A Reluctant Spirit: Inquisitive Spirit
A RELUCTANT SPIRIT — INQUISITIVE SPIRIT
By Ingrid Halb
Some questions should best be left unasked. Some doors are best left closed. What would happen if a man of science were to find the magical vessel? And how would he go about studying such an artifact? The only certainty, this will not end well.
Dr. Brian Godbolt was an ambitious man, confident in his own intellect. He felt he understood the world. Sure there were mysteries, but he had the confidence that with enough hard study he could crack any problem. Life was a personal challenge he felt he would always win. There were smarter professors at the University, but few with the same drive. This ambition coupled with his intellect and naturally competitive spirit functioned well in the realm of academia and after 23 years, he was comfortably situated as Head of the Physics Department.
Therefore, the sudden appearance of a three-foot tall being that proved the existence of magic was both confounding and exciting. Physics did not allow for this. There was no possible way for the little man to exist much less be standing in his office having a conversation with him. Clearly magic was real and just as clearly it needed to be explained. The whole understanding of physics needed to change to accommodate this phenomenon.
Here was the puzzle of a lifetime! He had to find out more about the basic nature of this being. Measurements proved useless as any physical characteristic such as mass or temperature fluctuated wildly even as he tried for more precision. It was if the little man was composed of approximates laid over raging uncertainty.
“I told you that would not work,” the little man said with polite amusement.
The professor sat back in his chair stroking his chin.
“Are you sure there is nothing more you can tell me about the nature of magic?” he asked.
The little man shrugged.
“You mean other than the fact that it cannot be trusted and should be avoided at all costs?”
“I’ve noted your multiple warnings,” Dr. Godbolt said. “And believe me; I have no desire for any transformations. However...”
“Here it comes,” the little man said aloud to himself, rolling his eyes heavenward.
“However,” Dr. Godbolt continued slightly perturbed. “An opportunity like this is not to be dismissed lightly. Think of the insight to be gained. Our understanding of the universe and our place within it would be dramatically changed!”
“Yeah, you would gain insight alright,” the little man said.
“I have no intention of wishing for physical change, only the opportunity to continue my studies on you and your magic.”
The professor sounded very certain but the little man remained unconvinced.
“Your intent is unimportant,” he said. “It is impossible to predict how your wish will be granted. Magic is unfathomable and cannot be trusted!”
The professor gave consideration to the little man’s warning. He would be a fool to do otherwise, given the obvious power behind the forces involved. Yet those same forces drew him like a magnet. There were answers hidden here; answers that could lead to a whole new understanding of science. And he could be the father of that new science! All he needed was time to concentrate on the little man and study his magic without interruption and away from the prying eyes of other researchers. After all, science was a competitive game and the chance to be first to publish a whole new branch of physics was worth protecting.
Dr. Godbolt sighed, looking at the pile of midterm tests he still needed to grade. There was also the journal article he had agreed to review and two grant proposals he needed to submit before the end of the month. He needed more time for the little man but taking time away from his current obligations meant that someone would notice. Then they would start asking questions. Could he hide the little man and his magic long enough to find the answers he sought? Dr. Godbolt did not think so.
He examined the little man intently. There was precious little to go on here. He was evasive about his origins and spoke little about magic except for his repeated warnings to leave it alone. His clothes suggested a near eastern origin but research would be needed to trace it further. This was definitely going to take time.
The little man sighed. Things were falling depressingly into place. The professor had the look of someone who had come to a conclusion.
“No,” Dr. Godbolt said to his own internal debate. “The only logical response is to use the resources at hand to maximum effect. To do otherwise would be foolish.”
“The operative word being ‘foolish’,” the little man muttered.
“Quiet, you,” the professor snapped back. He was not used to being disrespected and the little man’s mutterings were proving to be distracting just when he needed to concentrate most.
“I wish…,” Dr. Godbolt started to say.
“Oh brother, here we go again,” the little man said sadly shaking his head.
“I wish,” Dr. Godbolt continued while shooting the little man an icy glare, “that for the next three years I will have you as my exclusive field of study with the added qualifier that no one else will even consider following similar research either directly or indirectly.”
With that the professor leaned back in his chair, a smug look on his face.
“As you wish,” the little man intoned formally. Perhaps this time it will not be as bad, he thought as he watched the lines of magic begin to shift and crawl. At least he would have three years without anyone else finding the vessel.
“Talk to me,” Dr. Godbolt said pulling out a pen and small notebook. “Tell me everything you see.”
The little man did not let his attention waver from the shifting lines of magic. This was dangerous business and magic was attracted to magic. He needed to pay attention to avoid becoming ensnared. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do to protect Dr. Godbolt. That man was doomed to whatever new reality the magic made from this wish. The most the little man could do was to try and satisfy some of the professor’s scientific curiosity and possibly answer his questions.
“The magic is being loosed from its connections and is starting to flow away from the underlying reality,” he said.
“So reality is separate from magic,” Dr. Godbolt said making notes as he spoke.
“Is the shoreline separate from the sea? No, they are the same. One cannot exist without the other and the shape of one determines the other. Both become open to change when they separate and that is when it is most dangerous,” the little man was beginning to like this conversation. He felt comfortable lecturing and it was rare to find an audience this eager to learn.
