five stories: A TG Mixed Tape

five stories

A TG Mixed Tape

(Edited by PersnicketyBitch. Same editorial hand as always. Different name. More after the jump.)

The Tape is back! This time around StephAD has contributed two great stories, the first kicking off the collection with an exhilarating magical duel. Hikaro has submitted an intense apocalyptic tale and talks Brave New World and superheroes in the Mixed Tape Interview. Trismegistus Shandy and Jenny North offer intriguing glimpses into ordinary lives changed by super science and spirits. So what are you waiting for? Hit play on this fantastical new collection for thrills, spills, and maybe... even some feels.

~

Gender dysphoria. For me, it manifests as a sometimes slight, sometimes overwhelming, always there sense of detachment. I want to write so much more about how it feels, but it’s hard to put that reality into words. I still haven’t reconciled myself to it.

It’s easier for me to write about gender dysphoria in my fiction, because in my stories I can make it something more obvious, or something that my characters’ have more or less dealt with, and because doing so distances me, turns it into something that exists in an imagined space, and which affects other people. That distance is there when I read articles, books, blogs and message board posts by and/or about trans people; it’s there when I watch movies, TV shows and YouTube videos. These things are, after all, other peoples’ ideas and stories.

Only they aren’t.

I’ve run away from this realisation before, literally. Jogging is an activity I eased into a couple of years ago, when I was overweight and profoundly uncomfortable in my skin. Once I thought that this would turn my body into something that I could love. For a while it changed it into something I thought I could live with, but maybe, eventually…

I am so afraid.

My fears, to be sure, are typical babytrans. I invest so much of myself in what I think other people think of me; I’m terrified of how they’ll respond when I come out. I’m afraid of being the uncanny valley girl. I’m afraid that even if I pass visually, and I think I probably can, that the other aspects of my gender expression – my mannerisms, my voice, my interests – will throw people. I’m scared of my bank balance and my job prospects when I graduate. I don’t want to lose the independence I’ve only so recently gained. I’m scared I’ll become isolated. I’m really scared of the suicide rates. And then there are the fears I cannot easily name; the many nebulous anxieties. I’m at the edge of a momentous life change, and that scares the shit out of me.

I re-read what I’ve put down so far. It seems assured, and maybe a little forceful, so different from my brain voice at this moment in time – as always, all feels and sensation, more and less coherent. The trouble with emotions is that words diminish them.

I can write the action. The irrelevant minutiae of the moment. How I inhale and exhale over quivering lips. How my stomach cramps and churns, and the cup of coffee I had to wake myself up rises in my throat. How I choke it down. Pound on. Lengthen strides. But when I try to describe the realisation that “this isn’t fulfilling in the way I want it to be,” it feels like the ending I’d give a story, or something I read sometime. It’s true, but it’s also removed from the far more intimate and complex truth of my experiences. Maybe one day I will be able to articulate it, not necessarily with words, and if not to other people, then at least to myself. Rejecting my distancing self-deceptions is a start. So is being honest with myself about who I am, in my thoughts, when I speak, when I write and read and listen and watch. One day soon I will drop my public pretence of a gender that isn’t mine. Maybe this won’t change a thing.

I am so afraid.

But hopeful too.

~PB

~

five stories

A TG Mixed Tape

~

Liner Notes

A Magical Fight

By StephAD

My First Day is the Last Day

By Hikaro

The Mixed Tape Interview: Hikaro

Permission Slip

by Trismegistus Shandy

Postcards

By StephAD

Spirit Council

By Jenny North

Afterword

(Edited by PersnicketyBitch)

~

A Magical Fight

By StephAD

“STEEL LANCE!!”

A bolt of shimmering silver light speared from the end of Legion's weapon. His target, a girl in a black cloak with a crescent-tipped wand, launched herself high into the air to avoid the attack.

She let out a blast of reddish black energy that snapped into the form of a half-corporeal lion. It shot towards him.

He tensed in preparation for the attack. Normally he wouldn't have telegraphed his moves so obviously, but the girl above him wouldn't know what it meant. God damn, but he hated enforcing. It always left a bad taste in his mouth.

Murmuring an incantation, his sword flared with silver fire. The empowering was for the effect more than anything else. It was important to maintain appearances, even if he didn't need anywhere near the amount of power now contained in his sword. When he slashed the snout of the lion it exploded in a shower of sound and light.

