Well, this is just a random sample of my writing, but it went over pretty well with the people in my CW class, so I figured I'd post it here to make my account feel a little less empty. Mostly written as an excuse to be descriptive.


Even though the sun had set hours ago, the asphalt of the city surface streets still radiated heat in generous, rolling swells. Xantha's wings, soft and silent, mottled like the bark of a tree, were perfect sails for catching the rising air, and gliding over the sparse traffic was made effortless. She turned her head slightly and made the barest of adjustments to her right wing. Her whole body veered towards one of the few green, growing things to which the city council had graciously allotted time, money, and a four-by-four foot plot of dirt in the sidewalk: An elm tree, hardly more than a stick in the ground, and so scrawny that it had to be held upright by the two poles anchored on either side. Xantha made sure she landed on the most robust of the branches, yet an ounce and a half of elf owl proved to be a strain. The little tree sagged pathetically under her.

She wrapped her miniature talons around the bark and scooted closer to the trunk, her wings folded but still held out from her body slightly, to let the heat out. Even without the thermals from the road, the night was oppressively hot. On the other side of the street was a line of well-kept buildings whose lights were darkened and whose doors were locked, with one exception: a short, thick structure with bright red brick walls and a sleek glass window that took up most of the front. Jude's Body Art & Coloring Salon had been inscribed in vivid, multicolored letters at the top of the window, and beneath the lettering was a painting of a smiling woman with a mass of lavender curls and ultramarine skin, dotted with acid green spots around her shoulders. Xantha's owl eyes could read with perfect clarity the writing of a small sign posted on the door:

New Pigments Available! Ask About Amaranth Pink, Viridian Green, and Prussian Blue Inside!

…And, in cramped handwriting on a sticky-note under that,

New shipments of Rose Madder and Tangerine have been ordered! Stop Asking!

Xantha fidgeted a bit on her perch, agitated. She had never fully trusted the new skin and hair dying fashions. Something that turned your skin from its natural color to purple or orange or whatever you wanted couldn't possibly be healthy. Even the hair dyes that could be taken in pill form (making your hair 'naturally' grow out whatever color you bought) made her uneasy. She insisted on using the good old-fashioned topical hair dyes. Sure, they were damaging, but coloring your hair after it had sprouted from your scalp didn't seem nearly as creepy.

She regretted the need to be in such a small shape for this assignment. A larger animal would be able to carry a watch easily, but unfortunately most animals big enough to carry a timepiece were also big enough to make blending in difficult. So, in exchange for the easily-missed form of an owl barely five inches long, the ability to know the accurate hour had to be sacrificed. Still, he must be nearly done by now. The body shop closed in half an hour, and according to the information with which she had been provided, his appointment had begun at seven o'clock. Roughly two hours ago, she guessed.

Sure enough, only five minutes of patient waiting later, a man exited the small building happily, whistling. His skin was saturated with a fresh coat of deep red, dark and intense, like merlot. Xantha could see that he was no amateur when it came to body modification; his hair had been bleached paper-white and he had had an extra pair of arms surgically attached to his torso (quite awhile ago, she guessed, considering there was little of the awkwardness of movement that most people dealt with, even years after having a limb splice). He continued to whistle as he walked to his car. One hand fished around in his long coat, and with a friendly chirp the vehicle unlocked. As he sank into the driver's seat, Xantha unfolded her wings.

The speed limit was only thirty miles an hour, but it still was a bit difficult for her to flap her wings hard enough to keep up. Being only five inches long had its disadvantages. He would turn a corner once in awhile, she would lose sight of his car for a few seconds, but she managed to tail him all the way to his apartment. She swooped silently down into the protection of a significantly more mature elm tree right outside the building as he pulled around into the parking structure. Xantha panted for a few moments, still aware of how hot the night remained, until the man strolled back from his car and up to the door.

