A RELUCTANT SPIRIT – FILTERED SPIRITS
By Ingrid Halb
Dan's wife Chrystal, owns the magical vessel but Dan wants to wish for his wife and him to have nicer things. Unfortunately for Dan, she lets him. A cautionary tale set to remind us to appreciate our significant others and appreciate the efforts taken to keep a house clean and tidy.
Dan Simons had been on a run of bad luck. The affect of losing his job a few months back and his inability or unwillingness to find a new one had led to a lot of increased stress in his home life. Fortunately, his wife, a dental hygienist at a private clinic, was still able to bring home a paycheck and keep the couple afloat. The tight money situation did lead to a lot of bickering, and Dan clearly resented his wife’s weekly flea market and yard sale forays. She never seemed to buy anything useful in Dan’s eyes. When she had offered to show him her most recent find he had expected something along the lines of a flowerpot painted to look like a cow or maybe an old piece of lace someone had glued to a picture frame, or some other complete waste of their meager monies. He had definitely not expected to see a three-foot tall magical being.
“Amazing!” he said in wonder.
“See Sweetie, I told you it was magic!”
“Quiet Chrystal, I’m trying to think” Dan said as he lit another cigarette, contemplating the little man in front of him.
Chrystal Simons was miffed by her husband’s attitude. That was just like him, she thought, wrinkling her nose at the smoke. Fine for him to complain about her hobbies but as soon as there was something that interested him it was ‘quiet I’m trying to think’. It was her money after all and not like he was contributing much to the household lately. That is unless you counted the overflowing ashtrays and dirty dishes that waited on her when she got home from work.
She sighed to think how tired she was of it all. She worked long hours for meager pay and was still expected to clean and cook while Dan sat and railed against the world. The least he could do was pitch in on the cleaning. Still, it was hard to stay mad at him. This was especially so with proof of the existence of magic standing right in front of both of them.
She had bought the little man’s vessel because she thought it looked pretty. In addition, it had only cost ten dollars. It had reminded her of magic, unicorns and faeries and such. It seemed a pleasant addition to her collection and was a complete surprise when it turned out to actually be magical. I mean if this could be real, what was stopping all magical creatures from being real?
Dan had a different set of mind. He saw this as better than a lottery jackpot. Hell, he could wish for a jackpot and still get more out of this. His dreams of avarice were slackened dramatically by the lack of response from the little man.
“What do you mean I don’t get to wish?” Dan shouted at the little man.
“Please don’t shout,” the little man responded, wincing. “First off, I highly recommend that you disregard any urges to make wishes. They never work out the way one intends. And secondly, only the true possessor of my vessel has the capability to unleash wishes.”
“He means me,” Chrystal offered.
“What do you mean, true possessor?” Dan asked.
The little man glanced at Chrystal once, shrugging, before answering Dan’s question.
“Only the person who actually owns my vessel, whether it be by purchase, theft, or fortune, has the right to enact wishes,” he lectured.
“That would be me,” Chrystal said.
“Indeed it would,” the little man agreed and smiled at Chrystal.
“What if… what if she gave me your vessel? Would that make you grant my wishes?” Dan proposed.
“Hey!” Chrystal protested.
“Well yes, providing that she did actually give you the vessel voluntarily,” the little man acknowledged. “Chrystal, do you relinquish the vessel to your husband?”
“No!” she said firmly. “I don’t. I used my own money, thank you very much, and I don’t appreciate you trying to jump in and take control. I even invited you to come along but no, you didn’t want to have anything to do with ‘the junk’ I always bring home. So I’m keeping this ‘junk’, mister!”
Dan knew enough to recognize when his wife was upset and in ‘one of her moods’. Unfortunately, he did not always react in the best way possible to those times.
“You mentioned theft. What if I stole you from her?” he asked.
“HEY!!” Chrystal shouted.
“Theft is an acceptable means of gaining my vessel,” the little man agreed. “Were you thinking of leaving your wife or having her killed or thrown out of you r home?”
“HEY!!!!” Chrystal shouted louder.
“What?! No!” Dan protested. “Nothing like that, I love my wife. Can’t we just say I stole your vessel while I make a wish?”
Chrystal folded her arms with a harrumph and glared at her husband. The little man scratched his head a moment, wondering how he should phrase this.
“It is not really stealing,” he explained slowly, “if she is still living in the same home with you. There would be nothing stopping her from calling me up and making a wish.”
Dan took a long drag off his cigarette, blowing the smoke through his nose as he thought deeply.
“What if…,” he said, striving to find the wording that let him use the little man’s magic. “What if she wishes for me to get wishes? Hunh? How about that?”
The little man rolled his eyes and pinched his nose before replying.
“That is doubly not recommended,” he replied.
“But it’s possible, right?” Dan said with glee in his voice.
“Yes, yes it’s possible,” the little man said with resignation. “As long as both her wish granting you this power and your resulting wishes are properly formatted, then yes. It’s possible.”
“Yes!” he shouted fist pumping the air. “Honey, wish me up a bunch of this little guy’s wishes.”
“Daniel Simons,” she answered sternly. “What makes you think I’m talking to you? Steal my magical man, I mean, really. Sure fine for you to talk, but let me bring one nice thing home and suddenly you’re all over it. That’s just like you!”
Dan was smart enough to not point out that she was in fact talking to him.
“Honey,” he said sliding over to put his arms around her. “This is for both of us. You know I love you. C’mon. It’ll be great.”
“Well,” she said, warily.
“I must point out,” the little man interrupted. “That what your husband proposes will complicate matters most profoundly.”
Dan shot the little man a look. Chrystal on the other hand, took him a little more seriously.
“What do you mean ‘complicate matters’?” she asked.
“The difficulty is that the wish will remain yours even as your husband invokes it.”
“Still my wish?” she asked.
“Yes,” the little man answered emphatically. “So his exact words will have to be interpreted by your impressions prior to the magic enacting their exact meaning. The results would be completely unpredictable!”
Chrystal thought carefully on what the little man said.
“Well we’ll just have to be careful on what we wish for then,” Dan offered. “Go ahead Honey, wish me up some wishes.”
“I don’t know,” Chrystal hesitated. “Maybe you should just tell me your wishes and I’ll say them.”
“No,” he said. “This is dangerous. I want to make sure it’s done right.”
Chrystal bristled at Dan’s implied assumption that she would get it wrong but was willing to acquiesce to his persistence.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll get you your wishes, Dan. But I want to hear them first.”
“Okay, dear” he said offering both hands up in a placating gesture. “Whatever you want.”
“I would not recommend it,” was all the little man said.
“Fine,” Chrystal said exhaling. “Properly formatted, right? Well then, I wish that whenever I hear Dan make a wish, I reserve the right to allow that wish to happen.”
“As you wish,” the little man intoned, shaking his head sadly.
“Is that it?” Dan asked.
“Almost,” the little man replied.
A small ripple seemed to pass through the space around them, bouncing back and forth between Dan and Chrystal several times before finally settling down.
“Now it is it,” the little man said.
“Really?” asked Dan.
“Really,” the little man confirmed.
“Wahoo!” shouted Dan before grabbing his wife and giving her a great big kiss. “Honey, you’re the greatest! And I know just what to wish for too! We’re going to get all new stuff! Top of the line! You’re going to love it!”
Chrystal was already beginning to regret what she had done but Dan’s enthusiasm was infectious. Besides, they really could use new stuff, she thought looking around at the worn furniture and stained carpeting that filled their run down one storey home. It was not a bad home, just old and worn, which she tried to keep clean after work and on the weekends. It would be good to have nice things for once.
“Alright,” she said. “But be careful.”
“Don’t worry, I got it all figured out,” he said, glancing excitedly back and forth between Chrystal and the little man. “I wish…, I wish all our stuff was brand new and expensive! Nothing but the best stuff!”
“That is what you call a carefully thought out wish?” the little man asked, looking askance at Dan.
“Is it working?” Dan asked darting his eyes back and forth as if he expected riches to fall from the heavens.
“Uh, Sweetie,” Chrystal said touching Dan gently on the arm. “You have to include a time reference for wishes to be properly formatted.”
Dan seemed puzzled.
“Time reference?” he asked.
“You were this close with the word ‘new’ but it just did not take,” the little man offered holding his fingers an inch or two apart.
Dan was not quick to pick up on the sarcasm.
“What kind of time reference?” he asked, even though the little man had clearly explained the need for a time reference along with all the other requirements of a proper wish.
“Why don’t you say something like ‘over the next month everything we own will become brand new’?” Chrystal suggested, genuinely trying to help.
“I would not try to help him,” the little man said. “This will end badly.”
“That sounds good,” Dan said agreeing to Chrystal’s suggestion over that of the little man. “I wish that over the next month everything we own will become brand new and expensive, top of the line and fancy!”
To Dan and Chrystal it appeared that nothing had happened. To the little man it was quite apparent that magical lines of force were pent up, aimed and steadily building strength. This would not end well. But this amount of magical tension needed release.
“Why is nothing happening?” Chrystal asked.
“It is waiting for you to allow the wish,” the little man explained.
“How do I do that?”
“Just say ‘I allow it’.”
“I allow it,” Chrystal nervously spoke in a questioning voice.
Instantly a ripple shot through the room and one could almost hear the faint tinkle of lead crystal glass as the color saturation of every object in the room began to fade.
“Whoa,” said Dan.
But that was all either Dan or Chrystal could say as they watched the changes unfolding around them. There was always a suggestion of color left before an object’s outline would blur and reform into a new shape, similar but different than it had been before. New objects were popping into existence all around them, regaining color as they brightened into this reality.
“Whoa,” Dan repeated. “This is cool!”
Chrystal had to agree as she watched what had been a pressed wood coffee table with cardboard supporting one leg, transform itself into a hand-carved tiger maple table with silver inlays. She also admired the way the leatherette couch and loveseat transformed themselves into silk brocade sectionals. Maybe this magic stuff would work out alright, she thought.
“This is amazing!” Dan said, watching as their aged television transformed itself into a 62-inch plasma hi-def flat screen. He was a little perturbed when his Budweiser beanbag chair and Coleman cooler transformed into a pair of high back rattan chairs on either side of a café table and refrigerated wine cooler but he was not going to let that detail get him down. Not when everything they owned was being upgraded so dramatically before his eyes.
“Hey!” he shouted. “What’s up with my bowling trophies?!”
Dan watched helplessly as his half dozen trophies shimmered and reformed into various Fenton art glass sculptures and vases.
“Ooh! Pretty,” Chrystal said. She had always liked Fenton and had never cared much for bowling anyway.
It was at this point that Dan began to notice that the room was not exactly taking on a style that he would have chosen. Overall the room had kind of a feminine feel to it that left Dan feeling a little excluded. Still, one could not help but be excited at the obvious increase in the family’s fortunes.
“Honey!” he shouted looking out the window. “Check out your Dodge, it’s turning into a Porsche Cabriolet!”
He was less impressed by what he next observed happening to his pickup truck.
“Hey! HEY!! What the… God damn it! Why is my truck turning into a Miata?” he demanded.
“Really?” Chrystal asked. “I always liked those cars!”
Dan remained agitated as he stormed around the reforming house pulling open doors and drawers in an increasingly agitated state of mind.
“What the hell… Where’s my fishing rods?” he demanded. “And why is there a brand new vacuum cleaner here?”
Dan did not wait for an answer but stormed off into another room of the house shouting helplessly as he watched more and more of his stuff transformed. Chrystal had no ready explanation and was in fact distracted by what was starting to happen to her clothes. The shimmering left her slightly exposed for a moment as her clothes reformed into a new pattern.
“It’s Dan’s wish, isn’t it?” she asked the little man as her simple t-shirt transformed into a Michael Kors silk blouse. “Even our clothes are becoming fancy.”
“Quite so,” the little man agreed. He had relaxed as the magic had fallen into place. This particular transformation seemed to be following a reasonably mundane path and there seemed little need for worry at this point. “For the next month, everything that comes into your or your husband’s possession will transform in a like manner.”
Chrystal thought for a while, watching as her blue jeans morphed themselves into a Dolce & Gabbana high waist pencil skirt.
“Doesn’t this mean,” she asked the little man, “that over the next month I can go buy any old thrift shop clothes and when I bring them they’ll turn into designer skirts and dresses for me or suits for Dan?”
“Skirts and dresses, sure,” the little man agreed. “Suits might be a bit of a problem.”
“What do you mean?” she asked as leggings that she thought might be Chanel began to creep up her legs.
“It is still your wish,” the little man explained. “Even though it was your husband who wished for everything to become ‘top of the line’ and ‘fancy’ any magical transformations will reflect your understanding of ‘top of the line’ and ‘fancy’.”
I think these are Jimmy Choo, she thought looking at the shoes appearing on her feet.
“So any magical changes to Dan’s clothes…” she started.
“Will reflect your understanding of ‘top of the line’ and ‘fancy’” the little man finished.
“WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO MY CLOTHES!?!” Dan screamed from somewhere in the back of the house.
“Oh dear!” she said. “Maybe I should go check on him.”
“That is probably a good idea,” the little man agreed.
_____ o _____
The little man was used to the clamoring demands of mortals for additional adjustments to magical changes in status. So he was not overtly surprised to be recalled to Dan and Chrystal’s new house one month later even as he admired the cohesive feel of the somewhat feminine style of his surroundings.
“Hello Chrystal, hello Dan,” he said.
“Hi!” Chrystal waved.
“Finally!” Dan sighed.
“I take it Dan is not too happy with the way his wish turned out,” the little man remarked.
“Not too happy, no,” Chrystal said. “He hasn’t left the house in a month.’
She was wearing a stylish and expensive looking pant suit that would have looked quite appropriate in a business semi-formal setting. Dan was wearing beige Capri pants with a side zip and a powder blue sleeveless tee with a scoop neck. On his feet he had on a pair of New Balance cross trainers with lime green piping.
“Do you have any idea of what I’ve gone through this last month?” Dan demanded.
“I think I have a pretty good idea,” the little man answered nonchalantly. “Everything you owned including your clothes has transformed into a high class female version of what it was before.”
“That’s…! That’s… absolutely correct. How did you know that?” Dan said deflating his bluster, before pulling a cigarette out of a long thin pastel colored package and lighting it with a slim elegant silver lighter.
“I see the magic, Dan,” the little man lectured. “Once things start to fall into place I have a pretty good idea about how they will turn out.”
“You should have seen him that first day,” Chrystal giggled. “He was wearing a Vera Wang Lavender label little black dress with matching shoes!”
“Even my underwear changed,” Dan said, turning a deep crimson. “I almost snapped an ankle before I got those shoes off too.”
“I didn’t know they made designer dresses in that size,” Chrystal said.
“It is the magic,” the little man said.
“Can we please not talk about my dress?!” Dan shouted, stabbing the half-smoked cigarette out on an overflowing ashtray.
“Even these girlie ultra-lights are driving me nuts!” he said. “I would kill for a Marlboro right now.”
“All his cigarettes change as soon as I bring them in the house,” Chrystal confided to the little man who nodded knowingly.
“But the magic is over now,” the little man pointed out. “There is nothing stopping you from buying more gender appropriate clothing and getting on with your life.”
Dan and Chrystal looked at each other briefly.
“There is one thing stopping us,” Dan said.
“Dan’s wish that everything we own be expensive,” Chrystal explained. “This place is costing us a fortune. We might be able to make the utilities but we’ll never make the mortgage.”
“I see,” the little man said. “Have you considered selling some of your recent acquisitions?”
“That’s what I suggested!” Chrystal said. “The TV alone could get us a thousand dollars even on the used market.”
“Screw that!” Dan spat. “The TV is the one thing that’s turned out alright about this wish. I have a better idea.”
“Please not another wish, Dan,” the little man begged. “It will not end well.”
“Don’t worry, I have it all figured out,” Dan promised. “We just need enough juice to keep this place going and to buy me a new set of clothes. After that, we’re all good.”
Chrystal and the little man cast skeptical looks at each other.
“Oh, you don’t believe me?” Dan asked. “Well check this wish out. I wish that both Chrystal and I had jobs that would allow us to keep this house running indefinitely and finally get me enough money to wear some proper clothes!”
“I should know better,” Chrystal said. “But I allow it.”
“As you wish,” the little man intoned as he let slip the lines of magic.
A small but significant ripple shot through the room, bouncing several times before settling in on Dan and his wife.
“Is it finished?” Dan asked.
“Not quite yet,” the little man answered.
Their attention was drawn by the magical appearance of a framed certificate appearing over the oak desk in the study behind them. The certificate had the name ‘Chrystal Maartens, D.D.S.’ on it.
“I’m a dentist?” Chrystal asked before years of education and experience began forming up in her memory. “I am a dentist!” she exclaimed.
“Not just a dentist, but also a full partner at the clinic,” the little man pointed out.
“Cool!” Dan exclaimed, “I can’t wait to see what kind of job I get out of this!”
“Why does it have my maiden name?” Chrystal wondered aloud.
Just then, the magic seemed to take hold of Dan and he shuddered violently as the clothing he wore began to fade into non-existence, solidifying once again into a completely new pattern. It quickly became apparent that the baby blue polyester clothes with wide grey collar combined with the non-slick shoes that he wore was a service uniform. The tea apron, skirt, and no-nonsense opaque beige pantyhose he wore, also proved that he was now more properly classed among the house cleaning staff.
“I’m a freaking maid!” he shouted looking down at the clothes he wore.
“I think the term is ‘housekeeper’” the little man corrected. “Now it is finished,” he added.
“Amazing!” Chrystal said, tittering at the sight.
Dan was indeed wearing the clothing of a female domestic servant, complete with little frilly bonnet. However, this in no way matched the obvious male body he possessed. The overall impression was of a man-maid of six-foot height wearing a perfectly fitted obviously female servant’s dress.
“Why the hell am I a maid?” Dan asked as he put away a pile of magazines that were scatted on the coffee table, straightened the couch pillows, then emptied and cleaned the ashtray before sitting down and lighting another smoke.
“This must be the job you wished for,” Chrystal said. “Magic’s way of allowing you to keep this house running.”
“Indeed it is,” the little man agreed.
“How does this keep the house running?” Dan shouted from the kitchen. He had stubbed out his cigarette and taken the ashtray into the kitchen for re-cleaning. Along the way, he had picked up all the old drink cans and a leftover empty plate off of the coffee table, all of which he was now rinsing prior to stacking the plate in the dishwasher and putting the cans into the recycling bin. “All I’m doing is cleaning!”
Chrystal showed remarkable restraint at that comment but she did shoot a look at Dan who emerged from the kitchen with dust rag and spray polish in his hands which he proceeded to use on the coffee table he had just cleared. Maybe she should keep Dan like this for a while just to let him know how much work it took to keep this place clean. There was however one question that she had not gotten an answer to.
“Why am I Dr. Maartens instead of Dr. Simons?” she asked.
The little man studied the lines connecting Dan with Chrystal for a moment before answering.
“It appears that there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between you two,” he said.
“No shit,” Dan responded sarcastically as he straightened up from cleaning the table, smoothed out his hem of his dress and headed back to the kitchen to return the cleaning supplies.
“It seems,” the little man continued nonplussed at Dan’s interjection, “that the two of you are no longer man and wife.”
“What!!” Chrystal yelped in shock. They had been married seven years now and while Dan was definitely a slob and a bit of boor, they did have a loving relationship.
“Yes,” the little man continued. “It seems that your current relationship can best be described as that of one between employer and employee.”
He had gestured towards Chrystal at the word ‘employer’ and ended at Dan with the word ‘employee’.