The girl spun in midair, her wand forming crimson-black sparks. She pointed her wand down at the black man, screaming out in a shrill voice, “DARK VENGEANCE!” The sparks streamed from around her into a twisting battering ram of energy that rushed towards Legion.

He calmly kneeled and set his tower shield in front of him. He didn't call an incantation to empower it. His shield was more than capable of blocking this attack. It had taken a direct hit from an Archwitch. One delinquent Magical girl wouldn't even mar the finish.

The energy splashed harmlessly against his unyielding defense. He rose to his feet and rolled his shoulders. Finally. An opening. He led the girl's fall with the tip of his sword.

“Amateurs,” he muttered, then shouted his ranged attack once again, “STEEL LANCE!” This time, the spear of energy hit its mark, and the girl was launched upward by the impact. Never let yourself be caught defenseless. Rule number one.

Legion began a steady barrage, keeping the girl in the air with his concussive blasts. He was careful that he didn't cause permanent damage, just temporary bruises.

When he finally let her fall, he was waiting below her. He caught her, and gently set her down.

He spoke as soon as she regained consciousness, his voice a deep, seductive rumble that had been described in endless detail in fanfiction, “This is your one warning. Don't break the Code again. If you want training or instruction, get my contact information from the Civic Defense Office.”

With that, he dissolved in shimmering silver light, leaving her to make her way home. He reappeared in his apartment elsewhere in the city. It wouldn't do for a camera to catch him depowering.

He let his Magical form fade, and his godlike appearance melted into the form of an androgynous black woman in sweat-soaked pants and a sports bra. “I'm getting too damn old for this,” he grumbled to himself, and staggered into his bedroom to collapse in an exhausted heap on the bed.

*

"StephAD is a fan of almost every genre, but she has a particular passion for well-written science fiction. She is the author of Swarm Rising: A Brave New World Spinoff, a sci-fi superpower story; Henrietta: Ruler of the Underworld, a short dark comedy study; and a few Mixed Tape stories. She would recommend Worm by Wildbow (Find his work at Pig’s Pen on Wordpress) to anybody who likes dark and tragic stories, and The Curse of Womanhood by Hikaro (on TG Storytime and Big Closet) to anybody who likes lighter and happier stories."

I woke up at seven in the morning and immediately wanted to scratch an itch that I’d never be able to get to thanks to all the bandages. The doctor told me the day before that the surgery had gone off without a hitch. I was finally the woman on the outside that I felt like on the inside.

The HRT didn’t hurt, either.

I sat up when I the door opened and a nurse walked in with some food. For whatever reason, I was only allowed eggs and toast. “So, Ellie, how are you feeling today?” the nurse asked as she set the food tray down on the table in front of me.

I shrugged. “Not bad.” There was some commotion out in the hallway. I saw at least two doctors and a cop running from one side of the hall to the other. “What’s going on out there?”

“I dunno…” She walked over to the door. “Wait here just a second.”

I picked up the fork and took a bite of the eggs, then a scream nearly made me bite down on my tongue. A second later, there was a gunshot, and the sound of someone yelling at another person. I edged off the bed and made my way over to the door. I peered outside and saw the nurse that had just left my room was on the floor, blood pouring out of a bullet hole in her shoulder.

“Somebody help!” I shouted. I knelt down and applied pressure to her shoulder. She coughed up some more blood. There was a man a little ways down the hall kneeling over something. “Sir, I need help! She’s bleeding out!” The man heard me, turned his head, then stood up. He moved slowly, oddly. He stumbled a lot. “Sir, are you all right?”

The man tripped on something, or fell on purpose, I couldn’t tell, and landed in front of me. His mouth was covered in blood, his eyes a dead white, his nose broken and battered. When he moved his arm, I saw two bullet holes in his side, and the skin on his fingers was peeling back. He reached out for me, and his hand landed on the nurse’s foot. He pulled himself closer to her, then brought his mouth to her leg and bit down, hard.

The nurse screamed, which hurt my ears. I jerked back and stood up. The man was eating her, just plain eating. Blood was everywhere.

