``Just admit it, we?re lost!'' Amanda said to her friend, Hannah. They had been biking for about an hour and now thick trees had started to become more and more frequent on each side of the road. Hannah didn?t know where they were and nothing looked familiar. She was starting to get tired and she could tell that Amanda was too.
"Ok, I admit it, I don?t know where we are," said Hannah, caving.
"Great! We?re lost, I?m cold, and it?s getting dark!" Amanda whined. Hannah looked over at her friend. It was true, they weren't prepared for such a long bike ride. Hannah's outfit, in particular, seemed to be more fashionable than functional.
Hannah looked at her watch. "We should have reached my house about an hour ago,'' she sighed. She looked up. ``Hey look, there?s a house up ahead! Let?s stop there and see if they have a phone we can borrow. We might even be able to get some directions." They pedaled down the road until they reached the house. They parked their bikes in the driveway and went up to the door and knocked. A couple minutes later, an old woman answered.
``Why, hello there!'' she said in a sweet tone, ``Aren't you two the cutest things?''
"Uh, yeah, sure,'' said Amanda quickly and dismissively, ``I?m Amanda and this is Hannah. Sorry to disturb you, I guess but can we use your phone, please? Katie?s is dead, and I left mine at home."
"Oh, I?m so sorry, I don?t have a phone but you?re welcome to come in and rest." The old woman motioned them inside.
The girls shared a look. ``Is this a good idea?'' asked Hannah.
``Look, we're lost, it's dark and I'm cold,'' Amanda replied curtly, ``A rest sounds nice. Besides, if anything happens, I can take care of us.'' Hannah agreed. With a slight hint of reluctance, they went inside. They kicked off their shoes to the side and went to sit on the couch.
"So, I?m Muriel. Would you two like something to eat? I have some cookies and milk in the kitchen," the old woman said as she walked to the kitchen. The girls shared a confused glance. Before they could respond, the old woman had already returned. She handed each girl a cookie and a glass. "So, what brings you two to my house? I don't get many visitors in my woods, especially this late."
"Well, we were biking home from the park and we got lost. We left our bikes outside. Oh! If you want us to move them, we can," Hannah answered.
"No, no it?s fine" the old woman replied, looking over the girls, "Sorry I can?t give you a phone but how about this? Because it?s so late, you are welcome to spend the night. I do have some spare beds.'' The girls shared another glance.
"Can we discuss this?" Hannah asked. The old woman nodded, grabbed their glasses and took them into the kitchen. Once she was gone, Hannah turned to her friend. "Should we spend the night? This goes literally against everything my parents have taught me.''
"Look, she?s one old woman and a nice one at that. Even you could probably take her,'' Amanda replied, punching the palm of her hand, ``Plus, our bikes are just outside, if we need to run. C?mon it?ll be fine."
Almost on cue, the old woman came back. "Will you be spending the night?
"Honestly, it?s not ideal, but we're both really tired. So, if it really is okay with you, we will spend the night. Just to regain our strength," Amanda told the woman. It?s just one old woman. What could go wrong? It was already getting late; they didn?t want to be biking in the dark.
Muriel clapped her hands together in glee. "Splendid! You two can spend the night in my guest room. It?s the last door on the left. There are two beds in there, along with an attached bath.'' There was a brief pause. ``Well, I?m going to go to bed; it's past my bedtime already. My bedroom is the first door on the right, if you need anything. How about waffles tomorrow morning?''
The girls shook their heads and headed to the bedroom. On their way, they couldn?t help but notice a particular decorating quirk. The hallway was covered with shelves full of miniature chicken figurines, which matched the chicken patterns on the wall. Their room wasn?t much better. More shelves of chickens and chicken-like things lined the walls. The beds were covered in not only chicken patterned blankets but a plethora of chicken plushies as well. They shared a raised eyebrow with each other as they started to clear the beds. As they did, they heard a knock at the door.
"I have some toiletries for you if you want them," Muriel told them through the closed door. When they opened it, she was nowhere to be seen but on the ground, there was a basket with some toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps and a couple other items.
"I... guess I'll go and sort these," Hannah said awkwardly. She picked up the basket and headed into the bathroom. Amanda, meanwhile, flopped down on her bed. As she laid there, a wave of cold washed over her and she sat up. After making sure everything was ok, she got under the covers. Before she knew it, she was asleep. Katie, also having the same cold wave wash over her, forgot about sorting and also went to bed and right to sleep, feeling very tired.
The next morning, both girls woke up to a rooster crowing. They groaned.
