Falling Leaves Ch 1

Every time I tried to take in the sights of the grand open building, my eyes drew back to the woman leading me. She and her scaly tail. If I stood on the tips of my toes, my head would have reached just below the height of the massive woman’s breasts. She introduced herself as Tia Matthews, Chief Marketing Officer. Never thought I’d see a dragon in an office building.

She turned around, her mass of wavy red hair swishing past my face along with a folded leathery wing that followed shortly behind. The aisles were definitely too narrow for her.

“Your cube’s here with the rest of the team. Over there is Sales. HR is over by the windows. The engineers don’t usually stay in one place ’cause they’re busy guys. Their desks are in the corner there.”

With strong thrusts of her clawed index finger she pointed toward each area of the office one after the other before letting her arm rest at her side.

“A bunch of people are probably at lunch or something, I don’t know. Any questions?” She cracked her neck and, without giving me a chance to respond, said, “Good. See ya.” Through the marks on her face, I thought I saw some dark bags under her unamused eyes. She must have been tired. Or bored out of her mind—she was a goddamn dragon. Without another word, she turned and left. Her footfalls shook the flimsy cubicle walls as she walked.

Meanwhile, I was without any instructions or even an introduction to anyone else in the department. I knew she was probably tired, but she should at least have done that much. All I wanted to ask was if there were any more monsters in the office. Oh, sorry, “exceptional individuals.” It was rare for them to be present in corporate environments. I barely noticed any present at university.

Despite my gripes, another employee noticed me standing in front of my desk like an idiot and approached.

“Hey there,” the man said.

Looking up from my cubicle I shot back a “Hi.”

“I’m Connor. Are you new here?” A heavy-set man in corduroy pants and a green striped button-up asked. He held a paper cup of water in one hand and extended the other towards me for a limp-wristed handshake. I responded with a firm grip that made him shake his hand a little afterwards. At least do it right, Mr. Connor.

I shook his hand and said, “Yeah, Tia brought me here. My name’s Lennard. She didn’t really tell me anything. You in Marketing, too?”

He guffawed loud enough to make my ears ring. Others in the office turned their heads, giving him only a glance before returning to their work. His laughter must have been a regular occurrence.

“She’s not really a talker. You’ll get used to it. I’m in Sales. Sylvia’s your Department Head, so you should talk to her. Want me to get her for you?”

I shrugged. “By all means.”

As he walked off I pulled my office chair out from my desk and sat. Watching him leave, I theorized one could balance a tea cup on Connor’s massive beer gut. If he was a picture of my future in the company, I wanted no part. Maybe a standing desk would be good.

A few minutes passed while the low hum of computers steadily drove a stake of boredom through my skull. I took a small leather-bound notebook out of my tote bag. Turning to an empty page in the back, I started drawing. It didn’t matter what it was; my pen moved on its own in my stupor. A glance at the door to the nearby stairwell got me to thinking about Euclidean geometry. And so I bid farewell to the next five minutes of my life.

By the time I finished the third upside down staircase, I turned to see Connor come back with a tall woman in tow. This one wore a full business suit and tie. She sported dark brown hair, cut just below her ears with laser-like precision. The only ornament she wore was a thin golden necklace that jingled with every step. On closer inspection, some of the trinkets on the necklace were little golden leaves.

Judging by her Supervisor-y demeanor, I assumed she was Sylvia. And, aside from her uptight clothing, she was a gorgeous woman– downright voluptuous curves, more-than-ample bosom, a dash of makeup that didn’t overpower her natural looks, and a towering presence in high heels.

My hand shut my notebook on reflex. I figured I should stand to greet her, but before I could she planted a hand on my shoulder and sat me back down.

She shoved a folder filled with some papers in my face and said, “Lennard Cash, correct? This is some basic information about what we need to sell this month. It’s crunch time at the moment, so read up on it quickly. The deadline for our pitch is noon Friday. If you need me, my desk is on the corner here.” Sylvia adjusted her glasses and headed for her desk barely ten feet away.