I heard a noise down the hall, from where the man had been. Someone stood up, looked like a cop. They lurched forward and their guts fell out of their stomach like somebody knocking over a potted plant.

The nurse looked up at me, her eyes told me to run, so I did. Everywhere around, diseased looking people were either standing up or stumbling around. A few people were still alive, but what few who didn’t follow me were grabbed by the obviously dead people. Most of the hospital staff had disappeared. What had happened to them?

I got to the elevator bank and looked out the nearest window. A fleet of solid black helicopters flew past the hospital and made their way to the city. Was that smoke I saw, drifting up the buildings?

I pressed the call button on the elevator a dozen times, praying that it would make it move faster. I heard screams from the hallway I’d come from, and I could tell that most of them were probably from the people I’d just passed.

My fears were confirmed when four of them came shambling around the corner.

I backed up against the elevator door and kept on pressing the call button. My prayers were finally answered when the doors opened, but then I screamed as a dead man’s arms reached out for me. I jumped away from the corpse in the elevator and found myself in a corner. My screams drew the other four directly toward me, and I knew in that moment one painful truth:

I had nowhere to go.

The Mixed Tape Interview: Hikaro

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hrm… Myself… That’s a toughie. I’m mostly an unemployed writer who sits around in his pajamas playing video games and watching movies while he writes things he hopes people enjoy. Ah, mostly hell, that is all I am.

Q: What books have influenced you most a writer?

Oh, Christ, there’s no short answer to that. Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time series (I’m still reading that, no spoilers please), anything by Stephen King or Tom Clancy, Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn have been a big influence. I read the first Harry Potter book so that might have been involved. The real answer to that is there’s no books that don’t influence me in one way or another, even if it’s just interesting word usage.

Q: What authors and stories would you recommend for fans of your work?

Considering the ridiculously varied amount of stories I’ve written, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that question. If we’re just talking authors and stories on TG websites, just go to the last chapter of any of my stories on TG Storytime (where I primarily post my stories) and there’s this option that says “Members who liked [such and such story] also liked [arbitrary number] stories”, which generally soar into the hundreds. The Curse of Womanhood alone suggests 1028 stories. If we’re talking non-TG websites, anything I listed in the previous question would be a strong recommendation.

Q: How do you think you changed as a writer?

Well, I write longer stories now. My first few stories on TG Storytime barely hit five thousand words, while I generally hit twenty or thirty thousand now, and Brave New World is one hundred seventy thousand words, which is currently my record. I’m slightly better at planning my stories now. As I’ll talk about later, my writing is very much fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, and I planned out nothing and let the chips fall where they lie, but now I can actually plan out big story beats. I still don’t plan a lot, but I’m getting better.

Q: Most useful piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Just keep going.

Q: Can you talk us through your writing process?

As I said before, I write with little-to-no planning. A very basic idea presents itself - be it an image of a city on fire, or as is the case with Brave New World, a fanfiction idea about opposite sex clones of Marvel Comics characters. Sometimes, I watch certain movies or play certain video games that have a similar tone or feel to the scenes I’m writing at the time. A story arc in Brave New World (which is entitled “Across the River”) was written while watching The Dark Knight, because my villain patterned and named himself after the Batman villain the Joker. Other times, I’ll listen to music that somehow makes me feel something related to the scene I’m writing. I’ve actually dropped entire scenes in many stories purely because I couldn’t find the right music to write to.

For a Brave New World example, the finale arc, entitled “The Big Fight”, was written while listening to the song “It’s On Again” by Alicia Keys. A slightly more focused example (but still Brave New World) is a scene late in the arc “A Strange & Different World”, where the arc’s main character is jumping back and forth between dimensions. That scene was written to a truly goofy ass Japanese song called Oishii Two Han Seikatsu by Two Han Princess. Go listen to that one on YouTube, but I warn you, it’s a silly fucking song.

Though, as I said before, I’m getting a little better with planning. There’s a major scene in Brave New World Volume Two (the collective name for the current slate of Brave New World stories) which I had planned even before the first story was finished, and a great deal of The Curse of Womanhood was planned out in advance. I still can’t plan everything or use an outline, but I’m getting better.

Sometimes I run ideas through my fellow Brave New World writers and get feedback from them. A good part of my writing process is also dedicated to getting feedback from my friends, and I even have a Google Doc set up for Brave New World writers that has a section for universe story ideas.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the Brave New World Universe?

