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About Literature / Hobbyist trismegistusshandyOther/United States Group :icontrust-machines: Trust-Machines
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Deviant for 4 Years
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Literature
The Doorman [portal TF]
I was terrified as my new master led me away from the auction platform. He wore the insignia of the Sorcerers' Guild on his samite tunic — the guild that had grown so powerful of late that more and more crimes were punished by enslavement, with members of the guild getting the right to bid first. Merchants and even nobles were only allowed to buy those slaves that no sorcerer was interested in. And if a sorcerer had bought me, the chances were a hundred to one that I wouldn’t be alive and human by the end of the week. Rumor said that sorcerers usually used their slaves to test new spells on, or as human sacrifices to feed power into the more demanding spells; I wouldn’t merely be put to work scrubbing floors or dishes.
I debated with myself whether I might live a few days longer if I went along quietly, or if I might earn a quick, relatively painless death if I tried to escape before we reached his house. Obviously, I wouldn’t try to escape before we were safely
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Literature
Star Traders: a review
The short-lived television show Star Traders (1972-73) has long been legendary among fans of science-fictional TV with good stories and bad special effects. Canceled after less than two seasons, it was never widely syndicated partly because of the small number of episodes and mainly because of rights disputes in the wake of the bankruptcy of Silver Silo Studios. These rights disputes prevented any official video release until 1989, when a LaserDisc collection of six of the the best episodes had a limited distribution before being suppressed due to renewed lawsuits. There have been a few bootleg editions over the years; my first exposure to the show was via one of these, a set of VHS tapes with grainy video, echoey audio and Korean subtitles I watched in a friend’s basement some years ago. I recently became aware of a slightly higher quality set of AVI files in a torrent (obligatory note: I do not officially endorse torrenting of pirated content).
The show featured the crew
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Literature
Trust Machines: Show and Tell
"All right," said Ms. Koopman, eyeing her kindergarten class.  "Who's next...?  Kimberly, what have you got for Show and Tell?"
The little girl she'd called on got up and walked up in front of the class, holding what seemed like an off-brand Barbie of some sort.  The doll was about ten inches high, with red hair and a more realistic figure than a Barbie, but still clearly an adult, and dressed in a yellow sundress and strappy sandals.
"This is my uncle Kevin," she announced.  "Mommy used the vim machine to turn him into my doll."
Ms. Koopman opened her eyes wide in surprise.  "Kimberly, are you sure you should bring your uncle to school?  It could be very bad for your uncle if you lose him."
"I'm always very careful," Kimberly insisted.  "I keep her inside my backpack when I'm not playing with her."
"How was it that he venned into your doll?  And for how long?"
"He lost his job because of an indestructible downturn," Kimberly explained.  "An
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Literature
Homesick (3/3) [TG]
Some days later, though, after the first snowfall of the season, I found my footsteps turning that way again, one evening after I left the library just before closing.  I didn’t consciously realize I was there until I recognized the house and the minivan in the driveway.  And without much thinking about it, I walked up to the house (now decorated with colored lights for Christmas) and looked in the windows.  The living room was empty; there was a Christmas tree up, but it seemed pretty bare, with just a handful of scattered ornaments.  Both boys were in the older boy’s bedroom, playing some kind of video game — I couldn’t get a good look at the screen, at that angle — and Lauren was in the kitchen, fixing supper.  When I walked around the front of the house again after looking in the den windows, there was Brandon just pulling up and getting out of his car.  On impulse, I followed him in.  I would just hang out as they at
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Literature
Homesick (2/3) [TG]
The next day, we went out to look for work again.  And again, we found nothing.  After we met up again at midday, we went to a pawn shop and pawned the two newest phones and Mom and Kiara’s jewelry.  Dad wanted to keep two phones to dial 911 with if necessary — one for each group when we split up.  We got almost three hundred dollars, and after a couple of hours of careful discussion about how to use it, we wound up buying a tank of gas, some more groceries including fruit, cheese, and gallon bottles of water, and some toiletries — four toothbrushes and a single tube of toothpaste, a canister of baby wipes to clean ourselves with, and a bottle of no-rinse shampoo.  By the time we bought four blankets, a flannel shirt for Dad, and an anthology of short stories at the thrift store, it was too late in the day to look for work anymore.  We sat in the car, taking turns reading aloud to each other, until it was too dark to read.
Tuesday morning
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Literature
Homesick (1/3) [TG]
We’d all gone to see the new Tombs of Atuan movie, Mom and Dad and Kiara and me.  On the way home, we chatted about the movie and got into an argument about whether they’d gotten Ged and Tenar’s relationship right.  Those were the last normal moments of our lives.
Then Dad turned into our subdivision — still normal — turned onto our street — still normal — approached our house...
...and it wasn’t there.  Mr. Starrett’s house was on the left, with his red F-150 in the driveway, and the Petrovs' house was on the right, with no cars in the driveway but all their super-early Christmas decorations on the porch and lawn (it wasn’t even Halloween yet) — and there was nothing between them.
Dad parked on the street and we all stared in confusion.
“This can’t be happening,” Dad said, gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white.
“What happened to our house?” Kiar
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Mature content
Trust Machines: OTP :icontrismegistusshandy:trismegistusshandy 3 5
Mature content
Time Waits for No Man [TG/TF/time travel] :icontrismegistusshandy:trismegistusshandy 9 2
Literature
Permission Slip [TF/TG]
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,
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Literature
My Sister, the Prophet [TG/bodyswap/time travel]
One summer's day, a few moons after I had my first bleeding and became a woman, my older sister Saka and I were gathering berries and roots when she dug up something strange under the roots of a sassafras bush.  It was bright and shiny like the sunlit surface of a brook.  She called me over to look as she dug it out and lifted it.  It was bigger than a man's fist, smaller than a baby's head, and perfectly round, like the full moon.  It caught the sunlight in wonderful wavy patterns.
And then it turned dull and lifeless, and crumbled into dust, and my sister suddenly went mad.  Or so I thought at the time.
She looked around her, looking a little harder at me than at the other things around us, then looked at herself.  Then she grasped her breasts and moaned, and said something I didn't understand.  Something like the language of another tribe.  "What's wrong, Saka?" I asked, but she put a hand to her crotch and screamed.
The other women came runni
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Literature
Borrowing [TF/TG]
Early one morning, a seal swam to shore on a beach that seals did not normally frequent, for it was too heavily populated by humans.  Not at this hour of the morning, however; no one was on the beach to see her.  She waddled up the beach a ways, to high tide line and a little beyond, and then contorted herself in a way that seals rarely do, shucking off her skin and revealing herself as a tall woman with tan skin and black hair.  She picked up the sealskin, folded it, and tucked it under her arm, then with a cautious glance around, walked up the wooden steps that crossed the dunes and connected the beach to one of the beach houses.  Here, on the back porch, there were several towels and swimsuits hung out to dry.  The woman stole, or perhaps borrowed, a one-piece woman's swimsuit, teal with yellow trim, and covered her nakedness.  Then, with another glance around, she returned the way she had come, and, looking around again, hid her sealskin under the wood
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Literature
False Positives (TG/TF)
I pulled up to the gate and showed the guard my invitation; she waved me through and directed me to visitors' parking.  At this angle, the Lamp didn't look as much like an old-fashioned Arabian oil lamp as it did in certain photographs, but you could see how it got that nickname; all round and bulbous in the center, with a long curving balcony-thing about three or four stories up.
And, of course, there were genies inside.
I parked and looked in the rear-view mirror, combing my hair and straightening my tie.  Nobody was quite sure how much the genies understood about human gender -- obviously not enough -- but to whatever extent they did, I had to give the right impression.  These stupid breasts might be immune to hormones or mastectomy, but I'd bound them down as tight as I could -- which left them still pretty noticeable -- and I'd worn not just masculine clothes, as I did every day, but formal clothes, a suit with jacket and tie.
At least the nanites didn't insist on l
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Literature
Unchanged (TG/TF)
I opened my eyes, blinked the bleariness out of them, and tried to stretch, only to find that my hands and feet were shackled.  *Still* shackled.  Oh, right, I remember now.  I glanced down and saw breasts.
"Huh.  What do you know.  He wasn't crazy."
Then I looked around and saw my captor, walking swiftly toward me followed by his assistant.  He was gleefully wringing his hands, and saying "Ah, I see you're awake now, my pretty."
"On second thought," I muttered, "he wasn't delusional about being able to do *this*, anyway.  Jury's still out on whether he's sane."
"As you can see," my captor said, as his assistant held up a mirror to show me my new face and chest, "you are now a beautiful woman, anatomically correct and fully functional.  Not only that, but my nanites are even now putting the finishing touches on your brain!  Soon, if not already -- I predicted a 94% chance that the change would be complete by the time you awoke, if you recall
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Literature
Reverse Engineering
On the eve of our seventh wedding anniversary, I got home almost an hour late; I'd gotten two days off work, Friday and Monday, but then, of course, some crisis would just *have* to happen on Thursday afternoon and keep me at the office an extra hour.  I drove a bit faster to make up for it, and the traffic was lighter at that time of day.
"Honey, I'm home," I called out as I walked in the door.
"I'm in the lab," came Jenny's muffled voice.  Still working on our anniversary present, apparently.
I opened the basement door and said "I'll change clothes and come down in a bit."
"It's almost done," Jenny called out a few minutes later as I walked down the basement stairs.  "Go ahead and undress and climb into the chamber on the left.  You haven't eaten or drunk anything for the last six hours, right?"
"No, I remembered what you told me this morning.  It's not going to mess anything up if I get in before you're quite finished, is it?" I asked, stalling.
"No, it's fi
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Silent Squee by trismegistusshandy Silent Squee :icontrismegistusshandy:trismegistusshandy 5 0
Mature content
Two First Times (TG/TF) :icontrismegistusshandy:trismegistusshandy 11 0