With the folder in my hands, I glanced at Connor. He merely shifted his weight and said, “You’ll get used to her, too.” I would have worried for him saying that so close to her if he weren’t in Sales. She didn’t seem to react even though he stood just a few feet away. Guess she didn’t need to prove anything to anyone not in her department.

“By the way,” Sylvia uttered, peeking above the wall of my cubicle. Her sudden appearance made me jump as if I did something wrong. “By the way, the other members of the team are Scott, Chelsea, and Angela. They should be back from lunch shortly.”

At least there was that. Maybe my coworkers were more fun? I thought it best I didn’t start the first day with complaints and went over the papers. Unfortunately, I had trouble making any headway on them before the rest of the team arrived.

Scott was a short and fit Hawaiian with a shining shaved head. He looked just shy of middle aged and worked in the cubicle across from me.

Chelsea was a frumpy-haired twenty-something like myself with round glasses and an air about her that said, “I’m the boring one.”

Angela, whose parents I’m sure thought the name was really clever at the time, was a harpy of my modest height with ash-gray feathers and messy dark hair. Though she was the last to be introduced she was the first to greet me– quite enthusiastically. Her first question was what my favorite color was (blue, of course). Clearly she was just excited to be here.

It wasn’t the first time dealing with an excitable harpy girl. I changed the subject to work and she scampered off to the copy room with barely a backward glance. Bet she forgot to do something.

For the rest of the week Sylvia helped me get my info straight and figure out a pitch for a new service our company was going to provide. She eased me into the process and showed me how to use my company computer, schedule meetings on my calendar, and how to use the company email client.

Whenever she was in my cubicle, I couldn’t help but notice the other three stealing glances in our direction. Sylvia was, admittedly, getting pretty close; leaning over my shoulder to see the screen, grabbing my hand to move the mouse instead of just taking it herself, and generally being a stereotypically sexy businesswoman.

I wasn’t going to complain, though. What was I supposed to say, “Sylvia, please don’t brush your cowtits against my head?”

We got a lot done and she was patient enough to give me some time to learn everything. All the while, she remained regal and held perfect posture, barely changing expression as we continued work.

The first time I brandished my moleskin notebook to write something, she said, “You’re taking notes?”

Obviously. “Don’t want to forget it.”

She chuckled in a sort of ‘that’s just adorable’ kind of way. “Well, don’t let it get too cluttered or you won’t be able to reference them later.” She paused and gave me a glance before looking back at the monitor. “Besides, you seem to learn fast. You shouldn’t worry about it.” It felt strange getting such assurance from her, but I thanked her and moved on with our work.

* * *

The next few weeks went smoothly thanks to everyone else on the team, especially Sylvia. During the day, she took me off to an empty meeting room to discuss various product pitches and other document types I had to deal with in the future. Every time she wanted to talk she said, “Mr. Cash, a moment, please.” She took part in higher-up meetings every day, and I could almost tell time by the sound of her clicking heels as she came to get me.

After lunch break I started editing a poorly worded document, per a request from HR. Before I could finish rewording a sentence I heard a voice sing over the computer hums.

“Oh, Mr. Cash~.”

Close internet browsers, set both feet firmly on the floor, and hide headphones. That was my “Get Ready for Sylvia” routine. I’ve gone 16 workdays without incident.

“What’s up?” I said.

As she approached she let a hand slide along the top of my cubicle wall, as if to show off her well-manicured nails. “We have a marketing meeting in room 316. Could you stop what you’re doing for a moment and join us?”

My heart sank. Oh boy, my first group meeting. I knew it was coming, but was not at all looking forward to it. My skin bristled and my cheeks paled at the thought of having to stand up in front of the team and say things about what I did in the office. For the most part I was still learning, and the only actual work I’d done involved editing documents written by Neanderthals.

With a few turns of my head I noticed that Scott and Chelsea were nowhere to be found. Angela, however, fluttered out of the cubicle behind mine and perched on the divide between us.

