind off something else."

"Just you."

Wentworth furrowed his brow. "Oh? You want your mind off me? Has the fire gone out our relationship already?"

Shane turned to face him. "No, it's just left so early this morning. And I have been wanting you all day." Shane kissed Wentworth passionately, reaching his arms up behind him to caress his shoulders. "I needed something to keep me occupied until I had you here in my arms. God, I love you, Went."

Wentworth, taken aback by the suddenness of Shane's affection, gave in to the kisses and caressing for several minutes, enjoying the attention and clear devotion. But the exhaustion of his day began to wear on him and he had to pull away.

"Shane...Shane, honey, wait."

"What? What is it?"

"As much as I would love to drop to the newly-polished kitchen floor and take you right here, I am so wiped after my day."

Shane hung onto Wentworth, not wanting to let go. "Babe, you can just lie there and let me do all the work. I want you so badly."

"And I appreciate that, honey. But I'd never stay awake for the good parts." Wentworth kissed Shane on the forehead. "A quick dinner and then straight to bed, whattaya say?"

"I like the sound of that." Shane began to suckle Wentworth's neck. Wentworth had to pry him off.

"To sleep." Shane let out a heavy sigh. "I mean it, buddy, I'm exhausted." Wentworth put an arm around his lover, though, adding, "Doesn't mean we can't make out before I drift off, though." Shane offered a weak smile, knowing that would not be enough.

Dinner was light and fast, the make-out session in bed that Shane had hoped would last for at least an hour ended abruptly after twelve minutes when Wentworth went limp and began to snore softly. Shane spent the next half hour staring at the ceiling. He had so hoped that throwing himself back into the physical intimacy of his relationship would keep his mind off the dreaded horse costume to which he feared he was becoming addicted. He'd kept himself busy that day by cleaning the house from top to bottom. But what about tomorrow, and the next day? Was he to landscape their tiny back yard, start a door-to-door cleaning service to keep his idle hands active?

By 2am, Shane could not shake his wakefulness and sat naked in front of the bedroom closet, its door open, and peered into the darkness of it, imagining the box he knew was inside its recesses, holding the intoxicating equestrian disguise that had caused him so much trouble the other day. The thought of simply throwing the outfit away had never occurred to him, nor would it, ever.

Shane spent the next hour and a half sitting on the floor, pondering ways to resist the lure of the enticing horse suit. He at last felt a return to his senses and thinking himself a complete idiot for allowing such distraction over the tactile feeling of a ridiculous Halloween costume, shook his head in dismay. He looked up at the sleeping form of his lover in bed, dimly lit by the moonlight streaming in from the window. He was so beautiful. Handsome, muscular, caring, and tender. As if playing dress-up could ever replace that.

Rising to his feet and feeling the chill of the room for the first time on his bare skin, Shane crawled back into bed and gently kissed Wentworth on the side of the head. His boyfriend let out a contented sigh and Shane rested a loving hand upon his head, petting his short hair gently. "Sleep well, my love." Unaware of the conflict wrestled with by Shane for the better part of two hours and apparently conquered, Wentworth smiled in his sleep without knowing why. Shane snuggled close to him under the blankets and drifted off to sleep, their bodies sharing warmth as well as love.

It was almost 5 in the morning when Shane roused to use the bathroom. He slipped out of bed as quietly as he could to visit the lav. Wentworth, ordinarily a very heavy sleeper, was beginning to float toward wakefulness. His early retirement the evening before combined with his tendency to rise early, left the polo player adrift in the warm sea of contentment that exists between sleep and waking. He was dimly aware that Shane had slipped out of bed to use the restroom. He allowed his arm to slip back behind him and feel the sheets, which were still warm. Wentworth smiled, pulling his arm back to his chest, feeling himself move closer to being awake. Wentworth was feeling rested. Perhaps now would be the time he'd be able to respond to Shane's fervent desire that they make love. Hell, Wentworth would gladly ravish him. It would give them both a wonderful surge of passionate energy and give them a tremendous start to their day. Better by far than a cup of coffee.

His eyes closed as he rested on his side, Wentworth felt Shane crawl into bed beside him. Again, Wentworth smiled, this time fully aware of why. As Shane settled in, Wentworth rolled over, whispering, "Hey, beautiful." Wentworth leaned forward to kiss his boyfriend.

And smacked his lips against a horse's snout.

Wentworth' eyes popped open and he found himself face-to-face with a large horse's head. "Gyyaaahh!!" Wentworth lashed out with his arms and sent both himself and the horseified Shane falling off either side of the bed. Wentworth scrambled to his feet, horrified and disoriented. "Shane! What the hell?!"

Shane tried to get to his feet, stumbled finding that he instead had hooves again, and thudded against the bed. "Oh, shit! Oh, God! I did it again! I don't even remember putting it on! I just got up to take a piss, I swear!"

Wentworth clicked on the light. "What the hell are you DOING, Shane? Why are you dressing up in that stupid horse costume in the middle of the goddamn night?"

"I didn't mean to", Shane said, his voice muffled from within the hood's snout. With his hoofed hands, he struggled to unfasten the hood from his head, to no avail. "I was just watching you sleep, I was just feeling so grateful to have you as my boyfriend, my lover. I thought I was over it. I wasn't going to do it again, I really wasn't!"

The initial shock beginning to subside, Wentworth finally registered a word Shane had repeated twice already. "What do you mean, again?"

Shane dropped his misshapen horse's head upon the mattress of the bed and began to weep, the sobs coming out distorted and almost comical from within the horse hood. Wentworth placed a hand upon Shane's costumed arm.

"Honey, we need to talk."

Wentworth was dressed only in his robe as he paced back and forth across the living room floor, hands gesticulating madly. Shane, or rather, the horse formerly known as Shane, sat in timid posture upon the couch, knees together, hands hanging between his legs, snout tilted low.

"And when exactly were you planning on telling me about this?", Wentworth demanded. "When you were so addicted to wearing this suit that you needed counseling? Or medication? Or when you showed up for one of my matches with a saddle strapped to your back??"

Shane looked up at Wentworth, trying hard to convey his dolor through the cumbersome mask. "I'm sorry I scared you."

"Waking up to a horse's head on the next pillow." Wentworth rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I thought I'd pissed off someone in the mafia."

"I can't explain why I feel"


"Compelled to keep wearing this suit. I just do. I feel more and more drawn to it, and every time I put it on, I feel better and better. The material against my skin, the taking on of another identity, of almost becoming something else. It's exciting, it's like nothing else I've ever experienced."

"It's sick and unnatural", Wentworth stated flatly.

"Honey, if you could just try it on once."

"No! No way in hell, Shane. That you've gotten so preoccupied with this bizarre thing is proof enough that no one should wear that thing. Not me, and especially not you. I want you out of that thing right now."

"That might be a problem."

The next half hour was spent trying in vain to get the suit off of Shane. Wentworth tugged at the masked hood, pulled at the hooves and dug at the back. All the seams appeared to have closed in on themselves. The zippers had receded to a point where no amount of fingernail digging would produce anything large enough to hold onto. Tugging, yanking, scratching, nothing proved to any avail and Shane remained trapped inside his horse suit. Exhausted and frantic, the duo collapsed upon the hardwood floor and panted from their valiant, if useless, efforts.

"I swear I am going to find a way to get you out of that thing", Wentworth swore. If I have to cut it off you with a carving knife--"

"No! Don't cut it!", Shane pleaded. "Just because it's a little stuck right now is no reason to wreck it!"

Wentworth stared hard at the ceiling, his bile rising. "I am not going to have a relationship with a horse, Shane."

"Or a guy in a horse suit?"

Wentworth put the palms of his hands to his eyes and pressed them there, groaning. The

sun was starting to come up in the distance, it's first orange streaks becoming visible on the far side of the room, through the front window. His day would start soon and he did not want it to do so with this matter unresolved.

Wentworth reached over with one arm and rested a hand atop the hooded head of his lover. "Leave it to me to fall for a guy with a unique obsession for an animal dress-up fetish.

"I'm afraid it's worse than that", Shane said.

"Worse than you getting stuck inside a horse costume with vanishing seams and zippers? What could be worse?"

"I've been starting to have these cravings."

Wentworth propped himself up on his elbows. "Cravings? For what?"


* * * * *

Wentworth felt drained. He had made his way around the grounds yet again, asking over and over if anyone knew where the suit had come from. A few were people whom he had not had the opportunity to question previously, so they thought little of it, but most had been questioned by Wentworth before. Only this time, his inquiries seemed insitent, almost agressive, his appearance desperate. Everyone agreed that this line of questioning was bordering on the obsessive. Finally Mr. Livery suggested that "the good lad" take the rest of the day off and go home to be with his boyfriend. Reluctantly, Wentworth agreed.

"But I must ask, son", Mr Liverysaid, "why this urgent need to know the origin of that silly horse costume?"

Wentworth grasped at something that sounded plausible. "I was cleaning the house", he began.

Mr. Livery smiled, shaking his head. "Yes, yes, I've known you long enough. A place for everything and everything in its place."

Wentworth nodded. "And, well, I was using a strong cleanser in the back closet and the bottle spilled all over the box with Shane's costume in it."

Mr. Livery inhaled sharply. "And you didn't snatch the bottle back up in time, did you?"

Wentworth just shrugged. "The cleanser ate through a good chunk of it before I could wipe the costume off." In the back of his mind, Wentworth wondered if perhaps something like this might actually work to dissolve the wretched costume.

"Ah", Mr. Livery said, feeling as if he understood completely. "You figure that if you can track down this elaborate masquerade costume's source, you can replace it before your boyfriend finds out."

"He really liked that suit. Wanted to have some photos taken of us in our costumes, send them to his sister..." Wentworth stopped talking. Now he just sounded stupid.

Mr. Livery patted Wentworth on the back. "Go on home. Fess up to Shane. You'll feel better. And he'll forgive you. Fun as it was, it's not as if the silly costume was a part of him or anything."

Wentworth could only offer a vague grin.

"Shane? You around?" Wentworth made his way into the house and from the living room to the kitchen, not finding Shane. Wentworth made his way down the hallway, peeking into the bedroom, the bathroom. No Shane. Also no discarded horse costume anywhere, so it seemed clear to him that Shane was still trapped inside it. Wentworth felt his stomach tighten at the thought that his boyfriend had wandered outside still dressed as a horse. Where the hell would he go? And if he left some time ago, surely he would have been spotted by now. Why hadn't Wentworth heard anythin--

Then he did hear something. A soft whinny, coming from the back yard.

Wentworth opened the sliding glass back door and stepped out into their tiny back yard. There, he made it only two paces, then stopped. Before him was Shane, down on all fours, dressed in his horse costume, wandering around the lawn in lazy circles.

Taking a shit.

Wentworth watched wdie-eyed as his costumed boyfriend sauntered about, leaving droppings which fell from out of a concealed poop chute in the suit's posterior. Wentworth gaped in horror. "Shane! What are you DOING?!"

Shane whinnied, then stopped what he was doing. From inside the horse's head came the muffled reply, "Wenty? Is that you? What--how did I get out here?"

Wentworth dashed over to Shane and hefted him up to his feet. It was difficult, as Shane kept wanting to flop back down on all fours.

"You were going to the bathroom out in the back yard! You were crapping right onto the grass--through your suit!"

Shane shook his head a bit, back and forth, perhaps in denial of what he'd been doing, but it came across as the casual movements of an animal. He began to lean forward again, his arms extended like front legs.

"Stand up!!", Wentworth shouted.

Shane seemed to come out of a fog. "Oh, man. I was eating, I had--I had to go to--to relieve myself. I didn't even think about using the toilet. I just looked out the back window, saw this inviting grass, I needed to walk over to it, to--to just go--"

Wentworth was aghast. "Oh my God! What the hell is happening to you?"

"I-I don't know. It just felt so natural. I needed to go, so I came out here and went. I-I wouldn't have even thought it was wrong if you hadn't come home and said something." Shane shook his horsey head side to side, this time clearly in dismay, "I was just eating lunch, having some raw carrots--"

"You hate carrots!"

"Do I?"

Wentworth looked at the mess on the grass. The droppings even looked more like road apples than anything that a person might leave. "Okay, this has gone beyond lunacy and is seriously into the realm of frightening. I am cutting you out of that thing!"

Shane shuddered in abject terror. "Wentworth, honey! NO!!"

Wentworth stormed of toward the house, leaving Shane to drop back to all fours, galloping around the small yard and bucking his hind legs up in protest. In short order, Wentworth reappeared with a large pair of shears. Shane recognized them as the pair they used when repairing the heavy rugs in the living room, for clipping frayed bits from saddle gear or other weighty materials. Shane whinnied in fear.