The Brave New World Universe started out as one freak who thought he could write an amazing story. Said freak is obviously me, and it’s obviously grown heavily out of proportion. The original story was meant to be a pure ensemble piece with no definitive central character, though Charlie Harkins/Arachnya has virtually stolen that spot among my readers (and, I’ll begrudgingly admit, myself as well). It’s kind of funny to look back at Brave New World and look back at the TV show Heroes, which I hadn’t seen at the time I started Brave New World, though it was during the story’s writing that I got into it, and see that both started with no central character and later grew one (to an extent; Heroes technically has no “central” character, though everybody knows who the two most popular ones are).

Oh yeah, and everybody thinks I got the title from that Huxley novel, when that’s not in any way the case. It actually came from the Shakespeare play The Tempest. The original title, which lasted for a long time before I thought it was too fucking long, was Brave New World, That Has Such Heroes In It. I’ve never even read the Huxley novel, and while my knowledge of The Tempest is leaving me every single day, I did read it.

Mainly the universe began as a way for me to copy as many superheroes as I could and it grew from there. I cobbled together a few fellow writers who became friends, starting with A_Kent, then growing on to many others, and the series just kept on a-growin’.

Q: How closely do you work with the other authors writing in the universe?

I work very closely with them. At the moment, there are only three remaining Brave New World writers, which are StephAD, Misaania and myself. We’re on a chatroom almost every day (or, well, pretty much every day for Misa and myself), and I see their works in progress and they see mine. When I began, before we started using the chatroom, we spoke mainly through email, and the one stipulation I had was that I needed to know what their characters were and I needed to read the first chapter before it was posted. Now that we’re talking all the damn time to one another, I just let them go off and do what they please, ask them if I can borrow their characters for a chapter or five, loan them mine for a little bit. A great piece of connecting glue in the early stories was the character of Angel, who not only sets characters at ease about their abilities but also sees every potential future. She showed up in many of the stories.

One of the best moments was a chatroom session between myself and all of the then-current Brave New World writers (A_Kent, Orange_Laces, StephAD and Selena) where we planned out a great deal of the upcoming story, plus there were one or two bombshells I dropped on them that turned most of them into giggling fangirls (including A_Kent…).

If I couldn’t keep in contact with everybody the way we do, I don’t think I would have even asked them to come on board. I can’t pay them, they’re doing this out of the kindness of their hearts and a desire to create stories in my universe, but if we weren’t talking about everything, it’d just be me. Most of the success of this universe lies with them.

Q: Superheroes are a staple of TG fiction, why do you think that is?

I couldn’t tell you on a bet. When I started at TG Storytime, I had no desire to write TG superheroes. When Minikisa’s Of Heroes and Villains took off and became a goddamn phenomenon (one I still haven’t read, by the way), I wanted to stay as far away from TG superheroes as I could. Even when I started Brave New World, and I didn’t think anyone would read what I assumed was going to be considered “a knock-off of Minikisa!”, I didn’t have any grasping of why TG superheroes were so popular.

Hell, it could be as simple as why Bryan Singer was so damned attracted to the X-Men, maybe they’re just a metaphor for transgender people feeling different from society.

Q: Favourite comic book character? Why?

Shit, man, a singular favorite? Well, actually, I can sort-of answer that. The Ultimate Marvel version of Spider-Woman is an opposite sex clone of Peter Parker/Spider-Man who has all of his memories. Considering she inspired what has become my favorite of my own Brave New World characters, I guess it would have to be Ultimate Spider-Woman, and I like her because she’s sassy. She’s the kind of character I imagine I’d be if I somehow swapped genders and gained spider powers.

Granted, my hometown doesn’t have buildings tall enough to web-swing from, but...

Q: And favourite comic stories?

I’m a big fan (or, well, I was) of Frank Miller’s Sin City. And I say “I was” because the second movie was shit, and so I bet there won’t be any more movies or comics. It was Sin City that inspired Brave New World’s “One POV character per arc” format, although Sin City follows that POV character a bit closer, being film noir like it is. The series weaves in a great many characters into one setting, and you just can’t go wrong with a story that has lots of trench coats, gorgeous women, and badass guys beating the shit out people. In addition to that, Ultimate Spider-Man was among the best in Marvel’s Ultimate line, and I can’t be the only one that feels that way, since it endured multiple retoolings of the line and even had the confidence to kill off Peter Parker and introduce a new Spider-Man into the proceedings. It’s not a superhero comic but The Walking Dead is a major love of mine, thanks in no small part to my ridiculously obsessive love of zombies.

