“This is not happening!”
I paced back and forth, sucking all the air from the room to keep my lungs from collapsing. It had to be some sort of dream, because from where I was standing this was impossible; people did not turn into a tranny in their sleep!
The alien flesh was still there every time I checked my shorts. It even felt real when I touched it, gross as it was. Worse, it stirred, like it had a life of its own.
“Shannon?” Mama called from the other side of the door.
If this was a dream it was more vivid than any I’d ever had. I was shaking and crying; the girl parody in the mirror did the same.
Suddenly a fist pounded on the door. Daddy bellowed from the hall. “Brandon, if you don’t open this door, so help me God-”
“Shannon,” Mama snipped.
He sighed. “You’ve got ten seconds to open the door, or I’m breaking it down!”
I’d heard Daddy yell before, mostly at the TV or at one of his drunk friends, but never at me. To have it leveled in my direction, even from another room, sent a shock through the system. All I wanted was to melt and vanish before he had a chance to…
He wouldn’t hit me, would he? I turned to the drag queen who stole my body and hugged it. They were easily the sort of wimp I could see guys at school beating on.
Daddy laid out the numbers like railroad spikes. “Seven… eight… nine…”
I opened the door and cast my eyes down. He looked on me the same he would a disobedient dog. Jacob took the chance to slip by me and lock the bathroom behind him.
My father scoffed and turned away. “Get ready for school. I don’t want to drive you.”
Mama stepped in and placed her hand to my forehead.
“You don’t have a temperature,” she said, and forced a smile. “Come on, sweetie. Time to get ready for school.”
That was it? She wasn’t acting like my mother at all. On any other day a scream would make her think the sky was falling. This time she just seemed, I don’t know, tired. She couldn’t wait to get away.
I slumped against the wall and slipped to the floor.
“This is not happening,” I said.
I returned to the bedroom and searched for my… his… my… wallet. According to the driver’s license with the boy face my name was still Shannon Louise Carson, who still lived at 472 Birchwood Drive, who was still a millennial, and an Aries, but whose gender was marked with a capital M.
The vanity told the same story; that whoever this guy was I was living in his body.
“You’ve got to be some crazy dream,” I told my reflection. He mouthed the words in time, and also reeled when I noticed the drop in his pitch. “How is this possible?”
Simple answer: it wasn’t.
“Ten minutes until the bus,” Mama called.
Bus? Of course. In the tranny-verse Cody wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot barge pole, meaning I was out of a ride. That was unless Daddy were to lend me the car, which given his tone I doubted he was in the mood for.
I glared at the stranger. “You’re really going to make me do this,” I said.
Fine. If fate was going to humiliate me then I was going to take my lumps. Then I could determine if this was a curse or a parallel reality or whatever.
The new body provided the most raw of materials. How was I supposed to convince everyone that I was a girl? Make-up helped, though it was rushed. His every proportion was awkward and out of place, with shoulders too wide and hips too narrow. My boobs were no more than mosquito bites, but at least he had great legs.
It was too bad about the penis.
I brushed my hair around my face, and wore skinny jeans with a long sleeve top. No way was I drawing attention to myself when I was in such a state.
That was our cue.
It was a strange thing to be rushed out the door. Stranger still were the photographs I passed on the living room mantle, like the family portrait we’d taken by Lake Tahoe. I remembered it like it was yesterday; I was only seven years old, and Jacob was a toddler. What I didn’t remember was the bowl cut or board shorts worn in the picture. He was even missing front teeth, just as I did.
“Out, now,” Daddy said.
Jacob sprinted across the front lawn, and I made an effort to keep up. The grass was still the same, the cul de sac continued to be lined with two storey homes; the only thing that had changed was me.
* * * *
The first thing to catch my eye walking into school was a large banner with ‘7 DAYS TIL SUMMER PROM’ sprawled in bold font.
Just thinking about it made my stomach turn. Did I even have a date? I pitied the loser who’d settle on this body. Ugh, talk about bottom of the barrel.
Walking past the other seniors was like treading into the Mummy’s tomb; every step could set off a chain reaction, and I’d be doomed. Random eyes caught me, but I was quick to walk away. There were scoffs, and whispers too. Didn’t they have anything better to talk about?
My locker was sat beside Linda’s, just like always. She picked out her books and smiled at me, but not in the way best friends do. She flashed a wicked grin.
“Hi, Shannon,” she sang. Her voice was light and breathy.
When I tried to ignore her she leaned into the door of my locker.
“So, you got a date for prom?” she asked. She wouldn’t have if I did.
“I’m thinking of giving it a miss,” I lied.
Linda giggled. “Who needs a social life when you’ve got Netflix, right?”
“Right.” I was just going to roll with it until the curse or whatever was over.