“What does reality look like?” Dr. Godbolt asked after a thoughtful pause.
“It ‘looks’ like areas of concentration where the universe decides its most likely shape.”
“A probability matrix?” Dr. Godbolt asked, scribbling furiously in his notebook.
“Yes, but keep in mind that this matrix is shaped by its contents. Magic determines what is probable and the shape of your wish determines how that magic will flow. In essence, the wish shapes the magic.
Once that new pattern has been set, reality adjusts to accommodate it.”
“Then what… nnghak!” Dr. Godbolt started to ask before being interrupted by a shudder passing through him that had followed shortly after a ripple passing through the room.
“What was that?” he gasped.
“That,” the little man calmly replied, “was the impact of your wish on the surrounding magical field. When I enable a wish, the energy within the magical field is used to create dampers and blockages as well as attraction points. This creates a reduced energy state within the immediate area causing the surrounding higher energy magic to flow into the depleted area along the created pathways. Then reality simply modifies to reflect the new flow patterns.”
“So you can tell what the new reality will look like?” the professor asked.
“A little,” the little man said. “But it is kind of like predicting the path of a lightning bolt. We can set up a lightning rod and know where it will strike but not the twists and bends it takes to get there. Or in the case of magical wishes, we can set up the twists and bends but have no idea exactly where it will strike.”
“Interesting,” Dr. Godbolt said still making rapid notations.
“And now the lines of magical energy flow back into this area and reality starts to adjust to the new conditions,” the little man gestured as he spoke as if what he was describing was plainly visible to anyone.
What Dr. Godbolt saw was objects within his office beginning to shimmer and fade away.
“Very interesting,” he said as he was forced to stand as the chair he had been sitting in also became insubstantial. In fact the very walls of the office also began to shimmer and fade.
“This seems to be progressing further than I had intended,” Dr. Godbolt said with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “Does my office not exist in this new reality?”
“I warned you about the danger from unintended consequences,” the little man said. “But to answer your question, no I believe your office still exists. This looks more like a shift in our location rather than a physical alteration. And I believe we have not been moved very far either.”
“This is the quad!” Dr. Godbolt said excitedly. “We’re still at the University!”
“This does appear to be a campus of some sort. I will have to take your word for it being your University,” the little man shrugged as the grassy quadrangle around them took on more texture and solidity.
“Oh, it is,” Dr. Godbolt said, nodding as he gestured to the appearance of the surrounding buildings.
“That’s the Student Union building and that is Admissions and over there is the Student Housing office. But why are we being dropped off here? My office is in the Physics building, about two blocks that way.”
“There is a reason,” the little man spoke cryptically as he watched the lines of magic begin to move in on the professor. “And I am sure it will be made plain to you in short order.”
“Most interesting,” Dr. Godbolt said as he continued to make notes.
He was still making notes when another ripple passed through, this time running through his body and causing a much more violent shudder than prior.
“Ngah! That was worse than the first one,” he said, trying to shake it off. “Was that another impact on the surrounding magical field?”
“Not quite,” the little man replied, still in lecture mode. “The magical field has been set. What you felt was you being drawn into the new flow pattern. You may notice a few changes as your personal reality adjusts to fit you in.”
“Changes? What sort of changes?” Dr. Godbolt asked. There was a note of worry in his voice as he watched his clothes begin to shimmer and shift.
“It is difficult to be certain,” the little man said, “but I believe the context does present a strong indication.”
“Context? You mean the University?” Dr. Godbolt asked, distracted by the sight of his shirt cuffs disappearing as the sleeves started to creep up his arms.
“More specifically, this location near Admissions and Student Housing,” the little man pointed at the buildings as he spoke.
“I don’t understand,” Brian Godbolt said as he held his necktie in his hands. He could feel it shrinking as it slid through his fingers.
“Those are offices that cater to students. This whole area is frequented by students,” the little man indicated the materializing clusters of young people scattered around the grassy areas and lounging on the steps.
“So?” Brian said, amazed at the sight of the buttons on his shirt fading away leaving a smooth seamless front to his shirt.
“So I believe you are becoming one of them, a student.”
“What?! I can’t be a student, I’m a professor!” Brian shouted but there was little denying that his dress shirt was now a clingy t-shirt, gradually changing into the school colors. There was also no denying that his slacks were becoming denim with a noticeably tighter fit.
“But I’m too old!” Brian insisted.
The little man just shrugged.
“Blame it on the unpredictability of magic,” he said. “You asked for three years to study me, so you became a nineteen year old sophomore.”
“Nineteen?” Brian spoke with a hint of disbelief to his voice as he looked down at his changing wardrobe. He was surprised to notice that his brown leather shoes had turned red and lost their laces. He was more surprised to see his notebook transform into a slim binder with the words ‘Registration Packet’ emblazoned on the front.
“My notes!” he shouted in dismay then quickly leafed through the binder to confirm that all of his notes and observations on the little man and his magic were gone.
“All my notes are gone and I can’t believe I have to be a student again,” he said snapping the binder closed in disgust. “At least second year physics won’t be much of a problem.”
“That may prove to be more of a difficulty than you think,” the little man said, “given that you are now a liberal arts major.”