"What time is it?" Amanda asked, her eyes still shut. She didn't need to open them to tell that it was early.
Hannah turned her head and looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand. "It?s four in the morning,'' she said, sitting up.
The rooster crowed again. "Alright, alright! I?m getting up,'' grumbled Amanda, ``I'm hungry, anyway. Let's get something to eat, then split. I wonder if what's-her-name, Muriel? is up yet." The girls got up and made their way to the kitchen. There were no signs that anyone else had been in the kitchen that morning. However, there was a note telling them to eat anything they found. They looked around and found some bowls and cereal. "Man! Is anything in this house not chicken themed?" said Hannah as she studied the bowl in her hands.
"I have to admit, this place is starting to creep me out," said Amanda as she put the cereal box on the table, "You know what? I'm not hungry anymore, I just want to leave before that woman wakes up. The more I think about it, the more messed up this whole thing is. Some random old lady lets two complete strangers sleepover in her house in the middle of nowhere? Why did we even agree to spend the night?''
"Because we were tired and hungry and decided that an old lady wasn?t much of a threat."
"Well, yeah but now I?m having second thoughts and I would like to leave," Amanda said as she walked to the front door. She slipped on her shoes and headed outside. Hannah followed behind.
"It feels like a shame to leave a nice old woman alone without so much as a note,'' said Hannah as she grabbed her bike.
``Have you forgotten the details of the situation?!'' Amanda almost shrieked. Hannah said no more. She knew something was off when Amanda wasn't willing to stick it out.
The girls peddled away. They rode for a while, the trees never changing. They tried to make small talk, but the quietness of the 4:00 AM atmosphere shushed them. After what seemed to be an hour, they heard a *POP* from as Amanda?s front tire.
"Darn! Now what are we supposed to do?! I can?t ride my bike like this." She parked her bike at the side of the road. " Pushing it will just slow us down. I can pick it up later. Hannah, drive slowly... please."
"No problem." The girls continued onwards. Now the quietness was broken by Amada's footsteps as she walked alongside Hannah?s side. What Amanda didn?t realize was that as she was walking, her hands were slowly moving upwards. Eventually, her hands were in her armpits and she unknowingly started moving them as if she were flapping. However, such odd movements did not escape Hannah?s observation. "Um, Amanda, what are you doing with your arms?"
"What?" Amanda asked, snapping back to reality. In doing so, she snapped her arms to her side. "What was I doing?"
"I don?t know exactly. You had your hands in your armpits and you were waving them around or something. You feeling okay?"
Amanda didn't respond immediately. "Well, now that you mention it, I have been feeling a little off." She rolled her shoulders. "Must be a bit stiff from the bed last night."
"Well, we should be home soon," said Hannah optimistically. They kept moving for what seemed like forever when suddenly, they saw an all-too familiar house off in the distance. "Wait, did we get turned around somewhere? I swear we?ve been going the same way." They were beyond confused but something was telling them to try the house again. Hannah knocked on the door.
"She?s not going to hear that. You barely touched the door," Amanda said, rolling her eyes.
"But it?s so early. I don?t want to wake her," Hannah said, defending herself.
"Then why knock on the door at all?!'' Amanda snapped, ``Look, I just want to go home! Even if she doesn't have a phone, she can at least give us directions! Now, if you won't...!" She stopped. They hadn?t noticed that the door was slightly ajar. Hannah had been knocking the whole time and had pushed the door farther open. She gave Amanda a knowing smirk. ``Shut up,'' she growled.
"Seriously though, do you think we left it open this morning?" Hannah asked
"I don?t know. Let?s just find that woman and get out of here." They went up and down the hallway. Hannah was slinking behind Amanda. The off feeling was truly settling in. They opened all the doors but they all let to empty rooms. Finally, there was one door left. The girls shared a glance and pushed it open. Behind it was a staircase leading down into a dark basement. The girls descended into the darkness.
They were groping the walls, blindly looking for a light source but none could be found. They both descended the final step and were greeted with a loud crunch as their shoes hit the floor. As they took a step forward, there was a clang from behind them and the lights turned on. They turned to see that a large iron door had shut, cutting them off from the stairs they had just descended. The lights also revealed that the crunch came from the straw that was scattered on the floor. They looked around, only to realize they were in a cage.
"What they heck is going on?!" Amanda proclaimed. Her eyes darted around the room looking for a way out. Hannah didn't know what to do and started pacing around in a circle. As she did, she started bobbing her head back and forth in rhythm to her steps.
