So Long Salon

So Long Salon
A Mercynaries Story from SinComics.com

Terence slid the key into the heavy lock the bank had placed on the property's door. Realty assessment could be a grim job in this economy and Terence felt like a mortician on some nights. But this was his final job for the week. One more assessment and then he could put his feet up and relax back home without having to worry about squatters, leaky pipes, or looted copper wire. He skimmed over the paperwork on his phone, happy knowing he had all weekend to complete and submit the assessment. Tonight's lucky corpse was a shuttered salon. It wasn't a new story though. The owner took out a loan when the market was at its high point, spent a lot and built the place up, but then the economy tanked, revenue dried up, the owner skipped town rather than paying her bills, and now Terence had to lay the place to rest.
It was a nice shop though, especially compared to some of the other places he has assessed. When it was open, it was probably fairly stylish. Terence looked over the décor and assumed it catered to some high end clientele. Even in its death, it was in good shape. No bare wiring, no signs of break-ins or infestations, and no cracked windows or holes in the floors or walls. He'd seen his share of cases where the owners didn't take kindly to their foreclosures and wrecked their joints before leaving. Heck, this place was barely even dusty. Terence walked through the main rooms, made his notes on materials left behind like dryers and chairs and cabinets left filled with all kinds of creams, shampoos, rinses, and other beauty unguents he could barely identify. He was strictly a store-brand on-sale all-purpose shampoo man, thank you very much.
The salon could be turned into something nice if a new owner would pick up the property. The location was a little out of the way, but it was a cute shop, spacious but still friendly, and there was even a studio upstairs that doubled for an apartment. You can't have a better commute than that. The place was even still furnished. That always helped show off the property to a new buyer, or it could all be hauled off to a charity shop and everybody involved would feel good about themselves. Terence marked off some of the final notes on his walk-through and headed back downstairs for one last rundown of the storage room and then he was home free.
It was pitch black in the back of the shop, away from the welcoming glass windows of the entrance and the moonlight shining through. Terence fumbled around the walls to find any shutters or blinds to open up, but this room was sealed off from the rest. He turned around to leave but saw nothing but the still black. The assessor twisted and shuffled around a bit and grumbled to himself for managing to get lost in a storage room. He must have turned a corner somewhere in the dark. Or the door had a spring and closed on its own. Terence saved and closed his notes on his phone and switched to a flashlight app, then the room lit up with the dim glow of the device. No sooner than Terence gotten his bearings did the phone blink and the low battery notice nagged him from the screen. He quickly scrambled to the settings menu to turn off anything nonessential but phone flashed once more and shut down, leaving him in the dark again. Terence swore he had charged it that morning.
Bumbling through the darkness, Terence stepped on a metal canister. The round object slipped from under his foot and skidded across the room, sending the assessor stumbling forward, desperately grasping out for something to grab onto. He slammed towards the ground, knocking into a stack of boxes, with his fall just barely broken by a pile of junk on the ground. As he lay groaning, Terrence heard something shifting off to his side, followed by the thud of a box next to his shoulder, then a thump of something on top of his head, driving it into the floor. He saw colors flash in front of him, despite the darkness, and heard the clatter of metal objects and canisters hit the ground and roll away. One final can hit the floor with a crack and the high pitched whine of pressurized gas escaping. It twirled around, driven by the escaping gas, and Terence sputtered as he took a blast if it to the face. He could taste the bitter chemicals in his mouth and while it burned his throat and skin for only a split second, he gagged and his head swam.

