Seven Days 1

Laura’s life was ruined by the League, just collateral damage as they fought a supervillain. An unusual energy drink gives her back what she lost, and then some, but only for one hundred and sixty-eight hours. What can you do with seven days when you have nothing to lose? (6 chapters, 21K words)

I can’t think of any specific content/trigger warnings, please tell me if you notice any!

Uploading all in one day, just because I’m trying to give some idea what I do. Starting tomorrow, one chapter per day. Let me know what you think! – Prysmcat


“I’m sorry, but everything we have is…”

“Just go in the back and get this dress for me in pink!”

Laura counted to ten in her head. “That one has never come in pink. Only black, royal, and iv…”

“I don’t believe you! It has to come in pink, that’s, like, the most popular colour in the world! You’re keeping the pink ones in the back. Just go get it!”

“Everything we have is out on the floor already. I’m sorry, I cannot sell you a dress that doesn’t exist. We have several others that do come in pink, maybe you could…”

“I don’t want those ones, I want this one! Listen, you bony little bitch, I’m the customer and I’m right! You’re rude and you’re being deliberately unhelpful! I want to talk to your manager.”

“The manager has gone home for the day.” Which Laura would be doing, the moment she got this woman out of the store. The mall’s announcement that they would be closing in fifteen minutes had unfortunately prompted her to check with her last browsing customer, and triggered this.

“Then get him back here!”

“I can’t do that.” The manager, an annoyingly shallow young woman Laura was fairly sure had been promoted to the job because she was flirting shamelessly with the owner’s young male assistant and possibly boytoy, would be unsympathetic, if she even bothered to answer the phone. “She is not currently available. She would not be able to get back here before the mall closes even if I could reach her immediately, and the mall is very strict about stores closing on time. We have very minimal…” She raised her voice so she could continue over the woman’s renewed complaints, “minimal storage space in the back, mostly it’s just enough room for us to accept a shipment and unpack it to put it on the floor. I have to lock up. I’m sorry, at this point there isn’t even enough time for you to try one of the others. I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sure you have something of dire importance to run off and do that matters much more than making a customer happy!”

“Ma’am, there is clearly nothing I can possibly do to make you happy, since the only things you’re asking me to do are impossible.”

“How dare you!”

“Laura?” That was a new voice, one she recognized as the middle-aged security guard. “Sorry, but your customer is going to have to leave now. We’re closing up.”

The belligerent woman rounded on him. “I am not leaving until I’m satisfied!”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the guard said politely, “but that isn’t going to be possible. Do you know where your car is? I’ll walk you to the door closest to it.”

“This isn’t over! I’ll be back tomorrow to talk to your manager!”

Well, there was a reason to get out of bed tomorrow.

Laura wondered whether it was the uniform or the maleness that tipped the scales. It didn’t tip them very far: she could hear the woman’s ranting and blustering fading into the distance, but only very slowly. Hastily, she drew the security barrier into place across the front of the store and locked it, then turned off all the lights except the innermost bank, all the while calling down silent blessings on the guard.

She stumbled to the stool behind the cash and sat heavily on it, eyes closed as she concentrated on her breathing in a struggle to force the pain down, away, into its fragile box.

It lived in her lower back, just above her pelvis, an alien monster that was trying to eat her from the inside out. Two discs had been damaged in a single moment. That was all. Two small pieces of cartilage had failed and continued to deteriorate, and the decaying wreckage of her life orbited around them.

She’d cleaned up already, and rung out the register. All she needed to do was put the cash in the safe, get her bag and her jacket, lock the small door in the security barrier behind her, wait at the bus stop, walk a couple of blocks from her stop to her apartment, and climb a flight of stairs.

That was all. Not an endless quest, only that much.

One step at a time.

She really should have brought her cane. She really should be bringing it every day, in fact, even if she kept it in the back out of sight while they were open. But the store owner and manager both found it distasteful and had muttered things suggesting that her job might be in jeopardy if she wasn’t fit to do it, so she left it at home. It had taken her so long to get even this job, she couldn’t risk losing it while she could still possibly do it.

