The Rigby Narratives -1- The Placebo Effect

The Rigby Narratives:
The Ultimate TG Experience

by
McKenzie Rigby

as told to Andy Hollis and Jaye Michael

Chapter One -- The Placebo Effect

"Help! Let me out of here. Helllpppp!" McKenzie screamed as he struggled against the heavy leather straps holding him upright against a wall. The echoes of his scream bounced off the stark white cinder block walls as they slowly faded into the distance, leaving only the sounds of ragged breathing and creaking leather as he struggled against his restraints.

 

"I don't think so," a voice said from behind him.

The straps on his head prevented McKenzie from turning to see who had spoken, but he was fairly certain that it was not his savior. The voice was light and lilting, a woman's voice, but there was a viciousness beneath those sweet sounds that sent icicles to the very core of McKenzie's being.

"Don't struggle, you'll only hurt yourself, and we wouldn't want that now, would we?" she said with mock concern. Slowly the woman strolled into his line of sight. Mac was surprised at how short she must have been, only her head and shoulders were visible given how little he could turn his head. She was of indeterminate age, anywhere from thirty to sixty, and a bit on the plump side, with short hair in a pageboy style and a pretty face, except for the sneer.

"Help me, please. Undo the straps and let me out of here." McKenzie couldn't quite keep the whine out of his voice.

"I don't think so, since I was the one who put you there." She sauntered over to a stool that put her eyes even with Mac's and gracefully settled onto it.

"But why? Who are you? What did I ever do to you?"

"Questions, questions," she sighed. "Always the same stupid questions. Well, we'll get nowhere until we've dealt with the minutia so listen carefully.

"My name is unimportant. You may call me 'Cariclo'," she said smiling as she paused to watch his reaction. Mac blinked once and then the tension washed out of him as his body relaxed, his chin gently dropped to his chest, and his eyes closed.

Sliding off the stool, Cariclo strode to a desk located behind McKenzie's chair. As if on cue, a man in a white lab coat, entered McKenzie's line of sight, wheeling a cart loaded with electronic equipment into the room. Picking up a pair of headphones, she placed them over the sleeping man's head and typed a command on the attached computer. She paced as the computer spoke to him, strengthening the hypnotic commands, inserting and reinserting a series of post-hypnotic commands. The tapping of the steel tips on her low heels echoed about the small room in place of Mac's screams as she waited for the program to run its course.

It took nearly an hour and even pacing had worn thin when the computer's tinny speakers announced, "Program complete."

"At last," she sighed and removed the headphones. "Kenzie, dear, wake up."

-=-=-=-=-

His eyes opened and he smiled. "Oh, hello Mrs. Everes, how are you today?" It was as if he was unaware he was in a dank basement strapped to a padded chair.

"Fine thank you Kenzie. Are you ready to return to work now?"

"Certainly, Mrs. Everes. Thank you for letting me rest my head for a moment. Migraine headaches are absolutely horrid."

"I understand dear. Just give me a moment. I'll tell you when you can leave."

"Certainly Mrs. Everes," he smiled brightly as he waited.

"Okay Kenzie, dear. You may leave now."

Without another glance at his surroundings, McKenzie Rigby walked out of the room and headed back to his office on the tenth floor of the Everes Building. Sitting down and quickly positioning himself comfortably, Mac returned to his analysis of the current sales figures and calculated trends, working diligently on them until quitting time.

-=-=-=-=-

Unlike most junior executives at Everes Pharmaceuticals Ltd., McKenzie lived modestly in a small condominium within walking distance of the office. It was a two bedroom unit, but only because he had purchased it from the estate of the previous occupant at significantly less then the going rate for a single bedroom unit. Apparently the greedy relatives had accepted the first offer made, only interested in getting their hands on more of the deceased's money. With the exception of a few books on esoteric subjects that no one, even Mac, had any interest in, the apartment had been stripped bare, as if a swarm of locusts had passed through it.

McKenzie was not a joiner and with no family, he had few keepsakes. The apartment was tastefully, albeit minimally furnished and the second bedroom, actually the larger of the two, was left vacant. Mac entered it only to dust, and even that was infrequent. Returning home from work, he dropped his briefcase in the entry closet along with is raincoat and began heating the meal he had prepared the night before. Usually, he felt washed out after having a migraine, yet tonight he did the dishes and rather than stretching out for a bit of mind numbing television, he felt the urge to clean the apartment.

