By Indi Latrani
I had no idea what to do at a rave.
It was probably pretty obvious just from how I was dressed. Black shirt and plain jeans stand out quite a bit in comparison with neon colors and pants with so many straps that I was surprised that no one was tripping over anyone else. About the only thing that might earn me some points was the glowing green designs covering my skin. I'd worked on them all afternoon, painting tribal curls all over my face and arms. They didn't look like much in regular light, but fortunately the place was as drenched in UV as I'd hoped. I wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that no one else was wearing anything like it. Well, no one other than the DJ.
I was probably staring at him more than anything else. Glowing purple angular lines crossed his body, visible not only on his bare arms, but beneath his fishnet shirt, and even dyed into his long hair. Staring seemed safe enough, he was lost in the music he was pumping into the room, an energetic combination of melodies and beats, with a few songs I even recognized.
The music, I liked. The visuals, I liked too. The only problem was me, there against a wall, feeling out of place. Occasionally I tried to move awkwardly to the music, but more often I just had to jump out of the way of someone's swinging glowsticks or gyrating body. After a while I just settled in, leaning against the wall, watching the DJ and listening to the music. It was surprising how easy it was to relax in the middle of all that energy, but it was almost hypnotic. And there was something about that DJ, that glow, almost like it didn't stop at his body... Those almost looked like... wings?
I was jolted out of my dreamy state by a change in the lighting and music. That violet-outlined DJ was stepping off the stage, replaced by someone a bit more conventional: hoodie, cargo pants, starting up a track with a lot less synth and a lot more drum. I tried to immerse myself in it again, but it wasn't quite the same.
"You look kinda lost."
I jumped, startled; apparently it was still engrossing enough that someone could come close enough to talk in my ear without me even noticing. Turning to look at who it was startled me even more: that face with the purple glowing lines, now grinning right at me.
"Uh. Y-yeah. You could say that."
"First time at something like this?"
I cringed, looking down at myself. "It's that obvious, isn't it?"
"Seen worse." He paused, and chuckled. "Woo, look at at us, could we get any more stereotypical? Actually, saw you when I was on stage, wanted to ask you about..." He gestured at my arms, just in time for another UV beam to pass over me, lighting the paint up with that green glow again.
"Oh, the paint?" I raised an arm, self-consciously tracing one of the lines. "Um, I wasn't trying to copy you or anything, if that's what you mean. I've never even seen you before. Believe it or not, it sorta came from--"
My slack-jawed expression was all he needed for an answer, apparently. "No worries. Heard it before. How it started for me too, believe it or not. Hey, more than due for a break here, interested in heading back with me? Could give you some tips."
I glanced back at the stage for a moment, just to stall for time while I sorted this through in my head. "Uh... sure." I smiled nervously. "Sounds... Sounds good."
"Excellent." He grinned wide, looking a bit odd. There was something about that paint maybe that made all his facial features a bit more exaggerated. It fit his demeanor at least, as he enthusiastically led me toward a door to the side of the room, head bobbing to the beat slightly as he moved.
We went out into a hall, the music fading as he led me through the backstage twists and turns. There was more room back there than I expected a converted warehouse club to have. He pushed open a door leading to a small room, even more drenched in UV and vibrant color than the dance floor, with a couple beaten-up couches against one wall.
"Have a seat. Need to get supplies."
My ears were still ringing from the music outside, so I was happy enough to just do what he said without saying more. He turned to a table, rummaging through a bin of little glowing bottles. "Green, right?" he asked, coming back with a color, a perfect match other than the even brighter glow. "Here, let's see your arm."
I held out my arm, and with a few strokes of a paintbrush he'd traced over one of the swirls I'd made. His lines were smoother, more stylish, and certainly brighter.
"Wow, yeah, you're good."
He shrugged, with a chuckle. "Lots of practice. Not what I wanted to show you, though. Hit the lights there for me."
I reached over to the light switch on the wall, and plunged the place into near-darkness. The only light left was from his body; unlike my paint job, his glowed by itself, outlining his lithe form in those fine purple lines. "Now watch," came his voice, and he slipped something around my wrist on top of the drying paint.
The paint lit up suddenly, as bright as his, a green glow that revealed the band he'd put around my wrist, with a battery wired to it, and a few bits of wire helping to make contact with the glowing area.
"Wow," I repeated. "Electoluminescent... something? Is that how yours works?"
He grinned. "More or less." He dipped the brush in the paint again and went back to work. He continued the design, following the style of my own work, each stroke glowing with the rest as soon as he finished.
"Can I get some of this stuff for myself?"
"Sure, it's called LiveWire or something like that, couple shops around here sell it... Hm." He grabbed another wristband from his pile of supplies. He slipped it around my other wrist, and started painting on that arm now, leaving the first one to glow and dry.
"This is... not normal, at parties like this, is it?"
I could tell he was grinning from the shape of the glow on his face. "Ain't seen nothing yet. Let's just say I liked your style."