“Will there be snacks this time?” the harpy asked. She looked like a bird of prey ready to pounce on Sylvia’s head.

Snacks, though?

The businesswoman crossed her arms and raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Well, if you don’t get down from there I might pack them up again.”

She was serious?

Angela’s eyes widened in hysteria and she pushed off the divide with her talons. She cried out her thanks as she soared toward the meeting room.

“Is she allowed to do that?” I asked.

Sylvia shook her head and sighed. “Not at all. She’s scratched up the cubicles a bit, but she’s yet to hit anything when she flies, so I don’t mind.” We share a glance and head for the meeting room.

Scott and Chelsea were already there, messing with wires, a projector, and a laptop. Strewn across the table were various bags chips and candies. It felt more like an unused beer pong table than a meeting table.

“I’m telling you, just turn it off and turn it back on again,” Chelsea told Scott.

“And I’m telling you that you just put the cables in wrong,” Scott shot back. He was a little shorter than Chelsea, but looked like he could snap her in half if he put half an effort into it.

Clearly we weren’t the technical portion of the company.

Sylvia sat in the head chair and crossed her legs over each other. For the first time I managed to catch a glimpse up the length of her legs. She wore a tight business skirt with pantyhose that day. And it was good.

After watching them argue for a minute, Angela said, “Have you tried the rain dance? It worked last time.” Everyone except me and Chelsea burst into laughter.

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as well. As long as the supervisor was laughing I figured it was okay to go along. Tentatively I pointed at one of the bags of candy and sent a questioning glance towards Sylvia. She motioned for me to dig in. I started with the bag of M&Ms.

Meanwhile, Angela snuck over toward the bickering Scott and Chelsea and pressed a button on the projector remote. After a brief flicker an oblong square of light appeared on the wall. The two humans froze.

“But seriously, you guys didn’t put it on the right channel,” the harpy said. They ignored her.

“No rain dance, then?” I said through a couple half-chewed M&Ms.

Chelsea shot me a glare. “Oh my God. I did it, like, once!”

“And you will never live it down,” Angela said. She placed a wing on the girl’s shoulder.

Scott put a hand on Chelsea’s other shoulder. “We’ll make sure of that.”

Then they high-fived above the poor girl’s head.

She shook off their respective limbs and walked up to Sylvia. “Sylvia, they’re making fun of me!”

Our supervisor stood from her chair and gently took the younger woman into her bosom. “There, there. They’ll forget eventually.”

I wouldn’t have minded getting bullied if it meant getting a hug from Sylvia. Just saying.

After that whole thing, the majority of the meeting was spent eating snacks and talking about non work-related things. Sylvia seemed entirely fine with that, as long as we got our work done by the end of the meeting. Somehow, we did. We worked out the wording, visuals, and size of a magazine ad before lunch. All that we had to do was put together the finished page and send it to the editors. I just made sure to take notes on the process and threw out a suggestion or two.

* * *

As I worked on projects with the team, Sylvia discussed my oversights and gave me instruction on how to improve. Besides the regular marketing work, I helped Angela carry documents (can’t hold much with those claw fingers), went over graphic design ideas with Scott and Chelsea, and went to lunch with the team every now and then.

They helped make the otherwise tedious work bearable, if only just. I still held the notion that I had to “stick it out” the entire week till Friday. It seemed I was only allowed to relax on the weekends.

For me there was no more sleeping in on weekdays and no more late nights of gaming and/or TV. I changed my drinking habits, too. Living alone just made me too depressed too often and I already developed a good alcohol tolerance from college, though I graduated two years ago. It was time to be a proper adult, soul-crushing nine-to-five job and all. I tried to embrace it; it took a good deal of luck to land a job so close to home, and I was sure it’d take a bit more luck to stay.

One Friday, I sat leaning back in my chair, my tasks for the day complete. There were still fifteen minutes before the end of my shift, so I drew in my notebook. The subject was the dead fluorescent bulb above me. Meanwhile, in the desk across from me, Scott got his things together.