Saving the second bedroom for last, he entered it for the first time in nearly a month, lightly dusting and then vacuuming. On a whim, he opened the blinds and let the last of the day's sunlight stream into the room. The many hues, blurred by the light evening smog, seemed richer and more varied then usual and he stood there watching the light fade while feeling at total peace with himself. Only when the last of the orange red glow had disappeared did he move again, leaving the blinds open as he left to shower and prepare for bed.

Earlier than usual, especially considering the time spent cleaning the condo, McKenzie was in bed reading another story in one of the mystery magazines he always kept by his bed. With the fourth yawn, he knew it was time to stop, even though he still hadn't reached the point where the long-suffering shamus finally unveiled the murderer.

He reached for the light and stopped. He had forgotten something. Groaning, he slid out of bed and back to the hall closet. Pulling out his briefcase, McKenzie fished out a bottle of pills that the office courier had delivered that afternoon. After reading the instructions and opening the seal, he meandered back to his bedroom. Popping two pills into his mouth, Mac swallowed them dry. Then set the bottle on the night table beside his bed and slipped back under the covers. His last conscious thought was that it was nice to work for a drug company where one of the fringe benefits was free vitamins and other medications, even if they were experimental.

-=-=-=-=-

"Hey Mac, how about lunch today?" Rhea Calchas popped her head into McKenzie's office and waited expectantly for the usual declination from her friend. The other girls had often asked her what she saw in the shy loner and she had to admit she didn't have a good answer. Something about him, a frailty, a longing for friendship, had touched her from their first meeting and she had cultivated their friendship for over two years now, drawing him out until they now were close friends.

"Sure, why not. This is the first time in weeks Mrs. Everes hasn't had me working on some project or another through lunch. I swear I'm losing weight from all the meals I've been missing."

"Hey, alright. I knew I would wear you down eventually," she smiled coming all the way into the room. "Say, when did you get rid of the mustache?"

"Uh, about a week ago. Do you like it this way?"

"Actually, I thought the mustache was just an affectation, you know, to make you seem more manly. I didn't think you needed it and I think you look fine without it."

"Fine?"

"Handsome. Debonair. Like a young gentleman," she kept fishing for the right words as she watched for a positive response from her friend. "You know, boyishly charming. Cute."

"Oh. Okay. That sounds kind of nice-I guess."

"Oh, I'm sorry Mac. I didn't mean it as an insult you. Please forgive me."

"Nonsense Rhea. Cute." He rolled it around on his tongue. "Cute. I kinda of like it. So who else will be there?"

"Well, let's see. There will be Madeline from Accounting and Amy from Mrs. Everes' office. Of course, Brad will be there, but Amy's got a crush on him so don't you go playing your usual one-upmanship games with him.

"I promise Rhea," McKenzie smiled and made a cross over his heart as he walked her toward the office door. "I'll keep my claws in, at least for lunch."

-=-=-=-=-

Lunch was quiet. Every one complimented everyone else on how good they looked and McKenzie let Brad do most of the talking. Luckily, they left early, as Amy had to get back to work early. Mrs. Everes was immersed in some hush-hush project and Amy had needed to get a papal dispensation to even make it to this lunch. She would not have bothered except that she had already arranged with the others for Brad to come and there was no way she was leaving him unattended with the other women after all her hard work.

After the two would-be lovebirds left, Mac gave a sigh of relief and turned to Rhea. "So, did I behave myself?"

"You were a perfect angel," Rhea chuckled and the others concurred. "You even let that comment about the relationship between the cube square rule and penis size pass."

"Yeah," Madeline chimed in, "I wonder what he thought he was fishing for with a comment like that in front of Amy?"

"You know very well what he was after. How many men have you ever met who weren't interested in a little extra on the side?" It was Rhea who answered, but Mac too smiled knowingly.

When McKenzie returned home that night, he brought a small Rhododendron that he'd seen in one of the shops Rhea, Madeline and he had passed on the way back to the office. For some reason, it had called to him and he had just "had to have it." Of course, he'd also needed to get instructions on how to care for the first plant he had ever owned. He put it on the windowsill in the other bedroom.

