Spot, a Dalmatian, was in a defensive position between Gin and Eloise, growling at the older woman as she tried to get closer to Gin.
“That dog’s dangerous,” complained Eloise. “Look at him!”
“I have,” replied Gin, “and he seems to understand what I think about you.”
“I was promised time for us to be together so we can bond,” pointed out Eloise.
“Not by me,” replied Gin tartly. “I think the last time we were alone together was quite enough for me.”
“You were three.”
“You tried to kill me.” Gin was quite pleased that she got that out calmly.
“That was thirteen years ago,” Eloise protested. “I’ve changed. I was a different person then.”
“Mother, I don’t care.” Gin hoped she wasn’t sounding like just a petulant teenager. “I don’t trust you and I don’t feel safe around you. I certainly don’t intend to be alone with you ever again. Now, Spot and I are leaving. Good bye, and please stay out of my life.”
That night at dinner Gin’s father said, “Eloise’s solicitors were in touch. She’s not happy with how this afternoon went. She wants a do over, without Spot.”
“No,” said Gin firmly. “I never agreed to spend time with her and I don’t like being ambushed like that. I’m glad that Spot was with me to keep her at bay.”
“But if she can see you, then maybe she’ll leave Daddy alone and not want to be married to him again,” argued Aveline, Gin’s stepsister.
“And maybe this time she’ll succeed in killing me,” returned Gin sharply.
“Gin, please don’t exaggerate,” Karla, her stepmother began then seeing Gin’s face, she turned to her husband, “Barry, was that an exaggeration?”
“Not according to the forensics,” replied Gin’s father.
“Then she can’t possibly spend time alone with Eloise,” said Karla, “and it’s not reasonable of us to expect her to. We should tell all the legal people that unless there is responsible supervision, Gin will not be spending time with Eloise.”
“Thank you,” said Gin.
“I’m sorry I insisted,” answered Karla. “I knew there was something your father wasn’t telling me, but I got entirely the wrong idea about what it was.”
Five days later Gin was walking home from school when she felt like she’d blinked heavily, except when she opened her eyes she wasn’t on her way home from school, she was in on the paved area of a playground two blocks from where she lived and it was way later than it should have been. She was standing in an empty circle within a complicated pattern of white chalk markings. Eloise was facing her, standing with in a similar circle in the design.
“Good, you woke up properly.” Eloise sounded satisfied. “You’re finally going to serve your purpose and I’ll be able to move on from this nonsense.”
“So, you did come back to kill me.” Gin wished she hadn’t been right.
“Oh no, that ship sailed long ago when the alignments changed and I missed my chance at ascension.” Eloise smiled and it wasn’t nice. “Your power, which you’re not using, belongs to me by right so I’m going to change you into a more convenient form for me to use. Now hold still, this shouldn’t hurt, much. Just think, you might enjoy being a cat…or something.” Eloise raised her hands and began to chant.
Gin would have run but her ankles were shackled together and there was a metal rod through the shackles into the ground, anchoring her in place. The chalk lines were beginning to glow silver.
Eloise finished her chanting and the glow from the chalk design was brighter than the lights that were supposed to keep the park a nonthreatening place at night. Gin was beginning to feel quite strange and from the side of the park in the direction of her home, she could hear someone calling, “Spot, wait! Come back here!”
Suddenly, Spot charged out of the darkness of the surrounding park and almost skidded into a defensive position between Gin and Eloise, barking furiously. In his wake the glowing silver designs rearranged themselves into something different. Eloise screamed in frustration and then suddenly wailed, “No, no, no!” Her words trailed off into sobs.
Spot was the focus of the reformed silver pattern and he was still barking but something was happening to him and Gin thought she could hear words in the barking. Spot’s shape was changing, thickening and lengthening until he was bigger than a medium sized dog – he was much more the size of a Great Dane, probably bigger. His colour changed too so that he was no longer white with spots but was dark all over.
Then he stood up and the barking was words, “Leave her alone! Stop it!” Then he stopped talking, and just stood there looking at himself and obviously confused.