Wentworth walked boldly up to his costumed--and perhaps deranged--boyfriend and grabbed him around the neck of the costume. Shane cried out from within the suit.

"No! Wentworth, please! There's got to be another day! Give it some time! We'll figure it out, just don't hurt me, please!"

"Hurt you?? This thing is turning you into some kind of lunatic who shits in the back yard! I'm helping you! Hold STILL!"

Wentworth felt the neck of the suit in a firm grip. It was clear where the thick foam of the shaped head and neck ended and where Shane's own body began. Wentworth got his bearings and knew that even with his boyfriend's thrashing, he could safely cut away the neck of the suit and peel the hood off. Shane tried to jump up and down, to pull away, but Wentworth forced him to the ground, laying him on his side. Shane's legs thrashed about, unable to get purchase in their cumbersome coverings.

Wentworth hoped that pulling Shane's head free, perhaps forcing him to see his reflection in the mirror as a man rather than an animal would jolt him back to himself. So Wentworth cut deeply into the foam of the costume's neck, making a clean incision.

And Shane screamed.

It was like nothing Wentworth or Shane had ever heard before. It was like some bizarre unearthly synthesis of man and animal, this shriek that issued forth from within and through the horse head hood. Wentworth pulled away, dropping the scizzors, as Shane found his feet, his hooves, and leapt away, screaming and whinnying in pain.

Wentworth raced to his side, trying to comfort him. "Shane, calm down! I was just trying to get you out of that thing! I was only trying to help you! Stop screaming! Please! Look--I dropped the scizzors, okay? I don't have them anymo--"

Wentworth stopped. Shane was still fidgeting, caught in some tremulous back-and-forth cantor between Wentworth and the side of the house, when Wentworth said softly, "Honey, hold still."

The cut on the neck of the horse costume was bleeding.

Wentworth gently touched the red substance coming from the incision, causing another sharp whinny from Shane. Wentworth held his fingers, sticky with the red substance, up to his nose and sniffed. He inhaled sharply at the smell. Lightly, he dabbed one finger against his tongue. It was undoubtedly real blood.

Panicked, Wentworth feverishly felt the neck of the costume, pulling Shane close again. Wentworth assured his lover he was only checking for damages, that he had discarded the cutters. For all that Wentworth could tell, Shane's actual neck, his human neck, was still several inches away from the cut made into the foam rubber of the horse suit. Wentworth looked closely. The rubber had indeed been sliced, but it had not broken all the way through to the other side. The shears had never penetrated clear through. And yet, the rubber foam was bleeding.

Silently, Wentworth took his boyfriend inside, not even commenting that Shane was staying down on all fours, refusing to stand upright. When Wentworth did speak, it was in calm, soothing tones as if he were speaking to a sick or injured animal in the stables. He carefully treated the cut, stemmed the bleeding, and bandaged the wound (for lack of a better word) in the rubber costume. Wentworth tried desperately not to think about what he was doing as he did it, tried not to dwell upon the illogic, the insanity of it.

From within the horse's head, Shane whimpered, "You tried to kill me. Tried to cut my throat. I thought you loved me."

A few hours later, after the horse that was formerly Shane calmed down considerably, Wentworth tried to put him to bed. Shane refused to get up on the mattress. He curled his legs beaneath him and slept upon the floor. Wentworth did not sleep, but sat up in bed, his mind agog at what he'd experienced, unable to process it. During the middle of the night, Wentworth crept over to his sleeping costumed lover and took a peek under the bandage.

The cut was already scabbing over.

* * * * *

"I had time to do a lot of thinking last night." Wentworth paced back and forth as he looked at the horse-thing that used to be his boyfriend. Shane just sat there (Wentworth had finally gotten him up onto their bed, if only to have him sit on the edge), listening to Wentworth's words, feeling concerned that he knew where this was going.

"And I thought I had used every means at my disposal to find out where that--that thing", and he pointed at Shane, or more accurately, at his costume, which made Shane flinch a bit, "could have come from. I spoke to everyone on the grounds or connected to them to find out that horse suit's origin." And Wentworth stopped, looking sternly at Shane, his eyes seeming to peer through the hood to Shane's real eyes.

"Except you."

Shane turned away.

Wentworth moved closer to his costumed boyfriend, hands on his hips, a stern look on his face. "Shane? Is there something you'd like to tell me?"

Shane shook his horsie head rapidly.

"Fine, then. I'll just go out back and rake you a little trail where you can take a shit on the cold hard ground a couple times a day."

From within the horse's hood, Wentworth could hear Shane's resigned sigh.

Wentworth unrolled the theatrical poster onto the bed. Shane tapped the glossy sheet with his hoof. Wentworth scrunched his brow.

"The Amazing Anton?"

Shane nodded, then looked away.

Wentworth put the pieces together instantly. "This is the boyfriend, isn't it?" And he looked pointedly at Shane. "The boyfriend you'd never talk about. The one you've said maybe two words about sine we've been together."

"He wasn't important to me anymore", Shane mumbled, almost inaudibly, due to the muffling effect of the horse's head.

"He was important enough for you to keep this", Wentworth stressed, shaking the oversized sheet of paper. Shane lowered his hooded head, making him look simultaneously comical and pitiful. Wentworth looked over the glossy image in his hands. That the face was leering and commanding was readily apparent. But surrounded by it's images of human explosions and enthralled audience members gave the featured magician an aura of something else. Power.

Wentworth sat down on the edge of the bed beside his costume-imprisoned lover. "Tell me about him."

Even from within the confines of the horse's head, Shane's sigh could be heard. "I never really meant to hook up with him", he confessed. "I had gotten into working with the different carnivals and circus productions he'd often associated with mostly because of the horses, the equestrian acts."

Wentworth nodded. "Right. Go on."

"But Anton had this...allure about him. I watched one of his shows and wound up being selected as a volunteer for one of his tricks." Shane shook his horse head, catching himself. "I'm sorry. Illusions." Wentworth crinkled his eyebrows and Shane explained, "Anton used to say that dogs do tricks, magicians perform illusions." Wentworth nodded again, gesturing with one hand for his boyfriend to continue.

"He used me for the levitation illusion", Shane said. "Only it didn't feel like an illusion. It felt real. And he didn't just float me up over a couple of chairs or something. He sailed me over the whole audience. People were allowed to get up and pass their hands underneath or above me. No wires, no supports. I was really up there. It was a sort of giddy feeling."

"So when did you two start going out?", Wentworth asked, eager to skip ahead.

"I don't know that we ever really did", Shane admitted. "He just seemed to have his eye on me from that moment on and he came to see me working with the horses for the riders act. He invited me to work as his assistant."

"He just invited you?", Wentworth asked. "No audition, no resume?"

"It was like he said", Shane recalled, "you shouldn't be wasted here shoveling horse shit. You'd be better off working for me."

"Thereby shoveling an entirely different kind of horse shit", Wentworth mumbled.

Not catching the remark, Shane continued, "And as soon as he said that, I was like, 'Yeah, I would be better off', and I just wanted to follow him."

Wentworth sat up straighter, a bit alarmed. "So...what happened? He hypnotized you?"

Shane answered, not grasping the meaning of Wentworth's inquiry. "Yeah, he'd do that. Or he'd levitate me or do other stuff. Lots of times he'd use volunteers from the crowd and do it to them. It was harder to discount his illusions as a trick if you saw your own friend being controlled. Of course, his big draw was the human dynamite thing he'd do as his finale, when he'd make himself explode."

Wentworth waved that part away, trying to stay on track. "I'm more concerned with what he did to you. He hypnotized you a lot? How often did he do that in his act?"

He usually hypnotized someone every night, but he put me under a lot more. In private, in his trailer. Especially after I moved in with him."

"You must've gotten close if you wanted to live with him", Wentworth observed.

Shane cocked his head, his horse's hood making the gesture appear exaggerated. "I...I'm not sure. I think he just persuaded me that it'd be easier without me having to go back and froth between my quarters and his and so I moved in. It all seemed so sensible at the time."

"So he hypnotized you a lot during your off hours? What for? Rehearsals for the act?"

"Something like that. He called it conditioning. Anton wanted me to be able to go under deeply very fast. It made him appear even more formidable to an audience. It also helped prepare volunteers to go under more rapidly if they saw someone else respond that way. Without understanding why, brand new subjects brought on stage could go into a trance state very rapidly if they thought that response was inevitable."

"So you were more like working partners than lovers, then?" There was a trace of hope in Wentworth's voice.

"No, we were both. Anton was totally gay. I mean, not in a foppish, stereotypical way, but he had no attraction to women. When the act went really well, he'd do things to my subconscious I can't really remember that made sex pretty amazing. Almost transcendent.

Wentworth shifted uncomfortably at the thought of another man, especially one as creepy as the one depicted on the circus poster. having intimate relations with his boyfriend. "So on nights when you bombed he'd leave you alone?"

"No." Shane put his front hooves up behind his head, as if trying to soothe a tense muscles his hooves and foam padding wouldn't let him reach. "On nights we weren't very well received, I remember being put under and paralyzed, my body unable to move. Then when we had sex he'd just---more or less take me. I wasn't too crazy about those times, but didn't feel confident enough to bring it up." Shane shrugged. "We were usually well-received by the crowds. Anton was."

Wentworth could feel his temperature rise. "Sounds to me like he raped you." Shane shrugged again. "So when did you finally walk out on him? When you'd had enough of how he treated you like a prop? Like his own personal love doll?"

"No, it wasn't that", Shane answered. "I was pretty much past the point of complaining, really. But I had walked in on him one time where he had a lot of his magic stuff laid out on a weird little table."

"What kind of table?"

"It was like an altar. It was made out of stone, I think. He had candles all around it and images he's set up and was reciting these words---these incantations, I guess it was--and there was something unnatural, almost unholy about it. It felt so wrong, it made the hairs on the back of neck and arms stand up. It was so totally unnerving."

"Did he know you saw him?"

"Oh, yeah. He whirled around and yelled at me not to disturb him. Well, whatever it was he said, it was in some other language that I'd never heard before, but I got the message. I split, pronto."

"Where'd you go?"

"To a motel, first. Then I stayed with some friends from the trick riders act. The longer I was away, the more I felt a cloud lifting, as if I could see more clearly what a weird bastard he was. I never went back. I sent him a note saying goodbye, but that was it."

Wentworth had gotten up, and was slowly pacing the room, staring at the poster in his hands. "So how good of a magician was he, really?"

"Scary good. Like, even trained debunkers couldn't figure out his tricks, good."

"Illusions", Wentworth corrected.

Shane nodded, waving one hoof in compliance. "Right, right." Then he perked up a bit. "But some of the tricks weren't even illusions, exactly. I mean, you couldn't qualify them as that. He'd do this one thing when he'd hypnotize the girls where he'd tell them he'd burned their hands or even their faces and real welts and charring would actually appear on their skin. Power of the Mind, he called it. With guys, he'd run a huge needle through their arms and cut them off mentally from the pain. It'd blow the audience away."

"Really", Wentworth mused.

"One time we even had a doctor come up to verify it was all really happening, medically. Can you believe that?"

Wentworth drew close to his costumed boyfriend and placed gentle fingers on the ugly scab on the horse costume's neck. "I'm beginning to believe a lot of things." Rubbing his chin, Wentworth asked, "Where is this Anton character now?"

"He's on the road an awful lot", Shane said. "He's not connected with any carnival or circus anymore. He works solo."

"Is he on tour now?"

"I don't know. If he is, he could be anywhere." Then Shane paused. "But, he did keep a couple different places around the country. So he had someplace to go other than a hotel all the time."

"You know where these different places are?"

"He had one home not far from town here", Shane said with some surprise, as if a forgotten memory had just resurfaced.

"Does he, now?", Wentworth said.

* * * * *

Wentworth stood before the address Shane had provided. Shane seemed rather astonished that he had not only the proper address for Anton but even had an instinctive feeling for the driving directions to locate it, despite being quite certain that he had never been there before. Nor had Shane any clear recollection of Anton mentioning the place to him. All the more reason that Wentworth insisted Shane stay at home. That, and the difficulty in traveling with a man attired in a big horse costume.

The house was not a house but a double-wide trailer. It was well kept so that it did not appear low-end or dilapidated, including a neat edging of flowers straddling the path to the front door. Wentworth strode up the path and knocked forcefully on the door three times.

"Come in, come in, dear boy", a strong voice beckoned from within. "I have been expecting you."