“You leaving early?” I asked.

He adjusted the strap of his backpack. “Yeah, the wife wants me to make dinner tonight.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you were married.” I rolled my chair out of my cubicle to talk more easily.

He pulled out his phone, fiddled with it for a bit, and showed me a picture of a woman holding a baby. I assumed they were his wife and kid. The woman had long dark hair braided over one shoulder and wore a comfy-looking sweater. She nuzzled the baby girl in her arms, smiling and crying happy tears from her eye— oh damn his wife was a cyclops.

Different strokes, I suppose. “She looks nice.”

Scott smiled like an idiot and we said our goodbyes for the day. Must have been nice to have someone to go home to at the end of the day. Cooking together with a significant other sounded fantastic, though my tiny kitchen at home barely fit me in the first place. I didn’t expect monster girl, though. The whole company itself seemed strangely friendly towards them. From my experience, plenty of companies in the area stealthily kept their work force 90% human. The dozens of other places that interviewed me had nary a one, but I’d met more than a dozen at Falling Leaves.

A feeling of dread dawned on me at the thought of having noodles again for dinner. I’d been living off the stuff for the past month while my paycheck went to bills and depts.. Certain measures needed to be taken. Around the corner of my cubicle, Chelsea and Angela were talking, laughing every so often. Then an idea surfaced. Mooch Mode activate.

I wheeled my chair down the aisle toward them and said, “Hey, you guys want to grab some food? Maybe go drinking for a bit?”

Both made thoughtful expressions. Angela spoke first with a tilted head and eyes towards the ceiling, “I sort of wanted to go visit a friend, but I didn’t really tell her I’d be coming and my phone’s out of batteries so I can’t call her and I don’t know her number because contacts lists don’t help you memorize numbers and I might end up getting tired if I fly there but–”

Chelsea cut in, “I, uh, still have to put the finishing touches on this project, but I’ll think about it, okay?” On her screen was a mockup of what looked like an event poster.

Before I could respond, I felt a hand on my shoulder from behind. I turned to see Sylvia say, “May I join you, Mr. Cash? I know a good place.”

Angela, surprisingly, stopped talking and shared a wide-eyed glance with Chelsea. The harpy perked up and said, “Oh, duh, I can just email her! Sorry, Lenny, but I can’t go!”

“Aw, alright,” I said. “Have a good weekend, then.”

She rolled back into her cubicle, perched atop the back of her chair with her wings spread out like a kid pretending to be a plane. When she didn’t quite make it, I nudged her chair the rest of the way with my foot.

In a similarly dismissive fashion, Chelsea said, “I think I should get home early tonight, actually, so count me out, too.”

A likely story. As expected from the plain one on the team. I turned to look at Sylvia, who shrugged and said, “Mr. Cash, finish closing up your work station, and I’ll meet you out front.”

Well alright, then. Free food, courtesy of my boss.

* * *

“I’ll be honest, I expected something different,” I said as we pulled up a pair of stools at the bar. The joint was one hell of a hole in the wall. It was barely visible from the street except for a small sign on the door with “Pub” on it. The lighting was a bit dim, and the clientele featured a wide variety of folks, from bikers to hipster kids to corporate employees such as ourselves. I spotted a few “exceptional individuals,” too.

The tables were all built of sturdy wood with that dark, shining finish that gave everything a hue of glowing red. Though the bar stretched from one end of the joint to the other and showed off an entire wall of bottles, the plates scattered around told me they served ample food. Maybe just the usual bar snacks like wings and nachos, but hey, it was better than nothing. It barely took a ten minute walk to get there from our building, too. Didn’t see anybody from our neck of the office besides us, though.

A larger group in the back suddenly burst into cheers and raised beer mugs. Their eyes were glued to the TV in the corner. At the far end of the bar a man loudly drowned his sorrows. A few seats down from us a pair of pissed-looking fluffy-tailed women looked like they were about to rip each other a few new ones.