Brian had a shocked look on his face for a moment before once again pulling out his registration packet and furiously flipping through the pages.
“I’m majoring in Middle Eastern Studies?!?” he shouted after coming to one page in particular.
“With a minor in the department of Religion,” the little man added.
“But I’m the head of the Physics department!” Brian wailed.
“Oh? And how much physics do you know right now?” the little man asked.
“I…” Brian started to reply but stopped, not sure how to answer that. How much physics did he know? He knew there were formulas he should remember and something about atoms and molecules. But maybe that was from the chemistry class he had in high school. There was also something about the stars but he could not seem to remember anything beyond the names of all the constellations and where they were relative to the zodiac.
Brian slumped down, using a low wall as a seat he sat holding his head with both hands.
“This day could not possibly get any worse,” he said before being interrupted by another ripple passing through his body followed by the most gut wrenching shudder yet.
“Ungh!!” ‘Brian’ managed to say through clenched teeth. “That was terrible! Are these going to keep getting worse?”
“That should be the last one.”
“That’s good. I don’t think I can take too many more shocks to the system like that,” ‘Brian’ said followed by a few short coughs. “Excuse me. I think I strained my voice a little bit. I can’t seem to clear my throat.”
“Do not worry, your voice should be normal in a few more minutes,” the little man said in distracted manner as he watched the final lines of magic settle in on the former professor.
‘Brian’ was not sure how to take that reassurance. Staring down at his feet he noticed that his shoes had developed more of a pointy toe and had lost material along the sides so that there was almost nothing to them except for the shiny red leather covering the back of his heel and the pointy toe caps. And somewhere along the way his socks had disappeared.
‘Brian’ was beginning to get a bad feeling. A different bad feeling, more foreboding than the dejection he had just been feeling. Who goes barefoot in skinny red shoes? And why were these blue jeans so tight?
“What’s wrong with these clothes?” ‘Brian’ asked nervously.
“They are just settling down into a normal form for this reality,” the little man calmly replied.
“Normal?” ‘Brian’ said, standing up and wobbling slightly from an unexpected raised heel on the new shoes. “There’s nothing normal about these clothes!”
‘Brian’ tried to understand what was happening to his still shifting clothes. The blue jeans sat low on the
hips and his wide brown leather belt was now a slim red belt that matched the shoes. The t-shirt had stopped changing but the remnants of his tie had slumped down around his shoulders underneath the shirt and were wrapping around his chest.
“There’s definitely something wrong!” ‘Brian’ insisted. “What kind of a person wears more clothes under a t-shirt and who has pants without pockets?”
“I am afraid that this is normal now, Bettina,” the little man said.
“Normal? Well I’ve never… wait… what did you call me?”
“Your name, Bettina Glanzer. And yes, the clothes are fairly normal for a nineteen-year old woman.”
The name ‘Bettina’ echoed in ‘Brian’s’ head with familiarity. Yes, his name was Bettina now, Bettina Glanzer. But that was silly. Bettina was a girl’s name. The rest of the little man’s words sank in with a start and Bettina looked down to see a slim waist and tight fitting jeans wrapped around widening thighs leading to long curvy legs perched on top a pair of high heeled shoes. Bettina reached trembling fingers down to confirm that there was nothing more than a low sensitive mons at her crotch.
“I’m a woman!” she shouted in a voice that seemed more melodious than it had a moment prior.
The little man did not see this as a question and chose not to reply.
“But… but… no!” Bettina stammered in words that definitely sounded like musical notes. Holding her hands palm downward in front of her, she watched in horror as the nails on her now slender fingers began to lengthen and turn burgundy red as polish appeared on them. She felt a weight on her ears and reached to examine what was dangling from them but was interrupted by a cascade of blond wavy hair that fell over her shoulders half way to her waist.
“What … wha… why… woman… why… why a woman?” she finally managed to ask as she stood there holding the ends of her hair in her hands.
“I am not sure,” the little man said. “But it has something to do with that qualifier you added that no one else consider your line of research and it appears to be centered on your breasts.”
“MY BREASTS!?!?” she shouted hysterically.
Bettina clutched at her still flat chest in shock and realized that she was in fact wearing a bra.
“Yes, something about your breasts will ensure that no one follows your work,” the little man stood deep in contemplation as he considered the still flowing magical energies on Bettina’s chest.
Bettina could feel a tingling build across her chest and her nipples stiffened as the flesh began to rise and press against the cups of her bra. Her hands began to fill then overfill as her breasts continued to grow. The stretching of her t-shirt began to reveal a noticeable cleavage and she felt the straps of her bra begin to press on her shoulders under the added weight. The expansion of her chest caused the hem of her shirt to lift and reveal her bellybutton but Bettina’s view was already blocked from easy glances downward. Finally the tingling feeling faded, leaving Bettina standing there holding an enormous pair of breasts almost spilling out of the tight t-shirt into her hands. They were huge. Not freak show huge but impressive even from a great distance.
“Well that would do it,” the little man said nodding. “And I should bid my leave.”
Bettina just stood there speechless.
“Leave?” she managed to say.
“Yes, in a moment you will be completely in this reality and the universe will know you only as Bettina,” the little man gestured as a passing male student openly ogled the former professor as he walked by.
“You see, you are already starting to interact here.”
Bettina blushed and tried to cross her arms in front of her chest but found that was not the most comfortable position to hold.
“You can’t leave me like this! What am I supposed to do?” she said, her voice sounding sweet and musical even in complaint.
“Do?” the little man shrugged. “Do whatever you wish. You can stay, you can drop out, or you can get married and have babies. Whatever. There is no compulsion on you to complete the time reference of your wish. But that one loose thread of magical energy will stay loose and prevent you from making additional wishes until you complete the three years of study.”
“Babies!” Bettina said in shock tinged with fear. “I can have babies now?”
“Bettina,” the little man said softly, trying to sound reassuring. “Of course you can have babies. You are an attractive young healthy woman. There are plenty of men willing to bed you and father your children. But that would slow down your studies and there is nothing further I can do for you until those are completed. So once again, goodbye and good luck.”
“Wait!” Bettina shouted, but the little man was already gone.
Bettina stood for a moment and brushed back a lock of hair that blew across her face. The world looked normal and solid again. It was only Bettina that felt different. Fellow students walked past or lounged nearby; the males with longing on their faces, the women mostly with disdain.
“Three years? Like this?” she asked herself before shouting to the empty air, “This isn’t over! Do you hear me? THIS ISN’T OVER!!!”
The outburst drew attention from those nearby but no real concern. Even in anger her voice had a tone that reminded one of tiny silver bells which was more cute and endearing than threatening.
Bettina turned and stormed off heading for the Administration building, not noticing how quickly she adapted to walking in heels. If she had to be Bettina Glanzer for three years of study then she was determined to spend not one minute more than necessary before getting the little man back to undo this.
“This is not over,” she muttered to herself, completely distracted by the waving of her hair in the wind, the sway of her ass in the tight jeans and the rhythmic bouncing motion of her bosom as she walked.
_____ o _____
“Bettina?” the little man asked.
He had appeared in a Spartan one-room bedroom combination office which had the distinct look of a dorm room. He was speaking to a woman seated on a hard-backed chair, turned away from a simple wooden desk with a computer on top. The only other furniture in the room was a bed and a small bookcase full of textbooks and binders.
He was not sure that this was Bettina. Three years was a long time and almost anyone could have the vessel by now. She had blond hair and was about the right age but the Bettina he had last seen was a long haired girl in high heels whose buxom body was poured into tight fitting jeans and t-shirt. This woman had a short severe haircut and was wearing a loose fitting plain brown pantsuit and brown lace up oxford flats. There was the same oversized bust that even the loose clothes could not completely hide. If this was Bettina, it was not a good sign. He had hoped that the girl he had left at the quadrangle would have adjusted to her femininity and gotten distracted from fulfilling the time reference of the wish. This woman clearly had issues.
“I was beginning to wonder if you’d show,” she said in that unmistakable voice.
“Hello Bettina,” the little man said.
“Hello yourself, little man,” Bettina replied with a sinister grin. “Or should I call you Abd-al-Nuwas Azim aal-Sanaa?”
The little man took a sharp intake of breath and looked warily at Bettina.
“It has been a long time since I heard that name,” he said. “You have studied well.”
“Then I was right!” Bettina said slamming both fists down on the table in front of her. “You were there! There was a djinn influence at Aksumite. You were at the court of DhÅ« Nuwas!”
“I was there,” the little man admitted.
“But you, you are not a djinn,” Bettina said almost gloating. “No, you are something else.”
“I am not a djinn,” the little man agreed. “I am but the ward of the vessel.”
Bettina held the little man’s vessel between them.
“Then that would make this…,” she said leaving the sentence for the little man to finish.
“The incarnate body of the Ifrit responsible for the slaughter of the Aksumite garrison, trapped by his own magic,” the little man answered.
Bettina’s eyes almost glowed as she gazed on the magical being she held in her hands and her smile grew broader and more sinister.
“I was right,” she said, “and they wouldn’t believe me. No, I was just the silly blond girl with big tits who believed in genies. But I was RIGHT!!!”
The little man grew nervous. It had been five hundred years since anyone had come this close to the truth.
“So then you understand the danger,” he said, “and why there should be no more wishes.”
“Oh there will be wishes,” Bettina said not taking her eyes from the vessel, “there will be lots of wishes.”
“Why risk catastrophe, can you not accept things the way they are?” the little man asked.
“Accept?” Bettina turned to look at the little man, putting the vessel down carefully. “Accept this?” she indicated her body as she spoke.
“Do you know what it’s like to be an intelligent educated man trapped in a body like this?” Bettina said, the musical lilt to her voice masking her rising anger. “Do you know the humiliations I have gone through just to get to this point?”
“I am sure there have been some difficulties,” the little man said.
“Difficulties? Do you call these difficulties?” Bettina stood holding up her huge breasts.
“Surely there must be some bonus to being so… well endowed?” the little man knew he ended that sentence lamely but he was running out of arguments.
“Do you mean like chronic backaches?” Bettina snapped, her voice making even her complaints sound pleasant. “Or having to pay $100 for a bra that fits? Or maybe you mean the little snickers you hear when you walk by or that fact that no one ever makes eye contact with you when you talk to them? No, these breasts have to go.”
Bettina sat, her angered breathing making her chest heave.
“And this voice,” she said clutching a hand at her throat, “this voice has to go too! I sound like a ditzy airhead. Between this voice and these breasts, no one listens to a damn thing I say. Do you know what it’s like when no one takes what you say seriously?”
“Actually I have a fair bit of experience with that situation,” the little man replied.
“Shut up!” Bettina said in a charming soprano. “The three years are up and there will be more wishes. Besides, I know what I did wrong. I wished for time to study you when I should have wished for time to study magic. I won’t make that mistake again.”
“You went wrong when you made a wish in the first place. And now you know what you risk,” the little man indicated his vessel. “Would you be the one to loose a being of malevolent chaos onto the world?”
“Don’t worry,” Bettina said. “I won’t break the vessel and I know the risks from repeated wishes. That is why I intend to take the power of magic for myself. If wishes never go well then I want the power to manipulate magic directly.”
“That is extremely difficult for a non-magical being,” the little man said.
“But not impossible?” Bettina asked with a smile.
“No,” the little man shook his head, “not impossible.”
“In that case,” Bettina stood and spoke with as much command as her lilting musical voice could muster.
“I wish to learn the secrets to manipulate magic,” she said. “And to accommodate the time reference, I wish to start learning immediately and at such a pace that in three years’ time, I will be acknowledged as the greatest wielder of magic alive!”
“As you wish,” the little man intoned solemnly.
Bettina stood smiling smugly, her arms crossed underneath her breasts.
“It will not end well,” the little man said.
“How could it not?” Bettina said. “It’s perfect! I’ll be able to turn myself back into a man and maybe get a little payback on some of those jerks at the University. Especially Dr. Stevens. Did you know I had to flash my titties at him for an entire semester just to get access to his collection of parchments? Bastard! I should give him a pair of his own to stare at. And Dr. Patterson, too! I should zap him into a harem girl out in the desert somewhere. Maybe then he’ll believe in genies!”
The little man sighed and watched the flow of magic as Bettina stood by smiling and plotting revenge. Eventually a ripple passed through the room causing Bettina to shudder.
“I will never get used to that,” she said.
“One would hope not,” the little man said in agreement for his own reasons.
“So the wish is in place,” Bettina said. “Has the magic begun to flow? Can you tell how it’s going?”
“It is still early,” the little man said, studying the surroundings intently. “But the magic is flowing.”
Bettina was almost giddy with excitement as the walls of her dorm room shimmered and faded away. Her excitement waned as new surroundings began to materialize around them. They found themselves in a small dimly lit room made even more cramped by numerous shipping crates and oversized luggage chests. One side of the room was dominated by racks of clothing. The only furniture in the room was a dingy cot, a well lit mirror perched on a small table, and a wooden stool.
“Hey, Azim,” Bettina said trying to draw the little man’s attention. “What kind of place is this anyway?”
“It appears to be some sort of preparation area for actors,” the little man said without taking his attention off of the shifting flow of magical energy.
“A dressing room?” Bettina asked before examining a tattered poster proclaiming Branson, Missouri as ‘The best direction for your vacation’. “This IS a dressing room! Why would we get dumped here?”
The little man looked confused for a moment and then thoughtful and then finally relieved.
“That was indeed a fortunate twist,” he said, “but it is rather odd.”
“What is?” Bettina asked.
“This tendency for people of your time to use the word magic when they mean illusion,” he replied.
The little man just pointed to the wall behind Bettina. Bettina turned to see a full color flyer tacked to the wall over remnants of previous announcements. The garish photo showed a man in a frock shirt trying to look mysterious as he stared out at the viewer. The words ‘The Astounding Adam’ were in bold block letters across the front but what drew Bettina’s eye was the background. The blond haired well endowed assistant posed provocatively by an ornate booth. She was heavily made up and barely dressed in a silver sequined one piece with numerous exposed panels showing lots of flesh. Her legs were encased in black sheer stockings and she was standing in a pair of silver strappy shoes with a very high heel. Bettina immediately recognized herself as the girl in the picture.
“No freaking way!” she shouted.
“I am afraid so,” the little man said.
“But I can’t be… ahrngg!!” Bettina started to say before being interrupted by a ripple passing through her body causing her to shudder.
“Damn, those things always catch me by surprise,” she gasped trying to catch her breath.
Bettina stared in dismay as the loose fitting brown pantsuit she wore began to shimmer and cling more tightly against her body. Her shoes had already turned silver.
“No! Not heels again!” she moaned, but she could already feel the heels of her shoes rising. “This isn’t what I wished for!”
“Actually it is a rather neat solution to the wish parameters,” the little man said. “You wished to learn the secrets of magic. Can you think of a better way to do that than as a magician’s assistant?”
“This isn’t what I meant and you know it!” Bettina said as the drab brown jacket of her pantsuit faded into nothing followed shortly thereafter by her belt. Her pants by this time had clung tightly enough to her legs so as to stay up by themselves. They were however, beginning to turn black in color.
“How many times must I tell you? Your intentions have nothing to do with how the magic will flow,” the little man said with a hint of exasperation in his voice. “You wished to learn the secrets to manipulate magic and so you will, but on a stage and in a costume.”