Spot wasn’t a dog anymore. He was a man. As a dog he’d been transitioning from the end of puppyhood to being an adult dog and in human form he looked to be about eighteen. He was wearing dark jeans, a black leather jacket and boots. If Gin had to describe him, she would have said that he looked sort of Italian.
Aveline and Karla stumbled up to the edge of the paving, Karla with her phone to her ear, talking rapidly. It was Aveline who asked, “What happened?”
The man boy who had been Spot echoed that with, “What did you do to me?” That was aimed at Eloise.
“What did I do to you?” Eloise’s response was a half sob and half shriek. “You stumbled into my transformation spell and ruined it. It was transforming her,” Eloise pointed at Gin, “into a form I could bind as my familiar. Instead it drained all my power and turned you from a dog to a man.”
“I knew I didn’t like you. Now I know why.” Spot’s human voice was in the same register that his bark had been and that put him in the deeper range of tenor.
“Well, now you’ve ruined me,” snapped back Eloise. “She was born so I could harvest or harness her power and now I can’t even do that, thanks to you!”
“She’s my human,” replied Spot with canine simplicity. “I was never going to just let you do that to her.”
“But you’re not a dog now,” put in Aveline.
At the same time Karla was saying into her phone, “Oh, now you care?”
“Sounds like Barry’s out from under the spell I used to make him not fuss about what I was up to,” Eloise smirked. “You might find that he’s not the man you married any more, and as for you,” she turned on Spot, “it takes more than a body to make a man.”
“Does it?” He sounded mildly interested. “I’ve got pockets now, you know. Why don’t we see what’s in them?” He patted himself down and filled his hands. “Okay, so no doggy treats,” he sounded disappointed. “Two lots of keys, a handkerchief and a wallet.” He opened the wallet. “Ooh, I have a drivers’ licence? And a student card from the university college. It looks like my name is Cerberus Pas.” He looked at Eloise and asked, “Did you invoke anyone who might think calling me that is amusing?”
Eloise’s surly reply was, “What would you know about invocation?”
“This student card thing? I sort of have parallel memories now of being a dog and of being a liberal arts student. A liberal arts student on a Velesian scholarship studying culture and mythology.” He grinned. “I know about invocations plus I know that one of the possible derivations for Cerberus means ‘spotty’ and I have enough Croatian to know that ‘pas’ means dog.”
“You expect us to believe that you speak multiple languages?” Eloise was disdainful.
“Five or six,” said Spot/Cerberus cheerfully. “It’s all human to me.”
Karla said into her phone, “And bring bolt cutters or a crowbar with you, you know where we are. Bye!” Then she hung up and spoke to Eloise, “I’m surprised you’re still here and not off checking that your assets aren’t what have gone into giving him that scholarship.”
Eloise froze for a moment and Spot/Cerberus added helpfully, “Or the car and place to live that go with these keys.”
Eloise made a strangled sound, turned and ran off.
“Well, if any of us ever have to deal with her ever again, it’ll be far too soon,” remarked Karla as she put her phone away. “Your father should be bringing something we can use to get you out of those things, Gin. Aveline, can you please vandalise a couple of shrubs so we have some leafy branches to sweep away this mess, just in case?”
As Aveline went off to break bits off a few bushes and Gin stared morosely at the shackles keeping her in place, Spot/Cerberus said excitedly, “Hey, I’ve got a picture of Gin and new me in here!”
“Oh?” Gin was interested. “Can I see it?”
“Sure!” The only thing vaguely doggy about him when he turned around was the sheer enthusiasm of his smile as he displayed the photograph tucked into his wallet.
“That looks like the photo that we took here last week,” commented Gin, “only when it was taken, you were a dog.” She looked at the photo again and added, “You know that pose, with our arms around each other, makes it look like you’re my boyfriend.”
He turned the wallet around so he could look at it again. “Does it?” His enthusiasm certainly didn’t flag. “Could I be?”
This is now followed by Do You Know?