“A bit rowdy, don’t you think?” I said.

Sylvia smiled and daintily set her small purse on the bar. “I enjoy variety in the people I meet. There is an ample amount of that here.” As I got settled, she said, “Speaking of a variety of people, I’m a little surprised how well you get along with Angela.”

I took off my jacket. “Well, there were monsters at my university. I even had a few classes with them. A harpy was in my group in class, so I like to think I know how to handle them alright. Helped her pass the class, anyway.”

“Oh? Have you spoken with any of the other exotic ladies in the office?” She waved her arm above her head to get the attention of the butch woman behind the bar. After saying hello (her name was apparently Sally), Sylvia ordered a drink before passing the baton to me. She got some exotic-sounding thing while I asked for rum and Coke.

“I talked with Jennifer in HR. She’s real nice, but I think she needs to ask for a bigger cubicle.”

“Because she’s a lamia?”

Sally was quick with her craft; both drinks were ready before I could answer. “Yeah, she doesn’t really fit that well. She doesn’t even use a chair; she just sits on her coils. And the tip of her tail goes out into the aisle.” I took a sip of my drink. It made me shake my head to get rid of the sting. I was no expert at alcoholic measurements, but my drink felt like one part cola and maybe fifteen parts rum. Sally’s a fine woman.

Sylvia looked at my glass and chuckled. “Going straight for the hard liquor, are we?”

“I’ve been a good boy for my entire job search. No hangovers or anything. It’s Friday night and I’m already here. Might as well get a buzz.”

Sylvia took a sip of her drink— some purple concoction with a pineapple slice on the rim— and said, “Do you often wake up with hangovers?”

“Used to. I’m a recovering college student. Can’t afford to do that crap anymore, you know?”

“I thought you graduated years ago?”

I chuckled sarcastically. “Yeah, about that. My last roommate worked at a bar like this. Tested all kinds of experimental drinks on me every few nights.” Another sip made its way to my lips. “But hey, what school did you go to?”

Sylvia leaned on the bar and circled the edge of her glass with her index finger. “Oh, I’ve been to plenty of places. Most often I majored in Business, but I like Marketing more.” She smirked and leaned in, as if about to tell me a secret. “You can trick people into buying anything as long as you market it well.” Though I wondered how old she was for her to say she’d been to “plenty” of schools, I instead took a bigger gulp of my drink. The ice gathered to touch my lips. Heedless, I ordered another. “I’m interested in these ‘experimental’ drinks your friend made for you. I’m sure you could have said no to them.”

“Yeah, nah. Way too pushy for me. I can’t handle that. That doesn’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude and those damn drinks were the reasons I moved out. Got a place by myself now, though.”

“Has it been worth it so far?”

I paused. “It definitely gives me more privacy, and it helps me focus, but I’ve been having trouble paying rent. With this job, I won’t be in the red anymore, but it’ll still be hard with the stupid apartment prices in the area. And I still have my school loans to pay off. I’ve been living off noodles for the past few months.”

Sylvia waved her hand toward me. “Oh, I know what you mean. The rental prices are horrible! Why not just move back in with your former roommate? It would be easier, correct?” She popped the pineapple slice from her drink into her mouth, her red lips curling around it to keep all the juice in her mouth. Damn if I didn’t secretly want to be a pineapple.

“Yeah, no. He can make three shots of vodka taste like a tall glass of lemonade.” I planted a hand on my forehead, “You have no idea how much two of those on a hot day can mess you up.”

She laughed aloud, took another sip, and said, “Are you insinuating that I don’t know what it’s like to be drunk?”

I set down my glass and turned in my stool to look her over. “Well I’m sure you have the capacity, but you look a bit too business-y to me. I just can’t picture you drunk. Especially not with that fruity little drink you got there. What is that, passion fruit?”

Sylvia pouted. It was pretty damn cute, actually. “Don’t knock my drink choice. Besides, what’s wrong with work-appropriate attire?” She looked me in the eye with an inquisitive gaze and a tilted head.