I shifted, suddenly a bit uncomfortable. Strange as it was, though, things seemed harmless so far, and this was a pretty elaborate come-on, if that's what it was.
It was around then, as he worked up to my other shoulder with the glowing paint, that I felt the tingling. It wasn't uncomfortable, it was almost pleasant, as much as a ticklish, humming sensation along the arms could be. "Uh.. That electricity..." I murmured, raising the arm he wasn't painting on to take a closer look.
"Oh, it's fine," he said, or something like that. I wasn't really listening at that point, my attention was more fixed on the fact that my arm was becoming distinctly fuzzy.
That was the best word for it. It wasn't hair, the way I was used to it on my arm, it was a uniform coating of shorter fur. The color was hard to make out in the odd lighting, but it was light, not at all a match for my boring brown hair.
I pulled away with a yelp. "Hey, what's going on?"
He lifted his brush away, calm and collected. "Don't worry, all part of the process."
"What... process?" I stepped back, feeling for the door or the light switch in the darkness.
He stepped closer, not blocking the door, or looking angry, as far as I could tell. He just seemed concerned for me as he reached out for my changed arm.
I pushed back at him, trying to keep him away. What my flailing hand collided with didn't seem to be his arm at all, though, and I finally took a closer look at him in the green light of my own arms.
I had a handful of what looked like sleeve, at a first glance, but at a second, more like feathers. They hung off his arms, soft and black, with more of that purple tracery on it, giving a feathery pattern to what otherwise looked and felt like folded fabric.
He grinned, and this time it was definitely exaggerated, the purple glow outlining a long triangular beak, which moved with cartoony flexibility as he talked. "Like I said, ain't seen nothing yet. But not doing anything to you that I haven't done myself, see?"
I didn't say anything. I let go of his arm instead, taking a closer look at my own. It wasn't anything like his wing, though it definitely had its own animalistic look; other than what looked like paw pads, the fingers were covered with that fur, and a rounded glowing green claw tipped each digit. "What's going on?" I asked again.
He thought for a moment. "Long story. Here's my short version. Recurring dream about dancing, with this paint. Felt really good, kept waking up inspired. Finally tried it out, felt good there too, but not quite all I'd hoped for." He paused, grinning, and I nodded; it definitely sounded familiar.
"Part two: More dreams, this time with others painted up around me. Animals. Still kept wanting to try it out. Found this LiveWire paint stuff on my own, tried it with that. Started growing the feathers and the beak and the talons and all. Seems I make a good raven. Now I like to help people figure out what I did. Demonstrations."
I just kept staring. "But you... Before, you looked... So it's not permanent?"
He chuckled. "All you've got on you is paint. Try taking the battery off."
I tugged at the wristband, and there was an odd ripply feeling as the glow faded. It was harder to see without the glow, but a touch confirmed that my arm was back to what I was used to. I let the band connect again, and with another ripple, it was back to the weirdness. "Oh...kay. Crazy animal-changing paint. That or you slipped me something."
"Harmless either way, promise. Now, come on, you can't tell me you don't want to know how you'll turn out." He approached me with the brush again.
Sure enough, I couldn't tell him that. It all made a weird sort of sense, just like the dreams did. I raised my other arm, letting him get back to work. "Wait, you don't know? I mean, you're doing it."
As he started up, I felt the tingly, rippling sensation on that arm too, as it started to change to match. "Just following your design!" he replied with a cheerful shrug. "By the way, you'll probably need to start taking off clothes."
"Oh, don't worry. Just for the paint, one, and two, could've taken advantage of you already if I wanted, right? And three, you're looking really silly with just fluffy arms like that."
He pulled away a bit, watching expectantly. I sighed, shrugging. "Just not used to undressing for people I just met," I replied as I tugged off my shirt.
"Dark in here anyway. And better looking guys outside too, if that's all I was going for." He moved in there and started painting again, but paused to smirk as he saw my affronted expression. "You're improving by the minute, though!" The lines on my chest were simpler, and he worked faster, laying out broad strokes, connecting them to the work on my arms so they'd glow again. Soon the change started there too, spreading out from the lines themselves, smoothing out my chest quite a bit, covering it with soft light fur, a bit thicker than what was on my arms.
The clear view and growing light gave me a better look at my painter too. Those arms were definitely winged, ending with dextrous taloned hands. However, they didn't look quite right, and I'd already felt that plumage and it wasn't what I'd expected either. "Hey, aren't you supposed to have feathers? Your arms felt more like..."
"Fuzzy, like yours? Yeah, it's more like faux fur. Fabric." He shrugged. "Usually turns out as something artificial. Not sure why. Maybe it's more familiar to most folks than real animals. Feels nice, though! Real feathers would be a pain."
I pressed in on my own chest, now that it was just about done changing, and it definitely felt similar, simple and soft. "So I'm turning into an animal toy," I said, stunned all over again.
"If you want to call it that, sure. Prefer 'golem' myself." He tugged at my pants. "But we still don't know what kind!"
I blushed again, kicking off my shoes and then sliding off the jeans. "Underwear stays on," I stated, one hand firmly pressed to the front waistline of my boxers.