“I won’t do it! I’m not going to parade around in skimpy clothes for every pervert! I’ll go back to the University. I’ll get a Master’s degree. I’ll…” Bettina was interrupted by her close cropped hair regaining its full length as it fell across her shoulders almost to her waist.
“Shit,” she said. “Do you have any idea what a pain it is to take care of hair this long?”
“No idea,” the little man said. “But your intent to further your education, while noble, will have to be delayed.”
“Why?” Bettina asked, worried and distracted by the disappearance of her shirt.
“I am afraid that you have set a rather more stringent time frame than your first wish,” the little man said, slipping into lecture mode. “You see, you wished to begin learning immediately and at quite a fast pace. You WILL spend the next three years learning to be the greatest magician alive.”
“But…” Bettina wanted to say something but could not think of anything that would help. She watched in despair as her pants continued their transformation into a pair of sheer black pantyhose and her shoes finished their transformation into a pair of strappy stilettos. She stood there dressed in nothing else but her underwear and watched as the conservative white panties shifted into a thong and her businesslike bra shifted to provide more lift and reveal more cleavage. Her underwear darkened to nearly match her skin tone so that at a quick glance it looked like she wore nothing but the black hose.
“But what am I supposed to do now?” Bettina almost wailed.
“I suppose you should finish getting dressed,” the little man said. “You have a show tonight. As for me, there is nothing more I can do here, so goodbye.”
“Wait!” Bettina called, but the little man was already gone.
She looked down at herself as best she could past her impressive cleavage. The tan underwear made a good impression of nudity and the black pantyhose were very sheer and wrapped her hips and legs in shimmering shadows that followed the contours of her curves. There was glitter woven into the threads so that they would sparkle as the stage lights hit them. They would definitely draw the eye. Bettina sighed looking at her shoes. The four inch heels were no problem for now but she knew that by the end of the day her ankles would be aching. She was momentarily surprised to see red polish on her toenails visible through the thin fabric of the hose and the open toe of her shoes but quickly realized that it matched the polish on her slightly lengthened fingernails as well.
“Of course it does,” she muttered before glancing into the mirror. She was shocked again to see her face made up with stark eyeliner and bright colors on her eyelids, cheeks, and lips. Stage makeup, she thought then turned away from the mirror to examine the racks of clothes in the room. Most were very obviously designed for a woman and one of the first visible costumes was the silver sequined one piece she had seen on the poster.
“Fifteen minutes, Tina,” came a voice from the hallway.
Tina? This just gets better and better, she thought.
“I’ll be ready,” she sang out in the same musical voice that no one seemed to take seriously.
The thought that the show must go on flashed through her head. She sighed as she took the costume off the hangar and went back to the mirror to get dressed. She still had that same voice. She was still Bettina, the blonde with big boobies who believes in genies and now wants to be a magician.
“But you can call me Tina,” she said sarcastically to her reflection in the mirror.
_____ o _____
“Hello?” the little man called out to the unoccupied room where he had appeared. It was another dressing room but bore little resemblance to the dingy room he had last been in three years ago to the day. This was much more posh with thick carpeting and an elegant sitting area to one side. The dressing table was huge and looked expensive. Gift baskets of fruit and flowers were placed throughout the room. He suspected that this was in fact Bettina’s new dressing room and the posters on the wall seemed to confirm this. The posters were professionally mounted and were emblazoned with bold script proclaiming ‘Tina Mistress of Magic’ and ‘World’s Greatest Magician’. The posters all showed Bettina in skimpy costumes doing various magical acts like levitating tigers and being suspended over a pit of knives. There was even one poster dated two and a half years ago showing Bettina in a campy genie costume materializing out of a lamp. That one was called ‘Tina of the East and her Magical Harem Show’.
“You like that one?” Bettina asked. “It was my first.”
The little man jumped, startled at the sudden appearance of Bettina behind him.
“Your first?” he said.
“My first headliner,” she explained. “Kind of an homage to my origins.”
“You have shown remarkable adaptation since we last met,” the little man said.
And indeed Bettina did resemble someone at ease with her gender. She wore a fitted leather jacket over a red silk blouse, a mid thigh-length black skirt and calf high boots with a moderate heel. Her hair was long and obviously cared for as were her bright red painted nails. She wore a modicum of makeup, tastefully done, and even earrings.
“This? This is showbiz,” she said. “I’m a public figure now and the public always gets what they demand. This is just another costume really.”
“I do not understand,” the little man said.
“This,” she said indicating herself, “is what I wore today for my interview with Woman’s World. And this…”
Bettina snapped her fingers twice and her outfit was immediately changed into a rhinestone and red sequin blouse, black leather shorts, fishnet stockings, and thigh high boots.
“is what I wore for Friday night’s show. And this…”
Two more snaps and Bettina was encased in a full length silver evening gown.
“is what I wore for the Magicians’ Gala. And this…”
Another quick change and Bettina was dressed in a purple brocade vest over a ruffled blouse, skin tight leather pants, and black ankle boots.
“is what I am going to wear when I perform on Oprah.”
“That is amazing!” the little man said in awe.
“You’re impressed by that?” Bettina asked puzzled.
“I’ve never seen anything like it!” he said.
“Let me get this straight,” Bettina said. “You can see actual magic. You can trigger transformations to reality itself. But these stupid little tricks amaze you?”
“Well it is different with real magic,” the little man explained. “There I can see what is causing it but this just comes out of nothing!”
“So you would be totally blown away if I did this,” Bettina pulled a rabbit out of thin air.
“Or this,” she said turning the rabbit into a deck of cards, “or even this.”
Bettina threw the deck of cards in the air where they promptly disappeared then pulled a long string of handkerchiefs out of the little man’s ear. The little man actually applauded.
“Stop that!” Bettina demanded.
“Sorry,” the little man said, awkwardly putting his hands behind his back.
Bettina continued to glare at the little man.
“So, Azim,” she said, finally breaking the silence. “The three years are up. Are you happy to see me again?”
“In of itself yes, but given your proclivity for making wishes I would rather you had lost the vessel and never called me again,” the little man answered. “Or better yet, hidden the vessel where no one else would ever find it.”
“Good to see you, too,” Bettina said. “And you are right; I do intend to make another wish.”
“But why?” the little man said. “You have everything. You are rich, you are talented, and you are famous. Is that not enough?”
“I am rich, talented, and famous, but I am a rich, talented and famous WOMAN!” Bettina spat the last word out with scorn. “Look at me! I have the exaggerated body of a porn queen complete with cartoon voice! Every single man I have met wants me in bed. I get wedding proposals from complete strangers.”
“That is kind of a compliment,” the little man said.
“That is kind of creepy,” Bettina replied.
“But your three years are up now. You can quit your career and retire out of the spotlight,” he said.
“And do what?” Bettina asked, her musical voice not carrying the sarcastic tone at all. “Retire, find a nice man, settle down and raise a bunch of babies?”
“If that is what you want.”
“That is not what I want!” Bettina snapped. “I am not a woman! I am a man! Or I was one anyway, and with the help of your Ifrit, I can be one again.”
“But to risk so much for a minor change is madness,” the little man said. “You have been a woman for six years now can you not continue as you are?”
“Six years. Six years where they expect you to be shy and demure. Six years where they want you to dress pretty. Six years of bloating and cramps. Six years of physically looking up at men while they look down at you. Six years of being grabbed and pinched and being afraid to walk the streets. Six years and you call this a minor change?” Bettina had a glower in her eye and spoke through clenched teeth. “No. No more! This ends today. I want my balls back!”
The little man could tell he was not going to win this argument. Bettina calmed down abruptly and sat gracefully in one of the armchairs, her legs neatly crossed at the knee and ankle, before conjuring a glass of red wine from out of thin air. The little man suspected she might be unbalanced and decided not to press a mentally unstable person with the imminent ability to make a magical wish.
“You see, Azim,” she said, “with the power of the djinn I can be anyone I want. I can make other people be anyone I want, or anything I want. I could be the queen of this world!”
The little man thought it wise not to point out that Bettina was referring to herself in a female role, and braced himself for a wish he was certain would go wrong.
“I want the power of transformation over objects both animate and inanimate,” Bettina said in her lilting voice as she calmly swirled the wine glass. “I wish to be given expertise in the manipulation of true magic, no cheap tricks or illusions. And for a time reference, I want this to begin immediately.”
“As you wish,” the little man intoned.
The little man had a nervous air as he watched the surrounding space. Bettina smiled sweetly between sips of wine as they waited for the impending magic. Inevitably, a visible ripple did pass through the room causing Bettina to shudder.
“Nnngh… Yes!!” she squealed throwing the wine glass, leaning back in her chair and kicking her feet in glee. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!! This nightmare is finally over! I can be me again!”
Bettina jumped to her feet and started dancing in celebration. Given that she was still a well endowed blonde in tight leather pants; her dance had the distinct look of an erotic shimmy. She was unaware what that the rotations she was doing with her hips and the shaking of her shoulders and breasts would have done to any normal hetero male in the room. The little man was more concerned with the shifting flow of magical energy.
“Say goodbye to this!” Bettina sang as she ran her elegantly manicured fingers through her hair. “And these,” she said giving her bosom an extra shake. “No more periods, no more bras!”
Bettina kept singing and giggling as the dressing room faded around her. Her giggling and singing stopped however and a frown crossed her face as she saw the room that was materializing around them.
“What the hell kind of place is this?” she asked.
“I believe this is a bedroom,” the little man answered.
And indeed Bettina and the little man found themselves in the middle of an ornate room dominated by a large four-poster bed. The overall theme of the room was pastel shades of blue with a lot of ornate trim and lace. There was thick plush carpeting on the floor and velveteen wallpaper on the walls. It had the look of a boudoir with a settee, a large wardrobe, a full length mirror, and an elegant vanity. The only exit was a large oak door.
“What’s a bedroom got to do with magic?” Bettina asked.
The little man did not answer but stared intently at the air around Bettina. His look of concentration broke into a wide eyed look of surprise.
“Bettina,” the little man said, “are you a virgin?”
Bettina blushed deeply and turned to look away.
“Well that explains it,” the little man said.
“Explains what?” Bettina said after regaining her composure.
“The connection between you, this bedroom, and magic,” the little man said in his annoying matter-of-fact voice.
“What? Explain!” Bettina demanded.
“Sex,” the little man said.
“You’re not clarifying things here,” Bettina said.
“There are many kinds of magic,” the little man said slipping back into lecture mode. “And numerous ways exist to approach their study.”
“I’m not following you,” Bettina said looking up and noticing the mirror on the ceiling.
“Consider the definition of magic,” the little man continued, “at its simplest level magic can be defined as the indirect influence of objects, behavior, or events based entirely on the force of one’s will.”
“Oh…kay,” Bettina said slowly as she picked up and examined the fur-lined manacles attached to the bedposts.
“Popular opinion insists that magic needs a supernatural origin, but that is mistaken,” the little man seemed amused by what he was about to say. “Magic is a part of this world. It exists as a hyperextension of the natural world. A more correct term would be ‘ultranatural’ rather than ‘supernatural’.”
“You lost me,” Bettina said examining the interior of the wardrobe. There seemed to be a lot of leather and vinyl clothes with an unusual number of buckles to them.
“One way for you to gain expertise in the manipulation of true magic is to achieve a deep level of experience and profound understanding of one of the natural forces,” the little man smiled encouragingly.
“I still don’t understand,” Bettina had abandoned the wardrobe and made her way to the vanity and began searching the drawers.
“Given the rather ample assets you currently possess,” the little man said making an hourglass shaped gesture in the air as he spoke, “the line of least resistance would be for you to follow a course of study that would lead to your gaining expertise in the use of sex.”
Bettina’s hand closed on an unknown object in one of drawers and just as the little man had finished speaking, she pulled it out to see she was holding a very large rubber penis.
“Wha… Hnnghrrah!!” she grunted as a ripple passed through her body making her shudder.
“Why do I never see those coming,” she panted for awhile, catching her breath before realizing what she was still holding.
“Eeew!” she said throwing the artificial penis to the corner in disgust. “Wait, did you just say that for me to gain magical powers I need to become an expert in sex?”
“That is the path that has been chosen for you,” the little man answered calmly.
“Like this? As a WOMAN?!?!” Bettina’s lyrical voice really did not carry the full shock and panic she was feeling which was only growing as her clothes began to shimmer.
“That would actually be an advantage,” the little man said. “You have a more versatile sexual anatomy what with multiple orgasms and numerous points of penetration.”
“Is this because I’m a virgin? Because I won’t do this!” Bettina stamped her foot in defiance but gasped a moment later as all of her clothing, from boots to vest, changed to a dazzling white color.
“I think it had more to do with your body shape being a natural sex attractant,” the little man studied the flow of magic around Bettina carefully. “Your virginal status had more to do with the qualifier you added and why you will have no choice.”
“I did what?” she said distracted by the now white vest tightening around her waist. The sleeves on her shirt detached from her shoulders and flowed down her arms and fingers, settling down on her hands as a pair wrist length open lace gloves. Her pants seemed to be slipping down past her hips exposing her crotch.
“The qualifier you added that there be no cheap tricks or illusions,” he explained. “I think you will find that you are almost the opposite of a cheap trick and that soon this will all be very real.”
“I am what?” Bettina was finding it difficult to immediately understand what the little man was telling her while still paying attention to her changing clothes. It was apparent now that what used to be her vest had transformed itself into a half corset which pushed her breasts up prominently as it tightened. Straps descended down from the bottom of it, catching hold of her retreating pants and holding them at mid thigh level. The pants themselves were becoming sheer and soon took on the look of a pair of patterned stockings. What was left of her shirt was doing its best to wriggle out from under the corset and move up her neck.
“You have been sold,” the little man explained. “The rights to use your body for sexual purposes have been traded for money. And it would have been an enormous sum of money given that you are a 25 year old virgin with a body like that, quite the opposite of a cheap trick.”
“Sold?” Bettina murmured softly, feeling the heels on her boots grow to six inches and watching her
panties transform into a crotch-less bit of lace revealing her cleanly shaven sex.
“I am afraid so,” the little man said.
“But… but… but I can wish again, right?” she whispered, as what was left of her shirt settled around her head, covering her face as a veil and a long train down her back.
“I am afraid this is goodbye, Bettina,” the little man said. “I have to go. You do not own the vessel anymore. You do not own anything anymore. You are chattel. And as soon as you are inserted into this reality, your new master will come through that door to claim you and start your education.”
Bettina was surprised to find she was holding a bouquet of white roses and looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror in time to see the veil settle into place and the final seed pearls and lace appear on her corset. Dressed all in white with crotch-less panties, tight half corset, stockings and six-inch boots she looked like a pornographic fetish bride. With a shock she realized that that was exactly what she had become.
“Wait!” she cried, but the little man was already gone.
“This isn’t over!” she yelled. “Do you hear me, Azim? I will find you! I will see you again!”
Bettina stopped at the sound of someone at the door and watched with growing terror as the knob turned to open the door to her future life.
Curiously enough Bettina did get a chance to meet the little man again. But that was many years later when she had completed her studies and only after a drunken group of frat boys wished for unlimited access to Madame Glanzer’s Magical House of Harem Girls.
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