“Hey, business is the opposite of fun, so…” That was probably the wrong thing to say.

Sylvia furrowed her brow slightly. She didn’t talk for a few moments, the only sound between us the dull roar of conversation and occasional clinking of glasses. Her eyes looked me up and down, assessing me like a pair of scanners. With a glance at the drink in front of her, she grabbed it by the stem and downed it all in one go. Oh God don’t tell me she’s— “Sally~!” The bartender walked over with a smile, ready to serve. “Could you get us a bottle of Jack Daniels and two shot glasses?” Oh, please no.

Sally happily plonked down the bottle between us. Sylvia two shots before I could stop her. “I wouldn’t want tonight to be boring for you, Mr. Cash. It is Friday, after all. No need to hold back.”

I massaged my temples. “What happened to getting dinner?”

“That can come later.” She scoffed at me. “Pff. ‘Business isn’t fun.’ I’ll show you just how fun I can be, Mr. Cash.” She slid the little glass over to me, some of the whiskey sloshing out in the process, and held hers up. “Cheers.” With downcast eyes, I grabbed the shot, lazily clinked it with hers, and knocked it back.

* * *

Of course, we never got around to that food.

Despite my alcohol tolerance, I managed achieve a buzz more enjoyable than I intended. Of course by that time we got too loud to stay in the bar. I say “we,” but really it was all Sylvia making the racket. It was probably fortunate I didn’t drink any more. At least I could keep control of myself, for the most part.

I felt a piercing pain in the back of my head. “L-look, Sssylvia, couldyou please leggo my hair?” I mumbled. The unfortunate, wasted woman held onto my back while I held her legs under my arms. At least she wore pants instead of a skirt to work that day.

“Noooo, I’ll fall off~!”

“Errybody knows you can’ fall off the world ‘nless the sun comes up.” Okay, I was pretty gone, too. Whoa, head rush. Though I wasn’t exactly in shape, she was surprisingly light for someone of her height. “I’ll call ussa taxi. Where d’you live?”

“Jus’ take me to your place, cutie~! It’s Fridaaaay!”

It was then that I realized why nobody wanted to go out drinking with her. But, “cutie?” Seriously? I never would have pinned her to be such a terrible drunk.

I scanned up and down the main drag of downtown. After blinking through the dizziness I found I could seriously see my apartment from where we stood, down at the far end of downtown. It was only 9:40 and already I was more drunk than I wanted. Whether it was from the alcohol clouding my judgement or just a lack of fucks to give, I started walking toward my apartment.

The trek there, all told, took less than twenty minutes. All the way, my stomach did not give up growling.

Sylvia snored in her sleep on my back. The solemn night felt all the heavier as I lugged her sorry ass up the stairs to the fifth floor— the very top. Unfortunately I had to set her down to unlock the door. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I planned when I tried to get her on my back again. When passersby in the outer hall started glancing at me I settled on the much more-embarrassing bridal carry.

Once inside it was easy to plop her down on my couch. It was a futon with a magic transforming frame that changed into my bed (not actually magic). The couch sat against the left wall facing my TV. My kitchen took up meek residence in a square of tile next to the entrance. Things were a bit messy, but I doubted Sylvia was in a state to care.

And so she lay there, sprawled out with one leg half falling off the side, her dress shirt unbuttoned far enough to show some ample cleavage and lacy bra. Her usually pristine hair scattered in an array of parallel curves across my pillow. I had no trouble mentally admitting how very pretty a sight she was.

Deep breaths, Lenn.

I sat down next to her, my weight jostling her a little, and looked at the kitchen. Somewhere in the cupboards were the vile noodles. After a good rest they would fill my stomach with cardboard noodles and salt. To think I expected to get some free food, courtesy of my boss. Silly me. But boy did I not expect her to treat me to booze, alcohol, and

A pair of arms flanked me from behind and gripped me across my middle. Before I knew it, they pulled me onto the couch with surprising strength. Lights flashed through my eyes when my head smacked against the armrest. The perpetrator straddled my groin and secured me to the futon with her legs.

“Oh… sorry. Yer head okay?” Sylvia, who seemed dead to the world a minute ago, looked down at me with a pair of lustful eyes. They seemed to nearly glow in the shadow of the overhead light. Slowly— agonizingly— she began grinding herself against me back-and-forth. Then she drew her shapely, succulent lips so close that her whiskey-suffused breath tickled mine.

After a moment, I managed to slur out some words, “W-whoa, Shylvia, get off. What’re you do—” Not giving me a chance to finish, she plunged her lips onto mine. By God, they were the softest lips I ever tasted. And they had the sting of Jack Daniels. It started out passionate and wet, then she got forceful and only grew more so. Soon I felt her tongue work its way between my surprised lips and thrash at the inside of my mouth.

Breaking the kiss, she held me down with one arm and started sliding her shirt off her shoulders. She gazed into my eyes and muttered, “I’ve been wantin’ this for a while, Lennard.” Her pale skin shined in the light overhead, my eyes widening at the beautiful sight. With a seductive giggle she lunged at my lips once more, already her tongue forcing mine around my mouth as she used her free hand to remove her clothes. I was already hard as rock between her legs despite my blood alcohol content.

The first coherent thought to cross my mind besides “I’m about to have hot drunken sex on my couch” was, “I’m about to have hot drunken sex with my boss.”

Without the ability to speak, I pushed at her with my arms in an attempt to get her off my dick. It turned out she was stronger than she looked, and managed to bat away my arms, without breaking the kiss, no less. I growled in frustration through her lips as she reached for my shirt. Every button, one at a time, she flicked off with her thumb as if she were flipping coins. As she moved her blushing face down to start kissing my collar bone, I took the chance to use both arms to push her head away.

“Get off me!” With one big shove, I push her head back, clumsily pushing the hair off her forehead and grinding my fingers against her scalp.

In uncharacteristic surprise she cried out, “Wait, no—!”

A burst of wispy smoke filled my vision as if I opened a cooler of dry ice over my head. When I felt Sylvia remove herself from my crotch, I took the chance to stumble off the couch. In my drunken state I wobbled to and fro so much I had to use the wall to keep my balance. Normally I would’ve been embarrassed about the prominent tent in my pants, but more pressing matters were at hand. The smoke quickly cleared, revealing Sylvia to be hiding behind the other end of the futon couch. Meanwhile, I made sure to take my phone out of my pocket, ready to dial 911.

“This is exactly why I wanted to just call a taxi, you— did your hair change color?” Sure enough, Sylvia’s straight dark hair turned into a wavy light brown. “Who are you? Come out!” The figure flinched at my voice.

After a bout of mumbling from, she stood up, suddenly much shorter than before. Turning to face me, I noticed atop her head a pair of fluffy round ears with white shocks of fur on the inside. A similarly fluffy tail swayed back and forth lazily behind her. The once-full bra she wore meekly slid off along with her pants and lacy underwear. Instead of the hourglass-shaped bombshell that was Sylvia, before me stood a much shorter and pear-shaped woman. She looked maybe a few years younger than me.

“Where the hell did Sylvia go?” I demanded. The numbers 911 displayed on my phone screen, just a tap away from the authorities.

The young woman held up in her hand half of a large green leaf and placed it on her head as if in jest. It was only then that I noticed the other half at my feet. She drew in a breath through her teeth and said, “You tore th’ leaf. Didn’t think ’bout that. Ugh.” She put a hand over her mouth and used the edge of the couch to brace herself.

I remembered learning about her particular breed of monster at school— one we were continuously told to watch out for in the business world. Standing stark naked on the other side of my couch was a wobbling bushy-tailed tanuki.

With flushed cheeks, she drunkenly muttered, “I fucked up,” and slumped to her knees.

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