Cautiously, Wentworth gave the door a push with his palm. It opened easily. Wentworth stepped inside to see an immaculate sitting area and a small dining area beyond it. The trailer was of the variety that appeared every bit a suburban home from within and only appeared to be other than that when viewed from outside. Not far past the front door, further down from the sitting area was what could only be called a shrine. It consisted of the same poster of The Amazing Anton that Shane had secreted away, as well as another of equal size but different design, both framed and under glass. In immediate view were no less than three smaller posters, more like lobby cards, all boasting of Anton's performances. Programs and headshot photos were neatly arranged in their own individual frames, some hanging upon the wall, others standing upon a rather ornate decorative table. The altar Shane spoke of?

Anton was facing his shrine, his back to the door. He was tall and trim, with broad shoulders. He was dressed entirely in black, with a loose-fitting pleated shirt and form-fitting slacks. The shoes on his feet looked to cost more than all those in Wentworth's closet combined. Anton continued to speak without turning around. "I must say, you took your time getting here. I anticipated your arrival more than two days ago--" Anton finally began to turn around and face his visitor, but stopped in his tracks upon seeing who it was. Anton was holding a saddle in his hands.

Anton's eyes began to squint as he said, "You are not whom I was expecting. Who are you?"

Wentworth took a few more confident steps toward Anton, his expression stern. "Take a guess."

Anton moved closer to Wentworth, as well. "You work with horses, I can smell their lingering stench upon you. It was a habit I found deplorable in my boy Shane." Anton raised an eyebrow. "Ah. You're a friend of Shane's. You came with him. Is he out in your car, perhaps?"

"Guess again."

Anton snapped his fingers, making a crisp cracking noise. "The BOYfriend! You are no doubt the new boyfriend. And you have come here on poor little Shane's beHALF."

"Not just boyfriend", Wentworth said levelly. "His lover."

Anton rankled a bit at that. He felt no jealousy over Shane, that would have required genuine affection for him. He acted more like a man who had discovered someone else had been using his toothbrush.

"Whatever it is you've done to him, you are going to undo it", Wentworth stated.

"Not the most courteous or gentlemanly way to pose a request", Anton said.

"It wasn't a request", Wentworth clarified.

Anton walked slowly around Wentworth, who kept pace with him and remained in a locked gaze, eye to eye. Wentworth was the same height as Anton, so the showman could not intimidate the polo player by towering over him as he did with Shane. But there was more to it than that. There was a confidence and resolve to Wentworth that most men Anton encountered lacked. Wentworth was not at all threatened by Anton. Anton did not like that.

"It's painfully obvious that you were not only expecting Shane, but are responsible for his current situation", Wentworth said, tapping the saddle in Anton's hand with two fingers. "What exactly did you do to him?"

Anton put the saddle down on a small side table and eased himself into an overstuffed couch. He may not have Shane all done up in a horse costume, but he did have an audience, however hostile. And there was nothing Anton loved more than an audience. When he spoke next, it was with his show voice, deep and purring. Captivating.

"Your...lover, Shane was an excellent hypnosis subject. Did you know that?"

"It was recently brought to my attention."

"He not only helped accentuate my act, but he made for a most engaging use of hypnotic exercise at home as well."

"You talk about him like he was a NordicTrack."

"He may as well have been", Anton grinned. "He was good to keep the old mental muscles fit and trim, and just as easy to fold up and put away for later use."

Wentworth stood beside the chair facing Anton's couch, but did not take a seat. "I'm about three seconds away from kicking your ass."

"Ah", Anton said, waving a long finger, "but then you'd never learn how the story comes out, would you?"

"I could live with that", Wentworth decided.

"Most likely. But could Shane? Or would you be content to ride him around the bedroom in an entirely different manner from here on out?" Anton gestured to the chair. Wentworth sat, though reluctantly. "Now where was I?"


"Yes, hypnosis, of course." Anton interlaced his fingers before him, palms down, elbows resting upon his hips. He looked like a king upon his throne. "The more I practiced my hypnosis skills upon the impressionable Shane, the more deeply I delved into his subconscious and the more I learned about his own hopes and fears. And his loves."

"He was going to leave you", Wentworth surmised.

"Eventually, yes, I've no doubt. Over all this horse nonsense of his. I had made him rather dependent upon me, but still his odd equestrian predilection was not something I could suppress for long. He would be compelled to seek out some way to be near the smelly creatures sooner or later."

"Did you love him?"

The question caught Anton completely off guard. He even lost his stage voice temporarily as he said, "Beg pardon?"

Wentworth repeated. "Did you love him?"

"What an odd question."

"Just answer it."

"But it has no relevance to the narrative."

"Then digress. Did you love him?"

Anton stared at the ceiling, pursing his lips as if considering his answer. " No, I think not. But I did find him to be convenient to have around, was an effective assistant and subject for my shows, and besides", Anton smirked, "I had laid claim to him."

Wentworth began to rise from his seat in anger, but Anton raised one palm, saying, "But do let's skip ahead slightly." Wentworth felt his breath come in heavier huffs through his nostrils, but allowed the magician to continue his story. "I knew that since Shane's trite obsession with horses was not something I could long suppress, it was certainly something I could not eliminate. Yet he needed to be shown where his priorities lay."

"Which was?"

"Why, with me, of course. He was with me now. That should be enough for any man."

"And to do this you wanted him to think he was a horse?", Wentworth asked, incredulous.

"Please, you make it sound so ludicrous. It was a simple thing to take Shane's measurements while he was under hypnosis. God knows I took him enough times when he was in that state." Wentworth began to rise from his seat again. Anton pointed at him admonishingly. "Ah-AH! In any case, with Shane's exact size on record, I hired the best costumer I could find. Which was not cheap, let me tell you."

"Your sacrifices are duly noted", Wentworth said snidely. Anton nodded, ignoring the irony in the tall man's tone.

"Through our many sessions together, I conditioned Shane to feel compelled to wear the suit once he had it. With the suit on, he would feel ever increasing sensations of pleasure while inside it, and an almost narcotic addiction to dressing up in it, to being a part of it. In the end, he would be transformed from simple Shane, magician's assistant, into an actual horsie." Anton registered Wentworth's questioning expression. Anton added, "In his own mind, if nothing else."

"And then what?", Wentworth said.

"Sorry? And then what...what?"

Wentworth finally rose from his seat, his anger rising within him to a dangerous level. "What did you plan to do with Shane after he was stuck inside that damnable costume? You obviously programmed him to come back to you after he'd been trapped in that outfit. To come here."

"Bravo, my lad!", Anton exclaimed, rising to his feet as well. "Yes, while I was sure even the dull-witted Shane would eventually put two and two together and realize it was I who had given him his little change of species, there was indeed a posthypnotic compulsion to seek me out."

"Then you'd make use of that?", Wentworth jerked his head toward the saddle Anton had set upon the nearby table.

Anton grinned in a most unbecoming way. "Precisely. I would saddle the horse-boy. Ride him. Reclaim him as my property. But not until I rode him once again in the sexual sense would my renewal of ownership be complete."

Wentworth clutched the front of Anton's shirt in his fists. "You sick bastard!"

Anton seemed unaffected by Wentworth's attack, droning on, "Mind you, I would have preferred to go through a few more sessions with the boy before he ran off, but from the sound of things he still took to the programming quite nicely. Now we need only get the costumed little shit here so he can be tied to me completely."

"Wrong", Wentworth said through gritted teeth, lifting Anton up to his tiptoes. "You will undo whatever the hell damage you've done to my boyfriend, maybe I won't kick your sorry egotistical demented ass into the middle of next week and then you'd better pray that Shane doesn't take legal action against you!"

"Or perhaps not", Anton said calmly, and smashed the palm of his right hand against Wentworth's forehead.

Something round and powdery broke against Wentworth's brow and clouds of purple smoke encircled the polo player's head. Wentworth's eyes bugged and his mouth fell open as he gasped suddenly for breath.

"Easy", Anton said slowly. "Easy now, son. Breathe deeply."

Against his will, Wentworth found himself taking deep gulps of air, bringing much of the purple clouds into his lungs.

"Innnn and out. Thaaat's it."

Wentworth felt the edges of his vision grow blurry and his legs became weak. Anton reached over and placed the fingertips of one hand across Wentworth's forehead. Something about that contact sent a lance of energy through Wentworth's body. He felt so relaxed, so warm, so peaceful. A wave of exhaustion mixed with terror flushed through him as Wentworth seemed to fall to the floor in slow motion.

"And now", Anton said, "Tell me YOUR hopes and fears."

As Wentworth fell to the floor, he felt his world growing smaller and smaller. His body, so calm and relaxed only moments ago, began to feel stiff and immobile. Anton loomed over him, looking so large and domineering. Weren't they the same height? Why did Anton now seem to be so very large?

Wentworth never felt himself hit the floor. His world had gone black well before then.

* * * * *

"Wenty? Wentworth!"

Wentworth blinked his eyes, his head feeling a bit stuffed, as if he were emerging from a haze, or a nap he did not want to take. He looked up to see Shane, or rather, Shane's horse costume with his boyfriend still inside. Shane's muffled voice came from within it.

"Wentworth? Are you okay? When did you get back? What happened?"

Wentworth felt his head, hoping to massage away the cobwebs. He was on the couch in their small living room. He had no idea how he'd gotten there.

"I--I'm not sure..."

The last thing he recalled was going to confront Anton. No, he had confronted Anton. The magician had boasted about gaining control over Shane, turning him into a horse, and then into his own sex slave. Then...then?

"I came out of the bedroom to find you lying here", Shane said, his voice rising in pitch. "It took forever to wake you up. Why did you come home and go to sleep out here? Why didn't you come and get me?"

Wentworth shook off the grogginess he was feeling. The sound of his boyfriend in a growing state of panic was enough to help bring him to full consciousness. "Shane, honey, I'm not sure what happened. I think your old buddy Anton pulled some kind of trick to get rid of me. Let me get my head together and--" Wentworth put his hands on Shane's shoulders to calm his costumed lover's trembling. Wentworth quickly drew his hands away, finding his palms wet. "Holy shit", he gasped.

"What?", Shane said, his fear growing, "what is it now?"

"You're sweating."

"I've always perspired when I was nervous."

"No, you're sweating freely through the pores of your suit."

Shane began to jump around the room, frantic. "Oh God, I knew it! I'm really turning into a horse! It's sweating when I do! Christ, what do we do??"

Wentworth rose from the couch and took Shane through the kitchen to the back yard. "C'mon, we're gonna walk you around the yard for a bit."

"That won't stop me being a horse!"

"No, but it seems to calm you down a bit and you need to cool off outdoors." Wentworth led his boyfriend around the yard, and though the air did help to cool his body somewhat, it did little for his anxiety. "The suit's really becoming a part of me, isn't it? Anton's figured out a way to change me into an animal, hasn't he?"

"Anton is clever, I'll grant you", Wentworth said, not entirely sure why he said it. He felt more that Anton was a scheming, petty asshole. Still, he dismissed the slip of the tongue and added, "but he'd have to be a genius occultist to be able to transform a human being into something else." Again, Wentworth felt odd saying that. He'd intended to say that such a thing was impossible, period. He could not dwell on his phrasing, however, as Shane continued to ramble on about his doomed fate in becoming nothing more than a horse with a human soul trapped inside it.

Wentworth dug into his pocket for something. Shane needed something to refocus his attention, to take his mind off this useless panicking. He needed... Wentworth found what he was looking for and pulled it from his pocket. It was a horse's bit. He shoved it into Shane's mouth.

"Hey, is that new?", Shane began to say. "Mmpph!" Just like the horse he believed he was becoming, Shane chomped down on his bit as if by instinct. As a real horse enjoys the sensation of chewing his bit, Shane seemed to enjoy his. Wentworth wondered if Shane lacked the knowledge of how real horse's loved their bits if he would as well. It was just as well that he did, because the chomping seemed to distract Shane from further panic. Each bite down upon the bit gave him a small rush of pleasure, akin to a miniature orgasm.

Wentworth smiled at his boyfriend's calmer attitude. "There, that's better, isn't it, boy?", Wentworth said, stroking his lover's neck. "There's a good boy. Beautiful boy." Wentworth did not want to address his boyfriend as he would his steed for the polo matches, but as his words helped to calm Shane, he didn't resist the urge. Wentworth did pause a moment to wonder where the bit had come from. How had it come to be in his pocket? Wentworth frowned, then decided that he must have picked it up from the stables and simply forgotten about it. How else could he have reached for it so reflexively? The duo walked around the back yard for about a half hour before Shane was soothed enough to come back inside the house.

Back in the living room, Wentworth sat with Shane. After a moment to collect himself and a deep breath or two, Wentworth confided in his boyfriend. "So I went to see Anton", he admitted. Shane fidgeted but tried to maintain control of himself. "He fessed up that it was his doing that got you in this whole situation." Wentworth quickly corrected himself, "That got us in this whole situation. He had the suit made specifically for you, and it looks like he'd planted some pretty serious posthypnotic suggestions in your psyche to prepare you for receiving it. It was all a setup by him to get you back."