-=-=-=-=-

"Hi Mac. Ready for lun..." Rhea's voice trailed off as she saw her friend sitting primly behind his desk. His hair, which had been getting a bit long, had been carefully combed down the center with the tips curled forward to frame his face.

"Hello Rhea," he looked up from his desk. "What did you say?"

"I asked if you'd like to go out to lunch today." Rhea debated for several seconds, but then decided to speak up. "Uh, Mac. Is that a new style for your hair?"

"Why yes it is. Do you like it? I saw it and just fell in love with it," Mac beamed with joy.

"Actually, it reminds me a bit of Mrs. Everes' hair style."

"Oh." Mac looked crestfallen. "Well, I still like it. And before I forget, thanks, but Mrs. Everes has me tied up again this lunch time."

"Oh. I'm sorry Mac. I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings. It's a wonderful hairstyle. It's just such a dramatic change from what I'm used to that I guess I was surprised. Please forgive me. Please."

"Of course," he assured her solemnly. "You're my best girlfriend and a little difference of opinion is not going to come between us. But I really do have an assignment for Mrs. Everes this lunchtime. Maybe some other time-if I don't wither away from lack of food first?"

"Sure Mac. Sure. I'll see you at the planning meeting this afternoon."

As soon as Rhea left, McKenzie grabbed a hand mirror from his desk and critically examined himself. With a sigh, he also pulled out a brush and tucked his hair back into a ponytail.

-=-=-=-=-

Rhea was late to the meeting and she could only share a brief nod with Mac, who sat several seats to her left. This was an important meeting, as it would decide that direction for the company's advertising budget for the next six months.

McKenzie presented his piece on sales trends by demographic groups, concluding, to no one's surprise, that the teen market was their biggest customer. Rhea noticed that he seemed more animated than usual, gesticulating as he identified specific points instead of his usual monotonous delivery. He even broke tradition and used a pointer. Apparently she wasn't the only one to notice the difference as Mrs. Everes complimented him, although she immediately followed it with a suggestion that "Kenzie's" ponytail was inappropriate to a work environment and that he get his hair cut or styled in a more appropriate manner.
Seeing him standing, Rhea also noticed that he was right about his comments about losing weight. His shirt seemed to drape about his stomach with more folds than it should. Rhea wondered if she should suggest he shop for some better fitting shirts, but was a bit leery given her faux pas about his hair earlier.

More troubling was the feeling that she was missing something. That there was something else about her friend that she should be noticing. It wasn't until she stood and walked past him on the way to the front of the room for her presentation that she realized what it was. His nails. Folded neatly in his lap now that his presentation was done, they were longer, almost a half inch beyond the nail-and they had a clear coat of polish over them. It was then that she decided that she just had to talk to McKenzie, privately and soon.

-=-=-=-=-

Their dinner had been the best fun Rhea had had in months, maybe years. The food had been excellent and the conversation had been witty and stimulating, so much so that she'd been having too much fun to broach her concerns to McKenzie. It had been like too best friends out for some innocent fun and having a blast. The best she'd been able to do was suggest he come over to her house for an after dinner drink on the way home, but he'd surprised her and insisted she come to his condo instead. It was only after they'd headed off in separate cars that she realized why it had been such fun; the sexual tension that was always there between men and women was missing. There had been no innuendos, no subtle hints, no furtive gestures, nothing.

"Are you sure you don't mind me inviting myself into your home Mac?" she asked feeling a bit guilty about not being totally honest with her friend.

"Nonsense Rhea," he pooh-poohed as he opened the door. "I invited you, remember. In fact, I've been thinking that we need to get together more often, do more things together. You know, be friends."

"Mac, your condo is beautiful," Rhea stood in awe at the sight before her. The living room walls were off-white with a set of Queen Anne brocaded chairs flanking a matching love seat. Plants were everywhere-cut flowers, potted plants, even bonsai-created the feeling of a secret garden hidden in the bowels of the building. Framed paintings peeked through the foliage, carefully lighted to be highlighted and to encourage the shrubbery to grow around them and frame them even more. Rhea recognized a Matisse or two and assumed they were copies, but given Mac's behavior lately, was unsure.