She knew that it would be easiest if she could sneak in with him, and realized that this would be the most opportune time to do so. Concentrating on a new shape, her body shrunk and stiffened as skin and feathers hardened into exoskeleton. Wings thinned and paled, two taloned claws became six fuzzy legs. Down from the tree fluttered a small speckled moth, following the trail of the man's scent as it flitted through the door. She grabbed onto the fabric of his coat and clung tightly as he closed the door behind him and proceeded up the stairway to his own room. As soon as she felt the vibrations of the second door closing, she pushed away from the man and flew in a befuddled search for someplace to hide. She found a dark, stuffy room that might have been the bathroom, and waited, flat against the wall.

Her antennae quivered as muted footsteps reverberated from the next room. Once they stopped, Xantha took her chance and, very slowly, began to slip back into her human body. Going from animal to her true form was much different than going from animal to animal. Animal to animal shape-shifting required concentration and willpower, a certain level of physical endurance and strength. Going from animal back into her human body was more like letting out a breath she had been holding. The key in this situation was control, letting the breath out slowly.

Still, the stress of growing from something the size of a large coin to a woman nearly six-foot three, with the build of a professional volleyball player, was nothing to sneer at. As her dim, practically useless moth eyes developed into human ones, Xantha saw that she was not in the bathroom. She was actually in a very cramped closet that was rapidly becoming even more cramped. She curled up as best she could, but her size was doing her no favors, and she found that her hunched shoulders pressed rather painfully into the dimple-like piercings on her cheeks. A hank of her scarlet mohawk fell into her face and brushed against her nose, and the skull-shaped buckles of her boots kept catching on the musty coats that had been piled on the floor. She could hear the flickers of conversation from a television, and the sounds of a recliner creaking softly, but no movement on the floor. Xantha risked a look.

Thankfully, the closet door was almost fully shut. As a moth she must have slipped through without a problem, and now that she was more easily noticeable it obscured her as she peeked around the corner. The man was lounging placidly in a faded tan La-Z-Boy. He was now watching some sort of sports channel, the volume on high, broadcasting a grating roar that made Xantha cringe. However, there would be less of a chance that he would hear her, so it worked well despite the irritation. She crouched low to the carpet and was forced to use a squat, stooping crawl to make her way over to the recliner, so slowly and carefully it was almost painful. The flooring softened her movements, but she still found herself wincing with each small scuff of her knee or foot across the floor. As she straightened slightly behind the chair, her spine even gave a small 'crack' that made her breath catch in her throat. She needn't have worried. He was so absorbed by the T.V. that even as she reached up with both arms he didn't look away.

Suddenly, her arms flew to him. She grabbed one side of his head with her left hand, her fingers digging into his hair for a firm grasp, and slammed the heel of her other hand into his right temple. He didn't even have time to look properly surprised. Slumping wordlessly in his chair, his face still had the vaguely pleasant expression of a sports fan who had just seen the referee penalize the enemy team. Xantha stood up fully, stretching blissfully for a moment, taking time to fix her hair and clothing before returning to the task at hand. She had to find the… whatsit. Papers.

The apartment was spacious but almost depressingly bare. Besides the recliner and the television, there was only a little space-heater and a short end table. The far side of the room was a kitchen with a tiny portion of counter (most of which was taken up by a sink) and a mustard-yellow refrigerator. Xantha briefly searched through the cabinet above the sink, but it held nothing more than a bag of generic cereal and a jar of crunchy peanut butter. She turned her attention to the only other two doors in the apartment. One was the door to an undersized bathroom (the medicine cabinet stocked with the usual bottles of aspirin, Q-tips, a box of Band-Aids, the cupboard under the sink stocked with toilet paper and a couple bath towels), the other lead to his bedroom. She checked everywhere she could think to look: under the mattress, in the closet, the drawers of the nightstand. Nothing contained any suspicious belongings, and no papers. Hell, there weren't even any skin mags. There was nothing else she could do for now, though, and so she calmly strode out the front door and closed it behind her. The guy would wake up eventually, probably. A blow to the temple wasn't usually deadly unless inflicted to both sides at once. Still, it was hard to gauge how individuals would fair. She wasn't going to stick around and find out.