Although she was certainly in for a reprimand from the manager tomorrow. She could hear it now. “Why didn’t you just sell her on one of the other colours? Tell her how amazing she’d look in ivory or royal with her colouring, who cares if it’s true? Or sell her on one of the styles that does come in pink? Honestly, do you know anything about salesmanship at all?”

Technically, no, Laura didn’t. She was reasonably sure she’d been hired because she was skinny and naturally blonde and could make herself look good, and she knew how to perform on cue, with a smile no matter how much pain she was in. That said everything about the kind of clothing and the normal clientele of the little boutique.

One step at a time.

With the cash safely stowed, she retrieved her bag and her jacket, and fished out her keys on the way to the security barrier. She checked that the door had locked properly behind her.

She was done for the day. Tomorrow could be dealt with tomorrow.

She rummaged in her bag for the bottle of pain meds. They wouldn’t help much, she knew that, but it might take a bit of the edge off. She just needed to find something to drink to wash them down with. The food court was closed, but there were vending machines here and there.

There was, in fact, an unfamiliar vending machine only a few doors down, placed against one of the columns that ran along the centre of the main hallway, near a bank of chairs.

That would do. She didn’t care what it was.

The machine announced, in brilliant coloured letters, that it held something called “Eureka Energy!” A rather silly cartoon showed a figure with hair of yellow, pink, and blue leaping out of an old-fashioned claw-footed bathtub while a second figure with long pale hair in a short white dress held a towel in place to obscure any details and a third figure, with short dark hair and dressed all in black, did a facepalm nearby.

The front panel showed three bottles in an arc, each with liquid pouring out. A black one with lettering in electric blue and violet was called “Amperage,” and the contents were dark purple, a silver one with pale blue and pink lettering was called “Synesthesia,” and the contents were bright blue, and the third was gold with rose-pink and deep blue and called itself “Pizzazz” which was vividly yellow-orange. Grape, blue raspberry, and citrus, respectively, according to the text.

It didn’t take cash. She pulled out her wallet and used her card, choosing the grape one.

Security wouldn’t mind if she took a moment to open it and gulp down her pain meds with a few swallows of it.

The flavour wasn’t bad, really. It probably had an obscene amount of caffeine and sugar that would keep her awake all night, but it would take her hours to wind down anyway, and she wouldn’t be sleeping until she could get her pain levels down to their normal dull moan instead of the current scream.

The pale figure in the cartoon, she noticed belatedly, had feline ears and a tail. It was just an odd image overall, really, although she supposed it was meant to imply that the drink would give you sudden flashes of inspiration.

If she took too long, she’d miss her bus.

One step at a time. Just the bus, a walk, and the stairs between her and sanctuary.

Idly, she took a closer look at the bottle while she was sitting on the hard bus seat.

Look under the cap liner! the bottle announced. Drop by our website and enter the code! Fabulous and unique prizes every day! You could win up to $100k!

That was unlikely, but she’d give it a shot when she got home. There was probably nothing to lose, and anything would help.

Surprisingly, the drink did actually give her energy—enough that the walk between the bus stop and her building only felt long, not endless, and the stairs felt less like scaling Everest than she’d expected.

She collapsed on her narrow bed, which was also her couch since there was no room in the cramped space for more than the bed, her dresser, one cheap computer chair, and the stand that held her laptop. She was hungry, but walking to the tiny kitchen and trying to prepare food was just too much to face right now. That was common, though. She retrived the box of cheap chocolate-chip cookies from the floor beside her bed and scarfed down two of them in a few bites, then rinsed that down with the last of her grape energy drink.

Oh, right. The energy drink contest.

It took a moment for Laura to drag herself upright and move the two steps to her computer chair. Even just sitting down, rather than being on her feet, was some help. She found the website address on the empty bottle.