Even in the world where Linda and I were friends she could be annoying. She was the kind of girl who, once she got an idea in her head she wouldn’t let go of it; when she found something to fixate on, she would stay at it for weeks. It was less fun being on the receiving end.
My cell twittered with the sound of a text. I reached for it, only to have it snapped away.
Linda stared at the screen. “Who’s 555-732-1864?”
I shrugged, and reached for the phone.
“We still meeting after school,” Linda said, reading the message aloud. “Holy shit. Does Shanny the Tranny have an actual date with a human person? Wow, somebody’s desperate.”
“Give it back,” I sighed.
“Not until you tell me who it is!” She danced like some sort of gleeful troll. “Is it that sophomore, Kip? He’s a horny little bastard. He’d stick it in anything. No, wait. Is it Derrick Hoffernan? That’s just mean, Shannon. He’s slow. He doesn’t know how girls work.”
I snatched the cell back and turned to my locker. At least the combination was the same.
Linda frowned. “What’s the matter? On your period? Oh, wait. You don’t get those. Oops.”
The urge to slap her was overwhelming.
Maybe I should have said something, but by the time I found my nerve Linda was distracted by something else - or should I say someone. Next thing I knew she’d skipped down the hall to throw herself into the arms of… oh god, Cody.
Forget what I said earlier; the nightmare found a way to get worse. An alternate universe was the only way I could ever justify my best friend and boyfriend hooking up, but it didn’t make the sight any easier.
Linda scaled him like a mountain wall and pulled him into a kiss. Then they walked arm in arm down the hall until first bell rang.
Maybe, I thought, this was Satan’s idea of a joke.
* * * *
I never thought I’d be glad to see the inside of a classroom, if for no other reason than to get away from gawkers. At least I’d been allocated the back seat in all of my classes. Nobody would be able to hassle me, send spitwads in my direction, or put things down my shirt, just like I used to when I sat behind Kelly Strickland.
Come to think of it I was sitting where she used to be. It’s ironic when you think about it.
Linda sat a row ahead and shot me a sideways glance. What was her problem? Okay, I was a freak, but she had forever to get over it. Maybe I should have charged admission.
English meant we spent the next fifty-five minutes with Ms. Dowling, who for those who’ve never met her was the kind of aging, soft-spoken hippie who’d apologise to a rock for tripping on it. For years there were rumours about her smoking pot, but nobody found any proof. She was too boring for that.
A hush settled across the room as she picked up the roll, and ticked off names one by one.
“Shannon?” she asked.
“You mean ‘Brandon’,” Linda said.
Every muscle recoiled at the sound.
Ms. Dowling ignored her.
“Present,” I said, and retreated further into the corner.
The teacher ran down the names; nothing unusual there, until she got to the ‘S’ section.
“Here,” said one of the girls; not Kelly. She had the same terrible fashion sense as her namesake, but her voice was different. It wasn’t heavy; it belonged a real girl!
I stood and wandered from my seat. Who was she? I had to know.
The more I stared the stranger it seemed like maybe the girl could have been related to her, but that was it. She was too small to be the actual Kelly Strickland, and while she was still clueless with make-up she was actually kind of pretty; you know, if you’re into hideous try-hard goth kids.
“Shannon, please sit down,” Ms. Dowling said.
Linda smirked. “I think Shanny the Tranny has a crush.”
I didn’t listen to either of them.
‘Kelly’ looked up and tightened her smile. “Can I help you?” she asked, like she was innocent or something.
Anger and terror froze in my veins, and I was shaking. The emotions became so overwhelming that I let out a gasp. My jaw tightened, and I could only speak through gritted teeth.
“Was it you?” I asked.
The girl looked toward the front of the room. “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Shannon Carson, sit down before I give you detention,” Ms. Dowling rasped. It was as close to a growl as someone like her could manage.
I stepped back, but stayed locked on her. Was she responsible? She had to be. Of everything the only other thing that had changed was Kelly.
“Liar,” I whispered.
For the next hour I bore holes into the back of her head, and for the next hour she didn’t once look back to acknowledge me. She didn’t even look once the bell rang; just charged for the door, and vanished into the hall before I had a chance to confront her.
Linda ran into my shoulder as she exited the room, and laughed. She wasn’t even trying to hide her hostility; the hostility that, in a better world, should have been saved for freaks like Kelly.
One way or another I was going to find her, and we were going to settle things.
* * * *
When it came to lunch period I was on the warpath, stalking the halls, and kicking down doors. I burst into the bathroom, and inspected the stalls, even looking under them to find those trademark stomping boots.
One of the girls jumped out, fuming. “You’re not supposed to be in here!”
“I’m looking for Kelly Strickland,” I said.
“I don’t know, and I don’t care! Get out!”
On any other day I would have freaked as well. Last thing any girl needed was a pervert on the prowl where she was most vulnerable, no didn’t matter what my intentions were; how were they supposed to know I wasn’t interested?