The world ebbed back to Terence slowly. The ringing in his ears subsided quickly, but he smacked his tongue to try to clear out the acrid taste. His vision was black and he quietly prayed it was because the room was still dark and not from taking a blast of some beauty product to the eyes or his retinas detaching from the blow to the head. He startled when he reminded himself about being hit, what if he had a concussion?! How long was he out? You're supposed to sleep it off, right? No, you're not supposed to sleep. Why shouldn't you sleep; that doesn't make sense. He frantically patted his head but heard the soft crunch and shuffle of plastic instead. Confused, he felt around and discovered he had some kind of plastic sheet or cap draped over him. Terence tugged at it but it stayed fast. Running his fingers along the edge, there was some kind of sticky... goo drying along the perimeter. He slumped back down and steadied himself. It was either some product from those boxes or massive blood loss from a head wound. He didn't FEEL like he was bleeding out, so it was probably the former. He continued exploring with his fingers and felt streaks and splotches of the goop on his face too and the ground around him was tacky as well. If all that was blood, he was dead. But Terence was fairly sure the Afterlife didn't look like a dark warehouse, so he shook it off and propped himself up on his elbows.
The assessor pushed the junk and boxes off of himself and without their covering, he felt a chill. He could feel his skin against the cold storeroom floor and the tacky remains of the dried goo. As he stirred, something brushed against his leg and it sent shivers up his spine. He exhaled and told himself it was just some of the junk sliding off, but he felt it again. Firmer this time, like it was grasping him, but with a soft touch. Terence frantically flailed and kicked as he backed away from the pile. It could be an infestation! Bugs, or worse, rats. If he got salmonella or plague from rodents crawling on him, he was going to condemn the hell out of this property and see it torn down, viable business land or not.
Terence shuffled around until he found the wall and steadied himself. He slowly made his way around the room, keeping one hand on the wall and slowly sliding his feet across the ground to prevent another spill. There was something draped or wrapped around his arm but priority one was freeing himself from the dark room and its phantom rats. His fingers brushed against a cold metal bump on the wall and then a wooden protrusion. He'd never been so happy to feel a door! He patted it down under he found the handle and hit it the surface hard to force it open.
Even the soft moonlight stung his eyes as he was spat out from the darkness. Terence slammed the door behind him as he scrambled out of the hallway. He felt something slough off his arm and through his returning vision, saw a goop encrusted scrap of his shirt plop to the ground. No wonder he was cold, that crap in the boxes ate through his clothing. A rogue thought about filing for hazard pay if he had any chemical burns crossed his mind. Shaking off the worst of the rags, the tug on his arm groped him again and he then felt a tug across his chest. There was some kind of cloth wrapped around him, no... a bra? Terence yanked on him, but it was already around his shoulder and snapped back into place. He grabbed for the straps but doubted his sanity as he swore he saw it move up his arm and settle on his shoulder. A gentle brush against his back sent him scramble for the rogue article but as he fumbled with it, the underwear clasped itself. The mental narrative he formed about it being stuck from dried on goo became harder to hold onto as he glanced down and saw a similar shimmer of silk around his waist from under the tatters of his pants.
His brain commandingly decided it was time to get out of the rundown shop and Terence headed straight for the front door. His arm shot out to the handle and he leaned out with his shoulder, but Terence smushed into the door and conked his head on the glass. The assessor stumbled back and there was the lock and key on the shop's floor. He pushed against the door again, but it was stuck tight. He pounded on the glass, desperate for some kind of passing motorist or a coworker sent out for him after he didn't report in that night. But the assessment wasn't due until Monday; nobody would think twice about him not filing anything late on a Friday. Terence pressed himself tighter against the door and continued pounding on it. A shiver ran up his spine again and the straps on the bra pressed into his skin. A pressure built up and discomfort from being tight against the glassed phased him, until a sudden swelling of his chest forced him back from the door. It almost felt like a relief to not be against the wall, like the pressure inside him was now free to continue pushing and inflating outwards. It happened so suddenly that Terrence couldn't process what he was seeing. The cups of the bra latched onto him rising and filling out with each breath. Terence gawked down at them, backing up, mindlessly trying to back peddle away from what was happening. Leaning back in horror, he bumped into the metal footrest of one of the salon chairs, lost his balance, and tumbled back into it was a cushioned plop. No sooner than Terence touched the chair did he exhale with a grunt as he shuddered. He felt the build up, pressure, and release he felt in his chest happen almost instantly in his hips, thighs, and backside. Terence rose to jump up but jolted and snapped back into the chair. He was stuck tight, wedged into the seat and pressed against the padded sides.
The lingering spilled chemicals and ointments started to cause his face to tingle while a low heat built under the cap on his head. Despite everything happening to him, Terence was never in any pain. The smells of the products would actually have been soothing, were he not trapped, alone, and under attack by unseen forces.
Trying to extricate himself from the chair, Terence pushed back on the armrests as hard as he could but to no avail. To get get better leverage, he stamped his feet down, but instead of hitting the ground, he felt plastic and something wrapping around his ankles. Angling past his swollen chest, the assessor saw a pair of white heels bending his feet down while straps wound around him. He kicked vigorously but the shoes stayed put and hugged his feet tightly.