The home page had a popup inviting her to click on the button to enter the code from her purchase. She did, and pried the liner out of the cap so she could type in the string of ten digits and capital letters. Strangely, there was small link text at the bottom that said to click there if she had a previous code and wanted to link them.

YOU WIN!!!!! the site announced, with an excessive number of exclamation points. Save that cap liner for later verification! But you know how laws work. We can’t give you a prize unless we do a skill-testing question. Arithmetic is boring. Click here for our version.

Intrigued despite her fatigue, she did so.

A new interface formed, one with a grey featureless humanoid silhouette in the middle and a variety of controls around the outside edge.

A new popup opened.

Personalize your prize! Imagine that for seven days your appearance could be anything you want. Design your perfect self, then hit submit. We believe in privacy and dignity, we won’t share, we promise! You’ll like your prize a lot more if you take your time and put some effort into this! You can use your webcam or upload a photograph as a starting point, or design something entirely on your own.

This was a very strange website, and a very strange contest.

On the other hand, there were a lot of options. A lot. And the interface was visually very attractive, and she quickly discovered that it was extremely responsive, allowing her an immense amount of freedom to let her imagination play.

It was kind of fun, really. She’d thought several times that creating a character was the best part of many games and she’d rather just keep doing that than actually playing. She’d happily scrounge up a few dollars to buy an app that worked like this, just to let her invent overall looks.

If she could be anyone for seven days… well, aside from wishing her pain away, she had at least one easy answer. She had the sort of metabolism that simply refused to gain any weight at all. People hated her for it, and she was tired of the well-meaning assuming that she had an eating disorder. She was frequently hungry, and she ate as much as she could afford, and it didn’t matter. Her breasts were small, her hips narrow, her ribs showed when she wore a cropped top.

It had made her more unhappy in the past. Until the alien that had taken up residence in her back to torment her, she’d specialized in teaching and performing modern belly dance and tribal fusion. It frustrated her endlessly that both moves and costumes would have looked so much more dramatic if she’d had a bit more of a chest and especially wider hips.

On the screen, a female figure gradually took shape. One with pleasant curves, a toned belly but with some softness there, wider hips, generous but not absurd breasts—a body meant for dancing, or for sex, neither of which had been part of her life for some time.

She zoomed in on the face and played around with the options until she found settings that she liked, tweaking and adjusting an astonishing array of details about overall shape, eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, cheekbones, chin, forehead, ears. She chose a hairstyle that was long and simple, the kind that would sweep and swing dramatically during a dance move.

There were some very improbable settings for colouring of eyes, and hair, and skin.

There were some fantasy options, too.

She finally sat back to look at her creation. Skin the colour of wild lilac flowers, dazzlingly candy-apple red irises to match her lips and nails but goth-like shadows darkening her eyes, hair pure icy white that shaded to red at the bottom third. Dragon-wing tattoos in darker purple adorned her back. She had horns, modest ram-like ones that curved back and then around to point towards the front again, deep amethyst with mottling in white and red and lilac, and she had a proper demonic tail in dark amethyst, though it had a lion-like tuft of strikingly white fur at the end instead of a spiky bit.

That woman on the screen was gorgeous and sensual, a walking fantasy.

The challenge had been a fun one. Laura had forgotten completely about getting herself something more substantial to eat, and the distraction had shoved her pain away into the back of her mind for a while. For that, if nothing else, she was grateful. Food mattered, but anything that could supercede the pain was a rare gift. In fact, it was still much less acute than she’d have expected. She needed to finish up with this and then go find a meal before it spiked again.

She took a last thorough look, and clicked on Submit.

A popup appeared, with a very basic math question: 7 * 24 = ___

So much for skipping the skill-testing question. She brought up the computer’s calculator, and then entered the correct response in the box.

An hourglass appeared in the centre and spun. She hoped fervently that it wasn’t going to lose her purple demoness. That would genuinely hurt her, even if there was unlikely to be anything she could ever do with the image.

The screen began to pulse, odd colours rippling in and out at the same time in a way that made her eyes ache.