Favourites

Literature
Relationship Advice (Body Swap: MtF / Pregnancy)
r/relationship_advice • posted 1 hour ago by u/throwawayprankedman
I [25M] am the victim of an April Fools’ prank that my wife [24F] played on my. Not sure what to do.
Basically the title… but a little more complicated? You see, my wife is kind of a witch (I knew this before we got married so I knew what I was getting in to) and as a result she tends to be able to outclass me when it comes to pranking. This year I think she may have taken it a bit too far.
Now, before I can properly say just what she did, I’ll need to give you a little more background. My wife and I have been expecting for a while now. She is due in the middle of May and neither of us can wait to welcome our beautiful baby girl into the family. The pregnancy has been rough on my wife (she refuses to use magic to calm her morning sickness in fear of affecting the baby) and this is kind of where I fucked up (I’ll link my AITA post in a comment below for some more background). All you
:iconSynariatales:Synariatales
:iconsynariatales:Synariatales 16 4
Mature content
[2B Labs] Stuffed (Doughnut TF) :iconrosewood-witch:rosewood-witch 36 5
Tip and Ozma by Xamag Tip and Ozma :iconxamag:Xamag 2,563 85
Mature content
Blue and Pink :icondkfenger:dkfenger 27 39
Literature
The Rift
One spring day when freezing rain forced the cracks in the pavement wider, Alan found a long dark feather that shimmered. He picked it up despite thinking of bird germs and bird flu and who-knew-what else tainting the thing. It was pretty.
Back home, he took off his heavy work boots and showered to get the dust of the day off him. Afterward he noticed the feather again, wondering what to do with it. It would be fun to have a quill pen even he never really used it, even if he could order a perfectly good one online. It'd make him feel like he'd done something unusual. He took out a fancy tool-filled knife that he owned for the same reason, and tried cutting the feather's stem into a point.
The air split. Alan staggered backward, unsure whether there'd been a thunderous explosion or only a burst of color that his brain couldn't process. Some of the second idea was definitely true. A hole stood out in the middle of his dim apartment's empty space. It expanded into a circle, and shined wit
:iconKSchnee:KSchnee
:iconkschnee:KSchnee 12 3
Mature content
Blue Streak :icondkfenger:dkfenger 20 16
A Simple Misunderstanding: TG Caption by theokgatsby
Mature content
A Simple Misunderstanding: TG Caption :icontheokgatsby:theokgatsby 385 38
Static Fairy by scarypet Static Fairy :iconscarypet:scarypet 604 37
Mature content
Blue Satin :icondkfenger:dkfenger 30 10
Some Comic of Mine 009 by DanShive Some Comic of Mine 009 :icondanshive:DanShive 369 112 Lost and Adrift by PDSmith
Mature content
Lost and Adrift :iconpdsmith:PDSmith 21 23
Literature
E-Venn Now
Maggie sat up on her bed as her husband of 28 years came in with a tray. The smell of fresh biscuits, scrambled eggs, ham, and coffee greeted her as John said, “Happy birthday, Honey.”
“Why do I never hear you get up when you do this?” she asked as he brought the tray to her.
“Because you’re too tired from staying up so late, and you’re not used to getting up in the morning anymore,” he responded as he sat the tray in front of her. Pulling the pillow from his side of the bed he tucked it in behind her, giving her a quick kiss before leaving her to her breakfast.
She smiled, but wondered how they had gotten to this point. The kids were gone – the last one was finishing up her third year at university. They should be looking at retirement. But the years hadn’t been as kind as they should have been.
The morning’s little gesture of his was nice when it happened, but they were rare, and he never seemed to think of anything be
:iconAbNom:AbNom
:iconabnom:AbNom 12 10
Mature content
Out of the Blue :icondkfenger:dkfenger 36 15
Mature content
Methylene Blue :icondkfenger:dkfenger 50 22
Mature content
Blue Lines :icondkfenger:dkfenger 43 27
Mature content
Blue :icondkfenger:dkfenger 82 45

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I was terrified as my new master led me away from the auction platform. He wore the insignia of the Sorcerers' Guild on his samite tunic — the guild that had grown so powerful of late that more and more crimes were punished by enslavement, with members of the guild getting the right to bid first. Merchants and even nobles were only allowed to buy those slaves that no sorcerer was interested in. And if a sorcerer had bought me, the chances were a hundred to one that I wouldn’t be alive and human by the end of the week. Rumor said that sorcerers usually used their slaves to test new spells on, or as human sacrifices to feed power into the more demanding spells; I wouldn’t merely be put to work scrubbing floors or dishes.

I debated with myself whether I might live a few days longer if I went along quietly, or if I might earn a quick, relatively painless death if I tried to escape before we reached his house. Obviously, I wouldn’t try to escape before we were safely away from the crowd and the guards around the auction house... but I had no chance. The moment we stepped into the street outside, my master chanted a few strange syllables and our surroundings suddenly changed; we were in the vestibule of a luxurious house, surrounded by closed doors whose lintels and jambs were ornately carved and gilt. The sorcerer opened one of them and tugged my chain, pulling me after him through a big room full of upholstered furniture and shelves of curious knick-knacks, many of them doubtless magical, to another, more sparely appointed room with a wide, empty space in the middle, two of its walls lined with shelves — one containing books and scrolls, another jars and boxes.

My master ordered me to stand in the center of the room, inside a geometric pattern painted inside a circle on the floor, and locked my chain to a ring fixed to the floor. I trembled in anticipation.

He took a pinch of something from one of the jars on the shelf and tossed it into the air toward me. It spread out in a thin cloud all around me, making me cough as he chanted, pacing around the circle. Finally, the cloud dissipated and the chanting stopped. I felt no different. Had his spell failed, or were its effects unobvious?

“That spell should make it impossible for you to disobey me,” he said. “Step out of the circle.”

I did so without hesitation, the chain attached to my collar unlocking itself and trailing behind me.

“Follow me.” He led me back through the furniture-filled room and the vestibule through another door and a corridor, then down two flights of stairs to another corridor and a narrow room with a straw pallet on the floor.

“Rest,” he said. “Don’t leave this room. I will return when I need you.”

I found a chamber-pot, a jug of more or less clean water, and a loaf of bread, finer and tastier than the bread whose theft had led me here. I ate and drank, then laid down on the straw. He hadn’t closed the door, but I found I couldn’t even consider the idea of leaving.

I slept for a time, ate and drank more, brooded over my fate, relieved myself, slept, and brooded some more. The room and the pallet were more comfortable than many of the alleyways I’d slept in, but terror and anxiety made it at least as bad as my worst nights on the streets since my mother died and the landlord turned me out.

Finally, he returned for me and commanded me to follow him. We returned to the workroom where he had cast the obedience spell on me. He ordered me to stand in the center of the circle and not to leave it, then cast a spell to break the iron collar around my neck. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if he had changed his mind and was freeing me. That was the legal significance of the collar, after all. But then he told me to toss the remains of the collar and chain out of the circle, and strip off my loincloth and toss it out as well. I realized then that he simply needed me naked for his spell, whatever it was, to work.

This spell lasted far longer than the last. He took down a book from the shelf and read long passages aloud. The powders he tossed into the circle clouded the air so opaquely that I couldn’t see the sorcerer or the walls of the room, and could barely even hear his chanting. It seemed like half an hour or more passed before I felt anything but slight difficulty breathing.

Then I gradually became aware of something else. Not sight or hearing or any other sense I’d known before, but a more direct perception of something far beyond my experience. Vast tracts of empty space, so wide that the fastest horse could gallop for all of human history and never cross a noticeable fraction of the distance; and scattered at the widest intervals, clusters of suns, still vast distances apart, yet close together compared to the distances between the clusters. And then, as I became more aware of these suns and the spaces around them, I found that many of them were surrounded by rocky or cloudy or watery balls of various sizes. My awareness of the sorcerer’s workroom, my laboring lungs, and the sorcerer’s chanting faded into the background, but I never lost it entirely; it just seemed uninteresting compared to the suns and the little balls surrounding them.

As I grew more aware of the details of the little balls, perceiving that some of them had living creatures on their surfaces, some of whom seemed to be a lot like humans, judging from their houses and carriages and roads, I realized with a shock that everything I’d ever known — the city where I’d been born, the rumors of the countryside and other cities and distant countries beyond — must be a thin layer on the surface of a rocky ball like the ones I’d now become aware of.

And then the distant chanting ceased and the cloud around my body dissipated. I looked around the room with far less than half my attention while I simultaneously considered countless little rocky worlds, each different from my own, only a tiny fraction similar enough to my own for me to understand much of what I perceived. The sorcerer and his workroom were much as I had seen them last, but my own body... my arms and legs and torso had changed. Most of me was deep black, with pinpoints of light that I realized were the suns I had been perceiving — or rather, whole clusters of them.

“Show me a world like our own,” the sorcerer commanded, “with thinking inhabitants who build roads and cities.”

I quickly chose one of the worlds I could perceive, and concentrated on it. As I did so, the pinpoints of light scatted across the “skin” of my body vanished, and my torso was filled with a sphere mottled with ocean and land. Half of its surface was illuminated by the light of a sun that I could perceive with my new sense, but not see within my body.

“Closer,” he commanded. “Show me the wealthiest city in that world.”

That was a harder command to obey. By what standard would I judge wealth when I barely comprehended the peoples of that world and their ways of life? In various places in that world, the people used different substances for money; in others, they didn’t use money at all. I arbitrarily chose one of the bigger cities, one which seemed to have fewer people living in misery than most of the other large cities, and more beautiful, well-built houses and fewer ramshackle hovels than the city I’d grown up in. The skin of my torso became a view of the city from above, my arms and legs showing glimpses of its outlying farms and villages and the rivers that joined in the city to form a larger one that flowed down my left leg.

“Show me the house of the richest man in the city.”

The people of that world had three sexes; I thought for a few moments to decide which of them was most like our world’s men, then considered the households of the city and which, if any, seemed to have a “man” in charge of them, then which of those showed the most signs of wealth. Finally, I selected one, again more or less arbitrarily. My torso showed the house, the street in front of it, the passing carriages pulled by no manner of beast, but gliding silently along without touching the street.

“Now the interior rooms of the house, one by one.”

I showed him the rooms. Six people were eating in one of the rooms, while another, perhaps the kitchen, seemed to have three others working on food preparation. The other rooms were vacant. Finally, as I showed him one of the more richly-furnished rooms, he commanded me to give him a close-in view of one of the shelves. With that, he stepped into the circle and reached into my chest, his hand passing through the apparent surface of my skin without impediment, and lifted a couple of mysterious objects off the shelf, pulling them out. He commanded me to continue showing him the rooms, retrieving a few more objects from the house.

At last, he said: “Return to your cell. Do you know the way?”

“Yes, Master,” I said, and started to go. I found that my hands could not handle doors, however. If I tried to twist a doorknob, the knob and part of the door would pass into the other world. If I pulled my hand back quickly enough, the doorknob would return to our world unharmed, but when, on my second attempt, I fumbled around enough to pass my hand entirely through the knob and door, the knob and the cross-section of door surrounding it, cut off from the rest of the door by the boundaries of my hand, dropped to the floor of the house I had been focusing on. In my surprise, I lost my concentration on that house, and my vision expanded to the vast spaces between clusters of suns. I walked right through the door, and perceived that a man-shaped cross-section of the door, thousands of suns high, had appeared in the empty spaces between the clusters of suns.

“Stop!” the sorcerer shouted, and I halted just a couple of paces into the next room. “Let me go before you and open the doors,” he said, and did so.

In my cell once more, I realized that I felt no hunger, no thirst, no need to empty my bladder or bowels. Or sleep. I contemplated the world the sorcerer had commanded me to show him, and many others, as well as the processes going on in the hearts of the suns, the gradual formation of new suns from vast clouds of dust, and many other things I have no words to express.

After an unknown time, the sorcerer returned for me. He commanded me to follow him to the workroom, then to show him another house in the same city, one with an extensive library. “One with many more things like this,” he said, showing me one of the things he had taken from the first house. After some thought, I found what he wanted, and he looted the shelves, plucking fifty or a hundred books from my chest, then dismissed me to return to my cell.

What seemed like a much longer time passed; learning the language in which those books were written must have taken months, I suppose, though my perception of the passing of time was becoming vaguer. I did not grow bored, having plenty to watch and think about in the uncountably vast number of worlds I could now perceive at once.

Then I became aware of the sound of weeping coming from somewhere near my cell; the high-pitched sound suggested a child or a woman. This touched my heart in a way the suffering of the uncountable sick, poor, and oppressed on the many little ball-worlds had not. I walked out of my cell, realizing as I did so that I no longer felt any need to obey the sorcerer, and searched out the source of the weeping. It came from inside another cell along the corridor, its door wide open. A girl, just a few years younger than me, was sitting on a pallet of straw and sobbing; but as she saw me, she gaped for a moment and then screamed.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said. “I mean you no harm.” I saw the iron collar around her neck. “I see you’re a slave. So am I. The sorcerer did this to me.”

“Will he do the same to me?” she asked in a hoarse voice.

“I don’t know. He hasn’t shared his plans.”

“He cast a spell on me,” she said. “Even though the door is wide open, and my legs work fine, I can’t walk out!”

“I know,” I said. “He did the same to me when I arrived. But it seems that the spell has worn off with time, or perhaps the other spell he cast, the one that made me like this, gradually wore away the obedience spell.”

“Did it hurt?” she asked timidly.

“Not much,” I reassured her, though I wasn’t sure that the sorcerer would do the same to her as he had done to me. “What were you enslaved for? I stole a loaf of bread.”

“They said I stole the silver from one of the houses where I was picking up and delivering laundry, but I never did! I think one of the servants there must have stolen it, and they agreed to blame an outsider.”

An idea had been growing in the back of my mind. As we spoke, I focused my perceptions on one of the worlds I had been contemplating, one which was inhabited by three different types of people, one of them as much like humans as any of the myriad peoples of the myriad worlds that lay open to my perceptions. They breathed the same kind of air, could digest the same food, could produce the same sounds with their mouths, and even had two sexes. I found a town I had noted where the people were generous and hospitable to strangers, and focused on a street outside a public dining hall.

“What is happening to you?” the girl asked.

“I am helping you escape,” I said, stepping slowly into her cell. “You can’t leave your cell, but you can do what you like within it, correct?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Then crawl into me when I give the word.”

“Crawl... into you?” she asked doubtfully. I knelt before her and brought my arms to my side.

“You can just stick your hand or arm into me at first, if you prefer.”

Hesitantly, she did so. No harm or pain came to her, and gathering her courage, she poked her head into me as well.

“You won’t be able to understand their language at first,” I said. “But you can learn it; I think they will help you. They don’t practice slavery there.”

“Thank you,” she said, and crawled through me onto the sidewalk in front of the dining hall.

I returned to my cell and watched the girl as she took in her bewildering surroundings, and was approached by friendly strangers, who took her into the dining hall and got her something to eat, trying various languages to communicate with her and then beginning to teach her one of the more widely spoken languages of their world by gestures. By the time the sorcerer came looking for her, she had lodging in a public guest-house and was enrolled in a language class for immigrants and refugees.

The sorcerer came to my cell. “Did you see a girl pass by your door?” he asked. “I don’t know how she could have escaped. I commanded her to stay in her cell. Someone must have stolen her.”

“I haven’t seen her,” I said. “I heard weeping and screaming some time ago. I suppose that was her.”