SLS1

The commotion was a strain on Terence's body and fighting back drained him, leaving him weak and groggy. He had no intention of giving in, but panic was giving way to a sense of defeat. The chair shook and spun him towards the mirror, with the very building seemingly pleased with itself. Terence looked into the face of the woman in the mirror in astonishment. Her jaw hung open and she looked back with inviting eyes and pouty lips. Her bust proudly sticking out from the tattered remains of his work shirt and that cap over her head... The plastic cap was practically throbbing, the thin coating stretched as far it could stand. Terence could feel the pressure building inside until it burst open like a Jiffy Pop and the remnants fluttered down to the ground. Perched on top of his head was an exquisitely wrapped bouffant that wobbled as he leaned in. He couldn't take any more and fought against the chair, tugging and pulling to free himself from its grasp. There was a quick slip on his side and he was practically ejected from the chair, stumbling forward, dragged by the weight on his head and new curves. Terence steadied himself on the wall and did a quick survey of the room. The front door was sealed and he wasn't willing to try for an exit through the storage room, but maybe... Maybe he could squeeze through a window. Seemingly in response to his thoughts, he felt the pressure build up in his chest once more and his bra was tight, all the former slack taken up by his curves. He wrapped his arms around his chest, hoping to hold back any more changes and ran for the stairs.
Clacking from his heels pounding against the wooden steps echoed through the abandoned shop. Terence crashed onto the apartment door, forcing it open before slipping inside and slamming it shut in hopes of sealing out the malevolent forces of the shop downstairs. Bright light disoriented him as he looked around the room. It made no sense that the electricity would be on, the bank had it shut down once the payments stopped. Confused and unsteady, Terence wandered through the living space. He hadn't realized how tired he was and his muscles ached from what he'd been through. A sweet perfume entered his lungs as he gasped for air and it quickly grew overpowering. Terence shuffled over to the bed and collapsed on to it. He just needed to rest for a moment, to catch his breath and calm down. Then he could figure a way out. He tried to prop himself up on his arm, but sleep quickly overtook him.

Terence startled awake, the events of the night before suddenly flooding back. He was somehow wrapped up in the silk sheets of the bed. He kicked them off and back-peddled off the bed to come face to face with a floor-length mirror. The woman he saw last night returned to gawk back him. Despite just waking up, her hair was still perfectly coiffed and her makeup subtle but on point. Instead of the tattered remains of his old clothing, he was now wearing a low cut shirt that proudly displayed his cleavage and tight midriff. The rest of his curves were snuggly ticked into a taught pair of capri pants that stopped just below his knees. Even his feet were still sporting the heels.
Terence wandered through the living space, now bright and tidy without a spot of dust in sight. Passing by a table in the hallway, he noticed a tablet with a blinking message. His hope of contacting the outside world was quickly raised but then he thought over how it got there and if that meant somebody else was around or even knew he was here. He tentatively tapped the blinking icon and a message started to play.
"Welcome to the Salon Déesse! We're thrilled you've joined our employ and started your work with our team. The shop opens every day at 10 and the administrative office will handle all orders and shipments. As long as you keep styling, we'll take care of everything!"
Terence's mind reeled as he tried to process what he was hearing. He snapped back to the message and listened as it ran down instructions on how to open and close the shop, processes, and what was stored within. The jaunty voice thanked him once more and signed off. He desperately pawed at the device for some kind of connection or reply button, but it was now blank. A lone icon indicated that the welcome message was ready to be replayed but offered no way to get an outside line or reach a human being.
Clomping footsteps and the ring of a doorbell shook Terence from his stupor. He heard a thud and boxes sliding downstairs and he ran for the door. Pinballing down the stairwell as he bounced and wobbled down the steps, just barely maintaining his balance, Terence saw a fresh crate of supplies in the middle of the lobby. The now clean and brightly decorated lobby. One that looked like it had never seen a day out of commission, with soft inviting light, a water fountain happily gurgling away, and music softly playing overhead. The sputter of a truck's engine grabbed Terence's attention and he rushed over the door, yanking the handle, but it stayed closed. He pounded on the glass shouting to the delivery driver, but the man in the truck misconstrued the woman inside's flailing and just gave a friendly wave good-bye as the truck pulled out onto the road and drove away.
Terence sunk to the floor, defeated. After several moments to compose himself, he walked over to the box and popped it open. Inside were smaller boxes, neatly packed to the brim with fresh supplies and cosmetics. Everything inside was unassuming and gave no indication of ghostly presences stealing a person's manhood and trapping him in an unholy salon. The message had told him that if he kept the store running, everything would be okay. It was the only thing he had to go on and the only hope he had, so Terence unpacked the box and started to put away the supplies.

SLS2

As he was arranging the final shelf of conditioners, the door jingled and swung open. A woman in a pale pink business suit sashayed through the door, looked around, hung up her purse, and came over to Terence for a hug. He stared at her dumbfounded as she released him and helped herself to a chair.
"Darling, I'm thrilled to see you're available! You know, I wasn't even sure you were still open!" She leaned back, released her hair from her ponytail, and shook it out before taking a magazine and flipping through it. Terence stared at the back of her head, frozen and confused. He could barely hear the woman's idle chatter and gossip as his panicked mind raced through what to do. Just as he was about to blurt out a sorry excuse about needing to close or the stylist being away, he felt a throbbing in his head. A moment later, he recovered and he had a vague sense that he knew what to do. He paused again and ran through what just happened. He somehow gained years of styling experience, like this body, or the shop itself, demanded he go through with what was before him.
Terence calmed himself and mentally checked out, allowing his new instincts to take over as he clipped and curled and primped and prissed with this strange woman. As he came back to himself, he realized that the woman was finished up her story. She put her magazine down, patted her new waves and admire herself in the mirror, and rose to give Terence another hug with a promise to be back soon. As she grabbed her purse and left, Terence reflected on the insanity of what occurred. How did he know... WHY did he know? He placed his palms against his head and panicked. Was this sudden flood of training and knowledge going to displace other information? Was he going to lose a lifetime of expertise for a beauty school degree? He had to get out before he found the answer. Terence ran for the door and pulled with all his might but it wouldn't budge. He banged against the glass and resigned himself. Work was the only way out of this and he had to play along with this sick game.

Terence spent the rest of the day helping customers and trying his best to let his new auto-pilot take over. He effortlessly made his way through cuts and perms or stylings and dye jobs until the evening came and the customers dried up. The register powered itself down, signaling that he was freed for the night. Playing the events of the day back in his head, Terence was awed and ashamed of himself. The day had been practice for handling his new body as he bumped into people with his chest and bottom, unaware of his center of gravity and how his curves took up space. He thought nothing about bending over to pick up the change he dropped until he heard the muffled approval of the customers he just flashed his butt too. It was sure to lead to repeat customers, but he bent at the knees from that point on.
After tidying up the store and following the instructions to document supplies that would need to be restocked, Terence tried the door in one last attempt at escaping for the night, sighed, closed the shop, and headed upstairs to what he presumed was now his apartment. As he swung past the table in the hall, he noticed that the tablet was blinking again and the new message icon was lit up. He cautiously poked it and heard the cheery tones of the mysterious caller.
"Congratulations on your first day, stylist! I'm sure you did wonderful and will only get better with practice. We believe in a good work-life balance so our shops close early to let you enjoy the evening. Get plenty of rest and look forward to exciting days ahead. If you're feeling overworked, please signal this and a representative will aid you in creating a new assistant."
Terence recoiled at the sinister implications of the upbeat message. Did they... want to use him to recruit... to do THIS to others? He shook his head vigorously, the motion flowing through his updo and chest. He'd have no part in their plan. He was going to retain his humanity and as much dignity as he could muster.
An investigation of the apartment revealed no means of escape or signaling for help. His own phone remained drained and lifeless, while the company tablet showed no signs of allowing him to contact anyone. With a mixture of defeat and resignation, Terence slunk to the bedroom to prepare for the night. His feet suddenly felt different and he looked down to see the straps in his heels were now undone. He quickly slipped out of them, but reflected on how natural it all felt. He'd been wearing high heels for the first time in his life and for all day, but he felt fine. If anything, he felt a tinge of strangeness to have his feet flat on the ground. He shook the feeling from his mind and refused to allow anything about this to feel "normal". Terence dug through the dressers but was confronted with exactly what he expected. It was stack after stack of skimpy clothing and lacy lingerie. He perused the drawer and found the least revealing item, a silk nightie decorate with a tiny bow in the center of the cleavage. He squeezed out of the day's costume and into the new outfit before trying to get comfortable in the bed.