Amanda, meanwhile, was pounding at a window. It was covered in chicken wire but she could still see through it. She saw what looked like two figures running away from the house. ``Hey, you out there, help us out! Hey! HEY!''
The figures didn't even look back. Amanda shouted after them until they were out of sight. ``Oh, you can't rightfully blame them. I could but that's just me.'' The voice came from nowhere. The all-too familiar voice of Muriel.
``You!'' Amanda exclaimed. She put her fists on her hips and bobbed her head in frustration as she spoke. ``What is the meaning of locking us in a cage in your basement?! Do you know how cliche that is?!''
``It may be cliche but it is effective. And have you seriously not figured it out yet? The decoration theming, the straw, the chicken wire, even the new mannerisms you and your friend are exhibiting.''
Amanda paused for a moment. It didn't take long to put two and two together. ``No, that's impossible. You're delusional, lady!'' She tried to sound dismissive but couldn't quite manage it.
``We'll see who's delusional. This has happened before and it will happen again...'' Suddenly, in a much more chipper voice, Muriel said, ``Now who wants waffles?''
``I do!'' Hannah exclaimed nervously. She had heard everything and had put the pieces together too. Amanda gave her a disapproving look. ``What? I'm hungry. Besides, what you rather have me think about?''
``How about finding a way out of here?'' asked Amanda, annoyed.
``I will... after the waffles.''
Amanda sighed heavily and went to pry the iron door open but with little success. Hannah looked in another direction. There was a plate of waffles and utensils to eat them. As she ate them, she couldn't shake a feeling of unease. There was a part of her that dismissed it all as some elaborate prank but seeing the plate of waffles appear seemingly out of thin air hammered the point in further that it was all real.
Amanda took a little more convincing. She tried again and again to rip the door open but was no use. With every tug, she seemed to be getting itchier. She held out for as long as she could but she couldn't resist the itch forever. She scratched her arm and was surprised to see it covered in weird hair. On closer inspection, it wasn't hair; it was budding feathers. Her heart sank as the point was nailed home for her too.
``The more you try pulling at the door, the faster it will go,'' said Muriel in a sing-song tone.
Amanda groaned in frustration. Brute force was not going to get them out of this. She leaned against the wall and sulked. ``So, is it okay if I don't try opening the door?'' Hannah asked. Amanda just kicked some straw in her direction. ``Careful with the waffles,'' said Hannah pointedly.
``You do realize that were being held captive by a crazy lady who's turning us into chickens, right?!''
``Yes and right now, the waffles are the only bright spot in all of this.''
Amanda didn't reply, she couldn't deny this. She turned and saw that another plate of waffles had spontaneously appeared. She shrugged and started picking at it, much slower than Hannah did with hers.
With their stomachs full, coupled with a late night and an early morning, the girls were feeling tired. The straw wasn't very comfortable to lay on.
``She's giving us food. She couldn't have given us beds?'' grumbled Amanda, just loud enough to be heard. Hannah didn't say anything but she secretly agreed with her. Still, that was what they had to work with and eventually, sleep overtook them.
Hannah woke up first. She had hoped that it had all just been a bad dream but her surroundings told her otherwise. She checked her watch, it was 9:30 AM. ``My brain could've let me sleep in more,'' she said aloud, groggily. As she did, she couldn't help but notice that her mouth felt strange. ``Hey, Amanda, do you...?'' She stopped. There on her sleeping friend's face, was a chicken beak. Hannah slowly raised her hand to her own mouth and confirmed that she had a beak too. ``No, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NO!'' she shrieked and made a mad dash for the door.
``GAH!'' Amanda woke with a start. She took a moment to gather her wits. ``Hannah, what was that about?'' It was then she noticed that Hannah was trying to pry open the door herself.
``I can't have a chicken beak, I just can't!'' Hannah exclaimed, ``It would clash with pretty much all of my outfits!''
Amanda, realizing that she had a beak too, processed what Hannah had just said. Her shock gave way to annoyance. ``Seriously? That's your biggest concern, right now?'' She paused as she realized that Hannah was trying to escape. ``Well, at least it got you on your feet.'' She got up and went over to help.
Just like when she tried to open the door the first time, Amanda started to grow feathers again and now, the same was happening to Hannah. ``Ignore it,'' Amanda ordered, ``just keep pulling.''
``You don't need to tell me,'' said Hannah, ``Besides, feathers are much easier to pull off.'' Amanda didn't know if she meant in a literal sense or a fashion sense but she resisted the temptation to dwell on it.
The girls pulled with all their might, then just as their bodies were covered in feathers, including brand new tail feathers, there was a creak and the door began to move. ``We're doing it!'' they thought excitedly.
But no sooner had the door started to open, the girls lost their grip and it slammed shut again. ``Nuh, uh, uh,'' said the voice of Muriel, ``we can't have that. I see we'll just have to speed up the process a little.''
The girls' fingers started to feel numb. They tried to separate them, they tried to bend them but it was no use.
``Okay, I'll bite,'' said Amanda, ``Why can't we move our fingers?'' Her fury wasn't as strong as before but still very much present.
``We can't have you trying a stunt like that again,'' Muriel replied, ``Besides, it's the first part of the transformation for your wings.'' Both girls gasped sharply then sighed; Hannah defeatedly, Amanda annoyedly. ``Lunch will be served in a couple hours!'' the old woman finished.
Hannah passed the time pacing around (there wasn't much else to do in the cage), trying desperately to think of something other than the situation they were in. Amanda simply stared at the door, wondering just how she was going to get through it now.
Lunch was soon served. It was still human food, thankfully but it was cut up into smaller, more manageable chunks. With some difficulty, they were able to eat by using their hands sort of like chopsticks. It was clumsy but it was better than eating directly off the plate like the chickens Muriel wanted them to be.
``Is it just me,'' asked Hannah, ``or do these plates seem bigger to you?''
``I don't know,'' replied Amanda, ``I never really paid close attention to them.'' That did get her thinking. Once she finished her lunch, she went up to the window again. Before, she was able to at least peak out of it without standing on anything. Now, she could only just touch it with a raised hand. She turned back to Hannah. ``Those plates didn't get bigger,'' she said, ``I think we're getting smaller.''
A new wave of fear swept over the girls. If there was something they could do to get themselves out of this situation, their window of opportunity was shrinking just as fast as they were.
Very little was said for the rest of the day. Amanda went back to staring at the door while Hannah tried to think of pretty much anything except for what was happening to them. The sun was starting to set when Amanda finally stood at attention. ``Enough of this,'' she said firmly.
``What do you mean?'' asked Hannah, losing her train of thought.
``That door is coming down while I'm still big enough to knock it down!'' Amanda gave herself as much room as she could. She, almost instinctually, scraped her feet along the ground, kicking off her shoes as she did so. Hannah noticed this and noticed too that her friend's legs were turning yellow in color.
``Amanda,'' said Hannah cautiously, ``I don't think you should-''
``Don't talk me out of this!'' Amanda interrupted, ``It's now or never!'' And Amanda charged the door, bracing herself for impact. Just as she came close to the door, she suddenly tripped and landed on the ground with a thud. ``Oof!'' she exclaimed.
``Are you okay?!'' asked Hannah, concerned.
``Just fine,'' said Amanda as she picked herself up. ``What did I trip on?'' The answer came with a glance at her feet. She now had three toes on each foot, each having a talon. They extended backwards too, for support. Amanda now had chicken legs.
``I did try to warn you,'' said Hannah.
Before Amanda could reply, Muriel spoke up. ``Yes, I could see what you were about to do. Honestly, your escape attempts, while amusing at first, are getting tiresome. So, I thought I'd have some fun, this time. I wouldn't try that again, either. There'd be no point, now.''
Amanda had a sick feeling about that. She went over to the window to test her height, dragging her feet along the way, trying to get used to her new legs. She couldn't even reach the window. ``Great... great! So I'm too small to knock it down! Now, what am I supposed to do?!'' There was a brief silence.
``Talk?'' Amanda looked over at Hannah. ``We could just talk, you know.''
``I don't know. Anything. It'll help pass the time.''
Amanda paused for a moment. ``Fine,'' she said and came closer to Hannah and they both sat down. ``So... what are your favorite outfits?''
Hannah's face lit up. Any chance to talk about fashion lifted her spirits. Amanda only half-listened, at first but Hannah's enthusiasm and passion on the subject won here over. Amanda joined in when she could and the pair started talking about other subjects too. As they talked, their bodies shifted and looked more and more like chickens. They became smaller and squatter. They didn't even seem to notice. They talked about this and that and sometimes about nothing at all until they eventually fell asleep.
They didn't notice their changes until the next morning. ``Gah!'' they both exclaimed, seeing each other. On top of that, their arms had fully transformed into chicken wings. Any sense of calm and serenity the girls had from the night before had been completely shattered.