Shane began to panic again, his front hooves waving at his bit as he tried without success to spit it out. Wentworth plucked it from Shane's jaw.

"God, this is what I was afraid of!", Shane gasped. His hooves whirled almost comically around his hooded head as he gave into the throes of panic once again. "This is why I left him!"

"Because he's a possessive, arrogant prick?"

"Not just that!", Shane shouted, ignoring Wentworth's attempt to diffuse his fear with the smart remark. "He wasn't just a stage magician. He dabbled in dark magics. Real magics. It was his combination of stage magic and genuine magic that got him his renown as a performer. He could do all the standard illusion stuff, the hypnosis", Shane explained. "But there was a dark edge to him, and a growing fascination with old, occult conjuring...and curses. I knew I had to get away from him when he perfected his signature trick."

Wentworth felt his mind yanked back to what happened to him several hours before. He saw Anton's leering face amidst a swirl of violet smoke, felt tendrils of dusty powder snake their way into his nose, his mouth, his insides weakening, growing stiff and constricted. He felt a sheet of fear flush through him, then fade along with the memory of exactly what had happened to him at Anton's hands. Wentworth focused his attention back upon his stricken lover.

"What kind of trick?"

Anton stood looking at his favorite poster in his theatrical playbill collection. It billed him in grand lettering as The Disintegrating Man. The lavish illustration upon the glossy heavyweight paper showed the magician in the midst of his most famous--or infamous--trick. The image showed the trick in multiple stages, as the bold figure of Anton, arms thrust outward, literally disintegrated before a crowd of astonished onlookers. He exploded as if he were a clay sculpture stuffed with dynamite, then his body rained down in a shower of dust and debris, only to have the residue rise up in a cloud of vapor from the floor and reform once more, as solid and alive as ever.

The entire spectacle was encompassed by a figure of Anton with arms outstretched, as if containing the entire event within his hands. He preferred to think of it as containing the audience in his hands, controlling not only the trick but their reaction to it and their reverence of him.

Anton did not mind referring to his master stunt as a trick, because it was no illusion. Flanked on either side by massive posters of himself, Anton truly did rip himself apart and reform for all to see. He took great pains to make certain that his trick was always performed in the round, with audience members on all sides, and no curtain to duck behind. No trap doors, no cabinets, no smoke or mirrors. No way for debunkers, be they enthusiasts or detracted, to dismiss his magnificence as anything but genuine.

He thrilled crowds with it for a while now, and infuriated other magicians who begged him for the secret of performing it. But Anton sighed as he took in the poster that immortalized his excellence, taking a sip of sherry from a small crystal glass. He knew he could only ride that one trick for so long before even it would become stale and overdone in the eyes of his admirers. He had to come up with something bigger, more extravagant and possibly even...bizarre.

Anton knew he could only ride the crest of the wave of success of the Disintegrating Man for so long. For the immediate time being his old tricks of hypnosis and mind control would suffice not just for his act, but for others things as well. Other things that would benefit his act and most of all, himself.

Wentworth began to feel funny as Shane recalled Anton's odd and outlandish stage trick of blowing himself up time and time again. He tried to shrug it off as he questioned Shane. "And no one could ever figure out how he did it?"

"No one. But I knew.", Shane began to pace back and forth, his tail swishing this way and that as his agitation grew. Great, now his tail was responding to his distress, on top of everything else. "I found his old books, his parchments", Shane explained. "And these old, misshapen artifacts. I don't know where he got them, he wouldn't tell me, but he was pretty pissed the day I came across them, let me tell--"

Wentworth looked up at Shane. "What? What is it?"

"Wentworth? Are you getting shorter?"

"What kind of stupid question is tha--aahhtt!" Wentworth felt something happen inside him. His chest and back became suddenly, agonizingly stiff. His arms felt rigid. "Goddamn, I'm cramping up something fierce--!" Wentworth tried to stand, but felt his thighs stiffen just as his arms had, his feet became uncooperative and he couldn't walk. It felt as if his entire body were being compacted, compressed.

Before Shane could move over to his side to tend to him, Wentworth let out a final groan of shock and pain as his entire body went stiff. "Gyaaahhh!" Wentworth's legs shot out before him in a solid pose, knees locking into position. One arm bent to rest upon his left hip, his other thrusting out before him, his hand clutched in an unmoving fist. He teetered upon the edge of the couch cushions like a plank, and almost toppled over sideways to slam against the floor. Almost.

Instead, Wentworth began to shrink.

Rapidly, the tall man of over six feet in height decreased in size like something doughy in a pastry oven, losing six inches every thirty seconds, a foot by the minute. Wentworth gasped, "What's happening to me??" In no time at all, Wentworth was no larger than your average lawn jockey, his posture cementing into the stance of same. With a heavy clunk he tipped forward and landed, flat-footed upon the hardwood floor, frozen in place.

His feet were in a strong, heroic stance, his hands posed just as a lawn jockey would be, his proportions just that same as they had been, only less than one-half the size he was before. His clothes crumpled around him in a heap, far too large for the toy like thing he'd become. Wentworth stood in the humiliating forced posture of the lawn jockey, buck naked and feeling as if he were made of cast iron. His face, chest, and neck still had some control of movement, at least, as Wentworth heaved exasperated breaths and his expression became a mask of panic.

"Shane, what the hell happened to me?! What's going on??"

Shane went down upon the knees of his hind legs and whimpered from inside his horse's head. "Honey, you've finally become a jockey."

* * * * *

It is believed by some that we truly learn our measure of strength when those we love are in need. If that is true, then Shane’s measure was found to be seriously lacking. As soon as Wentworth shrank down to the size and frozen pose of a lawn jockey, the costumed Shane began to whinny like a frightened colt and galloped haphazardly around the house, bumping into furniture and knocking things over.

Wentworth called out to him, trying his best to calm his horrified lover, but Shane, becoming more a horse by the moment, it seemed, was inconsolable. Frozen as he was in his lawn jockey pose, his body stiff as cast iron, there was little Wentworth could do beyond hollering out as best he could, with a voice that now was devoid of most of its deep resonance due to his diminutive size. Not that the tiny Wentworth could have done much good for the clambering horse-man at only three feet tall, save get trampled by the one he was trying to aid.

Shane run up and down the short hallway, jerking about in fits and starts as his awkward costume caused him to stumble in doorways and get caught rounding corners. He was drawn back to the living room by the small voice that Wentworth raised as loud as he could, took one look at his naked little lawn statue of a boyfriend, then turned on his heels (hooves) and galloped back across the kitchen and out into the back yard where he pounded in circles around the tiny enclosure.

Wentworth’s voice could barely be heard from the backyard due to the din of Shane’s clomping hoofbeats and frightened whinnies, to say nothing of the fact that everything about him was now approximately half what it was before, his mouth and throat included.

“..Shane!..come back in here and calm down, Shane…you’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t get a grip…I need you, Shane…you have to pull yourself together…”

Then Shane came suddenly to a halt at the next word.


Shane galloped back into the house at top speed before he knew what he was doing. He skidded to a stop at the entrance to the living room, his hooves bunching up the throw rug beneath him. Wentworth stood before him, restored to his towering height of more than six feet, arms held tensely out at his sides as if he’d just finished a demanding series of curling reps. His breathing was labored and his magnificent toned body was still buck naked. His clothes were still bundled up around his feet, only now his legs appeared to be caught up in them.

“What the hell was that about?”, Wentworth gasped.

“You’re back!”, Shane blurted unnecessarily from within his hood.

Wentworth’s face darkened. “It was a trick.” He began to gather up his clothes furiously, still a bit puzzled at how they were wrapped around his legs. “Anton the fucking amazing made us think he’d made me shrink, or miniaturize or something.”

“He turned you into a lawn jockey”, Shane said, matter-of-factly.

“I pissed him off and he hypnotized me, that’s all.”

“It was no trick”, Shane said, the fear evident in his voice.

Wentworth looked at Shane sternly. “He’s a professional stage hypnotist, Shane. He just slipped me something to susceptible to suggestion then he planted a posthypnotic command to make me disrobe and think he’d made me reduce in size.”

“If it was just hypnosis, howcum I saw it, too?”, Shane asked.

Wentworth impatiently tugged on his pants. “He’s been conditioning you for years. Who knows what he can make you see.”

“Yeah, but something that specific? With precisely this image, with precisely this person, at precisely this time--?”

“Shane, enough already, okay? I don’t know how the fuck magic tricks work, alright? All I know is that I’m going to go back over to that asshole’s place and pound the shit out of him.”

“No, don’t!”, Shane leapt in Wentworth’s way as the tall man strode toward the front door.

Wentworth frowned at his boyfriend, trapped inside the horse suit. “Why? You’re afraid I’ll hurt him?”

“No, I’m afraid he’ll hurt you. He already shrunk you down to the size of a lawn jockey once. We both saw it. Who knows what else he could do to yo—“

“Shane, pull yourself together! It was a lousy trick, that’s ALL. He can’t shrink someone like an all-cotton T-shirt any more than he can—“

“Make a horse costume bleed?”

Wentworth stopped. He realized something was going on here that defied not just description, but his understanding. He glanced at the clock on the coffee table and saw the time. “I’m late. There’s a team meeting this morning. Stay inside, we’ll take care of all this later.”

“Promise me you won’t go see Anton.”

“I promise. Just move.”

Wentworth pushed past his imprisoned boyfriend and slammed the door behind him. He needed to put some distance between himself and the house, and more importantly, from Shane. He did not want to admit that his anger was not stemming from Shane’s intense fear of his ex, but from his own feeling of helplessness.

Shane came back from his day with very little to say, beyond his assurances to Shane that he had not gone to confront Anton. Shane seemed a bit relieved at that, but not much. He was, after all, still trapped within the magical horse costume and had watched impotently as the one man he hoped would save him had shrunk down to the size of a lawn jockey and frozen in place. Wentworth insisted that the shrinking event they both had experienced must have been a one-time thing, meant as a warning from Anton.

What Wentworth withheld from his lover was the three times today in which he felt himself shrinking once again. During practice on the polo field he felt his helmet slip down over his eyes, and knew full well it was due to a sudden reduction in his own size rather than a maladjustment of his helmet’s chin strap. Once he excused himself to the restroom when he felt his limbs retracting and his feet bumping around inside his riding boots that struck him as two sizes too big. Just before returning home, he hid in a stall in the men’s room behind the stables. That particular restroom was the least frequented by the staff and his teammates, and he did not care to have anyone see that he had lost a foot off his height. As soon as he body returned to normal, he hastened back home with the forced façade that all was well and his day had held no unusual occurrences. It was a façade that was growing harder to maintain by the moment.

That night, as his slumbering boyfriend lay beside him in their bed, sounding like a snoozing steed, Wentworth sat in bed wide awake, working feverishly in his mind some way out of their predicament. He knew another confrontation with Anton could spell doom for both of them, but was horrified of the idea of going to anyone else for help. The humiliation of what they’d experienced would be too much to bear. Eventually, after hours of futile mental exertion, Wentworth fell asleep still sitting up in bed, his head resting against the headboard, his dreams filled with images of himself frozen permanently in place upon a beautifully manicured lawn as life proceeded around him.

Around 4am, Wentworth was awakened by the call of nature. He literally tumbled out of bed, attributing his disorientation to emotional exhaustion and lack of sleep. He wandered out of the bedroom, bumping into things and jutting against the doorjamb as he made his way down the hallway to the bathroom. He once again banged his arm against the door frame of the bathroom, the sharp pain of his elbow on the wood bringing him closer to wakefulness. Standing before the bowl, Wentworth was brought fully around by the sound of his stream striking against porcelain, but without the trickling sound of it falling into the water. Instead, he felt a soft spray reflected back onto his bare legs.

Wentworth shook his head rapidly, shooing away the cobwebs and bringing himself around. He reached for the light switch, but hit solid wall instead. The switch was gone. Impossible. Wentworth knew his home inside and out, literally with his eyes closed. Feeling along the wall in the darkness, Wentworth felt for the switch he knew was there, but came up empty. His bladder strained against the effort of him holding it, but he was not about to release his stream until he could see what was going on.

Pat, pat. Slide. Swerve. Wentworth’s palm made its way along the wall in the darkness. Too far to the left, he hit the door frame. Too far to the right, he hit the corner of the room. Then a thought occurred to him. No…

Slowly, he slid his hand upward. And there it was. There was the light switch. Several inches higher up on the wall than it should be. Or was it--? Perhaps the light switch hadn’t risen at all. Wentworth flicked it on.