"Fine, fine, but we still have to get a bit personal," he said, and that was all the warning I got before he tugged the boxers open in the back, and I felt the paintbrush slide over my rear. "Electrical connections, and all. Plus the tail."
I frowned. "I hadn't though abou--eep!" The effect there was quick, my whole balance shifting as I felt my spine elongate, the soft fur flowing out, the glowing patterns developing on their own now as they covered the conical appendage forming behind me. I stumbled and fell--right onto it.
"See, that's what I'm talking about," said the raven, smirking down at me. "If we'd been going for realistic, that would've hurt." It hadn't, the tail was as soft and fluffy as the rest, and from what I could tell from sitting on it now, flexible enough that it felt practically boneless. "Works out better this way. Can you move it? What kind is it?"
The tip twitched, and I just stared at it. "You painted that part, you still don't know?" I asked. I tried moving it a bit more; it felt strange, but I did manage to confirm it was under my control.
"Extrapolated! Wow, it's big. Like an otter, or a kangaroo or something. Not fancy enough to be a dragon. Only one way to find out!" He set in on my legs, creating the now-familiar tribal strokes in freehand now, though they matched the style of my upper body quite well. "Here, I'll get these," he said, switching the paintbrush to his off-hand before tugging off my socks and starting to paint the last bit of unchanged body that I could see.
The cool paint tickled as he worked over my feet, along the soles and even between a few of the toes, making it rather hard for me to keep still. Before long, though, the change set in. It reminded me of the tail, though fortunately not as dramatic. They certainly enlarged, though, as they softened and simplified. I leaned in to get a better look, moving my toes. Long ones, on the end of a long foot, with long glowing claws. "Mystery solved!" stated the raven with a smirk. "Never seen someone come out as a kangaroo before. Very stylish."
"I... always kinda liked kangaroos, yeah..." I murmured, new feet shifting uncertainly. "We... uh... you're done, then?"
"Almost!" He leaned in, beak almost touching my chest as he wetted the brush and brought it near my face. "Just some finishing touches."
I couldn't help it, I squeezed my eyes shut. "This is going to get weird, isn't it," I said as I felt the first touch of paint on my face.
"Not as weird as a kangaroo with a human head." His movements were delicate now, but thorough, and the feelings did get strange, as I felt ears reshape under the brush, face press out into a muzzle. "Don't try and talk for the moment, or it'll get even weirder."
I made an uncertain noise in my throat, lifting a hand up to try to feel my face, only to have it batted away. "Oh, finally you're eager? Almost done!" He lifted the brush away, and I felt a rush of vertigo, thankful I was already sitting down.
"Finished!" he crowed, and I opened my eyes to the room with the lights back on, and the raven bringing over a mirror. "You are an excellent canvas and an excellent inspiration," he said, as I examined my face. It blended kangaroo and human features the same way his blended human and raven, leaving me with my full range of expressions, accentuated by those glowing lines, which were gentle and curled in contrast to the raven's angular design.
He offered a hand, and I slowly got to my feet, tripping over my own big paws more than once. "Might have a problem with those jeans, like this," he pointed out. "Try some of the big baggy pants like folks have out there. They usually have wide cuffs and drawstrings."
"Y-yeah... But... wait, I don't understand... What now?"
"Well, club's closing pretty soon. Painting always takes a while. Probably don't want to walk home like that. Shoes won't fit, if nothing else. And it's raining, you'd get soggy."
"But I... you..."
"It's easy, remember?" He tugged off one of the wristbands, severing the connection. The glow stayed, as did the new shape, and had a moment to try to figure out if that excited or terrified me before he removed the other one too, and the glow began to fade.
I felt myself start to change back, all at once, and almost lost my balance again as the tail disappeared and my feet returned to their former shape. The raven, still his changed self, kept talking. "But also it's just a demonstration. Need to figure out the rest yourself. Take this, though!" he said, tossing me the jar of paint, still half-full. "Address on there. Might want to check it out."
I still couldn't think of much else to say. I started a few times, as I put my clothes and shoes back on. "But..." and "I..." and "You...", with the raven looking particularly avian as he cocked his head to wait to hear if I had anything more. "Thanks... I think..." was all I ended up coming up with, as he showed me to the door and out to the street.
"See you soon!" A purple-painted, but otherwise normal, DJ waved to me as I stepped out into the rain that was already starting to wash off my own paint job.
I had no idea what I'd do at my next rave. But I was definitely going to pick up more of that paint.
(This is an old story, first posted October 11th, 2011 on FA. Here's the original description, with user refs converted over.)
A chance encounter at a rave goes rather differently than expected.
After much prodding by Elanna I've finally decided to try writing a story. I enjoyed it, so I'll probably end up writing more, there's a lot more to be done with this setting here, and I have some other ideas kicking around too.
I'd love to hear what people think, as well as any feedback on my writing, since I'm pretty new at this.
(Many thanks to Bokeh for the photo used in the thumbnail!)