"Have a seat. I'll make us some tea. Then we can kick off our shoes and talk." Before Rhea could answer, he was gone, leaving her to the carefully manicured garden. Remembering the serious subject she needed to discuss, Rhea chose a chair rather than the love seat where her intentions might be misunderstood, but she had been in heels for much of the day and the idea of taking off her shoes was so appealing she couldn't resist. A more detailed examination of the condo could come later. Shoes off, she curled up with her legs under her on the surprisingly comfortable chair.

Mac returned shortly and Rhea sucked in her breath in shock. There was another person standing before her carrying a tray with a porcelain oriental tea set and suddenly Rhea realized why their night out had been absent sexual innuendo. Standing before her was Mac, but it wasn't Mac. His hair had been re-combed to again part down the center and the ends again gently flipped forward frame his face. His toenails had gone the way of his fingernails and now they too sported a matching clear coat polish. He was wearing a kimono-style bathrobe with a floral design that matched the tea set, but most shocking was the gently curved shape beneath the robe.

"Tea's ready. Shall I pour?"

Rhea gulped, still staring, and nodded rather than risk speaking.

Mac gracefully set everything on the coffee table. His movements were like choreography as he poured, in what Rhea was willing to bet was a fairly good emulation of the Japanese high tea ritual. Finally, he set a delicate china cup before her, another by his side and curled up on the love seat.

When she still had not moved or spoken, he gently prompted her. "Have some tea, Hon. Is something wrong?"

Finally, the dam broke and through a deluge of tears Rhea choked out, "Oh Mac. We have to talk."

McKenzie immediately jumped to her side hugging her only to be shocked when he was pushed away, an obvious look of distaste on Rhea's face. Seconds later Mac had run crying towards the bedrooms.

It took several minutes for Rhea to compose herself and several more as she debated between slinking ignominiously away and searching out McKenzie to explain. Loyalty and friendship won.

Rhea forced a smile as she faced three doors and remembered the fable about the "Lady and the Tiger." She wondered which, if either, she would find when she located her friend. The first door lead to a bathroom, Spartan and clearly masculine. The second door led to a small bedroom-again, clearly utilitarian and masculine, and again no Mac.

The final door led to a second, larger bedroom. This one too was filled with a profusion of flowing plants of assorted varieties. It also contained a matched bedroom set including a canopied bed, armoire and makeup table. Her friend was sprawled on the bed, still sobbing.

Tentatively, afraid to disturb him even more, Rhea padded silently to the bed and settled herself gently on the edge. A comforting hand reached out and touched Mac's shoulder and she was relieved a bit when he didn't flinch.

"Mac, please listen to me. We're friends-and we need to talk. Something's been happening to you. I don't know what it is. I see little things, things that have changed, things that don't make sense. It's like you're changing-or something's changing you. It's...oh I don't know what it is." Rhea was now crying again too.

It was Mac who recovered first and he sat up and hugged Rhea for all he was worth. An eternity later, they were both recovered enough to separate and Rhea started to speak, only to be gently shushed.

"I know Rhea. You're a good friend, my best friend, and you've been trying to tell me something all night."

Rhea nodded silently, unsure what to say.

McKenzie sighed and let his shoulders slump. "Is it that I seem to be changing? Is that it?" His hand trembled as it rested on her arm while he waited for her response.

"You-you know? These changes. They're intention-al?" Rhea was in shock.

"Please. Let me explain, I beg of you. It's not what you think."

"You're becoming effeminate and it's intentional?"

"Effeminate? What are you talking about?" Mac was immediately indignant. "I meant the way I was opening up, letting myself feel and react to the world more."

Rhea choked out the words "Oh my god!" and tried to run from the room in embarrassment, only to be stopped at the door by Mac's gentle hands on her shoulders.

"Friends?" He asked. "Friends can say anything to each other-even if it hurts sometimes. Now tell me what you mean. Why did you call me effeminate?"

"Mac," Rhea's face was now bright red. "We're friends and I don't what to lose that, but I've already hurt you unintentionally, and I don't want to do it again, so please just let me go and we can pretend this never happened.

McKenzie gently turned her to face him and stared into her eyes for several seconds. His hand lifted from her shoulder to gently caress her cheek. "Friends," he whispered before taking her by the hand and leading her back to the now cold tea.

-=-=-=-=-

They sat uncomfortably in the Queen Anne chairs holding hot tea and saying nothing. Finally, Mac cleared his throat. "Maybe I should start?" When Rhea said nothing, he continued.

"You know I've always been shy. You're just about my only friend and that's because, for some unknown reason, you've taken pity on me."

"That's not..." Mac raised a hand to stop her.

"It's okay. I appreciate it, but it's the truth. I rarely talked; you usually carried the conversation. I would eat at my desk every day if you didn't drag me off to lunch. When I had to talk in a public meeting, I'd be stiff and stammer, saying the absolute minimum, as Mrs. Everes has rather acerbically pointed out on numerous occasions.

"Anyway, I screwed up my nerve and finally volunteered for one of the company's testing programs, the Metamez trials. The one's where they were testing a new hypnotic to help psychiatrists overcome their patient's persistent thought disorders like delusional thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors. That sort of thing.

"They accepted me because they felt my shyness was sufficiently severe to be a major detriment in my life. They said the instructions would be to change myself so that I could accept myself, like myself, and feel comfortable around others-and it did. I actually talked at lunch last week and I got through a staff meeting without being criticized for the first time ever."

"Mac," Rhea spoke in a near whisper. "Would you please open the top of your robe a bit?"
"I guess." The robe opened a bit, enough to show the absence of any chest hair.
"A bit more." This time the view was of two small but quite feminine breasts. Mac glanced down and then back up at Rhea.

"So?"

"What do you see?"

"My chest?"

"And what else?"

"My nipples?"

"And..."

"This is getting boring-my breasts."

"Final question. Who has breasts, a man or a woman?"

"Why a woman, of cour...oh!" Mac carefully examined his chest; touching the breast and watching it shift under pressure from his finger and then slide back when he removed his hand.

"But...why doesn't it bother me? I should be 'freaking out,' shouldn't I?"

"I think that's an answer you need to ask the people at work."

McKenzie just nodded. There was no doubt that she was right.

-=-=-=-=-


Interlude One


The glow from the computer monitor cast a pale light on the man's face as he typed. His skin, sallow and pasty white under normal conditions, appeared gray in the reflected light and his forehead glistened with beads of sweat as he considered each word of his story in progress. Clearly it was a long way from being finished, but it was a good start. Likeable characters, strange happenings and, of course, a male being transitioned into a female. It should be perfect for the folks on that mailing list.

Somewhere, sounding miles away, the doorbell rang.

While McKenzie Rigby typed another sentence the doorbell rang twice more, finally breaking his train of thought. Growling to himself, he pushed away from the computer desk and stood up.

At twenty-nine, McKenzie already appeared middle aged. Balding, with a belly that hung well over his belt, he moved slowly toward the door with the same shuffling gait that caused clerks offer him senior citizen discounts wherever he shopped.

He opened the door and found a small boy of ten standing in the hallway holding on to a smaller gray and white dog, a mixed breed with the ears and fur of a wire hair terrier and the expressive eyes of a basset hound. "Oh, thank heavens you're safe, Timmy. Good girl, lassie, you brought him home."

"Very funny, Uncle Mac. It's me, David," the boy said rolling his eyes at the bad imitation of an old time television show he did every time David came by. Holding out the dog he said, "Here's Igor."

"That's pronounced Eye-gor"

The boy sighed, "They told me it was Eegor."

"Well, they were wrong, then, weren't they?" the older man replied contentiously, before asking, "Want a soda, David?"

"Okay, it's a long walk home, Uncle Mac. You know you could walk your dog yourself. It wouldn't kill you."

"Okay, okay," McKenzie surrendered and slipped a five-dollar bill in the boy's hand. "That's it for this week, got it? I'll walk him myself tomorrow."

David followed the man inside the cluttered apartment, wrinkling his nose. The room smelled almost as bad as the man did. "There's a storm coming…."

"What?" McKenzie asked as he took a container of Coke out of the fridge. "Oh, you want a ride home, right? I'm right in the middle of a very special project right now, you know."

