SRU: The Map

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SRU: The Map
by: Ellie Dauber
© 1999

"Fred, I think we're lost." Almost as soon as Margie van Arndt said it, she was sorry. Most men won't admit that they'd messed up directions or misread a map, but Fred, well....

"I'm not lost," he said through clenched teeth. "This road is just the long way to Wheaton. It's such a nice day that I thought I'd --"

"Drive past that mall up ahead twice? Look, Hon, there's no shame in it. We haven't been out this way in, what, five years." She was trying to give him an out. "Not since that weekend when we were in college."

"Maybe that's it," he said. "We've passed through some construction that wasn't on the map. I guess I can hardly be blamed for those detours."

There had been no detours that Marge had seen. But he wasn't getting upset as he had a few weeks before, when he'd missed a cut-off, and they'd had to backtrack almost twenty miles after they caught the mistake. Well, after she'd caught the mistake and managed to come up with a reason so he could admit it without losing face. 'What is it,' she thought, 'about guys and roads? You'd think it was a test of manhood or something.'

She looked at her watch. It was almost 1:30. They'd left the apartment about 10 AM for a romantic weekend in the country. If he'd been willing to let her navigate, they'd have gotten to the bed and breakfast already. But no! She was only a Woman, even I she was also real estate broker, used to reading sub-division maps and to checking out prospective properties all over the county. He was a Man, with a man's perfect sense of direction.

Well, this thing he had about directions and maps was his only really major flaw. He was a pretty good guy, smart, considerate, with a great sense of humor. And some of his other manly abilities - hey, that was the reason that's she'd agreed to go to a bed and breakfast.

"Are you hungry," she asked. "I haven't eaten since about 8:30 this morning. There's bound to be a food court in a mall that size. We can grab some lunch, and you can get a better map."

"Sounds good," he said, slowing the car as they got near the mall. He hated to admit it, even to himself, but he had been lost. Guys didn't get lost. It was in their blood from thousands of centuries of hunting for food, blazing trails, fighting wars. Anyway, a mall that size should have a store that sold maps. He'd check with a clerk, a male clerk in the store, and get the directions he'd need. They'd be at that B&B in time to work up an appetite for supper. He smiled at the thought as he pulled into the mall parking lot.

Since it was early afternoon on a Saturday, the parking lot was fairly jammed. Fred found a spot not too far from a side entrance to a lower level. They'd probably have to walk a little to get to the food court, but there was no place to park within a good hundred yards of the main entrance. At least this way, they'd walk inside an air-conditioned mall.

'Besides,' Fred thought, "after driving for three hours, they needed a chance to stretch their legs.

They hurried past the stores without paying attention and took an escalator to the main level. In ten minutes they were sitting at a table. Margie had chicken fried rice and a diet cola, while Fred was putting away a Big Mack, fries, and a vanilla shake. There were maps of the mall posted at the entrances to the food court. According to the one that they looked at, there was a news stand/bookstore not too far from where they came into the mall. They could pick up a map without wasting any more time.

Except when they got to the spot where the Book Nook was supposed to be, it wasn't. "Fred, are you sure we came to the right spot? Remember, we've never been in this mall before." A little salve to the ego never hurt.

"Sure, I'm sure. There's the door we came through. I think I can see my car from here. Besides, I checked the map by the food court for other stores to use as landmarks. There's a Godiva's Chocolates, and over there's that new pet store franchise we heard about on the radio last week, Bertha's Kitty Boutique. Maybe the Book Nook moved. Let's ask inside."

Marge looked at the store. Most mall stores had open fronts, so you could walk right in. This place had what looked like a wooden storefront and windows for heaven sakes. Maybe this - she looked at the sign over the door again -- Spells R Us would be able to help them. With a crazy name like that, they might even sell maps.

A small bell over the door rang as they came in. Marge looked around. They probably did sell maps. It looked like they sold everything else. There were shelves everywhere filled with all kinds of stuff: sunglasses, masks, brass bottles, and Barbie dolls. And that was just on the first two selves near the door. There was a rack of hardback books near one wall, a bunch of mannequins in costumes right next to it.

"Be right with you, Marge, Fred," came a voice from the back of the store. They looked in the direction of the voice just in time to see an old man come around from behind some shelves. 'He looks a little like a skinny Santa,' Fred thought. 'Only he's wearing a blue bathrobe instead of the red suit Santa always wears.'

"Actually, this time of year, Nick likes to wear Hawaiian shirts and jeans," the old man said.

"Who," Fred said.

"My old friend, Nick," the old man said. "St. Nick, to be formal, though he seldom uses the title; says it puts off too many of the kids." He wiped his hands on his robe. "Anyway, what can I do for you, Fred?"