“Patrol this corridor until I tell you otherwise,” he said. “Walk up and down it, and call out if intruders appear, or if a slave tries to escape.”

“Very well, Master,” I said. I didn’t see any benefit in letting him know I was no longer under an obedience spell. I could contemplate the myriad worlds inside me just as well while pacing up and down the corridor as I could while sitting in my cell.

Some time later, the sorcerer escorted a new slave, a big burly man, into the corridor and put him in the cell the girl had occupied, giving him the same orders — to stay in the cell until told otherwise and take care of his bodily needs. The new slave was also ordered to scream if someone other than the sorcerer or me appeared, and to resist if someone other than the sorcerer tried to remove him from the cell.

That presented some difficulties, but some hours later, when the new slave was asleep, I went into his cell, focused on the common room of the guest-house in the hospitable city, and laid down on top of the big man. My own boundaries had grown a little vaguer and more amorphous over time — I no longer had distinct fingers, toes, or genitals — and I found that I could, with a little effort, stretch myself to his size and a little bigger, so that he could fit through me. I left him lying on the sofa of the common room, to be found a little later by the staff and guests when they rose for the day. I returned to my patrol and watched both him and the girl, as well as uncountable other people on uncountable worlds, until the sorcerer returned.

“What happened to him?” he demanded. “Why did you not call out when he escaped or was rescued?”

“I saw nothing,” I lied, continuing to pace up and down the corridor as we talked. “I walked past his cell, and he was lying there asleep; I walked past again, and he was gone. You told me to inform you if intruders appeared or a slave tried to escape, not if he simply vanished.”

The sorcerer gave me more explicit instructions, then left, cursing up a storm. Some time later, he returned with a new slave following him, a bony, half-starved boy barely old enough to be legally responsible for a crime.

“Follow me,” he ordered us, and led us both to his workroom.

“Show me the city where you showed me the library before,” he told me. “Focus on a rich house with nobody home.”

I did so, seeing no obvious reason why not. I supposed he would simply reach into me and steal a few things.

But as soon as my “skin” showed a view of the vestibule of the house, the sorcerer said to the boy, “Take this bag and step into him. That’s right, just walk into him like he’s an open door. Be careful to keep your arms close to your body as you pass through. Fill your bag with small items, things like the pictures in the books I showed you — not simple cups or statues, no matter how valuable the materials, but things with many intricate parts. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master. What should I do when the bag is full?”

“Come back here through his body. I will command him to follow you around the house, so you should always see a man-shaped hole in the air nearby, and perhaps you will be able to see me and this room through it. You can report about that when you return.”

The boy nodded and said “Yes, Master,” starting toward me.

I knew that the boy would not survive that mission. The air of the world the sorcerer had asked me to focus on was not breathable for humans. So the moment he was about to pass through me, I shifted my focus to the world where I had freed the sorcerer’s last two slaves, and the guest-house where both of them now lived. The boy, bound by the obedience spell, continued walking through me into the common room of the guest-house. The sorcerer, after a moment of shock, screamed “No, stop!” But it was too late; the boy was through and apparently couldn’t hear him. I expanded my focus until I showed him the vast spaces between suns.

“What happened?” he said. “I command you to show me the boy and the house he went into!”

“No,” I said, and started forward. He screamed and began chanting a spell, but it had no effect on me, and just before I reached him, he turned and ran through the house. I pursued, allowing him to keep just ahead of me until he had almost reached the front door, and then engulfed him.

He floated helpless in the vast, airless space between the suns, gasping and flailing, screaming soundlessly, and then going still.

For a long time I stood there, silently contemplating the three slaves I had rescued and exiled, and uncountable numbers of other lives on so many worlds. Standing in the vestibule was as comfortable as standing in my cell, or patrolling the corridor. But after a time, I came to a decision. There were others like me, enslaved for no reason but that they were hungry and had taken bread from those who had plenty. Why should they languish in prison only to be experimented on or sacrificed?

I walked through the front door, leaving a man-shaped hole, and set out for the slave auction house.
The Doorman [portal TF]
This story first appeared in the submission thread for a  short story contest on Scribblehub.  It was inspired by Israfil by 000Fesbra000, the image prompt for the contest.

Thanks to MrSimple, JAK, and clancy688 for feedback on earlier drafts.

My other free stories can be found at:

I also have five ebooks for sale, most of whose contents aren't available elsewhere for free. Smashwords pays its authors higher royalties than Amazon.


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The short-lived television show Star Traders (1972-73) has long been legendary among fans of science-fictional TV with good stories and bad special effects. Canceled after less than two seasons, it was never widely syndicated partly because of the small number of episodes and mainly because of rights disputes in the wake of the bankruptcy of Silver Silo Studios. These rights disputes prevented any official video release until 1989, when a LaserDisc collection of six of the the best episodes had a limited distribution before being suppressed due to renewed lawsuits. There have been a few bootleg editions over the years; my first exposure to the show was via one of these, a set of VHS tapes with grainy video, echoey audio and Korean subtitles I watched in a friend’s basement some years ago. I recently became aware of a slightly higher quality set of AVI files in a torrent (obligatory note: I do not officially endorse torrenting of pirated content).

The show featured the crew of an interstellar trading vessel which typically visited a different planet or space station in each episode, looking to buy and sell various cargoes advantageously; variations in local laws and customs provide much of the plot conflict, as they find for instance that merchandise they had hoped to sell legally has been outlawed in the time since their last visit to a given planet. (The show wasn’t very consistent in its physics, but it took relativistic time dilation more seriously than Star Trek ever did. Decades of social and political upheaval passed on the planet Ereshkigal between the crew’s first visit there in episode three and their second in episode eighteen, while mere months passed for the crew.)

The crew of the Caravan included the jovial patriarch Captain Frederic Tunstall (Tim Siler); his wife Dr. Emily Tunstall (Ursula Kingman), the ship’s medical officer; dapper ladies' man First Mate Roger Enderby (Jeremy Walters), Dr. Tunstall’s younger brother; Chief Engineer Sven Larssen-Tunstall (Lars Svensen); his wife, Chief Steward Amy Larssen-Tunstall (Julie Siler); and a passel of other Tunstall cousins and in-laws in subordinate positions, and Tunstall children and grandchildren underfoot. It makes sense that if centuries pass on your home planet while you spend your career on a starship, you would bring your family along. First Mate Roger Enderby, the only unmarried character among the main cast, played something like the “Kirk” role in many episodes, being the focus of romantic subplots with a variety of women in various ports. The other main cast tended to be involved in intramarital drama B-plots more typical of a sitcom than a space adventure show, e.g. Dr. Tunstall’s constant efforts to get Captain Tunstall to cut back on the exotic alien pastries.

Those with an encyclopedic knowledge of 1970s character actors will notice that Star Traders did somewhat better than Star Trek in portraying women in positions of authority, but less well on racial diversity; all the main cast were white. In his defense, executive producer Quinn Siler pointed out that they were nearly all related. Critics further noted that much of the cast were hired from among Siler’s own extensive set of Hollywood hopeful cousins and in-laws, which undoubtedly helped with making the Tunstall family look like they were related.

The transgender element, my reason for reviewing the show here, appeared in the finale to season one and the scant six episodes of season two. In the final episode of the first season, the crew are on shore leave at the giant space station Raven-4 when a local terrorist group sets off a mind-shuffling device which affects everyone within a half-kilometer radius. Most people swap with someone fairly nearby, which means most of the crew end up in the bodies of relatives and shipmates (for instance, the Captain and the Doctor swap, as do the Chief Engineer and the Chief Steward), but some shuffle into the bodies of station natives or visiting crew from other ships, some of them nonhuman or even non-humanoid. (Non-humanoid aliens were generally represented by puppets, not very convincingly.) Nearly all were restored to their original bodies by the end of the episode, but the original body of First Mate Roger Enderby was killed in a riot, and he was stuck in the body of the lovely teal-skinned alien Siruanna (Raquel Lundquist, credited as a guest star in this episode). Walters left the cast as of the end of season one, while Lundquist joined the main cast and was added to the opening credits beginning with season two; several episodes of season two involve a B-plot focusing on Enderby’s discomfort with and gradual adjustment to his new body — not just his altered gender, but the new senses his alien body has (he’s empathic, and sees five primary colors including ultraviolet and infrared).

Various zines have published interviews over the years containing contradictory statements from Walters, Lundquist, and Siler about the reasons for the switch. Reading between the lines, it appears that Siler found Walters personally hard to work with, but decided, on the basis of fan mail, that his character was too popular to kill off. This unique solution allowed him to fire the actor and keep the character. Whether it was a good solution may never be known; I freely admit my bias, the cause of which will be obvious to my readers here, toward thinking the six episodes of the second season more interesting than most of the first season. Raquel Lundquist was a fine actress, too little remembered (chiefly for guest roles on M*A*S*H and Columbo), and could, I think, have done great things with the role of Enderby if the show had continued for another season or two. Alas, she was still growing into the role when the show ended, and most of the zine articles I’ve run across vociferously disagree with the producer’s decision. I note merely that these critics did not have to work with Walters; his tenure on two other shows was similarly brief and in 1975 he left acting for a career in sales.
Star Traders: a review
This first appeared as an April Fool's Day post on BigCloset and the tg_fiction mailing list in 2015.  If you like this, you may enjoy Jenny North's screenplay-story Mockumentary, which has similar themes -- a transgender plot in a fiction television show and its effect on the real life of the actors, producers, etc. -- but treated at much greater length.

My other free stories can be found at:

I also have five ebooks for sale, most of whose contents aren't available elsewhere for free. Smashwords pays its authors higher royalties than Amazon.

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"All right," said Ms. Koopman, eyeing her kindergarten class.  "Who's next...?  Kimberly, what have you got for Show and Tell?"

The little girl she'd called on got up and walked up in front of the class, holding what seemed like an off-brand Barbie of some sort.  The doll was about ten inches high, with red hair and a more realistic figure than a Barbie, but still clearly an adult, and dressed in a yellow sundress and strappy sandals.

"This is my uncle Kevin," she announced.  "Mommy used the vim machine to turn him into my doll."

Ms. Koopman opened her eyes wide in surprise.  "Kimberly, are you sure you should bring your uncle to school?  It could be very bad for your uncle if you lose him."

"I'm always very careful," Kimberly insisted.  "I keep her inside my backpack when I'm not playing with her."

"How was it that he venned into your doll?  And for how long?"

"He lost his job because of an indestructible downturn," Kimberly explained.  "And he tried to find another one, but he couldn't, so he moved in and slept on our sofa.  And then he said he didn't want to eat us out of hows and whom, so one day when me and him and Mommy were playing tea party, he said he would be my doll for a year and maybe the indestroy would upturn again and people would give him another job, so we all went to the mall, and me and Mommy went in one side of the vim machine and Uncle Kevin went in the other one, and I picked out the doll I wanted and Mommy pushed the big green button and Uncle Kevin turned into a doll!"  Her voice grew more and more excited as she hurried on with her narrative.

"Very nice," Ms. Koopman said, lavishly praising her and suppressing a shudder.  She'd gotten venned into various humanoid and animal forms -- only over the weekend or summer, because the principal frowned on staff coming to work venned -- but the one time she'd tried being a hat for her friend Megan, she'd hated the way it had affected her mind and never wanted to be inanimate again.  The idea of being a doll for a whole year...

"When you grow up, you'll be able to have your friends turn you into things and turn your friends into things," she said, addressing the class as a whole.  "But you must be very careful to only go into the Venn machine with someone you trust completely.  And before you agree to change into something for a long time, like Kimberly's Uncle Kevin, you should try it out for just a day first and see if you like it."

"Uncle Kevin said he'd been an unanimal object before," Kimberly said.  "He wouldn't tell me what it was, though.  He said it was a grown-up secret."

Ms. Koopman tried not to show her embarrassment at the thoughts that suggested.  "That was very smart.  I hope you didn't try to wheedle the answer out of him."

"No, ma'am."

"All right.  Arianna, you're next...  Kimberly, be sure to put your uncle down deep inside your backpack so she doesn't fall out."  Ms. Koopman winced slightly, realizing Kimberly's use of female pronouns for her doll-uncle had rubbed off on her.  While she listened to Arianna talk about the big conch shell she'd found at the beach last summer, she started writing a note to Kimberly's mother, telling her that Kimberly had brought her uncle to school and recommending that she not let her take him out of the house again.  She'd hate to have him get lost.  Being a doll for a year would be bad enough even with a loving niece to play with him every day; it could be a lot worse.
Trust Machines: Show and Tell
Thanks to dkfenger, MrSimple and JAK for their feedback on the first draft.

My other free stories can be found at:



I also have five ebooks for sale, most of whose contents aren't available elsewhere for free. Smashwords pays its authors higher royalties than Amazon.

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Some days later, though, after the first snowfall of the season, I found my footsteps turning that way again, one evening after I left the library just before closing.  I didn’t consciously realize I was there until I recognized the house and the minivan in the driveway.  And without much thinking about it, I walked up to the house (now decorated with colored lights for Christmas) and looked in the windows.  The living room was empty; there was a Christmas tree up, but it seemed pretty bare, with just a handful of scattered ornaments.  Both boys were in the older boy’s bedroom, playing some kind of video game — I couldn’t get a good look at the screen, at that angle — and Lauren was in the kitchen, fixing supper.  When I walked around the front of the house again after looking in the den windows, there was Brandon just pulling up and getting out of his car.  On impulse, I followed him in.  I would just hang out as they ate supper, I decided; it would feel kind of like being back home with Mom and Dad and Kiara.  I told myself I wouldn’t stay after they went to bed.

I helped Lauren out a little, cleaning up after her as she finished cooking supper.  When she called everyone to supper, I sat down with them and listened as they chatted about their days at work and school.  Again, I started feeling so homesick that I cried.  “I miss my mom so much,” I sobbed, “and Dad and Kiara...”  I wanted a hug from my mom, but I’d settle for one from Lauren, and I knew I wasn’t going to get that, either.

After supper, I washed the pots and pans and loaded the dishwasher before any of them could start on it.  They didn’t notice me working, and later I heard Lauren commend Dustin for doing the dishes without being asked; he looked a little confused for a moment and then said, “Sure, no problem.”

I sat in the living room with Lauren and Brandon for a while, until the boys had gone to bed and they started getting amorous.  Then I started toward the front door — and hesitated.

Maybe it was wrong, but I turned back, went down the hall to the bedrooms, and slipped into the dead girl’s room.  She wasn’t using it.  And I could use a reminder of Kiara.  I curled up with her koala plushie and lay there quietly, remembering everyone I’d lost — those who’d disappeared and those who’d forgotten I ever existed.

I slipped into a fugue state after a while, like I did sometimes when walking long distances at night.  It felt very different from actual sleep, though.  When I became fully aware again, it was morning and the family was stirring, getting ready for work and school.  I put the koala plushie back in its place among the others arranged on the shelf over the bed and got up to listen in on the breakfast conversation and help clean up after breakfast.

Once everyone was gone, and I’d finished the breakfast dishes, I put all the dirty clothes in the washing machine, then sat down in the easy chair to read, picking up the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin where I’d left off.

I didn’t leave again for several days.  When I went for a walk the following weekend, I came back to the house before evening and sat at the table while they ate supper, then washed the dishes as usual.  December wore on and they kept decorating the Christmas tree, putting on a few ornaments every night after supper.  I kept cleaning the house when everyone was out, and reading through the books from the dead girl’s shelf during the night when everyone was asleep.  On the flyleaf of a collection of fairy tales, I found this:

For Kaitlyn, from Aunt Jessica

Christmas, 2015


So that was her name.  She reminded me even more of Kiara after that.

One of the fairy tales in the collection talked about brownies, fairies that live in people’s houses and help with the cleaning, in exchange for a bowl of milk every night; it warned that you must never thank a brownie, or it would go away and never come back.  I smiled and wondered if that was what I was now.  But obviously I didn’t need milk, or anything else, and if one of the family thanked me — which would require noticing me, or at least what I’d been doing — I would have wept for joy. Still, maybe someone like me was the basis for the brownie legends?

After I’d been living there a week, I discovered something else: three spiral-bound notebooks containing Kaitlyn’s diary.  I didn’t read them, though; that felt like a step too far.

Christmas drew nearer, and the tree filled up with ornaments, and sometimes I saw Brandon or Lauren coming in with a shopping bag that they hid away on the top shelf of their bedroom closet — Christmas gifts for the boys, I figured. School let out for Christmas break and the boys were home all day, outdoors playing for a little while and holed up in Dustin’s room playing video games most of the day.  If they heard the washer and dryer running, or heard me vacuuming, they didn’t comment on it.  Then, the Saturday before Christmas, Brandon went somewhere with the boys, and Lauren spent several hours wrapping presents.  The menfolk came back with shopping bags of their own — gifts for their mom, I guessed, and indeed the boys spent some time inexpertly wrapping things in Dustin’s bedroom that evening while Lauren was cooking.

I thought about giving them something myself, but I couldn’t, not without stealing something.

Finally Christmas Eve arrived. They hadn’t seemed like a super religious family — they’d gone to church only one Sunday out of the weeks I’d lived with them. But they gathered in the living room after supper, and after they hung up the last few ornaments, they took turns reading a few verses each from the Christmas stories in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  Then Brandon pulled a book of poems off the shelf and read “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, and they sang Christmas carols off and on, in between further conversation, for an hour or so. And the conversation turned toward Kaitlyn — the first time I’d ever heard any of them mention her.  They shared their memories of her, and cried a lot, and hugged each other.  I wanted to join in the hug, but continued to sit by myself in a corner of the room until I got too uncomfortable with watching their grief, and got up to slip away to Kaitlyn’s bedroom.  I restlessly picked up the collection of fairy tales I’d been reading and read one, then another. I heard soft voices from the hallway, the parents wishing the boys goodnight, and then quiet for a long time, and then soft sounds again, whispers I couldn’t make out.  They were bringing out the Christmas presents from the bedroom closet, I figured.  The boys, or at least Dustin, seemed a little old to believe in Santa Claus, but I remembered that Mom and Dad had continued setting out mine and Kiara’s Christmas presents in the middle of the night for several years after Kiara found out there was no Santa.  I put down the fairy tale anthology and hugged Kiara’s — I mean Kaitlyn’s koala plushie again, weeping silently.

How could I still cry when I didn’t drink or pee or sweat anymore, I wondered?

Then the door opened, and I jumped up, startled.  Nobody but me had opened the door to Kaitlyn’s bedroom since I’d moved in.  Brandon and Lauren stood in the door, looking in; it didn’t seem to occur to them that I had the light on.

“It’s been almost three years,” Brandon said.  “Do you think it might be time to... well, use the room for something else?  Give Kaitlyn’s books and stuffed animals to her cousins, and...”

“Maybe in the spring,” Lauren said.  “I think it would be easier to bear in the spring.  Let me have this for the rest of the winter.”

“Okay,” Brandon said, and closed the door on me.

Should I move out when they cleaned out Kaitlyn’s bedroom, I wondered?  It wasn’t like I needed the bed for sleep, though. I could read in the middle of the night on the sofa just as well as here, and find things to read at the library as well as on the family’s other shelves.  But maybe I’d stayed here long enough. I was still thinking about that when something very strange happened:

I fell asleep.

It wasn’t just a fugue state like I’d experienced every few days, sometimes while walking and sometimes sitting still.  This was actual, simon-pure sleep, complete with dreams — a weird jumble of things I’d been reading about, things I’d experienced recently, and things from long-ago memories.  I woke up during the night feeling cold for the first time in months, and drew over me the sheets and bedspread that I hadn’t needed before, then promptly fell asleep again.

I woke again from a dream of going to see a movie with Kiara and the Petrov girls, and finding it was sold out, and going next door to watch a race instead — the jockeys were riding a mix of different animals, not just horses.  I was cheering on a petite woman riding a bison when I woke up, hearing the ringing of bells.  I was disoriented — I hadn’t slept or dreamed in some time, and had forgotten what it was like.  And when I remembered where I was, that Kiara was gone and the Petrov sisters had never heard of me, and that I was an invisible squatter in someone’s home — a brownie, to put the best possible face on it — I grabbed the koala plushie and hugged it to my chest.  I felt like I was going to cry — but then I felt something strange.  The plushie pressed against my chest was brushing up against... something I hadn’t had before. I sat up and realized that I was wearing pastel green pajamas, where I’d gone to bed nude — and that I had breasts, something I certainly hadn’t had last night or at any previous time.

Then the door opened and Lauren’s smiling face looked in.  “Merry Christmas, sweetie.  Want to come see what ‘Santa Claus’ brought you?” I sat there in shock — I’d barely begun to process the fact that I was a girl now, instead of the sexless brownie I’d been for the last month or more, and then came this second shock, far greater: Lauren could see me.

I burst into tears, weeping for joy.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Lauren said, rushing to my side, sitting down, and putting her arms around me.

“J-just a nightmare,” I said.  “I’ll be okay in a minute.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.  That’s not a good way to start Christmas.  But you’ll be fine once you wake up good. Come on, let’s not make Dustin and Mitchell wait too long to start opening presents.”

I wiped away my tears with my sleeve and smiled at her.  “Okay, Mom.  Merry Christmas.”

I was in a daze as I followed her into the living room, seeing the array of presents sprawling under the tree, and hearing “Merry Christmas, Kaitlyn,” from Dustin and Mitchell and Brandon — from Dad, I reminded myself.  There were eight or ten presents for me, too, some labeled “From Santa Claus”, some “From Mom and Dad,” and some from Dustin and Mitchell.  There were also things I’d supposedly bought for Mom and Dad and my new brothers, which they opened in due course as the morning wore on and Mom brought us mugs of hot chocolate — it was the first thing I’d tasted besides my own tears in almost two months.

I had a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to figure out.  First priority, after the Christmas festivities wound down a bit, would be to read through every word of Kaitlyn’s diaries.  Then to get onto Kaitlyn’s laptop and discreetly google some information about feminine hygiene.  But for now, I just sipped my hot chocolate, tore open another present when it was my turn, and basked in my new family’s love.  I had a feeling, somehow, that Mom and Dad and Kiara were somewhere like this, or would be soon — slipping into the life of another family, taking the place of someone they’d lost.  I silently wished them a Merry Christmas, wherever and whoever they were now.
The next day, we went out to look for work again.  And again, we found nothing.  After we met up again at midday, we went to a pawn shop and pawned the two newest phones and Mom and Kiara’s jewelry.  Dad wanted to keep two phones to dial 911 with if necessary — one for each group when we split up.  We got almost three hundred dollars, and after a couple of hours of careful discussion about how to use it, we wound up buying a tank of gas, some more groceries including fruit, cheese, and gallon bottles of water, and some toiletries — four toothbrushes and a single tube of toothpaste, a canister of baby wipes to clean ourselves with, and a bottle of no-rinse shampoo.  By the time we bought four blankets, a flannel shirt for Dad, and an anthology of short stories at the thrift store, it was too late in the day to look for work anymore.  We sat in the car, taking turns reading aloud to each other, until it was too dark to read.

Tuesday morning in the restrooms at a gas station, we got cleaned up a bit for the first time in days.  Just a bit; our hair and teeth were clean, but we were still wearing the same clothes we’d worn to the theater Saturday, plus the sweaters, flannel shirts, and coats we’d bought at Goodwill, because it was starting to turn cold again.  We’d needed the blankets last night, and one blanket each hadn’t been enough as the night wore on and got colder; Kiara and I wound up huddled together with both our blankets covering both of us.  When winter really set in, blankets might not be enough, and we’d have to run the engine for the heat — if we had money for gas.

Again, we split up, and Mom and I found nobody willing to hire us under the table — most weren’t even willing to talk to us for more than a few seconds, except one guy at who offered Mom fifty dollars to have sex with him.  We walked out of there, but I wondered if Mom would ever get hungry enough to consider that.  And whether Kiara had gotten any offers like that, and she and Dad hadn’t told us.  For that matter, there were probably gay dudes who would pay for sex with someone my age, and if it were that or starve...

Mom and I returned to the car a little after noon and ate a little, splitting an apple and eating some crackers and a little cheese.  Dad and Kiara weren’t back yet, and as usual, Mom worried.  But when they still weren’t back after two more hours, I got worried, too.  We’d discussed our itineraries before we split up that morning, so we left them a note in the car and set out in the direction they’d gone, looking for work and asking people if they’d seen them.

A lot of people refused to talk to us, but of those who would talk to us, nobody remembered seeing them, or would admit to it, anyway.  Not even the managers at the first couple of restaurants we tried, who said they’d been on duty that morning and would have talked to anybody who came in asking for work.

We were out until past sunset looking for them, and returned to the car to find them still not there and the note we’d left undisturbed.  Mom was crying too hard to drive, so I drove us to another shopping center less than a mile away, and then we huddled in the back seat under all four blankets, for consolation and warmth.

We had no idea what could have happened to them in the short distance from the car to the first restaurant Dad had said they were going to.  It had been broad daylight and this wasn’t a high-crime area.  But they were gone.