"Writing more of those stories of yours? The ones I'm not old enough to read?" David asked, pointedly.

"Yes, and someday I promise I will show them to you." Muttering to himself, he added, "After your mother is long dead and buried, if she has anything to say about it.
Turning back to little David, he continued, "Here, let me get the keys and I'll drive you home."

"Thanks, Uncle Mac. I knew I could count on you, despite what mom thinks."

-=-=-=-=-

The drive took less than ten minutes. McKenzie hoped to drop the boy a block away from the house and take off before his sister could corner him, but no such luck. The rain started drumming down on the roof of the car before they reached David's street. Lightning crashed overhead and, the way a passing tree shook from the thunder, McKenzie wondered if the car would be hit.

He pulled into the driveway, only to see his sister standing by the side door pointing at him and motioning him into the house.

"You set me up for this, didn't you?"

"Sorry," David said and meant it. "But she is my Mom, you know."

The man and the boy ran for the shelter of the house. Both made it to the kitchen dripping from the rain.

"Sit!" Janice Rigby-Corwin told her brother and pointed to a kitchen chair.

"But, sis, I'm in the middle of something important. I need to get…."

"You need to get your butt down in that chair-or do I have to call Mom?"

"Better do as she says, pardner," David drawled and tossed his uncle a bath towel. "She means business. Some warm milk, perhaps?"

"No, thanks," McKenzie said drying off his head.

"Want to take a shower?" Janice asked her brother pointedly, wrinkling her nose distastefully as she tried to sit down next to the man.

"I will and I always take a shower before I go to work so you don't have to look at me as if I haven't bathed in a week." McKenzie said, hurt.

"Then you have a serious problem, little brother. You look like death itself. You smell like it, too. I blame that stupid computer of yours for that, too. Do you ever get out these days? Even to buy groceries?"

"I'm a writer, sis. There are a lot of fans of my work out there and I can't let them down."

"Oh, yes, the writing. How many people are on that mailing list of yours? Three? Four? There is more to life than your online buddies and those stories of yours. When was the last time you sent something to a real publisher?"

McKenzie stammered out, "Okay, so nothing this year, but there are a lot more people on the TG-TF list than you think. It's what I do, sis. I have a job, it's not much of job but it pays the bills-and I write."

"Do you even have a girl friend anymore?" she asked, quietly.

"Not since that-since Barbie broke up with me," he said trying very hard not to look at anyone.

"I liked her," David pointed out. "And she made you keep your place nice, too."

"So? I'm not into housework," McKenzie protested.

"It's about time you were," Janice said. "Look, we have about thirty minutes to get downtown. David, go move the stuff off the front seat of the car for your uncle, then you get in the back seat."

"Okay, Mom."

"What's this about?" McKenzie demanded.

"You have an appointment for a complete physical with Dr. Robinson. Mom is paying for it, and I made the appointment. Knowing your lack of love for all things medical, I had David get you here by any means, fair or foul, so don't blame him. Let's go, and no, you don't have a choice. I will not lose another sibling."

-=-=-=-=-

McKenzie slammed the door of his apartment open, and then slammed it shut with an even louder bang. "Of all the rotten tricks," he thought. "That bitch he called a sister had really done it, this time." Igor whimpered and stared inquisitively at the man as he stormed over to the computer and clicked the icon to connect to his ISP.

"Nothing much," he complained to the dog as a couple of letters from the list came in. Junk and spam. Spam and junk. "Why should I be surprised?" The only stories that were being sent out, these days, were just the "Mommy made me dress as a girl, and look at me now" type or someone was trying to find a new way for the Catwoman to turn Robin-or Batman, or both-female.

"It's been months since I posted anything to list," McKenzie noted absently speaking to the computer monitor as much as to the dog. "It's time I did. They need to get some real stories again, not that garbage. And I don't care what that stupid doctor said. I'm in good health. I feel fine. Maybe I could get a bit more exercise, but I need to get things going again with the list. That novel… That might still have a chance. I know, I'll send the 'Ultimate TG Experience.' Perfect. Now they can find out what real writing is all about."

 

CONTINUED IN CHAPTER TWO
[St. Elmo's Fire]




More [The Rigby Narratives] here on BigCloset TopShelf.



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