"How'd you know my name - our names?"

The old man pulled two business cards out of a pocket of his robe and handed them to Fred and Marge.

"So," Fred said. "Spells R' Us. What's the name of the store got o do with anything?"

"Turn the card over," the old man said with a smile. He'd been wanting to try this new variation.

Fred turned the card over. There was a short message neatly typed on the back. "Because I'm a wizard, Fred. Now please tell me what you want." Marge's card had the same message, except with her name on it.

"Now that is a trick!" Fred said.

The wizard smiled. Some people never caught on. "What can I do for you," he asked.

"We were looking for the Book Nook," Fred said.

"We need a local map," Marge added.

"Mr. 'I'm not lost, the road is lost' can't find his way to your B&B," the Wizard said.

Marge snickered.

"Actually," the Wizard said. "It is a little tricky with that new construction."

Marge groaned. Another voice from the "Men's Union." Can't they ever admit that a guy can get lost?

"But you two do a lot of travelling, and anybody can get lost once in a while. Except maybe me. How about I sell you a magic map case?" He rummaged through a pile of leather goods on a counter next to him and pulled out a zipper case the size of a notebook. It was unzipped with a folded sheet of blank paper sticking out. The Wizard pushed the paper inside and zipped the case shut.

"Yeah, magic," Fred said.

"Oh, it is," the Wizard said. "You hold the case in your hands and think for a moment of where you want to go. When you unzip the case, it will be holding a map that shows you exactly where you are at that moment and the fastest, most direct route to where you want to go. You won't have any problem finding your way."

"How much?"

"For you, Fred, and this lovely young woman, $19.95."

"And if it doesn't work?"

"Try it out in the parking lot. If it doesn't work, bring it back, and I'll give you a cash refund."

"Fair enough," Fred said. He got out his wallet and handed the man a twenty.

"I'm afraid that there's another dollar, tax."

Fred handed the man another dollar. He took his nickel change and the map case and left the store.

Once they were in the car, Fred tried the map case. He held it in his hands and said the name of their destination, "The Wayside Inn at Crabapple Cove." He thought he felt a tingling in his hands for a moment, but it went away too fast to be sure.

He unzipped the case and unfolded the map inside. It had color printing on it now. It was a state map. Crabapple cove was circled in red with a notation next to it, "First right after the post office onto Haley road; then on for two miles to the Inn."

Fred saw that the red color continued as a line back along the highway. He traced it back to another circle with a little note scrawled inside it marking the mall. There was some additional writing as well. He smiled noticing a misspelling.

Fred's finger was touching the map, tracing the line along the highway. Suddenly, that finger, the entire hand, grew slimmer. Fred's nails grew out and changed color as a red polish appeared on them. The transformation spread through his body. His arms grew slender and hairless. His body lost the masses of muscles gained from his twice a week visit to the local health club. A shape, no, two shapes grew out from his chest. He looked in amazement as they grew out from his flat chest until they were as large as

Marge's own 36-Cs.

Fred felt a pressure as his waist grew smaller. His hips and butt felt like they were inflating. His legs grew slender curves to match his now female body. A hand went down to touch the bulge at his crotch. It was still there, but as he tried to grab it through his slacks, he felt it shrinking away. Finally, there was nothing left; nothing but two very sensitive folds of skin on either side of what felt like an opening at his groin.

He felt his hair grow past his ears, past his neck, in great waves that didn't stop until they were halfway down his back. He couldn't tell what he looked like, but he felt something. He looked over to Marge, trying to understand.

"What happened to you, Fred? Somehow, somehow, you've turned into a woman. No, you've turned into me. You look just like me."

Fred grabbed the rear view mirror and looked into it. It was true. The face staring back out wasn't his. It was Marge's. Or maybe Marge's twin, since the hair was longer and the make-up looked a bit different. Make-up? Where the heck had that come from?

Suddenly, they both shook their heads in confusion as reality re-booted around them.

"Will you stop looking in the mirror," Marge said. "Your make-up is perfect."

"Well, I was just checking after lunch," Frieda said to her twin sister. "I want to look perfect when we meet our boyfriends up at that bed and breakfast." She brushed an imaginary speck of dirt off her white blouse.

"Relax," Marge said. "Even stopping for lunch, we'll probably get there ahead of them."

"You think that they'll get lost again?"

"Probably. And they won't stop to ask directions since that would mean admitting that they're lost."

"What is it with guys and maps and directions?"

"I don't know, but I don't think that we girls will ever have that problem."

Frieda laughed as she took one last look at the map before she started the car. The route was mapped out perfectly from this mall where they stopped for lunch. It was just funny the way that nice old man who'd marked the way had made such a silly error when he circled the mall and wrote, "You Are Her."

The End

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