Kelly wasn’t in the bathroom, or by her locker, or even in the cafeteria. I stormed onto the lawns, scanned the benches and under the trees, and still she was nowhere to be found.
My phone buzzed again with the same number as before. “Why won’t you talk to me?” the message read. I ignored it.
When I found Kelly she was in the library, huddled around a table with her loser friends, and playing with figurines. That nerdy little Asian kid was there, along with Derrick Hoffernan; he was the one person I wouldn’t push around, first because picking on the developmentally disabled is wrong, and second because he was crazy strong.
I pointed at Kelly. “You.”
The whole table looked up to me.
Kelly smirked. “Something you want?”
“You know exactly what I want,” I said.
She turned back to her book, and laughed.
The Asian kid, I think his name was Simon, shifted nervously and stood. “We were just about to start playing. Um, you can join us if you want.”
I side stepped him, and grabbed Kelly by the arm. “You know what’s going on,” I said.
Derrick swatted my hand away, and pushed between us. He stood at my height, and lifted his shoulders to show how much wider he was. His nostrils flared like a bull readying to charge.
A surge of cold ran down my spine, but I held my game face.
“You can’t hit me,” I said. “That’s transphobia.” It was the excuse Kelly would have used in my place.
Kelly placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him to one side. She couldn’t smile any wider, even if she tried. Well, it didn’t suit her; it made her less attractive, if such a thing was possible, even though she’d gained the upper hand.
“Are you going to stop playing now?” I demanded.
She stepped away from the table, sauntering like a cat, and turned back.
“Are you coming or not?”
I followed, but promised myself I wasn’t going to play more of her games. Who did she think she was? The one in control, I thought. After all, I was the freak in this scenario.
We stopped in the courtyard, and she laughed. Every time she looked at me she was in a fit of giggles; she could barely contain herself, no matter how much she tried to cover her mouth. Yeah, it was real funny.
My fists balled tight. “You know what’s wrong with this picture, don’t you?”
“Things are fine from where I’m standing,” she said.
“Easy for you to say. You’re not the freak anymore!”
“It’s like you always said,” Kelly hummed. “You were asking for it.”
My eyes tightened on her. “So you do know!”
“Yeah,” Kelly said. “I know everything. Yesterday you were cis, and I was trans. Now the tables have turned.”
“You know that ‘cis’ is a made up word…”
“We’ll see if life in my shoes changes your mind,” she said.
Everything in my veins boiled until they bubbled over. My fists flew at her, and I grabbed Kelly by the neck of her dress.
“You did this to me! Now change me back!”
She grinned. “I didn’t do this to you, Shannon. Hera did.”
“Who, or what, is Hera?”
Kelly clasped my wrists, pulled them away, and rolled her eyes. “You really don’t know? She’s a goddess, stupid.”
“A… a what?”
“Goddess,” she said, “like a lady god. You know, queen of the gods, wife of Zeus…”
I was at a loss. “You made a goddess do this?”
“No,” she said. “I asked for her help.”
“Why would she help you?”
Kelly shrugged. “Because I’m a good and faithful worshiper, and she was feeling generous. I don’t know. Gods and goddesses are wildly unpredictable, and while I didn’t expect her to do anything, I’m so very happy that she did.”
This was a dream; it had to be. Greek gods didn’t exist in the real world, and they didn’t do things like this. Yet the more I stared at my hands, the more I listened to my semi-broken voice, the less I could deny it.
“How does it feel?” Kelly pressed. “Does it feel fair to be pushed around when you’re minding your own business? Does it feel good to be the family disappointment? I mean, you were asking for it by being a freak.”
I was shaking. “I didn’t ask for this!”
“But you made a choice,” she said, “by waking up this morning and dressing a girl. You’re going against what god, or at least what a goddess, wants. That’s what you always told me.”
Tears burned down my cheeks. This was not real. This was not real! THIS WAS NOT REAL!
“Make her change me back!”
Kelly beamed. “Can’t. Gods do as gods will. I don’t control them.”
I fell to my knees, shaking. It was official; I was cursed. Kelly got to be me, and I… I didn’t want to think about. It was just so wrong!
“I-i-is there a way to change back?”
“In the old stories a curse might have been lifted if the hero or heroine learned a lesson,” Kelly said. “The Greek gods, even one such as Hera, are not known for their subtlety.”
“Okay, I’ve learned my lesson,” I said. “Trannies are people too! I’ll never pick on you again. I-I’ll buy you a new prom dress! Just make everything normal.”
Kelly shrugged and turned away. “I’m not the one you’ve got to convince, Shannon. Sorry.”
Alone in the courtyard I cried, and I cried. What was I supposed to do? I had a life! I was going to be prom queen! Then, in a blink of an eye, I was nothing. How was I supposed to do anything when a god hated me?
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