The next morning, after washing up in the restrooms of a nearby fast food place, Mom said, “It’s been almost twenty-four hours since we saw them last.  Let’s call the police.”

We couldn’t actually call the non-emergency police number because we had no minutes on our phone, no account even.  Mom called 911.  I listened in as she said: “My husband and daughter have been missing for twenty-four hours — I haven’t seen them since this time yesterday... Hello?”  Raising her voice, she said: “Can you hear me? — Hello? — NO, it’s not a prank call, you asshole, my husband and daughter are MISSING? — Hello? — Damn it,” she said, putting the phone down and sobbing.

I put an arm around her.  “Bad connection?  Let me try, okay?”

So I dialed 911, and got no better results.  The operator couldn’t hear anything I said.  At first she was pretty patient, asking “Hello?  Is anyone there?” a bunch of times, but after a minute or so she said she was going to have to hang up, and she did.

“We’ll drive to the police station,” I said.  But I didn’t know where the nearest police station was.  We were still nearer to Grandpa and Grandma Haines' house than where our house used to be, and I wanted to report Dad and Kiara missing in the same county where they disappeared, not at the police station I knew about back home.  So I left Mom in the car and went in to the restaurant.  There were three people in line to order food.

“Hey,” I said to the Hispanic guy at the tail end of the line.  “Do you know where the nearest police station is?  Or could I borrow your phone to call the police?”

He glanced at me, but his eyes sort of glided off me and he returned his attention to whatever game he was playing on his phone.  He stepped a little closer to the young black woman in front of him in line, and she in turn shuffled a little further from him, giving him an annoyed glance but not looking at me.

Asshole.  I decided I’d just stand in line and ask the cashier where the police station was.

The next customer to come in, a sharply dressed middle-aged white woman, gave me a wide berth as she got into line, standing a good four or five feet from me.  I could guess why.  Despite my efforts at cleaning up, I smelled pretty ripe after days of walking for hours and wearing the same clothes, and Mom was almost as bad.  I couldn’t really blame the people who’d refused to even talk about hiring us yesterday.  Against hope, I asked the woman if she could direct me to the police station or let me borrow her phone to call the police.  She treated me the same way.

But before I got to the head of the line, a big guy in a restaurant uniform came down the hall from the restrooms and the staff entrance to the kitchen.  He was the first one who’d looked at me for more than a moment, but even he didn’t quite meet my eyes.

“Sir,” he said, “you’re disturbing our customers.  I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

“Could you please tell me where the nearest police station is?  My dad and my sister are missing and I can’t report it except in person because my phone’s —”

“Sir, please leave, or I’ll have to call the police.”

“Yes!  Do that!  Let me talk to them.  Or I’ll tell them when they get here.”

He repeated his demand that I leave a couple more times and then manhandled me out of the way of the customer line, nodding at the woman behind me and the old guy who’d come in behind her.  I was never all that strong, and several days of limited rations had weakened me further.  He was able to get me out the door of the restaurant and into the parking lot without much trouble.

“I’m going to stay in your parking lot until you call the police,” I said desperately.

He didn’t seem to pay any attention to that, but went back inside.  I went back to the car (which was over in the main part of the shopping center parking lot, rather than right by the restaurant) to tell Mom what had happened.

“Did you find out where it is?” she asked.  I didn’t like the look in her eyes.

“Nobody would give me the time of day,” I said.  “I think we smell and look enough like homeless people now that hardly anybody will pay any attention to us unless they’re forced to.  I asked two customers and a manager to please tell me where the police station was, or if I could borrow their phone to call the police.  The customers ignored me and the manager threatened to call the police, then manhandled me out the door.”

“We need to go before the police get here,” she said.  “You getting arrested won’t help — they’re not going to pay attention to a missing person report from somebody they’re arresting for vagrancy or trespassing or whatever.  And if I’m arrested too, we’ll lose the car and everything in it, and be completely destitute when we get out.”

“Okay,” I said, cranking up the car.  I drove a little way down the road, back toward the place where we’d last seen Dad and Kiara, and parked in the nearest shopping center to the one where we’d parked the day before yesterday.

Mom and I went into a grocery store that had just opened, split up and tried asking different staff and customers where the police station was, with no better success.  Everyone ignored us, except for a cashier, who called her manager, who asked us to leave.

“Let’s go to the library,” I said.  “They don’t open for a couple more hours, but we can look up where the police station is without actually talking to anyone.”

“I’ll need a restroom before then,” Mom said.  “Let’s stop at a gas station or something on the way.”

I followed Mom into the gas station, figuring I might as well pee again before sitting in the library parking lot for two hours.  Once I’d let out the little trickle of stuff that had accumulated in my bladder in the last hour, I waited for her just outside the ladies‘ room, half expecting a clerk or manager to come up and tell me to leave.  But no one did.  Customers came and went, but Mom didn’t come out of the ladies’ room.  I went back to the car to make sure she hadn’t come out before me and gone there; it was empty.  I spent twenty minutes waiting outside the ladies‘ room, then asked the next woman I saw who was heading in there if she could please check if my mom was okay.  She ignored me, sidestepping me when I tried to plead with her and ducking into the restroom.  After two more repetitions of that with other customers, and going back to check the car again, I decided I’d barge into the ladies’ room and look for her myself.

One of the weirdest things that had happened yet, aside from our house disappearing and everyone forgetting us, happened then.  There were two women standing at the sink, washing their hands or adjusting their makeup, and neither of them reacted to a sweaty, stinky, homeless teenage boy walking in.  One of the stalls was occupied, and I knocked on the door.  “Mom?” I called out.

Nobody answered; the women dried their hands and left.  I looked into the empty stalls and made sure no one was there.  A few minutes later, one of the women I’d seen enter earlier came out of the occupied stalls, also ignoring me, and went to wash her hands.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but have you seen my mom?  She’s a couple of inches shorter than me, about 5'7", and she’s wearing a blue sweater with yellow kittens on it and blue jeans —”

She put her hands under the automatic blow drier, drowning out my voice.  I gave up.  It was futile asking her if she’d seen Mom; she’d come into the restroom just a few minutes before me, and Mom must have left while I went to the car to look for her — and then not gone back to the car, and missed seeing me when I returned after a few moments?  That was hard to believe, but it was the only thing I could think of.

I walked all around the gas station and the neighboring shopping center looking for Mom, but once the time approached for the library to open, I went back to the car and drove over there.  Nobody bothered me or told me to leave; I sat down at a computer, looked up the police stations in this county, figured out where the nearest was, and left.

And when I got back to the parking lot, the car was gone.  Along with all my food, water, and blankets.  I had nothing except for my clothes, including a packet of crackers in my coat pocket and a little money — Mom had had most of it in her purse.  We’d lived in fear that we might come back from one of our job hunt expeditions to find the car had been towed or ticketed, but how could it have been towed in the four or five minutes I’d spent in the library?

No, the same thing must have happened to it that had happened to our house.  And Dad, and Kiara, and Mom.  Was there any point in telling the police they were missing?  Probably not, I decided, but I had nowhere else to go. Maybe I could make a scene and get myself arrested, getting a couple of meals that would taste terrible but might be more nutritious than the saltines I’d been eating.

I walked to the police station.   It took a while; I was tired and hungry and had to stop and rest several times.  When I finally got there, well after noon, I walked up to the front desk and said, “I’d like to report some missing persons — my parents and my sister.”  I’d considered reporting the car stolen, too, but decided against it — the license plate number wouldn’t show up in their database.

The guy at the desk didn’t look away from his computer screen.  I rapped on the desk and repeated myself.  Still no reaction.

I tried that with everyone I could see in the public area at the front.  Nobody paid me any mind or gave any sign they could see or hear me.  Even when I grabbed hold of someone’s arm or sleeve, they wrenched out of my feeble grip without any conscious effort and continued on their way.

I followed one of the officers through a Staff Only door and explored.  Still nobody reacted to my presence, any more than the women in the gas station ladies' room.  I found a break room and raided the refrigerator, eating someone’s pastrami sandwich and someone else’s microwave burrito and someone else’s fruit salad and drinking a cup of orange juice, a cup of coffee, and a cup of soda before I finally felt sated.  Several cops and support staff came and went during my feast, and none noticed me.

This invisibility had some advantage, I though.  I’d lost everything; at least I could take comfort in this stupid super-power I never asked for.  The grief from losing Mom, Dad, and Kiara finally hit me full force and I laid my head on the breakroom table and cried, and cried, until I couldn’t cry any more.