“What!!” Dan yelped in shock. He had just gotten the vacuum cleaner out and was half way through unwinding the cord when the little man had made the outrageous claim. “I work for her now? No! No, no, no, no, no!”
“I am afraid the answer is yes,” the little man said consolingly.
Chrystal smiled contemplatively.
“Does this mean he has to do what I tell him?” she asked.
“Oh most assuredly, I believe the terms of the spell would compel it.”
Chrystal’s smile broadened.
Dan stood shaking in his maid uniform before reaching into a pocket of his apron to pull out his smokes and the slim silver lighter. He lit one of the ultra-lights and inhaled deeply trying to regain his calm before speaking.
“How long,” he said through clenched teeth.
“What?” the little man asked.
“How long do I have to work as her maid?” he asked, fighting to remain calm.
“I believe that the original time frame of this wish was for an indefinite term of employment. I am afraid that only another act of magic would be able to relieve you of your duties,” the little man said sounding sincerely apologetic.
“How soon,” Dan said in a surprisingly calm voice despite the roaring noise going on in his ears.
“You probably should consider leaving things as they are...” the little man started.
Dan silenced him by raising one hand and spoke slowly, in spite of the feeling that his head was about to explode.
“How soon, before I can wish myself out of this nightmare,” he asked, still calm.
“Hard to tell,” the little man shrugged. “These constant compulsion type wishes are a tremendous drain. Plus everything around here is already magically generated. Not much free magic to be had. I would think it probably echoes the first wish, one or two months should do it.”
“One or two months!” Dan shouted.
“Maybe three,” the little man responded. “Like I said, it is hard to say. Listen, I know you two have a lot to talk about but in just a couple of moments, I will have to leave. I would like you to consider keeping things the way they are because as uncomfortable as this may be believe me it could get a lot worse. So maybe see you later but hopefully, goodbye.”
With that, the little man vanished. Dan stood there slack jawed in shock and surprise. Chrystal inspected her six-foot tall man-maid standing there in his neatly starched dress. It really was remarkably well tailored, she thought.
“Finish the vacuuming and we’ll talk later,” she said, sighing with resignation.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Dan responded automatically, plugging in the vacuum and flicking on the switch before starting in on the carpets. He was half way through the first room before he realized what he had said and what he was doing.
_____ o _____
“Dan, Chrystal! Good to see you both. I trust you are doing well,” the little man remarked cheerfully.
“Hi!” Chrystal waved. She was actually quite elegantly dressed in a designer tracksuit, barefoot, reclining in a lounger with a cut-glass tumbler of lemonade in her hand.
Dan just rolled his eyes without comment. He was wearing a navy blue professional maid’s uniform with white collar and shoulders, and accented by his white apron. The dress came to just over his knees. His nylons were opaque white and he wore sensible black patent leather shoes with a one-inch heel. He also happened to be carrying a feather duster, which he was busy flicking over the knick-knacks in the room. The house looked spotless.
“It has been a while,” the little man said. He noticed that Dan wore a light foundation with subdued lip and eye color. His nails were neatly polished a bright pearl that matched the solitaire earrings he wore. He was very professionally dressed but looked ridiculously inappropriate.
“Six months,” Dan muttered.
“Yes it has,” Chrystal agreed. “Dan, be a dear and get us a refill would you?”
“Yes Ma’am,” Dan replied while curtseying quickly before taking the glass from Chrystal and heading back to the kitchen.
“He does that now!” she whispered conspiratorially to the little man. “He can’t help himself!”
Dan returned from the kitchen with a full glass and offered it submissively to Chrystal.
“Thank you, dear,” she said with a gleam in her eye. “Just put it down on the table. He’s such a treasure. I don’t know how I managed before I found him.”
“Can we please get on with this,” Dan begged, blushing a deep red color as he put the drink down on a coaster.
“Now, now dear, don’t be rude, I won’t allow it” Chrystal laughed.”Wouldn’t want to give me a reason to let you go would we?”
“No, Ma’am,” Dan said politely, hanging his head.
“Of course Maria is always threatening to hire you away from me. You could always go work for her,” Chrystal teased.
“Maria?” the little man asked.
“One of the girls that works for me down at the clinic,” Chrystal explained. “Dan cleans house for her every first weekend of the month.”
“I can’t ‘not clean’,” Dan spat out bitterly.
“That’s not quite true, Sweetie. You also do the shopping and cooking now!” Chrystal said with a straight face before bursting out laughing.
Dan blushed even deeper.
“So you go out dressed like this?” the little man asked trying to determine exactly how deep this compulsion ran in Dan.
“It started when I wouldn’t allow him to smoke in the house anymore,” Chrystal said answering for Dan who by now had resumed his dusting chores. “Then I noticed that he didn’t hesitate when I had him take the garbage out or fetch the mail. Soon I had him picking up the shopping for me and now I let him work weekends out. He has six other houses he cleans for. He earns some decent money, too.”
“Fat lot of good it does me,” Dan complained. “All I can buy with it is cleaning supplies and girl stuff.”
“Well it is important to always look properly dressed,” Chrystal said laughing again. “Seriously though, I am going to miss his cleaning.”
“You are going to allow him to make another wish then,” the little man said nodding in resignation.
“Yeah, I think he’s suffered enough and I believe he’s learned his lesson now.”
“Yes! Finally!” Dan said were more emotion than he had shown till now.
“You should probably consider keeping things the way they are. Wishes never work out the way one intends,” the little man cautioned.
“Shut up!” Dan snapped at the little man. “Just you shut up. This nightmare ends now!”
“What I mean is…”
“Shut up!” Dan snapped again, pointing warningly at the little man. “I’ve had six months to think about this. You’re not stopping me now.”
Dan’s tone softened as he looked at his former wife.
“Honey, I’m sorry,” he started. “I’ve been a total ass. I bossed you around and disrespected what you did to keep this place going. I want you to know I love you and that I just wish that you can forgive me and that we could be together again forever.”
“Oh, Dan,” Chrystal said with tears in her eyes. She rose to fall into Dan’s arms and they kissed passionately for a time. Which was an odd sight given that Dan was still a six-foot tall man-maid and had neglected to put the feather duster down.
“Now that’s a wish I can allow,” Chrystal said when they broke for air.
“As you wish,” the little man intoned solemnly.
After a brief wait, a familiar ripple passed through Dan and Chrystal causing them both to shudder. Dan in particular shuddered visibly.
“Oooh!” he said. “I am never going to get used to that! Did it work?”
“Oh it worked,” the little man assured him.
“I think the question should be what did it do,” Chrystal said nervously biting her lip.
“An excellent question,” the little man agreed. “And I believe we should be getting our answer shortly.”
Just then, Dan’s clothes began to shimmer slightly and take on a more indistinct appearance as they began to shift.
“It’s working!” he said.
Neither Chrystal nor the little man said anything as they watched Dan’s clothes flow to assume new shapes. The apron disappeared entirely and the navy blue of his maid’s dress faded to a charcoal gray. The bottom portion of the dress detached itself into a separate skirt while the top lost its collar, developing an open scoop neck. The bra he had been compelled to wear as a housekeeper softened and began to spread lower to cover his ribcage and belly before poking out the bottom of his newly transformed top with a good three inches of lacy white trim. There was no expansion upwards as the newly formed camisole stayed level across his chest, scooping low across his armpits while the straps become extra skinny and were clearly visible on his shoulders.
“What the hell!” Dan exclaimed as he could feel his pantyhose split at the crotch and disappear from his hips as they started to travel down each leg as individual stockings. They kept their opaque color as the material thickened and settled down as a pair of knee high white cotton socks. His shoes in the meantime had transformed themselves into a pair of slip on Keds emblazoned with cartoon characters.
“Oh dear,” Chrystal said in a worried voice.
“What the hell is going on?” Dan shouted in a voice that seemed unusually high pitched.
The little man took a moment to study the flow of magic before answering.
“It appears Dan that the letter of your wish will be honored and that you and Chrystal are about to be bonded into a relationship that cannot be broken by contract or marital status,” the little man said with a sigh.