Q: What do you think makes a good hero?

A good hero is someone who knows they’re in way over their head and perseveres because they know the cause they’re fighting for is the right one. It may not be the easy one, and often never is, but they go on because they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that their cause is just. Be it someone who throws on a colorful costume and goes on to fight a goofy-named villain, or a cop who puts on a uniform and a badge and takes to the streets in his patrol car, or a firefighter who straps all that gear to his back even if it’s just to rescue a cat from a tree, a hero never stops.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Keep calm and call Batman.

Permission Slip

I work from home most days, designing and building VR scenarios. It can be a little isolated sometimes, but it suits me; in particular, it means I'm there when Arnie comes home from school. And it was also the main reason I got custody when Sephrena and I parted ways -- her job involves a lot of travel, meetings that have to be face to face, while with mine, often the whole point of the meeting is that it's not face to face -- I'll meet a client in one of my scenarios, an older one to show a new client what I can do or the current one to show the progress I'm making. But I always make sure those meetings are over, or at least paused for a break, when Arnie comes home.

The house system gave the distinct ping that signified Arnie was unlocking the front door with his proxcard. I got up, stretched, took a sip of tea and stepped out of my office into the living room.

I was confronted with the sight of a teenage girl, an inch or two shorter than Arnie, with hair several inches longer. But she was wearing the same clothes Arnie had been wearing that morning, and she had Arnie's backpack...?

"Hey, Dad. What do you think?" She tossed her backpack onto the sofa, just like Arnie often did, and spread her arms. "It still feels really weird but Ms. Taniger said in a few days it probably won't be quite as bad. And it's not like I'm the only one...?" She looked nervous, and I couldn't blame her.

"Arnie? What happened?"

"Isn't it obvious? I'm a girl this semester. Oh, and we need to go buy some new clothes, cause --"

"They just changed you into a girl? I need to have a word with the principal about this --"

"But Daaad! You clicked 'Accept' on the permission slip!"

"Oh." Around the beginning of the school year I got so many permission slips for upcoming field trips and projects that my eyes glazed over. And the habit (a bad one, I know) of automatically clicking 'Accept' on every EULA tended to carry over when I was registering Arnie for the new year on the school website. I wasn't sure when I had given my permission for the school to turn Arnie into a girl, but I didn't doubt that I had.

"I'm sorry, Arnie. I must have just glanced at it and not realized what I was agreeing to... I'll see if I can get them to change you back right away."

"No, it's cool. I mean, it's weird, but it would be even weirder to be the only boy in my class who was born a boy, right? Everybody in eighth grade is changing this semester."

"Ah... okay. You're sure about this?"

"Yeah, I think it'll be okay. All my friends are going through it at the same time, so nobody's going to be making fun of me for it or anything. Actually they're making fun of the kids whose parents didn't give permission, saying they're too scared or whatever."

"Yeah, I can see that. Well, we can make an emergency shopping trip this afternoon, but I don't really know much about women's clothes -- girl's clothes -- I'll see if your Aunt Madison can take you shopping this weekend."

"That would be good," she said uncertainly. "Or maybe Mom?"

"She's in Los Angeles this week, I think -- or is it San Diego? But I'll call her and see if she can come to Portland and take you shopping." That was going to be an interesting conversation. "Let me get some shoes on and we'll go."

In the car on the way to the mall, Arnie said: "Dad?"

"Yes?"

"Have you ever tried being a girl?"

"No, son," I said, wondering if Arnie would rather I call him -- her? -- 'daughter'. "They didn't have this kind of technology when I was your age, and up until a year or two ago it was too expensive to try it out of curiosity."

"The company that changed all the kids -- they brought in their changing-chambers and set them up in the gym, so they could change like ten or twelve kids at a time -- they said they were offering a special discount for parents that want to change for the semester too."

"Hmm. Let me think about it, all right?"