Sunday played out similarly to his first day, only now, Terence was able to more effortlessly move through the morning crowd, fake interest in the chatty customers' tales and gossip, and tried hard to not make a show of himself to those trying to sneak peeks. Around mid-day, the waiting area was cleared out and two women entered together. They spent some time in the entrance way, looking over the store, and doing a poor job of not focusing on Terence's curves.
"May I... help you?"
The redhead smiled and stepped forward. "Just in for an appointment. My partner here will wait."
Terence motioned for the redhead to sit down and he looked over the blonde. "That's a lot of hair to just wait."
The blonde woman glowered back before haughtily sitting down and shoving her face in a magazine.
The redhead was still eyeing the shop and the products around her. "So... Tell me about the shop. And yourself!"
Terence had made up a story about picking up the shop from the former owner after she went on vacation. It seemed to pacify the other customers' concerns about the salon's sudden reappearance, but the redhead seemed to mull it over more. She made him nervous, so Terence got straight to undoing her pigtails and brushing them out. She really did have beautiful hair and hadn't actually asked for a cut or style, so he got to work conditioning and working out any stray hairs.
As he spritzed her locks with various products, the woman calmed down and stopped looking so curious and suspicious. She nodded calmly and politely to Terence's suggestions, almost leading him over to the salon's dryer. She settled into her treatment with a smile and Terence looked her over. He was sure it was his imagination but she seemed... rounder. She was certainly cute before but she filled out her jeans more and her sweater seemed tighter. He hadn't meant to- The salon-
"What are you doing!?" Terence hadn't heard the blonde come over and now she was right behind him. Angry.
"I-It's just a dryer. She's-"
The blonde glared at Terence like he was an idiot and reached out for her partner. "Mercy! Wake up! You're-"
The redhead waved off her friend. "Ruth, calm down. I'm fine."
Ruth tugged on the dryer and pushed Terence back. "Your chest, you dolt!"
"Feels great! Let me be."
The blonde swung around and raised her first at Terence. "If you don't get her out of there, this instant... I'm shutting you and this nightmare down!"
Terence cowered back. "I didn't do it! It's this place- I can't-"
"Likely story, witch!" She stepped forward and grabbed Terence's shoulder. He grimaced and put his hands up, but the hit never came. "W-well?"
Terence slowly opened his eyes. "'Well' what?"
The blonde loosened her grip. "This is where you guys usually fight back and try to stop us. You know, from stopping you." Terence just stared back, confused and scared. Ruth settled down, embarrassed by her violent reaction. "Uhhh... Why don't you explain what's going on here?"

Terence ran through everything that happened to him over the past days. From filling out the assessment, being doused in the storage room, trapped in the shop and unable to stop the changes, the room upstairs and the messages, to the customers and the call for an assistant. Ruth stood silently during the story. She was unphased by the rambling madness spewing from Terence and she simply took stock of the situation. When he was finished, she put a hand on his shoulder and asked to see the storage area.
In the back of the shop, Terence hid in the doorway while Ruth rummaged through the boxes, looking over the products inside and holding them up to the clunky green watch around her hand. She carelessly tossed a bottle of shampoo to the ground and shrugged. "I'm not getting any strong chemical readings or like... evil super science."
"I'm not making this up! I swear I-"
Ruth stepped forward, "Whoa, whoa. Nobody is saying that. We just need to look elsewhere."