“You don’t mean…” Chrystal’s words drifted off as she watched Dan’s clothes continue to change.
The little man just shrugged his shoulders.
“What are you two talking about?” a highly agitated Dan demanded in a voice that seemed to rise to an even higher pitch. He watched in a kind of horror as his gray skirt developed pleats and crept up to mid-thigh while his top brightened to a rich pink color with sequins sprouting on the front in the shape of a unicorn.
He still has his earrings on, Chrystal thought, but not his wedding ring. She noted with a start that her own wedding ring had disappeared without her notice sometime while she had been watching Dan. Dan was too involved with his clothing changes to notice the absence of the ring and was about to make another noisy demand for answers when he was interrupted by another ripple passing through his body and a particular strong shudder it gave him. To ‘Dan’ it had felt like a strong in-folding centered on the crotch. The in-folding seemed so particularly crotch orientated that ‘Dan’ could not avoid reaching down to feel what had happened. The thin material of the skirt and panties did nothing to hide the obvious absence of external genitalia.
“I’m turning into a woman!” ‘Dan’ screamed in a voice that was almost cartoonish on the man-sized body she temporarily possessed.
“Technically true,” the little man agreed. “But it will take a few more years for that to happen.”
“What?!” ‘Dan’ said before becoming distracted by the room suddenly seeming to grow in size. Panic filled her as she stood there with her hands clasped across her now feminine groin, watching as the room slowly grew in size. She was momentarily disorientated by light auburn colored hair that fell past her shoulders eventually reaching halfway to her skirt. She was doubly disorientated when she looked up at the others in the room. Chrystal was now noticeably taller than her, and the little man was gaining on her by the moment.
“You’re becoming my daughter,” Chrystal said.
“WHAT!?!?!” the rapidly younger girl shouted.
“Quite so,” the little man nodded. “By now you should be solidly associating with the name Diane Maartens, not quite seven years of age and only daughter of Chrystal Maartens, Doctor of Dental Surgery. Quite a feat it must have been, going through dental school as a single mother and all.”
“Yes,” Chrystal agreed as new memories of past struggles appeared, “but worth it,” she added looking at the young girl in front of her. Diane was now no more than half a head taller than the little man and it looked like the changes were coming to an end.
“Diane Maartens?” Diane asked still in shock but realizing that that was indeed her real name now. “I can’t be Diane! I’m not a little girl! I’m a grown man!”
Chrystal shook her head sadly.
“No,” she said. “You’re my little baby girl now.”
“No!” Diane shouted back. “We need another wish! We need to make a wish right now!”
“That’s enough,” Chrystal snapped, raising her voice. “There will be no more wishes now or ever!”
“But, Mother…” Diane started to say before slapping her hand over her mouth, shocked at how she had automatically referred to Chrystal.
“No buts, young lady!” Chrystal said sternly. “I won’t have you talking back to me. Now you get yourself washed up and ready for bed. You have school in the morning and you need to get your sleep.”
Diane could only manage a strangled ‘eep’ noise before running off in confusion to her room to change for bed.
“This is going to be weird,” Chrystal admitted to the little man once Diane had left the room.
“It will get easier with time,” the little man shrugged.
“I see both a daughter and a husband when I look at her,” she said.
“The husband part will fade and she is a beautiful daughter.”
“Yes she is,” Chrystal agreed.
“You are not going to make any wishes are you,” the little man said. It was not really a question.
“No,” she said, smiling tiredly. “They don’t seem to work out the way you plan. I think I’ll try this reality out for awhile. Maybe I can get comfortable with it.”
“I hope so,” the little man said, “for both your sake.”
“At least he finally quit smoking,” she laughed.
“There is that,” he agreed.
Chrystal was going to say something else but the little man had already disappeared. She heard the sound of Diane running water in the bathroom. She took one more wistful look at the little man’s vessel. I am going to miss the cleaning, she thought picking up the duster that Dan had dropped during his transformation, then shook her head once before getting up to check on her daughter and help her get ready for bed.
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