But I had a feeling I knew what I was going to decide. Arnie needed a mom right now, and Sephrena probably wasn't available.

*

Trismegistus Shandy is the author of twenty-eight TG stories and novels, available at Smashwords, Amazon, BigCloset, Shifti and Fictionmania. His most recent novel, The Bailiff and the Mermaid, is at Smashwords and Amazon.

Hey, sis! I’m having a great time here! Hope you come some time! The music’s beautiful.

-Dawny

How had she gone from...this. To...where she was now? Stacy frowned, she was her little sister. Right? Next postcard.

Hey sis, Taiwanese food is incredible! I don’t think I’m ever gonna leave...without the recipes =P I’ll make some of the dishes for you when I get back!

Hope you’re well,

-Dawny

And then here was when it all started to go sideways. She could see it now. When she’d received the card, it has seemed innocuous. Perfectly normal. Sighing, she looked at the next postcard.

Sooo...I decided to take another couple weeks here. The culture is fascinating. I’ll move on to the next stop in a bit. Try writing back sometime ;)

-Dawny

She had written back. But the letter bounced. She had put it on the kitchen counter to resend when she got Dawn’s next postcard. And it had disappeared. Probably got shuffled into the trash during the monthly paid-bill purging. Oh well, next postcard.

So I’m back in the States, but not for long! A week in LA, then on to Brazil! Have you ever been to a Pride march? You should go sometime, it opened my eyes so much!

Hope you’re having fun,

-Dawn

Well...if you counted fun as having strep in the middle of summer...then...yes? Dawn knew that Stacy didn’t approve of the gays. She knew. What on earth had possessed her to go to a Pride march, and then suggest that she go too! Of course, everything was obvious in hindsight. Next postcard.

Hey, sis. Ummm...so I might be gone for a bit more than a few months.... I met a guy here, and I really like him. We’re gonna see how things go, but I’m applying for a work visa. He might be the one.

-Dawn

And here, Stacy thought that it was a good thing. That even though her sister had sent some...odd messages, she had found a man. Finally.

She was falling in love! It was good for her! Stacy had written a congratulatory letter to her sister, but it too had returned. And then there was this final postcard.

Hey Stacy,

I’m attaching a letter to this card. It should hopefully explain the undoubtedly confusing picture I’ve written this on.

I’m returning to the states with Adao. We’re gonna get married in LA this summer. We’ll drop by Mom and Dad’s to introduce everybody, and we would love to come by and have dinner with you if you’ll have us.

Hope you’re well,

-D

Stacy flipped the picture over. It was a picture of two men on a beach. The taller one was shirtless, and ripped, with his arm around the shorter one’s shoulders.

The shorter one was a little pudgier, and wearing an extremely tight tank top. His face was eerily familiar, and scrawled on the bottom in loose handwriting, were the words, Adao & David.

Colin was visiting with his mom and family for the holidays and was enjoying a rare quiet moment in the house before his brother's family arrived and the commotion and stress began in earnest. His mom was taking a nap in her bedroom and he made his way into the family room with a drink, figuring he could watch part of the game and relax. But as he entered the room, he saw his sister Tandy sitting on the couch with her head leaned back, obviously asleep. He hesitated mid-step, not wanting to disturb her.

"I'm not sleeping," she said with a smile, her eyes still closed.

Colin grinned and sat on the sofa. "Meditating before the big show?"

"Kinda," she said, blinking her eyes open. "I was conferring with my spirit council."

He made a face and shot her a skeptical look. It was the same sort of look he'd given her several years before when she announced that she was going vegan because of her boyfriend. The diet had lasted a month, the boyfriend only slightly longer than that. Tandy loved her barbeque.

"Don't judge!" she chided him. "It's just a little mental trick I have for dealing with stress."

Colin's eyes grew wide and he slid up next to her on the sofa, his eyes pleading.

"I'm right there with you," she said, her eyes glancing toward their mother's bedroom.

"So what's the trick?"

"Well, you need to find some allies first," she explained. "You want to pick out your mental dream team of people to advise you and be your supporters. Maybe six or eight at first, and they can be absolutely anybody, living or dead, even historical figures."

"How much do I have to know about them?"