The pair searched the upstairs apartment but found nothing overtly out of the ordinary. Ruth had a silent understanding of Terence's frustration with the skimpy outfits for his busty frame, but they found nothing insidious. She looked over the tablet, but it was suspiciously uninteresting. It had no screws or latches and no ports to plug anything into it. Ruth sighed and slapped the tablet against her leg in frustration. "Mercy is the one that's pretty lucky finding these things, but she's... Wait, where did she go?!" Ruth bolted down the stairs and Terence wobbled off after her at a much slower pace.
Down in the shop, Mercy was blowing kisses to her reflection in the mirror and giggling. She stopped and applied a layer of gloss to her made-up and plump lips before going back to puckering up. Ruth grumbled in concern at what the shop had done to her friend and angrily poked at the tablet again. The introductory message started to play and Ruth's watch beeped to life.
"It's getting a signal of some kind?"
Terence shrugged. "I couldn't find a way to call out with it. And my phone died when I got in here."
"You said a second message appeared after you started here, so it has to be receiving something too..." She fiddled with her watch, replaying the messages over and over. Finally, she stopped and pumped her fists. "I think I got something! We can trace it back to the source."
Ruth looked over at her partner, now mulling over different shades of eye shadow like it was the most important decision she'd ever made. "Can you keep an eye on her? I'm going to check this out, so like make sure she doesn't drink anything weird or dump chemicals or herself. Or flirt with anybody!"
Terence nodded. Ruth slapped her watch and a green doorway appeared before them. She jumped in and it disappeared with her. Mercy smiled from off to the side. "That was pretty!"

SLS3

Ruth and the door rematerialized in an empty, unlit room. She ventured out and saw a large cosmetics store, but it was completely unmanned and the only light came though a skylight in the roof. Glass display cases were filled with various cosmetics and beauty products but that was the only thing in the showroom.
Ruth made her way through building, moving as silently as she could, but the place was deserted. Closets held boxes of the same cosmetics on display, but held no other supplies or items. She made her way to a room in the back and her device blipped again. Sitting on a desk in the otherwise empty room was a small black laptop. She poked it to life and saw the same two messages that had been sent to Terence. Ruth excitedly looked over the machine but found no ports on this one either and the keyboard unresponsive. Her device confirmed that the signal was coming from the laptop. With no other interaction possible, Ruth took the next logical step and hurled the laptop against the concrete walls and smashed it to bits. Her device indicated that the signal was no longer broadcasting but the building made no indication of the change. Ruth silently moved through it once more, but no alarms blared and no heavily armed beautician cabals attacked her. Content the signal was shut down and that she got to take her frustration out on something, Ruth activated her device and hopped into the green door again.

Ruth appeared back at the salon to find a giddy Terence standing outside. He ran at Ruth, smushing into her with a big hug. "The doors! They opened up right before you got back!"
"Mercy?! Is she-" Ruth dashed back into the shop to see her friend slumped over on a chair, clutching her head and groaning.
"Ruuuth... I feel like... super hung over. And not in a good way."
Ruth slapped her partner on the back and propped her up. "You had me worried there. The drag queen look doesn't suit you."
"What are you-" Mercy pivoted towards the mirror and her jaw dropped. "What happened to meee?!" She started to furiously scrub the make up on her face to little effect.
"Probably going to take some time for that goop to wear off." She gave Mercy another pat on the back and went back out to Terence.
He was leaning against the building clutching his chest. "I think I feel them getting smaller!"
Ruth quizzically raised an eyebrow. "I think you're going to take some time too. We'll see if we can do anything to speed up the process. Least we can do is get you some pants or shave your head."
Mercy shuffled out of the store, moaning and grumbling to herself. She saw her short-time co-worker and gave him a commiserating nod.
Ruth chuckled and gestured back inside. "Let's close this place down and get you cleaned up. Hey, it will be like another makeover!"
Terence and Mercy glared at her.

Back in the abandoned cosmetics store, the laptop sparked as the last of its energy drained away. Deep in the facility, a server whirred to life and a solitary red light quietly flashed in the dark. Around the edges of the room, a string of laptops safely nestled in their docks surged awake and started to broadcast their employment notifications.

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