Chicken Shifter

The night was cold; a strong wind blew down from the north. A few raindrops fell, illuminated by the street lights. The young woman pulled her coat up to her neck and hurried her steps. Her feet splashed in a puddle as she stepped down from the curb to cross the street.

Everything was closed. It was more early morning than late night, and the sidewalks were deserted. A few cars drove past on the road, but they didn’t notice her.

The young woman had dark hair that vanished in the black of night. She was wearing a long black wool coat and high black boots. The scarf around her neck was a spot of vibrant red. As they sped past, tires splashing through water-filled potholes, drivers saw this flash of color for a fraction of a second. By the time they turned their eyes for a closer look, they had passed her and thus saw nothing.

Her gait was quick, her head bent down to avoid the rain and cold. She was nearing the part of this street it was not safe to pass. On the other side of the road was a small bar, outside of which people would gather, despite the weather. She was young and attractive by their standards, and they would call across the street to her. If traffic was light, as it was now, they might even cross the road and approach her. Even now, she could see a few of them, huddled together, puffing their cigarettes. Their voices, a laughing, shouting, drunken mass of words and sounds, came from a hazy cloud of smoke.

The street was bathed in a faint but vibrant green light as the signal changed. Car tires splashed. Exhaust and cigarette smoke danced through the air. The faint scent of liquor floated about.

“Hey, hey!” came a voice over the sound of a passing engine.

She hurried her feet, quickened her already fast pace to an even faster one. Other voices joined in with the first one, obviously aimed toward her. She didn’t look up, but could hear their footsteps hurrying across the street. She didn’t turn, but could hear them splash through the puddles that formed at the curbs, the miniature rivers that flowed toward the sewers.

Her mind was speeding, desperately seeking an exit, an escape. An alleyway appeared ahead, a gap between a tattoo parlor and a Chinese food takeout place. Without debate or forethought, she slipped into it.

The crowd had seen the woman slip into the alley, and the men increased their speed, a few of them actually jogging for a few steps. As one, they reached the alleyway.

A few metal garbage cans filled the space, which was wide enough for three of them when they sat with no space between them, which they did. A few cardboard boxes were piled in front of them, and, at the foot of those, a single egg.

There was no sign of the woman, nor any sign of where she might have gone. The roof of the building on either side was too high for her to climbed on to, even wearing high heeled boots, and there were no doors leading into the buildings. After a few moments of mild drunken anger and confusion, the group departed. One of them stepped on the egg, breaking it instantly. Yellow yolk ran along the sidewalk. As he left, the man swished his shoe in the water of a puddle to clean it.

The cardboard rustled and shifted. After a moment, a small feathery head poked out, and, shortly after that, a chicken followed it. It appeared to have a vague purple hue to its feathers, but otherwise looked exactly as a chicken should look. it shook its wings and walked over to where the egg had been. Already, the rain had washed away most of the yolk, and only a few fragments of shell remained. For a short while, the chicken stood and stared at the pieces of shell, and then it sat down on the pavement.

A few small white feathers drifted to the ground, and then a few more. Slowly, the pile of feathers grew larger and larger until the chicken was completely bald and naked. Then, its legs grew longer, until the chicken was the same height as the garbage cans. Its bald wings grew longer and fatter. Its head grew bigger, and its body stretched out. The chicken slowly began to not look much like a chicken any more, and then it was not a chicken at all but a  young woman.

She was a slender, short woman with dark hair that vanished in the black of night. She was completely naked, and the rain was soaking her. Quietly, she opened the nearest garbage can and removed her clothes. She put on her underwear, a sweater, and a short skirt. She put on her long black wool coat and the high black boots. Finally, she put on the bright red scarf. Then, she pulled her collar up over her neck, ducked her head to the rain, and headed out into the street once more.

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