I don’t want to talk about what came next.  I don’t remember it very well.  I stole food from office breakrooms, restaurants, and grocery stores for a few days until I stopped feeling hunger.  I slept on the bed displays in furniture stores for a few nights until I stopped needing to sleep.  I briefly spied on the girls in the locker room at a high school, but realized I’d already lost my libido along with my need for eating, elimination, and sleep.  Finally I settled into a pattern, walking all night and sitting and reading in a library or bookstore all day.

For a good while, I stuck to public places.  I had a sort of mental block against going into people’s homes, even though I knew they wouldn’t notice me any more than they did when I stole food off someone’s plate in a restaurant or took a nap on a bed in a furniture store.  But early one morning, I was trudging down a residential section of a major road, and saw a guy about my dad’s age and two boys, the older of them a little younger than Kiara, hauling luggage from their house out to a minivan.  “Looks like they’re going on a trip,” I said to myself.  (I’d been talking to myself a lot since people stopped being able to hear me.)  Then the idea occurred to me to stay in their house while they were on vacation.  So I walked up the driveway and went in the front door.

The mother was in the kitchen, loading an ice chest and a cardboard box with food.  “Brandon,” she called out after a bit, “this box is ready to go.”

The father came into the kitchen and picked up the box.  “I think this is pretty much it,” he said.  “Anything me or the boys can help with here?”

“No,” she said, “I’ve almost got the ice chest done too.”

Listening to more of their conversation, I realized they were going to the mother’s sister’s house for Thanksgiving.  I’d lost track of the date, and I realized with a shock that it had been a whole month since our house disappeared.

I stayed out of their way for the last few minutes as they finished loading the van, turned off the lights, locked the door behind them, and drove off.  Then I turned the lights back on started exploring the house.

There was a living room, with sofas and chairs and a bookcase, some of whose contents looked interesting, but no TV.  The TV was in a den that seemed to be a converted garage.  There were also four bedrooms.  The master bedroom and the boys' bedrooms were easily identifiable from the decor, and they looked obviously lived-in; the bedclothes were rumpled and there were baskets of dirty clothes at the foot of each bed, toys scattered on the floor of the younger boy’s room, schoolbooks, graded tests and homework, novels, and drawings scattered across the desks.  But there was also what looked like a teenage girl’s room — posters for a magical girl anime and a boy band, pastel curtains and sheets, and so forth — and it was spotlessly tidy, the bed made and no dirty clothes anywhere.  Not even an empty basket.

At first, I guessed the girl had gone to stay with her aunt (and probably one or more girl cousins) a few days early.  But closer inspection showed there was a thin layer of dust on the top of the dresser and vanity, covering not only the bare surfaces, but the girl’s purse and makeup kit and so forth.  She wouldn’t have left that here if she was going to stay with her aunt, would she?  No, wait — Mom and even Kiara had more than one purse to go with different outfits.

But then I studied the family photos in the hall.  The oldest showed the man and woman, much younger, alone or with a baby girl (probably a girl, anyway, judging from how lacy her white dress was).  Then an older version of the girl, two or three years old and wearing a Dora the Explorer T-shirt, with a baby boy in a sailor suit on her lap.  Then all three kids together, or all five of the family, at different ages... and then, in the latest pictures where the boys' appearances matched the kids I’d seen an hour ago, the girl wasn’t present.  I was pretty sure the girl was dead, and her room was preserved as a kind of shrine.

The girl didn’t look that much like Kiara, but she was apparently around Kiara’s age when she died, and this all brought my own recent losses back to me so hard that I broke down crying for the first time in weeks.  I curled up on the girl’s bed, hugging a koala plushie that reminded me of one of Kiara’s plushies, and sobbed for a long time.

Finally, some time after my tears dried, I got up and looked around some more.  I wandered into the master bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I hadn’t been in a bathroom for weeks, since I stopped feeling any need for a toilet.  I was bundled up in layers of clothes that I’d stolen here and there in my first few days alone, while I still felt cold and heat; nothing was visible of me but my hands and face, and my face looked... not quite right.  A little vague, like my personality had drained out of it.  I didn’t recognize myself; I could have been any teenage boy in a crowd.... for that matter, I could have been a girl, the way my layered shirts and coats and pants obscured my figure.  Had I looked like that to Mr. Starrett?  Had Mom looked like that to Grandpa Haines?  Surely not... I’d never noticed Mom, Dad, or Kiara looking different, except that we’d gotten more rumpled and disheveled as the days wore on.

Without conscious thought, I started stripping off all those layers of clothes.  It took a while.  And I discovered that I wasn’t myself anymore.  I wasn’t a boy, nor a girl either — kind of a Ken doll, but more androgynous-looking.  I had no nipples, no body hair, nothing at my crotch.

“Huh,” I said.  “No wonder those showering girls didn’t look too interesting.  And no wonder I haven’t need to pee for a while.”

After staring at myself in the mirror for a minute more, taking in this latest loss, I shrugged and started adjusting the shower temperature.  I wasn’t sure if I’d quit sweating at the same time I quit peeing and pooping, but I hadn’t noticed my own smell for a good while now, and apparently no one else did, either.  But I still thought the flow of hot water over my skin would feel nice, and I was right; it did.  I got out a long while later, ten or twenty minutes after the hot water heater ran out (the cold water was nice, too, in a different way) and looked at the filthy clothes on the bathroom floor.

“Nope,” I said.  “Not putting those back on.”

I thought about borrowing some clothes from the father of the household — Brandon, that was his name — to wear while walking to a store to steal some more stuff that fit me.  The boys' clothes would be too small for me, I thought, though I wasn’t sure I hadn’t lost a little height along with my nipples and junk.  But on further thought, I didn’t see any point in wearing clothes at all.  I didn’t have any private parts to conceal, and even if I still had them, nobody would notice.  And I didn’t seem to mind the cold anymore.  So I gathered up those old clothes and sorted through them, throwing away the underwear and the tattered socks, and setting aside the other stuff to wash and drop off in a donation box after I left — probably around the time the family came home from their Thanksgiving trip.

I figured while I was washing my clothes, I might as well wash some of the family’s stuff too.  I filled the washing machine up the rest of the way with dirty towels and washcloths from the bathrooms, and a few pairs of underwear and socks from the boys‘ rooms.  While they were washing, I looked around for something to read.  The living room shelf was mostly history and biography, with a little popular science and some bestselling novels; the boys’ rooms had mostly children’s books or YA novels.  The dead girl’s room had a mix of teen romance and YA fantasy, and I wound up picking up Liar by Justine Larbalestier off her shelf and curling up on the sofa with it until the washing machine was done, and again while the dryer ran.

By the time they came home from their aunt’s house, I’d washed all the clothes and dishes and put them away, as well as the sheets from the master bedroom and the boys' bedrooms.  I finished Liar and made a good dent in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  I’d lost track of time again, and was curled up on the sofa reading about Ben Franklin’s system for self-improvement when I heard a key in the front door lock, and the door popped open.

For just a moment I felt self-conscious about my nakedness, but that passed as the boys burst into the house and dashed for the hall bathroom without taking any notice of me.  A few moments later, Brandon walked in, carrying a small suitcase in each hand, and then his wife, carrying a duffel bag and a dry cleaning bag.

I followed them to their bedroom.  I wondered if they’d notice the empty clothes baskets or the freshly-made bed.  Back when I’d still felt hunger, waiters had never noticed me taking a plate off the platter they were carrying until they got to the customer’s table and realized it was missing.

Listening to their banal conversation as the woman unpacked and Brandon brought in more bags, I learned the woman’s name (Lauren) and the boys' names (Dustin and Mitchell), but didn’t hear any evidence that they’d noticed my cleaning.  I finally decided it was time to go.  It had been a pleasant few days, but I shouldn’t stay any longer.  I gathered up the bundle of clean clothes, wondering if I should try to return some of them to the stores I’d stolen them from, and realizing I couldn’t remember what I’d stolen where.  I walked out while Brandon was going out to the van for the last load of luggage and started walking toward the nearest Goodwill.

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trismegistusshandy

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
I've been posting transgender fiction online since 2007.

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:icongt-kathryn:
GT-Kathryn Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2019  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the watch!
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MalakaGTS Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2018  Student Writer
Thank you for watching!
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clancy688 Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Happy birthday! :)
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clancy688 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the watch! :)
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MithFics Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much for following! Glad to find your work, too!
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clancy688 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Oh, hey! Nice to see you here, too. :)

I liked your Travel Agency stories, would love to see more. ^^
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