"It kinda doesn't matter. You're really just giving your imagination free rein to talk to itself, so they don't have to be historically accurate, all that matters is your perception of them. So Einstein could be smart or funny or wise, if that's how you imagine him."

Colin nodded. "What about fictional characters?"

"Sure, anything goes."

He sat back on the couch for about fifteen minutes while she read a magazine. Then he nudged her and said, "Okay, I've got them."

"Wow, you're taking this seriously!"

He made a sheepish little face. "Do I have to tell you who they are? A couple are kind of embarrassing."

She smiled reassuringly. "You don't have to. Now just close your eyes and relax." Over the next few minutes she guided him through a simple relaxation technique until he was sitting quietly with his eyes closed.

"Okay," she told him. "So think of it like a party, and your guests are starting to arrive, one by one, and you greet them as they come in." She watched bemused as he made little faces and little grins as he met his imaginary cast. Then he knitted his brow and sniffled.

"You okay?"

"It's Dad," he said, his eyes still closed.

Tandy nodded. Their dad had passed away a few years earlier. "Yeah, he's one of mine, too," she said quietly.

After a moment he grew quiet again. "Okay, they're all here. Now what? Do I talk to them?"

"Sure, if you want. You can ask them questions. Though sometimes it's interesting to just listen in on their conversations with each other, too."

Colin eased back and his sister watched as little changes passed across his face. A lip twitch of amusement, a momentary flash of confusion. He smiled again.

"What?"

"A character I used to play in a game is hanging out with George Washington," he told her. "It's funny that they might be friends."

Tandy smiled. "Okay, here's a fun one, "she said. "Just back away a little and listen in as they talk to each other about you."

He sat there quietly and gave a little smirk. "They're saying I shouldn't be so hard on myself."

"That's good advice," she agreed.

After a moment, Colin got a bemused look on his face, followed by a worried expression as his brow furrowed. Suddenly he inhaled sharply as his eyes snapped open in alarm.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"It was Dad," Colin said, his eyes darting around nervously. "He started it. He was saying that he just wanted me to be happy. And then the others started talking and agreeing. Then they--I didn't even realize they were doing it at first--"

Tandy looked at him with concern. "What were they doing?"

He turned to her in a rising panic. "All of them were talking about me like you said, but... I suddenly realized that they were all referring to me with female pronouns like 'she' and 'her.'" He looked at his sister uncertainly. "What does it mean?"

Tandy sat back, not sure how to respond. Just then they heard the front door open, quickly followed by the sound of their brother's voice yelling after his kids, who were noisily stomping into the house. She grabbed Colin's hand and gave it a supportive squeeze. "We'll talk about it later," she said.

*

Jenny North has lately been posting stories on Fictionmania and is really enjoying talking about herself in the third person. If you enjoyed this story, she recommends her feel-good short story "Legacy." But if you’re in the mood for a comedy, “My Uncle Fifi” brings the giggles! (And has a brand new sequel!)

So, yeah, there have been developments since the last Tape. I’d like to say a big thankyou to Steph for responding so generously, and at such length. Steph, you rock!

As always, I hope you, the reader, enjoyed this short collection. Let us know what you think with a review.

There’ll be another tape next month, the last for the year.

If you want in, here’s the deal: You can submit multiple stories. However, the total word count for all the fiction you submit cannot exceed 1000 words. The cut-off date for submissions is the 11th, the collection will be published mid-November. Shoot me a PM, if you’re interested, or would like to know more.

If you are starved for ideas here are some prompts:

  • A female cat is transformed into a male dog.
  • A transgender pirate captain.
  • Two celebrities switch bodies.
  • A transgender alien whose race has three sexes.
  • The hero/ine of a well-known book/movie/TV show finds themselves in the body of the hero/ine of a different book/movie/TV show.
  • A transgender person has sexy sex with a cisgender person, and there are no hangs up, and both are really cool with it, and everything is very hot and steamy.
  • An orgy where the every time a participant orgasms they swap bodies with the person who brought them to climax.
  • What if [pick an author] wrote a body swap story.
  • An incorporeal serial killer who hops from body to body.
  • Something really smutty, but written without gendered pronouns, descriptions of secondary sex characteristics or anything else that links your characters to a specific gender.
  • A story where every character is trans.

Until November, or until I hear from you.

PB



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