``Good morning,'' said Muriel. The girls stayed stony silent. ``Oh dear, what happened to my clucking hens from last night?'' They still said nothing. ``In any case, breakfast will be served soon.''
``Well...'' said Hannah, ``I am hungry.''
``Yeah, me too,'' Amanda agreed curtly. The two had talked so much that they talked straight through dinner.
Two plates of French Toast, already cut up, appeared as they turned their heads. At first, they tried their ``chopsticks'' technique. It was more difficult than ever now that they didn't even have the surface of their hands to work with. Eventually, Hannah's hunger got the better of her and settled on eating directly from the plate itself.
Amanda rolled her eyes. ``You look ridiculous. You know that right?'' Hannah rolled her eyes back. They both looked ridiculous already!
Hannah bobbed her head up and down as she ate. As she did, her hair (which she still miraculously had) started gathering in volume on the very top of her head. Eventually, the rest of her hair fell away, leaving her with a red ``comb'' on her head.
Amanda didn't notice at first; she was still trying to find a way to eat her French Toast. She did take a glance in Hannah's direction and did a double-take when saw the new addition to Hannah's head. ``Uh... Hannah...''
Hannah turned to face her. ``What?'' is what she would've said but all that came out was a ``cluck''.
``What did you say?!''
``I said `what'.''
Amanda shook her head clear. ``Um, right. You have a... `thing' on your head.''
``Huh? What `cluck' of thing?''
``...I don't know what it's called. It's red. You also have read things on the sides of your... mouth.'' Indeed, Hannah had also developed wattles while eating. She quickly spun in place to try to get a good look at them. She could only catch minor glimpses. She faced Amanda again. Her field of vision seemed to have shifted from spinning.
Amanda covered her mouth with her wings and without thinking blurted out, ``Oh my gosh, your eyes!''
``Cluck a-cluck them?'' asked Hannah. Her speech was getting more garbled but enough got out for Amanda to understand.
``They're darker and not where they should be!''
Hannah froze. She held her wings to her face and realized that Amanda was right. She ran around like crazy. ``What?! Who?! How?! Where?! Why?! How?!'' Is what she would've said but all that came out where a series of clucks.
``Okay, okay,'' said Amanda, ``I know this is crazy but you're acting crazier. I can't even understand you right now.''
That got Hannah to pause. ``If anything, you're not acting crazy enough.'' Again, it only came out as a series of clucks.
Now it was Amanda's turn to pause. ``Hold on... can you talk at all?''
Hannah looked confused. ``Haven't I been this whole time?'' she clucked. There was long silence
``I... I don't think you can. I'm only hearing clucking...'' They let it sink in. Instead of being freaked out, their hearts sank. Amanda turned away and sulked. ``Perfect. There go our talks. Just as we found that silver lining too.''
Hannah came up alongside her friend and gave her a supportive pat and the back.
``Thanks. I needed that.''
As time passed, Hannah and Amanda tried to keep up conversation. It wasn't the same now that Hannah couldn't speak. During that time, her legs turned into chicken legs and Amanda's head transformed they same as her friend.
``Sheesh!'' Amanda exclaimed, ``How can you stand this field of vision?''
``You get used to it,'' replied Hannah.
``I suppose you do... Wait, hold on. I just understood you!'' The girls smiled broadly (or at least, the chicken equivalent) then they solemnly rested their faces as realization dawned. ``So is that it?'' questioned Amanda. ``We're just chickens forever now?''
There was a clang. ``Simply put, yes.''
The girls turned. Muriel was standing at the door, which was now open. There was no point in questioning how she understood them. ``You!'' Amanda boiled over and charged the old woman, squawking furiously. Muriel simply picked her up and held her at arm's length. Amanda struggled for a bit but eventually settled.
``Good, you're calm,'' said Muriel, putting Amanda down, ``Now let's get you two outside,'' finished Muriel, ``I think you two hens have been cooped up in here for too long!'' The girls just groaned as Muriel picked up Hannah too and carried them out.
She took them to another coop, one that seemed to be better suited for a chicken's long-term stay. ``Just going from one coop to another,'' Amanda grumbled to herself. As they were brought in, the girls saw that there were other chickens in the coop. Some made a mad dash for the door only for it to close ``just in time'', some were sulky and didn't move and others crowded around the newcomers, eager to meet new friends. It was a little overwhelming.
``Be good, now'' said Muriel, simply and left the chickens to themselves.
Amanda turned away, not anxious to make new acquaintances. As she looked out into the open, she saw two figures coming towards the old house; the same two figures she had called to for help.