He was once again three feet tall. His stumbling attempt to get out of bed and find his way to the bathroom was due to his navigating his three-foot tall body with the memories and responses of having so long occupied a six-foot-four one. His pee stream had missed the mark because he was going upon the outside of bowl rather than into it. His build and proportions were exactly what they were before, only reduced by 50%.

Wentworth felt his breathing become labored. Was this is? Was this the final transformation? Was he stuck at this size forever? If that was true, then why did he still have freedom of movement, when the first time he was frozen in place? He couldn’t process it.

In an attempt to maintain his wits, Wentworth busied himself with what seemed to him a normal enough task, cleaning up his mess. With a sponge and spray bottle he retrieved from beneath the sink, Wentworth mopped up his puddle and wiped the outside of the bowl clean. Then he tried to stretch up onto his toes and arch his back to make it into the bowl this time. It was no use. He still couldn’t reach. Frightened and humiliated, the shrunken Wentworth had to climb up onto the bowl, pulling the seat down, and balance himself atop it like a little kid being toilet trained in order to take a piss. Reaching around to flush and washing his hands was an exercise that provided unexpected challenge. All in all, a late night trip to the bathroom that would have taken him less than two minutes took him the better part of half an hour.

Shuffling defeated back to bed, not knowing what else to do, Wentworth had to pull himself up onto the bed and flop over with the force of his entire body in order to make it onto the mattress. Something he had not had to do since he was in preschool.

Wentworth lay breathing heavily, staring at his bedroom ceiling that now seemed twice as big an expanse. “God, what next?”, he whispered to himself. He closed his eyes to fight back the tears. Spent, he fell back asleep, his giant lover sleeping deeply beside him, chomping on his bit.

Despite his exhaustion from the night before, Wentworth was still the first one up. He was relieved to find himself back at his normal height, but now haunted with a new anxiety over when he would shrink down in size again. He made his way through the kitchen and the living room, moving things down from higher shelves and cupboards. He selected those items essential to day-to-day life. Commonly used utensils, dinnerware, products in the refrigerator, all came down to a lower level so that he could still have ready access to them when he shrank down again. Halfway through this mission Wentworth stopped, bracing himself against the counter, cursing himself for this reaction which upon consideration struck him more as surrender to his condition rather than combating it.

There was a thump at the front door which distracted him from his harsh self-evaluation. Something had just been tossed onto the porch, by the sound of it. Wentworth moved to the door to see what it was. It was almost a reflex action. He had to see what had been delivered.

When Wentworth opened the door, he saw that there was not one package, but two. He pulled them inside and set them down on the living room floor. One was larger than the other, but almost flat, as if there was a painting packaged inside. Wentworth felt the heft of the parcel and thought that if that were the case, it was a heavily-framed painting, indeed. The other package was larger only in height, and not nearly as long. There was only a small label on each package. The squat box's label read "For Wentworth- 1". The painting-sized boxed was marked as "For Wentworth- 2".

Driven by a strange compulsion, Wentworth tore open the first package desperately. Inside was a costume. A jockey's uniform, large enough to fit him. The colors on the shirtfront were bright whites and lime greens cut into diamond shapes, with blue accents. Beneath the shirt in the box was a pair of vibrant white jockey pants and shining black riding boots. Wentworth felt his heart rate quicken as he looked at the uniform. It was magnificent. It was his. He had to wear it. Right now.

Unable to stop himself, Wentworth stripped off his clothes and stood naked, holding the jockey costume. The material felt wonderful in his hands. If he didn't know any better, he'd have thought the material was not unlike that of Shane's horse costume. It was sleek, rubbery, almost...transforming, Wentworth thought, although why such an odd term occurred to him he wasn't certain. The material was not as thick as the horse suit and in no way padded, which made it easier to get into, which Wentworth wasted no further time in doing.

In short order the tall sportsman had donned the shiny shirt and slipped into the snug white pants. God, the outfit felt so good against his skin, so appealing, almost erotic. So...completing. Again, an odd turn of phrase, but not one worth dwelling on as he tugged on the tall riding boots. The rubber boots felt great against his bare feet. Wentworth looked down into the box to find a jockey helmet, which he grasped quickly and placed upon his head.

Wentworth felt a strange sensation come over him once he was suited up in the peculiar jockey uniform. He became insatiably aroused, and powerfully erect beneath his trousers. For some reason, he was urged to look out the front window and felt an odd yearning to be outside. More specifically, to stand upon the grass just beyond the porch. Why was that? He was uncertain, but was determined to find out.

Wentworth strode toward the door once more, and only just caught sight of the second package lying on the floor, out of the corner of his eye. The other box! In the rush of putting on his new uniform, he had forgotten all about it.

Wentworth the jockey stepped lithely over to the second package and tore open its end. Out of the slender but slid one small thing. The second object seemed more tightly lodged within and would not come out without some coaxing. Wentworth reached down to pick up the first object, which had clanged against the hardwood floor with almost a chiming sound.

It was a metal ring.

Pushed again by some undefined compulsion, Wentworth felt the need to clutch the ring in his right hand. As his fingers clenched around the circular piece of metal, a rush of satisfaction flowed through Wentworth. Yes, this felt right. This was also his. His to hold. To hold high and proudly. For no reason that he could describe, Wentworth held the metal ring aloft in his outstretched hand. His free hand came to rest upon his hip. Ah, yes. It felt as if he were coming home after a long absence. He had found himself at last.

After standing there feeling wonderful for no particular reason for several minutes, Wentworth submitted to the nagging feeling that he had to see what else was inside that second box. It was a plaque of some kind, although it was metal rather than wood. Heavy. It was a dull silver-gray but was completely devoid of any decorations or insignia. One side of it was a bit smaller than the other, as the edges were beveled, creating either an outward-angled tray of some sort, or…

Or perhaps?

Wentworth flipped the metal piece over so that the larger side was on the floor. It was a platform. Wentworth was overcome by the compulsion to stand on it. He stared at it transfixed. It was as if the simple metal platform was calling to him, silently beckoning him to become part of it. To join with it.

At that moment, Shane rounded the corner, awake and literally ready to put on the feedbag. He saw his boyfriend standing there, attire dint he jockey uniform. At first Shane felt a swell of pride seeing that his lover had been struck by the urge to put back on the costume that had been made for him. But within a second, Shane realized that this was a different uniform. And there was his lover, the same lover who only a day before had shrunk down to half his size, dressed in a special jockey’s outfit. About to step onto some large metal plate. Shane’s eyes went wide from within his horse’s hood.

In panic, Shane whinnied, “No! Wentworth! It’s from Anton! Don’t touch that pedestal!”

Unable to stop himself, Wentworth stepped upon the metal base. Instantly, he felt something wrong with his boots. With his feet. Trying to jump back off the pedestal, Wentworth found the soles of his boots were stuck there. No sooner did he turn to look at Shane with frightened eyes than Wentworth shrank down to jockey size again. His body grew stiff and rigid, his arm outstretched with the ring back in his hand (how had that gotten back in his grasp?). Wentworth tried to cry out to his boyfriend to help him, but his mouth would not move, his face frozen in a tight-lipped stalwart expression. He was only a lawn ornament now.

Shane tried to pry his lover off the metal platform, to make his limbs move, but it was of no use. His hoof-mitted hands were cumbersome and ineffective. Even had Shane been somehow able to separate Wentworth from the metal base, he’d still be only three feet tall, still be frozen like a metal statue. In the end, all Shane was able to do was tip Wentworth over. Lying sideways on the hardwood floor, unable to move, unable to speak, Wentworth felt a tear roll down his now-inanimate cheek.

* * * *

Anton strolled across the carpet of his abode as he sipped lightly from a glass of

finely-aged vintage merlot. One of Braham’s Hungarian dances hummed nearby on a CD player that was designed to look like an old wooden phonograph. Everything for Anton was about appearances. Anton strummed the air with one finger in time to the instrumental piece. He was waiting, biding his time leisurely as he waited for something he’d been anticipating.

There was a series of harsh thumps at his door.

Anton glanced at the old pendulum clock near one of his framed theatrical posters and grinned. “Right on time.”

He set down his wine glass and walked slowly to the door, which he thrust open with considerable flair. There on his doorstep was Shane, down on all fours like the horse he was now becoming, and his new boyfriend and lover Wentworth, who was stiff as a board—or more accurately, a cast-iron doorstop—and lay upon his side on the walkway. For all Anton could tell, Shane had pushed his lover here with his snout, or possibly found a way to drag him the considerable distance. He didn’t care. The sight of their predicament alone was far too delicious to mar by dwelling on the details.

Anton laughed heartily. “Oh my, just look at the state of you two!”

Shane gasped and wheezed through his snout. “Help us! Anton, you win! You’ve shown us how powerful you are! Now please, you can’t leave us like this!”

Anton raised one eyebrow. “Actually, I think I’ve shown that I can do anything I want.” He chuckled at the two lovers flopped upon his doorstep, and was about to say something else, or perhaps just slam the door, when his eye caught someone crossing the street about a block away. The passerby paused, the commotion in Anton’s doorway having caught his eye.

“Still”, Anton improvised, “I can hardly have you creating a scene here and disrupting the peace and tranquility of my home.” There was a wand in his hand. From where it came, Shane could not say, but Anton made a few dramatic waves with it and uttered a few phrases. Shane couldn’t understand the phrases as Anton spoke them, nor recall them after they’d been said. He’d had enough experience as the magician’s on-stage subject to understand when he’d been given a posthypnotic trigger.

The wand had been tapped upon both the brow of Shane and Wentworth, and as a result, the duo began to feel themselves returning to some semblance of their former selves. But only a semblance of. Shane found that the horse body he now had began to feel a bit more like a costume rather than a second skin. On reflex, he tried to yank off his hood, but found it still stuck fast. Anton gave him a sideways glance and waggled a finger at him. Ah-ah-ah. Shane was able to rise off of all fours, but only so far. He could get up to a squatting position, but any attempts to stand upright brought him back down to the ground. He half duck-walked, half crawled into the room.

Wentworth found he could speak again. “Get…get me off this pedestal.” With some effort, he pried one boot off the metal base and moved stiffly across the threshold, dragging the metal platform along on his other boot. His motion was restricted by his still-rigid limbs to which only a small portion of movement had been returned. And he was still only three feet tall. When he walked—limped—into the living room, his arm sand legs creaked like an old wrought-iron fence. He shook his hand in attempt to free himself of his grip on the ring, but when it failed to come loose, he just chose to ignore it.

Anton took a seat in an overstuffed chair and retrieved his glass of merlot. “And what pray tell can I do for you gentlemen?”

“You son of a bitch”, Wentworth snarled, his lips tasting of metal.

“No, honey, don’t”, Shane pleaded.

Before Wentworth could intercede, Shane redirected his pleas to Anton. “You’ve done it. You’ve humiliated me, my lover. You’ve shown that you’re the one in control, that I’m still in your power. Just tell me what it is you want me to do now and I’ll do it.”

Wentworth was furious. “Shane, no! Don’t you dare give into this yahoo!”

Anton sneered. “Yahoo?”

But Shane continued to beg. “Just change us back, please. At least change back Wentworth.”

Wentworth creaked and scraped his metallic limbs as he fought to pry the pedestal off his foot. He finally wrenched it free with a squealing sound of metal-on-metal, and skidded it across the floor. But no sooner did he take a step toward Anton than the platform slid back across the carpet on its own and reattached itself to the sole of Wentworth’s jockey boot. “GodDAMN it!”

Anton snickered. “Ah, if you could only view this ridiculous scene through my eyes. How ludicrous you both look.”

“I’ll kick your ass”, Wentworth growled unconvincingly as he limped along, the metal base firmly reattached to his foot.

“Somehow I remain unconvinced”, Anton smiled.

“You’re the one stupid enough to give me metal fists”, Wentworth retorted. “We’ll see how you like it when I smash them into your smug fac—“

“Stop it, both of you!”, Shane begged, his voice growing in pitch. He tried to move between the two adversaries, the rivals for his affection (or ownership, depending), but his hunched postured forced him back down onto all fours, his hoofed hands clumping against the floor. He looked up at the magician and pleaded through his hood.

“Just tell me what you want.”

“What I want? I’d have thought I made that perfectly clear. What I want is you.”

“Never…gonna get him…”, Wentworth seethed through clenched teeth, his stiff limbs locking up in him again.

“Oil can?”, Anton offered facetiously, taking a swig of his wine.

“If I come back to you, will you at least let Wentworth go?”, Shane asked.

“Shane! What are you saying?!”, Wentworth shouted. Then, to Anton, “Forget it!”

Ignoring the posturing of the miniature boyfriend, Anton sauntered around the horse-costumed young man. “If you relent in this foolish pursuit at independence and come back to me”, and he paused, emphasizing the next word, “forever—“ and he cast a glance at Wentworth to see if there’d be any challenge. There wasn’t. “—then I will leave you alone at least in terms of your transformation torments. You will cease become an actual horse and Worthington over here—“

“Wentworth”, Shane corrected.

Anton continued as if uninterrupted. “—he will return to his normal size and seeming, no longer a humble lawn ornamentation.” Then Anton smiled broadly. “And to show what a generous and merciful master I am, I’ll even use my powers of hypnosis to erase all memory of you from the jockey’s memory. He need not even recall your little tryst.” Then he turned to Shane. “But you, on the other hand, will be left to remember everything. As a warning not to attempt to escape from me ever again.”

Shane bowed his head, the words of surrender about to leave his lips. Wentworth would not let him.

“Fuck you!”, the tiny man shouted. “We’ll find a way out of this on our own!” he reached out and grabbed Shane’s costumed shoulder. If his metallic fingers had more tactile sensation than they did, it would have more like grabbing hair and sinew than it did foam padding. “Come on, Shane. We’re leaving.”

Anton stood tall. “Very well! But know this. Every step you take closer to your own lives and away from me will further solidify your transformations. If you commit to disobeying me, you will be nothing more than a horse”, he looked hard at Shane, then turned to Wentworth, “and you will be a mere lawn jockey.” He pointed a warning finger at them. “Go if you dare."

The journey home for the bewitched duo was a blur of stumbling degradation. By the time they crossed the threshold of their tiny home, Shane was once again down on all fours with no ability to rise any higher. He had completely lost his human voice. He was reduced to whinnies and other horseish sounds. Wentworth fared no better. Thudding into the living room, he was nearly immobile again. The pull of his one free foot toward his metal platform base was as strong as if their were charged magnets within the sole of his boot and the surface of the pedestal.

Panic overcame the two lovers rapidly. They had imagined a surge of solidarity, of support for one another as rounded the troops—all their friends and coworkers from the grounds—embarrassment be damned, to get to the bottom of this and cure themselves. If nothing else than to send over the polo teams and stable hands to kick Anton’s pompous ass.

But this was too much, too sudden. Reduced so rapidly to a human animal and an inanimate object left them with no options other than helplessness. Why had they come back home at all? They should have gone directly to the largest concentration of people on the grounds. The stables, the race track, anywhere but here where they’d be isolated and alone.

Wentworth’s foot fastened again to his pedestal with a harsh clank, petrifying in place. Horrified at what that portended, Shane tried to cry out for help, but what emerged from his was only some bizarre, animalistic shriek. Wentworth too tried to sound the alarm, but his voice choked in his throat as he felt his flesh become metal, his insides solidifying once and for all. His face grew stern and unmoving, his arm raised high before him, ring in his fist.

Outside, Tobey made his way up the path to Shane and Wentworth’s house. He’d made a stop in the strict regimen of his cleaning rounds to check in on his friends. He parked his truck, still loaded with his equipment, along the curbside just outside their residence. The two had been acting strangely lately. Only the other day, from his vantage point of the stables, Tobey had observed the polo champion twice excuse himself from practice. That was something he had never done. Was he ill? Was it serious? Were the two lovebirds headed for a breakup? Tobey valued their friendship and more, looked up to them as his idols. He wanted to not only get to the bottom of this mystery but do all he could to offer his help.

Tobey got to the front door and rang the doorbell. Twice. Three times. Were they home? Hadn’t he just heard something from inside—some movement? Perhaps they were home and were pretending they were not. Never a good sign. By the fourth ring, Tobey leaned into it, then opted to just pound the door. He was about to try to seek them out elsewhere when he decided to peek in the front window, peering between the small sliver of space between the glass and the blinds. He was totally unprepared for what he beheld within.

There on the hardwood floor of the small house were indeed Shane and Wentworth. At least he thought it was. One of the pair was flopping about in a horse costume—the same horse costume he recalled Shane getting himself stuck in before—and the other, Wentworth, was clad in a (rubber?) jockey’s uniform, flailing his six-foot-four body about the room, kicking at a wooden platform covered in silver paint.

What the hell--?

Tobey burst through the door, shouting the men’s names. They either couldn’t hear him or chose not to respond. They way they were leaping about, combined with their horrified expressions, indicated they were gripped in some state of shock. Or terror.

Remembering how he freed Shane the last time, and suspecting it couldn’t possibly be good to overexert in a poorly-insulated costume, Tobey sought to tend to Shane first. With speed and determination, Tobey raced to his friend and tried his best to hold him. With Shane’s panicked flailing, it wasn’t easy. But Tobey eventually got a grip on his friend.

“Thank God for that two-time wrestling championship back in high school”, he muttered, searching for the zipper. Miraculously, he found it. Tearing furiously at the costume’s seal, Tobey pulled the zipper open and yanked the hood off, freeing Shane’s sweat-soaked head.

Shane screamed. It was a scream of horror and agony such as Tobey had never heard in his life. Tobey had no idea that to Shane, it was if he had just been flensed, his flesh torn away from his muscles and bone, gouts of blood gushing everywhere. All Tobey could see was his frightened friend, drenched in perspiration, his clammy bare skin protruding from the cumbersome foam suit, his face pale and his eyes wild with panic.

Not knowing what else to do, Tobey raced back to his truck and grabbed one of his buckets. Filling it rapidly at the faucet at the front of the house, he ran back inside and splashed its entire contents full in Shane’s face.

The water spattered the back wall of the living room, ruined the throw rug, and doused several knickknacks, but it seemed to do the trick. Shane was still breathing heavily, gasping for breath as if he’d just emerged from deep under water, but his screams had stopped.

“What…what happened? I was…I was changing…becoming…”

Tobey pulled Shane’s moist arms out of the costume sleeves. Shane looked with amazement at the fingers he thought he’d never see again. “You were having a major freak out is what you were doing”, Tobey said.

Shane patted his palms against his chest. His human, bare-skinned chest. “I’m me again. I’m okay. I’m not a horse.”

Tobey looked at him oddly. “No, you’re a regular guy in a very expensive, very wet horse costume. God, how long have you been IN this thing, anyway, man?” Tobey sniffed the air, which to him was rank with body odor. “I mean, damn.”

Shane pointed to Wentworth. “Omigod, look!” Wentworth was lying upon the floor, his arm outstretched before him clenching the jockey’s ring, his body convulsing as he stared blankly at the ceiling. The wooden platform lay beneath him, under the soles of his rubber riding boots. His face bore the expression of someone in the midst of a lucid seizure, aware of his body’s uncontrolled spasming but unable to stop it.

“Whatever you did for me, do for him!”, Shane cried to Tobey.

But Tobey had already fled the room and Shane heard the sound of water rushing through pipes as he refilled his bucket. Back inside in a heartbeat, Tobey upended the bucket of water upon Wentworth’s head. As before, the entranced victim came to his senses rapidly. Wentworth sat bolt upright, inhaling breath so fiercely it made the other two men jump.

Wentworth looked at Tobey, his eyes frantic. “Am I back?”

Tobey looked puzzled. “Dude, you never left. You were right here when I came in—“ Tobey looked at the wooden platform still adhered to the bottoms of Wentworth’s boots. How were they sticking there? Were the boots nailed to it? Tobey reached over and gave the board a good yank. It came free from the boots with a tearing sound. Tobey saw the ridges glued to the wooden plank in the shape of a footprint. They had matching partners in fuzzy material on the soles of Wentworth’s riding boots.

“Velcro”, Tobey said, tossing it to the side. It thudded against the floorboards. Wood on wood.

Wentworth patted his body as Shane had. “I’m flesh again. The metal’s gone.”

Tobey felt as if his head would explode. “What metal? It looks to me like that suit’s rubber.”

Wentworth braced himself on Tobey’s shoulder and began to rise. “I’m the right height. I’m back to my normal size, I—“ he spied the silver-painted wooden platform and jumped several steps back. “Get that thing the hell away from me.”

Tobey bent over to pick it up. “What, this? It’s just a painted board, it can’t—“

Shane repeated his boyfriend’s request. “Trust us. Just get it away from him right now. Quickly.”

Wentworth looked over to his lover, slick and slimy with sweat and stable water, naked from the waist up, the large horse suit rumpled around his waist and sagging over his legs. In an instant, the two men embraced, kissing one another and hugging each other tight.

“Thought I’d never see your beautiful face again”, Wentworth said.

“Never so happy to see you taller than me again”, Shane answered.

As the two held each other in a grip neither of them could break, Tobey slipped out the front door and tossed the wooden platform into the bushes. He waited respectfully upon reentering the room as the two boyfriends held each other and whispered caring words, spoken so softly only they could hear them, their comments punctuated with tender kisses.

After a while, Tobey finally broke their interlude, saying, “Will you two at least tell me what the fuck is going on already??”

And so they did.

“Sounds like you weren’t kidding about this guy being a talented magician”, Tobey pondered aloud. “If he had you guys convinced you were going through these involved transformations when all you really were was in costume.” He paused, thinking. Then asked, “How did you guys get all the way over to his place, anyway? If Shane thought he was down on all fours as a horse and Wents thought he was a frozen lawn jockey…” Tobey shrugged. “I mean, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine little Shane here pushing his six-foot-something boyfriend all the way across town with his foam snout.”

Wentworth rubbed his forehead. He had cast his jockey’s helmet aside, although he was still clad in his rubberized costume uniform. “For all I know we took the bus. I can’t even recall our trips to and from. All I know is that I felt helpless and trapped.”

“Which is how we were supposed to feel” Shane said, the anger apparent in his voice.

Tobey got up, began to pace the room as he thought. “But here’s a bigger question. How did these—transformations, or whatever—keep progressing along, the way they did?”

“He’s a powerful hypnotist, like I said”, Shane said flatly.

“Yeah I get that”, Tobey conceded, but even a strong hypnotic suggestion needs to be reinforced, doesn’t it?”

“Not if you’ve been conditioned as much as I’ve been”, Shane confessed.

“Yeah, maybe”, Tobey agreed, “But he hasn’t.” And he pointed to Wentworth.

Wentworth sat up straighter, the light dawning. “He’s right. A simple hypnosis session shouldn’t have been enough to keep me under this long.”

“You said at that first visit with him”, Shane offered, “that he hit you with a cloud of dust or something.”

“Drugs”, Wentworth deduced.

“What kind of drug lasts for a couple days without needing another dose, or leaving the subject totally addled?”, Tobey asked. “How could you go to polo practice if you were still hopped up on goofballs? Somebody would have said something.”

The trio sat deep in thought, the boyfriends sitting and Tobey pacing the room. Tobey looked at the water damage he’d inflicted upon their tiny living room and despite the end result of snapping them out of their hypnotic misery, Tobey felt guilty at damaging their things. He puttered around the coffee tables and shelves, straightening their keepsakes, picking up those items which had fallen to the floor. There he found something that did not seem to fit in with the other things. Tobey picked it up.

“Hey, what’s this?”

Shane looked up at it and grimaced. “Oh. That’s my bit. I guess Wentworth brought it back from Anton’s after that first visit.”

“That’s when it first appeared, I think, yeah”, Wentworth agreed.

Tobey held it in his hand, tightening and then loosening his grip on it. “It pulses.”

Shane looked at him with an intense stare. He held out his hand. “Let me see that.”

Shane took the bit in his hand and his arm started to quiver. Wentworth’s expression grew concerned.

“Shane honey, you okay?”

Shane’s expression had gone blank and he slowly brought the bit toward his lips. He opened his mouth, his teeth bared. Wentworth was out of his seat, but Tobey had already pulled the bit from Shane’s hands.

Wentworth had Shane by the shoulders in a tight grip. “Shane!”

Shane blinked quickly, met Wentworth’s eyes, then felt his arms, making sure they were still human. “I felt like I was a horse again”, Shane said. “Like I had hooves, a snout, a tail…I wanted to chomp on my bit, feel the little orgasm it gives me.”

Wentworth turned to Tobey to ask for the bit, but the stable hand was already fiddling with it on his own. He’d drawn a utility knife from one of his many pockets and was cutting a slit across the surface of the bit.

“And what have we here?”, he asked no one. He peeled back the outer skin of the bit and turned the exposed bit’s interior to the two men. Within the bit was a small mechanical device with a miniscule green light, blinking in a steady rhythm.

“What the hell is that??”, Wentworth asked.

“Wild guess”, Tobey opined, “I’d say it’s some kind of subliminal thing.” He looked to Shane. “If everything you recounted about this magician guy was spot on, that he could hypnotize you to respond to certain signals that would reinforce prior suggestions, prior commands, maybe a steady pulse going right into your head would cover it. He ever train you to respond to beats, pulses, stuff like that?”

“If he did, I doubt he’d let me remember it. But yeah, that sounds like one of his tricks.”

“Well, what about me?” Wentworth watched as Tobey cut up the delicate inner workings of the bit with his utility knife. It let off small sparks and a faint hissing noise. Shane put a hand to his head, feeling as if a long-pestering headache had finally faded. Wentworth went on, “I didn’t stay in constant contact with the bit, and I doubt he’d programmed me to respond to that, anyway. I wasn’t close enough to it. It’d have to be—“

“Something you held onto, maybe?”, Tobey suggested, tossing Wentworth the jockey’s ring that lay on the floor near the couch.

Wentworth caught it on reflex, his arm instantly stiffening out before him, his expression growing stiff and blank. Tobey swatted the ring out of his hand before his grip could grow too tight.

“Wentworth?”, Shane said, worried. “You still in there?”

Wentworth shook his head, his voice raspy. “I was shrinking again. So fast. My limbs felt like metal.”

Tobey pried at the ring with his utility knife but couldn’t cut open the surface. He switched to a pair of hedge pruners he took from his side pants pocket and went to work on it again. This time to better result. He clipped away at the ring and then turned it toward the two boyfriends again. Another blinking light was exposed.

“This one’s blue”, Tobey remarked. He then dropped the ring onto the hardwood floor and stamped at it as hard as he could with his boot. There was a small squeal and a few sparks, a wisp of smoke. “Not anymore”, he said with conviction.

“How long did Anton have you under after he gassed you on your first visit?”< Shane asked his lover.

Wentworth’s eyes looked outward, trying to scan his memory but finding little there to help. “I have no idea.”

“Long enough to hotwire your brain to respond to his second little beeping subliminal ring”, Tobey added unnecessarily. “How you guys feeling now?”

Wentworth flashed an angry look. “Like I’m ready to go kick some magician ass.”

“Me too”, Shane said, feeling a renewed sense of confidence. Anton’s trickery seemed far less frightening and mystical upon explanation.

“I’ll drive”, Tobey announced. “You guys going like that?” He indicated their costumes. Wentworth was still a rubberized jockey, Shane half-in/half-out of his horse suit.

“I wouldn’t mind still having this on when I put my boot halfway up his ass”, Wentworth decided.

“You got a change of clothes in your truck?”, Shane asked Tobey.

“Always. Just stinky old coveralls and boots, though.”

“That’ll do. I’ll switch to that after I throw this fucking horse suit back in Anton’s face.”

“Cool”, Tobey said. “We’ll just go over there and kick his ass with you guys still in fancy dress. It’ll be more fitting that way!” He tossed Wentworth his jockey’s helmet as he bounded out the front door.

The trio bundled into Tobey’s truck. Wentworth took shotgun beside Tobey and Shane, with his more cumbersome costume, clambered into the flatbed along with all the cleaning equipment and tools. As they sped off toward Anton and their revenge, Shane’s horse’s head hood flapped in the breeze behind his shoulders.

As the truck wheeled down the road, Wentworth seethed to Tobey. “If we could only see ourselves the way he did. That’s what he said to us. Obviously, he could see we were just a couple of entranced pussyboys done up in embarrassing costumes. He could see the reality, we couldn’t. Bastard!”

“Hang on, we’re almost there”, Tobey assured him.

But then something occurred to Wentworth. He turned to Tobey. “Okay, wait a minute. Remember when we told you the whole story?” Tobey nodded. “What about when I cut the neck of Shane’s costume with the scissors? The cut bled, then scabbed over. We both saw that. It wasn’t just Shane’s delusion. I would swear to you that it really happened.”

“So you were being influenced by the bit.”

“But Tobey, the bit wasn’t set to influence me.”

“The ring, then.”

“Don’t you see? That all happened before I even got the ring, before I brought back the bit for Shane. It was before I was ever hypnotized! How do you explain that?”

Tobey looked at Wentworth, his eyes growing wide. He couldn’t explain it. Neither of them could.

Tobey was searching his mind for some rational explanation, watching the road at the same time. He looked back at Wentworth and found the polo player still looking to the stable hand for some answer. But before Tobey could offer one, he felt the color drain from his face.

“Wentworth, look at your arm!”

Wentworth held his arm in front of his eyes and saw the skin on his hand slowly turning to silver. The metallic tint crept its way up his arm, over his sleeve. “Tell me you see this too, Tobey.”

“I see it! I see it!”

Wentworth knocked his hand lightly against the old pickup truck’s door. Clank. Metal on metal. Wentworth’s fingers became stiff, going from flesh to alloy before their eyes. “Holy shit, this is really happening this time!” Wentworth looked to Tobey.

“Don’t look at me! I was never hypnotized! I’m sure as hell not imagining it!”

There was a scream from the flat bed of the pickup truck.

Tobey pulled over and leapt from the car. Wentworth exited his side of the cab as well, his Velcro-bottomed rubber jockey’s boots clanging like iron upon the pavement. The duo rushed to the back of the truck to find Shane struck with problems of his own. “Sweet Jesus!”, Tobey cried.

Shane was looking at his hands. But they were shifting away from being just that. His exposed fingers were beginning to melt together, to form actual hooves. From the look of things, as fingers, muscle, and bone bonded into one and became hard, the process was a very painful one. Shane’s eyes were wide, tears forming at their corners as he gaped in horror.

Wentworth gripped the side of the truck to pull himself up to comfort his lover, but there was a dull clank as his iron hands struck the sides of the truck bed. Flecks of flesh-colored paint began to appear atop his silvery hands.

Shane’s costume began to come alive, the rubbery foam sleeves drawing upward and wrapping around his bare arms, the two becoming one, then becoming something else. The rubber surface of the horse costume became hairy, like a horse. It’s padded limbs drawing in Shane’s arms, which then became drawn, extended, slender like a horse’s front legs.

“Help me…”, Shane begged.

Wentworth tried to step up onto the back of the truck, but his legs were growing stiff, his legs and trousers becoming metallic. Tobey raced to Shane’s side and immediately pulled back, his nose wrinkling. Shane even smelled like a horse!

Wentworth was huffing desperately against what was happening to him. “Hmmf! Mmff!” But his arms were stiffening up, he began to shrink down in size, he tried to take a step back from the truck, but found it difficult to walk.

“Get back in the truck!”, Tobey yelled.

He raced around the side of the cab and helped Wentworth back into the passenger’s side. At first it was struggle, a six-foot-four man made out of metal was no lightweight. But as Wentworth’s metamorphosis progressed, he shrank in size and was easier to move. Tobey realized, of course, that this was not a good thing.

With Shane’s cries for help still echoing from the back of the truck, Tobey put his foot to the floor and his tires send dirt into the air as he sped off at the old truck’s top speed.

“Where…going..?”, Wentworth managed to get out through his stiffening mouth.

“I’m following your directions to Anton’s.” Wentworth’s eyes registered concern. Tobey responded, “Well, we’re sure as hell not going to find the help you guys need at a medi-center.” With his limbs aching as they changed from flesh to metal, Wentworth realized he could not argue.

At Anton’s home, Tobey pulled furiously to get Wentworth out of the cab. Wentworth’s arm was now raised forward in stiff position, his unmoving pose making it hard for Tobey to get him out of the truck door. As Tobey struggled to help Wentworth out, they both watched in horror as a metal ring grew from the palm of Wentworth’s open hand, looking at first like a sever gash that was bleeding. Then the seepage that might have been blood took on a metallic, mercurial look, darkening and solidifying. Within moments, painful moments through which Wentworth groaned and wept, it was clear that there was now a metal ring growing directly out of the palm of his hand.

“Holy shit”, Tobey gasped. “We’d better get a move on while you’re still part human!”

Wentworth’s eyes conveyed his agreement, although his mouth had now sealed shut, his lips silver, a solder line holding them together. Slowly, his silvery fingers closed around the ring in his hand, his metal grip steadily glazing over with flesh-colored paint.

Tobey left Wentworth for a moment to tend to Shane. Who was having some difficulty getting down from the flatbed of the truck. Shane’s legs were now blending with the horse costume’s own. His trim human legs were stretching out, melding with the rubber suit which now looked like a horse-hair coat. There was a terrible cracking sound as Shane’s knee’s bent inward and backwards as they took on the shape and function of a horse’s hind legs.

Shane let out a terrible scream at the pain of his metamorphosis, and at that precise moment, the loose horse’s head hood flew up and wrapped around his face as if responding to a cue. Before Tobey’s terrified eyes, the costume hood mixed with Shane’s own features even as he cried out in pain. It was clear that costume and man were now becoming one. The next time Shane cried out, it was own lips, the lips of a horse, that pulled back to reveal large horse teeth and hit Tobey in the face with a blast of animal breath.

Tobey yanked his friend down from the truck as quickly and gently as he could. “Inside the house! Now!!”

Wentworth joined the duo as Tobey dragged the stricken Shane toward the house. By the time the reached the threshold, Wentworth was once again only three feet tall. There was something about it this time that felt permanent. The trio burst through the door to find something they had not expected and for which they were woefully unprepared.

Anton stood in the middle of his living room, arms raised high in the midst of a dark ceremony. Various totems and artifacts which looked far too genuine and foreboding to be mere props peppered the room in strategic positions. Small torches burned at the end of the room, giving off a musky smell of potent incense. Taper candles were lit in an intricate pattern where Anton’s gaze was focused.

Anton faced his personal shrine, or more specifically, his altar table. Upon the altar were the totems of a toy horse and an actual lawn jockey statue. Along with the totems were photos of Shane and Wentworth, neatly framed and under glass. The photos of Shane were close-up and intimate, clearly taken during their time spent together. The photos of Wentworth were taken from a distance, some showing him at polo practice, others taken from the voyeuristic vantage through their own front window. Tobey recognized immediately that these frames of Wentworth made him appear small. A strange rumbling sound was rising from the altar, like a tornado on a path of destruction.

“What the hell are you doing?!!”, Tobey cried out.

“I am succeeding!” Anton was thrilled at his mystical exercise. Unmindful of the agony of the transformations going on in his two victims directly behind him, Anton laughed aloud with glee as his spell ran its course. “It’s working!”, Anton said to himself through teeth clenched in a grin or triumph. “”It’s actually working!”

Anton had only worked this spell once before, and that was on himself. He had dipped into dangerous forces of darkness to make himself the famous Disintegrating Man. That had taken so much time conditioning himself to literally disintegrate, to come apart, to accept intellectually and emotionally that the transformation could and would happen. Now his two new subjects have been conditioned as well. And they too will change as the spell mandates.

Anton finally looked back toward Tobey and his two unwilling subjects, a look of childish glee upon his face. “I’m going to make a comeback!” Strange energy whirled about the altar, changing color as it increased in intensity. Shane and Wentworth cried out in agony as their transformations progressed more rapidly. Shane floundered like an animal gone lame, unable to get his footing, which looked more and more like that of an actual horse. He wept pitifully as a real tail began to protrude from his rear end.

“I shall begin with the spectacle of changing a man into a horse!”, Anton announced. Tobey tried to approach him directly, but stray bolts of energy lashed out here and there seemingly at random, protecting the magician and knocking the stable hand off his feet. “Then I shall bring out the jockey who would ride him—“ and he laughed at his own double intendre—“and then transform that subject into a mere lawn jockey! No one will be able to disprove or explain this trick! This grand illusion! NO one!!”

Energy arced off of Anton’s outstretched hands, his fingers curled inward like grasping claws, the forces he unleashed combining with those already in play encircling the altar. “Then more!”, Anton sneered. “More changes, different transformations, with new victims I can select from my audience and romance as I did the foolish Shane!” Tobey realized that Anton was not referring to the energies he was unleashing but was already spiraling into a power mad reverie about future conquests to follow this one.

Wentworth understood where this could lead, and moved his stiffening limbs forward in attempt to rush his adversary and save other potential victims, as well as himself and his lover. But it was no good. Wentworth felt a pain in his feet and looked own to see a metal platform growing from his soles, melding his feet together underneath upon the base, planting him firmly in place. Carried by his momentum, Wentworth tipped over forward, crying out from behind sealed lips as he clanked against the floor. Tobey watched helplessly as Wentworth’s one free hand pounded at the floor, trying to right himself, stiffening metallic fingers clawing for purchase. But his cries muffled as his face went placid, his flesh now silvery, peach-colored paint glazing over him.

Shane too cried out, though his lips were far from sealed shut. Tobey whirled around to see Shane’s hind legs (which is what they now were) shrinking in proportions to match the length of his arms, even as his arms extended downward before him so that the back and front limbs would even out together. His hands and feet were already gnarled stumps, soon to be solid hooves.

Tobey tried another attempt to rush Anton, dodging in between the stray arcs of energy. But Tobey smacked right into what felt like a wall of electrified gelatin and overcome by a shocking discharge, was fling across the room. Tobey fell backwards over a table on the opposite end of the room from the altar, wondering what had hit him. He gathered himself enough to see a fading sphere of blue and violet energy pulsating around Anton. The magician looked back at the ineffectual stable hand and smiled menacingly. He said two words, his voice raised loud enough o be heard above the din.

“Force field.”

Then he laughed.

Recognizing that a direct attack would be of no use, Tobey raced back out to his truck and resorted to previously successful methods. He grabbed his wash bucket and filled it with water he kept in capped plastic tubs in his truck bed. On reflex, Tobey doused both Shane and Wentworth with the water as soon as he reentered the house, doing nothing more than adding a thorough soaking to their torment. Tobey cursed his own stupidity. This was not some state of hypnosis from which they could be jolted out of. This was really happening. Anton laughed heartily at the useless attempt to reverse the dual transformations. Tobey looked at the many burning candles and the flaming torches and got another idea.

Quicker than he ever had before, Tobey refilled his wash bucket and raced back inside, upending his bucket upon the intricate pattern of candles and the twin torches. With angry hisses and billows of smoke, the flames were extinguished. Tobey’s heart lifted, in hopes that this would be sufficient to disrupt the ceremony, the dark spell, despite the unceasing rush and howl of energy that surrounded both magician and altar.

There was a second of shadow that fell upon the room with the loss of the candles and torches, but then they all reignited of their own accord, flames licking higher than before, the torches spewing forth an excess of incense clouds.

“Oh, you gotta be kidding me…”, Tobey gasped.

“Idiot”, Anton mocked.

Tobey dropped his bucket and returned to his truck. He did not know where else to go. It wasn’t as if he could call 911. He looked frantically for something he could use as a weapon. He chose his shovel. Running back inside, panting, Tobey began to pound upon Anton’s magical force field with his shovel. Energy sparked from its surface, Tobey could feel strange reverberations vibrating down his arms with each blow, and every subsequent strike sent Tobey back a few more feet, shaken, dazed, but desperate to try again. By his fourth and fifth strike, Tobey could feel his palms burning, his face lashed by the odd lashings of mystical force.

“Your friends are about to be changed permanently, you know”, Anton taunted. Tobey glanced back at Shane and Wentworth, one a small horse, its head bowed in anguish, the other a frozen lawn jockey, tears streaming from inanimate eyes. Tobey struck at the force field with renewed determination and stamina, ignoring the pain it caused him.

“Now what you see them as will be their true forms! They are and ever will be nothing more than a horse and a lawn jockey. They can only be changed back at short intervals, and then only as I wish it!” Tobey struck again and again. The field held. It did not even show the slightest sign of weakening.

“I alone know precisely what spell combination this is! And that only after years of studying the dark arts!” Anton looked sternly at Tobey. “Perhaps I will get you next, stable boy!” He eyed the young man up an down, taking in his shoddy appearance and soiled work clothes he wore with such pride. “Perhaps I shall turn you into a pair of old, soiled rubber boots? Or something worse?” Tobey began to cry. Bu the never let up trying to get at Anton. He grabbed up the bucket from where he had dropped it and swung it at the force field also. Bucket in one hand, shovel in the other, Tobey kept on flailing. His fingers were blistering, but he kept on pounding away.

Anton raised his hands high, and the roar of the whirling energies rose to its zenith. “And now let this spell be cast once and for all!”, Anton cried out, ever the showman, eager to make this performance a once-in-a-lifetime event. As the room filled with the light of dark magics, and the flames of the candles blended with one another to form a track of fire, Anton added one last comment out of the corner of his mouth. “And then you, boy.”

Tobey looked at his friends and they were his friends no more. One was an animal, one was a mere ornament. In a fit of rage and helpless frustration, Tobey hurled his bucket and shovel forward, but not at the force field which surrounded Anton.

He hurled them at the shrine.

The shovel and bucket struck the altar, smashing the photos which lay there, sending the totems helter skelter. Suddenly, the mystical energy that had been flowing with such direct purpose began to falter, to spark and sputter in odd directions, lacking focus. Tobey looked back at his two friends and saw that Shane’s face was growing rubbery, like a mask again, and the tiny lawn ornament was changing its facial expression, its stark pink coloring once again taking on the deep tan of the polo player.

Anton raged. He screamed not in some ancient magician’s curse or contemporary profanity, but in a garbled outburst of pure fury. He turned toward Tobey, his hands and arms alive with deadly forces beyond the stable hand’s understanding. As he closed upon the young man, Anton’s flesh blistered and cracked, flayed bits of his face and hair, followed soon after by shoulders and chest, flew around him, caught up in the whirlwind of unleashed power. The Disintegrating Man was angry.

Tobey raised his hands against whatever onslaught was to be unleashed upon him, but both he and Anton were caught off-guard by a crashing sound, almost unheard in the roar of energies. Both men turned to see one of Anton’s prized theatrical posters, picturing the sorcerous showman in flattering postures, had fallen from the wall and landed hard.

Upon the altar.

Anton screamed again as the energies at his command redirected themselves and tore him apart. Tobey watched in awe and stupefaction as the wicked magician flew apart before him, caught up in the blazing storm of otherworldly power.

The room went white. All sound disappeared and there was a deafening silence and an invisible barrier which pushed Tobey back into the wall. Then nothing. Then a hateful buzz which grew to a terrible boom. And then nothing again.

Tobey got up from his hands and knees, breathing hard. His hands were blistered and burned, his precious coveralls tattered. As he rose unsteadily to his feet, he could hear the soft tinkle of broken glass hitting the floor, even through the ringing in his ears. He realized that his back was covered in tiny shards. The explosion, whatever it was, had blown out the windows.

Tobey waved his hands through the air, which was thick with smoke, and called out to his friends. “Wentworth?”

“Over here”, came the deep voice, punctuated with coughs but sounding relatively normal. Tobey saw his polo playing hero alive and well. He was back to his normal height and human appearance. He was still clad in the rubberize jockey’s costume, but it was badly ruffled and burned. Wentworth grimaced as he pulled a large metal plate from the soles of his boots. It came away easily enough, but took with it the soft sole of his rubber riding boots, revealing scorched feet inside. Wentworth shook his right hand to release the metal ring he held. It fell to the ground with a dull clank, showing the palm of his hand burned where he’d held it.

“Shane?”, Wentworth called out. “Honey, you alright? Where are you?”

“Oh, please be alright”, Tobey whispered.

“Over here”, came the voice of the friend and lover.

The two men made their way to the far end of the room to find Shane half-naked, the cumbersome horse costume already pulled down around his waist as he struggled to be free of it.

“Here, help me up”, Wentworth said to Tobey, who helped the tall man up to his tender feet.

Wentworth limped over to his lover and the two embraced again, but spent no time with extra kisses or words of devotion as they hurried to get Shane out of the cursed suit. Shane was covered in horse hair, but in the way one would be after working as a groomer, rather than being a victim of transformation sorcery.

“Say Tobey”, Wentworth said, “You still have those extra work clothes in your truck that we could borro—“ But he stopped short in his request, seeing their young savior standing before the altar Anton had prepared, perhaps the one item of furniture in the small house that had not been devastated by the blast.

“Tobey? You okay?”

Wentworth and the now-naked Shane helped each other over to where Tobey stood, to see what had him so transfixed. The joined him at his side before the decorative ornate table which served as Anton’s unholy altar and the focal point of his dark magic. Upon seeing what lie there now, Wentworth let out a short breath of surprise, something between a laugh and a snort. Shane let his head fall limp with his chin to his bare chest and began to cry with relief.

Tobey only grinned. “Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.”

The boyfriends had to agree.

* * * * *

It was the following week and polo practice had gone amazingly well. Wentworth

had played with a renewed energy and enthusiasm upon which all of his teammates commented. At the moment, the champion player laughed and joked with his teammates after another successful practice. Their lighthearted banter was interrupted by the beeping alarm of a pager Wentworth had taken to keeping with him at all times.

He waved the small electronic device at his comrades and said only, “Gotta run.” He made his way with haste back toward his home, accepting the waves and well-wishes of his fellow players.

Rushing through his front door and into his living room, he found Shane suiting up in his horse suit. It was once again nothing more than a foam-padded costume, elaborate though it was. “You were almost late”, Shane remarked.

“Sorry”, Wentworth offered sincerely. “This is going to take some getting used to. But as long as we keep our schedules coordinated, we should be okay.”

Wentworth shucked off his polo uniform and once again pulled on his rubberized jockey’s costume, now cleaned up and patched where needed. Shane handed him his new pair or rubber riding boots to replace the old ones. As Wentworth pulled on his boots, he pondered aloud, “How long do you think we’ll have to do this?”

“Diabetics have to take shots their whole lives”, Shane mentioned.

“Let’s hope the after effects we’ve been experiencing don’t last that long”, Wentworth said hopefully. But then added, “Still, for better or for worse and all that.” He kissed Shane quickly. “Love you.”

“Love you.”

Shane stood there suited up in his horse costume, save for the hood, and Wentworth retrieved a wooden platform that they kept in easy reach under the sofa. Shane smiled. “Here goes.”

With that, the moment had come and Shane’s horse head hood magically popped up onto his head, fastening itself in place. Compelled to go down on all fours, Shane landed upon the floor and began to whinny.

Wentworth’s wooden platform zipped across the floor of its own volition, becoming more like metal as it moved. Wentworth rose into the air, shrinking in stature as he flew, and landed firmly upon the base. Once there, the now three-foot-tall Wentworth thrust his arm forward, ring suddenly in hand, and his boots glued in place.

But this time there was no terror, no fear of being trapped forever. Shane maintained his human body within the strange horse suit. Though he was unable to rise to his “hind legs” or speak English, he was very much a man in a rubbery horse costume, enchanted though it was. Wentworth did not become immobile metal, but remained a man in a slick jockey costume. Despite being fastened securely to a metal pedestal and standing at half his natural height.

The two laughed and played together, horsey-man and smiling and joking lawn jockey, as they had every day, twice a day, for twenty minutes. Though frightening at first, they had found it now a repetitive and harmless routine.

For how long they would need to this, nobody knew.


In the stables, Tobey was hard at work and loving every minute of it. He was happily cleaning up horse shit, and was using his favorite new shovel and pail. Some of his coworkers asked from where he had requisitioned the new tools, but Tobey would only grin, saying these were a gift from someone outside the grounds. When asked where he got them and if there were more to be had, he simply said they were, as far as he knew, one of a kind.

Tobey was glad to be back at work, and even more glad to know his friends would be okay. Save for that little thing they needed to do twice a day. He preferred not to dwell on the frightening and unearthly circumstances that brought the three of them so much closer together that fateful day he had saved their lives from the evil wizard, as Tobey had come to think of him. Tobey had been plagued for a bit with nightmares wherein the obsessed Anton was bearing down upon him with hands and arms alight with transforming energy.

But Toby was able to clear his head and ease his mind upon waking by conjuring a simple image. He envisioned his old stable bucket, which after he had thrown it across the room, had become mired in the spatter of melted candle wax. And the shovel head protruded which from the wall behind the ornate altar, it’s old but sturdy wooden extending across the altar’s surface.

And finally, the look of outrage and shock upon the face of that pompous asshole who had tried to hurt his friends, to take away their lives and make them his playthings, his props. And how the great and renown Disintegrating Man lived up to his namesake that one last time, caught up in the thunderous wash of mystical energies and two unsuspected totems upon his precious altar. And finally, the theatrical poster with its leering face glowing and glimmering upon the altar, and the strange electricity—or whatever it was—sparking off Tobey’s shovel and bucket. Thus was the Amazing Anton’s final act, his grand finale. His disintegration, separation, and transformation into a shit scoop and bucket.

Today Tobey carried his brand-spanking new tools of his trade, already thick with

dung and mire, flecked with odd bits of hay and refuse, soon to be encrusted with considerably more. Tobey walked along on the soft ground, his soiled boots occasionally squishing in something unsavory, his mind awash with the possibly uses for his new tools.

Tobey grinned. "Too bad you were the only one who knew exactly what spell you used, oh Amazing Anton. Guess you're pretty much stuck this way. But then again, as a magician, all you did was shovel bullshit. So I suppose it's not too big a change to switch to horse shit. At least now you're finally serving a truly useful purpose."

After a few hours of shoveling and scooping, of filling up and emptying out, Tobey rinsed out his favorite new tools and tossed them blithely into the back of his truck. The sound of the shovel clanking into the metal bucket didn't make the same noise as the whimpering of a vindictive old queen whose plans had been forever foiled. But Tobey liked to imagine they did.