Her speakers came on, playing some sort of peculiar music that sounded vaguely electronic.

Something must have gone wrong. That seemed about typical for the day. She might as well turn off the sound, get up, and come back in a few minutes to see if it had sorted out whatever it was doing.

She couldn’t move.

Not a single muscle in her entire body would cooperate. She couldn’t look away from the monitor, couldn’t even close her eyes.

What was happening?

Something certainly was! She was getting peculiar messages from all over her body. The very first one was that the pain was completely gone, which was so overwhelming after over a year living with it every moment of every day, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker but always there, that for a moment it made it hard to focus on anything else. But when she did reorient, she found that her whole body was experiencing… something. And some of those messages were coming from parts of her body that she simply couldn’t map onto her mental image of herself.

The paralysis eased up gently, giving her the ability to blink and twitch her fingers and lick her lips, then gradually more, until she was completely free to move.

The website simply showed an image of her purple demoness, gently spinning, with a popup across it that said, Congratulations! We hope you’re pleased with seven days as your dream self in perfect health! Your prize will expire in 168 hours! We hope you choose to enjoy Eureka Energy! again the next time you come across one of our machines! A follow-up survey will be offered at the end of your prize. We value your feedback so we can continue to improve!

Laura stared at the screen blankly.

Then she looked down.

The blouse she’d worn to work was stretched tightly over her chest. It definitely had not done so previously.

And she was sure that the buttons had popped on her skirt.

And her skin was the colour of lilac flowers.

She reached up with both hands, and traced out the elegant curves of horns that were rooted quite solidly to her own skull, under hair much longer than it had been a moment before.

She didn’t need a mirror. That was her own image right there on the screen, slowly rotating, behind the popup box.

What the hell had just happened to her?

Government experiment?

No, that seemed unlikely.

The League? She wouldn’t put anything past them, but it wasn’t their style.

A supervillain?

Wait, wasn’t there a supervillain named Eureka?

She switched to a browser and did a hasty search.

The results went on and on and on, back at least five years. Eureka was a tech-based supervillain who was, several hysterical articles claimed, trying to destabilize governments and create chaos.

Eureka had created music that forced anyone listening to tell the truth and had managed to hijack the earpieces of politicians and CEOs during debates and speeches, eliciting far more truth than anyone was ready for. Careers had been destroyed and parties disrupted and there had been several massive protests.

Eureka had two absolutely-loyal superpowered lieutenants, the League claimed that they were both brainwashed into unquestioning obedience and attempts to cure them had failed, and a growing undergound network of allies or troops spread all over the world.

Eureka had invented a transformation machine installed in an RV and travelled around the Toronto area personally on random nights, and the transgender community loved her—and so, increasingly, did people suffering from several sorts of health issues. Copies of that machine were high on the list of tech she had been distributing around the globe into trusted hands.

Eureka was hated by the League possibly more than any other supervillain, and that included the ones that were an actual documented threat to all life on Earth or to the existence of the planet itself.

Laura stopped reading.

Who else could be behind this? A transformation via something called Eureka Energy! could only be that Eureka.

The League hated her.

Laura hated the League.

And it wasn’t like she was an evil supervillain. Even a quick scan down the headlines suggested that she was on the side of the little people, the ones who were forgotten.

The ones who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, even. Collateral damage.

A hundred and sixty-eight hours. Seven days.

For seven days no one would recognize her if they saw her.

For seven days the pain couldn’t touch her.

She got up and stretched, revelling in the freedom to do so properly with no need to cut it off to prevent pain from shooting along her spine. Her blouse, on the other hand, suffered for it.

For seven days she could feel alive again.

Unfortunately, she was about to lose a few hours of that. She was exhausted and ravenously hungry.

She stripped off everything she was wearing and dropped it on the floor on the way to her tiny kitchen.

Then, having devoured anything in reach, she returned to her bed and sprawled on it, not even bothering to cover herself and barely aware of the need to lie on her back due to her horns. Sleep came the instant she closed her eyes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *